Archive for the Naija Dreams Category

5 days, 1 Ghana! – Day 0

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random with tags on January 30, 2010 by Naijaman

For many years, I have been thinking of visiting Ghana. I finally decided to make it happen as part of my last trip to Nigeria and put an itinerary together. A combination of Google, Timeout Accra and feedback from a very nice someborri produced the itinerary below. To make the trip even more interesting, I decided to travel by road (i.e. public transportation) to Ghana from Lagos. (Many thought I had lost it at this point!).

This is the first installment of a multi part series. Yeah, I had that much fun in Ghana!

Day 1: Road trip, Hotel Check in, chop, baff and tins!

Road trip from Lagos to Accra with mid afternoon arrival. Checkin, relax. Quick taxi ride to La Palm Beach to hang out for the rest of the day. (Thai massage at La Palm Beach Hotel is said to be the best in Ghana!). One minute away from the hotel is the Artists Alliance for a variety of souvenirs & all types of art from paintings, sculptures, postcards, etc.

Day 2: History, Nature, Shax, Shake Bodi small…

  • One day excursion to Cape Coast. Visiting the Cape coast castle and Kakum National Parks

Evening Options:

  • Hit Reggae club/show @ Labadi Beach Hotel
  • Drinks at The Honeysuckle (English style pub. Great food, great crowd)
  • Explore Alliance Françoise for events

Day 3: Brunch, Art, Explore Accra, New Years Eve…

Late Morning Options (Brunch):

  • Venus
  • Melting Moments (great food, décor)

Early Afternoon:

  • Visit the Art Center for good prices and variety of souvenirs
  • Pass by the famous Independence Square where Kwame Nkrumah gave Ghana’s independence speech
  • Shopping, city sights, souvenirs

Late Lunch Options (Bukka Style):

  • Country Kitchen
  • Katawodieso

Evening/Night Options:

  • Cocktails @ the African Regent Hotel
  • Cocktails (take II) at Rhapsody’s
  • Bless the Mike @ Baze Lounge

Day 4: New Years Day! Beach, swmming, chill and serious shake bodi!

Morning/Early afternoon:

  • Labadi Beach Hotel (Good restaurant, ambience & swimming)


  • Lunch @ Buka Restaraunt (Good food, good crowd)

Early Evening:

  • Cocktails/Dinner @ Monsoon. Great sushi bar, 90% Oyinbo joint

Late Night Options:

  • Remas (Soul and motion night)
  • Tantra
  • XL (upscale)
  • Citizen Kofi (4 different dance floors with a restaurant on the top floor)

Day 5: Depart for Lagos after a smashing time in Accra!

Naija State of Mind!

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random on January 13, 2010 by Naijaman

With all the attention our dear country has been getting of late; the attempted Christmas day bombing, our MIA Presido, enough is enough rallys and protests, the high profile talks hinting at a failed state, my recent trip home and my resulting profiling at Newark International airport upon my return, Naija has been weighing heavily on my mind. I was on my way out of the house this morning when I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of patriotism and went back upstairs to Naijarize my accessories so all should recognize that I’m also “Naija Outside”.

So I got into the car and started my early morning commute to work. The Alicia Keys CD I had bought just before I left for Naija was still in heavy rotation in my CD player. One of my favorite songs on the CD, “Empire State of Mind” came on and I was merrily singing along when I suddenly realized that there was something about the song that sounded so familiar. Could she be singing about… Lagos?

You self listen well…

Famous as a place of movie Nollywood scenes…

Noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean…

If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere that’s what they say…

Even if it ain’t all it seems I’ve got a pocket full of dreams, baby I’m from New York Lagos…

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do…

Now you are in New York Lagos… These streets will make you feel brand new, big no light will inspire you (Just ask someone how much they spend on diesel every month to run their generators and you’ll certainly be inspired!)…

Hear it for New York Lagos…

On the Avenue Sanusi Fafunwa, there ain’t never a curfew, ladies work so hard…

Hail an gypsy cab okada… takes me from Harlem Obalende to the Brooklyn Bridge Ebutte Meta.

Speaking of which… Where is Banky? I beg, come and “Ebutte metta” this one for us too! (I have since been informed that Banky did not disappoint and already has the Lagos remix in circulation. I beg, who get am?)

I’ve thought about this one hundred and one ways and there is no one I would rather be than a Nigerian. Being Naija is what makes it possible for me to speak big grammar in front of  executive management and also tear broken while negotiating with the dude selling bootleg CDs in Lagos traffic. (Ol boy, whish wan you dey naaa?). It is what allows me to travel from Lagos to Accra by PT (big up ABC Transport Company) and then check into one of the best hotels in Ghana for the night. It’s what taught me how to confidently rock a double Windsor at work and then totally rock some old school guinea brocade or Ankara at the owambe later that night. It is what makes me close my office door at lunch time so I can destroy my jollof rice, moin-moin, dodo and fowl with my hands in peace and then Kung-Fu some some sushi, sashimi and other mede mede at dinner time armed with a pair of bamboo chopsticks. It is what makes me… NaijaMan!

One hand in the air for the big city, streets lights, big dreams all looking pretty (In case you didn’t see the Christmas lights on Ajose Adeogun courtesy of Zenith bank), no place in the world that can compare… Put your lighters in the air everybody say yeah…

The danger of a single story

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random with tags , , on October 10, 2009 by Naijaman

Every now and then, I can be found cruising the TED website for some random inspiration. Their tagline “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” is spot on and really does feature some pretty remarkable people and their equally remarkable points of view and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is certainly no exception.

I was somewhat familiar with her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun which caused a stir of excitement when it came out a few years ago. I recall seeing so many Nigerians proudly displaying their copies and talking about how great it was. Despite the fact that I consider myself an avid reader, (I consume at least 4 books a month and bits and pieces of many more) I refused to read Half of A Yellow Sun simply because “I don’t read fiction”. However, after gleaning some information from Chimamanda’s website in preparation for this post, I realized that in my ignorance I had fallen into the very trap Chimamanda warned of by assuming a single story of fiction!

So what is this book really about?  The quote below from her website says it way better than I ever can.

“Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all.”

Needless to say, my copy should be here as soon as Amazon can get it to me and who knows, there might be a book review on here someday!

60 minutes with the man…

Posted in Naija Dreams on October 1, 2009 by Naijaman

Happy Independence Day all…

I was having a casual phone conversation with my boy Charlie when he mentioned that the man was in town for the UN Summit and asked if I was interested in having a meeting with him. Not knowing what to think, I started making all sorts of excuses and quite frankly, I just didn’t want to take him seriously because  I was somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing. I was quickly jolted back to reality when he asked me to hold on because the man was calling him on the other line. I patiently held on and the next thing I heard was his unmistakable voice asking how I was doing…

“I’m fine sah! How are you sah?”

A brief discussion ensued, we agreed on a time and he gave me the address of his hotel and his room number. The next morning, I found myself outside his hotel at 8:30am sharp and thirty minutes later, I called his room… “Good Morning Sah!”. Apparently, he had just woken up and asked me to come up in another thirty minutes. At 9am on the dot, I knocked on his door and and he opened the door and invited me in. I half prostrated, half walked into the room and sat down in the lounge and waited for him to finish sending a text.

We spent the next hour talking about everything from my background to the state of our dear nation. Our conversation settled on a single question that had more answers and generated many more questions than we had time to explore. How do we position ourselves to take advantage of our potential as a nation? There are so many forward looking reports (N-11, Vision 2020, NEEDS etc) that tell us what we already know… If we do the right things, we can be greater than some of the countries we currently look up to today.

He offered the following advice for folks in the Diaspora thinking of moving back home and the benefits of the private sector and being a risk taking entrepreneur. There are so many people coming to the realization that there are much more opportunities to make considerable impact back in Naija and they are trying to figure out how to effect a “reverse” Andrew. (Not sure if you remember that Andrew commercial… Some dude at the airport in Naija speaking phone… “Men, I’m checking out. No good roads, no light, no water. Men, you can’t even get a common bottle of soft drink!”. I think the only thing that has changed since 1984 is that you can now get a common bottle of soft drink. Quite sad!).

Some of the key points:

1) Demonstrate entrepreneurship/risk taking capacity

He strongly advised getting a few people with diverse expertise together to start something rather than taking up employment. He said it’s important that at least two of them aren’t carrying “trailers” around. i.e. Excess baggage of family responsibility. Wife, Kids etc. He said basically, we have to identify the people will be sent out to be on the ground, bear the risks and prepare the way for the other folks. He stressed the importance of being “on ground”.

2) Sort out personal accommodation/living arrangements.

The deciding factors in figuring out where you decide to live should be location and decency. It’s very important to be close to the “movers and shakers”. He gave a few banded options:

, Ojodu
, Ikeja, 

Apapa (not Ajegunle O!)

Lagos Island (Not Isale Eko O!), 
Victoria Island
, Lekki, 
Banana Island

3) Sort out office/business location

As quickly as possible, you should set up an office. It could be your house (as defined in #1) initially but not for too long. Similarly, location and decency are the key deciding factors. The size is not that important. This is very important. People start to take you seriously when you are “on ground”, have a pitch/idea and a decent, well located office.

4) Have a Pitch Ready

Ultimately, you should be able to deliver a  well put together and orchestrated overview of what you/your organization does. This is something that will come in handy for various audiences. Potential investors, partners, door openers etc. Take advantage of every opportunity to sell it to anyone who will listen.

5) Be visible

You need to make sure you are visible to the folks that can make a difference. That means that the people who are important to your success know who you are and what you are capable of. Position and Market yourself in such a way that it is clear to everyone what you do. One day someone might have a need and think of you. That’s how opportunities are born.

6) Connect with the “Door Openers”

It’s not enough to have a group of experts, lots of intellect and a nice office. You need to find what he calls “Door Openers”. These are people who have the ability to create opportunity and even finance your vision. He said to be wary of people who have the sole intention of taking over once things are set up. There are also some door openers who will actually connect you for a fee. Others will put their money and reputation on the line for you and hence will demand something significant to show for it.

7) Be prepared for the high cost of doing business

Three main things that he feels we lack in Naija that contribute to the unnecessarily high cost of doing business.

1. Lack of constant supply of electricity

2. Lack of good transportation infrastructure

3. Lack of discipline. (I took this to mean personal Indiscipline. Remember W.A.I.?)

It’s essential to be prepared for all these things and account for them in your planning process. It will cost several multiples of what you thought it would and take many times longer than you ever imagined.

Other random discussions were around the state of education in Naija. I asked him some specific questions about his university and what models one could employ to ensure that the youth are well prepared to support N-11/Vision 2020 and other forward looking projections. I asked about the CIDA City Campus free education model in South Africa and if he thought that could work in Naija. I asked about government programs that could enable folks in the Diaspora to give back. I pitched an NYSC credit system. Did he think we could set up a program that awards Nigerians who graduated outside the country completion “points” towards the NYSC service year based on volunteer initiatives over the traditional NYSC structure? E.g. Giving a presentation to secondary school students in Naija is worth x points, teaching a class over the summer is worth y points which adds up to reduce or even eliminate the post camp service obligations.

In summary, while none of the advice he gave was news to me, it was very helpful putting some structure around it. There was something about hearing it from someone who had held the top job not once but twice that gave it some sort of official credibility. One thing was pretty clear to me from the discussions, you are either all in (or at least mostly in) or you are out. Being “in” clearly has its challenges and if you go in there with the assumptions and mindset that have made you successful in other parts of the world, you might be in for a rude awakening.

Aluta Continua!

NaijaMade… Coming to a store near you!

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random on October 2, 2008 by Naijaman

I finally attended the 2008 Nigerian day parade in NYC and despite the rain, there was a pretty good turnout. I had a great time helping a friend publicize her new social networking website. It was nice to see all the Naija’s in full effect strutting their green and whites all day.

I took advantage of the celebrations to launch NaijaMade: NaijaMan’s T-Shirt line. Many thanks to everyone who bought a t-shirt that day and encouraged me to take this dream to the next level. Send me a message if you’d like to preorder.

Update: 04/28/09. The v1.0 launched today. Currently carrying just the Naija Day parade selection. We are working on the summer line and will update the online offering shortly!

Vice President Houseboy

Posted in Naija Dreams on March 14, 2008 by Naijaman

Last night, I decided to get a head start on the weekends chores and clean the kitchen. I soon decided this whole swifter business wasn’t cutting it and I graduated to a bucket and a scrubbing brush. (After all, I be Naijaman!). As I was on my knees scrubbing the floor, I started to reflect on the contents of a leadership class I had taken earlier on in the day and while I was thinking about my strengths and the different roles I play in the organization it suddenly dawned on me… At that particular moment in time, I was nothing but a HOUSEBOY! 

At my age, if I was in Naija and someone from the village walked in and saw me washing the floor, they would think I had been cursed or something.  Na wetin America don cause be dis o!

Now, not to say that I can’t pay someone $100 to clean my house every 2 weeks. I actually started doing that last year and wasn’t that impressed with the quality of work or comfortable with the idea of having random strangers roaming around my house and decided to go back to doing it myself. 

This is the first in the series of what I am calling Naija Dreams. Can somebody PLEASE wake me up from this American dream?