The debate over abortion and contraception in Africa

The unwritten rule that we need to agree with fellow Nigerian women or unlook and shake head when the argument do not have head or tail. Well, in the case of safe abortion and the need for more education on the use of contraception, I found Ms Obianuju Ekeocha points of view very interesting (let’s just put it that way).

Ms Ekeocha says Nigerian women do not need abortion/contraception, all that they want is food and safe drinking water. She argues that western countries subsiding contraception on the continent is Ideological Colonisation – learning everyday.

I saw a clip online somewhere of women with placards chanting they don’t need abortion or contraception backing Ms Ekeocha claims – unbelievable.

Ms Ekeocha lives in Ireland and is a devout Catholic –  that explains quite a lot. Even with that it is well known that hundreds of Irish travel to the UK and Europe every year for abortion due to various reasons. 

The irony of this is that while abortion is illegal in Nigeria, abortion is actually still accessible even in small towns, they carry high risk as they are performed in an unregulated environment so we have many unfortunate cases of needless deaths.

Wouldn’t it be great that we have safe and regulated clinics where people can go without intimidation?

Abortion tablets are readily available in Nigeria markets – people self medicate, many of these drugs on the market are generic and entered into the market through back doors without passing through drug regulating body, NAFDAC.

My niece’s roommate was only 17 when she got pregnant in the university, she bled for days before she was persuaded to go home so her parents could look after her. My niece knew it was abortion because the drug sachet bought from a chemist was found in a bin.

A good friend of mine at 23 also took abortion tablets that was readily available on the market, she nearly lost her life. She stayed at the hospital for over a year as the drug did a lot of damage to her internally. She was survived but lost her hearing and started limping afterwards.

Wouldn’t it be great if abortion tablets can only be bought in medical outlets that are monitored?

The argument about western imposing their ideals of contraception on us Africans does not add up. Does that mean that a married woman can only be intimate with their husband/partner to procreate? Even when people preach abstinence, what we have on our streets is a good indicator of what has happened behind doors.

Talking about side effects of IUD, Implanon and other contraception methods – sure, which drug doesn’t come with likely side effect warnings? Isn’t this why we have so many options so people can choose what works best for them.

Admittedly, contraceptive options in Nigeria are quite few, some are not tested properly – if we have a problem with options presented by the west, why can’t we invest in research to determine the best for our people.

Isn’t the purpose of abortion/contraception to prevent unwanted births? Why would anyone want to live in a world where women are forced to carry to terms pregnancies they do not want?

Abandoning children because of disability or accusation of witchcraft is not unusual in the south of Nigeria, some as young as 2 years old. If we are a country with such a moral high responsibility to populated the world, why do we have communities alienating their children once they had them?

Interesting also is the fact that the argument is all about why we must having children especially in a country where fathers are allowed to walk away with no one imposing child support on them – where is the child’s right?

Ajala of our time

Our new royal father enjoys travelling, I have no problem with that. People who finds joy within and outside of their palace seldom have time to dwell on little things or cause people in their community needless grief.

Having said that, there is high hope for what is expected of Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi at home, people have an endless list of disputes he is to resolve and I agree because b’íná kò tán l’órí ẹ̀jẹ̀ kìí tan léèkánná (it is not over, until it is truly over).

A 76 years old friend of mine (age matters here to show different eras of Ooni of Ife), said in a message the other day how he has not being able to see any value of Oba in the local community he represents. My friend, Baba was referring to Ooni’s travels while there are plenty of issues yet to be resolved at home – a case of hope deferred making the hear sick – Proverbs 13:12.

I understand where Baba was coming from, it is only those who are not directly affected by the last crisis that say people ought to count their loses and move on, but for many people the scar is still raw.

Coincidently a few weeks ago, there was another meeting by good people in town – the meeting was between Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and our very own Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Francis Adedoyin. The meeting was about finding amicable resolution to many outstanding issues – seized farmlands being the topmost.

It is pleasing to know that we have elders who are not relenting in being the voice for the voiceless farmers. Also, from that meeting I learnt that Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who is another prominent Yoruba Oba has not set his foot into Ile Ife in 50 years – that is a big plus for Oba Enitan Ogunwusi for being the force of unity.

Oba Lamidi Adeyemi not visiting Ile Ife in 50 years is not too surprising – Ooni  Okunade Sijuade and Oba Lamidi Adeyemi were the perfect ọmọ ìyá awùsá (cat and dog relationship).

Baba was happy to hear of the meeting between the three Obas and elders, Guardian Newspapers did an okay job with the story, the real reason of the meeting in the last three paragraphs – good to see it in prints. 

Resolving many of our many land dispute issues is not going to be easy but it can be done and it is only fair.

As I was thinking about Baba and a slight impatience that I sensed from the tone of his texts, then it occurred to me why Baba has a high hope of Ooni Ogunwusi.

Baba came to the UK in the 70’s to study, this was when naira was strong. He has seen three different eras of Ooni in his life time, the most painful one being one and only Ooni Sijuade.  Baba, like many people in diaspora of his age built his first home in Akarabata area of town with the hope of retiring there one day.

During the long drawn crisis of 1997, his house was razed to the ground, in it was his niece who has mental health problem – everyone left the neighbourhood but the lady refused to leave so she was burnt with the house.

Also, Baba’s village was Ògùdù, one of most hard hit during the crisis – all of Modakeke people in that village that were not killed, fled their homes. The only farm baba knew was Ògùdù. 

Baba is happy with his life now, his children all grown. He could move to Nigeria if he wanted and he will still be happy. Like many people from my area, he is well aware that he is privileged to have options but he is still concerned for those people who still live in limbo.

We are happy that almost two years into the reign of a new Oba, our towns have been in relative peace – I am still hopeful that the meeting between our Obas will yield positive outcome – if we are all omo Yoruba then it is only fair that those chased away from their farmlands get adequate compensation or be allowed to return to their farmland. The latter option is very thin given some part of the land is being used for projects.

We are still hopeful for a fair outcome.

 

 Ajala Moshood Adisa Olabisi was an international student in the States early 1970s, he was known for his love of adventure. He travels several miles within the States and around the world on his bike and vespa. 

Locally we call people who enjoys travelling Ajala

Sankofa

At a training session with a fellow Nigerian. The lady was quite passionate about Nigeria, she hopes to return home after her retirement to set up a practice with her son – she would love to give back in her own way.

Hope is good, it is hope that has kept us still believing in a country crumbling on itself, that one day enough people will realise nothing will change without us changing our focus.

I enjoy meeting people from different parts of Nigeria especially when talking about important social issues, to learn if things are done differently in their parts –  we are all in the same boat, enough of us just don’t want to acknowledge that much.

The lady is from Edo and in her 50s. Her age is relevant here to show how little has changed over the years.

Conversation started on the ‘others’ and their rigid views of the world. In the end I was glad we both agree everyone has a role to play to steer the country in the right direction – we have been made to finger-pointing for way too long that we don’t pay attention to our own closest neighbours who aren’t necessarily acting in the best interest of all.

Take education for example, from long time ago, southern Nigeria have embraced western education – this much we are always eager to point out, however for the last 30 years quality of our public school education is on downward spiral, this is obvious on our streets.

Not funding public education means a sharp rise in private schools which many people could not afford  – can we from the south, the ‘enlightened ones’ blame the north for that?

Just because a group decides keeping people around them ignorant by denying them any form opportunities to be independent thinkers, should we continue to do the same even when we are well aware of the consequences?

Perhaps the best way to see this is to stop worshiping those who are elected to represent us at the top. We should hold our representatives (from the south) to accounts and stop taking them seriously when they are pointing to the ‘others’ as the bad guys.

And the self-appointed messiahs who we know are not acting in our best interest need to be shown many instances where they have failed to support us.

Gender issues is a good example here, the GEO bill was raised to highlight many key areas where Nigeria women today are still being treated as a less of. The bill was raised by Senator Abiodun Olujimi, a southerner, it has faced many backlashes and now being shelved collecting dusts.

When GEO bill was being discussed last year, the only strong and loud opposing voices we heard were from the northern religious leaders – which I actually appreciate, at least we know what we are working with.

In the south none of our outspoken christian leaders spoke, they all kept quiet as they prefer not to be identified as the one who oppose GEO bill – I am sure there are plenty of bible verses to back up their preference.

My new friend is religious, far more than I am. Gender inequality is one subject that bothers her too, here she shared her experience of a church in Nigeria where there are handbooks for women and children to guide them as they navigate this sinful world. This church has no handbook for men as they were born to know all from birth and women from babies to old age must be guided by those who didn’t need to follow guidance handbook – how interesting.

The above is the view of many Nigeria christian leaders on women ability and reason their view on gender issue is hushed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with this lady, it is nice to chat with a religious Nigerian whose sense of reasoning is not clouded by tribal or religious sentiments.

While there are enormous work for Nigerians, we can not continue to pretend all is well when the oppression is coming from our tribe or our preferred religion – if we can not see unfairness in the way we are being treated with the so called ‘our own’, how can we ever be united to fight for against external forces?

 

Sankofa “You must reach back to reclaim that which is lost in order to move forward”

New music, old dance

‘When the music changes, so does the dance’ This is an adage that serves as a reminder  of importance of awareness to the changing world.

 

There is a lot of assumptions made on behalf of Nigerians, most of which were not true representation of what Nigerians stand for or genuinely believed.

For about two weeks now, there has been discussions about secondary school curriculum and how Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) has been deliberately merged with Religious and National Values by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) while Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) still maintains its status as a stand alone subject.

Regardless of the purpose of the proposed amendment in the curriculum, any conversation around religion always get attention of Nigerians.

The news going around was that the changes was meant to islamise Nigeria – I still do not understand how this could possibly be believable in Nigeria.

Why is all the fuss? What is wrong with replacing CRK/IRK with Religions and National Values?

 

Nigeria top pentecostal pastors were not left behind, they reiterate how important it is that we keep CRK in the curriculum and of course they jazzed up their message to make people think that is all that we needed to lead a happy/fulfilled life.

I have nothing to say about these pastors drumming on this non issue – all of the three big names mentioned grew up in a Nigeria when we had fewer churches on our streets. Now, with more churches, more religious preachings, people are fed with false hope, distractions from reality on the streets with promises of wealth and eternal home as if there will be a separate heaven for Nigerians and they are the gatekeepers.

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has this to say:

“it would lead us to a godless nation with violence and all forms of ungodliness as the order of the day” – the statement was credited to CAN president, Rev Samson Ayokunle.

Thinking on the CAN president’s statement – which part of Nigeria is ‘godfull’ today? Funny people – Nigeria is so ‘godfull’ that northern Nigeria had to leave CAN to form a separate body last year citing corruption in the top office as their reason for leaving to create their own more representative group of Northern Nigerian Christian Association (NNCA). 

Like all subjects, periodic reviews are important to see how to best get important message across to learners. NERDC were appointed to do specific jobs, we all can see the influence of religion in our society – why must we continue in the same old way and wishing for better times?

In this case, I thought instead of CAN and top religious leaders speaking on behalf of everyone, why not encourage NERDC to do a nationwide or south-wide survey to get figures on what people are thinking about religious studies in secondary school?

Deut 17:6  says  “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses…”

I did CRK in the first three year of secondary school, I still have a picture of my teacher in my mind’s eye – if the course was not compulsory, I would not have sat in that class.

Everything I remember about bible teachings today are from home and involvement in church activities. It is parents’ responsibility to teach their children religion of choice.

A few people I spoke with on the subject agree that Nigerian students likely to benefit more from religious studies being merged with national values, might even awaken people to the reality on ground as opposed to outward proclamation of religiosity that leaves many reciting verses that bear no resemblance to the life on the streets.

If I had to raise my children in Nigeria today, I’d rather get them to study Religious and National Values where they are exposed to a religion of their choice as well as how that fits into today’s Nigeria realities.

The outcry was to get people thinking Nigeria is about Them Vs Us however, in reality southern Nigeria education is heading towards downward spiral with too much emphasis on religion and far less on other very important subjects that get people employed for today’s world.

School is meant to open minds to all possibilities not to further create needless division/isolation.

We are at a different time, we need to get comfortable to dance to the rhythms of today.