Sunday, 7 January 2018

Acknowledging Privilege.

Hello Readers.
About a few years ago while I was preparing to defend my final year project, I made an unusual decision to dedicate my Thesis to :
'All Secondary school leavers who couldn't afford tertiary education ' . My Project Supervisor - a well-meaning 'godly' Professor - found it alarming.
'Why not dedicate it to God' he asked with that air that comes with being a Nigerian Professor,his tone filled with condemnation rather than suggestion.
'Sir' I said flatly 'I know alot of secondary school leavers who wanted Tertiary Education but couldn't not afford it because of some circumstances (background and gender and what have you) and the best I can do is to acknowledge the difference in privelege - the privilege of getting a University Education.'
He laughed dismissively and asked 'And you think schooling in Nigeria is a privilege? What will you say about those schooling in American schools?'
Well like my Professor, I used to think that am not privileged. Infact being privileged is something I have admired from afar, a trophy which I felt rich kids have by virtue of their birth; having a nice car, foreign certificate and international passport choking with miles. But part of being privileged is denial of privilege. There's always an immediate discomfort that the idea of being privileged brings; a blend of guilt & defensiveness and ultimately denial.
Privilege blinds because it's the nature of privilege to blind. I am Black and Male -and while am happily both and will not exchange it for anything in the world - I belong to the 'privileged' in my immediate society. How do I see the female counterpart in my society?
If you're Male, you're privileged. If you have a fancy pants Degree(irrespective of your gender and place of school) , you're privileged. If you have a fat bank account, you're privileged. If you have a roof over your head, you're privileged...infact if you're reading this article you're privileged (at least you have a smartphone or computer and an internet connection). Kudos to you but it also means that sometimes you have to take off those glasses of privilege for you to see the Menace in your immediate society. You have to be a part of the Solution.
Privilege complicates Charity and an acknowledgement of this fact is powerful. Charity remains a Necessity. For those of us who give to charity, there's often the risk of feeling one is better than those that one has helped. We're able to do charity not because we're better than poor people who can't do charity themselves but because we're privileged. Always remember that for every single person that's privileged/rich, there are two persons who would have done better. There are people who are privileged in some Areas and are not privileged in another.
We all are privileged in different ways and we've to keep that in mind while doing our charity. One may ask 'where can I do charity?' and my response will always be 'listening to that inner voice in us and taking off those glasses of privilege'. And please not into the pockets of Pastors and Spiritual Leaders.
One last thing before I go, you also have to differentiate people who need genuine help and people who are just Leeches, Greedy and want to take advantage of your kindness. Those ones you can ignore.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Class of 2017; Learn to say I don't know

Hello Class of 2017.
I hope you are excited and happy to be a Graduate? I was when I graduated but in addition to being happy and excited, I kept asking myself: What next? What am I to do now? I had Questions and doubts and worries especially as a Nigerian. I kept asking myself am I going to join the bandwagon of unemployed graduate? If not, What am I to do?
Graduation meant that am now a real Adult and when I mean Adulthood, I mean it metaphorically; not just by age but Responsibility. Graduation meant that you've passed through the fore walls of the University. The Igbo word for University is Mahadum which literally translates to 'knowing it all' and I trust you must have acquired alot of skills but I don't expect you to know everything. I don't know everything either.
Maybe some of you are worried as I was, maybe some of you are worried about getting a job and not just any job but a desired job. You should be worried, being worried means that you care that it matter to you. As you graduate today (or before now) I urge you to think about what matter to you, think about what you want to matter to you.
This is that time when you will be told by family and friends to go and do Big thing, go and change the World. It's not a bad thing to do though but let the idea of 'big thing' be yours and nobody else. Something Big to you might be small to somebody else but that somebody else does not matter but as you define for your self what 'Big thing' is I urge you to learn to criticise yourself. Self preservation is a natural mechanism but self criticism might seem unnatural and difficult but you must try to always critcise yourself. You must be willing to be wrong, you must be willing to say I DON'T KNOW. To admit to lack of knowledge is to me a sign of immense strength rather than weakness. The ability for self criticism is a product of a beautiful kind of honesty. It's an acknowledgement that there is no such thing as perfection.
I also want you to define Success for yourself and I mean this within reasonable limit; don't praise yourself for getting an  F in a course and say that's your own definition of Success. Learn always to say your truth because our time on Earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest self, each moment that we pretend to be what we are not, each moment when we say something that we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say then it's a waste of time.
While growing up in Nigeria, I was raised to frown at teenage pregnancy and pregnant teenagers who are not married until I started asking myself Questions, pregnancy takes the effort of both a male and female. What about the man that got them pregnant I would ask myself. So I unlearned that inhumane idea years ago. I want you to be Humane, be Human, be kind, always recognise the 'human presence' in other people. They are not just human beings but they are emotional beings with dreams so before you pass judgement, try and understand. Before you form an opinion, listen and listen again.
Eat good food and drink alot of water. Don't twist yourself into shapes to gain Likeability, the world is a glorious multifaceted diverse place and there are people that love you just the way you are. That natural version of you that doesn't hold back anything.
I wish you a life full of joy and fulfilment. Enjoy.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Gender issues in Africa.

Ogbenyealu; The Capitalist Igbo.
Actually the Igbos were the first indigenous capitalist tribe in Africa. It has been our culture even before the Arrival of the 'colonial masters'. Ogbenyealu is a female name that translates to 'Never to be married by a poor man'; putting a price tag on a child @ birth is a pure capitalist choice and in a way sexist. What else is Capitalism?  We have different systems of oppression and all are built around gender. Gender is a problem because of sexism and gender is the foundation of every systems of oppression.
I was about 9 years old when my younger sister Obiageliaku was born, three months later she was baptised in a Catholic Church and after her baptism well wishers prayed for her to grow into a beautiful woman and for good suitors to locate her when the time is ripe! I was slightly startled, for heaven sake she's but a child and if she were to be a boy, good health & prosperity would have been the prayers of well wishers and of course not a good wife. I noticed the problem of gender at a very young age by observing the world in the way it treats women for the sole purpose that they're females. So my sister grew up into a girl who lived her life always keeping in mind that marriage is the ultimate as such she automatically inherited some marital books with funny title from my mother, books with title like 'How to deal with a nagging husband' 'The Virtuous Woman' and the list goes on. This is the typical case for girls in Africa.
So I stumbled upon this picture online.
A culture in Ethiopia where women begged to be flogged in an effort to prove their love for men; it was then it dawned on me that gender as a system of oppression is still predominant in Africa. For things to change, we have to start raising our girls and boys differently.
We teach girls compromise in Relationships; give up your dream; Quit your job so that you can take care of your family. We teach girls self reduction and self sacrifice as the only way of showing/increasing their worth in life; 'I gave up my job in an oil company just to show my love for my husband' and I think this is the dumbest idea we give to females. Stay down and keep yourself down and you will be rewarded with a cookie. If you're the breadwinner in your family, pretend not to be. Never show that you're more intelligent than a man otherwise you'll threaten the man and this has got me thinking, why should a man feel threaten by a woman's success? Girls eventually grow up into women who have turned pretense into an Art form and this is the worst thing we do to girls. We do a great disservice to girl, gender as it functions in Africa (and this cuts across other continents) is  a grieve injustice to both boys and girls. I am angry, we should all be angry towards gender issues because anger has a long history of restoring peoples dignity.
What if we raise our children differently, what if we teach them that compromise is something that is supposed to be associated with both gender. What if we teach them to love by giving and taking?
To all the girls; love by 'giving' & 'taking', and when you're are giving too much than you are receiving you will know. Dare to speak.
Next post will be about Marriage. Is Marriage a thing of ownership or partnership? Is it an Achievement? Drop your comments or send them to my email address:

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Rapist & the Rape Apologists.

About 6 years ago in one of Nigeria's campuses, a young girl was raped by four boys in a room and there was outrage online but I was surprised at some of the comments made by young Nigerians (both girls and boys) concerning the Rape. Comments that would sum up to;
●Yes Rape is bad but what is a girl doing in a room with 4 guys?
●Why didn't she scream?
●Am sure she wasn't decently dressed. She tempted them!
Now I want you to see the inhumanity in these statements and the gravity of its contents.
People tend to occupy the World in the way they socialise to it. In Africa young people are taught to always blame girls (rape victims) for the Rape. While I was in secondary school, my teachers taught us to always cover our nakedness 'properly' so that we won't seduce men and avoid the risk of being rape victims. I really found this alarming as it contradicts some of the knowledge I have about Africa; Black women were known to be expose their bodies and were never ashamed and most importantly there was never any case of Rape. We teach girls shame! Cover your legs and we  make mistakes of always linking morality to dressing. In the process we raise girls who see themselves as sexual-prey who must tend to the fragile ego of men and create space for men to be monsters and sexual-predators. But the truth be told;
● Men are not Monsters.
●Women are not sexual-prey.
Rape is not a spontaneous action, it is a premeditated act of wickedness and as such rapist should be punished. Men should know that 'No' is a No and no matter what circumstances,whether the victim is drunk,drugged, or sober her opinion must be respected. Being a Rape victim comes with stigma and trauma and a struggle to overcome both and move on with life. It's an injury to one's dignity and the after effects can be devastating.
Most Rape Apologists often think that being a rape victim will make one morally strong and perhaps dress 'properly' to prevent future occurrences but victimhood is not a virtue. They always give excuse for men to be sexual-predators but thank God for civilisation:for the sole purpose of civilisation is learning, unlearning and relearning. We have to unlearn some of the false ideas we have about rape and to learn that rape is not an involuntary action (like blinking of eyes,in that sense we can relearn good ideas and tackle rape cases seriously. If a married man rapes his wife, he his guilty of Rape and we shouldn't in anyway try to be apologetic about the issue and waving it off with comments like;
● Afterall he paid for it.
●She's supposed to be submissive...and all manner of silly statements.
Rape is Rape and we Africans must treat it like it is.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Inspiration of the day from Facebook

This picture was posted by Dr Kingsley Ugbaorji of the department of Applied Biochemistry, NnamdiAzikiwe University Awka. The disabled guy is one of his students and use alms from begging to fund his school fee and means of livelihood. You really don't have any excuse not to pursue your dreams.

Monday, 27 February 2017

South Africa's Xenophobic attack and the Ghana -must -go case

Ghana-must-go bag is a locally made bag in Nigeria with different sizes and colours and capacity. It is used mostly for interstates travelling and moving of goods and foodstuffs. When I was quite young, the name 'Ghana-must-go' fascinated me because a sack bag was named after a country and I was tempted to assume that the bags were either made in Ghana or the manufacturer is a Ghanian. Whichever, I was interested in knowing the inspiration behind the name so I asked my parents about it. They laughed heartily to my question and told me how Nigerians matched against Ghanians in Nigeria during Maj.Gen Buhari Regime and it was in a way instigated by the then military head of state. 'It wasn't a violent match' my father was quick to add, we just wanted them to go back to their country and develop their economy and it worked peacefully. Majority of the illegal immigrants moved back to Ghana with sack bags that we later named 'Ghana-must-go' and it's the name till date.
The Igbos call it Obodoyibo but in English language it can be referred to as 'abroad'.Abroad is a name we give to some Western countries that offers many opportunities, has a good economy and low cost of living. America for example is 'abroad'; the first time my Aunty travelled to the UK, she called us with excitement in her voice to inform us that finally she's in 'abroad'. Every family in Nigeria will like to boast about their relatives abroad; I have an uncle that lives abroad, my cousins are all in obodoyibo and so on but 'abroad' can not be anywhere, especially not just any  African country, it must meet our standards and South Africa is the only African country that has met our qualifications so far. So Ghana is Ghana and South Africa is 'abroad' and one needs  visa, international passport and flight ticket to get there. Statistics has shown that a handful of Nigerians live in South Africa for obvious reasons; Schooling, good economy, infrastructure, their minimum wage is about $260 and ours is $60.
About two years ago a Xenophobic attack was launched by South Africans against Nigerians and other African immigrants in South Africa which took the lives of about eight people because they think the foreigners are siphoning their businesses and source of livelihood. My father was angry about the attack so as were other Nigerians because it wasn't the first, I think the first was in 2008 which claimed the lives of 60 people. My father took it personal, it was as if the attack was against his dignity, his soul and spirit. He felt wounded and betrayed, he told me stories of the Apartheid and how they (himself and other well meaning Nigerians) boycotted lectures and fight against the Apartheid and how they celebrated the release of Nelson Mandela. 'It was like our own fight' he said and in many ways we have come to see South Africans as our own brothers. In a fist of revenge, he broke his MTN simcard, called our relatives and told them to boycott Shoprite and DSTV and any other south african investments in Nigeria. All these he did out of mild irritation and anger; ofcourse anger has a long history of restoring dignity and setting things right and the xenophobic attack subsided and reduced until about three weeks ago.
My SA based friend called me to inform that there was another Xenophobic attack in Johannesburg, SA. The victims were alleged to be drug dealers, human traffickers and bad people but all the victims were Nigerians and this made it troubling to me. Why only Nigerians? And there was outrage online between the two countries and I was surprised how most people (SA citizens & even some Nigerians based in SA)supported the attack. I was surprised how people believed that jungle justice is the best way to deal with crime. Let's assume that the victims were guilty of the alleged crimes but Victimhood is not a Virtue and treating them badly will not in any way curb out crimes rather it will leave a wound on their dignity.
I was arguing with someone online about the attack and he was quick to pointout the Nigeria's Ghana-must-go case and it has never occurred to me that there's is a relationship between these two occurrences. In many ways the Ghana-must-go case was more of an awareness than an attack, It wasn't a Xenophobic attack and nobody's life was endangered during the march. There's still a good relationship between Nigeria and Ghana, my hair dresser here in Nigeria is a Ghanian. I want our SA brothers to apologise for the attack and to know that every Nigerian is not a drug dealer and even if there's then such individual should be reported to the SA Drug and law enforcement agencies like we have here in Nigeria. I want them to 'love' and not just any love but the Igbo translation of 'Ifunanya' which is 'to see'. I want them 'to see' that dignity is as important as food and Victimhood is not a Virtue, to also know that jungle justice is not justice at all.
There will always be this collaboration between Nigeria and South Africa, and most recently Big Brother Nigeria (a Nigeria reality show) is being shot in South Africa. In many ways we still see SA as 'abroad' and I can't count the number of Shoprites in Lagos alone and the number of Nigerians that subscribe monthly to DSTV, not to mention the millions of Nigerians that use MTN sim and buy costly data to access the Internet and am one of them. We should start 'to see' the brotherhood and the more we collaborate, the better it will be for Africa.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Vote Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie as New York City's one Book.

It was in 2013 that I first came across the book ' Americanah '. I read the review online and the author is one of my favourites so it was easy for me to rush down to the palms mall in Victoria Island, Lagos to get my first copy. Yes my first copy, I gave my first copy, after reading it I gave it to my mother who  ' stole ' it and refused to give it back. It was indeed a wonderful book that I could relate with so I bought a second copy. For me it was one of the best books I read in 2013 & mid 2014, it was about Love ,race, hair and diaspora identity.
Let me give you a quick swipe of the book; Ifemelu is a young girl in Nigeria who fell in love with her secondary school sweetheart Obinze. They both gained admission into the same university before she left Nigeria for America. As against the conventional idea that african immigrants are always running away from poverty, disease and lack in their home country, this wasn't Ifemelu's case. She wanted more options and choices, she love constant electricity and fast Internet  and these things were handy in America. It was in America that she discovered her 'Black' identity, in her home country she never get to worry about race and being Black because there was no need to. Although there were other identity markers in her country like religion, tribe and region but in America should wasn't identified as a Christian or Igbo or a southerner but as a black girl. She later came to accept her new African identity even though she knows nothing about Lesotho or Namibia and the baggage that comes with Being Black. She tried to fight against that 'Americanah'  identity that is associated with Nigerian immigrants in America.  She discovered that hair is political in America.
Obinze on the other hand tried getting an American visa but was denied and he later went to England as an Illegal immigrant and was deported after a few years. In Nigeria he became successful and Rich. Ifemelu returned to Nigeria after 15years to meet Obinze who is already married...go get the book joor if you haven't read it!
Now I want us to vote Americanah as New York City's one. Just follow the link below and vote;
Please do it now for the love of jollof rice and also for the love of books and the people that make them.