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Who Needs The NYSC?

NYSC members:They may be dressed in paramilitary khakis and boots, but they are completely civilian and non-militaristic

Any Nigerian who is not intimately familiar with the political upheaval in Nigeria over the past 30 days should really sit up and start paying close attention. The reason is because we are dealing with life and death issues here; we are talking about matters so grave that they affect the very foundational structure of Nigeria.

As you may have noticed, April was the month that a multitude of Nigerians went out to vote for their leaders. The aftermath of that election was a most horrifying cycle of barbarity and violence as northerners faithful to the defeated Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC, took to the streets of the North, destroying the properties of and murdering hundreds if not thousands of Christians, Southerners, members of other parties like PDP, Igbos and a number of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in cold blood. Looting and destroying the homes, property, business or church centers of southerners in the North or in extreme cases, dismembering these southerners (especially the Igbo or Igbo-sounding southerners) by gangs of violent disaffected youth seems to be a fairly routine and cyclic episode in the North. However this time around, they also attacked their fellow Muslims who they suspected to be colluding with the PDP, or giving succor to Christian southerners. And worse, they also attacked and brutally murdered scores of innocent NYSC corpers!

For the benefit of any non-Nigerian, let me briefly explain what the NYSC is all about. Nigeria has a compulsory, nationwide youth service program for people graduating from the various universities and polytechnics. These fresh and inspired young men and women, who have graduated from their various universities, and are thus ready to face a challenging world first have to show their dedication and patriotism to the fatherland. To do so, these fresh graduates will be dispatched by the NYSC government to towns, cities and villages far removed from their local environ for one year. In this space of time, these corpers are expected to mingle with people of other ethnic origins (tribes), social, religious and family backgrounds. They are expected to learn the culture and possibly the language of the indigenes of the place to which they were posted. This will help in the development of the country as these corpers form part of (if  not the majority of) the educational, health, administrative and business sectors of the communities they find themselves.

It is no secret therefore, that in the Nigerian equation, the Northern half of the country urgently need the invaluable service of National Youth Service corpers every year. Let us just face the facts: in terms of physical development, the Northern part of Nigeria is sorely lagging behind despite the fact that it continues to swallow a disproportionately larger slice of the national cake. It has produced most of the presidents or military rulers that Nigeria has had in its 50 year history; it (the north) has a disproportionately larger presence in the Nigerian military; the north has more local governments and thus more senators and representatives in the Nigerian National Assembly—an observation which invariably stresses the lion share of Nigeria’s income which go directly to the North and her politicians. Yet, they are lagging behind in practically all socio-economic indices because of the unmatched greed and incompetence of the North’s elite political class.

Members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at an orientation camp

If you like, you can blame it on the feudal and hierarchical structure of the Muslim-dominated north. The incontrovertible fact is that a huge portion of the wealth secured from the southern half of the country over these many years has gone directly to fund development projects in the North—even if such projects come at the expense of projects in the south or close to the very areas where the nation’s income-accruing resources are found. If that were not enough, an astounding portion of state revenue has gone to line the pockets of the north’s own political and cultural administrative class. The result is that the North’s elite class turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the blighted, poverty-stricken, illiterate and disease-prone masses. With a high unemployment, life does really appear gloomy and depressing judging by the standard of living obtainable in the south. This is why the North desperately needs Youth service Corps members every blessed year.

In many of these remote, dusty and impoverished villages in the north, these corpers run the ramshackle health clinics treating and helping the masses of the poor and diseased denizens of these places. They rely on the corpers to teach in their primary and secondary schools. Needless to say, many of these children in the North do not want any formal western-style education—a fact discernible from their general lackadaisical approach to their studies. Perhaps, it helps that these northern school administrative boards have a policy of passing every child on to the next higher grade whether or not such a child demonstrates a mastery over the curriculum. And oh yes, they have to be very thankful of something called “Federal Character” whereby possibly unqualified or less than qualified northerners have to be hired or considered for any national duty or employment—all for the sake of “fostering peace and unity amongst Nigeria’s many ethnic nationalities. It is the Youth corpers that are relied on to work as election registrars—registering the people who intended to vote. They are the ones who handle the delicate election computer equipment and were to serve as Election Day poll officials to conduct the elections. As a matter of fact, the roles of these corpers in the communities they find themselves are virtually inexhaustible.

In the south, the corpers are not quite as visible, or as crucially needed. The difference is very clear. Most of the things which corpers serving in the North have to do to help their villages and communities already have people doing them in the south and possibly making a living doing so. The technological, social, and economic infrastructure needed is already in place in many parts of the south coupled with a very strong capitalist work ethic. In the south, people wake up each day and struggle hard to make a difference in their families because, unlike the north, the people in the south (especially southeast/southsouth) are not beneficiaries of massive Federal government presence or largesse.

Having said the foregoing, I will not hesitate to note my sickening bewilderment and gut-wrenching disappointment over the recent events in Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Niger and many other parts of the Muslim North. There were horrifying stories of NYSC members that were beaten and maimed and forced to fraudulently register underaged people; some were forced to thumbprint for the CPC to ensure that CPC won overwhelmingly in those polling stations; some female NYSC were groped and physically violated during the exercise; and ultimately, when Jonathan Goodluck won, gangs of bloodthirsty northern youths started hunting down and killing innocent youth corpers! I am not talking about simply harassing or beating up people as a crude means of intimidation—I am positively saying that they went on a murderous spree, and with terrible blades they hacked away and cut unlucky NYSC members to bloody pieces and burnt everything they had with fire! There are harrowing stories of near-escapes from certain death as terrified NYSC members sought refuge in the bush or in barracks. Fleeing from these unprovoked attacks, some hid in the houses of their muslim neighbors, but they weren’t all lucky when the vicious mobs came around. The ordeal was real and every bit as gory. Yet, these are the young men and women who only a few weeks ago were doing everything in their power to help the illiterate, underprivileged and relatively destitute people in many villages and local governments up in the North!

The saddest thing about this is that it is a yearly or regular occurrence in Nigeria and there seems to be nothing that can be done to effectively stamp out the menace of religiously or politically-motivated violence in the North. Whenever the spate of violence kicks off, the state and federal governments mouth empty promises or at best, send a few soldiers to calm down the situation and all is promptly forgotten! Nothing is tangibly and credibly done to arrest and punish the depraved brutes that fomented the carnage; as a matter of fact, if any were caught and jailed, the local authorities will protest and demand their release. Above all, nothing is usually done to give these dislocated and maimed Christian southerners any comfort or medical care and attention. Usually, none of them are to be compensated by the state governments. If they are dead, nothing is done to remember their deaths or celebrate their lives that were barbarically cut down by the rampaging hordes of disaffected northern youth. No state burials, no flags flying at half-mast, no one-minute silence in schools to remember or honor the hapless dead, no finely sculpted memorials, no reparations to grieving families, not even the barest acknowledgement that some unspeakable crime had been committed. This should offend the sensibilities of any decent person—especially when this narrative plays out again and again to the same predictable end.

This is why I am asking a few questions for your consideration: Do we really need the NYSC?  Why can the rules of the NYSC not be amended to permit people serve in their own localities? Why must people send their loved ones to die every year in the killing fields of the north for the sake of some perverted idea of national unity? What in the world is it going to take for the governors of northern states to guarantee the safety of NYSC members? What will it take to severely punish the perpetrators of this crime to the extent that such terrorism begins to look like an unattractive prospect for other would-be terrorists?

I am tired of asking these questions every time. The time to be proactive is now. To that effect, I’ll never allow any child of mine, or indeed any relative or acquaintance of mine to go up North for their youth service period. I’ll further advise every sane Christian or Igbo southerner to abandon the North permanently. They can reside and earn a living somewhere in the south away from the sporadic specter of violence up north. This is just not negotiable as far as I am concerned—until a time comes when there is sufficient security for non-northerners in the north. To be frank, relative security in my mind, suggests that there are still terror-inclined masses around who may be keeping their violent constitutions in check because of some overwhelming presence of state security officials. Even if this situation were suddenly available, I wouldn’t be moved. That is because there will still be a toxic and combustible mixture of xenophobia and religious fanaticism which could potentially explode. Such an uneasy calm is not attractive to me. The only way I may be persuaded to change that view is when it becomes crystal clear to all and sundry that the masses in the North are unilaterally against the violence being perpetrated in their name, and as such rise or speak with one voice to condemn these homegrown terrorists; and exceeding that, they have to take actions to crush them completely as well.

Cheers.

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April 16 Elections: No Date With Destiny!

Last Saturday, Nigerians were finally able to go to the polls after the election was pushed back for a week. This was because Mallam Attahiru Jega the head of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), determined that it was perhaps the safest thing to do after there were massive reports that some necessary polling materials did not reach their required destinations. The election last Saturday was by Nigeria’s own unique standards a relative success. I say “relative” because as we know, there is scarcely an election held anywhere in Nigeria which is not characterized by shady underhand dealings, sometimes naked outright fraud and more importantly violence.

 If truth be told, the wanton loss of life and property is probably the most fearful thing about elections in Nigeria. This is hardly surprising because elective office is probably the quickest and dare I say, least taxing route to instant wealth in Nigeria—it is no surprise therefore that some people are literally prepared to kill so as to achieve their goals of being “elected” to some political office.

So Nigerians went to the polls last Saturday to elect the members of Nigeria’s National Assembly (the legislative wing of government comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives). I’ll say that for all the rumors and whisperings of wide scale violence, the election seemed to have been carried out with minimal violence.  I am gladdened by the relative success of the legislative elections even though there are still some wards in some states where the battle for either the Senate or the House of Reps are as of the moment, unresolved.

Open Ballot: An election security official watching over the process

Like I emphasized earlier, election rigging is a regrettable but near-constant feature of Nigerian elections. Therefore, the one critical insight that foreign observers of Nigeria’s election should keep close to their chests is that the rigging and electoral fraud that is often claimed or reported is practiced in some form or fashion, and to certain degrees by EVERY side or party to the election. It is a unique Nigerian malaise. So when there are reports of electoral irregularities, it would do foreigners good to realize that it just means that the victorious party had deeper human and material resources and simply out-rigged the rest of the rigging lot.

Did that sound like an uncharitable assessment on my part? Well, I’ll leave that verdict to Nigerians who are keenly following the elections. Click here to view a tabulation of the latest projections from the NASS elections.

Would this relative success be replicated this Saturday when Nigerians go to vote in the Presidential elections?

Granted, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what might happen. But permit me the luxury of playing prophet. If you’ve been following the elections in Nigeria, you would doubtlessly have heard of the so-called “weakness” of Goodluck Jonathan. You might have even read trenchant analyses of his chances of being re-elected. You might have also read about or noticed the slight waning in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) previously near-total stranglehold on elections.  You might also be familiar with the fact that the North has virtually rejected Jonathan’s candidacy—choosing to throw in with one of three prominent Northerners in the race namely:  former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari, erstwhile head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu and the current governor of Kano state Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau. This has led many pundits to opine that Jonathan may not get re-elected.

President Goodluck Jonathan

Indeed, this view has an arresting force if you stop back to reflect on the negotiations between the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). From the reports I am getting, it appeared that there were intensive negotiations between these two parties to pool their resources and voting base together to counter or check the all-too-obvious preeminence of the PDP. Apparently, after ACN surprisingly garnished a significant number of votes and seats in last Saturday’s national elections, it now appears that they are no longer be considered a weak sectional party like All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) or a fringe and sectarian party created solely to parrot the dissatisfactions of random aggregates of Nigeria’s vast voting public like one of these newer parties that have now joined the scene. So not unpredictably, CPC felt like connecting with the Bola Tinubu-led ACN to hammer out a deal which would make them even harder to beat this Saturday.

It seemed that the proposition was for Nuhu Ribadu, the youngest of the presidential aspirants, and the flagbearer for the ACN, to subsume his political ambition under the wings of the CPC to allow Buhari emerge the combined choice of the ACN and the CPC. Given Ribadu’s youth and political inexperience, the CPC felt like they could offer Buhari (and his repetitive but unconvincing anti-corruption mantra) to this proposed merger and have Ribadu go along with it.  If it results in a higher visible national assignment or profile for Ribadu, and it secures the blessings and massive support of the North, what harm could there be in that move for Ribadu, someone must have thought.

CPC Presidential candidate, Gen. Muahammadu Buhari (Rtd) weeps

Apparently that offer has been rejected by Nuhu Ribadu and the ACN—so it appears that the much-sought co-operation by Nigeria’s surviving opposition to undercut and possibly whither the finger of the PDP in Nigeria has suffered an insurmountable setback. Perhaps, that is why it was not surprising to read recently that Buhari was seen weeping at the fact that this may be his last time contesting for office: and he could already see certain failure. Frankly, he has been seeking the presidency of Nigeria since Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) upstaged his government in a coup in 1985.It really looks like this might be his last time.

With all these developments, it seems to me that Jonathan is poised for victory in this presidential election. I am, as a matter of fact, declaring that he would ‘win’ this election. Now, before some crazed Jonathan fan runs off with this prediction, and starts talking in some messianic tones about how Goodluck Jonathan has been divinely selected and ordained by God to win the election and thus lead Nigeria triumphantly into an age of happiness, please consider this. From the very reliable SaharaReporters comes this revelation:

With some 72 hours to Saturday’s crucial presidential elections in Nigeria, presidential Goodluck Jonathan is deploying state resources far and wide in an unprecedented effort to buy every inch of support.  A Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official told SaharaReporters today that in the extraordinary spending spree, the Goodluck Jonathan team had mopped up some N107 billion in funds from the Nigerian economy.

Much of the monies is going to the northern parts of Nigeria where the campaign has handed over N2 billion to each key state governors and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) officials to capture the north for Jonathan…..

SaharaReporters sources said the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has also met secretly with President Goodluck Jonathan at a private house in Abuja .  The meeting was conducted under a heavy veil of secrecy and was known only to very few officials.
In the past few days, and bolstered by last Saturday’s largely successful legislative elections, President Jonathan has told top party officials and hawks in his government that Jega is “no longer a problem” and does not need to be removed from his post.

So there you have it—the power of incumbency. I guess one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to tell what is in Nigeria’s immediate future as they head to the Presidential polls. Do you believe there is another realistic or possible scenario? I’ll be surprised indeed if an outcome different from the one I predicted ever came to pass.

Abuja Airport’s Airstrip

Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl. Airport Abuja

Any thoughts?

Delayed Elections

The report I am getting from Nigeria is that the senatorial election scheduled to take place today Saturday 2nd April, 2011 has been cancelled and rescheduled  for Monday. I hope we are not about to find out how colossally incompetent Attahiru Jega and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) really are.

One hopes that the elections, no matter how flawed, will hold on Monday without fail, and with minimal losses of life and property. It is going to set the precedence for the remaining elections mapped for this month.

Please alert your friends in Nigeria to go out at this critical time to exercise their civic rights to vote.

On Muammar Gaddafi and Libya

The issue in Libya is gaining so much steam now and is being covered everywhere. Well here is our facebook discussion on the matter. After watching the clip below, a few people had something to say.

Bones opines:

He speaks the truth you know

Aero Max says:

this is a non bias truth in a transparent form… i subscribe to this all the way, those people lack nothing, if nigerianz enjoys half of what libyans are enjoying from their goverment, i am very sure non of us will complain even if they stay for the whole generation.. the funny thing is that even at its worst .we are not doing anything about it.. who gives a damn about DEMOCRACY ? when it cannot deliver basic amenities. ALL we need is A Government that can deliver to its people what their basic needs are. who cares if it is AUTOCRACY or WHATEVER.

Willy says:

Aero I am damn with u…If Nigeria a democratic country where the government is been change every four or five years they dont enjoy up to half of wht the Libyans are enjoying in their country,then they call Gaddafi tyrant. Equatorial Guinea,formerly Spanish Guinea.In that country they make money from oil just like in Kuwaite, the population there is not up to one million,they dont have hospitals there,no good schools,last week my friend that went there on an ong works say they weren’t there eggs to buy.their president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo assumed office 3 august 1979,I am sure the Eu and United States dont know that country exists,but they buy oil from them.

Hans:

I mean what is this business of America to the world? This country is going through a lot already. This man is a man of truth. I sometimes get buttered by his words, because at one point I fall into it. Why is Obama allowing these people to push him. Obama should be smart enough to know to get this statement that Hillary Clinton said and I coauthor ” I will not be a secretary of state any more if Obama wins”. now you are invading Libya, what for? I was saying on buni the other time that, the people of Libya are very stupid… and I will say it blank here, Qaddafi is trying to unit the whole of Africa and he is moving in the right direction. And this is a treat to the western world. When the conference was held in Ghana, almost a common conclusion came into agreement, until ivory coast opted to send a concern letter to it’s allied to before they could do something. What happened? Aint they into tribal war over governance? Until when shall the black man learn. But I am telling you, this is all a aim at Saudi Arabia…but if America wants, they should try and see… it’s very sad… but God is our helper… Long Live Africa, Long live Ghana.

Buni says:

HANS, I started nodding my head while reading your post and I continued nodding it till I reached a certain point. Please Sir, how is Ghadaffi trying to unite all Africa and how is that a threat to the Western world? This man has been in power for 42 years and has not united anything. Now that his overthrow is imminent, you tell me he is trying to unite the world?

Buni says:

AEROMAXX, I agree with you. It began an argument yesterday where I told them that it is better for your country to return to military rule. It seems the other side of the fence (civilians) are not better either.

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Of Ethnic Chauvinism In Nigerian Circles

(A Fashionable Restaurant and Bar in Lagos. As usual, Nigerians of different ethnic groups are present. They are having a discussion in between copious servings of Peppersoup, Amala, Isiewu, and other Nigerian dishes, and of course lots of beer)

(Yoruba man): I just broke up with my girl. She is Igbo, and so, I cannot date her any longer or marry her. Igbo women are ridiculously expensive and high maintenance. They are too materialistic and stubborn. Besides when you eventually marry her, you are also marrying her entire family! For what? It is not like there is anything special about them!

(Igbo woman): Shut up! Who the hell are you? This is why I won’t even consider marrying a Yoruba man. Yoruba men are notoriously unfaithful in relationships. They can cheat on their wives with their wives’ sisters. They leave the entire job of running a family to their wives because they are like cowardly little boys who never want to grow up or accept responsibilities!

(Yoruba woman): Go to hell! See how you are flapping your gums here? May Sango bend that your neck for you! How about your Igbo men—are they any better? Igbo men are uneducated market touts; unsophisticated greedy traders. They are too bossy; too controlling and unromantic. Why would any woman want to date or marry a caveman? That is why whenever they think their girlfriends or wives are doing better than they are financially, they go insane and KILL them. Abegi jare!

(Igbo man): May Amadioha dislocate your jaw there, you ugly woman. You have the mouth to come here and rain insults on Igbo men. What about you Yoruba women? The truth is that Yoruba women have poor personal hygiene. Yes I said it—you Yoruba women are dirty compared to the rest of Nigerian women. Besides, you are rude, loud and uncultured market-women. No wonder your Yoruba men are always running after Igbo women. It is not uncommon to see a Yoruba man being chased around by his crazy pestle-wielding Yoruba girlfriend or wife. Your cooking is horrible—you are just like bush women. Go and tame your men—those little player wannabes! But maybe this is futile. Look around Lagos. All these Sisi Eko prostitutes you see around are Yoruba women.

(Edo man): Haba, why are you Igbo and Yoruba people always at each other’s throats all the time? You Igbo and Yoruba people are the two biggest tribalists we have in Nigeria. The day the two of you will learn to get along in Nigeria, maybe the better Nigeria will become. Anyway, I am an Edo/Bini guy. We are the best. We are smooth, rugged and handsome. And Igbo and Yoruba women like us.

(Efik man): You Bini guys are irresponsible serial cheats. You Edo people are just juju-minded irresponsible cowards, and your women are a dime-a-dozen sluts in Europe! Comot for here abegi!

(Edo woman): Come Akpan, so you get liver to talk abi? Why would anyone want to date or marry an Efik woman anyway? They are good for nothing except to be housemaids. And even at that, they are terrible housemaids because they always want to open their legs for the Oga. Are all Efik women bred by their mamas to be little whores? As for you dog-eating Efik men, what else can I say other than that you guys talk funny and you never amount to anything more than blue collar workers and apprentices?

(Hausa man): Wallahi, I am keeping out of this discussion.

(Everyone laughing): If you like don’t keep out now. It doesn’t mean that no one will talk about you backwards Northerners.”

(Ijaw woman): Mallam, is it true that you Hausa men have long gbolas because you people are not usually circumcised? I am just curious.

(Hausa man): Shege, if you want to know, come and find out.

(Itsekiri man): Baba eleran, why you dey vex? I hope this crazy man no go dagger us here o. You know how emotionally unstable and violent Hausa people generally are. Now, why would anyone want to date or marry a Hausa man?

(Idoma woman): You will have to ask a Hausa female to get that answer because Hausa men rarely marry non-hausa or non-muslims. And when I say “Hausa female”, I mean little 11 or 12 year old Hausa girls because as we all know, our friends to the Core north are like little pedophilic deviants drawn to the tender undeveloped bodies of barely teenage girls.

(Urhobo man): Woman, abeg let us talk about the over-18 Hausa girls. I don’t like this ugly visual of an uncircumcized Hausa man with a very long joystick ravaging an 11 year old girl. Don’t make me throw up into my fufu and egusi soup. I think I like Hausa women—they are nice, gentle, loving, conservative, chaste and will not cheat on you. It helps that many of them did not go to school.

(Tiv man): Urhobo wayo! Chai—forget that thing. We middle-belters know and understand the Hausa people more than you Southerners. I have messed with many Hausa women before now. Forget the veils and the scarves—hausa women are very freaky. Behind all that modest and conservative apparel are crazy sexual tigresses. They are just very good pretenders. In public they act like angels, but when you get to know them better, you will find out they are scheming, cruel witches. They deserve their barbarian men I swear. I call them ‘slow poison’.

(Hausa man): Mutum banza, banza barawo, Shege! Allah punish you idiots! Why are you people so hateful of Hausa people? See all the yeye things you are saying about us. I no blame una. Na ignorance and bigotry dey worry una. Madam, give me my bill make I comot here!

(Everyone starts talking at once; some rebuking the Hausa man, others are laughing hysterically. The exchanges continue…)

————————————————————————————-

As you can see from the exchanges above, many Nigerians harbor deep and often negative stereotypes of each other based on ethnicity. In many cases, these prejudices even color the way a Nigerian of one ethnic group might interact with a Nigerian of another ethnic group. It is not surprising to hear about prospective marriages that were annulled because the parents of one of the couple refused to have any extended or family dealings with their son’s or daughter’s love or marriage interest simply because said love/marriage interest hails from a different ethnic group. The same blinkered mindset shapes the choice of partners in business dealings, political affiliation, friendship or social circle etc. This ethnocentrism—sad, ignorant and regrettable—is a cancer that has eaten deep into the hearts and minds of many Nigerians.

Even sadder is the fact that the younger generation has absorbed the xenophobic inclinations of their elders. In a time like this when technology, travel, education and exposure are reputedly breaking boundaries between formerly separated peoples and making nonsense of tightly-held tribal prejudices, it is rather painful to find many members of the younger generation afflicted with these unflattering misgivings about Nigerians of an ethnic group different from theirs.

I have noticed that when you try to talk to many of these latently xenophobic Nigerians, they’ll quickly deny any tribalism on their part. As a matter of fact, if you allow such a person to explain why he or she feels such reprehensible ill-will about others, you will often discover that a great number of such persons have no immediate or direct personal anecdote to draw from. You will be usually regaled with the stories or suspicions passed down to them from their friends or elders. In some cases, you may have some who might have had a genuine negative experience at the hands of a few members of the targeted ethnic group. But what sense does it make to use the unfavorable impression created by one or a few members of one ethnic group to negatively tar the rest? These unfortunate generalizations reflect poorly on those who employ them because it marks such people out as being too fatuous to understand the wide ranging complexities of human nature and behavior.

For example, by the most conservative estimate possible, there are more than 20 million Yoruba people in the world. The same can be said about the Igbo and the Hausa. If there are respectively more than 20 million of each, you can already see that by European standards, each of these ethnic groups is more than qualified, by a strict game of numbers, to be regarded not as mere tribes (as one might simplistically reference some forlorn primitive hunter-gatherer society in some remote corner of Africa) but properly as individual nations. If that be the case, how can one harbor such uncharitable generalized assessments of the members of  another ethnic group when in reality one has never even met and interacted extensively with as little as 1% of that ethnic group? And if one were to stick to such persuasions, contrary to logic and basic decency, how can such a person stand excused of accusations of ethnic bigotry or tribalism?

Why then do people continue to prevent or at least discourage their friends and relatives from dating and marrying people of other ethnic groups? Would it not be better if people hearkened to the wisdom inherent in judging other people individually according to the content of their character and not as one might have originally suspected based on nothing but ethnic origins?

LasGidi

If you read this, you will discover that I love to take random pictures of scenery.  So, as I was going through my picture albums, I noticed some pictures I had taken when I went to Nigeria.

Here are some random pictures I took while I was being driven from place to place in Lagos. The pictures were taken from inside a car—so I want to apologize beforehand for the general poor quality of these pictures. The dusty environment and the unwashed windscreen made the pictures less than stellar. I know this picture set doesn’t speak too highly of my photo-taking skills, but I’ll encourage you to check out my gallery. You may see older but better pictures there.

At any rate, sit back and enjoy. If you recognize some places, feel free to name them.

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For Nigerian Men: Tips For A Successful Marriage

Husband and Wife feuding

Look around you. Look at the Nigerian marriages here in the US. Look at the Nigerian couples found in many communities here in the US.  Have you noticed the increasing rate of divorce and separation between Nigerian men and women? What is responsible for this rising trend? Is there anything that can be done to remedy the situation? This is a huge topic so I am going to limit myself to discussing just a few things. I am going to offer a few suggestions on how men and women (potential spouses) can better understand each other so that relationships may continue to survive.

For the Men:

A)  Nigerian men in the US need to understand that by living and operating in the US, they cannot claim to be insulated from, immune to or unaware of the effects of decades of a sustained push for gender equality and women empowerment. This means that even though the Nigerian cultural practices and norms are a guiding principle for many Nigerians in the US, one cannot completely ignore the altering effects of the American society ideals on the perceptions and actions of Nigerian men and women who dwell there in. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to Nigerian men, if Nigerian women in the US, seem to be more assertive of their rights; Nigerian men should not be flabbergasted when their wives demand for equality in all things pertaining to the marriage. This is usually a tougher pill for men to swallow—the very idea that their wives would have equal and sometimes greater say in how the marriage ought to proceed, or how the home should be run. From a Nigerian man’s point of view, it is tantamount to losing his natural position as the head of the household, but it doesn’t need to be so. It is time to drop the authoritarian or dictatorial mindset. Your wife is not chattel—she is not your property for you to talk to or treat anyhow you deem fit. A little flexibility coupled to an attitude that listens to and considers the opinion and contribution of the woman would go a long way in fixing many broken Nigerian homes.

B)  Nigerian men ought to appreciate their wives especially if such wives are also working to take care of the family. I cannot understand why some men feel particularly threatened by the possibility or the fact that their wives might be earning more than they do. Granted, when this happens, it is often the case that the wife becomes more impatient and sometimes disrespectful to the man, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Any self-respecting man who cherishes and respects his wife’s commitment and contribution, and moreover shows by his own actions and efforts that he is also doing the best he can to provide for the family, will usually compel a loving and respectful wife even if the wife earns more. Nigerian men therefore have to show in words and deed that they appreciate and love the woman for bringing something to the table no matter how big or how small. A little appreciation for a wife can go a very long way. Buy her something of sentimental value—doesn’t have to be expensive; just something that shows that you really care. These things are not much, but it is these little gestures that cumulatively form the bulk of her fond memories and feelings for her husband.

C)  It is true that times are hard and that people have to work perhaps longer hours these days to make ends meet. It is also true that the job of providing for the family falls squarely on the man’s shoulders even if it the case that in most families the man and woman are working. However, that should not turn men into work slaves. It should not detract from the commitment given to the marriage or to the family. Sometimes, Nigerian men fall into the trap of thinking that just by working insanely long hours to put food on the table and to put a roof over the family’s head, he has fulfilled his duties and thus he ought to be congratulated. He forgets that he also has to make time for his wife (or for the family if the man already has some children). Take her out every now and then. Make time from your busy schedule for you and your wife to spend quality time together. Take a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of daily living. Find a recreation, sports or exercise you can do together with your wife. The benefits really cannot be overemphasized. This is not asking for too much, is it?

D)  In Nigeria, or in Nigerian circles, sex and bedroom matters between couples are usually not discussed publicly—or if there’d be discussions to that effect, they’d have to be done ever so discreetly and with a lot of pretend decorum. Now that is good: we wouldn’t want any discussion of marital sexual relations to spiral into a most obscene and tasteless display of carnal lechery. But this is a double-edged sword in that sometimes, men and women are denied the opportunity to truly learn what works. It is no secret that for a marriage to thrive, a man and his wife also have to be very intimate sexually—and this means that it is very important that they be able to truly stimulate and satisfy each other sexually. This view is sanctioned by most schools of thought, including most rational religions. Now, many Nigerian men will quickly and eagerly boast of their virility and stamina or perhaps of their previous sexual conquests. For them, sex is never a problem; they are quick to make you recognize their libido. But I want to suggest that wholly separate from having the urge to have carnal relations with your wife, is the dexterity or skill with which you execute it. This means that what is worth doing is worth doing well. Nigerian men have to be sincere and humble enough to actually listen to their wives if their wives have suggestions about what the men could be doing to make the sex more enjoyable for them. If you are the easily-provoked type of guy, or the easily-suspicious, you run the risk of having a sexually-frustrated wife who is just too scared or too resigned to let you know how you could be a better lover. If need be, buy and read some books about the female anatomy and how you can truly please her. Fantastic stories recounted in pepper-soup joints, men’s locker rooms and other all-male gatherings are hardly ideal if you really want to know what makes your woman tick. Learn to listen to her. Sometimes, it is the simple soft touches, the kisses, the petting and caressing that will ignite the fire in her—not your caveman’s exaggerated emphasis on the frequency or forcefulness of your penile thrusts.

E)  Effective communication in marriages is very important. Whenever there is a misunderstanding or a disagreement, the mature and adult thing to do is to approach each other and TALK about it. There is no wisdom in a man deciding to keep his feelings and emotions bottled up in him as he continues to burn inwardly from rage and frustration. Already, men know that by nature, women love to talk especially when it concerns their feelings, relationship or well-being; frankly some women talk entirely too much. However, just because your wife always wants to have “the talk”, that should not mean that you should begin to disregard the importance of these talk sessions. Therefore, it is very crucial for Nigerian men to talk (no matter how sparingly) whenever an issue needs to be discussed and resolved. She is not a mind-reader and so you cannot expect her to automatically know how badly you felt about a certain issue or how some of her actions or words annoyed the living daylights out of you. You have to tell her and at the same time listen to her as she also expresses her concerns. No slamming of doors please; no running off to sleep on the couch while leaving the bedroom to her; no running off to go sleep in your single male friend’s house; no sleeping on the same bed but turned the opposite way; no codes of silence until you feel like you can talk to that “annoying wench” again; no refusing to eat the food she cooked; no temper tantrums. Be a MAN. That means that you have to confront or face the situation and be humble and considerate enough to understand your role in the misunderstanding so that you and your wife can resolve your differences. This is not rocket science—this is just commonsense.

F) Finally, do not allow others to dictate what should be done in your home. It does not matter how close a person is to you. Only your wife should count in any decision you want to make regarding your home. This means that you shouldn’t be listening to the suggestions of friends, colleagues or associates with regards to your family at all. You should also not have meddlesome brothers, sisters or your mother coming in to dictate or suggest what should be done in your family. Nigerian men tend to love and cherish their mothers to the point that they may often invite their mothers to come and stay/live in their own houses. This is usually seen in cases where the man (and his wife) has a new child or have children that may need the services of a nanny. Unfortunately, in many cases, these mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law needlessly undermine, berate, harass or annoy the wives in these families to the point that separation or divorce begins to look desirable. While you may get suggestions on other peripheral relationship issues, you should jealously guard the secrets of your marriage with your wife. Your best male buddy has no need for the details of your relationship and should never be told any confidential information that pertains to your wife no matter how hard they pry. If there is a personal husband-wife misunderstanding that is so huge as to make you require a second opinion, then together with your wife you should make an appointment with your pastor or see your marriage counselor—of course, the pastor or the marriage counselor in question has to be married and be seen to be living harmoniously with the spouse. If the pastor or marriage counselor is unmarried, divorced or separated then do not bother taking your problems to him or her! Yes, because “Nemo dat quod non habet” meaning that you cannot give what you don’t have. You may additionally seek parental advice on general matters, but never on specific and intimately detailed issues concerning your wife and marriage. They have lived their lives and made of their marriage what they wanted; now you are a man, learn to deal with your own problems on your own without running to daddy and mommy for every single issue. I say this because I realize that a lot of people value and cherish their parents, but if it were left to me, under absolutely no situations would parents be consulted for any personal problems at all!  By all means invite them over on special days to eat and celebrate with you but never to come and settle intimate marriage problems or vexing husband-wife misunderstandings.

Later on, I’ll give tips to women for a successful marriage.

Na ‘Wa’ For WAEC

 

Bayero University in Kano State

As if the crumbling state of Nigeria’s educational sector isn’t disheartening enough, one learns this:

 

Only 20.04 per cent of 310,077 candidates who sat for the Nov/Dec 2010 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) obtained five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects, therefore qualifying for admission into universities and polytechnics.

By implication, the results mean that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) recorded yet another mass failure. In Nov/Dec 2008 WASSCE, out of 372,600 candidates, only 23.54 per cent obtained five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects while in the same exam in 2009, out of 342,443 candidates, only 31 per cent (106,413) made five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects.

It wasn’t too long ago, in a discussion with a proud alumnus of one of Nigeria’s ‘popular’ universities, that I reflected on the painful deterioration in the educational standards of Nigerian schools and universities. Of course, that provoked great ire, and I was roundly castigated for my rather uncharitable assessment.  I was accused of being too cynical and melodramatic; my interlocutor also wondered why I would dare to compare the educational standards in Nigeria with that obtainable in other parts of the world granted that Nigeria, and by extension, many other African countries, had as he claimed, their own unique set of challenges. He then proceeded to lecture me on the quality of Nigerian Education, and how it supposedly compares favorably with and in some cases, outstrips that obtainable at the primary and secondary schools in the United States for example.

Without intending to offend my friend, I pointed out a few things, but as I didn’t have the relevant stats or figures to corroborate my claims, our discussion ended in a stalemate. In presenting these findings (as reported in this news article), I am merely seeking to draw attention to a shameful issue that demands urgent attention. Many Nigerians know this as well, even if it may be very unpalatable.

Firstly, Nigeria once used to have a great tertiary educational system. Degrees from Nigerian universities compared favorably with those from other parts of the world. Sadly that is no longer the case now. Crumbling infrastructure, unavailability of the necessary learning materials, and a shortage of thoroughly qualified and motivated professors play a role here. It is alarming, but there are an awful lot of Nigerian graduates in sensitive engineering and health sector jobs that are completely clueless as to what their profession demands.

Secondly, Corruption is so rife in the educational sector that even if one were to grant that the professors and lecturers in Nigerian universities are worth their onions, there are still numerous cases of incompetence involving lecturers; numerous incidences where lecturers have allowed themselves to be bribed for grades or they may subtly demanded bribes to pass a failing student;  numerous incidences where lecturers themselves have subtly coerced  or requested for sexual favors in exchange for grades or threatened to fail students if certain demands were not met.

Furthermore, it is also regrettable to note that the local and state governments cannot even provide adequately funded and working primary and secondary public schools. This has generated throngs of tiny, self-funded and sometimes self-contained money-making contraptions called Private schools. It used to be that children whose parents were wealthy enough could afford to yank them out of the public school system and then send them to special private schools were they were given an ostensibly more rigorous and more complete education. That is hardly the case now especially in the Southeastern corner of the country where there is a babel of private schools given the complete collapse of the public educational system. These so called private schools, springing forth in ramshackle apartments, or makeshift sheds and warehouses are not offering anything that is substantially more rounded or in-depth educationally.

It is therefore hardly surprising to note that of all the people who took the WAEC exams nationally, only 20% passed. Yes, only 20% qualified for direct admission into the universities around.

What is considered a successful result?

There are usually 8 or 9 subjects that one is required to take in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). This is a national examination taken after completing SS3 or 12th grade to move on to higher studies in the university. The fact is that the better you do on all the subjects you sat down for in this exam, the better your prospects are in gaining an admission into one of the universities in the country. But even without passing all the 8 or 9 subjects, one is still deemed to have done well, and to have qualified for admission into a higher institution if one were to pass just 5 of these subjects (including Mathematics and English Language) with at least a C6 credit grade or higher. Results of the WASSCE exams are classified thus:

A3—A2—A1 (where A1 is highest distinction in the subject)

C6—C5—C4 (where C4 is the highest credit level but below the A’s)

P7—P8 (this is just a bare passing grade; for some majors, a minimum passing grade may not be sufficient to gain admission)

F9 (this is a failing grade)

So, to underscore the point, only 20% of all students got results good enough to qualify for university education. Does that imply that universities all around the country are then going to sit back contented with only 20% of potential registrations?  Not in a million years! And so, as you would expect, there will be several thousands of unqualified or under-qualified students who will be walking the halls of the university campuses in Nigeria next year to fill up the required quota. Universities have a budget to work with you know, and they don’t like budget shortfalls!

Is it any wonder that the overall educational standard of the country keeps slipping? Pretty soon, all you’ll need to gain an admission or to enter into a prestigious Medicine or Engineering field in Nigerian universities will only be a pen, a piece of paper, and a wad of naira notes to grease the palms of the ‘right’ people!

Some will say that is the case already.

Counting Down to 2011 Elections

 

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Politics, we have often been cynically reminded, is a dirty game. It is a game that participants have to employ whatever means necessary to win; sometimes politicians have to do incredible somersaults or reverse their principles for short term electoral gains. However, politics can also be an interesting game. When one dispassionately analyzes the actions taken by the key figures especially towards an election, one can’t help but smile at the intricate maneuverings going on. Yes, I am talking about the backroom deals; the bonds forged in secret places; a ‘convenient’ marriage of self-interests by sometimes radically different people for the purpose of securing a victory at the polls. Such scheming, wheeling and dealing is certainly familiar to Nigerian politicians—at least one expects such rather than the all-too-familiar bloodletting that happens whenever there are elections in Nigeria.

It is that time again in Nigeria: 2011 is a presidential election year.

For the uninitiated, elections are a particularly difficult enterprise in this 150 million-strong nation of disparate faiths, political views and ethnic nationalities. Routinely marred by violence and gross electoral misconduct, many Nigerians have gradually grown cynical and distrustful of the whole process. And they are not to blame—several times, the clear mandate and choice of the people are scuttled by dirty and compromised election officials, choosing instead to impose on the people a pre-selected favorite of the hegemon in Aso Rock.

There is also the issue of the superabundance of political party platforms, each one seemingly regional in design. For the country to make any meaningful progress past the familiar tribal or ethnic politics which has retarded the country’s expected exponential development, it is necessary to have stable political institutions and parties which are not only national in scope but truly perceived to be so. That has not been the case in Nigeria. Thus, what one observes is a hodgepodge of small and unviable political arrangements, usually on a regional or geographical scale, vying to win local elections, but at the same time pretending to have the capacity to compete on a national scale. On the national scale it would appear, there is only one party that truly exists and that is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Having no credible or evenly matched opposition, the PDP has evolved into a vicious monster with ever-increasing taste for unchecked power. This, unsurprisingly, came with disastrous consequences.

After 16 years of military rule, President Obasanjo was sworn into power in 1999. When he left in 2007, he masterminded the ascension to office of one Alhaji Umaru Yaradua, then governor of Katsina state. I do not want to bother you at this point with the intricate political maneuverings that occurred when Obasanjo decided that he wanted to amend the constitution to allow him to run for the third time. He almost won that exercise were it not for principled opposition. Ironically, his own vice-president was counted amongst the ranks of a massive public outcry against Obasanjo’s self-succession plans. I suppose that ‘betrayal’ was never forgiven by Obasanjo; we can see from his actions that he swore that since his own VP was bold enough to kick against his political machinations, he would also go out of his way to prevent erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar from ever becoming the president of Nigeria.

Fast forward to 2010…

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