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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well why not a third story

A story, which has just happened right now. As l was writing the last story l got a call, a number l didn't recognise and one l would not have picked up usually. To keep my sanity l screen my calls. This clearly was a special number so l knew l had to pick up.
It was a friend of mine sounding a little like himself but borderline hysterical. I met this guy three years ago in the London flat of a British friend of mine. He bounded in with so much passion and energy l was captivated, this was my kind of person. Ibo, tall, big, articulate, intelligent American trained and bursting with love for Nigeria and plans for his glorious return home.

He had just got a job to tackle a Nigerian public enterprise, a non-performing behemoth. He was more than eminently qualified for the job and his passion and creativity was not in doubt. So much so he was leaving a fantastic job and uprooting his family to come home. I remember asking him why he won't leave his family behind to test the waters here first. His reply was that it was all or nothing; he was going to give it everything besides he wants his wife around as he doesn't want any temptations. My Jewish British friend who is just a glorified Lagos Agbero (he has worked and lived on and off in Nigeria for 23 years) and a committed pessimist was pointing out the pit falls but l the eternal idealist urged him on.

In the three intervening years we haven't spoken or seen much but l have watched his battles from the side lines so l was delighted to hear from him but my heart sank at his first words. He said.. "Funmi I am giving up. I am leaving" with conviction but poorly disguised resignation. This from a man whose natural instinct is to fight. He really didn't have to tell me much but certain phrases stuck in my mind. He said, my moral fibre has been stretched beyond capacity, l begin to question my sanity, in fact that is long gone. A system that is in complicity to degrade and dehumanise at all levels, the church, mosque, family and friends spewing people who appear to be quite sane and adjusted but in reality act out such bestial dysfunctions that make your mind reel. Funmi l should write a book about my experience here, the thing is it has got to be a comedy or l will be unable to even pen it from the pain. I knew exactly what he meant which is why l always say l don craze finish and that if l no laugh l go cry.

I asked him what his immediate plans were, he said funmi l don't know, I'm just going to travel around the world for 2 weeks to reassure myself that there is another norm and restore my sanity, then I'll find other people who will use and pay for my talents. I need to be able to actualize myself as a human being and care for my immediate family in an environment that does not reduce them as human even if they are rich.

Cannot tell you how saddening that conversation was. It took three years just three years to take that sparkle out of his eyes, that infectious energy, that enthusiasm. What remains he assures me was his passion and love for Nigeria and that is why he called me because as he says l was one of the few thinking Nigerians he knows who are aware that this cannot be the only realty.

I encouraged him as best as l could, telling him that change must be creative, informed and committed coming from whatever and wherever you are. I told him about what l am working on and how he can contribute from wherever he might be. We promise to sit down and talk whenever he is in Lagos. I hope l see him before he leaves so we can strategize on what he can still do to help wherever he ends up.
My other friend Dele just left for South Africa on Monday after years of being different in the advertising industry and refusing to play ball his talents have been recognised by others and he has got a great job in SA so he and his family left on Monday. I know how much he loves Nigeria.
I put the phone down feeling a little more lonesome and l think of all the other bright, brilliant and best ones which this system has killed, frustrated and thrown away even as my eye catches the list of national award winners for this year which l have put on my table. I am just as dejected at a system that reduces its best and throws up its most mediocre, base, banal and untalented but if l give in to frustration l might as well lie down and die. What would be the purpose of life?


Anonymous said...

Nigeria, when I look at it from afar, I see a big dream that has the potential to be reality, but when I step in closely and observe the integral details that make up Nigeria, I shudder. I for one, have my own dreams of coming back home and settling home some day soon, but I wiegh my options and I read stories like these and hear people's experiences, I get discouraged, just a little bit. But nevertheless, we must continue the struggle. Hopefully one day our leaders will wake up and realize that there's a lot to be done and we need to start that work ASAP.

Your friend should have left his family in London, but i guess like he said, it's all or nothing.

Success Digest said...

Hello Ma,

Was surprised to see that you have a Blog right here. Please continue the good work you are doing, Ma'am.

Thanks for this wonderful story, it shows rightly the kind of country we are in. But as you rightly said, it shouldn't be our lot to lay back and watch things go on as it has always being.

Me think you should have a full website for this blog, something like www.funmiiyanda.com. It makes your work more professional. I can help with that anyway. You can check out my own website, www.naijamotivation.com.

We have met on more than two ocassions in time past and I am sure you won't remember me, but I am coming out SOON!

I love you so much.

Bola Oni

Anonymous said...

When I read such stories and actually think about the stress and struggles called Nigeria, I almost give up and allow the rotten system consume me. But the word here is "almost" - I just believe in Nigeria and love it to bits, for reasons I'm yet to figure out coherently. I have hope that Nigeria will change, but oh so slowly! That's why I've accepted that the change may come in my one year old son's generation.

Anonymous said...

WoW, this is just disheartening. I wish him the best, He really does need to step away from all that mess for a minute..........He deserves the best vacation ever, NOW!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello. I dont watch your program every time because of my schedules but I always enjoy it whenever I do. I'm presently working on a big website project (that is still in its very early stages though) and we hope we can feature your blog when the time comes.

In the meantime I'll keep visiting your blog. You raise a lot of interesting issues in your posts.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

I read with a nostalgic sense of de j'avu and simply sighed. I always say "if you ask the wrong questions, you'll get the wrong answers". Why do our problems defy every single humanly porported solutions? How can we sincerely move forward? Altruism is so archaic and such a pariah(cic) virtue (coinage mine :-)) that..... I'm just so exhaspirated!

Is it because due to the advent of colonialsm, which in itself repulses me to my very marrow, our country has been orchestrated to administer, rather than produce?

I am not one to dwell on spilt kunu or pap, so I wont flog a dead horse by asking for reparation or all what nots, which by the way, if paid, will suddenly disappear like our foreign reserves do. I am only an advocate of a revolution, simple.

Ever since you mentioned on New Dawn that nobody should wait for the "national cake' but we should "bake our own", I made up my mind that someday soon, we will meet and i will tell you how that statement has revolutionised my life!

Rather than search for a well paying job, I have decided to be a provider of a well paying job.... among other determinations, but omo men, it's not a easy matter! Chei!

Maybe I am crazy too..... maybe I don craze.... but I honestly honestly believe in Nigeria.... Definately not in its present crop of leaders, especially our present leadership, but I believe in the generation that will stand up for all that is honest, altruistic and of a good report, of which I am chief. For 25 years from now, I will be the first female president Nigeria ever produced, after prooving myself in every single area of life.

We will show them how it ought to have been done and make them cover their heads in shame in their old age.

Thank you Funmi.

All I wanted to say.


Anonymous said...

all we can ask God for now are leaders that will look in the direction of those who mean well for us and have alot of respect for those who are high achievers its discouraging when u look at people that are undeserving being deserving but such is life one day things will come around

Pretty makes the day go faster said...

So sad. I think that believing in and having faith in Nigeria is the most important thing.

Jeremy said...

God has nothing to do with it - if there were such a divine entity, where has He/She/It been the past 40 odd years?

Project transforming-Nigeria is all about having strength, courage, conviction and a vision - qualities which you have in abundance FI.

Yes, there is a certain amount of faith required, but the effort is on the side of we mortals, not something we should look to the skies for divine intervention for.

There are two things for people with a transformative mission in Nigeria to remember every day (I say this to myself as much as to anyone else):

1. Its extremely important to develop emotional protection mechanisms. That means a close supportive circle of friends.

It means recognising when you're reaching your BS tolerance threshold and having strategies to unwind and detox. Regular trips abroad, dancing through the night, singing your favourite songs out loud for a day, whatever it is that will re-energise..just do it.

In fact, there's a whole heap of people here doing good stuff - but we don't network well enough with each other. We need to get better at connectivity - creating spaces/fora to meet and exchange ideas.

2. Nigeria is going through some seismic changes. But the value-system is still pretty badly damaged by decades of sociopathic misrule. Corruption is systemic and a necessary part of survival for many. There aren't enough heroes, and there are too many villains.

For these reasons, it will be three steps forward two steps backwards for a few more years - at least until the power base shifts to a more progressive leadership focussed on pro-poor citizen-centric strategies.

But it will happen. Nigeria has punched way under its weight in Africa for too long. The renaissance is on its way. Ribadu, Duke, Ngozi, Oby - this is the first wave of progressive political leadership in Nigeria for a long time, and the first sign..

Its time to stop saying 'ah Nigeria' or resorting to cynicism from afar. Its time to do. Make a change, so you can look back and say you were there, and you did what you could.

Here's what we do:

Anonymous said...

I've heard similar stories. I love Nigeria and I still believe in my country. I believe that am Nigerian because I've a purpose and work to do for my country. And I believe that oneday, just one day things will get better.
It might not be in our life time but I know that things will surely get better

PS: I really like your blog. Will be coming back.

Anonymous said...

I dont know, but I posted a comment and it never showed.
Well the truth is what will those who do not have the means to leave the country in the face of this whole mess do like me do? It saddens my heart but when I hear or read stories like this I feel more frustarted and dejected.
Please Funmi am not trying to critisize your work but this piece " no be am ". He left or your friends left because they've been out and have there way around the continent. If we all leave who will put it in place. DETTOL advert says "IF I DONT TAKE OF MY FAMILY, WHO WILL?"
Let's all borrow a leaf from that.
Keep the fire burning.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ anonymous. l believe my friend will be back. there is no short cut to solvng Nigeria's problem for all of us.

@ l appreciate you my brother. one step at a time. will check your site out

@tonyreji. l look forward to it man. wel done.

@anuoluwapo. you are not crazy, you are going to be great. you'll see.

Anonymous said...

I had great faith in this country when i was younger.
At the moment i'm quite disillusioned.We are just too selfish.I believe all we need is a little selflessness in everyone,great and small alike.

The bible says to love your neighbour as yourself,that alone can turn the country around.It takes all of us doing this to turn things around

Olamii said...

Big sister, Keep up the good work, U must have hard it said a million times but i don't think it can ever but too much! YOU ARE AN ANGLE. happy new year