Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Nigeria, You're on Your Own

I was rudely reminded a few days ago that in Nigeria you're truly on your own in terms of the Nigerian government not being in the business of providing assistance to its citizens.

On arriving at Murtala Mohammed airport, I proceeded to the Arik check in counter for my boarding pass. In a bid to present my ID and ticket, I placed my laptop bag (containing my laptop and some documents) on the metallic platform attached to the counter so I could search my handbag with my free hand. Just as I was about presenting the documents to the lady at the counter, she advised that I move to the next counter as she was presently occupied. So I moved to the next counter, but forgot to take my laptop with me, and it wasn't until I arrived at the metal detectors that I realized I'd abandoned it on the counter.

Immediately, I made a quick dash to the counter, and to my consternation it was gone! In a matter of less than 5 minutes! What still baffles me is the time frame within which the incident happened.

I asked all the so-called security men patrolling the check-in counter if they'd seen it, and of course they said they hadn't. I asked if there were security cameras, but again they answered in the negative. In actuality, there are cameras in the airport, but like most things Nigerian, they weren't functional. As I stood there trying to comprehend why the cameras weren't working, someone advised that I speak with the NAA (Nigeria Airport Authority) representative stationed by the airport door.

At that point, I had lost all hope of recovering the laptop. 

After narrating my ordeal to the NAA rep, I asked if she could make an announcement for the missing laptop, but she balked. Even after my boss suggested that a reward would be offered and no questions asked if the laptop bag and its contents were returned, she still refused to make the announcement. Her reason being it would paint the airport in a bad light. As if that reason wasn't ludicrous enough, some security officer stupidly said that it was impossible to lose a laptop in the airport. In essence, he meant we were looking for something that didn't exist. Really?? Like we didn't have better things to do other than look for a laptop that wasn't really missing?!

Needless to say, after talking to all those who could have supposedly helped, the laptop still wasn't found before I boarded my flight. Although I filled out a complaint form before departing, I know there's not a snowball's chance in hell of recovering the laptop and the documents.

Going back to my first point about the Nigerian government not providing assistance, wouldn't it be in the best interest of everyone in the airport for the security cameras to work? What if it were a bomb I had placed on the counter? Isn't it strange that none of the so-called security men patrolling the counters called me back to pick up my property? The NAA should be ashamed of trying to paint a picture of a safe, functioning airport when in fact it isn't.

Update: Three weeks after the ordeal, a colleague of mine received a call informing her that the missing laptop and documents had been found. I was astonished to say the least. I guess miracles do happen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Hair Thing Part One

Before I proceed with the rest of my entry, let me state a basic fact about hair: its composition is 97% keratin (same protein found in our nails and the horns of rhinos) and 3% moisture. And it is dead. Yes, dead! So isn't it a little bizarre that we humans spend so much time, money, emotions and energy on something that's essentially lifeless? Well, not really, considering it is one of the first things people notice about you, just like your clothes. And like clothes, people make all kinds of assessments and judgments on one's suitability for a job position, social status, educational level, and so forth. Therefore, putting some effort and energy into ensuring one's hair is properly groomed isn't a crazy idea at all.

Members of the fairer sex (you know, the ones who spend countless hours a year deciding hairstyles) tend to take the hair issue more seriously, and rightly so, because society judges them more harshly on the state of their hair than the opposite sex. Besides, it's been ingrained in our psyche that a woman's hair is her crown of glory, so it stands to reason that all resources available be mobilized in ensuring the crown is well maintained, preserved and beautifully presented.

Speaking of presentation, African women and those of African descent have been known to spend hours getting their hair done and truckloads of money on hair extensions and hair products than their Caucasian and Asian counterparts. On the surface (judging by the number of Africans who wear hair extensions) it may seem we're on a quest to look less African and more Caucasian. Critics of the hair extension trend among African women have berated them for being ashamed of their natural hair and denying their African identity. But is the accusation fair? I think not. 

Of course, it would be remiss of me to deny that there are some African women who want nothing to do with looking African, and would bleach their skin and do whatever was necessary to look white. However, for the majority of us, wearing hair extensions and straightening our hair has less to do with denying our African identity and more to do with convenience and style-update - convenience in the sense that straightened hair is more malleable and easier to style than is tightly coiled hair, and style-update in the sense that one could tire of wearing a particular coiffure. In addition, wearing hair extensions offers one’s hair some respite from constant styling thereby preventing breakage.

How an individual decides to wear their hair and what a person decides to do with it should not be a topic for debate. Hair is just another accessory that can be bought and manipulated to suit one’s taste. It shouldn't be an identity marker; neither should it be used as some sort of personality/psychological test to judge the character or frame of mind of a person. For what it’s worth, the way one wears one's hair is a form of expression and creativity. What does hair mean to you?