The real losers of a Nigerian university impulsive strikes

In the last 16 years at least, OAU is mostly known for its foolhardy strike actions more than for its academic excellence. If the lecturers weren’t on strike, it would be students or the non teaching staff. Usually, the only losers of the lot were the students whose 4 year degree turns out to be 5 year if they were lucky.

One thing I have learnt about our love-hate nation that is Nigeria is that looking up to the government to solve all our problems is never the best strategy because calling on the government is like calling out ‘that black girl’ from a crowd in a place like Nigeria where everyone is black. Well, people would try to explain different shades of blackness but that never hold water.

Around 20th of November 2015, speaking to a friend at the school, he was very happy with his progress, lectures have been running smoothly for a while. He entered OAU in 2012, had witnessed several school closures for many reasons – from local elections to student protesting against tuition increase.

Strike ranges from 2 weeks to several months, the longest he had experienced was 6 months. Nigeria post secondary schools – Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and universities across the country are known for going on strikes but OAU campus is the mother of all.

Now in 2015 he is in year 3 second semester. If things were to run the way it was meant to, he should have been in his final year working on his thesis.

November 30 at 9am he texted to say students were protesting against awful hostel conditions At 7:30pm, he texted again to say the school management is threatening them with closure if protest persists.

So I asked what is going on at the school or in town in the next few weeks because if history has thought me anything about school closure especially at OAU, there is a pattern, sometimes it makes absolutely no sense, but that is just how it goes. In early December there is a plan for convocation and another big event in town – OAU administrators have never learnt to separate the school from events in town/state.

For example, in the past, OAU closes its campus for a whole day so GEJ could campaign, it closes door during last NUGA (games the school hosted meant to inspire students) – yes, some actions beat any sensibility.

Pack your load and plan for Christmas trips – your school will close, I said jokingly.

On December 2nd, OAU announced school closure and the management wanted the students off the campus the very next day.

This strike action call by the OAU management was done with no regards whatsoever to the welfare of other people whose works support the smooth running of the school – the independent stores at the New Market and SUB such as bookshops, restaurants, photocopiers, provision stores etc.

To summoned school closure given only a couple of days notice just three weeks to Christmas undoubtedly leaves tens if not hundreds of people to leave their day job does not indicate a school management with thorough assessment of implications of their actions on neither the students nor their community.

There is assumption that school management are the best to judge situation and that their actions usually is the right one, however, looking to the past history of strike actions, it is mostly about management avoiding to do what they are paid to do while making sure there’s minimum negative impact on the students and the community whose services support the smooth running of the school.

OAU resumes back tomorrow Jan 11th after six whole weeks of pay without work – best wishes to the students and the independent store owners.

Whether strike actions was initiated by the academic, non academic staff or the students – the only people missing out are the students and the independent store keepers – my question is who is looking after the interests of these people?

One good turn

It’s no longer news that the likes of Mr Chameleon ex Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who escaped Europe in 2005 to avoid being prosecuted for money laundering or the other guy who became the governor of Delta state shortly after being  sacked for stealing at a UK DIY store  are easy ice breaker wheVn meeting strangers from out of country for the first time.

Despite all these corrupt public officials and many 419 email scams, there lie many, many Nigerians who are still very trustworthy and take pride in their work.

Professor Tim worked at an African Literature department in a UK university. When he was a young associate in the early 1970s, he visited the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study more about Nigeria literature. He was there for some time, a year, I think. During that time he had a steward called Patrick, who was slightly younger than Tim. They forged good friendship. Time came for Tim to leave, he left and that was it.

In 2005, I happened to be in the same place with Tim so he recounted his memory of Ile Ife, he spoke fondly of Patrick and wondered how he was doing. Perhaps he’s gone back to the east. Tim was just retiring from his professorship and would like to get to help Patrick financially, if he happens to need any.

A few years later, Patrick and Tim lost contact once again, they both have relied on letters – the last letter Tim had received was not particularly a happy one, he was concerned for his old friend, he asked if I could help locate him, again.

This time, it was a bit different as the popular market of Old Buka had been moved to a new location within the campus called New Market. The moving was very significant as it meant those short on cash were not able to relocate to the new area.

My sister was the No. 1 Lady Detective Agent – no one has seen Patrick in a long time even well before the move. Given the relatively small community nature, eventually after three weeks we found Patrick in his house bed-riding recovering from okada (motorcycle) accident.

He was like many ordinary Nigerian caught up in a lawless society. Knowing that he would not be able to afford the relocation to the New Market, he had used his savings to purchase a motorcycle to carry passengers, hoping his daily bread would be secured that way.

One day on his way back from dropping a passenger at the Sabo Market, a private car hit him unaware, sent him flying off his motorbike. Given it is during the day, and witnessed by many passersby, the driver of the car behaved responsibly and paid the initial hospital bill, then disappeared into the thin air.

Patrick narrated his story with shaky voice, a sixty something years old man who has been working from his teenage years (that’s very common for the Igbos around my town) and now at the mercy of samaritans. He was ashamed to hear from Tim but glad anyways that he still thought of him.

The friends were later reunited.

Regardless of the terrible news about Nigeria, Patrick is a reminder for Tim that there are plenty of decent everyday people in all of our cities,  going about their daily businesses – it was this mindset that inspire the strength to reunite friends.

The mask we wear when the world sees us

The more I think about the issues of Modakeke and Ile Ife the more I realised how easy it is for people to live in their own little world and in their minds think no one else sees the truth of their dealings when in fact it is no secret to anyone. And of course one of the reasons it is possible for one person or a group of people to oppress another is first of all the believe that the mission is possible and secondly the thoughts that the universe will remain the same that no one will get any wiser.

Aron was a 24 year old American Medical student from Yale. He came to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in 1998 as part of a year-long research about West Africa traditional medicines he was doing. He made Ile-Ife as his base and from there travelled to different parts of Yorubaland researching our medicinal recipes for different ailments. He was happy that all of the traditionalists he met were exceptionally helpful providing him with loads of information.

What Aron will likely never forget was what happened during his 5 months stay in Ile-Ife. As an Oyinbo he floated between the two communities freely anytime of the day as he pleases even when he had to walk from the campus gate all the way to Lagere and through Mayfair – the area that usually would be bursting with different happy noises from people advertising their goods only that this time there were barely anyone on the road as the two towns were at it once again – killing spree fuelled by fight over land ownership.

Aron told me about his visit to Ooni of Ife palace and how well he was received, I was happy for him. I really did not have to tell him a word, he has seen it all. Before he left to Ghana to continue his research, he gave me a poem that he wrote about the relationship between Modakeke and Ife. Whao, is all that I could say because I don’t think Oba Okunade Sijuade realised that a 24-year-old stranger sees much more that we wanted him to see.

Agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun ko wo – In reality this proverb is only words not at all true for Yoruba elders,  they watch on as the future of tomorrow are being wasted.

Who are we kidding? Even with many layers of mask people can see though the inhumane attitude that we display towards our fellow beings and don’t you be deceived, when we refused to talk/write about the truth of our stories due to fear of being leached, the outsiders are writing and documenting our stories for us.

1987 – School interhouse sports cancelled for the king

Our Lady’s Girls High was a purpose-built school by the Catholic missionaries. The school has all the department and facilities required of a decent school. It started as a boarding school and housed many girls from all around the country – a pride of the surrounding communities. OLGHS Modakeke has it brother school at Ile Ife – St John’s school for boys. Both schools, a couple of miles apart must have been put in these locations when peace existed in the region and a strategic move to foster more and better relationship between the two communities.

After the independence, a lot changed in Nigeria as a whole, part of which was the government taking over of missionary schools. However, the teachers in charge of Our Lady’s (as locally called) and St John’s did the hand overs gradually to ensure continuity in the culture of education they worked hard to build. One of the things that happened to Our Lady’s was making it a day school so as to accommodate more students. All seems to be gone well with this change.

Oba Okunade Sijuade assumed his throne in late 1980s. It should be a thing of joy in the region however, him being the king  affected everyone and everything around the two communities and education was not important enough to be spared of the new king resentment towards his neighbours.

By 1987, we had a new principal at Our Lady’s. I don’t remember her name but she was a delight. She saw every child in the school as capable and talented individuals, spoke so softly that you can barely see her lips moving but yet her words echoed in our ears. She once made the whole school brought our chairs into the assembly ground so she could teach us how to sit properly, we initially thought she was crazy but everyone was grateful for the lesson learnt that day. She was a complete opposite of Mrs Cruella – a new principal that I will have to live with a few months down the line.

Mrs *Iwarere was determined to bring the lost glory of the school back, so she wanted the school to do Interhouse Sports. Our sports  head, Mrs Sheba was fantastic. She was happy to put her skills to good use, she had a team of about five teachers at the time, all worked so hard training us. Ruth eleja in my class was the fastest on tracks ever – just like the wind. She had competed and won lots of medals from schools around us. I have never been in any competition but not too bad with volleyball – I was in a Yellow House and really proud of myself and looking forward to the event. It will be the first time in my life to play competitive sports against kids from other schools. The spirit was high, everyone put lots of efforts into doing their very best.

Two weeks to the big day, all of our hopes was dashed right in front of our eyes. We are a few hundred children in my school, age between 12 and eighteen years old – we just wanted to have fun and to show off our skills to our families and friends – Oba Sijuade crushed our hopes with no remorse.

When children’s happiness meant nothing to the king – well not his children.

My school was situated in the heart of Modakeke. On all occasions my school was addressed as OLGHS Modakeke, Ile Ife. This was completely fine with Oba Aderemi however, Oba Okunade would have none of that, he was determined to cause argument where none expected/existed. He insisted he did not want the name Modakeke appeared at all on all the programs for the event. There were lots of going back and forth on this and eventually he ordered the event not to take place at all. Lots of outcry about this however, maintaining peace in the region is important as the safety of the students could no longer be guaranteed – so my Interhouse Sport was cancelled to make the king happy.

Mrs Iwarere reportedly was a returnee Diasporan, a beneficiary of a great education my school once offered hence her passion to put school children and their education first. She was very sad after this unfortunate event and left my school shortly after – we all missed her dearly.

Oba Okunade Sijuade was 57 in 1987, now twenty-seven years later, not much has changed in his mission of subduing everything and everyone in Modakeke. See here and here

I am a yesterday child just like Boko Haram today’s children. I am blessed that I no longer feel shaken up with anger when I think of these events, not everyone is like this today – something for our elders, kings and leaders to think about.

*Name I give to my nice school principal

Mrs Doubtfire and Nigerians view of depression

Walking into a new job few years ago, I was confronted with a real life Mrs Doubtfire (Not Robbin Williams). As I sat on the opposite chair listening to my new boss giving the rundown of the office culture, I nodded along to suggest my agreement with a little smile at the corner of my mouth. My head was doing something different, I tried really hard to remember where I had met my new manager before. The memory was a happy one so the more I tried to divert my thinking the more I thought of it.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

As I stepped away from my office later in the day, I ran into a colleague who asked me out for lunch. I shared what I was thinking about our manager that she looked very familiar but I was having trouble placing her. Jonathan looked up with bright smile on his face, giggling like a child – “Mrs Doubtfire?” he blurted “That’s it!” I agreed.

Office nickname sometimes has negative connotation but in my manager’s case it wasn’t. She bears striking physical resemblance to Mrs Doubtfire’s (Daniel Hillard) film character and the positive attitude to compensate. She was in her late fifties at the time and a mother so didn’t mind the look of a homely Scottish maid that Robbin Williams portrayed in the movie. The nickname was meant to reinforce her positiveness so she runs with it.  The office Mrs Doubtfire made everyone laugh – every tasks to her is important and always available to lend hand when needed. Hardly could anyone say no to her requests – her medicine always comes with a spoon full of sugar.

You can imagine my shock on Monday when I read about Robbin Williams’ death. Reports talk about his struggle with severe depression perhaps triggered by his expensive multiple divorces and or his alcohol and drug addiction. I could not believe that a man who dedicated his professional life to putting smiles on many faces around the world could be defeated by depression. I guess none of it matters if you are in the very low zone.

This reminds me of Dipo Ige, a 400L student at OAU campus, Nigeria who committed suicide by hanging in his room earlier this year. Lots of stories were made up about the reasons for Dipo’s suicide but the one that stood out for me was from Dipo’s mate saying he loved to keep to himself a lot – a classic symptom of a depressed person.

“He was a recluse, he keeps to himself, and he never talks to anyone. He always questioned the existence of God. He has a weird personality,” OAU Association of Campus Journalist.

“He has been nurturing such evil before now, as the rope he used had always been in his room, in fact he has been hanging it at his door post since Monday,” a lady living in Ige’s house told OAU ACJ.

In Nigeria, in most cases we see things black and white and give no room to in-betweens. More often than not most conversation is tied to religion as evidenced from Ige’s mates in the comment above. We were made to believe that if Mr A could shake off a family tragedy and moved on so should Mr B – one hat fits all mindset. We forget that we are all unique and that the way we deal with life challenges differ greatly.

Many Nigerians both young and old had words for Dipo Ige despite the fact he was already gone. Some called him selfish because he didn’t consider the pains he’d cause his parents. Some thought he killed himself because of the recent breakup with his girlfriend therefore he was a softie.

Now, what I did not read from the numerous comments that Nigerians posted online was that for someone to be at 400L at Obafemi Awolowo University today for a four-year degree, he must have started at least five years ago. School sessions were very unpredictable as the school authority goes on strike at touch of a button. Last year the students were home for six solid months because their lecturers wanted something from the government, this year they have been home for two months – always something. Each time they resumed, lectures will be rushed and exams conducted. All expected to magically cope.

Could it be that Dipo Ige was depressed because he sees no end to the challenges around him? And the fact that his questioning the existent of God made him the “uncool”among his mates and felt lonely even though he lived among the crowd? We will never know.

As a Nigerian, I know that we need to shift our thinking especially in the way that we see mental illness. Also I understand that though we may all suffer the same fate with all the troubles around us such as Ebola epidemic scare, Boko Haram #Bringbackourgirls and I dare mention residual effects of corrupt government officials etc the fact is the way we make sense of the world around us differ greatly for individuals.

Very sad to hear of Robbin William’s death – hope his family could find a bit of comfort knowing how much his humour and talent have touched lots of people around the globe – many of which he would never have met even if he lived up to 100 years.

 

 

Who is AfriKa?

My nephew and I were recently chatting about the state of things in our tertiary institutions. He is a year one student at OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University), well, in a normal world he would have been in year 2. He had since beginning of his course of study spent 6 solid months at home courtesy of ASUU strike actions. When the last strike ended we all rejoiced but I was quick to warn him that another one is round the corner as that is the way the system has been operating for the best part of 20 years. Anyway this time, OAU is closed because students protested the high increase of tuition. If it wasn’t that, it sure will be something else, this time we don’t know yet how long OAU students will be at home. Well, since the state governorship election is round the corner, the word on the street was that OAU is unlikely to open its gates until the election is over, so give or take another six weeks at home.

I digress, but it’s hard not to talk about university closures when we all know what the implications are on the quality of our graduates.

During the chats with my nephew, one thing led to another and I made an example referencing the case of Afrika – George Iwilade and his mates murder case. I expected Ade, my nephew to join in, I didn’t find it funny when he asks ‘Who’s Afrika’ I thought he was joking but he said he could not remember the incidence. Yes, he was a lot younger when the horrendous murder happened but for some reason I was under the illusion that Afrika and his mates’ murder case should have being imprinted all over OAU buildings and indeed in all of Nigeria higher institutions to serve as constant reminders of why students cults have no place in our schools. More importantly of the facts that youths were the ones being brainwashed and then used as tools to instil fears in the minds of their mates.

Afrika

It was July 10 1999. I happened to be on campus this night. I had talked to George Iwilade a couple of times before, he was young with that ambitious mind of someone who really was determined to change the world starting from his school. You could see the piercing look in his eyes. I really did not have any business with him but he contacted me as he wanted to have a dialogue on issues that I had no control over.  Just like many change makers in history, sometimes they were grossly misunderstood. What is painful in our country though, is that over the years bad people have perfected their tactics in every aspects of our society that the easiest and fastest way of dealing with someone you disagreed with is to get rid of them, quicker as there is no fair justice system in place.

Like in any management, usually the boss is talked about but not often do we hear about the team that are working underground to make sure the boss’ work get the right recognition. It was Babatunde Oke that I knew quite a bit among the slain students. He was very energetic and positive guy. He was Afrika’s first hand man and very loyal man at that. If it wasn’t for his loyalty to Afrika, he wouldn’t have been killed that day. It was shortly after I saw him that he made his way to join Afrika where Tunde met his untimely death. Tunde Oke would have made an excellent leader as he was patience and worked hard to present Afrika in positive lights, to me at least.  Instead of them reaching their full potentials in life, they were mercilessly butchered, it was horrific to put it mildly. Their offence – Afrika and his team were exposing cultists on campus so the school authority could deal with them appropriately. Should this not be the job of school administrators to fetch out bad students so everyone can be safe and focus on their primary aims of being on campus?

I have never in my life felt so much hopeless and helpless as I could not for the life of me imagined why these students deserved to be butchered just because they raised their voices against cultism on campus. Days later was the biggest crowd I have ever witnessed on campus gathered on Sports Centre field chanting:

Oro nla le da, eh eh oro nla le da (great loss you’ve bestow on us)

eyin te pomo wa te je o dagba (those who killed our children, devoid of growing old)

oro nla le da (great loss you have caused)

Afrika and his mates murder were not the first case of unresolved murders in Nigeria and certainly hasn’t been the last, actually, it has since gotten worse. No one has been brought to justice for their murders. Sweeping all murder cases under the carpet and pretend as if nothing has happened is the most painful part of remembering this incidence fifteen years on.

I really hope OAU students will do more to remember Afrika and others and if there is one request to ask for their government is to make sure these guys’ murderers were made to pay for what they did.

Nigeria – We are not all homophobia

Universally, we evolve day after day. Laws change, people adjust and life goes on.

If we were to solve our many social issues in Nigeria, we need to start looking inwards, pulling examples from amongst our own people of today. This could only be achieved by investing in research. To lead the country, one needs to make decision based on the facts arrived at through extensive research of the people.

At Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife campus where I was worked in mid 1990’s was a young man, I’ll call him Yemi. He attracted quite a lot of attention because of his femininity gestures, cross dressing and heavy makeups. He was a transvestite based on my physical assessment of him. Yemi was polite, usually on his own and smiled a lot. To me, he did me no harm, pays for his purchases and have never seen him get in argument with anyone even when pushed aside from a queue which I have witnessed a few times. The day I actually sat together with him in a tiny office within 2 feet away from each other, I was close to tears and just felt ashamed and apologised to him for offence I didn’t commit but did it on behalf of his mindless mates who decided to torment the poor guy. 

At the time he was a year 3 law student at the university, his parents had disowned him, and said he was seen as a shame to his family so really didn’t want to talk about his family. The reason he was in my office was to ask for a favour that involved a small loan for food. A day earlier, his mates had burgled his room, stole his stuff and beat him mercilessly that lead him to be taking to the hospital, he was lucky he wasn’t killed. I could see a few cut marks on his face, the cloth he had on was ripped on the chest. I was fascinated about the concept of homosexuality so I asked him more questions. He felt more comfortable cross dressing and only attracted to men. He had plans to hopefully move to the north. Why north I asked? He said people like him seemed to be more tolerated there than the south. Ironic? I did what I could and he left. This is northern Nigeria today

Nigerian policy makers do not need Quran or Bible quotations to understand people like Yemi. All you need to be is human with open mind and a working common brain.

When a few public figures talked as if Nigeria is a size of a little village it just amuses me. Why not conduct an extensive public research in such a way that will get people to talk about their experiences and then make decision based on the outcome? I have heard about ‘commercial homosexuality’ oh well, why are they any different from the common asewo? If you were going to criminalised some people for having same sex relationship for money, why can’t you do the same for the heterosexual prostitutes? They are all over the place in Lagos, VI – Pat’s Bar, Why Not, to mention a few.

When we live in denial and refused to adjust our thinking to the time that we are then we risk facing higher penalty for ignorance.

We do not need to turn every single issue to be another religious and cultural debate.

As you can see, not all Nigerians support the government anti gay law.  Laws change, rules change all the time, this is true all around the world. If we don’t reason up or follow a defined logic, then other countries will step in and force us to think the right way, they always do.

This is a light-hearted video, I think it  helps to put things in perspective a bit. Aren’t we all human after all?  See for yourself LZ Granderson

 

Esther Oyeleke: What would happen to her teacher?

Recent case of a young girl whose life was cut short by a complete mindless student teacher at Akingbile Oluana Memorial School, Moniya, Ibadan, Oyo State prompted this post. Esther Oyeleke was 14 years old, pride of her family, I bet. On Jan 27th 2014, she was among three students that their teacher beat with a cane for not paying attention in class. Few days later Esther was showing signs of ill health, her whole body had swollen up, she was rushed to Osoko Maternity Hospital in Ibadan where she was pronounced dead on January 30th, three days after she was flogged by her teacher.  Here

This is where I don’t understand my people and this is why it makes me so sad (decided not to be angry anymore). Esther is dead. And people are beating around the bush about who was responsible? I have read about the fact that it must have been the devil’s work – no surprises with that one.

Esther’s medical condition could have showed up in months, years time, and could have been treated and she might have survived, grow up to lead a happy healthy life.

What is ironic in our schools was that nine out of 10 times pupils get beating, it has nothing to do with learning. I was once a victim of such teacher, Mrs Oshobi. I have no idea how she managed to be principal of a school or even teacher of any level, the woman was sad and mad all of the time.

One morning in the assembly, I was at the front of the row, one of the teachers led the prayers and we were supposed to say amen which I did religiously. Out of curiosity as any normal 16years would, I opened one eye momentarily out of boredom. A couple of seconds later Mrs Oshobi – our new principal hit my head with her callous fingers so hard I staggered sideways. I cried for most of that day not necessarily for the constant throb of aches on my temple but because I had no idea what I did wrong. It was her first week in my school, we have heard about her wickedness weeks beforehand so we called her Mrs Oso (wizard) and I promised myself never to cross her path, I was wrong.

Another time I was late to school by 5 minutes. This day I had to run back home midway to school because I left my biro at home while doing my homework, so by the time I got back to school at 7.50am, the school gate had closed. Mrs Oshobi only gives three stokes of cane, not on your hands, not on the buttocks and not across your back. She gives it vertically on the spine! This is true.

Three strokes could end up being 10 if you dared move. In front was a chair that you held on to, the 5 foot monster, whom I am sure God has a special place for in hell would flog us from behind, she had no heart, not even a small one so The Grinch was a saint.

She didn’t want to know reasons behind any lateness and there were absolutely no logic to her punishment. When I went to the village on the weekend and told my mother I needed two pens so one could be in my bag always just in case I left one at home, I showed the scars on my back to her, like many mothers would ‘God will punish her.’ she said with empathy and that motherly aching heart.

See, Oshobi’s beats me mercilessly because I was late for assembly that I have attended hundreds of times and it was the same old story. I was a good student and was rarely late for school. My first lesson for the day was 8am, I missed that lesson because of the school principal irrational behaviour.

Like any other situation in Nigeria, it’s all about survival, hustle we say.  You find a way to ride the tide otherwise there were just too many forces about that were there just to swallow one up. They don’t know nor cared for your personal story. They were just really bad and sad public figures who were supposed to educate but will take their frustrations on the innocent young ones around them ignoring we all had stories to tell.

Having read enough about Mrs Oshobi, you would be pleased to know that the day she got into a car accident 1 mile away from my school, she was chasing students around town. My school gate closes at 7.45am during her torturing years so if you were not in before this time you were doomed.  On this fateful day, she was so focused on running after students who were supposed to been in school but choose to wander around town in uniforms instead, so she lost concentration of her driving and drove straight into a sharp bend, lost control of her car and the car turned over, she was lucky to be alive. That was her last day at my school, she left after few weeks at the hospital and we were happy.

See, Mrs Oshobi was chasing students that chose not to learn, she left those who really wanted to learn behind and when she was actually at school, she just had to pick on something to beat us for.

To come back to the original story, this student teacher who triggered whatever health problem Esther Oyeleke had that eventually lead to the poor girl’s untimely death deserves to face the consequences otherwise how could anyone learn that there are other ways to engage students than flogging them.

On a more positive note, I recently ran into one of my high school teachers -Mrs Ayandike at Obafemi Awolowo University  (OAU) Museum. It was over two decades ago she taught me, I jumped into her, she was one of the many teachers who made me believe there’s still hope for decent education in the country. Very beautiful woman, she taught me English Literature, I had huge problem understanding Shakespeare’s play – Macbeth, she made tremendous efforts without intimidating us – her students. If you think teaching any subject in Nigeria is hard, imagine an Ibo lady teaching English Literature to a group of Yoruba students… ha, not uncommon, but super confusing, everyone was, trust me! But Mrs Ayandike managed to carry us along. So when I saw her years later, I had the utmost respect for her strength and perseverance, she now has a school of her own somewhere on Road Seven in Ife, she told me, I was happy for her, she was that great of an educator.

Esther Oyeleke’s murderous teacher: punished or not would live the rest of her live with huge guilt hanging over her head.

Lack of proper sanitation in Nigeria: Let’s talk about toilet

Wouldn’t it be great if there is a law in Nigeria that insists all new homes must have a toilet before moving in?

Recently, walking around Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife campus to see the New Market. In this area were restaurants among many other essential shops. I needed to ‘go’ so I asked a lady where the toilet was, here’s her story – the market area was opened towards the end of 2012, in March 2013 each shop was levied  25k which she believed everyone paid. She said the person in charge of the project is working on choosing the contractor. For now, their toilet is the bush around the NM which is in close proximity to students eatery area. This is a university environment where one would expect school authority to place high importance on provision of proper sanitation – shameful.

peeing in the sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most villages in the southwest have no toilet so people defecate in the farm or nearby aatan (designated area). Often times when you needed to ‘go’ you’d need to visit aatan to do your ‘business’ and no matter how careful you were, more often than not, you’d get out of the bush with someone else’s faeces stuck to the bottom of your sandals…it is not only health hazard, it is disgusting and humiliating! My mother is hygiene freak, she tried to keep us safe, insisting we wash our hands and keeping the house clean, even with all her efforts – I used to believe that diarrhoea was the norm.

We once rented a place with 3 other families, in total we were about 15 people including the children. The owner had a bigger uncompleted property in the front that he hoped to finish when he retired he didn’t think he was obliged to provide any toilet and no one in the house bothered to ask as most of the houses around us had no toilet, only a handful of houses in the area had any form of toilet. We used his unfinished property in the front as our bathroom and toilet.

Presently, beside my parents house is an empty land with wild bush on it, guess what the neighbours used it for? – Yeah, you nailed it. My old man gets furious almost daily especially when the wind blows. I once suggested that people pull money together to build a community toilet so occupants of houses with no toilet could use it and contribute together for the maintenance, the responses I received was ‘no money’ and the same people who claimed to have no money had 2 or three mobile phones in one household.

Imagine my excitement when I read this blog entry:  Why We Give a Shit about Toilets and the fact that more people around the globe have access to mobile phones nowadays than they do toilets. I can relate to that I say!

Most of the people living in the cities today are either from the village or small town, hence the old habits would not die easily without calling awareness to it. Not the most glamorous topic, I know, but without bringing it to the open, it would not magically disappear. I am aware that many folks could not afford to dig their pits or any toilet for that matter without external help however, if everyone who has enough money to own a mobile phone lived in a house with no toilet, surely they should be able to contribute a bit towards building and maintaining community toilets.

I think it will be great if there is a law that insists all new homes must have a toilet before moving in. The villages should have community toilets that we all contribute to maintain. This is no job for government alone, we are all in it together and should proactively advocate that every house must have a toilet or community toilet for villages, if homes can be taken care of, office and market places would not be so hard.

There will be less traffic to the hospitals and health centres when the amount of faeces fed roaches, flies and rats were reduced.