Abi Adegboye Ph.D

Abi Adegboye Ph.D

Abi Adegboye began writing as a young girl growing in western Nigeria.  In a culture that reveres boys, she was born the second of three girls.  Certain she had to be her family's 'boy,' she climbed trees to harvest fruit, dressed chickens for dinner, caught mice, and whatever else required male-handling.  She also loved to read, write, and draw.  Her initial efforts yielded publications in local newspapers and newsletters.  However, she was advised to get a day job which turned out to be as a professor of political science.  This opened to her, a different avenue for publication in her areas of research including African women and development, women migrants, and the impact of public policy on women’s political economy.

On her 40th birthday, she rekindled her creative writing with the publication of Butterfly, a picture book and Reflections on Nigerian Christianity, a social commentary.  Since then, she’s co-authored Owanbe! Yoruba Celebrations of Life (2010), a cultural anthology and published Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House (2012), a YA motivational YA book, and Renike comes to America (2016), a novella.  

Abi writes multicultural fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults.  She shares her writing through speaking engagements, performances, storytelling, and classroom visits. 

For more information about Ms. Adegboye’s publications, or to connect with her, visit her

Website at www.abiadegboye.com

Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/abiadegboyeauthor

Blog at http://www.abiadegboye.com/blog

And Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/abiadegboye

 

 

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” - John C. Maxwell

“You need actually only a spark to light a fire…. a spark that says, “I will not be satisfied until I get here.  And when I get there, I set new goals, new standards.” – Raji Fashola

Last year, I started a manuscript titled, Wanna B Guv?  10 Leadership Strategies from Governor Raji Fashola which included the following strategies: 1. Challenge the status quo; 2. Have a blueprint; 3. Work your plan; 4. Find the money; 5. People first; 6. Form partnerships; 7. Innovate; 8. Endure criticism democratically; 9. Review and regroup; and 10. Groom possible successors.  In each of these sections, I used examples from Fashola’s transformation of Lagos State to illustrate leadership principles.  Thankfully, as I continue the writing today, there are more governors exhibiting similar traits in their style of leadership.  This of course is not to suggest that any of these governors are perfect, but they are working…  Economist Ha-Joon Chang argues that corruption is not Africa’s problem but a lack of a nationalistic vision citing examples of states built on corruption such as China, North Korea, India, and the United States.  Arguably, this is why we see visions of stellar performance while the decay continues.  “Eko o ni baje” is the rallying cry of a nationalist at heart and this is why amid, the corruption, Fashola charts a different course.  We can hope that his kind of transformation would cause corruption to recede as the good book says, “when light arises, darkness flees.” Here are the principles:

  1. Challenge the status quo:  Easy to get into a position of power and adopt the mantra, “na so e be” and thus make no attempt at changing things.  Or to look at the multitude and complexity of problems on the ground and become paralyzed into complacency.  Not so with Raji Fashola who within his first 100 days in office had not only challenged the status quo but changed it in definitive ways.  He’d inherited a Lagos ridden with decay, thuggery, insecurity, ineffective educational system, dismal healthcare, and rampant poverty but immediately set about transforming it into a cleaner and more vibrant metropolis.  Similarly, Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Peter Obi (Anambra), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) inherited states with varying degrees of decrepitude and are effecting transformational agendas of their own.
  2. Have a blueprint:  A blueprint provides a roadmap for a leader.  It points clearly to what is to be and can serve as a source of inspiration for both leader and constituents.  Fashola inherited the blueprint of predecessors who had barely dusted it off not to talk of implementing it.    On the contrary, Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) created his own blueprint, an agenda to stimulate the agricultural, educational, environmental, and economic sectors of the state.  Across the board, we see similar agenda-driven governance from Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Sai’du Dankigari (Kebbi), and Babangida Aliyu (Niger).
  3. Work your plan:  When people see that it is not business as usual, they sit up.  In his first term in office, Fashola personally inspected contracts awarded.  After a few contractors were fired for failing to perform, others realized that they either performed or lost the contract.  Beyond the photo-op, a governor who wishes to make a difference must walk the streets of his state and connect with those to carry out his agenda.  Pursue contractors, pursue workers; whoever takes money from you must do the work.
  4. Find the money: Though money is everywhere, unless you are actively looking, you will not find it.  Fashola’s has been particularly creative in raising the finances necessary for Lagos’ metamorphosis using public-private partnerships, internal tax revenues, bonds, and borrowing.  For states poorer than Lagos, governors may tap into their diasporas for fundraising for example, a wealthy indigene donated N40,000,000 to be split and granted individual citizens to start businesses in Kano.  Each state has a vibrant diaspora which can be engaged.  And if you still can’t find the money, find the manpower as Aregbesola demonstrates in his engagement of OYES in Osun State.
  5. People first:  All the states have suffered such egregious neglect that there is work to be done – everywhere!  Infrastructure, services, economy, administration – the problem is what to tackle first.  Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) said he put the people first investing immediately in education which he made free and healthcare (free for gestating mothers and children till 5 years).  There is soundness in this strategy because an immediate infusion of capital into social services cultivates constituency buy-in which in turn allows progress in other areas.  My Lagosian sister told me this story about the first Fashola Christmas when there were decorative lights on city trees lit by portable generators.  And neither the lights nor the generators were stolen.  IN LAGOS!
  6. Form partnerships:  whether for funding or infrastructural development, collaborations minimize the strain on one governor to ‘do it all.’  Famed for his public-private partnerships, Fashola has used this method of collaboration to develop roads, mass transit, buildings, and other amenities.  When clearly stated what each partner gets out of the venture, it is an effective way to generate growth.  Consider, if you have good ideas but can’t find a team to help you execute them, you won’t get anywhere.
  7. Innovate:  The problems we face today cannot be solved by the solutions of yesterday.  There is an urgency to confront the impact of global warming in Africa – floods, drought, heat waves, deforestation, and more.   One notices initiative in the efforts of Lamido (Jigawa) to green his state in order to stem the encroachment of the Sahara.  On a different front, Aregbesola addresses both the problem of decayed educational infrastructure and lack of technological innovation through a tablet scheme for students labeled, “Opan Imo.”
  8. Endure criticism democratically:  Fashola neither loses his composure when responding to critics nor send his henchmen after them.  There is a marketplace of ideas and the governor should protect it even when a market trend is against him.  The easiest way to endure criticism democratically is to be transparent and accountable.  When I wanted to see the budget of Lagos State, I simply went on the state website.
  9. Review and regroup - Some plans work, others fail.  Africa’s history is littered with white elephant projects of visionary leaders.  What is missing is a regrouping of those visionaries and visions.  When a project fails, a leader must be willing to uncover what went wrong and to change tactics.  When a contractor fails to deliver as promised, Fashola hires another.  Further, he does not pay before service which is what killed so many projects whereby the money is spent but the work is not done.
  10. Groom possible successors:  Fall not prey to a messiah complex whereby you are the only one who can perform.  When you leave office, leave behind clones who can take your legacy to the next level of development.  In very few states across the globe has development been completed in one generation.  However, the problem we have in Africa is yo-yo development whereby we have growth under one regime and decay in the next.  Several of the policies being introduced by these governors have been done before – free education, healthcare, and infrastructure development – but were not taken to the next level because of a failure in successorship.  While one is not advocating succession a la North Korea, there should be a groomed handful of credible successors to Fashola come 2015.  Of these credible candidates, the people can then elect their next governor.
Tuesday, 23 July 2013 12:37

Of child brides and terrorists

Earlier this week, I was asked to sign a petition requesting the United Nations to stop Nigerian Lawmakers from enacting a law permitting underage marriages.  Without hesitation, I signed because I had seen firsthand, the deleterious impact of the practice.  Not long after I shared the petition on my page, a friend posted a different review of the issue which explained that Senator Yerima and his cronies were actually voting to keep in the 1999 Constitution, section 29(4) (b) that states, “any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age.”  While a removal of this clause would have made eighteen the age of accountability across the board, it was rejected.  My take is that neither the 1999 constitution nor the amendment would resolve the religious exceptionism that continues to allow a feudal elite to exercise a stranglehold over the lives of millions of good Nigerians.

I visited Kano during my youth service in 1988 and was struck by the number of kids roaming the streets.  The boys in dusty caps, tee shirts or dashiki and pants, often without shoes were begging.  They crowded the traffic stops and clambered over cars with bowls thrust out each time the lights turned red.  Less visible on the streets, the girls were in ankra top and wrappers with scarves draped over their heads and sporting red dots on their foreheads.  They too carried bowls but sometimes carried bags and appeared to be running errands.  I asked my uncle whom I was visiting about the red dots.  “The dots signify they are married and living with their husbands,” he calmly replied.  Horrified, I questioned how it could be so given I had seen six year olds with similar dots on their foreheads.  He explained that he had been similarly outraged when newly transferred from Lagos to Kano.  Having been told it was religious practice, he turned to his neighbor, a Muslim from the south.

“How can you justify old men marrying six or seven year olds as religious practice?” he inquired.

“It is allowable religious practice.  It is how it is done,” his neighbor replied matter of fact.

“Okay, so it is religious practice; how come you have not given your fifteen year old daughter in marriage?  You even have eighteen year old nieces living with you!  When will they marry?” uncle yelled outraged at his neighbor’s complacent defense of such a barbaric custom.

“Ehm, hmm...” his neighbor edged, “even if one is crying, one can still see.  That’s how they understand it, not how we do.”

While the dichotomy between northern and southern Muslim practice is certainly intriguing, the battle for civil rights for the northern woman has been long and arduous.  For instance, she did not get the right to vote until 1976 while her southern sisters had been enjoying the franchise since independence.  Likewise, high profile cases spotlight the oppression girls and women face in this region of the country such as the case of the girl whose legs were chopped off because she ran away from arranged marriage; the Rabiu progeny who killed his errant 13-year old bride; the Amina Lawal Kurami saga which gained international notoriety via Oprah, and the pedophile Senator’s Egyptian child bride who is yet to receive justice.  Child marriage is part of an entrenched misogynist culture of domination whether or not sanctioned by the constitution.  To buttress, another harrowing memory I have of Kano is seeing a large building dubbed “The House of Piss” which housed women whose bladders had been destroyed as a result of underage pregnancy and the resulting obstetric fistula.  In the building, the girls, divorced by their husbands and disowned by their families, are taught to weave baskets and other crafts for sale. 

On a positive note, pieces of federal legislation supporting universal education gave rise to federal colleges and allowed warriors like Mrs. Esther Sodeinde, former principal of Federal Government Girls College, Bida to prowl the streets forcibly dragging girls back to school to get an education.  Similarly, women’s activist groups gain the platform to decry the excesses of the feudal elite.  Sometimes they win, other times, aluta continua.  It was definitely a major setback when Katsina, Zamfara, et al. opted for Sharia law and female Youth Corpers could no longer ride in taxis with men nor freely walk the streets.

Of child brides and terrorists?  – It is not accidental that Boko Haram terrorists decry western education as this is precisely what their wealthy sponsors, sanction.  Western education throws a wrench in their oppressive machine.  They control the girls through child marriages and the boys through beggary and eventual recruitment into terrorism.  And those who are outliers are forced to into complicity through violence and mayhem while the feudal elite continue their merry looting.  It is the same tactics used by their counterparts in the Middle East and Afghanistan (Taliban era).  For advocates, the struggle must continue because it is not about the abortion of a Constitutional amendment but about a feudal elite who continue to smother the progress of millions in a significant region of the country.  Southerners may cast a snooty glance thinking the continued underdevelopment of the north alludes to the superiority of the south but in actuality, Nigeria is going nowhere as a state if all its regions do not experience tremendous socio-economic development.  

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 20:52

One Brave Woman and VAWA

“My sister, where would I go?  I have no papers” – Mrs. A.

A couple of years ago, while conducting research on immigrant women and domestic violence, I heard this refrain repeated, “I can’t leave because I have no papers.”  Over 80% of African women who immigrate do so because of a spouse, thus majority of these women are dependent on their spouses for legal status in the US.  As appendages to their husbands, they are awarded F2, H4, or J2 visas which entitle them to legally reside in the country but no independence.  They are unable to work, live independent lives, or divorce abusive spouses.  Additionally, while the F2, H4 and J2 visas are somewhat automatically appended to the dominant visas – F1, H1/2/3, and J1, the story changes for the permanent residence or green card.  This requires the consent of the husband who, because it grants independence, can use it to manipulate the wife to stay in a destructive relationship.  Hence, many women stay in abusive marriages because they “have no papers” either to work or stay in the country legally.  When we juxtapose the statement with chilling headlines such as “Nigerian Woman Killed by Husband” or “Murder of Kenyan Woman, Daughters, unsolved,” one is full of trepidation and concern.     

Fortunately, times began to change in the mid-1990s with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 which provided a remedy to battered immigrant women whose spouses refuse to file a petition for residency on her behalf.  Under VAWA, abused immigrant women can self-petition on their own behalves to become legal permanent residents without relying on their abusive spouses.  The abused woman also can apply to become a permanent resident if her spouse had begun the process of applying for her residency papers and then later withdrew the petition, or if the petition is still pending. Battered immigrant women who self-petition may include their undocumented children in their application. Children who are abused by citizen or resident parents also may apply for this remedy. Finally, a woman who has not been abused herself also can self-petition to become a permanent resident if she is a parent of a battered child abused by the woman's citizen or permanent resident husband.

Unfortunately, VAWA has undergone several iterations since 1994 with conservatives removing provisions for illegal immigrants at some point.  As it stands, VAWA was reauthorized in 2013 to cover victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking though the House version of the bill is still under debate.  Fortunately, VAWA has inspired states across the country to establish similar laws to protect il/legal immigrant victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and other related crimes. Such were the laws which protected one brave woman below.

N. was illegally smuggled into the country by her new husband Y in 2000.  Mesmerized by promises of a glorious union in a land of surplus, N. left her professional job and followed him.  Upon arrival, he informed her that though he was a citizen, it would take a while to file her papers since she was an undocumented alien.  Being pragmatic, N. forged papers and began part-time work in a hotel.  Almost from the start, Y frequently verbally, physically, and sexually abused her.  When she complained about his philandering, he charged, “don’t even compare yourself to those women!  They are professional and well-groomed.  Even on your best day, you are 100 times inferior to them.”  When she challenged that she would be a professional too if he filed her papers, he snorted.  They had terrible fights that left scars on her mind and body. 

One night, she awoke suddenly to find him standing over her holding a knife.  She called the police.  When they arrived, he accused her of being an illegal alien who had no right to be in his house.  The police asked for the house title, saw that it was in his name only, and told her to leave because she had no document to prove their marital relationship.  Heartbroken, she left her three infant children behind.  In the following weeks, she would creep into the neighborhood to see her children as they played in the yard.  One day, she watched her husband slap her eldest for a minor mistake.  She doubled over in agony.  When he left the scene, she swept into the yard, grabbed her children, and drove straight to the police station! 

There, she recounted her story and was immediately placed in a battered women’s shelter and appointed a case worker.  The shelter was crowded but she rejoiced in being reunited with her children.  In the months following, she was moved from the crowded shelter to a room of their own and finally to a two-bedroom apartment.  On the legal side, she was appointed two lawyers – one for domestic violence charges against her spouse and the other for illegal immigration.  She faced Y. in court on both charges and despite his protests against their marital tie, he was ordered to pay alimony and child support.  More importantly, her status was normalized so she could legally stay in the US with her children.  Today, she is an independent professional woman who lives in peace with her children.

From N.’s case, here are some takeaways:

  1. Find out what provisions are available to immigrant (il/legal) women suffering domestic violence in your state.  Google it!  Many states have adopted pro-VAWA legislation regardless of the yo-yo provisions of the actual federal act.  If you live in a state where you can get help, reach out.
  2. Document your abuse.  Nobody is going to take your word for it.  Is he yelling at you?   Record it on your cell phone.  Has he cut you?  Take a photograph.  Unless you can show evidence of abuse, you have no case!
  3. Plan for the journey.  It is an arduous journey from abuse to freedom.  From our example above, realize that breaking away from an abusive spouse is not a picnic.  Begin today to put away your documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, letters of invitation, titles, passport, whatever), jewelry, and other items you cannot bear to leave behind.
  4.  Don’t broadcast yourself.  You cannot tell anyone of your plans if you are going to run to the state for help.  If fact, living in a domestic violence shelter requires you to limit your communication with the outside world and definitely have no communication with your abuser.  If you want to iron things out with your abuser, don’t turn to the state.
  5. Set a date before it is too late!  Once you are convinced that your only hope of survival is to leave, LEAVE.  Pack your bags and go find help.  It is better to be alive to tell your own side of the story than to allow someone to justify killing you because you were a promiscuous, money-grabbing, manipulative, and vicious woman!
  6. Stay with the process.  If you are going to work with the state, stick with it until your status is normalized.  It may take months or even years but it is worth the investment for your life.

Blessed wishes.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:01

This Time Thing

This time thing o

We have to deal with it o

This time thing o

It is wasting our lives

 

So there I was hanging out at a church denomination’s national convention when I saw a man huffing and puffing up the street.  He’d packed his car afar off at one of the only spots left in the 5,000+ vehicle capacity lot and was running towards the sanctuary like kidnappers were chasing him.  When I inquired about the source of his haste, I was told he was trying to catch the ordination service.  So I asked, “Is that the same ordination those robed fellows over there are being congratulated for?”  “Yes,” my informant assured me, “it ended about an hour ago.”   I grimaced, is it not a serious matter when a pastor is late for his own ordination?

Years ago, I joined one of ‘our organizations’ and soon began receiving invitations to events.  Being a generally time-conscious person, I’d arrive at the specified time of the event either to find an empty parking lot or be privileged to help the celebrant set up!  Similarly, I attended professional meetings where leaders who were expected to start the meeting with a report, arrived 45 minutes late and marched boldly to the head table.  Gradually, I was coopted into thinking differently about time such that when an invitation states two o clock, I wonder if it means four or six or eight so I could arrive ‘on time.’ 

We have turned time wastage into an art form dubbing it pseudonyms like ‘Colored People (CP) time’ or ‘Nigerian time.’   Our parties and meetings never start or end on time nor are beauty, barber, doctor’s, or real estate agent appointments ever kept.  Expectedly, this casual recognition of time costs us tremendously.  When we invite more time-conscious people to our events, we come off looking like triflers.  We appear unprofessional and unserious.  And meetings are less productive, for example, when a professional meeting which is scheduled to run from 2 to 4:00 pm does not start till 3:00, by 3:45, people are clamoring to leave because they had scheduled other events for 4:00pm.  Likewise, a party just getting started at 10:00pm when the hall rental ends at 11:00 cannot but end haphazardly.

Then there is the time wasted waiting for someone to ‘start’ their appointment, meeting, party, or event.  Minutes trickle into hours that when joined together add up to days, months, and years of nothingness.  Gradually, it grows into a life of limited productivity and tremendous unfulfilled potential.  You and I must stop the madness.  Decide to become time conscious today.

  1. ARRIVE ON TIME: If you set an appointment, plan to arrive earlier than your set time.  Chris Gardner author of The Pursuit of Happyness (and whose story is told in the movie), wears two wristwatches (one on each wrist) because earlier in his business, he arrived late to a prospecting appointment.  Of course, the potential client did not trust him to invest his money which dealt a severe blow to Gardner’s bottom line.  From then on, he vowed to arrive at least 15 minutes before any appointment!  And his watches help him keep time.
  2. PLAN YOUR TIME WISELY: You’ve been invited to an event you know will not start on time, plan ahead how long you will stay.  I go to events on time and plan to ‘donate’ only an hour of my time to the event.  If the organizer starts on time, great; if not, I help set up and then leave.
  3. SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY: Take something to do when you absolutely have to wait for an event to start such as a service of songs.  I bring out my notebook and write pieces like this one.  If you don’t write, which you should; network, catch up with old friends, talk to your children, or sleep.
  4. HELP OTHERS KEEP TIME: Improve your professional profile by only setting appointments you can keep.  Beyond this, help others around you to keep appointments they make, meetings they organize, and events they host.  We cannot gainsay the connection between timeliness and productivity.  Indeed, a stitch in time saves nine.

Finally, think, a second becomes a minute which becomes an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, and a lifetime.  A little CP time here, a little Nigerian time there, and before we know it, we are too old to know time and time indeed, has passed us by.  Decide today to change your time paradigm!

Comments on my previous article, revealed a misconception that any woman, who puts her survival interests above staying in her matrimonial home, is a heretic.  Plenty believe that there’s something wrong with ‘leaving to live;’ especially Christian women!  So I’d like to share the story of Abigail from the Bible, and use it to illustrate some godly principles.

As found in 1 Samuel 25, the story goes, David was running for his life from King Saul and he wandered to the Northern part of the country where Nabal, a wealthy man had fields and cattle.  While they were in the fields, David constituted himself an un-hired bodyguard to Nabal’s workmen.  Then he sent his men to Nabal to ask for food thinking, one good turn deserves another.  But Nabal cursed him out.  So David decided to kill all the men in Nabal’s house.

But one of their servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife what had happened.  She quickly sent the food David requested, begged him to reconsider, and thus averted David’s planned mayhem.  Later, when he was sober, she informed her husband what had taken place.  He suffered a heart attack and died ten days later.  Then David turned around and asked Abigail to marry him.  They got married.  Thus ends the story of a smart woman in a dysfunctional marriage.  Now to the principles we can derive from her actions:

Abigail Principles

  1. Believe in yourself – don’t let an abusive spouse swipe your self-esteem or personality.  Abigail remained smart though Nabal was foolish.  She didn’t blindly follow his wicked ways like the wives of Korah and co.  Keep your head screwed on right.  Psalm 139: 14 states ‘you are fearfully and wonderfully made’ in other words, ‘you are all that and more.’  When someone calls you worthless, remind yourself God calls you worthy.  Precious.  Valued.  Wonderful.
  2. Use your brains to make your gains – Abigail was described as intelligent just as you are.  She used her brains to save her husband’s hide.  Come to think of it, if David’s men had proceeded to raid Nabal’s household, in usual Israelite fashion, they would have killed the men and taken away the women and children.  So Abigail would have been spared either way.  But why wait for the bloodshed if you can avert it? You’ve got the brains and survival instincts to bail yourself out of your current predicament so do what works instead of running from Pastor to Afaa asking for counsel.  You are likely to get the kind given to an acquaintance whose husband was sleeping around and she was afraid of catching AIDS.  She was told, “count your beads seven times before you lay on your bed and if your husband turns to you, oblige him.  The almighty will take care of you.”  Yeah, right!
  3. Build a network.  Ever heard of the new bride who accused her mother of witchcraft?  Her husband saw her flying in his dreams.  Seriously though, anybody that tells you to stop talking to your family will oppress you big time!  Without a good relationship with her network, Abigail would not have known what was going down!  Be friendly with your neighbors and they may tell you that the same day you travelled to England, your husband arrived from the airport with a buxom light-skinned woman who left the same day you returned.  Just saying…
  4. Brave Up! Strategize, make the right decision and have courage to follow through.  Abigail planned and worked a great strategy to prevent bloodshed in her household.  Don’t lose your mind to love.  Think!
  5. Be humble and diplomatic.  You don’t want people saying, “Oh, it is because she has a Ph.D. that she disrespects her husband,” even when they know you are innocent.  Use the right words to get ahead in life.  Abigail spoke humbly to David as well as to her husband, Nabal.  Of course, there would still be people who would cast aspersion on your personhood like those who feel Abigail was an opportunist who saw her chance to trade her husband for a handsomer model.  Simply do your best.
  6. Get your facts straight.  If your spouse is a philandering abuser, don’t get in front of elders and say he’s as faithful as the pope.  Instead, document every abusive move he makes because you will need those docs in court.  Abigail did not lie about Nabal’s foolishness.
  7. Choose your timing and season your words.  You don’t say everything to everyone every time.  You don’t tell an abusive spouse you plan to leave or that you will report him to the authorities (that’s tantamount to asking for your own murder).  Disclose only information that would yield less unpleasant outcomes.

When you position yourself right, God blesses your efforts.  So Nabal died of a heart attack (sorta) and David asked for Abigail’s hand in marriage.  And as with all fairy tale endings, “they all lived happily ever after.”

Ojú l’ak`an fi nsori (The crab uses its sensitive eyes to stay alive) -  Yoruba proverb

Enough already!  I just read the story of Omodolapo Yetunde Jagha (nee Olotu), a devout Christian wife who recently died of cancer in the Dublin, Ireland.  Her story and letter to the public include accounts of her pastor husband’s infidelity, domestic violence, and religious dragooning.  But the most grievous of his heinous crimes was to coerce her to “fast and pray” for her healing rather than seek medical attention in her fight against cancer!  While I can’t confirm the veracity of her story, it is all too familiar.  In February, I read a similar story about a lady who was beaten to death by her abusive husband.  Prior to her death, she had been counseled by her pastor, parents, and well-wishers to remain in her matrimonial home and to endure the abuse.  Like Yetunde, she died from abuse.

While I can go into a treatise on how the church is failing abused women, sending them to early graves instead of providing a refuge, it is not my purpose in this piece.  For sure, it is no secret that many who parade themselves as pastors today are nothing but glorified thugs and hustlers.  It is also a fact that many denominations demand little or no accountability from those they place on pulpits in their parishes, focusing instead on remuneration and empire building.  Ipso facto, we cannot rely on religious pundits whether big and small to protect the victimized.  Thus, my purpose in this piece is to EMPOWER THE VICTIMIZED!

By their fruits, (NOT by their professions), ye shall know them says the good book.  Too often, we don’t take these words seriously.  When a person borrows without repayment (see my article, Of Liars, Borrowers, and Thieves), lies habitually, and generally bullies those around him, HE IS A THUG.  He may tell you, he is a man of God, an excellent husband, or wonderful father; those titles are merely a figment of his imagination.  He is a thug and should be treated as such.  When you don’t treat such men as they behave, you get tragedies like Yetunde’s.  For instance, when she once got a restraining order against him, she was advised to drop it.  Yet, a restraining order is only the beginning of a survival plan against thugs, bullies, and hustlers.

I got married mid-1997 and by March 1999, my husband was expressing the symptoms of manic-depression.  In his manic stage, he would stand upstairs in our high ceiled home and yell curses down at me holding our three month old baby.  This would go on for about three days then he would hit a depression and go around moping about how sorry he was.  Having never experienced abuse, I had no clue what was going on in my marriage.  I mean, an average disagreement would turn into a shoutfest – him shouting and me locking myself in a closet till he was done because he’d told me I could not leave the house during an argument.  Eventually, things got to a head and we involved his friends who advised me that there was something horribly wrong with their friend.  I stood my ground and made him go seek medical attention but he refused to accept the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  So the war began.

For five years, we lived the bipolar roller coaster of highs (mental and emotional abuse) and lows (remorse and sadness).  Initially, there were periods of tranquility between episodes but after he lost his job, the frequency and gravity of outbreaks went haywire.  The first time I considered leaving, my pastor counseled me against it and the church began to work harder at monitoring him.  I took out restraining orders, changed my child’s daycare and the locks to the door till things appeared better.  Then came the day, rather the night, that determined the fate of my marriage.  We had gone to church in separate cars and he’d returned home before us.  When I drove into the garage with my two girls and their nanny, he was waiting.  As soon as we went indoors, I heard a banging noise from the garage.  I found him hitting my car with a hammer.  I asked, “What’s the matter?”  He replied, “hand me your keys or I will smash this car to bits.”  Now, I was in a quandary because if I turned over my keys, I would be stranded and unable to leave the house yet I could not watch my car being smashed to bits.  So, I made a split second decision to get into the car and head back to church which was seven minutes away. 

Unfortunately for me, he followed me in his car and tried to run me off the road (you know, like in the movies).  Once, he passed my car and threw the hammer through my window.  The side glass shattered.  Then he butted my car as I tried to avoid his.  Thank God, I live to tell this tale.  Nobody needed to convince me to LIVE, FOR GOD’S SAKE!  Hmm, that could also be written as LEAVE, FOR GOD’S SAKE.  But I would never forget the words of a sane pastor who advised, “I have met your parents and I would not like to be the person to give them the bad news of your demise.  Do what is best for your children.”

So, how did I survive?  Obviously, by the grace of God, but also by a lot of quick thinking and strategizing.  I still have the quick wit to disappear in the blinking of an eye, along with my kids if I sense danger, lol).  And I must credit my pastors who were supportive and forward thinking.  I didn’t get many statements like, “Stay with him, you know he means well” or “A wise woman builds her home.”  Instead, I got sound strategies and when those failed, quiet resignation to the unavoidable.  BUT, I still have some advice to share with those who are not as fortunate to have good people around them.  So here goes:

  1. Don’t participate in your own abuse!  The word of God says, “You are wonderfully and fearfully made” (Psalm 139: 14), don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.  Daily, or even hourly, use affirmations to boost your self-esteem because the first battleground is your mind.  You win or lose the war first in your mind!  If your abusive spouse can convince you that you are worthless, you will justify his abuse and lie down and take whatever crap he dishes out.  Don’t beg, don’t cajole, don’t ask others to plead on your behalf; instead call him out for the abuser he is. 
  2. Once, you have settled it in your mind that you don’t deserve abuse (and nobody does); decide what to do about it.  And you have options.  You can (a) decide to live your life to the full despite and within the abuse; (b) separate yourself from the abuse/r; or (c) seek punishment for the abuser; or a combination of any and others.
  3. Protect your own.  Make sure your children are not subject to abuse.  It is still somewhat your choice as an adult to enable an abuser but do not let your choice ruin the lives of your dependents.  If you don’t leave because of yourself, live because of your children.  Hmm…
  4. Network with reasonable others.  My mother says, “Two cooperating heads are better than one.”  In other words, find people who will provide solutions to move you out of the abuse into bliss not those who would encourage you to keep on suffering.  If they lack proposals, engage the disposal (Note: you are going to lose many ‘friends’).  And if your environment is totally lacking of sane, forward-thinking individuals, turn to Google and find solutions for yourself.
  5. BE ALERT!  Keep your senses sharp so you can skip town when your abuser gets too dangerous to live with.  Tips for a quick getaway: 1. Have a separate bank account to keep money or tie it at the end of your wrapper.  2.  Know the location of the closest domestic violence shelter or the home of a non-mutual, trusted friend.  3. Have a plan to evacuate your children from home or school at short notice.  4. Always have gas in your car and an overnight bag in the trunk.  5.  Do whatever it takes to stay alive.
  6. Plan not to die young.  Get medical attention when you need it!  Pray on your way to the hospital and fast when you get there, but GO, GET MEDICAL ATTENTION!  It is deception to expect someone’s prayers that didn’t heal a headache to somehow tackle the big C.  “Let us not be lying.”

In conclusion, do everything you can to LIVE!  Remember Abigail who strategized to stay alive rather than die with her fool husband.  And do it for God’s sake because He doesn’t want you to perish, etcetera.  After all, He allocated to you at least four score years.

NB: Singles, read my article, Beware an Insecure Man.

Sunday, 30 December 2012 06:54

Lessons from 2012

The idea of lessons learnt implies mistakes were made.  I definitely made some in 2012 and learnt lessons from them but I also learnt lessons just by living through specific experiences both personally and vicariously. 

F.E.A.R often is False Evidence Appearing Real: I always thought this was a pithy saying and mocked that it should be told to someone being chased by a cheetah.  But in 2012, I realized that there is some truth to it.  I became well-acquainted with fear in 2012 as I changed jobs and moved residence.  I was afraid I would not find a home to live, and then I was afraid I would not get a rental agreement, and later I was afraid that I would not be able to register the girls in school…  At a point, I was afraid of making a move in any direction.  So many steps caused a paralysis fear that when they eventually turned out right, I was stunned by how much I had feared the outcomes.  I realized that some things I built into gruesome obstacles were mere puny challenges that with the right strategy could be overcome.  Now, I know to feel the fear and do it anyway.  I know not to let fear be a paralyzing emotion by remembering that it is false evidence appearing real.

Following your dreams takes hard work: forget ‘work smart not hard’ and other fanciful ideas which sound great in theory but are impractical.  You must WORK HARD to achieve your dreams. I learnt that running my own business means that I have to be on top of everything going on.  I must vision, plan, and see to the timely execution of my plans.  I must keep the agenda and also the books.  Sure, I am learning to strategically employ others to help me achieve my dreams (by the way, beware of web designers who promise an awesome website and deliver malware), but ultimately, the accomplishment of anything depends on me.  Its either I do what needs to be done or I lean heavily on someone I pay to do what needs to be done.  Period.

We are all connected one way or another:  My aunt said of 2012, “the highs were really high and the lows really low.”  Indeed, the lows of 2012 had greater global impact than in previous years.  The crash of Dana Flight 992 brought home the reality of our global village not just for Nigerians but for Indians, Chinese, Americans, and others connected to the victims of the ill-fated plane.  It taught me that turning a blind eye to corruption is not a viable option nor is it an approach for dealing with the kind of sanctioned evil perpetrated against innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut.  We must fight evil with everything we’ve got before it gets us.

Some people are really not worth the time:  I used to be a sucker for intellect.  Give me a guy spouting ideas and I am a goner (correction, I was a goner).  No more.  In 2012, I encountered more time-wasting intellectuals than you could count on your fingers.  Folks who spun brilliant ideas, inspired others to “work towards the goal,” and came up empty.  Very disappointing.  I am officially cured, thank you.

Other lessons of 2012 include: don’t expect Nigerians to RSVP, simply prepare for a horde; don’t expect the same group to keep time, you should simply keep your own time; and what you eat matters, quit the junk habit and get with the program or into a program as the case may be.  Finally, there’s a difference between potential and performance – a person might have the potential to do a big something but may never do it.  So, I am building on my lessons and moving from potential to performance in 2013. See you next year by God’s grace.

Monday, 17 December 2012 09:01

Help Brian go Home

My friend Brian is petrified about going ‘home’ to the village to celebrate his parents’ golden anniversary.  He’s endured endless calls and emotional pulls to make him change his mind.  Initially, I joined the herd, “You know, it would mean so much to your parents.  If fact, you shouldn’t go alone but with your entire family,“ I remonstrated thinking to myself, I would never do such a heartless thing my parents.  Almost as soon as I finished, his brother called to check on his flight plans and his estimated time of arrival.  He hemmed and hawed and got off the phone then rounded on me.  “Look! I have four kids under ten years at home and I don’t want my wife to suffer taking care of them alone!  I mean, everyday, I hear news of people being kidnapped and held for ransom.  We don’t have the kind of money these mad men demand.  Besides, even if friends are able to raise a ransom, there’s no guarantee the person will walk out of their clutches alive!” 

Of course, his concerns over being kidnapped if he travelled to his village in Eastern Nigeria to celebrate 50 years of his parents’ union, is well grounded in reality.  The latest kidnapping saga involving the mother of the finance minister underscores his concerns – kidnappers respect no one – rich or poor, local or expatriate, young or old, father of four or son of devoted parents.  As a social scientist, I was irked by the fact that I couldn’t offer him any certainties about his travel other than, “God forbid you get kidnapped; we will pray that everything goes well on your trip.”  I wanted to be able to say something professorial like, “frankly, your concerns are ungrounded because research findings suggest that kidnapping activities have a higher frequency in areas of the lower east and not close to your hometown.  Further, kidnapping peaks between January and March and the demography often targeted are older women with six or more children living outside the country.”  But I couldn’t offer any of these “findings” with any veracity.  So, I am appealing to social scientists out there is the field to offer data to help Brian go home.  Data needed include:

  1. What variables determine when and where kidnappers would strike?  Is it an equal opportunity crime or are the rich or expatriates disproportionately targeted?  What income threshold defines a potential victim?
  2. Are there peak seasons to kidnapping?  If so, when are these peak seasons?  What precipitates such peaks?  What are the chances of a person being kidnapped twice?
  3. What is the demography of kidnap victims – age, gender, wealth bracket, connections to expats, popularity, etc?
  4. What is the typical length of a kidnapping?  What besides the payment of a ransom, impacts length of kidnap?
  5. What is the price range for ransoms?  What are the determinants of such prices?
  6. What determines where kidnap victims are taken?  Do clustered houses, abandoned buildings, or rural settings facilitate kidnapping operations?
  7. What influences the likelihood of safe release versus killing?  How can one increase the odds of a positive outcome?
  8. Above all, how can Brian decrease his chances of being kidnapped if he changed his mind and went to join his siblings to celebrate their parents?

There’s plenty of work for all manner of researchers – psychologists can provide us with a profile of a kidnapper so family members may spot them and turn them in; sociologists can generate data on the environment where kidnappers thrive and recommendations on how to change such environment.  Criminal justice researchers could tell us how to better police our streets and how to effectively apply punitive measures to reduce the crime.  Political Scientists can determine which policies would effectively deter such activities and to promote security.

Tuesday, 04 December 2012 07:20

Have a Game Plan

Ogbon ju agbara lo; brains surpass power – Yoruba proverb.

 One could look at the campaign of 2012 as the triumph of brains over brawn, strategy over power, tactics over wealth.  Indeed, pundits discuss Obama’s strategy as one which early on aligned him with the middle class but discredited his opponent as a friend of the wealthy.  As noted in Wanna B Prez?, Obama’s game plan in 2008 included a physical and virtual campaign, 50-state door to door grassroots organization, and effective use of social networks.  Likewise, 2012 revealed a repeat of this strategy alongside a harder-edged message engineered to give him an edge over his opponent.  On the long run, his strategy paid off and helped him to triumph over his better funded and perhaps, more powerful, opponent.

Systems work.  Strategies are effective.  Planning matters.  Planning is the difference between a rousing success and utter failure.  Without a game plan, your dreams become mere hallucinations of an addled mind. As Benjamin Franklin noted, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  Nobody gets up and decides to rule a nation in one day; the task requires vision, focus, and strategic planning.  Make plans today to attain your goals.

To outline your game plan, create a table with the following columns: goals (what you want to achieve), objectives (sub-goals or actual actionable steps that you will take to accomplish your goal), action steps (each step needed to fulfill each objective), timeline (when you will take the outlined step), and check (a column for a pass mark when you finish your action steps, objectives, and goal).  Go ahead; create your game plan today.

 

[adapted from Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House].

Friday, 16 November 2012 03:17

Show up and Show Out


You face the biggest challenge of all: to have the courage to seek your big dream regardless of what anyone says...

                                                                                                          -          Oprah Winfrey

 You cannot stroll to your goal.  And heck no, your record does not speak for itself.  There is no better illustration than this past presidential race.  When we look at President Obama’s record, we could argue that he has accomplished more than many presidents did in their first term in office.  He got Bin Laden, wound down two wars and won two more without committing more troops into combat, saved the middle class from sure extinction, yet he had to fight to retain his seat as president.

In the 2004 race, we recorded that then Senator Obama faced many obstacles to his candidacy including being a black male with Islamic sounding names in a post-9/11 America.  He was relatively unknown, lacked major funding, and of questionable nationality.  Yet, he showed up.  In this past campaign, we saw him campaigning vigorously particularly in key states reassuring his base while striving to garner support from outsiders.  He worked the campaign trail tirelessly.  He showed out!

So many people these days simply want to ‘stroll to their goal’ thinking life owes them a living.  I hope you are not one of these people.  Life owes no one a living; you must roll up your sleeves and do what you need to do to bring your dreams into reality.  So take an inventory, what would it take to achieve your dreams and goals?  How smart and hard do you need to work?  When and where do you need to work?  Then hit the ground running.

 [adapted from Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House].