Friday, 4 January 2019

THE NIGHT THAT HANNAH DIED (2)

The Milan Fashion Week came too soon, and she did not feature. A month after her contract signing, even in her wildest dreams she would not have expected to share the runway with Solena Del Sol, Antonella Marie and Sylvia Schiavonni, the biggest names in the business on the female divide of things, yes, there are two sexes and one sun. However, in a month Hannah was already in TV commercials, Delta Springs soap was the first group, and Osvaldo took care of the paper works. The pay was nice, and the bonus packages even nicer; a five year supply of toiletries, a car in each of those five years, and a special pay for her appearance in promo shows. She liked what she was getting, and how life was gradually changing for her and for her parents who had now moved to New York-into a more decent apartment befitting the parents of a would-be supermodel. She also liked her manager, Mr. Morales, and Osvaldo, her lawyer, who was now standing proxy. The working relationship with Osvaldo was becoming very good, and could only get better. He boarded planes with her, stayed backstage at every shoot and didn’t fail to proofread every agreement. It was only a matter of time before the colours would get more colourful, the birdsong get more melodious, the Manhattan sunset get more beautiful, and their eyes meet in realization of mutual fondness.
It was during a shoot for a toothpaste advert, the Advert director had complained about Hannah’s performance in the video, they had to repeat the clip a number of times, still the fastidious fellow found faults. Osvaldo had to step forward with some tips that worked out perfectly. As the director smiled satisfactorily and gave his approval to the next performance, Hannah hugged Osvaldo in blatant excitement. It was time to withdraw from the embrace and then their eyes met. 
“Sorry.” Osvaldo apologized in chivalrous politeness as he looked away, pretending to be shy.
“Oh, its nothing.” Hannah replied, looking away too in honest shyness. 
That night she was wrapped in a blanket of thoughts, the cute looks of Mr. Lopez in all its masculine glory appeared and disappeared in her mind like a phantom, and her heart twinkled with the excitement of a nun seeing a Marian apparition. She flashed back to when they first met, replayed the details of each succeeding event and wondered why she hadn’t liked him sooner. She had never been in love, and since early teenage had fought off the pubescent allure of having a lover. Mother had counseled that she was still too young to hang out in the rascally youth of millennial America. She was asked to focus and study for a degree; that a proper Hispanic Eduardo would come looking for her, then they’d get married in a Catholic chapel, and live happily ever after. However, it is said that the poor would seem to want nothing beyond his needs until he tastes the good things of life. Hannah had in a few months seen a bit of luxury, and had acquired a taste for the better things of life. Money was not a problem any longer even for the parents, and millennial America hadn’t been as bad as her parents supposed. Also, Osvaldo was Hispanic, if religious, would certainly be a proper Catholic, all the boxes ticked. It only remained to be seen if he would make a move. After all, it was now long overdue, she was now feeling the vacuum of a mate, someone aside her parents, with whom to share her joy and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses and fears and hopes. The vacuum had felt in its hollowness and nagging the tickling, nay, yearning of an empty womb. Yes, dear Ewatomi, there are a number of things one is not expected to do unless he does it well, such are flying an airplane or performing a surgery, but there are things one must do for himself even if he does it badly and such are wiping one’s bum or falling in love. Hannah thought that even for a first try she could hardly go wrong in love. She smiled to herself, and sighed happily at the warmth of her thoughts in this winter night.   

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

THE NIGHT THAT HANNAH DIED

Dear Ewatomi,

Time and time again I smile at the thought of you, and upon this fondness I always wish and hope that you are fine. Neither a strike of the foot against a stone or pebble nor slip off a banana peel, I wish for you, but that you should be in one piece, ever happy, and smiling. I often imagine that like Lionel Messi’s misfortune of not being able to watch himself play live, how unfortunate it is for you not to be someone else and to be able to admire the beauty that is Ewatomi. Well, enough said, and now I should ask ‘how are you?’ expecting that you understand it not to be a customary question to which one would throw out ‘fine’ like the blink of an eye. I ask it expecting that you tell me how things are with you in copious details.
How are you? Hope you are fine? Really fine? I believe that my amateur recommendations worked out fine with your stomach upset; and perhaps that you have learnt the lesson on staying faithful to one fruit at a time: and I guess that you would avoid fruit salad for a while or at least not try out weird combinations anymore. 
As I promised in my last letter I will tell you the story of Hannah, a young lady who got into a man’s life with the naivety of a wildebeest who, though seeking shade but having no idea how delicious it looked, wandered into the lions’ den. But before I get it on with, I would request that you pay attention to the details as I would try my best to make them as elaborate as possible, at the end of this story I would go ahead to explain why I have shared it. It is important that I started this letter extolling your beauty-it is so obvious that it has become boring lauding it-because Hannah Quintero is such a beauty, and her story parallels your circumstances, side by side, as lanes on a track, till just before tragedy. Hannah was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the only child of Pueto Rican immigrants, she received the best education her middleclass parents could afford. And though her brilliance was above average, her beauty, as you would expect, made all the difference and opened doors for her. Life really started for her on the night she won the local beauty pageantry. The stage was lit in pyros and the noise of camera clicks was swallowed up in applause and cheers. She could pick her mother’s tiny voice from the back of that hall; for her mother it was a proud night, but for her there was no surprise, she always had it coming, and this was only a start. She lowered her eyes against the flash of camera lights and rose them again slowly and enchantingly. She was sure her face would be on the front page of the local newspaper the following morning.
Now, something was beginning to get her attention, she stopped her waving momentarily to pick it; amidst the applause was the voice of a man joking in Spanish, he was right on the stage, at the door to the backstage speaking with the compere. They were speaking about her, Hannah knew, she heard the compere say that she was ‘one for the future’, to which the Spanish speaker replied that if she wasn’t the future of modelling, that there would be no future. Hannah had gotten the man’s voice, now she needed to get his face, especially now that she had also heard the man being called ‘Don Pedro Morales’. A friend had told her about a certain Don Pedro who holds all the keys to a successful career in modelling.
By dint of faith and fate, Hannah would get to have an audience with him only after a fortnight, and quite conveniently, upon the man’s request. The door opened before her to the sight of a huge fellow, bald, chubby faced, and a moustache trimmed within the width of his nose; the unmistakable Don Pedro Morales. He was sitting behind a busy desk; open files and scattered papers, records and journals. With him was a younger man, whom Hannah at once took for his associate. Tall and with shimmering black hair tied to the back like a ponytail, his eyes neatly roofed by a pair of bushy brows, this younger fellow was as handsome as a three piece suit David Beckham, cigar between lips, riding in a limousine and reading a Mandarin Magazine; basically the alternate James Bond. But Hannah was still too apprehensive to take stock of his statistics. 
“Welcome, welcome,” Pedro Morales rose to his feet beaming from ear to ear, his frame covering a better part of the huge window behind him which would offer a tourist’s perfect view of the famous Manhattan sunset.
“Thank you,” Hannah replied as she accepted the outstretched arm. Her eyes paced around the huge office as Mr. Morales made the introductions.
“This here is Osvaldo Lopez,” he said of the younger man, “my most trusted associate in this business. His looks ain’t worth a Peso but his mind… a goldmine.” And pointing to Hannah, whom he had offered a seat said to the younger man, “This here is Hannah Quintero, the hottest free agent in the business, the pick, the cherry on the cake…” 
“The cherry on the cherry cake.” The associate enthused, smiling at Hannah. “Nice to meet you.”
Hannah smiled shyly as she shook his hand, not understanding what he meant by the cherry on the cherry cake. 
Mr. Morales made a quick work of convincing Hannah to sign up with his model management agency, extolling with understandable bias the achievements and prestige of his company. Being a successful professional model had always been her dream, ‘the Latina Noami Campel’ was a name she hoped to be branded with someday, and on this day, in this elaborate office, on the twentieth floor of this tower the journey to that someday was just turning a page. Mr. Morales brought out a prepared document containing the terms of the agreement carefully drafted, he asked her to read through and recommend changes to terms she wasn’t comfortable with. Hannah read through the document, and smiled. 
“But am I not supposed to have a legal representation-a lawyer?” she asked upon looking up from the document.
“Yes, you are. Which is why Mr. Lopez is here; best lawyer you can find around. I personally recommend him, and I don’t think you’d refuse my recommendation this early in business. Would you?”
Hannah thought long and deep. Things were happening too fast, barely a month earlier she successfully passed through the audition for the local beauty pageantry. Two weeks after that, she won, and now she was about to sign her first professional contract. What could go wrong when others have gone right? What could go wrong in accepting Mr. Osvaldo Lopez as his lawyer? And don’t they say that it is a risk not to take a risk? She took the leap, shook hands with Mr. Lopez and signed the deal. Life for her would never remain the same.     

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

WHO IS A SAINT NOW? (2)

In all of these, you had said, nothing vexed you as much as how Chioma and I chose to rub it on your face. Why did we choose to take the best seats at the hall? Why did we choose to always sit close to you and Tameh? And how dare I now want to turn the story around by saying that you chose to sit close to us and that you were stalking us? And yes, you mentioned jealousy, how dare I suggest that you were becoming jealous of what was going on between Chioma and I? You wanted answers to why I cared to know whether or not you were jealous, and in a very bad taste, why I shouldn’t carry on with my ‘new lover’ and stop offending you with unnecessary bygones.
Now, dear Ewatomi, I wonder if I should placate you or douse rage in humour, however, there are times even in comedy-making when one has to be serious. I am not one to subscribe to that fabled ingredient of genius; the understanding of the margin between adequate and excess, but I believe that I have given you neither excess nor adequate information on the matter of which you have seemed to pick offence. Of what value then would it be if I should desire to pursue genius seeing what has become of an inadequate chronicle? All the same I would go ahead to spell issues out as they really went down.
From our correspondence, it is obvious now that we were victims of our individual pride in letting what we had going slip away. While you waited for me to act, I waited for you to do the same. And while we waited, life, which abhors vacuum couldn’t wait. Foremost, I would like to clear up what I believe to be your misconstruction of the person and intent of Chioma. Yes, how a known snub suddenly became radiant with conviviality, and shades of gregariousness is worthy of probe, and when a young man is by her happy side, love is right to be the first hypothesis. You, I believe, have not put her on trial for being a snub so long, nor for turning from that unpopular path, but for, as I perceive, breaking the girl code-an unwritten constitution that provides that a girl should not move in on another girl’s guy. On the surface level, I would agree, perhaps some inches deep too, that there was a moving in on someone. But the first question should be who moved in on who? It is as that aphorism of the yam that suffered a bad cut and the people arguing whether it was the knife that fell on the yam or the yam that fell on the knife. Note, that it is still debatable whether this cut did happen, because a slap on the back to one may be a pat on the back to another; or even more conveniently a kind attempt to kill another man’s mosquito-what one thing is to me may be another to Chioma. So, perhaps, until Chioma agrees that there was indeed a cut, this debate is not won or lost yet. However, if eventually the stars align and Russia and the US are in accord, and we all agree that there was a cut, I would own up to say that the knife did fall on the yam and that I am that guilty blade. Save for that long hug which served my purpose, Chioma did not press any buttons. I was the one moving all the motions as in plenary, and it is to her credit that some bills were not passed. Case in point, I mentioned in the first letter, in excusing you of fault in your continued attachment to Tameh that no one would refuse the invite of a soldier’s company in that camp where such a connection was an insurance against severity and stress. This point was originally not mine; Chioma had said it to me in assuring me that all would be well between you and me at the end. Yes, I had gotten enamored with her in the vacuum of your absence, but more than that I was amazed at her for always being there for you, coming in your defence at every juncture and not moving in with reckless abandon. 
My dearest Ewatomi, though we should agree that we are not all innocent of blame, but there are really no devils here-we merely reacted almost as perfectly as circumstances demanded. Nevertheless, all of these have channeled my mind to an entirely new path; and perhaps in the coming weeks I hope to reveal the details to you. Suspense ‘kills’ me, but I enjoy keeping others in it. In my next letter, my dear, I will tell you the story of Hannah, a young lady who got into a man’s life with the naivety of a wildebeest who, though seeking shade but having no idea how delicious it looked, wandered into the lions’ den. At least, I hope, another vitriol would not follow thereafter from you.               
Stay safe my dear Ewatomi. Like Jews greet over a festive meal, next year (we shall be) in Jerusalem. Bye.

Friday, 21 December 2018

WHO IS A SAINT NOW?

Dear Ewatomi,

How are you doing? I trust that things are going on well with you. I should ask also about your new workplace, how you are settling into the job, and how it differs from mine but I know that a future correspondence will contain volumes on our present job experiences.
I got your letter on the evening of September 20, and reading off the light of a dying candlelight I quickly saw that my letter had hit on some very strategic nerves. It was replete with intense and uncut vexation, so intense that I had to stop reading at a point, and finish it up with the first rays of the next morning’s sunrise. Yes, I have a low threshold for nagging, and though you did not nag, I squirm at the slightest suspicion of it.
Nevertheless, my dearest Ewatomi, I must applaud your unusual frankness, childish and naïve it would seem at first impression but such blunt sincerity is an invaluable virtue that our world with its emotional complications can do with more often. In that regard and in sharp repentance, I would in the course of this letter admit to and confess the various salient and tiny details which I, for cunny intents, omitted or at best diluted or embellished in the first letter.
First you admitted, with flowery descriptions, the beautiful first week we shared. You agreed to more than what I said that there was love in the air. However. In your words, it was only in the air and had not settled as dust in Harmattan. And how wrong it was for me to have begun counting my chicks while my mother hen was yet laying her eggs. Your dusty love, you said, was ready to settle but I hadn’t done enough to deserve it. Then, you rebuked what you called my ‘sense of entitlement’, how I expected you, with little endearment and persuasion, to follow me around the camp. Amidst the love in the air, you said, was a competing sense of ‘who needed who more?’ It seemed you had become my first conquest as I continued to ‘conquer’ in the inter-platoon competitions. You wanted me to show that I needed you as much as you appeared to need me. It was in this emotional wreck that Sergeant Tameh showed up. At first you would treat his advances with contempt though he had a fantastic reason for his admiration of you; as you said, that he had seen lots of beautiful girls, lots of timid beautiful girls, but rarely had he seen aggressive beautiful girls. ‘Aggressive’ was it for him, and you combined that value with remarkable beauty that specially appealed to him. One long week of careful study of you had convinced him to make a move. Yes I had seen you sink your head like a repentant prodigal at the parade ground while he spoke, but deep down things were not immediately as it seemed because you were laughing off ‘that dreamer’. But dreams do come true, and Tameh’s did with time. With his persistence tugging at your mind, his words soon began to tug at your heart. Also, you were soon beginning to think that this was the chance you needed, rather the chance I needed to prove that I needed you. You wanted to see me fight for you, you wanted to see me compete, like I had done for the platoon, but this time for you, and you hoped to see me win. What a victory it would be for me, rather for us, no; for our love-that I competed for and won against a soldier. But while you waited for me, I waited for you. You waited for me to compete, to call you more often, to tell you beautiful things and to follow you around the camp market in public glare, I waited for you to tell Tameh off, to prove that our one week was not too weak, to come back to me, to where you left me. But alone, while I thought you disappointed me, you too thought I disappointed you.
Giving Tameh a chance was not your earlier intention, it so happened that you grew into it. And seeing me moody, obviously at the thought of the new reality was an extra motivation for you to carry on. You had carried on gleefully, enjoying the various benefits of being the apple of a soldier’s eye, well protected and cared for against the tiresome drills and regimentations. You had carried on much like the first lady in a military caste whose jilted former lover was now only a labourer in the palace courtyard. Your joy had known few bounds until I began to take on a new comeliness. It bothered you that I was now happy without you, who could be making my smiles that broad and my heart that merry? ‘Chioma of all people’, was your first impression, and of that I am in accord. Chioma of all people; how could I have gotten along with a self-made pariah? How did I manage to get the famous snub talking and smiling, now not only to me but to others? How did I ‘manipulate’ her to a front row seat to cheer my onstage performances? Chioma had made me happy without you, life, for you, would never remain the same. Funny how you had thought you had the keys to the kingdom, only to see that the king had changed his padlock.         

Saturday, 8 December 2018

A SOLDIER'S GIRL



Dear Ewatomi,

Morning salutations are customary at homes, hugs and kisses are never in short supply, but for a vagrant boy on Owen Moore Street there is no home, no hugs and kisses, just sunrise and sunset interrupting his long walk to freedom. I trust that you are well at home, safe and sound in health and mind, and in no way like our mystery boy of Owen Moore. Yes, you longed to go home, who wouldn’t? Life in that vengeful wilderness was severe, and at a minimal dosage of its severity it was a struggle still. I recall seeing you cry a couple of times, I guess my covert glances went successfully uncaught. But your tears cannot be called an isolated case as many a comrade betrayed emotions under the famous severity, I saw most of them, thanks again to my famous glances. It is a good thing that those days are gone now, resigned and perhaps preserved and treasured in the vaults of memory, and it is even better that you are home now in the company of your loved ones; your father-whom you wouldn’t stop talking about in your moments of glee, your mother-a profile in courage, whom you said once slapped a soldier, and your younger siblings; Darrel and Celine, for whom you said you have borne the great weight of being a role model. With a deep satisfying sigh I would say that all is well when all that is bad is well behind us and nothing that can be worse likely awaits.
But what awaits, dear Ewatomi? Or should we start with what is behind us? What really is behind us? ‘Really’ denotes particularity; yes there is an aspect of our mutual past in which I have retained great interest and which my mind has held on to with the pertinacity of an asp. Now I would reveal that the mystery vagrant boy on Owen Moore is none other than my mind made flesh, for it walks to and fro, often times vainly in search of a satisfying course. You would agree that for such a wandering mind to have stayed this long on this particular course of our mutual past shows that this path needs further beating, perhaps a treasure lies further afield.
Recall the night of August 4, the first time we met. It was drizzly, cold and wet as an ocean floor; the vestiges of a very rainy afternoon. I had come into that café just before you. While I sat blowing off steam from my little white cup, I quickly took interest in a fair, voluptuous girl, a bit tall for a lady. Well, not for her fantastic details did my interest move this first time, because she wanted her coffee black-without cream or sugar. Such a rarity it is these soft-I wouldn’t say ‘effeminate’- days seeing people do ‘hard’ things. A cup of coffee, not besmirched, black and hot would not be a soldier’s delight but this girl, who turned out to be you, sat and, as though it was a sweet relish, emptied your cup in three gulps; I was counting. Was that an introduction to feminine guts? I had only been introduced halfway. And the other half soon followed.
Now, though we have since always differed on what he really looked like, I would stick to my favorite adjectives; tall, dark, and a dry smooth face, at best he is a man of moderate ugliness. His entrance was without a drumroll, and much less without a spotlight, but what was strange? It was at the interval of two thunderclaps. I took a better look at his face when the light from the hurricane lamp reflected upon his face. He had what seemed to be a permanent scowl about his face and seemed to chew painfully on swallowed words or planned vengeance. At once I counselled myself to avoid the gloomy fellow. On the spur of the moment my wandering mind scrambled for a choice, to stay with you and your hot cup of coffee heroics or to follow this latest entrant. It was then that you walked up to the narrow counter, where he was standing and ordered for another cup of coffee. He spoke to you with the deepest baritone that have fallen into my ears, it was a sharp reprimand. 
“You don’t barge into my space, woman.”
I remember the attendant, a middle age woman, slim as a polar bear and of a brief height, offering apologies on your behalf. But then you stopped her, challenging the dark man’s claim of owning the space. While further apologies followed on your behalf, you were eye to eye with the man, as two lions about to square off over the leadership of an unclaimed pride. This man, we would learn was about the most dreaded human in the camp, and though I still dispute that you had known this before your spat, it was gutsy all the same. His lonesomeness, perhaps with the permanence of a leopard’s spot, his dry and moody demeanor, and that scar above his left eye came about by his experiences at the war front. This I learnt from a source more reliable than beer parlour gossip. Once, said my source, after a bloody day fending off a routine ambush by terrorists at the mountain borders, he was said to have had violent fits of trauma throughout the night during which he would spring up from his sleep and shoot sporadically until wrestled to the ground, or stab the matress with his bayonet until he lost strength. Yes, he was verging towards a psychiatric patient, and why such a character was posted to a camp was beyond all the reasonable options that I juggled in my mind. Of this concern, my aforementioned source would say that law is powerless without a force to implement it. How can anyone possibly put this multitude of youth in order without a frightful man whose details Sergeant Manuel Tameh matched?
So, as I sat in that rusty café with the sugary dregs of my tea still fresh on my taste buds, I didn’t know that I had met the two humans who would most influence my camping; a beauty and a beast.
I hated the reveille, not that it woke me- I was always up before it sounded, but I couldn’t understand the concept of driving us to that chilly parade ground as early as half past three in the morning, under the open sky and the vengeful elements of a wilderness. The reveille was a loud and offensive reminder, and the bugler took the hate. At first, you would recall it was a tall order for those soldiers to ply our civilian ego into shape. A number of frog jumps was enough to convert majority of us into absolute obedience to instructions, but for a few ‘hard men’ I learnt that the infamous guard room played an effective role. In all of that you always showed your disapproval of that lazy administration of justice in which all were made to bear the punishment of a few. I was no less unimpressed with why a notorious noise maker would not be singled out and punished, but rather the whole platoon would go in for one man’s mischief. Long ago, I had been taught that not only is life not fair, nobody ever promised it would be, so despite our hisses and sighs I had to carry on.        
Now, it was after a few days that I began to have an extra motivation to show up for the morning parade. It was understandable that for the stress, many a comrade had devised ingenious ways of dodging the parade, perhaps I would have readily joined their ranks but for this extra motivation; the prospect of sharing the same square meter on the parade ground with you. This should not be a big reveal at this point, I don’t expect so, for certainly we have shared bigger secrets and confessions that this should only generate at best a little smile. Yes, a smile, your smile-a thing of beauty-was one of the things I looked forward to each morning. It had no dimples, but a brilliant way of parting each cheek in two; and that to me was cuter than any dimple would have made a woman’s face. You had also a sense of humour which I might have overrated because of my enamorment to you, but I didn’t miss to have a good laugh at your jokes. My admiration of and interest in you peaked at about the end of the first week. By which time we had begun to tag along, going as a pair to almost everywhere. I knew I was not alone in this admiration, your fandom which comprised officials and campers alike increased by the day and I knew I had to mark my territory. But what had I not done? To where had I not gone with you? How else should I mark my territory around you? Maybe it remained to ensure that you felt the same way as I felt about you; an emotional helplessness and vagueness in the absence of the other. I woke up on the first morning of the second week believing that things could only get better but how wrong I was. At first I waved it off as one of those things when I saw him talking with you while we left the parade ground for breakfast. Yes, the rising sun had left upon the couple of you more than just a spotlight. Upon that green deserted field you stood with him for the next half hour, and while he spoke atypically with a courteous demeanor, you uncharacteristically sank your head as a repentant child would who digested soberly the reprimand of the parents. At once I remembered the night at the café; perhaps you had decided to apologize and perhaps he had one or two things to say to you. At last peace was made and there would be no prospects of future vengeance. So I thought but so wrong I was. My discomfort began to grow as our distance grew. Life abhorred vacuum, you had no vacuum because my space was gradually being taken by the most unlikely of persons; Sergeant Tameh. The less people saw of you and me, the more they saw of you and Tameh. And I imagine that many a comrade would have wished to taunt me to my face; how I had been dumped by the most beautiful lady on camp. I tried to convince myself that all was still well between us; who would refuse the invite of a soldier’s company, especially in this camp where such acquaintanceship could save one some stress. But again I was wrong; time after time I could see that you two were very happy in each other’s company. In fact I had never seen you that happy, not at the café with your hot cup of coffee and not at the parade ground over your half-querulous jokes about camp officials. At last I had to concede that Sergeant Tameh had sparked a fire in you, a brilliant fire that flared throughout the campground and till the rest of camping. In an alternate universe and time, I had in my bile thought that Tameh’s would have been a Jurassic romance between two dinosaurs, whoever it was he loved. Now, he had broken through time and space and happened upon my Ewatomi. Life, for me, would never remain the same.    

       

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

ANATOMY OF THE FEMINIST MIND


   This is one topic in which you might not possibly fail to court controversy, it is a path of toes and you cannot walk without stepping on them, and since I intend to run here, surely toes will be crushed. Need I also say that diplomacy would demand that I say my mind without hurting anyone? The analogy of this would be to cut a pound of flesh and yet spill no blood. No, not with any surgical precision can this be guaranteed, and now I proceed in good company.

   Perfection does not exist in the same world as improvement, for one would always kill the other, more so in a topic as complex, maybe complicated, as to do with women. Here, I admit my imperfection, at best I am a decent improver.

    Long before Shaggy sang it, I had always thought that God was a woman. For the Jamaican musician, he ‘wondered’, but for me as a little boy whose definition of care, protection, fondness and warmth could hardly be found outside his mother’s embrace, I KNEW God was a woman. It presented itself as a rude reprimand when it began to get clear to me that God isn’t a woman (and isn’t a man too), and though my lifetime wouldn’t be enough a time to know who God really is, it has been a schooling knowing women all these years, but with knowledge, perhaps nothing can be entirely known.

   Women have held the world in place, birthed the home, the house and its builder, the porter and his clay, the artist and his brush. For every human who has walked this Earth, a woman pushed, yes, the pangs of childbirth, a painful experience some compare to immolation: women burn themselves to bear others. They are the first teachers of the child, the first guide of every human in this blind world. But soon this baby, a girl named Nnedi, is introduced into the harsh realities of feminine existence in our world... She is the first child, she sees her mother put to bed five more children in the next eight years, all daughters. she notices her father's increasing disappointment with the continued birth of daughters. On a very bad day, she comes home to her crying mother, the woman had been beaten for not having a male child. It is still not coming to this girl,  she has encountered boys at school and there doesn't seem to be much fuss about them, or such hype that her mother should be crying for not having a son. It hasn't come to her how much of no value her father held his six daughters that he is now considering getting another wife just to give him a son.
    Finally, her mother gets pregnant and over the next few months would go from one prayer house to another asking God for a son. Nnedi is growing bigger and is gaining the basic understanding that comes with age, so amidst the celebration when her mother put to bed a baby boy at the end of nine months, Nnedi is in much reflection and wonder. She is wondering why her father killed a big ram to celebrate, she is wondering why visitors wouldn't stop coming and she is wondering why none of these happened at the birth of any of her five sisters. Nnedi sees that the boy is treated with special care and honour, such that any of the girls isn't getting. Nnanna, the boy, wouldn't have to do house chores because they were meant for girls and he would just have to be groomed to inherit their father's legacies and wealth. However, Nnedi and her sisters wouldn't need much investment, as, in the words of their father, they would still be married off to other men, to breed and nurture children. He believed that his daughters should learn how to keep a home so that they wouldn't be problems to their husbands' homes.

   Nnedi is soon getting uncomfortable, she can't understand why she should one day leave her father's house to another man's house, drop her surname and pick up the man's, and live the rest of her life at his pleasure, subject to all his desires, demands, whims and caprices. She can't understand why even the reverend at Church would spend his sermon teaching women to be subject to their husbands and call them Lord like Sarah. She can't understand the profiling, why female sexuality is often the subject of ridicule: 'Beware of strange women, the daughters of Jezebel'. She can't understand why a woman's worth is sometimes screened through the lens of what value she adds to a man's life, yes, if she cannot cook she is not a wife material, if she can't do this or that she is not this or that, and if she is not married she is not complete.
   Nnedi remembers Linda, the senior business executive, a frontline entrepreneur who before her engagement  had been judged for years in the jury of public opinion and her only blemish was not having a man in her life. Nnedi looks North,  and sees Aishattu living with the other women in her father's harem. They are mostly covered up, and often denied education which is haram. And their entire existence is for the purpose of satisfying a man. Nnedi gapes as Aishattu is being married off at thirteen years to Mallam Nuhu, she whimpers as Aishattu puts to bed at fourteen and is soon down with VVF. Nnedi can't understand why this should be, why the men in Al Jannah would get seventy two virgins as reward: seventy two women whose eternal purpose would be to serve one man. Who would serve the women? Nnedi asks.

   Nnedi has a case,  a good case, a feminist case. She wants to see the dignity of a woman recreated. She wants the role and position of a woman redefined. That is as far as it goes with Nnedi.

  In several cultures, liberal and conservative alike, we would always find women who are dissatisfied with the status quo, women who believe that the stereotypes and profiles under which women have been made to live should be dismantled and a new framework established. Often times we find them engaging in different aspects of activism to demand for a better deal. However, method, is as important as purpose, and when undefined purpose cannot tell a spear from javelin, in method, sports becomes war. Here we find perhaps the biggest problem with feminism, no not the men, who are often erroneously considered the enemy, but rather feminism itself, what it means to one and to all. It doesn't need an extensive research to discover that many feminists do not even know what they fight for. Some are because their friends or heroines are, and when it is not mob mentality it is plain misandry.

   The problem continues, that even for those who believe they know and can properly define their own feminism, what feminism is to one is different from what it is to another to the end that there is hardly a consensus anywhere in the world on what feminism is just as 1+1=2. That is as far as theories go, but beyond theories, by their fruits we shall know them and we can see the invisible winds in the dance and sway of palms and branches. A person's actions speak volumes and so has militant feminism. There are some whose mindset empties entirely into actions that show more loathe for men than love for women, like in the words of Golda Meir, Arabs who would know no peace until their love for their children is more than their hate for Jews. This breed of feminists cannot differentiate between sameness and equality, and would oftentimes infer that women are same as men, consequently rolling over several fallacies as they try to argue out their points.
   The difference between men and women spread from emotional to physiological details and understanding and appreciating these differences have created high cultures where women are treated as ladies and men as lords. Yes, it is by understanding these differences that men open the car door for their ladies and walk them down the stairs. It is in that same understanding that we say 'ladies first' almost as an article of faith.
   Yes, chivalry isn't dead, and it was born by this understanding. Yes, ideally, men should treat women with such honour and respect that this understanding demands, and more importantly respect is reciprocal. But, somehow, a certain feminist orientation would rather have men and women struggle on the same queue for train tickets, or bread ration during a famine, bearing in mind the physical strength advantages that the man possesses over women and undermining them. Anything outside of this would suggest to her the obvious relative physical weakness of women, which is as clear as the sky on a bright day. At the same time, this breed of feminists would criticize the man for having no shame for raising his hands to hit a woman. 
'Coward,' they would say to the man, 'you dare hit a woman.'

   Talk about eating one's cake and having it back. It’s all militant feminism, all guns and thorns until it’s time to pee, and she says ‘ladies first’, or rebukes the man for being ungentlemanly because he didn’t open the car door for her, again we fetch the ground with questions; should women be relieved of their traditional responsibilities but men retain theirs and all the trappings of chivalry? Does the woman become a King (not Queen) and the man remain the King’s guard? If things change should things not change with them? 

   Another aspect of feminism found among another certain breed is a chronic victim mentality: the idea that the system has singled women out for mockery, marginalization and damnation. Why should women do the chores? Why should women be sexually objectified? Why should women drop their surnames for their husbands'? Why this and why that? And while some of these concerns are legitimate others are plain sick.
  I once came across a feminist who questioned why women should give birth, saying that child birth is rape, in her words 'the baby rapes the mother from inside out'. Such are the thoughts of these ones, 'We are victims, everyone despises us, everyone uses us, even babies rape us.' Just negodu. Of the legitimate concerns, it should also not be forgotten that men could ask 'Why should men work at the mines? Why should men pay the dowry? Why should, especially in the Nigerian context, a man be considered not fit to marry if he has no job but no one raises an eyebrow when a jobless girl walks into a wealthy man's house by the certificate of marriage?' For almost every legitimate feminist concern, men have got there struggles too. It is the system, it is the table bending here and there.
   However, truth must be said that this table seems to be tilted to masculine advantage. While chivalry isn't dead yet, male chauvinism is alive and well, and it stares us in our faces almost everyday. We are at a fancy Night club in Benin City, a group of boys walk in, rich and spoilt, they park their fancy cars outside the establishment and walk in with swag. Then they order for costly alcoholic beverages, and then one roars with a hoarse voice 'Where are the ladies at?!' Yes, there is that smack of entitlement in his voice, that arrogant exclamation at nobody. Soon a group of girls catwalk in, their skimpy clothes would go off one after the other till almost nothing is left to the imagination, each boy takes two or three of them for himself, he spends the night between gulping his wine, sucking his shisha and groping the girls' generous bodies. To him they are almost not human, they are almost the playthings of his hormones, almost as useful as a bottle of André or a shisha pipe, basically they are things to him.

   But who do we blame? The boys that need the girls to make their nightout complete or the girls that would so generously throw their bodies around the boys? Who should complain? Is it Iti Mpataka, who is typically minding his business or the feminist who is angry at the boys for having no respect for the girls and their bodies but would say nothing to the girls for having no self respect?
  Yes, we should talk of how Europe underdeveloped Africa but we should also talk of how Africa underdeveloped Africa. We should talk of male chauvinism but we should also talk of how women have helped it survive. How often in the university campus does a boy invite a girl over to cook for him and how often she doesn't say no? How often would he overtime make such demands? How often would he thus believe that he can always make such demands of any other girl? How often do girls get invited to hotels and they would gladly go, often times taking their friends with them? How often does this make the man believe that women are cheap and willing? Truth is ideas are fed by realities, and most women have not helped these realities. Most men believe in the superiority of men because most women have acted out inferiority.

  Here I should say that discussing feminism is very difficult when what it is is different from what it should be. Again I suggest that mission is as important as vision, and that the mission of feminism for the most part is deceptively detached from what the vision should be. The vision should be to balance the table and not to turn it. It should not be for women to have the table tilted to their advantage and to the disadvantage of men, that would be inheriting the load side on the lever of a skewed system, it would be a turned table but still a table. Yes under that system women would become kings and men would become palace maids, it would be revenge but like feminism now, it would be a matter of time before men start 'masculinism'.
    History has shown that oppressed puppies become the vengeful hounds of a turned table, imagine the early days of Nazism in Germany, or the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Fascists in Italy, the picture at the beginning often contrasts with the picture at the end. In all a turned table is bad news, a balanced table is not. Feminism should be able to design a vision and mindset that is realizable without man-hating. It should pursue a balanced table, a system that recognizes and respects our gender differences, it should pursue a system where men are lords and knights and women are no less ladies and amazons, not whores.

   In its mission feminism should love women and not hate men, it should work on the self-esteem of women. A woman who starves herself because she doesn't want to be 'fat', as defined by trend, is as much at home with low self-esteem as a woman who feels intimidated by a man, they are both the same all the same. Feminism should teach women to be hardworking and to strive to succeed on their own as it is odd putting on a pair of shoes, blouse and skirt, jewelry and undies all bought by a boyfriend or sugar daddy and remaining a feminist as we know it. Hardly would people treat you better than you treat yourself, thus feminism should also teach women to have respect for themselves first so that others can respect them so.

   Redefining the woman's position in society has gone a long way over the years, and this is an ongoing process which may never end. For example, in Christianity, for years women were not allowed to hold certain positions or participate in certain things, but the lively hands of continuous reformation have allowed women more freedom in Christianity, whereas two thousand years ago Saint Paul was saying that women should have no authority over men in the Church and should be in silence, two thousand years after women are pastors and bishops, presiding over men. Sudden change is often calamitous. Gradual change is often effective and with less casualty, but most times people are impatient to let a season run its course. We should all be patient as we seek a balanced table so that we may eat upon it with malice towards none and goodwill towards all.

   A question persists however, the sameness of man and woman has been addressed, but to what extent can we say that they are equal? I would say that they are equal and opposite like action and reaction, one the king of his world, the other the queen of her world, and both worlds existing together would always have clashes. My firm belief also is not that what a man can do a woman can do better, but that what a man cannot do, a woman was designed to do.


 ***Okwy

Thursday, 3 May 2018

PMB: SAVIOR OR THE FIFTH HORSEMAN OF THE APOCALYPSE?


   To many in Nigeria the needs of man are food, food and food. Anything outside of food is luxury. It is the reason they live, move and have their being, and bless the Lord, o my soul that I live in luxury. Under this category of people are categories, castes, creeds, races, and humans on both sides of literacy, from the plate-clutching Almajiri on the streets of Kano to the file-clutching unemployed graduate on the streets of Lagos (a proverbial mimicking of circumstance), both united by blinding sunshine and searing heat from the unforgiving sun, both haunted by the crowd of millions of colleagues awaiting water from Moses’s striking of the same rock and both united by their nagging desire for elusive food. To those as these (basically, majority of Nigeria’s population) the scariest picture in the Bible would be the third horseman of the apocalypse whose advent would usher in severe food scarcity. But chaos is a ladder, and severity a tool-to destroy men or put them in line, and Nigerians have learnt to live with both, but more than that one man, Muhammadu Buhari, has for the umpteenth time seemed to be the poster boy of severity in Nigeria, it has seemed to be his answer to chaos, his carrot and stick, his smacking right arm and cuddling left arm. But severity, in whatever synonym or for whatever intention is no less severe, and Nigerians, again, have learnt to live with it.

   The worst of his haters would agree that on every occasion the circumstances that lead to the emergence of Mr. Buhari as leader have always been circumstances that demanded the emergence of a deliverer or a hero, and that the popular emotion that follows his ascension is always something short of a Budhist monk watching the Lord Maitreya descend upon the Himalayas, or a Marian apparition to a Catholic faithful. At this point many would repeat the holy phrase ‘a new sheriff is in town’, they would raise their expectations of the man in whom is no guile and in whose cup is no strong drink, for wine is a mocker and strong drink a destroyer, but Buhari was always a reformer. With sanctimonious promises piling up many would say that of a truth this would be the rider on a white horse, crowned by the goodwill of Nigerians and his bow ready to conquer every ill of society. However, on each occasion the circumstances which have led to Mr. Buhari’s emergence have proven insurmountable, at least by him, and in most cases worsen under his watch. 

   His first coming on the last day of 1983 was as timely as it could be. The preceding administration was replete with all manner of corruption. The General made the world believe that his coming would be a departure from the larceny of the Shagari years, and that the indiscipline in the system could only be smothered by brute force. Alex Ekwueme was put in prison, while Shehu Shagari was put under house arrest, the ethnic import of their respective treatment was probably lost on observers who were either too busy adulating over the new sheriff who had come to clean the mess that they didn’t notice when the new sheriff began to add his own mess to the potpourri. Draconian decrees saw backdated judgements passed on people and folks sentenced to decades or life in jail, whichever came last. For the first time, we saw the government plot and almost successfully execute the kidnap of her own citizen from another country, yes, who remembers Umaru Dikko? We wouldn’t say there was no war against indiscipline, but this war was soon expanding its syllabus, it was soon becoming a war against everyone. As economic severity festered we queued to buy milk, bread, and just about everything. The slightest default from order was met with brute punishment, minor offences carried long sentences; exam malpractice was punishable by a 21 year prison sentence, and counterfeiting and arson could lead to death. We were disciplined but more than that we were humiliated. Also Decree Number 2 of 1984 saw to it that strikes and popular demonstrations were banned, and those who broke the interdiction on strikes were intimidated, harassed and jailed. Prophet Fela Kuti, a vocal critic of the government was arrested and jailed upon the most spurious of allegations. Things had become so unbearable that when the ‘Evil Genius’ IBB took over in August of ’85 the jury was out on a stressful task determining how severe history should be in vilifying the ousted General. Was he the rider on a white horse who rescued us from the corruption of Shagari’s era or was he the rider on a black horse with his pair of balances who rationed our food and hiked their prices? Or was he the spirit of both riders, the allotropes of same carbon?

   Not much was heard of or from the man of Daura till General Sani Abacha came to power in 1993, and in 1995 appointed him the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, a body that was created to pursue developmental projects around the country. Buhari’s PTF was transparent, and deserving of some ovation especially from the education sector as the body subsidized textbooks and aided the purchase of school equipment and infrastructural development. Yours sincerely cannot possibly forget having to purchase highly subsidized textbooks with the label ‘PTF Edition’ boldly inscribed on the front cover. But as with everything something, nothing is hardly ever without blemish, Mr. Buhari’s PTF has at some point or the other been criticized for covert corruption and questioned for allocating 20% of its resources to the military. In all Mr. Buhari’s performance at PTF was A+, and made not a few review their view of the man whose previous outing in government was nowhere near pleasant.  

   Fast track to the fourth republic, and we find our man casting different shades at different times, if he wasn’t declaring his dreams of a nationwide implementation of Sharia, he was questioning Lam Adesina, a Yoruba governor for, in his view, the unjust treatment of ‘his people’ in Oyo State. Was he coming into the new millennium, an ethno-religious warlord ready to speak out at all times for ‘his people’ be it creed or race? Whichever the case, his people loved him, and saw him as a defender of the weak, the champion of the Talakawas, a pious upholder of the faith and the truth: and upon the ground of these virtues, Sai Baba was born. Throughout his years of failed presidential contests, he was always the other guy in a two horse race, and when election time was over, he was that man that always had a better idea how things could have been done, the one man who knew the problem with Nigeria and who believed that the solution to all the problems had taken flesh in him. 

   Coming into the 2015 General Elections Mr. Buhari’s cult followership was building more and more among a demography of young northern youths, politically, the North had become his ‘conquered’ territory. For one, this was a homogenous region, more united than any other region in the country, and would always remain faithful to their own, come what may. And in this election more than ever before, Mr. Buhari was their own and the easy going man of Otuoke, GEJ, wasn’t. Add to that the fact that like Shagari’s, GEJ’s tenure was drowning in the sea of its corruption, with GEJ’s stealing is not corruption statement being a historic own goal and the classic highlight of impunity. Side by side with GEJ, many southerners were soon beginning to believe that Mr. Buhari was fit for beatification; and with a very efficient PR machine oiled by the political mastery of the Jagaban Borgu; Bola Tinubu, Sai Buhari became Saint Buhari in the South. Soon we were made to forget the ills of Mr. Buhari’s first coming, and to believe that a coupe plotter would be the champion of democracy. With proper alignment from the south, Mr. Buhari defeated GEJ, and Nigeria would never remain the same again. 

   The proverbial repetition of history, we were back at December 31, 1983, only that this time GMB was PMB. Expectations were high, people began to adjust to these expectations. Suddenly there was stable power supply, there was news of recovered loot here and there, and these without a cabinet, we were told the famous body language was working, and it worked but only for a time. The announcement of a cabinet, and several other appointment raised many eyebrows, as the lopsided nature was inconsistent with expectations of a multi-ethnic and religiously bipolar Nigerian state. We were seeing the first prances of prebendalism but we didn’t want to believe it. It was still too early for Mr. Buhari to be wrong. Oil prices fell and Mr. Buhari followed up on the legacies of GEJ in the area of agriculture: with the highlight being that 'local rice' became 'rice' especially as importation reduced. One silver lining on the dark cloud under which the country sat. Then fuel subsidy, whose existence had been notoriously doubted by you-know-who was removed by you-know-who and fuel pump price rose, dragging the price of everything along with it. More appointments followed, and as before it was evidently lopsided. Charges of bigotry and cronyism by the opposition were shouted down with excuses of ‘the President appointed those he trusts.’ A lame excuse it was,  but we swallowed hard and offered our benefit of doubt. Then the war against Boko Haram was intensified and not long afterwards the terrorists were declared technically defeated. IPOB who had been a nagging pain in the president’s behind was dealt a fatal blow in that bloody day at Umuahia and Aba. But a monster was feeding fatter in the middle belt, inspired by the third horseman, the rider on the red horse, the horse of bloodletting, (the victims saw Fulani Herdsmen, so I wouldn’t be politically correct here) Fulani herdsmen went on rampage destroying farms, and communities, plants and humans alike. The horror was spreading its fangs, over a hundred persons were killed in Agatu, Benue State, and about a similar number in Nimbo, Enugu State were killed. What followed was silence, a deafening silence from government. And as this silence lingered, many began to quote it as a tacit support of the herdsmen. Was this the height of PMB’s weakness; a total allegiance to his kith and kin, come what may? Nigerians waited for a brute response, relative to what was done to IPOB but when a response came, it was nowhere near the response Nigerians wanted. And true to our fears, the army of the dead have continued their march south, and the response still is relative silence. On another hand (there are several hands), nepotism and ethno-religious bigotry are alive and well in the polity. Corruption cases involving perceived political opponents are pursued with vigor, while that of cronies are pardoned or ‘cleared by the presidency’ like in the case of the relieved but yet to be prosecuted SGF. Corrupt elements with the broom are overlooked while those under the umbrella are hunted down, and any man who managed to swap the umbrella for the broom, to him it would be said ‘when I see the broom I will pass over you.’ On another hand, there is severe hunger in the land and on this we are made of questions. What have we not seen? Is it a cauldron of weak porridge stolen gallantly from the fire place? Is it a father strangling his son over half a loaf of bread? Is it a mother borrowing a measure of rice with her baby as collateral? More than our love for food is our love for survival but now we have been dealt a huge hindrance to both. We ask more questions, are we getting a free lesson, an introduction to primitive severity? Why should tales not suffice for we the progenies of those who witnessed his first mounting of a horse? Yes, it is an introduction to primitive severity but have we not met the introduction halfway? Yes, we have staggered, and we have fallen, fetching the ground with out skinny bums. He that is down now needs fear no fall, but who knows of this ground soaked in blood, the blood of Agatu people, and all other people slain and burnt while the rider rode along with especial disinterest.

   In the face of all these, good and bad, there are those who would exculpate Mr. Buhari from the issues that Nigerians have witnessed under his tenure. Some believe he is a saviour always coming back to dig the country out of mess, and that he has simply been unlucky: unlucky to have become the president just at the edge of a recession (based on the thesis that GEJ's government was about throwing the country into recession just before Mr. Buhari took over). These also believe that the global fall in oil prices, and not Buhari's government, worsened the recession. They believe also that Mr. Buhari is unlucky for being the president at a time desertification had forced herdsmen to migrate more than ever before downwards and thus leading to a 'clash' with their southern hosts. Some in this category of Nigerians would always absolve Mr. Buhari of any responsibility, and would even help purvey the infamous 'the president is not aware' excuse. They, however, would not agree that Nigeria can as well do entirely without a presidency that is either unresponsive, 'not responsible', or for the most part unaware, that we can as well switch to autopilot and achieve as much success as Mr. Buhari's regime.

   As 2019 approaches Nigerians prepare for another election year. The question on minds that are not yet made up is 'who really is Mr. Buhari?' Yes, another four years from 2019 might be his last ride, we might see it out and either forget he ever came or wish he never had to leave, but in the event of another four years of Mr. Buhari's presidency who does he ride as? The first and second horsemen that we saw in 1983-85? All four horsemen, (adding the grim reaping second and fourth horsemen) that we have seen so far in his second coming? Would he ride as a savior, a true deliverer? Or would he ride as a fifth horseman, his horse covered in surprises and colours that we haven't seen before? 

   Sadly, many Nigerians do not care what he would be in his last ride, to them there should be no last ride, or Mr. Buhari may end up handing over to his successor the ashes of Nigeria and Nigerians. 

   But still among many of those who share faith or race with Mr. Buhari, 'Sai Baba' has become an article of faith, an emblem with the permanence of a forehead scar from excessive prayer, unaffected by sun or rain.

   Whichever way things go, scribes would pull out their pens to write about a man who ruled Nigeria twice and the question would remain: 'Who really was Buhari?'.

Iti Akwu is a dry cleaner based in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Friday, 13 April 2018

WHY?

   There is a reason other than hunger why Ekaette stole a cut of meat from the pot. An obvious guess would be gluttony but a sense of accomplishment is always a reason. Yes, in context meat is luxury, adds prestige to the top of whatever meal it is you are having. It is the franchise in the soup, the ticket seller, the prize fighter, and the District of Columbus in our freaking Washington. What glory is there in a simple covert lick of soup? But a meat steal has all the badassness a domestic graft could have. A careful lift of the lid and a soundless return of the cover is attained not after a few attempts.
   There is a reason other than hate why people killed Jews in World War Hitler. What was with all that lust for blood? But would you say 'vielen dank' when people bomb your homes and kill your loved ones. First the spill of blood, then vengeance takes a pound of flesh, and in avenging the avenger we brake some bones too. Soon, all men go mad and those who wouldn't hurt a fly now cry out for blood. Yes, there were those who wouldn't have given a damn about 'Hiel Hitler' and his conspicuous moustache but needing to stay alive had to kill.
   There is a reason other than duty why the caged bird sings. Yellow and beautiful it sits upon that lone branch hanging across that small cage, a few grains litter the floor and a few white shits too, but somehow in this gloom, our bird sings. Do I now think it has so much known its pain that it now enjoys it? Do I think the birdsong is a praise or a dirge? Do I think the canary might have something to say? Can't really say what but would say yes that there is a reason other than duty why the caged bird sings.
   There is a reason other than silly why the Urukhai fight without plans. Yes, their IQ is so low it lives underground and to reason with them you literally have to dig deep. But what if they know better than to torture the mind? Death would still come to all, to the loser at war as well as to the winner.        What if pain is so memorable that soon you begin to miss it, and pleasure so fleeting that you soon forget it? What if there is a reason other than gravity why we are stuck on Earth? What if the Martians are so invincible that they are invisible? What if there is a reason other than pride why the lion fights for his pride? What if there is a reason other than love why he loves you? And if there is a reason other than the reason what if we never get to know it?

*Ibuanyi Danda is a Tanker Driver based in Mogadishu.

Monday, 2 April 2018

THE OTHER SIDE OF INCLUSION

'Goodnight' is more lovely than 'Good morning', of this there are no ifs or buts. Darkness may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning, so says the good book, but it is an odd irony that in this one instance sunset thumps sunrise. And dusk preens above dawn. Quite often we are wrapped around our lovers' arms and are kissed goodnight, and quite as often we yawn our listless 'good morning'. 
The dawn of the left wing control of governments of nations has brought with it as much smiles as frowns, as much embrace as smothering, and as much questions without answers as answers that can't be questioned. Devout liberals believe the ideology to be the best thing since Adam hugged Eve, what with all their monopoly over sensationally charged words such as progress, tolerance, inclusion, diversity, forwardness among others. It should not go without saying that under the foster care of liberalism such words have been manipulated to guard and protect pre-existing liberal excesses from being questioned or criticized. Even when Liberalism eggs society on unto depravity and all manner of banality, one would not want to question 'progress' unless he is certainly a backward deplorable (apologies Hillary Clinton). Yes, I am wont to having a certain level of aversion to what I would rather call 'Hyper Liberalism'. A full dossier of my protestations would take up volumes of both space and the invaluable time of the reader, however, a-bit-at-a-time might prove as potent in driving home points as a guillotine would the neck of a corrupt French nobleman, and with less boredom to boot.
Tonight's bit scratches the gold plate of inclusion or, as the trend in profiling is, inclusionism. Liberalism encourages inclusion, and inclusion here when detailed would mean spicing up the hitherto homogeneous makeup of society. That would mean more hijab wearing girls in London schools, a kebab kitchen on every street of Canterbury, at least one gay athlete in the US Olympic team, immigrant Turks taking up seats in the German parliament, or an LGBTQXYZ quota in every government board by year 20whatever. This might not suffice to explain what inclusion is all about here,  but you get the general idea. As good as it might sound to spread our arms and embrace some more diversity, we shouldn't choke on its overdose and begin to lose touch of reality. Reality here is that while more and more focus is given to the so called inclusion, focus is shifting from excellence. People are getting things handed to them by their claim to the so called minorities of society worthy of inclusion. No one asks the question if the gay athlete in the Olympic team is worth his place in the team, or should he/she make the cut ahead of a better athlete just because society should embrace gays and give them inclusion? Wonder what inclusion would have done to the several space missions if one random so called disadvantaged group came up protesting that they wanted one of theirs in the space mission, or say the Manhattan project, that Albert Einstein, the Albert Einstein had to step aside so a demographic of a certain religious, racial or sexually adventurous humans partakes in inclusion. What happened to merit? Who gives a damn about whether or not a man should get 'included' on the silly premise of the fact that he would rather dip his coin in another man's you-know-what? Truth is that if the push for inclusion is not moderated,  if we don't look at a spade and call it by it's name, a damn spade! Then one day government offices, parastatals and key positions in public service would be occupied by people who do not merit them, people who should have no business with the seat they occupy. You may not like President Trump,  as CNN has schooled us to not to, but I believe he was right in saying 'No' to having transgender quota in the US military, in his own sentiments, it isn't wise entrusting the defense of one's country to a man who would rather be pre-occupied with how he wants to look like a woman or vice versa. Let those who merit it do the damn job. If anyone wants to get into school, government or on the plane to the Olympics he or she shouldn't queue behind the joke of Inclusion. Everyone should go through the screening and let the best get the job irrespective of colour, creed or carnality. If society continues to stir the inclusion waters we may end up drowning excellence in the ocean of sentiment? We may end up kissing goodnight to real progress and yawning good morning to mediocrity and retrogression. A word is enough for the wise, a whole book the foolish would not read. Ndewo nu.

**Iti Bolibo is a social critic based in Vietnam.

Friday, 2 March 2018

FORWARD, BUT AROUND A CIRCLE


First, the time comes when a people have to choose between their survival and the survival of the principle by which they live. Would Americans rather die than America cease to be the land of the free? Two, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result has been demonized as insanity, but that is only half the tale, because Einstein didn’t follow things down to a tee. Monotony is torture but, sure, one can do the same thing over and over again and not only expect but get a different result if he is a seeker of perfection. Yes, it’s true, it’s damn true. Keep doing it, Andre Pirlo says, and don’t stop when you get it right, stop when you can’t get it wrong. Upon these aphorisms I trek this well-beaten path; Project Nigeria. 
Etymologically a misnomer because there is in reality no project, at best an artificial congregation of ethnic nationalities bound by 1914 under circumstances I am always reminded to forget because I hate to love it, and at worst a parody of the Hobbesian State of Nature. However, project Nigeria still stares us in the face like a boil atop our noses, accessible to the view of both eyes and we must decide what to do with or about it. Sadly all hands can’t press on this boil at the same time, but all hands may decide which select hands press on this ripe boil on our behalf. And we must get our best hands to do the job. The outcome of every election, and later tenure, since the first time a Nigerian thumped upon a ballot paper has indicted the brains protected at unnecessary expense within our craniums. But when one wonders again, we see that there are in most cases no better options; it is always the choice between or among two or more evils, choosing the most human of the devil’s favorite demons. On the way to 2019, I laugh when I hear the ruling party say that the opposition party destroyed Nigeria for 16 years because the great majority of those who make up the ruling party today were key members of the opposition party when it destroyed Nigeria for 16 years. Mathematically, it would then be correct to say that the bigger part of the ruling party destroyed Nigeria for 16 years. Case is that irrespective of political party, the Nigerian political class is fraught with a complex of psychotic cases, ranging among outright naked mad men, dogs with crowns instead of leashes, and tipsy megalomaniacs drunk on empty adulations of ‘my leader’. This we already know, but the point we miss is that the system has been designed to present such like minds every four years for election, there is no breaking the cycle except by a revolution or an outright rearrangement of the system. It is a bakery system very unfitted to any known variation of democracy where the national cake is shared. Why is there nepotism? Because in a situation of great scarcity, people tend to take care of their own first. So, a people will rise and say ‘it is our turn to rule’, a euphemism for, ‘it is our turn to be the chief baker, our turn to eat the national cake.’ Taking turns at this turns will never make for progress as those who wait their turn would gym their greed while waiting. We will just keep marching forward, but around a circle.     
This puts to the test my aphorisms, should we continue to do the same thing over and over again in hope of someday getting our best hands on the job, or do we collapse this apparatus into a more relevant and workable arrangement? Do we keep doing this until we miraculously arrive at men who would ditch the turn system and create a merit-driven system where the best hands get the job at every level of the society and administration, a society with functional institutions where the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody (apologies Aminu Kano), or do we rearrange the terms and structure of engagement as nations within project Nigeria, and let each region answer his father’s middle name while retaining Nigeria’s surname. Each region may instead of waiting their turn to handle the sharing knife and enjoy the spoils of cronyism go ahead to adopt relevant and workable socio-economic policies and institutions that would not only be fitting to their way of life but also integrate their ambitions and dreams. Under such circumstances, no one would say without being rebuked that anyone is holding him back. And tales of marginalization would be folklores. No system is perfect but there are lots of systems that are better than what we have, and you may never know how better until you have tried them out. Really, if Nigeria is to remain the same and not atrophy, then things have to change.    
During the last round yet, of the Biafran demand, there were those who remonstrated on the premise of an alternative to secession: ‘instead, join us to work for the progress of One Nigeria’, they said. Now we are back, at least for now, with our shovels, but there is nobody on the site of the said progress. Truth often has a sad reality that bites with the sharpness of a pest. And in this case it is that progress is not for the lily-livered, progress is not for the comfortable, and progress is not for those whose objective is convenience. Progress is for those who understand that we are messengers from our fathers to our children; that we hold the world in trust to both, and that none of our actions should destroy either the legacies of our fathers or the hopes of our children. This is not time to recline in convenience, it is time for those who remonstrated against the Biafrans to come out with their shovels and work for the progress of Nigeria. 
Some things have to change for other things to remain the same. At this stage we have to toss any unproductive weight overboard, so that this sail might last another day. The more important things have to remain the same, and in this case the people are the more important things. Just think, if the people die, for whom would the ship survive? But if the people survive, anything is possible.

Agwo Turumbe is a social activist based in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

2019: ELECTING GOD


The realm of men often witnesses divine interventions, and quite fittingly, men on this side of the globe are quick to lay their lazy limitations at the feet of God. In all our toils there is always a place to put God. We praise God when we win and we blame his will when we don't. Some 'bless God' when they sneeze, and when ultimately we die, the priest would at our interment say that the Lord has given and has taken. Sometimes I wonder how God sees this, and how God sees us. A people of extreme contradictions, ostentatiously religious yet closet sinners, flamboyantly kind but strangely accustomed to compensation, widely here and thinly there. That defines us, that defines Nigerians. Here dogs eat dogs, felines and canines scavenge for meat, and dung beetles roll their shit. In the melee of our unfortunate civilization, interdisciplinary scholars invest their minds in wondering what sense their could have been in effecting such an unworkable sociopolitical amalgam as ours, yet a bigger wonder is how we have been able to remain worn and still one, and ,as the system now is, manage to elect from amongst us hyenas and jackals, pumas and panthers to lead us. On these we keep wondering.
The aftermath of 2011 witnessed the soaking of dogs and baboons in blood, as one was said to have sensationally promised. A number of young Nigerians serving their fatherland, perhaps who had believed in the maxim 'Think not what your country can do for you, but think of what you can do for your country' were killed in northern mobs. The next four years, the tenure of the aptly named Doctor GOODLUCK Ebelemi Jonathan, was characterized by industrial scale corruption. And lucky Joe never seemed to give a damn. And though he should be given credit for his government's efforts in agriculture and the railroad sub-sector of transportation, he is infamously remembered for his siddon-dey-look outfit to occasions of larceny under his nose, and for this reason on the road to FeBuhari 2015, the sensation for most Nigerians was 'anything but Jona'. And by March of that year, the man from Daura came on board. Three years on, any honest Nigerian devoid of ethnic sentiments and political party bias would confess to the reality of the near-apocalyptic condition of the country. The regime is not only failing, but is compounding its innate ineptitude with brash cockiness and the intimidation of dissenting voices, not forgetting that pungent aversion to plurality of opinion which has proven to be perhaps its biggest single trademark. As with 2014, the sensation yet again is 'anything but Baba'. Obj has written a letter, PDP has applauded him, APC is quibbling over semantics, politics is on and, as always, governance is off, but in all of these the common man does not care what games the high lords play, all he wants is good governance. He wants to be able to use good roads, afford decent meals, and pay his bills, but successive administrations have denied him this. 2019 is by the corner, and many Nigerians have from the pit of their disappointment in the man whom Fela called 'the beast of no nation' come up with the chorus of 'VOTE OUT Buhari'. And here, as with 2015, they have missed a very important point: there is basically nothing as 'voting out',  we merely VOTE IN a new canditate,  and the incumbent loses. The angst of many is invested towards voting out (an electoral misnomer) a man, but only a few understand that this can only be achieved by voting in another person. And here we are supposed to be more concerned not with the question of who we are voting out but who we are voting in, because all we can do whether for PMB or for Iti Mpataka is to vote, and the result of our votes would determine who will be out or in. 
But, we find a more complex reality which is that THIS Nigeria seems impossible to be salvaged. Not by a Nigerian certainly, leaders are a reflection of those they lead in most cases. As presently constituted, the combined efforts of Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Wladimir Putin and Otto Von Bismarck wouldn't effect any remarkable change in the country. The task of leading THIS nigeria, for any of the mentioned men is as handing over a bicycle with clogged chains and spokes to Lance Armstrong, only the miracle working God can do the impossible. The current structure of the country has always been unworkable. A system where states are run by a monthly cash handout called allocation can only groom administrative and economic laxity or indolence especially among a people well known for their culture of consumptiveness. It took the socioeconomic and political realities unfortunately being witnessed in this and recent administrations to expose this fact. The vehicle of Nigeria cannot pilot Nigerians on these wooden tires and moribund one cylinder engine. We need a vehicle fit to specs that can make for efficiency and comfort. Nigerians simply have to be freed from THIS Nigeria. A new Nigeria has to be negotiated with new and pragmatic sociopolitical and economic structures that would loosen up the jammed ethno-religious clogs that have held us back. If we can't live in peace as family, perhaps we can live in peace as good neighbors in a restructured Nigeria where each people can choose to develop at their own pace. Certainly two cannot walk together except they agree, and we are yet to agree, 'One Nigeria!' a man shouts from Kaduna, 'Worn Nigeria!' a man hears in Onitsha. And with each at the other's neck we stand at point not moving forward.
Our prism now deflects light towards an equally disturbing matter: the god in Abuja. Considering the amount of power a Nigerian President wields, he is not in any way a mere mortal. The National Assembly should also be mentioned here. The worry gets deeper when one considers the wide possibility of an unworthy character being bestowed with such power. In Nigeria's political class are several megalomaniacs, sociopaths and psychopaths, people who in saner climes would either be in psychiatric hospitals or doing jail time in some maximum security prison. But here they are always a vote's distance away from controlling our commonwealth and national fortunes. Such gods are grossly incapable of basic rational thought, talk more of conceptualizing progressive state policies. At times they come across as ethnic warlords with the clannish devotion of a Bantu tribal chief in the Mfecane wars of the Southern Bantu. And with such unstable homosapiens armed with the seat of a god, ethno-religious supremacy becomes a government policy in a multi-ethnic state as Nigeria. The mere fact of Nigeria housing over 200 ethnic groups and subgroups suggests that a very powerful center ruled by a god is not a wise arrangement. The fiery contest for political godship would dominate the national political landscape at the detriment of socioeconomic progress. And one step deeper in this worry is that the elected gods always fall short of the basic responsibilities of government. Add to this that the cost of governance is this high because maintaining a god isn't cheap. It is my firm belief that keeping this god is an expense Nigerians cannot afford and do not need. 
Every four years we are back to the trenches, North vs South, with mutual distrust we hope to take turns at power, a very massive, bloated and ineffective power structure. The center which controls such great power is always so far from the people in the remoteness of their dwelling, a regional government controlling much of the powers which the center now controls would be a more workable arrangement as the government would be closer to the people and for the proximity would have no choice than to be more accountable and transparent than when the yams were taken to the faraway Abuja and shared, boiled and eaten with egg sauce. Case in point is Benue state with her present security challenges, I imagine that if the security apparatus in the state is under the command of the state government, much of what has happened wouldn't have happened. State policing would be one dividend of a restructured Nigeria such that instead of waiting from orders from Abuja, security forces can do their job without such needless and redundant bureaucracy. Restructuring Nigeria would also entail making the central government less powerful and attractive, both in the executive and lesgislative arms. And consequently there would be less tension during elections at the national level. The utopia would be a confederacy but at worst a parliamentary system of government in a regional framework would do, something similar to the first republic. Let the regions take their destinies in their hands, remit only about 20% of their fortunes to a weaker central government for matters of foreign affairs, defense and other national issues. The nation's military forces should reflect the multi-ethnic demographics of the nation. Each region should be equitably represented in the army, navy, air force, and the secret service. With these and other such steps taken there wouldn't be such tales of marginalization from any region as before as everyone is now in charge of his fortunes. But without a structural readjustment of this country, the 2019 election would as always be to elect a god in a choice of two evils. And no matter our choice, with the structure on ground only GOD can make any progressive change.

**Iti Mpataka is a social commentator based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

THROUGH BROKEN LENSES




Keeping in touch and reconnecting with childhood friends and acquaintances has not always been a sweet venture for me. Asides the fact that the conversation might at some point end up being awkward, it is also the possibility of one party sensing the other's preconceived notion about him playing out subtly while the conversation lasts.

A few months ago, I got in touch with a dear friend of mine from way back in primary school who currently resides in the United States. Back then, she used to be every teachers darling and from all indications, life was all nice and rosy for her. There, while we rebounded via Facebook chat, I couldn't help but think about what she thought of me. Not what life had come to be, but what kind of lens I was viewed with amidst the pretty smile that hung on my profile picture. Was I still that kid who loved to talk faster than a parrot or did I still come across to her as that failure who didn't stand a chance of getting promoted into sixth grade? How much of the old me had she willingly let go of?

It was Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher that said that "Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards." Not many persons are ready to do away with the old you yet. Family would always want to remind you of how you budded before their very eyes and acquaintances want to suppress your growth with horrible relics from your past. Although, they really want to have a good look at you, they do that through broken lenses. 

However, gradually, one would begin to realize that this behaviour is nothing but man's natural tendency. A tendency that is very repellent to change.

I had dialouged with a sweet lady over the week who mentioned remarkably that life had a way of producing 'different editions of us.' My heart did a thousand suplexes when I heard that! Yes, life is very progressive with each progression birthing a different version of us better than we were yesterday. Although, I was not much of a wearisome kid growing up, but I sure knew I took some shameful decisions based on my plain of understanding then and with time, I have evolved and still am evolving. 

Life has taught us that we don't get to see the end of people and so there is really no gain in strolling occasionally into the archives of their pasts to read-out-loud outdated editions of them or viewing them from blurred perspectives, lest you run the risk of damaging your eye sight with myopia.

Thanks for reading and have a Merry Christmas
©Okiemute