Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

What’s In A National Anthem? #NGWomen4Peace

October 9, 2017

In 1978 Obasanjo’s military government decided to change the national anthem as part of its preparations to hand over power to a democratically elected government after 12 years of military rule and a 3 year civil war.   As a true Nigerian man he was offended that the previous anthem was written by two white women, if he could have changed the country’s name coined by another white woman he probably would have. The new anthem was written by 5 men and the music composed by the director of the Nigerian Police Band. Women were not considered good enough for such an important task. The new anthem sounds very masculine and military and the sovereign motherland of the first anthem became the fatherland, with all the character of a fascist sound track. Hitler would have been proud.  It sounds ominous, brooding, saturnine, and paternalistic. It announces – women beware, we are a nation of men – men of war.

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Dr. Gloria Laraba Shoda, President NCWS at Press Conference announcing their alliance with #NGWomen4Peace on 28 September 2017

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How To Register a Statutory Marriage in Nigeria

October 4, 2017
  • Marriage is registered at a local public registry or the marriage registry usually found at every local government secretariat
  • The intending couple files a Letter of Marriage Intention and pays of a fee of Naira 2,000.
  • A person under 18 years of age, who wishes to register a marriage, is required to present a letter of consent from his or her parents.
  • The registry will display the Letter of Marriage Intention for 21 days on a public notice board.
  • Provided that no objection to the intended marriage is made during the 21 day period, a couple may then register their marriage.
  • Birth certificates or official documents showing the ages of the couple are required together with the results of HIV and genotype tests.
  • A divorcee must produce a divorce certificate, while a widow or a widower is required to present the death certificate of the late spouse.
  • A marriage registrar may witness the exchange of oaths by the couple.

(H/T Australian High  Commission. Beautifully simple.)

 

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Independence Day Statement from #NGWomen4Peace

September 29, 2017

 

On 7 September 2017, women from across Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss the need:

  1. for a platform (NGWomen4Peace) for women to voice their concerns about key issues which negatively impact on us, our children and our families and
  2. to organise women to promote a stronger sense of ownership and belonging in the country and build our confidence to contribute positively to making a difference to the present alarming trajectory of our country.

#NGWomen4Peace is a movement of women and women’s groups representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.

We have observed the following:

  • An increased wave of hate speech and inciting statements,
  • An increased spate of violent conflicts around the country, and
  • That women, who bear the brunt of the violent conflict, are not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.
  • That despite almost two decades of activism women are still not proportionally represented in politics, peace and security decision making and governance

We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem. We have mobilised to add our voices and assert our rights as citizens, as mothers, as women and as one half of the population of this nation in pursuit of peace, dialogue and deescalation.

OUR DEMANDS

We are not begging. We are not asking. We are insisting. We are demanding

DIALOGUE & DEESCALATION

An immediate cessation of all hostilities across the country and a demand for all stake holders and state and non state actors to begin a process of deescalation and dialogue that will include women in proportional representation as active participants, negotiators, referees, observers and peace keepers.

The are numerous violent conflicts ongoing all across the country – in the north east, in north central, in the south east, in the south south, a nation wide conflict nomadic pastoralists and farming communities.

Nigerian women demand that all violence end immediately and all parties and stakeholders begin a process of dialogue.  Whatever the demands – restructuring, devolution, inclusion, marginalisation, secession, religious freedom, ethnic protectionism – they can and must be negotiated. We will no longer tolerate the blood of our children be spilled to sustain untenable positions of violent insurrection and dominance in a democratic federation.

No Be Fight. We are a civilised and modern nation. We will dialogue and we must start with immediate deescalation.

We call on Arewa Youths, IPOB, Boko Haram, Oduduwa, Ohaneze, the Federal Government and its agencies.

INCLUSION

Increasing women’ s active and full participation in politics, peace and security negotiations, decision making, conflict resolution and peace agreements. There are over 200 MDAs in Nigeria and women must be proportionally included and represented in all. For immediate action –

  • The newly formed House of Representatives committee saddled with the responsibility of fostering national unity led by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun should appoint a female representative as its deputy and of the nine other positions at least half should be filled with women.
  • Project Steering Committee for the implementation of the 54.5 million euros support project for the North-east inaugurated in August 2017 should have at least 50% female membership, line ministries that are on the committee must nominate women to fill their position.
  • The National Judicial Council (NJC) under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, established a Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to monitor judges and courts handling corruption and financial crimes cases in the country. The membership of the committee is almost entirely male, with a lone female representing the NGO sector. We demand a review and women to be immediately take 50% of the membership.
  • Immediate implementation of Chapter 2 Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria especially section 14(3) and (4) on Federal character to immediately implement representative inclusion of women in all federal, state and local government agencies and a 50% affirmative action policy.

We will in collaboration with our members and allies over the next 30 days continue to identify and various committees, bodies and institutions where women are not adequately represented and demand inclusion and nominate capable women for inclusion. We will use legal means and judicial process as appropriate and various other means of protest and pressure where appropriate.

Zonal and State Working committees of NGWomen4Peace will also articulate and announce specific demands that will be pursued at the zonal and state level to ensure dialogue, deescalation and inclusion of women and respect for the constitution and rule of law. These plans will be announced in a series of press conferences over the next week.

We will assess the response to our demands and our strategies for their enforcement over the next 30, 60 and 90 days and continue to adjust our actions to ensure compliance and update the press and our fellow Nigerians on progress towards peace and women’s inclusion in governance, conflict resolution, peace building and decision making.

We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities. Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.

We continue to build a critical mass of women and women’s groups in a grand alliance of women waging peace and will launch the White Blouse Campaign for Peace to build women’s solidarity, visibility and support for our movement.

Signed By:

  1. Iheoma Obibi – Alliances for Africa, Imo State
  2. Esther Eshiet – After School Centre for Career Development, Akwa Ibom
  3. Mabel Ikoghode – Girls Power Initiative, Delta State
  4. Dr. Alice Musa – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  5. Dr. K. Kwari – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  6. Ayisha Osori- Self, Kaduna State
  7. Azeenah Mohamed – Independent, Nassara State
  8. Patricia Onyekwelu – WILPF Nigeria, Enugu State
  9. Ifeyinwa Omowole Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, Lagos State
  10. Ballason Gloria – House of Justice Kaduna State
  11. Osai Ojigho – Self, Delta State
  12. Nnenaya Emeremadu – CARA Development Foundation. Imo State
  13. Jemila Barkindo – Women Peace and Security Network, Adamawa State
  14. Amy Oyekan Monii Development Consultant, Delta State
  15. Ify Malo – Clean Tech Hub, Anambra State
  16. Eleanor Nwadinobi – Gender Expert, Abia State
  17. Olufunke Baruwa – Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ekiti State
  18. Priscilla Achakpa – Women Environment Program, Benue State
  19. Blessing Usie – Open Society Justice Initiative, Delta State
  20. Felicia  Onibon – Change Managers International Network, Edo State
  21. Edna Mathews-Njoku – Joel Women Youth Development Initiative, Imo State
  22. Ndi Kato – NNidari Empowerment Foundation, Kaduna State
  23. Natasha Akpoti – Builders Hub Foundation, Kogi State
  24. Lesley Agams – Consultant, Abuja FCT
  25. Mariam Aldu – Self, Adamawa State
  26. Amina Salihu, Gender and Security Consultant
  27. Blessing Duru – Program Manager, Alliances for Africa
  28. Ogechi Ikeh – Program Officer, Nigerian Feminist Forum

#NGWomen4Peace on WEFM1 Morning Mojo on International Day for Peace

September 21, 2017

Interview starts at 12.40.

UNDP Report – Journey to Extremism in Africa #NGWomen4Peace

September 19, 2017

The report released on 7 September 2017 unequivocally identifies poverty, deprivation and a lack of confidence in the leadership as key drivers of extremism.

It is particularly enlightening that the report sounds the alarm against military action and how that deepens extremism. In light of recent events in the South East of Nigeria it would appear that the Federal Government of Nigeria is fuelling extremism and not dousing it.  The full report is available here and the press release and highlights here.

Some excerpts from the report below.

The Journey to Extremism research unequivocally underscores the relevance of economic factors as drivers of recruitment.

The grievances associated with growing up in contexts where multidimensional poverty is high and far deeper than national averages, with the lived reality of unemployment and underemployment, render ‘economic factors’ a major source of frustration identified by those who joined violent extremist groups.

If an individual was studying or working, it emerged that that he or she would be less likely to become a member of an extremist organization.

Employment is the single most frequently cited ‘immediate need’ faced at the time of joining.

The research makes clear that a sense of grievance towards, and limited confidence in, government is widespread in the regions of Africa associated with the highest incidence of violent extremism.

Disaffection with government is highest by significant margins among the Journey to Extremism respondents who were recruited by violent extremist groups across several key indicators.

Grievances against security actors, as well as politicians, are particularly marked, with an average of 78 percent rating low levels of trust in the police, politicians and military.

Those most susceptible to recruitment express a significantly lower degree of confidence in the potential for democratic institutions to deliver progress or meaningful change.

The research specifically set out to discover what pushed a handful of individuals to join violent extremist groups, when many others facing similar sets of circumstances did not.

This specific moment or factor is referred to as the ‘tipping point’. The idea of a transformative trigger that pushes individuals decisively from the ‘at-risk’ category to actually taking the step of joining is substantiated by the Journey to Extremism data.

A striking 71 percent pointed to ‘government action’, including ‘killing of a family member or friend’ or ‘arrest of a family member or friend’, as the incident that prompted them to join.

These findings throw into stark relief the question of how counter-terrorism and wider security functions of governments in at-risk environments conduct themselves with regard to human rights and due process.

State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse.

Emotions of ‘hope/excitement’ and ‘being part of something bigger’ were high among those who joined, indicating the ‘pull’ of opportunity for radical change
and rebellion against the status quo

Despite the highly personal aspects of the journey to extremism, local community social networks were also influential.

Indeed, the journey to extremism in Africa appears to rely significantly less heavily than in other regions on the Internet as a venue for recruitment.

Where there is injustice, deprivation and desperation, violent extremist ideologies present themselves as a challenge to the status quo and a form of escape.

Grievances against government and state security actors are particularly pronounced among those most vulnerable to recruitment, who also express deep-seated scepticism about the possibility of positive change.

The Journey to Extremism research provides startling new evidence of just how directly counter-productive security- driven responses can be when conducted insensitively.

These findings suggest that a dramatic reappraisal of state security-focused interventions is urgently required, including more effective oversight of human rights compliance, rule of law and state accountability.

Going forward, it is essential to long-term outcomes that international commitments – such as those shared across United Nations member states – to human rights and rule of law, citizens’ participation and protection, and accountability of state security forces be actively upheld by all.

It is also critical to ensure that there are no counter- productive results from counter-terrorism, particularly in regard to civic participation.

In the absence of ‘state legitimacy’, in the eyes of citizens living in high-risk areas, initiatives that focus exclusively on state capacity-building run the risk of perpetuating malign power structures, which are overt drivers of violent extremist recruitment in Africa.

The research suggests that improved public policy and delivery of good governance by African governments confronted with violent extremism will ultimately represent a far more effective source of counter- terrorism and PVE than continued overconcentration on security-focused interventions.

The Journey to Extremism findings call for a reinvigoration of commitment by states to upgrading the quality and accountability of institutions across service-delivery areas, at the national and sub- national levels, above all in at-risk areas.

Deepening the democratic process and closely guarding its integrity, beyond the moment of elections, into a wider commitment to an inclusive social contract between government and citizens, as well as meaningful opportunities for civic engagement and participation in the national development agenda, are also highly relevant policy responses.

For Immediate Release – Statement from #NGWomen4Peace on Current Situation in Nigeria

September 12, 2017

 

On September 7 2017, women from across Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss the need:

1. for a platform (NGWomen4Peace) for women to voice their concerns about key issues which negatively impact on us, our children and our families and
2. to organise women to promote a stronger sense of ownership and belonging in the country and build our confidence to contribute positively to making a difference to the trajectory of our country.

#NGWomen4Peace is a coalition of women representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.

We have observed the following:
1. An increased wave of hate speech,
2. Numerous inciting statements,
3. Increased spate of violent conflicts around the country,
4. That women, who bear the brunt of the violent conflict, are generally not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.

We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem.

Our demands are:

1. Zero tolerance for hate speech while promoting and protecting freedom of expression;
2. The engagement of women in governance processes in the public and private sector as well as peace building and conflict resolution platforms.
3. That ethnic, religious and political groups refrain from making blanket statements purporting to represent us without due consultation with us. We want all Nigerians to know that when these provocative statements are being made – these groups are not speaking for Nigerian women
4. That we all work together for a better future for our country by promoting the ideal that we are our brothers and sisters keeper.

We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities. Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.

Further activities are being planned and we are open to other women and women’s groups joining us.

Signed By:
Iheoma Obibi – Alliances for Africa, Imo State
Esther Eshiet – After School Centre for Career Development, Akwa Ibom
Mabel Ikoghode – Girls Power Initiative, Delta State
Dr. Alice Musa – University of Madugiri, Borno State
Dr. K. Kwari – University of Madugiri, Borno State
Ayisha Osori- Self, Kogi State
Azeenah Mohamed – Independent, Nassara State
Patricia Onyekwelu – WILPF Nigeria, Enugu State
Ifeyinwa Omowole Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, Lagos State
Ballason Gloria – House of Justice Kaduna State
Osai Ojigho – Self, Delta State
Nnenaya Emeremadu – CARA Development Foundation. Imo State
Jemila Barkindo – Women Peace and Security Network, Borno State
Amy Oyekan Monii Development Consultant, Delta State
Ify Malo – Clean Tech Hub, Anambra State
Eleanor Nwadinobi – Gender Expert, Abia State
Olufunke Baruwa – Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ekiti State
Priscilla Achakpa – Women Environment Program, Benue State
Blessing Usie – Open Society Justice Initiative, Delta State
Felicia Onibon – Change Managers International Network, Edo State
Edna Mathews-Njoku – Joel Women Youth Development Initiative, Imo State
Ndi Kato – NNidari Empowerment Foundation, Kaduna State
Natasha Akpoti – Builders Hub Foundation, Kogi State
Lesley Agams – Consultant, Abuja FCT
Mariam Marwa – Abdu – Women and Children’s Rights and Empowerment Foundation, Adamawa State

Secretariat
Blessing Duru – Program Manager, Alliances for Africa
Ogechi Ikeh – Program Officer, Nigerian Feminist Forum

Solemnisation Of Statutory Marriages in Nigeria

August 22, 2017

The Nigerian Marriage Act, cap 218, Laws of the Federation 1990 lays down the requirements for the solemnization of marriage under the statute.

Before the celebration of the marriage,  parties shall sign and give to the Registrar of the district in which the marriage is intended to take place, a notice in the prescribed form known as Form A in which they will fill their personal details including Name, Age, Address, Occupation, Marital status, Consent (minor under 21 years), Signature etc. The Registrar shall then cause the notice to be entered in the Marriage Notice Book in his registry. A copy of this will be displayed in the registry for inspection by the public for 21 days.

Any person whose consent to a marriage is required or who may know of any just cause why the marriage should not take place, may enter a caveat against the issue of the Registrar’s certificate by writing at any time before the issue of the Registrar’s certificate the word ‘Forbidden’ opposite the entry of the notice in the marriage notice book and include his name, place of abode and the grounds upon which he claims to forbid the issue of the certificate. The Registrar shall not issue the certificate until such caveat has been pursued and disposed of.

Caveat’s to Notice of Intention to Marriage

 

Age
Written consent of either the parents or guardians is required for persons under the age of twenty one years unless one of the party is a widow or widower. The Act further provides in section 49 that whoever shall marry or assist any person to marry a minor under the age of twenty one years, not being a widow or widower, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.

S.48 – Whoever, knowing that the written consent required by this Act has not been obtained, shall marry or assist or procure any other person to marry a minor under the age of twenty-one years, not being a widow or widower, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.

Subsisting Marriage
Parties must be single at the time of marriage. If either if the parties is already married under the Act or under customary law to another person and the marriage has not been dissolved by any court of law their marriage will be invalid under section 33 (1) of the Marriage Act.

S.39 – Whoever, being unmarried, goes through the ceremony of marriage under this Act with a person whom he or she knows to be married to another person, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.

S. 46 – Whoever contracts a marriage under the provisions of this Act, or any modification or re-enactment thereof, being at the time married in accordance with customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is contracted, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.

 

Kindred and AffinityA marriage between two persons who are within the prohibited degree of consanguinity or affinity is void. Under section 4 of the MCA, where persons are within the prohibited degrees of affinity and desire to marry, they may apply in writing to a Judge for permission to do so and if the Judge is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances, the Judge may by an order permit the parties to marry one another.

The prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity under the Matrimnial Causes Act are as follows:
Marriage of a man is prohibited if the woman is, or has been his:
1. Ancestress 1. Wife’s mother
2. Descendant 2. Wife’s grandmother
3. Sister 3. Wife’s daughter
4. Father’s sister 4. Wife’s son’s daughter
5. Mother’s sister 5. Wife’s daughter’s daughter
6. Brother’s sister 6. Father’s wife
7. Sister’s daughter 7. Grandfather’s wife
8. Son’s wife
9. Son’s son’s wife
10. Daughter’s son’s wife

Marriage of a woman is prohibited if the man is, or has been her:
1. Ancestress 1. Husband’s father
2. Descendant 2. Husband’s grandfather
3. Father’s brother 3. Husband’s son’s son
4. Mother’s brother 4. Husband’s daughter’s son
5. Brother’s son 5. Mother’s husband
6. Sister’s son 6. Grandmother’s husband
7. Son’s daughter’s husband
8. Daughter’s daughter’s husband

After the period of 21 days, the Registrar shall issue a Form C certifying the criteria has been met and satisfied and that there is no cause why the parties should not be married and grant a license, known as Form D, authorizing the celebration of a marriage between the parties named in such license.

Upon receipt of the Registrar’s certificate, the parties can celebrate their marriage. The marriage can take place in a in a church duly licensed for the celebration of statutory marriages or the marriage registry usually within three months from the date the notice was placed with the registry. All States have marriage Registries at the State and Local Government secretariats.

During marriage proceedings in a registered church, the officiating minister fills in duplicate a marriage certificate printed for the purpose by the Registrar with particulars as required by Form E, and enter in counterfoil the number of the certificate, the date of the marriage, names of the parties, and the names of the witnesses.

The certificate is signed in duplicate by the officiating minister, by the parties, and by two or more witnesses to the marriage. The minister having also signed his name to the counterfoil will deliver one certificate to the parties, and within seven days thereafter file the same with the registry. The Registrar will register the marriage in a book called the Marriage Register Book and file the certificate in his office in accordance to the FORM F.

Not every church is a licensed place for the celebration of marriages in accordance with the Act. Under section 33 (2) of the Marriage Act, a marriage shall be null and void if both parties knowingly and wilfully acquiesce in the celebration of a marriage in a place other than the office of a registrar of marriages or a licensed place of worship.

Section 22 of the Marriage Act forbids a minister of religion to celebrate any marriage until the parties have delivered to him the Registrar’s certificate or a special license from the governor under section 13. Section 43 imposes a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for performing a marriage in defiance of the Act.

There have been a lot of questions and a lot of confusion about the validity of a customary marriage entered into during the subsistence of a statutory marriage. The Marriage Act 1990 provides as follows –

S.35 Any person who is married under this Act, or whose marriage is declared by this Act to be valid, shall be incapable, during the continuance of such marriage, of contracting a valid marriage under customary law, but, save as aforesaid, nothing in this Act contained shall affect the validity of any marriage contracted under or in accordance with any customary law, or in any manner apply to marriages so contracted.

It goes further to provide –

S.47 Whoever, having contracted marriage under this Act, or any modification or re-enactment thereof, or under any enactment repealed by this Act, during the continuance of such marriage contracts a marriage in accordance with customary law, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.

 

Oluremi Obasanjo – A Feminist Icon? (From the Archives)

July 9, 2017

November 27, 2008 at 6:28pm

While stuck at the airport this morning waiting for my ride to Ado-Ekiti I bought a copy of Tell magazine. A headline caught my eye, ‘Oluremi Obasanjo tells all in her book Bitter Sweet’ I turned the pages to read Fidel Bam’s review. There are a lot of unflattering adjectives to describe his review ladies. He calls it a book of vengeance I call it a book of revelations. Oluremi Obasanjo has shown great courage in writing this memoir. I’m not nearly as brave; I’m planning to write a faction because I’m totally terrified of the fall out if I print ‘the truth’ about my experiences with my ‘husbands’. Please note I use the term husbands here not to mean that I have had multiple spouses but in recognition of the Igbo-Nigerian point of view that all a woman’s in-laws are her ‘husbands’ and requiring the same amount of submission and ass kissing.

Bam in his ‘review’ keeps going on and on about how family secret’s have been made public. The first thing I learnt as a neophyte women’s rights activist was the importance of bringing things out n the light of day. Secret places are where abuse happens. I disagree with him totally as to whether posterity will forgive her, some of us already have. She has done a great thing for women’s rights in Nigeria; whether by design or accident she has become an inspiration for physically, emotionally and psychologically battered women all over the country to speak out honestly about their experience. She has punctured the stigma and shame. She has changed the public discourse on domestic violence.

Bam’s review was insensitive, unfair and prejudiced. ‘No matter the extent of Obasanjo’s humiliating his wife, is that enough reason for Oluremi to out Herod Herod?’. I remember as a young wife and mother complaining to an older woman about my husband’s womanizing, I was already considering a separation. Her advice? ‘It’s no reason to separate, my husband used to bring women into our bedroom and I served them.’ And why was I advised to endure such humiliation? For the sake of the children. She knew that the children would become the pawns in a horrible battle. She knew the rules. I didn’t, I still had my undiluted American beliefs about rights, rule of law and liberty of person regardless of gender.

I admire Oluremi! She has shown fortitude in raising her kids well despite the overwhelming odds against her and in giving her man chance after chance after chance to reform, repent and change. Although Oluremi sometimes comes across as aggressive, coarse and self righteous, I can sympathize with her having been pushed to shrewish dementia myself by a self centered husband and pesky in laws, pushed to violently and crudely reject the powerlessness imposed by the violent dominance of an outdated ideology based on paranoia, suspicion, and male privilege. Perhaps the structures for peaceful resolution exist but what do you do when they are corruptly manipulated or even ignored? Or when you don’t have the resources to access them, they’re not free after all.

Why should women go through debilitating and humiliating experiences like this just because we have decided that we can no longer live with the man we married? We can and should do something to end these abuses. Access to children after a divorce or separation is one of the biggest issues. Why should a woman be denied access to her children or denied financial support to raise them simply because she has decided to no longer accept humiliation and abuse passively? How do we stop this from ever happening to another woman again? This is not an isolated case; it’s just the most high profile one by far. I have worked with abused women for more than 10 years and no matter the economic class the story is the same.

Just last week I met a woman I’ve known for years. She separated from her husband when her kids were toddlers, she was denied access and had to go through all sorts of subterfuge to see her kids. Her husband bribed the court officials for years to stall the case she brought against him. When we met she proudly told me how her son now in his early twenties fights to protect her rights and ensure her unrestricted access. Why should her access to her children have been denied all these years? Why was she denied interaction with her children all these years? Why should her children have been denied their mother’s influence all these years? Because she could no longer live with the man she married? Why did she have to wait all these years till her son could give her justice? Why should her son, or any child, who should be focused on creating a life and starting a family need to go to battle with their paternal family to stop a mother’s abuse?

While all families have varying degrees of dysfunction and some may seem to have more than others it seems too much of a coincidence that his narcissistic, high risk behavior and mood swings only emerged after the civil war. While it’s not popular to accept that Africans also experience psychological trauma and its long term behavioral consequences it sounds to me like he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. This is not uncommon in soldiers, even Nigerian soldiers. I handled a divorce case a while back, the husband, an armed forces man, had just returned from an active mission and was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD. The administration couldn’t offer him any help. He refused to admit he had a problem, his marriage collapsed under the strain. He reacted pretty much the way Obasanjo did, refusing to pay child support and becoming increasingly abusive.

Obasanjo may have had PTSD after the civil war and it may have been further aggravated by his experience in Abacha’s gulag but it is still obvious that he is a highly controlling alpha male. He seems to have won Oluremi’s heart through his sheer persistence and determination, it also seems obvious that he totally controlled her; he dictated her clothes, her education and her career. He fits the profile of wife abusers that we have identified over the decades, these are some of the traits and our high machismo society encourages them. Poor woman, it seems from her narrative that everyone just expected her to shut up and stop embarrassing her husband the big man war hero, commander in chief and Head of State, no different from what thousands of Nigerian women experience just because the man is ‘commander of chef’, ‘head of household’ and a local champion. Money and power just magnify the issues.

Some may accuse Oluremi of herself being a conniving, manipulative and scheming woman who was herself intoxicated by her husband’s power and rising profile but that would ignore very complex dynamics and be mere speculation. Oluremi’s devotion to her children is evident throughout her narrative, her own fulfilled, content and stable childhood seems the standard she sought for her children. I don’t get the impression she was as hurt by her husband’s treatment of her as she was by his treatment of their children. He wrested custody from her only to leave the children unprotected and uncared for in his house, one of the children even died despite the fact that he was second in command at the time. Her aspirations for her children were met with a rebuke that she wanted to spoil them. I empathize completely, that reflects my experience so totally, and all the while I was being accused of being a gold digger. Oluremi fought to the bitter end, I got fed up with the drama in my case, forcibly took my children and tried to do the best I could on my own.

Oluremi’s story does not necessarily impact my opinion of Obasanjo’s real and imagined achievements what it does is reveal a tormented and driven man, a career soldier with invisible psychic wounds he would never admit to and memories he would obviously prefer to forget. I was almost moved to compassion for the man, I certainly understand his leadership style better. He was not the first powerful leader to sacrifice his family for the dysfunctional and illusionary trappings of power. Powerful men through out history have chosen to indulge their vanity and act with impunity and entitlement. He was an autocrat in his home and an autocrat in government; he may have had good intentions and noble aspirations but democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law set new requirements and expectations. He fought for his equality as a black African and cannot understand the aspirations of his women for equality as human beings. Equality is not a male prerogative, just like power is no longer the prerogative of wealth. Recognizing your wife as your partner and treating her with dignity, respect and inclusion is really not a choice, it’s a requirement for a happy fulfilled and balanced life in the modern world. Could this be why so many want to keep the masses and women stuck in the stone ages, uneducated, unemployed or under employed, superstitious and naïve?

I have reaffirmed or learn a number of things from reading this gripping account of a life interrupted;

1. there is an urgent need to review the Matrimonial Causes Act, it is archaic and it is not gender sensitive at all. Not only does it make it difficult for a woman to seek divorce it makes it expensive to pursue. The customary law systems that the majorities of woman have access to in the north and in the south of Nigeria are heavily biased against women based as they are on archaic world views where women and children were merely chattels and expose women seeking divorce and their to extreme exploitation, trauma and humiliation.
2. the Nigerian armed forces need to review their transition support for veterans returning from war, especially the psychological support they provide. Wars are dehumanizing and brutalizing, veterans need assistance re-integrating into society after prolonged exposure to the violence and brutality of armed conflict.
3. Nigerian journalists still need to learn how to write sensitively about women and women’s issues. Fidel Bam, would you have advised your sister or your daughter not to share her experience because her husband is a big man or simply because he is a man? And if yes, to what goal? To protect the image of the man that is abusing her? Or because her plight is not really that high up on your list of priority issues to deal with?

remibooksigning

Brrinnng brrinnng! Answer Your Phone Please

June 30, 2017

Once upon a time not so long ago there lived a small little king in a small little kingdom in the hot tropical jungle somewhere near the equator. Even though the king and his kingdom were very small the king had a very big ego. Ever heard of the Napoleon Complex?  The king never answered his mobile phone unless someone richer than him was calling and really rich people didn’t call him very often which meant he almost never answered his phone.

“The only people that call me are people who want something from me” he explained if anyone asked him why he didn’t answer his mobile phone “I’ll call them back when I’m ready.”

The little king had a poor court jester who had been with him and served him loyally for many many years. The court jester had many many children and the king through the years had helped the jester to pay school fees and things like that. When the jesters children grew up they worked hard and became rich men and took care of their father while the little kings children still expected the king to take care of them.

One day the little king was hungry and called the jester on his mobile phone.

“I hear that all your children are doing well now and taking care of you. You know I helped you raise your children. You are not a loyal servant, you are eating your children’s money all by yourself and not sharing it with me.”

And the jester who was a good man with a conscience felt very bad indeed even though his children didn’t give him that much money because they were still young men and building houses and families and empires of their own and didn’t have a lot of discretionary income yet. So the jester took the little savings he had and bought a smelly he-goat and some overnight palm wine just like he knew the king liked it and took it to the little king.

He got to the little kings gate and called the little king on his mobile phone but guess what? The little king didn’t answer his phone! The jester called and called and called and even sent a text massage but the king didn’t answer his mobile phone. So the jester took the smelly he-goat and the overnight palm wine and went away.

Some days later the little king called the jester.

“I just read your text message. Where is the smelly he goat and the overnight palm wine that you bought for me? Bring it over immediately” he roared at the jester over his mobile phone.

“My king! That was many days ago. I was ashamed to return home with my offerings for you least my wife and children see it and laugh that you have rejected me so I went to the fat king who is your friend so he would call you but he seized it and had a barbecue and feasted all night.”

And the little king was very angry. And still very hungry.

And the moral of the story is – every body may be calling you because they want something from you but one person maybe calling you to give you something you asked the gods for so stop being an arrogant little prick and answer the damn phone.

spider-of-the-evening

Sleep by Salvadore Dali 1937

Notes on George Orwell

June 28, 2017

I spent much of the long weekend recovering from my trip to the village (blog post coming shortly) and reading George Orwell. Thank you to BrainPickings who shared several delightful posts on Orwell’s birthday a couple days ago. Just what I needed to end my quarterly holiday.

His writing put me to mind of long nights in my village as a child reading Oliver Twist, Mill on the Floss and Agatha Christie mysteries. Like theirs, his writing transported me to England, a country I came to love through books long before I ever went there. Despite a predominant mental image of England as wet and grey most of the time (I saw a picture of London when I was 16, the sun was shining and I couldn’t help asking “You mean the sun actually shines in London?”) it always felt cosy.

Orwell wrote an essay comparing American and English crime writing – ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish.’ Growing up in the village I must admit my literary image of America was mostly built up by James Hadley Chase and the same can be said for many of my peers. Who doesn’t remember ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’? If you are my age anyway.

Orwell calls James Hadley Chase’s writing ‘realism’ – “the doctrine that might is right.” I think that’s the world view dominant in Nigeria. We worship “ power and successful cruelty.” That is why in Nigeria a Buhari can win a Jonathan and an Obasanjo and a Babangida and even an Abacha can be hailed as hero’s.

Orwell wrote –

English books glorifying crime (modern crime, that  is–pirates and highwaymen are different) are very rare. Even a book like RAFFLES, as I have pointed out, is governed by powerful taboos, and  it is clearly understood that Raffles’s crimes must be expiated sooner or later. In America, both in life and fiction, the tendency to tolerate crime, even to admire the criminal so long as he is success, is very much more marked. It is, indeed, ultimately this attitude that has made it possible for crime to flourish upon so huge a scale.

It’s obvious we are more like the Yanks than the Brits in Nigeria. At least some of us. And then there IS a whole section that are very much like the Brits (all the way down to the hypocrisy.) So in Nigeria one could say the Yanks and the Brits are again at war, for the hearts and minds of the people of Nigeria. The final battle ground? Who will win?

Orwell himself is so old fashioned and so proper, a purist defending all those British values I read about – courtesy, good manners, restraint, honour – a stiff upper lip. His nostalgia for that bygone time oozes through to me as surely as Agatha Christie’s did. I was infected with that nostalgia and a love for that empire even though I have no experience of that time in the early 20th century before it crumbled. Or a political thought in my head.

Living in the village in south east Nigeria with no library, no plumbing and no electricity reading about life in turn of the century Britain, the British Empire seemed like a conquering civilising force just like the Roman Empire. And to be a Commonwealth citizen was like being a Roman citizen (that was before they spoiled it all by introducing visa and immigration restrictions.)

The innocence of youth. But I digress.

Orwell’s ‘1984’ was not one of the books I read.  The tamer ‘Animal Farm’ was on our reading list. Hard as it is to admit I read it for the first time this weekend. I kept seeing images from Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ with the words. And when that wasn’t enough I started mentally illustrating the words with dark gothic Marvelesque pictures.

In ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish’ Orwell wrote:

The inter-connexion between sadism, masochism, success-worship, power-worship, nationalism, and totalitarianism is a huge subject whose edges have barely been scratched.

He definitely did more than just scratch the edges in ‘1984.’ O’Brien seems to sum up that inter-connexion. I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Brien isn’t Big Brother. Wait a minute. Is he?

Orwell doesn’t completely absolve English crime writing of sadism and power worship.

But it is sadism after the English fashion: that is to say, it is unconscious, there is not
overtly any sex in it, and it keeps within the bounds of the law. The  British public tolerates a harsh criminal law and gets a kick out of monstrously unfair murder trials: but still that is better, on any account, than tolerating or admiring crime. If one must worship a bully, it is better that he should be a policeman than a gangster.

So we are back to the comparison with Nigeria. In Nigeria our policemen ARE gangsta’s and it would seem the people would rather worship the real gansta’s so much so that they elevate them to elective office. And make the police worship them. How is that for an Alice in Wonderland hypothesis?

Who won? The Yanks or the Brits?

The Yanks and the Brits are allies anyway (like Oceania and Eurasia or maybe Oceania and Eastasia but it can all change, who knows.) The battle isn’t between the Yanks and the Brits, its between Nigerians.  More than 200 tribal and linguistic groups, just 5 or 6 large ones and everyone is struggling to enforce their truth as the only truth.

“Might is right” or “the end justifies the means” politics, that is what Nigeria has turned democracy into, even the Americans are copying us now. Orwell would have hated Trump’s regime but he would have hated the cold war between the left and the right even more I reckon. They have squared off in a classic good vs. evil battle.

The common people, on the whole, are still living in the world of absolute good and evil from which the intellectuals have long since escaped. But the popularity of NO ORCHIDS and the American books and magazines to which it is akin shows how rapidly the doctrine of ‘realism’ is gaining ground. The average man is not directly interested in politics, and when he reads, he wants the current struggles of the world to be translated into a simple story about individuals.

Orwell seems abandon intellectuals and join the ranks of he common man when he excoriates Salvador Dali and surrealism in another essay titled ‘Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali.’

What he clearly needs is diagnosis. The question is not so much WHAT he is as WHY he is like that. It ought not to be in doubt that his is a diseased intelligence, probably not much
altered by his alleged conversion, since genuine penitents, or people who have returned to sanity, do not flaunt their past vices in that  complacent way. He is a symptom of the world’s illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out WHY he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.

That gave me a good laugh. See shade.

Obscenity is a very  difficult question to discuss honestly. People are too frightened either  of seeming to be shocked or of seeming not to be shocked, to be able to  define the relationship between art and morals.

At least Orwell was honest in his revulsion at Dali. Just as he was honest in his praise of Gandhi. At least as honest as you can expect a hypocritical Englishman to be (his words, about English hypocrisy, not mine.)

“How clean a smell he has managed to leave behind” Orwell wrote in ‘Reflections of Gandhi’  even though he described much of Gandhi’s philosophy as inhuman and atavistic.

My favorite quote from this weekend reading –

Sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings.

It has freed me from the chains of sainthood. There are too many wannabe saints in Nigeria already. As an Igbo-Nigerian I can tell you that our hero’s and leaders are no saints. They are more like the licentious Roman gods than saints. Our hero’s, gods and leaders have flaws – like lust or temper or gluttony. That way we can relate to them. And avoid hypocrisy.

“People worship power in the form in which they are able to understand it” – Orwell.

Sometimes its hard to remember he wrote all this in the 1940’s. I swear.

I had to look up the dictionary definitions of realism and surrealism. It is the difference between things as they are and things as bizarre. Well, we live in pretty bizarre times right now and have to accept them as the times as they are. And deal with them. They are not opposites. Neither one is good or bad. Neither are Dali and Gandhi.

I’m also more a Dali than a Gandhi. And thanks to Orwell now I know that’s alright too.  I wonder why Orwell hated Dali so much? I wonder what he would make of me featuring Dali’s work in this blog post about him?

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.”

Fortified and inspired I can go about being my awesome self – Lesley.

Carry on.

(Find a collection of Orwell’s work including ‘1984’ here.)

 

Soft Watch At The Moment Of First Explosion Salvador Dali

Person at the Window by Salvador Dali