When I picked up my laptop this afternoon, it was to type something, anything. Just have my fingers play on the keyboard. You see, unlike last year when I practically lived my life behind a laptop screen averaging something like 80-100 words a minute while watching TV, since this year and my new job which only requires I handwrite descriptions, type the occasional email and spend the rest of the time relating verbally while reclining in ergonomic seats, I have not had to type as much. As such my belly has gotten flabby(-ier) and my fingers now make mistakes with every sentence, even though I am staring at the keyboard as I type. Smh. Thus I needed to write something, anything at all and it was not so difficult to find the right topic. Continue reading “The Janusaneni Guide to know if you have found the LOYL”
For a while now, I have considered a number of the systems in Nigeria, trying to understand why they do not work, or why they do not work perfectly, so that I can figure out ways to make them do just that, and while I cannot claim to understand completely the inner workings of the polity, the various ministries, parastatals and agencies in this country, I however have some knowledge of what the systems entail, and can also read human nature and predict outcomes to a reasonable level. Over the next few weeks, as I find the time, I would be analyzing different systems across Nigeria and outlining my suggested solutions for reworking them for better efficiency.
What is the purpose of all this?
With the terrible leadership at play in this country, clueless ministers and “elected” officials running around like headless chickens, there are two options left for the Nigerian:
- To duck down and let everything go to shit, while looking for the tiniest opportunity to vanish off to another country. Which I admit is the more appealing option to be very honest
- Or, to try in any way to help the situation. To speak up when you can, to advise where you can, and to help in any way. This is a thankless job and well, risky somewhat. But somehow, it is the more honourable option, and bless her soul, my mother raised me to be honourable
So, I am posting this here, online, so that anyone can see it, and use it. I only ask to be referenced.
In all my thinking, I have realized that the major underlying factor that plagues the Nigerian system is an overpowering urge to copy the modes of operation of systems in play in other (more developed) countries. This is not endemic to Nigeria though, in many African countries the same can be said. However, this forces the Nigerian system which has not evolved enough to attempt strategies that are way beyond its ken. It’s akin to a baby trying on a meal of salad. While we know that salad and greens are good, awesome and healthy food (yaay! #Fitfam), a baby needs food with more heft at that stage of its development. And if that’s not enough, you should know a baby cannot chew cabbage with those pink gums.
“You really think I can eat this bush? Somebody that went to school…>_>
My panacea to the matter has always been to understand the extent and purposes of the modes of operation in place within the systems of developed nations and modify them to suit the Nigerian system, state of mind and place in the evolutionary chain. You can feed a baby bran and milk, or even vegetables, but by and large they have to be mashed first for the baby to swallow, since it has no teeth. As the baby evolves, or grows older, the food is modified till it is the same with what mummy and daddy chew. There are systems in play in Nigeria, but they are a direct copy of what is in play in developed nations, while our modes of operation for those systems, our state of mind and our place in the evolutionary chain, are not on par with the systems. The solution is to modify what we have learned to match with what we need.
For the purpose of today’s lesson, we consider the Nigerian checkpoint system.
Perhaps, as a carryon from the old military days when everybody was as distrusting of their mother as they were of their neighbour, the checkpoints were a wonderful idea: situate armed police and military officers at certain locations to search vehicles and occupants to ensure none is carrying contraband items, attempting to flee a restricted zone or “plotting”.
Remember, back then the old NADECO members would pile into vehicles and in the guise of taking a leisurely drive around town, plot and plan their subterfuges.
Till date, over 17 years into the democratic era, the checkpoints are still in full force. There is an argument, which makes sense that states; the checkpoints serve to detract the actions of nefarious individuals from carrying out their actions. The mere presence of a checkpoint within a particular location is enough to detract your average criminal and besides, the police officers on duty are trained in certain psychological techniques to detect those with criminal intent who try to pass through the checkpoints and can hold them at will.
Question 1: But, what of the more than average criminal? Or more likely, the police officer who does not understand or cannot remember the psychology principles taught during basic training? How do they stop criminals from passing through?
The police checkpoints have over time become sites of corruption, where thousands of naira exchanges hands daily and hundreds of criminal individuals pass through uninhibited and unhindered, their pockets only slightly lighter.
Question 2: How do we stop police officers from taking bribes?
In many different situations, I have witnessed brutality occurring at the checkpoints, where officers of the law are engaging in lawless thrashing of (sometimes, innocent) individuals simply due to a lack of evidence. Going beyond their purview to beat or fine people who park the wrong way, do not have (or forgot) a certain permit among their papers or who just look fishy in the eyes of the sergeant on duty.
Question 3: How do we stop police officers from going beyond their purview, to fining or beating people without proof or beating people at all?
In busy cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, police checkpoints are an absolute nuisance. The population in those cities and the number of cars that ply the roads on a regular basis are a nightmare when combined with the presence of checkpoints at almost every other kilometre. Traffic jams are the outcome, along with overly stressed police officers, angry and irate passengers, drivers and other road users and in the midst of all this mayhem, the opportunity for criminals to sneak through.
Question 4: How do we reduce the number of checkpoints while still maintaining the value position they present?
There are many other questions that may arise, but I am certain that by the end of this post, I would have answered most of them. And now, the answers.
NB: Some of the answers/suggestions may overlap.
The more than average criminal is certain to pass through a checkpoint manned by police officers. The mere presence of the checkpoint does nothing to deter the criminal from passing through. The major reason behind this is the preparedness on the part of the criminal. The knowledge that a checkpoint exists on Street K, and will be there every night from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am in the morning, gives the criminal advance warning and enough intel to prepare. Criminals pay off officers on duty in advance to let them pass through, plan their movements for before or after the checkpoints have been dismantled, or properly hide their contraband items in places the police officers will not check and so on. The very presence of a checkpoint now serves as a motivation for the dedicated criminal to improve on strategy to ensure they pass through.
The solution to this is to employ roving vans/patrols instead of checkpoints. The element of surprise that is employed with the roving patrol van is a better strategy to detract criminals. Only an exceptional criminal would be able to evade a roving patrol which can appear out of nowhere, and at any time, set up a road block and begin checking vehicles. This method is sure to limit the level of preparedness of the criminal.
Psychological training for police officers is a matter of policy: Policy employed to ensure regular training sessions for all police officers assigned checkpoint duties to ensure they are constantly up to date with the most recent strategies to spot the criminal behaviour and apprehend it.
Bribery (both in the giving and collecting) is a character vice and can only be curbed using strict punishment as a deterrent. Stringent punishment for offenders (givers and takers and those found guilty of colluding in the crime or witnessing without reporting it), in form of instant sack or dismissal from places of work (whether public or private), “Walk of shame” parading in front of media outlets, as well as fines and prison sentences, combined together will serve as adequate deterrent to future misbehaviours. The only way to stop police officers taking bribes at checkpoints is to fight the practice completely, punishing those who ask, those who offer and those who accept.
A follow up question would be: Who would make the arrest? And how can we be sure the “arresters” are themselves not guilty of the crime? The answer is simple and a lesson as old as time. It takes a scapegoat. When a bunch of officers, and some private citizens are arrested, punished and paraded on major news outlets for “small bribe”, citizens would refuse to part with (ostensible, at the least) bribes no matter how pressured by police officers at checkpoints. By limiting the source, the supply would drop and the market would end.
This is a matter of policy first of all. The policy that ensures well trained officers are the only ones on the road. Secondly, a database should be created from all of the information garnered over the years related to number plates and other vehicle registration details, drivers license details etc. accessible on the internet with regularly updated copies made in both soft and hard copy available at all police stations (or Zonal HQs at least) across the country.
With a simple shortwave two-way radio, a text or a phone call, a police officer at a checkpoint can confirm from a dispatcher at the station if the man behind the wheel is indeed the owner of the vehicle, especially when the driver forgot his/her papers, or even more importantly ascertain if the registration papers or license that were presented are genuine.
This system of communication/confirmation with the stations will also help police officers track down fugitives and offenders who beat checkpoints.
NB: An enterprising car thief could mock up fake registration papers and pass through veritably every single checkpoint in this country, and only a system such as outlined above can prevent that.
Like earlier suggested, roving patrols would provide a better option than checkpoints. At certain important chokeholds, such as at state or city boundaries, a checkpoint is a great idea. Also, within a specific radius of important locations such as government houses and the presidential villa, checkpoints would serve a good purpose. However, to put them on every street junction is foolhardy. Patrol cars parked unobtrusively at the side of the road in certain areas, and then some leisurely patrolling through the streets would serve a better purpose, reduce the possibility of traffic logjams and improve the ability of the police officers to spot threats.
Now, my suggestions are just that, and the comments are open for any additions and discussions. I intend to continue with this series and would appreciate suggestions on other topics we can discuss.
- Warri babies eat anything, from what I hear
- I am not responsible for whatever lessons an enterprising criminal may glean from this
- I am responsible for whatever lesson a law abiding police officer, citizen or policy maker gleans from this
- The suggestions here are not limited to the Nigerian Police Force
GOD bless Nigeria
Follow on Twitter @Stillweather
Walking into the Garrison Tech Cluster was a surreal experience the first time. I had heard so much about the place, seen it so many times as I rode or drove past, and read so many articles about it. So this time around, I decided it was time to visit the cluster and find out for myself if the stories were true, which of them were farfetched and what stories I could add to the mix. I alighted the taxi just below the Garrison bus-stop sign on Aba Road Expressway and stared across the busy road at the bustling marketplace before me. It was a jumble of stalls, large umbrellas of different colours and shade, garishly coloured signs in bright neon and the deafening cacophony of hundreds of power generators. The cluster seemed to buzz like a hive, from a distance I could feel the intensity of the place – a pulsating excitement characterised by the bustle as people darted about in varying degrees of excitement, hands bristling with various gadgets. I crossed the road with trepidation, anxious about what I would find and yet curious. The cluster seemed to yawn open before me, hundreds of shops with doors wide open, large industrial fans fighting to preserve the cool against the heat of the laptops and gadgets. A jean-clad young man walked up to me, mouth open in a gap-toothed grin. “Bros, you want to repair a phone?”
I was in the cluster.
The Garrison Tech cluster is a collection of inter-related tech businesses found at the Garrison axis of the Aba Road Expressway. These businesses range from Software to hardware repair, sale and maintenance stalls, for computers and mobiles, CCTV installation, Tech Security software protocols etc. These businesses are run by young men and women from different parts of the country, separated by tribe, social caste and education and united by a love for technology and a desire to use that technology to the utmost in the fulfilment of their dreams.
As part of the Garrison Tech cluster series, I met with Wisdom Ofoni who has been at the cluster for six years. Wisdom who hails from Bayelsa state, agreed to talk to me at his office which he shares with a colleague and friend who we have interviewed earlier in this series – Barisiere Godfrey. I talked to Wisdom and got a few insights into his life and the reason why he came to the cluster.
“I love creativity, I love challenges”
The young man who is in his early thirties kept a slight grin on all through his talk with me. On occasion his eyes would dart to one of the two computer screens in front of his while he checked the 22 downloads he had ongoing, but asides from that he paid me his full attention. “I love creativity, I love challenges. I took it as a challenge to go into the field and do what others cannot do. That is what brought me to Garrison,” he smiles. Wisdom Ofoni performs the usual Garrison tech cluster services – flashing and unlocking of mobile devices and upgrading them, and then he goes a step further with installing CCTV cameras as well as installing marine communications systems. He also works on Mac and Windows operating computers. “I mainly work on the software, but for CCTV and marine communications installation, I work with both the hardware and the software.”
“I did not go to computer school”
Wisdom’s father died shortly after he finished from secondary school. Back then in 2001, he had applied and secured admission into an art school in San Francisco, the death of his father however put a stop to those plans. Stalled in his attempt to study art, which had always been his passion, Wisdom turned to IT. “I had a friend who worked at a cybercafé and I would visit him there. Every day I went to the cybercafé and watched the engineers work, unscrewing the computers and making them work again. This was when I fell in love with IT”. He had access to the computers at the cybercafé and from watching the hardware engineers and videos on YouTube, Wisdom began to develop the foundation of the knowledge that would earn him a shop at the Garrison Tech cluster.
“My sister gave me a laptop that I loosened and played with. I discovered the location of the hard disk and the RAM and practically turned it upside down. Eventually, I got hired at the cybercafé,” he adds with a smile. “As an engineer. I did not go to computer school.” He eventually left that cybercafé for another where he was better trained to repair computer systems by seasoned engineers.
Working for free for five years
Wisdom first came to the cluster in 2007. Back then his iPod had a problem and he had come to the cluster to fix it. At the cluster he met Obinna who took the iPod and jailbreaked it. Jailbreaking is the process of removing the restrictions on a mobile device so it can accept third party applications. After watching Obinna work, Wisdom went home and tried to practice. It was not long afterward that he came back to Obinna and volunteered himself as an apprentice. “I worked for free for 5 years,” he says with a wide grin. In the first 2 years, he only worked part-time for Obinna, spending the rest of his time at the cybercafé where he also worked as an engineer.
Obinna is still in the cluster and both of them have remained friends and Wisdom has not regretted the decision that he made.
Nigerians can excel at IT
When asked why he came to Garrison, his eyes flash as he answers with conviction. “I came to create a job for myself instead of waiting for the government to provide me with one. I have created in this place, a white collar job not just for myself, but for others too.” He shows me his brother who works for him and gets paid for it and another young man who he has also employed. Wisdom not only employed them, but he has also housed the young men in his house till they can stand on their own feet. “I want to carry them along and show them that they can achieve what I have achieved. The world needs to know that Nigerians can excel at IT”.
A passion for security
Wisdom has a passion for security and wants to develop an IT firm in a few years so he can combat the insecurity situation in countries like Nigeria. “If you go to the hospital, you can easily gain access to anyone’s medical record. Hospitals in developed countries store their patient’s files in databases that can only be accessed under specific authorization. In Nigeria, it is too easy to gain access to privileged medical records. If the person suffers from a contagious disease like HIV, it can lead to stigmatization which can hurt the person”. To work as a security expert, Wisdom admits that he needs a license. Even though he has been working on his own in Garrison Tech Cluster for over a year now, he still has not registered a company. He has however sent in names to the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria to start the process.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“In 5 years time I see myself bigger than this. My firm would be registered and I would be the CEO employing younger ones. I want to give the younger people an opportunity to make something out of their lives. In Nigeria, very few 18 year olds know how to create a CV when applying for jobs. This is not the case in the Western world, over there young people between the ages of 15 and 18 have CVs and can apply for jobs. I want Nigerian adolescents to know that there is nothing wrong with having a CV now. Gain experience and learn how to work for yourself. This way life would be easier for them as young adults”
What challenges do you face here?
“The major challenge is the internet connection. With good internet, you keep yourself up to date, and be informed on the new things that are coming out. If a customer comes for software work, you have to run that job on the internet to make it easier. If you don’t have access to the internet it is a great challenge. We have security challenges too. My neighbour was robbed at night after we had closed for the day. Other than that, I can think of no other challenges. Yes, there is a lot of competition, if you do not have internet connection and are not upgrading yourself frequently, you will not last long in the business. Studying and leaning to update myself, in order to know the new things, is how I stay ahead of the competition. Studying online, reading tech blogs and joining GSM forums to know challenges they are having is a great way to stay ahead.”
Wisdom is married with two children, Princess, a girl who is older at 10 years and Justice, a boy, who is 3 years. His wife’s name is Timi. They live in a 3 bedroom apartment at Akpajo on the outskirts of Rivers state from where Wisdom journeys every morning to the Garrison Tech Cluster. Asides from his little family, Wisdom also houses some other relations and one of his staff of two, making a total of seven people in his house. Timi sells diesel fuel at retail from a shop close to the house when she is not taking care of the children. Both his children attend school – Justice is just about to resume as a Primary 1 pupil with the new session while Princess starts at Junior Secondary School 1.
I asked him one last question before I left his shop.
If your father was still alive, or you had been able to secure admission to art school would you be here?
“I cannot say for certain where I would be, only God knows that, but I am happier here”
This post was originally posted here as part of a series I assisted in curating on the Garrison Tech Cluster in Port Harcourt.
First of all, I am not a coder, not a core one by any definition. Once upon a time I learned MySQL, worked about two weeks as a database admin, did a short Java and Android course and never typed another line of code again. Anyway, I am a proud member of GDG (Google Developer Group) Port Harcourt and on Friday, 18th November, 2016, we had the privilege to host the Google Developer Festival (DevFest) for Southern and Eastern Nigeria.
This post is not so much a review as a recant of my experiences and the lessons I learned being a part of the organizing team.
Becoming a GDG Port Harcourt member
Okay, to begin, how did I become a member of GDG Port Harcourt? It was sometime last year, in one of the very few instances when my former employer showed some mettle, he recommended me to a free UI/UX Masterclass being organized by the GDG Port Harcourt. It was during the two day program that I met Gino Osahon, Sharon Georgewill, Sokari Gillis-Harry, Joshua Joshua, Precious Chukundah, Daniel Ekpo, Godfrey Ayaosi, Ihunanyachi Thompson and a number of the really cool guys who make up the GDG PH. Naturally, my team performed excellently at the UX Masterclass event and I asked Gino if I could join in. It was that simple. I subscribed to the GDG International Facebook page, submitted my email address and phone number and got added to a Whatsapp group and then a mailing list.
Bam! I was a member.
Now let’s fast-forward a few months into the future, take out the afro hairdo and the boss with the lack of mettle, and we have #DevFest16.
This is Google’s Developer Festival, one of the many free events Google organizes annually, to teach people more about technology, especially Google technology, as well as encourage them to utilize Google products. Festivals usually have codelabs, hackathons, pitch sessions and panel sessions as part of the program and this year was going to be no exception. Except for one thing, this time around I was going to be part of the team. Somehow during the first meeting of the chapter lead and his team members, someone had suggested I would be likely to volunteer.
They were right.
LEADING THE RIGHT TEAM WILL ALWAYS GUARANTEE SUCCESS
One of the best things that can happen to you as a leader is to have the right people in your team. Whilst being a part of the sponsorship team, I was also tasked to handle the Online Media publicity team of the event. Considering the level of the event, it was probably going to be one of the toughest tasks I had ever carried out. I was excited to do it, already envisioning different campaign strategies to be used, content to be created and so much more, and this was before I even met the team I would be working with. Jerri Nnah and Dorothy Mepba of AdForumCo are two of the most talented media people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. At the risk of disappointing clients and my future employer, I have to admit, these guys and their team did so much work for this event, I was practically lazing about in the background. With minimal direction, they achieved so much, my supervisory role was illusory.
After trending online for 3 days straight, with hundreds of interactions coming off this event, it was no surprise when we exceeded our registration quota of (500 attendees) with over 532 people registered by the morning of the event, and then perhaps a thousand people who actually attended, some of them not even registering.
BE PREPARED, ALWAYS
This is one lesson, I should have noted from my days with the Boy’s Scout when my father would lug me into the backseat of his Volkswagen Beetle and drive me half-dressed to the parade ground on the grounds of the St. Paul’s church at Airport road in Benin City. Every single Saturday, whether I was dressed or not, once it was time, I was tossed into the car and he would drive off.
“Be prepared, Oare,” he would say.
A few months to the appointed date, we were prepped, and all teams assembled. We were going to take #DevFest16 like a monsoon wind (since saying storm is too mainstream), and then Google announced we should hold off on any kind of publicity et al., until they give approval. The wind went out our sails. Everything ground to a halt. Planning committee team members traveled from the state, some got married and pregnant (hehe, I kid), everyone went back to their usual duties, I put away my already printed “I set to KILL IT in the DevFest Planning Committee! YAAAY!” t-shirt. As expected, apathy set in and we all forgot about our duties.
Then, with barely 20 days to go to 18th November, Google gave the go-ahead. The scramble was the stuff of history movies (the kind where stuff blow up). First of all, the entire thing was happening in grainy black-and-white, none of our anticipated (money-laden) sponsors would sponsor the event, publicity was slow in kicking off, the website for registration and co was suddenly littered with bugs, the hall we planned to use was suddenly in danger of being booked on that day, and all the while the hours kept ticking away. We ought to have kept up with our planning, we ought to have stayed prepared. This is one lesson I would not forget.
MURPHY’S LAW WAS CAST IN STONE WITH THE BLOOD OF BINI WITCHES
Looking back now, the event was a definite success, all things considered. Participants and delegates from across Southern and Eastern Nigeria and beyond, all went back happy, and knowledge was imparted. However…
Everything that could go wrong did. The speakers came slightly late, the cords that had been bought were miraculously too big to fix in the jacks, the walkie-talkies did not work, data connectivity was slow, program schedule was a binsh to handle, PHCN and the PHED (Port Harcourt Electricity Distributor) kept taking power, the backup generator was slow to come on, the ACs were overworked, one of the projectors refused to work, participants brought along more laptops and devices than we had sockets for, name-tags for organizers had the wrong names on them, sometime after maybe 800 people had been served refreshments, the food finished, there was a typo on a poster no one noticed until event day, as well as sponsors whose logos were not included in the backdrop. The list goes on, but each of these mentioned contributed to causing a bit of mayhem at the event.
When planning events, it is wise to consider every kind of eventuality because a tiny grain of sand out of the way can expand a crack into a crevasse.
EVEN CLOSE-KNIT FAMILIES FIGHT, WHAT MATTERS IS WHEN THEY COME BACK TOGETHER
As was to be expected, we fought. Bitterly. Blood everywhere. Tempers were raised, egos were crushed, insults were tossed from one end to another, legs and heads were threatened with dire harm, organizers threatened to boycott the event and so on and so forth. But in the end, the GDG Port Harcourt came through like a family, albeit a shaky extended one, with too many wives and offshoots, but still a family. When it mattered the most, members had volunteers came through and put their very best to work for the success of the event. And this, not the planning or logistic magicks employed by Banjo, Joshua and Daniel, was responsible for whatever successes we recorded that day.
ONE, ONE, ONE…AND STICK TO ONE THING
There were many takeaways from the event, but one stuck to me more than most. Aniedi Udo-Obong, the Google Developer Groups Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa and Chief Host of the event, when taking his keynote address said (amongst other things); “Read one book, watch [and finish] one tutorial and join one community”. He aimed to advise beginner/amateur and expert devs who were considering too many options at the same time to concentrate on one and be a master of it. Stick to one.
It was brilliant advice and another one I would always remember. Stick to one thing, join one community. I am happy I joined GDG Port Harcourt and was a part of #DevFestSE16.
For more information on details of #DevFestSE16 and pictures, visit @sedevfest on Twitter, @devfestse on Instagram and most especially, http://www.facebook.com/devfestse. You can also follow GDG Port Harcourt on Twitter @GDGPHC and on http://www.facebook.com/gdgportharcourt
Website is http://www.devfestse.tech
- Murphy’s Law can be calculated to the furthest significant figure and you will still fall short. You have to also prepare for that. LOL. Inception-y.
- It is not coincidence that I have the same sweatshirt on first day I joined GDG Port Harcourt and well, the last. I just don’t have clothes. Buy for me please.
- That last disclaimer is not so much a disclaimer as a very thinly veiled cry for help. Epp mi, plis…
Peace. Follow me on Twitter @Stillweather
Last week, I happened across a number of posts on Twitter about #GrillandRead. I almost always read while I eat so the Grill part caught me. This is a candid post on my personal experiences at #GrillandRead.
GrillandRead, like the Convener, Abigail Anaba, author of Sector IV, (@anabagail on Twitter) says, is a gathering where people who love reading, the occasional readers, writers (the Serious, Not-So Serious and the Pretentious), Poets, Spoken Word (artistes?) and people interested in literary stuff, can come together in a conducive atmosphere and have fun talking about books while networking and munching on grilled food. There was a lot of buzz about it on Twitter; dozens of retweets clogging my timeline on a regular, all the cool Port Harcourt people and @TouchPH were behind it and so I just had to come.
In the past, I have had terrible experiences with literary events in Port Harcourt, and I was a little apprehensive, but with convincing on Twitter from Franklin (@ThatPHCBoy on Twitter) and the Convener herself, I decided to. By the end of the event, I had decided to write a review of my experience and well, here I am.
If you are organizing any event at all, one of the things you have to pay attention to is the location. GrillandRead did a very good job with that. By situating it at the junction of Elekahia Estate and Stadium road, which is centered in Port Harcourt, the organizers could be sure of a solid number of attendees from all over the city. And this was what happened. There were attendees from Choba, Aluu, Mgbouba, Elekahia, Artillery, Old GRA, GRA Phase 2, Rukpokwu, Eliozu and so many other places. I had never been to the location before that day but it was easy for me to find, all of the taxis on Stadium Road knew it. There was also a large banner placed at the gate entrance, which is just at the junction and so even those without my 20/20 *cough* vision could find it.
The garden which was also used (Name withheld abeg, #NoFreeAdverts), was conducive enough, contributing lots to the right kind of ambience (as much as you can find it in grey-weathered Port Harcourt) and for all that, high marks in my books.
Sound and music
Music is a huge part of any groove, book party or fraternity shindig, and the DJ played an okay selection of music, calm enough not to be too jarring, but boring enough that I can barely recall a single song that was played. I do remember though, that there was almost no correlation between the songs played, save that they were “RnB musiks”. Music is a huge part of the arts and I really hoped the music at a book get-together would have been a little more stimulating, in going with the rhythm or theme of the entire event. Alas, too much to hope for.
Also, the microphone kept having really terrible signal and made a large part of the proceedings nearly unbearable to un…d…sta…and. In my opinion, the organizers did not plan or determine any kind of theme for the event or even bother arranging a playlist with the DJ. Neither did they test equipment properly before the event commenced. Low marks here.
Open Mic, Spoken Word and Master(?) of Events
First off, the Open Mic session was the very best of the entire event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself here. Dozens of people, including yours truly had opportunities to read some of our stuff as well as, stuff we had read somewhere to the entire audience. I listened to some really good poems and heard some really nice voices. The spoken word poets present were the very best and big kudos to the Convener for encouraging the Word Phantoms (a spoken word group out of University of Port Harcourt) to perform. I had my fingers nearly sore from clapping again and again.
The Master of ceremony however was terrible. His jokes were boring, and more than half the time he seemed unsure of the programme he was running with. Thank goodness literary enthusiasts love to talk and helped him out a lot of the time with their own comments and jokes. That session would have been a disaster. It was Hallelujah when the Convener came up and gave us leave to hit the grill, mingle and ignore the MC.
Food, drinks, books and ticketing
To attend GrillandRead, the ticket fee was
N1,400, with options to pay online or with a bank transfer and also at the gate. This was favourable for me because my USSD mobile transfer didn’t go through when I tried and while a large part of Port Harcourt is indeed in this decade, quite a considerable number remains as traditional as they come. However, at the gate I was charged N1,500. I am not sure even now if that was inclusive of a “gate charge”. It was very bad form to charge a different price at the gate, from what was listed on the website.
Speaking of bad form; tickets came with stubs for food and drink. Ergo, the food (which was Holy and Blessed by the Almighty Port Harcourt Bole and Fish, served in a styrofoam pack with plastic – imagine! – forks) is supposed to paid for with the ticket right? Wrong. Getting to the grill, I was informed that the ticket only paid for fish (a tiny thing I would get across the road at Elekahia estate for
N100-150) and that for the yams and plantain (that make up the actual bole), I would have to pay a sum. Bad, bad, bad.
The drinks were not so bad, with orange juice in a bottle and lemonade poured in a cup being the options. I chose lemonade, which was okay, packed chockfull with ice cubes as it was, and can only surmise the orange juice was as good. The only other options for drink available were sold.
Authors, Discussions and Books
The panel of authors which included Othuke Ominiabohs, author of Odufa and A Conspiracy of Ravens, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, author of Sarah House, Franklyn FineCountry, author of Avenger of Blood and Merit Gogo-Fyneface, author of White Places were completely uninformed (or so they had us believe) of what their duty was at the event and spent most of the time (when the faulty microphone let them) saying, “So, I don’t know what you want to know. What do you want to know? Can someone help me?”
I didn’t know as well so I couldn’t help.
The discussion devolved immediately after it started, with the very boring and barely grasped monologue of a young man (didn’t get his name) who kept trying to compare Things Fall Apart with the movie adaptation (which almost none of us had seen or could remember seeing) and trying to align the comparison with comments on the Nigerian movie industry of today. I was lost from the very beginning and I have seen the 1971 movie adaptation of Things fall Apart.
Like with most events that happen in Port Harcourt, the discussion became much too intellectual (and boring). People began leaving their seats and milling about as the authors on the panel tried not to disagree too much with some (book buying and patronizing) members of the audience, several individuals hustled for the faulty microphone with the MC, each posturing and desperate to make their voice heard and have their say while using too many words, the DJs went around the corner to eat their (hopefully free) bole and out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Convener flee to the carpark where some fellows had gathered around several bottles of palm wine and it seemed a very interesting discussion was brewing.
Book dat cost
I went to the carpark too after passing by the book stand.
The book stand had books by each of the visiting authors, as well as some others. And to my greatest surprise, the costs of the books were such that I was tempted to question my motives to read more African writers. One would imagine that with the amount paid at the gate, the book vendors would have agreed on a discount rate with the organizers. Apparently, the money paid for the venue had to made back or something because that did not happen.
Final Words – Will I attend another GrillandRead event?
Yes. I made a couple of new friends at GrillandRead Mr @CharlesOzi and Miss IB (@Designerkath on Twitter) among them. The networking session could have done with a little help, such as games and other fun events to pair attendees and help loosen the characteristic shyness most book lovers suffocate themselves with. It would have helped me for sure. Perhaps I should have eaten a hearty lunch before attending and come stocked with more cash for books, and perhaps a less apprehensive mind, but I am sure with a little improvement and adjustment to the more tense mien of the Port Harcourt people, GrillandRead will do better next time.
- Just my opinion o! I have a manuscript with publishers, before I hear say ehen…Na joke I dey
- LOL. I am not joking. I meant every word.
- If I mispell a name or book, please forgive
Follow on Twitter @Stillweather.
Spoke to the Convener on Twitter and she said, prices of tickets were set to be cheaper online than at the venue to encourage people to pay ahead of the date. Also, GrillandRead did not promise food for attendees, but only fish, palmwine or fruit juice on the ticket. These details according to Abigail were stated clearly in the @GrillnRead tweets prior to the event.
I unfortunately did not see those tweets before this post.
So, last night a friend of mine hit me up, we used to be quite cool back in UNIBEN and he had just written a book. I was still gushing with my praise, congratulations and “You know say my own signed copy na free na heehaw heehaw” when he added that he was having a book launch party planned. Naturally, my excitement tripled. I was seeing very visual visions of chatting, dinner and ehm…movies with the brunette sapiosexuals, when he brought me down to earth with: “Chris, can you help me out with the program. Like, what’s supposed to happen?”
That was when I realized, in typical Nigerian mien, Oga was planning a book launch party, and did not even know what it was going to be all about. So, I decided to write this post for those of you out there who are planning book launches and don’t know how to go about them. Continue reading “Guidelines to organizing a book launch in Nigeria”
Sugar mummies in Port Harcourt are a serious thing. A really serious thing. It has not been one time or twice that I have been propositioned. There is a lurid satisfaction that comes with being the object of sexual attraction of someone 15-20 years older than you. Anyway, this is one of my stories of what happened.
When I first came to Port Harcourt four years ago, I was young, bright-eyed and hungry. I had come from my little town in Benin City and I was determined to make sure I made money in Port Harcourt before I headed back. Very quickly, one of the first things I did was to start a business. I registered a company with the CAC and started searching for clients everywhere I could.
One day while talking business with a potential client who was the owner of a beauty salon in GRA Phase 2, I was called over to a lady who was getting her hair braided. She asked me what I did and then gave me her business card and told me to call her the next day. I was overjoyed. It seemed like all my dreams were about to come true. Not only had I been able to meet a potential client, I was also going to get a second one. I was so happy.
As soon as I got home, I called the lady. She quickly told me to call her later and sent me a text message to meet her the following day at a restaurant in GRA. I was so excited. I spent the whole night writing and rewriting proposals I will present to her. When power went, I ran outside and bought a few litres of petrol to run my generator so I could print out enough proposals for our meeting. Continue reading “How I nearly got killed because of a sugar mummy in Port Harcourt”