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.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Ifunanya; the plague of an African child.

Our house is a fairly big duplex on a wide Acre so it was easy for my parents to always accommodate my relatives for holidays and sometimes unplanned visits. On one of these occasions my cousin Agbonma visited us for the first time and she spent almost two weeks with my family. Agbonma is a very hardworking girl and sometimes she would do the chores meant for me and my siblings as if in a way she's trying to pay us for our room she shared or to compensate us for the food she ate daily. Her English were not feathery like mine but her Igbo was more fluent than mine and she speaks it like one of the early people. It was as if she owned the language and I would often tease her about exchanging my English and French for her fluent Igbo Language. A day before she left, she called me and my siblings and told us that she noticed we don't have 'respect' for our parents; in the way we say 'good morning dad' instead of good morning sir, the way we say 'yes mummy' instead of ma or yes ma and the way we chat and argue with our parents as if there are our mates and all these she said with pitiful nods. 'Biko have small fear for your parents' she said and later myself and my siblings would laugh over the whole thing. I didn't see any sense in what Agbonma said until few years later when I started visiting friends and I noticed that most parent-child relationships were built on 'fear'.
The anecdote above is not an ode to my parents for 'good parenting' but it's a discovery and realisation of what it means to be a child in an African home. Agbonma was a product of a typical Nigerian home and in many ways I have come to realise that my early childhood can be regarded as ideal but Agbonma's own is close to the reality. Most parents teach their children fear instead of respect and so children grew up to fear their parents instead of respecting them.My friend Kamsi has a wealthy father but when it was time for him to go to secondary school his father sent him to an substandard secondary school in a remote village so he had to trek hundreds of miles to get to school. His father has this conventional idea( also common with other parents ) that for a child to be Successful he has to undergo stress and must not feel comfortable in his father's wealth otherwise the child will become lazy and spoilt the same way children were forbidden to eat meat & egg in the olden days because they believe that the child will develop sweet tooth one day and start stealing. But all these are fallacies and it really baffles me because I believe children needs more meat and fish and eggs more than Adults because they are growing. A child needs love and care and we shouldn't think that in a way if we deprive them of love and care they will become somehow strong, it doesn't work like that. Allow your children to
call you mummy and daddy or papa and mama but not 'sir' or 'ma' because they are not your employees; they are your children.
Treat children like they are children and please don't deprive them of their childhood, it only comes once in a lifetime. Don't pretend that someone they are Adults because they are not. Listen to Children's Opinion always because they are alot more perceptive and intelligent than we give them credit for. If you give a child rice and he refuses to eat give him beans and if he refuses the beans and asked for sugar, put a cube of sugar in his tea but don't give him a packet of sugar. The logic here is that you have to listen to Children's Opinion and guide them in decision making because they will often fail in making good decision but you have to guide them. Educate them about sex from a very young age and don't say that you're not ready to 'corrupt' their innocent minds because it will surprise you the little they already know about their sexuality. Be the one to answer their curiosity Questions and don't wait for them to learn it formally in school or in television or from neighbours because in the process while you wait they might be misled into negative vices. Call the sexual organs their name and don't give them slang name just the way my little nephew was referring to his pennis as 'pipi' or 'thing'. Don't call vagina 'ike', it's not ike and calling it ike will make a child confused and she starts calling her vagina and her buttocks 'ike'. Ike is an Igbo word for buttocks not vagina.Teach both males and females that they are sexual beings and so they would one day grow up to have sexual feelings because they are not woods.
Ifunanya is the Igbo word for Love and it's literal translation is 'to see'. We have to start loving in the Igbo way; we have to start seeing and for you to see properly you have to take off every 'glass' of privilege from your eyes. My white friend Kyle once told me that the plague of every African child was Love; he said the African parents hardly say 'I love you' to their children and I will always disagree with him. Oh yes African parents don't 'love' in a superficial way by saying 'I love you' but they do so in action, they 'see' to our needs and the last time my parents told me they love me was two weeks ago when they called me and said 'we just got you a new laptop'. In those words all I see is Ifunanya.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Reason for the cancelled Tuface's planned protest.

My parents are civil servants so they have had the opportunity to embark on many solidarity protests when there is a delay in salaries or bad working conditions. The 5 years old me would always mistake the solidarity song as ' soaking garri is forever! !!We must always fight for our rights '. Its a wonderful prospect for the 5 years old me to watch my parents sing and dance with placards to Government offices to discuss their unpaid Salaries. My parents were sometimes victims of violence from police and other security agents but they never stopped because protest has a long history of bringing justice and solving social issues.
Few weeks ago one of Nigeria's famous musicians Tuface Idibia ( 2baba ) announced a Nation wide protest against the Federal government because of high cost of living, bad economy and other mishaps in the Country. He was criticised by Academics and was even threatened by the Police and other Security Agencies. Despise the threats, he announced the Meet up Venues and dress code for the Protest. The date of the protest was shifted from 5th February to 6th February. Many people argued that the protest was politically induced but I see it as an amazing step for Nigerians to come out en mass to protest against something that they felt is not good enough. I woke up this morning only to discover that 2baba has cancelled the planned protest and in his own words he said ' Dear Nigerians! Due to security concerns and public  I hereby announce the cancellation of the planned March '. I was disappointed because I wanted to see people fight for a common goal.
Last year in University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria a Final year student who was the President of his faculty was killed in a protest by a DSS member. Himself and other students were protesting against the law that says that the students must pay all their fees before writing any exams. The students wanted more time to make payment but the school authorities were quick to call the police and other security agents and students were injured  and a student was killed in the process and all these happened in the school's campus. The student that was killed has paid his own school fee but decided to stand with other students to fight for a common goal. I sometimes wonder what is a University without students?
About 3 years ago in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, the Student Union president otherwise known as SUG President protested against the cost of transportation within the school premises. He wanted the price to be reduced to #20 which is fairly affordable and he also protest against the School Authority concerning unnecessary levies that students pay for. He organised a peaceful protest and he was rusticated from the University. Noble Eyisi is from a privileged family, his mother is a professor and he can afford to pay for transport fares and pretend that all is well  but he refused to pretend.
It is one thing to feel something emotionally and it's another thing to engage ones intellect in making conclusions and about the cancelled protest, I was devastated and emotionally exhausted. I couldn't find any space for humour and laughter. I wanted more, I wanted to see people fight a good fight and in a more matured way. 2baba cancelled the protest because he felt that peoples lives would be endangered and he's right about that. The Nigeria Police are not well trained to handle protests incase it turns into a riot; of course they don't have rubber bullets and water guns all they know is 'kill 5 individuals and the rest will run for cover'. The same way they brutalised students of Uniport last week in a recent protest,  the same way they killed IPOB members from time to time and the last one in Port Harcourt left me disappointed in the Police Force. Now security and safety is now a luxury only the Elites can afford. What a Country?
Recently people of the United States of America came out en mass to protest against some of President Trumps new laws and I watched the March and I all I see was a group of people fighting for a common goal. I didn't see it as a politically induced protest. Although 2baba cancelled the protest he organised,  Nigerians are not ready to settle for less this time around and many people have taken the protest personal. The protest still holds.
 Am now an Adult and I can sing the solidarity song perfectly well & it goes like this;
Solidarity Forever!
Solidarity Forever!
Solidarity Forever!
We must always fight for our Rights.