Community

The other side of policy

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Photo by: Ron Dyar

Policies are used to govern a society, a people, an organization etc. Policies are never set in stone. Or rather, they should never be made with the intention of being permanent. As time passes and as natural and unexpected changes occur, policies in turn need to be refined.

Systemic racism exists in large part, due to lack of governments and other institutions, re-evaluating the limitations of old policies. Path dependency is easy. It probably even saves money, since no change is made. However, certain kinds of path dependencies can have long-term destructive impacts.

Path dependency can be fatal. Kalief Browder (an African-American) was imprisoned as a teenager, based on allegation of crime. At some point, he was transferred to solitary confinement. There was never a trial before his imprisonment. Not too long after his release from prison, Browder committed suicide. Imprisonment of a teenager, without trial. If you may, let that sink in. The prison industrial complex in the United States (US), as well as in Canada has enabled the over-representation of certain minority groups.

Alarms are currently being raised about the significantly high rates of mortality for Black women during childbirth, regardless of socio-economic status. What kinds of past or maybe, recent policies are causing this anomaly? What are the new policies that need to be adopted in the US healthcare sector, to curb the mortality of Black women during childbirth? These are only a few of the questions that the government, doctors and other health care workers need to be brainstorming seriously.

On the note of health care, Nigeria continues to experience a serious brain drain of doctors because the latter, want and deserve fairer treatment. The catastrophe of this loss will boomerang on the welfare of the masses, as well as on the purse of the Nigerian state. Why not the state, negotiate better pay policies with doctors and save several lives? Why not the state, negotiate better working condition policies with doctors, so that Nigerians who do not have money to go abroad for healthcare can stand a chance at survival?

Policies are made to be changed.

The Uighurs of China are a religious and ethnic minority group who are currently experiencing surveillance and incarceration by the Chinese government. They are not quite free to practise their faith in a secular nation. China’s human rights stance is an aspect of the nation that has been quite unchanged, even amidst its huge economic accomplishments. Systems, policies, standards should constantly be up for debate by those in power.

Failure to consider who and what are constantly being marginalized by policies (whether written or unspoken/convention) will boomerang. Whether through protests, increased government/institutional spending on a preventable issue, high mortality rates, violence, shortage of labour etc.

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Community

Nigeria and democracy

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Photo by: Dami Akinbode

May 29 marks Democracy Day in Nigeria, annually, so this past Tuesday, the nation commemorated it. As a military-rule recovering nation, we have really come far in moulding the frameworks of our democracy. Every four years, Nigerians have the right to vote, in order to choose a president. The election of 2015 saw a rare act of swift, peaceful conceding by a now-former president, plus the 2015 election and its results were hailed as free and fair. These were rarities for Nigeria and certainly, for the continent of Africa. Internet access in Nigeria is not regulated by the government. In fact, it was majorly through social media that many Nigerian youths championed for the signing of the Not Too Young to Run bill, into law.

Our democracy has come a long way.

There are still challenges that have made Democracy Day bitter-sweet for me. Can anyone else relate to this feeling? It often seems like the idea of democracy halts, to many politicians after elections. The idea of democracy is that the public has the right to vote for people that will represent them in government offices. So, it is absolutely wrong to enter into power and turn away from the concerns of the public. For Nigeria, what we often see is democracy that births some milder form of authoritarianism. It is like when a generous act is reciprocated with disdain.

Is it really a democracy when there is limited dialogue between political leaders and their constituents? Is it really a democracy when employment is often not based on merit but on nepotism? Is it really a democracy when there is an epidemic of parents not being able to send their children to school? Is it really a democracy when the masses see no end in sight to terrorism in the nation?

Perhaps, this is what it means to be a young democracy? To some extent, probably. But, the Nigerian child has always been taught to dream big and break barriers. These values should not be abandoned by our politicians.

Our leaders should imbibe that: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” ( Luke 12:48 KJV). (Note: him or *her; men or *women).

Peace,

Chiamaka

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Community

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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