ÉCHANGES AUTOUR DU MONDE DE L’ENTREPRISE
(Exchanges around the world of enterprises)
AN EVENT ORGANISED BY FRANCE-NIGERIA ASSOCIATION ON THE 31st MAY
EZIAGHALA Nonye Appolonia: A Personal Education Experience
The presentation will be made in three parts:
Part One: Will focus on my personal experiences (representing a Nigerian Student in
Part Two: Will be concerned with ‘exposing’ Nigeria and its people
Part Three: Will be the hub of French-Nigeria relationships
What constitutes an Association?
In a simple statement, an association is a meeting of many people having one goal, one interest in an agreement.
As the Bible says, can two work together if they do not agree? An association proffers one example of an answer to this question. There must be people, and the people must agree to specified aims and objectives to achieve a particular goal or goals.
So, that is to say that an association always shares simple or common interests not parallel.
France- Nigeria Association:
Having defined above what constitutes an association, it is easy to understand what we mean by France-Nigeria Association. It is a coming together of people from these two interesting countries in one accord to achieve well defined goals. What these goals are would be clearly described in the course of this presentation and for better understanding at the end of the event of today. Thanks to Mme Claude Engell, Alain Frossard, Jacques Manlay and others for finding time to think of this very important association and their huge interest in Nigeria.
Paraphrasing the founders, “We thought it might be useful to establish an Association for promoting cultural and scientific activities between France and Nigeria. It would group people who, because of their interlocking experience in those countries, want to work to bring France and Nigeria closer together, mainly in connection with culture and human relationships”.
While France is already well-known in Nigeria, particularly thanks to the “Service d’Action Culturelle” and to the large network of the “Alliance Française”, French public opinion is not well informed about Nigeria and its over 140 million people.
That is why, in an initial phase, the Association’s activities will focus strongly on the French public to make it better informed about that great country and the wealth of its”cultural heritage”.
FRANCE: A Brief
We have here a contracted details about France presented in the flag, the symbol, the motto, the map, information national, demographic, topographic, etc. This information is culled from the internet.
France is a beautiful country with about 64.5 million people and having a superficial land mark of 675.417sq in the western Europe. Its long standing relationship with Nigeria can be seen through different ways including their support during the Nigerian civil war. Today a lot of people had benefited from various scholarship programmes in France and there are yet calls for more opportunities.
Based on this, I personally see this Association as a well deserving one and timely too.
ABOUT MYSELF AS A NIGERIAN AND A STUDENT IN
As said earlier on I am Nonye Appolonia Eziaghala from Imo State, South Eastern part of Nigeria. I did my primary, secondary and first degree education in the Eastern part of the country. But when it was time for the mandatory national youth service (NYSC), I was posted to Abuja in the North Central zone, Nigeria. Presently, I am a PhD student of Urban Development and Management at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, Paris IV after a successful completion of my Master 2 in the last academic year at the same University.
THE LIFE OF A STUDENT IN NIGERIA (represented by me):
The life of a student in Nigeria is quite different from what it is here. At all levels of education in Nigeria, one would have a lot of things to battle with to achieve ones educational ambition. My coming to France has thrown more light on the difficulties one had to pass through to get educated in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the training of the child is ninety nine percent (99%) the parents business. Most of us did not know what it is for any government to sponsor or support the education of a child. Nigeria has the 6-3-3-4 academic system. That is 6 years in the primary school, 3 years in the Junior Secondary school, 3 years in the Senior Secondary school and minimum of 4 years in the University depending on the course of study. This system came into force in 1983. Our parents paid our school fees all through. Of course I know that the experience of our compatriots from the Awolowo Days South West Free Primary Education is different. Since then all attempts to re-enact it by the Military and indeed newcomer democrats nationwide have not been successful. What this means is that, if you are lucky and your parents can pay your school fees, the rest of the requirements are luxury such as:
-The provision of recommended books, getting the school uniform, the school bag and other accessories including sandals are all luxury to a good number of students in Nigeria at all levels. I can still remember very vividly some students who could not change their torn uniforms at the primary and secondary school levels. A lot would finish University education without being capable of buying any text books.
-Thanks to the scantily furnished libraries and no thanks to the absence of internet services. There is no need to mention the rest of the students who would either drop out of school because there parents could not continue the payment of their fees, or the others who indulges themselves in any manner of activities, good or/and bad to get to their educational desires.
-Another issue following this strong effort made towards getting educated is the unemployment situation. Some people will graduate from the University and there will be no job or finances to set up any business or to continue to a post graduate level.
-All these are glaring problems encountered by a Nigerian student and youth. Yet that does not rule out the other group who do not only have opportunity of going to school but attending a choice school. In the same country that some children can not afford the cheapest schools, there are those children who are offered chocolates and are allowed to make choice of a particular school just to get them agree to go to school!!!.
I am happy I got an average opportunity from my parents. I went to the public schools and a State University in my first degree. I went to a high brow University for my Post Graduate –the premier University of Ibadan – and I can draw the balance. But one thing I must emphasize from the entire experience and with the interaction of graduands from the high sounding Colleges and Universities is that, you can develop your potentials any where you are if you are really determined and focused. The hood does not make the hoot.
MY WORKING EXPERIENCE
MY EXPERIENCE AS A CIVIL SERVANT AND THE INSPIRATION FOR CONTINUOUS STUDIES:
I want to bring in briefly my experience as a staff at the Presidency, Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP)/National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) Headquarters Abuja (in the Federal Civil Service System of Nigeria.) since 1997
A fresh and young university graduate employed on grade level 8 as an Administrative officer.
The nature of the services of the programme –fighting poverty in Nigeria-created avenue for travelling to different States of the Federation on official assignments.
When at the State no matter your level, you are representing the Presidency
And that was my first challenge in service which I had to brave up with.
Again, after each trip you have to submit a type-written report on the assignment within a specified time.
That was yet another challenge which I had to overcome.
How did I over-come these challenges?
First, I told myself, look you must not fail,
You must not look incompetent,
So you must live up to your result. As I made a second class upper
What did I do?
Initially, I made sure I had good relationship with my colleagues so as to be able to seek for explanations
As the Secretaries (Typists) will always be busy with bigger boss’s jobs, I had to sometimes type my reports at the business centres with my money.
And to solve the problem of meeting up with the submission of reports from my assignments within stipulated time, I had to enrol for a computer programme on my own and used the time for my break to attend the lessons.
Before long, I was well recognised because I always turned in my reports early. This encouraged me to continue to other programmes to boost my writing skills, including taking a certificate course in French language just for the fun of it, etc.
So when I did not stop at being a Civil Servant and taking my normal promotions as and when due, I sought for admissions and continued to a Master’s degree level.
I am today in
France on study leave to the PhD hoping to get back to my job after my studies.
COMING TO FRANCE AS A STUDENT:
I came to
France as a beneficiary of French/Nigeria Scientific Bilateral Programme. Before I got the offer, I had always had this interest in the French language, I did a little of French learning here and there including as an elective in the University. But the problem remains that after each time, there was no opportunity of speaking or interacting with it. So when this offer came, I thought I had some French until I arrived here.
My people, what I met on the ground were very far away from the ‘lasser passer’ français that one brandished. The people spoke with the speed of lightening and they are not interested in giving you time to speak your ‘mauvaise’ (bad) French. So what happened?
First, I went to
Alliance française for about three weeks before I registered for my University programme by the grace of my schorlaship. It was while at the
Alliance françàise that I got my first Culture Shock! Or better put Culture Collision. What happened, one day after the class, my teacher who was a young lady invited me to join them- herself and two of my classmates, boy, girl to a café. So four of us went. We made our orders and as we were about rounding off, I excused myself to use the toilet. When I came out, they were all standing and I thought they were waiting for me so that we could go, but no. As I carried my bag, ready to go, they asked if I had paid????
I quickly said oh I forgot, then asked for the price and paid. But the truth was that I did not forget. In my country, if you invite someone out for a drink or a meal, whatever, that means you want to share a time out with the person and you ideally would take the responsibility of whatever would be the bill. Any way, I was lucky and happy that I had some money on me. So I did not get the friction of the shock but I learnt a lesson from that – Invitation for a drink, etc, does not translate to a free offer.
Anyway, I did not stop at just keeping the experience to myself. I asked questions subsequently because I got more of such invitations and the same practice was carried out. So I was told that it is normal here and there are expressions that support the practice, which goes like this,
Chacun paye sa part ( Each person pays his part) ; another one
Les bons comptes font les amis. (Balanced accounts makes best of friends)
While on the contrary in
Nigeria you would hear something like this- hey, go ahead take, drink or eat whatever you want in my name, etc. when they ask friends out.
I will not say that the Nigerian practice is better or not but the delicate thing with the French practice is that such a person from Nigeria and very new like myself will not know this culture (chacun paye…) and may not have enough money in her bag. So that could be one of the frictions the French-Nigeria association would help to bridge.
My other experiences both at the University and the language programmes I attended supports the worries of the founders of the Association that Nigeria is not well known in the French community. For instance ‘A teacher in my language school (grammar class) asked me to show her where
Nigeria is located in the World Map’!
MY PERSONAL PERCEPTIONS/MOTIVATION:
I encountered a lot of people from different parts of the world seeking education and fun in
Paris. Most of them had similar language problems like me and we had to combine our little knowledge each time to move on. One reads the map while the other uses the little French language he/she had.
My personal perception and motivation lies in the same spirit of not giving up when it looks too difficult. If I were a much younger person sent by her parents for this study, I would have gone back home.
I got questions like why did you come to
france? Why did you not go to
USA for your studies?, etc each time I managed to get any of my course mates to ask for explanation after lectures.
I encountered a particular teacher at the grammar class Cours de Civilisation Française, Sorbonne. As I said earlier, she asked that I should show her where
Nigeria is located in the world map. A teacher, in this time and age!!! I now understand why some people abandoned their studies and either went back to their countries or remained as illegal immigrants!
I got motivations from some of my fellow students and teachers who could not help but listen to my questions and offered explanations to me when they saw my determination to learn despite all difficulties.
I know a lot of people here have experiences which may not be very different from mine or even more pitiable ones. But thank gracious that we are still here and happy too.
I am also motivated by the steady academic system. The school calendar is laid down, nothing disrupts it unlike in my country
Nigeria were strikes are the order of the day in the entire system. So here, time moves so fast.
So I am greatly motivated as a student in
France and I proved that by making an admissible score to the Phd programme in la Sorbonne Paris1V.
If not for the language difficulty I had, it is a place to study. You are working on your studies alone (Toute seule, comme français) and you are sure of what you have achieved.
Information flow is very apt and open to all. No one persons locks up any information in his or her office drawer and will not release it ‘excepting you prove a nice student’, etc
I hope time will permit for people to communicate and share their experiences because together, we can amend and turn all perceptions into positive and fulfilling perspectives. What are your experiences, perceptions and motivations?
NIGERIA (and its people) A brief:
Nigeria, the Heart of Africa The land blessed with rich human and mineral resources. A country of over 140 million population. The country that spills its oil for the pleasant consumption of other countries of the world-Western and Southern countries, the country that its natural resource generates billions of dollars to its coffers on a daily basis, a country of great minds and intellectuals.
Nigeria the most populated of all black race and the highly rated in the immigration cases. All these inform this gathering today. If there are no persons from
Nigeria living in France (intellectuals and professionals alike), there will not be any France-Nigeria association. That is true.
IDENTIFICATION: How do you identify the place called
Though there is archaeological evidence that societies have been living in
Nigeria for more than twenty-five hundred years, the borders of modern
Nigeria were not created until the British consolidated their colonial power over the area in 1914.
Nigeria was suggested by British journalist Flora Shaw and it was adopted by the British Governor General of the Northern Protectorate, Sir Federich Lord Lugard.. She referred to the area as
Nigeria, after the
Niger River, which dominates much of the country’s landscape. The word
NIGER is Latin for black.
More than 250 ethnic tribes call present-day
Nigeria home. The three largest and most dominant ethnic groups are the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo (where I came from). Other smaller groups include the Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, and
Edo. Prior to their conquest by Europeans, these ethnic groups had separate and independent histories. Their grouping together into a single entity known as
Nigeria was a construct of their British colonizers. These various ethnic groups never considered themselves part of the same culture. This general lack of Nigerian nationalism coupled with an ever-changing and often ethnically biased national leadership, have led to severe internal ethnic conflicts and a civil war. Today bloody confrontations between or among members of different ethnic groups continue from time to time. But that is also what makes us strong, Unity in Diversity!!
LOCATION AND GEOGRAPHY
Nigeria is in
West Africa, along the eastern coast of the
Guinea, and just north of the equator. It is bordered on the west by
Benin, on the north by
Chad, and on the east by
Nigeria covers an area of 356,669 square miles (923,768 square kilometers), or about twice the size of
Nigeria has three main environmental regions: Savanna, Tropical forests, and Coastal wetlands. These environmental regions greatly affect the cultures of the people who live there. The dry, open grasslands of the savanna make cereal farming and herding a way of life for the Hausa and the Fulani. The wet tropical forests to the south are good for farming fruits and vegetables—main income producers for the Yoruba, Igbo, and others in this area. The small ethnic groups living along the coast, such as the Ijaw and the Kalabari, are forced to keep their villages small due to lack of dry land. Living among creeks, lagoons, and salt marshes makes fishing and the salt trade part of everyday life in the area.
Rivers come together in the centre of the country (somewhere in
State), creating a “Y” that splits
Nigeria into three separate sections. In general, this “Y” marks the boundaries of the three major ethnic groups, with the Hausa in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest, and the Igbo in the southeast.
Nigeria is divided into thirty-six states and the federal capital territory,
Abuja. The nation’s capital was moved from
Lagos, the country’s largest city, to
Abuja on 12 December 1991.
Abuja is in a federal territory that is not part of any state. While
Abuja is the official capital, its lack of adequate infrastructure means that
Lagos remains the financial and commercial centre of the country.
English is the official language of
Nigeria, used in all government interactions and in state-run schools. In a country with more than 250 individual tribal languages, English is the only language common to most people.
Nigeria many people who are not ethnic Hausas speak both Hausa and their own tribal language. Hausa is the oldest known written language in
West Africa, dating back to before 1000 C.E. The dominant indigenous languages of the south are Yoruba and Igbo.
Pidgin, a mix of African languages and English, also is common throughout southern
Nigeria. It basically uses English words mixed into Yoruba or Igbo grammar structures. Pidgin originally evolved from the need for British sailors to find a way to communicate with local merchants. There has always been this need to interact, need to aculturize. Today it is often used in ethnically mixed urban areas as a common form of communication among people who have not had formal education in English even among the elites.
SYMBOLISM: What are the Nigeria Symbols?
There is little feeling of national unity among
Nigeria‘s people. There is little in terms of national symbolism. What exists was usually created or unveiled by the government as representative of the nation. The main national symbol is the country’s flag. The flag is divided vertically into three equal parts; the centre section is white, flanked by two green sections. The green of the flag represents agriculture, while the white stands for unity and peace. Other national symbols include the national coat of arms, the national anthem, the National Pledge and
Nigeria‘s national motto: Peace and Unity, Strength and Progress.
NIGERIAN POLITICS AND ECONOMY
Nigeria runs a federal system of government very similar to the American system where they have the executive president elected (though in US they go by indirect popular vote). We have the National Assembly comprising the Upper House-the Senate and the Lower House of Representatives voted in their constituencies by popular votes. We also have State Governors who are elected directly by the state populations and they run their parallel governments in the states. There are also the local government councils voted by the local populations. Both the State governments and the Local governments enjoy sweeping autonomies without influence from the central government but derive budget on equal revenue allocation formula as enshrined in the constitution. While in
France we have the Suffrage Universel Direct System.
Until the past few decades,
Nigeria had been self-sufficient in producing enough food to feed the population. Then up to 70 percent of the economy came from agricultural product. Nigeria was the world’s most exporter of Cocoa, Palm oil, Rubber, Groundnut, etc before the oil boom However, as petroleum production and industry began to boom in Nigeria since the 70’s, much of the national resources were concentrated on the new industries at the expense of agriculture. Now the oil forms about 90 percent of
Nigeria’s gross national products (GNP).
Nigeria is the first oil exporter in
Africa and the 6th in the world. Though recent reports are placing
Nigeria due to recent crises in
Nigeria’s oil sector.
Social Problems and Control:
Nigeria‘s greatest social problem is the internal violence plaguing the nation. Inter-ethnic fighting throughout the country, religious rioting between Muslims and non-Muslims over the creation of Shari’a law (strict Islamic law) in the northern states, and political confrontations between ethnic minorities and backers of oil companies often spark bloody confrontations that can last days or even months. When violence of this type breaks out, national and state police try to control it. In some instances, curfews and martial law have been imposed in specific areas to try to stem outbreaks of unrest.
Food in Daily Life:
Western influences, especially in urban centres, have transformed Nigerian eating habits in many ways. City dwellers are familiar with the canned, frozen, and pre-packaged foods found in most Western-style supermarkets. Foreign restaurants also are common in larger cities. However, supermarkets and restaurants often are too expensive for the average Nigerian; thus only the wealthy can afford to eat like Westerners. Most urban Nigerians seem to combine traditional cuisine with a little of Western-style foods and conveniences. Rural Nigerians tend to stick more with traditional foods and preparation techniques.
While the ingredients in traditional plates vary from region to region, most Nigerian cuisine tends to be based around a few staple foods accompanied by a stew. In the south, crops such as corn, yams, and sweet potatoes form the base of the diet. These vegetables are often pounded into a thick, sticky dough or paste. This is often served with a palm oil based stew made with chicken, beef, goat, tomatoes, okra, onions, bitter leaves, or whatever meats and vegetables might be on hand. Fruits such as pawpaw, pineapples, coconuts, oranges, mangoes, and bananas also are very common in the tropical south.
In the north, grains such as millet, sorghum, and corn are boiled into a porridge-like dish that forms the basis of the diet. This is served with an oil based soup usually flavoured with onions, okra, and tomatoes. Sometimes meat is included, though among the Hausa it is often reserved for special occasions. Thanks to the Fulani cattle herders, fresh milk and yogurt are common even though there may not be refrigeration.
Nigeria has a rich food culture which varies greatly from French cuisine.
Fashion and Etiquette
Age is greatly respected in
Nigeria. In an area where the average life expectancy is not very high, those who live into their senior years ( 60 years and above), are seen as having earned special rights of respect and admiration. This is true of both men and women.
Socially, greetings are of the utmost importance. A handshake and a long list of well wishes for a counterpart’s family and good health are expected when meeting someone. This is often true even if you have seen that person a short time earlier. Whether you are talking to a bank teller or visiting a friend, it is considered rude not to engage in a proper greeting before getting down to business.
Shaking hands, eating, or passing things with the left hand are unacceptable. The left hand is reserved for personal toiletries and is considered dirty.
Nigeria has rich fashion. Every part of the country has different tastes for fashion which is also copied across the nation. Most of the people here who have been to
Nigeria will attest to that. I am sure that we have some of the rich display here today by some people putting on
Nigeria has a long standing relationship with French
The French-Nigeria relationship up till now is mostly focused on diplomacy and business (Economy and Exchange). There is therefore need for more cultural and scientific relationships to benefit a wider Nigerian population.
Nigeria is listed in the French priority cooperation zone; this translates to more funds getting across borders. Over the years, this relationship has been harnessed and can be attestified with the presence of numerous French companies in
Nigeria. There are French companies like Total/Elf, Larfarge, Boureges, Dumez, Michelin and more importantly (to me) Peugeout which has its car assembling plant in
Nigeria since 1974. In fact, at some point in the 70’s and 80’s, at least half of the cars that plied the Nigerian roads were Peugeout cars. ‘They are the best cars for the Nigerian roads’ people used to say before the Japanese fuel efficient cars took over.
France’s largest economic market in
Africa. In fact, the total economic exchange between
France and all the other Francophone African countries is not up to that between
To be sure the relationship is continued, the
Nigeria President has scheduled a visit to
France soon. I hope this association should be able to slot a meeting with the President during his visit. Why not!!
The important issue of the day remains how to make the impact of Nigeria and Nigerians felt and be given the right of place in their chosen country of abode which is France; how to effectively encourage and tap the high skills and intelligence of Nigerians; to avoid wastage of talents and opportunities. This is to me the reawakening of more good things and better cultural and scientific relationships between French professionals and Nigerians. Among other things, the association’s activities will keep the French professionals who worked in Nigeria abreast with the culture of the people and keep their memories alive while having other opportunities to impacting and sharing their experiences.
Uppermost also in the objectives of this association includes making sure that Nigerians making short business trips to
France have a better welcome and in particular their spouses and children who are often very isolated.
The Nigerian students in
France who have an interest in meeting with French professionals working in
Nigeria or who had worked in
Nigeria will have the opportunity.
With the friendly meetings, expeditions, visits, stays in the mountains or in the countryside, combining French and English conversations, better mutual knowledge of the two countries would be achieved.
The French-Nigerian Association is also geared towards promoting the Principle of Non-Discrimination “as supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris (1948, art. 25). The students here today who are struggling to eke it out, and for some of us whom French is our third and fourth language, you can attest to how ‘easy’ it has been yet, we are not given up.
In the same manner, I believe this association will provide an avenue for proper integration for those who may want to continue to live in France and establish and excel in their chosen field of expertise.
Without having to make consultations, I am aware that professionals do not allow wastages especially wastages of skills acquired through education and other professional training.
I wish to highlight and reiterate the ideas of the propagators of this association which includes among other things:
Promoting cultural and scientific activities between France and Nigeria. It would group people who based on their interlocking experiences in Nigeria
Focusing strongly on the French public to make it better informed about that great country and the wealth of its cultural heritage.
Making French public opinion well informed about Nigeria and its over 140 million people because presently, the reverse is the case