May 1, 2007
@ 06:02 PM

Yesterday I got a reminder that I've been gone from Nigeria a bit too long. I posted the following photograph and caption to my Nigeria 2007 Trip Photo Set on Flickr

One of the servants sitting down on the bed of his one room apartment.
You can see the entire apartment in this shot.

This photo and caption caused a bunch of outrage on certain Nigerian blogs leading to posts like A Presidential Servant and OBJ's Cribs as well as an angry comment on Flickr condemning me for calling the person in the picture "a servant". The person in the picture is a member of the domestic staff in my father's private home (not the presidential villa which is owned and staffed by the Nigerian government) who's responsible for serving guests, cooking and cleaning. The common term for this kind of job in Nigeria is houseboy. However since this term has been taken over by the gay community to mean something totally different (don't go to I went for a non-ambiguous term that most of my readers would understand. From the definition for servant 

ser·vant (sûr'vənt) pronunciation
  1. One who is privately employed to perform domestic services.
  2. One who is publicly employed to perform services, as for a government.
  3. One who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another: your obedient servant.

[Middle English, from Old French, from present participle of servir, to serve. See serve.]

What I forgot is that calling someone a "servant" is a derogatory term in Nigeria. I remember hearing the phrase I'm not your servant more times than I can count when growing up. So I've edited the caption and replaced "servant" with "member of my dad's domestic staff". I hope my Nigerian readers appreciate this change.

It's weird to experience culture clash when you're clashing with the culture you were raised in.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007 8:05:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The disservice to servant is now served with your service.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 8:15:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You're going to have to start adding a "Nitpicker's corner" like Raymond does...
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 11:35:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
of course you could also have called him by his name which would have meant recognising him as a human being and not by the function he performs....
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 10:34:20 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Doode! Out of curiosity, just how many brothers and sisters do you have?
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 3:34:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree with Andrew Johnston...I fail to see the point of even taking his picture and putting it on flickr among a bunch of photos of you and your family celebrating your father's birthday in grand style. What did you hope to accomplish by featuring his photo? If anything, y'all should be ashamed that you can have someone working for you and living in such conditions, one matress on floor in a tiny room. I suppose it would make you and your family completely bankrupt to buy him a real bed and help him to fix his room up a bit.
Friday, May 4, 2007 2:39:32 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This looks quite a lot like my bedroom, although I do have a kitchen and office as well. Cheers!
Saturday, May 5, 2007 12:19:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Calling the young man 'servant', regrettably, betrayed your own perception of the 'help' in the first place. I have to ask you: why did you take the poor man's picture? This image does not empower the young man (who is seeing in a 'defeated' position in a corner, apparently wishing to disappear into the wall, probably wishing he didn't have to suffer yet another indignity - a trophy picture for the internet). The image only reinforces the huge social gap between yourself and him. Did you ask for his permission? Did you privilege him as a human being? In fact, did he have a choice in the matter? It doesn't look like he did.

Personally, I'd be embarrassed to post a picture like this for the world to see, as the situation of a member of my household, even if it is the help. This is the domestic staff in the house of a President, and look at the man's lowly circumstances. His mattress is on the floor! Wealthy people should be ashamed to keep their domestic staff like this. And then to display it?

I have an Uncle in Lagos in insists that no one calls his workers 'houseboy/girl'. He says they are his "domestic staff". He'd have a seizure if you called one of them "servant". You'd expect presidential people to be more urbane.

The best thing you could do, is remove the poor man's picture from Flikr. You can redeem yourself better that way, because the poor man did not sign up for this kind of "servitude exhibition". People who use the net must recognise the fine line between showing life, and exploitation. Blogger be responsible.

Saturday, May 5, 2007 10:24:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think the bigger problem is the apparent dejection on the chaps face. That, and the comment about the whole of his squalid living quarters being in the shot. It just seems very offhandish.

That being said your dad doesn't seem too popular these days so some backlash might arise from that.
Sunday, May 6, 2007 3:49:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's sad that someone as enlightened....scratch that.....You should be ashamed of yourself, but then again, you r your father's creation so i see no shame in u. When you took those pictures esp of the "servant" in his dejected space and that of a shabby looking "7th Grade" class room, you sat facing your PC, looked at that whole picture and found it befitting to post online?? You surely don't see anything wrong with the pictures you posted right? I didn't think you would, like i said earlier, you are your father's creation and you people are what totally wrong with Nigeria today. You take pictures of Zebras et al, posting it on flickr, what r you trying to say??

Not knocking ur dad and the whole 70th bday ish (is that really his age cos u know how u ppl lie about ur age), but the money used in staging that whole thing could have been used to making sure that there is steady supply of electricity and clean safe water through out Nigeria, not to talk of the roads. And yeah, i know you'll start going on and on about how its not public funding and ish like that...but hey...tell it to the birds.

And yeah, isn't it grand that ur dad gets to spend millions of dollars on a presidential jet, while the whole country alone has coffins flying in the name of planes??? Those pictures you posted just leaves a sour taste in my mouth given the deplorable state of the country today.
Sunday, May 6, 2007 9:39:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) have just shown us that the apple does not fall far from the tree, you would have probably come away from this with a little bit of dignity if you had just remained SILENT...but of course, as the true son of your father, you had to engage in baseless trading of words with people who have every right to be ashamed of you and people like you. In case, they did not slice your head and drop in some knowledge while you were in your schools abroad which your dad sent you to with the money that he looted from Nigeria. Let me present you with the facts-
You unnecessarily placed a photo of another human being on the internet and labelled it with a derogatory noun. This is a human being who has parents and whose parents gave him a name. What irks me is that you have shown the world that (a) you are too conceited to even acknowledge that he is a human being (b) you probably by the looks of all the back and forth that you have the indecency to engage do not even know the gentleman's name. Shame on yourself and the world a favor please. ZIP IT
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:53:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Coming from a country where prison/convicts have more luxurious rooms than pictured here (bed, tv, book shelf), albeit perhaps not so much freedom of movement outside of the premises, this certainly looks quite off for "presidential servant" since given what he has in the picture you could assume he is working for free... Maybe not so from Nigerian perspective but still the picture comes off like you were in a zoo and took a photo of a monkey in the back of the cage.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 5:02:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I am a Nigerian with rich and influential extended family members (no boasting, just to make my point). You know what though, most of them, no matter how many domestic servants they have would probably know their names. Given that you were on holiday, you might not have known all the domestics but putting myself and a lot of other humane people in ur shoes, I would probably ask his name and if I were to put his pic online, I would append his name.
{Mr X, One of the servants, sitting down on the bed of his one room apartment. You can see the entire apartment in this shot.} would probably not have generated as much heat.

What struck most Nigerians though was the man himself. It beats me why a domestic in a household like your father's would look as dejected as that in a dejected room like that. No bed, no wardrobe, haba! Sure, he is probably a min wage receiver from one Ijebu or Egba hamlet but still. Where's the empowerment in the Nigerian nation when the charity does not start from home?
I guess we just don't all understand how hard it is being a president's son with so much criticism and sorts but hey, next time, you would prob think twice before doing some thing like calling someone a servant.
Remember, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:39:57 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I saw a comment you made on someone's blog regarding this picture and it was to the effect that you were surprised at the comments of all "those who had abandoned their country". I was so enraged at your lack of tact that i decided to come let you in on something.
I sought an education abroad because thanks to the actions of your father in the 70s and subsequently the leaders we have had after him, our country's education system is in the pits. Your father in his return to office painted the picture that he had seen what the country had become and he was determined to fix things and by the look of things, he cannot even provide for his hired help; how then is he supposed to provide for the country.
I have no issues with how you look, unlike alot of other people but I can tell you you sound very ignorant and sheltered to me. i am glad you posted the picture but saddened that you did not seee what the big issue was. Our country is filled to bursting point with people who look and live just like that man in that picture and you don't even know what that is like. Don't lie to me and tell me you had a charmed life. Your father was a soldier and by income levels, that's the pits. He rose up and got to a position where he could have made a difference. And he has. for the negative and has apparently raised his children without a care for their people.
When I return home, my training will be used in the service of my people so that if i ever do post such a picture, that will be the before shot to an after solution that I bring.
Friday, May 11, 2007 1:13:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
wow....what's all the fuss about really? so he said servant, the boy/man is a servant isn't he? it's much easier to point the finger at someone else while we are all keeping people in our houses to do the same ish under much of the same circumstances. ok, so he's sleeping on a mattress on the floor, some of you have domestic staff sleeping in beds (yay!) and still they still have to clean your ish? so what's the difference or what's the point? I think what many of you should really be attacking is the fact that in the NIGERIAN SOCIETY, we keep people like this and we treat them like lower creatures and it's very prevalent and accepted. We are a class driven society and this is exhibited here for all to see and we all act like our ish don't stink.

Stop lambasting the man jo and let's all attack the real problem, why is it "normal" for most of us to keep houseboys/servants/domestic staff anyway?

Dare - believe me, i know the feeling, it IS weird to be feeling culture shock in a society you consider your own....and for me, I even had a WHITE man telling me that i'm feeling culture shock, IN NIGERIA.....
Sunday, May 13, 2007 2:17:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I would not have judged because of who your father is or what he has done to Nigeria but seeing that pic of the 'servant' is a total disgrace,it shows that you guys have no respect for human beings.Your father is probably the richest man in Nigeria but look at your houseboy even the dog of a rich owner is treated better and you calling him a servant show that you are a an ignorant and very spoilt .Don't think that we Nigerian are hating on you because of your family cos if you were a nice person we will all be your fans.I think when you go to bed this night think of that 'servant' and try to imagine yourself in his position remember that we are all the same in the eye of GOD
Thursday, May 17, 2007 1:19:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
So much noise about nothing.What if he called him a servant,big deal! and what in the world has Dare's father got to do with this?Is that how we all insult our fathers at home?President Obasanjo has really done well for Nigeria,things will gradually improve for the better,its just a matter of time and remember Nigeria is not an easy country to rule.How can it be easy to govern when an average Nigerian is corrupt.Anyone who knows he has no sin,let him cast the first stone.Think you all need to go get a life!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 3:18:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
do me a favor, dare- please buy that guy a proper bed, then report back here (and elsewhere) to let people know when you've done it, if you like.

You dont have to, but if foreigners can give aid to African countries, then surely you can do this little thing. Its not much, but it goes a long way. You'll still have your detractors no matter what you do, but since the guy's picture is up, could you at least try to lighten the load.

Hopefully you also 'dashed' him something after taking his picture.
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