Archive for the ‘POLITICS?’ Category

Hello you!

Been ages! I’m sorry, and yes I missed you too.

A few things have happened in my life in the past three months, and I would share except I’m not sure yet if the changes will be permanent or if there are bigger changes in the offing. So maybe wait a little bit.

How have you been? My condolences to Nigeria and the shittiness that is our country at this time; only bright spot seems to be the Acting President and his strides across the economy, security, and national unity. There’s so much going on, rulers across federal, state and local levels perpetuating foolishness on levels I didn’t think were possible in 2017. Anyway, Nigeria, this post is not about you.

This is about my one-year-old niece Talia, and how she made me reflect on a few things today. So her older brother, my nephew is 5, but she sometimes believes she is older. Of course when she tries to lord it over him sometimes she ends up crying. Not because he hits her or anything, but because he stands up and runs walks away for instance. Or because she falls or in some other way, causes her own tears.

When she cries she looks for me, I comfort her, maybe give her a treat, and send her on her merry way. And then in less than 20 minutes I hear her voice (and it breaks my heart to hear her cry), and the cycle continues till she falls asleep, she’s distracted by something/someone else, or she comes and stays with me. Sits or lies on my bed for a good cuddle, some tickling, a snack, a cartoon, or whatever fun thing we decide to get up to.

After a particularly hilarious incident today (with plenty tears) I reflected on our relationship with God and how sometimes it is akin to my relationship with my niece. He keeps calling to us, and if you’re His child you know His voice. He doesn’t stop asking us to abide under His shadow where no one can harm us, to drink of Him because every good and perfect gift comes from Him, etc. But sometimes, we act like we know it all, like we created ourselves; like we have the manual for our lives.

And so He sits and waits because we will doubtless come back, bruised, in tears, in pain, everything He warned us about. But He takes us back, cleans us, heals us, and off we go again, like an unending cycle. But that’s not how He intends for us to live. His wish is that we prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers, but we won’t enter into that without Him. We cannot.

Are you tired of running around in circles? Just some food for thought.

 

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So the US election campaigns started about 18 months ago, and I’ll be honest and say I was largely uninterested in the debates, rallies, etc. until very recently. Of course there were the very many days the world was jolted by any of the inappropriate (inappropriate here also meaning scary, unacceptable, criminal, etc.) utterances from Republican Candidate Donald Trump either during rallies, interviews, in the locker room, pretty much everywhere. On those days I would be forced to catch up on the outrage, but that would be all.
Not because I don’t care who the next leader of the free world is, not because I don’t see the incredible importance and leap it would be for a woman to become the next president of the United States, but because my people say that “when a man’s house is on fire he does not bother about the fufu he had on the stove.” There was (still is) just too much “what on earth is going on with my Nigeria” going on to focus on what’s happening in the pond an entire continent away.
TV ads forced me to care. Stickers, posters, heck even conversations a little too animated forced me to join the US Election frenzy. With or without my consent, I’ve had to actively follow.
So, I’ve been in the US for the past 4 weeks now and the excitement/apprehension/tension is palpable. Not the Nigerian flavor of ‘we’re voting for x and y not because we know what they will offer but because our leader says to’, but the ‘we’ve listened to both (major) candidates, know their history and believe overwhelmingly that x is better than y’. Or maybe even that x is the lesser of the two evils, whatever personal reasons.  
It reinforced a thought that led to this tweet“Dear #Nigeria, when we’re done climaxing over the #USElection rallies, our candidates MUST debate in 2019. Anything else is unacceptable.”
I believe that tweet with all my heart, and I hope you, Nigerian, tax-paying, voter card-wielding, pledge-reciting, daughter or son of the soil who has followed the US Elections has been reacquainted with a love for oratory, a respect for facts and figures, an appreciation for the media (and the 2016 expression of the Social Responsibility and Hypodermic Needle theories), and a renewed belief in yourself as a citizen whose vote is worth more than screaming rallies without any substance.
Anything less than debates with concrete plans, economic policies that can be argued for or against, and interventions that directly impact the lives of Nigerians is unacceptable. No more platitudes, no more empty promises, no more roaring rhetoric. 
Our state and national representatives must clearly articulate their plans for us, the people they represent. We cannot applaud the levels of transparency we’ve seen in this election and be content with declarations of assets that end up being as vague as they are untrue.
We must elect representatives who will not subvert but uphold the Constitution, and indeed open up the black hole that the National Assembly budget currently is!
Sigh. Deep breath Chioma. Moving on.
I’ve also thought very deliberately about how technology has been deployed for these elections. I’m not referring to diaspora voting which ensures citizens all over the world are not disenfranchised, and sounds like a brilliant idea till you remember that Nigeria has not come close to perfecting our local, physical processes yet. We cannot guarantee votes cast by human beings we can see and touch (’see and touch’ excluding the era when we had Jamie Foxx and Michael Jackson on the list of accredited voters); yet we’re currently fascinated with diaspora votes. Maybe add that to the things we will blame next for inconclusive elections?
Anyway, I was referring to citizen-centered technology. Technology deployed to make voter education and the voting process as seamless and inclusive as possible. First from the government with the listings/helplines on social and traditional media, to parties and politicians constantly reminding the electorate why, how, and where to vote;  broadcast media and state-specific voting information, to the digital titans deploying doodles, stickers, and other ‘make it cool to vote’ paraphernalia for the electorate to perform their civic duty. No stomach infrastructure, sharing of rice, or bread, or corn; no ridiculous photos where fancy wristwatches meet extreme poverty, none of that mess. 
Anyway, it all ends in the next 24 hours. Those who didn’t already vote have until 8pm to get counted, with a collation and announcement devoid of candlelight, midnight miracles, meme-worthy drama, or any funny business. Governance should also start in earnest immediately after the swearing-in, not 9 months after. 
Quite frankly, these elections rank high on the list of things Americans should be ashamed of – the blatant mudslinging, disrespect for candidates/American History/the American people; the divisive nature of the campaign, the hate it’s inspired, ugh. Shameful.
However, for us, there is a lot to be learned, and I hope we’ve all been taking notes. 2019 is coming. 
PS: Originally published on Huffington Post

In March, social media woke up to a really startling story: a young girl, a 13-year-old child that had been kidnapped from Bayelsa, taken to Kano state, rechristened Aisha in an apparent conversion to Islam, and married off to a young man. The girl? Ese Oruru. The man? Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow.

The contradictory reports in the media were as frustrating as they were ridiculous. First, it was said that she was eighteen, despite her family’s cries to the press to the contrary. Then the poor child was demonized, something about her dating the man, writing him love letters, and being in love with him, like the word of a child on those matters should be acknowledged. Then it was back to the arguments about her age again, and how she was 14 years old and not 13. On and on and on, splashing her face in the papers, in the hearts and minds of Nigerians that choose, very conveniently what to forget, and what to remember and stigmatize others by.

Interestingly, while this was going on, a number of other parents cried out about their teenage daughters getting abducted, married off and raped. Yes, rape because that is what this is. Non-consensual intercourse is rape, compounded in these cases by abduction, and of minors.

Back to Ese Oruru, we were confused with the back and forth that freeing the girl and returning her to her parents threw up. A lot of conversation between her not getting released till HRH, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi gave instructions to that effect because she was in his custody, the Royal’s swift denial, convoluted messaging from the police, on and on.

Amidst hashtags, commentary in the press and extreme pressure on the consciences and sensibilities of people involved in the matter, Ese Oruru was finally returned to her parents in Bayelsa in March 2016; seven months after her abduction, and recently gave birth to a baby girl. A baby birthing a baby, rife with the risk of VVF, and the total disruption of her life as we know it.

Yunusa Dahiru was charged to court too, a five-court charge of criminal abduction, inducing by the use of deception and coercion, illicit sex, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor.

We woke up to reports on the 11th of July that Yunusa, with expensive legal representation, has been released on bail and whisked back to Kano. The news story was garnished with a photo of this abductor and rapist at the airport. The end, literally.

Screenshot 2016-07-11 16.41.23

Some responses came back on how long it took for the alleged abduction and rapist to get bail, the constitution and laws being the problem, rape being a bailable offence, the quality of our laws and the attendant handicap of the judiciary etc.

There were also less sane responses about Ese’s case not being a peculiarity because underage girls get abducted and raped daily, it took three months to secure bail, and then of course the ultimate expressions of ignorance couched as insults or the representation of the matter based on ethnic sentiments.

Both sets of responses ignore the fact that we’re talking about a child. Both sets of responses ignore the fact this case already stinks to high heaven. They ignore the fact that by not speedily prosecuting this case, securing a watertight conviction, and dispensing punishment that is a deterrent to potential offenders, we have lost yet another opportunity to protect our children. We keep failing them.

I have written about child molestation, rape and other crimes against minors before, taking time to narrate not just the horrors the children have faced, but the helplessness the parent feel, and the stark failures of our systems to mete justice.

We have a Child Right Acts that took 12 years (1991 – 2003 after Nigeria signed the convention on the Rights of the child with UNICEF support) to go through the National Assembly, and more than 10 years after that, only 24 states have passed and given gubernatorial assent to the law in their states. That means that our children, the most vulnerable in our society, left unprotected and we do not feel any sense of urgency. Implementation aside, it means that the appropriate legal framework for the protection of the rights of our little ones is still a pipe dream. There is no urgency from the Judiciary or the Legislature whose job is it to empower the courts.

Unfortunately, this sad story probably ends here, and this statement is based entirely on precedent. No rehabilitation for Ese, no clear deterrents for the society because we don’t protect our children. No justice because we have a National Assembly that is filled with self-serving paedophiles who do not agree that people under 18 are children and so will scuttle privately and in public any plans to protect them. A National Assembly with officials who will uphold anything other than the laws they were elected to (and swore to) protect.

While Gambia and Tanzania ban child marriages, Ghana considers raising the age for marriage for girls from 18 to 23; we have popular commentary in Nigeria that posits that child marriage is the preferable, dignified and honourable alternative to child prostitution. The Giant of Africa lagging behind where it matters the most.

We can do better. We must do better. This 8th National Assembly has the opportunity to write its name in the annals of history, and we hope they take it.

First published on Premium Times, and on Future Challenges.

Day started ok; I woke up a bit earlier than others and got in some work out of the way (hello entrepreneur), and then I smiled through a very encouraging email from a former colleague. I also danced my way into 3000 steps before our first session. Can I just mention here that I’ve been on a fitness high since the 29th of April this year, and I can’t wait to show before and after photos of my work as soon as I hit my weight target? Whoop!

Back to the day, looking online there was news about Boko Haram continuing what seems to be a renewed onslaught in the North East. It seems to me like there has been one incident or the other since the 29th of May, like these insurgents are baiting, testing the President’s hand, want to see what he will do. I can’t wait for a reaction myself. One too many people have perished. One too many to be honest

Like I didn’t have enough trouble, my monthly visitor came through this morning, with the attendant cramps, irritation, turning me into the perfect grouch. Sigh.

We did something really fun in the session today though, simulated the postponement of the Nigerian elections. The class was divided into civil society, the press, party agents, and the general public, each group playing a different role. I was cast as Professor Jega, and had two guys as principal officers of the commission.

Before I even went through half of my arranged speech, my own ‘Orubebe’ surfaced, and didn’t stop disrupting proceedings periodically. Different questions kept on coming, I could barely take one before another came, my team was swamped, it was incredible. It was hilarious too, but very stressful, even though everyone knew we were just role-playing. It gave me brand new respect for Professor Jega and all the pressure he withstood during the elections. I also learned a few things from the feedback session afterwards

  1. Make more allies than enemies.
  2. Added to the three points from Mr Kaberuka, there’s a fourth leadership quality. And it is to let the people you’re leading know you care about them.
  3. Appearances in the face of challenges are everything. The more ruffled you appear, the easier it will be for people to have a go at you.
  4. Stay on the message. Focus. Pleasant or not, never forget why you’re in a place/doing something/passing a message.

We also talked about elections erroneously being referred to (and treated as) a periodically occurring event (like Christmas) instead of a never-ending process. Think about it for a second. It’s more process than an event right?

Let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll tell you about the gala held in our honor yesterday.

First we had Kie traditional dancers, a troupe that has been in existence for over 30 years and produced renowned artistes famous around the world. Their energy was everything! I made two videos. Sorry, three.

Then there was this young lady, beautiful singer with an incredibly powerful voice. Only snag was I couldn’t tell when she was singing in French, in English, or when she didn’t just know the lyrics to the songs!

IMG_7092

Then it was food time, and the only thing I got from the menu as it was read out to us was ‘ndole’ which is a Cameroonian dish that tastes like egusi with ground nuts without palm oil. It would have been lovely if it didn’t have so many onions! There was also something that looked like couscous but is made from cassava. Not the best for this #FitFam life… Sigh.

I ended up with a bit of duck, a bit of lamb, ndole, cured meats, rice, and some chili. Of course I ate the rice and little else.

2015-06-11 22.49.09

2015-06-11 22.59.28

And then we danced!! Boy! I really enjoyed that! Music from across the region, in English and every other language, so much fun! I was sweating like I’d been in a steam bath by the time I got back to my room, but, I’d achieved over 10k steps so yippie!

Got into bed, and I was out like a light!

So, today was day one of the Regional Training Workshop in Civic Education on elections and governance organized by MINDS.

I started an abs challenge this morning, bestie and I; sides are burning seriously but I see cropped tops in my future so werk! As in near future!

I forgot to mention that yesterday; we went to a little market in the town. For me, it was absolutely necessary, for a number of reasons. One, I needed cash and two, I needed an adapter! Let’s start with needing money. Before I left Abuja, I thought the dollars I had in a bag were ‘reasonable’, it was the morning I was supposed to leave I realized it was like $150, and then lots of $1 bills! And of course there was too much going on with the yellow card I was looking for, etc. to hazard going to the bank to get some more.

Then I got to Addis and because they’ve buried my umbilical cord in the perfumes section of their Duty Free stores, I spent all but $9 there! Why I didn’t pay with my card I still cannot explain satisfactorily to myself, but bottom line is I got to Abidjan with the princely sum of $9! About the adapter, I have like three of the Cote D’Ivoire friendly ones back in Abuja, I remember reading the logistics note that specified what adapters to bring, but in my wisdom and uniqueness, I had to bring the one from South Africa! Sigh. I can’t be any more special.

By the way, I feel like ‘okrika’ (second hand clothing) is big business here; either that or this market had a healthy helping of sellers. we bought some delicious boiled corn too, and we took incredible pictures eating corn on the streets of Abidjan! Can’t find the photos now, still looking!

Here’s something else – the time difference yesterday was crazy sha! In Addis I was two hours behind Nigeria, in Cotonu it was one hour ahead of Addis, and here in Abidjan it’s one hour behind Nigeria. I’ve given up on my devices giving me different times and am now content with just asking when I need to know the time.

Back to today, their tea cups in this hotel are an aberration. Kai! What is this?

Look at the size of the tea cup compared to a tumbler or bottle... Sigh...

Look at the size of the tea-cup compared to a tumbler or bottle… Sigh…

And they’re not just for espressos or anything, this is what we had for tea as well! For people like me who love a nice brew of like three teas, it was just super frustrating. Arrgh!

On to happier things! We were told they had a surprise guest for us, and interestingly, first place my mind went to was that Nelson Mandela was coming through (he founded this), then I remembered he’d passed, and then I wasn’t really excited about whoever it was. Till the facilitator, Cecile (that’s a very nice name by the way) said we had to stand up when the person came in, she was really excited, etc.

Turned out our surprise guest was Mr Donald Kabureka, former Finance Minister in Rwanda and outgoing Africa Development Bank boss. He sat opposite us in a swivel chair (interesting point to note because as he answered questions he would sway from side to side, lol) and the question and answer session started.

Here are a few things he said

* Being young doesn’t confer on us any special legitimacy or entitlements but responsibilities based on the very things we use to feel entitled; age, strength, and numbers.

*Young people the world over have reversed John F. Kennedy’s saying – it is all about what the country/world can put into our hands rather than what we can do for our countries/the world.

*Technology means that whether it is a discussion about climate change, terrorism, agriculture, etc, young people no longer think in the context of their countries alone anymore. Thoughts and intending actions are global.

*Youth participation in politics must not necessarily be about electing/appointing young people into positions of power; there’s a lot more to it.

Interesting fact from the discussion about economies in Africa and leadership – 92% of Tunisians own their own homes. So, only 8% are renting. Incredible!!

Personal thoughts about the man? Obviously after 10 years of leading Africa’s premier bank and interacting/negotiating with Heads of States on a daily, you must have pretty much seen everything there is to see, right? Perhaps that was the reason for the hint of a little too much confidence he wore, I don’t know.

In answer to a question about ADB creating jobs for young Africans (I swear I cringed as this person was mouthing the very words), Mr Kabureka said, “jobs are not created by the ADB, or the EU, or any of those bodies. They are created by the public/private sector, with the government providing the enabling environment for those businesses to thrive.”

The 'Anglophone group' working on a class task... Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone represented!

The ‘Anglophone group’ working on a class task… Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone represented!

Then he talked about the Africa Guarantee Fund Bank which provides funding for entrepreneurs with better rates than regular banks. He also said the ADB had periodic grants people could access, details on their website.

Back to his thoughts on leadership, he said there were three qualities any leader had to have.

1. They must have abilities (not necessarily acquired through formal education, but an expandable mind is everything)

2. A set of values.

3. Moral courage to make ‘hard’ decisions.

Of course there was time to talk about his achievements as ADB boss in the past ten years 🙂 and he mentioned the bank had spent $27bn in 10 years on infrastructure on the continent. This figure according to him is 40 times more than had been spent on infrastructure before his time.

Then he mentioned that in a meeting with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005, Mr Blair described Africa as “the scar on the conscience of the world”.

In 2014 however, in another meeting, the same Blair said, Africa was “the most exciting continent in the world because of the opportunities available”.

K.

We took photos, Mr Kabureka left, and then it was time for tea, or lunch. Don’t really remember which. But I’m going for whatever it is, and I can’t write there!

PS: Come back for part three tomorrow.

 

Do you remember one of the songs Donkey in Shrek 1 sang? The one he was singing and when Shrek said not to, he asked if he could whistle, then hum?

If you didn’t see Shrek (why on earth), or you’ve forgotten, or you still can’t place which song I’m talking about, it’s ‘on the road again’… And it’s my special way of announcing that I’m on the road again! Not literally though, cos there are at least 3 flights on this trip.

I’m off to Abidjan to attend a workshop organized by the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) and because putting your trust in some carriers is akin only to fetching water in a basket, I’m flying Ethiopian Airlines. Yes that means another overnight stopover in Addis Ababa, and hopefully more pleasant tales than last time.

So, as always, we start with the night before, and I didn’t get home till a few minutes to midnight because I was chasing a client who was chasing his peers so they wouldn’t change their minds about things, and people.

Nice time to segue into the inauguration of Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly on the 9th of June and the almost magical happenings that heralded the emergence of the leaders of both the upper and lower chambers.

We start from Senate President, Bukola Saraki who went from not even being in the running one night to getting elected unopposed the next morning. Let’s not forget the mysterious meeting 51 of the senators supposed to vote went to attend (which didn’t hold & now no one knows who called it)…

Then we go to the lower chambers where Femi Gbajabiamila who was already receiving congratulatory messages (everyone was that sure) lost the Speakership to Yakubu Dogara. 189 votes to 174. So close, yet didn’t happen.

Ok, we’ve digressed enough. By 8.30am, I still wasn’t sure what I’d be taking with me, and then to compound issues I didn’t remember where I dropped my Yellow Card. Hian! I panicked, I kid you not. I was so worried!

Just when I was searching my mind for anyone who worked in the ministry of health, God had mercy on me and I remembered where I left it from my March Jo’Burg trip. Thank you Lord!

Rushed through my packing, shower, and breakfast, then it was off to the airport. Made good time, and checked in without any issues.

Really? No issues Fairy GodSister? Lol… Like that was possible! So, it’s interesting but it appears our airport officials don’t know which countries we need visas for or not. Here’s why: so one of them asked me where I was headed, and I told him Addis Ababa enroute Abidjan. Then, flipping through my passport he goes “where are the visas?” Truth? I’ve done the Addis layover a couple times so I know I don’t need a visa for that. Never been to Cote d’Ivoire though, and it just hit me then that I didn’t know.

Next thing the official says I won’t be able to fly, I don’t have the visa I need, etc. Again, inner panic, outward, ‘I’m not even going to act bothered’ look. Again, it occurred to me I could Google (had to be the voice of God rescuing his silly daughter) and so I did, confirmed I didn’t need one, and promptly shut the official up. *big, wide smile*

Permit a little digression please. There’s something about knowing our rights both as a Christian and people resident on this planet. Otherwise, we will miss out on/get robbed of/be denied so much!!

Ok, so we boarded and glory be to God, my entire row was empty! Yaaaaaass! So I ate, drank the only can of coke I’m allowed, and watched Taken 3, and the modern remake of Annie.

So Taken 3 was lovely (as always) but fingers crossed this is the last in the series biko. Except they want to become the next Empire, or Scandal, and just tell us what days it will air.

I loved Annie too, can’t wait to lay my hands on the soundtrack. Can’t wait!

Got into Addis Ababa ok, and it was off to Empire Addis, a fabulous hotel not too far from the airport. Took the stairs to and from my room on the 5th floor because #FitFam, and after a bit of dinner, it was trying to get my brain to shut down so I could sleep. That didn’t happen till 2am. Sigh.

Out of the hotel and back at the airport by 8am for the onward leg to Abidjan, which is like going from Abuja to Lagos, then heading to Kaduna. Yes. But no flight from Abuja.

Ahhh. My inner lioness escaped today inside the duty free store. Everyone was queuing to pay (Addis has amazing deals on fragrances) and then this guy bounces to the front of the line. The attendants start putting his things through so I ask if the rest of us had nothing else to do. Then he says, “don’t speak to me like that, you don’t know me”. Loooool… Let’s just say, he was pleading by the time I was done defining queues and how they help us maintain order in this world.

And then I boarded. And we took off. And seven hours later, we touched down in Abidjan, where I’ve met folks from The Gambia, Liberia, South Africa, Cameroon, etc. Promises to be an exciting 48 hours of brainstorming strategies around civic engagement, participation in the electoral process, and citizens taking charge of governance. Can’t wait!

No, this isn’t a ‘Dear President-elect letter’; trust me I am as exhausted with them as the next man. I am not exhausted with the trekking (and cycling, and swimming, etc.) though, young men and women traversing between states on in various ways in honor of their preferred leader, whether outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan or incoming Muhammadu Buhari. I worry about them, exposing themselves to the elements, the very real security implications of walking our highways, the health implications ( I don’t want to bet but I would be very surprised if any of the trekkers did any form of practice – in the way athletes do – before pounding the pavement). I wonder about hygiene (showers, potty time), I wonder about food and drink and their safety/security (I mentioned this again on purpose), but no, I’m not exhausted with it. I salute their courage in fact.

This is a ‘Dear Nigerians’ letter; one that we should all write ourselves, and our parents, and our children, and our friends and our enemies. It’s a letter to the man selling beef in the market, a letter to the female executive, and a letter to the chairman of a conglomerate.

The resounding rhetoric is we (or the people who voted/rigged for either party) used the ballot to demand better than what we’ve got currently, to unseat an incumbent; that all will be well because we have a new president whose unique selling point is an abhorrence for corruption. He will make everything ok. Perfect. People are starting to warn others that “Buhari is coming, better behave”, and the words ‘Buhari’ and ‘change’ are literally interchangeable. Sweet.

Who will this Messiah be working with however? The local government chairman who caters to his community in ABC state from the Federal Capital Territory, the man in charge of electricity for a region who owns controlling shares in a generator company; the woman who redirects money meant for youth corps members to her private account, the one who colludes with the bank to withhold teachers salaries for months on end so there is interest to share.

Our Mr. Incorruptible will be working alongside young people who think that a few important names in their phones or cheesy photos with high-profile people make them invincible, with people who think full spellings of the simplest words are too much work. He will work with law enforcement who are so gifted they can tell which drivers will give them ‘something for the weekend’ from a mile off, with religious leaders whose words of prophecy are dictated/inspired by the gift offered, with Nigerians who have been so deprived everyone sets out every morning determined to get one better over the next man.

Guess what? In four years we will be back here. In this place of frustration, of pain, hunger, of extreme queues for fuel and no electricity (at the time of writing this there hasn’t been power in my area for SIX days), of dwindling oil prices that determine the mood of our economy because fancy words and presentations and half term/end of year reports aside, we’re living off sod else.

We will be even more broken, and disappointed, and braying for this Messiah’s head, when we should be tightening the noose around ours for not being the citizens we elected in our President. We would be broken because the ‘office of the citizen’ we created/became aware of was more for the optics than an actual reorientation of our minds and consequently, our actions.re

This word ‘change’?

Starts from you and I. As we begin this journey today as a country to where we want/dream/hope to be, it has to start, and end with us.

Aristotle in discussing the three types of people who exist said “the common run of people betray utter slavishness in their preference for a life suitable to cattle…” To put that very simply, if we do not elevate our existence and actions from pleasing self alone to honor derivative from the happiness/growth/development of others, Nigeria will fail. Buhari will try, but he will fail.

Final word? Congratulations, fellow citizens of Nigeria on our election into the house of change. Let’s be guided accordingly, and God bless Nigeria.

I am an associate member of the Royal Commonwealth Society, have been for just under a year now. It is such an honor and a privilege to belong/be inducted into/volunteer with/ be called to be part of these prestigious organizations and I keep praying that I live up to the expectations my membership of these bodies bring.

So, I was informed by the headquarters that there was a commemorative lecture organized by the Nigerian arm of the Society (interesting because I didn’t know there was one) and I said I would attend.

Incidentally it was to hold on my birthday so I hoped it would be worth my while. The event slated for 10.30am eventually started an hour later but my minor upset was wiped away with the rendition of the national anthem. I don’t know about you but there is such a joy/deep-seated pride I feel whenever I hear/sing the national anthem. Is it the same for you? Sometimes it leaves me teary-eyed, other times I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have been born Nigerian (warts and all), and then I get teary-eyed again. Lol. My prayer everyday for this country is that our dark nights turn into truly sunny mornings. In Jesus name, amen.

Back to the event, I won’t speak about the parts of the events before the keynote address/lecture because Momma said to shush if it won’t be nice. Can I just say though that we really need to agree on the age for youth in this country? I don’t see how people who can casually have drinks with my dad and uncles are classed as youth or leaders of youth.

The theme of the event was ‘Democracy and good governance’ and the rest of this post is dedicated to snippets from the guest lecture delivered by first chaplain to the State House, Rev. Prof. Amb. Yusufu Ameh Obaje.

Fun fact about the former chaplain: the entire time he served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he refused a salary the entire time he was there.

Fun fact 2: He wants to be governor of Kogi; matter of fact it is a calling from God for him.

*Nigeria has left the practice of democracy and has been practicing a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich for a while now.

Obstacles to good governance include:

  1. Spiritual blindness: there can’t be good governance if the leaders do not pay sincere attention to their spirituality, denying them any cognizance of the relationship between God and man, and man and man.
  2. The tripartite evil of wickedness, poverty, and ignorance. The former chaplain told the story of some young men he saw in 1982 in Ilorin, Kwara state breaking the pavement because their money fell inside. How much? What is this sum that will make you destroy infrastructure provided by the government for your use/enjoyment? N50.

He also talked about this evil we perpetuate when we drive – someone is driving slowly (most likely on the speed lane) and then when you try to overtake them and they can see an oncoming vehicle, they start to speed. Has it happened to you before? Have you done it to someone before?

  1. Misplaced priorities. Nigeria has no national ideology or strategic objective. What is that one thing that makes us inspired, makes us dream, or makes us do the things we do, not for self, but for the development of our country? Nothing.

In 1946, the North, West, and the East merged with the ideologies that political power, education, and material wealth (respectively) was the key to power/domination/all things. How many coups and elections after, the three zones still think the same way, and so we are where we are.

The professor, who has over 50 publications to his name also talked about the five things humans originally have/had no control over – gender, place of birth, ethnicity, complexion, and religion. Why then discriminate and fight with the next man over things you had no control over at birth?

Of course advancements in science can tweak two on this list… lol.

He rounded up with a bit of talk about what good governance looks/feels like, saying that the fear of God at the center of leadership gives it all the weight/responsibility it should carry.

Corruption first takes root and is bred in the mind before it manifests as viament, theft, misappropriation, etc. If a leader is strong in mind, it will be next to impossible to get him to soil his hands.

He ended by saying religion and politics are two sides of the same coin; religion being the spirit of politics, while politics is the body of religion; and that regardless of how we try, we cannot separate the two.

I really enjoyed listening to the Professor, especially since he chided the organizers for making noise outside the hall and then they would make the same mistakes the crop of rulers we have now are making/have made because they couldn’t suspend their discussions to listen to a lecture they organized! Choi!

Anyway, that was my morning. I left immediately he was done, and the rest of my birthday story is here.

I remember Monday the 14th of April 2014 like it was yesterday, waking up to the horrible news about yet another bomb blast, this time in the super busy Nyanya Motor Park. The explosion went off inside a car about 6.55am, the period with the highest traffic in the area as commuters from satellite towns and neighbouring states board vehicles headed into the city center.

While the government, international agencies and witnesses argued on the body count, families grieved as they shuttled between the many hospitals and the morgues in search of their people. Some of them would eventually settle for empty caskets, or a body part or two. That was the intensity of the blast.

I remember the outrage, and the confirmation that Boko Haram was not just one religion against the other, but a sect of murderers who had twisted their religion to justify mayhem against the entire country/region.

Screenshot 2015-04-16 18.31.24

Screenshot 2015-04-16 18.31.45

Far away in Chibok, in a Borno already ravaged by Boko Haram, over 300 girls drawn from secondary schools (closed because of security concerns) around the state, went to bed in hostels at Government Secondary School after a day of writing WAEC exams.

Not for long though. Insurgents invaded the school that same night, and carted away 279 girls aged 14 – 18 in one fell swoop. In one of the #BringBackOurGirls rallies I attended, I learned one parent was missing three family members (two daughters and a niece).

The government’s first reaction to the news of the abduction was denial. First denial that any girls were taken, then the arrest of some of the teachers and a parent by First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, then the accusation and counter accusations between the two major political parties on who was behind the kidnapping began, and then the unforgivable slip from the military that they had been found. All fingers pointed and to this day still point towards Sambisa Forest, with different people giving different accounts of its density/porosity being the reason why an onslaught against the kidnappers has not resulted in the rescue of the girls.

The first #BringBackOurGirls protest was on the 30th of April, 2014, led by Hadiza Bala Usman, Aisha Yesufu, and Obiageli Ezekwesili. I remember getting drenched as we marched, as we sang, as we rallied support and demanded answers from the National Assembly.

Hashtag activism brought to life, fueled by anger at the brazenness of the abduction, the reaction by government, and most important, the desire to reunite these children with the parents and families. And it exploded, all around the world. From parents, to school children, politicians (including First Lady Michelle Obama), celebrities, artists, people all over the world stood still for the campaign.

President Goodluck Jonathan first addressed the nation about the girls on the 4th of May, promising to do all in his power to ensure their rescue. Soon after, the Safe Schools Initiative by the Federal Government in collaboration with the international community was launched to ensure that children in the three least educationally developed states (Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno) got an education in a safe, terror-free environment. Activists including Malala Yousafzai also came to Nigeria to advocate for the speedy rescue of the girls.

More than 365 days after that abduction, the girls are still missing. A total of 57 have escaped at various times, and a number of them (purportedly taken from Chibok) were confirmed pregnant. Some parents of the girls have passed on from sorrow, and Boko Haram is still targeting schools. Over 48 children were killed when a bomb exploded on the assembly ground of Government Technical School, Potiskum, in Yobe State. Some of children killed were only 11 years old.

14th April 2015 was the anniversary of the abduction. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said,”Over the past 12 months, Boko Haram intensified its brutal attacks on boys and girls in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of children have been displaced from their homes, and deprived of their rights to live and grow up in safety, dignity and peace. Boko Haram’s killing, abduction and recruitment of children, including the use of girls as ‘suicide bombers’, is abhorrent.”

In Nigeria, there was a commemorative march by the Bring Back Our Girls Community, silent, with red tape over their mouths. Co-Ordinator Oby Ezekwesili said, “We decided that we have spoken so often about this that we’re just going to try to show the people what it feels like … when your voice is taken from you, which is what the terrorists have done to our daughters.” Candles were lit later that evening to renew hope and faith that the girls would be rescued and reunited with their parents.

I agree and lend my voice to Malala Yousafzai’s letter to the missing girls – “I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong and never lose hope. You are my heroes.”

In a Northern Nigeria where only 5% of the girls go to school, they are indeed.

PS: Originally published on Future Challenges here.

A little intro before you read this. First off, I didn’t write it, my friend @ElohoOmame did. And boy, was it refreshing to read something overflowing with common sense, devoid of the hate young people (on all sides of the divide) are peddling in the name of voter education, calls to participation, etc. This was refreshing, and is a bigger incentive to vote than the tiresome rhetoric I’m now consciously blocking out of my mind.

Eloho is brilliant with this, simple, convincing logic, sentence after sentence. And I join my voice with hers, asking that you go out on the 28th of March and the 11th of April to vote the candidate of your choice.

Still ‘Undecided’? Here’s What I’d Like You To Know

Undecided isn’t good enough. Millions of us are counting on you. Please spend the next few days deciding whom you will vote for and be bold enough to see it through. Your vote is important, your vote is strategic and it would be silly not to use it. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you why.

First off, if you are one of the lucky 56 million people with PVCs, give yourself a pat on the back. You are a guardian of the welfare of two other Nigerians that will not have a say in how our country is run for at least another four years. Think of yourself as ‘standing in the gap’ for two of your children, employees, friends or neighbours. To stand in the gap is a good thing; it means you speak on our behalf.

Remember also that there 17 million or so, like me, who live abroad for different reasons, but have left their hearts in Nigeria. There is no provision for us to vote. We add the burden of another half a person to each load. Think of us often. Remember you speak for three and a half people, including yourself.

But, if the last two presidential elections are anything to go by, the disappointing reality is that not all of you that who are able to vote will come through for us on March 28. My guess is that around 38 million people – 55% of the 68 million registered by INEC – will actually cast a vote. That means about 20% of Nigerians will speak for the 100%, because 18 million of you with PVCs will do nothing. You will forget the hard slog of getting the card in the first place and ignore its power.

Some of you will mean to vote, but be put off by the simplest inconveniences, like predictably poor logistics or the inevitable heat of the sun. The rest will give us three reasons.

The first group will say their votes don’t matter, “one vote won’t decide the outcome in the end”. And they would be right. If there could ever be an argument for apathy that I respected, this would be it. It makes rational, economic sense. The voting process is individually costly but not individually beneficial since the chance that any one person will cast the single deciding vote is close to zero. It would be silly to respond to this group then with statements like “what if we all didn’t vote?” That’s a close to zero probability event. Thankfully, 38 million people will.

Others will say that the process is likely to be rigged anyway, “it doesn’t matter what I want, the result has been fixed.” These are the classic free riders, and it’s tough to respect that. They are not happy with the status quo and are probably voters for the opposition (or they wouldn’t care if the process were rigged in the first place), but they will abdicate their responsibility. I am not saying that I believe Nigeria is now at the point where elections are entirely free and fair, but I am saying this group should give the process a chance. They are potentially very powerful as a unit but would rather sit at home speculating and sulking.

The last group will tell us that they are truly undecided, and so have no choice but to abstain. They are afraid to take a chance on an outcome that they cannot foresee; they don’t want to vote for a losing candidate, and are probably most in favour of those challengers with an outside chance. These people should spend more time with the most rational of the non-voters. If they did, they would take comfort in the fact that their individual votes will not by themselves change the outcome, and they might have the courage to back their convictions. With any luck, they’d come to understand that voting is not a lottery – it is not about guessing the winner – and that by staying away, they weaken the quality of our democratic discourse.

To the 18 million I say this: you have grown weary too easily. You forget that our democracy is barely 16 years old; the journey has not begun. You want to be inspired, to be rewarded with good leadership and good governance, but until then, you will not join us in the drab modalities of a democracy. Sadly, the promise we all want will continue to be delayed for as long as too few people are involved in deciding how nearly 200 million people are governed. We need many more to be invested in this process. We need you to do your part. We want to be inspired too.

So please vote, and vote wisely. The issues before us are clear and the choice is not easy. Ironically, the campaign slogans of both the PDP and the APC agree that the status quo is unsatisfactory. We debate the semantics of ‘transformation’ vs. ‘change’ and I am reliably informed that one is a point in time occurrence and the other is an impressive process. Politics aside, I understand enough to know that in either scenario the promise is the same – today does not look like yesterday and tomorrow will not look like today.

But, in reality today does not look different enough to where we were four years ago, so given half a chance, I’d give my vote to General Buhari’s government. For no reason other than it is time to go back to the drawing board. The Chinese say ‘if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading’.

But, ultimately, I won’t have a say in what happens on Saturday. If you have a PVC, you can. Whichever way you lean, remember that your vote sends a message, you are luckier than millions of us with no voice and you stand in the gap for 2 and a half people.

You could use your voice to make a show of confidence in President Jonathan, to deliver a message of support for General Buhari or to give a word of encouragement to the phenomenal Remi Sonaiya. That’s your prerogative. Just go out and vote.