Yardstick for weight of sin

In many Nigerian homes, taking something that didn’t belong to one without express permission from the elder or the owner is seen as a serious offence. So much so that a child who helps herself to a piece cookie is often in for a serious punishment.

Thieves don’t go to heaven, church will say.

‘Ile ti a f’ito mo, iri ni yio wo (the house built with saliva will fell by dew) the community will say.

‘Do not tarnish the good name of the family.’ Parents will constantly remind one.

I was about 10 years old the first time I saw a dead person floating at a stream by the main road at Old NEPA area. It was around 8:30am on my way to school. A large crowd gathered to see if anyone recognises the dead body.

He was a young man perhaps in his 20s, he had gone for a robbery the night before with his gang. His mates escaped, he was the unlucky one as he was caught.

If a robber is caught in Nigeria, more often than not s/he is a goner. The person who did the killing disposes the body in the open, public usually don’t talk about who did the killing – we are just glad the thief is dead.

Because jungle justice means one down.

Last week I read a story of a robber who went with his friends to steal a *generator and television set in Mararaba, Abuja. Two escaped, one caught. The one that was unlucky to be caught is here:

Apologies for the gory image. Images like this one shows the value we placed on human lives.

Most of these petty thieves are the same young guys wasting their lives away online to defend our corrupt politicians. They kill for politicians, they attend court orders for/with them, they stalk innocent citizens both on the streets and online for them.

And when politicians no longer needed their service, they returned to the streets to continue to live the lives they have enjoyed.

Living off others.

What I still found ironic in Nigeria is the way we arrive at conclusions of appropriate punishment for thieves and burglars. Unanimously, we condemn out load that thievery of any kind is bad. Because of this we seldom show empathy to any thieves pelted with jungle justice.

 

Almost everyday now we hear about another Nigerian civil servants returning stolen fund, most of them are highly celebrated. Actually their trips to the court is another Owambe.

Some of the confession coming out is so disgusting that I am seen more clearly why many people think all Nigerians are inherently corrupt.

Anyways, the latest I heard was this guy Alex Badeh who bought a property worth of ₦320M (today’s $1.6M) for his son, and that is just one.

Now, one would ask how did a Chief of Defence Staff had this much authority on fund belonging to Nigeria Air Force?

If as a nation we condemn thievery of any kind, why is it that petty thieves in our land are the ones that almost never had any chance of defending themselves?

Why is it that the higher the amount of public money stolen, the greater the chance of being celebrated and walking out freely?

If Buhari has just one thing to do and be remembered for, it will have to be for him to not only recover the fund but also to make sure there are consequences for the ‘big’ thieves too.

Assault

When Nigeria senate refused to take gender equality bill seriously the other month, many people were surprised. Many Nigerians take to social media to voice their opinion, I did too. However, I was not a bit surprised and in a way our women reactions especially those in public offices, celebrities and influential signalled that some have not lived real Nigerian life.

While gender inequality is a huge global problem, in Nigeria it is common that we don’t always pursue common interests. This is what I mean, for the most part, we have not been able to work on common goals that cut across our biases, pretty much our actions seem to be based on political affiliations, class, education, tribe and of course the mother of it all, religion.

A couple of days ago a Nigerian MP Onyemaechi Mrakpor was slapped in public for all to see how much she was ‘out of line’. The said lawmaker is 49. Her offence was that she overtook the motorcade carrying the Comptroller General Dr. Peter Ezenwa Ekpendu at the exit gate of the National Assembly.

Because of this, the Comptroller General orders his aide to deliver the dirty slap to the woman as a matter of how dare she?

I was expecting to see Nigerians reactions to be in support of this woman, not because she is a lawmaker but mostly because she is a woman, she could have been illiterate woman like my mother or me for that matter – why on earth should we have public officers disrespect their peers like this simply because they are women?

Many of our women and indeed men who are always on the side of gender equity didn’t think much of this.

Here is a comment I copied from a Nigeria popular site, nairaland, it was the only one that received ’60 likes’ (the highest by far on that post).

”I wonder why there is an uproar because a member of the House of Reps received a dirty slap,if the woman had being up and doing in her legislative duties in time past,she might have saved herself from this national embarrassment,was she not aware of the daily abuse of human rights by security agents?,what bill did she sponsor to that effect?,now she is a victim and wants the entire Nigeria to sympathise with her.
She had better accept the slap in good faith,next time she might not be so lucky,it could be an accidental discharge,how many Nigerians get slapped daily?,how many innocent Nigerians get killed?,how many times was any security chief summoned?.
This is just a tip of the iceberg,you can never eat what belongs to the masses and go scot free,a time of reckoning and the inevitable law of karma is coming,it might not be now,but it will eventually come.”

The above sums up the mentality of many Nigerians today, the person who posted this has many people listening to him/her. Actually, many comments on the issue have similar opinion.

I’d admit that as a woman, it is hard to understand reasoning of some of our women leaders especially when all their values have been reduced to bling-bling and Owambe (non value added parties).

However, this is a perfect example to show how well ingrained disrespect for women is in our society is. This is very similar to the one I witnessed where a professor boasted about slapping a school headteacher because it was just too beneath him to have proper adult conversation to resolve the matter civilly.

And again, in order to stop this attitude from reoccurring, education on the importance of discouraging violence must start from home, school and this will reflect in society.

In this case, both the aide who delivered the job and the Oga at the Top Comptroller General are clearly not good role models to the public so why should they stay at the job they suck at?

People don’t just change unless they knew their actions will insure consequences.

For now, we wait for what will happen in the next week or so.

Extension

A friend spotted the book my nine-year old daughter was reading, she pointed at it and had a giggle. It was a book for teaching children steps to do simple braids such as French braid and ribbon twists for colourful clip ons.

She shared a story of her Indian friend who was married to a Jamaican guy. Like many mixed race children, the girl’s hair was banged in the middle, neither here nor there – it takes getting used to for the mother and finding what works best to keep the hair healthy and the wearer happy.

Her friend says dealing with the girl’s hair was the most challenging part of raising her daughter, now said daughter is grown and away from home – no longer Mama’s problem.

Finding balance in dealing with black girl’s hair is as important as instilling self esteem, I think.

At the Southbank Centre the other month, there was a stall asking people to share their hair stories; black hair stories. Many people wanted to share their hair stories, most importantly about how to move from blaming society for their definition of good hair to the place where one can wear whatever ‘do’ it is that they liked and be happy with it.

While at the stall, a few of us were sharing stories, a lady who coincidently is from Nigeria blamed her years of dealing with relaxed/ hair extensions on her mother as the mother started her on the ‘path’ before she could make any decision of her own.

Five years ago she started braiding her natural hair as it makes no sense to spend so much time and limited resources on hair extensions, and the worse of it was the handiwork of relaxer ‘that thing is the most dangerous of all, strips her hair off too many times to count.”

About a year ago, my daughter talks about relaxing her hair to make it easier to manage. I looked on listening to how she would only have to do it once a year and how being mixed race makes it easier as her hair is not as coarse as mine.

This I later learnt she heard from her gymnastics teacher, who had children about Yeye’s age. The lady is very nice so I saved my breath and said “Everyone has rules in their house. In our house, I am sorry Yeye, we have different priorities, our hair is not one of it as it is just perfect. And when you grow up, you can make all that decision by yourself, for now, we are not going to relax your hair.”

That was the end of that. That was easy. 

So I thought.

December last year, Yeye and her friends decided to do a group talent show. It was four girls, one black and three Oyinbos. She was excited about the show, then 2 days before the show, she said her friends asked that she get her hair braided so as to look the part.

‘We can do single braids like we have done several times, but we are not going to put hair extension in your hair like the girl in the video. No, can’t take that hair to school, it is silly.’

Yeye broke down and it became a big deal, she left the group and show cancelled.

“Am I the bad cop here?

Living outside of Nigeria, it is a lot easier to put things in perspective and understand the importance of adjusting to the environment that one lives in to benefit fully from opportunities around.  A child that swims, cycles and skis – how on earth would you fit in bulky hair extensions under helmet and secure it in place?

Alternative action is to not wear activity cap/helmet the right way and gets upset when adult in charge makes comment about the fact that you may not be able to participate if they are not comfortable the headgear is securely fitted.

My girl’s hair at 32cm long is much longer than my hair had ever been. Why would primary school girls want to relax their hair? Peer pressure? Perhaps.

But what could be one good reason for doing so if not that their hair is not good enough? I had to explain to Yeye that she will thank me and her dad later, not now, but later when she is grown old enough and started reading all about black hair politics.

Waiting for saviour

Many things that continue to go unchallenged in Nigeria make no sense, one need not think too hard to see how corruption has perforated the framework of our society so much so that politicians or anyone in position of power are not the ones to carry the blames for all the wrong doings but the people who for some reasons decided to defend the indefensible.

Nigeria is a joke.

Nigerians are energised when all blames were thrown to the west as the ones who for tidy fees harbour the loot our politicians hide in their lands.

Great.

In the wake of Panama papers, not too surprising that Nigerian politician names were mentioned, what other country in Africa would hate its own kind this much?

What I found most revealing wasn’t the names that were mentioned, it was the reactions of Nigerians, the ‘foot soldier’ activists who are completely blinded  and would stop at nothing but to defend the looters for whatever reasons.

This guy is the most annoying and shameless journalist that ever existed:

Saraki Is Not The Only Thief In Politics – Dele Momodu: Publisher of Ovation.

Dele Momodu made so many other utterances that are too depressing to even copy. When a public figure with thousands of followers on social media thinks this way, it is dangerous as my people rarely check facts.

The reason for all this fuss was because Ogagun Bukola Saraki, senate president has a case to answer at the court for not giving full disclosure of his assets when he assumes office as SP. People dug dipper to find out that many of his foreign properties were not disclosed, this case has been going on for months, no end in sight.

So now with the Panama exposé of offshore accounts, Saraki as the almighty senate president and other like-minded fellas want to make amendment to the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal law/1 – CCT/CCB law – basically to maintain the impunity that politicians have always enjoyed.

Yes, a new low to Nigeria.

A guy on Punch Newspaper whom I believe represents many in Nigeria has this to say:

“the question is why only Saraki. Im not against his prosecution but was Saraki the only gov. in 2003 and 2011 who declared asset. Did CCB examine and exonerate all other governors? That is why Nigeria will not move forward .Selective prosecution of political enemies by powers that be.”

If I were to respond to this guy, (I did not as better that way) I would have said, that is true that most of our public officials are either insanely naive and or day light robbers – only in it for share of the pie. However, we will start prosecuting one at a time.

Many countries including the west have been asking their leaders very hard and personal questions. The other day listening to the British side of the Panama saga, an MP insisted on calling the prime minister Dodgy Dave – not at all rosy for the PM dealing with defending his dignity.

In Nigeria we have started doing what we knew best – defending those who do not care if Nigeria sinks or sails, actually they wanted it to sink.

Here is a video clip, there are a few like this floating around and in each of the ones I have seen, Nigeria has been mentioned and yet Nigerians buried their heads in sand wishing away the dark days.

Hear Nigeria mentioned in 1:48

 

Handsets

I was over a mile away before realising my phone had slipped through the cracks between the front basket of my bike, it was placed with a bottle of water in a cloth pouch, I thought I had tightened the end but somehow through the road bumps the phone slipped out to the sidewalk.

It was time to call upon God, “Please, let my phone be picked up by a Good Samaritan.”

Find iPhone says my phone is about 250 meters away from home. I tried calling the phone but calls went unanswered so I locked and left a number to call – pretty cool to be able to do this remotely.

 

My Good Samaritan, turns out to be a 13 year old boy, after picking up the phone, he gave it to his teacher at school, the teacher in turn called the number on the screen to give specifics of her office – beautiful world!

This is the time to know God so I thanked Him plenty for this miracle, the lady was kind to be flexible with when I could collect so I decided to let my phone rest a bit thinking all those very important calls from the royal family can wait until lunch time.

My sister shared her own story of lost and found from the other side – God’s own land, Nigeria. She found a phone lying by the side of a well (borehole without the engine), she called a number from the phone saved under ‘Mummy’, the lady on the other side sounds a bit panicky and asked many questions about her son that my sister had no answer for.

Turns out that Mummy lives in Lagos and the boy whose phone was found is at our local university, OAU so she gave the boy’s friend number to call, which she did only to be asked many more questions.

Sister had to convince the boy (I’ll can him Ade) that he is safe to collect his phone or if he likes, he could give her address of somewhere to drop the phone – by this time my sister said she regretted picking that phone in the first place as it turned out to be taking too much energy to convince the boy that she was not a kidnapper.

As it turned out, three weeks prior bad students on campus had raided Ade’s hostel room, they stole his laptop and mobile phone. His parents were worried for his safety but this sort of nasty theft happens a lot on campus, it continues to happen because first the thieves are amongst the students, secondly, they often get away with it.

The only time justice is served is when students unleash jungle justice on their mates.

Ade’s new phone is a relatively cheap smart phone so when that was stolen barely three weeks from the last one, he was really worried someone was on his case hence my sister’s Good Samaritan was in doubt. His phone was left in view as the thieves realised the effort to resell that particular phone isn’t worth it for them.

Bigger picture of gender disparities

Earlier in March Nigeria senate refused to take a proper look at issues surrounding gender inequality in Nigeria, they decided to throw out the document that well-meaning Nigerians had prepared which unsurprisingly upsets many people.

Issue like this one highlights how divided and opportunity to find better way to fight issues that unfairly discriminate against women.

Thankfully, we have few people to shed more lights. Amongst the five key issues raised, I found this one most interesting:

Under Nigeria’s penal code guiding the northern parts of the country, “Nothing is an offence, which does not amount to the infliction of grievous harm upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife. Such husband and wife being subject to any natural law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful.”

Each region has its own special rules, example of this is what we have up here whereby northern Nigeria are allowed to do as they wish to women – childbride to give one example citing Sharia law.

In the south, we have our own poison even with high number of educated women. I read with amazement how women, educated adult women went on each others’ throat  separating feminism from gender equality activists.

Anyone remember GEJ stealing is not corruption talk? Different issue but same mindset here.

So I learnt feminists are men-haters, wanted to do all that men do kind of women, they have been corrupted by western ideals, on the other hand gender equality advocates were the soft soul women who acknowledged the imbalance of opportunities between genders in the country but are divided in opinions giving bible and Quran texts as excuse.

I know when we have issues with definitions, it signals war-within. Not sure what the big deal is with definitions.

How about we agree these issues are human rights issues that require all of our attention, a necessary revisit to the constitution if we were to be a better society.

To see how gender inequality is so damaging to Nigerians in general is to draw examples from within our families, our communities.

For example, land ownership in a big problem for women regardless of where you are in the country. It is a family matter and we have been doing it for centuries is what people usually say, but it has never worked to the benefit of everyone.

Those who suffer the most are the ones at the bottom of the economic ladder – how is it fair to further rub mud in their faces?

If you have five girls and a boy in a family, automatically the father’s farmland belongs to the boy, even if the boy has no interest in farming and moved away, he has the final say on how the land is to be used. Many of these cases are resolved within family and no problem afterwards, however there are countless cases that just left women in the family deflated and powerless.

During Madam Patience Jonathan’s time in Aso Rock, there were waves of women advocating for women rights to inheritance in the southeast. They took their meetings very seriously, both within and outside the country attracting supports. I am not sure anything solid came out of this meetings.

In the north I heard women can inherit but has to be lesser than men from the same family.

In Yorubaland from what I have seen, married daughters walk away from land inheritance – not even a question asked, except if all offsprings are women or arrangement were made within the family.

This article on Nigeria land tenure is well written, helps to see Nigeria as a whole and how Nigeria rural women are disproportionately affected by both customary and religious laws on land inheritance.

A bit sad that even on issues that are clearly human rights issues, women can’t agree enough to lend their voice – I do hope we all keep learning and realise nothing is ever going to change if want to continue in the old, worn path.

Ethical questioning: balancing our stories even when it hurts

This talk by Chris Abani never gets old. Relevant parts to Nigeria starts from 4:42.

This week, with all the craziness going on with Panama leaked papers and Nigeria politicians names revealed as amongst those with offshore secret accounts. My thoughts were that one needs to be on the other side of reality to be surprised about any of this, the real question is how do we get the stolen funds back to be used for common good and perpetrators punished.
So I returned to listen to this talk once again, I sighed in relief when I got to 14:15″…transformation is difficult slow process” – it sure will happen if we (Nigerians) allows it.

Folakemi

I came across Chris Abani last year in my quest to know more about my country, Nigeria, especially those of different background from mine.

Listening to Chris’ TED Talk was an inspiration, yesterday I had to dig it up once again as it echoes so many thoughts I had in my head. He talked about balancing our narratives that are wonderful with the ones of wounds and self loathing. In order to achieve this we need to be honest with ourselves as no one else can tell the truth of our stories but us, Africans.

Hope you enjoy his talk as much as I did.

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Hypospadias and Nigeria witch hunt

There are lots of similar stories such as Hope’s – children abandoned because of birth defect and ‘minister of God’ proclaiming them to be witch, afterall, all that God created was good and if anything didn’t fit the definition of ‘good’ it must be devil at work.

As we say in Yoruba that ‘Kii buru, buru, ko ma ku eni kan mo ni, eni yi yoo ku ni a ko mo” – no matter how difficult our situation is, there is always someone out there that will understand and help us out but often times, we would not know that person until they show up (or something like that).

Hope of Akwa Ibom found his own God sent help in Ms Anja Ringgren. What an incredible transformation it has been for the little boy, and only within two months – from near death out of starvation to fully recovered and unimaginable help from around the world.

The silence of our friends
Hope when he first met Ms Ringgren in January

Now we learn more about Hope’s birth defect to be hypospadias – “a birth defect of the urethra in the male where the urinary opening is not at the usual location on the head of the penis.”

A bit more explanation on the condition here from Great Ormond Hospital.

Is this why he was thrown out to the street to die slowly? Hope, according to Anja is going to have corrective surgery and hope to recover well.

If there’s one thing that I have learnt with my people, Nigerians, is that ignorance of many things is one thing but what is killing us the most is the inability to be curious about what we do not know. In this day and age, how can one rely on a self-professed religious leaders to be all-knowing when it comes to all subjects under the sun?

32B6820100000578-3517808-image-m-16_1459450236907
Photo credit: Dailymail UK – Hope Now

I am elated that Hope met Ms Ringgren Lovén and I am glad that his medical condition is one that doctors can help with.

Witch hunt is ongoing problem in Nigeria, some are well hidden especially when adults are concerned, here is another one I read the other day that prompts me to check on Hope’s condition:

I wish Mrs Sonaiya left a reference to the rest of this story, but I believed her anyway. In this case too, it was the pastor’s order to keep beating a pregnant woman who is having difficult time progressing through labour. Who should we blame here? The mind-boggling cruel mother who has been through childbirth herself to know how difficult labour can be and that it is never the same for everyone, not even the same experience with children of the same mother. Or the pastor whose only goal was to keep instilling fear into the people and present him or herself as all-knowing?

Sad, sad case we have on our hands with witch-hunt in Nigeria. How do we go about this in a country that claims to be deeply religious but are very primitive in the way they deal with human conditions?