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

 

 

Tuesday, 06 March 2012 08:40

Making Strides: Women in African Politics

Happy Women’s History Month!  This is a great time to reflect on our accomplishments and to celebrate as African women.

The 2000s brought unprecedented political opportunities for African women.   Many countries strived to make good on their ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which called for, amongst other things, equal access to women in politics.  To level the playing field, some states initiated quotas into their constitutions, others implemented appointments, incentives, or quotas at the party or legislative levels.  For example, Kenya’s 2010 Constitutional Article 81b states, “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.”  Similarly in Mauritius, new gender quota in the Local Government Act requires one-third of candidates in local elections to be women.  At the regional level, SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries set a quota of 50% female representation of which South Africa leads with 45%, Mozambique 39.2; and Angola 38.6.  In East Africa, Rwanda made history first in 2004 with a 49% female representation in its parliament and then 56% in 2008!

These quotas have significantly changed the political landscape by increasing the numbers of women candidates and office holders, opening up a gendered dialogue, and creating space for women even in ultra-patriarchal states like Niger and Senegal which fielded women presidential candidates in 2010 and 2012 respectively.  It also increased women’s participation in public discourse as evidenced in the fact that women were at the forefront of the Arab Spring!

Before we rejoice in the numbers however, let’s review the substance.  In Rwanda, where women hold the majority of seats in the parliament, we have witnessed a focus on socioeconomic issues such as domestic violence, micro lending, healthcare, and education.  The government-initiated Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Programme (EDPRS) is reported to have moved 1 million Rwandans above the poverty line!

Gone are the days when women in African politics were concentrated in the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, Women and Social Affairs, and other ministries without cache.  The 2000s heralded juggernauts including: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala , Nigerian Minister of Finance (2003-2006; 2011) and Foreign Affairs (2006); Baleka Mbete, Deputy President of South Africa (2008-2009) and Speaker of the National Assembly (2004-2008), Odette Nyiraimilimo, Minister of State for Social Affairs of Rwanda (2000-2003) and Senator (2003-2008), and of course, Madam President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (2006 -).  These women prove/d that African women were up to the task of debt restructuring, corruption reduction, peace brokerage, and even rebuilding a war-torn country.

As their portfolios grew, so has the impact of women in African politics.  For example, without the vision of Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria wouldn’t have successfully negotiated an exit debt strategy from the Paris Club in 2005.  Further, Liberia’s rapidly progressing recovery from war is attributable to President Johnson Sirleaf’s coalition-building capabilities and forthright leadership.

Not to be outdone by the politicians, wives also access power via relational connections.  It has become typical for the first lady to have a pet project or two which provides her with a platform to weigh in on policy issues.  Further, members of the first ladies club meet to lend their support to causes which promote the welfare of women and children.

For the majority of African women however, democracy and in all its permutations whether gendered or not has yielded paltry dividends.  During elections, they may get a bag of rice here or some starch there from male candidates but no long term gains.  From female candidates who have less money to throw around, they get a lot of promises which they hope will pan out on the long run.

Arguably, Africa would benefit greatly from women’s leadership particularly in the areas of conflict resolution, peace building, and restructuring because women are good at coalition building and tend to operate flattened or web hierarchies. They organize well at the grassroots and pay better attention to details.  Further, Africa could benefit from closer attention to socioeconomic, environmental, and human challenges and a reduction in defense spending.  Finally, women leaders could introduce much needed transparency in governance.

These are definitely interesting times and there’s more to come as we move further into the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020).

A couple of months ago, I picked up my 13 year old daughter from an outing. Getting into the car, she told me excitedly that she could sing a new Yoruba song. "Really," I asked skeptical, wondering how she could have learnt any Yoruba outside my tutelage. She proceeded to sing, "Awon ele, awon ele, won bad gan."

"What?" I asked scandalized, "that's not Yoruba!"

"Yes, it is. I'll show you on Youtube when we get home," she piped. And sure enough, she did. She unearthed a treasure trove of Naija songs. From Wiz Kid's "Don't Dull," we clicked on DBanj's "Oliver," then Banky W's "Omoge u too much," and so many more.

The ingenuity of these artists is truly inspirational. Take Style-Plus' "Olufunmi" which seamlessly weaves English stanzas with a Yoruba chorus or P-Square's "Ifunaya" which weaves English with Igbo chorus. And as if two languages were not hard enough, 2shotz ft. YQ's "Oyoyo" mixes four or more.

And when the mix is not about languages, it's about the music. Most of these artists feature hip hop beats that give African languages contemporary hipness such as 9ice's "Gongo Aso," or the late Dagrin's "E E Soro." Some also focus on current issues like Olu Maintain's "Yahoozee" and Timaya's "Bayelsa Otu."

Thanks to Youtube capability, the music has a global reach as evident in the 6 million plus viewers that have clicked on P-Square's "Do Me" and western artists singing the lyrics such as DBanj's "Oliver."

These artists fill the air with love when atimes, it's hard for the African to love his/herself. After a stressful day, we can relax and self-affirm with "African Queen" a la 2Face Dibia, "Oruka" a la Sunny Neji, "Olo mi" from Tosin Martins, "Yori Yori" by Bracket or 'move the body to "Imagine That' (Style-Plus), "Kini Big Deal" (Banky W), "Lori Le" (Project X), or if you like a full body workout, "Alhaji" (Ramatoulaye).

Of course, like their western counterparts, some of the rap songs are rude and degrading to women but if taken in playful light, we can appreciate Poliano's "Qualified Doctor," Wande Coal's "Bumper to Bumper," and others like them.

I remember the first time I went to a party and the music was one African beat after the other. It was so refreshing and heartening. At a time when even our soccer has been compromised by imperialist alliances, these rhythms refocus us homewards and they give us an opportunity to teach the next generation, our languages – somewhat. Though, I couldn't convince my daughter that "ele" is not the correct pronunciation of the word, I was able to use the song to teach her some Yoruba (sure I skipped parts offensive to women).

So thanks Wiz Kid, 2Face, Naeto C, Bracket, D'Banj (personal favorite), Style Plus (miss you; may God punish all pirates), P-Square (carry go)...

DON'T DULL, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

Thursday, 09 February 2012 08:56

Structural Adjustment: A Domestic Analysis

‘Tory dey…

Once upon a time, there was a poor farmer with a wife, four children, and counting.  They lived a hard life – this farmer and his wife but things were about to turn around.  He had recently begun farming cocoa because his friend, Oyinbo said it would fetch him so such a high sum of money that there was no word for it in his language.  Walking through his trees, he marveled at the gold-laden pods and dreamed of things he would buy.

First he would buy an Aso Oke worthy of a king.  He would have Kako, the blacksmith make him slippers of sequins and akun beads.  He would even buy a car and hire a driver so that when he rode into town the drummers would go wild praising his ancestors for blessing the earth with such an illustrious son. 

After his first harvest, he took his cocoa to the market – a bountiful harvest which strained the backs of his sons.  “My friend, fancy meeting you here” he called out surprised to see Oyinbo, “I have been blessing the gods for you since you told me to grow cocoa.  Look at my wonderful harvest.”

“Good to see you my friend,” Oyinbo acknowledged, “Unfortunately, I have bad news.  I can only pay you N250 for all your harvest.  Things have changed and my friends are not buying cocoa at the price they used to.”

“N250?!” the farmer gasped.  “But that is only N50 more than I made from my yams.  Can’t you help me beg your friends to add some more?  I have to feed my family…”

“It’s not a matter of begging,” Oyinbo interrupted him.  “You see, my friend, you can only get so much for yams, cocoa or any primary product anyway.  To really make money, you need to build factory.”

“A factory?!” the farmer questioned. 

“Yes, yes, a factory,” Oyinbo responded.  Then thinking aloud, he continued, “perhaps a cannery; a nuclear plant; hmm…I know, build a steel plant!”

“A steel plant?  What is a steel plant?” the farmer asked.

“Why, my friend, a steel plant would produce steel for cars, tractors, ships, practically everything.  The whole world will be knocking at your door.  You will become rich…,” he paused for dramatic effect. “LITERALLY OVERNIGHT!”

“Me, rich?!” the farmer asked, hearing the drummers singing his praise…”Omo onile ol’ona...”  Then he grew concerned.  “But I have no money to build a steel plant.”

“Don’t worry, since you are my friend, I will lend you the money and you can pay me when your plant begins making a profit,” Oyinbo consoled.

So the farmer took the loan and together with his sons, cleared his land, and began to build a steel plant.  As the edifice rose from the ground, people came from near and far to marvel at the wonder.  And his friend kept his word, giving him loan after loan to complete the project.

After six months of opening his steel plant, Oyinbo showed up at his door, “my friend,” he said, “you are not holding up your end of our bargain.  We agreed that you will pay your loan when you finished building your steel plant.”

“No,” the farmer disagreed, “you said I should repay you when my plant started making money.”

“Impossible!  Why would I say such a thing?  I am a business man not a charity.  You will begin paying your loan at once!  And if you don’t, I will make life miserable for you.”

The farmer was taken aback by this new stance from his friend so he tried to reason with him, “but, my friend, my plant is not making money.  You promised that people will come from all over the world to purchase steel but no one has come.  We only sell thin strips to farmers to make cutlasses and what we make is barely enough to feed us talk less of repay you.”

“Hmm…” Oyinbo thought long and hard, “okeydokey, I will lend you some more money so you can begin to service your debt at once.  However, you must adjust structurally.  I will give you conditions because I can no longer trust you.”

“Adjust structurally?” “Conditions?”  the farmer questioned not understanding his friend but because he was shamed by his inability to repay a debt, he acquiesced, “Whatever I have to do to get into your good graces my friend.”

“Okeydokey,” Oyinbo said, “first condition, go back to farming cocoa and yams – you are obviously better at it; secondly, put your plant up for sale; thirdly, reduce what you feed your family; fourthly, send your sons to the city to find work; and finally, pay me first – in pounds or dollars.  Naira is useless.”

“Ahh, these conditions would kill me, my friend.  My wife just gave birth last month.  How can I stop feeding her and the baby?  Can we not find common ground?” the farmer pleaded.

“No.  You should have thought of your baby-making factory before you borrowed the money.  That’s why my advice didn’t help you.  You spent more time in the bedroom than in the plant.  You have no work ethic and your children are wasteful and corrupt!”  His words insulted the farmer.

“Stop there,” he shouted angrily, “you are to blame too.  I didn’t ask you for money when you offered me a loan.  And I didn’t want to build a steel plant when you told me it is good business.  Your advice failed that is why I can’t pay you back.”

“My advice was good,” Oyinbo huffed, “it is your bad behavior that made it fail.”

Thus the farmer and his friend argued back and forth reaching no compromise.  So they lived unhappily after for as long as the farmer owed Oyinbo…

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:49

Kobo Kobo Love

Both the elove for salessays, “Reasons you are not married” and “Sustaining Intimacy: What women and Men need to know on the challenging areas of intimacy,” are one-sided in their analysis of a general trend – the commoditization of intimate relationships.  While they addressed the female angle at length, they omitted the male.

Many men these days string several virtuous women along with promises of marriage while they milk them dry.  Along with their mothers, these men demand all kinds of favors from their hopeful brides in return for wedding rings.  Further, men today are particular about the kind of women they can marry.  Qualifications include:

  1. Have relatives living abroad who can send money or ticket to groom-to-be.
  2. Live abroad or have the potential to live abroad.
  3. Be in the medical profession or mental potential to be in it.
  4. Have access to moneyed or high ranking government or corporate persons who can guarantee upward mobility to the groom-to-be.
  5. Have business network which groom-to-be can immediately fit into.

Failure to meet these qualifications often results in the woman being dumped; or worse, if she showed potential and was married, divorced or killed.  I wrote the following piece a while back but I believe it paints a balanced picture of this disturbing phenomenon.

Kobo Kobo Love

Whether you read the above title as kọ́bọ̀ kọ́bọ̀ (small change of the defunct Nigerian coin currency) or as kòbò kóbò (thief thief) love, it is bad news – the commoditization of love relationships.   Mates and potential mates are screened through the prism of earning power actual, potential, or imagined.  As such, partners are pressured into making money in order to be valued and appreciated.  The pursuit of relationships has become so conjoined with financial or monetary rewards that true love is threatened with extinction.  Picture these all too common scenarios:

Scenario 1

Nwanneka has been married to Obi for almost a year.  In that time, she has taken the nursing exam twice and failed both times.  She works as a CNA while studying for her exam.  The constant conversation in her home is as follows:

Obi:  You you you are are just just just a use use useless woman.  Or o o ordinary nurrrrsing exam youuu cannot pass.  You’re you’re your mates arrre already making making money.

Nwanneka:  (shamed) You know I am trying my best.  Last time, I almost passed.  If not for one point.  I will pass next time.

Obi: ya ya ya yeah rrright!  That’s wha wha what you you said the the the the last time.  Foooolish wo-wo-woman.  Iffff I I I I knew you were such such such a failure, I would nt have have have ma ma married you.  You arree just a wwwwaste of tttime.

Nwanneka crumbles in disgrace.  True, Obi had told her from day one, since he married her and brought her to America that he wanted her to continue nursing.  He said he had married her because she already had a nursing certificate.  Unfortunately, nursing in Nigeria was easy for her but here, try as she might, she couldn’t pass the exams.  Thus, Obi got more abusive even to the point of threatening to get rid of her to find himself a smarter woman.

Scenario 2: Down the street in her driveway, Laite is showing off her brand new Porsche to Justina.  Her husband, Fola is tinkering with his 2006 Nissan right next to them doing his best to ignore their conversation.

Justina: (fingering the gleaming exterior of the Porsche and peering through the windows) Ore, this must have cost a bundle o.

Laite: (sublimely pleased that Justina appreciated the cost of her ride, she underplayed the impact on her wallet) Chicken change.

Justina:  (thoroughly impressed) Ore mi, show me the way, now.  Or you don’t want me to look good beside you?  How did you land it?

Laite: (definitely not wanting her friend to ‘look good beside her’ yet trying to cover up) I did travel nurse in California and Arizona.  I even went to Maryland sometimes.  Then I got two home care individuals.  Then I pulled this and that together.  Ore, it took planning but once I saw that Porsche, I just knew I had to have it so men, I worked for it.

Justina:  (still unable to see how the money added up) And your husband added money?

Laite: (immediately offended, hissed not caring that said husband was within earshot) which husband?  Does he even have enough money to pay his own car note talk less of adding money to buy me a car?  Please, if you are asking because you want to follow my example, ask better question.  If all you want to know is whether that yeye man gives me money, take your joke somewhere else.  We are talking one thing, she’s bringing up another, (rolling her eyes, she switched the conversation to a more pleasant subject) do you want to go for a ride?

Fola: (under his breath) some people see trouble sitting quietly and begin to drag on its arms.

So, what do you think would happen if Nwanneka fails her exams a third time or Fola gets tired of being disrespected?  True, we can argue that money has influenced relationships since the beginning of time – women marry wealthy men who can take care of their children; men marry women of a higher class in order to move up in life; and parents give their children in marriage to upgrade their status.  But the flagrant disregard for common decency in love relationships these days is troubling.  Lives are compromised and even snuffed out for financial gain or loss.  Entering into relationships  have become little more than bread and butter decisions and people no more than chattel slaves to be valued by their earning capacity.  Love has been vanquished by greed and those who dare challenge its tyranny are eliminated.

I beg, in the words of crooner Seyi Sodimu, “love me jẹ́jẹ́, love me tender.”

Monday, 30 January 2012 20:43

Na so we dey do am

There I was, a cockroach looking for my daily akara, when…

I found an abandoned building not far from Ikate market; a nice resting place for a cockroach after eating all manner of orisirisi from Tinko to Jollof Rice.  Before your mouth begins to water, let me continue with my story.

I was in my house just chilling when I heard a knock on the door.  Quickly, I ran for cover, you never know who will poke their nose into your business these days.  I crept near the door and heard three men talking:

Ol’ boy:  “this is the building I was telling you about.  We can occupy it immediately.

Americana:  “Wow, great.  Is the shop yours?  It says here on the wall, “THIS BUILDING IS NOT FOR SALE.  BEWARE OF 419.”  When did you buy it and not tell me?

Tifo:  [Turning to Ol’ boy] “Americana don come again o.  We don’t have to “buy it” to use it.  Get with the program, joo.”

Americana:  “what do you mean, get with the program?  How can we set up shop in a building that we don’t own?

Ol’ boy:  Americana, I beg, don’t harass me.  Na so we dey do am.

So, the three men broke in and began to put their things in the shop.  My eyes opened wide.  Sho, is that how a person ‘buys’ a house?  But who am I to complain…that’s how I found this place myself.  So, Americana, his friends, and I became co-tenants.  Their first problem after occupancy was electricity.  So, I heard:

Americana:  Man, we need to get the power company to hook us up.  Where do we pay for electricity?

Ol’ boy:  (wagging his chin in laughter) heh, heh, heh, heh…pay for electricity.  Watch this.  Tifo, connect the wires.

Tifo:  Sure thing.  I will hook us up to Umpire Bank next door so that our light will be steady and if there is no light, we will be able to tap into their generator.  Really cool.

Americana:  [objecting] Not cool at all; it is illegal!

Ol’ boy and Tifo:  For where?  Na so we dey do am, joo.

My co-tenants settled in and started selling bootleg CDs and DVDs that they reproduced fast with the equipment Americana had brought from abroad.  They were making money yanfu yanfu.  Americana was happy.  He had dreamt of coming to Nigeria to harvest the multiple opportunities there were just there for the taking.  Then one day, they heard a commotion outside.  The owner of the building had brought police to evict them.

Ol’ boy: Oga, what’s the problem?

Police Officer:  show me your papers for this shop.

Landlord:  they are illegal occupants.  They have no papers.  Look, these are my papers for my building and I did not sell it to these hooligans. 

Tifo:  (handing the police officer a wad of cash underneath the forged title of ownership) officer, these are our papers too.  We bought this property from someone who said they owned it.   

Police Officer:  (turning to the owner of the building and pushing them out of the shop) the papers I see are valid.  I can’t throw them out of their own building.  You will just have to take them to court.

Landlord:  (struggling not to leave) Ole!  Thieves!  I will see you in court!

All this time Americana was shaking in my corner, his eyes bigger than my own compound globes.  After the popo left, he spoke.

Americana:  (frightened and concerned) Damn it, what the…?!  We are toast!  How would we prove ownership of this building in court?  Did you really buy it from someone? 

Tifo:  I beg comot my front.  We treat the judge just like the popo and we go on with our lives. 

Americana:  But…but…but you can’t bribe a judge?!

Ol’ boy: Watch and learn, my man; na so we dey do am.

So they continued their jollification until they heard rumors that copyright vigilantes were coming after them for infringing on artistes’ copyrights.  So Americana decided to install a new security system that would drop down a false plywood wall to cover the CDs and DVDs with the touch of a switch.  It was powered by increased voltage tapped from Umpire Bank.  Everything worked well until the vigilantes were on their road.

As every pirate took cover, Americana decided to flip the switch.  All of a sudden, I saw a bright yellow spark from an exposed electrical wire.  I ran out of the building.  SHrrriirring…KABOOM!  You could hear the sound of the explosion from Adeniran Ogunsanya Avenue!  Everything went up in flames.  “That’s right,” I chuckled to myself, “Na so we dey do am.”

Monday, 23 January 2012 07:18

I beta pass my neighbor: a parable

Chief Engr. Olowo was just walking away from his metallic grey Phantom when another patron of the exclusive Zenith Club approached him.

“Ol' boy, how you dey?  Did you see my blue phantom next to yours?” he spoke loud enough for anyone who didn’t want to hear to hear.

“So what?” Olowo responded, eager to put the wannabe in his place before things got out of hand, “you think because you have one blue phantom, we are now mates?  Do you know I have five more like that at home?  In red, black, wine, white, and navy blue?”  He emphasized navy blue so that wannabe will know that even his blue pass hin own.

Indeed, Chief Engr. Nicolaus Olowo beta pass.  Along with his third wife and her kids, he lived in Victoria Garden City, belonged to Zenith and two other exclusive clubs, sent his other kids to private schools in England, and was the Minister of Transportation even while running his own contracting business.  He wasn’t a wannabe, he was a beta pass.

While wannabes may be burglarized on a daily basis, Olowo’s house was within the walled and guarded compound of the garden city and further secured by two Alsatians.

While wannabes were sweating like hogs, sleeping in the dark, and battling dragon-toothed mosquitoes, the Olowos enjoyed 24/7 electricity courtesy of industrial-sized generators.

While wannabes died in the waiting rooms of every mushroom hospital in town, the Olowos went abroad for annual checkups and treatment.  In fact, it was during an annual checkup in Switzerland that his personal physician discovered that he had an irregular heartbeat.

And unlike wannabes, he had money at his disposal to have a pacemaker implanted in his heart to solve the problem.  After all, government money should help government official .  Fortunately, unlike this particular wannabe, he knew how to cover his tracks and fly above the radar of the EFCC.

Indeed, there was no way on earth or even in heaven, Mr-Blue-Phantom-Wannabe could ever catch up with him.  So Olowo decided to settle the matter, “Look, just because EFCC has released you does not mean you can start measuring yourself with me.  The kind of money I make in a day is a million times greater than you will make in your lifetime!”

“Ol' boy, chill now.  I was only joking about the cars o,” Wannabe responded unrepentant.

“Who’s your ole boy?  Do you know who I am?  Insubordination!  I will finish you in this Lagos!” Olowo got so angry that instead of going into the club, he jumped back into his car and drove off.  He determined never to go to Zenith again until they got rid of riff raffs like Blue Phantom.  He also decided to get rid of his navy blue phantom just so he would not share the color with riff raffs.

Unfortunately, he didn’t drive far before he got stuck in traffic caused by vehicles trying to avoid a crater-sized pothole in the middle of the road.  He knew this horrible road well and he would have avoided taking it if he had not been so mad with that riff raff at the Zenith that he didn’t think before driving off.  The road was one of those scheduled for repairs before he travelled abroad for his surgery.  ‘Well, the money is spent now,’ he mused, ‘perhaps I can get more money from the federal government.’  “Hehehe,” he chuckled to himself, ‘I might even make some money on the side when the Fed pays up.  Stupid people like that riff raff can never catch up.”  He made a mental note to give the contract to his company so his employees could repair the pothole.

Suddenly, he began to sweat as traffic crawled on.  He turned his air conditioner to the max (that was one of the things he liked about Phantoms – maximum everything).  But he continued to sweat so he loosened the buttons on his shirt.  Then he began to feel lightheaded.  When he felt his heart beating faster and faster, he knew his time was up.

The obituary started with the phrase: “the wicked have done their worst…”

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 07:10

From Occupy to Open Eye

Occupy forced us to let go of our cosseted complacency.

Occupy moved us to action.

Occupy made us recognize that we are all in this together – Muslim, Christian, Male, Female, Patriot, and Dissident.

Occupy forced us to open our eyes to the magnitude of corruption and maladministration of revenue in Nigeria.

Occupy revealed the nakedness of our leaders; a rabidly bellicose and corrupt bunch.

Occupy showed us that these leaders have sold us as slaves to international financiers.

Occupy spotlighted that our worst problem is not corruption but the leadership's lack of vision – a total, abject, cataritic, dim-sightedness.

A lack of national vision allows our leaders to swallow obvious lies about free trade and open market as instruments of nation-building. It promotes their peddling IMF/WB policies as home grown while they mortgage our national political economy, identity, and future to global capitalism, western states, and increasingly, China. Myopia numbs their consciences as they lease land, mines, and oil wells to expatriates for 99 years paying kobos on the naira.

To camouflage their lack of vision, these leaders throw out decoys – ethnic violence, religious intolerance, even sexual tension - to send the populace on a fool's errand while they stumble around blindly following deleterious orders from external powers. And local government fiefs whine about how they are not getting enough of the national cake.

If they had any vision, our leaders would build critical infrastructure of education, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, and refining – like we did in the 1970s. Had they any plans, they would behave like Raji Fashola who decided to turn Lagos around by dusting up a forgotten master plan and bringing it to realization. Leaders who build have the vision to build not a restraint to be uncorrupt.

Indeed, it is a lack of vision that causes leaders to self-aggrandize shamelessly and to allow others to partake in a national 'free-for-all.' Arguably, corruption is rife in many countries particularly during their early development but within corrupt systems were nationalist visionary leaders who created master plans to build states such as Britain, U.S., South Korea, and China. Thus, corruption does not kill a country, lack of vision does.

Occupy should sharpen our vision and remind us to keep our eyes open.

Occupy should make us demand a national budget, declaration of assets of public officials, balance sheet of every government enterprise from local to national, and public accountability.

Occupy should encourage us to use a national vision as a yardstick to measure whom we vote in or allow to remain in office.

Occupy should force us to hold our leaders accountable for developing our country.

Occupy should keep us unified – male-female; Muslim-Christian; diverse ethnicities; varied classes; all Nigerian.

All demanding a progressive Nigeria.

 

Thursday, 12 January 2012 06:22

The Young Shall Grow: 2042 A.D.

The line stretched out from my desk, out the door, into the compound, along the fence of our Federal Service Building, and beyond.  It is usually like this on ‘Show your Face’ Mondays – the third Monday of every month.  An inefficient, prurient practice inherited from this same bunch who are now lined up all over the place, it provides an opportunity for retirees to show they are still alive and therefore deserving of pensions.  Why do it every month?  Perhaps we are stuck repeating a barbaric practice or perhaps we hope that they would have died before the next month.  Besides, we give them something to do besides nursing their ailments.

Many of these pensioners suffer all kinds of diseases – diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension, blindness, stroke - so most of them were struggling to keep alert in the burning sun.  When I went on break, I saw a woman who was brought on a stretcher with a drip bag attached to her arm and an old man carried on the back of a younger relative.  When I returned, I heard a commotion outside.  A pensioner had suffered a massive heart attack and died on the line.  I guess he wouldn’t need his pension anymore.  Such happenings are common.  Sometimes, I feel sorry for them - these are men and women who used the best days of their lives to serve this country in diverse capacities - but other times, like today, I don’t feel any pity at all.

The first person to come through my line this morning was Professor Eleponbulu, the professor who made sure I slept with him before I passed Accountancy 101.  I am amazed he made it to 82.  I thought he would have died of AIDS long ago.  In fact, I prayed he would die of AIDS as did every other girl who had to ‘sort themselves out’ with him.

“I am Professor Ola Eleponbulu,” he proclaimed in a shaky old man voice.

“For real?  You didn’t die of AIDS?” I blurted out angrily.  He shakes visibly and leans closer as if trying to recognize my face.  Like he could recognize the thousands of girls he harassed in the university.

“Move on to the next station,” I wave him on.  If I do to him what is in my heart, he will fall down and die.

Then comes Chief Dir. Alakoba who decided that the only interview needed for a teller position at Finance Bank was to “pass under him.”  It is because I refused to sleep with him that I came to work at the ministry.  He later went on to embezzle millions from the bank.  He got caught and spent time in prison.  Even now, I see the signs of his prison stay on him.  He walks with a limp as if he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side.   I don’t bother to talk to him; there is no point.  He is only one in a long line of thieves and robbers now too frail to steal, lining up to continue milking the country.

Next came our first local government chairlady elected through the enthusiastic support of market women.  In her first week, she demolished her house and in her second week, she built a mansion, sent her children to Europe, and received a chieftaincy title.  She arrived at the occasion in style riding a brand new Jaguar.

Then the economist who sold us to the IMF and the World Bank by promoting policies that destroyed our refineries, manufacturing plants, and even agriculture.  He and his cronies joined hands with expatriates to plunder Nigeria’s resources.  They mortgaged my generation’s happiness lining their individual pockets with blood money.

And the Army General who recklessly sent out his boys on regular raids to prey on the youth – killing and looting – those they should have been protecting.  Today, he’s a frail old man pushed up to my table in a wheel chair by one of his former goons.  Let him go stand by the roadside to flag down unsuspecting motorists for bribes now.  Olosi.

Then of course, there are the faceless and spineless masses; hordes and hordes of them.  Those who watched in silence as their generation killed us and reduced our life chances.  They turned a blind eye to the corruption, sadistic abuse of the youth, harassment and rape, and predatory practices of their own kind thinking they would do the same had they the opportunity.  Well, this is the result of their complacency – a common condemnation to burning death in the hot sun.

Yet I am more lenient than most of my generation.  I don’t want them to suffer continuously in the sun.  Others in my generation want to line up these crusty old bastards in front of a firing squad and shoot them dead!  They are a worthless bunch of self-serving felons.

They threw away our tomorrow pretending they owned it.   No, I don’t feel sorry for this generation that mortgaged our future, selling our birthright for kobos on the naira to line their cavernous pockets.  They thought we’d always be their captives, not realizing the young, grow up.

Thursday, 05 January 2012 06:25

Ode to the Dancing Traffic Cop

TO YOU

who rise each day to do a honest day’s job

who regardless of your station in life, bring excellence to your work

who pirouettes with such grace you keep Nigeria moving…and smiling

who shine so brilliantly, you defy the darkness of mediocrity around you

who blaze a trail of superiority that only the courageous dare follow

THANK YOU

For not using your uniform to prey on those you were sworn to protect

For not moonlighting somewhere else while collecting salary as a traffic officer

For not allowing our roadways to degenerate into tar jungles on which the big slap around the small

For not lending your uniform to robbers and killers

For not giving up on the dream of a progressive, forward-moving Nigeria

YOU’ THE MAN!

Sunday, 01 January 2012 08:27

The Àrélù Phenomenon or Why Evil Thrives

Àrélù ruled the airwaves in Ibadan in the late 1980s.  It cleared the streets on Thursday evenings when it hit NTA (or was it BCOS?).  If you were visiting friends, you quickly terminated the felicitations at 5pm so you could be home by 6pm to watch the show or you stayed where you were to watch.  Even NEPA was cooperative so we had electricity on Thursdays.  I vividly recall the theme song:

“Wárápá ni, wèrè ni, Dìgbòlugi ni, yà’gò fun.”

(roughly translated “he’s a stark, raving, rabid S.O.B., better get out of his way)

You guessed it, the series was about a fourth-generation a**h*le who possessing magical powers used it to terrorize the community.  He once struck down a boy for looking at him!  And his reign of terror continued unbridled until someone began to plot carefully to discover his Achilles heel, developed a plan of action, and took him out at the opportune time.  I forget the name of the main character but the theme of that program reverberates today in most Nollywood pulp fiction whereby folks use juju to prosper at the expense of their victims and evil triumphs with little or no repercussion.

Why was Àrélù so captivating?  Or perhaps a better question, why does evil thrive?

There are many explanations and I will attempt a few non-expert theories below:

Across the globe, we see a macabre fascination with the depth of human depravity.  Human beings feast on sordid revelations about fellow humans.  It makes us feel superior to discover we haven’t quite degenerated to the level of another.  A review of the airwaves in most developed countries reveals a fixation on abnormality whereas so called reality shows are doctored to display dark/fringe cultures/behaviors.  And virtually the only news that make the headlines are negative, disturbing phenomena.  As they say, “if it ain’t bleedin’, we ain’t filmin’.”

Often our obsession with evil confirms our innermost thoughts that evil is much more powerful than good hence Pentecostals who profess to serve a God bigger than the devil and his evil cohorts spend an inordinate amount of time ‘fighting’ the devil.

Another explanation for the flourishing of evil is our complicit silence.  We hope to be left unscathed if we do not confront evil/doers.  The bombers terrorizing Nigeria sleep and wake up somewhere; they are someone’s brothers, sons, fathers and husbands.  Yet they go undetected.  Can their relatives not rat them out as did the brother of the Unabomber or even Abdulmutallab’s father? For those who know them, please do us all a favor; stop the evil by exposing them!

Ignorance also allows evil to thrive.  The less knowledge people have, the more they confer mystical powers to vile, decrepit, and creepy evildoers.  They acquiesce to the killing of twin babies for fear of a bad omen and the torture of young girls on accusations of witchcraft.  Indeed, the less people know, the more power evildoers exert to manipulate them.  We see this scenario played out over and over throughout the continent.

Yet another explanation is couched in justified suffering or the idea that one has committed sin and therefore needs to suffer.  This is found in all religions but what is unclear is whether one’s suffering should come from the hand of another or from the hand of the Supreme Being.  Should we allow evildoers to thrive in order to do penance?  Really, if you need to suffer for your transgressions, do so, but don’t bring the unborn into it pretending they are sinners by virtue of being your offspring.  Stop the suffering with your generation.

One dangerous sentiment that allows evil to thrive is: “there go I but for the grace of God.”  We can identify with the evildoers.  We think we’d steal if we have no food to feed our families or kill if we feel it’s the only way to get what we need, or -.  This is one of the primary reasons African Americans never rat out drug dealers or thieves, or smugglers.  They sympathize with the pressures the evildoers face in a system rigged against them.  So, the community stands by while they loot, kill, drug, and destroy themselves and everything around them including the community.

Or we fear that confrontation of a larger evil will slowly move the axe of confrontation closer to us.  If we take out all killers then robbers would be next, then accidental killers, then governmental and corporate fraudsters, and down the line.  We’ll then deal with doctors who kill through gross negligence by administering a saline drip to a hypertensive patient.  And deal with religious leaders who promote homicidal behavior in order to keep their coffers filled by telling an abused spouse to stay married to Mr. Moneybags (sic Tithebags?).

Finally, we excuse evil because we are too weak-willed or afraid to confront it.  We don’t have the willpower to tell loud and obnoxious neighbors to stop the noise, bullies to hands off their victims, corrupt politicians to return their loot, nor philandering spouses to stop spreading AIDS.

And so Àrélù reruns continue both onscreen and in real life; God help us.