Random thoughts on Boko Haram

All this while Boko Haram has not stopped the killing rampage in the north. New people are being recruited daily as well as rising number of casualties.

Pictures of mutilated bodies are all over Nigeria Army social media, each time I see another person, be it Boko Haram, Nigeria Army or the civilians – it feels wrong, completely wrong that the ongoing insurgency has become almost normal.

There are cases of people joining Boko Haram because of monetary reward, only to discover the mission was to use them as suicide bombers. Those that escaped can tell the tale.

In the above case, there is no reference to religion as the incentive for killing fellow humans, it doesn’t matter who the point of reference was during prayers – these guys are willing to kill just about anyone as the cash reward is all that they were after.

Another example is the young woman who was captured in her northeast village over a year ago, she goes by Hauwa. She was among the three sucide bombers that killed 58 people on February 9th.

Hauwa is thought to be 17 or 18years old, she didn’t know her real age, despite this has married twice. She was asked to detonate bomb when she refused to marry the third husband at the BH camp.

It seems to me that the main reason Boko Haram were kidnapping girls was to have their own personal sex slaves and when they are done with one, exchange her amongst themselves with the expectations that the girl will always comply and if they sense any resentment, they send them on journey of no return – what a world we live in. And yet people can’t seem to see the damage child bride is doing to the psyche of these guys?

The guys are basically replicating the only thing they thought their girls are alive for.

On a more lighter note, $35M has been recovered from the corrupt public officials who diverted the money meant to fight Boko Haram into their personal accounts – more to be recovered.

I do hope that President Buhari will follow through with not just recovering the funds, but also to give appropriate punishment to all the perpetrators, otherwise how is anyone going to learn?

Nigeria special religion of rigidity

Whenever Nigeria politicians had to quote religious texts to proof anything, it is clear they had no tangible excuse not to give whatever that was presented fair hearing so the easiest way out of not doing their job is to *’Nigerianise’ the issue.

So it’s the case of gender equality bill that the senate conveniently refused to pass last week as the content violates their personal bible and Quran.

To begin with, I doubt all of the senators, especially the naysayers read the information in the document at all. They do have to, all it takes is one or two senators to read and show his disgust to the fact that women dare ask for more legalised freedom to be a person of their own, fair treatment and equality in social justice – that’s just too western idea.

If we can’t solve misogyny from homes, neighbourhoods, social gatherings (i.e church and mosque), what chance do people have to get anything gender-parity related passed at the senate?

Nigeria as a whole seldom agrees on any issue at the same time, but when it comes to misogyny, most men would choose to keep women around them silenced as their ego depended on it – this often receives unanimous approval.

Like so:

I still could not believe how this guy get to be the Senate President, incredible Nigeria.

This Prof confidently narrated an event where he slapped a female school head teacher to show his supremacy above women around him. He shared his story with hundreds of young adults in the hall totally oblivious to the message he is rubbing off them. All I could think as he boastfully talked about his education and influence was:

“Baba, make sure you keep your oversized ego in your Ibadan neighbourhood.”

The Prof is a Muslim, it can easily be Christian or any religion. Nigeria tends to agree well, well, that their only obstacles in life are their women.

Christians are a bit subtle compared to our Muslims, they do have their way of imbibing in the young female that they are indeed subordinate – scriptures command.

In our traditional holy ghost, tongue speaking church, teen boys are not only encouraged to play musical instruments, but make it more like a right of passage for them. In the same church, girls are not allowed. I have always thought perhaps because most girls are at home helping with chores but I recently learnt that it is another scriptures’ command that girls are exempted.

This should have been parents’ problem right from their home. If I go to a church, I don’t see myself in gatherings where children have been told to ‘know their place.’

Too much damage is done right from home, parents who believe all genders should be giving equal opportunity must be involved and guide their children where their confidence is not shadowed.

On the senate gender equality bill, one of the issues raised in the document was clear and enforceable inheritance law especially for the widow and children left behind. This is a very important issue that everyone has to deal with. Traditionally, there is a way of settling inheritance but it is widely known especially in southwest that the loudest gets all.

I have seen a situation in my town whereby shortly after the husband was killed in a car crash, the brother without wasting anytime took over the older brother’s business and put plan in place for the wife to move out of the family house he assumes it was his brother’s property. Here there was little regard to the three children in relation to what their father properties.

Why would any lawmaker thinks this is not worthy of attention?

Out of 109 Senators, we have just 7 female members, and yet my people get super rigid and too tranced to look at our reflections in the mirror. What we have in the senate is a clear reflection of our society. If we want it any other way, then our mothers and forward-looking fathers must do their job from home and community.

 

  • Nigeriansise = sexism, tribalism, bigotry, religion, corruption.

New king, new Olorì

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Where have I been? I didn’t see that coming at all. Oh well, I wish Prince Charming and Olori a beautiful union together.

I am sure Olori Wuraola Ogunwusi needs no introduction to the town and Siamese next door neighbour – to lead a town is to get to know the people and streets – I hope Olori’s time in the palace will be one to reckon with positively for everyone.

It is simple really, study everything that Ooni Okunade Sijuade four Oloris did and do the complete opposite – easy, job is done.

Often when we hear about famous king having a new wive, they often go for someone a third of their age; like one just did up north a few months ago. It is comforting to hear that Ooni Ogunwusi marries a grown woman, hopefully Olori Wuraola would use her position to embark on projects that have positive impacts on the lives of people around.

Eyin Olori ko ni m’eni o.

Still on unsolicited callertunes and text messages charges

Last week I wrote about Nigeria telephone companies (most of them) imposing unsolicited callertunes charges on people, here and sometimes last year on the same issue here.

It is an issue that bugs Nigerians. But why do we let this go on? Why aren’t government officials doing their job?

Another twist that I just learned the other day was that of unsolicited messages –  inspirational texts advising on weight loss programs, business seminars, youths conference etc – why are telephone companies allowed to get away with flooding citizens phones with these?

For some reason, I didn’t know that these annoying messages incur charges even when consumers did not ask for it?

It is interesting that when MTN was fined for invading tax in Nigeria, many people have words to say to MTN (rightly) but why are citizens wasting their energies defending the government that cares not for them? Even if the fine were paid, how do we know it’s not going to grow legs and waka comot?

Given most of our public officials loved to boast of their international knowledge, why has Mr Adebayo Shittu not stopped this happening? Or maybe he gets a cut for looking the other way?

The day after I wrote the last piece on annoying callertunes charges, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) was said to release the following message or at least someone said they did:

“NCC gives Nigerians a number to call. Dial 622 to report any telecommunication company that deducts your money illegally through dial tunes, SMS etc or arbitrarily without your consent. Place the call whenever you need to, it’s toll free. Help circulate this information. This stealing just has to stop!”

If this is truly from NCC, it shows that he is listening to begin with – but I very much doubt this.

Then the same guy who posted the above message on his FB has this to say:

“Finally, MTN listened after so much had been FINED on them by NCC.
To opt out of all MTN useless adverts, dial *123*5*4# and follow the instructions.
No more 32043, 33070, 5010, 4100, etc. Especially Isa49v…….. Only Bank Credit Alerts.
Save a life today by sharing. It is real because i just opted out of MTN mobile advertising bullshit!”

Nigeria is a funny country, the above instructions reminded me of Harriet Tubman’s quote :

“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” Harriet Tubman

Why on earth do people have to be the one calling MTN or any other telephone company for that matter to remove anything? Why can it not be the case that people make this choice themselves?

My father about two months ago informed me that he has changed his phone network provider, his explanation was that ‘won ti n ja owo mi ju lai nidi’ (They took my money for no reason (most Nigerians are on pay as you go, making it far easy to extort money from them)).

He is the kind of person that likes to know how much each phone call costs. Now I understand better what he was trying to explain then. This morning when I ask  if he still receives unsolicited text messages. His words were “beeni o, message ti ko n’idi, ti ko ni lair” (useless messages).

My father just changed from MTN to Glo, from fry pan to fire – literally, when it comes to Nigeria telecoms extortion.

It will take a few months to make him trust Etisalat enough to change to them.

The thing is, it bothers my father much more than my mother. Moomi can’t read so just ignore completely – but is it fair to extort money from an 80 year old lady?

My parents are lucky at least they have my sisters and I. What about millions of other people who live from hand to mouth?

If NCC own data was to be believed, as of July 2015 we have estimate of 141M connections in Nigeria. Also note to say that an average Nigeria has at least two lines from two different companies.

What else is Mr Adebayo Shittu’s job if he fails to make sure telephone companies adhere to simple ethical practices?

 

Child witch hunt: when deafening silence of friends hurts

A friend comes in nick of time that they are needed most – that one person that speaks out when others think they are not close enough to intervene. Sometimes we found that friend/s within the family, other times it is an outsider who recognises humanity we all share that tells us what others would rather be quiet about.

Accusing fellow Nigerian of being a witch is still very common both in our cities and small towns. It only takes one person to voice out their narrow bigoted views, then it goes on from there.

The most irritating one was of young children, they are the most vulnerable and yet those who are ‘unlucky’ to be disabled are outright labelled as witch that deserved to be tortured to death by own family, orchestrated by bible carrying prophets.

That friend, for the 3 year old ‘Hope’ from Akwa Ibom wasn’t any of the neighbours or Nigerians for that matter, it was a Danish aid worker Anja Ringgren Lovén who refused to look the other way, she helped safe the little boy’s life.

Nigeria, when it comes to beliefs in witchcraft, is a pretty messed up place, in all of our regions we have our poisons that is eating us alive. In Yorubaland, it is girls and women that usually get accused of witchcraft, in the East it is their boys that’s their enemies – what a world.

Often this accusations is backed up by bible quotes and often the accused are  disabled or that something happened in the family and because we just have to blame someone, then we picked on the most vulnerable people around – young child or elderly.

Southern Nigeria is home to most of the country’s christians – they are going to drive us all to heaven and yet the most vulnerable ones amongst us are being tortured by own kind – God is in heaven shaking his head.

Centuries after the Europeans have moved on from witch hunting their own kind, Nigerians are knee-deep into it. Centuries after the Europeans have managed to separate state from church – my people are still knee-deep, wasting millions of $s on religion instead of developing ourselves.

I suppose my people are super loyal to those that introduced the religion to the country – when will our own enlightenment arrive?

A fellow Nigerian who was saddened by this event sent the link a couple of weeks ago, he thought Nigerians need to talk amongst ourselves to move away from this primitive attitude. I told him he was mistaken if he thought the enlightened ones are not aware of this, of course they were but why should they care when their families are not directly affected?

I am thankful to the Danish lady, Anja Ringgren Lovén who took on Hope’s case, glad that the poor boy is responding well to treatment. Happy that good people of the world donated to help Hope, I am sure there are local people involved in this process too so thanks to them.

Anja Ringgren Lovén and Hopo
Anja Ringgren Lovén and Hope

Here is Hope’s photo when Anja met him on one of  Akwa Ibom roads. My people
tend to feel offended by ‘grim’ photos, oh well, this one is worth copying, I think.

Thankfully, the world is growing smaller by the day, many more people in Hope’s shoes will be saved.

Most upsetting bit here is the deafening silence of our our people.

Taxing informal economy in a way that they are not worse off

For the last year or so, there has been an increasing emphasis on the need to tax informal economy in Nigeria, the excitement is across the nation.

As if it is new awakening that people in this category make money too. Well, the clue to the interest is the ever decreasing oil prices.

Last year I read with interest, notes from Nigerian economists (too many to mention) – I just have to shake my head. Not that they didn’t make sense but because I realised that for some reason a chunk of Nigerians have been walking around thinking the civil servants/office workers are the only one that should have robust disposable income.

This is ironic because even today, most Nigerians both male and female work in informal sector – from rural area to big cities.

Like our governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Aregbesola – his mother is called Iya Olobi (kolanut seller) for a reason.

 

Now, my state is making a lot of changes, creating more local councils and all. I don’t understand reasoning for many of these actions, but I hope those closer would have better understanding.

Which brings me to the point of the new tax cash cow that my people are just discovering – informal sector.

I am all for taxing; making everyone contribute their fair share to building our state/nation. However, there has to be a defined formula to follow so that people here are not worse off.

Whether it is Akara Osu or Dodo Ikire or indeed Mama Olobi that we want to tax to raise revenue – it has to be fair if we ever want to get it off the ground at all.

I read somewhere where Ogbeni Aregbesola stated that he was trying to emulate what has worked in other countries (or something like that), that is great. One of the purposes of taxation is to create social welfare where there is a pool of fund whereby everyone contributes to and then redistributed so that the least of us are not worse off.

Significant part of tax fund goes back to maintaining communities in the west – Public schools, libraries, museums, recreation centres etc – these help to ‘cushion’ tax burden for people because they can see and be beneficiaries of their contributions.

This means that everyone in principle pays according to their earnings. With no exceptions.

I think it is a misconception that people don’t want to pay tax in Osun State for example, people just don’t want to ré èsun s’ínú ibú (taking from the pond to fill ocean).

Most people in informal sector in Nigeria have no pension waiting for them so they put all their earnings on educating their children (those who chose to). If they don’t work, no kobo comes in – as simple as that. If they fall ill or any of their family does, they may end up loosing every kobo paying medical bills.

Too many people close to me lost all their money this way, and in some cases life.

So if we are going to successfully charge informal sector, people need to see this money being put back into our public schools including our villages – too much money waste of useful cash/time for needless travel for the villagers.

Many of our people will never make it beyond secondary schools – let’s make it worth while for everyone not just children of folks in offices and towns.

If villagers’ money is good enough to contribute to building revenue for the state, they deserved improved schools (like the new ones) too.

Osun a maa dara si

Stop charging unsolicited callertunes

When the new Nigeria Minister for Communications, Adebayo Shittu resumed office a few months ago, there were loads of promise, the last on the list was what really concerned lay person on the road:

“I promise that Nigerians will get value for every kobo they spend on telecommunication services.”

Has he delivered? One of the biggest scam that I have seen going on in Nigeria in the last few years was unsolicited callertunes. Not too surprising that the most ripped off people in this were the very poor people who rely solely on cheap scratch cards to make calls.

The other day I called a few friends on both MTN and Globacom each one has a callertunes something that goes ‘Orisa bi iya k’osi’ (in honour of Mother’s Day) – even those who are not previously on callertunes all have one imposed on them.

I know that MTN is Nigeria No1 foreign company enemy at the moment as they owe us tax, this is a different issues that cut across board with all mobile telephone providers in Nigeria with the exception of Etisalat.

This is how this unsolicited callertunes work for these two major mobile telephone  companies:

Most Nigerians today rely on scratch cards to make calls – prepaid. Those who can afford post paid or monthly package are in the minority.

Those who are mostly affected by callertunes are the prepaid folks. Say Mama Eleja loaded ₦200 in a month to make calls.

From that ₦200 MTN deducts ₦50 monthly for callertunes charge.

If it was Globacom, they deduct ₦20/week = ₦80 monthly – This one is for those who preach ‘buy local’, what is the benefit for the masses?

If Mama Eleja does not want callertunes, she will have to go to MTN or Glo offices to take it off her SIM or follow on-screen instructions (goodluck if she can’t read) or call their offices.

If Mama Eleja was too busy or has no knowledge of how to go about the issue of taking callertunes off her phone and at the end of the month still has credit of ₦80 on her account. MTN or Glo would gladly take yet another ₦50/month or ₦20 per week from the woman’s credit for the service she neither needed nor asked for.

These companies will continue for as long as there is credit in the account.

How is this fair on the same people we gladly call ‘poor’? Why continuing to knock those who are already down?

The only mobile company that I know of that do not automatically impose callertunes on people’s phone is Etisalat – I know this as my sister uses them.

And by the way Etisalat is partly foreign company too.

If Etisalat can do what is fair and only give callertunes if requested, how hard is it for the likes of MTN and Glo to adopt the same principle?

This is why we have Minister of Communications to be on the side of people and speak on their behalf and to be constantly checking and be sure people get the best deal.

My question for Mr Adebayo Shittu is what is he doing to make sure telecommunication companies have the consent of people before adding chargeable services to their phones?

Life cycle

Yeye: I thought mother in Yoruba is ‘iya,’ is it also ‘mama’?

Me: Yes, it is. There are a few words that means the same thing.

Mama = mother

Yeye = mother

Iya = mother.

There you have it. Very likely that there are other variations of Yoruba words that means mother.

Calling someone ‘mother’ in Yoruba does not strictly mean biological mother, oftentimes we use mother loosely to refer to someone we admire usually within extended family.

In my family, I have an aunt that I call Yeye mi (my mother) she is a bit older than my father, they get along very well. When I was younger, her house was a stopover for my sister and I when we were out hawking something. She will always insist we come in from cold water and to rest our legs.

There is also Iya mi (my mother). Iya mi is my great-aunt. She was ccommodating and caring. Iya mi was known for her delicious stew. During school holidays, her house is the place to be in the evening as she cooked the best ìkẹ̀tẹ́ (thick palm oil stew) to go with yam.
Also, she was one of the very few people who retained their old open plan home style in the village which means there is plenty of room to spread mat to accommodate many children especially for ààlọ́ (traditional story)

In my case, I call my mother Moomi (a version of Mama mi) as common in my area while ‘Maami’ is used in cities.
With English infusion into the language, ‘mummy’ ‘mom’ is commonly used now for many.

“Is that why I am named Yeye?” Yeye asked.

Yes, after your grandmother. It’s usually patrilineal, if a mother of a father passes on, the next girl to be born in the family is named Yeye – this is the practice if the said grandmother was well loved. You could have been given her real name but grandma didn’t like her name ( I don’t blame her), luckily we have Yoruba generic one to the rescue.

Full name is Yeyewande – mother has come back to me

And two other names to honour grandmother:

Iyabo – Mother has returned

Yetunde – Mother has come back

As the saying goes, ‘when you are in Rome…’ Today is the UK Mother’s Day. Here is Prince Nico Mbarga, the well loved musicians whose Sweet Mother song has brought tears of joy to many people because it rings true of many mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers be it biological or otherwise.

When it takes a village and indeed the parents

If there is anytime that I believe the saying “It takes a village to raise a child’ the case of Ese Osuru is one, well in this case “…to rescue a child.” I read through some of the contributions of amazing people rooting relentlessly for the release of Ese, some even had time responding to others who thought a 14 year old girl is ‘ripe’ enough for marriage.

Short version of the story. Ese Osuru is a 14 year old Bayelsan girl in secondary school. August 2015, Ese was taken from Bayelsa to Kano by Mr Yinusa without the knowledge of the family. Yinusa, before this time is well known by the family – he buys food both in cash and credit from the mother.

Two days later Ese’s mother went to Kano searching for her daughter – all in all she came back without Ese. The tale included Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Kano police and then Bayelsa police – none of these people could do enough to get Ese, a 14year old back to her parents.

After recent intense pressure from the public, Ese was re-united with her family 02 March 2016. She left home 12 August 2015.

Crazy? One would think. Well, if Yarima, a Senator could marry a 13 year old, why not Yanusi?

In Yoruba, we say ‘Ka le ẹlẹ́yọ́rọ́ s’ẹ́họ̀n, ká tó bá adìẹ wi’ (chase away fox before discipline chicken).

The family have suffered enough so I am not going to be critical of the parents but I will say this. When I was Ese’s age, I don’t see my parents during the week as they live in the village about 12 miles or so away (thanks to the government for not maintaining village schools).

Before my mother agreed to leave us behind, she had supports of trusted adults around.

There was a lady, Mama Sola who was very close to my mother, they were good friends, she knew all there is to know about my family and vice versa. She lived next door. If Mama Sola didn’t see us, she’d come by in the evening to say hello and take a ‘stock’.

In the building were three other families, all were known to my parents. There was another very nice family, they just returned to town from Lagos – the woman and my mother got along well, so she is always on our case.

Both of these women gave accounts to my mother whenever she comes to town, usually end of the month and in return my mother gave the only gift she could afford – palm oil and gaari.

Yinusa’s type is everywhere in Nigeria and are growing because they are getting away with crime.

When I was 16, we moved house as landlord coming home due to retirement. We moved to a much bigger house, a storey building with 6 different families, 4 bachelors and my sister and I.

Shortly after we moved into this building, we had a new fellow tenant, in his early 40s. He rented the room directly opposite our room, he was a lorry driver but going through hard time as his wife left him with their 3 year old daughter. Occasionally, his daughter would visit.

This is all that we knew about him. He seems nice.

In this house our ‘guardian’ was the landlord. He was home a lot during the day.

And there is a church behind us, a branch of the church that we attended, but we just can’t be bothered to change church so my mother went to the pastor to introduce herself so the pastor and his wife were another people keeping eye on us. Their older daughter and I were in the same class.

Our movement is quite predictable. Home – school – home – church and Friday evening, away until Sunday evening.

Long story short was about the new tenant. I’ll call him Baba Yetunde here. In this house it was just me and my younger sister. We were both in the same school.

Baba Yetunde started making odd comments such as ‘to know a girl is beautiful, one has to see her first thing in the morning’ this was meant for me, I would just smile and walked along.

Then he bought be a wrist watch as a gift, oddly didn’t include my sister. I still didn’t think anything of it. Thankfully, one day Baba Yetunde spoke to another of my mother’s ‘foot soldiers’ who on occasion would stop by to check on us that he wanted to marry me and that he has hinted my mother on this.

The said ‘foot soldier’ waited until my mother came to town and told her. Let’s just say it was not pretty because Baba Yetunde did not know that my mother’s worse nightmare was to hear her child is dropping out of school to get married and my mother has never liked us receiving gifts from anyone not even my own uncle who had ‘history’.

The result? Mother finds enough reason for us to move out of that house.

I am glad that the efforts of good Nigerians paid off on Ese. Happy for Ese’s parents – second chance is great. Happy for Ese.

Whatever is going to happen to her unborn child is a whole other story.

Public appeal done the right way

Like many other everyday people around the world, Nigerians can be really generous. Often people who do not have a lot are eager to give a little to help others especially when it has to do with sudden event that has impacted other people’s life negatively.

Before social media, in 1999 (or 1998) I remember one certain journalist who was involved in a terrible car accident that left him with spinal injury, with no medical health insurance, no tangible personal savings and the need for urgent medical intervention, the said man took to the public travelling from town to town in SW and appealed on radio (probably tv too but I only heard him on the radio). The news got around very fast mainly from word of mouth.

The day he came to Oduduwa Hall at OAU Ife, the hall was packed – people were super generous mostly those who had very little – He eventually got the needed surgery.

Now with social media, sometimes it is such a shame to see that people ask public for donations to help fund medical bills of their loved ones but they do not get nearly enough for the cause. This is usually the serious case type. For example people in need of organ transplant within or outside the country.

When asking the public for money, usually the appeal is geared towards everyday folks and not the super rich. Therefore, it is important to provide enough information for the public to help them with decision-making.

While ₦200 (<$1) may seem like chicken change but when enough of us give it to a good cause, then one person’s life gets needed improvement they needed that they otherwise may not get without help.

This is the process I have seen people using successfully in the west.

Other times, our people concentrate on calling the government for help to pay medical bills, most often government turned blind eye, this is predictable. I am not sure why people do this because the only reason anyone will get a call back is if you know someone to press the right bell, so why bother.

I’d rather put more pressure on the government to stop using national budget for their health tourism around the globe so everyone faces the same fate – that way they will know it’s crucial to invest money in health sector so everyone can benefit.

When I come across Efena public appeal on 10 Feb, I read and listened to the lady’s story – I just knew in my heart that she will get all the money she needed because the appeal was done right and I am glad to see that more and more people are donating to help her.

This is how pubic appeal is done – tell the story in its entirety, give enough information about how the fund will be spent, those around that are supporting and what you are currently doing to help yourself – people tend to help those who are eager to help themselves –  those who will help, will even if it is little.

Omo Naija, make it easy for people to donate, I mean for good cause such as this.

Best wishes to Efena on her journey.