A Day In The Life of a Street Workshop

Welcome to the oil-soiled field where men toil daily for bread. It’s a Tuesday and I am greeted by a half dusty and tarred entrance along with three boards with handwritten signs hanging unevenly; “Live-chickens for sale”, “Musa the panel beater” and “scrap metal buyer”. The space is littered with rocks, noise, stench, scraps and spills — varying trash mark this area; a void expanse in the heart of Kempton park’s aerotropolis.

Three makeshift shelters stand side by side shedding the November scorching solar heat; one for the automobile repairers, the other for a scrap metal collector. A separate rusty, shaky shack made with aluminium sheets stand at 90 degrees of the land; this is the makeshift kitchen for the farm-raised chicken seller. Bricks, car bumpers and car foot mats keep the roofing sheets of the roughly built structure in position.

The diversity of workers at the workshop is a mix of middle-aged West African men hacking out a living in South Africa. The scrap metal collector is a short, bull-necked and beefy man with muscular shoulders and a hardened face. He hails from francophone Cameroon. He is known as The boss. The chicken seller is about 7 feet, slim and graceful. Mostly sighted with sagging pants and flip flops. He is from the Republic of Benin. Two partners, both from the Yoruba tribe from Nigeria take up the middle shelter. A lanky panel beater from Lagos mainland and a slightly built, talkative mechanic trained in Ibadan. I observe a visibly respectful division of workspace.

Rusty brown strands of old iron with equal margins and pointed stakes make up the borderline. It marks a quarter of the perimeter of the yard while the last bit of the brick-walled demarcation is bordered with a house cum mini supermarket also locally referred to as a spaza shop; an easy reach for cold drinks, fruits, cigarettes or snacks. This shop is operated by a Pakistani.

The first things you notice in the yard are vehicles and stacks of scraps. The vehicles are orderly arranged in order of collection possibilities. With the exception of cars currently undergoing repairs, most of the lined vehicles are awaiting spare parts or outstanding balance. Sometimes, some owners are at large and vehicles are abandoned and in some cases, the mechanic is awaiting inspiration for repairs!

Homeless kids play a role in the yard. They are the extra hands by day and watchmen by night. With rolled-up windows and intentionally unlocked doors, each child possesses a vehicle of his choice as a shelter at night. It is a case of using a cat to secure a dry fish.

At around 08hr30, a white open boot bakkie stops by to offload live chickens. The kitchen for the farm-raised chicken houses four sets of thin wired, three-row cages filled with live chickens. White tired-looking chickens with peeling feathers crow gently as they await the slaughter’s knife. A detached old, wooden side bed furniture elevates the two-phased burner cookers’ which sits two large stainless steel pots. Buckets, jerry cans and a side table take a position. The uneven cemented floor is the slaughter ground. The bird screams, jacks and it is gone in a jiffy. The chicken makes barbeque delicacies for beer-loving nightcrawlers at a closeby beer parlour otherwise called tavern.

The grind also starts early at the Cameroonian section. The scrap collector along with his two support staff; Emeka, a lotto loving Igbo man from Nigeria and a hard faced-never smiling Malawian. The boss arrived as early as 6 am in green overall jackets and black pants laced with reflectors. A sky blue head warmer shields his head from the cold. A black, thick sole and hard grip rubber snickers support his bullish figure. Handwoven white plastic sacks are filled with empty 500ml metallic can bottles. Non-metallic cans in separate plastic sacks while old office white papers are piled with care and caution into separate paper cartons. By 12 noon, 11 fully filled high rise plastic sacks stand at 8 feet above the ground. Thereafter, space-conscious loading commences on a standby bakkie (pick-up).

At around 08hr45, two men push in a blue Honda Accord sedan. The owner of the car, a South African along with a Nigerian auto-electrician has pushed the car from 3 kilometres away. The fan belt of the 1.6-litre engine of the 1986 Honda Accord has been broken. In less than 20 minutes, the Panelbeater and the auto mechanic casually walks in. Decked in nubuck Timberland boots, a Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt and cream chinos, the mechanic gently undress to switch to his oil-stained dark blue overall. Four of the many friends of the auto repairer have also arrived and are busy devouring breakfast from a black plastic bag filled with vetkoek pronounced as fet cook which literally means fat cake. It is also locally called magwinya; it is actually a sweetened brown coated dough which is similar to what we call Puff Puff in Nigeria. Breakfast is shared. Lousy conversation from the crew commence. More storytellers arrive. Noisemakers or newsmakers? Everyone has an opinion. Awaiting car owners also join in the talk or listen to the chat. You can’t ignore their discussion. While the gists go on, several petty traders show up; peanut sellers with flat trays neatly balanced on young Mozambican female heads cries for patronage; rice and stew with assorted meat and optional fried plantain, eggs, spaghetti or beans is pushed in with trolleys; Akara (bean cake) and Agege bread sellers also stop by. Work at all three outfits in one space goes on while music from an accident damaged car blares Nigerian hip hop hits.

As the day gently ages, the sound of life lightens the atmosphere. Nearby trees whisper ocean current-like sounds as the early morning cold breeze beat against my body frame. The cries of engines are heard as they arrive and leave the stop sign. Sun rays gently ease out the cold breeze effect. Gentle but repeated chirps from the numerous small birds serve as natures background music in this busy environment. Skinny cats and fat rats race endlessly in full view. Life is indeed a hustle in the midst of chaos. This is the work chop!

A Note To New, Young Entrants Into The Nigerian Political Circus

I am in total support of new breed politicians. I admire the courage of those who put themselves forward for the task. The truth is that, we cannot change our nation without challenging the status quo. We cannot enforce the desired change while sitting on the fence bickering. We must engage. We have to participate in the game. This is a journey, often times, of a life time, and I commend those who make the decision.

From the early days of the declaration of your intention to run for political office, I will however, like to present a humble challenge. A demand for you to do things differently; to present to your constituents how you plan to make life bearable and how you intend to achieve those lofty ideas – in fine details. I believe that a well defined program will naturally attract supporters, give life to your ambition and reduce the frustration on the path to achieving political goals. Governance is not an easy task especially in Nigeria. You must remain tough and committed to your motives – to contribute to positive change in your community.

As a nation, we have deep rooted problems. In your journey, please ensure you continually embrace democratic values, stay connected to your constituency, eschew corruption, embrace peaceful resolution of conflicts and accord respect to all.

Remember, there are many gladiators on the corridors of power. Be aware of them. Many are not interested in empowering the younger generation. Be humble as you stand your ground. Be confident but not cocky or arrogant. Surround yourself with trustworthy, reliable and positive minded people. Empower yourself with good books. You have a lot to learn from them. I have listed a few below along with personal comments.

1. Who will love my country by Ike Ekweremadu (*Senator Ike offers actionable opinions for transforming Nigeria to a country we will all be proud of)

2. Making Africa Work by Greg Mills, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jeffrey Herbst and Dickie Davis (*This is another practical handbook to help politicians focus on the main goals towards transforming society: job creation and economic growth)

3. Tenants of the House by Wale Okediran. (*Though a fictional depiction of politics amongst members of the Federal House of Assembly, it remains a good book to familiarize yourself with the demands of lawmaking at Abuja)

4. Art of War by Sun Tzu

5. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

(*4 & 5 – Politics is a game. Get these books to understand the rules of the board)

7 Things President Buhari Need To Do While In South Africa

Nigeria’s president, retired General Muhammadu Buhari will be South Africa’s special guest for 3 days starting from the 3rd of October, 2019. His visit is expected to deepen diplomatic relations with South Africa and to address issues of mutual national interests in regards to the continent and global affairs.

Buhari is also expected to have a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in South Africa.

I have listed 7 things below which I expect the Nigerian president to address while on his State visit:

1. During his town hall meeting with Nigerians, Buhari must address and condemn the criminal activities among Nigerians living in South Africa, most especially drug peddling, human trafficking and cyber crimes and to urge Nigerian citizens to be law abiding in the host country.

2. The President must request for actionable plans from the South African Presidency towards putting a stop to xenophobia in South Africa.

3. Initiate a cultural exchange program that will provide opportunities for young citizens from South Africa and Nigeria to share experiences and to ultimately initiate healthy citizen to citizen relations.

4. Request for accountability in respect to xenophobic crimes committed against Africans and in particular Nigerians in South Africa. For the sake of justice, South Africa must publish the outcome of investigations and or prosecution of every criminal arrested during the violent riots that targeted African migrants across South Africa.

5. The townhall meeting with Nigerians living in South Africa (and possibly South Africans) must be held as planned; to engage with Nigerians and to hear the views of some of the host community members.

6. The president should address leaders of the various Nigerian community organizations in South Africa to charge them to work together and to play the role of civil society organisations with a common objective to defend justice for Nigerians living in South Africa.

7. The financial and emotional stress imposed by South Africa’s immigration officials at the port of exit through its remarks/endorsements on passports must be addressed. Holders of Temporary Visas or Permanent Resident Permits with the ‘Verify On Arrival’ endorsement on their travel documents leads to airlines refusing to airlift Nigerian passengers to South Africa. Alternatively, such passenger are forced to purchase a return flight ticket. This should be addressed.If you have read the above and would like to add to president Buhari’s to-do-list in South Africa, please feel free to do so in the comment section below.

Love Ode to Kigali Hills

My eyes trail your curvy path
As you envelope the city,
My heart skips at the green lush lawn
that plasters the rolling hills of Kigali.
You provide the meeting point with the
light blue skies;
confluence of our earth and the celestial.

You are the forte for the city,
breathing life’s goodness to the people
The sweetness of your many ridges
Pokes my sensation.
In quiet sophistication
you romance my sight.
My feet tremble at your posture.
Oh hills of Kigali, your beauty tickles my being.

~ Akindélé O. Olunlọyọ

2017 and the books that shaped it

The books that shaped my 2017 are mostly political books. It was a conscious collection of classic Nigerian literature from some of the most celebrated writers in the country.

Thank you to Ena Otaigbe, my cousin’s husband who bore the pain to bring my long-waiting bags of books in Lagos to Johannesburg. I bought a few more while on a short trip to Lagos and Accra in July and September.

2017 was basically a year of political consciousness. The fact that I have just a module to complete my postgrad gave room for reading and exploring other interesting stuff ranging from art and craft, politics, and business. So far, it’s been a year filled with wonderful experiences while looking forward to 2018 with positive hope that it shall be a year of more success and goodness. Happy New Year 2018!

Fix Politicians.  Fix Nigeria.

My opinion is that we need to fix our politics in Nigeria. It is our major problem. Our vast social issues can be conveniently traced to lack of political will to fix many of our national ills.

We have a wide variety of longstanding national problems. Personally, I am still in shock and particularly not sure why solution is still not in sight. To indulge in a series of excuses for lack of development: a possibility might be that most of our past and present political leaders do not have the solution to our bunch of intimidating problems, or are not paying attention to those who are recommending viable solution and then it may also be that their self interests supersede national interest. Who knows?

Today, we have a government led by the All People’s Party (APC), the first opposition political party to unseat a sitting President in the history of Nigeria. People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the defeated mega party, known to be the largest political party in Africa, had been in power for 16 years in a row but failed woefully in addressing the nation’s infrastructural needs most especially the provision of stable electricity and water.

The APC before winning the general elections in 2015 promised a complete overhaul of the embarrassing state of Nigeria’s infrastructure. Almost three years in power, nothing has changed. There are no signs of new initiatives towards addressing our gross infrastructural deficit. Anyway, I am not surprised.

By the way, we must remember that APC and PDP are one and the same. Their ideologies are substantially similar. They even share almost the same membership. Their politics and style of governance are the same. It is safe to somewhat conclude that solution cannot come from this bunch of politicians.

They have both expressly displayed clear signs of political unwillingness to address our long standing social problems.

Moreover, positive change and development will never happen due to our nonfunctional or rather dead institutions in the country (most especially as a result of the take over of these institutions by the big men).

APC and PDP — the parties of the big men and their transmuted bodies and stooges will indefinitely continue to rule us until a new citizen movement arise who will not only ‘flush’ these men from our polity but also bring real positive change to the people. Change can only come from those who have sound understanding of Nigeria’s vast political problems and it’s applicable solution.

It is upon us as the younger generation to educate ourselves; to empower each other with sound knowledge about how things must work in Nigeria. The solution must commence with quality education; understanding of the problem, understanding of the solution and it’s effects and then profering the solution because the Golden Generation’ is unarguably an accomplished fatal failure (*another story for another day). They have failed us.
*Flush: Not necessarily assassination. That is barbaric! I mean matching and out doing the big men at their game of political maneuvering. Our generation must be further politically conscious than the older folks. Level of political understanding will determine the possibility of unseating this political gladiators.

The Movement Of The People Is More Powerful Than The People In Power

Nigeria needs serious radical transformation in all spheres of her nationhood. The redemption of Nigeria is at this point beyond one single person’s good and lofty intentions. We desperately crave redemption. I believe our solution lies in a fresh movement of the citizens led by the citizens for the collective good of the citizens. We need a new movement; a politically motivated crusade, with good intentions that are finely defined and well understood by all.

Of particular significance towards truly radical transformation is the urgent redemption of our state institutions and particularly the civil service and also investment in quality decolonised education. At the moment, the Nigerian civil service is more or less dead. It should be the driving force of government; the engine that runs the country. People are now evidently more powerful than State apparatus. It shouldn’t be, in a sane state. Honesty, value and loyalty to the State must be restored in the civil service. External influences in it’s operations must be crushed. The UK has one of the world’s best civil service; i don’t understand why we have failed to learn from them considering the good bilateral relations we have with them.

Adherence to rules is a simple but yet major problem we have as Nigerians. When everybody irrespective of his status follow rules, it will benefit us all.

Nationalism must also be preached. It will address our sickly sensitivity to tribal sentiments. I should be a Nigerian first. Being Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, or Edo should be secondary. Emphasis on State of origin in my opinion is a fraud. It further pulls us apart. It should be de-emphasized. These and many more national policies that fuel division must be reviewed.

Sadly, Nigeria is sick. At the moment not working. Not working in the sense that, the common man does not feel the existence of government, infact even our leaders and the privileged few also suffer the same fate; we all have to provide our basic social amenities/needs. Sadly, the same rhythm of unseriousness is heard across West Africa. My tour of five West African countries earlier this year confirms to me the influence of Nigeria on socio-economic development in these sub-region is substantial. For our sake and the rest of the continent, Nigeria need to sit up and be honest with herself for once. The solution is in the hands of the people. We must take charge. We must save our nation for the sake of the coming generations.

Break the shackles!

Break the shackles!
Enslave not the children
Pain has no gain
Put to rest old games lurked in veins

Break the shackles!
A sister with fetters;
A housemaid of dishonour;
Forced to labour against her will
Underage, abused and in need of love.

Break the shackles!
None is inferior
Black nation free yourself
Set your brother free
See him as an equal

Break the shackles!
It is time to pull each other up
With empowerment, we are all stars.
Time to stop self-hate and oppression
Free yourselves from self-imposed mental slavery.

*This piece was written primarily in protest of the abuse of several less privileged kids across Nigerian households who are serving as housemaids.

Python Dance, Or Military Parade? You Decide!

The Nigerian Armed Forces’ inappropriate use of force and mishandling of threats to national security (e.g. tribal agitations, religious violence and communal clashes) have always been an issue of concern for most Nigerians home and abroad. Sadly, there seems to be a continuous repetition of military strategy errors by the Nigerian Armed Forces.

2016: Operation Python Dance I

In 2016, the Nigerian Armed Forces planned and carried out a military operation, code named Operation Python Dance I. It took place from 27 November till 27 December 2016. It’s primary objective was to tackle issues of national security. The issues were widespread and ranged from violent secessionist attacks, communal clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, to farmers and herdmen’s clashes in five of Nigeria’s South Eastern States. The operation appears to have gone well as there were no viral social media videos of inappropriate use of force by the armed forces. Let’s fast-forward to 2017.

2017: Operation Python Dance II and Biafra

After the ‘success’ of Operation Python Dance I, the Nigerian Armed Forces began a new military operation named Operation Python Dance II (also known as Exercise Egwu Eke II). The operation was a renewed effort by the Armed Forces to combat crime. However, this time around the operation has been overshadowed by gross human rights abuse. There are videos of Armed Forces engaging in extrajudicial killings of self acclaimed Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) members (a separatist group clamoring for the creation of the Republic of Biafra) and those sympathetic to them.

Human rights abuse and viral social media videos

A few days ago, videos showing the Nigerian Armed Forces’ inappropriate use of force in the South Eastern part of Nigeria surfaced on various social media platforms. These viral videos detail violations of human rights and extra-judicial killings of members of the IPOB. In one of the viral videos, members of the IPOB were seen stoning armed millitary men and their armoured vehicles, which led to the Nigerian Armed Forces’ high handedness. In my view, this inappropriate use of force should not be excused given that the protesting members of the IPOB were not armed with lethal weapons. The biggest risk for Nigeria is that the actions of the overzealous and trigger happy members of the Nigerian Armed Forces could provoke the IPOB to take up arms. Similar events occurred in relation to Boko Haram and an operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces in 2009.

2009: Operation Flush and Boko Haram

It is worth noting that in its infancy, Boko Haram was not associated with violent acts of terror. In my view, its creation was propelled by a combination of factors including socio-economic conditions such as high unemployment, inequality and inappropriate use of force by the Nigerian Armed Forces. More than a decade later, the Nigerian Armed Forces is yet to subdue Boko Haram and Nigeria is still suffering from the aftermath of the Nigerian Army’s ‘Operation Flush’.

Boko Haram

In 2009, Operation Flush was initiated with the objective to subdue Boko Haram. The operation resulted in the capture and killing of the founder of Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, while in the army’s custody. This too was accompanied by a viral video of Yusuf being tourtured and subsequently killed by the Nigerian Armed Forces. The killing of Yusuf did not end the activities of Boko Haram but resulted in the appointment of a new leader, Abubakar Shekau and ofcourse a subsequently more deadlier Boko Haram that we all know of today.

Concluding thoughts

War is very expensive and not everyone wants to experience anything close to the 1967 Nigerian Civil War where millions of lives were lost. This is why officers found guilty of indiscipline and disobedience to the rules of engagement must be severely dealt with.

In order for us as a people to prevent a replay of another episode of ‘boko-haramic’ activities in Nigeria, we must hold our leaders accountable, injustice must be curtailed, lawlessness must cease and the people’s voice must be heard whilst promoting participatory democracy.

For now, Operation Egwu Eke II is a shameful dance of the python.

If you would like to see some of the viral videos mentioned in this article, click here.

You can read more articles about Nigeria here.

Strange African Wind

The wind from the South is hot
I feel and see a windfall of intolerance.
This windmill is powered by unseen,
hateful but powerful hands.

The windfall of destruction is heavy.
All around me, it is wind of death.
My windows are shaking; my feet feverish –
at the sight and sound of angry ‘protesters’ marching towards me.

From Tshwane to Joburg,
the cry is loud and deep
as Cities take turns to torment me.

Children from Abidjan to Lagos
are crying out loud:
when will the windstorm stop?

The women’s hearts are pounding & asking:
who will be our windshield?
And when will this script windup?