Independence means responsibility

I listened to Ms Fatou Diome’s passionate speech about immigrants dying in the mediterranean  a few months ago. It’s hard to ignore the truths in her speech.

The punchline from the first part of the clip 4:50 “we will all be rich together, or we drown together”

The second part of the clip talks about Africa taking responsibility and work together to stop wasting lives of future generation seeking for better life outside of the continent through the back doors to Europe.

Well, this meeting was in April, since then migrants crossing to Europe has reached a record high. Estimated death toll of   2,300 for this year alone.

I did watch a few Nigerians given testimonies about their trips, how they ended up joining the voyage from Libya going anywhere but Nigeria. The guys I watched were educated and even paid exorbitant amount of money to their smugglers.

I think this is a well-balanced enough argument, immigrant issue is a sensitive one, but Africa must do their bits as we are the one losing future of tomorrow at sea.

As Ms Diome rightly puts it “if we are really independent in Africa, we are also responsible for our destiny”

Oh well, I suppose here’s where good leadership comes in, again…

Graduate start-up loan

I read the other day that Corpers can now expect to have access to loan after a year-long service for those interested in setting up business of their own. Unlike other bank loans whereby getting required collateral is a deterrent for majority of Nigerians, here, the only requirement is the Youth Corps Discharge Certificate.

Interested graduate could get between 250k and 400k naira, bank determines how much to give based on business plan.

No doubt most people who would be interested in taking up this loan in the first instance are the folks from state and federal university just because they are likely to be from low-income households.

It would have been helpful if terms and conditions of this loan are stated clearly online to guide those who might be interested. I think even with the maximum of 400k ($2k), one can not rely on this alone and be expected to start paying principal + interest back in just six months – I suppose those taking up the loans will need to understand the terms well beforehand otherwise this may backfire.

The idea of helping new graduates to secure soft loans is meant to complement existing NYSC Skill Acquisition Program that all Corpers were supposed to have participated in during the course of their service year.

All great stuff as it seems something is being done to reduce unemployment rate in the country.

Here is what I found a bit unsettling, if this program is sponsored by the federal government, why are the Corpers not given equal access to the same variety of skills to choose from in all of our regions?  It seems the head of youth corp is aware of this but prefer to believe the opposite.

Here’s a statement from the NYSC Director-General Johnson Olawumi:

“He debunked allegations that the corps is yet to provide skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development to corps members, adding that the exercise has been ongoing since 2012.” – Pulse News

My question is instead of Brigade-General ‘debunking’ allegations, why can he delegate people to get accurate information from those making complaints, do random follow-up on stations to see if indeed all Corpers were given access to expected trainings.

I think the program is impressive but I also learned that Local Government Inspectors have different attitude toward this program which means some of our Corpers have fewer technical programs to choose from while others have plenty.

Also why is the fees paid to continue the scheme after three weeks in camp differ from region to region even when participating in similar program?

For example a Corper in one region paid 10k naira to train for leather work, while, in another region under the same scheme, learning the same leather work a Corper had to pay 15k naira.

I hope the corp members who are affected first hand by this disparity in fees and available skills to choose from can share information amongst themselves so Brigade General can make needed correction.

Thinking about this skill acquisition program, my hope over the next few years, this program will be better developed to mirror useful skill gaps in the country and then move it to our technical/polytechnic schools – I’m sure many people would get a lot out focusing on one skill for two years after secondary school.

Education quota system: a curse or blessing?

The more one pays attention to different aspects of our society, the more it seems something fundamental is very wrong, but the will to deal with it from the roots is really not there.

Unity School common entrance results is always on the news, this is because of the high disparities in the cut-off marks across our regions.

Established in 1966 in three regions as a vehicle to foster appreciation for education in our regions. Over forty years later, we now have 104 Unity Schools across the country and a quota system. Quota system was introduced to make sure all of our regions are represented in these schools.

Here is how it works – All aspiring students sit the same exam, however depending on state of origin, chances of getting entry to any of the available 104 schools differ greatly.

For example in 2013, state with highest cut off marks out of 200 in the south is 139 Anambra, lowest is Bayelsa 72. In the north, state with highest cut off marks to get to this popular school is Niger 93 while the state with lowest cut off marks is 2 for both Yobe and Zamfara.

What this means is that a candidate with 2 out of 200 from either Yobe or Zamfara has higher chance of gaining admission to any of the schools than a child with 138 from Anambra.

More confusing is that within one region, different cut-off marks is assigned, for example, Osun State is 127 while Ekiti 119 – Really? I thought traditionally, Ekiti are supposed to be quite enlightened and even in the past produced quite a few notable academics.

So from the time of yore, there is this notion that the north is disproportionately represented when it comes to education so the best way to make this even is to just allow folks gain academic qualifications they didn’t work for and perhaps have no interest in with lower marks than their southern counterparts?

Early this year when most secondary school students were preparing for final exams, my niece who is doing her NYSC service had 30 in two classes of final year students preparing for WAEC.

About a month to the exam, her class size had grown to 4x of what she started with as her school is a Special Centre. Special Centre is common knowledge in Nigeria as schools where exam cheating is not only allowed but expected, candidates pay extra for this.

She teaches chemistry in a Plateau school. Niece was frustrated after the first continuous assessment she conducted as more than half of the class failed, significant number of the students had a half out of ten. The highest mark was 7 out of ten earned by one person.

The day after chemistry theory exam, she had tongue lashing from a few girls with one of them saying “Aunty God will judge you” – they were very upset she was not at the exam hall to help. Some of her colleagues get paid extra for this purpose and no secret about it.

Why are these students allowed to write exams they clearly had no chance of passing?

Quota system is damaging to our education system. It is shamefully flawed and can only further extend the gaps it intends to close.

A better approach would be to give all children equal access to education and in turn merit based admission

Creating space for girls

It’s always better to hear from the horse’s mouth.

Inspiration talk by Mrs Mohammad. Sometimes it is easy to imagine all women in the north were subjected to early marriage especially with the attitude of some public officials in the news.

What I found impressive is Mrs Mohammad’s attitude of realising her privilege and effort to help educate many people around her that are less fortunate.

A typical example of why it is important to always look back and realise not everyone is fortunate is when, years later Mrs Mohammad saw her old friend who was forced to get married at 14years old  – She was expecting her first child while the old friend was expecting her 8th! 3:40 – 6:00

Oh, how sweet that the talk ended with a song of Hope by Jimmy Cliff “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone…”

Remembering Dr Adadevoh

How time flies!

It is unimaginable to think of what fate of many families would be today if not for the courageous Dr Adadevoh’s strict intervention that prevented Patrick Sawyer from travelling from Lagos to Calabar.

In the process of preventing what could have been the biggest epidemic of Ebola virus ever, she lost her life.

Impressive how everyone took warnings of ebola virus seriously in Nigeria at the time. Remote villages were not left out with updated news blaring every other minutes from radio and television informing people about the need to report anyone with Ebola-like symptoms.

I’m sure Dr Adadevor’s family are extremely proud of her bravery just as all Nigerians are. On this World Humanitarian Day, I hope we all remember a Nigerian who took her professional oath seriously and in the process saved many Nigerians.

To Dr Adadevoh and many others that lost their lives to the terrible virus both within the continent and outside – RIP

Not forgetting all medical professionals and volunteer across the globe that helped in one way or the other to curb the spread of the virus, thank you to all.

Custodian of Yoruba tradition

Custodian as defined by Oxford dictionary is a person who has responsibility for taking care of or protecting something.

In order words, a custodian of Yoruba tradition is someone who actively promotes all things Yoruba and building on positive legacy of the ancestors for this and generations to come.

Ooni Okunade Sijuade was said to be the Custodian of Yoruba tradition. I know my people rejoice in giving unearned praises but why do we have to stoop so low in 2015 when little was left for imagination?

My nephew last week was excited to share the news about his WAEC results. He had a B in Maths, a C in English and the rest of his papers were all like these two. I was happy for him as anyone who had written a WAEC in Nigeria could testify – it is not easy. Exam questions were just fine, the same can not be said for standard of teaching and available facilities.

So I asked “Aburo, what did you get in Yoruba?”

Reluctant to tell me. So I cut in to repeat what I had said earlier, that he had done really well with all his core subjects, just a shame that interest in Yoruba history and language is dying within the country.

So he muttered “F9.”

He is 17 years old.

Yoruba language is low value to many and I don’t blame them. Why would anyone take interest in the history and tradition of a language that elders preach one thing and did the opposite?

Many Yoruba of my nephew’s age understand enough Yoruba language to get by, no any real interest in tradition, culture and history because they have seen/read enough of some of our Yoruba kings’ drama on television/newspaper throwing words at each other, the fights is never about ways to unite Yoruba or leaving memorable legacy for the younger generations – usually it is about self-important and who deserved better recognition. The famous kickstarter of these exchanges usually is our dear Ooni Sijuade.

According to Femi Makinde of the Punch Newspaper, an Ife elder hinted the ‘crucial’ qualities the next Ooni of Ife must posses:

Whoever wants to succeed him must be a very wealthy person.”

“…The late Ooni was feeding about 500 persons everyday. The number was not static because sometimes, it could increase to about 700 and the new king must inherit those dependants too.”

To the first point, am sure in 10 years time someone like my nephew would likely nod along taking this for truth instead of asking:

And he could not afford to repair the road leading up to his palace even with $79M fortune?

To the second point, anyone who grew up in SW is likely to scratch head and ask:

Are these 500 people disabled or gang of Trouble Making Enterprise?

Most people in SW are subsistence farmer. Even folks from SE and SS in the area lease land to farm their vegetables. So how come people who owned land have to rely on food handouts?

Listening to Senator Omoworare reading Ooni Okunade Sijuade’s Biography to the senate tells priceless story about the king.

For the whole four minutes, we heard about honorary titles from different universities, and relationships with Nigerian kings – no single mention of any from Yorubaland. Not even his best buddy Alaafin of Oyo?

Oba Okunade Sijuade’s international repute were not left out yet no single traditional ruler from within the continent.

“He built ‘bridges’ across Nigeria” – How I wish the Senator could make this biography texts available online so Nigerians could read all about these wonderful ‘bridges.’

I am grateful that in Yorubaland today, we still have many Obas that are not as wealthy, with far less honorary titles and yet have contributed enormously to Yoruba race – to these kings, I say, thank you.

Now, who is going to be the Custodian of Yoruba tradition we didn’t have for 35 years?

Legacy of a Yoruba king

Articles about our very own Yoruba king, the custodian of our traditions, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II by Dele Momodu was interesting to read.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d be defensive but I know my people very well, some elders are so shameless that rather than speak the truths, they’d get out of their way to say complete opposite that only them believe.

So my conclusion after reading the two articles was that Mr Dele Momodu writes from his relationship with the king and he is perfectly entitled to his opinion.

Out of 38 long paragraphs, Mr Dele Momodu only talked about Modakeke in four lines and here’s what he had to say:

“He faced many challenges, the toughest being the internecine wars between Ife and Modakeke. It reminded me of the intractable clashes between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is to his eternal credit that he managed to reconcile with the people of Modakeke after a most fearsome and destructive war.” Dele Momodu

There is a reason Nigeria is in a sink hole today, we lie and assume everyone is equally mindless.

Modakeke and Ife crisis is number one legacy that Oba Okunade Sijuade left behind, he resuscitated the isakole/land ownership crisis. The war that Mr Momodu spoke of lightly killed thousands of people starting from the day after the king was crowned, the most gruesome one was the 1997-2000 whereby the king paid for many youngsters from out of town to fight to reduce casualties from Ife. People in our inner villages still live in fear today, thanks to Oba Sijuade Okunade.

I don’t expect Mr Momodu to be Modakeke/Ife mouth piece but he would have done a lot better to not even talk about the issue at all.

The only recurring themes from both essays was the Oba Sijuade’s London home in Chester Terrace and his social life style which has nothing to do with his role as an important Yoruba king.

I am glad that in the end Mr Momodu suggested qualities that the new king must have:

“Above all he must be kind hearted, good natured and selfless.”  Dele Momodu

In short, the new Ooni of Ife has to be all that Oba Okunade Sijuade was not.

The mention of being wealthy is nonsense, money would not buy you commonsense. How do you describe action of  airlifting 85 years old king who is frail and ill to be taking through the stress of flying six hours so he could meet his ancestors in a foreign land?

Most Nigerians with far less money will not do that to their parents.

We certainly don’t have accurate record of past history, but the last 30 years of Oba Okunade Sijuade reign is fresh enough that we remember and I hope kingmakers would realise time has changed. That Ife and Modakeke case is like adie ba lokun… We all want progress, then sustainable peace must be the first priority.

A progressive minded individual willing to adapt traditions and champion all-inclusive positive change in both Ife and environment is what we wanted and desperately needed.

Nigeria 2016 census

Nigeria is due for another census in 2016. I hope this time we’ll do a thorough job given improvement in technology.

Our census has always been controversial. There are speculations that folks hype the number in regions for the sake of getting bigger allocation.

From my experience, folks in rural areas take census seriously, census representatives go from house to house asking questions and filling the forms on behalf of the villagers. My parents talked about how diligent the census agents were in 2006.

A family member residing in another state were told to go to specific centres allocated to them to get counted. Many people had to put up with this as they were keen to get their community represented.

Looking at the questions from 2016 Nigeria 2006 Census Questionnaire I think lots of very useful questions were asked that should have helped in decision-making. 

The last part of the questionnaire were important questions on: Income, Education background, toilet facilities, access and type of water supplies etc 

If questions such as these were answered accurately, it will help to see prevalent living conditions of most Nigerians.

People want to cooperate with the government to get counted but the process need to be simple enough to encourage participants – asking people to give up a whole day so as to be counted is counter-productive as many people will not be bothered. Hopefully, the NPC will by now learn from the past, it will be fantastic for once to have less controversial census.


Nigeria 2006 Census Questionnaire

Diaspora and excess baggage

This guy cracked me up big time! It is a situation that lots of Nigerians and indeed Africans in diaspora is familiar with.

The more one helps, the more is expected.

The talk about sending money to help family back home is very common among diasporas especially for the first generation to live and work abroad. Yawning to help more is unanimous regardless of age.

To put it in perspective, diaspora contribution to African economy is well documented, in 2013 Nigeria diaspora remitted $21 billion, that is financial help alone. Many go further by contributing time, energy and expertise towards community development projects.

However, sometimes the requests get a bit too much, here’s a perfect example of how diaspora vent:

Many people can relate to this, however after the vent, we are more likely to still help as many family members do genuinely need assistance.

PS: The video is in Yoruba, the narrator has just been called to help yet another family member who has been admitted to the hospital due to typhoid (typhoid is very common in Nigeria due to poor hygiene), the same lady was knocked over three weeks earlier by a car – so this time brother has had enough of Nigeria palaver! Very calm on the phone but made up his mind to stay away for a while for sanity sake.

Epitaph of a King

Within two days of each other, two notable Nigerians passed away to the life beyond. One was Mufutau Adio, an actor popularly known as Ajigijaga. The news of his death was received with heavy hearts from fans.  Comments left by on article about his passing show the extent Nigerians cherish memories of him, people call him talented and inspirational.  Ajigijaga died of wound sustained from Okada accident. 

Condolences to his family.

Two days prior, July 28th, Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade II joined his ancestors. Yoruba kings don’t die, the belief is that when they are no longer with us physically, they are there spiritually hence we say Oba ti w’aja (the king has gone to the attic/loft).

The news of the Oba Okunade Sijuade was on the news a few hours after he passed. As expected, comments flooded in from Nigerians. The first comment said the usual RIP to the Yoruba foremost king.

Here are the first few messages after the first one.

 “In that case…Osama Bin Laden,was a good man, we thank him for killing millions before he died”

“Thank you! Adolf hitler too and Oga Sanni Abacha – wonderful men!!”

“Hahahahahahaha! Sure if Ooni will rest in peace Osama must be snoring in paradise”

Overall 359 comments on one article, the rest of the comments were as colourful as the ones above.

My opinion of Oba Okunade Sijuade is all written on my blog posts. He is one of the reasons I started blogging as I needed an outlet to get rid of unpleasant memories.

I was just beginning to make sense of the world around me when the king was crowned in 1980 and ever since then thousands of people have lost their lives and livelihood taken from many. This war on land ownership started with king’s father, so upon getting crowned, Oba Sijuade’s most important goal was to start where his father left off – he did try, a lot.

Ooni of Ife, Olubuse II died at the age of 85. How I wish the king could stay for a bit longer to see that the world will keep getting better and he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Death is too cheap.

“What did he die of?” A friend asked

Just had to laugh that off. There is a reason folks die of the same illnesses that could have been prevented. Nature of illnesses usually are kept secret for reasons I could never understand.

In Oba Okunade Sijuade’s case – he joined the ancestors  while in a London, UK hospital. As a sign of respect to the elders, we just do not ask, even if one did ask, the truth could not be divulged to the ‘ordinary’ people.

A note to say that Ife teaching hospital is less than two miles away from the prominent king’s palace so he could have been easily treated right at home, but the inferiority complex is a much bigger issue that affects those that we have as leaders.

Thinking back about all that has happened throughout the reign of Ooni Olubuse II, this poem came to mind:

 Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after, 
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand; 
He knew human folly like the back of his hand, 
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets; 
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, 
And when he cried the little children died in the streets. 

-W. H. Auden

Fertility checks without the risk of Hepatitis B

A doctor friend shared her experience of attending to a patient with fertility problems.

“I had a 35 year old patient with fertility problems. He has a 10-year-old son, his new partner is 33 and has 2 kids. They have not been able to conceive for 2 years. They argue about it and blame it on each other. Clever woman goes to her GP for advice. Silly man goes to Nigeria to “test his juice ” on other women. His explanation: When I went back home I decided to try with other women(5-6) and when none of them got pregnant he came to see me for a sperm count 😂.”

Good gracious! I haven’t laughed so much in a long time on something so serious… Izzy is an excellent family doctor so could not believe her ears that any adult living in the first world could be so ignorant.

Hearing this, Izzy advised Johnson to take comprehensive tests for sexually transmitted illnesses just to be sure all is clear. To this, Mr Johnson was shocked as he thinks he was okay given all the women he slept with in Nigeria were ‘decent’ people.

I bet they were all decent. They thought highly of him too especially that he is a Nigerian living out of the country.

A week later: “Do you remember your brother with fertility problems?” asked Izzy

“He’s got Hepatitis B.”

“Can you get Hep B from sleeping around?” I asked Izzy.

“Possible, unprotected sex with a carrier. It is serious, if chronic could lead to liver cancer.”

Johnson will be treated for HBV, his wife also will be tested for STIs too and receive appropriate treatment as needed, they both work and live in the UK so likely to be just fine in the end – good luck to both of them.

I can not but think about the poor women in Nigeria that Johnson had met during his juice-testing spree. The right thing to do would be for Johnson to encourage these women to test for HBV – if treatment is needed, getting on it early will prevent the spread of the virus.

Liver cancer from HBV infection is one of the leading cancer related diseases in Nigeria today according to Dr. Nkem Nwokolo  many people will not show obvious sign until it is too late.

As many people are in their thirties before settling down for family, the issues of fertility is inevitable, my hope is that our men will learn there is a better way of testing for fertility without spreading HBV out of ignorance – it’s called a visit to the clinic.

Eroding Yoruba traditions

I have been thinking about traditions lately and why there seem to be little trust in the traditions we were supposed to hold dare. In return, elders are quick to point out how children of nowadays disregard traditions to embrace science.

Today, I remember Yoruba tradition of Oku r’iro. Oku r’rio usually happens when enough people in the community suspect the death of a loved ones is caused by another person in the community usually by spiritual powers. The deceased will be ‘ro’ so as to come back and take revenge on all those who caused his death.

The ‘ro’ here means that the throat of the dead will be slit and the knife tied to the hand and buried together. The same knife, it is believed is meant to be used to serve revenge on those responsible for his demise. The process of Oku r’iro varies and it is believed to work, if the spirit of the departed is very strong, all those involved in the death of the departed will die in a matter of days after the final burial.

Why do we question traditions?

Several years a go, a family member died after a brief illness, he was about fourteen years old. His death was a huge shock to his family so they decided to ‘ro’ his corpse.

In Yorubaland, unless the cause of death is as a result of prolonged illness or auto accident, lightening, flood etc  usually sudden death is blamed on someone in the community.

For the ritual, I learnt there were lots of sacrifices to be performed, however the crucial part is that a piece of kitchen knife is placed in the corpse’s hand before burying. This knife is the tool that the spirit would use to fight the killers.

I was about nine years old the time I first heard about this rituals so I believed all that was said. Seven days passed and no report of ghost taking revenge so I wondered the credibility of this ritual.

Now as adult, I wondered how this belief came to be in the first place. How could anyone believed a dead person has ability to rise again and take revenge of any kind?

Is Oku r’iro another tradition that can not be proved it worked so safe to leave it in the past it belonged?

Has anyone heard about Oku r’iro and whether it has ever worked?


** Map of the Yoruba Country