Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nigerian Christendom: A Misguided Sense of Neutrality

About a year ago, I wrote the following post out of mild annoyance at the perceived apathy of the church towards happenings in the Nigerian polity. I would love to take a trip down ‘memory lane’, even as I work on a new incarnation of this post.
Ehm, obviously, my writing has improved a lot between then and now. I feel I should allow it flow the way I conveyed it back then, so I have chosen not to edit it and correct the mistakes I have noticed in the original post...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Love Rekindled

I wish I could start this by saying that I just finished reading the pre-release copy of ‘A Love Rekindled’ – Myne Whitman’s new book – and then go on to write a beautiful review. However, I cannot – so I’ll just have to make an assertion based on my journey into the depths of ‘A Heart to Mend’ and trust the judgement of Lara Daniels and Folake Taylor – while I eagerly await my own copy of ‘A Love Rekindled’.
While I am no student of English Literature, after studying well over five hundred fictional accounts by a wide variety of authors over the past ten or so years – I feel qualified to declare that ‘A Heart to Mend’ is a book like no other in the ‘Romance’ genre.
I read it only a few days after listening to Chimamanda speak about ‘The Danger of A Single Story’ (TED) and it was refreshing to come across one more book that tells the story of Nigeria and Nigerians from a somewhat holistic perspective. Another really impressive thing about ‘A Heart to Mend’ was the simplicity with which its message was conveyed. I am not one for stock market jargon, but it was unusually easy to follow the parts of the book that pertain to the Stock Exchange. AND, did I mention that I finally visited the Silverbird Galleria for the first time after reading it?
With such a wonderful experience tucked away from reading ‘A Heart to Mend’, I daresay that ‘A Love Rekindled’ IS by all means the book for THIS SEASON!
Authors like Myne Whitman make me proud to be Nigerian, and even more proud of what Nigerians can achieve when we set out to achieve excellence in any field.
I need us to show support for one of our own, and to appreciate an author who has defied many odds to pass her message across... You can find out more on the weeklong event culminating in the book-launch and the month-long book premiere here.
Even if you are no book collector, books like ‘A Heart to Mend’ and predictably ‘A Love Rekindled’ bring a refreshing new perspective to life – while exploring themes that are universal in their outlook (premarital sex, mobility across different social classes etc), so PLEASE buy the book o!!! Do not borrow from someone else... Get your copy NOW!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Dance With Death I

I met the most interesting guy today.
His name is Jimoh, and he was released from a local Mental Home only three weeks ago. He is fidgety - habitually shifting his weight from one leg to another while standing, and he seems incapable of looking straight into anyone's eyes. He has not had a bath in two days, as he only has the chance to use a bathroom when he visits his mother every Saturday evening – and he cannot remember the last time he had a change of clothes.
He cannot remember how long he spent in the Mental Home, but he was told his mental problem started sometimes in 1998 – he walked out of his parents' home in December that year. He was found at some time after that and taken to the Mental Home – where a variety of herbal concoctions and physical punishment inflicted by a 'Babalawo' made him 'whole' again.
He has not been to any hospital to confirm that he is truly sane. In my own opinion, he still needs medical attention. He is surprised by many of the advancements in society which others have come to take for granted. Last week he still stopped by the long abandoned NITEL office on Old Ife Road to make a phone call to a long lost journalist friend jailed by the Abacha junta.
Today, three weeks after gaining his 'freedom' – Jimoh is a commercial bus driver. Yes, you read right! Jimoh is a commercial 'danfo' driver in Ibadan, plying a 13km stretch of road between Olodo and Gate Bus stop. His bus is the typical rickety affair that is a constant feature on Ibadan roads, complete with a conductor that does his best to spend more time hanging onto and chasing the bus than he does sitting inside it. A percentage of what he makes daily is his to keep, while he returns the rest to a 'Baba' whose name he does not know and has never bothered to ask. He also swears allegiance to same 'Baba', and has committed to show up for 'other political engagements'.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Theatre of the Absurd III

National Anthems are formal songs honouring the spirit of a country. In this regard, the Nigerian National Anthem is no exception. Carefully worded with lyrics meant to elicit strong feelings of patriotism and serve as prayers for continued growth and unity, the Nigerian National Anthem has been taught to the nation since 1978.
It is safe to state that it is practically impossible to pledge allegiance to a country and yet not know the words to her anthem. It is also safe to state that persons who cannot recite a national anthem do not make a habit of following formal political occasions, as National Anthems are often sung to declare such ceremonies open.
It is therefore with much dismay that I receive the news of the confirmation of Mrs. Bristols’ appointment as a Nigerian Ambassador by the Senate - despite the fact that she could not completely recite the national anthem and pledge when asked.
It is inconceivable that at such advanced age and work experience, ‘nervousness’ or ‘exam fever’ could cause Mrs. Bristol to forget the words to the National Anthem, or the name of Jigawa’s capital. It is further incredible that the Senate went on to confirm her appointment even after Jubril Aminu stated that “she demonstrated fair knowledge of the job and what is required of her as an ambassador... BUT was not knowledgeable on specific and general issues concerning the diplomatic concerns of Nigeria.” (Source:; emphasis mine). What are we then saying?
Some points are pressingly obvious from this dismal outing on the floor of the Senate.
First of all, Mrs. Bristol is not necessarily consumed by patriotic fervour – a pre-requisite in my own books for a good representation of the country in other lands. If she cannot recite the anthem, then she probably does not care very much about the land which the anthem honours.
Secondly, Mrs. Bristol neglected to prepare for that interview. In a situation where she had taken time to research interviews granted to previous candidates for Ambassadorial offices, she would have found that she would be asked to recite the anthem and pledge – and probably answer other questions on national policy. Not doing that makes it painfully obvious that she took the whole selection process for granted – no doubt after receiving assurances from certain persons that she would get the position no matter what.
It is not necessary to go any further before I posit my conclusion: if someone cannot recite the anthem – they do not deserve to be an ambassador.

Please follow the links for earlier incarnations of 'Theatre of the Absurd' - Theatre of the Absurd I, Theatre of the Absurd II.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

School Closure: A Tool To Be Used With The Greatest Of Caution

(Tiwanijesu... Read through the post to find out who she is)
Her first daughter's name is Fatimoh, which makes her 'Iya Fatimoh' in Yoruba parlance. She sells akara under the Students Union Building at the Obafemi Awolowo University. She does not make much profit on a daily basis, but it is enough to put food on the table for her family of three – herself and two children – she is a widow. If you are wondering exactly how much profit (before billing) she makes daily during an academic session, it averages N700 per day.
His name is Malik. He is a Part Two student of Biochemistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University. He lost his father when he was only two years old, and his mother is paralyzed from the waist down – so he shoulders the responsibility for his family of three – his mother, himself, and a sister. He rides a commercial okada between classes; and over the years he has saved enough to 'employ' an uncle of his riding a second okada and making daily deliveries. After paying the bills, he manages to save an average of N500 a day. That may not sound like much to you, but those savings mean the world to him.
His name is 'Biola, and he is in SS2. He is not sure exactly which day he was born, but he knows it was just before Babangida annulled the 1993 elections. That makes him somewhere around 18 years old. He drives a commercial bus, popularly called 'town igboro', and he plies a route spanning from SUB to General after school hours. Of course, he does not have a driving license – and the bus is not his. After making daily deliveries to the 'baba isale' and frequenting his favourite night club (where he splurges on a girlfriend who is roughly twice his age), he manages to save N400 a day. One day, he plans to buy his own bus – so that he can gradually rise to the upper echelon of the NURTW (at N400 per day, he will need to save for about 3 years and 6 months to buy a rickety (by my own standards) bus). Yes, and did I mention that he wants to study Mechanical Engineering and become a Registered Engineer?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Convocation, Greatness: Random Thoughts

(This is me, and MBFF - Eno-Mfon Efiong. You can read my 'tribute' to her (on her graduating and 'leaving' me behind) here).


It has been a great day, albeit a stressful one.

Today, for the first time since gaining admission into the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria in November 2006 – I participated in a Convocation Ceremony. Beyond the usual 'begging-for-rice' thing that is characteristic of the average non-graduating student in OAU, I actually went all out to engage graduates (and at times their parents) and to get them to discuss their plans for life after school.

It is encouraging that the average graduate of OAU has a pretty good idea what they want to do with their life, but I also could not shake the feeling that some of the answers were too 'textbookish', and 'stage-managed'. Evidently, a lot of the graduates still have their parents 'managing' their lives.

I think one of the many 'challenges' of African society is that it tries to impose on everyone an obligation to every other person, particularly your immediate family. That is not too complex, I hope, and I hope I put it right. Yes, and please, do not get me wrong – that can be a good thing from a moral standpoint.

The AVERAGE Nigerian parent rears their children with the ultimate aim that they grow up to become 'big men' and then take care of them in future. The AVERAGE Nigerian parent spends less on Female Education because of the misconception (although it is sometimes right) that their male offspring are better placed to take care of them in their old age than their female counterparts (after all one boy can just come from somewhere and start dictating to the girl how much she should send to her father). One father expects his son to deliver his first-month-salary to him untouched, in appreciation of the fatherly role he has played over the years. Another father submitted that he would plan his son's monthly budget until he marries (I laughed out loud at this one o, and launched an appeal for the young man – so that they might let him manage his own life – abi ke...).