A house divided

Nigeria is what it is, new day presents itself with a whole new story. Here is a story that affects most today’s Nigerians but we often ignore until it is too late.

The Cable did a good job detailing events leading to the deaths of three school girls at Queen’s College aged 12, 13 and 14. Out of 2,180 boarders, 1,200 students were reported to have been sick of stomach ache or other similar ailment that was traced to lack of general hygiene/contaminated water at the school hostel.

Parents were well aware of the health risks during last December break, many children were sick and treated for infections.

Amongst many issues highlighted in that article is the divided PTA – that is very bad for any school especially when the welfare of students becomes the secondary reason for the group.

Here I am not blaming the parents, especially those that have to deal with nursing their sick children back to health / those that have to deal with the loss of loved children. We can only do our best to protect children in our care, however, if my child comes home complaining of similar ailment to her friends, I am not sending my child back to that school until the issue is resolved.

I totally understand the culture under which we operate in Nigeria, whereby parents’ opinions are outright discarded and the pressure of saving face that forces people to go along with terrible decision – we can be better.

Here is my experience dealing with PTA with divided opinions.

My niece informed me that her hostel was broken into while at school, there are 6 girls in the room – money, phones, study tablets were stolen. They were at school at a different site during the burglary.

The school is for A Level Cambridge and JUPEB exams – a year program. Age group between 16 and 20.

I would never sleep on information such as this if it were to be any of my girls, so I sent a message to the MD asking for his plans to keep students in his care safe given recent development. He did not respond.

Next day was a Sunday, my niece called to say her next door neighbours’ room was broken into at 3am while the girls were fast asleep, they stole similar stuff as they did during the day.

This time two parents showed up at the hostel by 6am, they have had enough. By the time my niece returned from church, the parents have called the police, MD was there. Police took notes and end of story.

It occurred to me that there is no communications at all between the parents, so it works well for the school owner that parents are at arm’s length of one another.

This is very different from what I have grown used to here where emails, phone numbers of parents were known to everyone which in turn makes it easy to raise any concern or arrange for events.

I managed to collect 7 parents’ phone numbers from their children. Parents were appreciative of the call, everyone seems to be worried, alone. I set up a WhatsApp group so we can all meet.  The plan was to get the school to investigate the culprits, and to assure us that children in their care will be protected going forward – is that too much to ask?

We set a date and time for the school visit, everyone agrees.

The day before we were to visit, one of the parents called to say that we need not visit the school anymore because the school had promise to put measures in place on the phone. Up until that point everyone is talking to their children with updates, nothing has changed not even after the police visit.

I update the group and asked them to decide.

One of the parents pm’d saying ‘my sister, now you see why Nigeria and Yorubaland is the way that it is today?’ We agreed to be there for our children and one man because of insane religious sentiment went behind our backs to the school MD and then came to us to discourage the group from visiting.

Needless to say, I removed that parent from the group, my sister and good people went to the school. MD was apologetic and promised there is a plan to move the kids to their other site where security is better. Students were moved that week.

I am just so happy my niece and nephew have finished their exams and left the school. But I am concerned that people coming next session are likely going to face the same issue.

It is frustrating when PTA get their priorities twisted. No need to have a committee if welfare of the students isn’t the top most priority.

Queen’s College case is terrible but not unheard of in Nigeria, many are swept under the carpet with the help of parents who fail to realise the next victim could be their own child. I hope Dr Lami Amodu and team are made to provide reasons for the gross negligence.

As a parent, if I don’t care enough to fight for my child’s welfare, no one will. We like to think Nigeria poor are the only ones suffering, I beg to differ, everyone suffers due to silence where our voices are needed the most.

In the west of our dear land

I received a text message a few weeks ago warning people not to use their photo or that of their family members for social medial profile because there are messengers of devil lurking around determined to take children of God away.

This message came to me from a friend that I respect, we’ve known each other for a long time, so I replied asking her to think about that message for a second in relation to the present situation in her family, town, state and Nigeria and to see if there was any sense in it.

It is interesting the number of messages people forward without reading or believing it.

Why is it so hard to give common sense advice without making everything about religion, devil, or God? Wouldn’t it be enough to get people to understand the need for a bit of privacy while on social media without scaremongering people with nonsensical tales?

Thankfully, I no longer receive chain messages that only serve to propagate myths or scare the daylights out of people. However, occasionally, I receive ‘gems’ from new friend/acquaintance, such is the case the other day when someone in a group that I belong sent a ‘warning’ text.

The text was long, but the gist of the story was that we should not pick a call from a number with country code +263. Two different numbers were provided. The reason for the warning was that the person on the other end is a ‘devil’, he has managed to kill 11 people via calling them on the phone. There is something about blood sucking devil in the text.

This message was not directed at me, if I was not part of this group, the sender would not have included me, here I can’t really be bothered.

Out of curiosity I checked to see where the ‘blood sucking devil’ is calling Nigerians from, it turns out to be Zimbabwe.

Why would someone in Zimbabwe want to suck Nigerians blood, don’t they have their own people or do Nigerians have special sweet blood?

The +263 warning text is a bit easy to crack, I sense some Televangelists competing for the same audience, my people are one step ahead making sure they scare folks from listening to morning devotion from rivals – Oh well, I know this message will go round the world and come back before people realise the motives behind the texts.

Let’s assume that it is true that there are some agent of darkness somewhere who really wanted to kill people through WhatsApp calls, why would anyone target Nigerians when there are plenty options of people using VOIP around the world?

Whenever texts such as these are sent to people, there is always a sense of urgency to act, ‘send this message to all your friends and family members’ even if forwarding such a message makes one look like a  douchebag, deed is done before they had a chance to ask simple question such as:

Why is it always us spreading rumours that make no sense?

People are facing enormous challenges with skyrocket inflation, kidnap for ransom and on top of it, an absentee President – do people need more miserable tales to scare them of one more thing they need to do or not do so as not to die?

Do people actually still believe this? It seems so. If they don’t we would not have more churches than schools today. I have seen a building with three different churches – everyone competing for a share of the market.

“In the west of our dear land…” is the first line of my secondary school anthem, the line came to me today while I was thinking about how much some people rather than using technology to inform and educate, they insist on using it as a tool to further instil fear into the people.

Many people genuinely do need help, may their eyes be opened in good time.

Rhythm

One way to enhance understanding of Yoruba language is by  listening to stories during events, also by paying attention to the usage of words – stories often have sayings/adages that lead listeners to a whole other stories – they work to shed lights to certain events that are similar.

At this year’s Drums Festival at Abeokuta, quite a lot of elders were in attendance.

Here’s is what I learned.

I found Alaafin Oyo, Oba Adeyemi’s speech quite entertaining and reflective. He was in a cheerful mood. Here he talks about many functions of talking drums in Yorubaland as a medium where messages are passed to the Oba or audience by drum beats without having to speak out the words.

As a wakeup call:

  • Olayiwola dide ko bo sokoto, a kii f’ise igbonse ran omo eni.

This is waking up the Oba early in the morning by reminding him of day break. (not Yoruba translation but that’s the message).

As a warning:

  • M’ọ̀sà, m’ọ̀jà, la fíi mọ akínkanjú l’ójú ogun, akínkanjú tó bá m’ọ̀jà, tí kò m’ọ̀sá, níí b’ógun elòmìí  lọ.

Rough translation – Knowing when to fight, and when to quit is the best way to spot a brave warrior. A warrior who knows how to fight but loses sight of when to stop, loses the war.

“O d’ifa fun Adesuyi nigba to fe jagun, won so fun wipe asiko ko tii to…”

Here Oba Adeyemi cited an example of one Adesuyi but he did not finish the story. The indication is that in history there was someone named Adesuyi who perhaps failed to recognise the signs around him.

…………

  • Ikún kìí j’ẹun ẹni, kó pani, nínú ilé Ọ̀yọ́ kọ́ o.

The above ‘spoken’ by the drum is to remind the Oba not to eat outside of his home

………..

Reminder of shared history

  • Ò̩rọ̀ pọ̀ n’íkùn, a kò r’ẹ́ni ‘re ba sọ́

The above means that people have quite a lot they would like to share but they don’t have trusted people to speak to. This drum beats is used to warn the Oba to be cautious of how much information he divulges with unfamiliar people.

As a prompt.

If an Oba is out at an event  and he his carried away  socialising with the host, the drummers instead of going to him interrupting the meeting, they use the drums to remind the Oba that his time was up to head home

  • Agbe gbe wa dele o, agbe. Alaafin kii rajo, ko ma bo, agbe.

……..

Ọọni Ogunwusi’s  speech was on the same theme of encouraging Nigerians and Yoruba people to unite together for grater good. I wonder if Ooni could pull off Ife accent.

As a word of advice, Ọọni too dropped and adage.

  • Tiwa, ni tiwa, ti akisa ni ti aatan

Rough translation: Let us embrace what is ours.

…….

Professor Wole Soyinka can be quite charming when he is in good mood (Nigeria situation can get under anyone’s skin). I enjoyed his speech particularly when he touched on how our people today somehow see everything about tradition to be diabolical/paganism. I agree with Prof on this, we tend to fear what we don’t know.

Prof. too dropped an adage:

As a reminder to acknowledge significant event/thing.

  • Àjànàkú kọjá mo rí nkan fìrí, t’ába r’érin, ká sọ pé a r’érin

Rough translation: An elephant is big enough that one can not confuse it for any other animal. In relevant to the Drums Festival, it is a big deal and this is the second year of such.

 

 

 

All sorts of schemes

Earlier on this year a friend’s mother sent a text to say she’s in town, wanted to meet up and all. She is a very likeable woman with zest for life, conversation with her is always funny and reflective.

I will call her Ma.

We didn’t get chance to meet so she called introducing me to a scheme to invest in. On the phone I was very polite and said I will think about it.

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about any of these schemes – anything that is not publicity registered private or government, it is shady so I  tera morin ese (walk away)

I later received a detailed text that I only have to put in €275 and then recruit 2 people to join me, the more people we recruit the more our rewards will be. Gold trade is lucrative, will forever be in demand.

I have already indicated on the phone that I was not interested but I really do not want to offend Ma.

I did a bit of research on Swissgolden so I know what to tell Ma other than ‘why on earth do you think I would ever be interested in a pyramid scheme?’

I was quite surprised to see Swissgolden doing rounds in Nigeria. We are indeed a special breed of people, MMM crashed last November and Swissgolden swoops in – same people, same scheme different name.

Swissgolden operates very similar to MMM. You + two = gold points, the process continues like that, as long as new investors keep joining in, old ones will keep getting paid = Pyramid scheme. 

Pyramid schemes are illegal in many countries including the UK.

In Nigeria, everyone is free to do just about anything, as long as you avoid getting government officials involved, you are all okay. My question is if Swissgolden does not honour its promises, who would anyone in Nigeria call to fight corners? Virgin Islands or Russia?

Last year, just before Christmas, MMM had a crash on their system so stopped paying out. There are so many heart breaking stories of people whose money had been bamboozled.

Nigerians are used to disappointment that possibility of crash is not enough to deter people as long as you promise returns that can only happen in afterlife.

With social media, it becomes quite easy to show people lots of unbelievable returns on their investment. This is what Swissgolden is doing, people contacting friends of friends to be involved in schemes they have little or no understanding of.

Ma is not even a Nigerian but told me there are many of ‘my people’ in the meeting she attended in Stratford. I told Ma, since she already has a few of ‘my people’ she is better off sticking with them. Nigerians being part of the group is all that matter, I of one not that kind of Nigerian.

All in good spirit, we both laughed and she got the message. Smart woman.

As Nigeria goes, reading through what people are saying online, they were asked to put in as low as 42k naira, which just go to show that people are being encouraged to pool money together to get on the scheme.

Swissgolden, because the process is based on a very risky pyramid scheme, it means it is a long term investment that requires money that may not be needed in few months or years.

Even if this Swissgolden is indeed a valid investment opportunity, it is definitely not for many of our market people who depend on weekly/monthly earnings for next spending. For example next term school fees for children or replenish monthly stock.

It is sad though that this is exactly the people MMM and Swissgolden are targeting.

A bird in hand is what I say to these type of schemes.

Here is a skit by a local comedian warning people of the danger of diverting school fees to Ponzi schemes – funny, but the message is clear.

On the safe side

We are nearly there.

We had Brexit. The school mock election provides the girls with a little taste of what real life leadership selection is like. Then we had to deal with The Donald, I remember my 10 year old was concerned for the Mexicans and how it will be too tough for them if they were made to pay for the wall. I said to her that politicians say quite a lot of unbelievable things when they hunt for votes. Time will tell and we will all be alright in the end.

Here we are here now,  I find school mock election quite interesting, I didn’t know school children do this. Most of what the girls know about politics is what they learn from school so they get home seeking definitive answers to some questions – well, real life isn’t that clear cut.

Thankfully, mock election gives a taste of how the process works and how people learn to live with whoever wins even if not their choice.

Year six students were divided into groups to represent all political parties. Children cast their votes based on presentations. For my 8 year old, personality and policies are equally important – not voting for any boring politician.

Yeap, she casts her vote for Monster Raving Loony Party and here’s why:

Green Party: Their presentation is too long, and they say too many greens.

Labour: Not that bad, but one of the presenters had to read from a book, didn’t prepare ahead.

Tory: Too boastful. (this reminds her of weeks leading up to Brexix) so not impressed.

Monster Raving Loony Party? They are happy people with colourful outfits, made everyone laugh so she is won over.

She has seen quite a lot of people arguing on Labour/Conservatives, so her stance was why vote for people who keep talking over each other while being funny and happy is an option.

She chose the safe side, how many adults does the same thing only to regret a week later?

Her sister is a polar opposite on this, she wants to talk about who has the best policy on education, especially secondary school. She is not affected but aware of 11+ exams for grammar school and how a friend still didn’t get in after preparing hard for exams – no MRLP for this one.

I had a chance to talk to a friend whose child is about my girls’ age. Her school is closed for election. I asked her if she were to participate in the mock election, who she would vote for? She would vote for a party that promised free lunch for schools.

Then I said which one would she prefer, free lunch with limited choice or mommy and daddy to get more money for the value they bring to their work which in turn means she has cash to choose whatever she likes to spend her lunch money on?

While she was nodding along, I told her to relax but we must learn to cast our votes not just for bread alone.

I have done my civic duty by post last weekend, in the morning we will know where we are. The good news is that whoever wins, the UK is not likely to be discussing about Russians interference in six months.

I find this School of Life views on democratic voting system food for thought.

 

 

Cerebral Palsy

The story of Oluwalonimi (Nimmy) is hard to ignore, the first question that popped to my mind after reading the story was, where are the parents of this child?

Nimmy is a 4 year old girl with cerebral palsy. Nimmy’s parents hired Bisola Abajomi-Ojo, a registered physiotherapist to work with the girl three times a week.

Nimmy’s mother, Bukola Ayinde did her homework, like many women in her shoes, she read a lot about her daughter’s condition. Travelled with her family to Hungary for a month with her child all so she could learn how to better help Nimmy live a normal life.

She got to know Bisola Abayomi-Ojo through reading a church magazine – if one could not trust a referral whose name appears in a church magazine in Nigeria, who else can one trust?

I am not particularly sure why Ms Abayomi-Ojo was this nasty to the little girl. She seems like an informed person, who is aware of challenges facing disabled people in Nigeria. Even the girl’s mother said she thought Abayomi-Ojo was her friend given how she related with the family on the progress of their child.

What did Abayomi-Ojo do wrong – sometimes in 2016, she made a visit to Nimmy’s school for a physio session. During the session, it was just Abayomi-Ojo and Nimmy in the room. The school has a CCTV camera in the room. The whole time that she was in the room, she was on her phone. Nimmy, given her condition fell off the chair several times, at one point, Abayomi-Ojo tied the girl’s hands together – all of these were done in a hurry, she seems to be preoccupied with her phone throughout.

There are video clips online clearly showing all of these including hitting the girl whose parents are paying lots of money for ‘professional’ help. How sad can one be?

After the school showed the clips to Nimmy’s parents, they were clearly devastated but wanted to handle the case with care, eventually they got Nigeria police and Registrar of Medical Rehabilitation Therapist Board involved.

Getting justice through normal routes in Nigeria is difficult and can be frustrating to the point of withdrawing the case.

Only few weeks after Nimmy’s abuse at the hand of a well paid and trusted physiotherapist was reported, Abayomi-Ojo left Nigeria for the USA, now doing her masters.

Child abuse is not unusual as Nigeria goes, but for authorities to push aside a case of an abused disabled child in the hand of a trained professional is another rock bottom, even for Nigeria standard.

If Nigeria middle class can’t get justice on a case like this with proven evidence, what hope is there for more than half the population?

I am glad that Nimmy’s mother realised she is the best person to look after her own child. She has decided to write about her experiences and sharing it with Nigerians – I think this is crucial. Often, we rely on success stories of raising disabled children in the west, reading from people within the country is very important and hopefully will lead to government paying more attention to paediatric needs.

There is an ongoing petition urging the USA to revoke Abayomi-Ojo’s visa so she could go back home to face consequences of her action, only few more signatures from justice loving people from around the world to reach 10,000 target.

I hope justice prevails in the end.

Women and hair

With all the sorry stories about Nigeria lately, it is uplifting seeing women taking care of business that is theirs.

I am quite pleased to read about the work of African Hair Summit, they are working to promote beauty of African hair amongst many other worthy objectives. I like that the event was well attended last year, this is going to open up long due conversations amongst women within Nigeria. 

As a mother of two girls, I often forget that the older my girls grow, the more assertive they  become so now they ask for reasons I don’t allow them to use relaxer. The relaxer question is easy to answer because it damages hair.

My girls are in primary school. I know that kids talk and ask one another questions they are curious about during playtime, so if a 10 year old was asked why she applied relaxer to her hair, what could she say to her mates that will not translate to ‘my hair is not good enough?’

Sometimes last week, I was trying to get my daughter ready for a school trip so I asked which hairstyle she’d like to do given it is a full week away. Out of nowhere, the girl flipped, for a moment I thought the spirit of Yemoja has entered. She was upset saying nothing she did ever worked.

She loves her hair, she says. Why is the outburst if hair is not the problem?

Background – the day before, we were talking about getting hair done, so she went online to get hair style inspiration. She liked this. She thinks the girl has the coolest parents ever to allow that hair style. I think the hairstyle looks cool too but I think it is more appropriate during summer holiday.

I have just realised that while my girls seem to agree when I give reasons they are not ready for some style yet, it is only temporary, every holiday we tend to go over the same topic all over again as there is always something new in town.

I am excited for this hair summit, and really hope that as time goes on there will be more interested people across the country. My girls are always quick to remind me of friends and family who allow their kids to have hair extension, then I have to explain that each family is different, I wore low cut throughout both primary and secondary years and most importantly hair politics in Nigeria is on a whole different level from the west.

I don’t want my girls’ hair to become the only point of reference. Even their dad was amazed to read all about black hair talk that now the only thing he has not learned is to braid.

By the way, now I am learning to hear the girl out so we meet in the middle. She likes Willow’s hair so we did cornrow to match – everyone is happy. She later told me she will be careful not to get hair wet, I don’t even know where she got that from so I said she is allowed to get her hair wet everyday, if friends are dunking their head in water, go ahead and do the same because it is fun, dry it off like everyone else.

She smiled and gave a big hug.

People seem to think mixed race kids don’t have black hair wahala, I laugh at this because being mixed race is even trickier as whatever they do or don’t do get measured against which part of them they are most proud of – silly world.

I am really pleased to see that there is growing enthusiasm around opening up conversations on our hair. Adults can and will continue to do whatever they are so pleased with their hair, having said that, children need avenue where they can learn more about their choices and to embrace what they have without having to drag other race into the conversation.

There is a hair event coming up in August organised by Curly Treats, I love this, we already know our hair is a big issue, it is our job to make it easier for coming generations. 

The clip here is from Nigeria African Hair Summit last year. It is nice to seen celebrities getting involved.

Deceit

“Would you like to hear a bizarre story?” A friend asks.

“Of course I love bizarre stories, who doesn’t”

The story goes that a lady is behind on her mortgage repayment. The bank had sent the last reminder letter. Now court is involved, she wants to appeal to see if she could be allowed a couple of months grace to sort out her finance issues.

The problem has been going on for a while, needs £10k to clear mortgage debt and must provide evidence to show she’s financially capable to get the payment going for the near future, otherwise her house is at stake. At the court a friend who was there to provide moral support decided to ask the mortgage lady a few questions just to understand what lead to this backlog. Mortgage lady lost her job and it has been taking too long to get something stable. She had £8k in savings reserved for occasions such as this, but somehow she lost the savings too.

Lost all savings? How?

When the mortgage lady was going through her challenges, she confided in her pastor. The pastor got closer and promised to help with job hunting so she wouldn’t have to lose her home.

The catch? She must provide £8k as payment for the work involved – the prayers, the fasting and the pleading to the village enemies back home.

At this point, I have heard enough. I have heard manipulators can be pretty hard to spot, but I could not stop asking why and how would anyone part ways with the only backup in such manner? Why not spend that to clear lion share of the debt?

Needless to say, she lost the house.

Case like this is sad as it is not at all easy to get on the property ladder in this country. And again, how can we better inform our people against scammers such as this man of God?

Another case that has been going around for a couple of months was the case of a guy who visited Nigeria in 2015 from the States. During his stay, he met a Babalawo (not unlike many pastors but with different tools and tend to be tribal) who promised to help him become rich. He is a cab driver in the States.

Kazeem, the cab driver claimed he paid ₦4M to Babalawo in total. Babalawo claimed he only received ₦380k. Bottom line was Kazeem several thousand naira out of pocket and still driving his cab. He would like his money refunded as the charm/potion has not worked.

Poor Babalawo now is being dragged about by Lagos police for failing to provide working get rich charm.

The case here is that Babalawo’s charm did not work as promised. If Babalawo was made to pay back what he had collected/jailed, would it be okay for Nigerians to ask all the prosperity preachers for a refund too? Just thinking out loud.

Good luck to Kazeem getting his refund in Lagos.