Jul 7, 2019

Niches in the Things We Do

We should have niches in the things we do

My patriotism has a boundary. When I bought a DSTV decoder, it wasn’t because I needed one as such. It was rather because local radios and television channels were failing me. While the program standards were crashing, I stayed on, hoping they would pick up, some day. But rather than pick up, standards continued to crash until I started doubting if there would be a turn in the positive direction at all. 

By what we are writing here, we don’t mean to disrespect anybody. What we are writing is just meant to bring attention to a room for perfection that has come to our notice.  We want our city to grow, building an excellent culture of high standards, thereby making us confident and helping to wade off derision and scorn.

This morning, there was no electricity to power my Multi-Choice decoder. Hence, I turned to a battery-powered FM radio receiver, listening to a comedy show, Comedy Kings, on local radio. The guys anchoring the show are highly talented. But as it is often said, more heads are better than one, and a few trees cannot make a forest. On the Comedy Kings, I still see a constant problem: the absence of niches. 

The disregard for the need for niches is costing us a lot, including a rush to foreign channels and the money we lose to the foreigners who own the foreign channels. A niche is something that is a most, if your brand must compete and stand out. So, what is a niche? A niche is the quality of distinction or uniqueness in what you do, be it music, comedy, movie-making, broadcasting, etc. 

I will try to give an example of how a comedian can create a niche for himself. Since the mimicry of accents is one way comedians create humour in Nigeria, I will like to use that as an example. So, one way you can create a little niche for yourself as a comedian is by mimicking the weird accent of someone important a big tribe. A lot of comedians build their humour in this way. However, most are not consistent. He mimics Hausas now. The next minute, he mimics Igbos. In one show he mimicks a dozen accents. It means that he is unaware there is the need for him to be consistent. It the end, it would mean that he has no niche. A second way one can create a niche is by specializing on a subject. He could, for instance, specialize on discussing issues of corruption and nothing else. Such a comedian should be interested in issues of corruption to build an extensive knowledge on the topic. Eventually, he not only builds himself but the society at large.  

When the first radio station was established in Jos, it had to cover everything: news, music, educational programs, agricultural programs, etc. it was the only radio station at the time. Now, that radio stations in the city are growing in their numbers, it is expected that they begin to carve out niches for themselves. Sadly, each time a new station comes up, it replicates almost exactly the programs of the pioneer station. As we see on international channels, TVs and radio stations create niches to stand out, be they CNN, BBC, BET, SKYPORTS, etc. Hence, there should be religious, agricultural, tribal, musical, news TV and radio channels, just to name a few.  

It is important to note that creating niches is not something huge and unrealistic that should scare people. It is as simple as it sounds. All it involves is observing successful brands and watching to understand what they relied on while carving out niches.  Creating a niche is a basic consideration in everything of high standard that humans do. It shouldn’t be different here in Jos. The only other option is to stagger in chaos, failing to take benefit of our full potential in the things we do. 

Jun 17, 2019

The Nigerian Presidential Election 2019: A Web Server is Not the Heart of God

A Web Server (illustration)

As is often the tradition in Nigerian, a candidate in an election hardly accepts defeat. Well, one cannot blame him; most elections in Nigeria have often lacked transparency. That is not to say that there aren’t cases of electoral transparency. It’s just that they are few and scattered far apart in time that one can make a blanket statement that the system is replete with fraud and hazy as result. 

Thus, it is just tradition that the main candidate of the opposition in the 2019 Nigerian Presidential Election, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, refused to accept defeat. Thus, he went to court and the issue of the inspection of INEC’s server for the possible proof of his assertion became front-page news. Each time one tunes to a radio station, the word “server” is heard flying to and fro. But the most important thing one picks is that people seem to believe a server is the heart of God, where the truth cannot be erazed. So, I thought I should clarify the issue of server so people understand it.   

What is a server? A server, in the context of the internet, is a storage device that is online 24/7. Those who own such servers are called webhosts. If you have a website and want it online so people can see the information on the internet, you upload the website onto a server. Sometimes, the information is accessible to the public. Sometimes, it is not. 

But what is important that people should note is that the information on a server is prepared and uploaded by people. If INEC has a server, it means that it prepares its information and then uploads it to the server. If it decides that there is a piece of info that needs to be modified, it can modify it. 

As a web designer, I design a website and then upload the information into server belonging to my webhost. When that is done, there are two copies of the website: one in my computer and the other on the server of my webhost, online. If I decide that I want something changed on the website online, I make that modification on the version of the website in my computer and then upload it and instruct the server to effect the changes. The changes can be removal or addition. Sometimes, when your computer crashes and I lose the copy of the site in it, all I need to do is to connect online with my new computer and download a copy. 

So, if INEC is backing Mr President in Aso Rock, all it needs to do is to effect changes on the information online to support the lies they have told Nigerians. However, even when information on a server is deleted, there are experts who can still fetch the information if they can lay their hands on the server. Thus, the court will require an independent expert to examine the server.

May 30, 2019

Review –Caine Prize 2019 Shortlisted Stories

On May 20th, the Caine Prize for African Writing released the shortlist of the twentieth edition of the prize. The stories have a sophistication that leaves the ready stunned. They embrace a medley of themes: refugee matters, lesbianism, human trafficking, social stigma and scamming. One sees that women are dominating the contest, with four female authors shortlisted as was the previous year. Nigerian author, Lesley Nneka Arimah, has continued to make waves at the Caine Prize, having been shortlisted twice in the past.  This year, she is shortlisted for her story, Skinned. The other stories are Wall by Heron Hadero (Ethiopia), All Our Lives by Tochukwu Okafor (Nigeria), It Takes a Village Some Say by Cameroons Ngwah Mbo Nana Nkweti, Sew My Mouth by Kenyan Cherry Kandle.

Skinned is the story of a woman who couldn’t find a husband in a community where unmarried women walk the streets uncovered (nude). You are covered by your parents until you reach a critical age at which your father begins to pay tax if you must stay covered. For wealthy parents, paying taxes to save their daughters isn’t their problem. Sadly, poor parents often don’t have a choice. The main character of the story, Ejem, is forsaken by her poor parents and becomes a subject of stigma, making it unfeasible to keep a job.  In the end, she runs into one of the wealthiest women in the world, Odinaka, who, though unclaimed (unmarried), remains covered; her wealth enables her to stay above the law. Under Odinaka’s umbrella, Ejem finds the protection, as well.

Wall is the story of a refugee kid who finds himself in The US, unable to speak English. His inability to speak English makes him a fish out of water, unable to have friends. Prior to coming to the US, he and his parents had sojourned in Germany, long enough for him to learn German. Eventually, he finds a German scholar who, though understands English, is desperate to keep his German alive. They find fluency in German isn’t the only thing they have in common; the professor had been a refugee during WW1. From the story, one gets the feeling the author is broad in exposure and thought. However, the African feel is missing in the story, other than the fact that the character comes from Ethiopia.

All Our Lives is a story set in Nigeria and is written in the third person (plural).  It is about boys who leave their villages hoping to make it in the city. They end up as fraudsters who use bogus IDs to deceive unsuspecting folks they come across on dating sites. Except for the slow momentum build-up, the story is so well written that one is left wondering if the author isn’t an ex-con man.

Ngwah Mbo Nana Nkweti's, It Takes A Village Some Say, is one about a girl trafficked from poor parents in Cameroon to a family of diplomats in the US, who couldn’t have children. The trafficked woman fills the void so the family is total.  But, with time, the couple faces financial difficulties. The prospect of going to college is ruined. The girl takes money from a news journal to give a bogus story of her abuse by her American parents and finds a financial breakthrough. She solidifies her income through whoring with white kids, eventually growing in fiscal strength to liberate other trafficked kids across America.  The author exudes depth and an understanding of diverse cultures.

Cherry Kandle comes with the story, Sew My Mouth. The story wields the unmistakable vibe of Kenyan stories and is about a woman in her twenties who lives a stealthy lesbian life with another woman. Her partner is under pressure, suspected by her mother and a man who wishes to marry her. When it becomes obvious her boyfriend is aware of her unconventional lifestyle, she attempts suicide. The main character is left devastated.

I am a Nigerian but I think the contest is between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Cameroon. When one considers that Heron Hadero’s story, though profound, is lacking in African groove, it leaves the contest between Cameroon and Kenya. I’m afraid that, for Kenya, it is going to be back-to-back –the distinction in the elements that make a story extraordinary in critical, but the ability to exude sobriety in how these elements are used helps a story to stand out the most.

May 16, 2019

My Opinion about Bet9ja’s Possible Closure

Bet9ja is a gambling company, with signboards seen everywhere across Nigeria. Its ubiquity is an indication to how much money the company makes from the country.  I just read, this afternoon, that the Nigerian Senate intends to close it for its refusal to pay taxes to the Nigerian Government. 

When I saw the news link on Facebook, I posted a comment in which I supported the closure. But seconds later, I realized I was very hasty in reaching that conclusion. I hinged my conclusion on my experience with the company. One of the company’s staffers by the name of Patricia Machado, did send me an email, proposing to advertise Bet9ja on my websites. She requested for the Google Analytics (GA) for my website. After sending it, she claimed the traffic coming to my website was low, but agreed to give me the advert if I had another website, in addition to the first one. To cut a long story short, we eventually came to an understanding. So, I followed the complicated guide to obtaining the code and adding it to the websites.  

Since they pay in advance, I requested her to pay, having added the code. She started by giving excuses and eventually stopped responding to my emails. Eventually, when she answered my email, she claimed the campaign cannot go on because the traffic is low. I was surprised; she had requested the GA, which I sent her. I tried all ways to get her to pay to no avail. I sent an email to her superiors explaining the situation, but got no respond. 

I saw the way I was treated as insulting and was done because I am in a developing country. I thought about website owners who must have had their turns before me and those that will have theirs after me. The sad experience was the reason why I promptly commentated in support of the closure of the company, when I saw the news link on Facebook. 

However, I think that my respond was propelled by anger and wasn’t based on fair judgement. Bet9ja has generated thousands of jobs to previously unemployed Nigerians. There is, thus, the need to exercise caution when the topic of closure of the company comes up. However, generating jobs for thousands of Nigerians shouldn’t be the reason why the company should act insultingly by refusing to pay taxes. There is no place in the world were a company, be it foreign or local, doesn’t pay tax, except in a situation where the government of a country decides to grant tax reliefs to a company, for one reason or the other. 

Thus, my rational observation is that, if the Senate deems it fit to close the company because it has violated certain laws that makes it unqualified to continue operating in the country, so be it. If there is any violation of contract agreement, then the deal cannot go on. The company is ubiquitous in Nigerian, trawling millions of dollars from the country. If the country isn’t getting any tax returns from the company, then the company is unqualified to continue operating in the country and should be made to close.

Niches in the Things We Do

We should have niches in the things we do My patriotism has a boundary. When I bought a DSTV decoder, it wasn’t because I needed ...