Nnamdi Frank Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist
Pan African/ Trans African Executive Director US African Cultural Festival www.usafricanculturalfestival.com firstname.lastname@example.org http://nnamdiakwada.blogspot.com/
In his Public Broadcasting Corporation PBS programming show "Faces of America," Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. normally presents the triumphs and resiliencies of our genealogical ancestors. However, another side of that same coin that is much less discussed is that of the introspective legacy of mental health disorders. The transitions from old nations to new nations are accompanied by other demanding stressors such as the need to survive, integrate, assimilate, and/or acculturate. These demands are more strident when one contextualizes the scenarios by which some of our forefathers arrived in the United States and the manmade and environmental harshness that they needed to circumvent and overcome in a strange land. Depression appears to be one of those psychological landmines that our ancestors dealt with which is still prevalent today within the larger host societies and especially in the African Diaspora communities.
Indeed some have argued that the awful and inhuman legacy of slavery and segregation has manifested itself in post traumatic stress symptoms and disorders. These stressors continue to present as depressive episodes before evolving and combining with other mental health disorders to confront our family systems and societal (healthcare, mental health, and criminal justice) systems. Another contemporary heritage is that of newly arrived immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. These African Diaspora communities that have arrived within the last 40years find themselves transplanted to other societies while mourning the disruptions in their lives, the absence of close nuclear and extended families. Most times their depression and grieve also extents to the failed state of their countries of origins that might be involved in wars, economic injustices, internal colonization, and globalization alias recolonization.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders otherwise known as DSM-IV, depression falls within the spectrum of mood episodes and mood disorders. The major factor in any depressive situation is "mood change" which can be a recent episode and/or reoccurring episodes. Depression within the African Diaspora communities like in other communities could run the gambit from mood episodes such as major depressive episode to mood disorders such as bipolar I disorder. The operative key in dealing with depressive episodes and/or disorders revolves around our abilities to identify and address symptoms before they exacerbate. There needs to be the willingness to tackle and/or address depression at the onset of presentation, rather than waiting until it becomes a compound problem which results in other symptoms and disorders.
For example, these three semi-fictional cases which are similar to recent sensational headlines in the mass media might have been resolved if competent and culturally sensitive care were afforded. Thus there needs to be detailed investigations to uncover the relationship between depression and the preceding events. Headline 1: Philadelphia police and the FBI have captured a group of Sierra Leonean men who were in a car theft and car shipping ring. The said young men in their 20's and 30's have been known to operate a criminal syndicate with underlings throughout the east coast of the United States. Headline 2: The Washington DC police department took a 35year African American woman into custody today for child endangerment and neglect, after social workers citied her for going to Atlantic City casinos during the weekend (Friday-Sunday). She left her 3year old son, 7year old daughter, and 9year old son under the care of her 12year old daughter. Headline 3: A 45year Nigerian man was arrested in the Cleveland Ohio area for killing his wife and mother of three of his children in the midst of their heated divorce proceedings.
Vignettes: With detailed information and links to Depression:
1st Client- Sierra Leonean Men: The Philadelphia men were led by two cousins' 30year old Alfa and 31year old Karim who were abandoned and left to their own devices during the Sierra Leonean rebel wars from 1991-2002. Before the war Mr. Alfa was raised in Bo city by his relatives who focused mainly on the money that was sent back for his upkeep. He resented the fact that his parents were not around and he could only manage to speak with them about five times a year. He was treated like an outcast by family members and was forced to grow up quick. He presented with major abandonment challenges and got involved in the maladaptive city street lifestyle at the age of 11.
On the other hand Mr. Karim was cared for by his mother best friend in Freetown. Despite the necessary clothing and feeding that he received from his caretakers, it soon became oblivious that his situation was special. Within the household he was treated as a third class individual. Karim was responsible for attending to the needs of the other members of the household. They included the three teenage children of the madam and master (Oga) of the house. Karim soon became a punching bag at home and was forced to drop out of school in the ninth grade. After Alfa and Karim met in a camp for displaced people during the war, they travelled to Guinea and Gambia respectively.
Both guys eventually made it to the United States in 2002 as war refugees and settled in the Philadelphia (Alfa) and New Jersey (Karim) area. They were reunited during an end of year party in 2002 and subsequently discussed their difficulties with meeting family expectations. Alfa and Karim lacked high school education and could not excel in their educational pursuits due to their lack of foundational elementary studies, unlike most African immigrants in the United States who are excelling beyond measures. In 2003, both men were working minimum wage jobs and were very despondent with their attempts to climb the US economic ladder and to succeed like others within their communities.
Interestingly, in 2004 Mr. Alfa found employment as a security officer in the Philly area working at an auto dealership. He worked for about one year and decided to use his training as a scout or reconnaissance underling in Sierra Leone and security officer in the US to steal vehicles from dealership lots. Karim and other individuals within their tiny immigrant community were soon recruited into the business and with time they got the stealing and shipping business down to a science. These young men who were outcast and depressed about their family and financial situations became grandiose and histrionic with the sudden influx of dollars. The FBI estimates that between 2005 and 2011 the "Salone Mafia" as they were fondly called, took in close to $3.5million before their national manhunt and arrest.
2nd Client- African American Mother: Ayana was the first child of her parents who relocated from South Carolina to Washington DC. Her parents came to the nation's capital in search of greener pastures and to escape the systematic racism in the southern United States otherwise known as the so-called Bible belt. Though Ayana was older than her younger brother, she was loved dotingly by her parents and especially her father. In other words she was the sugar in his tea, apple of his eyes, and she was spoil rotten by her dad. When they arrived in DC she was 4years old, her brother was 2year, and both parents began working with dad going off at night and mom reporting to midday work. These were the good old days for Ayana and her brother and they relished in the affection they got from both parents and their neighbors.
However, things fell apart when little Ayana turned 9years and got the news that her father suddenly died of brain aneurism. The family was so devastated and gradually their situations began to take a turn for the worse. Ayana because extremely depressed and suffered from anxiety throughout her high school due to her fear of losing her mother who worked very hard to provide for them. Her brother Jamal was not as fortunate as his sister and ended up dropping out of school due to the lack of parental discipline and guidance. While his mother was working he went out and interacted with antisocial and criminally inclined individuals that were unlike his father. Jamal eventually got swept up in the drug dealing and drug using epidemics that have invaded urban cities in the United States.
On the other hand Ayana went to work for the DC government despite her presentation of moderate adjustment disorder. She eventually married Mr. Latrell Chisom who reminded her of her father while loving and taking care of her as such. She would begin to trust again whilst letting go of her depressive anxieties and feeling of worthlessness. The couples decided to make a family and went on to have two daughters and a son while experiencing the quintessential middle-income lifestyle in the DMV area. Things were going so good that Ayana reached out to her younger brother Jamal who was now a father of seven children with four different women. She knew he needed some therapeutic intervention because he was depressed and suffered from social withdrawal.
Interestingly, her plans did not completely come to fusion as Mr. Chisom was murdered during a robbery by a 17year juvenile. This second significant lost in Ayana's life drove her into a free fall and would ultimately result in her callous decision making behavior and nonchalant attitude towards her children. She went on to have her last child by a man who did not care for neither his child nor her other children. Darien felt Ayana during the second trimester and her 10year old daughter evolved into the second parent in their home. By the time Ayana delivered the baby and the after he turned a year, it was not unusual for her to retire to her room when she got home from work with her cannabis and beer. These feelings of irritability, fatigue, and cry for help increased within two years and comminuted into weekend outings while the kids remained unsupervised.
3rd Client- Nigerian Man: Nnaemeka came to the United States from south-eastern Nigerian when he was just 22years old. He settled down at Chicago the windy city in Illinois State and within six months he was enrolled at the University of Chicago. His flight out of Nigeria was his first time on a plane and his first time outside the African continent. At Chicago he stayed with his 32year second cousin Uche who had been in the city for about 5years. Before coming to the US his cousin resided in Port-Harcourt the garden city and was more exposed to Nigerians from different tribes. At the garden city Uche also interacted and studied with foreigners from neighboring African countries and around the globe.
Although, he was with family, Nnaemeka struggled to be conditioned to the cold environment and the hostility from fellow blacks who used African to connote a four letter word. Uche consoled him and told him that he was experiencing the baptism of fire that was synonymous with new African immigrants that have come to America. He became depressed and longed for the familiarity of his home, family, and indigenous foods. Then Uche suggested that he Nnaemeka should let go of his guards, mingle, and possibly go out on dates. But Nnaemeka went on to apply himself more into his studies on campus and with time found other African Americans that were more welcoming. In his final year as he worked towards his convocation for a degree in business administration he began dating an African American lady who was a junior in the University.
Astonishingly, Uche went on to marry a lady from Georgia and left the Chicago area for love and better climate. Nnaemeka was under the impression that they were only going to date American women but never marry them. In fact, he was opposed to marrying any other African women that was not Nigerian and was not from the Igbo ethnicity. He went on to breakup with Tanya his African American girlfriend after she hinted him about marriage. After ending the relationship he underwent depression, guilt, and extreme frustration. He nearly lost his job as a business consultant in the private sector. Nnaemeka would go on to date a Tanzanian lady who promptly introduced him to Eastern African Bongo flava and cuisine. Barnaba also introduced him to the Swahili language and Nnaemeka seemed happy for the first time in a long while.
Although this infusion of joy was then challenged by his mother and sister who called from Umuahia Nigeria to inform him that it was time for him to get married and they knew two good prospects. Nnaemeka flew into Nigeria got engaged and performed the traditional rites without telling his girlfriend Barnaba. He held on for one year to prepare the necessary paperwork for his fiancé because he could not let go of Barnaba who enabled him to resolve some of his social inhibitions and provided nurturance. Except that the pressures continued from Nigeria with threats of Nnaemeka getting disowned by his family if he refused to sponsor his soon to be wife.
Eventually, he broke down to Barnaba and told her all that was happening behind the scene. Presented with the choice between his heart and his family, his so-called family emerged victorious and fiancé Chidora whom he did not know from Adam arrived in the windy city. She would go no to enroll in nursing school and become a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They started making a family and settled into the suburbs with their dual income. Their American Dream who soon come to an end after Nnaemeka lost his job in the financial sector and found out that his wife was not interested in assuming the responsibilities of the bread winner for even a day. She was more interested with sending her monies to her parents, brothers, and sisters back in Nigeria who divorced themselves from any personal aspirations of bettering their situations. The friction became so onerous that Nnaemeka felt inadequate and moved to the basement. As his depression and hypersensitivity increased to an adjustment disorder he began to contemplate a cowardice way of fixing his problems.
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist
Please for questions and concerns about depression reach out to a competent clinician and/or clergy.
The premise of this opinion article is predicated on the notion that Southern Nigeria needs to insist on the Sovereign National Conference (SNG) in order to rectify the divisions, poverties, and insecurities within the constituent nationalities of the United Nations of Nigeria. Like South Sudan, Southern Nigeria must be willing to peacefully shut down the entire oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. These actions are necessary in light of the high levels of mass decadence and elites’ sponsored terrorism that we have witnessed for the last 40years and past 4year respectively. There ought to be some reactions from the masses to send some shockwaves to the strata so that we can break away from the status quo. Hence this is by no means a call to arms but a calculated strategy of bringing representatives of all our various nationalities together to craft a republic that is beneficial for the regular Nigerians. Haphazard and half measures like the much heralded constitutional amendment in Nigeria would not suffice. We need to form a union that is not based on 19th/20th century European protectorate contraptions or those of our military and civilian dictators and scoundrels a.k.a. internal colonial masters. Instead ours should be a union grounded in self-determination, our combined destinies, and inter-regional survival.
Consequently, the nationalities within Southern Nigeria need to convey a 3-5days conference on national security, transparency, and economic development. This august summit would seek to build on the just concluded South-South Economic Summit that took place in Asaba Delta State on April 27, 2012 at which Professor Wole Soyinka spoke. Civil society groups, states and local government representatives from the South West, South East, and South-South should attend the aforementioned conference with a mission of laying the groundwork for security, good governance, and development in Southern Nigeria in lieu of the systematic corruption in Nigeria and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram and other insurgencies in the country. This gathering should be the precursor for the Sovereign National Conference and emissaries from the Middlebelt of Nigeria should be encouraged to attend. The key issues that should be discussed include the actualization of the Sovereign National Conference, the demand for a confederation system of government in Nigeria, transparency in states and municipal governments, and job creation through investments in infrastructures to benefit our burgeoning youth populations.
The expediency of this gathering cannot be over emphasized when we are witnessing an elitist bankrolled terrorist onslaught on the Nigerian people in northern Nigeria. Our police stations, military barracks/installations, churches, prisons/jails, and the international community buildings have become primary targets for the bloodthirsty Boko Haram criminals in the north. As a sad testament to our current realities the so-called northern elders have been unambiguous in their predilections to offer rhetorical shield for the relentless carnages in the north.
Unlike the perennial meetings of the North Elders Forum/Arewa Elders Forum that have yielded sycophantic comments and no substances, the Southern Nigerian Guidelines workshop would be results oriented. For example, when retired General Theophilus Danjuma said that the north is on fire during recent gatherings, others should have immediately asked him to bring out some of his ill-gotten wealth to quench the fire. We need to ask Mr. Danjuma if his pronounced “Somalialisation of Nigeria” has a correlation with the massive national fortunes the members of the 1% Northern Military Industrial Complex like him have amassed to the detriment of the public good. Similar questions could be asked of Senate President Mr. David Mark and his foundations. Do they still generate revenues from oil wells in the Niger Delta? How much of their rogue funds have they used in making some differences in the lives of everyday northerners and other folks?
During the Southern Nigerian Guidelines conference we have to tell ourselves the truth which should be distinct from the presentations in recent assemblies of General Yakubu Gowon former Nigerian Head of State and Mr. Ibrahim Shekarau former governor of Kano State. Both men are comparable to other so-called elites who continue to wallow in their own self-imposed denials and realities. Gowon keeps on blaming General Ojukwu for succession rather than the ethnic and religious inspired pogrom in the north that he oversaw before the war and during the Biafra genocide. Similar killings are continuing today because so-called elder statesmen like Dictator Gowon continue their embellishments.
Relatively, no one ventures to ask the ex-chief executive in Kano State about his stewardship to the people. Why did Mr. Shekarau stop polio vaccinations under his watch and as a result institutionalize increased poverty? Governor Shekarau contested for the presidency in 2011 and was bestowed with the title Sardauna of Kano by the Emir of Kano because he stood for the interest of the northern Nigerian 1%. However to his credit and under his watch Nigeria remained part of the three nations who were unsuccessful in eradicating polio. In this disgracefully World Health Organization WHO rankings, we stand hand in hand with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Stewardship and accountability should be the hallmark of the Southern confab. Instead of worshipping positions, status, and power, our goals should include identifying the root causes of our problems in a land where it is not enough to be a chief, but one has to be a high chief without any community service, morals, and mores.
Generally, clinicians recognize “acceptance” as the first step in dealing with denial. Meanwhile the elites in Nigeria continue to be in denial concerning our dire straits we have to go ahead with the southern workshop to address our pandemic addiction to corruption, massive underdevelopment, and swelling insecurities. Civil society activists, state legislators and local government representatives of the various southern nations should be the primary conduit of actualizing this conference. Afterwards some of our governors are entrenched in the status quo as members of the 1% in Nigeria and maybe the world; we cannot allow them to undermine the south confab.
Therefore one of the first resolutions that should be addressed in the assembly is the stripping of immunity from governors and all other serving officials. There is a need to realize that the official immunity tradition is as antiqued as the British inspired and informed hair wigs that our barristers still place on their heads under the Nigerian scorching sun. Prosecutorial or Qualified Immunity is at the heart of the systematic corruption in the south and the whole nation. Our legislators need to look into a framework of recalling all elected officials in southern Nigeria through referendums which should be organized by obtaining signatories of certain percentages of the electorate.
Former and present governors and judges in south Nigeria would have to be sent the message that the business of governance and accountability will demand drastic changes. In the Southern Nigerian Guidelines conference our state legislators and human rights and environmental rights activists need to come up with best practices to hold prior, present, future politicians, and public trust office holders responsible for their actions and inactions. Gone should be the days when criminal and corruption charges are only brought by the federal government as in the case of Governor Bode George of Ondo State and another nation such as United Kingdom have to sentence and incarcerate our known thieves like Governor James Ibori of Delta State for wanton fraud.
State laws and prosecutors should be strengthened and encouraged to go after crooked politicians, businesses, and judges. State legislators should pass laws that increase the amount of incarceration periods for intimidating, comprising, and bribing government officials especially judges. The acceptance of quid pro quo arrangements in terms of offering and receiving favors should also be brainstormed and criminalized when legislators return to their various southern states. If these measured are successfully codified into laws after the south conference, then we might very well bid farewell to the era of fugitive ex-governors.
Some have asked about how we plan to convene a Sovereign Nation Conference and how do we assign the representatives for the said conference. We go by pass our federal legislators, make dem go hug transformers because dem too mago mago (Pidgin English). Our federal senators and house of assembly members are some of the highest paid legislators in the world, they are insensitive, corrupt, and out of touch with the people. Our local legislators, who are more representative of the 99% of Nigerians, have to occupy the quest for true representative democracy. In the interest of more transparency we also need to push for public funded elections so that we do not have a plutocracy influenced by cabals. We have to create systems that empower our people and rekindles our ethical can do spirits. Our societies and communities should be receptive to the contributions of our youthful expatriates that are scattered all around the world. More importantly we need to invest in inter-state public works projects that would elevate the standard of living for our ever expanding home-based youth and elderly populations.
Part of the mission of the Southern Nigerian Guidelines gathering must be to offer pragmatic solutions to our ongoing problems. With all the aforementioned plugged holes of corruption we would have the opportunity to capitalize on infrastructures that are going to benefit the masses for the next 50-100years. Primary bilateral areas to concentrate on includes, improving the healthcare delivery systems and research facilities in the south. With the number of southern medical manpower and specialists in Nigeria and around the globe there are no reasons why the health-wealth gradient continues to deteriorate. At the very least we need to have comprehensive plans to cure and feed ourselves with our human capital. The agriculture sectors would demand enormous investments and subsidies so that we can reduce our importation of basic food stuffs. Our universities and tertiary institutions from Obafemi Awolowo University IIe Ife to Rivers States University of Science and Technology, from University of Nigeria Nsukka to University of Lagos, from University of Uyo to University of Benin, and from Federal University of Technology Owerri to University of Calabar need to have each other’s faculties on speed dial.
Consequently, the four walls of these educational centers need to establish a fifth wall for research industries and technological zones to nourish and heal the rest of West Africa. There is also the need for southern Nigerian nation states to cooperate with other countries along the West African coastlines including the Bright of Biafra, to enable us build thriving fishing and tourism industries. This is not the 15th century and we should not allow our mangrove swamps and maritime estuaries to be pillaged by other countries and corporations through unannounced and unaccounted fishing raids. Plans should be made to monetize these sectors by establishing secure tourist coastal cities with boardwalks activities and thriving seafood processing businesses to serve the African and international markets. It makes no sense for South Koreans, Europeans, or any other countries to steal our seafood commodities in broad daylight and then sell them back to Africans for triple the prices or more in the form of processed fisheries. These are valuable sources of community development projects that we need to take into consideration.
Another priority area that we have to finance and cooperate on in southern Nigeria is the transportation system. After more than 50years of independence we seem to exist on the colonial setups because most of our so-called leaders have been more concerned with enriching themselves and their cronies rather than establishing safe and modern inter-state highway and subway systems. Despite our strides in aviation within the past 10years we have not efficiently developed our roads and the consequence and cost in preventable lost lives remains one of the saddest testimonies of our ineptitude. In reality, if we are to calculate all the monies that have been derived from petroleum production since Dictator Yakubu Gowon infamously announced to the world in the 1970’s that Nigeria had so much money that we did not know what to do with it, we should have constructed multiple beltways throughout the nation. As part of the southern Nigerian conference we have to come up with plans to build these rail and road systems to the outskirts of Benin Republic via Ogun and Oyo States on the West as a gateway to the rest of West Africa and to the outskirts of Cameroun through Cross River and Benue States as a gateway to Central Africa. This would ensure viability to transport regular people, agriculture, and other goods that would increase business enterprises.
Southern Nigerian Guidelines confab has to deal with the problems of security within and outside south Nigeria. With the amount of resources in south Nigeria there is no justifiable reason why anyone in that region should want for anything. We have to espouse the dignity of the African/Black life through our deeds and be willing to take drastic measures to buttress this point. In the absence of the Sovereign National Conference, presence of rampant corruption, and the provocation of terrorism, we have to create Human Rights shields to occupy and takeover all the petroleum pipelines and trucks that are supplying the north with crude and refined oil when necessary. There is no need to blow up these infrastructures to prove our points.
As a final point, our domestic agenda in the south should include the eventual divestment in petroleum productions, so that we can clean our environment after years (1956-Present) of relentless pollutions/oil spills, corruption, underdevelopment and exposures to carcinogens. These actions should be taken as self-determination survival measures notwithstanding the bottom lines of our federal government, petroleum cabals, and the global petroleum industry cartels. Since we have one of the largest per capital graduates within the engineering and technology fields in the whole of Africa, we have to reintroduce the clean energy and renewable energy paradigm to our schools and ways of life. Southern Nigeria is surrounding by the Atlantic Ocean which is a possible source of hydroelectric plants and wind turbine energies and we have enough sunlight to manufacture and export solar energies.
Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Ken Saro-Wiwa
Nigerians in the Diaspora stood up from London to Washington and New York to Atlanta with the simple demand on the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Most of us wanted the revision of petroleum prices back to the original 65naira per litre. We were disappointed at the insensitivity of the Nigerian government towards the regular and poor people of the United Nations of Nigeria. Some of us marched in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at home and wondered why there was an imposition of petroleum taxes on people who could least afford it.
Principally, the petroleum industry cabals within and outside of the governments are living off the bounties of Niger Delta oil productions. Delighted as some of us were for the unity that those back home displayed on the Pseudo Fuel subsidy removal issue in Lagos, Abuja, and Kaduna, majority of us were mortified by other developments in the Disunited Nations of Nigeria. Our concerns were especially on the escalating and provocative carnages in northern Nigeria.
Consequently, some Nigerian Diasporans conjectured about the mass protest in northern Nigeria against the sudden inhumane petroleum price increases which occurred against the backdrop of systematic repeated mass murders. We have long speculated about the lack of critical and proactive propositions by the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI) (the leader of the Nigeria Muslim community), after repeated pogrom in places like Borno, Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Kebbi, and Adamawa states.
Indeed we became angered by the tacit support that the regional Boko Haram organization has enjoyed in the north. Some of these supports were in the ambivalent pronouncements by the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III. Others like Mallam Nuhu Ribadu have disingenuously characterized Boko Haram terrorist group as rebels.
However, most Nigerians know from our histories, personal experiences, and the self reports from Boko Haram members that these current killing sprees are the continuation of decades of senseless massacres. Our recorded observations exposes the fanatical hegemonic alignment between some northern elites, some regular, and some poor northerners who have waged war under the umbrella of ethnicity, politics, religion, Sharia, fashion dress codes, beauty pageants, elections, indigenousness, segregation, Afghanistan, Iraq, and petty disagreements among others.
The following are excerpts of the personal experiences of one of our colleagues from the Occupy Nigerian Movement- Washington DC. These revelations came during our deliberations on how to address our various national crises.
Estella Ogbonna: In the spirit of our discussions let me say this, if you have never lived inside a hot, northern state, believe me, you will not understand. Keep in mind, that I actually prefer being termed a Hausa woman. Because, take away the religious intolerance prevalent in that area, the Hausa man/woman is more trustworthy to me, than an Igbo man/woman and I am Igbo by tribe.
I've lived through religious riots over the years; I did my National Youth Service Corp NYSC in the very hot Yobe State. I lived there, and I dared to start my MBA at University of Maiduguri, with just one semester to graduate, I had to run away from Borno State, after a close encounter with the religious murderers. I am alive today because an Alhaja who owned a restaurant there in Maiduguri risked her life to drag us (21) females from the south, who were wearing trousers, blouses, and obviously not Muslim into her restaurant.
We found out she used to be a Christian before she married the Alhaji and changed her religion. We hid inside her inner room for 3days. We could not sleep due to the chants from the mob asking her to bring us 'infidels' out to be murdered like they did others on the streets. She refused and the Islamic rule forbade them from rushing into her room. Those were 3 worst days of my life. The only food we ate was the leftovers from her restaurant.
Luckily the MOPOL (special police) came out to the streets on the 3rd day. By the 4th day, the hajia gave all us wrappers and scarves for us to dress up like Muslims, and that is how we ran into the night. I returned to Damaturu, Yobe State, and the next day, I took a night bus to Onitsha, Anambra State (of course, I stood all the way to Onitsha because all luxurious buses from Borno and Yobe were filled to capacity with southerners running to the east. So, my dear, living in that sort of environment, “within one country” is not working take it from me, I know.
I spent all my senior secondary school days in Kano State with 'plane cash' in my hand. My parents gave us money so that we could run to the airport and take the next flight out of Kano State anytime we heard 'Allahu Akbar' (their chants to start beheading southerners). My secondary school turned into a refugee camp for my friends and family (while I was in school), during the Reinhard Bonnke riots in the 1990s. Christians were being killed in Kano State just because an evangelist was coming for a crusade, not that he was forcing them to convert, and he was coming for Christians. I can go on and on my dear. This is not about Igbos Vs Hausas because I saw the lifeless bodies of young girls from Ondo, Bendel (Edo), Lagos etc with their breasts sliced off by these hooligans. Once they start killing, they do not look for Igbos alone, they kill all southerners. They even killed Yoruba Muslims for crying out loud.
Sure, I've heard so many stories about the Biafra, I was not there, and I am realistic enough to agree that our parents would tell us the gist from their own angle.
That is the more reason I wish Ojukwu had said everything about that war before dying. One story that never comes out often about Biafran war is the genocide their soldiers committed. How they raped and slaughtered the Rivers State women and children. Sure, it was all part of war atrocities but keep in mind that some of those Biafran war rapists are now 'respectable' parents to lots of Igbo children.
My point is that Nigeria has reached that point of no togetherness. After 51years, what the colonialists joined together for confusion is still confusing. We can divide and still be together. Nigeria as one nation is a failed matter. We know Boko Haram is a machinery of the disgruntled northern losers of the last election. I am one to say that it is possible that President Goodluck Jonathan is being messed up by the losers, but, he would be the best President in the history of Nigeria if he stands his ground and do things for the people now. For all we know, perhaps his wife or kids might be kidnapped or under threat for him to 'play' their way, but, he should know that being a King/President is a sacrificial seat. Let that conference take place, so we weigh everything and decide once and for all, if Nigeria should remain as one.
During the Sovereign National Conference if we agree on continuing this unity, then some house rules have to be put in place. I would like Nigeria to be one, I have life-time friends from the North, I have relations married to northerners etc. But instead of citizens to live scared in their own country, they might as well break off. I bet there would be more tolerance if an Edo man gets a visa to travel to Kano State, International laws would give him more safety, besides we'll all be part of ECOWAS, so, visas may not be needed.
After reading the aforementioned narrative few weeks ago I could not help but ponder the question- Knock! Knock! Who is that? Sultan of Sokoto Who? The same quandary can also be applied to statements from the conservative Arewa Consultative Forum ACF and progressives in the north such as Colonel Abubakar D. Umar (Rtd.). The proposed solution by the Sultan of Sokoto to the Boko Haram pogrom is the re-introduction of an armed and fully recognized Native Police. Col. Umar indicts southeastern leaders for asking their people to return to some relative safety and security in the south.
Maybe Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III ought to be reminded that Boko Haram is an amalgamation of remnants of some Nigerian military personnel of mostly northern or Muslim extractions, the foot soldiers of the Sharia imposition, and poorly training graduates from the madrasas. The foot soldiers of Boko Haram are elements in the north that have slaughtered innocent people time and time again due to flimsiest of reasons. Some of these soldiers that got training in our Nigerian Defense Academies with our national revenues, but have treasonously and callously turned their guns against the citizenry of Nigeria.
In the case of Mr. Abubakar the pertinent question is when is enough enough? We realize that Boko Haram mass killings includes other Muslims but how do other people remain in the north when it is apparent that the Sultan and other northern elders/leaders are compromised and dare not speak truth so that justice will prevail? How can the Igbo or any other southerners be expected to remain in northern Nigeria when ACF wants guaranteed security and immunity for the leadership of Boko Haram? Why are northerners pointing fingers elsewhere while Boko Haram terrorist are protected in safe houses by their families, friends, and communities whilst the country laments?
Some Nigerians in the Diaspora compare the on-going atrocities in northern Nigeria to the prevailing situations in the West when mainly conservative politicians and parties incite racial, ethnic, and religious animus. They blame minorities such as African Diasporas, immigrants, Latinos, Arabs/Muslims, Turks, Romas, Middle easterners, for their self inflected economic, moral, and political problems. Boko Haram organization is the contemplated and executed plague of the Hausa, Fulani, and Kanuri intelligential who have the blood of innocent Nigerians and United Nations staffs on their hands.
African American civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton said the Republicans are like children who ate the blueberry pie and after catching them chewing, with crumbs on their hands and their mouths, they still boldly look you in the eyes and denial the overwhelming evidences. The Nigerian northern so-called elites have their hands saturated in the blood of innocent Traditionalist, Christians, and Muslims. They cannot wipe away or disguise the flaming irrefutable preponderant and circumstantial evidences, despite how hard they try.
We need to ask the Sultan of Sokoto, the Northern Elders, Governors, and Emirs why they have not used their bully pulpits to march and organize against repeated massacres in the north. There are massive Friday prayers in their mosques that have been the origins of hate crimes and crime against humanity. How come these same venues have not been used to rally the northern people towards truth and justice? The Nigerian Diaspora is of the opinion that we need to reevaluate the total disdain for the sanctity of human lives in Africa and particularly in Nigeria. Our peoples sponsored and promoted Sovereign National Conference will be essential in dealing with our numerous national crises.
Dedicate to- The victims, survivals, displaced persons, and families of all the decade long northern Nigerian terrorist attacks.
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist
Estella Ogbonna, Activist Occupy Nigeria- Washington DC
In the 1980’s Port-Harcourt (The Garden City) was a dynamic place with a characteristic tranquil and restive edge. I remember going to the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church with my siblings by a taxi on those weekends when my parents would drive to the Imo State country side en-route to my father’s village. After church we would cross Aggrey road near the Lagos bus stop, Town area and visit with our older cousins Amoni, Bright, and Ibinabo. My cousins, Amoni and Bright were gainfully employed secondary school graduates at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC. On most occasions when we trooped in to request for snacks and ice cream, one of my cousins whom we called uncle due to the age difference, would be on the oil rigs preoccupied in an honest day’s work. While my cousin Ibinabo was at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, his brothers were working at the Eleme refinery and the oil rigs with their high school certificates. These days, university graduates are unemployed and constitute an ever increasing proportion of the underemployed in our so-called giant of Africa.
Interestingly, those days when my younger ones and I took the cab (a drop) once or twice a month to the Catholic Church soon came to an end, after I discovered the corruption and hypocrisy within organized religion. Thankfully, I did not have to wait for contemporary times to discern the multilayered ongoing worldwide scandals in the church. As a teenager, I opted for the Pentecostal and evangelical churches that unbeknownst to me came out of the so-called Bible belt in the United States otherwise known as the Deep South. Most present day Nigerians and Africans are still ignorant of the fact that some of the same folks from the West that want them to be born-again have placed policies and structures to impede African American development through mass incarceration, structural inequality, and disenfranchisement in the United States. Indeed the hypocrisy in the church is not unlike what we experience in other religions and politics. Nigerian superstar Majek Fashek informed us back in the day that Religion is Politics.
Subsequently we have an emission of religion, ethnic intolerance, nepotism, and corruption in today’s’ political dispensation that threatens to untangle the United Nations of Nigeria. On the right corner we have President Goodluck Jonathan and his corrupt lieutenants who sold Nigerians the mannequin bill of transformation. The President and the likes of Okonjo-Iweala, Sanusi, Madueke, Aganga, and Onwuliri do not remember or just do not care that close to 1000 fellow Nigerians gave their lives for the introduction and realization of a new political democratic era. In Jonathan, we thought we saw an individual from the academy that could rise above the dictates of the Northern Military Industrial Complex NMIC. We were under the impression that he could resist the trappings of authoritarianism and corruption of former government officials. But our aspirations (luck) is been tarnished as this administration goes about desecrating the memories and labours of our contemporary heroes of democracy. The young men and women of the National Youth Service Corp NYSC who were murdered during and after the elections are treated as though they died in vain.
Meanwhile President Jonathan has becomes a lap dog of corruption for international and national syndicates. President Christine Largade of the International Monetary Fund IMF, who wants to use discredited neo-liberalism economic theories to increase the number of poor individuals on the African continent, is an example of such corrupt international principles. She visited Nigeria to reinforce the inside lobbying efforts of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala the Nigerian Finance minister and former vice president of the World Bank. After meeting Ms. Largade on December 19th, 2011 and notwithstanding the horrendous Christmas day church bombing that killed nearly 50 people; the call for religious and ethnic repatriations; the call to arms by the various tribes; massive displacement and hysteria, we received the New Year’s gift from President Jonathan that increased petroleum prices by more than 100%. These were the rude awakening that became a catalyst for the Occupy Nigeria Movement in our country and in the Diaspora.
Rather than focusing on the cabal of Nigerian petroleum importers and bunkery organizers the government decided to punish the same regular and poor people who elected them. Under the guise of deregulation and privatization the previous military and civilian administrations had conveniently lined up their cronies as venture capitalist in the petroleum sectors to the disadvantage of the less privileged people. In a classical example of double speak these fat cats increase the cost of petroleum production in the nation through various direct federal government sanctioned subsidies/fleecing of the treasury.
Instead of competition, efficiency, and price decrease we became saddled with monopolies and wastes in the highest levels. As a result there emerged millionaires and billionaires who could careless about the wellbeing of other Nigerians. According to Dictator Babangida some of those folks took record time to criminally amass the wealth that he painstakingly took 8years to steal. They became more interested in maintaining the status quo and placed some of their ill gotten loots as hedges towards the realization of the peoples backed Jonathan’s presidency. The names of these culprits were miraculously released by representatives of our National Assembly of disrepute and pimps. Our so-called representatives wanted to shift the criticism from the public on account of the earth shaking salaries, allowances, bonuses they steal for doing next to nothing.
Additionally, these developments have not slowly down our race to the bottom and the corruption in Abuja. Nigerians have become tennis balls in the hands of the 1% uber rich on the left corner, who insist on draining us until the last blood and/or oil. At the national level corruption is manifested in the economic and security purviews, while President Jonathan continues in the lap dog status. Boko Haram suspects are disappearing from law enforcement custody as fast as dollars and naira are milked from our coffers. In the likes of Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim we see a level of malfeasances and coalition with the elements that are killing innocent law enforcement officers, Christians, and Muslims, whereas the Northern elites who promised us these mayhem are protected in their posh mansions with a combination of their private security details and the national security apparatus.
Coincidentally Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke wants Nigerians that cannot afford three balanced meals, lack stable electricity, and basic healthcare to sacrifice for the nation when her children are frolicking worldwide. She appeared in front of the Nigerian National Assembly and did not know how much oil is produced and/or consumed in the country. The Minister of Petroleum Mrs. Madueke does not know the whereabouts of nearly $2billion petroleum funds. In the National Assembly hearing Mrs. Madueke pointed the finger at the Minister of Finance Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who reciprocated the gesture. Despite these systematic fraudulent anomalies, both ministers are not in danger of loosing their jobs. We have the emergence of a Southern Delta Industrial Complex SDIC, with all the surviving ex-governors of Rivers State and Bayelsa State residing in Abuja.
Despondently, the similarities between the SDIC and the NMIC Northern Military have not gone unnoticed by the masses. The SDIC political authority and economic realignment is devoid of pursuing policies for the betterment of the Nigerian people. This is reflected in the combined difficulties of increasing fuel prices on people and the ineptitude in combating the constant Boko Haram massacres. Our so-called officials in positions of trust do not exude confidence in the general public. This was exemplified by the reports of Ms. Vera Ezimora about the outing of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri in the Washington DC and Maryland area. Her callous remarks were “We have one hundred and sixty million people. If 2million are on the streets, then that means one hundred and fifty-eight million are in their homes.” Professor Onwuliri could not reckon the significance of 2million people on the streets of Nigeria who were demanding for a new discourse and the rescinding of the fuel taxation on the poor. These were the same people that President Goodluck Jonathan shamefully intimidated with the deployment of the Nigerian Army, ironically when northern Nigeria is awash with Boko Haram operatives.
Consequently, this incompetence has quickening an unexpected awakening in the Nigerian people who have yearned for a transparent and just government since the evolution of the fourth democratic republic. Nigerians are now asking about the much acclaimed transformational governance which is nowhere in site. Some of us in the Diaspora have made a resolution to standup from the sidelines, and others have recommitted their energies to the actualization of peoples’ influenced changes in Nigeria. We plan to convene a civil society; social and economic justice led Sovereign National Conference in the United States. We are eventually going to bring this conference back to the African shores for forward consultations to seek a way forward, that is absent of tribalism, religious intolerance, injustice, and corruption. Our objectives include the implementation of paradigms to ensure accountability and job creation. The goals will also involve the use of national resources to provide livable employment and healthcare opportunities for Nigerians. We are going to strive for a society where 99% of the population can survive with an honest wage.
Press Release- On the Pseudo Fuel Subsidy Removal
The Let There Be Light In Nigeria- Nigerian Million March and the African Diaspora Institute members in the Diaspora and in Nigeria declare our solidarity and fraternity with all peace loving Nigerians that have occupied the Nigerian streets from Lagos to Port-Harcourt, Ilorin to Kebbi, Abuja to Kano, and Bauchi to Warri, to say no to the removal of the pseudo fuel subsidies. We support the actions of social activists, human rights organizations, labour unions, students, and other regular Nigerians who have asserted their rights to peacefully assemble and petition their government. Law enforcement officers should resist all commands to intimidate, punish, and assault their fellow compatriots. The death of the heroic fuel hike protester Mr. Muyideen Mustapha in Illorin Kwara state should be immediately investigated and the culprits brought to justice.
The African Diaspora Institute and the Let There Be Light In Nigeria organizations also rebuke the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for introducing shock doctrine strategies on the Nigerian people. It is unseemly, unconscionable, and sadistic that few days after the Christmas Day Boko Haram bombings inNigerstate, the massacres in Ebonyi state, and other civil upheavals including regional religious and ethnic inspired displacements, that our government would hastily implement fuel hikes to inflame the masses and subjugate us to further economic hardships. We call on the administration to desist from subsidizing corruption on the backs and accounts of regular Nigerians.
Instead Dr. Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo and the rest of their economic team should go after the petroleum cabals that have frustrated our efforts to refine oil at home and have reliable electricity. Why is this administration hell bent on rubbishing the constituents that voted for them less than a year ago? They ought to realize that the days of passivity and apathy when they could remain invincible to the yearnings of the United Nations of Nigeria citizens are over. We urge the government to listen to the demands of our people and not the so-called experts from the International Monetary Fund IMF and World Bank, which have been monetizing European governments and banks for close to 24months.
Consequently we demand the immediate rescinding of the fuel and energy taxes. The cabal-like individuals and families that are hamstringing the government should be confronted soonest and our policies should be structured for the betterment of the regular Nigerian. We insist that the President Jonathan’s administration should tackle corruption, insecurity, impunity, injustice, unemployment while increasing transparency and accountability. Members of our organizations ask the Trade Union Congress TUC, Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, and Nigerians in general to press on with the credible ultimatum. The Let There Be Light In Nigeria-Nigerian Million March and the African Diaspora Institute organizations also calls for the resignation of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke the Minister of Petroleum Resources. Mallam Lamido Sanusi and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s resignations should also be gladly received by the president if they are adamant about this wrongheaded fuel hike policies.
Nigerians in the Diaspora intend to consolidate our energies with the Occupy Nigeria Movement by holding support rallies in the United States and around the world. We know that if the current administration is serious they will tackle the subsidies and monopolies that the oil barons enjoy from manipulating the petroleum production chains rather than taxing regular and poor Nigerians. What about the fight against terrorism, insecurity, and unemployment?
Nnamdi F. Akwada
Executive Director African Diaspora Institute
WashingtonDCCoordinator- Let There Be Light In Nigeria
Founder and Convener Let There Be Light In Nigeria- Nigerian Million March
Whilst it may be tempting to assume that national committees and/or commissions are needed to quell the embers of terrorism from the sectarian onslaught of Boko Haram, we ought to realize that ad hoc assemblies and clichés are not panaceas for this insurgency. Make no mistake; Nigeria is officially at war with Boko Haram and their sympathizers who have out rightly declared tactical guerrilla warfare against the nation. Consequently, for the first time in our history we are faced with an escalation of combat that is not brought about by core injustices such as government sponsored indiscriminate killings, ethnic marginalization, environmental degradation, national discrimination, and disregard of treaties. The listed factors were the ingredients that brought about the Nigerian/Biafra genocidal war of the 1960’s and the Niger Delta militancy at the dawn of the 21st century. Instead what we have in Boko Haram the fanatical Muslim group is a war to Islamize close to 150million Nigerians with 250 ethnicities, over 200 languages, varying religious and traditional affiliations.
Though the disingenuousness of Boko Haram is palpable and evident to any primary school pupil in Nigeria and around the world, the nuance of their style can not be underestimated by the President Jonathan’s administration. Under the hypocrisy of wanting to do away with western education, civilization, and religion, they want to enslave Nigeria and Africa with their bondage and/or version of Islamic thuggery. As Africans that have sold their birthrights, Boko Haram and their supporters have conveniently expunged their memories of the Trans Sahara Slave trade that began before the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. In Boko Haram we await the utopian nation state like Saudi Arabia, the same Saudis who sent their troops to hound down and murder peaceful protesters in Bahrain and Yemen. Saudi Arabia has the dubious distinction of warmly welcoming African dictators including Idi Amin of Uganda and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia with red carpets.
On the other hand if we refuse to surrender and be led by the Fulani and/or Kanuri Muslims we are to be subjected to the plight of Southern Sudan, Darfur, and Somalia. In this ungovernable terrain which was well articulated by the likes of Dictator Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Mallam Adamu Ciroma, the Disunited Nations of Nigeria will remain insecure and under siege by these group in northern Nigeria. These so-called elite politicians detonated the political bombs which have ensured our current situation when they made commentaries and prophesies during the 2011 presidential elections encouraging the current violent events. After igniting the flames of animosity these so-called leaders are now paying lip service for the need of peace while 99% of northerners are suffering from poverty and corruption.
Ironically it was the utterances of some in the 1% elite group of northern politicians especially through the Northern Political Leaders Forum NPLF that legitimized Boko Haram and took them from a northeastern fringe group to a regional terrorist operational organization. The likes of Buhari, Atiku, and Ciroma hegemonic messages gave Boko Haram and their sympathizers the license to execute the mass carnage on nearly 1000 defenseless individuals after the 2011 elections. The dead comprised of many innocent student volunteers involved in the National Youth Service Corps NYSC program. They have also tried to mask their pretentious sectarian plans with the fight against corruption and injustice. But Nigerians are not fooled by their rhetoric because we are knowledgeable about their plans to continue the institutionalized corruption and injustices that were introduced into the nation’s polity by the Northern Military Industrial Complex NMIC.
The goals of these selfish politicians’ remains to cloak their antecedents of mismanagement and their attempts are hijacking the government with religious dogmas.
Thus, they insist that the United Nations of Nigeria should be an Islamic country which is governed by both the Kanuri or Fulani tribes and their surrogates. Boko Haram lacks the moral character to fight against unaccountability and impunity in the Nigerian government because their financial sponsors are the same so-called leaders that engulfed the past and nascent Nigerian administrations with irresponsibility and corruption. At no time has Boko Haram demanded accountability from the Northern Nigerian ruling class that have dominated the nations military, political, and economic spheres for more than 40years of our 51years of existence as a British amalgamated protectorate. They have rejected the application of non-violent civil disobedient strategies like we have all witnessed on the African and Arab streets as a result of the 2011 Arab spring/awakening.
Instead Boko Haram has used the same playbook of impunity that was evident during the Dictators Babangida, Obasanjo, Abacha, and Abubakar administrations to intimidate the Nigerian nation. They speak of an amoral society but proceed to inflict mayhem on law abiding Nigerians including non fanatical Muslims, Christians, Traditionalist, and others. They introduced drive-by shootings, drive-by bombings, IED’s, and suicide bombings in Nigeria on a commercial scale as a means to cause turmoil and traumatize the country. Concepts like Islamic Banking, Sharia Law, and Western Education are used as templates for killing innocent civilians all over the northern states. Those of us that have actually sat in western classes and challenged western patriarchy, white supremacy, double speak, and imperialism, wonder why we should enthrone another reprehensible slave master’s ideologies on the African continent.
Irrespective of the camouflaging of issues by some north politicians and Boko Haram, we in the social justice activism and human rights fields in Nigeria and around the globe see through their sectarian domination agendas. We view the killings and bombings of ordinary Nigerians as a hindrance to the structural changes which we are fighting for in the country. While it could be argued that years of corruption and injustices are oblivious bombs that claim casualties, the introduction of total terrorism does not advance changes in any regard. It entrenches the five decade long status quo that we are trying to reform brick by brick with our call for transformations, accountability, and inclusive governance. In the past some of us have condemned the extra judicial killing of the Boko Haram leadership by the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration. We challenge members of the Boko Haram organization to not justify their repugnant acts on the basics of retaliatory tact.
During this time last year my family met a family at the National Museum in Lagos from Florida that was visiting Nigeria for the first time with their teenage children. Apart from coincidentally seeing President Goodluck Jonathan in a church in Abuja, the major highlight of their trip was how they narrowly escaped the Boko Haram Christmas bombings of 2010. Sadly these attempts to “arabmail” and Islamize Nigerian through bombs and propagandas are still in full effect. The sponsors of Boko Haram and their murderous machines need to realize that their objectives would be circumvented by the Nigerian people. There will be no coup d’états to allow them to come back into government through back channels. They should look inward to address the needs of northern Nigeria. Northern billionaires and millionaires who have benefited from the largesse of the Niger Delta Black Gold (Petroleum) should use their resources to address mass underemployment and illiteracy. Hard and soft power should be brought to bear on Boko Haram, their cheerleaders, and their sponsors. Henceforth the national government should stop subsidizing trips/Hajj to Saudi Arabia.
Instead those resources could be used to set up industrial, agricultural, and technological zones in the north. State governments in the north should be charged with addressing issues of draught, deforestation, desertification, and irrigation in the north. I agree with Niger state governor Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu that the federal government needs to stop playing games with the sponsors of Boko Haram and prosecute them now. President Jonathan we understand your desire to avoid conflict and drama but you need to rise up to the occasion and stop these barbaric attacks and evolving carnages. We applaud your attempts to encourage an open and free society with varying views. Lesser and myopic leaders could have gone after their critics and detractors since the inception of their administration. Dr. Goodluck and Vice President Namadi Sambo standup and confront Boko Haram before they achieve their self fulfilling prophecies which is the balkanization or “clanalization” of the Nigerian society.
Our government needs to comprehend the stakes and not use the same lackadaisical approach they have used for the corruption and impunity problems in Nigeria, to tackle this terrorist madness. Governors and local government chairpersons in the north should be immediately compelled to account for all their federal government allocated expenditures. Checks and balances are to be activated to make sure we abate the status quo fleecing by the so-called elites. We have to make sure that some of them are not using the playbook of Governor Dr. Peter Odili who looted the Rivers State treasury and sustained corruption and turmoil in the Niger Delta. The Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar who is also the head of Jama’atu Nasril Islam in Nigeria and the officials within the Borno Emirate should either become partners in the fight against these massacres or be forced to immediately step down. Rather than champion Islamic banking to further complicate matters why not embrace the Bangladesh Grameen Bank micro-credit system to assist with the eradication of gender discrimination and poverty in northern Nigeria? The Sultan has criticized the crackdown of the Boko Haram terrorist organization in the pass, but he ought to know that no persons or positions surpass the lives of innocent Nigerians.
In conclusion the educational system of northern Nigeria needs to be revamped into a Pan-African curriculum. These changes have to start from the nursery schools all the way to the primary, secondary/tertiary, and university levels. The school of thought of using Quranic schools and madrasas as the primary education institutions in the north needs to be phased out. Since the current federal government appears compromised and ineffective with prosecuting some of our criminal ex-military officers/rulers and criminal politicians with all the probable cause and preponderance of evidence that denotes their crimes, we may openly offer them amnesty in exchange for using some of their loots for the public good. Let us encourage these barawos to repatriate our monies from Dubai, Sharm el-Sheikh, London, Switzerland and other money laundering capitals and invest in the northern people to improve health, educational, and employment outcomes. If these policies are not explored we may become a nation of psychopaths/sociopaths running around and killing each other. When our different tribes begin to actively use reprisal attacks to deal with the Boko Haram cancer, then forget about justice and transparency and open up the zoos.
Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year
Dedicate to- The victims, survivals, displaced persons, and families of all the northern Nigerian terrorist attacks.
Nollywood refers to the West African centered movie industry that germinated from South-Eastern Nigeria in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It presently comprises of a decentralized tapestry of film production outfits from Nigeria to Ghana, other regions of West Africa, and the African Diaspora. Most credible and knowledgeable movie industry buffs rank Nollywood as the 2nd largest production outlet in the world behind Bollywood the Indian motion picture industry and in front of Hollywood the North American motion picture business headquartered in California. In Nigeria, the film industry arose as a progressive social marketing rebellion against the dictates of the Lagos and Abuja television aficionados who controlled the various means of national and state cinema productions.
Erstwhile to the contemporary revolution and creation of Nollywood, Nigerians were saddled with the Structural Adjustment Program SAP of the Dictator Ibrahim Babangida’s administration. A bright idea that enabled the khaki boys and their civilian stooges with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund IMF to place the nation in economic austerity while they, the so-called 1% elites went about to chop the turkey and to chop the turkey’s bones. As a result, financial constraints became the norm at the Nigerian Television Authority NTA and the military boys alias Northern Military Industrial Complex NMIC de-funded the cultural dramas and productions outfits that shone critical lens at their maladaptive governments. When our coffers were drained to buy mansions outside the country and build palaces in Nigeria by corrupt officials, the inventiveness of the first apostles of Nollywood took hold.
Consequently, the same talented folks in the industry that grew up watching television classics like New Masquerade, Village Headmaster, Things Fall Apart, Behind the Clouds with Nosa, Try Me from Aba, and Inside Out from Port-Harcourt retreated to the Southeast. They were forced into the corner because the nation no longer had the annual National Telefest competitions which showcased dramas and documentaries from all the regional NTA stations. Nigerian Telefest introduced some of us in the south to the Olumo Rock at Abeokuta in western Nigeria and Argungu Fishing Festival in Kebbi northern Nigeria for the first time. But the quintessential nail was placed on the coffins of NTA programming after the weekend Sunday 6pm show –Tales By Moonlight was unceremoniously taking off the air. Tales By Moonlight was the show that gathered and united children from various regions of the United Nations of Nigeria to the national village square tube. With the demise of these artistic outlets, some venturists from the south got the epiphany to produce local movies with funding, marketing, and distribution from investors in Aba and Onitsha. They declared their independence from the military juntas and their civilian surrogates.
Preceding this breakthrough the Nigerian populace was also inundated with movies from India such as Sholay, Nagin know as snake girl and from China /Hong Kong with films like Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow and the initial epics from Bruce Lee. I vividly remember other little kids in my living room and around our house in Port-Harcourt lining up to get a glimpse of these movies. My older cousin Reginald Anyanwu (may our ancestors and God bless his soul) was the ring master. He must have garnered the wrath of many parents and/or families of child street vendors, who abandoned the goods in their trays for a chance to be kids. Of course we were also captivated by the British and American movies such as Simon Templar (The Saint), The Avengers, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em with Frank Spencer, Charlie’s Angels, Hawaii Five-O, and Sound of Music. Most of these were frequently shown on our national and local channels or gotten through VHS tapes.
Fast forward 20-25years and Nollywood films are being sold in landmarks retail establishments in the western hemisphere such as 7-Eleven stores. Indeed the Nigerian movie industry has derived mass appeal in Africa and among the African Diaspora. Young first and second generation African immigrants in the west are introducing their high school mates, universities, and graduate school colleagues to the Nollywood phenomenon. It is no secret that this movie industry has warmed up the hearts of other Africans to be more understanding of Nigerians and the baggage that we present. One could argue that Nollywood stars such as Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Sam Efe Loco, and Nkem Owoh have unwittingly promoted Nigeria and Africa positively like other cultural educational entertainment icons such as Fela and 2Face Idibia.
Despite the aforementioned strides, the responsibilities on the shoulders of Nollywood cinematography are enormous. As the largest Black owned, controlled, and sponsored vessel to depict African and Black culture, education, and entertainment, the onus on them is great. The reality is that the Nigerian and Ghanaian movie industry and their tributaries surpass the reach of Black Entertainment Television BET, Centric TV, and TV One which are African American mass media enterprises that are located in the United States. Ironically, Nollywood might be unconscious of their exposure and conscientiousness in the global market. Otherwise how do they explain characters that only preach against piracy while completely ignoring the issues of parental and viewers rating systems? Some of us in the African Diaspora who are eager to introduce our children to African cultures think it is unwholesome for us to watch actors with limited acting skills resulting to gimmicks such as racial and sexual expletives. These words are used especially to pad their way through roles, without warning to the audience and devoid of context. Whatever happening to saying Waka, Shege, u de bonbonro cigar? Have we lost these Pidgin English lingos that were used to convey rage and jest some years ago?
Indeed some of us in the African Diaspora are of the view that using the N-word and I wana wana language does not serve the image of the industry and deviates from the foundations of Nollywood. We want to see the African movie business take up issues of corruption, impunity, transparency, poverty, tribalism, injustice, self-hate, religious intolerance, racism, ineptitude governance that have bedeviled most people of black hue for centuries. African cinema needs to challenge Hollywood racism, stereotypes, biases, and prejudices that have been ingrained in the psychics of millions worldwide through the Minstrel Shows of the 1940-50’s and the Tarzan movies. The Minstrel shows had depictions of black and white people painting their faces as black as coal to lampoon African descendents in a cesspool of racism. In the nearly 100 Tarzan movies the systematic themes are so repulsive in their sustenance of European and white hegemony.
In May of 2010, CNN Anderson Cooper reconstructed the infamous Doll Test conducted by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in1947 and found out that the perception of how African American and white children view blacks had not changed after more than half a century. The black kids and white kids in the contemporary experiment still characterized the black dolls/faces with negatives attributes. This is because of the overt socialization messages from institutions like Hollywood and other western businesses and retail organizations. They have a tendency to operate as though people of African decent are invisible and/or do not exist in non-positive reinforcement avenues. It was interesting to watch Mr. Cooper querying the kids, parents, and experts like Professor Eric Dyson on this subject when the media and some children books are the primary culprits in spreading this self-hate and external hostiles/prejudices. Nollywood could actually be a vehicle to mitigate and end these stereotypical and bias perceptions within the African Diaspora, Africa, and the world.
There ought to be the green lighting of more progressive and socially conscious projects between the Africans in Nollywood and the African Diaspora. These strategies can encourage projects springing up between the African motion picture industries and the likes of Shari Carpenter, Spike Lee, Marlies Carruth, Tyler Perry, Ayoka Chenzira, and Robert Townsend. Hopefully Ice Cube can also come on board and stop making caricatures of Africans in his movies – “I don’t get gig with that shit.” In the same vein Usher Raymond and Alicia Keys will not soil a beautiful music video like My Boo with a trigger motion when African cab drives in the United States have been on the receiving end of senseless violence. Anyway the foray into cooperative work and responsibility will help heal the mindset of numerous Africans in the Diaspora. When black children in the United States are called Africans in school they will stop recoiling and thinking/feeling it is an insult worst than even the N-word. For example, discredited Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will rather submit themselves to a “high tech lynching” than get caught answering African Americans. Cooperation between Nollywood and the African Diaspora may also lead to some dynamics in which our African American relatives whose economic might is among the top ten in the world, become partners in our attempts to rid the African continent of our corrupt and ineffective regimes.
Moreover, the potentials are enormous for Nollywood if they decide to form these strategic and tactical alliances. There is going to be tremendous improving in the writing expertise and film productions of the African originated and lead industry. Nollywood will expand to include graphic and computer animations to counteract the downbeat influences of Hollywood on our children. African Diasporas in Europe, Asia, South America, Antarctica, and North America are sources of cultural infusion and technological knowledge that can sustain Nollywood for ages. One of the goals of the movie business in Africa should be to broaden their reach and improve societies along the way with peoples originated progressive messages. Instead of pursing the lifestyles of African dictators, Hollywood skewed glamour, and the so-called African corrupt elites (alias the 1%), their goals should be the systemic reintegration of the worldwide cultural lenses with media voices that are affordable to ordinary people. It is imperative for Nollywood to be at the apex of challenging what Bob Marley called Mental Slavery and what Fela termed Colonial Mentality.
Dedicate to Mr. Malcolm X, Dr. Maulana Karenga, and to my cousin Mr. Reginald Anyanwu who resided in Ghana, South Africa, and Mozambique before his death.
Nnamdi Frank Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist
Executive Director African Diaspora Institute and US African Cultural Festival
In the United Nations of Nigeria some citizens have the habit of wondering about the eventual disintegration of the country due to the overwhelming realities of 51years of structural malfeasance, corruption, ethnic strife, and ineptitude on most levels. The scenario of succession is further compounded by groups like Boko Haram in the north, MEND (and other Niger Delta militants, and MASSOB in the southeast. Some of these fringe organizations are directly and indirectly championing the goals of disruption in Nigeria. Though, the reality is that Nigeria might have more staying power than the world. If the proclamation that the world as we know it is going to be nonexistent by next year (2012) is anything to go by, then those that have predicted that Nigeria will cease to be a nation in 2015 might need to re-consult their oracles.
Hence, our attempts to proffer solutions must acknowledge that the status quo is hinged on the sad reality that our country is a protectorate/gift that keeps on giving to the “so called” outnumbered and powerful few at the expense of the marginalized majority. As we transition from these perilous times when most right thinking citizens of the Dis-United Nations of Nigeria have begun to critically examine our continued coexistence, we have to consider the skeletons in our closets. Our various nations need to decide the modalities ahead in a situation where Nigeria has joined the League of Nations with routine suicide bombings. In order to decide about the present and the future we painstakingly need to investigate some of our skeletons that have gotten us in this situation, such as some Muslims in Northern Nigeria quest for political dominance/hegemony; the affinity by some in the Southwest, the Niger Delta, and the North to be Kingmakers while supporting rogue governments for nearly six decades; the genocidal wars against the Southeast that have continued unabated and now includes Christian and non-Christian communities in the north irrespective of ethnicities; and finally the economic and infrastructural assault against the Niger Delta people whose communities have been the bedrock of survival for the Nigerian nation through the Black Gold of Petroleum.
There needs to be the realizations that there are no magic bullets and those that will rather destroy than to build a better society are also called upon to appraise their motives and their anticipated objectives. One of the magic bullets which some who are frustrated with the status quo of corruption, impunity, and lack of transparency have opined is the emergency in Nigeria of a character like Jerry J. Rawlings the former president of Ghana. Our psychopathological inpatient personality is so perverse with the quick fix disorders that we always want a messiah to cleanse the system. We are unwilling to use time tested systematic and best practice nonviolent approaches to change our society.
Instead, like the Ken Saro-Wiwa characters in the 1980’s hit show Bassey and Company we remain obsessed with “drive through” reformist solutions. These so-called answers are shootings, bombings, and killing ourselves out of our problems. For instance an objective analysis of J.J. Rawlings methodologies will reveal the true empowerment movement that he led in Ghana albeit with antisocial and criminal means. Let us analyze what would have happened if a character like President Rawlings had sprang up in Nigeria. In our cynical nature some would have questioned his citizenship to start with. Who born u? Where your papa dey wey you wan come rule us for Naija? Others could have heaped all types of insults on his mother while counseling her to take her son to Scotland to find J J’s dad.
Unbeknownst, to our consciousness either due to repressive memory or inability to deal with the truth, the likes of President Rawlings drew their inspiration from Nigeria. Before the advent of Dictator Rawlings in 1979 Ghana, we had the unique experience of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu in the1966 United Nations of Nigeria who was born of Igbo parents but bred in Kaduna. In his misguided and illegal ploy to rescue Nigeria from the grips of the emerging political, military, and economic corrupt elites who have come to dominate us, Nzeogwu organized the 1966 coup. Despite his intentions, chief of which was to handover to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the outcome was a bundled mess of deaths which some interpreted as tribal and unbecoming. Our silver bullet- quick fix was sabotaged with tribal sentiments and incompetence on two fronts due to the illegal actions and the unfortunate reckoning of events.
Ironically, fringe groups are still adamant in their decisions to use violence to address perceived grievances. They are more willing to massacre innocent people in their pseudo attempts at illuminating and eliminating injustices to effect changes. Some are also eager to blame the Nigerian federal government for all their problems without acknowledging that “Charity Begins At Home.” They are reluctant to ask for accountability and transparency in their hamlets, local government councils, and state governments. Some of us that know that we can walk and chew gum at the same time have our reservations for those that are described above. We wondered what the iconic nationalist Sir Herbert Samuel Macaulay the grandson of Bishop Ajayi Crowther would think if he were to revisit the United Nations of Nigeria in this fragile state.
Compatriots that really desire and want social justice and economic changes for all, that are not narrow minded need to stop remaining complacent. In all honesty we do not need the permission of President Goodluck Jonathan or anyone for that matter to plan and assemble a Sovereign National Conference. The likes of Boko Haram and MEND have never requested our authorization to bomb and mutilate us. We the people need to stand up against the tyranny of the minority from those who want to either plunder and/or divide the nation. As a Port-Harcourt son with Imo State heritage, I have no yearnings to fly neither the Niger Delta nor the Biafra flag when our state governors and local government chairpersons manifest the impunity of corruption without remedy that we criticize in Abuja.
In furtherance, of sustainable transformational changes we must be willing to recall legislators, governors, judges, generals, police commissioners, and chairpersons irrespective of party affiliations and without primordial biases of ethnicity and religion. We should be enthusiastic about putting ourselves on the line and our comforts on hold to peacefully occupy our public spaces and our government structures for present and future generations. It is unconscionable for us to allow our government to renege on minimum wages when our politicians and administrators are responsible for our over expenditures and massive frauds. Our bloated budgetary problems and deficits should not be ameliorated on the backs of the poor through the removal of fuel subsidies. These are some of the issues that we can effectively tackle with revolutionary progressive protests, strikes, sovereign conferences, and civil disobediences without resulting to anarchy as the first and/or primary solution.
Nnamdi Frank Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist