Monday, August 30, 2010

The Painful Prolonged Distraction

What I should be screaming here is DISASTER, CRISIS, PROBLEMS, PALAVA! But I chose to call this a painful and prolonged distraction. May be I am viewing this occurence as such considering the fact that my crisis managment "skill' was put to test. On my way back to Mali, I met two Nigeria men that were left by their bus to Mali at the same hurt locker Porga border that I blogged about a while ago. These two young men were trying to negotiate their ways out of the exhorbitant charges by the immigration officers when their bus driver zoomed off! They were to travel for 3 days to get to Mali and the wicked driver left them behind on day one while taking their luggage with him!

I was touched by this story, we journeyed together to Mali in another vehicle from Burkina and we were able to cope with the vehicle incessant break down. Thank God the journey was over. We all sighed and parted in Bamako. I had to brace myself for the days ahead with the research work I am planning to do. I promised to devote my time to the research and another essay that needs editing. That was my plan. I could only accommodate a little distraction of watching TV, Movies or playing music ocassionally. That again was my plan...

I remember how Murphy's law was put in a clearer perpspective in one WAEC text of English years ago. The passage read 'when problems come, they come not in singles but battalions'. I was fascinated by this and thought deeply on the possibilities of things going extremely wrong. And yes, over the years, I have seen things going extremely wrong. Some I worried sick or depressed over them. My crisis managment instinct was never a skill then. So, as I was saying, all I bargained for was to plung myself into work after resting the night away. Friday came and I was working out my plan gradually then I realised I needed to get some money, pay my rent, buy grocery, buy phone cards etc. That should not be a problem, I mused. Afterall, I was armed with my HSBC visa card and GTB Master card. All I needed to do was go get the money!

That was when everything started going wrong. My nephew sent me a text that he was sick and dying- I had to think of how to get a doctor to treat him back in Nigeria. I hit the city to get money but all the ATM machines I tried rejected my two cards. I was stuck. I then placed a call to GTB that very night and they told me after being on hold for a long time that the problem was not from their end. I called HSBC London, the following day and this time I was put on hold for longer, money wasted and no solution found. What happened? HSBC has blocked my card because I reported a transaction I did not carry out on my account and they are investigating! Who did they tell before blocking my card? I was not happy with this. What next, I thought to myself as I have CHOSEN not to let this situation ruin my mood. I used mastercard again on Saturday using different ATM machines to no avail. I eventually got a bank that worked on Saturdays having being told by GTB when I called again that they seemed not to know what the problem was. The bank visited in Mali told me, master card services had been stopped for the past 6 Months in Mali!

There we go, two debit cards and I could not get any money. I have no cash on me and found it difficult to get a loan at that short period with the few people I know in Mali. Yet, I paused to think, I read a book or continue reading one. A thought came to me to find an account to transfer my money to in Mali. I could not find one willing to do this immediately. I then called hubby in Nigeria to help me send money through Western Union or Money Gram. I had to wait till Monday (today) to have a feedback on that. Hubby got back to me with yet a sad news ' Money Gram and Western Union don't send out money from Nigeria'! Since when? Bloody hell! Did I mention how constantly my phone was going off by itself or refuse to call or text? This is the price I have to pay for buying a bloody (excuse my French) touched screen LG phone! In fact, the battery went flat when it was needed the most.

Still thinking ahead, I got in touch with a co- peace and security fellow and a friend in London, to let me please transfer my money into her account and she can withdraw and send via Western Union. She agreed. I will lose money through this process but I will be saved from hunger and disgrace and of course the PAINFUL AND PROLONGED DISTRACTION. I have since suspended my research concept paper! While this was going on, I mentioned to my supervisor when I resumed in the office today all that I have being going through and vuala he loaned me some money! I never expected him to do so as we have this understandable acrimony between us ( or so I thought).

I was distracted big time but I have learnt a lot through these four days of thinking, analysing, thinking, rethinking and wondering where else within my brain to tap into for a solution. This has taught me that no matter how tall the mountain to climb is, you have got to have some climbing faith, and you have got to have confidence and perseverance... I thought I would be a wreck by now but I never stopped thinking and looking at all worst scenerios and all best strategies. I want this lesson to stay with me in my affairs and dealings from now on. And yes, that you may never know who is trully an enemy or a friend until they are put to test...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A traveler’s cruel experience at Porga border of Benin Republic

As a citizen of an ECOWAS Member Country, the sense one gets from the concept of free passage is that of movement (across borders) without hassles; for example, if one has to travel through any ECOWAS countries. No visas needed, just show your passport or National ID Card as the case may be and everything will be fine. This though, is clearly not the case.

There are always demands for money before stamping ones “passport” in all the borders I have passed through many borders (talking of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso and Mali). There’s never a receipt issued for this kind of payment, never. This makes me wonder if it is even authorized. This payment demanded at the border posts, ranges between 300cfa to 1,000cfa and when you inquire why you had to pay, the polite ones amongst the officers will tell you it’s for stamping (one’s travel documents) while the rude officers will just ignored you and put your passport aside.

This particular experience I’d like to talk about got me shocked beyond words and it can quite easily be ranked the worst of all my travels within the West African sub-region. I passed through Porga border of Benin Republic on the 11th of August, 2010 where we encountered disrespectful immigration officers that treated everyone with total cruelty and rudeness. The vehicle I had boarded arrived at Porga border and we all submitted our travel documents as usual. When it was my turn, the officer in charge asked me to pay 5,000cfa to get my passport stamped and when I inquired why, he did not even bother to answer my question but rather, he ordered me to get out of his sight and go wait under a tent that was 500 meter away from his office. I asked why I had to go stand and wait there but much to my chagrin, I was met with another rude answer ‘to please not ask him any question, but do as he said’. I even barely got the question out of my mouth when he screamed and ask me to do what he said.

All the other passengers were treated the same way even worse; in the case of a lady who had forgotten her passport. She went to have a discussion with the only woman amongst the 3 immigration officers who instead of explaining to her if it would be possible to pass without her passport or other forms of ID, she screamed at her and gave her a slap! She had to part with 10,000cfa with her fiancĂ© before they were allowed to cross. What in God’s name is that!? Why was everyone treated like criminals at Porga border by the officers in charge? Many other travelers were ordered out of the officers’ sights, as the officers rudely cut into their speeches thereby making it difficult for anyone to speak or ask a question. Another passenger was locked up in their office after being dragged like a common criminal.

I was advised by someone to bring what I had so I won’t delay the other passengers. I pulled the remaining 2,000cfa that I had to give the officer but was ordered by the second male officer to go back to where they asked me to stand! I had to ask our vehicle driver to lend me 1,000cfa. After all the cruel treatment meted out to all of us, the officers demanded that I pay the sum of 3,000cfa before my passport can be stamped. I do not believe that the Benin Republic government would have approved of this nor they aware of this behavior. This kind of occurrence at Porga border gives one ample cause for worry; as this neither promotes a positive image nor practice. I worry that if this is left unchallenged and the officers not better trained/enlightened in order to carry out their jobs/functions more effectively & efficiently, things will only get worse.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Let our story be told...

The use of video to capture a story is as powerful as the story it tells. Marie has captured the reason and need for the emancipation and women's rights of the women in Latin American in this short video. Marie will be presenting her work along with 3 other International Activists at blogHer conference today in New York.

I was one of the recipients of this award last year and I am glad it is happening again and am here in New York to witness this and to see powerful women like Marie Trigona, Esra'a Al Shafei, Freshta Basij-Rasikh and Dushi Pillai telling thier story of change...
My Passion, my focus, the change that I want to see in the world - is my propellent factor.

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