The Integrity of the Vote MUST Be Maintained #NigeriaDecides

March 30, 2015

Nigerians have voted. I stood in the sun with them and watched them vote. Their will MUST prevail whatever the IJAW, the IBO, the HAUSA, the KANURI the PDP or the APC think.

While it is undeniable that there have been many irregularities NATIONWIDE the observers are right - overall the entire process is credible.

It would be unconscionable for the federal government to seek to use the instruments of state to hold on to power once the people have spoken through the ballot box. The Nigerian civil society is vigilante.

Any politician that refuses to accept the manifest will of the people and calm his followers should be noted and reported for hate speech and inciting violence. Please note – your evidence maybe needed in a court of justice.

Let peace reign. Say NO to Violence.

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Hilltop Primary School, Umuaka March 28, 2015 The people’s votes COUNT

I’m Not Voting – Here Is Why #NigeriaDecides

March 27, 2015

I was in the UK during voters registration. I couldn’t register in the UK.  And I couldn’t come back to Nigeria just to register. Makes me wonder why in the 21st century I have to be physically present in my country of residence to register or even to vote. So that was how I was disenfranchised.

The National Conference approved voting rights for the Nigeria ‘Diapora’. But Andy Uba, Chairman Senate Committee on Electoral said that it wasn’t possible because Nigerian Embassies don’t have data on all Nigerians living abroad. David mark, Senate President said it the logistics are impossible and too expensive.

“Nigerians in the Diaspora have expressed their anger over their imminent disenfranchisement from the 2015 General Elections beginning on Saturday.” 

I’m not a ‘Nigerian in Diaspora’. Do you people even now the meaning of Diaspora? It sounds like a slave term. Like ‘mulatto’ or ‘half caste’. It is not sexy. Economic migrant sounds better. Or lets appropriate the white mans term – Nigerian Expatriates. Anyway. I was a Nigerian ‘in transit’. Absentee, not Diaspora. Not Expatriate. I was gone for a while. I didn’t even work. I’m not resident over there.

What I needed was an absentee voters process. I don’t think I need a constitutional amendment to get that done. I don’t think it will cost all that much. What will an extra 152 card readers at each embassy cost? And an online link? Some extra training? But I know it cant and won’t be done any time soon

There are a lot of things that can’t be done in Nigeria and wont be done till we implement a national identity scheme. The ‘rulers’ don’t want to implement it because then we night actually know exactly how many Nigerians live where and might actually start an equitable revenue allocation system.

We don’t have data on Nigerians living in Nigeria! Is Andy Uba a moron?

Until thats done, until someone at Aso Rock grabs his or her balls and does it even at risk of death by assassination or political death there will be no development in Nigeria. That should be the first promise from anyone that is sincere about reforming Nigeria and ending impunity and corruption. Not how many jobs you going to create. Who you creating them for? You don’t know do you?

This lack of a national registration system also hampers development in the private sector. I know entrepreneurs are getting creative to overcome the challenge but it imposes limits on a sector that needs to grow to get Nigeria out of its present doldrums.  We don’t even have an accurate census. Until we fix that one this will remain a zoo.

So, I’m not voting but I am going out there to observe and report on what I see. That is also my constitutional right as a Nigerian citizen.

Vote wisely And remember, we will do it again in 4 years. Its not a do or die affair.

Say no to violence.

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In Case You Been Wondering I’m In Umuaka for #NigeriaDecides2015

March 26, 2015

A lot of people been asking what I’m doing in the village. Maybe you thought about it but were to polite to ask. Its really none of your business but I don’t mind telling you … you know me…I’m an open book. I like to explain to people why my way is the best way…for me anyway.

It all started last year…or was it in 2013 sef. You know by now I spent the last two years knocking around south east England. Yes, imagine. That I had that kind of time and leisure. I am truly blessed beyond words. Don’t hate.

My first year In England I lived in a small village called Westmeston. Population 350. I couldn’t help comparing it to my village. Mind you in Umuaka per capita GDP is $3527 slightly more than the national average of $2800. In Westmeston it’s almost £40,000, well over the UK average of £27,100. The Westmeston population drive Ferrari’s, Bugatti’s and Bentleys. I stayed on a manor estate – Middleton Manor. When I went for walks I had to give way to horses.

A 30 minute walk from Westmeston is Ditchling – population 3000. And home to the nearest pub.

The car park at the Bull the local pub in Ditchling was always full of expensive cars. If you saw a regular Rover its because the owner left his or her Range Rover at home. My daily walks terminated at The Bull. I became a regular. They even knew my name. 

It was during those walks between Westmeston and Ditchling that I began to think of all the things that could be done in my village, Umuaka. I couldn’t help but think how focused Nigerians are on the federal Presidency in Nigeria and completely ignorant of our the local governments and most of our states.

While we chase the cat for stealing the cream, we ignore the mice that are stealing the cheese.

The building blocks of the nation, the 447 local government areas ARE the key to grass roots development. I want to find out up close and personal exactly what is going on right here in my village and my local government. Is there local government accountability? Are they creating economic opportunities? I want to know.

Whether we like it or not elections are not lost or won on Twitter, Facebook or even in Abuja. Elections are lost and won in the local governments and in the wards. Until we all start to pay attention to what happens in the local governments – politically and administratively – we can’t create the change we want.

Can we change the administration of local governments? Who can make Rochas  conduct local government elections? Who will penalise Rochas for withholding more than 80% of the local governments monthly allocation? What can be done about so called transition chairmen in Imo State going to kiss ass each month to get just barely enough to pay salaries including their own?

Let’s not be deceived by sycophancy, rhetoric and vitriol.

Vote wisely beautiful people. And remember, we get another chance in 4 years.

Diseye Tantua a talented Nigerian artist has made the molue the subject of a series of  delightful 'African pop art' paintings.

Diseye Tantua a talented Nigerian artist has made the molue the subject of a series of delightful ‘African pop art’ paintings.

Reporting Police Abuses from Umuaka in Imo State

March 11, 2015

This morning at about 10am I heard an altercation on the main road in front of Hilltop Primary School. Some of the children were playing outside less than 100 yards away. The altercation was between an illegal police check point right in front of the school where the road was bad forcing vehicles to slow down.

The police at the check point had tried to stop a G Wagon that was passing. The driver didn’t stop at first then stopped a little way in front. The police, apparently enraged, jumped into his car and seized the car keys. The driver, aware resisted them and before you know it shots were fired. More people gathered.

The gathered Umuaka Youths became restive. Calls were made, the DPO and the DCO arrived with a squad of police men. The DPO tried to convince the driver to go to the police station with them and settle the matter but he resisted. The crowd grew. The mob remembered the police. The police remembered the mob.

In 2006 twin brothers from Achara Umuaka that excavated sand by the River Njaba for a living – the only job creating industry in Umuaka and an ecological disaster – were in a tipper going to work. They had just dropped firewood for their old mother and before proceeding for the days work. They got to the police check point just before the Njaba bridge. It was always there extorting money from the industry.

The police stopped the tipper. The driver didn’t or couldn’t stop, a police man jumped up on the running board and shot the driver through the window. The tipper went out of control and rolled over. The twins in the flat bed of the truck were crushed under it and died instantly. The youths of Umuaka heard and a mob proceeded to the crash site.

That day was a day in the history of Umuaka. The youths burnt the police vehicle at the check point and went and sacked the police station. All the police officers ran away. The rioting youths broke into the armoury and took all the weapons. That night there was an air of celebration in the air. The occupiers had been defeated. But the feeling didn’t last for long.

The commissioner of police sent for reinforcements from Calabar. The next morning they invaded the community. Four battalions of anti riot police men drove through the town shooting sporadically. The citizens abandoned what ever they were doing and ran into the bush. An eye witness describes a siege and seeing the old and physically challenged running for dear life. The immobile were left behind.

After scattering and subduing the populace the police looted and destroyed the market. They broke into shops and scattered the contents, pouring vegetable oil into rice strewn across the street and mixing rice and garri from sacks. Only they know what may have happened to any money or other valuables.

Today a community leader faced off with the police, reminding them of the restiveness of Umuaka youths, questioning their wisdom in firing shots so close to a school and what may have happened if there had been a death. The DPO is new, he doesn’t know the history or he wants to win his promotion by subduing the restive town. That may be a hard sell.

Did I mention before that there is a ‘Biafra Command” here? I’ve asked what it means but no one wants to tell me. Is it because I am a woman? I laugh in Igbo.

I’m watching.

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So I Got In Touch With My Feminine – Accepting Her Was The Hard Part

February 4, 2015

Growing up in the Igbo heartland we valued industry. Igbo women are very industrious and hard working. They farm, go to market and feed the household. Their men pay rent (shelter), school fees, medical, clothes and all the other objects of a quality life. Nowadays some progressive Igbo men let their wives do civil service or bank work and buy their own clothes and trinkets.

I used to call myself ‘di bi ulo’ which in Igbo means head of the household. After all as a single mother I paid the rent, the school fees, medical, put food on the table and clothes on the kids back. And because I  made  the money I made the decisions how to spend it. I used to ask the conservative men in my training workshops why they let their women sit on their ass at home.

If you ask them why they don’t want their women to be in the more ‘masculine’ endeavours – like politics, long distance trade, government, commerce etc etc, they most frequently say they don’t want their women to be ‘manly’. Someone said they don’t want their women to be like me. I took it as a compliment back then.

When I started ayurveda therapy in 2013 I was told my physical symptoms were the outcome of suppressing my feminine energy. I didn’t quite get it then but I attempted to examine it here and here  Over the course of the past two years as I took my herbal supplements and did my yoga I started to notice a change. In November my therapist said “Your feminine energy is emerging, and it is so tender”.

(Yeah lady why do you think we buried it so deep underground in the first place.)

Feminine energy – emotions.

“Les you’re too emotional” my friend tells me as I cry on her shoulder over my latest heartbreak.

In 2005 I took an online personality test that said I thought like a man but was more emotional than the average woman. Go figure. So I’m emotional. I can accept it now. I’m feminine – thats ok.

Its not the end of the world – its a great beginning. Being able to acknowledge that I am emotional – very emotional and apparently more so than most women is actually very empowering. I’m not resisting it like I did before when I still believed that emotions were ‘bad’ – in the corporate world and in modern relationships too according to said friend.

“Roll them up into a bundle and toss them aside” she advices.

“Sister thats how I got hyperthyroidism. I almost died you know.”

“Ewo! Is that why my own thyroid is developing goitre?”

“Think about it.”

“Ah! So what should I do? I’m missing my boy o”

“Call him”

“I no go call am o. I no fit be like you. What if he hurts me?”

“You’ll survive. Look at me – I survive and I still believe in love. Just next time I’ll make sure its someone that can handle my emotional needs.”

Lovers by Tolu Aliki

Lovers by Tolu Aliki

How I Started Smelling Like A Native And Found My Purpose

January 30, 2015

 

I’m in the middle of the bush in south east Nigeria. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling with my arms over my head I catch a whiff of something completely human. Not acrid or putrid or rank, just very strong. And human. It takes me a second to realise that its me. I forgot what I smelled like, the I before deodorant, body spray and expensive french perfume.

Its not an unpleasant smell and people aren’t moving away from me or holding their noses but I am of course completely outraged!

“Smell? B.O.? Me keh?!! This is not acceptable!” screams my inner prima donna raised on Cosmo and Vogue.

But I’m in the middle of the bush in eastern Nigeria and I’ve run out of deodorant so whether I find it acceptable or not, whether its below minimum standards of civilisation or whether its an infringement of my fundamental human right to smell good is completely irrelevant right now.  I have to face the Beast! The Woman in the Mirror! Whose that smell?

I take a deeper whiff. I’m not used to it so its a bit of a shock. I expect it to be unpleasant because all my life I heard that body smells are unpleasant and should be masked with all the vigour of a military occupation. But its not unpleasant, it smells earthy like the first rains or nzu or freshly turned soil. I take another whiff. I like this smell.

Of course this smelly incident is just a metaphor for what happens when you hide the real you somewhere behind layers of civility, responsibility and respectability – like perfume and deodorant. You’re told you should be like this, not like that and so you come to hate and deny that other you that you hide behind plastic smiles and glazed eyes.

I had to smell myself, literally and figuratively, to find out who I really am and that I love the person that I am. And I had to be in the middle of the African bush and run out of deodorant to come to the realisation that –  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to stop using deodorant or perfume. You don’t have to experience how I REALLY smell. Its very personal. Animals identify each other through smell you know. And some people smell so repulsive there should be a law against them. Their negative impact on me  motivates me to smell good more than Cosmo and Vogue – which I stopped reading long ago.

When I lost my job I lost more than just a job. I lost what I thought at the time as the purpose of my life – service through a distinguished career in the non profit sector. But truth is unless you are a rigid religionist or a fundamentalist your purpose can change and evolve. Just like you.

(Warning – repulsive or unpleasant BO could be a sign of ill health, bad diet or poor lifestyle)

 

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Its Been A California Minute. How You Been?

January 14, 2015
Migration by P Fisayo

Migration by P Fisayo

Hi. Happy New Year. I’m back. Its been a California minute, as the yankees would say. How you been? How’s your family? What did you do for the holidays? Who did you spend it with? Did you have a great time? Or was it torture? Or somewhere in the middle? Would you like to share your experience? Tell me your holiday stories.

I just came back in time for Christmas with the family. You know I been on sabbatical for the past two years. Back in 2012 I took a months vacation. Read here. First real vacation in a long time. It felt so good I decided to take a year off and call it a sabbatical. I just wanted a year off, from work, from Nigeria, from responsibilities…a year to disengage.

I know a sabbatical is supposed to be like a working holiday. But I had to call it that because my puritanical work ethic would have balked at anything else. I didn’t do a stitch of work for the entire year. Unless you call writing work. I don’t get paid for it yet so I don’t. Maybe I should.

When I came back to Nigeria in January last year (read here) I thought my mid life crisis had burned itself out and I was ready to rejoin the Bedlam that is Nigeria. I was wrong and I ran away again. I said I was going for the summer but who stays six months for summer and comes back just before Christmas? Yeah, ok, Lesley does. I guess I had unfinished business.

Its been a good two years, an enlightening two years. When I left Nigeria I was still reeling from my experience with Oxfam GB (read here), the death of my father and recovering from a grave disease . I was burned out, deflated and exhausted. I also thought I could challenge my dismissal from Oxfam or at least some sort of compensation for the fall out but the UK Employment Bureau only handles domestic hires, and I found an English lawyer willing to file a a no win no fee criminal assault case a week before the statute of limitations kicked in. There just wasn’t enough time to file a charge she said.

It took a while but I realise that its all been for a greater purpose. I’ve had to review and reconsider what matters to me, what I want and whats important. And its not what I thought. I’ve changed. Again. I finally let go of that fruit I was clutching and found freedom.

This could get exciting! Lets go!

Did You Know Its International Men’s Day?

November 19, 2014

Did you know? That there is such a thing as International Men’s Day?  I didn’t know till I saw a post on my friends FB page this morning.

Their website says this about what its all about.

The 6 Pillars of International Men’s Day

1. To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sports men but everyday, working class men who are living decent, honest lives.

2. To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.

3. To focus on men’s health and well being; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.

4. To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law

5. To improve gender relations and promote gender equality

6. To create a safer, better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential..

Seems noble enough. I guess I have no problem celebrating men once a year outside Father’s Day. I have nothing against men, I like them very much as a matter of fact and I would like to see more positive male role models and a safer better world etc  etc etc.

I gave birth to and raised two men myself and I would like to encourage them and reinforce all the good stuff I taught them about being good, caring, responsible and loving men. One of them is even a father himself now, of two daughters no less. I had to raise two modern men and I expect him to raise two modern women (with help of course, we all have lots of help).

While I ‘get it’ and I almost shared the good news blindly without a caveat or a critique, further consideration made me pause and look into it some more.

Apparently we need to feel sorry for men because, you know what, they are committing suicide in record high numbers according to a UK report that came out to coincide with IMD. Four thousand five hundred suicides were recorded in England and Wales last year, 78% of them were men. In India the National Crime Records Bureau report for 2013, said 64,098 married men committed suicide as against 29,491 married women. The underlying assumption is that they are suffering a crisis of masculinity. 

While men remain the major perpetrators and victims of violence especially male on male violence , women are predominantly victims of male violence. And most of the violence against women is perpetrated in the home while most of the violence against men is perpetrated outside the home. So whats the conclusion? Men are inherently violent? Or just misunderstood?

I’m not man bashing. I raised two sensitive and caring men and I know a lot of other men that are great role models of strength, purpose and compassion. These are the men that I can and will celebrate.  The awesome men that aren’t in a ‘crisis of masculinity’, the wonderful men that aren’t wingeing about the gains women have made and are doing something about  being better men.

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Living Under the Patriarchy II

November 17, 2014

‘Your father is dead.” Did he say my father wants to speak to me? Sometimes the old man uses other people’s phones to call me because he thinks I won’t take his calls.

“What did you say?” I ask.

“Your father is dead. Your father is dead” the caller, Mmuta my uncle, replies.

I feel a cold rush run through my body and sink into a nearby chair. He can’t be, I think to myself. I haven’t built him that house yet. Besides, he’s too mean to die, he enjoys tormenting us, his family, too much.

“Should we bury him today?” Mmuta asks me over the phone.

“What?”

“Should we bury him immediately?”

I feel a spark of irritation. How can he ask me such a thing? I haven’t even processed news of my fathers death and he wants to make me responsible for the decision to bury him immediately or not? He didn’t even ask me if I was sitting down when he broke the news. How callous. But that is the way of the village. Men don’t do sentimental although some are more compassionate than others. Mmuta is of the practical school of thought.

I wonder why he’s asking me anyway. I’m a woman, there is no way in hell they will let a woman decide the conduct of an Igbo man’s funeral even if she is his oldest daughter. When he was alive my father said he wanted to be buried the same day he died, rolled up in a mat like a Muslim. He said he wanted no monuments, just a tree to grow over his bones. Simple, inexpensive, no fanfare. He was a committed communist, he abhorred all obscene consumption and crass materialism.

I gather my reeling senses – “Yes, bury him immediately.” I reply and hang up. Who knows, it just might work.  My concern shifted to how I would break  the news to my sons. In a daze I went to tell them their grand father was dead.

I call Mmuta several hours later.

“Have you buried him?”

“The family met and decided that he is too important to bury him just like that.They said they will meet and inform you when and how he will be buried.” Mmuta replies.

A couple days later my younger brother calls. He is my fathers first son and he is younger than my youngest son.

“We have decided that we have to complete his house before we bury him.”

My father the communist and idealist lived his whole life in a suit of rooms in his fathers ancient house and didn’t start building his own till after he retired with his gratuity. It was less than 60% complete.

“Really? Do you have the money to complete it?” I ask.

“What do you mean? That is the decision we have taken, all you need to do is tell us is how much you are contributing” he snarled.

The hyena’s had gathered. My father wasn’t there to protect me anymore.

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Living Under the Patriarchy I

November 11, 2014

My father took me to the market in Owerri once when I was 12 or 13. I didn’t want to go with him. I was at that age when parents embarrassed the hell out of a teenager. And by this time I was finding my father a bloody embarrassment all the time.

He made me walk ahead of him. As usual the traders in the market started groping me and pulling me and appreciating God’s work in rather lewd Igbo grammar. Usually I pushed them away and told them off  and shopped with the least offensive and quietest of the lot.

I tried to brush them off and ignore them in my usual manner but my father pounced on each and everyone of them.

“What are you looking at? Why are you touching her? Are you mad?”

The wise ones slunk away, the brash ones tried to stand up to him. Big mistake. No one stood up to my father. When he used that tone of voice he expected complete and immediate compliance. And he didn’t hesitate to use his fists to enforce compliance.

I don’t remember much else about that day except wanting the ground to open up and swallow me while he argued and fought his way through the market. I must have bought something but I can’t remember what it was.

Most of the male members of his extended family behaved in a similar manner when we were out together.

“What you looking at?” they would demand aggressively of any poor sod that happened to look my way with more than appropriate interest.

My fathers family were well known in the village for their quick temper and quick fists. It was well known that a fight with one of them would bring the entire family coming to the rescue and support of their own. It was a large family. They didn’t ask what happened till the threat was eliminated and everyone at home and accounted for. They were like the marines or the army like that.

One guy got beat to a pulp for calling me names. One of my cousins still has an impressive facial scar to remind me of the incident. He uses it to manipulate me regularly.

“Ah ah. I took a knife for you nah. See, sixteen stitches, because of you” he would say pointing to the scar that dragged the line of his lips into a perpetual half frown. It didn’t feel right to remind him that I hadn’t asked or even expected him to fight for me much less take a a nasty cut to his once handsome face although he is still handsome in a rakish beat up way.

I didn’t appreciate my violent protectors back in those days. I didn’t even know that I needed them. I was clueless, it didn’t occur to me that something bad could happen or that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself if it did. After all I knew how to use a knife.

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