Taking it on school buildings

Vandalism of public structures regardless of what caused the grievances is something that I can never understand.

To see how bad Nigeria education is, one need to pay a bit of attention to school buildings, both state and many of the so called private schools alike – abysmal is a polite word here. I know the problem didn’t just start today but to vandalise the ones that are still standing should never be tolerated. If government didn’t maintain schools for decades, how is burning it down going to do anything better?

I still get a bit squeamish when I seen the level of poverty that many school kids have to live with. I know there are one thousand and one reasons Nigeria students from kindergarten to university should be really mad at the government and school authority, however, burning down school buildings is never a good way to show anger to authority for whatever reasons.

So this school in Oyo town, because quite a lot of students failed to meet the cut off mark for promotion decided to vent their anger by burning down their classrooms – what a way of life?

The new policy set by the state government means that students must meet the 50% pass mark for promotion to the next class, obviously the kids are too cool for studying hard and not too surprising, for repeating class – if they can’t move have it, destroying it for others is the way to go.

In the past I tend to be critical of unruly kids in schools, I am not making any excuses for these students at all, however, it bothers me that whenever a few students destroy school properties, everyone suffer needlessly.

In this case, no one is arrested yet, but the school is closed indefinitely – if this is the same Nigeria that I know, indefinitely likely to mean, ver long time from now.

Lots of questions remain unanswered; What is closing down the school going to change? Why must everyone suffer for offence the few? Why can’t we for once fish out the culprits and punish them all alone, including making their family pay for the damage done to public property?

The students burnt down their classrooms because they fail to perform to a set standard, even if they were promoted ‘let my people go’ style just so there are spaces for the incoming students, what really is the future if the quality of education continues to slide and we did nothing is done about it?

Then I wondered what the reactions of the parents were when they heard their kids’ school had closed until further notice. Most kids that remain in our public school system are kids of parents in informal sector so the assumption that school and the government know the best is one reason they’ll likely not question the blanket punishment on all students.

Sometimes I wish parents who falls in this category realise this is where their voices are needed the most, even if to make the school authority investigate and bring those that are involved in the vandalism alone to face the punishment they deserve. Maybe one day.

 

What to look for in a Nigeria university chancellor: a crown or moral standards?

Quite pleased with Habiba’s parents for questioning their emir for his involvement in childbride – now we know childbride is underreported because parents fear their case will likely be swept under the carpet.

Often we hear about parents ‘willingly’ sold their girls out because of poverty but I have never believed that is the whole story, I have always thought many parents who knew better and disagreed with the ancient practice were likely silenced by the powerful people around.

Similar to 14 year old Ese who earlier this year was taken from her parents and married off without the parents’ knowledge, then went to the Emir of Kano’s palace for blessing. Thankfully, the cry of well-meaning Nigerians worked and Ese was released to her family.

Now it is Habiba Isyaku, a 14years old, allegedly abducted by Jamilu Lawal, Emir of Katsina’s aide.

There has been inconsistency with the story as to who really was married to Habiba. Is it the 64 year old Emir or his aide, Jamiu Lawal? (neither makes the story acceptable).

What is clear though is that Habiba is at the palace, now a Muslim convert and a childbride.

Habiba’s parents bravely spoke out that they were not happy about the union as their little girl is still at school and decided to involve Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the area to seek for justice on their behalf.

CAN and the parents went to the palace where the Emir has asked the Katsina Emirate Council to decide the fate of Habiba by asking Habiba three questions.

I wouldn’t be repeating the questions but I find one particularly worth stressing. Habiba was asked if she has started her period to which she answered yes – here it means she is ‘ripe’ enough for marriage, so the council ruled the marriage was ‘irreversible’ – their word.

Good gracious, thank God Habiba is 14. If starting period is the yardstick for marriage age appropriate, then Habiba could have been 9 years old and yet in 2016 The Katsina Council would have said no more case to answer.

Brief research on Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir Usman reveals that he was the Chancellor of my local university, Obafemi Awolowo University from 2008 -2015, I had a big lump in my throat reading this, how embarrassing! Does this even make any sense to appoint someone who lived in a state where 67% of girls have no chance of education to such an important honorary position? I am aware that this is a ceremonial position, yet I seriously doubt his moral standards to warrant such a position.

Isn’t it the case that people get honorary positions because of some high moral standards? Why is it that we are blinded by ‘protocols’ thus keep glorifying the ‘unglorifiables’ – time for change from the top?

Childbride is a big issue that should bother all Nigerians, for a starter, we have too many people with this mindset making important decisions, this is why Gender Equal opportunity (GEO Bill) was rejected in the first place and now significantly edited (to appease a few individuals).

Katsina is President Buhari’s home state, seems he has his plate full on his return from Germany. Fingers crossed for Habiba and family.

Who has the last laugh?

President Buhari travels thousands of miles to meet with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The purpose of the visit according to Nigeria newspapers was amongst other things, to seek for help in dealing with millions of IDPs in the northeast of the country.

Needless to say, President Buhari is aware quite alright that Ms. Angela Merkel is a woman, I bet if the lady asks him to do 20 toadjump before she listens to him, he would oblige with no slight hesitation so long as he knew help its way. When we seek for other people to clean our mess, we don’t always care what is between their legs.

Just to get this straight. President Buhari is spending 3 days or so in Germany asking a woman to help with Nigeria problems that was largely created by Nigeria men – I hope President Buhari is laughing at his own joke now.

I am sure very soon President Buhari will have the chance to meet with the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May and if all goes well for Mrs Clinton of USA in November, President Buhari will have a chance to literally lick sanders of three powerful women in the western world.

I can’t wait for that to happen.

President Buhari’s comment about his wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari belonging to the Kitchen and ‘the other room’ was upsetting to put it mildly. This is not because President Buhari said these words, (not that hard to see his overview of women). It would have been inappropriate in any public settings so long he is the president. That he made this comment about his wife while sitting beside another female world leader is complete nonsense.

I hope his five young girls realise whatever their father says about women is the exact way he views them – only good in kitchen to guide the cooks, living room decor and perfect dolls for the other room.

What is different between Nigeria and other countries where women have risen to the top in different fields is the fact that all children regardless of their gender are given equal opportunity to learn and find their paths in life.

If Nigeria leaders didn’t waste half of their time coming up with another reason women should be pushed back, Nigeria no doubt will not be in this mess today.

Background of this story was Mrs Buhari’s interview with the BBC on the state of things in Nigeria. Mrs Buhari expressed her views and disappointment on the people around the president and the fact that she is unlikely to campaign with her husband in 2019 if things didn’t improve.

So instead of the president to comment on what his wife said or just refused to comment (which he could do leaving people to make assumptions), he chose to not comment on the issues raised and rather comment on his perceived gender roles.

Not that I really care for the President decisions lately, but this is shameful.

Keeping it in the family

Kidnapping for ransom is fast becoming common occurrence now that news of one is treated like another Boko Haram explosion in the northeast – we shrug shoulders.  In most if not all, the exposed cases that we’ve heard about, ransom were paid.

Usually abductors’ focus are on adults, mostly politicians or their relatives. Like Boko Haram, kidnap for ransom is no longer regional problem, it is a tried and tested get-rich-quick tactic that has worked, payment exchanged hands often with a strict warnings that crucial details about the abductors be kept secret.

 

I think this is getting way out of hand now with what happened at Lagos State Model College, Igbonla on Thursday last week where kidnapers, went through the back door to invade the school during the morning assembly.

What hope do we have if children are no longer safe at school?

The abductors escaped on a boat with four students and 2 teachers. The students were said to be in JSS1, 10+ years old.

As expected, abductors are demanding for ransom of 30M naira which parents and school will be forced to pay out in order to be reunited with their families.

I pray that the teachers and these kids are not too damaged by this experience.

This school from what I have seen is an average boarding school with regular Nigeria parents, if this can happen on a broad day light, how can any parents be sure of their kids’ safety outside of home?

Lagos state governor, Mr Ambode by the look of things seems to be working on this  by combing the areas and promising he will get the children and the teachers back.

I am sure he will.

These abductors this year alone have gone from taking royal family, pastors and now getting children from schools, they don’t want to kill, all they wanted is huge amount of cash transfer.

Just makes one wonder, for how long are we going to continue paying ransom for faceless kidnappers? How long are we going to pretend that all abductions are done by total strangers and not those from within?

I hope these students and teachers are able regain their freedom in the week ahead.

Prisoners of myths

My sister and my niece had a bit of argument on things my sister was sure I would have done to my children as part of our ‘culture’, my niece told her mother that although she has not asked me but was positive I am a different person than my sister had in mind.

So there is this believe that a newborn baby need to be bathed with palm oil and powder in order for the baby to be perfectly clean. The reason for this is that if a child is not thoroughly cleaned the first time, such a child may develop bad body odour later in life.

To my sister’s surprise, my niece was right – I did not bathe my girls in palm oil because there is no need for such – my principle is ‘when in Rome…’ actually, my girls were only cleaned with soft cloth at the hospital and they both only got proper bath at home with mild soap and water.

And they were clean, still are.

Some of the ‘must do’ that were passed down to us were due to resources available to our predecessors, times are different now, so must we.

So I asked my sister, do you still believe in money rituals? Or that the myth of money rituals continues because we live in an environment where wicked people get away with horrible crimes? This is a topic that she and I have had so much discussion on. Almost every week another half body is found somewhere with key body organs removed, lots of Nigerians especially in the SW believe this is a case of money rituals. One could wonder, how is it possible that a lifeless body can throw up cash after some powerful juju was placed on the corpse?

We are not raised to ask such question, we are only told to believe money rituals using human body is prevalent in society. Somehow people make up colourful stories about this and we ended up suspicious of one another, and the murder crime continues.

I recently read a fantastic crime novel focussing on money rituals in Nigeria that gives me hope that there are many people out there educating the public on how to look at this case of money rituals differently, Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in putting this money rituals myth to rest and treat people disappearing or corpses on road sides as serious murder crime that it is. Even though it is a fiction, I could see so many of the vivid pictures in my mind’s eye. 

From simple case of hygiene such as how newborn must be cleaned to a more serious issue such as money rituals – while both are myths, the reason the society remained spellbound is the believe that we must not question or approach issues differently just because that is how it has always been. Both of these started threading long ago while traveling 50miles away from home was a big adventure – I am sure ancestors will be shifting in the afterlife now if they could see we refused to move with time.

For whose benefit is Osun Economic Development Fund?

How I wish Nigerians will be assertive where issues that will directly affect their lives is brewing.

There is no shortage of new policies in Nigeria, often I wondered what politicians think of the general public, to be frank I think they think most Nigerians are not bright. Why did I say this? Well, why would anyone introduced a new policy without providing clear strategy of how proceeds will be spent to the contributors?

Osun state plans to generate internal revenue because federal government obviously has no money to distribute like in the past. This new policy is called Economic Development Levy (EDL).  This is to be levied on business owners. Most people in Osun state are business owners (worth of the business for most is another story). More than half of Nigeria population live in rural area, this is more evidenced in a place like Osun state. Rural infrastructure have been neglected for decades in Nigeria, Osun state is not exception.

To be clear I don’t think Nigeria can develop without all working adults contributing their fair share of taxes, I am in support of taxation. However, I do not think one can achieve this by imposing levies on all persons. Just walking down our streets, it is clear people have different economic strengths so imposing blanket taxes on everyone just because they have a stall of 5000k naira worth tomatoes is unfair.

The first thing that came to mind when I read the new policy was ‘can you please tell us what you intend to do with this new fund’. For years that Nigeria enjoyed high oil price, there is almost nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructural development, now that oil price has reduced significantly, (only in Nigeria) politicians want to retain all the perks, how can this be possible?

While I have loved some of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s policies, I just think this blanket cover of tax collection is a bad idea without stating clearly how and what he planned to use the fund.

In developed countries where they have managed to make significant progress in tax collections, people have lots of incentives to pay their taxes; public libraries, public parks, galleries, clean roads – all of these and others are accessible to all.

If Mama Olobi is now going to be faced with paying taxes based on the size of her stall, what is she getting in return? It will not be fair to collect money from Mama Olobi only to be told stories of civil servants salaries for example – if the state can’t afford to do some things as they used to, then maybe to let go of the excesses?

Secondly, is there going to be exceptions? How can you aim to tax every stall holders when we know that some people are clearly living from hand to mouth in our neighbourhoods?

If my 80+ year old mother who insisted on selling her worobo (petty trade) is approached to pay taxes because someone thinks she has money, (by the way her trade fund comes from my sisters and I), what is she getting in return? She has been on medication for high BP and diabetes for years, would she be eligible for subsidised meds?

Perhaps low oil price has exposed our states to reality of importance of self-sustainability, but one thing that we can all agree on is the inequitable of wealth distribution as our major problem – if all adults are now going to be approached to pay taxes, then the fund collected can not be used to service the unsustainable activities of the past, otherwise no progress in my opinion.

Representations matter

I am so pleased to hear about Ms Hindatu Umar, a 25year old newly appointed local government chairperson in Argungu, Kebbi state northwest, Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria often (rightly) gets criticised for being behind in education and a region that openly supports child marriage. Given the way news filter through the web, opinion is often skewed to areas where we want attention to be drawn to, which is not a bad thing as improvement from the stagnancy of old habits is what we seek.

Ms Umar is said to be deputy to the chairman for sometime before being promoted to the new position when the position was vacant. Local government chairperson is quite an important post as they are closer to the people, in a way they are the eyes and ears of the state governors in their local areas.

What is significant about this appointment is that Ms Umar was giving the opportunity to serve her people because of her commitment –  her gender, marital status and age were not issue to prevent the appointment.

Everyone needs a champion they can relate to, no doubt that Ms Umar’s appointment likely to inspire many girls in the area that if she could be handed a trusted leadership position at 25, so can anyone. Many who are susceptible to childbride will likely look up to her for advice.

I know we still have a long way to go with gender equality in workplace, but this is a brilliant example that it can happen if (merited) women are given opportunity to lead in their communities.

May be southerners will take a cue from this allowing young active women to hold important leadership position to build up skills?

Congratulations to Hindatu.