Monday, December 1, 2008

MOI: The Metamorphosis of the African Woman

So I know we all have a view on this one. I feel strongly about the mistreated woman who suffers/endures all for the sake of her children because that is what she is programmed to do - to LOVE and SURVIVE, to MEND and MAKE DO, to HEAL and MOVE ON. Half of the time, the "Mike" Okechukwu Ofili references in his article, is as much the product of a "managed" marriage as it is of a broken home. Every woman knows her threshold for emotional and physical abuse, and often, the children (or religion) are used by the African community to convince her to stay in an abusive marriage. Interested in hearing your thoughts on Okey's question: WHAT IS BEST? or rather, what is least damaging to woman and child?....


MOI: The Metamorphosis of the African Woman

The words hit me like a ton of bricks! Mike had what! I exclaimed
...Mike was the quintessential kid, everyone wanted to be like him. Unlike us Mike lived a liberal life; his stories were filled with sultry tales of adventures on the streets of Lagos. As a young teenager his stories sparked our interest. I got to know Mike personally as a student at my Mum’s after-school tutorial program. He always arrived in the latest car models and his clothes exuded richness. I often wondered why we didn’t have the same cool clothes as Mike or the same liberal freedoms as Mike. It was okay for Mike to stay up past midnight, but for us it was two death sentences in one. Firstly a beating from Mum and the other a sharp lyrical onslaught from Dad. But behind all of Mike’s riches lay scars invisible to our eyes. Product of a broken marriage, Mike was a victim of artificial love from two warring parents. Parents that substituted discipline with liberalism. Liberalism that left a wound hidden in Mike’s heart for years…
I heard the words come out from my Mum’s mouth, but I was too shocked to understand any of it. Mike had killed his father and committed suicide days after being arrested for drug possession. What pushed a child so sweet and so lucky towards these acts? I remembered the times I stayed up in bed early cursing at my parents for forcing us to go to bed early, but as I lay in bed that night, my heart heaved a painful sign of appreciation. I had what Mike never had, a strong and loving family.

Quoting www.indidivorce.com “statistics show that only 1 out of 100 Indian marriages end up to a divorce…in comparison 50% of America’s marriages turning into divorce [break ups].” Due to the large rural population and incomplete records, the divorce rate in Nigeria is largely unknown, but I would estimate it to be close to the figures reflected in India. In Nigeria divorce is not an option, it was taboo looked down upon by religious bodies and traditional cultures. In our eyes marriage was permanent and I could understand why. Many times dissolved marriages created more and more Mikes in the world. Children groomed in an atmosphere of artificial love who ended up losing out on the defining lessons of life. So Nigerian couples tended to stay together in a bid to maintain an artificial family atmosphere for their children. Even when the husband was physically abusive to his wife, the woman held on to the marriage. A sacrificial act perpetrated to eradicate the creation of more Mikes in the world. But was the sacrifice necessary?

According to the September 19th Washington Post article, the divorce rate in New Delhi, the capital city of India has almost doubled. The main reason being the western cultural influence. An influence absorbed by thousands of immigrants that empowers its women to speak out against injustice “[In Korea] 66.7% of divorces in 2003 were initiated by women, compared to 30.6% by men.” Injustice that in Nigeria would typically have been looked at as a necessary sacrifice. A sacrifice that Elizabeth made for years as she was physically abused in her own home by the very same man that promised to love her for better for worse. But Elizabeth stayed. She fought hard but could never overcome the strength of her monstrous husband, who in unpredictable but intermittent emotional rage proceeded to beat her night after night. An act that occurred in the full view of her children and a nation slowly awakening to the rights of a woman. For nights she cried but culture and religion chose to keep quiet. Family members wandered around like they never saw the bruises or heard the cries…a norm in Africa now frowned upon by legions of Nigerian re-immigrants. It was in that same state that Mary found herself. What started out as an American dream for Mary turned into a nightmare, like Elizabeth, Mary was exposed to nights of physical abuse. But unlike Nigeria her new community chose to listen to her cries, chose to see her wounds and chose to stand up against her injustice. Using the power of divorce, Mary opted out of her nightmare. Taking with her a two year old child. Mary had overcome her abusive husband, but now had to overcome the world as single mother faced with the gargantuan task of raising a child. Mary tried her best, but like Mike another child was bred confused and lost, a cultural embarrassment to the elders of Nigeria and another ubiquitous by-product of a western culture saturated with divorce.

What should Mary have done, should she have sacrificed herself for the mirage of a quasi marriage? That question is answered with a startling “no” by Nigerian female immigrants to America. Who frown at the thought of staying in an abusive marriage. A thought that is often preceded with the mindset of an independent woman. A woman whose idea of marriage is one in which both husband and wife are equally responsible for the financial and social aspects of the family. But in the traditional definition of marriage that has never been the case. The man has always been marked as the head of the household with a woman there to support him. But this trend of female independence is fast engulfing the Nigerian landscape as the typical definition of an obedient African woman is now replaced with that of an empowered woman or as Fela Anikulapo Kuti would say an empowered sophisticated lady. In his upbeat hit song “Lady,” Fela takes a satirical look at this trend comparing and contrasting between a typical African woman and the newly evolving westernized African woman. In his song he portrays the African woman as one willing to accept the man as the master, but the “Lady” on the other hand is soiled with western influence and believes the man should wash plates and share in the household chores.

Excerpt’s Of “Lady” by Fela:
African woman go dance she go dance the fire dance
She know him man na Master
She go cook for am
She go do anything he say
But Lady no be so

So what is best? A woman that sacrifices herself to uphold a family, or a woman that speaks up against palpable injustice. I don’t know the answer, I wish I did. But as I stare at that girl swaddled in the warm linen of blankets with that glistened look in her eyes. I can’t help but think about Mike. Who shall we produce what shall we become? I don’t know but in the cold of the night I come to realize that part of the solution lies in me. The man.

Okechukwu Ofili
Copyright © 2008 Ofili Speaks, Inc. All rights reserved
www.ofilispeaks.com

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nigeria....Safe??

A somewhat positive ranking for a change. But as much as Nigeria has been ranked the least vulnerable economy in the world by Merrill Lynch, we do have to think about the implications of being an oil-dependent economy (a very vulnerable resource in terms of pricing). Oil contributes 20% directly to the GDP. Given the recent decline in oil prices, one can expect that a further decline will contract our GDP causing government revenues to fall. Now, of course not everyone's as pessimistic as I am about this ranking, if the recent run on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is anything to go by, Nigerians should proceed with caution at this seemingly good news...

Nigeria: Merrill Lynch Ranks Country World's Safest Economy - allAfrica.com

A major boost was given to Nigeria's quest for foreign investment inflow at the weekend as the country was named the least vulnerable economy in the world, according to a report, Global Economics, compiled by a team of experts from Merrill Lynch.

The report, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY at the weekend, was compiled following several data requests from clients of the investment bank for key risk indicators for all major economies including Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

According to the statistics, the world's 10 least vulnerable economies are Nigeria, Mexico, Phili-ppines, Colombia, Egypt, Oman, Indonesia, Peru, China and Russia.

Also, the report identified Australia, Switzerland, Korea, Romania, Hungary, Sweden, Bulgaria, Euro area, United Kingdom and the United States of America as the highest risk economies in the world.

The risk ranking was based on seven indicators and they are - current account financing gap, foreign exchange reser-ves/short-term external debt ratio, private credit-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, and private credit growth, loans to deposits and banks capital-to-assets ratio. Merrill Lynch said the report also addressed all the requests in 62 indicators of the 60 world economies.

According to the report, Nigeria, with a population of 141.41million, was able to record a 7.3 per cent growth in GDP, with its Consumer Price Index hovering at 11.5 per cent, its current account balance, fiscal balance and public debt at 6 per cent, 6.3 and 10.4 percentage respectively.

To determine its external vulnerability, Nigeria's external debt position was put at 12.9 per cent of the GDP, while external debt /exports ratio was put at 9 per cent. Her forex reserves totalled $60.8billion.

The percentage of Nigeria's total external debt in relation to the GDP was put at two per cent, total foreign claims is $15.3billion while international claims stood at $13.1billion.

The report stated that the percentage of Current Account Balance plus net Foreign Direct Investment of the Nigerian GDP was 34, Forex reserves/short-term external debt totalled 41, while percentage of export of the GDP was 38 point.

The percentage of private credit of GDP was 43, while the percentage of bank capital to assets, according to Merrill Lynch was 41.

The 10 most vulnerable countries, which are mostly European countries, were said to have exhibited worse balance of payments positions, stretched external debt service ratios and overleveraged financial systems.

Explaining further on how it put the report together, Merrill Lynch states that: "While we believe that our country risk ranking produces plausible results, one needs to be aware that, as any ranking of that type, it is highly sensitive to the selection of indicators employed. For example, developed countries can probably sustain higher external vulnerability indicators than emerging markets; some Euro area country statistics are possibly misleading given there is a monetary union."

In their reactions, the leadership of the Nigerian organised private sector said the various investment-friendly programmes put in place especially in the past five years largely gave Nigeria a pride of place in the ranking.

Immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Dr. Mansur Ahmed said the latest ranking has confirmed that Nigeria is indeed an investors-haven. The feat, he said, should be traced to a regime of consistent and sustained improvement in the nation's fiscal management.

Speaking with THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday, Ahmed acknowledged that Nigeria has been able to maintain a healthy foreign exchange management, low budget deficit and heavily low external indebtedness, which he said have combined to grossly reduce the nation's level of risk. He said those indices have also endeared the nation's economy to foreign investors.

According to the incumbent DG of the NESG, the key indicator to the safety of investment in Nigeria is the freedom to invest in any part of the country without government's intervention. He maintained that issues like hostile acquisitions, or government take-over is not common in Nigeria, explaining that even in cases where government reversed policies, it is always limited to government investments.

"In Nigeria, people can invest anywhere without hindrance. Other important considerations are the sheer size of the Nigerian market and underlying macro-economic issues," Ohuanbuwa said.

He noted that although investors in Nigeria are still complaining of high cost of doing business, the level of risk is far lower than what obtains some other economies of the world.

On measures to improve on the latest ranking, the experts were unanimous in their call for the sustenance of investor-friendly policies by the government.

Ahmed emphasised the need for effective management of the nation's foreign asset especially in the face of the dwindling prices of crude oil at the international market.

Ohuanbuwa charged the government to liberalise the economy by removing all hindrances to the economy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jerry Useni And A Forgetful Nation

One of the things that touch a raw nerve in me regarding Nigeria(ns) is that we forget easily. We forget our heroes, our villains, our collective experiences and the lessons we shoulda/woulda/coulda learned from them. We therefore do not question when our media airs such stupid (for lack of a more creative word at 1am) comments made by government sycophants, as that made by Useni (below). We are too interested in where our next meal is coming from that we dare not be bothered by whose memory is being tarnished for whatever reasons. 13 years on, as Britain remembers 90 years of brave soldiers who fought and died for their country, I hope that we as Nigerians in our respective hustle and bustle, will take a moment or two to remember a great Nigerian hero - Ken Saro-Wiwa - who paid the ultimate price for the justice that still eludes the victims of the Niger Delta's pillage, who died for his country, for OUR COUNTRY.

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Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jerry Useni And A Forgetful Nation - By Reuben Abati

"I'm in good spirits...There's no doubt that my ideas will succeed in time, but I'll have to bear the pain of the moment...the most important thing for me is that I've used my talents as a writer to enable the Ogoni people to confront their tormentors. I was not able to do it as a politician or a businessman. My writing did it. And it sure makes me feel good! I'm mentally prepared for the worst, but hopeful for the best. I think I have the moral victory" - Ken Saro-Wiwa

The nation-wide excitement over Senator Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential election, almost allowed Lt Gen. Jeremiah Useni to get away with some of the silly things he has been saying lately about federalism and even more offensively about the late Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed by the Abacha junta, of which Useni was a principal member, 13 years ago. Indeed, it will be exactly 13 years tomorrow since we lost Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others who were hanged on trumped up charges of murder. The timing of Jerry Useni verbal diarrhoea could not have been fortuitous, it comes across as a pre-determined attempt to rubbish Ken Saro-Wiwa's memory and to diminish the significance of the struggle that he championed. But Jerry Useni is wrong, and he needs to be told so, clearly and in no unmistaken terms.

Permit me to note that Jerry Useni is one of those conveniently forgotten figures of Nigerian history. In a more disciplined society, a man like him would not have the gumption to speak up with such reckless confidence, he would be in self-imposed hiding out of shame and contrition. But in Nigeria, we forget so easily, so quickly and so readily, that some of the architects of past pains can now come forward to tell us how to run our lives and we are forced to listen, because the media, fighting a battle against censorship, can also not afford to censor the views of others even when they seem unreasonable. These days, surprisingly, even General Ibrahim Babangida, the man who annulled the democratic elections of June 1993, also gives lectures on democracy and his views are given air-time!

It is a sad comment on the capacity of Nigerians to remember and reward and sanction past conduct that a Jerry Useni would still be able to stand up in the market square and pontificate. He was Abacha's side-kick, and one of the main promoters of military tyranny. His dismissal of Ken Saro-Wiwa as a traitor who deserved to be murdered by the Nigerian state is therefore in character, but it is such a lie that should not be allowed to stand.

On October 28, Lt. Gen Jerry Useni showed up in the day's papers as having uttered the following tosh at an encounter with journalists in Jos: that the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in November 1995 was in the "country's best interest" because "the Nigerian state was under Western threat"; that "Saro-Wiwa was a surrogate of the West. Executing him at that time was to save the Niger Delta from his terror;" that a film was made available to the Abacha government which showed Saro Wiwa using crude methods to torture his kinsmen; that the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry is likely to worsen the situation in the Niger Delta, and that Nigeria is not yet ripe for federalism because federalism might lead to the country's break-up". Useni with these statements confirms the long-held and widely affirmed view that Nigeria suffers from a crisis of leadership. Useni, by the accident of history is supposed to be a national leader, but see how poorly he reasons!

Ken Saro Wiwa did not deserve to die in the hands of Abacha's hangman. He was not a traitor, he was a patriot. He was not a saboteur, he was a nationalist. He was not a villain, he was a hero. He was a martyr and a victim of military tyranny and the sadism of the military elite. His murder was certainly not in the nation's best interest, and Useni should know as Ken Saro-Wiwa's ghost continues to haunt the Nigerian state in the Niger Delta. Ken Saro-Wiwa wanted for his people, the Ogoni, in the Southern part of the country what every Nigerian desires for his or her own people: dignity, better life, humanity, equity and justice. But the Ogoni, 500, 000 of them, whose land supplies Nigeria with the bulk of its oil wealth, lived and continue to live in abject poverty, their land despoiled, their farmlands laid waste, their air polluted due to oil exploration activities.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, author, writer, polemicist, entrepreneur, television personality, accomplished public affairs analyst, decided to wake up his people and mobilise them to fight against the injustices of the Nigerian state. He was a rich man of means who decided to sacrifice it all in order to lead his people and raise their voices. He was a class-rebel who chose to defend the truth. In 1990, he set up the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). The accent on survival is worth noting, it speaks to the threats faced by the Ogoni. In October 1990, an Ogoni Bill of Rights was launched and "presented to the government and people of Nigeria". The Bill noted in part:

That in over 30 years of oil mining, the Ogoni nationality has provided the Nigerian nation with a total revenue estimated at over forty billion naira, thirty billion dollars.

That in return for the above contribution, the Ogoni people ahve received NOTHING.

That today, the Ogoni people have:

(i) No representative whatsoever in ALL institutions of the Federal Government of Nigeria

(ii) No pipe-borne water

(iii) No electricity

(iv) No job opportunities for the citizens in Federal, state, public sector or private sector companies

(v) No social or economic project of the Federal Government.

These, among others, were the injustices that Ken Saro-Wiwa and others chose to rebel against. But Ken Saro-Wiwa, the leader of the struggle, was not a nihilist. He preached non-violence, he ran a struggle driven by ideas. He simply wanted a better Nigeria and a better deal for the Ogoni. He wanted his people to be treated as "equal members of the Nigerian federation".

In 1993, General Sani Abacha siezed power and became Nigeria's Head of State. The country was on the boil over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. The Ogoni struggle was in full ferment. AbaCha was a typical soldier, he could not handle arguments. He turned the gun on every subject and anything that moved.

It is a long story that cannot be made better by cutting it short but for the moment, it is enough to state that in May 1994, Ken Saro-Wiwa and fifteen others were arrested and accussed of having had a hand in the murder of four Ogoni chiefs. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the others denied the charges. On November 2, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other men were sentenced to death. Eight days later, they were hanged at the Port Harcourt prison, in spite of appeals from all over the world. The trial was an abuse of due process and fair hearing, in the course of the trial, the accused persons were not allowed the right to fair trial and an appeal. Indeed, the defence lawyers at some stage had to withdraw in protest! The government's eventual open display of wickedness earned Nigeria a suspension from the Commonwealth and sanctions from across the world. Saro-Wiwa and others were buried in unmarked graves and there were reports that Saro-Wiwa's body was doused with acid, to be sure that he would not suddenly ressurect. Jerry Useni and his friends were afraid of Ken Saro Wiwa even in death. Thirteen years later, it is instructive that they are still afraid. Truly, conscience is a wound.

But the truth, I hope Useni gets to read this, or hears about it in case he is one of those Nigerians who are too big and too rich to read newspapers, is that Ken Saro-Wiwa has long been vindicated. Stupid Nigerian leaders have forever postponed the evil day by refusing to listen to ideas and by refusing to engage voices of reason. The evil day that Saro-Wiwa sought to prevent is now upon the Niger Delta and the rest of Nigeria. The present-day militants are his children but they are also not exactly his children: they are his children because they are fighting for change and justice and hope for their people, but they are not his children because they have opted for violence; in that regard, they are the children of Nigeria, the children of a nation that is forever seeking an embrace with evil by postponing a dialogue with the present.

Ken Saro-Wiwa has been vindicated because what he fought and died for has become the issue in Nigerian politics: the need for equality, justice and equity. But Jerry Useni doesn't get it. Ken Saro-Wiwa and other revolutionaries of the Delta sowed the seeds for the emergence of the Niger Delta Ministry. They made the argument afresh for federalism, but Jerry Useni does not understand, so he says a Niger Delta Ministry is unnecessary and that federalism is undesirable. He lives, we can see, in the past. If Useni were an American, he would have voted for McCain and he would have lost his vote. Ken Saro-Wiwa has been vindicated because he has liberated the minds of his people and brought them recognition. It was the fashion not to take the Ogoni seriously, but through MOSOP, the people have shown their capacity for resolve. Shell, the arch-villain of the Ogoni struggle had to close its wells in that area, 13 years later, it still has its tails between its legs in Ogoniland.

Tomorrow, it will be 13 years to the day since Ken Saro-Wiwa and others were murdered by the Nigerian state, Jerry Useni and his friends may remember the day with joy, but those who cherish the truth, justice and equity, and all who love Nigeria will light a candle in remembrance of the fallen martyrs. Ken Saro-Wiwa lives. The Ogoni Four and the Ogoni Eight also. Tell that to Jerry Useni, please.

***************
Rest in Peace Miriam Makeba:

UZOMA OKERE: Nigerians DO SOMETHING!

Still trying to find out the locations of the London and New Jersey demonstrations.
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Dear All,

I was with Uzoma Okere in Alausa yesterday and at the Ministry of Justice therafter where we edited the petition to ensure it was explicit about what we want.But let's not celebrate yet. The battle has just begun.It ends when we justice has been served. And we will keep at these protests until justice is administered on these monsters.

If you want to lend your voice to the injustice, please come to 14 Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos at 12.30p.m on Sunday November 9, 2008.We will be there till 3pm with a video camera to record the faces and voices of incensed Nigerians.From there we will proceed to University of Lagos where filming will continue from 4pm - 7pm in front of Moremi Hall.

Similar filming will take place on Sunday in London, New Jersey and Beijing.We all have a responsibility for what happened. We permit the brutality by not speaking out.We intend to broadcast the footage on local and international television in order to inspire shame in each of us as individuals, and in our government for failing in its duty to protect us from such attacks.We will continue to air the clip on rotation until justice is served. Please spread the word.

We look forward to seeing you there on Sunday and please send this to all your friends on facebook.

Ebun Olatoye.-----------------------------------------------------

For details on the Uzoma Okere story, please copy and paste the following links into your web browser:
http://odili.net/news/source/2008/nov/6/410.html
http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/news/article32//indexn3_html?pdate=071108&ptitle=Navy%20probes%20assault%20on%20woman&cpdate=071108
http://www.vanguardngr.com/content/view/21181/42/
http://www.punchng.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art200811081011362

To see the video of the assault, please click here:http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-134234

We are counting on your support to make this effort a success. If you have any questions or need further information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Kemi Ogunleye

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"YES THEY CAN" - Armed Nigerian Naval Men Abuse Power

Two days ago, on Monday, November 3rd, 2008, 6 armed naval officials attached to a Rear Admiral, identified as Harry Arogundade, severely beat and publicly disgraced a young woman, identified as an employee of Price Waterhouse Coopers. Uzoma Okere was assaulted for not moving over quickly enough for the navy convoy as it tried to tear through traffic on Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

During the course of the violent public confrontation, she was beaten with gun butts and horsewhips, ripping off her clothing. When the navy men were done dealing with the young woman, they "forcibly handcuffed and dragged" her into a private residence on the street. She was left with "a battered face, blood-shot eyes and bruises all over her body" and later on admitted to a hospital nearby.

The Nigerian Navy has tried to shift responsibility for the actions of its officials by assigning blame to the victim, who they say provoked the incident. This official response accused the victim of making up stories to "embarrass" the Admiral.

(The information above has largely been drawn from an article published by Punch newspaper today, Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.)

I heard about this incident today, on the same day that the world's most powerful nation elected it's first black President. Throughout today, i have heard people echo the slogan, "Yes We Can," over and over again because they have been inspired and believe that Nigeria can grow and develop into a strong democratic nation with a booming economy. Many have talked, argued and debated over the possibility of attaining Vision 2020 - a vision that sees Nigeria as one of the top 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020.

Most of us stayed up throughout the night to witness history in the making and as a result are more convinced that "yes we can" reach Vision 2020. However, having seen the video of this incidence, I question whether our country can progress if the civil liberties of citizens such as Uzoma Okere can be publicly violated in such a manner. How can we boast to be a democratic nation if public officials can publicly commit such an act and remain unpunished. Over the past few years, we have talked about corruption and hoped that institutions such as the EFCC will clean up our society. However, we are still waiting. This incidence proves that little has been done. If our leaders are unable to act appropriately and responsibly, we must take matters into our own hands.

Please take a look at the link below and join me by lending your voice to this note so that we can raise awareness and draw the attention of those who are in the position to do something about this.

http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-134234
_________

Aisha B.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is Nigeria Addicted to Bad Leadership?

Letter to Nigeria: Happy Birthday Nigeria! Wow, 48 years old!! I can't believe it. You've come a long way, but still have a longer way to go. On this 48th anniversary of your independence, i can't help but look to the future, as the present leaves so much to be desired. The Guardian article below addresses the issue of your addiction to bad leadership. Through the Babangidas, Abachas, Abdusalamis, Obasanjos, you have endured. Your people have endured but we are none the wiser.

There are certain things to rejoice over in today's Nigeria - civil peace, for one - but we are still very far from where we ought to be. As we celebrate our Independence today, let us think yet again about what values we subscribe to as a nation. Currently, I believe the value most nigerians subscribe to is the almighty dollar/naira/sterling/owo/kudi. This needs to change. Question is: How do we instill in the current generation, the value of Hard Work and Integrity? Is it too late? Do we carry on and just hope that economic reform and private sector investment will be enough to get us where we need to be, and therefore focus our efforts on that? Or do we stop in our tracks, look inwards and examine the Nigerian follower and what we have contributed to Nigeria's regression thus far, and therefore seek the solution from within?


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"Yet, in the midst of this national catastrophe, declining life expectancy, insecurity of life and property, grinding poverty, destitution and hopelessness, our leaders continue to act as if things were normal; as if Nigeria will remain "one indivisible nation" whether we like it or not. Created in 1914 at the behest of British colonialists and granted independence 46 years later, the patchwork that is Nigeria has managed to survive for so long, but time is running out. The more our rulers prevaricate, the closer the country inches to implosion. " - Rethinking Nigeria By Chido Onumah


Is Nigeria addicted to bad leadership? By Tosan Okotie
BAD leadership has ensnared Nigerians to a point that, most of the leaders have no laurels on which to rest any skills. Rather, the leaders' skills are derivatives of revenue from oil/gas, cocoa and groundnut, and not of any management technique. This is a shame because there are dozens of Nigerians that have done well individually in their various professions at home and abroad. Unfortunately, these same people are unable to come together to accomplish an objective that is cohesive and coherent. Indeed, anyone is correct to say that, being progressive has eluded the country. So why the distrust among these successful individuals who are adept in management?
The great ideas of the few people with unusual idiosyncrasy are being truncated by the vast majority of evil people who parade themselves as power brokers or community leaders.

Leadership in Nigeria is as simple as understanding the differing and conflicting needs of Nigerians in creating a value-based umbrella large enough to direct the human and natural resources in pursuit of a common goal of independent and sustainable development. Nigerians are saddened with their improvident leaders who are unable to buoy the people; as such, those with historic minds are compelled to be evocative of the likes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a benign person, and a scrupulous leader who brought so much progress to the West of Nigeria. If other regions had developed the way the West did, Nigeria would have been recognized in the comity of nations today. As Nigerians continue to experience bad leadership, the more people extol Awo, who has virtually become a paragon in Nigeria.

Pa Awo, was never in ambivalence. He was always focused with a clear vision to move his community forward. Most interestingly, Awo never lived nor died as a poor man despite his good leadership. Thus, he was a man with vision and foresight. Indeed, many believe that, when you embark on good leadership, you remain a poor person. That is a fallacy. Be that as it may, does it now mean that, without late Awo, Nigeria cannot progress? No, there are still dozens of Nigerians out there with good leadership skills ready to serve the nation. Retired Justice Ilori, who used his vision to improve the Lagos State judiciary and himself after retirement is a good example.

People with vision are not likely to steal or be corrupt because they are confident of their tomorrow's bread/butter and water. Furthermore, people of this nature are not lobbyists you will see parading the vicinity of Aso Rock canvassing for Ministerial positions. Therefore, to curtail persistent bad leadership, an intrepid president, should step out of Aso Rock and look for them. Sitting within the confines of Aso Rock makes the president fall prey to the "charms" of sycophants who present themselves in Abuja as potential leaders. Any occupier of Aso Rock should be worried that, with all the revenue for the past years, there is nothing meaningful to show for it due to bad leadership.

It is ignominious to note that, quality leadership was not in the lives of most of Nigeria's leaders. General Babangida's leadership style was divide and rule coupled with secret killings. His successor, General Abacha, was a dragon who combined open killings with the use of Willie Lynch's strategy of sowing seed of distrust among slaves in America. Apparently, Willie Lynch was a slave owner in America who sowed the seed of distrust among the slaves as a way to have absolute control over them. In Nigeria, Abacha adopted the same style in order to control the country. It has been reiterated severally that good leadership is facile. Confusion started in the Niger Delta in the era of gawky Abacha who sowed seeds of distrust/hatred among the Itsekiris and Ijaws. The reality is that Abacha, being an overseer of Nigeria's government succeeded in sowing the seed because the community leaders were not oblivious of the danger of hatred among the people of the entire Niger Delta region. On the other hand, the community leaders in the Niger Delta who were positioned to uncover the ugly trend sold their conscience for Abacha's deceitful token naira.

When you analyze the issues on ground, you are likely to agree that, the generation of present day active Nigeria's followership is ignorant of true leadership. They have never had a functional government because of the disconnect between the various government's agenda and the masses. To say that Nigeria is addicted to bad leadership is an illusion because it is not as if this same group of followers has experienced good leadership at a time but is tolerant of subsequent hopeless governments. Nigeria needs inspirational leaders with empathy. It is only when the leaders take advantage of the myriad of opportunities that exist to make a difference that the nation would attain her destiny.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Congratulations Mr Prime Minister

The honeymoon was over before it began but i wish Morgan Tsvangirai luck as he embarks on his new partnership with Robert Mugabe. As he says, he will be watching his back, and so will we.

Sorry for the radio silence folks, but do watch this space, as Independent day approaches...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nigeria in 20-08

I remember getting so excited as a child when my dad would bring home those One-Year Diaries that Banks gave their clients at Christmas (back in the day when corporate gifts were modest but useful)...my sister and I would get so excited going through the maps at the back, adn trying to figure out where in Victoria Island or Ikeja we could recognize on them. It gave you a sense of the "smaller world" around you. It's a shame that we are celebrating such a universally trivial accomplishment in the 21st century...but better late than never, eh? tAB congratulates the NTDC on this first step to improving (creating, really) the nation's navigation system. I hope we continue to hear of other feats being IMPLEMENTED by various federal, state and local agencies to improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.

As Reuben Abati puts it in the Guardian article below:

"Tourism can only be part of a wider and better articulated package; the key element of that package is good governance. Navigational aids: maps and all that, information flowing from the NTDC like the Niagara Falls can only be useful when governments: federal, state and local, focus on such urgent challenges as security, public infrastructure, and an enabling investment framework and so on."


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A Journey Around Nigeria - By Reuben Abati

For the benefit of those who are looking for good news from Nigeria, here is something to crow about: the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), led by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has launched what it calls "a world class road network navigational system." I attended the media launch, in Lagos, two days ago. What Runsewe, former General Manager of the New Nigerian now since 1999 a public official, introduced to the public, is a set of navigational aids: a personal, in-car travel equipment which can be fixed to the windscreen of a car, maps which can be downloaded from the internet into cell phones which can be used to navigate one's way around the city, city maps covering all Nigerian state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory, and an online tourist market which can help provide tourism information about Nigeria. Runsewe was understandably beside himself with excitement: "Oil is exhaustible", he said. But "tourism is sustainable." "Tourism is life," he intoned.

And he cited the great example of how in the last 22 years Dubai, to which Nigerians now flock like termites, was transformed from desert into an international business destination. His main argument is that as part of Nigeria's Vision 20-2020 project, namely Nigeria's plan to be one of the 20 best economies in the world by 2020, a major entry point would be tourism.

Since he assumed office as Director General of the NTDC, Runsewe has brought fresh dynamism and innovativeness to the tourism sector. He has a bagful of publications to show for this: special publications on Nigeria which advertise the country's tourism potentials, in 2007, he had organised the Abuja carnival and for the first time, all Nigerian state capitals have been reduced to maps that can be picked up on the shelf for free. No one was surprised when Runsewe reported that many of the state Governors were impressed when the NTDC presented maps of their state capitals.

What's the big deal? Such travel aids are used elsewhere in modern cities across the world. In Nigeria, maps are only studied in Geography classes in schools. An ordinary Nigerian in a new town or city does not look for maps, because these are non-existent; to get around, we all more or less rely on word of mouth, and increasingly on the ubiquitous okada cyclist. When you are lost anywhere in Nigeria, just call a commercial cyclist. But it is not always that motorocyclists know the geography of the immediate environment, nor are they always good men.

Ladies have been lured to hide-outs and raped. Persons have been led to criminals, and turned into victims. In some instances, persons who were stranded who could not find their way around a Nigerian town reportedly went to the neraest police station to ask for assistance or to ask for permission to wait there till morning. Many of such persons were robbed by the same police to whom they had run for safety and support. Nigeria is also not the best place to park your car by the roadside to ask for directions. You could be misled. Nigeria is a tourist's nightmare, even for the citizen, it is like a jungle.

The NTDC initiative on navigational aids is helpful. It is forward-looking and encouraging. It is achievable, its advantages are many. It is likely to have the same effect as the GSM revolution particularly among the educated who can read maps. But the test of it all is in the implementation and sustainability. Runsewe had admitted that the mapping of Nigeria and the introduction of the navigational aids is a work in progress. He is right. He and his team would have to provide public enlightenment on a number of issues: where and how can the navigational aids be accessed? Which cities are covered? And cost? And what are we going to do about our many streest which have no names, or whose names change every season, and our unmotorable roads which impede access? The NTDC is a federal agency, how well is it interfacing with state and local councils, tourism after all being the responsibility of all levels of government? This can only work if states and local councils buy into it.

Runsewe spoke about the importance of tourism. Quite true. Countries like the UAE, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sawziland, and the countries of the Caribbean islands have turned tourism into a strong national branding mechanism. Nigeria's tourism income is negligible, the industry is under-developed, our cities are no destinations of choice, even for the people. Why? There is a lot more that needs to be done beyond the provision of navigational aids. The NTDC and its Director-General are showing much enthusiasm; they want to make a difference, they want to move Nigeria closer to 2020, but 2020 has become such a magical, whimsical creation. Tourism can only be part of a wider and better articulated package; the key element of that package is good governance.

Navigational aids: maps and all that, information flowing from the NTDC like the Niagara Falls can only be useful when governments: federal, state and local, focus on such urgent challenges as security, public infrastructure, and an enabling investment framework and so on. European tourists flock to Ghana because they can move about without any hindrance in Accra and elsewhere at any time of the day. To do that in Nigeria is to take a serious risk. Runsewe's NTDC has played its part, but the country is still a long way from 2020. We may all be excited about navigational aids but that is not enough. However, this is not Runsewe's headache. The Yar'Adua administration has been busy pursuing the Vision agenda as if it is an isolated, disjointed effort, with each department of state, acting on its own, and federal agencies dictating to the states, but this is not what vision is all about; what exists at the moment looks like 2020 gambling.

If the NTDC gives us something this week to be optimistic about, the same cannot be said about the government of Zamfara state, where Bashir Gusau, the Managing Director of Legacy, the state-owned newspaper, has been fired for writing an article titled "My fears for Yar'Adua" in which he argued that "the past one-and-a-half-years of Yar'Adua's Presidency were marred with indolence, ineptitude, violence, kidnapping, armned robbery, communal clashes, power blackout, and succumbing to the whims and caprices of a cabal holding the nation to ransom." In a two-page statement, the state Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Danmaliki accussed Gusau of being "Insincere." He added that President Yar'adua is the "de facto and de jure head of the country and we shall never associate the government and people of Zamfara state with any attempt to run him down".

Subsequently, the state Government organised a special prayer session for "peace, good health and God's guidance for the Yar'Adua administration and the nation in general." In fact, the state government has now decreed that no civil servant must say, write, hear or see anything that is remotely bad about or critical of the Yar'Adua government, the punishment for a breach is instant dismissal. The stupidity of this action is so obvious, it requires no further comment, but let the point be restated that the sycophantic censorship at work in Zamfara state is a violation of the Constitutional right to free expression, duly articulated in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and in international conventions on human rights.

It is in addition a violation of the profession of journalism: section 22 of the 1999 Constitution grants the media oversight roles over government, and whether Yar'Adua is de facto or de jure head of state, Gusau's article is a fair comment, written in the public interest, and it can be easily justified. Do we not all have "fears for Yar'Adua"? One other point: the same Yar'Adua for whom Gusau has now lost his job has been "missing in action" for more than a week. Nigerians are not sure whether he is in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, or attending the lesser hajj, ill or well. Gusau wrote about kidnapping, armed robbery aand communal clashes. What is insincere about this? Is the Zamfara state Governor living in outer space?

In journalism, facts are sacred, opinion is free. Gusau was expressing an opinion. The Zamfara Governor is an ANPP Governor, a party in the opposition. Who should encourage criticism if not the opposition? But we have the likes of this Governor who see democracy as a mechanism for self-promotion by any means. You are wrong sir. Gusau has since been replaced. He should be re-instated, and the dictator of Zamfara should be told that this is a democracy where state Governors must not behave like drunken sailors. And what was that about sacking any civil servant who criticises President Yar'Adua? Criticism, sir, is the oil of the demcoratic wheel.

Shall we now go to Bauchi state where an idle state House of Assembly has just passed a bill into law, banning co-education at all junior and senior schools in the state. The lawmakers argue that this law has become necessary in order to check teenage pregnancies and poor performance. They note that teenagers have difficulties controlling their sexual urges. Again, stupid. Private religious schools are however exempted. But stupid all the same. If the Bauchi lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce adolescent sexuality, they should not do so by enacting laws that will not make any difference in the long run.

If they are interested in better academic performance, they should seek the reasons for poor performance elsewhere, and enact laws which support Governor Isa Yuguda's expressed determination to transform Bauchi state into a leading centre of education. But obviously a legislature with sex on its mind, cannot think that far. Co-education is not what is responsible for sexual urges: people don't get sexual urges simply by seeing the opposite sex, law-making should be informed by greater rigour not speculations.

And in Bida, Niger state, one Abubakar Bello Masada has been under fire for about two weeks now, for marrying 86 wives. All kinds of custodians of the Islamic faith including the Jama'atu Nasri Islam (JNI) have ruled that Bello is not a true moslem and that his battalion of 86 wives is far in excess of the maximun of four wives prescribed by the religion. There were intial reports that the JNI had issued a fatwa on the man. The JNI later denied this insisting that it is only interested in restating the doctrine and that it is not true that the octogenarian may be put to death this weekend. There is so much mystery suroounding what the old man is supposed to have done or not done. But what is certain is that he has been ordered by the JNI and the Etsu Nupe to divorce 82 of his wives and keep only four of them or leave Nupe land.

On Thursday, the man was subjected to a three-hour trial. The Etsu Nupe had also ruled that the man's safety can no longer be guaranteed. Does that mean he will be stoned to death? Kidnapped, amputated, or what? Bello's ethnicity is even been questioned as the Etsu Nupe reportedly pointed out that Bello cannot be a Nupe man.

In Nigeria, the distinction betwen an indigene and a settler is sensitive, it could make a lot of difference in traditional commnuities. At the end of his trial, Bello reportedly asked for two weeks of grace to decicde which of his wives he would do away with, many of them about the age of his great-grand children. But the court of the Etsu Nupe has ruled that the choice must be made within two days. What is Mallam Bello's offence? Did he marry any of his wives under the Ordinance, for which he could be guilty of bigamy? Even if he is guilty of bigamy, only a court of law can determine his guilt, not the JNI, not the Etsu Nupe-in-council. No one has accussed Bello of incest, only that he is too much of a polygamist. And if the issue is that he no longer reads the Quoran as he claims, he is entitled to the freedom of choice. Looked at closely, it may even be said that other men may be envious of this old man. In some other countries, his virility and feritlity would be a subject of scientific inquiry.

But here the Etsu Nupe says Masada should undergo psychiatric examination. And there is an element of hypocrisy involved. Many of those who are condemning Mallam Masada are probably serial polygamists or serial monogamists. What for example is the difference between four wives and 86 wives? The Etsu Nupe, the JNI, and the Niger State Government should take responsibility for Mallam Bello Masada's safety. The police should protect him from the gathering mob.

Finally, a report in The Herald of Zimbabwe quoted in an article in The Nation of Kenya by Kitsepile Ngathi on August 18 indicates that some African leaders including the leaders of Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania have since apologised to President Robert Mugabe for allowing themselves to be misled by the opposition. After the June 27 re-run Presidential election, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia, Zmabia, Tanzania and other African countries had refused to recognise Robert Mugabe's victory. But now Ngathi writes: "the biggest surprise, however came from Nigeria, which sent a high profile emissary to South Africa on Sunday to seek a meeting with President Mugabe and offer apologies for taking an "uninformed position" on Zimbabwe's electoral process during the last AU summit in Egypt." Apologies also came from Zambia, Bostwana, and Tanzania. Did Nigeria apologise to Mugabe? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs owes Nigerians a clarification, if not explanation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eko / Lagos - you name it!

"Africa’s most traffic-plagued, most populous and fastest-growing megacity", World's most densely-populated city, 30th most expensive city, centre of excellence, commercial gateway to Nigeria, name your pick. This NY Times Article applies its outsider's lens to the conundrum that is Lagos, and highlights that juxtaposition that has become standard across Nigeria - filthy rich vs. dirt poor.

Today, what is Lagos synonymous with? And what would we like it to be 10 (or even 20) years from now? How can we get there? Will we have to lose yet another generation to the "get rich or die trying" mentality before we can see a Lagos (nay, a Nigeria) with a legitimate upper class, a booming middle class and a socially-secure lower class?


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Lagos - Opulence & Chaos Meet in An African Boomtown - New York Times

LAGOS, Nigeria — The governor’s son sits hunched at the bar, contemplating his nearly empty bottle of Hennessy. On the dance floor, the airline director’s daughter sways back and forth to a hip-hop beat. Nearby, the star soccer player, just in from London, tries to squeeze past his growing circle of fans and hangers-on. In the center of the club, the oil magnate’s son gets on top of a table and takes a swig from a bottle of Dom PĂ©rignon.

Just another Saturday night in Lagos, one of Africa’s money- and contrast-rich boomtowns. Already a city of superlatives on the continent (it has variously been deemed Africa’s most traffic-plagued, most populous and fastest-growing megacity), Lagos has a new title to add to its mantel: most expensive.

Lagos has always been one of the most powerful commercial hubs in West Africa, ever since slaves were first shipped from here to Europe and the Americas. But because of the rising price of oil, the declining United States dollar, the relocation of foreign workers from the oil-rich but kidnapping-prone Niger Delta, large privatization efforts and a mad dash for the city’s remaining plots of land, Lagos is more flush with cash and full of glitter than ever.

A recent study of the most expensive cities for expatriates by the consulting firm Mercer found that Lagos ranked 30th, making it only slightly less costly than New York but considerably more expensive than Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.

Even European cities like Stockholm and Barcelona, Spain, were found to be more affordable — and in Lagos the high prices are that much more eye-popping because the average Nigerian survives on less than $2 a day.

Evidence of vast amounts of money floating around the “islands” — two small pieces of land poking into the Atlantic that anchor the city’s economic activity and are home to banks, consulates and oil and telecommunications companies — is everywhere. Dinner for two at an average restaurant costs more than $200. A cocktail costs more than $15. A box of cereal costs $12 at a supermarket. Hotel rooms under $400 are difficult to find.

In the aisles of glistening new malls, expatriates and wealthy Nigerians often buy $10,000 watches and $5,000 cellphones. New BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Bentleys plod through grinding traffic, bumping over rocks and weaving around potholes.

Multimillion-dollar yachts speed up and down the creek separating the two islands. (The creek was recently determined to be too shallow for the biggest yachts, so a dredging project has been started to deepen the waterway.)

Apartment rents on the islands start at $3,000 a month, but rents of $6,000 to $7,000 a month are common here, and renters are required to pay two or three years of rent in advance.

But high prices do not always mean high quality. The city was built to accommodate fewer than 100,000 residents, but it is now home to an estimated 14 million or more, according to the state government. So no matter what your station in life is, it is impossible to avoid the city’s traffic or its lack of reliable water and electricity. Most homes and businesses on the islands run on diesel-powered generators nearly 24 hours a day, resulting in thousands of dollars in energy bills.

Tayo Emden, 33, a British-educated Ghanaian who has lived in Lagos for five years as a director for a telecommunications company, said the costs were just too high to stay.

“After living in London with colleagues, we thought Lagos would be nice and cushy, but we’re having second thoughts,” Ms. Emden said. “You used to get a lot of bang for your buck, but that’s not the case anymore.”

Several efforts have been made to create economic hubs away from the islands to reduce traffic and lessen the burden, but none have been successful. So at least three million commuters fight their way through hours of traffic to the islands every day. Many leave before 5 a.m. to beat the traffic, and many do not return home until after 10 p.m.

Moreover, most Lagosians do not enjoy the privileges of the city’s new wealth, and perhaps no economic division cuts deeper than housing. On the islands, plots of 645 square feet sell for millions of dollars, and houses built on the plots are subdivided and rented out to wealthy Nigerians or expatriates whose companies do not bargain down.

“Living in Lagos is tough, that’s the bottom line,” said Bola Sobande, the general manager of the popular Palms shopping mall. “But Nigerians are survivors. We survive against all odds. Until something else comes up, we’ll just hang in there.”

More than 70 percent of the city’s residents live in informal housing, crammed into slums with no electricity or water, according to Felix Morka, the executive director of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center, a local economic rights group.

“Only the superrich can compete in this market,” Mr. Morka said. “Most people are looking for a small plot of land where they can build a shack, or to rent space in what are known as ‘I See You, You See Me’ buildings with no facilities at all. That’s what people can afford.

“The oil companies can afford to rent out huge complexes for all their staff,” Mr. Morka said, “so why would a landlord want to rent out to the Nigerian teacher who barely is even assured of a salary at the end of the month?”

Because of widespread corruption, the vast amounts of money coming in rarely trickle down in Nigeria. Still, more and more people stream into the city every day, drawn by the prospect of wealth absent from most of the rest of Nigeria.

“People are moving to Lagos because you can find work, you don’t need to know anybody or have anything,” said Francisco Abosede, the state minister for public planning.

Early on a Sunday morning, as the rich and famous begin to stumble out of clubs and into the hazy light, they are quickly surrounded by dozens of young boys acting as informal parking attendants or hawking chewing gum, mints and phone cards. The boys are paid little mind, but if they are lucky, a small bill may be handed to them from behind the narrow slit of a tinted window of a departing BMW.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SaharaReporters - Report Yourself

Meant to put this up last week but....

In any case, do check out Saharareporters when you get a chance. Some have argued that it's just another seedy tabloid (online) newspaper - "if you believe what's on there you'll believe anything"; But in most cases, "where there's smoke, there's fire". The sorts of sensational news stories it reports (courtesy of everyday non-journalists who are privy to the lavish corruption and sordid activities within the corridors of the government) are a reflection of the level of ludicrousness our country has sunk to. As Sonala puts it in this Guardian article: "It is journalism that may be too important to be left to journalists."

(Oh, and while you're on there, be sure to read: "Chronicles of a Starving Cleaner" by Okey Ndibe)


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Our SaharaReporters - Sonola Olumhense

IF you are a Nigerian, and literate, but have never heard of Sahara Reporters or been to its website, something must be seriously wrong. I suggest you rectify that situation today.

SaharaReporters.com is the place to visit if you really want to understand where Nigeria has been, or what it is doing. It is journalism that may be too important to be left to journalists. It is, I suspect, the address that corrupt Nigerian politicians and their privileged criminal brethren detest the most on earth. SaharaReporters is the face of Citizen Journalism.

As a journalist, I believe that the industry thrives on the assumption that it will report society thoroughly and painstakingly. That is not always-or often-the case. Sometimes, journalism is about convenience: speeches and development about which the headlines are bigger than the substance, press conferences or statements.

In other words, not much. After all, while speeches on the floor of the legislature or at a conference may be very important and ought to be reported, publishing their highlights is not really reporting. Speeches often say nothing about the speaker, whose very actions may actually be in contradiction with his public claims.

That is why the most important challenge in journalism is to go beyond and behind the spoken or public word. That is the province of investigative or forensic journalism, because true reporting is about action. In Nigeria, this often poses tremendous difficulty for the mainstream press which may opt for a comfortable compromise.

A comfortable compromise is reporting a murder as committed by someone other than you. However, while it takes courage to report a murder or a theft; the paradox is that the more "important" the murderer or the thief, the more courage it takes to put that story on the front page.

But remember what Aesop once said: "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." The man was Greek, but he must have been speaking about Nigeria. While our great thieves have brought the nation to its knees, they are not necessarily in hiding or in jail. The trouble is that when you read the mainstream press, you may not get that impression.

What SaharaReporters has done is to take this task on, and to empower the ordinary Nigerian to report his country. Indeed, the motto of SaharaReporters is: "Report Yourself".

It has provided an opportunity for Nigerian citizens with access to valuable information about Nigeria's leaders and their lifestyle to make a contribution to our understanding of those leaders that the mainstream press and their ownership may be uncomfortable with. In my view, then, SaharaReporters is Nigeria telling the truth to Nigeria. It is journalism by the people for the people.

How has this happened? In the past two decades, some amazing technologies have appeared that are capable of making journalism more cogent, urgent and powerful. These are tools that aid and ease investigation as well as rapid transmission, tools of effective and widespread broadcast or circulation, tools that make it possible for journalism to be more, and do more.

Of these tools has SaharaReporters taken advantage to give journalism in our country a boost, and challenge the mainstream press. With particular focus on corruption, SaharaReporters often sheds some incredible light on the track record of powerful Nigerians that most of us only whisper about in our bedrooms.

A quick search of the website reveals an assortment of such powerful Nigerians, what they have stolen, who their accomplices are, and where the bodies and booty are buried. There is published proof of fake higher degrees and titles being peddled by top Nigerians. There are stories of scam and vice by Nigerians in high office.

I do not know how SaharaReporters operates. But for an outfit that reportedly has such a small staff, it does seem to have the help of Nigerians who keep it persistently supplied with information and materiel.

I know that SaharaReporters has been called names. It is difficult to imagine any of those people about whom it has published unflattering accounts being happy. Strangely though, hardly anyone writes rebuttals to its stories, let alone sues them for inaccurate portrayals. What invariably seems to happen is the old Nigerian ploy of trying to ignore a story in the hope that it will blow over.

Not likely. Through the efforts of SaharaReporters, the nature of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration was made even plainer to the world. SaharaReporters is also monitoring the Umaru Yar'Adua government with an equally critical reporting and analytic eye.

The strength of SaharaReporters is obviously its high principles. Its advocacy is in its unwavering sense of right and wrong, not on the basis of any friends or permanent enemies. In the chaos that is Nigeria, an advocate is often bought off. That is not usually a difficult task, given the vast riches in the hands of many big thieves, and the false advocate soon disappears in his new riches.

SaharaReporters, on the contrary, has stuck to its mission of reporting with determination and courage, particularly in terrain that others avoid. Hopefully, the mainstream media will take advantage of the doors that the website often opens-including breaking stories--rather than dismissing them or considering the site a competitor.

In any case, an enterprise of this nature is never without cost, as patriotism does not pay the bills. Without a committed support base, SaharaReporters is certain to run into problems. Appealing for assistance, in this regard, a link on the site says:

"...We want to remain true to our dream of providing average readers with the tools that can help them make informed decisions about how their nations are run in the Sub-saharan African region..." it says, pledging to "remain the authentic, independent, and investigative citizen reporters who unearth what has remained hidden from the public eye..."

Hopefully, Nigerians who appreciate the patriotic work of SaharaReporters and recognize what is at stake will offer practical support. The future cannot be without cost. Report for duty. Report yourself.

sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shuffering & Shmiling

Another memoir from Ofilispeaks. Sad to think that 30 years later, Fela's insightful analysis of the Nigerian state of being is still ever so apt. As Ofili puts it, "Nigerians have bypassed the government and look to God for hope". Necessarily a bad thing? Not if it gets you through the day. However, this system of "shuffering and smiling" is not sustainable, as things cannot progress without an accountable (and active) government in place. As our leaders turned themselves into demi-gods and drove our nation further into the ground between 1999 and 2007, we suffered and smiled. As the new administration busies itself with nothing, we continue to do what we do best. I only hope that we don't wake up one day to find that we have raised a new generation of suffering smilers who have learned to expect nothing of their leaders and wait in vain for elusive divine interventions.

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Memoirs Of An Immigrant: Shuffering and Shmiling - Ofili

In the early 70’s popular Nigerian artist Fela Kuti released “shuffering and shmiling” a song that served to juxtapose the chaotic environment of Africa with the blinding optimism of its indigenes. Optimism that many times was the product of a mass flooding of religious hope into the minds of Africa’s people. According to Fela “suffer suffer for world, enjoy for heaven” was the motto that seemed to place the minds of Africans into a false sense of enjoyment, one that caused them to ignore their current and often chaotic predicament and remain enthusiastically optimistic for a future that was bleak. Not surprisingly Fela’s song received national criticism from the upper echelons of the Nigerian government, who condemned his obvious claim of suffering. And by the lower class Nigerian citizenship seemingly offended with the notion that somehow they were satisfied with their current state of poverty. In 2003 Fela would be vindicated posthumously by a World Value Survey carried out by the University of Michigan. A survey that listed Nigerians as the happiest people in the world. A happiness that occurred amidst nefarious statistics courtesy www.ruralpoverty.com showing that 35% of Nigerians lived in abject poverty with more than double that number considered as poor. All this while still being ranked as the 20th poorest nation in the world. But somehow we had found a way to the top of a happiness poll?

As an immigrant into the United States I was confused, surely something must have been wrong with the survey sample. Surely the Nigerians that were surveyed were not the ones I spoke to on a weekly basis that complained about the bad roads or the consistently inconsistent power and water supply? Surely they did not include the hundreds of Nigerians that crowded foreign embassies clamoring for a chance of another life in any other country but Nigeria? Surely it did not include my Dad, who had his business run to the ground by greedy government officials insistent on getting paid undocumented business taxes? Surely it did consist of the Nigerians Fela had in mind when he sang…

Everyday my people dey inside bus, Shuffering and Shmiling
49 sitting 99 standing, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go pack dem self in like Sardine, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem dey faint dem dey wake like cock, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e house, water no dey, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e bed, power no dey, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e road, go-slow go halt, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e road, police go slap, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e road, Army go whip, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go look pocket, money no dey, Shuffering and Shmiling
Dem go reach e work, query ready, Shuffering and Shmiling
Everyday nah de same

But unfortunately it did. The survey consisted of the same suffering Nigerians who had somehow found a reason to smile for the World Value Survey; with a happiness ranking higher than both America and the United Kingdom combined. A ranking so economically illogical that it warranted a personal investigation by myself into the mechanisms that produced the survey results. The original article as published by the British New Scientist Magazine showed the survey results were determined from two key questions. The first question asked how “happy” an individual was at a particular moment. Under this context Nigerians came out on top. The second question asked how “satisfied” an individual was with life as a whole, finances and health. In this category Nigeria ranked near the middle for satisfaction. Both results were arithmetical averaged and Nigeria was determined to be the happiest nation in the world.

However, behind the survey science lay a trend that was hidden from much of news media outlets, out of all the countries surveyed, Nigeria was the only country in which its people were happy despite being less satisfied with life. Only Fela could have said it best, “Nigerians were suffering and smiling,” a situation that he blamed on the religiously influenced dogmatic optimism that possessed Nigeria. An optimism that not only isolated Nigerians from the apparent poverty they faced but also isolated the Government from its social responsibility to its people. Somehow according to Fela religion had made Nigeria dangerously optimistic.

This notion of religiously fueled dangerous optimism pushed my memories all the way back to my early childhood. A childhood in Nigeria that had religion as a mandatory part of life, almost everything involved religion...As a child I experienced my fair share of religious enthusiasm as a student at a catholic elementary school. Our morning assemblies consisted of both impromptu and memorized prayers that lasted up to an hour. And prayer did not simply stop at the assembly it continued in the classrooms at 12 noon when the bell rang for our prayer to Mary Magdalene. This was the norm for me, I just showed up and prayed whenever I was required to.

My religious innocence however became challenged as I got older and more socially conscious. A consciousness that sparked an internal battle between my religious and social spirits. I wanted to go out and do the things those teenagers my age did, unfortunately there was a slight problem. The problem was my mum; she was as religious as you could get. A missionary in Church, she prayed in the morning, listened to scriptures in the afternoons and preached to us at night. We went to Church almost every other day, Tuesday was bible study, Wednesday was prayer meeting, Saturday was Youth service and Sunday was the dreaded general service that lasted up to five hours long, it was terrifying. As a family we spent 50% of our lives in church, not even including the other 10% we spent at home praying. Suffice it to say, our family was as holy as you could possibly get.

Church sermons at that time revolved around a common theme, call on God for all your problems and he would answer you. This theme was spread through the sound systems of a myriad of churches across the nation. The theme focused on God as the solution of all of our nation’s problems, family problems, personal problems and even electric problem. Ironically I had a problem with this, one that was suppressed for years in Nigeria but only allowed to mature in America. In sharp contrast to Nigeria, church services in America were exceedingly short and straight to the point. But the key contrast did not reside in the length of the service, but rather in the theme of the service. A theme that, similar to churches in Nigeria spoke about God as the solution to all problems, but only if intertwined with an effort from the congregation. From their view point it was not alright to accept ones position of poverty with a hope that God in his time would make it better, you had to be willing to do something about your poverty. But ironically this part of religion is mostly overlooked in Nigeria, where God is pushed to the masses as the ultimate solution without demanding anything from the citizens. And the citizens in return don’t demand anything from their Government, instead they bypass the government and look up to God for hope. In doing so they expect little from the Government and little for themselves, this concept of little gives birth to the distorted conception by the world value survey analysis that somehow Nigerians are happy.

In the words of Desmond Tutu "When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land." A statement that lays emphasis on what happens when religion is drunk without the consumption of social issues. Nigeria and Africa as a whole have to take a page from the American religious system. We have to charge people to demand more from themselves and government, while simultaneously praying to God as a catalyst for the solution. Only then can we experience true happiness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

GOing GOing, back back

"SO what is Nigeria like?", I was asked by a colleague last night. IMMIGRANT'S DILEMMA (to borrow from ofilispeaks ;))! I want to uncloak the veil of ignorance of this Oxford graduate so he can be quick to tell his family/friends/ acquaintances that Nigeria isn't just this oil-exporting country that can't ever seem to get it right (guerillas in the niger delta, 419-stereotypes, corruption, etc). I want him to know that it is this eclectic melange of cultures, beliefs, attitudes, work ethics, and BLAH. The people are resilient and vibrant (some would say aggressive/loud, others would say life of the party), and the current mood is "hopeful limbo". But i know he wants performance ratings, economic growth/development stats - a clean-cut success/failure story (he was afterall making polite conversation). So instead, I talk about the slow/ unsure exodus of "patriotic" (some would say "jaded with the west") generation X, the safety concerns and the LAGOS HUSTLE. I tell him that Nigeria has its issues/problems like many a country out there (though we take the cake when it comes to the SCALE of these problems), but that with "a little bit of luck and a lot of work", we will one day get it right... How's that for 2 cents!

Reverse brain drain as ambitious Nigerians come home - By Nick Tattersall (REUTERS article)

LAGOS (Reuters) - From cocktails with hip-hop stars to sushi with smooth-suited bankers, it's no wonder Nigerians moving back after decades in New York or London feel right at home among the high-rolling elite of Lagos.

This urban sprawl of 14 million people, the chaotic hub of Africa's most populous nation, may epitomise what many foreigners fear most about megacities in the developing world: violent crime, corrupt police and crumbling infrastructure.

Yet legions of young Nigerians, educated at English public schools and U.S. Ivy League universities, are leaving highly paid careers with Wall Street banks and City of London consultancies to return to the Lagos hustle.
The draw?

Not just a pay package that approaches or matches what is on offer in the United States or Europe, but a dash of patriotism -- a chance to help fulfil an ambition of building world-class Nigerian businesses as an example to the rest of Africa.
"In the States, it's an established economy. You can't create another Apple, you can't create another Microsoft, you can't really create another Disney," said Michael Akindele, who left U.S. consultancy firm Accenture to set up his own business investing in Nigerian media and entertainment.

"I'm stepping away from that salary, that comfortable, stable environment where you have power all the time, you have water all the time. But here I can create the lifestyle I want."

Nigeria is the world's eighth biggest oil exporter but its economy has been hobbled by decades of endemic corruption and unemployment is high. A power sector crisis, which means much of the country can go without electricity for weeks or months, has closed hundreds of factories and cut thousands of jobs in sub-Saharan Africa's largest economy after South Africa.

Many wealthy Nigerians of Akindele's generation were sent to boarding schools in England or the United States in the late 1980s and 1990s, when Nigeria was a military dictatorship with little foreign investment and a disintegrating education system.

They watched with cautious optimism as it began to return to democracy in 1999 with the election of Olusegun Obasanjo after three decades of military rule, and welcomed the reforms he started to push through after winning a second term in 2003.
When Nigeria used $12 billion (6.1 billion pounds) of oil savings to pay back debts owed to the Paris Club of rich creditor nations in 2005, and won the write-off of a further $18 billion in return, foreign investors and diaspora Nigerians sat up and took note.

"I was following all this from London and started to believe now was the time to start planning to come back," said Kayode Akindele, 28, no relation to Michael, who returned to work for United Bank for Africa's (UBA) investment banking arm, UBA Global Markets.

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
Kayode Akindele, an Oxford graduate who lived in Britain for more than 16 years, was working on structured derivatives for Lloyds TSB in London when he was introduced to Tony Elumelu, chief executive of UBA, two years ago. Elumelu was looking to build a world-class investment bank in Nigeria and Akindele's skills were exactly what he needed.

"There was a sense of patriotism. I have always regarded myself as Nigerian and planned to return to Nigeria eventually," said Akindele, now a vice president at UBA Global Markets.

Financial sector reforms in 2005 forced Nigeria's banks to consolidate, creating multibillion-dollar institutions with the capacity to branch out into sophisticated new markets and pay salaries on a par with some of their Western peers.
Banks have also seen explosive growth on the back of record oil prices and a growing middle class among Nigeria's 140 million people, and have been aggressively raising capital and increasing their capacity to lend. Diaspora Nigerians -- with experience in banking but also the cultural knowledge to navigate the complexities of doing business in Nigeria -- have been in high demand ever since.

"I think there's a window that will be there for maybe another 18 months to two years," said Chuka Mordi, head of business development at First City Monument Bank.
"That's the view at the moment, that people moving back understand exotic products ... but it will percolate to the local sector and people will learn these things and there won't be any need to drag investment bankers from New York or London."

Nigeria's $95 billion stock market was one of the best performing emerging markets in the world last year, attracting private equity and hedge fund investors from Europe, Asia and the United States.

THE LAGOS HUSTLE
The world of vanilla interest rate swaps may seem a million miles from the realities of life on the streets of Lagos, where hawkers selling everything from phone charge cards to electric irons ply their trade among belching minibuses and moped taxis.
But bankers hope that building strong financial institutions will help open credit lines to millions of would-be entrepreneurs, allowing them to develop small businesses and lift themselves out of the informal sector, which accounts for a major part of the active workforce.

"When you see the hustle on the streets of Lagos, all those traders selling all those products, you know the street works," said Obi Asika, an Eton-educated entrepreneur whose own record label sells albums through market traders and street sellers.

"You formalise distribution in Nigeria today, it's a billion dollar business. Because everybody needs distribution. Everybody's got products," he said.

The idea of making money as a businessman in Nigeria -- long spurned by some of the elite as inferior to a high-powered job in the public sector -- is catching the popular imagination, demonstrating to an ambitious young generation that you don't have to be in the pay of government to get rich.

It is a point hammered home by "The Apprentice Africa", a reality TV show co-produced by Michael Akindele's Executive Group and Asika's Storm Media based on the hit U.S. series, in which aspiring entrepreneurs compete for a job with a top businessman.

"You get up in the morning and you see all of Lagos on the move, young boys trying to make ends meet. It's an eye-opener," said Isaac Dankyi-Koranteng, winner of the first series, aired on free-to-view TV in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. The government is still the largest official single employer in Nigeria, and the vast majority of people still live on less than $2 a day, but the new private sector elite hope that if they avoid the mistakes of their kleptocratic predecessors, Nigeria may haul itself out of poverty and corruption.

"There are issues. It's not Valhalla. We're not in Milton's Paradise yet," said Asika. "But I believe in Nigeria, I'm positive about this country."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

WITH LOVE

The response below is from yet another friend of tAB, Bimbo, who is part of remarkable initiative trying to change the circumstances of underprivileged children in Nigeria for the better...one step at a time. With Love From Friends (WLFF) is a not-for-profit organisation founded by some six friends who came together to make a positive contribution to the advancement of quality education in Africa. WLFF aims to assist charities and community school projects in Nigeria to raise funds, improve infrastructure and provide basic resources. Do stop by their blog, and if you're in the city of London this upcoming weekend, come out to learn more about this inspirational group of friends 'becoming the change they want to see' (as well as enjoy a 90s soul night out of course!)

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BUT, BUT WHY MUMMY? - Bimbo Taiwo


Reading Okechukwu Ofili's 'Please Spare The Rod' piece really resonated with me. I think we are all familiar with the 'treat the child harshly' temperament that most Nigerian parents subscribe to. Slaps, flogging, abuses and curses are rained on children by their own parents and not just when a child has been bad, sometimes just because.

No really, WHY???

I put it down mostly to the daily frustrations of living. Allow me to demonstrate...

Parent returns home from work:

Business was bad today, what do you do - Give that child a hot slap!

NEPA has been terrible, you've been sat in the dark for a few hours now and already spent a gross mount on diesel this week, what do you do - Give that child a flogging!


Your mother-in-law has been irritating you, talking behind your back to the rest of your husband's family, what do you do - Give that child a never ending round of torture with words!


THE RESULT: A nation of cold, angry, frustrated parents and children(no thanks to the former). Its a cycle that ensures no one goes untouched and psychology will tell us that if it was done to us we are likely to flog/curse/hit our children too.


What about a kiss and some cuddle time for the children when a Nigerian parent gets back from work, yes even for the older ones - i've never heard of it! I dont even think I had heard of the custom of Parent/Children hugs till I really clued into cable tv where it seemed to be freely given at any and every opportunity.


How many times have you watched a film where the child runs away/does something really stupid and dangerous; the scene where the Parents are reconciled with their child never ceases to frustrate me. The parents run up to their child, hug her, ask if shes okay, throw in a 'you really scared us you know' line in a pukey patronising tone, more cuddles, more kisses - WHAT?


I can't count how many times I've screamed in my head (& admittedly at the TV) - somebody give that child.. a hot slap, a round of flogging, some real punishment, anybody!!!


Ahh..The feeling of (the African upbringing is the best) smugness only subsides when i'm with an apparently married/loving Nigerian couple and the closest they get to physical contact ever, in the presence of company is one putting the house keys in the others pocket. It seems even when we Nigerians do want to be loving and expressive and caring to the people we love we just can't. Is it the cycle, a curse, the psychologist's theory all over again? Then I start thinking.. well maybe those hugs are not such a bad idea.


The world and the way it works is cold and frustrating enough without us having to relate to others that way too.


With Love,

Bimbo

WLFF


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Project this year: CHILDREN OF IWAYA PROJECT - BOOK FUND


On this project, we are partnering with African Child Development Initiative (ACDI), a charitable organization with a vision to promote lasting improvements in the lives of local underprivileged children. Like us, they also believe education is the key to empowering poor communities in the longer term. One of their current projects is the rehabilitation of Premier Foundation Primary school, an extremely ill-eqiupped primary school in Makoko, a slum lagoon in the densely populated Nigerian city of Lagos. Check out the site for details on this and other projects:




EVENTS: We have two major events this year... a fundraiser (summer) and a benefit evening (autumn). More info on the summer event below.


In the meantime, in order to keep updated please register to become a friend on the site and we will send you details of our upcoming events.



WLFF would like to invite you to come and have a fabulous nite at the..

"With Love From Friends" (WLFF) Official Launch Event!!

Attractions on the nite include:

FABULOUS venue in the heart of the city of London

Great Soul and 90's r'n'b music

Caricaturist
Games room dedicated to games of snooker.
All the chocs and sweets you can eat.
Enter into the Raffle on the night to get in with a chance to win:
Free tickets to the Ball at the Millenium Hotel Gloucester Road 4th October.
and lots more..

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Memoirs of an Immigrant: Please Spare the Rod

Another thought-provoking article from Okechukwu Ofili. I'm sure many of us have experienced the scene he describes below, and thought: I'm going to raise my kids the "African" way - with discipline, and none of this "talk anyhow" business. Having passed through a primary school where flogging/caning was condoned, I agree that some teachers/parents take the act too far too often. One can only wonder how many dyslexic or ADHD kids passed through our school systems battered/ bruised and stripped of any self-confidence in their unique abilities. (I remember a kid who was caned often because of his unsightly handwriting, when the fact that the teacher forced him to write with his right hand instead of his natural left, was the main cause of the terrible handwriting in the first place!) Having never raised any kids of my own, anything i say is easier said than done...but nonetheless, we would love to hear your reasons (views) for(on) sparing the rod versus not.




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Memoirs Of An Immigrant: Please Spare The Rod

On a hot 1995 summer morning my family gathered for breakfast in the reception of a hotel. It was the same sweet breakfast routine, tea, bread and a little family talk, the moment was beautiful. However in the space of less than 30 seconds what seemed like a beautiful breakfast gathering became a bitter family experience. From the corner of the room came the words “I hate you Mum,” “Your Stupid Mum,” and other words not fit for the public. It was a kid barely 10 years old raining words of insult on his mum, the whole room froze as the kid went on for what must have been a whole minute of diatribe against his Mum. Something about this picture was wrong, I knew it was wrong because I saw the look on my fathers face and the movement of my Mothers hand, they were thinking the same thing “why hasn’t someone knocked this kid out?” Then I remembered we were in America…

Growing up in Nigeria my parents favorite bible passage was “spare the rod and spoil the child,” a phrase they turned into action on numerous occasions. To make matters worse my Mum was an elementary school teacher in the most conservative “beat your kids” country of Nigeria. Armed with backing from the Nigerian government and a skill set developed from years of flogging her elementary school students she could be described as a well versed mercenary of flogging. For instance if the hotel scene had played out in Nigeria, the poor kid would have been rushed to the Igbobi General hospital before he could say “Mum.” And he would have been put there because of slipper projectile flung from my mum from 50 feet across his room. But he was in America and all my parents could do was stare in disgust. In their minds they probably blamed the lack of respect on the Liberal American Society, a society that deemed it atrocious for a parent to flog a child. Nigeria was the complete opposite, where children could not talk to their parents without first gaining permission to speak. Flogging was ubiquitous, everyone flogged, and it could be your aunty, your uncle, even your Mums best enemy. If you stepped out of line and your mum was not around someone was there to put you back in line, with a little belt help. This freedom of flogging instilled a degree of respect in the Nigerian community that is all but rare in the American community. Too many times I observe kids in the American community talking back to their parents or questioning their actions; on the flip side the immigrant kids especially from Africa are silent. A silence that is most likely a direct result of flogging.

But sometimes the flogging loses its focus and becomes abuse. I faced that sort of aimless abuse in elementary school during a morning Yoruba class. The topic of the day was numbers, for the first time we did not just stop at 10, but went all the way to 20. The teaching on that day was done in a strictly oratorical style, the teacher made the class repeat the numbers first in English and then in Yoruba “One-Okan” “Two-Meji” “Three-Meta” “Four-Merin” over and over again till we were almost sore in the lungs. After what seemed like an eternity of numerical recitation, our teacher wiped the chalk board clean and instructed the entire class to write down the Yoruba numbers from 1 to 20 in our notebooks. As was customary our teacher went around the class monitoring and assisting the students with the assignment. She finally made it around to my table, were I was apparently struggling with the assignment. I swear I could recite the whole thing when she stood in front of the class, but once I had to do it on my own, my mind went blank. She stood over me asking me to write down something but I couldn’t, I couldn’t remember a thing and then it began. She hit me on the back with a 30 cm wooden yellow ruler as if to knock out the words stuck in my mind, but that didn’t seem to work, a fact reinforced when pieces of her ruler came shattering down on the cold concrete floor. An action that prompted her to utilize a high yield strength cane to get the words out, a cane which she intermittently landed on my back over and over again. I remember sitting down waiting for the ordeal to end, I had no idea what to do except sit and absorb the pain. I tried to write but my words didn’t make sense. I felt like a failure, why me out of a class of 50 people, why me? The image of incoherent words scribbled on a notebook drenched with tears from my own eyes and torn with confusion from my own pen, was permanently etched in my mind.

It would take years for me to recover from that incident, years of low self confidence in my academic ability. But when I finally overcame it, it was because of something other than the rod I was used to. It was my second year high school class report that unraveled a potential that had been beat down for years. That year I brought my worst report home, I had performed miserably. I expected the worst from my Mum, she was definitely going to be angry or upset and I knew I was going to get flogged, it was inevitable. I gathered myself and presented my report to my Mum. I never could tell if she was extremely busy or simply worried at that moment, regardless of the circumstances, she did not say a word. She just kept silent, a silence so loud that it shook the very foundations of intelligence that had been beat down for years. Something about the silence stung me, more than any cane or belt had stung me. At that moment, I made a decision that the next time I brought my report home it would not be met with silence but with loud sounds of praise. That moment was the day I discovered myself, and made a turn around in academic and leadership performance that has bolstered me through life till this moment. Unfortunately lots of children might never have the chance to discover themselves. They are trapped in a society monopolized by flogging as the only path towards respect and intelligence. A society that flogs first and asks questions never. I recall many instances where I saw kids beat over and over again for being too slow or hyperactive, but when I look back at the words of Bill Cosby in his book “Common People” and contrast my life experience in the States, I can’t help but think that some of those kids never deserved to be beat. In his book Bill Cosby talks about kids that are motivated more with words as opposed to the rod. A strong argument he reinforces via a simple juxtaposition of the African American and Asian American community when it comes to child discipline. In the African American community an astonishing 94% of parents believe in flogging as sharp contrast to the Asian community where only 34% of parents approve of such acts. With such lopsidedness, you would expect the Asian community to be less respectful of their elders, but it’s the reverse. Asians for years have shown a level of respect for their elders that exceeds that of the African Immigrant community. Their children are involved in less crimes and are known for their academic accomplishments, all this in a system that frowns down against flogging children. But worse are those kids that grow up with medical problems, deemed too stupid for society, instead of visiting doctors they endure sessions of flogging. They grow up physically abused and mentally confused, the same confusion I faced staring at my tear drenched notebook as my back was beat over and over again.

Am not advocating one extreme or the other, because we know this issue like many others is not about right or wrong, but rather flexibility in determining when right is right and wrong is wrong. The African community and American community can learn a bit from themselves, a fusion of ideologies measured in the right amount would create atmosphere of love and respect that would catalyze the growth of well rounded children. In raising our children or younger siblings; it is our responsibility to ensure our attempts to use the rod is diluted with an attempt to give words of love, encouragement and support. Only then can we raise children with the best ideologies from both worlds.

Okechukwu Ofili
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