The Rules of Lending

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, ‘Do you have N5k? I’ll pay you back at the end of the month’, then by now I would probably be under intense investigation by the EFCC (the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). I mean, for crying out loud! we only just got paid last week! Broke already??? Are you owing the mafia or your mistress, huh? which is it?!! – Those are among some of the burning questions which I’m often tempted to throw to my prospective debtors, but I dare not ask (for fear of a diabolical answer…yikes!).

It all starts with the dreaded (physical) approach, which you almost never see coming. The approach is accompanied by a plausible story along the lines of a deal to be closed, rent being due or some other financial commitment. After you’ve assimilated the story then comes the amount being requested (which I probably feel is only an eighth of what they really want to ask for). You ponder over it for a few minutes and you feel inclined to dip your hand into your wallet to make someone happy. That person promises to redeem his IOU which you stupidly decided was not needed in writing. By the time it is month end, you’re hoping to get a cheque sent over to your desk or at least an sms credit alert confirming payment of the sum owed – but alas, you get zilch! You take it upon yourself to track your debtor and he/she starts to avoid you; you both just always happen to be going in separate directions. He/she suddenly becomes too busy to attend to you and even pick up your phone calls.

The worst part is that when you finally get to confront them about the debt THEY want to give you attitude. You become the pest who’s being inconsiderate because you’re asking for your own money. IOU forgotten, trust broken and friendship lost (along with your money). Ladies and gentlemen I give you the rules of lending:

Rule 1 – Assess the capacity of the debtor to pay back.

Rule 2 – Assess the willingness of the debtor to pay back.

Rule 3 – Keep record of the debtor’s stories (e.g. his/her father has to be buried…again)

Rule 4 – Lend what you can do without (not what would make you jump off a bridge)

Rule 5 – Collect a postdated cheque (they’ll know you mean business like ‘bounce that cheque’…I dare you! lol)

Well there you have it. You have mastered the rules of lending. Never again will you be duped into giving your hard-earned cash to ungrateful slobs who scavenge the earth. They’re lucky you’re not even charging interest (or pressing charges). Till my next article, lend responsibly!

Entry #47 – Remember September

chaseWell how can I forget September 2008 when my bank was having its financial year end (which in the Nigerian Banking industry means every bank starts to scramble around for large money deposits in order to claim the no.1 spot for having the largest liability base…the grand prize being that you get to keep your job!).

I remember how fellow colleagues would genuinely fall ill with stress, some with high blood pressure, and why? All because they got SMS/text messages at odd hours of the day (including weekends) from bosses who taunt them to AGGRESSIVELY PURSUE current accounts and fixed term deposits or to REALIZE GROWTH in their account portfolio. I remember when each week would be inundated with impromptu meetings – meetings with other bank branches’ marketing team and their respective managers. Such gruelling sessions were like the ‘Show and Tell’ in Elementary/Primary School…only, you were showing to the whole audience how you planned to leap from a balance sheet of N100m (One Hundred Million Naira) to N250m in under 3weeks. I remember the tall tales marketing staff used to tell…stories of fat cheques that were due the following week…and then the following week…and then the following week. I remember how they had to defend their jobs by justifying why they should still be paid their salary.

I remember how the boldest and most confident of marketers would suddenly be reduced to a bucket of nerves as they stuttered through their cock and bull Deposit Mobilization strategies. Of course their bosses were quick to ridicule and threaten them with a letter of displeasure – that’s a prelude to a sack, in simple English. I remember how some marketers avoided the subsequent meetings especially when the millions they promised the previous week never materialized. Oh, how I remember how some banks would accept to pay to willing Fixed Deposit customers outrageous rates well above that of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and in some cases staff would make up the interest difference from their own personal funds to pay to the oblivious, greedy customer. I remember the pressure got so much that you could cut the tension in bank branches with a knife. You were almost driven to the point of holding customers at gunpoint just so they took you more seriously and coughed out the millions that we so stupidly thought they were hiding at home under their matresses.

I remember how some marketing staff would encourage their known customers to move funds from competitor banks into ours. Even worse was when a branch within the bank moved funds from another bank branch, meaning the bank as a whole wasn’t actually growing but suffering a bout of indigestible cannibalization of accounts. I remember hearing stories of female marketers who would ‘stoop so low’ just to get a measly million into their account portfolio…and in some unfortuante cases were given dud cheques: a classic Lose-Lose situation.

I remember how the month would draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag and your demanour was truly tested. Some who couldn’t take the heat or the humiliation any longer dropped their resignation letters and stayed at home waiting for the grass to get greener somewhere else…anywhere else. I remember how some skilled marketers would turn on the waterworks when a customer came into the branch to make a portfolio-shattering withdrawal in this ’ember’ month. I remember how I almost uttered to my superior ‘What are YOU doing to ensure that we grow our deposit base? Show me YOUR prospect list! How much money have YOU brought today? How many phone calls have YOU made? Why should the bank still be paying YOUR salary???’ I remember it all too well and now I have another 13days to go before I can even begin to forget September 2009. “Lord, give me strength…”

Entry #28 – The Best Man

moi 060

Today was not just any ordinary day. Today I was decked up in a dashing dickie-bow tie, tux and bad-ass chelsea boots – The ideal gentleman if I do say so myself. But it wasn’t quite the picnic I expected it to be. Being the best man (at least back here in Nigeria) is a bit like being the errand boy/houseboy/servant…call it what you want. I was at their service – holding the sweaty hankies, fetching the relatives who were scattered across the hall, picking up ALL the money sprayed unto the couple whilst they were dancing…yes, all in my £150  tuxedo. My head was drenched in sweat but I was armed with 2 hankies. I didn’t get a chance to eat – moi 061all I had was bottled water for breakfast, sweets during the church service and a malt drink during the reception (my stomach and I kissed and made up when I got back home to chow down). But it was all worth it. In fact, I feel like wearing it once in a while just for the look of it. And then I look in the mirror, adjusting my cuffs which obviously dont need adjusting like they do in the movies, with a smirk on my face and then I go ‘The name is Nigerian…Crazy Nigerian 😀

What can N100 buy you in Lagos?

As at Feb 27, 2009 here are a number of things N100/$0.68/₤0.48/ €0.54 could buy you in Lagos:
  1. A 100ml plastic bottle of Coca-cola, Fanta, Sprite (but bottled water can be N60)
  2. 11 medium tomatoes from your local ‘Sunday’ market
  3. 1 Mr.Biggs’ sausage roll (previously N80 at the start of February)
  4. A recharge voucher from Zain telecommunications (talk time may vary)
  5. 10 Puff-Puff balls (like a donut, only without the hole)
  6. Parking space (pretty much anywhere) when an opportunist with space sees you’re desperate
  7. 6 oranges
  8. 1 apple
  9. 5 packs of ‘PK’ chewing gum (the ones with only 4 capsule-like pieces)
  10. 1 hair cut for men or tomboys (costs more if a generator is put on when NEPA/PHCN strikes)
  11. Approximately 1.5litres of petrol (currently sold at N65 per litre)
  12. 6 sheets of brown paper…
  13. 1 music CD (mostly local artists, and some amateur compilations of international artists)
  14. Toll gate ticket to get into Murtala Mohammed airport (getting out will cost you another N100!)
  15. Some selected local newspapers (The PUNCH will cost you an extra N50)
  16. A cashcard from selected banks unto which you can save & withdraw money
  17. Loading cash unto the cashcard each time you deposit money
  18. A copy of Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes (with N20 to spare)
  19. Have at least 3 pairs of your shoes polished or mended by the local mobile cobbler
  20. A medium ‘breakfast bowl’ size full of rice, stew/sauce, meat from street-side caterers (may cause diaorrhea) 

..xTx..

~Cash handling

It is worthwhile holding varying denominations of Naira for ease of giving or receiving change e.g. N5, N10, N20, N50, N100, N200, N500, and N1000 notes. Refrain from carrying excess cash in hand. At the same time, do not flash/expose so much cash when you are out in public. You can attract the wrong kind of attention and become vulnerable to theft.

 

For the men, do not put your wallets in your back pockets – even if you wear tight jeans. For women, keep your handbags closed/zipped up at all times. Do not count large amounts of money in public view – that includes even when you are in the comfort of your car. Passers by (especially some street hawkers) are constantly watching and may serve as informants for thieves ahead.  

 

 

If you are not planning to live in Nigeria, and therefore do not want to open a local bank account to deposit large cash sums, you can get a Naira Cashcard in order to save your pocket money. Cashcards are like electronic wallets that do not require account opening. The cards are available from most banks and the cost of one can range from N100 and N500. There are usually no monthly fees attached to them and they can be used for making ATM withdrawals, POS (Point of Sale i.e. like in Eateries, Cinemas and reputable Supermarkets), and internet transactions. Cash loading limits and loading fees may vary across banks.

 

When buying from street hawkers whilst you are in a moving car (this is common activity with motorists during traffic jams or ‘go-slow’), always make sure you receive the item you want to purchase before you release the cash. Also try to hold the exact amount of cash for your purchase as most times the hawker may not have change to return. In doing so, you can prepare the hawker e.g. you want to buy something of N150 but you have a N200 note. You ask the hawker if he has N50. He/she has N50-change ready and then you collect the item and the change before handing over your N200 note – You wouldn’t want to hold up cars behind you because you’re waiting to collect change, nor would you want to jump out of your car chasing a hawker who ran off with your change!

 

..xTx..

Junior High – 1st year…

I was 11 years old when I started Junior Secondary School at The International school, Ibadan. I felt like a prisoner sent to Alcatraz to do time. As I walked through those gates and saw the boys in their turquoise short sleeve shirts with grey shorts, and the girls in their blue/white striped dresses, I couldn’t help feeling that I was just ordinary. How the hell could I stand out in this crowd? I thought.

I started feeling homesick almost immediately. Saying goodbye to my primary school friends of 6yrs was hard enough. I moved to a different state (from Lagos to Oyo) and left my Mum , Dad and 2 sisters behind in order to stay with my Aunt. Her children (i.e. my cousins) made the whole traumatizing experience bearable for me and so I gained 2 brothers I never had, and yet another (sarcastic but lovable) sister. On holidays I would be ‘deported’ to Lagos to see my family.

My uniform didn’t make my first day experience any easier to get through. The shorts were tight – not as high as hot pants but not as long as regular boxer shorts either (so it was a good thing I was still wearing Y-fronts then). I felt I was walking funny – you would if your shorts were climbing up between your buttocks! Speaking of which, and to make matters even worse, I had er…okay my bum was er…not the ‘average’ size for a boy…it was kinda out there…just a bit – not sexy, not cool. The shirt material felt cheap and caused my skin to itch sometimes. I wasn’t accustomed to applying lotion to my legs so my flaky, chapped chopsticks were glistening white for all students to jeer at that day.

I dared to look at some of the beautiful full-breasted girls in the school – they were all my seniors, damn! I made my way to my class after the school assembly and scrambled with my mates to get the ‘best’ seat. A complete nerd would sit right at the front in the first row. I was a partial nerd so I chose a seat in the second front row. I glanced at the girls in my class: a lot of them were pretty…(pretty flat-chested, that is). I couldn’t get it through my thick afro-head that girls of age 11 were meant to look like that. I was going to get my own big surprise in 2years time though.

I made friends quite quickly with a few of the boys but I was still shy talking to girls – not all of them, just the ones I thought were so breathtaking. It was fun at break time when everyone ran out to the food stalls or playing field. The seniors boys in SS1, SS2 and SS3 did not seem to like to see the junior boys having ‘FUN’. It was an abomination for junior boys to smile in their presence or even let your eyes meet. This was hard because they were everywhere. I had to learn to walk with my eyes just glazed – not really focusing on anyone but still making sure I didnt bump into anyone. In an innocent era when 2 junior boys could walk along, holding hands and sharing a joke, senior boys were quick to descend upon them and exercise capital punishment. I guess they knew something we were still oblivious of. 

Breaktime was an uncomfortable period also because you didn’t want a senior to call you and send you on an errand. For instance, I recall one of my best mates being picked from my clique one afternoon on our way to buy lunch:

Senior: HEY YOU come here….I’m talking to YOU! Come here!

Best mate: Yes sir

Senior: Don’t look at me when I’m talking to you!

Best mate: I’m very sorry, sir.

Senior: Why were you ignoring me when I called you?

Best mate: I wasn’t ignoring you.

Senior: Oh, so you’re saying that I’m lying, right?

Best mate: No I didnt say that I…

Senior: Kneel down there!

As my mate surrended to this 6ft bully, one of my other friends suggested that he’d go to the senior to beg for my mate to be released. This was the dumbest idea I had ever heard because it was a sheep prancing its way to the slaughterhouse. But I felt my best mate’s pain as girls in my class walked past him pointing and giggling. We watched as the unsung hero went to negotiate with the senior. It appeared to be going well. The senior reached into his own pocket and even gave the braveheart some money. He walked back to the rest of us but to my surprise my best mate was still left kneeling down on the sandy ground.

Me: What happened?

Him: The senior said he’ll let him go once I buy his lunch for him.

Me: Okay, lets go buy it then.

Him: But he didnt give me enough money.

Me: How much did he give you?

Him: Five Naira.

Me: and what did he ask you to buy?

Him: 2 meatpies, 2donuts, 1 bottle of Coke, 1 Okin biscuit, 1 pack of Sprint chewing gum…and he said I should bring back his change!

I remember trying to stifle an outburst because that absurd senior wasn’t too far off from where we were standing. I refused when I was asked to contribute towards this greed-feast – my pocket money was limited. Let my best mate continue to kneel down there…we only just met anyway…its not like we’re brothers or something, I thought. But just then a teacher walked past and asked what was going on. In the end my best mate was allowed to go and he sluggishly came back to us looking really pissed.  

The following day when we went to enjoy our breaktime, a familiar bully started beckoning us to come to him. I remember how we looked at each other briefly and quickly scurried off in different directions, running for our dear lives. Those were the fun moments. Life in Junior High inevitably became a game of hide and seek with the seniors. We wore the shorts, they sported the trousers. They abused their power, we were at their mercy – a word which was probably omitted from their childhood and English Language tutorials. This was only my first year and I still had a lot to learn about surviving high school. 

 

..xTx..

Life on planet HTRAE

Take a step into an alternate world where absolutely anything is possible. There are no limits whatsoever. Mistakes can be corrected. Dead people can be brought to life (please note this point). You can fast-forward from the period of record vinyls to the arrival of MP3s. No point making VHS when you can enjoy DVDs. You can go one step beyond choosing the sex of your unborn child – you can see exactly what he/she would look like…at age 30.

There’s no need to go through two, three or more dead-end jobs after university. You graduate and immediately start earning in your dream job. Dating more than one person is a waste of time when you can wait for the precise moment when you will bump into your perfect partner e.g. 13th April 2009, Wednesday at 3.26pm…on Facebook! Physical attributes will not limit you in any way. You can have the spring in those legs to get you slamdunking your way to the NBAs. You can get the perfect cleavage to nail that job interview (with a male/lesbian boss), to get that wealthy business tycoon or to just boost your self-esteem. You can get the dream physique to get you into the modeling industry too. You don’t hear insecure men going  ‘Size doesn’t matter, it’s the motion in the ocean’. They are all well-endowed naturally, give or take the exaggerated inch ; )

Weight-gain is a thing of the past since all the foods on this planet are engineered to help you maintain your fit healthy body. Goodbye ugly fat people, Hello cast of Beverly Hills 90210! Balding men do not exist here. They can sport their hair any which curl, dread, lock, fringe, mohican, ace-ventura way they like! Gymnasiums go out of business because you can WILL yourself into those desired biceps, triceps, pectorals and abs. It gets better – You and your partner can agree on the exact time you both want to climax together…and you can set it by the milli-second…every single time.

Speaking of time, just wait a damn second! I told you at the very beginning to ‘take a step’. You’ve probably already packed your bags from EARTH and you’re getting ready to set off on a one-way rocket trip to HT-RAE. Don’t you want to know what living there would be like? I can tell you it’s not all you hoped for. Behind this seemingly perfect world there are consequences which you’d have to deal with.

If everyone had the same idea of a perfect athletic build then everyone would be 1st place in the Mens 100m at the Beijing Olympics. Usain Bolt and the other 7 competitors would break & set new world records…together, every four years. There will be no silver or bronze medals to give out because everyone would get a gold one. If all the women at an interview employed the same cleavage tactic then the male/lesbian boss would have a hard time making a selection. If everyone could look like or act as well as the big Hollywood stars then there wouldn’t be a point for giving out Oscars.

If dating was only reserved till the moment you would meet your destined partner then you would live an inexperienced love life. Yes you can make all the mistakes and correct them when you meet ‘the one’ but why go through all that hassle? If we were enjoying the latest-est-est-est technology NOW then there would be nothing better to look forward to. Transition can be a slow process but its fun when you can look back at where you started. But this planet would also be extremely competitive. You wouldn’t be able to stand out in virtually anything. How can you be the best at something when everyone else doing ‘that thing’ is just as good? Think about it. Do you still want to go to planet HT-RAE now?

If I’ve succeeded in convincing you otherwise then you have made the right decision. Life on EARTH is tough but that’s why you should see it as a challenge. Live the experience. Try again if you don’t succeed the first time. Believe in yourself and pray, pray and then pray some more.

At this point I want you to know that HT-RAE is not just my imagination. It exists and I’m going back there…only, you’re not invited because it’s getting pretty crowded up in here – with all the dead people being brought back to life and all, lol. See you when I get back!

N.B – Ticket availability (1 left)

..xTx..

Letter to the Nigerian President

Dear Mr. President,

I know you are bogged down with a lot of political and socio-economic issues at the moment, the least of which you are yet to find solutions for or even attempt to show any interest in solving (e.g. Lack of constant power supply, daily traffic congestion, armed robbery, etc). However, I have some questions that need answering and though they may seem trivial to you they mean a lot to me…

What happened to Green Sands shandy? And what happened to Fanta Chapman? Could you bring back Tandi Guarana and Dr Pepper? Could you also tell the brewers of ’33’ export lager beer to change the freaking name to something other than a number? It would make ordering at the bar a whole lot easier when I’m pissed (half drunk). In fact, could you also put an embargo on any further name changes made by ‘Zain’ telecommunications? They’ve gone from Econet-VMobile-Celtel-Zain in less than 5 years and its getting confusing.

Is Ajinomoto really not good for my cooking? Could you intervene in the Mob wars between the rival Noodle gangs on my car radio? Indomie, Mimi and O-noodles have 1 ad every other 10 minutes 24/7 and it’s driving me insane! Is Agege bread really that soft and if so would you endorse it? I ‘form’ (pose, act-up) a lot so when I eat Agege bread sometimes at work I need assurance that I’m not going below a certain standard of class.

Could you ban unsolicited motorcyclists aka OKADA riders? They have swarmed our roads and have become a public nuisance with their complete disregard for the highway code. And while you’re at it, could you please abolish Saturday banking? I cherish my weekends and I strongly believe that 7.30am to 5.30pm from Mon-Fri is sufficient punishment in this present economy.

I know this is a long shot but would you consider giving tax-rebates and/or relief like they do in the UK? I see a lot of taking going on but giving back something to me for my blood and sweat would be nice. This is not ‘awoof’, just look at it more like a discount on my taxes.

While I’m on the subject of giving back to the community, could you allow the national budget to include training art schools for our terribly amateur actors? The Nigerian movie industry, unlike our developing economy, is under-developed. We are yet to see home-grown movies worthy to be called blockbusters e.g. movies like Lord of The Rings, Titanic, T2 and even The Dark Knight could one day be done over here if you invest accordingly – After all, like the saying goes ‘3rd mainland bridge wasn’t built in a day’.

I hope you will find time to answer these pressing issues. I do not mind if you let the VP handle some of these questions as I strongly believe he is equally capable. I look forward to hearing from you fairly soon.
Yours sincerely,

 

..xTx..