Travel in Africa – From The Archives

NOTES FROM GHANA – June 10, 2008

Having had a day to decompress and a day to catch up on dull routine office matters I can sit back and reflect on the past few days. Ahhhh…what a life! What a rat race. Rushing from pillar to post as my old folks back home would say.

First of all I am moving to Ghana as soon as possible. They took the pill, and now it all seems possible in Ghana in a way it does not in Nigeria. There is a confidence in the air; the desperation of Naija, that hard hungry prowling menacing edge, is absent.

I never could define it before.

There are about 23 million people in Ghana, we last elected a fellow there in 1995, that was 13 years ago, by Ashoka’s formula there should be about 20-26 social entrepreneurs at different stages of their life cycles just waiting for me to find them.

When I got to Ashoka fellow L’s house on my first day the power was out in her neighborhood. She kept on apologizing and saying ‘This sort of thing does not happen here; they tell us if there is going to be an outage’. Turns out there was a breakdown. No body in the neigborhood had a generator. They quickly ran out of candles at the local stores.

There was no lock on my bedroom door, not even a door handle actually. Now that was freaky. I know I sometimes I forget to lock my door at night but to not even be able to close it! And the gates didn’t have padlocks and the door opened to the outside. Eventually I shrugged and went to bed, this is Ghana I guess. Since I’m writing this now I didn’t get attacked by robbers or pyschos.

On the drive to Lucia’s office in the morninng I couldn’t help but notice Guaranty Trust Bank ‘s billboards everywhere, they were the largest on the streets, offering 4 types of VISA credit cards. I bank with them in Naija. I’m still trying to activate my MASTERCARD debit card almost 6 months later.

They even offered a students credit card. I remember some customer service clones at my Naija branch takling down to a teenage student that came to open an account. They were totally unhelpful, I think they sent her away. I remember telling Maya about it.

I find it a bit disturbing to see 21st century Nigerian bank workers, they tend to look like a witches at a murder inc convention or vultures at a feast maybe. Their painted on faces and their conservative uniforms inspire pity not confidence. At least when I worked ever so briefly for a bank we still expressed some individuality of personality and style.

I had scheduled 4 two hour interviews; one called to reschedule for Saturday morning. The first 2 went great then my hostess took me home and over fed me. Yes that’s right she held a gun to my head and made me clean my plate. Thankfully I had an extra 2 hours before my next interview. I took a power nap in her very comfortable armchair.

Site visit on Saturday took me into the market, where ‘the people’ are. The crowds were overwhelming but valiantly I waded through the press of humanity to get to the drug store where I would be shown this great new idea in action. People kept on dumping into me or me into them, I slung my laptop bag in front of me and marveled that no where else in Africa have I felt so comfortable lugging around a laptop.

I didn’t read a local newspaper till the last day, I’m not sure why, Lucia had them delivered at breakfast every morning but on Sunday after a long brisk walk and a cold shower I took one to read. The Daily Mirror had frontline stories of female gospel singers and their marriage troubles.

I was astounded reading the stories, they were woman friendly! They did not condemn these women for not enduring abuse and unhappiness! They did not say or imply that these were selfish women undeserving of heaven and the fruits of wedded bliss that endureth. A father was actually quoted as saying he was happy his daughters marriage was over.

I brought the paper back as a souvenir even though I used it to wrap the ‘black pepper’ sauce that Lucia had made for me. (Delicious!) Framing it might be extreme; one of our candidates this year that is creating exclusive communication platfroms for women to discuss politics and current affairs from their prespective starting in Ghana.

I remember my total frustration when I lived in south east Nigeria and wrote for a local newspaper. I wanted to write articles to inspire and sensitize women. The publisher/editor wanted me to cover the worst and best dressed at social events. I had one regular reader that I know of (she told me she looked forward to my column). She was a professor at the local university.

Another candidate (this time a Nigerian) is using humor in popular lingo, slang and even pidgin English to inform the people about thier legal rights. A lot of them don’t know that …your landlord can’t kick you out on the street without due process or that you can’t be arrested or searched without a warrant or that they can’t sack you becuase you are HIV positive.

Perhaps these candidates can collaborate. Perhaps I can inspire and sensitize in a style accessible to the many. Perhaps we can all acknowldege in deed and word that the majority in the developing world do not hold college or university degrees without treating them like simpletons. Perhaps we can change the world. As a matter of fact, YES WE CAN!

Accra, Ghana (Photographer: Unknown)

How Much Revenue Does Nigeria Make In A Year?

I’m preparing background document for a youth foundation so I want to know how much Nigeria makes as a basis for advocacy on how much the government should or could spend.

A google search didn’t yield to me a satisfactorily definitive answer so I called on Facebook and Twitter friends for help. I thank you all that shared links and leads. I followed them all as best I could without a PhD in economics or something. I even went to And I found this from a 2008 presentation by then Chairman;

“Improved information and statistics of all revenue generated at FG, SG and LG is required for improved decision making. To date, a holistic picture of such statistics is not readily available in a complete and on a timely basis.”

This is also the conclusion made by Nonso Obikili an economist I follow on Twitter. I asked him how much Nigeria makes. I thought it was a simple question with a simple answer.

Apparently it’s all shrouded in secrecy. According to Nonso “the govt guesses what it will be each year. The actual numbers? No one knows.”

“Ok. So. What govt makes is part of GDP? Can an estimate be made by elimination of other sector contributions? Would that be accurate/useful?” I ask.

“Yeah it is. The NBS tries to do that and if you look at the breakdown of their reports you’ll see their guess there. Still a guess though” he replies.

“I thought it was me”


“For States you can guess with allocation plus IGR. For FG allocation is a signal but most suggest up to 50% of income doesn’t pass through the budget or FAAC. Some states publish this and report to the NBS. Some don’t.” he continued.

I’m thoroughly scandalised!

World Bank Nigeria Report 2013
World Bank Nigeria Report 2013

Why I Participate in the Adult Sex Education Month Series

If you watch the news you’ll conclude the world is going to hell in a hand basket real quick and maybe it is. And Africa – north, East, South and West – is it.

I’m enjoying Ebony Life TV, great innovative programming, local storytelling and production. Reminds me of NTA in some forgotten past. Commercialization has brought great benefits to Nigeria, the only benefits actually.

The role of the private sector in development

Intimate Pleasures is a small enterprise. They sell sex toys online, the first in Nigeria. What gave the proprietor the idea to set up an online sex shop? Numerous requests for sex toys whenever she travelled abroad. 

But Iheoma Obibi is first and foremost a feminist and a social entrepreneur. So her company doesn’t only sell risqué sex toys, they provide an essential service helping Nigerian couples derive maximum pleasure from intimacy. And educating Nigerians, married or single about sex.

My favorite story is about a newly wedded groom, arranged marriage, who asked her to educate his new wife about sex and pleasure. Its not just about raunch and giggles. Its serious issues that have serious impact on relationships and marriage.

Of course in Nigeria we do not talk about sex if we can help it. Unless na beer parlour gist. It is ‘taboo’. Through her Adult Sex Ed Series, Sex Talk Naija, Iheoma is providing an opportunity and space using new media for real conversation and real education.

That’s why I participate every year. In my line of work I’ve heard it all, the ignorance and misinformation out there is scandalous. Even from people you would expect to know better.

If we leave sex education to the government….well….go figure

Hi Honey, I’m Home – And the Natives Are Disturbing Me Already

They’ve started rolling in. The demands from my village people.

‘Its time for you to get an appointment’


‘Yes now. They’re looking for people like you.’

‘People like me?’

‘Yes now. They want people like you. You read book. You’re yellow. You speak well. You be woman. You can represent us there.’

‘I’m not interested’

‘What do you mean you’re not interested?’

‘I’m not interested in their appointment. I won’t be able to achieve anything. And they will kill me. You know I cannot smell shit and keep a straight face. I will blow alarm.’

‘What’s that? What do you think you’re talking about?’

‘I can’t follow them and do what they’re doing?’

‘What are they doing?’

‘They are chopping money, Nigeria money’

‘Ehen! Are you not a Nigerian?’

‘I don’t know how to chop government money. I’m not that sophisticated.’

‘Ah. You will learn now. They will teach you’

‘I don’t want to learn.’

‘You be better person. Oya. Go and change the system now’

‘You can’t change the system. The system changes you.’

‘Ehn? So you will change and chop?’

‘If I don’t they will ban me from the village. But I will have an open day every Wednesday and Friday. Any body that comes to see me will get a cash gift.’ ‘

‘Ehn? So you won’t chop but you will give everybody to chop?’

‘Yes. No one will believe that I’m not chopping anyway so I will let the people chop my share. At least dey no fit talk say I dey chop alone.’

‘You’re very funny.’

‘I’m not being funny. Anyway it doesn’t matter. I’m not interested in an appointment.’

‘So? Is that what your going to tell them in the village?  But you went to school now, we need people like you. Okay. So why did you go to school now?’

‘I went to school to get an education?’

‘Ehn? Is that what you think? Siddon dey do mumu. If I had a head for school I would have been there chopping o! And they want to put more Igbo people there.’

I wonder if I should bother arguing with her. A decade or two ago I would have. But I know she won’t budge in her opinion. In the village you are communal property. Period. They don’t understand individualism. They don’t understand you have your own life to live. Your life belongs to them. You are part of the collective. That’s how you survive. Why banishment was such a terrible punishment.

I feel a twinge of guilt. There has to be another way to do something for the people I left behind in the village. The rules changed before they could get to the finishing line. They had depended on the privileged ones (like me) who got a higher education and good work opportunities to come back for them and lead them to a better life. That’s what my father expected of me too. Perhaps that’s what the ancestors expect.

Nwa Agwubuo Duruabali

Little Habits That Conserve Money Or How Much Toothpaste Do You Need

Very little really. I read about it years ago and used just pea size dollop of toothpaste since. My toothpaste lasts months if I’m the only one using it. I’ve been using one for 5 months and it still going strong. Might last me till I’m back from Moscow in 3 months time.


To all my family and friends who didn’t get the memo you can read it here. Now if you promise to use the regulation amount of toothpaste you can come stay with me and I promise not to tear your head off if you don’t. (I used to get really grouchy.)

Forget those commercials that tell you to squeeze it on. They want you to buy as much and as frequently as possible. You got to educate yourself.  Oh and seriously, floss is not optional. I really want to be able to kiss everybody.

Teach your family too. You’ll save a fortune in toothpaste


Happy brushing


Joy Osadolor Tells Her Story in Her Own Words, Its an Eye Opener

I met Joy begging in Abuja one night with her baby. I asked her why, she doesn’t look like someone that has to beg. Joy is from Benin in South West Nigeria. Her story is so typical it could be the story of every Nigerian woman. Her husband abandoned her with 3 children and a fourth one on the way. Listen to her story. You will cry.

She’s not posh, or educated, she sounds more like a bad Nollywood script sometimes but she is the average Nigerian woman, the uneducated, urban dwelling women who struggle to raise children and keep their husbands by their side each day.

Her determination, her spirit, her persistence and ultimately her courage are what endear her to me and make me want to help her. We’ve taken her to the Ministry of Women Affairs, WRAPA and to MTN Foundation. She does not meet the criteria for any of their programs.

All I’ve done all I can do right now is bring her story and her begging to the internet. So maybe she won’t have to stand on the streets at night (the only time she can come out as she explains) vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, though I doubt she is that easily exploited.

We have helped her open a bank account, the first in her life. If you are moved to help her please make a direct contribution to her. She says she needs money to resume her domestic fuel business and send her children back to school.

If you are in Nigeria you can make a donation to Joy’s account

Account Name: Joy Osadolor
Bank: GTB Plc
Account Number: 0121071317

If you wish to speak to Joy or make a donation from abroad you can email me at

You can also visit my site for more information about my work in Nigeria

NEW BLOG POST: My Top Twenty Lessons of 2012 for Beginning Social Entrepreneurs

1. Be ready to forego some of your creature comforts.  Ain’t easy raising capital. Accumulate your cash.

2. Be ready to be disheartened and disappointed. Don’t waste too much energy on it.  Depression is for the birds

3. You will alienate family and  friends.  Don’t worry about it. They’ll come round when your successful and rich

4. Be methodical. Build your pyramid. The base is always wider and takes more work to build than the top.

5. If its not part of the plan and doesn’t add recognizable value AVOID IT. That includes negative people, get rich quick schemes, unsolicited advise, well or ill meaning people who think they know more about how to run your life than you do and ‘deals’.

6. Remember to service your debts. You don’t want creditors making life complicated but you don’t want to spend all your money paying debt either. Find a balance you can maintain.

7. Always remember your debts.  Be it a debt for a kindness, goods or services. The friend who gave you her couch for some weeks. The vendor that let’s you pay your bills a little late.  You get the drift? The Favor Bank is serious business.

8. Stay in touch with positive energizing people. Its easy to retreat into your shell and sometimes its necessary but its important to stay in touch and cultivate positive progressive people  who make you feel good and who you’ll want to work with in the future.

9. Don’t look down on the ‘little people’. Learn some humility. Life is tough enough. Compassion is a healthy healing feeling.

10. Persist till you breakthrough. Believe that you can. You will

11. Live within your means.  Scrutinize all gifts. You might have short term gratification but you need long term sustainability. Delay gratification.

12.  Entrepreneurs are risk takers.  Learn to mitigate risk. I learnt to swim at 5 by jumping into the deep end of the pool and flailing around till I got a hang of it. Nowadays I pause to make sure there’s a life guard on duty and maybe ask for some basic tips.

13, Listen to your gut, your intuition your instincts. If it feels ‘wrong’ pass it on. Not every opportunity is the right one.

14. Know exactly what you want and keep your aim on the goal. Everything else is a hurdle to jump, move around or avoid.  Prioritize accordingly.

15. You got only one person to please. That’s yourself. If you can go to bed at night hungry in a strange bed yet still feel you’ve done a good job you are an entrepreneur.

16.  Find the eye of the storm. If it passes over you grab a rock and cling on with your finger nails. This too will pass.

17. Well minded opportunism is a great asset, the Universe is conspiring with you already. If it seems right don’t hesitate, GO FOR IT

18.  Be kind to yourself. Self care and self love. Eat right. Exercise. And be happy.

19.  Believe in something bigger than yourself.

20. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. ignore the psycho babblers.