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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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Nigeria Turns 54: An African Dream, Still but A Giant In Imbalance

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Dubbed the Giant of Africa, Nigeria gained independence from colonial rule by the British on October 1st, 1960. So, next week Nigeria will be 54!

Encompassing several tribes, Nigeria shines with evident cultural and religious diversity. The country has been known for possessing very economically-vital resources, perhaps the most common of which is crude oil. Nigeria is a country with great potential, some of which, sadly, it is yet to begin to reach. The film industry of Nigeria – Nollywood, has soared tremendous heights in Africa and abroad. Nigeria’s economy recently became the largest in Africa. So, you see, Nigeria is an African Dream. It is a shining light in Africa which not all Nigerians including myself often realize, as for years the nation has been smeared with outrageous corruption among leaders at different levels of government; a huge financial inequity among the population. Also, in very recent years, terrorism has placed the Giant further in imbalance.

The economy of any nation affects the standard of living of members of the population. Nigeria’s economy is performing very much below its potential. Even the report on the milestone that Nigeria reached on becoming Africa’s largest economy acknowledged than more than half of the population are living in poverty.

My fellow Nigerians, possibly like many of you, I have an on-and-off relationship with faith, with regard to my reflections on our nation, Nigeria. However, my consolation has been the realization that you need not be a member of the government or a wealthy person to have power to make change. If members of the public do what is right, they can begin to put an end to vices that have become norms in Nigeria. Positivity and virtue sometimes spread like wildfire. So, if in your personal life you practice fairness, equality and peace, you are consciously or unconsciously moving Nigeria forward. Nigeria is the country, the land with raw materials and resources, the space, it (Nigeria) cannot do anything without the living beings that it consists of.

So, my fellow Nigerians, my hope is that as Nigeria turns 54 on October 1st, 2014, you will celebrate acknowledging the blessed nation that you have been given. It should also be a day of reflection for all concerned Nigerians. A reflection on what we can do in our personal lives to influence the Nigerian community positively, whether you live in Nigeria or are representing abroad. Let me remind you again that every human being possesses power and you decide whether to use your power positively or otherwise. Another reminder is that the government is people and the public is people too. Thus, as you hope (like I hope) for some leaders in the government to start doing what is right for Nigeria and Nigerians, believe in yourself as a member of the public and do what is right and believe that by doing so, you are playing your part in improving Nigeria.

Happy birthday to a country that I will always love and forever believe in – Nigeria!! To my fellow Nigerians, have a happy happy Independence Day.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka.

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Fellow Nigerians, Keep Rising – Let’s not allow grief kill Our hope (Part II)

“Our girls” are still missing. Two-hundred-and-something of them. The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Johnathan (GEJ) is still yet to give the families of the girls hope, probably except for informing Nigerians that the United States has decided to help. President GEJ granted a media chat on May 4th, 2014. During and after the interview, a lot of Nigerians took their disgust and disappointment at the President to twitter. Many were probably expecting that GEJ’s media chat would bring hope to Nigerians, especially with regard to the case of the missing Chibok girls. However, when the President was asked about the action that he would take to solve the mystery behind the kidnap of the girls and bring them home, he said: The parents need to help us. We are asking that they bring the photo IDs of their children, but they are not co-operating. The most surprising and annoying part of President Johnathan’s answer to that question was when he stated that a high majority of the kidnapped girls are Christians. According to the President, the Muslim parents seemed to be against the idea of giving out the ID of their children because of the rules of their religion, but he did imply that the ‘good news’ is that majority of the kidnapped girls are Christian (who probably do not have that kind of ‘restriction’). Yes, I watched the interview, I thought: So this is my President? The goal is to be one. The goal is to teach Nigerians to love each other irrespective of their differences and beliefs. The goal is not to make biased statements that could lead to dispute among Nigerians. The goal is that the President, who should be the most powerful person in the country would encourage unity and peace among the public which he governs. Why would GEJ be interested in obtaining data on the religion of the kidnapped girls when everyone knows that the Boko Haram group consists of Muslim extremists. Why would the President put some, or most (according to him) of the girls who are already at risk, at greater risk by announcing such to the public. I felt weak and sad after watching President Johnathan’s media chat on May 4th. The relatives of the missing girls must have felt worse. They must feel so let down by someone who should be their hero. Someone who should be Nigerians’ defender. Now, it is confirmed that all we have and need is joint community action (both local and foreign). Nigerians, keep rising. Some weeks ago, I read a report which stated that Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa. I was overjoyed, till I read that 70% of my people, Nigerians, are living in poverty despite this ‘growth’. The news then became bitter-sweet. A report on this milestone for Nigeria stated that the nation is expected to have a future total GDP of $510 billion based on calculations from 2013. The contributing industries to the expected progression include the film, mobile telephone and music industries of Nigeria. I was born and raised in Nigeria. The people of Nigeria are a hard working people. However, it is time to stop, like the late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti put it, “suffering and smiling”. While we should continue to persuade the federal government to improve Our society and provide more fair opportunities for Nigerians, it is time we worked on our individual talents as well. It is time that you depend on you. Build your own film market; direct movies; construct mobile phones; build your own fashion industry; build your own school. In other words, my fellow Nigerians, keep rising. I, myself, have risen with you.  

My Questions For You

– How are you planning to help the Nigerian people in this time of grief?

– What is it that you do to improve your own community?  

My dear readers, please keep using the hashtags, #BringBackOurGirls & #StopTheBombings. Keep sharing the story of the missing Chibok girls. Also, for those who can, please keep praying for the swift and safe return of “Our girls”.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka.

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Fellow Nigerians, Keep Rising – Let’s not allow grief kill Our hope (Part I)

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Back in highschool in Nigeria, teaching students about the natural resources which their country possesses was a key part of our teachers’ curriculum. We learnt that this state in Nigeria possesses a lot of coal, the other, petroleum, the other, diamond, and the list goes on. Nigeria is a naturally blessed nation. So even in the midst of all the grief that Nigerians are currently going through, I continue to stick with my mantra: Nigeria never did anything to me, it is some Nigerians IN Nigeria that should check themselves. I developed that mantra because I do not want Nigerians including myself to look down on the Land that We are blessed with. We are lucky to belong to a Land naturally blessed with resources in terms of people, mineral resources and religion. Nigeria is a rich country. Nigeria is the earthly body containing people who were made to be able to take action. The direction Nigeria goes depends on the people it contains. It depends on Nigerians. Grief has been mentioned twice in this article. It is the simplest sorrowful word that I can use to describe the present condition that most Nigerians are in now. About two weeks ago, 234 school girls were kidnapped in Borno State, Nigeria by Boko Haram (a vicious Islamic militant group in Nigeria). The news was received, but as time went on and a majority of these girls had still not returned, Nigerians began to take action. I must say that I am very proud of my people. This has been the first time that I have heard of so many Nigerians coming together to publicly condemn the actions of the Boko Haram group. Women were marching in the rain on Wednesday, April 30th, calling for “our girls” to be brought back. Lots of Nigerians began using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter. I joined in. To my amazement and delight, lots of foreign celebrities joined in using that hashtag and spreading the sad message of the missing girls to others. Nigerians have had enough, so now they have risen. The rain did not stop them. Their togetherness has inspired many including foreigners to take action. This relates to the post from Tuesday in which I wrote that taking your talent or passion public would make a positive impact somehow. I am proud of the Nigerians that action for the sake of “our girls”. While I mention that Nigerians have risen to take action, I refer to the Nigerian public as the President seems to care less about these young girls who have been taken away from their families, their education and have been stripped of their human rights. Nigerians are yet to see the President, Goodluck Johnathan take serious and beneficial action towards the case of these missing girls. His wife demanded that she be addressed as “Mama Peace” some months ago. Where is she now that women need a voice? I am proud of the Nigerian public for seeing that there is power in community. However, I am saddened that the President has yet to learn and is yet to be inspired from the governed. Yes, it is meant to be the other way around, but that is what is recommended in Nigeria, at the moment. Nigerians and supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls movement from all over the world were still grieving when we heard that another bomb blast had occurred at Nyanya, Abuja. That was the same place were Boko Haram bombed and killed people about three weeks ago. As suspected, there were deaths in this second bomb blast. Still the federal government seems nonchalant. Hearts are heavy. Nigerians are grieving. It’s hard for hope to stay in hearts that have been tested by heartbreak on and on again. It is true, but please, Nigerians and all who advocate for peace in Nigeria, let us not allow grief to kill our hope. Continue to use the hashtags – #BringBackOurGirls and #StopTheBombings on your social media networks. You do not have to be Nigerian to feel the pain that looms in Nigeria right now. Do your part and inspire others to advocate for peace in Nigeria. I have hope (though on-and-off), but I do have hope that Nigerians will be rescued. I have hope that Nigerians would be rescued from Boko Haram, bad government and all people and things that are hindering Nigerians from enjoying the fruits of their naturally blessed Land. My fellow Nigerians, please keep rising. I have risen with you all.

Ahh … My heart is heavy. I had to still make sure that I ask you all a few questions, so here we go:

– How are you planning to help the Nigerian people in this time of grief?

– What do you do to maintain peace in your daily lives?

Let me know!

Also, please use the hashtags – #BringBackOurGirls and #StopTheBombings, in one tweet or separate tweets. You can follow me – @Amzy_M and tag me in your tweets. I will retweet you!

Love & peace,

Chiamaka.

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