Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

07 Jan

A working mother's dieting and exercise journey

These days I regret to say that I just don’t seem to care so much about my weight, the gym or exercise. I must confess that there have been bigger things going on in my life.

I wake up quoting Shakespeare, dream about Purple Hibiscus and Kamliri (the lead protagonist), dance to the lyrics of various African poets, prophesy with the unlikely poet of Brother Jero (Wole Soyinka), and argue with the meat seller about the opportunity cost of buying the extra kilo of meat he is begging me to buy. The list is endless. You see, I have been taking WAEC.

The truth is that WAEC can mean the difference between you being home for one year and you going on to hopefully greater things. WAEC can even mean the difference between you being able to do youth service after your bourgeoisie university education at Harvard or Oxford or wherever you are lucky enough to go to. You see, WAEC result can lead to my sanity.

Well, I am happy to say that I passed my WAEC long time ago and am the proud owner of a degree. However, my first child has been taking WAEC. In actual fact, I would have happily taken the exams for her. I feel I could have passed and saved myself the money, the worry, the invasion of my privacy by one billion private tutors… you see my home became a Mecca of some sorts. To show you how lucrative lessons have become, one even bought a car after six months of lesson. Yes, I have changed his life.

So why can’t I exercise? Why can’t I find the motivation to just get on with it? Why can’t I be my usual energizer bunny? Well, motherhood drains you! When I do decide to go exercising the lesson teachers are calling, the school is calling, my head is beeping and I feel like the busy machine in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital: beep, bleep, beep, bleep. All in my head.

Coupled with the fact that matching a sweet, cute, precocious 16-year-old who is six-foot tall with a young healthy man in confined spaces, day after day after day, may not be a good idea, I have had to become chaperone, mother hawk watching over her precious chick for even the slightest impropriety. So I sit in the sitting area beside her pretending to be reading a book or browsing day after day after day.

One Saturday morning, one of the numerous teachers arrived to tutor precious 16-year-old as she sauntered in wearing bum shorts with her books, grumpily slamming them on the table. You should have seen the look on his face as he turned red or whatever shade dark people turn to as he managed to splutter out “ please, go and change , this is not appropriate wear for lesson…please….”

I actually felt sorry for him. So, I have to protect her from herself, him from himself, and me from going mad or being sent home unceremoniously to my dead father’s compound with a disgraced daughter. What will I tell my dead father’s grave? That I was busy trying to be a size four in the gym? I think he would rise up from his grave and not just knock me but pound me. Deservedly so.

So my evenings of aerobics or gym? Gone. They have been spent on the pages of books and magazines and blogs and dreams, as I guard this precious gem that does not know how hazardous men are. Not so bad really.

And what has come from my lack of gym and fitness motivation is a new empathy for overweight women. Each of them has their own story. Now I am not so quick to judge. One of my friends last year put on about 10 kgs in two months when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She would eat and eat and eat and eat trying to drown out the fears that come from the diagnosis, trying to drown out the terror of chemotherapy and the terrible reality that life is fragile. Very fragile.

And frankly I really could not care less about my weight gain or lack of fitness. I know I gave it (WAEC) my all: My sister sent me a BBM: “Ping, Ping, PING, PING, why don’t you call me or answer your phone anymore?????” I answer: “Studying.” She sends another: “For what?” I answer: “WAEC….”

She rolls on the floor laughing. It’s okay for her, she has had four all-star university students, and she is dealing with the last. Me, I am just beginning. She BBMs me again: “Don’t die o…..then you won’t even know if she passed….” I roll on the floor laughing myself. You gotta laugh!


07 Jan

Who is responsible for cleaning our capital city?

Abuja is dirty.  Everything imaginable can be found littering the streets. Small public bins are overflowing and the increasing number of makeshift, refuse heaps are growing higher and smellier by the day. Thousands of black nylon bags and transparent water sachets have taken root in the soil, have implanted themselves on trees and security barbed wires, and those that have not blended into the environment are flying into the windscreens of moving cars, into faces, and into buildings. Not the kind of dirt that half-hearted attempts by the women and men in orange can deal with, but the type which needs a sustainable waste management strategy, some imagination, and a strong will.

Yet Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) reportedly spends N1.3 billion per annum on cleaning Abuja metropolis alone. The responsibility for cleaning the rest of the FCT i.e., Nyanya, Lugbe, Gwagwalada, Kuje etc., lies with the area councils in collaboration with the Satellite Towns Development Agency and they have a separate budget.

There are several reasons why Abuja looks unloved and uncared for. The first is that the framework and process for how the city is cleaned and how waste is managed is not public knowledge. How do you clean a city without the assistance and support of the inhabitants? In London for instance, residents know what days of the week waste is picked up. This means the night before collection day, people put out their trash outside their doors, and bin bags outside on a day not reserved for collections attracts a fine and the city earns a little extra revenue.

In some jurisdictions, where residents park on the street, the routine is so synchronized that people know for example that Thursday is for cleaning the right side of the street (so everyone parks on the left or gets a fine). If Abuja residents know the street-cleaning schedule, we can avoid the overflowing bins that blight our streets and attract dogs and scavengers. In addition, residents acting as partners to the authorities can report the cleaners when they fail to show up with their brooms and Bagco sacks.

The second is that the cleaners lack the right equipment for cleaning. One has to be sympathetic to the effort they put into the shoddy job they do or the way they focus only on the main avenues ignoring the side streets which their supervisors probably don’t care about either. Instead of the backbreaking work of sweeping with our local brooms, the cleaners should be kitted out properly with gloves, rakes, long brooms, brushes etc. In another world, Cosmopolitan Cleaners (one of the cleaners in the city) would have a patent by now for inventing a long-handled broom which incorporates our traditional one.

The third problem is a mix of poor standards and little knowledge. If the AEPB team cared about their role as the keepers of our environment, it would not be easy for them to ignore the wasteland that Abuja has become. They would find it hard to budget over a billion on the purchase of 60,000 plastic waste bins at the same cost of N18, 000 each which they sell to the residents ( Surely, they should be sourcing at much cheaper in order to sell at a small profit and eventually reduce the price tag for residents.

And finally, lack of accountability is a problem. How many contractors clean the city? What are the tender and audit processes to determine who is best qualified to do the job and to verify that the job is executed satisfactorily? What is certain is that some of the AEPB task force know very well who some of the most guilty generators of road trash are. They are the ubiquitous sellers of tea and bread, fruit, suya, and carts that dot every residential and commercial area around the city. And instead of ensuring these traders take responsibility for cleaning their surroundings, AEPB officers allegedly prefer to extort money from them safe in the knowledge that as illegal operators, there is no trail and no complaint.

Abuja is a naturally beautiful place—with green-covered hills and rocks of various formations, including our reclining elephant that guards the army quarters on the bypass between Maitama and Asokoro. Even if residents don’t care for the environment or aesthetics, we should care that our collective wealth is being wasted for little benefit and we should care because it is a shame that the home of our Federal Government is turning into such a trash dump. If we cannot get the small things right, how will we ever accomplish the big things?

Below are some pictures.


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