Category Archives: General

Why you should join an engineering association


“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers

The best way to know everyone in the game is to attend a party of the players. The best way to acquaint yourself with fellow engineers is to attend their activities. There are numerous engineering associations and societies you can engage with; either as a student or an engineer (graduate, licensed or unlicensed).

Merits for students

Participating in such professional associations will give you an opportunity to interact with certified engineers practicing the profession. They get to answer all your curiosity about the career you want to pursue, and if you have none, they can give you a heads up of what’s going on.

By the time you graduate school or sometime close to it, and you begin searching for jobs and places you want to intern at, the members…

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Yes All Women in My Community

If I have the power to change Hausa community, the first thing I will command is for all women to break the stereotypical limitations on their path and be themselves. Yes, majority of girls in my community, at least from the ones I know, have the common problem of dancing to the tune of the society which is usually in conflict with what they actually deserve. It is nevertheless the same case with boys, but the stereotypes, being patriarchal, hardly affect boys in a negative way. To highlight just one of the issues, let me explain what I observed about the behavior of our girls in colleges and universities.

Our girls grow up with the belief that going to the university is some kind of retention before getting married so they spend more of their time there on courtship than on academics. An average Hausa girl would have more than two male friends (who are somewhere in between boyfriends and normal friends) while in her teens. In fact they compete in having the highest number of male friends. A girl is considered unattractive and of lower class among her peers when she has none. That in itself is a big challenge to her academic performance. The setting is like this: our girls compete among themselves on possessing ostentatious items such as clothes, electronic gadgets and cosmetics which are hardly attainable with the money from their parents alone. They therefore depend on such friends to buy these things for them. Fortunately for the girls, the society also raised boys with the idea that they are in charge of taking care of ladies they are in a relationship with. It doesn’t matter if the boys are being supported by their parents themselves (which is often the case) or not. They get a monthly grant from their parents, be rest assured that boys in relationship (s) will spend at least one third of it on their female friends.

As one would expect, the boys who spend on ladies would expect something in return. The least and the most detrimental is keeping the boys company or speaking to them on phone whenever they so wish. Some of my friends think I am missing the point when I argue that speaking with a girl on phone for the whole night or some part of the night while in school is irrational and purposeless. As we are in school, I would rather spend the time with her studying than denying myself sleep only to speak on mundane things.

Now where am I heading to? Remember majority of the girls (the campus hot chicks) have multiple male friends, which means allotting time for every guy who in most cases is from different faculties, meaning the meeting is never for studies. If male friend X calls asking for a date, she has to remember to give him time she hasn’t given friends W, Y and Z. That happens all the time, all the week, all semesters. I forgot to mention that there are usually outside boyfriends or suitors (the sugar daddies) with whom she must also deal with. She ended up with little or no time for studies.

When you try to advise a girl to loosen up on friendships and concentrate more on academics, she tells you that she has to do it in order to find someone to marry after graduation (or even before, who cares?).  To her, marriage courtship is like contract bidding: you consider multiple tenders and then choose the best one at the end. It would have been better if the bidding system in this case is chosen to be a closed one so that the bidding time is kept to minimum. That is regrettably not the case. It is public tendering: all parties are invited and the almighty client has time to screen them all. After all, girls’ parents have counseled them that it is not good to reject any person who declares his love to you.

What their parents failed to tell them is that being financially dependent on someone opens the road to exploitation. It is human nature to feel indebted to people we receive from sometimes without even being conscious about it. A friend of mine, Rango, narrated to me a drama he witnessed when he accompanied his friend to see a lady at their school dormitory. The friend wanted to take the girl out but she happened to have a test the following morning. She was begging him to allow her attend tutorial class that night because she hadn’t prepared sufficiently for the test but he didn’t want to listen. Rango had to intervene before the girl was allowed to attend the class. She thanked him for the intervention as she wouldn’t have had any choice but to go out with the guy.

Stories of that nature are very common in our community. Worst that could happen, which does happen, is for the girl in such relationship to be lured into sex against her will or even be raped. These are kind of rape cases which are rarely reported. Although there are many other factors that contribute to raped women’s silence, I believe being less dependent would reduce the rapist’s chances and give the raped more courage to take necessary action.

Most men don’t want to marry self-reliant women because they are a threat to their patriarchal dominance. The best way to deal with such men is for all women to be educated and be self-reliant so that they can also exercise their full right on choosing partners and how to live with them. Forget about men’s ego, just build your self-esteem and let them know that you can do it on your own.

If male students in school can do part time jobs or take loans to support themselves, then why not you? Trust me you have all it takes so don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You just need to break the stereotypical chain around your ankles and wrists and be yourself. If anyone should take credit for your progress apart from yourself, let it be your parents. In that way, men would have no choice but to allow you be the person you want to be.

Written by Sadah

What looked like poverty, was really GREEN

A colleague on an online Coursera course on Energy and Environment posted this and I want to share it with you.

“Growing up in the inner city and honestly not having very much caused some mental distress. My family really didn’t have much and as a kid I focused quite a bit on what we didn’t have. Which, let’s be honest, is very easy to do when others around you clearly have more. Some of the things that I now see as awesome, at the time were just horrible!!!
They include:

Riding the bus because we didn’t have a car
Hanging clothes on a clothes line to dry
Walking to the neighborhood store
Walking to school
Picking pecans from the backyard to sale

I’m sure there are a few other things I could mention as well. One of the major problems? Those things (in the States) that denote success and wealth are amongst the very things holding us back from progressing as a society. They include the big house (often many miles from work and activities), large SUV, huge energy sucking appliances, etc.

What I didn’t see as a child was how wonderful it was for all the women in my neighborhood to get together on Saturday mornings at the vegetable truck and get their fresh produce as they traded other goods from their own gardens. In my community in those days, there were no expensive gym memberships because it was a part of our lives…EVERYDAY.

As much as we’ve progressed, I miss those days of old when I thought I had nothing, but in reality, I was living a wonderful life”

Reflection: My experience on a Nigerian highway

I was with Engr. Beki of the Federal Road Department for another road monitoring exercise along Kaduna-Abuja Road on a serene summer day.  She and her driver were in the front seats while I and her younger brother, Rango, needing a ride to Abuja were at the back seats. Every engineer in the department who has been assigned a road is expected to report on its condition biweekly (fortnightly) in case repairs are needed, an experience I had while working as an intern for six months under the supervision of Beki.

Most of the abnormalities observed during the outing involved traffic signs which were either uprooted or defaced with posters (of politicians). This has been the department’s challenge for a long time and begs the question why people don’t respect things which are public. I was told the poles are removed because they are made of aluminum which blacksmiths use to make utensils. I believe a stake would be sold by the miscreants at a price probably less than tenth of what it costs the department to install which resulted in the management resorting to using steel stakes despite its relatively higher cost. Ninety percent of the traffic signs are rendered useless by placed posters making the effort to safeguard the road almost futile and further putting peoples’ lives at risk. I wish the government would start prosecuting the politicians whose posters are found on such places then they would surely find a way of calling their supporters to order.

Halfway into our journey to Abuja and having not observed prominent potholes, I commended Beki on the good work she has been doing and also told her that the road is amongst the safest in the zone despite its high traffic volume but she surprisingly had a different view.

“What do you mean by becoming the safest? Being free from potholes? I think you know little about what is going-on on this road. People were complaining that accidents rate was high because of poor road condition but now that we have restored it to good condition, the rate of accidents has paradoxically only proliferated,” she said, with sheer disappointment in her face.

“Because they have got a smoother road surface now, drivers turn the road into a racetrack,” she added.

Right she was because I could remember witnessing some accidents a few months ago while I was still an intern working on the road. The accidents were mainly due to reckless speeding and we often happen to be the first people at the accident scenes to offer first aid to survivors if any, pending the arrival of road safety personnel or police. In most cases, the survivors tell us that they were travelling at a ridiculously high speed before the accident.

Not long after we finished talking about the accident rates, we encountered a fatal one and the driver died before we arrived at the scene. There were a few people who had stopped before us trying to offer help in one way or the other. The victims were two, the dead driver and another person who was still unconscious and all efforts to revive him being carried out. Our driver recognized the car as the rear part was not severely damaged. The front, which hit a massive tree off the road, was smashed beyond recognition.  He said the car overtook ours us about 15 minutes back at an extreme speed. Another speed racer!

We were told police were on their way to the scene. Engineer Beki saw the ID of the driver with someone and she was surprised to find out the driver was a civil engineer working with a private company. Although she was apparently touched by the accident, she was infuriated by the fact that an engineer who knows very well the reasons for setting speed limits would drive recklessly.

“If someone who sets the rules don’t abide by them, then what do we expect of the common people?” She lamented.

We went back to our car almost immediately as there was nothing much we could do and drove off.

I figured Rango didn’t understand the linkage between a civil engineer and traffic rules as he thought they are only responsible for designing buildings. In addition, he did not know the reasons behind fixing speed limits and asked me to expatiate.

“Those who design buildings, and by design here I mean structural specifications, are called structural engineers. There are also civil engineers who are trained to design roads and traffic and they are called highway and traffic engineers. In Nigerian universities however, civil engineers are trained to do all these tasks at undergraduate level. Basically, you would expect every civil engineer to know the significance of traffic rules.

“There are various factors which govern the choice of speed limit. Engineers consider things like the location of a road section, the road, vehicle, driver, and weather conditions for example to determine the safe speed at which a car would remain under driver’s control under any emergency. If they say drivers should not exceed a speed of 100 kilometers per hour along a particular section, it means that from the time a driver would spot a potential obstacle on the road, he could be able to bring the car to stand-still without hitting the object provided he’s not exceeded that speed. It may also be because of the shape of the road at that section. A car may spin out of control at a bend if it exceeds the design speed.” I explained, with that feeling of authority speaking about my profession.

It is really sad that our law enforcement agents are not able to strictly impose traffic rules on our roads. The irony of it is that people feel harassed when forced to obey rules while abiding by them is for their own safety. When it comes to obeying rules, I devised my own maxim, “go by the book and the world will be your oyster.”

Written by Sadah

Katsina: Time for Pragmatism On Poverty Issues

I was stunned watching the BBC’s Hardtalk interview programme in which Governor Ibrahim Shema denied the alarming poverty rate in Katsina state. It is not surprising, though, for Nigerian politicians to deny statistical evidence that portray unfavourable picture of their constituencies, but I did not expect that attitude from Shema whom I have always respected for his pro-civic policies. Huge amounts of resources are being spent on human development in Katsina; however, no significant change has been achieved because the resources are not being utilised prudently.

The methods used by the survey agency to come up with the recent poverty figures that placed Sokoto and Katsina at the top with poverty rates of about 80 and 75 percents respectively might not be completely unbiased, but even if it were mere speculation, these high figures call for alarm for the policy makers of these states. Let the governors carry out their own survey if they truly care for the people they govern. I may well be right if I assumed that the politicians are comfortable with the situation because it is what keeps them in power. The masses would continue to be docile like sheep during elections, as long as illiteracy and poverty remain rife.

A 75 percent poverty rate simply means that among every four persons in Katsina, three are poor. Based on the criteria used, those three out of four people live below 1 US dollar (160NGN) a day. Anyone who visits our villages would affirm the veracity of those figures. I believe it may even be more than that in Katsina state. One of the major reasons for the dilemma is the incessant high population growth rate in our northern states, which our leaders are reluctant to tackle. If the people cannot be stopped from irrational procreation, then stop encouraging them to marry more wives than they can comfortably take care of.

Governor Ibrahim Shema has done well in transforming the mindset of Katsina people, which somehow and unfortunately, seems to have made his government unpopular. Sticking to his pro-civic policies under tough situations of sheer intolerance of criticism, to me, is indeed courageous. He believes in the philosophy of teaching people how to fish instead of giving them the fish every time. It is unfortunate that the poor people he wants liberated prefer being given the fish every day. But is his strategy working?

The empowerment programmes being implemented in the state are not far from the fish-giving. This is what usually happens: People hang on to an empowerment program because they know there would be incentives in form of business capital in the end. They don’t care if they understand the agricultural or vocational skills they are taught. They collect the lump sum meant for starting a business only to use it as a dowry for a second or third wife they long cherished at a time when their current families are in great deal of destitution. The same thing happens when school teachers are given agricultural loans or when female students in colleges of education receive cash under UN Girls’ Education Project scholarship. My sister once told me that most of the girls doing the NCE programme were in school because their parents had no resources to marry them off. When they received the scholarship money, then that would mark the end of their studies – back home for marriage. Counterproductive, isn’t it?

What is the way forward then? I would suggest that the government and other stakeholders focus on creating job opportunities through building of industries like the Katsina Paint Company established earlier. Irrigation and livestock farming is another relevant area, since we have the enabling environment. The affluent people from the state should be encouraged to invest in these sectors.

It is time we stood up and faced reality. Our religious and traditional leaders must be pragmatic. We cannot continue with a method that has continuously been taking us backward. We must stop treating marriage and childbearing with untoward sacredness it does not deserve. Social and economic prosperity should be our major concern, and we have to work together to achieve that.

Written by Sadah.


Article first published in Dailytrust newspaper of 27 June 2013.

Also online on Blueprint

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