Resting in Jos

It’s 3am on Sunday morning and I seem to have utilised all the units of sleep that I have allocated for the day. A peep into the last few days (and hours) would give you a better understanding of why a rather tired young man would lose sleep: I arrived Nigeria on the 25th of January just after noon and tried making my way to the Virgin Nigeria desk to get on the 1:30pm flight to Abuja. After enduring the long queue towards the entry point, I ended up with an immigration officer whose sole aim was to deny me a free extra page for another visa — he stamped “Seen on Arrival” on a fresh page of my passport, ignoring my late request that I am guarding fresh pages on my passport (to prevent carrying a rather bulky passport due to renewals ahead of validity expiry). Well, I bounced back to reality and — thanks to forethought — escaped the unbearable wait for luggage because I was able to travel light in spite of my multiple destinations.

By the time I got through the final immigration check (the last before you breathe Lagos fresh air), I had left another drama in my tracks. The last immigration official saw an Indian visa (dated December 2005) on my passport and thought I should be checked for drugs because that (to him) was proof that I had access to their most suspicious route for drug transfer. A few words from an innocent young man in a hurry convinced him that I was innocent, helped by the many Ethiopian visas that made us discuss my UN involvements. We ended the discussion with his promise to vote for Prof. Pat Utomi in the forthcoming elections. You can be sure that the flight had left for Abuja by this time… and it was actually a 1:10pm flight, not 1:30pm as I was informed! The other alternative was to leave for the local wing of the airport to catch another flight… and then the Arik Air option dawned on me. I got the new airliner’s ticket and even though take-off was not on time, the pilot’s continued emphasis on his brand new aircraft was enough to keep every passenger laughing — or fuming. 🙂

I arrived Abuja and had to do the Abuja-Jos part of my journey by road (there’s only one flight from Lagos to Jos everyday and its in the morning). After about 4 hours, I arrived at the National Telecentres’ Summit, but the opening meeting had ended. I made up for that by diving straight into getting an update and attending to outstanding administrative tasks on my desk. For the 2 days (all of Friday and half of Thursday and Sunday) we spent on the task, I saw vibrancy and a summit whose timing was rather on time. The telecentre operators from various states of Nigeria discussed the place of telecentres (in their various forms and nomeclature) within Nigeria’s ICT4D space, and held focused discussions on the definition of telecentres (within the Nigerian context), the problems telecentres face, how telecentres can get better, and who can help telecentres. After appreciating the need to work together, participants discussed issues such as How do we begin? (Network establishment and pre-establishment logistics), What can we do together? (Projects and members’ collaboration), and How do we work together? (Operational details and logistics).

At the end of the braistorming and focus on practical steps on the way forward, the network was named the Telecentres’ Network of Nigeria (TNN). The summit report and action lines are available, and you can be sure that the process has only just begun. Nigeria now has no excuse with respect to taking adavtage of the ongoing global telecentre movement’s activities, especially in relation to our desire to extend the dividends of ICTs to rural Nigeria. I left Kuru for, Jos in order to catch up with online work, and decided to spend the night so I could rest from the Uganda-Kenya-Ethiopia-Kuru stretch. The night began rather early, with my eyelids falling in love with each other at about 11pm. Initial plans to see the city and have dinner didn’t go beyond thoughts… Stop Press! Guess what, sleep is creeping back into my system and I need to subscribe to the opportune units so I can recharge for the days ahead — meeting with stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT space to discuss the possibility of the Naija 774 dream on a bigger scale than I imagined before the National Telecentres’ Summit at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru…

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