All God’s children

This is the first comprehensive documentary of disabled people in Ghana that I have ever seen. I think Sophie Morgan and her team did excellently capturing the realities that are usually forgotten/hidden.

50:29 – I found the attitude of Mr Denis Secretary of the National Council for People with Disability very promising. To begin with he admitted the council has done nothing to stop the abuse of disabled people – that to me is incredible as often government officials are quick to deny the obvious.

27:31 – Watching Sheriff talking here is a heart breaker, such an articulate young man condemned to be chained because parents thought he had mental health issues.

19:23 – This is true of churches, too much secrecy. A sister who had to take her husband to a church due to mental illness in Nigeria gave detailed information of treatment, usually is chained up and plenty of valium.

41:39 – I have heard this before but to boast of being the one that kills off the disabled kids leaves more question than answer.

45:00 – Not all grim thank goodness centres such as Physically Challenged Action Foundation at Kumasi and Rehabilitation Centre existed to help and give hope to many whose family/community have lost hope on them.

This is all filmed in Ghana, if Ghana is 25 million people, imagine what to uncover in Nigeria Miracle mountains/Witch doctors/Islamic for health centres?

Many thanks Sophie for a raising awareness and for helping.

Sophie is taking a step further to help raise fund to help some of the people in this appalling condition, Here

Mother’s fight against FGM

When Nigeria outlawed FGM in May by GEJ as the last-minute bill to pass, my initial reaction was ‘great’! Then I thought, what is the purpose of passing this into the law when we all knew there will be no enforcement of law in place?

Few days later, I realised how little the news was publicised in Nigeria online media outlets. In fact the news was enthusiastically recorded in foreign news outlets than Nigeria.

‘Why aren’t we celebrating this important landmark?’ I asked myself.

Something was not right. Maybe people are tired of yet another law that only serve to make mockery of important human rights abuse case?

The other day I read about a London-based father who insisted his three girls  go through FGM in Nigeria just go to show how flimsy Nigeria law against FGM is.

UK in the last few years has done a lot to raise awareness, also gone a step further to empower schools to talk to their pupils about FGM so children can open up and seek for help if need be.

This father’s chance of getting away with cutting his daughters in the UK is very slim now. So his only option was to lure the girls to Nigeria where he’d get away with it.

The mother herself went through FGM and testified she has never fully recovered from the trauma.

A six years old girl is grown enough and will forever remember the trauma for life. The girls concerned are 6, 9 and 12 years old.

I say well done to the sensible mother for standing up against bad tradition.

Here’s her full story 

Dirty linen

I read this headline last week on Punch Newspaper:

Suspected homosexual rapist shot dead in riot

Predictably, Nigerians were to see ‘Homosexual’ + ‘Dead’ to mean no public sympathy or murder investigation is required, after all, homosexuality is illegal.

However, comments that followed revealed other plausible reason Alhaji Razak Adetunji Alaso was murdered and perhaps why most commenters showed no sympathies, even though he was stabbed with a broken bottle to the neck in broad day light.

Among many other activities associated with Alhaji Tunde, he was also known as Ajagungbale (land grabber) in his Alagbado area of Lagos. Known to terrorise home/land owners and make illegal demand for cash.

Reporting his fraudulent activities to law enforcement officers is a waste of time as he is well-known to them.

Issues with Omo Onile (land owners) in Lagos is a well documented one. Lagos residents dread them as these guys get away with bullying people into getting cash out of them in the name of being land owners.

For example – My sister and her husband bought their first plot of land about eighteen years ago somewhere near Ipaja – paperwork all signed. No arrangement to develop the land right away but they made regular visit to clear the land of bush.

They were once contacted by the seller that they needed to add more money as land in the area had appreciated in value. My brother-in-law was furious responded that he had all the paperwork showing he is the rightful owner and that he made full payment for the land and would not give in to their extortion.

The next time he visited the place, a foundation was on the land and builders working by the new owner.

My sister’s family cried, stressed, depressed for the loss of hard-earned money. Going to court over a plot of land for people who rely on daily work for bread is another waste of time and money. After a while they follow the path of many victims like them to say “God will judge.”

Coming back to Alhaji Razak Adetunji’s murder – Land ownership in Nigeria is a very sensitive issue because of the inconsistency in the way the law is applied.

Our Land Acts is open to many interpretations and open to abuse which many people like Alhaji took advantage of.

Some people see the murder of Alhaji Tunji as a payback for many people he had defrauded so they ‘got him’ thorough a loop-hole in the system.

Too bad the country who has failed to provide unambiguous Land Acts reform and enforcement of laws with protection of citizens from fraudulent acts, is the same country that is very quick to announce anti gay Acts.

I am neither gay nor live in Lagos but I do know that our unfair justice system is costing us dearly. Today, it is a public enemy being killed, tomorrow innocent citizens will be the next victim.

Just not right to think we live in a progressive world but with social consciousness of a century ago.

RIP Alhaji

All male team

I am all for the best person for the job. I also believe that gender inequality in Nigeria is well and alive to our disadvantage.

While there are numerous issues confronting Nigeria today, I see inclusion of women in all important decision-making processes too important to be put aside.

To have all male entourage accompanied President Buhari to the United States, 33 of them without one single woman is absurd.

Can we honestly say we have no women qualified enough to be on this trip? Of course not.

Imagine if the issue of FGM or child bride came up during the trip? I bet they’ll all scratch their heads and beg to take a break and quickly call up Mama/Wife for updates.

It just does not add up.

Duck eggs

If I had a kobo for every myth I was fed growing up, I’d have plenty of it by now.

Debating with adults with reasons makes them nervous as it is often mistaken for questioning authority.

There is a tale of vultures (Igun) as forbidden for anyone to kill, eat or use for any form of sacrifice. If anyone disobeys (d’eja), the repercussion is violent death.

This same myth has been included in many popular songs so not many people doubted the myth.

The story goes that there was a village vulture deemed untouchable, it grew bigger and getting in the way of meat loving folks, villagers were not happy but were told to let the vulture be.

One day the vulture disappeared so the whole village were called for a meeting to see if anyone is aware of its whereabout – nobody knew where the vulture went.

A day later a villager cried out that he was the one who captured the vulture and that he had eaten it, he boasted he was still alive and well so the myth of ‘all powerful’ vulture should be put to rest.

The man mysteriously died a few days later.

As it turned out, the man who told the village that he ate vulture did not eat it, he only wanted the village chief to realise that vulture myth should be tested and if indeed they shouldn’t eat vulture, other plausible reasons should be given – scaring people into believing a dead vulture is capable of killing someone isn’t the best way of instilling moral standard.

The man who captured, killed and ate the vulture but kept his mouth shut survived.

This is the tale I have heard so many times in the past, it means when tales of Eewo (forbidden) is told, one must not try apply any reason – just believe.

Continue reading “Duck eggs”

Genealogy

What’s in a name? I’m told family name is important, not only because they tell important ancestral stories but also it makes tracing lineage a lot easier.

While it is common that many generations bear the same family name in Nigeria, it is also very common that many family do not have one singular surname, in many cases father chose their own name for their children.

My siblings and I have my father’s surname as handed to him by his father, he didn’t think it’s wise for us to have different surname from him, however, two out of his four brothers preferred their children to have their own name as the surname.

As it turned out, this is very common in Yorubaland where male children decided on the name they prefer their offspring to bear.

Having said that, royal families, chiefs and wealthy folks tend to stick to their family name for ease of recognition.

A few years ago, I decided to do my family tree. I knew I will not go very far given the collapse of Oyo Empire and the rest of fragmented history of people taking refuge in neighbouring towns. I wanted to give it a go anyway and thought the other half of the lineage would be followed up sometimes in the future if I’m so keen.

Mother’s side of the family was not too hard, she knew enough of her parents and a bit of grandparents – their surnames was very useful, could have been a lot easier if not for several surnames within one extended family, nonetheless was a fun exercise.

My father side was a bit more of eye-opening, he was able to recollect family names and villages in which many dispersed to in search for bigger farmland given growing family.

My paternal grandmother was from Ife. According to my father, shortly after his parents got together, there was another crisis between Modakeke and Ife, because of this the family lost contact and whenever his mother goes home to visit her family in Ife, she would leave her children behind for the fear they’d be hurt.

This is the first time my father ever mention his mother was from Ile Ife. I was surprised he had kept this to himself for so long. I was only thankful that he is here to share the story.

Needless to say, my family tree on my father’s side didn’t go very far, I had enough information nonetheless. The big K leg in the family tree has history behind it.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one interested in family tree. I wonder how far back one can go in a country like ours where central/regional database for births and deaths are not accurate.

Also is there any good enough reason for not taking on family name?  This is especially for men as most women take on their spouse’s name or hyphenated it to include their maiden name.

Bamboo

Fascinating talk about bamboo usage in building construction.

As in many tropical regions, bamboo forest is very common in the south of Nigeria, they grow effortlessly usually near swampy areas or streams.

I remember my father made our outside kitchen from bamboo with palm tree leaves as the roof. It was a practical kitchen with space to keep few firewood away from rain and a bamboo swinging half-door (aganrandi) and a latch to keep domestic goats off.  The kitchen served the family well for about three years before he had to take it down as termites had eaten into the bamboo pillars.

Around the same time, we had a farm barn made of bamboo to store maize and house the chickens, called it Abe ile (under the roof) so-called as it was the place to take shelter when it’s raining or if we all need to meet up for lunch. Abe ile was a lot bigger than the village kitchen.

As abundant as bamboo is, they are susceptible to termites. Using regular insecticides like Raid is not cost-effective so people tend to use bamboo in construction knowing they will have to re-build in two or three years down the line.

Listening to Elora Hardy Tedtalk was enlightening  as it shows that with proper treatment, the possibilities are limitless.

Beautiful home she has there …

Enlightenment

Is it true that Nigerians lack moral and intellectual capacities to tackle human rights violations?

A friend recently told me of an elderly man who had a stroke, she was not sure if the allegations of the man’s niece as the cause of the stroke was true.

The news flying around was that the 60 years old man stroke was a curse placed on him by his niece.

“I thought stroke happened when brain is starved of blood?” I asked.

My friend knew all that but being a Nigerian she was caught up between believing science or the ever constant religious beliefs that all bad things that happened to us are the handiwork of the devil and by extension witches, mostly a family member we once had any disagreement with.

I pray the old man gets medical and psychological help he undoubtedly needed.

Here I wish making false allegations such as accusing someone of witchcraft could be made illegal in Nigeria, why is it so easy to label others when there are plausible explanations starring at us?

As it turned out in this man’s case, he was aware two years prior during his rare visit to the doctors that he had high blood pressure, his conditions were clearly explained to him. He was meant to keep taking his medications and make regular check up visits to the doctors. He however decided not to do the follow up despite the full understanding of the implication of his actions. As a result he had a stroke to the left side of his body.

Why did he feel comfortable labelling his niece?

A few years ago a renowned Nigerian priest slapped a young woman in his church in the presence of a huge congregation, he claims the victim was a witch and condemned her to ‘hell.’ This was publicised on Youtube, most people who watched the clip were not happy with the Bishop’s action but as the society goes, he felt no remorse for his action.

There is always talks of witchcraft in the community and often the adjective is used harmlessly to describe strong women. However, things have changed, now witchhunts happen mostly in churches and we allow the violations to go on even when there is no clear evidence to justify ill treatment and defamation.

When is our age of reasoning coming? Can we be religious and yet be aware of human right violations?

Or is it really the case that we lack the moral capacity to tackle reality staring at us, afraid questioning religious leaders of their detective skill of smoking out witches in our midst will be ungodly?

African narratives: Tell it your way

When we lose focus of what is important, sometimes others will have to tell our story the way they see fit.

When the story of #TheAfricathemedianevershowsyou started trending last week, the first thought that popped into my mind was the following quote:

“If you don’t like my story, write your own” – Chinua Achebe

The story started by a young woman who felt media is biased in their representation of Africa – they focus on the negative aspects of our everyday living, she says.

In the end it wasn’t so bad paying attention to what these ‘sick and tired’ Africans have to say about the continent. There were lots of photos highlighting many beautiful places on the continent that I didn’t know existed.

Lake Retba or Lac Rose/Pink Lake in the northwest of Dakar, Senegal and historic place such as rock-cut churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia are among many other beautiful photos circulated online that were new to me – I am grateful for the young woman who started the chat and many others that contributed.

Reporting positive news about the continent is as important as reporting all true stories especially if we are truly serious about change for greater good.

Take Nigeria for example, I know our stories are not all about lack of infrastructure, wasteland for talents, war-torn, corruption and poverty-stricken land.

I am aware that public schools in Nigeria today is nothing to write home about  – some buildings are unfit for purpose and so are the teachers.

The way I see it,  if we truly want change, we need not wait for Western media to report important news, we should be the one reporting it to one another – constructive criticisms from within is what we need more of.

Poverty – This is old news that half Nigeria population live in abject poverty. We also knew that most of these folks live in the northern part of Nigeria. We knew that a few of northern states struggle to pay state workers and depended on federal government bail out.

Now, as a Nigerian, what I struggle to get my head around was that the same states have now contributed millions of $s to lesser Hajj for hundreds of citizens.

Does this even make any sense at all?

On humanity/justice system – Two weeks ago, Prof. Albert Ilemobade, a retired Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Technology Akure was murdered by the house help in his home, depending on the reason for this terrible crime – the murderers may be set free tomorrow.

Two days ago, an elderly woman of 82 years old was hacked to death in her Ijebu home for  offending the wrong people – justice may never be served.

These are not isolated events, people seem not to pay attention anymore.

I think the future of Africa depends on Africans telling their true stories – be concerned enough to not be ashamed of telling the not-so-rosy ones, after all, it is all for the greater good.

Where being intersex means witchcraft

About a month ago, I was tagged into a story of a Ghanaian named Barbara Boakye-Yiadom who was at the mercy of the crowd around her. The victim was stripped naked, in no time mob gathered, snapping pictures – luckily the police got there in time to prevent jungle justice.

More worrying was the crowd mentality of blaming everything we have little knowledge of as being witchcraft. If it doesn’t fit into the standard definition, then it must be evil and evil were to be outcasts.

The photos taken of Barbara Boakye-Yiadom were graphic – it was a case of an intersex, with visible male genitalia and female physical attributes.

Looking through some of the pictures, I got a bit more curious because normally ‘our’ victims of witch hunt looked like anyone on the street so I thought there must be more to the story.

Lots of personal stories on the web of real people sharing their experiences as intersex. Stories that no one in Nigeria or in many African nations would share even if their lives depended on it – we are just not that open-minded.

This interview was an eye-opening, time spent watching was well worth it for me.

This incidence in Ghana was quickly reduced to mental health issue and nothing more was heard about it. We fear digging more about the story and educating others could mean spreading negative news about Africa.

Before this day, I didn’t know anything about intersex but I am aware that in most of African countries, anything out of ordinary is considered evil. Our world is black and white no room for any in-between.

I read Mrs Baokye-Yiadom story because of witch accusation, little did I know I’d learn new things about human biology and sex ambiguities.

Now that I am a bit wiser about intersex and their challenges. Knowing my Africa, I could not imagine how life must have been for many people living in the dark especially with folks whose gender ambiguity is more pronounced – bless them is all I can say.

I am grateful that the world is a lot open now, at least families and communities who wanted to seek knowledge can reach out to the wider world and hopefully draw strength knowing they are not so strange after all.

Who is AfriKa?

We still hope for change in Nigeria. When murders of all citizens get appropriate investigations it deserves and justice served – I know change is truly here.

Folakemi

My nephew and I were recently chatting about the state of things in our tertiary institutions. He is a year one student at OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University), well, in a normal world he would have been in year 2. He had since beginning of his course of study spent 6 solid months at home courtesy of ASUU strike actions. When the last strike ended we all rejoiced but I was quick to warn him that another one is round the corner as that is the way the system has been operating for the best part of 20 years. Anyway this time, OAU is closed because students protested the high increase of tuition. If it wasn’t that, it sure will be something else, this time we don’t know yet how long OAU students will be at home. Well, since the state governorship election is round the corner, the word on the street was that…

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‘Hyena’ of Southern Malawi

One day culture will not be enough of an excuse to commit crime against young girls, soon I hope.

Sharing her story, Memory Banda, a young woman from Malawi who managed to repel the terrible culture of ‘sexual cleansing’ of young girls in her community by an ‘hyena’ – an elderly man wandering from village to village getting paid by the victims’ community to violate girls as young as 11 years old in the name of culture. Some of this girls get pregnant as a result of the first time cleansing.

Ms. Banda’s own little sister got pregnant by the ‘hyena’ man at 11 years old,  at sixteen she already had 2 husbands and three children.

Child bride, I have heard about plenty of time but a man coming round to violate young girls with parents and community’s permission – this is so sickening.

Not sure about the ‘hyena the service man’ but Nigeria definitely has child bride issue in common with Malawi and I hope enough girls can watch this and realise they do have a choice to speak up.