Updated: Jun 9
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic taught me one of the greatest lessons yet on the value of family and those who rise in the ranks to become family.
My greatest assets are people. I pride myself on having the best sets of humans in my corner, cut across all my core circles of interactions, this singular reality brings me unquantifiable joy and warmth.
My work at Connected Development and #FollowTheMoney has availed me one of the greatest opportunities of encountering the brightest of young people filled with energy, vibe and wholesomeness. I work directly with a team of 26 colleagues in the same space, 36 others across Nigeria and 9 others across Africa. Their qualities are so endearing that one can easily forget or discard their limitations with a snap of the fingers as irrelevant. I have limited this to the 26 super humans I have worked with daily in the last 1 year.
In this series, I will try to describe each of them randomly based on our levels of interaction and my personal observations. I will stay on some more than others because of our personal bond and the connections we have shared within this period.
It is important to state that all these guys came in as gentle people, but with the CODE DNA embedded, it typically takes less than 3months before they show their true ‘nuisance’ value *laughs*
Alfred Anicho Orji
Me: Guy, wetin happen?
Kingsley: Alfred just collapsed and the doctor here no dey do anything.
Me: Take him to Limi, I dey come.
That was the fastest I have had to drive in 2021. I got to Limi 💯% sure nothing could happen to ALFRED.
Strong man, fine boy, selfless, filled with a massive wealth of knowledge and experiences, a vibrant entrepreneur with solid evidence to show. My shade and bants partner, with critical love for Nigeria and unusual love for the country.
‘Busayo, with all your smartness you still supported Buhari in 2015’ was a constant punchline, unfortunately, I didn’t get to apologize to him for my ‘errors of commission’ as he always insisted.
If anyone had told me he wouldn’t be alive today, I would have argued to high heavens, it wasn’t supposed to be Alfred, naaaaaaaa, that brother was everyone’s ideal guy, we had our ‘fellowships’ (after work evenings, eating a specially made spaghetti, chicken and suya) regularly where we wined and dined, in fact, I was still telling him the day before he passed that we needed to start those after work ‘fellowships’ again, unfortunately, that was the last time I was going to be seeing him and speaking physically.
It’s still tough writing about him in past tenses, but I have chosen to stick to the memories we created on trips, in the workspace, at our ‘fellowships’ and the other moments of bonding.
His passing was a major hit on the entire team, we had to shut down for 2 weeks, the grief was much, almost too unbelievable to be true, sincerely, if I wasn’t at the hospital, I would have never believed.
Keep Resting in Power Brother!!!
This lanky corp member walks into the office in the midst of a work retreat in January, 2020. She looked very shocked as it felt like we were speaking mandarin, she looked lost but with the innocent demeanour of one who was ready to learn voraciously, which she did in one of the fastest times yet. When I was informed she would be working in my department, I knew our ‘star’ girl had arrived. Obii is witty, calm, smart and sincerely disciplined. An unapologetic GenZ with the vibes you will need on a Monday morning and Thursday evening with sprinkles of awesomeness in between other days of the week. Little wonder few months after NYSC she bagged the award for ‘Staff of the Year’. Obii ‘keripito’ lets do more in 2022
From that young but courageous dude to the very revered GPE Ambassador from Nigeria, Mukhtar has risen in the ranks, I like to call him the utility staff and an awesome organiser/mobiliser. Working directly with Mukhtar since 2019 has been nothing short of amazing, his growth is the classic real Hollywood script. From joining me on various training and travels, he started facilitating sessions alone and killing them back to back such that he became the first choice for colleagues and partner organizations in engagement and facilitation, a very fast learner who gleans wisdom from those ways older and still finds healthy balances. If I exit the stage today, I am comfortable saying Mukhtar got it handled. Mukhtar knows the end to end of the entire work/projects at CODE, I dare say, he is an integral part of the future.
Though still a work in progress, he has proven the possibility to grow sporadically and maintain a level head while at it. Little wonder he was one of my groomsmen at my wedding, I hold him in so much esteem.
Let’s do more in 2022 Mukhtar.
He came in as a corp member also, Uzor is a gentle giant, dudes got medals we almost didn’t know about until he was leaving for his master in the UK. A businessman per excellence, he knows what he wants and how to get it. I wish you, good speed bro, the world is yours to conquer man.
Hyledzira James Mshiela
Perhaps my highest travel buddy for 2020, OluwaZira funnily has seen my various points of my work at a close range, she has seen me when Malawi refused to send my visa up to less than 30mins to our trip to Blantyre, she was there when they said I had COVID in Blantyre, she must have been the most shocking person asides Hamzy and my colleagues in Malawi and Cameroon on how calm I was all through these unpalatable times.
I remember we were also jointly denied visas to Zimbabwe in 2019.
Zira’s story is like almost every other person that has come into CODE, she came in, picked up and has moved with speed consulting for international organizations and leading projects like a pro she has become. Such a smooth and sweet soul she embodies, need I say highly spiritual too, I am super excited about her growth and core influence across the space and at Global Shapers.
On Global Shapers, she had invited me to help build their capacity in a Master Class, and for one of the first times, I said NO to her.
Zira, there’s is a backend story; Abuja Global Shapers refused to accept my application in 2017, as a green head in the space, I just wanted to be petty jare *winks*
She came in as an exchange staff from a partner organisation for 3 months, the moment she and 2 others were introduced, I knew she was a CODE material. I have been in the system a bit to know who will thrive in the space, It was too surprising to see she became a colleague at the end of her program. Ruth has a soothing presence filled with incredible warmth, her smiles portray hope and courage, having worked briefly and gone on a mission together, putting her on the spot and having her deliver incredibly to the admiration of all, I am super excited about her growth. She’s got the CODE DNA, it was a pleasure working with Ruth in 2021.
One of the latest addition to the family, very unassuming, unusually calm even under fire, but a thoroughly knowledgeable and smart lady. Nkem is like that course-mate who shockingly will always lead the class almost effortlessly. Having worked with her on 2 major projects, I can confidently say Nkem’s depth is work emulating. It took Nkem a longer time for her nuisance value to come out, with major shockers from throwing heavy bants that will make everyone turn back to double-check where the shot came from to soft-toned call outs. It takes courage to embark on Masters in Statistics, the fact she is still smiling is a show of strength and courage she is. We do more in 2022.
I can him AGU or Queensley as Zaliha christened him. The Kaduna lord became an Abuja big boy. We upgraded his status and strategically located him in the city centre *laughs*
Kingsley is a story of another green head who has become a thoroughbred CODer, started as an intern co-managing just one project but now sits at the back end of the entire projects of CODE. He oozes the values of FollowTheMoney 100% as a detailed critique of the entire process ensuring it remains watertight not missing any core detail. I think we would play a great role in the expansion of FTM across the remaining 44 African countries and the 774 LGAs in Nigeria.
Talk about a human with a strong emphasis and a loud voice like one who must have swallowed a JBL speaker, engaging him means you must have had a stomach full and must also be ready to take on an entire village in a voice battle. Kingsley is also a part of the future, I see him playing major roles.
Part of the latest additions in 2021, she was also an interviewer's favourite, she came with evidence of her work as a self-starter and some experience under her sleeves, I can remember my discussion with her where she opined she wanted more challenges…..I smiled, she didn’t know what was about to hit her. A few months down the line, I asked if she still wants more, let's just say she may not be willing to ask for more in a while.
Phenomenal growth, having worked closely with me, I must say I see awesome potential with unique energy and a can-do spirit, she believes in her abilities to take up responsibilities and strives to deliver, though many lessons need to be learned, she will thrive in the space.
She opines I am very calm, unbothered, and unflinching and that I look and sound older than my age, she may soon realize that time has a way of drawing out our innermost virtues, but a gentle lion is still a lion.
Charly my man, has a high wavelength in thoughts, mentality and culture. He recognises similarities and also knows how to vibe. I probably had one of the longest office conversations with him in 2020/21. We have commonalities, we are both anti-systems, especially those that are quite unproductive and need to be changed. He thinks I have left the aluta for improved systems but my perspectives have changed greatly as well as my fights. We need more Charles in any system, they represent the voice of reason and as a check on excesses.
Very popular among the ladies, seeming though but very soft, knows what he wants and ready to learn. I miss our conversations man but enjoy the UK.
Nene HR, one of the latest reveals saddled with the responsibility of managing the #HumansOfCODE, as an enormous task I must say because of the quality of humans nature and a common passion has brought together. To think that one of her first major tasks was to handle the demise of a colleague was an equally tough call, but she handled it with grace and of cause with the support of the equally devastated team.
Nene got stung by the CODE bug very early, she comes with the Unilag vibe and an eyeball that is large enough to go round the entire room in seconds, and dark skin like our comrades from Ghana, she glows and exudes pure vibes. Let's do more in 2022.
Dr Onyekachi Onuoha
The academic Doctor, who according to Mukhtar, ran away from the craziness of the academia to hibernate with activists, a straight first-class product till doctorate level, one will wonder what he is looking for with a set of activists who consistently shades the Nigerian academia, from ASUU to the entire system. Drs’ humility and readiness to learn and listen is top-notch, even with his academic attainments, he still goes through program ideation and still works with everyone with respect and regard, he is not the typical Nigerian lecturer who has an over-bloated ego on nothingness, this Dr is different.
With Mukhtar, Barr Damaris has nothing to fear as Dr is in safe hands.
Let's do more in 2022 .
Petite, vicious, smooth, tender, absolutely caring, warm but tough….I don’t know how she combines all of these in a mall body frame but Zaliha is like that your baby sister that is all-around sweet. If one isn’t careful, you will think Zaliha will pass for an 18-year-old, but……..
Talk about passion for the job, the knack for excellence and that consistent drive to attain success, count Zaliha in 100%. From 2017 to date, she has remained very consistent. My only challenge is that she doesn’t hug guys!!
I hope that changes because we must do more in 2022.
All-round gentle and smiling ‘Daddy wa’, the man behind branding and graphics at CODE. An astute photographer who is always ready for the next task or trip. Picking a fight or shouting at Stephen is a failed attempt. I think he has a silent diffuser that quenches anger immediately you call his name. Humility personified and awesomely talented, unfortunately, the CODE bug didn’t spare him, just like us all. Let’s do more in 2022 bro.
Annie Nwakalor & Kc Nwakalor
I have merged my friend turned brother-Kc Nwakalor and his amazingly calm and beautiful wife together.
I and Kc got into CODE almost the same time, though as a corp member, the dude totally changed the phase of Documentary Photography across the entire development space, built a repertoire of super amazing photos has documented the largest bit of our impacts at CODE. I have travelled the mist with Kc across almost all the States in Nigeria doing great work and amplifying the voices of all the communities we have encountered from our road trip to Borno to others, we have built an amazingly strong bond that has made us family. His wife became an immediate addition to the team.
Anne the Nigerian- British lady is soft-spoken, calm, no rush, easy-going and a smooth woman who understands what she wants and knows how to get them through patience and sacrifice with her British-inclined work ethic, I call her ‘the wife of my friend’, I have learned a bunch from her methods and easy disposition to work pressures. Anne is a fast learner and settled in very quickly, my highest point is when she tries to pronounce a Nigerian name or to speak Pidgin English with an accent. The CODE bug must have stung her many times, her bants come with an accent. Anne, we shall keep doing more.
Yellow!…” I am not yellow, I am light-skinned”, is what I get for the number of times I called her ‘yellow’ when she joined the team. I may need to explain a bit about my relationship with the communications team, we share some sought of robust engagements and you will always hear me use my ‘rational emotive skills’ to get them to push the right content, especially GenZ-friendly content, as that demography is critical to the sustainability of the work we do. I must have been the most of the neck of this team Ada is an integral part of, but we enjoy a smooth mutual relationship and also amazing out-of-work-styled conversation in the open space. Thanks for literally brightening up the office space with your ‘yellow’ skin. Let's do more in 2022.
“Busayo, she doesn’t like me, no she doesn’t”, how would I explain to Seun that it’s not about her but that ‘she’ is just being herself? This was the first major conversation I had with Seun somewhere at The Hilton. I call her the joy giver, she has a way of brightening up the space with her free smile, very unassuming too but very open-minded, she comes off with core experience in journalism as a professional. Its been a pleasure working with you in just a few months, I trust we are in for a great ride now that you are on board fully, also let's sieve our events properly in 2022.
The celebrity photographer cum comedian is also an unassuming guy, with a degree in accounting but totally has proven to have wasted his 4 years at the University of Abuja but has become one of the finest photographers in the steps of Kc. He definitely had big shoes to fit in when he joined the team, and had his fair shares of gbas gbos but has become more refined over the years. Jide is a deep thinker but it will take an uncommon ability for you to separate his humour-laced thoughts to dig into his core. I personally think Jide had one of the most mind-blowing conversations with me in the year under review. Unfortunately, he has the challenge that comes with multi-talented people, talent too plenty. I wish you more clarity bro
Kevwe Oghide and Abieyuwa
Folks who come from very structured organisations or companies find it challenging to settle in immediately when they get into CODE, I have been around in a while to notice this trend. CODE is a loosely coupled organisation that works, her model is so unique that one might get totally confused on if we are a serious set of humans, but Kevwe settled in quite fast as a thorough communications expert, and we have had various engagements from the palatable to the not so palatable but I dare say Kev is my GUY!
Though 2021 saw her work remotely from the UK, she left a truckload of memories that can last many years. The gift of Abieyuwa was another. The sweet, tender, smart and cutest kid you may have met yet was our colleague too(all kids whose parents work at CODE are staff too). The second look at Abieyuwa validates the saying that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I will miss you in the workspace Kev but we go still dey connect.
She consistently shared all her dinner pictures with those of us who cared to view her status, assorted and garnished day after day. My catch is the consistency with which she prepared those English dinners. Talk about self-love, you would want to add Maryam to make that definition complete. Always ready to be and do better, takes responsibility when in error and is ready to fix every challenge with a courageous smile. Maryam embodies the CODE spirit, in growth and the ability to become amazingly good on one’s job and deliver. She has a mama bear spirit-very accommodative human to the core. Unlike other years, her video calls have reduced drastically-work wan finish her. It’s been my absolute pleasure working with you Maryam.
Talk about one with a sharp mouth, thorough-bred accountant that makes people dare retire with her, Vicky has a second eye for scrutiny, definitely one of the core traits of her profession. Sadly, with a low threshold for the mouth, she freely gives, trusts me not to spare her a bit of her jabs. For the times we have driven home together she exudes happiness effortlessly. Her bants with Mukhtar are probably one I look forward to, Vicky is filled with love and quite peaceful too, save when she meets Mukhtar.
The shock on my face when I saw Wale’s CV with an experience that spans over 20 years in Accounting, one would have wondered what someone like him would be doing in a company of young people that he could even birth but Wale has shattered the stereotypes of generational differences, he is as accommodating and as fulfilled such that you may not know the difference in generations within the workspace. I can comfortably say,
Mr Wale is one of the most humble men I have met yet, he has his respect intact and maintains healthy relationships with everyone in the space. I trust we would do more in 2022.
In 2021, when I talk about those who showed uncommon strength through thick and thin, Mary, is a perfect example. All-round sweet mother of two amazing kids. The only person I call ‘egbon’ in the office space, seeing her navigate this year has taught me the strength of commitment, purpose and how not to lose oneself through even unpalatable stages/phases. She has taught practically that it is not too late to start again. Thank you for smiling through and showing us in practical terms how not to give up. I will sincerely miss your physical presence in the workspace.
Mary (office assistant)
The shock on everyone's face when Mary says she wanted to do more than just be the office assistant embodies the totality of the core value of CODE's workspace. Mary is the first to report to work always, based on her job description, a role that may easily be taken likely but ensures we work in a decent and clean environment, an integral part of the team who does her job with zeal and unflinching consistency. Little wonder why she was the second-best Staff for 2021.
One of those who tell the perfect CODE story of how one can aspire and attain. Lu is a testament to the beauty of teamwork and the benefits of creating a robust system where everyone is carried along in spite of immediate challenges or perceptions which may most likely be a personal bias of the one who perceived. Lucy came in as a volunteer but filled with an unquenchable desire to become better and get neck deep into her job. I remember getting her to review reports from campaigns, the noblest of tasks, then leading her first campaign to Katsina with Nwachukwu, to the botching of a campaign in Bayelsa. Then to the need to consolidate the entire Programs team under her leadership, delivering from all cylinders and growing aggressively within the ranks, she embodies the reality that it is possible to dream and attain within a short period. I have practical evidence that leadership is influence, such that has taught me the potency of this model. I will write more on this in my Memoir. Congratulations to my colleague as assumes a higher role filled with more responsibilities. Lucy is an asset, keep her close. Let's do more in 2022.
Asides from Oludotun Babayemi, the first staff I met and engaged with was Steff. In fact, she was instrumental in enabling me to settle into CODE as a green head. The tons of documents she ensured I read during my onboarding when I resumed in March 2017 set me in the right steps at CODE. It was easy to understand the thinking/philosophy that formed the organization in the rawest form.
Steffia is an astute accountant that always strives to be the best she can be, she is PROUD of her work and very bankable, she knows her onion and perhaps is one of the brightest accountants in the development space. She worked remotely almost all through 2021 and I was eagerly expecting STEFFIRE to be back to the physical space but……!
Thanks for being an amazing colleague and friend buddy.
Arguably the last person I started speaking to when I got into the space, this petite-looking ‘young woman is probably one of the sweetest humans you may meet. We moved from IJ Range to Ijeoma highway😀. Highly stylish yet incredibly open-hearted, talk about one who can give you an eye and just smile moving on immediately. A highly supportive human with a willingness to learn and listen. Ij comes up as a strong-faced….scam!!
A foodie to the core who wishes to faint before eating but feels like sleeping immediately after🤣.
I have taken loads of time speaking to colleagues and even outsiders on how mistaken they are thinking Ij is ‘tough’. She had also grown evolving at various phases, such that looking back gives me the absolute pleasure of being a part of her growth.
I must have had more pictures with IJ than any other person at CODE.
Little wonder I excitedly threw my weight behind her work and new role at CODE. Though not as smooth as in other years, it was my absolute pleasure working with Ijeoma highway. In 2022, we shall do more.
The leader of the pack who leads from the front. It takes a certain level of courage to lead young, passionate, crazy and high cerebral humans. Hamzy is a leaders leader, trainers trainer, teachers teacher et al. He is a FORCE to reckon with in and outside Nigeria, a GLOBAL CITIZEN to the core-it is only normal having built 2 power brands in the last 9 years with footprints in 10 African countries and growing interests across the remaining 44, with influences across all the continents in the world. Very few people have achieved this feat as Africans.
For all the platforms to go the lord’s work, the unanticipated support, the listening ears and the ability to come through for me and other colleagues, THANK YOU for the gift of you Hamzy.
We will definitely be doing more in 2022.