Posts Tagged ‘Abubakar Shekau’

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!

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.

One of my favorite past times is ‘putting forward my strong reasons’ why a thing should go one way or the other, big thanks to my father who encouraged us to ‘defend’ (used very loosely) requests, e.g. a increase in our weekly allowances. Thinking about that particular episode makes me chuckle – the intensity with which I argued you would think I was trying to get myself off death row! Those were the days…

Some would say Nigeria is on death row – the economy is as distressed as the very definition of the word, Boko Haram is FINALLY losing ground but still wreaking havoc via suicide bombers, and in the words of a friend of mine, corruption has become a ‘come one, come all’ venture. Regardless of the giant strides this government might have made across board, everything pales when lined up against insecurity.

Now, there are currently 14 people put forward by the existing political parties in Nigeria, who say they have the answers to our problems; who say we should vote them in as President and Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. From ending the Boko Haram insurgency in one month, to running an inclusive government, to banning the importation of rice, the politicians are waxing lyrical, touring states and only stopping short of promising to raise the dead in exchange for our votes.

Beyond the ruckus and rhetoric our road tours are, beyond the hoarse voices and prostituting musicians hoping from one campaign trail to the other (h/t Etcetera), what do the presidential candidates have in store for us? Beyond the cleverly crafted documents and sexy presentations, where exactly are their minds? Stripped bare, without the music, what are these candidates about?

Now, we hear the Presidential candidate for the All Progressive congress General Muhammadu Buhari has said he would not participate in the Nigeria Election Debate Group NEDG-organized debate because the component organizations have been compromised. Exact words from Garba Shehu, of the directorate of media and publicity for the APC Presidential Campaign Organization said, “The boycott was due to the “unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organisers of the programme, against the corporate political interest of the party (APC) and its candidates.”

Here’s a few reasons I gleaned off Twitter at the time and why I think none of them hold any water.

  1. AIT and co are government funded, partisan, pro GEJ, etc.” What is a debate though? Isn’t it men standing behind podiums and talking? How much influence can the partisanship of the medium airing the debate have? Will any of the parties not be allowed to speak? Their microphones will be turned off mid-sentence? What exactly, in a debate that will be aired lived and probably live streamed at the same time? Do we not know that Nigerians, who are suckers for the ‘underdog/victim’ narrative, will naturally gravitate towards whoever seems to be getting a hard time during the debate?
  2. “President Goodluck Jonathan refused to debate in 2011.” This particular excuse amuses me to no end. APC runs on one word, ‘change’, implanting it in the hearts and minds of supporters and opposition alike. Yet, the plan is to walk a path only because someone else walked it four years ago. Really?

And now, three questions of my own.

  1. What is the plan for the Sambo/Osibanjo (vice-presidential candidates for the incumbent and APC respectively) debate, which seems to be the more favorable idea? Will all purportedly partisan media be banned from attending?
  2. Should current and future presidents relinquish control over the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria so they will truly be independent? That’s an obvious yes, ditto for our electoral commission; real question is would all the presidential candidates honestly be open to doing that?
  3. Why not just pass up on the elections as well, seeing as the Independent National Electoral Commission is government-funded and therefore purportedly/potentially compromised?

Final word. Nigerians have never been this interested in the elections and the one person to whom we will entrust our lives and living for the next four years. Every party deserving of our votes should be raring to go, seeking out every opportunity to reel out their plans to take Nigeria to where we need to be.

Dear handlers, let your candidates debate.

PS – this piece was written in November 2014, but never made it to my blog. The live debate on #RubbinMinds (available here) on the 8th of March was brilliant (both the idea and the event itself), and reminded me about it.

 

PPS – Originally published on Future Challenges.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Depending on who/where/what you are, this season might either be the “most wonderful time of the year”, or just another day filled with dread, rancour, or even worse, nothingness.

I’ve spent the last 20 odd minutes browsing through social networks as people exchange the warmest greetings with friends, family, and loved ones. And it made me think that there might be some who at this time won’t be unwrapping gifts from Santa, heading out for a day of festivities (maybe debauchery), or staying home to host the tons of people who will visit to share a laugh, drink, and a bite (and maybe a pressie or two). And so this is my message to you, you, and you.

Here’s my list, you’re welcome to add to it.

1. Nigeria’s security forces, especially the rank and file, and even more for the ones serving in the North East. Merry Christmas to you keepers of our land (second to God of course), first in line for whatever havoc Boko Haram and other evil entities think up per time. Especially under the poorest of conditions, the most demotivating remuneration, and appalling, unacceptable gear. The petty extortion on the roads, allegations of human rights abuses, appearance of cluelessness on the one hand, on the other you are our heroes. And to the ones who were sentenced to death for mutiny (apparently more soldiers have been added to the number), you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

2a. Internally displaced persons, who by no fault of theirs, have become refugees in their own land. Merry Christmas to you now without homes/farmland/livelihood, now dependent on the selflessness of groups like #SantaGoesToYola #ChristmasOnTheStreetz (God bless you guys), and the pungent hypocrisy of politicians who only visit for the photo ops. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering, I cannot imagine the questions you sleep and wake with every day, I won’t even try to imagine the conditions you currently face, despite the fact that you have state governors, house of assembly members, local government chairmen, and all the others who from the comfort and safety of their plush mansions in Abuja condemn the insurgency.

2b. Families who have lost brethren to the insurgency. Is it ok to say Merry Christmas? Whatever could be merry about it? From October 2010 and the bombing at Eagle Square, families have sent off their loved ones to work/school/play in the morning, only to receive their lifeless, decapitated bodies in the evening. Some have not been fortunate to receive more than a body part, some others, nothing at all. Where do I start from? Is it the Buni Yadi boys? Or the ones blown up while standing at morning assembly at Government Technical Science College in Potiskum? The hapless ones who got blown up in mosques, churches, bus parks, markets, malls? My thoughts and prayers are with you today and everyday.

3. Parents of the Chibok Girls. We must never forget there have been many kidnapped before these girls taken on the 14th of April, and many taken after (less than 10 days ago it was 185 taken from Gumsuri, a village near Chibok, also in Borno state). Eight months after, it’s moved from windy tales to the ‘only thing that matters’ – the elections in 2015. Never mind that Boko Haram might be breeding an army (one of the girls who escaped was four months pregnant in September, that there are chilling stories of how many times they get raped), and that these girls are walking shells of confusion, hurt and psychological trauma. All that matters to our government is getting re-elected in 2015, whether there are any of us left to vote or not. I am not a parent, but I felt separation anxiety for a toddler on his first days at school; I cannot imagine your grief (which has killed some), or your disappointment in this Nigeria we call ours.

4. Dr Stella Adadevoh’s family. Very special mention must be made of this strong, principled daughter of God who single-handedly (shame on the government for accepting the praise for her work and then wheedling out of giving her a national honor) put a plug in what would have become the biggest outbreak of Ebola this year. You (literally) died so we could live. You are our hero. Today, and always. Merry Christmas to the family you left behind.

5. Nigerians. Merry Christmas to us, wherever we are. We weathered another year, bumps, warts, and all, and must (all things considered), appreciate the fact that we are alive to see another year come to an end. Some of us have lost friends and family to disease or natural causes (rest in peace Lami, aunty NK), children have been born; loves have been won or lost, life has been what it has been to us. Devaluation of the naira, extreme insecurity, abysmal electricity, and the general feeling of hopelessness aside, we’re here. Still here. And it is at least one thing to be grateful for.

Merry Christmas.

Good morning! I slept very well thank you, woke up feeling very rested. There’s something about the way I’ve slept in the last couple days that’s made me sleep a bit better. Maybe go to Lagos a bit more often perhaps?

Woke up, caught the end of a cartoon while I got ready, and then I went for breakfast. Again, thoroughly disappointed. This time though, I complained. Didn’t just mean to whinge (and I wasn’t the only one who complained), but I’m now taking medication to clear this week-old flu and for the amount of mental exertion I see in the offing, the least I expect is a decent breakfast! Besides, I’m a growing child…lol…

Thankful to our Care Manager (that’s what I called Ghida in my head) who’d gone over and beyond with the provisions she’d laid out in our kitchenette. Cereal, chocolate, biscuits, fruits, unending supplies of tea and coffee, she even brought medication (we’ll get to that bit soon). I ended up having Special K every morning till we left – thank you Ghida!!!

Breakfast over, we piled into the conference room, our work space for the next few days, and Barbara introduced officially what a Book Sprint was, and all of that information is here. She told us how ours would work (it’s a secret, wait for the book), and then we went round the room with short introductions. Here’s a bit about everyone, all eight of us!

Rafeeat Aliyu () – Blogger, writer of fiction and non-fiction, history nerd. http://www.eccentricyoruba.wordpress.com

Elnathan John () – A full-time writer. http://www.elnathanjohn.blogspot.com

Yas Niger () – Blogger, writer (of a self-published book). http://www.yasniger.wordpress.com

Pearl Osibu () – Blogger, writer, designer. http://www.pearlosibu.wordpress.com

Chioma Agwuegbo () – Blogger, writer, aunty to the cutest baby on earth. http://www.chiomachuka.com

Kalu Aja () – Financial planner and coach. http://www.kalus20pounds.blogspot.com

Azeenarh Mohammed () – Noisemaker, privacy enthusiast, digital security trainer. http://www.azeenarh.wordpress.com

Fola Lawal ( ) – Publisher. http://www.shecrownlita.com

And then our facilitators!

Barbara Ruhling () – Book Sprint facilitator, filmmaker. http://www.booksprints.net

Simone Poutnik ()- Multi-stakeholders collaboration facilitator. http://www.natural-innovation.net

Yep, that’s us!

Then we talked a lot about our book what we wanted it to be – fiction or not, narrated or not, dialogue or full on prose, on and on and on.

I really liked the exercises (I must say), even though the next event saddened me. We wrote out on post-its all the issues we wanted to see represented in our book, and then we grouped them under broader headings like religion, state structure, corruption, etc. That exercise was almost emotional for me cos it was like unpacking a bag full of bad memories, hanging them out, and just reliving them again.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 08.38.46

And this was just one sheet of the things we listed!!

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 08.38.01

Figuring out what issue would work under what was a task and half!

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 08.38.17

Stop and think…

What was interesting though, was seeing that all our issues are so interwoven! So, here’s a random example – if we fixed the judiciary, stiffer sentences for crimes would ensure a deterrent, and the society would be a tad safer/easier to live and do business in. However, the executive and legislative have to ‘put down self’ to empower the judiciary. Easy right? But when you consider that half the people who should be in jail for one crime or the other are in the E and L, it becomes a bit more tricky. Even trickier is the mindset of the ‘common man’ who lambasts the E, L, and J but sees nothing wrong in bribing his way out of stuff. Do you expect integrity from that kind of person when/if they get into a position of power? If you are dishonest with a pound, you will be dishonest with a thousand pounds. Round and round this mulberry bush, ladies and gentlemen. Sigh.

It was about evening this time (notice I didn’t dignify lunch with a mention), and people were wired! All that talk and writing! So we all took a walk, laughed all the way – to the politician amongst us paying for the fruits we wanted, to seeing a private house with traffic lights (Nigerians are the best walai) – we laughed all the day! Of course I took a picture. What!!??!!

2014-11-08 17.43.09

Ah ha! Before I forget, our lodgings are around the house of the Inspector General of Police. Guess what? We weren’t allowed to walk on his side of the road (where his home is). “For security reasons”, his people said. Was hilarious, the banter we had with the mobile policemen but when you think of it, how much sadder can we get?

I would be embarrassed to live there to be honest – tank parked outside, mortar barriers, floodlights, and mobile policemen perpetually at the ready. Why? Whatever happened to protect and serve? Are they protecting the Nigerian people like this? Why is it normal for one person to be guarded this way, when our brothers and sisters are sitting ducks for Boko Haram in the North East?

Bleh.

Dinner was manageable, nothing I remember. We did a bit more writing, and day one was officially over! Four days to go!

In the final post from the #ChroniclesFromBonn series, you’re invited to catch up on the previous stories. You can find them below

1. #ChroniclesFromBonn – The trip!

2. #ChroniclesFromBonn –Welcome to school, meet the team!

3. #ChroniclesFromBonn – Opening Day

Ah ha! Now that you’re up to speed, welcome to the most incredible of the days!

I had a very interesting conversation with Maria from Ukraine on the walk to the session, which was both saddening and heartwarming at the same time. We talked so much about the difficulties both our countries are facing, and I won’t forget the really big hug she gave me.

So what did we talk about? Loads of things – the unrest in both our countries, Nigeria may be a bit more severe (and multi-buffeted) – including the hopelessness that accompanies ‘international claims/offers for help’. The fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, each country stands alone. There might be some fraternization on the basis of prevailing interests at the time, but at the end of the day, you’re alone as alone can be. Or is it plausible that a country will love your country more than they love themselves? No!

Look at the Nigerian example. More than a month after the American, British, and French governments (and the Israelis I think) came into the country to help with the search and rescue of the 219 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on the 14th of April, nothing. *Remember this trip was at the end of June* Like sometimes, it’s even hard to believe that any of them showed up.

Moving on.

I sat in on a lot more sessions today, starting with the keynote given by the Federal Foreign Minister, in German. Translators (you know those little devices?) always amuse me. I was reminded of just how much when I used this one. At some point I was listening to both the translator and the Minister, trying to match the words with the translations. Funny only when you take into cognisance that the only German words I know are ‘good morning’, ‘thank you’, and ‘please’. 🙂

Anyway, so I attended a session that really spoke to me, one about activism and citizen uprisings et al in Africa. It was one I really enjoyed, but one that also annoyed me on several levels. What makes people feel that because a certain form of citizen disobedience worked in country A it will work in country B? I was so amused/impressed/annoyed by the discussion that I wrote this – Africa’s Revolution: The Inaccuracy of Labels, thankful to Future Challenges for publishing it.

We (Digital Participation Camp) held our fishbowl session today too, and even though I HATED the idea of balloons (I have a living, breathing fear of them, and the sound they make when they burst), everyone else loved the balloons, the format of our session, and how interactive/fun it was! So, it didn’t bother me a lot.

Then, it was time for the boat ride! Whoop! I ran back to Bonnox, changed into a small white dress, and then I was river ready!

2014-07-01 16.47.55

Gorgeous, simply gorgeous!!

2014-07-01 16.47.11

Party time! Whoop!!

We got on the boat, and it was really lovely! The view, the music from the band on the upper deck where we were for most of the evening, and the food! There was a barbecue going on, so chicken, sausages, potatoes, and a really lovely salad! Then, Aya and I saw an ice cream tray floating around, and we followed it to the lower deck, only to find there was a full on buffet down there, including the amazing potato gratin I had a few days ago!

 

We had a bit, wandered around the ship for a bit, and then went back up upstairs, where it was really lovely to meet Isabel from Irrepressible Voices, and Eva from Tea after Twelve! I first met Eva in February in Hamburg during Social Media Week, and that meeting culminated in this post for their magazine – http://www.tea-after-twelve.com/all-issues/issue-01/issue-01-overview/chapter2/welcome-to-lagos/ – Lagos is truly the greatest city in the world!

I also met this lovely, really tall guy who goofed around with me! I remember staring and saying, “you’re very tall”, and then he said, “are you sure you’re not taller than I am?” Lol! Bless him!

2014-07-01 20.55.14

Wow… I take back every time I’ve ever said I was tall!

2014-07-01 20.55.25

…because life is too short not to have a laugh when you can!

 

Then, it was time for the party!! Whoop! We all went back down to the lower deck, and the GoodFellas played the entire time we sailed to (Sepideh where did we go again?) and back! Incredible music, 2000+ people on the ship dancing and having a really fun evening. Ready to see some videos? Cos I made some!

 

 

 

We docked about 12.30am, and I was so wired from excitement and exhaustion! The girls (Ruth, Aya) and I walked back to Bonnox, not before missing a turn that translated a 15 minutes work into an hour’s trek!

But, we got home ok, and everyone tumbled into bed immediately!!

Next day, the conference ended with speeches and a few other sessions, and the next day after that, it was off to Frankfurt to catch a flight back to Abuja, Nigeria. Bring on GMF2015 already!

PS – I blogged about GMF 2014 for Deutsche Welle, published by Future Challenges – a condensed version of this series. Find that here.