Friday, February 08, 2008

The 106th good thing about Lagos: Meeting the First Lady, who laughs a lot and says "okay-dokey"

I just got back from an interesting experience. I got to be part of a private audience with the First Lady of Lagos State. This came about because I have been actively looking with other interested women for a new location for the American Women's club library, which recently had to close because we lost our lease on the house where it was located. One of the VP's of the club, Mary, is a long-time resident here who had connections with the First Lady and she wanted to meet with her to see if Lagos State could help us by giving us a good deal with a long term lease on one of their many vacant houses in the area. Mary had previously met with the vice-chairman of one of the larger oil companies here who agreed they would sponsor the library and provide funds for a new location, so now it's just a matter of finding the right place. I've been out a couple of times with estate agents, but rents are extremely high here, and if the government would help us with a house, it would be very beneficial. Anyway, Mary asked for and received an appointment for a private audience with the First Lady and she asked me to come along to speak about our need for a library.

Lagos is not just a big city, it is also a State. My driver said it was not allowed for me to take pictures of the government buildings in the compound we entered. They were nice buildings, but nothing too impressive.

It was interesting going into the reception room because I thought security was very lax for entrance into a government building and a meeting with important people. We walked through a metal detector, but they said they didn't need to inspect my bag, so I walked through with it on my arm and, of course, the detector beeped and they didn't care. There is a lot more security to get into the American Club here, where we are members, where we have to not only walk through the metal detector, but they paw through every zippered opening in my purse, opening my lipstick case and everything. Anyway, Mary said she didn't think they wanted to embarrass us by looking through our bags, but I thought that was surprising that they didn't even glance inside. As we waited in the reception room I asked the attendants there if I could take a picture of the room and they said it wasn't allowed, but when the First Lady arrived we could take a picture with her. Anyway, after a short wait in a large lovely reception room, the governor himself walked in, followed by a photographer. He came and greeted us and shook our hands and the photographer took a picture of us with him. That was an extra bonus. He was followed by the First Lady, who is an attractive woman with a big smile and a quick laugh. Mary introduced us -- she also brought two other business people who had interests in our cause. Mary started to talk about the club members and what we were involved in and said that she was going to ask the First Lady for help. The First lady smiled and replied, "okay-dokey." I thought that was kind of amusing. As we started to visit, the photographer was there taking constant pictures and the other two guests with us started taking photos and so I guessed that the photo ban was off, so I was able to take some pictures and hand my camera to others to take photos of me with the First Lady. This first photo is after a bookstore manager talked about some literacy efforts the store was taking and the First Lady spoke animatedly about her efforts as First Lady to increase literacy within the community. It was obviously a topic for which she cared passionately. The First Lady listened to us and asked us to send her something in writing that she could bring to the governor to see if there was a way that they could assist us. We presented her with a new picture book on Lagos and a piece of traditional fabric set in a hand-carved frame. We signed her guest book and she seemed in no hurry to see us off. She said all the picture taking was the thing she hated most about her current position. She was a very pleasant person to visit with. I don't know if the government will be able to help us - they certainly have a lot of bigger problems they are dealing with. But the First Lady acted like she was interested in hearing of our concerns.


Lindsay, Steve and Spencer: said...

I'm glad you could take some pictures-- that looks cool! I love that she said Okey-dokey. :o) It was really nice talking to you and dad today!!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your blog- my husband and I are from Houston also, (he works for an engineering/construction company) and we will be moving to Lagos in June for a year (he will go in April but I am teacher and can't leave until school is out.) It is nice to know that there are things to look forward to once we get there.

Carolee said...

Hi anonymous! I don't know if you'll check back on these comments, but I wanted to thank you for commenting. It made me aware that there are people that I don't know that have discovered my blog. It's a little scary that I have no idea who all is reading it! I wanted to let you know that if you have particular questions about moving here, feel free to email me directly and I'll try to answer them. Good luck getting ready for the move!

Bene said...

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Good luck!