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The new generation and compulsory tasks

The expectation is usually that with age, there should be progress; with education, there should be progress; with experience, there should be progress. It is easy to understand why such expectations abide in different societies. This is because each of those things – age, education, experience symbolize growth in and of a person.

A new generation symbolizes growth and people in different societies put a lot of their faith in this particular kind of growth. I too put a lot of my faith in this new/young generation which I am a part of (I am looking at from age 35 and downward). For Nigeria, I have faith that at some point, more young people will be able to get involved in politics, so that they can change some of the usual norms of governance that have been operating in different government systems in Nigeria. Corruption in Nigeria dates back to decades before I was born but it is still in effect in this 21st century. So, in Nigeria, corruption is like a norm of ancient times (mainly since after Independence). Since that is so, I am hoping on a new, younger generation that will at some point come in and lead with compassion, accountability, fairness and a commitment to the public.

In North America, the common ideology is that racism mostly abides with people of older generations – people who lived through a time when racism was at the crux of their specific society’s social and political sphere. However, I wonder if it is possible that it is mainly members of the older generation that have been sending racially-motivated insults at Leslie Jones, via Twitter (a popular ‘new generation’ social media network). I used the word “wonder”, because I am not stating that I know for a fact, the generational groups of most of the bullies who targeted Leslie Jones. However, note that, with growth, there should be progress. The problem arises when the new generation does not unlearn the prejudices and hurtful ideologies that could be found in a past generation.

There are encouraging occurrences, however, which make me have unwavering faith in the young generation. Continually, I come across stories of young people who are challenging and shattering barriers to their group or society’s progress. Barriers that were once a norm. Black Lives Matter groups, associations in different countries that mark Pride (LGBTQ+ pride) through outdoor events, girls saying no to child marriage in Zimbabwe etc.

So yes, I see many of the younger generation taking up the mantle of change but I want to use this post to remind all young people that you and I have a task and hold the power to lead a prosperous, freer and a more just tomorrow.

Love,

Chiamaka

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My Two Cents on Change and Human Rights for Nigeria

What does bringing change in the governance system of Nigeria mean if it does not include enforcing human rights? Simply nothing. Nigeria, as is the case of many developing countries, has been a hub of many human rights violations that often go under the bus. Jungle justice happens on the streets, speculations fly around of how much political leaders have squandered – just speculation, no sight or news of an official investigation) and 20 years after the unjust execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an artwork to commemorate the anniversary of his death was seized by customs officials.

As someone who ran a campaign centred around “Change”, human rights recognition and respect must be at the top level of the agenda for President Buhari. For Nigeria, I do not see how development can really be attained when we have laws but they do not necessarily govern. For the poor in Nigeria, human rights violation is all too common for them. Their homes are the ones that get demolished when there is a so-called building/housing development agenda (see this). They are the ones that get mobbed and killed on the streets because of an allegation that a banana was stolen. Yet, there are many politicians who have not been able to give account to Nigerians on how they used the public purse but walk freely and are celebrated. Human rights is for everyone but in Nigeria, I especially see that the poor are vulnerable and seem invisible but yet are boldly exploited.

For Mr. President, I urge that he sees the urgency of the need for Nigeria to uphold human rights strictly and change with the times. For Nigeria, any promise to “Change” the system of governance must encompass upholding human rights for all, strictly. We are a country of laws, so therefore, the public should not feel like we live in a lawless society. Human rights also means that a people should not be duped of their resources. Recently, it was reported that the World Bank allegedly stated that the money Sani Abacha stole is too much for them to “handle”. For a country in dire financial need as Nigeria, I advise that President Buhari should not just focus on investigating the previous government of President Jonathan. Basically, retrieve as much of Nigeria’s stolen funds as you can for re-investment in our dwindling economy and this retrieval should be without restriction. It can go back to 50 years ago. So many people live in abject poverty in Nigeria, how then can restrictions be put on when and from who any stolen funds may be retrieved?

I was reading the ministerial list a few days ago and was impressed at the cultural diversity it encompasses. However, when I did see the group photo of the ministers with Mr. President, I spotted an issue. A gender imbalance which is disturbing for 2015. I would advise Mr. President to encourage and allow for more female participation in the political and public administration of Nigeria.

This is not an attack on the President but an advisory note to him. Like millions of others, I am eager to see a better Nigeria and a better Nigeria cannot be achieved without equality, fairness and justice.

Peace,

Chiamaka

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Government Is People, The Public Is People Too

It is people who stop vices, who change communities and it is also people who make up governments. That is just a reminder that no matter your position in your country, you can look around your community and/or the country and try to help where a change is needed. It is people who make change, whether they are categorized as a government or just as members of the public.

I recently visited my country, Nigeria, after nearly three years of being away in Canada. As I was driven around in Lagos, I was not impressed with a lot of things that I observed. For instance, there were hardly any direction signs in sight; there were little or no traffic controllers (people basically struggle for lanes). Such things made me sad. Especially as I was aware that I was in a country that has so much resources and great potential. Nigeria just lacks enough people in government and even people among the public who are ready to move it forward. A development that is long overdue.

The Nigeria that I grew up in, was one where the federal government was constantly blamed for the near stagnancy of the country. Don’t get me wrong, it is completely normal and actually, very necessary that members of the public keep the government accountable when things are going wrong. Government accountability is a great resource, especially for people who are disadvantaged e.g. the poor and the disabled. If you do not belong to any of those categories, waiting solely on government accountability may become illogical, if you do not act on your own, even in little ways. Again, this is because it is people who make change, whether they are categorized as a government or just as members of the public. Back to the point – most Nigerians blame the government a lot but some of us members of the public also contribute to the pathetic state of the country.

When you see immigration officers helping either people who they know or people who have paid them or both, to skip waiting for long hours to get new or renewed passports, you wonder if the government is the only one to blame. When a woman requests that you help her hold her bag then return it to her after you have successfully passed through the security search point at the airport, you wonder if the government is the only one to blame. When you hear that examination centres are set up with officials, who supply senior high school students with answers, you wonder if the government is the only one to blame. When you observe that a presidential candidate is endorsed not on merit but for the mere fact that he or she and the endorser are from the same tribe or state, you wonder if the government is the only one to blame.

People, human beings can be powerful forces of positive change. We can also be powerful at stagnating progress. The power to choose which category we want to belong to lies within us. I will choose the first option. I want a progressive Nigeria. I want every society that I am affiliated with, to move forward in a positive way. The Nigerian government needs a reformation and so does the public. Entertainers, philanthropists, doctors, lawyers, business people, writers, … just to mention a few; please use your position in the society to convince fellow Nigerians to do what is right for the country. Also, please educate the public on the importance of voting only for political candidates who merit the crown that they want to wear.

Again, it is people who make change, whether they are categorized as a government or just as members of the public.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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Nadya Kwandibens; Touring Canada To Shatter Stereotypes Through Photography

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Pictured above: Nadya Kwandibens

The negative portrayal of Aboriginals by the Canadian media and sometimes, by members of the Canadian public is something that has been of great concern to me. So also have been other forms of mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Yesterday, I had a Skype interview with popular Aboriginal-Canadian photographer, Nadya Kwandibens. What got me interested in interviewing her was the nature of her job – Nadya tours Canada capturing happy, beautiful and very impressive images of Indigenous communities. Ms. Kwandibens’s images are in great contrast from the sad representations of Aboriginals that are promoted by the Canadian public. Aboriginals are usually portrayed as people who are not peace-seeking, constant irrational complainers, and as people who possess a culture that hinders them from progressing. I am so glad that I got to interview Nadya. I love that she has moved out of her comfort zone to deconstruct very harmful stereotypes. Here are the excerpts of my interview with Nadya: – Tell us a little about yourself I am 35 years old. I am Ojibwa. Originally from Northwestern Ontario – a small reserve called Northwest Angle thirty-seven. About an hour South of Kenora. However, I moved to British Columbia(BC). Right now, I am on tours. I will be on the road for a month and a half or so, not as long as the tours that I have done in the past. I run a photography company called Redworks Photography. It is a dynamic touring photography company. I am on the road for pretty much most of the year. – When did you establish Redworks Photography? I founded it in 2008. – Before then, did you use to tour or it was after you started the company that you began to tour? Really, how it all began was I started doing portrait photography. Up until then, it had only been a hobby. It was about a year or so after I started doing portraits that I began professionally shooting in 2006. So after about a year and a half or so, that’s when I started touring. I thought, you know, the only way to get more exposure and get my work out there is to travel. So I have been pretty much travelling ever since. – I have seen your website – http://www.redworks.ca . You take a lot of positive images of First Nations communities in Canada. You capture a lot of happy moments and really lovely images that will just give one positive energy by mere looking at them. You capture the kinds of moments that the media fails to show the public. You tour around Canada too. I want to know what inspired you to take on this kind of job? All the imagery that we were subject to while we were growing up, the native history – and that is not very positive and in the news and all that, seeing our stories and they are not portrayed in a positive light. It’ s all very negative – focusing on protesting and all that sort of trials and tribulations coverage that our people are always getting. Just looking at that overall and then thinking to myself, there is something that my art can do to help shed a more positive light on who we are as so many diverse Nations across Canada and even in the States too. I always come back to my artist statement. It’s on my website. – Have you experienced any challenges with your job? Yeah. Pretty much wherever I shoot. I don’t shoot in studio. One of the reasons Redworks was called Redworks studio at a time was because the intention I had was to actually open a studio in Toronto. I just travel so much and I love travelling and pretty much all of my shoots that I do are improvised, so there is the challenge in that and I really love shooting with natural available light. I don’t travel with big lighting kits. It’s just me and my camera. Another challenge I guess with being on the road is just, I guess, finding time for yourself. That would be the main challenge. Although, it’s become easier over the years. This is my seventh year of touring.  – You are really experienced at travelling. From all your experiences, what are some exceptional things that you have noticed about Canada? Like, is there a particular city that has an awesome landscape or maybe there is the best city to get waffles at? Hmmm … Well, BC is beautiful. It would be one of the most beautiful provinces I have ever been to. As far as different must-dos or must-haves in each city, I am not sure. – I have your vision statement here and I am actually going to read the part of it that I really like (and I saw a part of it in your recent CBC interview). It’s: “If our history is a shadow, let this moment serve as light. We are musicians, lawyers, doctors, mothers and sons. We are activists, scholars, dreamers, fathers and daughters. Let us claim ourselves now and see that we are, and will always be great, thriving, balanced civilizations capable of carrying ourselves into that bright new day.” That’s just beautiful. How did you come up with that? I am not sure where it came from. I was just really moved by how thriving and vibrant our Nations are and how much you don’t see that and for it to be partly poetic, I guess, is just how I write and how my personality or spirit expresses itself . A lot of people really connect with the statement. – What encouragement can you give to fellow Aboriginal-Canadians who are also interested in correcting the stereotype? I always say, “just go for it”. You have this life here, it’s important to go for it. Put away your fear. Once you think something and you put an idea out there, there is always people or situations that will come together to make it happen for you.

How To Contact Nadya Website: http://www.redworks.ca Twitter: @_RedWorks

Love,

Chiamaka.

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Breaking Down The Bricks: There’s A Huge World Out There, You Know?

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Often, I go down memory lane and take myself back to my high school days in my country of birth, Nigeria. In those days, dad would wake me up to go prepare for school, my mum would make sure I ate breakfast, dad would drop me off at school in the morning and he would pick me up at the same spot, at end of the day. I go down memory lane from a current stage of major (not total :)) independence.

My adjustment to independence was shocking to me. As a child, I was greatly pampered by my parents, both of whom I am ever grateful for, but they did not fail to discipline me when I erred. They deliberately made me totally dependent on them and they enjoyed it. Thus, the rate at which I adjusted to independence was and sometimes still is a shocker to me.

I moved to Calgary from Nigeria in 2011 at age 14 to seek university education. I was left with two of my elder siblings, who were now highly independent and working for the government of Canada. After about two months, I decided that I could not keep idle till it was time to get into university by the next year. So, I searched for volunteer opportunities and I finally became a volunteer with the South Calgary Youth Council. There, I was dialoguing with people who possessed a much different culture from mine. They were Canadian. I was just Nigerian not Nigerian-Canadian or so I would introduce myself to people. I started using the bus like a pro. I used to be driven in a car everywhere just a few months ago!

I currently live and school in Ottawa where I have added a few more job experiences to my resume and self-esteem. I am still a volunteer community worker, now an entrepreneur, and also, I am the newly minted Lifestyle Editor for Afri-Culture (an online publication focused on the Ottawa region).

It has hit me now, that the will to fulfill my dreams sedated my self- consciousness, feelings and doubts, and moved me out of my comfort zone and opened me to the world out there, to the people beyond my short-sightedness. I could not do it alone. I am ever thankful to my sister, Ebele Mogo, who continually encourages me to get out of my comfort zone. I actually learnt the phrase – ‘comfort zone’ from her. Then, my parents, friends and other inspiring people that I have met and some I have not met but I have read about or watched.

Today, I encourage you to break off the bricks that surround you. Move out of your comfort zone and find happiness in being uniquely you.

My questions for you: Can you remember who/what made you move out of your comfort zone and how did you find the adjustment?

Love,

Chiamaka Mogo.

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