Entry #74 – The Job Lottery

Never before have I seen so much excitement on the faces of the Lagosian workforce other than a time when an oil company decides to announce that it is recruiting – well, that time is upon us. As at last week, the Nigerian  National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) published vacancies that cut across just about every academic discipline known to man. The buzz has been nothing short of electric! I wish PHCN had the same spark!

In the papers, in the office, in church, on the radio and even on my Blackberry as broadcasted messages, the NNPC vacancies have been the talk of the town. Applications are being accepted online until 31st December 2010. The link for the online application is here. Assessments will be carried out from January and successful candidates will probably be offered postions anytime from June. I predict a significant shift in the ‘couch potato’ demographics during this period and and a surge in Internet/Broadband purchases as they’ll be getting off their lazy asses to apply for the NNPC jobs.

But let me call this what it really is – a job lottery. At the end of the day only a small percentage will be selected out of the hundreds of thousands whom are applying nationwide. Some may still be able to use ‘political’ means to get these lucrative jobs, some diabolical or ‘juju’ means, others might just have a stroke of goodluck or better still, divine intervention. 

A job in any oil company in Nigeria is (and has always been seen) as the ultimate job to attain in order to be catapaulted into bougeorsie status. The term ‘he/she has arrived’ or ‘he/she don hammer’ (for my Nigerian counterparts) comes to mind when people make reference to lucky oil company recruits with fat salaries. Everybody here wants to live the Nigerian dream…and that dream varies significantly from one Nigerian to another.

Entry #67 – The Banker’s diet

Gone are the days when I used to enjoy the luxury of living only 15mins away from my office. I would wake up at 7.00am, take a shower before leaving my flat at 7.15, and then I’d be in my office by 7.30am (resumption time). With my new job I live about 1hr away…when there’s no traffic, but 3hrs when I’m on my way back home during rush hour. A couple of things have suffered with this recent change: My biceps and triceps got smaller; my alarm clock and I are no longer on speaking terms;  my blog developed cobwebs; and more importantly, I have developed an eating disorder…well, let’s just say I don’t eat in any particular order anymore.

3-square meals are usually the norm when it comes to daily food consumption. However, the diet of the average banker in Lagos is rather different. Most bachelors eat at least twice a day – one outdoor meal from the local canteen and a home-cooked meal. Married men however may eat just one heavy meal at night since its in their best interest not to piss their wives off. The result? Pot belly.  I currently fall into the bachelor category (phew!) but dare I say the content of my meals may raise a few eyebrows:

Morning – Rice, beans and plantain (as early as 8.30am!)

Afternoon – A sausage roll (The Superbite brand)

In between – Fried Yam with pepper sauce, plantain chips

Evening – Bowl of cereal and/or a packet of noodles (Indomie Chicken flavour, of course)

I am well aware of the fact that this diet (eaten 5days a week) is not a balanced diet. It is a banker’s diet. Once in a while I throw in the odd stewed vegetables and an apple with some almonds but generally there’s little time to eat. Eating outdoors all the time is very risky. Bankers in Lagos could probably tell you a few of their food-poisoning stories. There have been instances of stooling and even Typhoid inflicted on unsuspecting bankers who patronized canteens with suspicious water supplies. The cost of such food is part of the allure. At 100 Naira (less than 50 pence/75 cents) you could have a meal of rice or beans that could keep you going for the next 4hrs. And don’t get me started on the inevitable addiction to energy drinks loaded with abnormal amounts of caffeine. Coffee is so 80s now…

I’m trying to find the balance I once had so I’m faced with 3 choices – Get yet another job and location OR Get familiar with just one outdoor meal source and stick to it OR Get married! (at least the fear of getting a pot belly would probably encourage me to do more exercise, which would equally restore my biceps and triceps to their former glory :D)

Entry #56 – Hit and run

The (Black) Chery A520

2days ago I was driving back home in my black Chery after work in the evening when I encountered an overzealous motorpsyhcolist motorcyclist  at a roundabout. I was well on my way to detour into my street when the bike decided to cut across at the last minute. It was a very close shave. I braked suddenly and the motorcyclist also swerved to avoid a head-on collision. However he scampered unto a nearby kerb in the process and lost balance – both he and his male passenger stumbled to the ground. I, on the otherhand, sped off!

Technically I didn’t hit the bike or its passengers so could this really be called a Hit and Run? I think the appropriate expression would be Brake and Run – that’s what I did. The reason why I ran is that Lagos motorcyclists can be notorious for their guerilla justice i.e. ganging up with other motorcyclists and then outnumbering Poor You. Before you know it, stories are being fabricated against you and everything you say is a lie. Your car could be vandalized and you could even be picked up by LASTMA (these road marshalls are the equivalent of the Gestapo around these parts).

Sincerely speaking, if I had made contact with the bike I would have stopped and parked off the road to attend to the pseudo-casualties. I had the right of way and the bike cut across, jumping a red light. Well, I’m sure the motorcyclist and his passengers were okay. It’s not like they lost balance on the main road and got trampled upon by uncoming motorists. Now that would have been a sight…yikes!

Lagos Life – A guide to choosing stuff

Grab your trolley and lets go shopping around for…stuff in Lagos, Nigeria. I’ll show you the top choices of the average Lagosian but note that the list is not exhaustive.

Mobile phone network/line:

  • MTN
  • Zain
  • Glo
  • Starcomms
  • Visafone

Bank account opening:

  • GTB
  • Zenith
  • UBA
  • First Bank
  • Stanbic IBTC

Eateries:

  • Tasty Fried Chicken
  • Barcelos
  • Nandos
  • Big Treat
  • Mr. Biggs

Alcohol/Beer:

  • Star
  • Guinness
  • Gulder
  • Heineken
  • Satzenbrau

Malt drinks:

  • Malta Guinness
  • Maltina
  • Amstel Malta
  • Maltex
  • Power Malt

Chinese cuisine:

  • Jade Garden
  • Golden Gate
  • Mr. Wang’s
  • China Town
  • Flamingo

Flat Screen TVs:

  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Phillips
  • Panasonic

Cable/Satellite Television

  • DSTV
  • HiTV
  • MiTV

Cinemas:

  • Silverbird (V.I & Yaba)
  • Shoprite
  • City Mall

Generators:

  • Honda Elemax
  • Tiger
  • Hyundai
  • Mikano
  • Suzuki

Domestic airlines:

  • Virgin Nigeria (soon to be ‘Eagle Flyer’)
  • Aero Contractors
  • Arik
  • Dana Air
  • Chanchangi

Recreational centres:

  • Ikoyi Club
  • Lagos Country Club
  • The Beach (Island)
  • Shoprite, Lekki
  • Metropark

Bars/Nite Clubs:

  • Soul Lounge (News Cafe)
  • Club Towers Prive
  • Black Pearl
  • Bacchus (formerly ‘11.45’)
  • 10 (JJ Okocha’s)

Okay, that’s enough shopping for one day. Let’s proceed to the checkout! Show me the monaaay!!!

Entry #30 – Rumour has it…

bridge2that there was a madman on Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos who kept shouting to himself everyday. He was shouting out the number ‘Thirteen!’ repeatedly. Motorists used to drive past him but one curious passenger asked a driver in the bus to stop so he could ask the madman what he was shouting ‘Thirteen’ all day for. The driver obliged and parked to one side of the bridge. The passenger got down and approached the madman with caution but he kept some distance. He asked the madman, ‘Why are you shouting Thirteen?’ The madman stopped shouting and politely answered to the passenger’s surprise, ‘It’s a secret but come and I will tell you.’ The passenger saw no harm in this and was anxious to finally unravel this mystery once and for all.

 

The bus driver and the other passengers looked on in horror as they suddenly saw the madman strugggle with the stray passenger before flinging him over the bridge into the ocean. As soon as he he did that he started shouting ‘Fourteen! Fourteen! Fourteen!’ 🙂

Entry #13 – Supermarket Search

I went through my blog stats and noticed someone had done a search for ‘big supermarkets in Nigeria’ – I don’t know if the visitor wants to do a tour of the country for the best bargains or if the visitor is collating info for some research project or thesis. I only know of 2 big supermarkets in Lagos (where I reside). They are Shoprite (along Lekki, at the first roundabout) and Park ‘N’ Shop (Victoria Island). I hope that helps…and I hope this information is not a case of ‘too little too late’

Thanks for stopping by, stranger 🙂

Entry #9 – ‘Knock his lights out!’

The electricity supply in the country has been abysmal. Some areas have had only 4 -12hrs of power supply per day while some have even less or none at all. Lagos has become a noisy commercial zone with all the domestic and industrial generators blaring away. There are reports of some companies even moving their operations to neighbouring countries in order to enjoy constant power supply and save on their diesel costs – It has come to that. I can’t afford to run a generator all night while I sleep so I toss and turn most nights and many times I’ve considered sleeping in my air-conditioned car. Boy, am I pissed with the spate of things…

 

It’s therefore no surprise that I put a sheepish grin across my face when I read today’s news headline in The Punch – ‘Yar’Adua (my president) sacks PHCN MD over poor power supply’. IT’S ABOUT F@?#ING TIME!!!!

What can N100 buy you in Lagos?

As at Feb 27, 2009 here are a number of things N100/$0.68/₤0.48/ €0.54 could buy you in Lagos:
  1. A 100ml plastic bottle of Coca-cola, Fanta, Sprite (but bottled water can be N60)
  2. 11 medium tomatoes from your local ‘Sunday’ market
  3. 1 Mr.Biggs’ sausage roll (previously N80 at the start of February)
  4. A recharge voucher from Zain telecommunications (talk time may vary)
  5. 10 Puff-Puff balls (like a donut, only without the hole)
  6. Parking space (pretty much anywhere) when an opportunist with space sees you’re desperate
  7. 6 oranges
  8. 1 apple
  9. 5 packs of ‘PK’ chewing gum (the ones with only 4 capsule-like pieces)
  10. 1 hair cut for men or tomboys (costs more if a generator is put on when NEPA/PHCN strikes)
  11. Approximately 1.5litres of petrol (currently sold at N65 per litre)
  12. 6 sheets of brown paper…
  13. 1 music CD (mostly local artists, and some amateur compilations of international artists)
  14. Toll gate ticket to get into Murtala Mohammed airport (getting out will cost you another N100!)
  15. Some selected local newspapers (The PUNCH will cost you an extra N50)
  16. A cashcard from selected banks unto which you can save & withdraw money
  17. Loading cash unto the cashcard each time you deposit money
  18. A copy of Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes (with N20 to spare)
  19. Have at least 3 pairs of your shoes polished or mended by the local mobile cobbler
  20. A medium ‘breakfast bowl’ size full of rice, stew/sauce, meat from street-side caterers (may cause diaorrhea) 

..xTx..

Junior High – 1st year…

I was 11 years old when I started Junior Secondary School at The International school, Ibadan. I felt like a prisoner sent to Alcatraz to do time. As I walked through those gates and saw the boys in their turquoise short sleeve shirts with grey shorts, and the girls in their blue/white striped dresses, I couldn’t help feeling that I was just ordinary. How the hell could I stand out in this crowd? I thought.

I started feeling homesick almost immediately. Saying goodbye to my primary school friends of 6yrs was hard enough. I moved to a different state (from Lagos to Oyo) and left my Mum , Dad and 2 sisters behind in order to stay with my Aunt. Her children (i.e. my cousins) made the whole traumatizing experience bearable for me and so I gained 2 brothers I never had, and yet another (sarcastic but lovable) sister. On holidays I would be ‘deported’ to Lagos to see my family.

My uniform didn’t make my first day experience any easier to get through. The shorts were tight – not as high as hot pants but not as long as regular boxer shorts either (so it was a good thing I was still wearing Y-fronts then). I felt I was walking funny – you would if your shorts were climbing up between your buttocks! Speaking of which, and to make matters even worse, I had er…okay my bum was er…not the ‘average’ size for a boy…it was kinda out there…just a bit – not sexy, not cool. The shirt material felt cheap and caused my skin to itch sometimes. I wasn’t accustomed to applying lotion to my legs so my flaky, chapped chopsticks were glistening white for all students to jeer at that day.

I dared to look at some of the beautiful full-breasted girls in the school – they were all my seniors, damn! I made my way to my class after the school assembly and scrambled with my mates to get the ‘best’ seat. A complete nerd would sit right at the front in the first row. I was a partial nerd so I chose a seat in the second front row. I glanced at the girls in my class: a lot of them were pretty…(pretty flat-chested, that is). I couldn’t get it through my thick afro-head that girls of age 11 were meant to look like that. I was going to get my own big surprise in 2years time though.

I made friends quite quickly with a few of the boys but I was still shy talking to girls – not all of them, just the ones I thought were so breathtaking. It was fun at break time when everyone ran out to the food stalls or playing field. The seniors boys in SS1, SS2 and SS3 did not seem to like to see the junior boys having ‘FUN’. It was an abomination for junior boys to smile in their presence or even let your eyes meet. This was hard because they were everywhere. I had to learn to walk with my eyes just glazed – not really focusing on anyone but still making sure I didnt bump into anyone. In an innocent era when 2 junior boys could walk along, holding hands and sharing a joke, senior boys were quick to descend upon them and exercise capital punishment. I guess they knew something we were still oblivious of. 

Breaktime was an uncomfortable period also because you didn’t want a senior to call you and send you on an errand. For instance, I recall one of my best mates being picked from my clique one afternoon on our way to buy lunch:

Senior: HEY YOU come here….I’m talking to YOU! Come here!

Best mate: Yes sir

Senior: Don’t look at me when I’m talking to you!

Best mate: I’m very sorry, sir.

Senior: Why were you ignoring me when I called you?

Best mate: I wasn’t ignoring you.

Senior: Oh, so you’re saying that I’m lying, right?

Best mate: No I didnt say that I…

Senior: Kneel down there!

As my mate surrended to this 6ft bully, one of my other friends suggested that he’d go to the senior to beg for my mate to be released. This was the dumbest idea I had ever heard because it was a sheep prancing its way to the slaughterhouse. But I felt my best mate’s pain as girls in my class walked past him pointing and giggling. We watched as the unsung hero went to negotiate with the senior. It appeared to be going well. The senior reached into his own pocket and even gave the braveheart some money. He walked back to the rest of us but to my surprise my best mate was still left kneeling down on the sandy ground.

Me: What happened?

Him: The senior said he’ll let him go once I buy his lunch for him.

Me: Okay, lets go buy it then.

Him: But he didnt give me enough money.

Me: How much did he give you?

Him: Five Naira.

Me: and what did he ask you to buy?

Him: 2 meatpies, 2donuts, 1 bottle of Coke, 1 Okin biscuit, 1 pack of Sprint chewing gum…and he said I should bring back his change!

I remember trying to stifle an outburst because that absurd senior wasn’t too far off from where we were standing. I refused when I was asked to contribute towards this greed-feast – my pocket money was limited. Let my best mate continue to kneel down there…we only just met anyway…its not like we’re brothers or something, I thought. But just then a teacher walked past and asked what was going on. In the end my best mate was allowed to go and he sluggishly came back to us looking really pissed.  

The following day when we went to enjoy our breaktime, a familiar bully started beckoning us to come to him. I remember how we looked at each other briefly and quickly scurried off in different directions, running for our dear lives. Those were the fun moments. Life in Junior High inevitably became a game of hide and seek with the seniors. We wore the shorts, they sported the trousers. They abused their power, we were at their mercy – a word which was probably omitted from their childhood and English Language tutorials. This was only my first year and I still had a lot to learn about surviving high school. 

 

..xTx..

Housing/Accommodation

Before you return to Nigeria it is important that you weigh all your housing options: ‘Do I have relatives I can lodge with for a while?’ ‘Do I have a friend who could accommodate me for at least 6months?’ These are cheaper options than finding a hotel or guest house. Ideally, you want to land a job and save enough to pay 2 years rent before you consider moving out.

 

With regards house rent in Nigeria most landlords or property agents ask for an upfront payment of 1-2years rent. In some cases you can pay down for a longer period if you so wish. The good thing is that for this length of time you do not have to worry about rent. Ensure that you get a stamped official receipt as proof of payment and/or a letter to that effect.

 

Do your research if you are unsure of what part of Nigeria to relocate to. Lagos is a commercial hotspot so the tendency is for people in neighboring states to apply for jobs there. If you think you want to work in Lagos then consider the travel distance between your (prospective) home and the office. If you work on the Island i.e. Victoria Island (V.I), Lekki, Ikoyi, etc and you live on the mainland i.e. Ikeja, Apapa, Ogba, Festac, etc then you have to travel through Third Mainland bridge or Carter bridge. There are varying levels of traffic depending on the time you venture unto these routes.

 

Generally properties are more expensive on the Island compared to the mainland. You also tend to get better value on the mainland. For instance, a 1-bed apartment in V.I could fetch a 3-bed apartment in Ikeja. Also consider living in residential estates so you can be part of a community. They are usually more secure and well-serviced (e.g. street lighting, security guards, etc.)

 

When choosing your new place, also make sure that you are close to key locations. For example, pharmacy, hospital, mini-mart/shop, supermarket, etc. This would mean you could make those emergency stops and save money on your transportation costs while you’re at it.

 

..xTx..