Friday, 2 May 2014

Nigeria We Hail Thee!

Many years ago, I attended a boarding secondary school in Nigeria. It was a great time, filled with youthful, vivid and memorable moments....some low, but mainly, mostly high.
It was a different time then, but the school, was not much different from the one in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, where over 200 young girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were abducted on the 15th of April 2014.
The attack, widely attributed to Boko Haram - the insurgent group who are purportedly driven by a desire to 'unwesternise' Nigeria - happened in the still of the night, as the girls prepared for their final-year examinations.
In normal societies, this dastardly act would have been followed by a stern and robust response from the government of the day, hunting down the terrorists and rescuing the poor little girls. But this is Nigeria.
Nigeria, where our president, Goodluck Jonathan, goes into rapturous gyrations on the campaign trail, barely hours after a bomb went off in the country's capital city, Abuja on the 14th of April, twenty-four hours before the Chibok kidnappings.
The same Nigeria, where the Federal Executive Council (equivalent of the UK Cabinet) decided to cancel one of their sessions in respect to the vice-president, who had lost his younger brother in a car crash, but somehow did not see it fit to do same for the Abuja bomb victims or even as a mark of respect for the snatched Chibok girls.
Since then - in case you live under a rock - there has been another bomb blast in Abuja yesterday, literally a few metres away from the spot where it occurred two weeks ago. To their credit, the president's men have released a tweet to confirm a security meeting was being convened.
A little too late, many Nigerians would say and can one really blame them? They are pissed and have had enough.
Twitter, is actually one of the best places in the social media landscape to observe that sense of rage and revulsion. Under various hash-tags to drive their message home and riding on the back of the platform's powerful reach, Nigerians of all creeds and religions have spewed their frustrations.
Some even went as far as to doubt if a God actually existed and wondering if the nation's religious leaders - with their deafening silence - were also in the government's pocket. In a God-fearing nation like Nigeria, the significance of this type of development cannot be exaggerated.
In any case, we have all been doing our bit on the #bringourgirlsback thread, alongside thousands of people including celebrities like Mary J Blige, Kerry Washington, Keri Hilson, Russell Simmons, Piers Morgan etc. The shared hope is that the message reaches into the nooks, corners and corridors of the influential, who can then pressurise Goodluck Jonathan to act decisively or at least feign concern.
So why are Nigerians so angry?
Well, consider this; prior to the above-mentioned atrocities, there have been countless other murderous acts descended upon the people in that part of Nigeria, including:
  • 33 people killed at churches in Maiduguri, Pokistum and Musarari, over the Christmas holidays in 2012.
  • 42 students and teachers killed at Government Secondary school in Mamudo, Yobe State, on 6 July, 2013.
  • 44 students and teachers killed at the College of Agriculture in Gujba, Yobe State, on 29 September, 2013.
  • 59 students killed at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi, Yobe State, on 25 February, 2014.
Nigerians are raging because in the world's largest black populace, we have a government that can no longer guarantee security and is not shame-faced enough to step up to the plate. Our president continues to stew in puerile denials, whilst a part of the country, as big as some as some European nations burns to the ground.
Clueless, ineffective and impotent in the face of a well-organised and ruthless foe, they stumble from pillar to post, trying to convince the outside world that Nigeria is faced with an international problem. A problem they claim has been brought on by insurgents being driven into Nigeria by anti-terrorist campaigns effected by foreign powers.
But these type of lame excuses are expected from a government known for blaming everyone else but themselves for the country's long list of social and economic problems. No electricity, yes, it is the work of our enemies. No water, yes, it is the work of our detractors. No roads, yep, that is definitely our foes again!
Meanwhile, no one has bothered to tell us where the missing $20 billion oil money is. The Nigerian ship is rudderless with a completely bamboozled captain and crew. Drift has not only become inevitable, it is now the norm.
Leadership is absent and accountability has gone to the dogs. So much so, that almost two decades after his death, the late great Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's words still ring true:
"Dem go dey parambulate and go still dey same same place."
Like an army with no strategy, this government is indeed going round in circles and as if this was not bad enough, there is no viable replacement waiting in the wings. The opposition is driven by individuals whose real intentions are at best unknown and at worse, cannot be relied upon. The collective Nigerian mind boggles.
Talking about the army, it is now not unexpected that the average Nigerian on the streets of Abuja, Yobe and Lagos is secretly - in the deep recesses of their oppressed minds - praying for the return of the boys in green. Let's face it....they cannot be worse than this current lot.
Those of us in the Diaspora, well, most of us anyway, carry the country's woes with us everywhere we go. We look at the younger generation and constantly retune our 'Nigeria is Good' message, whilst those in charge constantly undo all our good work. And just when we think we have it bad, we remember our friends, family and fellow Nigerians surviving under the yoke of that government's ineptitude and we sigh.
This morning, a friend with a penchant for all things Nigeria, called me to discuss the situation and summarised as follows;
"When it comes to Nigeria, I will believe anything can happen. It is that bad now. There are no conspiracy theories in our country. What may seem far-fetched anywhere else is just the norm over there. I always said it will get worse before getting better, but I never foresaw this complete shambles."
I paused to reflect on his words and our silence filled the space. Suddenly, we both broke it at the same, echoing the opening line from the nation's former national anthem and a refuge all Nigerians gravitate towards when faced with awesome confusion.
"Nigeria we hail thee," we chorused.
(Dedicated to the missing Chibok girls - bring them home. A protest is planned for bank holiday Monday 5th May, 2014 at 11am. Venue: Nigeria House, 9 Northumberland Avenue, London. WC2N 5BX. Please come out to support us).

Monday, 10 February 2014

What have Tall people ever done for the world?

The sharp tone playing from my phone told me all I needed to know. 

It was my nemesis on his weekly 'let's piss Kanmi off' pastime. Yes, I saved a special tone just for him. 

Reluctantly, I picked up the phone.


"Hey Baba, what's up?"

"Nothing bro. How can I help?"

"Ah ah! Na fight?"

"No, just having a stressful day."

"Okay, but don't take it out on me. Anyway, I called to check if you were still sticking to your plan not to blog this year."

"Yep. Why?"

"Well, I read something that I am certain will get your goat. You know that guy, Elnathan John, who you are always praising? He has been abusing us!"


"Yes. Hmm…the guy has been abusing us o. He said short people are stupid and troublemakers. He even started to boast that he is six feet tall. Can you imagine?"

"Really? So what do you want me to do about it? I am not the representative of short people worldwide. You want me to return to blogging by replying him, I suppose?"

"Of course! Who else do we have? If he had attacked fat people, they would have replied by now. Remember this is the same guy who replies vehemently when people attack gays. We need to respond and put him in his place. We are a minority too."

"But no one wants to imprison short people."

"Who told you that? This is how they start. No one took Hitler serious when he started and see how that ended."

"But using Hitler as an example will destroy your case bro. He was short."

"That's what the tall media told us. The guy was almost six feet!!

I sighed heavily as I walked through to the kitchen and looked out to the overgrown garden which should have had my attention ten minutes earlier. I was about to say something before my fellow dwarf took the wind from my sail.

"Do you know he said we spend most of our lives staring at people's nipples? Can you imagine? Nonsense! And then he quoted Ian Fleming, saying all short people are insecure."

"Oh well, I am sure even he at six feet, has to stare at someone's nipples. It's relative, no? Maybe the insecurity is actually on his part. Maybe he hasn't achieved enough in his life for a tall person, so he wants to deflect by picking on short people. Maybe he has reflected on how much God has given him, height-wise and how little he has returned for that gift. Maybe you should reply on his blog and quote Jack Dempsey."

"Jack Dempsey? Who is that?"

"He was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world about a hundred years ago."

"Okay, okay. What did he say?"

"Tall men come down to my height, when I hit them in the body."

"I like it! I like it! I will definitely go to his blog now. Idiot! He thinks he can abuse us and get away with it. What I don't understand is tall people's obsession with us. They call us names, say we have short man syndrome, catch all the fine girls and yet, we say nothing about them. What is it sef?

"Can I go now?" I asked with total submission.

"Yes, but I will be back. You know the guy is clever. He will have a witty reply and I may not be able to counter. I may need you bro."

"Okay," I replied wearily, hoping the conversation was finished. But then, expectation is the root of all heartache.

"What really annoyed me is people's reaction to his rubbish article. They are all laughing, saying how much they enjoyed it. It is discrimination and they are endorsing it! Apart from Ali and Mandela, where are all these remarkable tall people? But look at us; Martin Luther King, Gandhi, all the popes, Dai Lama, Maradona, Pele, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, even in the premiership today, Hazard is the best player. Where is the tall people's contribution?"

"But they have Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and all those NBA players to name a few," I whispered.

The accompanying silence from his end was palpable. Finally, he spoke.

"Do you not know basketball started out as netball, until the tall people betrayed us and raised the baskets seven foot into the air? How the f*ck is that fair? Only a selfish people will do that. Bastards! Anyway, I am off to put my reply on all his postings. If he wants a war, we will give him one!"

I stifled my laughter and managed to query him further.

"So this article, what was the title? Surely it wasn’t just about short people? Elnathan always has something more concrete to say."

The dead line told me everything I need to know.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

All I want for 2014.

It was in the last few hours of 2012...

I was recovering from the festive excesses and fooling myself that I had discovered a new wind and 2013 was going to be my year. I opened up my laptop and began tinkering with several blogging ideas. Some friends had given me some unwelcome feedback and I thought it would be nice to convince them I actually valued their opinion. They were right of course...I should post articles more often....I should be less attracts more readers.

In that spirit, I came up with what I believed would be a more user-friendly post. 7 Sistas to watch in 2013 was my humble attempt to not only recognise deserving talent within the black community, but it was also evidence of my determination to highlight its persistently unrecognised female demographic. I had also selfishly hoped the individuals on the list would repay me when their deserved credit arrived (never happened).

A friend who had gone through the list called about a week after publication.

"Wow, I didn't even know half of the people on that list. Laura Mvula? You really think she will be big in 2013? Well, I hope so for your sake. You are going to look pretty silly otherwise!"

It was clear he didn't understand the psyche of the average blogger. Yes, we have a section of us who crave validation and would do anything for a 'like' or approving comment, but in the main, we are a confident bunch (actually, make that arrogant bunch).

How else can you describe individuals who have a resolute belief that the public out there, are really interested in their views. Narcissism, I guess, is the underlying requisite trait.

Me? I belong to the hardcore of the group. Somewhere within my Medulla Oblongata, a superciliousness exists. A delusion of grandeur that makes me think I am a literary prophet. I stubbornly reject the notion that copious feedback is evidence of blogging talent. My gratification is strictly derived from publication, hence my inability to accept my limited comprehension of the blogging medium. I truly believe I tell people what is coming....whether they choose to embrace it, is not my concern.

In any case, as old dogs cannot (or will not) learn new tricks, I have decided to follow in my tiresome and redundant tradition, by sharing a list for 2014.

This time, I have relented and accepted my 2013 list was not sufficiently inclusive. Apparently, things have moved on and writers are not expected to focus on their race, religion, creed or nationality to the exclusion of others. We are expected to be more inviting and willing to reach out to a wider audience. We should be less racist, less homophobic, less sexist and hopefully less conceited. Well, 3 out of 4 is not bad....

2013 was a challenging one for me. I lost a good friend and a fortune, but then I gained wisdom and fortitude. It is mandatory for me to look forward if improvement is the ambition.

So here we go....the 5 things I want in 2014:

1. That post-Mandela, the ANC would finally accept it has been an indolent child of an over-protective father and the time for change has come. In what can only be described as their best chance to prove their detractors wrong and show the global community their maturity, the party of Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo and Zuma, failed abysmally. The lowest moment of course, was their denial of the inept sign language interpreter, who was later exposed as an ever-present member of their long-running charade. Apparently, he suffered a 'spiritual attack,' at the crucial moment. Let's hope the ANC doesn't experience same.

2. That the world would irrespectively of belief, embrace the current Pope. It has been a while since we had a 'Mother Theresa' figure and the world is in dire need of goodness. Yes, the body he leads might have its problems, but the humble Argentine has been all-embracing and all-inclusive. He deserves a collective pat on the back.

3. That worthy political leaders would emerge across the world. Everywhere you look, we are surrounded by ineffectual, maladroit frontmen (and women), pretending to deserve followership. They stumble miserably towards an election date, promising everything from prosperity to peace and then deliver the exact opposite. As an aside, as someone who resides in the United Kingdom, I do not believe I have seen a worse advert for privileged or elitist education, than this latest brigade of cowboys in Westminster. Enough said.

4. That we, the public, don't allow the media to determine what global events we pay attention to. Some of us are so bereft of world event knowledge, we don't seem to realise there is still a war going on in Syria, that there is still unspeakable crisis in a 'free' Libya and more importantly, there is a scary water crisis that the Rupert Murdochs of this world don't want us to discuss. Their hope is for us to focus on oil, diamonds and other natural resources, but I am not aware of any period in history when man drank black gold for sustenance.

5. Finally, that human beings resist the lunge towards prestige. You are not a better person because you belong to an elite mob. In truth, ala Groucho Marx, you shouldn't really want to be part of a collective that invites you. Focus more on doing good deeds for the world and not a select few. If you seriously want to help the world, do it because it emanates from your heart and not because of a national honour that lies in wait. If we learnt anything in the last year or so, it's that recognition does not equate worthiness. The Queen knighted Jimmy Saville and look how that turned out!

Happy 2014 people.....may the year bring you all you deserve.