Monday, November 27, 2006

Governor Duke: Saint or Sinner

Yesterday evening, as I browsed the web trying to find out even more information about Donald Duke (about whom I have become very enthusiastic) and his much acclaimed achievements in CRS, I came upon an article with the above title. The article, which you can read Here, though quite long-winded, made some very serious allegations, which if half of them are true, would prove that a friend of mine was right in saying that the “new” generation of politicians is even worse than the older generation.
With respect to today's post on Chxta’s blog, I definitely agree with him that DD needs to start answering some tough questions, if he is to be considered a credible candidate.While I am not condemning him before he is proven guilty, these are really serious accusations, which require honest answers. If these allegations are true, then such a suave politician who though committing such violations, manages to at the same time almost effortlessly pull off a mass hypnosis/deception of Nigerians is a dangerous person indeed.
Not that it isn’t easy to deceive us, seeing how hungry we are for good news from Nigeria. It says a lot about our desperation for good governance as Nigerians, when we say things like “even if he steals, at least he is still doing something”, which was the conclusion a friend and I came to over the weekend. After all, we rationalized, politicians all over the world steal public funds. The difference is that in other countries, they also take care of the welfare of their citizens.
Ever since I read about the programs initiated by DD, I have been half rejoicing for the people of Cross Rivers State, half sad that other State governors do not seem selfless enough to have been spurred to performing better by what DD has “done” in his state. One of the things that have kept me optimistic about the ongoing political drama in Nigeria has been the fact that younger candidates with unblemished pasts, like Pat Utomi and DD are taking part in the whole process. I believe that even if they do not win elections, they have raised the bar, and will force other politicians to aspire for better things, since the public will see that there are other, better possibilities. If these “paragons” also turn out to be tainted, then no hope for us o. That would explain why people like Babangida have the audacity to even think about contesting the presidential elections.
Meanwhile, I feel chastised by my overboard enthusiasm about DD on the grounds of hearsay alone (or should I say "see-read", since most of my information has come from the internet)……

He needs to answer some tough questions, and soon too, whether or not he wins the primaries.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Am Arsch der Welt!

Am Arsch der Welt! Am Arsch der Welt! Am Arsch der Welt! Now that I've repeated that several times over, I feel so much better. Whew! One of the advantages of knowing several languages is that it has a multiplying effect on your ability to express yourself. Since every language has its limitations, knowing another language gives one expressions for emotions you can't vocally express in your own language. MBH(my better half) says letting loose vocally can save one hours of shrink time. I agree in toto.
So to cut the story short, yesterday night peacefully trying to fly to London, I found myself stuck am Arsch der Welt - means literarily in German - at the world's arse! When I decided to spend several days in London, three weeks ago, and chose to fly with Ryanair from Düsseldorf, little did I know that Düsseldorf airport, for Ryanair, meant Niederlein "Airport", near Weeze, which is about 100km from Düsseldorf. Not only did I not know where this airport was, practically no one else did. Finally, I found ticket desk worker who said - go to Düsseldorf train station and get a bus from there. I got to Düsseldorf main train station, only to find that the bus journey took almost 2 hrs, I would in fact have to take another train. Since the train journey lasted over one hour, and I had barely 2 hrs, I decided instead to take a taxi. We ended up travelling at break-neck speed - 160 km/hr I kid you not- in the rain o!!! Growing up in Nigeria where the roads are so bad, anything faster than 120 km/hr has me reciting “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….” ati be be lo. Finally, we got to the airport about 20 mins before the flight left, and I paid well over a hundred euros for this attempt to visit baba God before my time. To cut the long story short, I was not let on the flight and the check-in desk lady was so rude, I turned blue-black from anger. I was unable to get a refund. Changing my booking would have cost 75 €. The only good part of this Arsch der Welt airport was that booking the next available flight which was for the next morning only cost 30€, because, I believe no one in their right mind would want to fly from this location, except for people who actually come from Weeze. Luckily the information desk lady was sympathetic, and helped me find a room for the night at "Kevin's Pub"! Kevin is an Englishman who is married to a Weezian(don't know if they are called that), who runs a bed and breakfast. I spent my night in Kevin's Pub brooding over all the wrongs Ryanair had dealt me. The Info-Desk lady also shared with me the fact that this happens quite often.
All I can take comfort in right now is the fact that I share a unique if bizarre bond with all the other people who through a stressful lesson from Ryanair now know where Weeze is. I feel considerably wiser, as well as being several hundred euros poorer for the experience. Anyway, right now, I am waiting to board the plane and sincerely hoping that the rest of my trip will not be as stressful as the last 14 hours.    

Monday, November 13, 2006

The audacity of hope

The audacity of hope - that is the title of Sen. Barack Obama's new book. It was also the title of his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he was contesting the race for the Senate of the United States.
This phrase resonated with me the first time I heard it, and it has kept on ringing in my mind constantly in the last few months due to the news coming out of Nigeria and the changes occurring there.

Things are not perfect - air crashes are two for ten kobo, unlawful impeachments are the order of the day, and more and more people go to bed hungry with every new night. For every gain that has been made since Obasanjo became president, 10 other things are still where they were or even worse. But every time I read about people like Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Donald Duke; about the changes that are taking place, that we are almost debt free, about the success stories, about courageous people daring to speak out, about people returning home to contribute their own quota, or doing their bit from the Diaspora, I dare to hope.

I feel optimism like I have not felt in years, I feel like things are finally going to change. I try to see the positive side of every story I hear. Sometimes, it is easy, like the Obasanjo and Atiku feud. My positive spin on that is that they will expose each other and rid our society of themselves at one go. Good riddance to useless rubbish. Or take Obasanjo for instance – I do not admire him at all, and I think he has no proper understanding of what democracy is. I have to give the devil his due though, and acknowledge the fact that he has surrounded himself with people who care and who are making a difference, irrespective of ethnicity (in fact, most of the inept members of the Obasanjo government are Yoruba, e.g Aborishade). El rufai and NOI, Akunyili, Soludo and Ribadu are not your typical political praise singers. They are making a difference in their own way, and it is a visible way. I tell myself, “It is easier to destroy than to rebuild”. “The long time it is taking to get things back up is due to the total decay that was inherited by this government”, I try to convince myself.
Even with this audacious optimism, I suffer setbacks. It is impossible to put a positive spin on things like plane crashes and stories of senseless loss of life, political assassinations and tales of money “laundry”, all of which is due to irresponsible leadership and a deeply ingrained corruption culture.

The wise one Solomon said "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" in Proverbs 13:12, so I know that this rekindled hope might be my undoing- if it is deferred for the umpteenth time, maybe my heart will become sick. But right now, I am going to keep on hoping, hoping that at last a new day has come for my beloved country. I am going to be audacious in my hope, because looking at the current reality on ground in Nigeria that is the only type of hope I can have at this time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

BBC Article- The politics of corruption

Ehm, am I the only one who saw an article titled "The politics of corruption" by Alex Last on the BBC News website? The first line of the article went something like " It is common knowledge that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world" or something of that nature, and it had a big picture of Obj. I started reading it at around 10pm(GMT+1), but got distracted by a call. When I tried to access the page again I could not find it. Could it be that the BEEB was afraid of controversy decided to remove the article? They seem to be doing that a lot lately.....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Xenophobia in Russia

Reading about racially motivated attacks in Moscow brings back memories, memories I would rather permanently delete.

The year was 2001; I was in a Taganskaya Krasnopresenskaya line train in Moscow. It was 31st of December, in the middle of winter and everyone was in a lively mood due to the season. As usual in Moscow, the times when everyone is in a good mood fueled by Spirits are the times when minorities like me needed to be most alert. Okay, you always need to be alert in Moscow especially if you stand out, but it is of even more importance when there is celebration or mourning going on. Russians remind me of Africans, they are extremely intense. That can be a good thing if they like you, but it is deadly if for some reason they do not. So anyway, on this cold winter evening in 2001 I sat in a corner of the wagon, reading my book and trying to disappear in the background as much as is possible for a black person surrounded by a sea of Drunken Slavics. The next thing I knew, there was a hand laid roughly on my knee. I jerked my head up in surprise and indignation. As bad as it was in Russia, up till then, I had never been physically assaulted before. "Shto takoe?"(What is this?) I asked angrily. I got up from my seat and decided to leave the train before something undesirable happened. I did not want to end the year with a brawl on the Metro. Then, out of anger over the injustice of it all, I decided to return to my seat. After all, it would not be the first time I had been racially abused and I decided to sit it through since I still had a few more stations to go. As I got back to my sit, this ugly Slavic specimen forcibly pushed me down in my seat, so that he and his son could take a picture with me. I got angry and swung my very dainty handbag at him. The next thing I knew, he had given me a dirty slap. Nobody blinked an eye, everyone in the crowded wagon kept silent and watched with interest as this man, twice my size that I did not know from Adam gave me a dirty slap for daring to be angry that he forcibly took a picture of me. His wife sat opposite from me and was silent as well. I was mad, as mad as an angry bull. What made it even worse was the fact that I knew that I would not get any justice, it was no use trying. I became hysterical; I cursed him, I really cursed him, and I hope the curse sticks, like a bad odour. I finally got to my friend's place and celebrated New Year's Eve in a subdued mood with welts on the right side of my face, where he hit me. This was the only physical attack I faced in Moscow, but there had been other emotionally scarring attacks.

Nobody is safe, there is the macabre joke which was g0ing around Moscow about the Indian student who tried to avoid being beating by skinheads by shaking his head in that peculiarly Indian way and shouting ' ya ne cherni, ya ne cherni’ (I'm not black, I'm not black), as if black people were the ones who deserve to be beaten up. Anyway, he was beaten up as well, and we were all of one mind in saying that he deserved to be beaten ten times over for his racist comments. Japanese, Chinese Thai, even Russian citizens from Siberia (they look Asian) and every other person who looked remotely Asian was thoroughly beaten up, and their shops were destroyed when South Korea defeated Russia in the football World Cup of 2002. Etcetera, Etcetera, melo ni mo ma so ninu iwe kobo? (How many incidents can I recount?)

I was so traumatised, that one night several months after the physical assault of 2001 New Year's eve, I was in a tube station in London, and having heard what sounded like a group of young men laughing and talking excitedly, I turned and ran for dear life! I then saw a man going underground, and I incoherently tried to explain to him that I was afraid of being attacked by the youngsters in the underground station. He looked at me like I was a mad person. He probably thought I had just moved from Liberia or Congo or some other war torn country in Africa. He probably neither understood nor believed what I told him about Moscow and attacks and skinheads. Basically, I walked back with him into the underground station, only to find that my 'attackers' were a racially mixed group of youngsters who were just fooling around and did not even spare me a second glance. It was at this point that I knew I had to get out before I became certifiable.

I feel so sorry for all non-white foreigners in Russia. Any day could be their last. Neither at home, nor in the University,not at work place, or even at the Kremlin is one safe. Yet countries keep sending new students every year; in Nigeria, it is an opportunity for someone to prove he is helping the people. Even if the Students then get abandoned halfway through their studies. Instead of improving our own higher education system, we send our children en masse abroad to countries of the former USSR, to get scarred for life.

I feel even more sorry for all non-Slavic Russians because they have nowhere else to go, that is their country, and they face the same problems and discrimination as foreigners, even worse! After all, we foreigners could always leave. Our countries might not be paradise, but we could leave. I have Russian friends who abuse the skinheads for the attacks against foreigners, who even housed me to protect me when things go especially hot(like in April every year, when skin heads celebrate Hitler's birthday, going on a rampage of killing and maiming. Grandchildren of those who defiantly withstood Hitler). These same friends of mine at the same time talk of Caucasians (people from Chechnya, Dagestan, Tajikistan Azerbaijan etc) and Jews with such hatred that its frightening. Xenophobia is so deeply ingrained in the Russian, that its people do not even realise it sometimes.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Uncle Max

In order to try and battle the blues, I'll write on a topic I have been meaning to write about for some time now.

I was in Abuja visiting my aunt’s family one summer while on vacation from Uni. My aunt has two daughters and a son, with the son being the youngest child. There was a subordinate of my uncles' who had been assisting my aunt with car issues due to the fact that my uncle was away on a business trip. I'll call him Max here.

Anyway, uncle Max came visiting one day when my aunt was away at work. As I returned into the sitting room with a tray of soft drinks which I had gone to bring for uncle Max, I was alarmed to see him holding first one of my female cousins, then the other and telling them to come sit on his laps, and sitting them on his privates. These were a ten and an eight year old – and you know how fast children develop these days. Their respective bums were bigger than mine, their 19-year-old cousin! Under normal circumstances, if he had wanted to show affection by hugging a child, the logical choice would have been the five-year-old boy, or at least all of them, but he ignored the little boy apart from an absent minded pat on the head. I did not feel comfortable and sort of cunningly managed to send the girls into their room to tidy up in order to get them away from this uncle Max. When my aunt got back from work, I told her about what I had observed and advised her to be careful about leaving older "uncles" around her daughters.

I am sure that after reading this story you probably think that I was a teenager with a dirty mind. Unfortunately, the reason why I felt so bothered about my observations that afternoon was because I had been the victim of attempted assault by a houseboy. In fact, I was literarily saved by the car horn. If my mother had not arrived at precisely the moment she did, I would have been disvirgined by Godwin our houseboy at eight years old. As it was, he ejaculated in my hands, destroying my innocence forever. I was too ashamed to tell my parents about it, because I thought it was my fault. We had been playing a game with my other siblings and I and Godwin, who must have been around eighteen at the time, somehow ended up together in the kitchen, away from the other kids. I cannot recollect clearly exactly what happened, except for the fact that I was left with a tiny hand full of disgusting gooey stuff as he went to open the garage door for my mother.

This experience, as well as some others which I won’t share today, is what makes me laugh derisively when people claim that such things as pedophilia do not happen in Africa. They so do!!!! It is just that parents are sometimes too busy to notice what is happening (like everywhere else around the world). Sometimes, in order to avoid a scandal, people also just decide to keep quiet. There are also cases like mine where, due to fear of strict parents, you are afraid to disclose something, which to your childish mind is wrong but which you fear you'll be blamed for. We need to wake up and realize that such things have happened in the past and continue to happen in our societies Here are just a few examples, although these are not exactly A-list news sources: a father who raped his own daughter, or this case of rape at a quranic school . Lets not even go to the ever-ongoing sexual harassment of female university students by male lecturers. Pedophilia and/or rape go on in our schools, in our places of worship, etc.

It is time to begin to speak out and to stop the business of saving face.
Rape is a crime and rapists must be punished. The very lowest on the ladder are those who defile children! Parents need to take steps to protect their children, by educating them on how to get away from potentially dangerous situations, and at the very least ensuring an atmosphere where dialogue is encouraged in the home, so that a child does not need to carry the emotional torment alone in case the child is abused in spite of all efforts to protect the child.

As for me sha, I will do my utmost to ensure that no uncle comes near any daughter of mine in my absence, if I have a daughter that is.
Have you ever been in such a state of mind where a thousand thoughts and emotions are going through your mind which you are incapable of expressing, either vocally or in writing? Have you ever been so paralysed by the hopelessness of occurences around you that the numbness you feel is the only way you can avoid going crazy?
That is the place I'm at right now, I have one million things to say, yet am unable to detoxify my mind by expressing them. I hope this phase passes soon, because it is a strange place that I do not feel capable of dealing with. I've always been bad at vocally expressing myself, and writing has always been my escape. If I lose that escape, I see myself slowly and painfully slipping into an irreversible abyss of despair.
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