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Nigeria: Asking for More

It is never certain what we will achieve, after we make demands. This is what makes the skill of questioning and curiosity, in some sense, admirable and courageous.
Sometimes, one may make a request and the response is for bad and other times, it is for good. Either way, in the end, we tend to think, “At least, I tried”.

I very much admire those who question the political status quo, especially when that status quo is not good enough. When it is causing more harm than good.

On Saturday last week, I watched on TV, the glamour, merriment and energy that was used to welcome President Buhari of Nigeria, after he his plane landed. This was after being away from Nigeria for just a little over 100 days, due to medical reasons. I watched this and was laughing, with sarcasm, of course, while I could also feel tears start to form in my eyes. I do genuinely sympathize with President Buhari on the state of his health that led him to England, and hope that he is much better now.

My disappointment is that a President who before election, campaigned on the promise of change and who came in with a mandate of tackling corruption, would find it okay to leave Nigeria for that long, while bearing the privileges of Office.

This is not a personal opinion attack on President Buhari. It is an analysis response of what it means to do the right thing. President Buhari was away for over 100 days and in that time while away from office, still bore the title and privileges that come with being the President of Nigeria. Is this not a form of corruption on the masses? It is not enough to have an Acting President, while in absence. In Africa, we seem to have a huge problem of politicians who see power as a means to enrich and better themselves and their families, way more than the people that voted for them.

Who paid for the President’s medical costs during that length of time abroad? While away, what efforts were being made by members of his Cabinet and or the then, Acting President, to improve healthcare facilities nation-wide? These are important questions to ponder on – for the President, his cabinet and members of the public celebrating the President’s return.

Perhaps, my fellow Nigerians, we all need to ask for more, for more than mediocrity. A first step to this may be to support grassroots movements that fight for our rights. I read and watched, how Charles Oputa a.k.a. Charly Boy was assaulted during his protests for the Resume or Resign campaign. Those campaigners asked for more. We should thread along their footsteps or at least throw in support, not tear gas or fists.

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Love & Peace,
Chiamaka

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Community

Out with the old. Choose to create, anyway

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It is often fascinating and propelling, when one reads the biography of famous people. We learn about their humble beginnings, traumatic life experiences and how they got to their greener pasture. It is in this same way that we get fascinated at the evolution of nations from their beginnings, or the evolution of movements that were started to counter injustice. The list can go on and on and on.

Yesterday, was another day of a great reminder – that, big movements originate out of the efforts of the ‘few’ that dare to start. This reminder came to me at a salon in Lagos, Nigeria. The stylist was dressing my hair and she noted that a lot of young Nigerian ladies now have “natural hair”. That is to say, a lot of Nigerians are now embracing our beautiful, Afro, Black hair. I laughed and told her that I was surprised that she did not complain about the fact that my hair was not permed/straight because 10 years ago, I would see Nigerian hairstylists lament about natural hair. (Infact, just two and a half years ago, a Jamaican stylist in Canada explained that she charged me as much as she did because my hair is natural). My Nigerian stylist noted that the reverse is truly the case these days, as rarely do women (especially of the younger generation) still perm their hair and that she has seen relaxer sales plummet significantly.

This lady has been a stylist at that salon for around 15 years, so I can definitely go with her statistics! I was of course, impressed that Black girls and women in Nigeria are now embracing our natural hair, more and more.

But that conversation sparked up different thoughts for me. It was a reminder that what is normal can become old, out-of-fashion or just on the edge of eradication. So, are you starting a mental health awareness initiative, a business, thinking of going back to school, or tackling an unjust policy in your community? It might seem to you that the possibility of your idea thriving is dismal, but dare to prepare and then, start.

I am also in the middle of creating a reality out of some of my dreams and often wonder if I am doing too much. When I feel that way, I take a break. A break could mean putting the idea on pause and making time for myself, to relax and rejuvenate. Then, I weigh the idea and the impacts it will have. I may drop the idea and chase a new dream. Or the impacts may be high while the irrelevance is nil, so I take up that dream, that idea.

So, my rest and relaxation visit to the stylist gave me an unexpected food for thought. It also inspired this blogpost! I hope you remember again, that what is the norm today can change in a matter of a months or years. Whichever way, it does take courage to dare to start even in the midst of uncertainty. Hey, at least you tried!

Happy Thursday!

Love & Peace,
Chiamaka

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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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Uncategorized

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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Uncategorized

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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Uncategorized

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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