Archive for August, 2015

Rights Based vs Privilege Based Socialisation &Youth Development – I

August 25, 2015

In the west everyone has the right to do whatever the fuck they want except violate someone else’s right. Everyone has inalienable rights they are born with – and these include the right to love, life, happiness, family, education, health, housing etc etc etc.

In my corner of Africa from the moment you are born you have to earn the privilege to breathe. Babies were not considered innocent helpless little people. They had agency and all the malicious behaviour of adults.

Baby is born and doesn’t take its first breathe? It didn’t want to stay. It wanted to punish its mother.

There was no sympathy spared for obanje children that put their mothers through grief again and again. Evil child. Or twins, you want to suck the woman to death? Evil children. Teeth in new born? Evil child. Your right to breathe was summarily terminated.

Now the thing about privilege it that it usually means you owe someone – your village, your family, your father, your mother. Everybody who was here on earth before you even if by only a day or a few hours had more rights, more power and more status than you. You were not indulged.

You owed your mother the most. For one she didn’t squeeze your scrawny little neck when you were born. Women that birthed dead babies were evil too. They did it on purpose you know.

Your mother could have gone away and left you. Back in those days custody always stayed with the man that paid the bride price. Even if the children were not his biologically. The woman that left was the Evil One.

Back in those days not having a mother was bad. Really really bad. A child without a mother was completely vulnerable. Before Christianity the majority of my brethren did not tend to kindness towards the vulnerable. The vulnerable became slaves or worse – sacrifices.

It’s still hell for the vulnerable today.  And sometimes its your mother that sends you there. These women will not take your shit. They will remind you they suckled you and made sure you survived. You owe ME!

You owed your father too because he paid your school fees. Do you know how many fathers refuse to pay school fees? You can’t make him. Neither can your mother. She probably had to fuck him real good each time you went back to school to put him in a good mood.

If your father was stingy all the time maybe it was the sex, or lack of it. Can you imagine? Your mother might have had to behave like a common whore to put you through school.

Despite this he will expect and insist with varying amounts of deference and courtesy that you support him in his old age. Far be it from me to tell you what to do when that times comes. May each man and woman handle it as they see fit. Whatever you can live with.

Besides its a privilege that he is still alive to bless you because in my corner of Africa we believe that white hair confers special powers – just like motherhood and fatherhood and brotherhood.

The worse thing that could happen is that one of  your parents curse you before they die. Ah!  People have been known to kill many animals to propitiate the dead who can still influence the living from beyond the grave through our DNA. Didn’t you know?

As the elders said in Things Fall Apart, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. You earned the privilege, no one gave you anything on a platter and no one owed a child a damn thing.

I wouldn’t advocate tossing babies in the bush or any of the harsher outcomes of our beliefs about children but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Unearned privilege seems to be creating some pretty spoilt kids my grand father would say.

As an African woman I am scandalised to see some children in the west treated like the centre of the Universe and become petty tyrants. That is exactly what my grand father warned us about. That is exactly why he counselled to have many children and avoid the tyranny of the single child.

At the same time the oyibo in me is scandalised to see African children treated like chattels even in the most educated and prosperous homes. Somewhere on a spectrum between us and the rest, between right and privilege, is reality and also nirvana.

May you find yours.

To Be Continued….

Mbari House in Owerri, Imo State, South East, Nigeria Copyright Cole

Mbari House Scene in Owerri, Imo State, South East, Nigeria. Even the gods has families and children  Copyright Cole

NO COMPROMISE

August 23, 2015

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That’s how I want it, that’s how it’s going to be. This is not a negotiation. If you don’t like it your only option is to leave.

If we’re always talking compromise and if you expect me to compromise then we are incompatible. Period.

I will not meet you half way because that means we’re not even on the same page anyway.

You better like eat to out because I’m not going to cook every day and I love eating out. Yes, it’s expensive so I make sure I can afford it. And when I can’t I’m cool going to mama put.

I won’t even cook every other day. Once a week is about my limit. More than that and I start to feel oppressed. Better still if you love to cook. I might eat in more often.

No compromise.

I don’t clean, I have a housekeeper that comes in once a week. I wish I could afford an English butler. And a French cook for intimate dinner parties of 10 or 20. I love to entertain.

I manage IKEA while collecting Russian Gzhel, Wedgwood and Stratford. I chose my Wedgwood designs when I was 21. A family heirloom to pass down to my granddaughters. Like a good babushka, a Russian tradition brought to Africa.

No compromise.

I will only agree to monogamy if you are likewise monogamous. If we’re both making an honest effort at it and discussing it’s challenges openly.

If you are polyamorous I will feel cheated if I’m not also. And that can’t ever be good.

I believe strongly in reciprocity and balance.

If you’re discreet with that little floozie I’ll be discreet with the toy boys.

No compromise.

The children will go to school where I say so and you will hustle your ass to make sure you pay at least half of that guaranteed to be expensive but very genius making school fee.

With lots of extra curricula life building and enhancing activities. Or we just don’t bother having them.

No compromise.

The only time I will live in a hole-in-the-wall is while we’re saving for our first mortgage. And it better be really clean. And you better help keep it clean. Or i’ll feel cheated. Better still we better have a housekeeper. See why I love Nigeria. I can actually afford one!

I like to travel, and travel often and travel far away and to strange and dangerous places. I like going alone. It helps me face my fears.

If you can’t handle it we’re incompatible. No compromise. Yeah, I could meet a dark handsome horny stranger. What I do with him depends on what you’re doing while I’m away. If you’re bitching about the kids or the home or the risk or cheating (and I WILL know) I might just fall for his insincere compliments and his hungry eyes.

If your manhood depends on my compromise, is that another word for submission? The only place your going to get submission….

We’ll leave some things to the imagination.

They’re women out there that will be happy sitting at home praying while you’re out being a ‘boy’. That’s not me. I want a man. And I don’t pray. I party. And while sometimes we’ll party together, sometimes I like to party alone. No it does not mean I want to fuck some body. Whether that happens or not depends on whether you’re going to a be a little bitch.

I’m a woman. I want attention, affection and admiration. If you don’t give it to me I’ll get it somewhere else. Or I’ll feel cheated.

No compromise.

If you make more money than me and ever use it to try to control or manipulate me…..we’re incompatible.

No compromise.

Sometimes I’m going to hurt myself cause you know me, always jumping in two feet first. Don’t be a bitch about it. I’m a risk taker. Someday I’ll die doing something exciting. Give me a good burial. And it better be one heck of a party. Play my favorite music. You know what it is. Or we’re incompatible!

If you give me the think-about-kids line we’re incompatible. I’m here for ME not the kids. They’re women out there that live for the kids. That’s not me.

No compromise.

I will not marry you. Divorce is too expensive and takes too much time. If you want to get married, we are incompatible. If you think that the ritual of marriage will somehow force me to compromise, we are incompatible. I will not take your name, I will not be your missus. If you think we have to be together forever we are incompatible. Sure it might happen but don’t tell me that. It makes me want to run away.

May everybody find the one they will never have to compromise for.

When You Eat Together You Stay Together

August 12, 2015

I been thinking about that age old ‘African’ custom that made siblings eat together from one plate…..

In the more enlightened Igbo-Nigerian homes I found that the eldest man sometimes made all the first cousins eat together. It made for some strong bonds. And healthy competitive values.

Observing the impact of the western practice of eating on individual plates, and first cousins that are frequently strangers. Living worlds apart, literally and figuratively. The loosening of family bonds, the hegemonic reinterpretation of ‘family’.

In Igbo-Nigeria nothing is worse than a ‘lost son’. They didn’t care so much for daughters except as a means to make good in-laws. Nothing is worse in Igbo-Nigeria than bad in-laws – distant, aloof, uncaring, don’t visit often especially on feast days.

Hence no one wants a daughter to marry further than a days return trek away. Besides, it was dangerous to marry too far away in the Slave Trade days. Your brothers had to be near enough to keep an eye on you, in case the husband tried to sell you.

There are still many families that maintain those customs in a modern world; siblings living together, first cousins like siblings. A tight family unit – your strongest protection against the exigencies of life. ‘The Group Mind’

My Igbo-Nigerian and Russian values meet harmoniously here. In Russian there is no word for cousin, the word for cousin is sister or brother. In Igbo there is no word for cousin either. The word for cousin is sister or brother.

Its not a peaceful conflict free zone, as a matter of fact a multitude will have a multitude of petty grievances but as my grand father Agwubuo would say – it is better to have a multitude that squabbles than a peaceful but empty homestead.

You will remember what’s important – family. Its more than DNA

A Multitude

A Multitude by photograph by Bosden

How Much Revenue Does Nigeria Make In A Year?

August 12, 2015

I’m preparing background document for a youth foundation so I want to know how much Nigeria makes as a basis for advocacy on how much the government should or could spend.

A google search didn’t yield to me a satisfactorily definitive answer so I called on Facebook and Twitter friends for help. I thank you all that shared links and leads. I followed them all as best I could without a PhD in economics or something. I even went to firs.gov.ng. And I found this from a 2008 presentation by then Chairman;

“Improved information and statistics of all revenue generated at FG, SG and LG is required for improved decision making. To date, a holistic picture of such statistics is not readily available in a complete and on a timely basis.”

This is also the conclusion made by Nonso Obikili an economist I follow on Twitter. I asked him how much Nigeria makes. I thought it was a simple question with a simple answer.

Apparently it’s all shrouded in secrecy. According to Nonso “the govt guesses what it will be each year. The actual numbers? No one knows.”

“Ok. So. What govt makes is part of GDP? Can an estimate be made by elimination of other sector contributions? Would that be accurate/useful?” I ask.

“Yeah it is. The NBS tries to do that and if you look at the breakdown of their reports you’ll see their guess there. Still a guess though” he replies.

“I thought it was me”

“Nah”

“For States you can guess with allocation plus IGR. For FG allocation is a signal but most suggest up to 50% of income doesn’t pass through the budget or FAAC. Some states publish this and report to the NBS. Some don’t.” he continued.

I’m thoroughly scandalised!

World Bank Nigeria Report 2013

World Bank Nigeria Report 2013

My name is Lesley and I Have A RBF or Resting Bitch Face

August 6, 2015

Who knew there is such a thing as Resting Bitch Face or RBF? I didn’t till I read Jessica Bennett’s article in the NYT last week.

Apparently a RBF is

“a face that, when at ease, is perceived as angry, irritated or simply … expressionless. It’s the kind a person may make when thinking hard about something — or perhaps when they’re not thinking at all.”

Its a bitch face because women are expected to smile and be happy all the time so any deviation from this expectation is questioned. I was born with a RBF. See that frown?  That downward curl at one corner? That sneer?

Me, 2 years old (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Me, 2 years old (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Maybe its a Russian thing. Russians don’t smile a lot (unless they had a lot of vodka). Russians believe people that smile too much are retards or simpletons. Genetic selection in Russia favoured the curled down mouth.  Perhaps it came with a romantic melancholy nature too, who knows.

Me 10 years old (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Me 10 years old (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Anyway,  I didn’t smile much when I was younger. And truth be told I didn’t have a lot to smile about okay. I was as angry as the Mad Hatter.  I was angry my father brought me to Nigeria, I was angry he took me from my Mother. I hated Nigeria, I hated the boarding school with no running water and sadistic teachers and seniors. I hated the university on the outskirts of a crass muddy mercantile Igbo township. I hated the natives and their superstitious beliefs and endless meaningless pointless feuds. I hated Lagos with its traffic jams, its garbage strewn streets and its smelly lagoon.  And then my Mother died before I could see her again. I was really angry.

Me at 18 years (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Me at 18 years (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Strangers used to tell me to smile more, mostly men of course, and older women.

“You will look prettier when you smile”

As if I existed to look pretty for them.

(Here Warsan Shire’s words reverberate “It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”)

Boning boning even at my call to the Nigerian Bar in 1990. I was 24 (Copyright Lesley Agams)

Boning boning even at my call to the Nigerian Bar in 1990. I was 24
(Copyright Lesley Agams)

Merchant Bank of Africa sent me on a training course back in 1990 or something. I didn’t break a smile throughout the three day course. Hey, back then who ever I smiled at seemed to think it was a come on anyway so why smile at strangers and give them the undeserved opportunity to become a nuisance?

At the end of the course one of the male participants wrote me a lengthy letter (that was before personal computers) about how I should smile more that it would attract more people to me. As if I wanted to attract him. Or more people! (And for the avoidance of doubt I smile when I want to attract someone. You will know.)

I identified with the 19 year old quoted in Jessica’s article –

“It doesn’t make me feel like I’m unhappy, un-fun or unpleasant,” said Noelle Wyman, 19, a junior at Columbia. “My RBF makes me feel serious, pensive and reserved, like someone who only engages those who deserve it.”

Anyway at some point I let go of all that anger, I still had a RBF but I started to smile more. I realised that the RBF doesn’t look so good when you are older. I mean, look at Ben Murray Bruce. He’s got some serious bitch face but he’s a guy so no one calls him that. He looks pained when he smiles! And then compare him to Barrack Obama.

I’m not angry anymore and I smile a lot more than I used to. Smiling is good business. But its also good aesthetics.  I’m vain like that. I’ve cultivated a neutral professional smile. It entails curling my lips upwards. I look better in pictures and selfies. Sometimes I let it reach my eyes. Sometimes its even a genuine and spontaneous reaction to a moment of joy.

A rare smile in my 20's. learning to smile win my 30s and smiling through my 40s (Copyright Lesley Agams)

A rare smile in my 20’s. learning to smile in my 30s and smiling through my 40s (Copyright Lesley Agams)

I’m not saying everyone with an RBF is angry. Or Russian. Or melancholy. Just that I was all three.

You can still catch my RBF when I’m concentrating on something. Look, my son caught me working on something.

Copyright Adindu O

Copyright Adindu O

Meanwhile almost a decade later and long after I had forgotten the incident and with the advent of internet the letter writing guy writes an email. Yeah. He’s a writing kind of guy. He writes another long rambling missive except this time he is begging me to forgive him for his earlier letter. Which I never responded to anyway.

It actually takes me a minute to remember. I’m like, seriously? You been carrying that guilt around all these years? I feel like the Pope giving a benediction when I write back and tell him all is forgiven and forgotten.

“Go and sin no more my son.”

I expect he will write me back asking for a boon but I never hear from him again. I’m kinda surprised. He is for real? Wow. There are still people like that in the world? Awesome.

I know the pressure is on women to smile and be pleasant all the time, and women are very good at smiling and being pleasant in the most disturbing circumstances. An RBF can be an asset, it says, don’t mess with me, don’t talk to me, don’t come near me and hell no do not tell me to smile!

If someone says you have an RBF take it as a compliment, only smile when you genuinely feel like it. Like when you’re taking pictures and selfies. Or see something else you love.