Monday, October 26, 2015

My Problem With 'Church' (1/X)

I decided to write this during a discussion with friends yesterday. I know I cannot exhaustively cover the many things I would like to see different in ‘church’ in one post, but I am not willing to commit to a series exploring the subject. Hence I have decided to make this one out of ‘x’ posts; I may, or may not, write other posts – and if I do, I may not write them any time soon.

I have used ‘church’ loosely, to mean different things in different contexts.

Here we go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terror in Nigeria's Food Basket

You may have noticed that onions, tomatoes, and yams have steadily become more expensive over the past two years. Prices have risen between 225% and 360% since 2013, well ahead of the official inflation rate. The brilliant folks at SBMorgen have dug deep into the situation, and released a report about ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt.

So far in 2015, 2000 people have reportedly been killed in the ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt, a number that rivals annual deaths due to the Boko Haram insurgency. Thousands of people have been displaced, and some farmers have not harvested their fields since 2006!!!
"The picture that our research painted is a grim one, of methodical violence by herdsmen against host communities, and steadily advancing southwards; and of herdsmen facing increasing violence from cattle-rustlers, coupled with a decline in grazing resources. Attitudes towards the Fulani are hardening, and there is evidence of a slow loss of confidence in the ability of the security forces to keep law and order. Both the host communities and the herdsmen have been neglected by the government and have been reduced to self-help." - SBMorgen.
"During a visit to the tomato depot in Ketu, we observed that the prices of tomatoes have increased by at least 225 per cent in the last two years, and in some cases, as high as 360 per cent. The variation in the prices during that time frame can only be described as shocking. A small basket of tomatoes roughly 3kg), which used to sell for between N5,000 and N6,000 in 2013, now sells for N18,000. The big basket (roughly 15kg), which was sold for N12,000 now costs between N26,000 and N27,000 depending on one's bargaining power." - SBMorgen.
The Middle Belt is the food basket of the nation, and food prices will continue to rise if the long-lived tussle between nomadic cattle herders and farmers is not addressed squarely and decisively. Beyond their status as the food basket, the government owes it to every Nigerian to keep them and their property safe - this in itself is the primary responsibility of a government. The large number of displaced people will continue to pose a humanitarian crisis, and provide a festering ground for future insurgencies; idle hands are often diverted to evil purposes.

You may follow the link to read SBMorgen's report on the incident. A 7-page summary of the report can be found here, and the full report (37 pages) here.

So far, the crisis in the North East has received disproportionate focus by the Federal Government. It is now time to shine a light in the direction of the Middle Belt and North Central areas. With concerted effort, Land Use reform, and an overhaul of the Agricultural Sector, we may yet turn this situation around.

A stitch in time saves nine.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What is the Nigerian Dream? (Thoughts on the Importance of a National Vision)

You may have heard of the American Dream. It has powered the aspirations of Americans for generations and fueled America’s rise to world-dominance. It unites Americans in the belief that they can achieve prosperity through hard work, regardless of social class or other limitation. Experts now argue about growing inability to achieve the Dream, but still agree it unites Americans in a shared vision of abundant possibilities.

Shared visions have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to unite people and drive countries to greatness. Neil Armstrong walked the moon in 1969 - only eight years after JFK first sold the goal to Americans. Singapore transformed rapidly under Lee Kuan Yew’s visionary leadership. My Vision, a book chronicling Dubai’s transformation from fishing settlement to foremost tourist destination, has inspired many young Nigerians.

Why then is Nigeria yet to unite behind a common goal for sustainable development and economic growth?
“We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.” - President Muhammadu Buhari, October 1 2015. 
The President could not be righter on this one: Nigeria has not fully exploited unity of purpose! If anything, the political class has sought to divide us even more for selfish reasons. There are few things that unite Nigerians across social divides, and these things tend to be fleeting - like the Super Eagles contesting in an international tournament.

What then do we need to do?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Nigeria: Why stay here until we die?

I last wrote an Independence Day post in 2009, six years ago. In that emotional piece, I drew on experiences that had brought me to tears - from lives lost in preventable accidents to classmates who had dropped out of school, ending it with a call to act for a better standard of life for the average Nigerian.

In the six years since then, I have started multiple essays but not completed any. Confronted with the magnitude of the challenges we face as a nation, I chose instead to focus on doing what little I could in my own corner. Tonight however, I feel strongly compelled to share the following thoughts. I will adopt the framework and text used by Olusegun Adeniyi, chair of the ThisDay newspaper editorial board and spokesman to former president Musa Yar'Adua, at The Platform earlier today.
3Now there were four men with leprosyd at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? 4If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” - 2nd Kings 7, NIV.
This story from the Bible describes a time of war and famine in Samaria. The King of Aram had besieged Samaria, and food was so scarce that mothers ate their children. It was a bleak situation for the Samarians. They had no choice but to wait it out and hope to defeat the Arameans in battle, or die slowly of hunger after all the young and weak were eaten. Then four men at the city gates, lepers, asked a question that changed everything.