Sunday, July 27, 2008


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 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!)


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,





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

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.


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
Copyright © 2008 Ofili Speaks, Inc. All rights reserved

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Another guest post by a pretty amazing indivdual, who is, in my favorite words, "being the change he wants to see". Check out to learn more about how he's doing that. This article brought to mind the discussion over tobacco companies currently going on on NigerianCuriosity. Who's responsible for stopping cigarettes from falling into the hands of children? Profit-hungry tobacco companies or governments elected to serve their people? And what systems are in place to ensure the former is kept in check when they try to cross the lines in their marketing tactics in developing countries? Okey's article recounts an experience that highlights the ubiquitous and permeating significance of a system, down to something as mundane as a stop sign...


It was dark when we arrived, but the light from the full-moon did little to conceal the faces of nervousness that stood in line that morning. In the cold December morning we all stood together in a line that must have wrapped around the entire building. We waited for what seemed like an eternity, and finally the doors opened, we all shuffled in and were instantly handed out individual numbers. Numbers that would be used to control and direct the crowd of people already forming in the building. I waited for what seemed another eternity till my number was called out, all my documents were intact and I could start the test…I cranked the ignition of the car and it rattled gently, enough proof that it was time. I pulled the car to the back side of the building into a tunnel with a score of other cars and their equally nervous drivers. In the distance I could spot two poles, the “parallels of disaster” disguised subtly by their resplendent yet cautionary yellow color. The poles were the true test of any driver, I was ready, the engine was revving, everything was steady. But I never drove; instead I froze, stopped in my tracks by a system…

I was frustrated and annoyed. I had woken up as early as 5 am in the morning to make it to the DPS office in time for my driving test. But I was prevented from driving, because my car lacked the necessary documents needed to take the driving test. A simple paper that showed auto insurance coverage on my car was what stood before me and my driver’s license. I went home understandably frustrated; I had been counting down the days towards my driver’s license and did not anticipate this roadblock. I was tired of using the public transportation system, but more tired of having to call friends for a ride into town. I had to find a friend with a car that had proper documents. After more than 4 hours of calling and pleading I found a car, a silver Mazda. It was perfect, it had all the insurance papers and the handling was pristine…

It was time again, another round of “get up,” “line up,” “drive up” and like that I was where I was just 2 days ago. But this time I had all the necessary documents even my Exxon Mobil gas receipt, I passed the document check test, I was ready to hit the road. But there was one more test, the car check test. A test to ensure that my car was fully equipped for a drivers test. Everything was checked, the wipers, the trafficator, the steering and finally the horn. I pressed the horn hard but it didn’t make a sound, it was silent. Silence that was only pierced by the stern words of the Test Officer informing me that my car did not pass the “car check test.”

If I was in Nigeria this would have made sense, I could not go anywhere in Lagos without a horn. But this was America and I could not recall the last time I actually used a horn while driving. But that was the rule and thus it was another wasted morning. My new mission was to find a fully functional car with proper documentation and horn. I called around and was able to get my hands on pristine Luxury Toyota Camry equipped with sunroof and fully leather enclosed working horn, perfect…Everything checked out, the documents, the horn and even the luxury sunroof. Finally I was cleared to drive. My first task was to move my car into a space, aptly distinguished by two yellow poles, the dreaded “parallels of disaster.” I started slowly as I had practiced, edged the car a few feet ahead of the primary pole, flicked the traficator light, checked my mirrors and slowly started my motion between the poles…I don’t know if it was the excitement, or the sunroof, but I heard the sound of metal grazing concrete. The passenger side of the car jacked up a few extra inches in the air as if powered by hydraulics straight out of a hip-hop video. I had committed the divine car-test sin “I climbed the curb.” The look of shock and awe on the Testing Officer’s face was enough to confirm my biggest fears…

The fourth time around I made it past the “parallels of disaster” and onto the streets, everything went well. I honked when necessary and inspected my rear view mirror even when it was not necessary. This was too easy, the smile on the Testing Officer’s face was enough to boost my confidence to the next level, unfortunately the next level was not very was the last turn and I could have sworn the road was free. However, the screeching brake from the Ford Focus skidding past us was enough evidence to argue otherwise. The result was all but predictable and was reinforced by the words printed my test document dangerous driving…

After more than 100 miles of test driving, I finally received my American driver’s license. As I slipped the card into my wallet I came to the realization that I had not just received a permit to drive, but rather a validation from the state government that affirmed my understanding of the American driving system. A system that told me that without proper documents or a fully functional albeit inconsequential horn, I could not legitimately drive in the US. This was a sharp contrast to my Nigerian driver’s license experience. Unlike America I did not have to wake up at 5 am in the morning to line up, I simply walked into the Nigerian licensing office sometime around noon. When I arrived I was greeted by a host of people crammed into a small tiny room, a number of people were fully asleep on the floor of the office. I was shocked and confused. In less than 10 minutes, I walked out of the office with a promise to have a Nigerian license delivered to my front door in less than a week. No tests, no verification of driving ability just a mysterious fee to the only guy wide awake. I could have been a wanted criminal for all I knew and still I would have qualified for a license.

My license finally arrived 6 months after I had departed from Nigeria. As I slipped the card into my wallet I came to the realization of what was inherently wrong with the Nigerian system. Simply put we had no system; we simply operated on a system where the loudest and most powerful at any given moment in time defined the system. My uncle a longtime resident of both countries realized this salient fact all too
well. He made this known to me on my first day in the America. On that day he did not talk about the large malls, or the fancy cars, or the permanent electric supply, rather he talked about the STOP sign. A simple hexagonal sheet of metal with the words STOP was the object of his fascination. A simple metallic inanimate object controlled million of cars at road-junctions across America, but it was never really about the sign, but rather about the system. Because in reality the system is what gave power to the sign, power that caused cars from all corners to stop and give the right of way to the cars that arrived before them. In Nigeria inanimate objects are powerless because systems are extinct. This system extinction is the catalyst behind the numerous traffic jams in Nigeria, where devoid of a human figure traffic almost always comes to a stand still, turning a seemingly simple street congestion into a massive statewide traffic jam.

But our problem is bigger than the traffic congestions that plague our streets; it lies instead in the congestion that blocks our nation’s advancement. A congestion that occurs at junctions where our nation’s talents and resources should advance, but they collide and freeze. Fortunately this situation can be avoided and the solution like every other is simple, “create a transparent and practical system.” But who creates the system? The government. And who selects the government? The people. We can redefine the Nigerian system.

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