The Long Road from Valleta: Why British-Africans voted to Leave the EU

From the beginning of the referendum campaign, it has been my contention that the campaign failed to address the concerns of citizens of the Commonwealth and those of African descent living in the UK. The BBC estimates that there were approximately 1 million Commonwealth citizens eligible to vote in referendum. This number does not include people with Commonwealth or African heritage who hold British citizenship. This was quite a considerable section of the electorate whose concerns were ignored or presumed. In fact some members of the Leave campaign petitioned to have this section removed from eligibility to vote, presuming that they would vote to Remain in the EU. For a Commonwealth African living in the UK, this was gaping hole in the campaign. I had an interesting time trying to counter presumptions made by various African friends about why they wanted the UK to leave the EU. I do wish I had said more when there was still time, but no one expects the unexpected. Ultimately, Africans voting to leave the EU was the result of badly run campaign, an enormous amount of misinformation and a glaring disregard of the history of Africa-Europe relations. The two primary issues that should have been addressed with regard to British-Africans were immigration and financial concerns.

Immigration

The free movement of people is a plus and a minus when campaigning to stay or leave the EU. However, Africans mostly regard themselves as unfairly treated in this equation. Any tightening of UK borders has always had a greater impact on people outside the EU. Prior to the Leave vote, EU immigration was untouchable. Every African I spoke to who voted to Leave, expected and still expects that exiting the EU would improve immigration policies for Africans. This was not addressed in the referendum campaign. There is absolutely no evidence to show that this belief is rightly held. It should be noted however, that the free movement of people from Europe into the UK occurred alongside increased restrictions on people from outside Europe. Until the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, all Commonwealth citizens could enter and stay in the UK without any restriction. Later the British Nationality Act of 1981 removed the automatic right of citizenship to all those born on British soil. In April 2006 the UK government introduced the points-based immigration system to replace a number of visa schemes. Since May 2010 immigration under the Tier visa points based system has become more and more difficult. These are points of concern for many Africans or people with African heritage with family in Africa.

We must not forget the ‘migrant crisis.’ (I believe that language on this matter has been used to dehumanise people who are fleeing horrific situations.) In a different blog I lament the EU’s reaction to the migrant crisis, especially in relation to African migrants. At Valletta, Malta, between the 11th and the 12th of November 2015, European and African Heads of State and Government held a summit on migration in an effort to strengthen cooperation and address the current challenges. I suggested at the time that the EU ‘presumed that the promise of money would be sufficient to spur African states into action on Europe’s behalf.’ There seemed to be within the political declaration from the summit, a presumption of what Africa wants/needs. This presumption was settled without dialogue with Africans or their leaders. Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashidali Sharmatke told the BBC: “What Africa needs today is not charity, but investment.”

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The Financial Dimension

Another sore point for Africans are the illiberal trade practices the EU and Europe has with African countries. At the EU/African summit in Valletta on migration Senegal’s President Macky Sall, accused multinational firms of tax avoidance and conniving at corrupt transfers of Africa’s resources costing countries many times what they receive in aid. This is coupled with the remittance [money sent ‘home’] to Africa from the diaspora [legal and irregular]. Remittances are notoriously nigh impossible to track. Africans tend to send money to Africa via unconventional means, sometimes due to the high charges imposed on African remittances by Europe’s finance houses. However, it is believed that the remittances from the diaspora to Africa could amount to nearly €150 billion per year. As African leaders pointed out in their speeches and comments to the press at the Valletta summit, the contradiction between aid to Africa and the exploitation of Africa’s resources needs resolution. Definite figures [nearly €30bn] are put on aid ‘given’ to Africa by the West. No definite numbers are put on what leaves Africa to the West, there is a possibility that it is in excess of €180 billion. These points were not addressed by the referendum campaign. They definitely weighed heavily on the minds of those who have to save a large part of their UK salaries to send home.

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The Results and the Aftermath

As a result of the foregoing, I suspect there were a sufficient number of Africans who voted to Leave who could have swung the vote to Remain. Some voted out of hope, some, spite. After the results there have been an alarming rise in racist events reported. Many Africans do not seem very bothered about this. Akwugo Emejulu, a professor at the University of Edinburgh (who has also written an excellent blog post about Brexit called ‘On the Hideous Whiteness Of Brexit‘) illustrates why in the following tweets:

What Comes Next?

With the freefall of the pound and instability in the global marketplace, I cannot bring myself to believe that Leave was the best result for Africa or anyone. According to Alex De Waal, Brexit is a terrible result for Africa because it will result in security and financial worries.

However, there are a considerable amount of people who think the result will have a good or insignificant effect on Africa. Grieve Chelwa believes that recession in the UK will have little impact on Africa, as he humorously states ‘If the UK sneezes Africa will … well Africa will say “bless you” and move on.’ Richard Dowden believes that Brexit is a political suicide that will have a limited effect on Africa. Levi Kabwato links Brexit to coloniality – it is an undeniable fact that Europe has always had a toxic relationship with Africa. Africans voted to leave the same Europe that traded Africa’s children for cheap cotton, the same Europe that carved up Africa’s land and created countries that split kingdoms and made families of warring factions, the same Europe that imposes stringent trade restrictions on Africa and then watches blithely as Africans drown in the sea fleeing from the result of all the foregoing. Revenge is a very poor reason for a vote, but the following Yoruba proverb has been proven by Brexit – iyan ogun odun a ma gbona janjan (a grudge is always as cutting as the day it began to be held).

It is essential that future campaigns should be informed by ALL relevant interests. Also moving forward, it is imperative that this toxic relation is mended. Europe should relate with Africa as an equal continent. There is no alternative.

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Stanley and Livingstone at Ujiji

Leading an expedition of approximately 200 men, Henry Morton Stanley headed into the interior of Africa from its  eastern shore on March 21, 1871. After nearly eight months he found David Livingstone in Ujiji, a small village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. According to H. Stanley ‘I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing, – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”‘

The following is my sort of poetic re-imagining of the encounter.

 

The sun is shining. The march is on.

I see him coming; the quest is won.

(Dr. Livingstone approaches.)

Shall we put on a show to acknowledge?

That he is the one coming over yonder ledge?

(Dr. Livingstone approaches.)

 

For many years we have searched this forest,

While malaria and mosquitoes have given us no rest

(Dr. Livingstone approaches.)

Our lives and future hung in the balance,

For this one moment we have given years of this weary dance.

(Dr. Livingstone is before me.)

 

By what thunderclap shall I record this glorious moment?

Shall I be remembered when my life is spent?

(Dr. Livingstone is before me.)

Thousands may make merry- that is not my way.

I hope I will be remembered as I say.

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

 

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We are Rhythm, We are the Beat of the Drum: How the African learnt to dance

(psst! for added feeling, press play on the video at the bottom of the poem)

 

We are Africa,

We are the rhythm and we are the beat of the drums,

This is how the African learnt to dance…

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We learnt to dance to the lilt of our hearts,

Feet stamping steadily to the constant concord of living,

Feet racing rapidly to the quick frenzied patter-patter of panic.

We learnt to dance to the rhythm of the raindrops on rooftops,

Arms swaying softly to the drizzling dew decorating the dawn,

Hands beating a stroppy tempo to the thunder and the storm,

This is how the African learnt to dance…

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We learnt to dance to beat of the war drums,

Defiant in the face of defeat, dancing to the tune of death,

Dancing when our numbers diminish, dancing when bodies disappear.

We learnt to dance to the rhythm of the funeral drums,

We learnt to dance with tears running down our skin, when no one would see us,

Body wracked with grief, heartbeat stuttering in pain,

This is how the African learnt to dance…

 

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We learnt to dance, despite the pain, we learnt to dance in the sun and the rain,

We learnt to dance on high mountains, we learnt to dance in dusty and grassy plains,

We learnt to dance in the deep desolate night, we learnt to dance in the smoky firelight,

We learnt to dance in the shadow of the full moon,we learnt to dance when the world ran out of tune,

Our dance is joy in the face of sorrow, our dance is resilient hope for tomorrow,

We are victory in the face of grave loss, we are gold instead of rotting dross,

We learnt to let our souls lead our feet, because we are the rhythm and we are the beat,

This is how the African learnt how to dance!

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Terrify No More (Complete)

(I had to publish this as I have added a couple of paragraphs since I began to write it in 2001. It was turning into an extended version of Homer’s Iliad)

The seas swell; I hear the ancient ship’s horn,

Slicing through the air in a bitter, thieving sojourn,

Hear the sounds of wailing and suffering from below,

Smell human waste from human cargo, carrion, compressed, row by row,

Dying now, or later,

Stolen, starved, stacked,

Those who live are going slowly to slave, slave, slave,

Going somewhere to thirst, thirst, thirst,

Slowly down to unhurriedly die, die, die,

May man terrify no more.

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Skeletal bodies, hairless heads encased in striped overalls,

Numbers tattooed, separates man from beast,

Beast, beast, beast,

Beast who numbers man, deprives him of his name,

Locks him in ovens,

Smoke spiralling out of the chimneys the only evidence that the nameless skeletal phantom ever existed,

A fragrance that God cries over,

A stench that men deny,

Say holocaust, say holocaust, say holocaust.

May man terrify no more.

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Silence abounds in the midst of the land;

Death and destruction lies; so nothing stands.

For the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, nuclear hell fell, well, from the sky

Today is the terror, tomorrow is no more,

War in boardrooms, and roundtables, is death in bedrooms and on dining tables,

And long after it seems that everything is normed,

Generations of innocents are born deformed.

May man terrify no more.

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Skulls, fleshless, crushed, damaged, destroyed skulls

So many skulls, bring back the terror, the horror, the dread, the mind numbing stench of limbs, bodies, blood of children, women, men, aged, blood, blood, skulls, skulls.

War. This is war, between Hutu and Tutsi.

Tens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands killed, maimed, scarred, quickly, swiftly, rapidly and very, very, deliberately.

Echoing the battle for Bosnia,

For as in Bosnia while they died, the rest of the world turned away, ignored the deaths for football, fashion shows, pets and politics,

Rwanda and its dead, destroyed, lay alone, forgotten, unmourned and forlorn.

May man terrify no more.

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Silently they take their meagre midday meal,

With one hand, for they will never be able to feel

The other one cut off from the elbow, the elbow, shoulder or wrist.

Short-sleeve, or long-sleeve, they asked him,

Short-sleeve, or long-sleeve or death, he knew,

Still living, hoping that his 6 year old son is still alive, a soldier of no cause,

His 10 year old daughter a wife of no marriage.

The savage scourge of Sierra Leonean life in war,

The world closes its eyes, turns its back as we march to hell.

May man terrify no more.

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A still dark night in the streets of a city,

A savage city, an urban jungle, a thriving Heliopolis

There he lies, bleeding, broken, bruised almost beyond hope

There near death in the alley, there.

Set upon for his difference, for his wallet, for being or just for fun,

There he lies, we see him, but walk past, look away,

More important than this soul is our mortgage, that appointment, our precious time, our cup of coffee,

And though he lives, his life is over, humanity dies in our Heliopolis.

May man terrify no more.

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Two towers stood, and in moments

Rubble and wrath,

Blood and despair lie here on the blasted ground,

No towers, no hope, a human missile flung at humanity,

A pistol to the temple of accepted charity,

Call 9/11, answer, death, death, death, despair,

While those who survive must deal with their loss,

The country tries to avenge their losses with force, destruction and force.

May man terrify no more.

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“Avenge the blood!” they cry, “appease my pain”, release the shame

And for the lives for 3000, we take 100 000, and yet it is not enough

We want more, more, more.

More blood, more rage, more pain, more anger, more shame,

Iraqi, Afghani, Afghani, Iraqi body count, can we ever count all the bodies,

Countless bodies, children’s bodies, the bodies of old men and women bowed down

By oppression, the body of a new bride, from hell to heaven to hell.

Limbs, skulls, torsos lying around, the ground, when the dust settles for now,

Countless bodies, endless blood, bloodshed, no life, no hope, just doom, just gloom.

May man terrify no more.

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The shouts of the violent rise up in the deserts sands,

Their bulging eyes unleash the terror in the hearts,

The terror in their hands, the machetes, the guns, the hatred, the blood.

Blood flows through the streets of the city, mingles with the dust,

Mingles with the age old blood, shed down the ages,

In the name of religion, politics, money and power,

And in the forest lands and the savannah people weep,

Their arms empty and bereft of their loved ones as long as we dwell on this side of eternity.

May man terrify no more.

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What shall we call them this moving mass of people?

What can they give us as they flee from destruction?

Load them in their thousands on the battered boats

If they drown we know that only a dead body floats.

We turn away from the desperation in the eyes,

We turn to those who will feed us with lies,

‘Here are those who threaten your existence,

Here are those against whom you should mount your resistance’

Convinced that refugees are leeches,

We let dead children wash up on beaches,

May man terrify no more.

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In our homes we have drawn battle lines of war.

They are not warm, safe havens anymore.

Say violence, violence, mental, physical, emotional violence.

Love is dead, hope is frail, trust, decayed,

We look for answers, when we have lost the questions

We look for keys, when the door is rotten.

Violence, violence, abundant violence,

The world looks on in dumbfounded silence.

May man terrify no more.

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The answer: we look up to God and take our stand

For people lie broken in all lands,

For those who would break the oppressed in their hands

God hears the desires of the needy from where they lie.

He encourages them and listens to their cry.

He defends the fatherless and those of lowly birth,

In order that wicked man, who is of this earth,

May terrify no more.

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Terrify No More

(I have been writing parts of this since 2001. The level of violence and incitement to violence has finally pushed me to publish this.)

President Muhammadu Buhari has proved to be a passable President for Nigeria. There are some things he has not done too badly. At the 2015 elections we had to make a choice between the devil and the other devil. There are of course, situations in which Mr President could have performed better. But remember that after the elections in 2011, Buhari reacted badly, when Pro-Buhari protesters took to the streets to express their displeasure, Buhari remained silent. Remember that.

Remember that across the world, in the US, Europe and the UK, there is tacit support for violence. Remember that the guilty ones are not only those that strike a blow, but those who whip up fear and hatred and panic based on differences in race or religion, colour or creed. The guilty ones are not only those who would take a human life, but those who would remain silent when humanity is reduced to the politics of anger and wrath. Remember that.

Our silence is tacit support for violence and our lack of objectivity is apparently worth more than the lives of the innocent. Buhari was silent. And I will not forget that. Neither should you. There is no saint, but neither should we be forgetful in the face of the trivialisation of human life. We cannot forget that some people stood by while young lives burned. But most of all let us remember, that hate will always, always destroy and love will always deliver. May man terrify no more.

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I wrote the second part of this in 2001, thinking of the holocaust, apartheid, slavery and genocide. But as more human lives are lost, i cannot remain silent. The nature of man never seems to change….

For Okeoma, Obinna, Precious, Seun and all the Innocent

‘The shouts of the violent rise up in the desert sands,

Their bulging eyes unleash the terror in the hearts,

The terror in their hands, their machetes, their guns, their hatred, innocent blood.

Blood flows through the streets of the city, mingles with the dust,

Mingles with age old blood, shed down the ages,

In the name of religion, politics, money and power, at root of the hatred, wickedness and needless anger,

And in the forest lands and the savannah, people weep, eyes lacking sleep,

Their arms empty and bereft of their loved ones as long as we dwell on this side of eternity.

May man terrify no more.

The answer: we look up to God and take our stand

For people lie broken in our land,

For those who would break the oppressed in their hands

God hears the desires of the needy from where they lie.

He encourages them and listens to their cry.

He defends the fatherless and those of lowly birth,

In order that wicked man, who is of this earth,

May terrify no more.’

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My Grandfather Taught Me That Change is Impossible

(Text of a talk given at ICONS held 10th-12 June 2016, De Monfort University, Leicester)

Every Nigerian is a uniquely and exquisitely crafted living-breathing wonder of the world. Our energetic nature is untamed by the vicissitudes of life that characterise Nigeria. Our sense of humour is consummate and unparalleled, if in doubt check out my personal favourite website Zikokomag and every other iteration of Naija-dedicated social media. We are the definition of industry. We thrive like a cactus. Remember a cactus has adapted to grow succulently in the desert, it blooms and flourishes and uses thorns to repel birds who would dare take advantage of this adaptive skill. Like cacti, survival is hard-wired into the Nigerian DNA.

My experience as a Nigerian has meant that I am here because I stand on the shoulder of giants. I stand on the shoulders of parents who never allowed me to give an inch – if I got 9 out of 10 on a quiz, my mother would ask me if I had eaten the remaining one mark. I stand on the shoulders of teachers and lecturers who made do with absolutely no resources and very little or no salaries to impart some knowledge and a lot of perseverance, note of caution, never test the patience of a Nigerian teacher. I stand on the shoulders of fellow Nigerians whose stories fill me with pride, whose stories challenge me to be better, who have gone ahead to do things we never dreamed possible.

So today I want to tell you a story of change. I am privileged to tell you a story of a figuratively tall giant. I love stories, stories define us, give us a sense of history, represent us, give us a template for the future and therefore empower us. So I bring to you a story of my grandfather and what he taught me about change.

My grandfather has always been my inspiration. His name was PA John Aremu Cole. He was born either in 1909 or 1910 in Koro-Lolle in present day Kwara state; he died in 1999. He was the kind of person who would reply your letter with corrections of your mistakes. He had quite an interesting life and I remember asking him what made him so. He said the turning point in his life was when he was given a wife. As was the norm, when he was in his late teens, sometime in the 1920s, he was presented with a lady from an appropriate family who he was meant to marry and produce sons to farm the land. He did not think this would be a good idea. He told me that he did not want to be exactly like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him. He wanted to be different, he thought that there was more out there, more to life.

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So rather than take a wife, he decided to walk from Koro to Ilesha, to the teacher’s college there. He walked for 2 weeks. 140 km/90 miles. For those of us who have done their Youth service – imagine doing an endurance trek every day for 2 weeks! My grandfather spent a few years in Ilesha, graduated from teacher’s college and then went back to what is now the Kogi/Kwara area as a teacher/headmaster and principal, something those who gone before him had never been, or never dreamed to be. This is his story. This story drives me. This story is my secret weapon that I take out when the battle is fierce, when I am discouraged, when I doubt, I remember my grandfather’s journey. And I will tell you why.

The theme of ICONS 2016 is ‘Opportunities and Legacy.’ A legacy starts with a dream. A legacy is a story. To have a legacy we need to take opportunities to change our dream to into reality. So what does my grandfather’s legacy teach me about change? The concept of change is very interesting. Change, they say is the only constant in life. Sometimes I feel that as Nigerians we think the concept of change came down with yesterday’s rainfall, but every transformation and movement, political, cultural, sociological, personal or national has been predicated on a platform of change, from the Alexander the Great, the Bolshevik Revolution, American war of independence, the World Wars, decolonisation, to the personal things, going to school, getting married, getting a job. We change because we want something different, we change because we want something more. To change means ‘to make a material difference so that the thing is distinctly different from what it was.’ I also find it interesting that the definition of change could be positive or negative – all that is needed is a distinct difference. A billionaire that becomes a pauper has changed too. The key to success, personal or national is harnessing the power for positive change. Anytime I think about change I think about my grandfather and the lessons his life taught me.

The first thing I note is that change is disruptive. To change we do not put more effort in the same thing, we need to do things different, we need to do things differently. The internet was disruptive change. Mobile phones were disruptive change in the early part of the 21st century in Nigeria. If you are going in the wrong direction you do not run faster, you get off the path. So we need to take personal responsibility. Because, change starts with dissatisfaction. Anything you are willing to tolerate cannot be changed. What we cannot put up with, we eventually repudiate.

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Secondly change is individual. You can only become something you have an aptitude for. I studied law because I believed this was my passion. I was pushed and prodded to do medicine. Many patients should be on their knees thanking whatever deity they worship that I do not have charge of their health. I may be called doctor, but I will do you absolutely no good as a physician. Change starts from what you have, what is in your hand, where you stand now, what you are. Some people know that famous quote by Pablo Picasso, ‘My mother said to me, “If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.” Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.’ You are the only person that can become the best you. You can only be second best at being someone else, at being what you were not made to be.

Change is imaginative. Change means having a dream. A dream is a vision you have in spite of what people are telling you and how things seems. Having a vision in spite of your circumstances requires imagination. A dream without imagination leads to an existence rather than an experience. A dream requires you to push the boundaries. Therefore the potential for change is limitless, because we are only restricted by our minds. If your concept of change is based on what other people have already done then that is a bandwagon. French businessman James Goldsmith said: ‘If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.’ For change to be successful, it has to be innovative, it has to be something new, it has to be something needed, something necessary.

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Change is persistent. Which is a polite way of saying being stubborn. But you cannot give up at the first hurdle. My grandfather walked for two weeks, without the benefit of a map, or satellite navigation. He went into uncharted territory, slept in the darkness, relied on the kindness of strangers, only with the vague and uncertain promise of some school at the end of it. We cannot afford to give up. We cannot afford not to try. Of course there are so many things that will try and kill your dream. The dream snatchers and dreamkillers. But stand up to them and tell them ‘No.’ tell those dream killers ‘The only way you will take my dream is if you prise it from my cold, dead fingers, and even then you will have to cut off my fingers, for they will be closed in a fist, a fist of persistence, a fist of power!’ We have nothing to lose. We can only regret what we fail to do. Anything we do that fails teaches us something.

Positive change adds value. Change must be assessed in terms of people rather than naira and kobo, pounds and pence, dollars and cents. You have to think legacy at all times. We often complain that our elders destroyed our country before we were born. I fear that our children will say worse about us. My grandfather left me no money, or wealth or houses, just a few books. But my inheritance is strength of character, mental fortitude, love of humanity, joy. I am my grandfather’s legacy. I am here because he trekked, I am here because he seized an opportunity for change. That is the price of originality. You are unique, the value you add stems for being the best of yourself that you can be. Do not let anyone use a label to limit your originality. Do not put a price tag on success. The funny thing about money is that money is a world class sprinter. If you chase money, you will never overwhelm it, you may be able to catch at strands of its garment, but you will never subdue it. But if you chase originality, money will come for you. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs are good examples of this. When money chases you, it will surely overwhelm you.

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Change is risky and sacrificial. As a child I used to climb trees. Don’t let these fancy clothes deceive you, fruit trees, cashew trees, guava trees, you could mostly find me near the top of them. I risked life and limb for fruit that was slightly fresher than the ones near the ground. The idea of low-hanging fruit in a business sense is a low risk opportunity. Note that this is still risky. However, in business and in life you need to risk big to win big. Albert Einstein said ‘A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.’ You were built to me more, you were built to leave a glorious legacy. What you hold back will do you no good. We need to go for it.

However change is informed. You cannot place bets on a whim. Which is why gambling makes no sense without a system. My grandfather did not wander aimlessly into the sunset. He had a plan based on information. Information is vital to change, because it transforms our thinking. Many times we see information as a source for answers, but we also need to be asking the right questions. Being informed means that change is controlled, it is organised, it is not merely reactive. We cannot become all that we can possibly be if we are moved by every alteration on the horizon. We cannot be like a leaf tossed by the wind. We need to be constant, we need to be unmoved in the face of incredulity, despite the whispers of those who do not believe in our potential. And the only way to be this confident is to have a plan that is informed and creative, a plan that is audacious.

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There is one more lesson that my grandfather taught me about change I will come back to that in a minute. Let’s take this change locomotive to Nigeria. I need to point out that everything I have said about change thus far can be applied in a personal but also in a national and supra-national context. Effective and positive change in Nigeria has to be disruptive. We need to change direction rather than driving further into perdition. We need to be dissatisfied with the state of Nigeria, I will say that we are slightly upset at this point. We lash out at fellow sufferers and leave the culprits of our malaise untouched. The change that Nigeria needs has to be unique to Nigeria – we are an incomparable nation; we cannot copy any other country’s path. We need to engage our imagination. Think about how Nollywood and stand-up comedy in Nigeria grew out the adversity of the 90s. Our leaders have as much power as we grant them. We need to be informed. The purpose of education is not to give us answers, when we do not know the questions to ask. Many people would tell me that Mungo Park discovered the River Niger, but those who fished and bathed in it daily, never reported it missing. Many people hailed Ellen Sirleaf Johnson as the first woman leader in Africa, but Queen Amina was leading her people into battle in the 1500s, in the 1400s Emotan helped the Oba of Benin to reclaim his throne and long before TV programs such as ‘spooks’, ‘suits’ and ‘homeland,’ became a thing, Moremi Ajasoro was an undercover agent and helped deliver her people. A people who do not know where they are coming from will find it difficult to find direction. Political and historical amnesia or ignorance is a cankerworm destroying the opportunities of Nigeria’s people.

Therefore, I am passionate about the reintroduction of history into our curriculum, the decolonisation of global and national curricula, the revitalisation of the agriculture industry and the creation of a tourism industry. But change has to start from the individual. 180m changed Nigerians cannot be led astray by a fantastically corrupt leader – whoever that leader is. 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 logic and not emotion, a duty to remain consciously engaged with the political process in an objective and logical way and not be emotive and tribal. For far too long our politics have been run on the fuel of ethno-linguistic fury. Our politicians irrespective of ethnicity or religion or political affiliation remain fused at the top of our socio-political structure into one mass of intractable hold on power, while we aim poisoned arrows at our fellow sufferers. Because ultimately we are Nigeria. Nigeria is not our disreputable politicians in Abuja and our state capitals neither is it some indefinable and malevolent system. Nigeria is her cities, her towns and her villages. Nigeria is her people, fierce, proud, lively, resilient, unshaken by strife and despair, ingenious in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. We who are brighter than sunlight, darker than midnight. We who step out into the mysterious, who laugh in the face of resistance. You and me, we are Nigeria.

Finally, my grandfather taught me that change is impossible. When I was in primary school if a teacher asked us ‘what is 5 minus 10?’ or 3 minus 6, We would all yell ‘IMPOSSIBLE!!’ When we went further in our education we learnt that there were negative numbers. So this is my definition of impossible –  impossible is a word used to define a problem to which a solution has not yet been found. We are the solution to our quest for personal change, we are the solution to Nigeria. Because we are impossible. Most of us should not be here. We should have fallen prey to the high infant mortality rates that stalk Nigeria, we could have fallen prey to the insidious killer mosquito, which we live with in quiet acquiescence; the inescapably malevolent killer Nigerian roads which swallows its victims whole did not destroy us; the armed highwaymen uniformed and non-uniformed have not ended our dreams; the arbitrary education system spewed us out, damaged yet defiant, the pervasive violence is our system may have scarred and maimed us, but we are still here. And Nigeria is still here. Despite the logic that says we should no longer exist, we do. Every equation says we are impossible, yet here we are. In 2015, hordes of international journalists flew into Nigeria with bullet proof vests and flack-jackets waiting in unholy glee for the inevitable catastrophe that never came. Because we are impossible.

My grandfather taught me that change is impossible, but thankfully, so are we.

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Sometimes Justice Comes

Sometimes justice comes for those yet unborn, so that their eyes never face the light,

So they never experience hate, or hurt, or doom or dread,

But for those of us left alive, justice is like dark whispers in the dead of night

A rumour of friendly spirits turned to dust, a dream, a wish… the wind.

 

Sometimes justice comes in our imagination, a hope of victory, a hope of vengeance,

A hope of retribution for bloodshed, a hope of peace from pain,

But sometimes justice comes for those who sleep, who eyes will never see another dawn

Sometimes justice comes for those lost to life, sometimes justice comes for the departed.

 

So we dream of justice for a generation lost in the waters,

Justice of those whose song was snatched from their mouths,

Justice for interrupted dreams,

Justice for those who live in the shadows,

Justice for the bodies, whose souls were stolen in silence,

Justice for those lost in battle, justice for those living with hate

Justice for those felled by the hands they loved,

Justice for the forgotten, justice for the absent, justice for the silent.

We dream of justice,

We fight for justice,

We live for justice,

Because sometimes, sometimes…justice comes