Tag Archives: Nigeria

OF DASHED HOPES AND GREAT EXPECTATIONS

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We have been here before, alive with dreams of a better Nigeria, jubilant in the enthronement of the choice made by the majority and generally hopeful of a better life. It was the general elections of 2011 that took us there. Many of us had just voted a President who we hoped would serve us the good life, who we imagined (as the masses often imagine) would redistribute the wealth of the nation to make sure we got slices of “our” national cake. The man we elected in 2011 was one of our own, a Daniel come to judgement.

Basking in the euphoria of a largely peaceful general elections and mocking the “sore” losers of that race, we settled down to reap our rewards. Reap it we did! Many of us had voted in favour of religion, it did not bring succour to us when the scourge of governmental indecision and apathy was unleashed. Many others voted for tribe, neither they nor their tribe had much to show for their votes. Some of us voted an illusion, a dream of perfection, we were speedily brought down to earth, awakened by harsh realities piercing through dreams and demanding attention. A few remained satisfied by the choice we collectively made, some diehard optimists, some diehard tribalists, some religious diehards and of course the ever present beneficiaries of every lax government who fight to protect their personal interests.

In the face of growing dissatisfaction, the ranks of the jubilant electorate of 2011 broke down irremediably. Discordant tunes rent the air. “Give the man a break, he is trying…” some said “let him be, the opposition is not letting him see straight” some others excused. But the electorate of 2011 had great expectations, we trusted a demi-god and damned his opposition, we expected him to serve us in spite of the opposition. We did not care if he was trying, we needed him to deliver. “Trying” wasn’t quelling violence in the north east, “trying” wasn’t translating to a better life for us either; accusations of corruption heated the polity “trying” was neither addressing the accusations nor fighting the accused or the accuser (depending on who was guilty biko).

In the face of our dissatisfaction was the voice of our number 1 woman alternately grating on the nerves of both supporters and detractors or serving as an endless source of amusement for the populace. In the face of our dissatisfaction, acts of impunity against perceived “future messiahs” rubbed salt in our wounds, easy to recall is the famous national assembly lockout, the unaddressed Fayose to Judge slap too.

In time we gathered to elect another leader. The loving populace of 2011 had all but fizzled out. Our former elect did not know this, he could not have known this. A close group of sycophants who I hear hound every government had insulated him from the people and blocked his ears with praise singing and encouragement. A good man at heart (I hope and assume), his followers would not let him do his own campaigning. Full page adverts in the pages of newspapers abusing his opposition was to be his form of communication, hate messages and spiteful pictures formed his campaign. Controversy (Buhari certificate and close-to-death scandal) was stirred by his “camp” to confuse the electorate. His voice at the campaign was loudest and clearest, it screamed “Vote for me. I dare you NOT TO”

The passionate electorate of 2011  rechanneled their passion. Another messiah was needed, another Daniel was required at the judgement. Another demi-god to correct perceived and blatant ills was needed. Again we went out and selected another. We made sweeping changes to our government, it wasn’t just the head we removed, we “swept” clean many of the States too.

We are again hopeful of a better life and a new Nigeria. In addition, we believe we have elected CHANGE. A man with a broom to sweep every State, Ministry and Sector. Who will also put an end to corruption, ours and theirs. We are again jubilant in the enthronement of the choice made by the majority and we wait with bated breaths and great expectations for our refreshing wind of change or the stifling stench “re-dashed” dreams and business as normal disappointing usual!

2019 will tell – dashed dreams or met expectations

 

 

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Colours of Christmas in Eastern Nigeria

As an Igbo girl, eastern Nigeria is my default Christmas destination. I go right down to my roots, to my Father’s village! I have done this for all my life and I can hardly remember Christmas not spent in the village. I am not alone either, every Christmas, there is a massive exodus of Igbos from the cities down to the east. I join that exodus every year and it is fun. The fun starts with the trip – the mad scramble for bus tickets (for the many who do not have cars), the packing to fit everything that we MUST carry in bags and boots, then of course, the accidental meeting of friends on our way homewards and the mad frenzy to get out of the city before the 25th of December. To sound religious or romantic (whichever) I could say the origin of Igbos travelling home for Christmas is rooted in the bible when Joseph and Mary had to travel to their hometown to be counted but I will be the first to admit right here and now, amaro m. I don’t know why we go to the east, I just know we go to the east and Christmas in the eastern part of Nigeria is fun!

Maybe it’s fun because everybody comes back, those cousins you haven’t seen in ages, those family friends who you haven’t visited in forever in the big city, everybody comes down and its communal living all over again with the beautiful harmattan breeze, burning firewood smell in the air and general laziness that comes with the season setting the mood really nicely for all of us.

Maybe it’s the general laziness that makes it fun, the endless “gists” about anything and everything while we nibble on everything in sight in tranquillity, that could be the reason we all rush back. If not, It could be the ceremonies that make it fun! Because all of us have run away from the hustle and bustle of the different cities and have found ourselves in the east, we fix memorable occasions to coincide with it too and then we jump from one igba nkwu to one birthday to one wedding and another title taking and then a get-together gorging ourselves on lavish food, meeting people, spraying money in the air and “gisting” as we go!

It could be the joy of our grandparents that makes the visit to the east so appealing at christmas. The visits to the nneochies and nnaochies who are ever glad to see us.

There is healthy abi unhealthy competition in the east too, that could be what makes homegoing fun or not so fun, we don’t set out to compete when we get there we just tell stories that drive very scary competition by their very nature “nwanne, I nukwa na Emeka bu G-wagon nata obodo a?”, “Enyi, I makwa na-anyi ga-egbulu umunna efi this Christmas”, “Bia, I fuu Obi? A nu m na o si obodo oyibo nata and o na-eme ofuma” and on and on we go, telling success story after the other and setting scarier higher standards for those who have no stories to tell, wahala!

I personally think it’s the sleep that makes it fun, that very satisfying sleep at the end of a day spent catching up, visiting friends and partying, when you fall into bed with a smile on your face and hug Mama’s wrapper tighter to create a cosy cocoon without the intrusion of the harmattan breeze. Then the mornings when no alarm goes off and you wake up late with thoughts of what next to eat, who next to visit and what to wear for the day’s activities.

I don’t know what makes Christmas in the east so much fun, I just know I am headed that way again this Christmas!

SO MANY NIGERIAN WAYS TO GO!

We will all die eventually, no doubt about that. But some of us intend to die when God says its time and for me, it will be time when I am 92years old, with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren surrounding my bedside. Death is inevitable, of course it is, but I refuse to die a Nigerian death. I refuse to die a statistical figure in the pages of a rarely read newspaper. I refuse to die a senseless death, fodder for back and forth name-calling between political opponents hoping to score insignificant points. I will not die a Nigerian death.

There are many ways to go as a Nigerian, none of which is the way I have envisaged my eventual passing. You could die in a bomb blast! If you live in the southern part of Nigeria, this may not be your end (I presently live in the southern part)! If you live in the northern part, then you should be worried. When the bomb goes off and takes your precious life, social media will light up, not in your specific remembrance but in remembrance of a collective figure like 30 and it might read something like this “30 people lost in another blast, God console their families”, then of course there will be all black pictures or a picture of a burning candle to show your collective faces (no individual will get special recognition). 2 to 3 days after, or a week at the very most, you will be totally forgotten and the rest of the country waiting to die either in a Nigerian way or in a normal way will move on.

You could die in a road accident, this is really a very common type of death, with our roads. Many die on our roads, those ones don’t even get any media mention. At the end of every year or at its beginning FRSC will mention your precious life as statistics, “1000 lives lost in road mishaps in 2014” and that’s that for you.

You could be kidnapped, if you live in the southern part of Nigeria you are at high risk of being kidnapped and you might be killed whether you pay the ransom or not. The media will light up for you, security agencies will struggle to get media mentions acting like they are doing something to get you back, if you are just a little bit popular you might get out, if you aren’t popular you will most likely die and we will not hear about it. Your family will not announce the cause of your death too publicly either (they have to guard against presenting themselves as a target for future attacks.) Now, if you are kidnapped in the north, you have just a little bit of hope, Oby and Josephine won’t rest, they will try their best to get you back but mark my words, you will still be a statistical figure “234 chibok girls still missing after 200 days”. Then the political giants will engage each other over you “Missing girls: APC accuses PDP of negligence”. “Chibok girls: They only want us out of government – PDP Chieftain”. Will you be found? I am not too confident but at least some noise will be made.

You could die looking for a job, I understand your frustration, you have to feed yourself, you have to clothe yourself, you have to exist and exist well! If you have a degree chances are that you will be searching for gainful employment as hard as I am. Then the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) would invite you for an exam or more likely the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would (2015 is around the corner, hands are needed). You and about 1 million other people will turn up at a 1000 capacity hall and (a.) fight to squeeze in. (b.) fight for question papers (c.) fight to submit. (d.) fight to squeeze out. In the midst of all the fight, you could be among the numbers who slump and die! You will definitely make the news, your friends would say they warned you not to go. The INEC chairman would blame you for animalistic behaviour and still hold his office very arrogantly, your people could receive compensation and of course let’s not forget the media headings “20 die in INEC examination stampede!”. A week or so later, you will be forgotten, another statistical Nigerian death.

It could be sickness and I am not talking Ebola, serious affairs like Ebola which can creep into all levels of society will be fought to a standstill! The government would do all in its power to stop it. The world would help too #worldhealthorganization, they have our interests at heart. Viruses like Ebola will be contained abeg, before it wipes the entire nation or worse still wipes big people in government. Business will continue as usual after we contain the virus and heroes of the virus war will be forgotten after the government mutters platitudes. Now back to the sickness that can really kill you, it could be malaria, just simple malaria that we get periodically. You would be down with a fever, you wouldn’t have a private hospital access card or funds to pay consultancy. The Doctors would be on strike protesting something and the government would fire the resident doctors so no public hospital for you. You would probably go to a pharmacy (not any big one o), a local one where a barely educated chemist will put a few multi-coloured drugs in white paper for you. The fever could get worse and you would die. There is a slim chance that you will make the news, it will read “Thousands still die of malaria in Africa, WE NEED NETS!” Heaven forbid you get diagnosed with a major illness, you know those kinds that require surgery or advanced treatment outside the country, then would be the time to put your house in order, you would surely die, not because our doctors don’t know what to do but because they don’t have the equipment or because there are long queues waiting in lines at one or two private and public hospitals to benefit from that particular machinery.

There are many ways to die a Nigerian death, I can’t list them all but I do not intend to go in any of those ways. I will die very old with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren scattered everywhere in the world. By then I would have been published, I would have practised my communication for development too, I would have commented on several issues bothering the country and hopefully, seen giant strides in the country’s progress. By then, I would have insisted that hunger in the nation be alleviated, that poverty be combated. By then I would have loved passionately and lived very fully. By then I would be very fulfilled. I will die a biblical death, the kind where you bless your children lying down and then close your eyes to rest. I will get media mentions, full paged obituaries by friends and family. Well written eulogies from colleagues and the government of that day. A long list of survivors on every media announcement and an even longer list of gratitude from my family after the funeral rites.

Too many Nigerian ways to die, we who won’t die in any of those ways salute you!

IF YOU WERE KIDNAPPED

If you were kidnapped, yes you, gi nwa onye m bu n’obi, gi nwa bu ezi oyi m, if you were kidnapped

I would be very pained

I would be bothered and be downright uncomfortable

Tears would spring to my eyes and spill down my cheeks at the thought of your torment

I would worry endlessly about you, I would wonder if you had been harmed,

If you were in pain or if you had been tortured

Situations would revolve in my mind and I would picture you in them all

 

If I heard you were kidnapped, I would ask, why, who and what for?!

If I was told boko haram took you, I would shake my head and wear a straight face

I would shout, mba! Nkea akali go!

I would scream for your return

I would petition the government and security agencies to demand action

I would call on all human rights groups to fight for your rescue

 

If you were kidnapped, I would understand the pain your parents would feel

I would feel their heartache, their sorrow and their loss

I would feel their confusion, their hurt and their despair at their sad lot

I would feel their pain as keenly as if they were my own parents searching for me

I would call up your parents, sit with them, cry with them, say words to make them feel better

 

 

If you, my friend, were kidnapped, I would never forget

I love you, you are a part of me, I wouldn’t take your loss kindly

I would do all in my power to get you back

To make sure that memories of you never fade

I would always listen for news of you

I would attempt anything and everything to get you back

Your memory will never be lost, not to my other interests, not to epidemics, not to other cares and worries

 

If you were kidnapped, I would want you back

I would want you back because you are precious, because you are priceless, because you are an important piece of me

 

I would do all these for you my good friend,

If some females in some obscure part of the country were kidnapped

I would not be bothered, of what use are they to me pray tell?

My passion to bring back missing people only extends to people whose loss affects me!

Any other person, I will forget!

 

 

Note: “Gi nwa onye m bu n’obi” – “You that is dear to my heart”. “Gi nwa bu ezi oyi m” – “You that is my good friend”. “Mba, nkea akali go” – “No, this is too much”

 

 

A MARBLE TO OUR GIRLS

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Weeks have turned to months and I do not think we are getting our girls back, do you? I mean, the frenzy to bring them home has died down like a raging fire fizzling out for lack of fuel and air. Of course embers from that fire glow and a few unnoticed bursts of fire spring to life and die a quick death in the face of many wet coals doused by our waning interest. We have started to forget them like we forget many other things. We are a people under siege, constantly faced with fresh battles, each worse than the last. We grow weary struggling to keep up with the challenges so we fight new battles without evaluating the last.

Our girls are gone from our minds, the battle for them was battles ago even before the Emab Plaza battle. They slowly evolve into history and become stories that we tell and retell when we gather round in the evenings to recount past events in a bid to forget new ones. Only a few of us remember them, people like Oby. When we discuss, we wonder if Oby has an agenda separate from our own, we wonder why she is always dressed up in red, consistently screaming about girls we have all obviously started to forget. She, like her fellow lone voices, sounds like an echo from the past, a nagging, pesky voice consistently reminding us of fading history, she irritates us!

The hue and cry to bring back our girls has died down, our media have forgotten. In fairness to them, their attention did last long considering the many events they have to bring to the fore. These events unfold like scenes from a drama in our daily lives and focus on the girls dim a little more with each new scene that unfolds. All that remains of our girls in the play is a tiny print at the top of every new script reminding us of the number of days they have been gone and inadvertently asking us to give up.

Our celebrities have forgotten too. It is no more “cool” to tweet hashtags and take beautiful pictures requesting politely and creatively for our girls. The virtual register set up for hashtags and cute pictures has been closed. In the thunderous days of #bringbackourgirls, celebrities world over campaigned with us, a known model even went completely naked to request for the girls.

The politicians, they never really remembered the girls, they only thought of them because the fire to bring them back raged and ignited them. They burned along with the rest of us because we burned, they even burned brighter; when we cooled, they cooled even faster and moved on to other things.

I don’t think the girls are coming home, we have lost the passion to bring them back. Indeed we cannot honestly relate with the horror of their situation, the modern slavery that has become their lives, we do not imagine the bone cutting scars that they will suffer beyond captivity if they come home, the despair they must feel at our fickleness, we do not think of them.

Our girls are lost to us, they are lost were it matters most – our hearts. It is now time to do for them what we do for history, what we do in remembrance of the long lost and the dead. It is time to do what we do when we cannot be bothered to genuinely remember everyday, it is time to raise a marble to our girls, a monument of our failure as a nation, a sign of the inhumanity of millions of people who do not fight for their own.

Am thinking a location close to the unity fountain will be just right. We could have sculptures of two hundred and something girls on a raised marble platform with the words “we will never forget”, the words on the sculpture will fall off scant years from its unveiling and will not be replaced, screaming testimonies to the fact that we have truly forgotten!

BEYOND THE JOKES

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ANONYMOUS LAWYER

I had a great laugh too watching the first lady’s video that went viral, especially the remix of the video featuring one former honourable member. Yes, it was funny and that was it! Then I read an article captioned ‘a forensic analysis of the first lady’s cry’, all aimed at castigating the first lady’s use of Pidgin English and the constitutionality of the office of the first lady. It is laughable that the writer still refers to her as the ‘first lady’ in his caption even while questioning her right to be addressed as that. The 1999 constitution does not recognize the office of the 1st lady and neither does the American constitution, however the term “first lady” is used by both countries and by many other countries we would want to model Nigeria after. This position is recognized as a de facto affiliation to the presidency and this simply means that it is founded upon common and general practice, created or developed and not contrary to any regulation. That is to say, that recognition of the office of the first lady would be a problem if it contradicted any law or legislation.

Michelle Obama who many name in contrast to Patience Jonathan is the forty-sixth official first lady of the United States which means that even the United States associate with this common practice. People like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Clinton all wore the first lady tag during their husbands’ tenure in office. It might also be useful to mention that the office is funded from the presidency and this has been so in Nigeria with all past heads of state and Presidents from Azikiwe till date.

Dame Patience convening a meeting in that capacity then, should not be voided on the grounds that it is unconstitutional as the meeting is legitimate. In answer to the issue of legitimacy, two questions come to mind, who convened the meeting and who did the meeting reach out to? In response to both questions, I borrow the words of the critics to say that it was convened “for a set of ladies who call themselves first ladies”. Soyinka being knowledgeable can choose to call them an ‘association’. Having answered in that context, it is pertinent to emphasize that Nigeria by its enshrinement of the ‘Universal Declaration on Human Rights’ into the constitution upholds freedom of association. This is the right of people to join or leave groups as they choose, and for the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members. It is both an individual right and a collective right, guaranteed by all modern and democratic legal systems. Bearing this in mind, the first lady’s meeting obviously reached out to first ladies of states and these first ladies have neither complained about the association nor their meetings and have chosen of their own free will to be part of the group. In clear indication of a willingness to be part of this group, the first lady of Borno state who was unavoidably absent, sent a representative, showing an interest in the #bringbackourgirls campaign brought before them as an association.

A senior advocate who recently rejected the invitation to be part of the constitutional committee set up by the President was also quick to quote laws on the unconstitutionality of the panel set up by Dame Patience. With due respect to the learned silk, I find this a misconception, the situation at hand is one of national security were all citizens ought to give reasonable assistance to help address the menace of insecurity. Dame Patience did not approach the legislative arm of government to implement the recommendations of a fact finding committee nor did she order the deployment of military personnel to Borno, she only tried to contribute to the issue at hand.

On the issue of questions raised by the first lady, questions must be asked for problems to be solved. America in volunteering to help has mentioned the need for a forensic test where scientists will be deployed to capture biometric data, linking the biological parents to their children. Nobody has seen that as an indirect way of seeking information, right? But we quickly blame the first lady for asking questions.

We are in the digital age where twitter, facebook, mobile apps are available for us to make helpful opinions and suggestions in times like this. I did laugh at the video and will still laugh at its comic value but beyond that, we should see the deep desire and passion to bring back our girls. Even if the tears were fake as some people have said, we should still be moved. Majority of us have been emotionally affected merely watching paid actors and actresses in the past, why then can we not be moved by the first lady’s tears especially as we have no way of knowing certainly if they were real or not. We need to refocus on the core issue at hand which is to get our children back, the constitutionality of the first lady’s office and her expression or lack of is secondary to this.

We should continuously find out ways we can help, discover what roles to play or even simply pray for our nation. This isn’t a time to cast blames or even ridicule Dame Patience, these will not solve our problems. There really is God and he is the only exalter, who knows, YOU might be the next leader he exalts, (laughs) then Nigeria might become a better place and I won’t be writing this.

 

 

 

WHAT NEXT AFTER ADVOCACY?

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At first we didn’t have a voice, we dared not even have one. Before the gifts of social media that gave us channels and avenues to scream our displeasure was the military era, in the era of the military, we dared not speak, we dared not voice our displeasure, we were punished but we were not allowed to cry out in pain. Our media tried in those days to be our voice, they tried to show our oppression and suffering to the military, some ended up in jail for their passion, some were sentenced to jails beneath the earth, people we now regard as heroes because they died to give us a voice. Nobody could save us then, the media did try to speak for us but their efforts ended in mere speech. At the end, we were saved by an act of God, a twist of fate and one fair man. The act of God was the heart attack, the twist of fate was the powerful man expiring on a prostitute and the one fair man was the General who birthed our democracy. We were free.

With our freedom came advancements in many areas, technology was one of them, we grew with the rest of the world and evolved into the current age where we now live, an age of mobile phones, an age of social media, an age of interconnectivity and viral broadcast messages. We evolved into an age where we had all the tools to make our voices heard about any and every issue. Nigeria was a democracy too, simply explained, this meant that we could say whatever we pleased without fear of repercussions. Now we utilize our voice well. We cry out as individuals against oppression, we decry obnoxious laws, we ridicule illiteracy, we disdain politicians who care only for themselves, we cry out when lives are lost needlessly and we rail endlessly at the government for their inactivity in major areas of our lives. We do all these on our facebook accounts, on our twitter handles, on our personal blogs and on public blogs too, we take absolutely no action, we scream and scream our frustration over and over again, the louder we scream, the louder the silence.

We broadcast our desire to take action on blackberry, we sign broadcast messages crying out against inhuman acts and then we drop our phones and face the next thing. We are an army, Nigerians in this era are an army of people constantly advocating, screaming, crying and doing absolutely nothing. We have a voice and by god we will use our voices and nothing else. We organize protest marches on whatsapp and we turn up and march for a while, our targets hear us, then they ignore us, next we ignore ourselves and then the issue under contention fizzles out, next we wait for the next major opportunity to scream again on social media of our pain, frustrations and anger. The more we scream, the more obvious our helplessness becomes. What next after advocacy? What do we do next without power? Our voices are loud enough, how do we compel action after we have cried out? Do we continue to cry out, make our small contribution to every serious situation using our facebook accounts? When do we take the next step? What is that next step? Is the time for that next step not now?

Oh we have tried to show strength in the past, we shut down the nation early in 2012 when the subsidy on fuel was removed, we protested, we matched, we fought on social media and we wrung a “compromise” from the government, pray tell me what has become of that hard won victory? How much is the pump price for petrol in cities not Lagos or Abuja? And the money recovered from the subsidy removal, what about that? What exactly did we win after that battle? Give the girl a pen not a penis was another campaign, we insisted that no law be made to enslave our female children, but there was a poster child for infant marriage in the Country, a consistent lover of infant children, the one who proposed the bill in the first place, what became of him after we fought the bill? Did we try to ensure he wouldn’t get a chance to repeat the bill or the act? Another war won on social media where there are victors with no spoils of war. Then some evil “unforgivable-before-god-and-man” people roasted our children, our future and rekindled the social media war, the militant Nigerians, we raced to our facebook pages and wailed our despair, we blogged about it (I did too), the horrible act trended on twitter, our traditional media even brought us pictures. Testament to the fact that our advocacy was yielding absolutely nothing, while we cried, there was a grand party at the capital city, celebrating 100 years of survival, they knew we could do absolutely nothing to them, untouchable people who could party while we continued to rant and rave, we had become mad people to be ignored while the business of running us down continued. To cap it all, while they partied, they gave awards to the very people that muzzled and oppressed us before, we raced to social media to air our views as always but the descendants of our oppressors had discovered social media too, they raced to it and told us all the reasons why their father “deserved” an award. Obviously it will soon deteriorate to a battle of shouts on social media, we shout, they shout back too, nobody has monopoly of these channels and slowly but very surely, our powers fade.

It is Nigeria, some other thing will happen soon and we will repeat the same talk, our civil societies will do advocacy all over again, a vicious cycle never to be broken. We push, we mock, plead, cajole and cry over and over again with no response. We are not muzzled, we are allowed to say whatever we please, only we are not heard or we are heard and ignored.

We are once again where we were before, we couldn’t voice our wishes, we were oppressed for daring, now we can scream our wishes, we are ignored for daring. Isn’t it time somebody pondered with me, what next after advocacy? What other options are there? How else do we enforce the wishes of the people to the minority who do not care, but who have all the power.

 

Note: This article was written before our latest battle, the immigration world cup and deaths occurred.