Friday, October 23, 2020

#EndSARS: Rest and recover your energy, for the journey ahead of us is long

I have seen posts today indicating many young Nigerians feel tired and defeated. I wanted to remind us all that building a country that works for us and our children is a marathon, not a sprint.

Let us not diminish what we achieved over the past few weeks. SARS was disbanded, again, and hopefully for good. Many state governments have set up panels of inquiry into police brutality and some have started “showing their workings”. We have shown the political class that it will not always be business as usual. And there’s more.

I am deeply sorry for the lives that were taken by agents of the state during the protests and by hoodlums during the unrest that erupted afterwards. I am also very sorry for the people who were injured. These ultimate sacrifices must not be in vain.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

On #EndSARS (Again)

I am overwhelmed by the reports of police brutality that have surfaced over the past week*. From the mid-90s (and likely before) to the past week, too many Nigerian lives have been cut short or had their trajectory altered significantly by policemen whose job it was to protect those people.

There have been reports of torture and extrajudicial killings. We have heard from relatives who have not seen their loved ones in years after they were arrested by the police. What is missing in all these reports is justice. A SARS officer notorious for extrajudicial killings in Awkuzu was appointed an adviser to a governor**. Another was promoted to become the head of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Many other trigger-happy policemen remain nameless and faceless, living their lives without paying for their crimes against humanity.

This is not right and things have to change. I am proud of the young people who risk their lives everyday to keep this issue on the first page of the agenda. While we cannot bring back the lives that have been lost, we can continue to demand justice for them and to apply pressure until the government takes meaningful action to address police brutality once and for all.

Aluta continua, victoria ascerta.

* These stories are frankly overwhelming and some of the pictures are very graphic. If you’d like to see them, search #EndSARS on Twitter or visit www.endsars.com.

** He has now been fired and the governor has promised he will be charged for his crimes, but he should never have been appointed an adviser in the first place as there have been allegations against him in the public domain for many years now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

#EndSARS: Why scrapping SARS will make a difference, even if the officers remain in the police


Like other young Nigerians, I spent my Sunday afternoon calling for an end to Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Long removed from its origins as a crime fighting unit, SARS evolved into an extortionary outfit that profiled and harassed Nigerians. The Inspector General of police has since announced the scrapping of SARS, but the protests continue for a variety of reasons, one of which is the lack of public trust that these announcements will result in meaningful and lasting change.

A few people have asked why we were calling for an end to SARS if they would simply be reintegrated into other police squads. I wrote this to address that question and to share some other thoughts on what else is required to begin the long journey of rebuilding public trust in the Nigerian police.

We know people act differently in groups than when they are alone and there is research to prove it (here, here). There are many reasons for this, three of which I would like to highlight: groups produce conformity, normalize behaviors, and intensify attitudes. All three are pretty straightforward. I am more likely to get drunk when I hang out with a group that gets drunk (conformity). In these circumstances, I am more likely to think getting drunk is normal (normalize behaviors). Over time, I am likely to begin drinking more than when I first begun and become more certain that it is right to be drunk (intensify attitudes). While I chose a negative example, this also works in positive ways and people can improve their life outcomes to some degree by changing the groups they belong to.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Happy Birthday, Koye

**1**

I have had to remind myself several times over the past few months that I am not turning 30. I often catch myself thinking “I’m going to be 30 and…” and then I stop and say to myself, sometimes out loud, “you are not going to be 30”. Isn’t it strange how hard I tried to act and look older for many years and now want nothing more than to be younger?

It’s easy to understand why I keep thinking I’m about to turn 30. I have been the youngest in most of my social groups for as long as I remember, and many of my close friends have turned 30 or are doing so this year. This also means that my “I’m about to be 30 and I have not…” crisis came earlier than expected. Phew.

It sounds a bit silly now that I’m sharing it publicly, but I really had a mini-crisis of sorts. I went through a few days of whining, then read my “birthday goals” for the past nine years and remembered I had a lot to be proud of and grateful for. Gratitude always changes the paradigm!

Monday, June 29, 2020

On Leaving Home

Murtala Muhammad International Airport at night. Picture by me.

This is the longest I have been away from Nigeria at a stretch and it shows. Everything reminds me of home.

This morning, the buzz of a lawnmower and the leafy smell of freshly cut grass remind me of my father and his incessant mowing of our outsize lawn. Ibadan.

Close the door to keep the smell out and the lawnmower’s buzz morphs into something resembling the cacophony of electric generators. Lagos.

Home never leaves you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

#BlackOutTuesday - Heal The World



The past few days have been challenging and emotionally draining on many levels that form part of my identity as a person.

As a Nigerian man, I have been confronted with news of senseless violence and rape perpetuated by a group of Nigerian men. Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, 22, was attacked while studying in a church, raped, and left for dead.

As someone who calls Lagos home and looks forward to moving back there, I have had to process yet another untimely death at the hands of police officers sworn to protect the people. Tina Ezekwe, 16, died from a gunshot wound that sounds like it was treatable if emergency care had been more effective. She was shot in the left leg and survived two days in the hospital before dying.

As a black person living in a majority-white country, I have seen yet another black person die an undignified death. George Floyd, 59, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a policeman. He died begging for his life, pleading for a breath, and calling for his mother.

It is tiring.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A High-Level Plan for Challenging the APC's Dominance in Lagos

Voter turnout in the Lagos State 2019 Gubernatorial Election

Only 1 out of every 7 registered voters in Lagos voted in the 2019 gubernatorial elections . Of the approximately one million people that voted, 739,445 of them voted for the APC, electing Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu as governor of Lagos State.

Including its previous incarnations as the AD and the ACN, that was the APC’s sixth consecutive victory at the gubernatorial polls in Lagos. Clearly, the APC has built a solid base in the state. But has this unbroken string of victories been good for Lagos? Would the state benefit from the political opposition mounting a stronger electoral challenge?

I couldn't easily find usable data from 2009 and before, but it tells a similar story if my memory serves me right. The APC is firmly in control of Lagos.

I believe Lagos would benefit from a strong challenger to the APC. Healthy competition will benefit the people as parties will be incentivized to seek office by serving or offering to serve the electorate better. That is in contrast to the current situation where the APC’s near-certain hold on power elevates internal kingmakers and party delegates above the wider Lagos electorate. Healthy competition will also yield better transparency, as successive governments from different parties are not incentivized to cover up the previous administration’s misdeeds*.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thoughts From Lockdown: On Pandemics, Slighted Gods, and Public Policy

Deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic in colonial Nigeria

I recently finished Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider, a book about the 1918 flu pandemic and its impact on the world. I have been thinking about the current pandemic and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Let’s dive in.

**1**

There will be more pandemics. There are many viruses lurking in reservoirs such as bats, waiting for an opportunity to cross to humans. As more people eat exotic animals and come into closer contact with wildlife, there will be more interactions that open the door to zoonosis.

A zoonosis is a human illness caused by a pathogen that has crossed from nonhuman animals. Ebola is a zoonosis, having crossed over from bats. Lassa fever, the Zika virus, and all influenzas are zoonoses. AIDS has zoonotic origins, crossing from chimps to humans before mutating into a human-only disease.

Monday, March 16, 2020

How to thrive at life and work in the age of COVID-19


You can hardly look anywhere these days without being inundated with news about COVID-19. I wrote one more article related to the virus, but not to spread fear or tell you “what my business is doing to ‘keep you safe’”. I wanted to share a few tips for keeping your head up in the age of COVID-19.

1. Manage your headspace. Do you really need to know right away that one more person in South Africa has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past hour? Except you work in Infectious Diseases or were planning to holiday in South Africa, the answer is likely no. So why are you glued to Twitter or CNN gorging on the latest updates? If you find that you’re constantly stressed as a result of all the news, consider taking a step back. Mute certain keywords and accounts on Twitter, snooze people for 30 days on Facebook, and limit your ‘COVID-19 news’ consumption to key programs and reputable sources for a limited time everyday. Do other fun things that are good for your mind: watch your favorite TV show, read a good book, or play some games!

Friday, January 03, 2020

What is more important than your goals for 2020?


I was recently reading my annual goals going back to 2013 and I began spotting a pattern. The goals I achieved had something in common, same as the goals I did not achieve. Over the past seven years, I was far more likely to have achieved goals that were backed by systems. I was also far less likely to have achieved goals that were not.

For example, my goal to weigh 80kg first showed up in September 2014. It was specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound. I stuck it on my wall. It was in the list I sent to my accountability partner. But nothing happened. Actually – something happened: I added more weight! That goal showed up again in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. I did not achieve it until October 2019.

So, what changed in 2019? Why did I finally achieve this goal after five years? I put a system behind it. I turned exercise into a habit and started counting calories. I achieved the goal within five months of implementing a system!