Monday 5 April 2010

Nigeria: A typical Nigerian communication?

Assistance needed!
I should be incensed and angry but maybe not but it requires I make a very pertinent statement because it is necessary.
Very early this morning, I received an email from a Nigerian seeking “info from as per”, well, accommodation, grants and scholarships in the Netherlands for Africans, especially Nigerians to a particular university in the Netherlands – the text will be posted later in the blog.
Anyway, the person who I do not know had used the email address on my blog to seek this information – it is evident it was his first time on my blog because the trace evidence of visits to my blog shows a search was made about “Nigerians living in the Netherlands” just around the time I received the email.
Basic research
For that information, I visited the said university website where I believe such information will be and as any intuitive person with initiative would be expected to do and as I expected the enquirer to do – promptly and efficiently.
As I closed the email in response I decided it was necessary to clearly state that in emails sent to strangers first impressions could be deterministic – here I was receiving an email from a university prospect which was already too familiar, poorly punctuated and not properly closed.
The more I read the email the more I felt it was necessary to first constructively criticise the man for his poor presentation and in my usual acerbic state I tried to reinforce that need by adding the threat of publishing that email as a sign of sloppiness that would not serve well in seeking admission to a university.
Context and presentation
If the said person had read my blog and most especially the one I wrote the about Facebook and communication [*] the day before, he would have noticed that I am a stickler for the proper use of language even if it comes from a phone.
The email in its presentation had every semblance of a “419 letter” by its informality, context and content; the subject heading was “Assistance needed!” which I would normally never give any attention but I gave it the benefit of doubt and responded anyhow.
Not smart by half
For my troubles, I received an email soon afterwards; grudging thanks, arrogance, defiance and excuses, with a lecture as to how I should behave to other Nigerians and a reprimand to practice what I preach.
I would say this man appears to be smart, but not really smart enough – whilst I did assume the position of being unable to facilitate his admission I did say, “if your intentions and purposes are without prejudice, you have every chance of fulfilling your dream if your qualifications are sufficiently exciting and your ambition shows the promise of an interesting mind and career.
The Nigerian burden or naivety
I was suspicious of Nigerians; I am Nigerian by heritage and I have been met by people in my 20 years of living in Europe who question our motives and intentions – it would be remiss of me not to use the same filter to ensure that what we legitimate residents abroad do to in small ways give Nigeria a good name is not affected by new entrants with ulterior motives.
No Nigerian anywhere in the world should miss that fact and it would be naïve to expect a different attitude in that respect, as far back as two decades ago, I went through that filter at the British Embassy in Nigeria because seemingly honest applicants turned out to have ulterior motives.
Please don’t tempt me at all
What that man thinks he deserves or not should have been introspective rather than blurted out in the response he sent to me – I would hope he has the chameleon tendencies to be better presented in his application to that university because I honestly think if he or any person from anywhere in the world exhibits that kind of attitude, a future of great frustration is imminent – strangers can both be helpful and deleterious; rarely indifferent.
Like Nigerians would say, “A word is enough for the wise.” Do not unnecessarily incur my wrath. I do wish the man every success in his endeavours, if only he was just a tad less froward.
Our communication, unedited apart from the particular elements of personal information which have been redacted appears below certain comments might appear within brackets, those who know me know what to expect, those who do not should please see the masthead of my blog again.
His initial email
Hi Akin,i am Fesobi by name.i live in lagos.i came about your email through your blog.i need some vital info from as per accommodation,cost of living and scholarship and grant available in Netherlands for african students-precisely Nigerians- that want to study.i am seeking admission in utrecht university.i humbly await your swift response.THANKS and God bless you.
My response
Dear Fesobi,
Unfortunately, I have never studied in the Netherlands but I have tried to obtain some information from the University of Utrecht website regarding the matters on which you enquire.
I do not from your email see much information about what course you are applying for and level of study your application is prospecting for, you have not said if your application has been formally made or you have gotten as far as being offered a place for which you need to find the means.
This is the Students Desk [URL link was provided] usually for prospective students with the attendant email addresses to contact.
This covers Scholarships & Grants [URL link was provided] available to students depending on what you are studying for.
And here you can find matters concerning accommodation [URL link was provided]
The fact is this is information you could have easily obtained by visiting the University of Utrecht site or performing a search using Google, usually the best place to get information from is the university, they have been running admissions and students' services for decades, they probably have the best insights and ideas for how to manage students than any rumour you might have heard anywhere else.
Like I said earlier, I have never studied in this country so I would not be in any position to facilitate your application process or help your entry into this country - if your intentions and purposes are without prejudice, you have every chance of fulfilling your dream if your qualifications are sufficiently exciting and your ambition shows the promise of an interesting mind and career.
I wish you the very best in your pursuits - If I might offer some constructive criticism, it goes without saying that your punctuation and context in an email to a stranger does leave much to be desired - too familiar, proper nouns in lower case, bad punctuation and inappropriate closing - I am sure if you had read my blog you would have had an idea of what I would expect in any communication you send to me.
NB: Do not tempt me to display your email as an example of people who should not be offered admissions in any foreign university, I had part of my education in Nigeria and I really would have considered this utterly sloppy, in the end, if I do use it in a blog, it would have a pseudonym not your name.
With the kindest regards.
His response
Thanks for your prompt response Akin,I appreciate.I also appreciate your constructive criticism of my use of tenses,this I think its due to the reason that I typed from a phone.You will also noticed that my mail was not paragraphed-I use a nokia s40 phone which I know you know doesn t completely works like a computer. However,I think you missed it towards the end of your response.You sounded like I was seeking your help to facilitate my entrance into the country.If you go through my mail,I only asked you for information pertaining to accommodation,cost of living and scholarship and this I asked knowing that you are a Nigerian living in the country and probably might be of help-help indeed!.More also,I dont think I deserved to be threatened the way threatened me-just for asking for information? Sometimes I wonder why people who preach and teach never follow what they preach and teach.I also wonder why we Nigerians treat ourselves the you just treated me.I
went through your blog and read some of your articles about our leaders.Akin,we all are complaining about leaders,what about the way we individually treat ourselve?Well I am awaiting the university s decision by May ending,I pray its positive-I need to fulfil a dream and you can t stop me by the use of your blog.Still typing from my phone so pardon my errors in any form. Regard
Closing Comment
Apparently, the man is aggrieved that I have treated him badly and I have been hypocritical rather than constructively critical – well, I was honest, forthright and basically objective in my view, regardless of nationality the response I gave would not have been any different apart from the specific reference to how I felt standards of education and common courtesy had fallen in Nigeria.
The man deserves only the courtesy of being given this URL as a response to his email, if he deserves more, time will tell, but I do hope he has as much sense as an old cow – eat the hay and leave the bailing wire – read and digest the useful parts of it all.

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