On a lighter note

A man was walking along a beach and was deep in prayer.
All of a sudden he said out loud, “Lord grant me one wish.” Suddenly the sky clouded above his head and in a booming voice the Lord said, “Because you have TRIED to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish”.

The man said, “I would like you to build a bridge to Hawaii, so I can drive over anytime I want to.” The Lord said, “Your request is very materialistic. Think of the logistics of that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of another wish, a wish you think would honor and glorify me.”

The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, “Lord, I have been married and divorced four times. All of my wives said that I am uncaring and insensitive. I wish that I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say “nothing” and how I can make a woman truly happy”

After a few minutes God said, “You want two lanes or four on that bridge?..

My Legal View of the #childnotbride Story: A Magician’s Misdirection

The furore raised over this story reminded me of my childhood in Ilorin. I can remember watching a young girl of about 13 trying to escape her nuptials by fleeing the joyous scene on foot, while several young men chased and down and brought her back to complete the happy task. I can also remember seeing her around as she progressed through marriage having about 3 or 4 children.

What you may ask is the point of these nostalgic reminiscences? My point is that this ‘child’ marriage issue been going on for ages, generations even. It has never needed legal validation so why seek it now? That is the question we should be asking ourselves. This is my own answer.
I start from the premise that contrary to public opinion, our politicians are EXTREMELY smart. They are so sharp, they can cut diamond. Let us never be in doubt about that. Calling them names like clueless and silly and idiot, points the finger back at ourselves while they laugh all the way to bank. So why were our politicians so eager to amend the age at which one can renounce Nigerian citizenship?
We should be careful about how we address these issues, because there are a lot of subtleties in it. The amendment says that anyone can renounce citizenship as long as they are married. My submission is that this is a backdoor method to reduce the age of majority. One of the duties which come with the age of majority is the right to vote. Imagine then what would happen if ANY married person can vote. This will not have much effect in the South of Nigeria, but in the North, it would increase the electorate, in my own estimation, by 25%. This is what is at stake here, electoral power and not paedophilic lust, though if the latter is satisfied this would be a small bonus.
What has happened is a magician’s trick, a case of misdirection, while you watch the flourish of his left hand, the card is concealed in the right. While he blows a noisy flute with his lips, his feet perform the ‘magic.’ Knowing the track record of Nigerians in ‘support’ of issues, they know this will die down in a maximum period of three weeks. Remember fuel subsidy, aluu 5, abia gang rape, even MKO Abiola who people claim not to remember. I will remind us in 3 weeks exactly and we shall see if we have forgotten or not. Misdirection!
On the issue of the child marriage, it is amazing the see the faulty arguments being bandied in support, especially the one which uses ‘I live in a city,’ we are replying the conclusion without faulting the premises. Someone said ‘which do you prefer prostitution, rape or child marriage?’ my answer is, why are those my only choices? That is a false choice argument. If someone says which do you prefer to be shot in the head, heart or stomach? Your reply would be nowhere, thank you very much! Take your gun and go somewhere else!
My conclusions therefore are as follows; there is a sinister reason behind this debate and we are being misdirected to look in the wrong direction. Secondly, children are being given out in marriage every day, to do something about it we need sustained protest and not the flash-in-the-pan antics that we are fond of adopting. Finally, let us be objective and reflective in our view of issues. Don’t always argue what your adversary wants you to argue, but look to the bigger picture, look through his eyes. Do not underestimate. Beware misdirection.

Chimamanda on the African experience as an African American…

Race is something that one has to learn. I had to learn what it meant to be black. When I first came, somebody made a joke about fried chicken, and people said ‘Oh my God!’ And I just thought, ‘Why? What’s the problem? What’s going on?’ If you’re coming from Nigeria, you have no idea what’s going on. When I came to the United States, I hadn’t stayed very long, but I already knew that to be “black” was not a good thing in America, and so I didn’t want to be “black.” I think there are many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean who feel that way, and will say very clearly ‘I’m not black.’ There’s the overriding desire to do well, to succeed. If it means absorbing the negative stereotypes of a particular group, then that’s fine, they do it. I think also that many black immigrants don’t realize that they’re able to be here and do what they’re doing because of the sacrifices of African Americans. They don’t know the history. I didn’t when I came.

The politics of charisma, charm and image and the reality of character and substance

This is a piece I wrote a while back [2010], just contemplating democracy and the ‘populist’ coup in Egypt. Who will win the army supporters or the other supporters?

Funnily enough I started work on this piece before scheduling of general elections by the incumbent government in the UK. Due to my general lackadaisical nature and intrinsic laziness, I have been superseded by events and forced to change the tenor of the piece. In addition to this I would like to write it before the Second Coming so my efforts in piecing my disjointed ideas together would not be made completely redundant by the inevitable passage of time.

Even though we mostly profess to hate politics and the motley crew who administer and gain from its practice, we are ultimately fascinated by it and always drawn into an illicit relationship with it by the fact that we the people are increasingly relied upon to legitimise politicians by voting for them. In days gone by (the halcyon glory days before the openness of the media and new media ), politicians relied on manifestoes to gain our votes. But we know they are lying, in fact for a politician to tell the truth is out of character. It is rather like a disreputable and irresponsible young main trying to attract the attentions of a nubile young lady, if he is charismatic and persistent enough, he will eventually succeed in his suit despite the fact that all available evidence points to the fact that he is an unmentionable.

So entered charisma into politics. What this means to politics is that if you can say nothing at all in the most appealing way possible you may most likely win an election. (e.g. Obama, yes we can do what?) JFK and Churchill are two other examples of politician who relied more on “sweet mouth” to get that coveted price.

Now the currency has moved to image, Gordon Browns ability to lose the election rests as much on his leadership ability as on his feeble eye and his extremely unnatural and unfortunate smile. Cameron’s claim to fame is being the slightly non-human and inexplicably youthful looking leader of a party which has a majority of its members on senior citizen benefit. Nothing in human understanding can explain Clegg’s inordinate rise to fame (though I would suggest you investigate any possible visit to transcontinental jazz men.) Nevertheless none of these really affect the ability of a candidate to carry out the job which they enthusiastically and without hesitation or compunction encourage the people to choose them for. Whether or not they are suited for the job does not explain why in the Anglophone West a younger man is more likely to win against an older man in an election – or a job interview for that matter. (Cameron and Clegg’s major advantage against Brown being that they weren’t at school with him, or even born, when Brown was at school.)

Air brushing photos to remove wrinkles and reduce general circumference of candidates have also been introduced. It’s a wonder that one is expected to vote based on the physical fitness of a candidate or his/her good skin. I wouldn’t mind the name of their beautician though.

So what is the point of my ramblings? A vote is a precious thing. (if Hitler had not being democratically elected into the Reichstag think of how many lives would have been saved). This is the essence of a vote, in each voter’s hand lies the fate of the universe, we should refused to be swayed by sweet words or handsome mendacious candidates. If you live in a country where the army would not stop you from voting, or the polling materials be stolen just before the election and materialise fully used (including your own vote for your mortal enemy) at the end of the election, vote and vote wisely. That is a worthwhile chance to make a difference.

It Is The Change We Listen For

Talk delivered by me at the International Conference of Nigerian Students, University of Hull, 04/04/09
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would first like to appreciate the organisers of this conference for giving me the privilege to speak at a conference where men and women of great standing have so ably spoken. I hope that I will be able to justify the confidence which they have placed in me.
I have been asked to speak about Nigeria, a country for which I have a great love for, notwithstanding the fact that it is the only country that I have. I do not wish to dwell on Nigeria’s problems of which it is accepted they are many, but on the strengths of this great nations.
I have lived in and travelled the length and breadth of the country, to the North-central, South-east, South-west, in all, about 16 states of the federation. I have been amazed at the beauty of Nigeria, the deserts in the north and the forests in the south. The mountains that surround my house in Lokoja become enshrouded with clouds in the aftermath of the rains making feel the reality of paradise on earth. This beauty has moved me to emotional and poetical heights, but remains unmatched by the true worth and value of Nigeriawhich is its resourceful people.
Each of the over 150 million citizens of Nigeriais a uniquely and exquisitely crafted living-breathing wonder of the world. Our boisterous nature is untamed by the vicissitudes of life that characterise Nigeria. And these problems are myriad. I wish to submit that we focus mostly not on the problems of Nigeria but on the manifestations of these problems. We vilify a system which is solely a reflection of what we have become. Like every force or instrument in existence, a human being can be used for evil or for good. The difference between a person and an instrument is that a person has a choice. A choice to accept what can be called the norms of our society or to decide to buck the trend and take a different direction down the path less travelled and make a difference.
As citizens of Nigeria, we owe a responsibility to ourselves, each other and to generations yet unborn, to make the right choices. The choices we make today live long after we die and have more impact than we can ever foresee. For example a poorly taught class may result in substandard educational products, who will in turn build bad roads causing death to many, or manufacture toxic goods. A hospital partially equipped due to mismanaged funds will ultimately cause the death of thousands. If the way I live my life will cause someone to die, then I prefer not to live. Furthermore, we cannot absolve ourselves of guilt by declaring that we ourselves have part in the odious practices of corruption, for evil prevails when good men do nothing.
You may well ask me then “What can I as only one person do against the overwhelming tide of degradation that seemingly besets Nigeria?” I would reply there is unimaginable strength in the power of one person. The most popular example will be that of Rosa Parks whose defiance in the face of overpowering and accepted injustice led to the civil rights movement of the sixties without which Obama would not have become president of the United States of America. Her defiance was fuelled by an attitudinal change engineered by Martin Luther King Jr. in a little Baptist church in Montgomery. Dr. King preached a change in attitude that was translated into action and triumph of the human spirit. This singular act led to the election of Obama as the first non-white president of the USA – one choice whose effect touches us all.
My message is this, we all need to see Nigeriaas our responsibility, not that of those who hold leadership positions but are not actually leaders. Nigeriais our responsibility – yours and mine. A country’s leaders come from among its people. There is no corrupting device at the gates of Aso Rock or the government houses that liberally dot the landscape. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. Neither is this the time for a blame game. It is futile for us to point fingers accusing whomever of starting the corrupt practices. Each organisation in Nigeria, no matter how small has become a microcosm of government, marred by shady financial dealings, nepotism and vice.
Our national politics is incoherent. While many ‘good’ people refuse to have anything to do with politics which is debased as immoral, politics is left to those who do not mind the supposed immorality. It is our collective responsibility to see that our country is run well. We have a duty to vote, a duty to consciously decide who and who not to vote for based on the merits, and not a decision making process energised by nepotism. Unfortunately, this duty is not helped by the fact that our politics is not based on ideological lines but on ethno-linguistic lines. While we have politicians who remorselessly make campaign promises of road-building and job-provision. This absolutely irritates me. It is his duty to ensure that roads, hospitals and schools are built, jobs are created and students funded. What he is reading out is his job description and not a manifesto in the true sense of the word.
Many of our problems have resulted because we are still in the process of nation-building, when most other non-African countries have been extant for countless years. I must urge you to remember that the strong and working political structures that existed in pre-colonial times were disrupted by an arbitrary interference whose sole aim was to enter the hinterland to extract natural resources as demonstrated by the two parallel railway lines running from the South to the North of Nigeria. These two railway lines represent the failings of the colonial forces; not improving or building on that skeleton represents ours.
However, we must keep in mind that nation building is a long and arduous process that takes time and commitment. Romeas they say was not built in a day. Actually I learnt that it took a millennium for Rome to achieve its height of glory. Nigeriawill soon be 49 years, a mere babe compared to Rome in its splendour. Our commitment to Nigeria should go beyond what we can get from the treasury, but should extend to leaving a legacy for our children and their children after them.
Apart from an overall attitudinal change which can be achieved without resort to external forces, there are other changes which I would like to see in Nigeria. One of them is the making of history mandatory in primary and secondary schools with emphasis given to pre-colonial history. I studied history in school and had my eyes opened to the complex political structures and rich culture of the pre-colonial communities in West Africa. I think this has contributed to my love of Nigeriaand Africa. You cannot have pride in what you do not know. Most countries ensure that school boys and girls have knowledge of their country’s history. You cannot have pride in something you do not know.  You cannot have a sense of direction if you do not know where you are coming from. I have been appalled by the incalculable number of times detrimental fallacy about pre-colonial Africa has been spouted to me as gospel and fact.
I would also like to see a situation where research is carried out on the pre-colonial socio- political structures of governance in West Africa and Nigeria. We live in a pluralistic world where African views and practices are relevant and should not be ignored. I would choose Yannibo over the Shakespeare that was forced on me. Systems of government should evolve within the community by collective will and should not be forced on a people.
Another change which I would love to see is a transformation from our mono-export economy. Our dependence on oil has stifled our development potential. This unnatural dependence has caused agricultural and other mineral resources to be ignored. To illustrate this point, I would take you back to where I live in Lokoja where on a mountain about 30 minutes drive uphill lies miles and miles of unmined marble – sitting on top of Agbaja in plain view. Who knows what we would find it we bothered to look!
Countries in Africa which are not blessed with natural resources have turned to other sources such as tourism for revenue generation; while countries with rich in mineral resources have descended into bloody wars with or without the assistance of the global powers. Like my grandmother would say, the man who has a cap has no head, and the man who has a head has no cap.

Attention should be given to the tourism industry. Great strides can be made from small gestures. As my favourites TV show –the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – illustrates, it could take a 2 hour TV show for lots of people to know where Gaborone is. Unfortunately, we have not taken the opportunity which hosting of sporting events has provided us to generate tourism revenue. Instead, many are concerned with eating the national cake. But I fear, there shall be no national cake to eat till we take the time to bake it, rather we will continue stuffing ourselves on tasteless flour and raw eggs which only make us sick.

The future of Nigeria lies in our hands, we are more than able to deliver a viable nation to the next generation, but desire has to meet with capacity and be multiplied by the right attitude. Let us make the right choices that would keep Nigeria in peace, that would keep the children of Nigeria hopeful and ensure the greatness of Nigeria.
Sometimes life can be likened to music. If you sing a singular note for a long time – one minute, five minutes – it becomes boring. It is the change that we listen for. Nigeria has been singing a singular note for 49 years and generations of unborn Nigerians are listening for the change in our music. The choices and the changes we make today will make them dance or weep tomorrow. Let us make those changes and sing a song of victory and not a funeral song. The changes we make can affect the people around us in a ripple of ever widening circles, but it starts with the first drop in the water. We are the change they are listening for.
I believe in the promise of Nigeria. Nigeria is not the malfunctioning leaders in Abuja and the state capitals neither is it some ubiquitous but nebulous system. Nigeria is the towns and the villages. Nigeria is its people, fierce, proud, lively, resilient, unshaken by strife and despair, ingenious in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. We are Nigeria. I hold out the promise of Nigeria to you today pleading with you to believe in this promise. It is a light with I urge you to pass on to all around you. Your candle looses nothing when it lights another. Let us light up Nigeria with our dreams, our hopes, our lives and our successes.
Eyes are focusing on Nigeria, ghosts of the past and spirits of the future and people all around the world. It is our change that they listen for.

 

Thank you.

Despite Everything, I celebrate Naija

I celebrate life, I celebrate the lives of the youths, friends and wise elders that surround me, I celebrate fortitude, resilience, strength and indomitable spirit, I celebrate the past and its lessons, I celebrate today because am here, I celebrate the future and hope and faith in an unfailing everlasting God. I celebrate opportunity, I celebrate the earth and its abundance, I celebrate the sky and its fullness, I celebrate the noise, the laughter, the tears, the dancing, the screaming, the pain, regret and redemption. I celebrate the sound of clapping that I hear in my heart, the noise of rejoicing that my hope is producing, the sound of a fallen giant rising to its feet, far greater and stronger than before its fall, strong from the fire of oppression and deprivation, pain and misery, resolute in its resurgence, undaunted by the derision of the world. I celebrate the forests and the deserts the lakes and the gullies. I celebrate the people, young and old, rich and poor, schooled and unschooled.1 nation 1 spirit, 1heart of steel. I celebrate Naija