Community

The Government of Nigeria has a duty to relocate IDPs into safe residences

Last week Tuesday, a Nigerian Air Force jet erroneously bombed an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Rann, Borno state. It is being estimated that around 200 people lost their life, due to the bombing. That was painful news to receive. It still hurts, as I write this. IDP camps in Nigeria are where people displaced by the Boko Haram crisis have found shelter. This particular bombing by the Nigerian Air Force, brings back a thought that has once come to my mind: Why is the government of Nigeria not relocating internally displaced persons from camps, into safe residences?

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We continue to hear about government leaders donating to IDPs but that is not enough. Will they forever remain in camps? If the government of Nigeria really cares about the safety and wellbeing of the IDPs, the answer to that question will be “No”. The response to the erroneous bombing that happened last week, was that the region was thought to be a Boko Haram nest. How could an IDP be allowed to exist in an area that may be surrounded by terrorists? It is like a person that intentionally builds his or her house on weak foundation, just to rush the building process and have a home. So, certainly, somebody must be held to account as to why an IDP camp existed in a zone with danger possibility.

This occurrence should spark a light bulb in the minds of the leaders of Nigeria. If the government of Nigeria has a care for human life, then as swiftly as possible, an initiative should be started to enable the integration of IDPs to safe spaces. They are human beings too. They are just human beings who have been through much more than those who fail to look through their wealth and protection privilege, can understand. Their lives and their rights matter. When I deem something to be unjust, I have a problem with staying silent. The Nigerian government should ACT now.

A government with a  vision on fostering human rights, as well as the safety and protection of its people, should have a solid plan to end the existence of IDP camps. I have had the honour of responding to a disaster before, and what I know for sure is that, when a disaster happens, you just don’t leave the ruins to be as the disaster left them. You try to re-create new life out of the damages of the disaster. So, IDP camps must be eradicated in Nigeria. It is only just to do this. Please.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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Community, Uncategorized

Why we need a communal approach to equality and justice

A thought just clicked in my mind today, about selfishness as it correlates with injustice. Corruption is selfishness, racism is selfishness, promoting ‘gender inequality’ is selfishness etc. Injustice is very much centred around the idea of ‘the self’ which includes a person’s likes and dislikes, as well as his or her beliefs.

To really tackle injustice from the crux, we must constantly remind ourselves and society that there is usually room for more. Ever gone late to a class or a meeting that was being held in a small room, around a long but limited-capacity table? Well, what happens is that people start to make space and a space for at least one chair comes up. If there is no space at the table, the person who came late, will take a seat behind those seating at the table but still gets to hear what is being spoken. To me, that person is still considered to be at the table – and is benefiting from the same information that everyone else in the room is hearing.

There is usually room for more.

Again, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. It is often puzzling as to why someone will take the effort run to be a political leader in a nation and end up looting the treasury and/or oppressing the people through wars or dictatorship. Some organizations aim to have diversity in race and ethnicity but do not care to make a plan that will sustain the diversity and make all feel welcome.

The marginalized must also not behave like the oppressors, in their defense for the self …

As a Nigerian, I try to keep myself in the loop of things trending in Nigeria. I noticed that it is problematic to some Nigerians (not all), when they see other Nigerians rooting for the Black Lives Matter movement. To such people, their anger is essentially – How about the injustices in Nigeria? Why not focus on Nigeria instead?

I can understand where they are coming from, as there is a lot of inequality in Nigeria. There is injustice. Also, I know the anger of feeling left out because your tragedy doesn’t make world news. But, we must remember that there is room for more. Injustice against me should not blind me against oppression that others are facing. I think that as a citizen of the world, it is my duty as it is every other person’s, to care about people no matter what part of the world they are in, especially when they are facing oppression.

Remember, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. Even when the oppressed person takes on that notion of the self against others, it is wrong. It is just like acting in the manner of the oppressor.

In our collective strive for a just world, we must remember that there is room for more. A communal mindset sets the pace for just societies and hence, a just world.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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Unlearning, after Oppression

Close to two years ago, I read excerpts of the book – Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, for a class that I was taking. Till this day, some of the main points of those pages that I read are still stuck with me and actually help me in understanding the world we live in, to some extent.

One of those main points was that when people are being oppressed, they get so used to this way of living that they are reluctant to free themselves. They even begin to aspire to be like the oppressor.I may have just perplexed my readers but I will explain. Let us apply it to real-life occurrences.

I was born and raised in Nigeria, a country that went through the torment of colonization. We gained our independence on October 1st, 1960. Much was stolen from us but thankfully, our ancestors also preserved a great deal, especially the richness of our diverse Nigerian cultures. Although it has been several years since gaining independence, I do see that in Nigeria, we unconsciously and consistently aspire to be in the like of those who oppressed our people. Nigeria was colonized by the British and given the time that it was, you just like me can probably imagine it was White men and women. And it actually was.

In Nigeria today, some aspire to have the skin colour of Caucasians. Skin bleaching is popular in our cities (not everyone does this however), the darker skinned Africans are made to feel inferior because the Africans/Blacks of lighter skin around you are hailed like royalty and you are not. We even judge our development and intelligence based on Western standards. For example, if you cannot speak English in Nigeria, you are an illiterate (I used to think this way too) – seems like we have forgotten that before and even after the coming of Whites to our land, our ancestors made their own equipment, could tell what time it was without a clock, could speak their native tongue with envy-inducing fluency. Just to mention a few. So, how dare we reduce ours and others’ intellect to ‘nil’ or ‘smart’ or ‘genius’ or ‘literate’ based on whether or not they can speak English? I feel sorry that I used to look at intellect that way. But I am on a journey of continuous enlightenment  and decolonizing my mind.

These kinds of issues do not just persist in Nigeria. I have noticed similar attitudes in Blacks from different nations and continents.

One might wonder why many of us of African-descent unconsciously strive to have similarities with the oppressors of our ancestors. Maybe we feel that, when we have the features of those who oppressed us and our ancestors, we gain power – because the oppressors dominated. However, I know not any power greater than that which comes from the love of oneself. This kind of power stays unshaken even in the midst of a world of  suppression of your kind.

Love & peace,

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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Jungle justice: It’s time to end it

Jungle justice is a thing. It is certainly a thing in Nigeria and the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa make one wonder the number of African countries in which jungle justice exists. The disturbing fact about jungle justice, in Nigeria is that it happens so often and there are little or no legal consequences.

In Nigeria, the most common method of carrying out jungle justice is to put a tire on a suspect’s neck, then pour kerosene or some inflammable fluid of that sort on the person and then light a match. The individual then burns alive, in the presence  of the perpetrators and onlookers and when the scenario is over, life goes on. Stating the word “suspect” is actually flawed because the person who is killed is not being seen or treated as a suspect but as a criminal. In a country with a Constitution and with laws, it is quite outraging that anyone can go on the streets and automatically take on the role of judge, jury and executioner. It certainly feels awkward referring to such acts with the word – justice, although it follows the word “jungle”. However, jungle justice is what such acts are indeed referred to.

Barbaric is the word for this sort of so-called justice. Anyone can be the victim. Innocent people could become victimized just based on an accusation. Imagine that some people are burnt to death over crimes which will certainly not demand an execution sentence at a court of law. So, why is jungle justice still a thing? Why are the perpetrators allowed to walk around as free people?

It is about time that Nigeria and other countries in which such acts of inhumane judgement are practised, enact laws that make  them (the acts) punishable. Jungle justice is unfair, callous and wicked – and this is not what justice is about. Justice is about due process – looking at the facts and asking thorough questions – before a verdict is made. It is time for a change and people need to be taught that such acts of inhumanity to a fellow person are intolerable and not in any way in conformity with being or becoming a just society.

Question: What are some other jungle justice practices that you have heard about and where did they occur? I would love to hear from you.

Peace,

Chiamaka

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Forming in the present, shaping the future

History is of the past but not necessarily something that should be forgotten, unspoken of or left to wither away. History is the fabric of cultures and societies. It is accessible via story-telling, libraries, movies etc. History shapes the present and the future.

A week ago, together with some other social justice advocates, I was reflecting on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I was thinking of ways that Canada could create a more respectful, just and inclusive society for the nation’s Aboriginal population who have long faced marginalization. In accordance with the theme of the conversation, I was asked what I thought reconciliation means with respect to Canada and Aboriginal peoples. So, I said: Reconciliation starts by recognizing the contributions that Aboriginal people have made to Canada and how there has also been a “cultural genocide” on Aboriginal peoples. In Canada, we do not talk about the issues. We talk about Canada being a multicultural and peaceful society but we do not talk about the issues. So, for reconciliation to happen – we must acknowledge the past, learn from it and develop ways to build a better present and future.

That is the summary of my contribution to the question asked. I also did allude to the fact that no matter how filthy the past has been, it has to be acknowledged and learned from not hidden. From articles I have read, conversations I have been engaged in, Aboriginal people in Canada want the racism that they and their ancestors have faced in the past to be recognized and they want a reconciliation. They want a better Canada that will not deny Aboriginal people of their human rights. To reconcile, Canadians have to see the issues in many treatments that were forcefully put upon Aboriginal people. Canadians have to see the issues with the past and realize that some actions of the present are merely but a less severe rendition of that past because Aboriginal people still live in disappointing economic and social conditions here in Canada.

I was born and raised in Nigeria but not until I left the country (for school) and certainly became more mature, did it begin to dawn on me that I did not know a lot about my history. Colonization swept away cultures and I ever since I realized that, I have made a conscious attempt to keep educating myself, to keep seeing value in what the colonizers may have deemed crude, to never cover up my identity, to never let anyone make me feel that my culture does not matter based on his/her ethnocentrism. History is shaping my strength, shaping my resistance and shaping my ability to encourage people from different cultures and nations, that they are good enough and their identity, accent and culture matters. If we dwell on imitation, we lose our identities and it becomes a loss to future generations.

History also gives people the ability to celebrate those who have shaped our present in a positive way – whether they are still living or no longer with us.

History forms from the present and is a vital reference for the future. Make a commitment to never let a part of your history (community, family history etc) die.

Love,

Chiamaka

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The Government and The Public Functioning as One

Once I got off the plane it was like hot air rushed out on me. What a warm “Welcome back” to Nigeria that was. I kid.

I visited Nigeria – to be exact, Lagos for the Christmas/NewYear holidays. The main aim of my trip was to celebrate with my family and I thought sarcastically – Well, it would be good to see Nigeria again. With the constant news about bomb blasts, stagnant progress in very crucial areas in my country, I was sarcastic. It probably will be the same ol’ Lagos.

What I met at the airport was orderliness. I left the interior of the airport and got on the airport bus with my sister and dad, and I was fascinated. The bus was well-maintained and ventilated too. Then, we arrived at the car park area. The drive from the airport was smooth. No/very minimal traffic. Wow! I was thrilled.

Now, talk about consistency …

In Nigeria, electricity supply is not constant and generator business is good business over there. However, the electricity supply that I witnessed throughout my two-week stay was consistent, not complete but very consistent. Daddy installed Solar so our house gets constant electricity, regardless, but we were still alerted anytime an external electricity source came on. The trip from the airport to my house was not the only one that I took during that stay. I took 1, 2, 3 more and the roads were still very free. If you have driven or been driven on Lagos roads for years, then you know that the traffic can be brutal and can last for hours.

Each of these progressive experiences that I witnessed in Nigeria reminded of a post which was a sort of, my wish for Nigeria, after returning frustrated at the stagnancy I noticed last year. That post was titled – The Government Is People, The Public Is People Too. You can take some minutes to familiarize yourself with it. What came to my attention is that not only does Lagos State have a positively active Governor – Babatunde Fashola (not being partisan (I do not work for him) or partial, just being honest), it also has a public that cares about their society and nation as a whole. The latter are the people who are organizing themselves at the airport, ensuring that they do not deface and/or pollute the airport bus. These are the people who somehow … that I will confess to not being able to explain, created free roads for all Lagosians and visitors. This is the progressiveness that I seek not just for Lagos, but really for the whole country.

The Presidential election comes up in February. I will not be around to vote, but I will be praying for progress. Just as it hurts to see a gifted child produce subpar results time and time again, so it hurts to see Nigeria constantly performing below its potential. In some cases, the nation is not performing at all. My fellow people of Nigeria, in the coming month and on the day of election, use your power to put in place a fellow people that you truly believe can take Nigeria forward. No one can predict if a candidate that promises progress will take action when handed the mantle. However, I urge you to lay tribe, religion or any other source of partisanship aside as you cast your ballot on February 14th – and vote for the one that you feel is best for Nigeria – and then, hope for the best. Do it for Nigeria – that is, do it for your future.

Members of the public – rich, poor or disabled, we all have the power to change broken systems. Whether we remain in the public or move on to executive levels of government. The government is people and the public is people too.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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