Chronicles from Benin City where I did my very first pidgin radio interview and got a Nigerian name

9:22:00 PM

With the chief medical officer at Central Hospital, Benin City (in suit and tie) and members of JCI Benin City 

Good evening Sweetlings,

Hope your week got to a lovely start. I am still giving updates of my trip in Nigeria where I have been visiting 6 states. I have already shared about my trip to Ibadan and the epilepsy awareness session there plus chronicles from Keffi and Abuja where I shared 10 things to do in Abuja and its environs  as well as my meetings with mental health service providers in Abuja . Today I want to share about my visit to Benin City where I did a pidgin radio interview and got a Nigerian name. I have a confession though - when I saw Benin on the itinerary, I thought of Benin the country and I was embarrassed that I didn't know much about it. Since Google is my friend, I went online to check it out as I also checked if Kenyans need visas to go to Benin. After my research, I thought to myself, no I don't want to go to Benin for just one day and as I was working out a speech for my partners for the trip on how and why I would like to extend my visit to Benin, my bubble burst when I got to learn that Nigeria has a Benin, Benin City which happens to be among the most ancient cities.

Heading to Benin City

Oluchi does amazing throw downs - if you are in Abuja and need a caterer, holla at her on ogirisoupkitchen@gmail.com  (and no she didn't sponsor this, she doesn't even know I have talked too much about her on almost all my posts...her meals and her persona are just too good not to speak about)

After another amazing morning run in Abuja and a wonderful breakfast by Oluchi, Dayo took me to the airport and I landed in Benin City from Abuja in the afternoon. The JCI Benin City members received me and after a photo session that made me look like an international musician or something by the stares of those at the airport, I checked into my hotel. We took a lap round the town - because I am all about absorbing spaces - where I learnt a lot more about Benin City including the fact that there was a palace in the town that hosts one of the active kings in Nigeria - y'all know I made a mental note of visiting the palace before I left. 

You got to give it up for this group, posters and all

During our rounds, I was introduced to garden eggs - which I didn't like, they are the most bitter fruits ever...they don't even deserve to be called fruits. When we got back, I had a briefing meeting of the packed day ahead that included a radio interview, visiting the state hospital and the ministry of health. It is from this conversation that I got my Nigerian name Evie which means precious beads that kings gifted...for I am a precious gift to the world with the work I do in mental health (y'all know I loved that name and it just makes me blush)

These fruits aren't for the faint hearted.

At 8a the next day, I had some bean cakes for breakfast which I absolutely loved (and forgot to take a picture of because my hands were busy). We then headed out to Edo Broadcasting Service - Benin City is in Edo State and this is the main radio station in the state - for a 30 minute radio interview. It wasn't until we got to the station that I was informed that I would be on pidgin program hosted by Wakabout and Helicopter - they explained their names to mean walk about, walks about - around for news and information which in pidgin is Wakabout and well Helicopter flies around for the same.

Dishing out my two pidgin lines on radio

Our show started with a fela kuti song and we discussed epilepsy - the causes, symptoms, self management - with a lot of emphasis on it being a medical condition and asking people to seek medical support. We also mentioned the need for government intervention in form of policy, funding and filling the treatment gap as well as my Non Communicable Disease champion recognition by the Ministry of Health, Kenya when we talked about stigma and the role of champions in the sector. The team from JCI Benin, gave out their numbers for further conversations and as soon as the show was over, calls started coming in which made me glad that the message was passed even though my pidgin was not all that...ok let me be sincere, even though my pidgin dictionary has two or three lines.

Walking round Central Hospital, Benin City 

After the interview, we went to Central Hospital, which is a state hospital, to meet with the chief medical officer. He received us well and took us through epilepsy and mental health care and management at the hospital which was built in 1902...I know. Since this was a closed door meeting, I will only mention that they have one psychiatrist who comes through once a week to handle mental health issues and that the hospital attends to people living with epilepsy though medication gets tricky from time to time. (PS : In Nigeria, there is federal hospitals which is like national level then state hospitals, ran independently by each of the 36 states, then community health centres which give primary care)
Next to me in the suit, permanent secretary of health, Benin City (my eyes are closed because one or more of the many cameras had their flashes on)
Our last meeting for the day was with the permanent secretary of health, another closed door meeting whose details I will keep under wraps but the general theme was government involvement in promoting mental health of its citizens. I had hoped to visit the palace after the meetings but when we were done with the ministry of health, I was so beat and all I wanted to do was to eat and sleep. 


When y'all have had too many meetings and just want to eat in peace
 We had late lunch and I slept the evening away before flying back to Lagos the next day.


My meal was rice and tomato stew with loaaaaads of pepe 

 I definitely have that palace on my bucketlist just as I want to go back to Abuja to see the Zuma rock (and hang out with Oluchi some more...and eat her amaaaazing throw downs)

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