Jumia Travel’s Bait-And-Switch Marketing, By Gimba Kakanda

Somebody has to do the Lord’s work and warn Nigerians about this systemic exploitation of customers, which our business environment has enabled and sustained, by that online travel agency called Jumia Travel. I don’t want them to get away with doing this again, and again, with neither an apology nor damages for such violation.

I patronised Jumia Travel for reasons other than being a local enterprise, albeit founded by non-Nigerians, that required our collective patronage. I prefer dealing with agents with a known address, identity, and track records, not websites whose owners I don’t know. And a friend of mine, Zahrah, was about to head to court with Wakanow.com having been similarly betrayed by the platform. Even though I had not been exactly pleased in my purchases via Jumia I kept the faith. But what they did to me yesterday, December 15, has shattered any benefit of the doubt that I had harboured since our last unpleasant encounter.

About three months ago I booked Abuja – London flight on the platform, and made payment via online transfer as instructed by their agent. A few hours later, their agent called and explained that the rate had increased. I transferred the added amount without protest. Why? I was almost late for school, with registration deadlines staring me in the face, and there was neither time nor energy to start booking process anew.

My experience yesterday was a deja vu, and I accept the blame for being the first Nigerian to “carry last,” twice bitten. I booked a London – Abuja flight on their platform and received an email quoting what to pay, which I did. I spoke to one of their agents and confirmed the amount before doing so. Then, as if practising from an old bait-and-switch script, I got a call from the agent, saying the rate had increased and that I had to add over N100,000. For a split second, it seemed like a prank, only that she was calling from Jumia!

I found the model suspicious, for it seems like a deliberate ploy to mislead and attract customers. You don’t run a business by making the few who believe in you appear like idiots. This Mavrodi School of Business idea might have worked and had gullible believers in the Nigerian system like me trapped, but it’s established that every scam has an expiry date.

Angered by this brazen undermining of my intelligence, I asked the agent for an immediate refund, forwarded my bank details, and waited, refreshing my mailbox every 20 minutes to confirm notification of refund. I took to my social media platform and shared my grouse. Of course being a beneficiary of this ancient and state-approved impunity, they didn’t respond until it began to attract engagements.

I woke up today, December 16, to an infuriating email from them – that my money won’t be refunded until 3 – 5 working days. My day was ruined before it even began, and my rage was because we didn’t really have a transaction. I only wired money to them out of trust, and what a sensible partner would’ve done was reversing it immediately they confirmed their rate had changed, and noting I was unwilling to continue with the scam.

If I had nothing to book another flight, the consequences would’ve been a tragedy I don’t even want to imagine. It’s devastating that despite attempts to regulate business in the country, some of us are wired to embrace such infractions with a defeatist mindset.

In a reaction to one of my tweets, a Twitter user questioned my intelligence for falling for Jumia’s advertised platform. A Nigerian is, by such disturbing orientation, expected to distrust an enterprise valued at over a billion dollars and, even more importantly, the largest e-commerce platform on the continent? I don’t know.

The critic’s reasoning would’ve made more sense if I had no any history of patronising Jumia. In fact, last September, about a week before I booked my ticket to London, I bought a 4-terabyte hard disk, impressed by the purchase of a similar item on the platform a month earlier. So it’s unfair to conclude that one was merely gullible by trusting such platforms. What has happened is an everyday story and experience of Nigerians, and that’s expected isn’t the national pastime of blaming the victim, but an institutional response to correct it.

Gimba Kakanda is a postgraduate student of International Relations, London School of Economics, and tweets from @gimbakakanda

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The KABAFEST Dilemma By Gimba Kakanda

Our usually polarised literary community was chaotic this week as a tribe of writers entered the final lapse of its campaign for boycott of Kaduna Book and Arts Festival holding in Kaduna from July 5 to 8, 2017, with US-based book reviewer and irrepressible humourist, Mr. Ikhide Ikheloa, describing the proposed event as “debauchery” and the participants “rented” to deify Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. The campaign was instigated by their assertion that Kaduna under El-Rufai is an unresolved “murder scene” and that it’s against the intellectual tradition for supposed scribes and voices of the society to accept funding from, or be hosted by, its government.

 

Ordinarily, there’s nothing wrong with writers attending an arts festival organised by the government; it’s mischievous to equate that to legitimising the politics and infractions of Malam el-Rufai. KABAFEST isn’t morally out of place, so faulting the state government’s financial support for a festival designed to promote literature in a society stalled by poor reading culture and dwindling relevance of books, is personalising this antagonism, taking our political differences too far.

El-Rufai is organising the festival with public fund, and I do not see where it’s written that a taxpayer must be indebted to a politician for benefiting from a government’s use of resources for a beneficial public project. It’s his or her (country’s) money. Even if one doesn’t like E-Rufai’s handling of a political situation, calling for the boycott of the festival undermines the protester’s civic education. One does not owe a government anything for participating in an event it sponsors. It’s a fundamental right. The same event, I emphasised, can be a platform to address the December 12, 2015 extrajudicial killings of those Shiites in Zaria, which was the central argument of the boycott advocates.

My attempt to explain this centrist perspective to them has made me a target of misapplied counterpoints, with my excuse interpreted as a hungry writer’s sycophantic alignment. It didn’t matter that I shared with them a certain view of the Governor, which is enough to join them in calling for the boycott. It’s not only that I’m yet to forgive Governor el-Rufai for his hard-hearted handling of the massacre in Zaria, it has to be for the amusing pettiness of a key member of the organising team, Lola Shoneyin.

Ms. Shoneyin and I had a fallout on Facebook – a cause of which is embarrassing to share here – sometime in 2011 and then, being Wole Soyinka’s daughter-in-law, she also couldn’t stomach – or misunderstood? – my satire on the Nobel laureate. She’s not only blocked me on all social media platforms, she blocked me from following the Twitter account of Ake, another arts festival she manages. In fact, she once revealed her hatred of me to a mutual friend and the messenger indeed delivered that “Lola said if she catch you eh…” caveat. That amused me. When I eventually saw her at a session of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival in 2012, she left a group photograph when I was invited to join. She was 38 then!

This experience of Ms. Shoneyin’s peculiar courtesy should’ve been a guise to ridicule her event. Only that I don’t operate that way. That she blocked me from following the Twitter account of her event, even though I’ve no memory of engaging with the account, is a scary syndrome I elected to take as personal, instead of allowing it to guide my assessment of her art and public engagements.

The same Ms. Shoneyin once had me, along with writers B. M. Dzukogi and Ahmed Maiwada, delisted from a cliquey Yahoo listserv of Nigerian writers, Krazitivity, for airing dissenting views. And it did not come as shock that neither of these two influential writers received invitations to KADAFEST, an arts festival in a region they have high stake in. In the past two years, no Nigerian writer, north or south of the Niger, has promoted literature among teenagers as Dzukogi has, as co-founder of Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS) held in Minna since 1995, and founder Hill-Top Arts Foundation dedicated to mentoring aspiring young writers, poets, painters and thinkers. The foundation organises the Nigerian Festival of Teen Authors (NIFESTEENA), a new literary festival for teen authors and artists from all the states of the federation and the FCT. But I was impressed that both Dzukogi and Maiwada, a foremost arts patron, poet and novelist, have also disagreed with the boycott advocates.

I also explained my opinion of Ms. Shoneyin to the boycotting writers, and restated my support for her event despite that. We need more attention to these dusty shelves of our society, and philistine perception of literature as an inessential luxury by our policymakers. When a diseased citizen boycotts a hospital funded by the government he or she disapproves of, what’s misapplied isn’t emotion, it’s wisdom.

Writing may be a vocation of cliques, but their politics shouldn’t determine one’s participation in literary events. One can only be rattled by being a persona-non-grata if a proposed event had been declared open only for members, or strictly by invitation. A grudging event planner only matters to those idle, what should really do is convenience. And it’s this that determined, just this week, my confirmation of an invitation to the prestigious Iowa International Writing Program, “the oldest and largest multinational writing residency in the world,” a competitive three-month residency annually hosted by the University of Iowa, United States. This year, as though the organisers had tracked our conversations – and pettiness – the program, as hinted in the letter, will also explore our dilemma: ‘Vital Role Writers Play in Civil Society.'”

So, Ms. Shoneyin or Malam el-Rufai shouldn’t be the reason for your absence at KADAFEST, the reason must be convenience or interest. Even Fela Kuti, who lived a life of perpetually uncompromising rebellion, was more practical about government-sponsored arts festival than the impulsive hardliners. When, in 1976, he was invited to a meeting of the national organising committee set to by the military government to deliberate on the hosting of Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77), he didn’t decline. He went all the way to Kano to attend the meeting, which took place at Bagauda Hotel.

His resignation came later, and not for the fact that government shouldn’t host a festival to promote arts, but his realisation, having interacted with the organizing committee, that “FESTAC was just one big hustle, so a whole lot of little military men and useless politicians could fill their pockets. They chop plenty-plenty naira.” This was a legitimate excuse for his boycott.

Though under Mr. Ikhide’s Facebook post, a commenter called KADAFEST too a “hustle,” called Ms. Shoneyin a serial contractor for government after government, and cited her role in former President Jonathan’s short-lived Bring Back the Book project which he dismissed as a profligate propaganda, none has come as hard as Fela, and with an evidence, in charging the organising team of self-enrichment.

By Gimba Kakanda

@GimbaKakanda on Twitter

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