28 March 2015

NIGERIA ELECTIONS 2015 - THE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU VOTE

Your vote is the rare opportunity you have to determine, to some extent, your destiny and those of your children. So before you vote, these are some of the questions you should ask yourself:
  • Is your life better today than four years ago?
  • Are the lives of Nigerian children better today than four years ago?
  • If there were to be a medical emergency in the middle of the night, would you or your family member be able to call an ambulance to get you to a hospital where you will be guaranteed quality treatment that is also free at the point of need?
  • Do you know the federal government's policy on education or health?
  • Do you feel that the President, the Governor of your state, your constituency senator, your constituency’s member of the House of Representative or your local member of the House of Assembly represent your interest?
  • Apart from during national elections, do you have any means or opportunity of holding any of these people to account?
  • Do you believe that any of the above people have never been involved in corruption or shady activities that would have led to their resignation or perhaps landed them in jail in other societies?
  • Do you believe any of the above people i.e. President, Governor etc see themselves as servants of the people or behave as such?
  • Do you think any of them are consumed by the passion to fight for your cause and for the poor and weak in our society?
  • Do any old people in your family who have never worked for any government body, agency, school or civil service receive pension from the government?
  • Do you feel the police protect you from criminals and uphold justice?
  • Have you found it easy to renew a passport, obtain a drivers’ license or any other benefits of citizenship in the past four years?
  • Has your Senator, member of the House of Representative, or House of Assembly member campaigned for the funding of the hospital in your local area?
  • Has he/she vigorously fought for a new hospital to be built in your ward or city?
  • Have new primary and secondary schools been built in your locality as a direct result of the effort of any of the above politicians?
  • Has your representative helped to improve the transport situation in your area? 
  • Can you mention one policy or issue that your constituency’s Senator, member of the House of Representative or House of Assembly member has helped to bring to the statute book? 

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘No’, then use your vote to get rid of them in this elections irrespective of the party they may belong or sentiments such as ethnicity or religion. This way, the next lot would learn to better represent you.

17 March 2015

2015 ELECTIONS - WHY NIGERIANS SHOULD STOP DANCING AND START THINKING

A few Sundays ago, we had just left church. Rather than go home, we made a short detour to one of the side streets where assorted fruits and other food items are varied and cheaper than what obtains where we lived. Our children were sound asleep in the back of the car oblivious to their parents’ shenanigans. Everyone on the street appeared to be haemorrhaging sweat as the scorching sun unrepentantly rained down its heat. My wife alighted from the car to buy fruits at one of the stalls. I drove a bit further to make a U-turn.

Then I saw her. She looked worried and unkept. She had a baby on her back held with a tiny ifunja. Just like the mother, the baby whose sex I could not make out looked rather unkept too.  In Lagos, there are many people who are destitute and poor, however, this lady stood out to me. She looked at me as she approached. I felt awkward and she walked away. My car was bang in the middle of the road at a T-Junction. I summoned up courage and hooted to get her attention, she glanced back, I hooted again and beckoned to her to come. As she approached, she began to cry, I offered her money, and she thanked and prayed for me, ending with the customary name of Jesus. After she left, I felt I should have done more, perhaps ask about her general well-being and possibly take her number. I didn't. I regret not doing so.

There are many people in the same situation of this woman and her child. Our governments – local, state and national have no strategy for them. None at all. This is why I am a bit vacant about the 2015 elections and the brouhaha it has generated. Everyone appears to be talking about it. The discussions may appear unintelligent, lame and parochial at times, however, Nigerians deserve an Oscar for being consumed by the elections.

What gets me worried is that our governments have no strategy for anyone who has the misfortune of developing cancer or any other serious diseases in our country. How our politicians sleep at night is a marvel to me. In 2015, Nigeria still has no nationwide emergency telephone line. So in the event of a fatal accident, many of the casualties bleed to death. In the last month alone, two young people in their twenties have received the distressing news that their eye problem is inoperable because of the prolonged damage to it. Both have had no recourse to medical help until a charity with which I am involved intervened. Our politicians on the other hand, think nothing of going abroad for medical attention and flaunting it before the people. Of course, they know that Nigerians cannot fight back. Having experienced prolonged oppression; the people are incapable of knowing they have rights let alone fight for these rights. Most Nigerians are battling to survive and eat, fending off death on the road, in the hands of armed robbers, ‘one-chance’ agents and ritualists and from every other issue with which they are confronted. They have little or no strength left to know that the government owes them a duty of care for good roads, drinkable water, electricity, and security.

Everyone knows this too, from church leaders to traditional kings, the intelligentsia and journalists. We all know that our governments are evil and are only interested in their personal well-being. However, all of these people too – journalist, church leaders, traditional rulers - are fighting for their mouths and survival. In other countries, the media are on the side of the public and they hold the government to account on every front. In Nigeria, Reuben Abati, probably the most prolific Nigerian  columnist joins a corrupt and visionless government and turns native.

Last month, Bishops of the Church of England published a 52 page open pastoral letter calling for political parties to come up with “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be” before the general elections in May. Their letter touched on such issues as ‘education, ‘who is my neighbour’, ‘political neutrality’, ‘what voters should ask of candidates’, ‘the role of the state’, ‘role of family’, ‘the economy’, ‘poverty and inequality’, ‘unemployment’, ‘health’, ‘welfare reform’, ‘immigration’, ‘environment’ and many other issues. In Nigeria, like little children meeting Father Christmas, our church leaders become excited whenever the president and other politicians visit their churches to canvass for votes. Some of them believe that a politician’s visit is a measure of their success in ministry.  

In other countries, voters take their politicians to task on the issues they are passionate about. In Nigeria, the electorate are mostly illiterates (including those who have a degree) and do not have the intellectual capacity to take a politician to task. Instead they fawn over politicians when they meet them. The Nigerian electorate have developed a Stockholm syndrome loyalty to the politicians that colonise and encage them. Don't take my word for it, watch any of the rare occasions our politicians meet electorates on TV or read any of the political threads online. What you hear from the electorates are “your excellency sir”, “ride on my president”, “we are with you”. You will also see commentators throwing abusive words against each other along ethnic or religious lines. Typically, the important issues are neglected. Anyone that brings them up is shut down with a pseudo-religious abuse.

As election 2015 approaches, our politicians have been gracing our television and our streets in over the top clothes and laughable postures to ask for our votes. They are distributing rice and cooking oil to poor people and hosting community parties. Some are buying votes for 5000 naira. The politicians know that poor people are not bothered about the future, they are concerned about what they will eat today. This is the way politics have been played and our politicians are in no mood to change the status quo. It suits them perfectly.

The election posters show how little regard the politicians have for the electorates. Many of them have no serious policy agenda. They must believe the way to win an election is by looking good in pictures or posing in white jackets and massive geles. Instead of serious policies, Mrs Tinubu’s campaign slogan is “Restoration 2015, prosperity for all.” What this means is beyond me. She knows she doesn’t really have to campaign, the people are gullible. She would win. Goodluck Jonathan has hired every space on the Internet with GEJITES, TAN, etc. to convince us of how many first he has notched as Nigerian president including the first president to have a Facebook page etc. Unfortunately we can hardly see any of the so-called achievements though we open our eyes wide. The person who is almost certainly going to win in my senatorial district looks like a mafia boss in his campaign poster. I have been informed that he really is.

So what are the real issues?

Health - Why do we regularly see on the pages of our newspaper appeals by individuals for funding to have a kidney transplant in India? Is there no government in Nigeria? I am not advocating for governments to rise up and fund such individual cases, the fact that the people concerned are forced to seek help through the media shows a fundamental failure of our health system. What is the strategy of the minister and commissioners for health for comprehensive health care for every Nigerian?

Education – How many ministers and politicians send their children to school in Nigeria. Why are our politicians mortgaging the future of this country by neglecting education and allowing it to slide over the years? We have no technological basis, our university students live in ghetto hostels, their lecturers are not well paid and unappreciated so they do the barest minimum. Last month, I was at Yaba College of Technology where a generator on the second floor of one of their buildings spewed out noise and fume. No one can learn a thing in an environment like that.

What does the Minister of Education really do?

Welfare – What is the government’s strategy for the likes of the woman I saw that Sunday afternoon and for her child. This is not a federal affair only, What is Lagos State doing? There are several of those women in the country, some begging for money on the roads, some married to an abusive husband if only for protection and provision, some are supported by family, some slave away for 10,000 a month cleaning toilets and offices. Nigerians must think carefully before they vote.

Employment – The federal government’s strategy towards unemployment is a joke. Goodluck Jonathan set up SURE-P to get young people to paint the side of our highways green white and green. He still hasn't sacked Abba Moro, his Minister for Interiors who last year, caused the deaths of several young people through a bogus employment drive. Who is holding the president to account? Not the press, not the so-called ministers of God whose god is their belly.

For me the greater issue is not even the presidential and gubernatorial elections. I feel every Nigerian should be more involved in who represents them at the state and federal assemblies. The test is very simple. If you have never seen the member of your state house of assembly, house of representative or senator, whoever they may be, vote them out this election. The next lot will learn to represent you better.

So rather than get animated about the elections, I wish we all can ask these questions and use our vote to determine the future of our children’s children.

I urge you to do so.



18 February 2015

'& co' - A Distinctive Nigerian Dress Style

Calm down, the above title is not a programming error.

People have sought for my opinion on the Nigerian elections and its postponement. The expectation from some quarters  is that I should have written about it well before now. I suppose it is safe to assume that I have deliberately refrained from commenting, as I am not excited one bit about the elections. The manipulated postponement justifies my position. I hopefully may publish an opinion before the revised date of the elections. For now, I have chosen to publish a short article I wrote in January 2013 which I hope would give readers another perspective of the Nigerian experience.

There are many Nigerian slang that is difficult to explain to a non-native. One of these is the title of this article ‘And co’ or ‘& co’.

In Nigeria, when two or more people wear the same fabric, they are said to do ‘& co’. I think have a fair idea of how this concept came about, but I would leave that for now so that I can quickly get into the meat of my writing.

‘And co’ is slightly different from the more popular aso-ebi phenomenon which is when several people wear the same fabric for an event such as weddings, funerals and increasingly birthdays. ‘And co’ is typically between a husband and wife, or between siblings at Christmas and other celebrations.

I remember as a young boy doing ‘and co’ with my younger brother to celebrate the New Year. As I was totally dependent on my parents at the time, I did not have much choice over what I wore, how they were tailored, or whether I was interested in the concept of ‘and co’ with my younger brother in the first place. All these were the preserve of my parents and I either like it or lump it. On one occasion, my trousers were so long that I had to roll up the edges. Of course my parents’ strategy was to ensure that I could grow into the trousers and wear them for as long as possible. They are great people, my parents, and sacrificed much with little means, I must say.

Nowadays it is of the utmost interest to me to see people doing ‘& co’ particularly a husband and wife and on some occasions with their children. It leaves me wondering whose idea it was. Was it the wife’s? If so, is it a way of laying claim to the husband? If it were the husband’s idea, why? Was it a case of putting his label of ownership on the wife? Is she happy with it? Or as it was for me as a young boy, was it a like it or lump it situation? If I have the time, I look for tell-tale signs to prove or disprove my hypothesis. I have nothing against those who do ‘& co’ with their spouses, I have done so probably three times with my wife, once shortly before we got married, then on our wedding day and once shortly afterwards. 

I do admire couples that do, and I have come to acknowledge that in most cases, particularly when it is a monogamous relationship, it is a show of love, oneness and commitment to each other. This I believe should be celebrated.

Photo credit - The Ebeyes

09 August 2014

Last Sunday, I walked to church with my family


I walked to church with my family last Sunday. Why is this newsworthy? Simple. That was the very first time this has happened. As a little boy, I used to walk to church with my parents.  However, going and coming from church, then - a long stretch of more than two miles away - meant being desperately thirsty afterwards and often being short of breath. 

The experience of last Sunday was different. This was with my own family and it was a very short distance. We had elected to attend the nearest church, and as it happened, it was an Anglican Church. The walk was refreshing, it was peaceful and it provided another opportunity for family bonding. It took all of seven minutes to achieve this feat.

The service was short and simple. The vicar is female.  I went up for the Holy Communion; and the taste of real wine was different from the Ribena substitute to which I was accustomed. Thankfully, I didn't get drunk as I only dipped the wafer in the wine. I never knew dipping was possible until I saw someone use this style just before my turn. I thought it was cool and decided to adopt it. The vicar obliged without questioning. I hope no one would take offence at what may be considered my half-hearted approach to what is sacred. Well, I won’t pretend I am bothered. Jesus died for me.

At some point in the service, we were asked to write on a postcard some prayer points that would be attended to during the week. I wanted the containment of Ebola in Nigeria and West Africa, the end of Boko Haram and also an end to the war between Israel and Hamas.

The service was relaxed. Most of the congregants wore simple clothes. One of the deacons who also intermittently held a baby in her hand walked about performing her duties barefooted and without a care in this world. A little area was created in the main auditorium (this sounds Pentecostal) for little children, most of whom were less than four years in age. The adults ignored their constant chatter, and ‘distraction’. I suppose they took the position that children also have a right to be in the house of God and do their own thing.

At the end of the service, the customary tea and biscuits were served. We made for the door where the vicar was waiting to greet everyone. She told us she was going on holiday that same week with her husband and family. As we left, I began to hum one of the songs that had been sung in the church and immediately one of my daughters came with the line: “I don't like that song.” I persisted.

We stopped at a park a few steps from the church. Our children took the opportunity to do some running probably practicing the 100 metres dash for the Olympics sometimes in the next decade.

Some of my observations of the whole experience are:


1.     Before last Sunday, going to church with my family was a driving experience. I suppose for many Africans, and perhaps Pentecostal Christians, a 2 to 3-hour round-trip to attend church is not unusual. I can understand why people do it, but I am not sure if this is the right thing to do.

2.     For Nigerians and certainly many black people, Sunday is also the day to put on our most beautiful clothes and showcase the best car. Has this phenomenon turned worship on its head? Must the outward outweigh the important? I do not see any problem with going to church in a good attire, however when this overshadows everything else, it becomes questionable. And rightly so too!

3.     Further, many of our services are hardly ever relaxed. For a start the music is often too loud. I have the belief that there is a conspiracy to make everyone deaf by the ridiculous hair-splitting loudness to which congregants are subjected in many of our churches. This too must be questioned. Why for example, should microphones be connected to the drum set in a church that sits 10-20 people? Why is there a need for the microphone to be tuned to the highest volume even for those leading worship? The effect of this is that the voices, the drumming, and other musical instruments collude in an offering of painful uncoordinated noise. 

4.     I also noticed that no one attempted to outdo the other in prayer or testimony or worship. Absent too was the desire for power and control over others by church leadership. This, if truth must be told is one of the key issues for many of our churches in Nigeria and the pentecostal movement at large. We may employ many reasons to justify this stain, but the reality is that no one is more special, no one died for another human being, it is Jesus who died. Even God does not control or manipulate us. This is food for thought and for comtemplating digestion. 

5.  I suppose the most important thing for me was the conscious desire to accommodate every congregant including children. In many of our churches, children are often seen as a distraction and are told off or carted away to a children’s church where they can’t be seen or heard. I am a ardent believer in Sunday school for children, it's only that some parents are not bothered about what their children learn at Sunday school provided they can concentrate on their own worship uninhibited.

6.    I must reiterate that I am at home with the sheer exuberance of worship of the pentecostal church to which I belong, I will not trade this for anything. My only wish is that we take things easy a little bit, understand we are not the centre of attraction and allow compassion to rule everything we do. Then, we will probably be like Christ. 

Finally, I like the simplicity of walking to church. I like the simplicity of the service. I also like the fact that God is at home with all kinds of worship and none of us can claim ownership or knowledge of His preferred agenda.

I throughly enjoyed the walk to church last Sunday. It is different and it is beautiful and I wish this becomes the norm for me. The irony is that I probably will drive to church next Sunday. What about you? PostcardfromLagos


Photo courtesy of Yinka Oyelese