It’s Okay to Not be Okay

Featured

A few days ago, I had a cold; my chest and head hurt badly, my throat was sore and my nose ran intermittently. In light of the current situation, I wondered if I could have been in contact with anyone who could possibly have the virus. However, because we have learned that the virus is transmittable, even when you are asymptomatic, I couldn’t be sure.

So I took some painkillers and medications for cold. It’s been a few days and I’m better. In interacting with people, I’ve realised that there are quite a lot of people with similar symptoms that ‘look’ like COVID-19. A lot of people are even afraid to speak up about their symptoms for fear of being stigmatized. My dear, we are in the rainy season and the weather is cold; so many people have the flu. Some have also imagined the COVID-19 symptoms even when they don’t have the common cold.

Then there’s the mental health implication of COVID-19. There are those who have to live with their abusers – my heart goes out to them. I have seen a few NGOs and CSOs reach out, asking to be contacted as necessary. If you qualify for this, please reach out.

There are those who had pre-existing mental health issues and the current situation cannot be easy on them. At the very basic, for people who need some form of order in their lives, the disruption to their daily lives, livelihoods, routine and all will not be easy.

Then there are those who are alone at this time. I cannot imagine the difficulty of having to be indoors, all alone.

On the flip side, there is also the fact that some ‘regular’ families were able to coexist because they were not in each other’s space 24/7. Funny as it may seem, this will also be a difficult time for those. News out of China is that the divorce rate has increased as a result of the lockdown. Indeed, for some, this is a difficult time to be alone while for others, it’s a difficult time to not be alone. Whatever side of the divide you fall on, remember that it is okay to not be okay.

Beyond the physical and mental health implications, there’s the economic impact of all this. Many have lost their sources of livelihood already, many will – post lockdown. All over the world, economies are wobbling and it’s affecting everyone. Many organisations were unable to pay salaries for the month of March, many will not be able to pay April’s. Nigeria has a large number of SMEs, petty business people who absolutely need to hustle daily to put food on the table. Having them locked down cannot be easy on them.

I know someone reading this is saying- where there’s life, there’s hope, health is wealth, keep an open mind, and all that. I agree. All the positive words don’t mean everything is going to be fine and dandy. For some, it will. For others, it will not. Truth is – the world as we know it will change post-COVID-19 pandemic and it’s okay to be anxious about what the future brings. It is possible to acknowledge the peculiarity of the times and still stay positive. We shouldn’t sweep our feelings under the carpet of positivism.

Although we want to believe that after this lock down, we should have been able to flatten the curve, identify all positive cases and people can go back to their business as usual, we still are not sure if the shutdown will extend beyond the initial two weeks. Other nations have been on it for months and aren’t sure of when life will return to normal.

As an employer or employee, a function head or a team member,  this cannot be easy on anyone. If you’re wondering if you will get paid at the end of this month or worried about how to pay your staff, your fears are valid.

Nigeria does not have an adequate social welfare system to take care of its people. Your rent will still be due when it ought to be – regardless of how your finance has been impacted by the pandemic. You and yours still need to eat and the cost of staple foods has skyrocketed,

For those of us who still have to go to work (essential workers), there’s the fear that you are putting yourself at risk daily. There’s the fear that you’re exposing your loved ones by exposing yourself. You’re conflicted between duty and self-preservation.

In all of this, it’s okay to not be okay.

I don’t have any answers, but here are some tips that might get us through this:

  • Acknowledge the situation for what it is. It’s totally out of anyone’s control; we are all just trying to find our way through it. Nobody has it figured out, including those sharing beautiful videos.
  • Keep a healthy mind, read and meditate. Your mind is your greatest asset, so feed it with positive thoughts, books, and meditation.
  • Rest, relax, unwind, play. Listen to music and see some movies.
  • Talk to someone – a therapist, trusted friend or family. Just stay connected
  • Exhale: There’s are lots of content out there for entertainment, pick and choose what works for you and lose yourself in it for a while.
  • Strategise for a comeback: The lockdown will be lifted eventually. Make plans to resume your normal routines, prepare for post-COVID-19.
  • Learn a new skill: You can learn any and everything online and some are free. Use your data wisely and upskill yourself.
  • Eat healthily and drink water: Adding weight is a major concern in this period. Lol. Eat healthily, practice social distancing from your fridge (or the kitchen). Drink water, not sugary or alcoholic drinks, exercise and generally try to stay active. Don’t be a couch or bed potato (like me on days when I don’t go to work). Haha.
  • Stay healthy through this period, wash and sanitise your hands, don’t touch your face, don’t self-medicate.
  • Stay home if you don’t absolutely need to go out. Don’t spread the disease further, help by not pressuring an already strained/ inadequate health system. The disease doesn’t spread – we spread it

Special thanks to our health workers; from the security personnel to the janitors to the admin staff, doctors, nurses, etc. We see you, we appreciate you. Our appreciation also goes to other members of society working to keep the world going at this time – the food and pharmaceutical manufacturing and trading businesses, the supermarkets and street shops, the fast-food restaurants and the roadside buka. The downstream petroleum products, the law enforcement agents – we see you all, we appreciate you.

Article originally published on Bellanaija.com

Social Distancing? What’s that?

Featured

As the world navigates its way through the coronavirus pandemic, there are a few words that have become buzz words in a bid to prevent the further spread of the virus: there’s social distancing, tele-commuting (working from home) hand wash, sanitizer, etc.; previously existing terms, products and practices but magnified by the virus. What’s even more interesting is that some of the ways to protect ourselves are ‘basic hygeine’ practices, which we have ignored over the years because- something must kill a man or germs cannot kill a Nigerian.

It’s become current practice to wash our hands at least every hour for about 20 seconds with soap. For a people who most walk out of a toilet without washing their hands- it’s certainly taking some getting used to. Let’s not get started on the sanitisers- something previously thought to be used by the germophobes and those who are just ‘extra‘ have now become mainstream and common place. Everyone; male and female are carrying their little jars of sanitizer and covering our entire existence with the blood– sorry- anti-bacterial sanitisers. We are submitting to temperature checks at various locations and all round just trying to be careful not to expose ourselves to the virus- because, remember; everything in Nigeria will kill you– like Ayo Sogunro says.

So, we’re learning and evolving. I feel like we should be grateful to the virus for enforcing or embedding good hygiene. There’s always an upside to this things. The one precaution we haven’t been able to imbibe however, is social distancing. Ki lo’n je be? I doubt if you can literally translate that into any Nigerian language. It’s so un-Nigerian. How can you ask us to practice social distance when our very existence depends on our communal relationships? What is social distancing: we need to avoid: group gatherings, sleep overs (and other gum-body activities), play dates, concerts, etc.

However, in situating all this into our circumstances, we need to include hugging and other gum-body activities on this list.  But,…. Covid-19 will go, and when it’s time to pay school fees, uncle Bolaji will remember I rejected his handshake because- social distancing! Or big mummy will forever hold a grudge because I flinched and moved a few steps back when she tried to pull my cheek fondly- which equals me saying she has coronavirus! Or, when I send my asoebi to my aunty, she will remember how I rebuffed her hug in the name of social distancing? Let’s not even get started with the pervs who are constantly touchy-feely because- as Africans we love to show love.

The wahala coronavirus will cause will transcend our collective health, health infrastructure, the economy and even affect our personal relationships. I’m sure most clerics have had to really rehearse not asking people to touch their neighbor’s in any form over the past few weeks.

I saw a video which explained social distancing and how it stems the spread of diseases- the illustration with the burning match sticks- my first thought was rara, this match stick isn’t Nigerian. It would have run into the fire if it were- either in a bid to save its loved ones or in a bid to get first hand gist to share. While the latter is fast becoming a societal problem, the former is the very structure upon which our society is built. Eniyan laso mi– literal meaning: people are my covering– our strength is in our network. Even our people are constantly rising above the limitations of the nation- Nigerians as a collective are arguably greater than Nigeria the country.

So how do you want to teach us social distancing? You want to teach an old dog new tricks? When we have our religions, herbs, and the fact that very little thrives in Nigeria- diseases inclusive. After all, our weather is too hot for it to survive or Africans cannot get the virus and other such tales that have been disproven.

Las las, this too will pass, but we need to ensure we don’t destroy our relationships before it passes, right? Let’s not peddle fear and destroy ourselves before the disease gets to us, right?

Guess what? Maybe this is a good thing. We all need to learn to love from a distance. Take this as a lesson and perhaps learn to be less in people’s personal space. Doable?

It has to be, because as we have learnt- the virus is still contagious when the carrier is asymptomatic. There goes your excuse of- but he/she isn’t sick.

Truth is we need to situate what we’re used to versus what we need to do to ensure this virus and other communicable diseases doesn’t continue to spread, because for us- prevention will always be better than cure. Let each do a frank assessment of our health infrastructure and contemplate if it can withstand a viral outbreak. We haven’t eradicated malaria, it’s now coronavirus!

Prevention is key! I’m repeating it for those at the back. We all learnt that in primary school. We need to follow the preventive measures as advised by the public health specialists- wash our hands frequently and thoroughly with soap, in the absence of soap; use an alcohol based hand sanitizer; cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue or your elbow; if you’re sick, please go to a hospital; avoid high traffic and public areas, and please maintain some distance.

Article originally published on Bellanaija.com.

Are you loyal or laid-back?

Featured

A lot of us- and organisations place emphasis on longevity of service- attrition rate is built into the HR department’s KPI. Exiting staff are seen as being disloyal and staff who have been with an organisation for years are termed ‘loyal’.

The objective of this article isn’t to hypothesize on their loyalty or otherwise- well, maybe not in the way we would expect, it is rather a call for introspection on the employee’s part.

Picture1

Are you with your current organisation because you have keyed into the organisation’s objective and see yourself as a co-traveller on its journey or are with the organisation because you haven’t found something better and or cannot be bothered to search for a job?

Earlier in this year- 2019, a colleague and I had a conversation around work- we established we had learnt a lot in our current organisation and were developing even as our career was growing. However, a burning question was- do we know enough to thrive in the field of HR- regardless of which organisation we were practicing in, or do we know just enough to thrive in our current organisation?

That is a question anyone who is serious about career development and growth should ask themselves.

We ended the conversation with a resolution to seek for ways to test our knowledge and experience- apply and interview for positions to ascertain if our knowledge and experience can get us better offers or if we were just ‘local champions’.

It’s been a few months and a few tests and we have embraced the experience as learning opportunities. Areas of improvement have been identified and are being worked on. It is important to note that we are both still with our organisations as the objective wasn’t to move, but to identify areas of improvement.

This however isn’t a method I would widely recommend lest we be tempted as in the famous words ascribed to Babatunde Raji Fashola- Former Governor of Lagos state, Nigeria (2007 – 2015)- ‘May our loyalty never be tested.’ But then, maybe it should! Perhaps to sieve out the loyal from the laid-back.

It has been proven that only a minor percentage of the Hi-Po’s start and end their career with an organisation. This in my opinion is attributable to the fact that the top is narrower than the bottom. For example- if there are 4 Hi-Po’s from a class of 10 hired on the same day in different fields. Because of the conditions for career progression which can be roughly summarized to be- the individual has to display the skills and behavior for the next level and there has to be room for progression people will naturally drop off as they go higher and of course it’s narrower on top. There can only be so much room for progression- eventually some of your Hi-Po’s will need to leave to excel elsewhere. This exit will be termed by most to be disloyalty and the laid-back staff, content to continue doing the same thing over the years and progressing slowly will be deemed loyal.

My thought is- we need to get to a place where we can accurately measure results. Did Mr. A achieve more in 6 months than Mr. B in 5 years? If the answer to that question is yes, then Mr. A has done the organisation more good than Mr. B.

Or perhaps, Mr. A is just loyal to aggressively growing his career and slow progress isn’t an option. There is absolutely nothing wrong in being loyal to yourself, like it’s said; we are all CEOs of ‘Me Incorporated’ and we need to run our lives like a business ensuring we are yielding fruits- returns to our stakeholders. Lol.

As employees, I believe- this is perhaps because I am not yet up there having to defend attrition rate; however; I do believe it is better to give your best within a defined period, learn; soak-up as much knowledge as possible, and when the time comes for you to leave- leave on a good note, with your head held high. This I believe is better than making up the numbers and doing the bare minimum under the guise of ‘loyalty’.

The question for every employee today is- are you loyal or laid-back?

You Are Single, What Do You Do With Your Money?

Featured

SingleI needed to process a benefit for a colleague, the company in recognizing the difficult economic terrain had amended the rules to indicate that an employee could either get that particular benefit as immediate cash or deferred benefit. I reached out to him to confirm his preference and he gave the response 99% of Nigerians will give in the circumstances (myself included)- he would prefer cash. Because he and I had a friendly relationship, I teased him that why not defer it since it wasn’t a lot of money. He insisted it be paid out immediately, he went on to list a few pressing needs that money could sort and ended with: Shey me I don’t have responsibilities yet, and shey I have a sponsor!

This question/ assumption, alongside the- when are you getting married (or whatever variant of the question the interrogator chooses to use) are one of the most frequently asked questions I currently get. In the workplace, at social events, among friends; it’s like everyone not-single keeps asking this question. The ones not asking are thinking it and will ask it one day.

I find it particularly exhausting. Like everytime it comes up, I’m just tired. The reason for this tiredness is; for everyone who asks this question, I scream a mental not you too! Or another one bites the foolishness dust! And I sigh. Deeply!

I find it particularly sad (and irritating) that someone will believe that any sane person, in this Lagos (regardless of marital status) will choose to put his or herself through the torture of waking up at an ungodly hour everyday- every blessed work day, navigate Lagos traffic, endure shitty less than stellar bosses and work colleagues; because of fulfilment, or to keep busy! Doesn’t make a lick of sense. And calls into question your sense of judgement if you hold that opinion. Maybe if I worked in another city I could better understand the logic behind that question and belief, but because we (my interrogators and I) work in Lagos, I cannot understand it. No matter how much I try.

The logic is, because you are single you don’t have any responsibilities, abi? Single working-class folks are just piling up the money, no responsibilities. Yeah right! It’s even worse when you are female, guys are given a somewhat free pass- because its believed they probably have a girlfriend(s) whom they foot their bills (the belief that men foot their lady’s bill is just bullshit an empty belief. Where are the men who supposedly foot their women’s bills- or even like 50% of the bills (and I’m not referring to transactional relationships)? I haven’t met them and no one around me has! But that’s a rant for another day).

There’s also the ones that will come to borrow money from you and get upset when you decline. That one is just plain old bad behavior.  But then, you’re single; what do you do with your money? Why won’t you have money when I need to borrow it?

Let’s take a step back before I totally go off; while I agree the married person has more responsibilities in that the family is bigger (current nuclear and previous nuclear family), do we stop to think, just for a moment that; perhaps, just maybe the reason the single person is still single is because- current responsibilities will not allow for added responsibilities? Possible? That’s a thought though.

So, you ask the married person for his/her responsibilities- and they always without fail mention their parents and/or siblings in addition to their spouse and children. The question now is- did you just start caring for your parents and siblings when you got married? If no, then perhaps you shouldn’t be asking the single person what he/she does with his/her money. Shouldn’t the answer to that be very easily derived?

A thought does occur to me though, maybe I shouldn’t be looking at this lapse in memory as a single event but should look at it from the perspective that we Nigerians have very short memories and can believe the most outrageous things. All it takes for something to become authentic is for us to hear it being repeated often or repeated by someone we believe knows better (an influencer- off and on-line).   Even when someone is trying to rejig our memory and to remind us of past events that negate our current conclusions, or to logically point out another perspective, we adamantly refuse to reason because it is said or Lagbaja said so. Case in point- pre and during 2015 elections. Its 2018 and some of us have still not regained our reasoning.

Or perhaps I should situate this question (and other such) in terms of the fact that we are naturally nosy people who never mind our business. Maybe if I did, I won’t find it so sad or irritating. With us, if it isn’t this one thing it’s another, we are always all up in other people’s business at the detriment of ours. It’s a proven fact that Nigerians are very good at putting out fires in other people’s fields while our kitchen is on fire. And when someone points out that our kitchen is on fire, we deny with our last breath, even when the smoking kitchen is obvious for all to see; our kitchen isn’t on fire. Case closed. That’s our story. Or do you want to argue with the owner of the house about the state of his/her house?

Face_With_Rolling_Eyes_Emoji

 

To avoid being on the giving or receiving end of offense, we should all learn to mind our business. Might be difficult, particularly for those of us for which it will be like learning new skills in old age, but it must be done. It isn’t my business what I do with my pay- the company which pays me doesn’t ask me what I do with the money they pay me; and that’s because I have worked for the money. Same way you shouldn’t ask me why I am yet to marry or have a child, or get a masters, or go bungee diving, or have a plastic surgery for the heck of it. We should all pay attention to our businesses aka: Mind Your Business! It isn’t that difficult. Abi? How difficult can it be to mind your own business?

dreamstime_m_110897086-600x400-1-600x400

This article was initially published here on BellaNaija.

Photo credit: Dreamstime/BellaNaija

Twists and Turns E11

image

Ike was waiting for Ada in the parking lot when she arrived. He immediately alighted on spotting her and walked to her.

That Ike was waiting for her before she arrived confirmed the seriousness of the matter. She stood, waiting for him to join her. The expression on his face was a cross between desperation and determination, and some underlying fear. She wondered what trick Mark recently came up with that had Ike running scared.
Ada steeled herself not to feel any pity towards him, for this might also be part of Mark’s plan; to suck her in so he could get to her through Ike.

“Good morning Ike.” She greeted him cheerfully when he drew close.

“Good morning Ada, how are you?”

She laughed softly, amused at their polite banter. “Better than you, I think. Judging by the look on your face.”

He sighed. “Yea, I’ve been better.”

She gestured for them to go inside.

“After you.” He replied.

She walked into her showroom, greeting and acknowledging greetings from her staff. She led him into her office and offered him a seat.

He watched her close her eyes for a quick prayer, and couldn’t get over how beautiful and serene she was. After all these years; Ada was still one of the most beautiful women he had ever known. Added to that was this peace and serenity about Ada that had always called to him. She always looked like; no matter the problem, it wasn’t ever that bad.

Ada opened her eyes to catch Ike staring at her. She could read that gleam of attraction in his eyes as easy as the words on a billboard.
“You want something to drink; tea, coffee, water, juice?” She offered.

He declined politely.

“I’ll make myself a cup of tea.” She took out a teabag from her drawer, dropping it into the cup on her desk, she got up to fill the cup with hot water from the dispenser outside her office.

When she returned, he was typing on his mobile but set it aside immediately she sat.

“So?” She prompted.

“Mark wants me to take out a bank-loan for his campaign through GO.” He stated straight-up.

She sipped from her cup. Using the moment to gather her thoughts. Not as bad as she expected. She thought to herself, or maybe Mark was gearing up for the bigger demands.
“And you came to me because……?” She asked him emotionlessly, cradling her teacup. Why come to her, that demand could never fly. By simple logic, the kind of money Mark will need for his campaign had to be approved by the board. And he could bank on sister Ada and herself; representing her children, not approving. Mark knew that, so why make that request in the first place?

He should source for his election funds elsewhere, that was what political god-fathers, and interest groups were for. She was certain Mark knew his demands couldn’t be met, which meant this was a smokescreen and there was another plan. She wondered what it was and if Ike was in on it. Or if he was just a pawn in Mark’s plan.

“That’s impossible, and illegal. How does Mark expect me to achieve that?” Ike went on.

Ada almost blurted out a juvenile question for the gods response, but checked herself in time and settled for a ‘dunno‘ shrug.

“I came to you as an insider, family and board member……”

“Not a board member, I represent my children’s interest.” She interrupted him to correct him. “And, Mark hasn’t ever felt familial towards me. So I doubt if I can help you; I’m not an ‘insider’.” She smiled to soften her words.

“What Mark asks is impossible. What reason would I give the banks? This is fraud!”

“Is or would be?” She asked to be certain if this was still a plan in the making or a done deal.

“Would be.”

“I really can’t help you, its up to you.”

“In my shoes, what would you do?” He asked desperately.

She laughed softly. “I am not in your shoes.” She replied gently.
She almost pitied him, but she quickly reminded herself she didn’t know how far into Mark’s plans Ike was, so she wasn’t volunteering any information. But her on the spot assessment was; he either didn’t know he was a pawn to Mark, or, he knew and coming to her with this information was part of the plan to suck her in.

On second thoughts, she rather believed the latter. Mark inherited a huge sum from his father, he received a steady income from GO, in addition to his income as a Senator of the Federal republic. Mark shouldn’t be needing money, not this early in the campaign.

She sighed sadly. It was so disheartening that after all these years Mark still had evil thoughts towards her. For goodness sakes his children were in her house! She had tried all within her powers; she had tried being kind, had tried avoiding him, all to no avail.

Shaking her head in dismay, she looked up to meet his gaze.

“So I thought of another idea, the company can loan Mark the money directly, without going to the bank. That’s if the board members approve.”

Really? She stared at him blankly. She had already said all she could and would on this matter. Ike and Mark should sort themselves out and leave her out of it.
“The only advice I can give you is; do what’s legal.”

Ike left soon after, even more worried than when he arrived.

**********

Ify was having an attack of guilt. She had been restless all morning. Mark had gone for a meeting, but she hadn’t been able to settle. Their plans were falling into place, but the pleasure she had expected to feel wasn’t there. Ada had always been a true friend to her, and more so recently. Left to Ify, she would have left Ada alone in peace, but Mark thought differently.

Really, what did they stand to gain from destroying her? Practically nothing. Their kids were in Ada’s care, and she had accepted them as hers. Why couldn’t Mark just accept Ada. This new bid to bring Ada down was beginning to leave a sour taste in her mouth.

With a heavy heart, she picked her phone from her dresser to place a call to Ada.
image