Archive for January, 2014

Your Headache, My Panadol?

Posted: January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 By Pius Adesanmi

 

 
 

In my Facebook inbox, in my gmail inbox, you have been relentless in your messages. Some of you have asked me: Prof, what’s going on? Why have your columns for Sahara Reporters and Premium Times gone cold? Why has your Facebook page gone cold? Have you given up on Nigeria? Have you deserted your readers and followers? Some of you have no room for niceties. You don’t feel that you have to be nice and charitable so you ask me point blank: Prof, have you gone quiet because you have been settled? After all, you just returned from a trip to Nigeria…

Let’s answer the last question first. No, I have not been settled. I cannot be settled. My answer has never changed anytime anybody from the establishment has approached me to test the waters of ‘settleability’. You must understand that you cannot do what I do, write the stuff that I write, say the stuff that I say, without being approached carefully by self-appointed folks testing the waters to see if you can be “encouraged” to go easy on whichever Oga you are focusing your laser on. They think they are wise. They speak in parables. But if you are smart, you know what they are driving at: name your price.

I have always told such emissaries that, yes, indeed, I can be purchased. I have a price. If you can pay it, you have me where you want me. My price? I always name it. A good friend of mine who was once a Nigerian High Commissioner in a Western country would relate easily to this if he is reading this piece. I always told him what it would take to go easy on his Ogas. My price is very reasonable. There are 170 million of me. Give ALL 170 million of me water, light, job, infrastructure, security, health. When you have done that, stop stealing from all 170 million of me. That is what it would cost to buy my voice. That is what I always ask for. That’s the only condition for my silence. I just haven’t found anybody in the political establishment willing to pay that price. They always give me the impression that I am asking for the impossible; that my price is too high; that I am not important enough to be bought at the price of, say, stable electricity for all 170 million of me.

Now that you know my price, stop inboxing me on Facebook or emailing me at gmail to ask if I’ve been bought. Whey they eventually pay my price and buy me, you will feel it directly around you in water, light, job, infrastructure, security, health, etc.

So, if I have not been bought, why have I kept away from public life in recent weeks? There is an immediate answer and a remote answer. The immediate answer is simple: I have been extremely busy doing capacity building here at the University of Ghana, Legon. That is what Carnegie Corporation New York sent me here to do. Worrying and writing about issues you refuse to worry about in Nigeria or issues you justify, rationalize, and find unbelievable explanations for – even if they directly affect your life and not mine – isn’t what puts bread on my table. The grind of academe is what puts bread on my table. Besides, I am starting to learn slowly and painfully that there is great joy in my not taking Panadol if the owners of the head in Nigeria, those suffering the direct consequences of the unending imbecilities of their leaders, say they have no headache. I am discovering the joys of despondency on account of the Nigerian tragedy.

Now, to the remote cause of my silence. The presidential election of 2015 has been slated for February 14, 2015. It’s just that there is nothing I have to say to you now that I did not say to you thirteen months to the 2011 elections, thirteen months to the 2007 election, and thirteen months to the 2003 election. Why should I start croaking about that same issue now? There is such a thing as sounding like a broken record. I told you in the build up to all previous presidential elections that it does not make any sense – in fact, it is profoundly insulting, degrading, and dehumanizing – that you finally get to know who the contenders are for the highest office in the land less than six months to a given election.

It is January 25, 2014 today. You still don’t know who is running on the platform of which political party and on what issues. You will be treated to elite catfights and mudfights, and slingfights; elite calibrations and recalibrations; elite decampings and recampings between and among political parties till, say, June 2014. Then they start telling you who is running on which platform. Then 170 million people are left with less than six months to scrutinize and examine those who aspire to lead them for four years. The campaigns and debates are then reduced to superficial sound bites and useless soapbox posturing. They wear party ankara on the soap box, waive party emblems, and work you to a frenzy. No Joe the plumber moments. Lamidi the mechanic will never get to ask nationally televised and unscripted rope line questions about why he still cannot pay his rent in 2014 despite promises made in 2011; Kasali the vulcanizer will never get to ask nationally televised and unscripted rope line questions from the APC candidate about why he cannot afford to send his son to LASU despite having been a law abiding and hardworking citizen of Lagos state his entire life.

When you don’t get to ask these questions in the build up to a presidential election, it is treatment worse than the situation of those herbivorous South African Christians made to eat grass by their pastor. Nigerians shared that deplorable news from South Africa and laughed. I shook my head in disgust. Folks who are being treated with so much contempt by the so-called democracy in their country are laughing at South African Christian herbivores. Is their situation not worse than those chewing grass in South Africa? Are their leaders in Nigeria not making them chew worse than grass?

In the run-up to all previous presidential elections, I screamed myself hoarse. I told you that the political players will never respect you – no matter which party they belong to – unless you demand respect and begin to work on the ground rules for respect. Demand for respect begins by saying no to candidates you did not have enough time to scrutinize. How do you scrutinize a presidential candidate in less than six months? You need time to identify the issues on which a candidate is running. These issues span the political, economic, social, and ethical realms of our national life. You need time for all the strategic stakeholders in our national life – political groups, social, groups, civil society groups and organizations, student groups, just to mention a few – to scrutinize each candidate on the basis of these issues. They need to go round the country on various platforms for scrutiny. How do you do this when politicians and political parties get away with the arrogance and insult of not telling you who is running until the very last minute. Gosh, some candidates even add insult to injury by failing to show up for presidential debates.

This insulting scenario is unfolding again in the build-up to 2015. We know that the election is thirteen months away. No candidates. No issues. No scrutiny. They keep you busy with distraction after distraction; they multiply presidential brigandage and irresponsibility in Rivers state to keep you talking. By the time you shine your eyes, it’s almost 2015 and there little time left to scrutinize anybody or anything. This is the point at which those who should know better – educated members of the public who are active on social media – will jump up and begin to rationalize nonsense. They will find explanations and justifications for anything. They will tell you that the idea of the political process respecting the citizenry by giving them enough time to question candidates and scrutinize the issues they are running on is not compatible with our realities and it is not fair for you to keep insisting on “foreign scenarios”. They will propose “realistic and home-grown scenarios” for accommodating insult and tolerating mediocrity. So, I ask myself, why should I continue to swallow Panadol on account of the headache that these folks claim they don’t have?

The insults pile up from every corner of the political spectrum. You tell the victims that even while we agree that the PDP must be booted out of our lives in 2015 by every means legal, lawful, and non-violent, there is an even greater responsibility not to reward APC with precisely the sort of docile and irresponsible followership that could transform her into a laminated photocopy of PDP in power. You tell them that APC must be saddled with vigilant followership. As Nigeria’s only viable hope for escaping one and a half decades of PDP hell, APC must be helped against her own demons. Then some Nigerians suffering at home write you: “Prof, you have been so critical of APC recently. Even if the thieves in PDP are now migrating en masse to APC, don’t you think it is better for us to try the same set of thieves on a different political platform? Why should we always try them on the same political platform and expect different results?”

You almost suffer a heart attack, reading such an unbelievable message from educated Nigerians. You try to tell them that as followers of the only viable alternative political platform to the hell and rot that is PDP, now is the time for them to make it clear to APC leaders that it is not going to be followership as usual; that vigilance will be the keyword. They tell you that things must work according to our realities. For “our realities”, read grass chewing by the people at the prompting of laughing politicians. So, I ask myself, why should I continue to swallow Panadol on account of the headache that these folks claim they don’t have?

That explains my silence in recent weeks…

 

 

 
 
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Mixed Metaphors: Ethical Jungles

Posted: January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
Columnist:

Sonala Olumhense

I do not often find reason to support President Goodluck Jonathan’s tragi-comedy of a government, but I am in his corner over his investigation of curious financial donations being made by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi Lamido, to interests of his own choosing.

Among others, the CBN boss is reported to have given N4 billion given to Bayero University Kano; N10 billion given to Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto; N500 million to the University of Benin; and N100 million to Kano, his home town.

The presidency alleges that by the donations, Mr. Sanusi violated due process and politicized his office.  As part of the enquiry last week, it summoned the Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), Jim Obazee, to cough up information on the donations.

The trouble is that Mr. Sanusi recently called out the Jonathan government in a letter to the President in September 2013, a document that subsequently leaked to the press.  In it, he declared that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had failed to repatriate to the Federation Account in 2012 and 2013 a whopping $49.8 billion.

Following subsequent “reconciliation” manoeuvres, the government declared that (only) a few dollars were actually yet to be “reconciled.”

President Jonathan would then ask Mr. Sanusi to resign his appointment, a kind offer the CBN chief turned down, saying that only the federal legislature could truncate his tenure.

Apparently, that has Mr. Jonathan got upset, resulting in the current “investigation.”  It would appear to be a serious gamble to get Mr. Jonathan upset, because it gets him thinking rule of law and due process and undue politicization.

I wish the president well, but Mr. Sanusi has been in the donation business for a couple of years.  In “Damnocracy Dividends,” another edition of my Mixed Metaphors in April 2012, I focused on the donation industry into which the CBN boss had ventured.

At that time, he had just donated the N100 million to Kano, completely unperturbed that anyone might suggest he had overstepped his bounds.

Mr. Jonathan made no such suggestion.

When the stench began to spread, Mr. Sanusi asked the bank to explain his conduct.  That was when Professor Sam Olofin of the CBN Board, falling on his face, told Nigerians that the “plan” had been [for Sanusi] to visit Kano and also St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala, to make a donation to help Boko Haram bomb victims there.

The donation to Madalla was not made, apparently because the parish priest was not available.  Still Sanusi, completely without shame, led his delegation to the Emir of Kano and plunked down N100m.

As I said, President Jonathan saw nothing wrong.  Sanusi had not crossed any ethical or administrative boundary he recognized.

I wrote, “What Sanusi’s conduct confirms is that the rules by which we are playing at the highest levels in this country are no rules at all.  It is a jungle in which we make our own rules.”

That is the jungle that permits a leader to identify wrong only when he is personally challenged.  It explains why thieving government officials are never challenged, well-known thieves are given appointments and National Awards, and convicted thieves are given state pardon.

Speaking of identifications, how do you gauge the sincerity of the current government in Nigeria?  There may be no easier measure than the swiftness with which it announces an unpopular or policy or idea.  In 2011, one of President Jonathan’s first explorations was the option of a seven year term.

Earlier, when he took power in 2010, the first substantive action he announced was the decision to buy three new jets.  In the 2014 budget, he wants to buy another one.

Now, where is the devil?  Is anybody really looking for this guy?

Remember that in January 2012, President Jonathan, speaking at a New Year service at the First Baptist Church in Garki, Abuja, unveiled him as the one responsible for our problems.

“When you compare Nigeria to other nations, Nigeria is not moving fast enough,” he said.  “We have our challenges and that is where the devil comes in and puts road blocks.”

He is apparently still not under arrest.

And on the subject of arrests, Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the so-called “Independent” National Electoral Commission, has warned Nigerians not to expect perfect elections next year.

Of course.  In March 2011, Professor Jega had wonderful news concerning Nigeria’s brand new electoral register.  “I must tell you that we have caught some high-profile double registrants and we may be able to start with them in terms of prosecution,” he said at the National Summit on Free and Fair Elections, declaring that justice was coming to Nigeria’s Big Men who “feel confident that they will get away with whatever they do.”
According to him, “For the first time, we are saying that if you violate the law, we have the capacity to apprehend and prosecute you.”

When you think about it, he actually said, “capacity.”  I thought he meant “intention.”  Little wonder not one big man has seen justice since those violations.  And now, Jega is about to sell another election.  Why should they be perfect?

Justice is easy, apparently, to impose on the vulnerable: Under Nigeria’s new Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, homosexuality has been “abolished.” Nigerians are not to practice it, or know it, or countenance it.

We do not see it, do not recognize it and do not maintain knowledge of it in our heads, unless we first purge it by identifying to the government people we know to be guilty of it.

When we do that, the government will presumably pause in its task of protecting the lootocracy, symbolized by the federal executive and the legislature, to assemble the guilty and ensure they are punished severely, with up to 14 years in jail.

And then, in addition to banning the gathering of homosexuals, the law prescribes 10 years for anyone or group who “supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings.”

To be clear, I have an objection to gay marriage, but Nigeria is going to be jailing people because they are gay in a country where the biggest thieves are celebrated, given National Honours and made leaders?

We are going to be jailing parents who love their children whether they are gay or straight because love does not discriminate?  We are going to be jailing doctors and nurses because they treat HIV& AIDS patients knowing but not telling the government that they are gay?  We are going to be jailing young boys and girls because they are reported to be gay but cannot hire the same expensive lawyers who defend the rich?

Finally, it turns out that Bamanga Tukur, the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was merely reassigned, not neutralized.  In the PDP family, you are never bad enough to lose.

 

In an ethical jungle, you play for keeps.  There are no rules.

 

Countdown Calendar: There Are 490 Goodluck Jonathan Days Left.

Not Pro-gay, Just Anti-stupid

Posted: January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

gay_nigeriaBy Ifeanyi Odigwe

There are good reasons to have a heterosexual sexual appetite, medical and procreation to name a few. African values should not be one of them. It would help to remind people what African values are. If we define African values as those values that we held before the advent of the colonist, then it is fair to say that in 2014 women should have no right, twins should be killed, widows should endure humiliation after the death of their husbands and cloths above the waist should be optional.

My point is that it is slippery slope when we start legislating morality. There is no such thing as a majority democratic rule to deny people their fundamental rights. Anyone who speaks out against the recent anti-gay law is immediately tagged pro-gay. My views on homosexuality and those who practice it are not positive, but who am I or we to play God? I am neither pro nor anti gay, I am just anti-stupid. If you find homosexualism deviant or abominable then simply don’t practice it. Gay never killed anyone. Gay is not the reason for poor electrical supply or bad roads or missing NNPC funds or forged school certificate.

I have never been more ashamed to be Nigerian or associated with Goodluck Jonathan. The law makes me very sad.  Freedom of thought, speech or action and a government that is free of corruption and accountable to its people are not western values, they are universal values.

I have heard the argument that since a majority of Nigerians support the anti-gay law then it is not a problem, to those people I say the Nazi party won the election in Germany democratically and their anti-Semites laws polled well as well. It did not stop with the anti-Semitism and we all know how it ended.

It is not up to the government to decide who has what right or not. It is not up to government to tell you who to love or how much of your own money you are allowed to withdraw from the bank daily. It is not up to the government to restrict you movement because dame or another government official is in the area. It is not up to the government to prevent planes from landing for hours because Goodluck is flying in or substitute election results for what suits them. Those who accept a law based not on merit or any societal harm fail to see how this law radically alters the fundamental relationship between the government and the governed. We are inviting government agencies into our private space.

North Korea is a haven of poverty in a region of wealth, when criticised the government says we would not accept western values. In Russia critics are routinely jailed, ethnic Muslim minorities are discriminated against and killed, journalist disappears and corruption is rampant. When human rights activist in the country protest against it Putin calls them foreign (western) agents. China decides how many children a family is allowed to have and forcefully aborts babies from women’s womb because the laws are broken, of course we know the Chinese government response to such criticism. When Nigerians criticize the new anti-gay laws we are told that they are western values. Sounds familiar?

As a race, that has long suffered from discrimination, we should keep pushing the boundaries on individual freedom. When the anti-miscegenetion laws in the America were passed the language used to defend such laws are the same used to defend the anti-gay laws today. Christian and cultural values, unnatural etc

During the civil rights movement in America the segregationist Governor of Alabama, George Wallace in his inaugural speech declared “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. He won re-election in 1970. Democratic ? Yes. Morally just? Depends on who you ask.

Ifeanyi Odigwe

http://iphyoo.blogspot.co.uk/

By Samuel Adekanmbi

About five years ago, in a promo tagged 9jillion, Etisalat gave out one million dollars ($1,000,000) which some persons initially considered unrealistic. Even though I’d never won anything all my life (except for free drinks), I still believed promos are real. I always wanted to participate, hoping to win at least a phone one day. I also noticed I

missed out in lots of promos because most companies limit their awareness campaigns to traditional media. (I don’t listen to the radio, I rarely saw these promo billboards in Ibadan where I was studying as an undergraduate, I couldn’t afford to buy newspaper daily from my N5,000 monthly allowance and the list goes on and on). I thought the wisest thing to do was to look for a centrally updated platform where all ongoing promos would be announced from time to time.

In the course of time, I found DealDey which was far from what I wanted. After several months of searching and making no headway, I decided to come up with an online platform that would inform people about every ongoing promo, competition, scholarship and lottery – the four of them have something in common, which is winning. I started the development of the platform but later stopped because most of my colleagues would laugh at me and say to me “SAMUELI! You too like AWOOF!!!” Truly, I do like “awoof” but I didn’t like the fact that everyone (especially the girls) said it to my face whilst giving me that funny look that says, “You had better go and read your books”.

Thankfully, I met the founder of Jobberman, Opeyemi Awoyemi, in 2012 (I’m sure he can’t even remember what I look like or even the project I spoke to him about). He inspired me to start the project and try to perfect it along the way. He left me with a question which he saw at Facebook headquarters, “What will you be doing if you were not afraid?” “Of course, I’ll like to put in for promos and competitions and will like to win them. As a winner, you become a celebrity in your own world and you have the media all over you,” I replied. He gave me his card and told me to start doing that.

I picked up the project again, finished it up, tested it with dummy content and felt it was good to go! Launching the platform was another big deal. I had three major challenges, the first of which was getting the appropriate domain name. I wanted a short .com domain name that would sell

itself, nothing complicated. However, it seemed all the meaningful domain names had been taken. After two weeks of searching for the availability of over forty domain names; I was on the verge of settling for a .com.ng domain when I decided to try out two other words – “promo” and “update”. Lo and behold, the .com was available. I registered it as fast as I could and today, I run http://www.promoupdate.com.

The second challenge I faced was getting content. After launching, I knew I couldn’t fill in the site with dummy content; I needed original content to make the platform come alive. Racking my brains for days on end, I tried to figure out how I would get the right content. I was back to the initial problem that gave birth to the PromoUpdate project. I eventually sorted that out by getting information from the mass media, social media and through word of mouth. I still miss out on a lot of promos and contests.

My parents constituted my third challenge. They saw me as one unserious dude that had no plan for his future. My father would say “After spending four years in the university, you mean you want to spend the rest of your life doing promos? You this boy, grow up! Get a job and start planning for your future.” I hear that every week and there was a time it had such rhythm that it began to sound more of a song to me than a piece of advice.

I forged ahead regardless of the challenges. I remember sending out letters to many companies in 2012 telling them what I do whilst also inviting them to use the “post promo” link on the PromoUpdate website whenever they had any promo. As I write this, I haven’t heard from any of the companies. I have however decided to give it everything it takes to generate content for the platform. After running the platform for eight months, I had not made money from it and I had not won anything; but I was far from quitting. On the 31st day of December 2012, one of my banks called to inform me that I was one of the winners of a promo I had put in for three days earlier. Wow! I just won a brand new Toyota Corolla Car – 2011 model! I danced all through the night.

2013 was another great year for me. Everyone in my hood now calls me Baba Alaye just because I drive a brand new car. My male colleagues would say to me, “Let me know if there is another promo” while the females were always asking if we could hang out later in the evening. Little did they know that a hundred naira wasn’t added to my monthly N5,000 allowance. People are now beginning to view my website regularly unlike in 2012 when I was the only one viewing it. 2013 was also a year of winning as I won more stuffs ranging from gadgets to cash prizes.

I enjoy what I do; I get lots of mails from people trying to make enquiries about particular promos. I see these people as my own customers; I reply every mail I get and try as much as possible to educate them. Sometimes, when I don’t have answers to the questions, I go the extra mile by calling and even visiting the company running the promotion to get adequate and accurate answer for my own audience. Sometimes, I receive over a hundred calls a day from my audience trying to make enquiries. They drain my Nokia battery most of the time.

However, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable lately. PromoUpdate is about 20 months old and we are still struggling and haven’t got a single press review. I read about other startups, how they get funding, how everyone wants to invest in them and other sweet things the media say about them; and I ask myself “How come the press ain’t talking about PromoUpdate? Ain’t I adding value? Is there something I ain’t doing right? How come nobody wants to invest in PromoUpdate? How do I take PromoUpdate to the next level? Are all these press reviews about other startups just unnecessary hype? Am I the only entrepreneur feeling this way or are there many others like me?”

Until I find answers to these questions to move PromoUpdate to the next level, that thin voice inside of me will keep whispering two things to me:

1. Get a life, other startups are just media hype.

2. You are still that jobless broke nigga that is just privileged to drive a brand new car.

Samuel Adekanmbi is a programmer and loves competitions. He currently runs http://www.promoupdate.com. You can follow me on twitter @promoupdateng

I Am A Homosexual, Mum

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

gay_nigeriaBy Binyavanga Wainaina

(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)

11 July 2000.

This is not the right version of events.

Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?

Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.

“I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to.”

Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?

Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.

“I am a homosexual, mum.”

July, 2000.

This is the right version of events.

I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.

Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.

“ She’s gone, Ken.”

I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.

I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.

Somebody.

Nurse?

Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.

It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.

I am five years old.

He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people’s patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people’s movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twentysomething years, I even hug men awkwardly.

There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.

I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.

The Nigerian School Is Dead…

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

 

 

By Prince Dickson

 

 

 

school

 

 

 

The last two weeks, many of the young university kids I speak with seem unnecessarily in a hurry, and have a false sense of seriousness, one that had been missing in the last six months. The rasion detre is one word—EXAMS!

 

 

 

The Nigerian school is dead, this maybe, a harsh comment to make however, it is not far from the truth, infact I see it as the truth. Sometime in 2006, I had written a letter to then Minister for Education, Chinwe Obaji, it was in the incubating stage of the “third term’ saga, she never replied, I am almost tempted to copy the letter to the current Minister, Wike, but again, it is the heat of 2015, so I do not expect a response, so I would address my admonition to ASUU, Parents and Nigerians at large.

 

 

 

There is this book titled School Is Dead, it is a sociological text, by Everett W. Reimer and old one at that written in the good old 70’s I think 1971 precisely, it was those days, Nigeria had money and spending it was a problem.

 

 

 

The book discusses alternatives in education, the book was about the fallacy of school, it debunked the value of school in the society, and it talked about schools having empty walls. It was primarily by an advocate of de-schooling.

 

 

 

For a book that old it must not just be a sociological text, but a prophetic piece today in the light of where we are in our educational journey.

 

 

 

And ask me where are we, as a nation educationally? I would tell you, we are at the point where kids write exams after staying at home for six months watching premier league, Mexican soaps, and going to several MTN/GLO music gigs ‘screaming no long thing and nothing dey happen’, when indeed the nation is in for a long thing and a lot is happening.

 

 

 

Why is school dead in Nigeria, do I need tell us what we already painfully know, so I am only reminding us.

 

 

 

I honestly cannot grasp regarding the real tangible and intangible gains of  a six-month industrial action that ended with teachers paid for not going to work, please where is the logic and moral, when there is even in-fighting how the money should be shared. Have we solved the issues…NO!

 

 

 

All I see are  ‘olodos’ and empty-headed ‘spaghetti and jeans wearing’ young people that litter our dead buildings called schools, in the name of they called off the strike and we are back to school. Same buildings, same lecturers, the modus operandi is still same difference.

 

 

 

I weep for this nation because we cannot have a nation with a generation of young persons who lack qualitative education baptized in the waters of the 3E’s Enlightment, Exposure and Experience. Beyond those well-prepared speeches at convocation grounds and occasions, the Nigerian School system is dead and most of us cannot see any reason this should be the portion of a nation that has and continue to produce a lot of first class brains nationally and internationally.

 

 

 

Sadly, school is dead, today’s students come with their smiles but little to offer for all the years of numerous assignments, group work, candle light burning, sex-for-marks and handouts buying. Even the basics of their chosen field seem very alien when mentioned to them.

 

 

 

It’s sad that I do not know exactly how some of our so-called schools feel when the let loose these caliber of empty-headed products.

 

 

 

Despite all the propaganda of free education by some states, the scholarship schemes scattered, both home and abroad, what we have is simple politicking, PTDF wont pay scholarship monies because monies have got stuck somewhere, The UBE thing has been all propaganda with most States Primary Education Board serving as conduit pipe for educational donor agencies’ money to State CEOs.

 

 

 

Really where are the schools in Nigeria, …the type you went to, the same Baptist Secondary School, Ansaru Deen, St. Gregory, Sardauna Memorial, Barewa College, the Unity schools and many such in which discipline, and morals were treated?

 

 

 

Today what we have are prestige schools were the school fees run in millions of Naira, infact some of these so called ‘good’ schools charge their tuition fees in hard currency in our own country and no one is saying anything.

 

 

 

Now young graduates do all sorts of things to make a living when their paper qualification cannot fetch them the big break or the executive seat and all the years at the University or Polytechnic did not prepare them for the task ahead and the society itself is not ready for them.

 

 

 

In 2014, pupils will still receive classes under the trees, after Grammar school our young ones may only have the likes of Obasanjo to thank on how to write an open letter skills.

 

 

 

In public universities, lecturers are playing their own game turning the ivory tower into an all comers affair, it is enter as you pay or pay as you enter, the course determines the price, admission racketeering is a rave, JAMB has been jammed, there is no belief in the system.

 

 

 

Half of the entire nation’s education has been entrusted into the private school system where standardization and quality control are Latin terms and are treated as non-issue.

 

One morning it is six years mandatory primary education by noon it is nine years by night who knows. One state is returning schools, another is taking it back, the policy makers do not even have faith in the system they claim to be reforming.

 

 

 

Can I ask the Reuben Abatis, the Fani-Kayodes, the Fasholas, Rabiu of Kwakasiya fame, Rochas and co, which school do you children attend, how much do they pay per term or session, how many Nigerians away from your league can pay that amount, the local primary school in your village what is the state, is it not dead?

 

 

 

Take a visit to the primary school the President attended…visit Bisi Akande’s or Lai Mohammed’s Primary schools, or is it that they did not attend one?

 

 

 

I have said as a nation, we have the wherewithal to make education from primary to tertiary free, let ability be the determinant. The way we are treating our educational system, I dare say that when the consequences will stare on our face, may it not be like the gun, it does not know who carries it, do we want to resurrect our schools, only time will tell

 

 

 

 

school

ImageigeriaBy Prince Charles Dickson

 

In a country contentiously split among Muslims and Christians, leaders of Nigeria’s mosques and churches are united in their condemnation of same-sex relationships.

 

So, too, are lawmakers, who’ve criminalized sodomy, civil unions and gay marriages, with a 14-year prison sentence as punishment. In some northern regions, flogging and the death penalty comes into play.

 

Since the anti-gay laws were passed, stories of people being arrested for violating them are a common occurrence. At the same time, gay rights activists are becoming more vocal. Even churches formed by the LGBT community can be found.

 

So what’s life like for Nigerians who are attracted to people of the same gender? Can they practice their faith in a country where religion and culture overwhelmingly condemn their sexual identities?

 

To better understand, I interviewed a range of Nigerians from across the country who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight. They came from many walks of life – writers, ministers, government officials, food vendors, etc.

 

LGBT Spirituality

 

In Ikoyia, an upscale suburb of Lagos in southwest Nigeria, I caught up with a gay man who works in finance. He took me to party, where I observed gay men socializing.

 

“We informally gather for dinner parties, at restaurants and beaches,” the man said.

 

Wealthy gays in his suburb are said to live more openly than anywhere else in Nigeria. I asked: Did he consider himself both gay and Christian?

 

“My faith is a personnal matter,” said the man, who described himself as a Pentecostal Christian. “Besides, many people won’t understand.”

 

He’s right. Christians account for nearly half of Nigeria’s population and all major denominations denounce same-sex intimacy as sinful, at least in their doctrines.

 

Nigeria’s Anglican bishops are especially vocal. They’ve long threatened to break away from the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issue, most recently at an October conference in Nairobi that drew 331 conservative bishops from across the globe.

 

The bishops want the U.S., Canadian and European members of the Anglican Communion to denounce stances on homosexuality contrary to their own. Canada’s Anglican Church began blessing same-sex couples in 2002, a few months before the U.S. Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay bishop.

 

More recently, the Church of England dropped a ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships from becoming bishops. Nicholas Okoh, primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, says the West is ignoring Scripture and insisting on imposing its views on other countries.

 

“They want to push it down everybody’s throat,” he said in March at an ordination service. “And as far as they are concerned, it is a matter of human right. But God’s right is not discussed.”

 

Many of the gay Nigerians I interviewed said they didn’t abandon their faith because of the sexual identity.

 

 “I am a saved Christian and proud gay,” the man in Ikoyia told me.

 

A country divided

 

The level of openness found in Lagos wasn’t as evident just 154 miles west in Benin and elsewhere in Nigeria.  For much of the country, it seems that religion, profession, family, the laws as well as class status factor into how openly members of the LGBT community choose to live.

 

An architect in Kano who is straight and attends a Methodist Church told me that he has friends who are gay. He said he’d come to terms with their sexual orientations.

 

“I don’t see myself better than they are,” he said. “I believe that can practice their faith, even though the Bible condemns it.”

 

At the same time, he doesn’t want them showing public displays of affection. Nor does he believe that same-sex couple should be allowed to adopt children.

 

“I’m not saying being a gay is good,” he said. “I’m a Christian and I also have a culture that condemns it.”

 

In northern Nigeria, many people said they were aware of LGBT communities Kano and Kaduna, but rarely gave them a thought. A Muslim told me that he grew up with some of them.

 

“The only thing I do not like is that as Muslims, we don’t allow them pray with us,” he said. “Some of them want to, but you know we can’t allow that.”

 

In Abuja, Nigeria’s capitol city, I heard a slightly different view.

 

“I don’t care if a gay person comes to a church or mosque,” a man said. “However, for me, everything is wrong with a union between gay people being called a marriage”.

 

Ash-Shiekh Muhammad Sani Yahaya, the national chairman, Ulama’u Council of JIBWIS, said Islam condemns homosexuality.

 

“It is an abomination, it is a crime,” he said. Lesbian relationships aren’t mentioned in the Qur’an, but that’s not true of gay men, citing the following verses:

 

“Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.”

 

The global view

 

Britain and some other Western nations threaten to suspend aid to Nigeria and other countries where homosexuality is criminalized. They consider the laws discriminatory and grounded in bigotry and prejudice.

 

In November, the European Union’s top court ruled that gays and lesbians in countries that outlaw homosexual relations are eligible for asylum. Days later, the Malta Refugees Appeals Board granted asylum to an 18-year-old Nigerian teen.

 

“The dominant role of religion is widely seen as the root of the country’s homophobic culture,” the board said, quoting from a border agency report.

 

“Punishing gays is one of the few common themes that politicians can promote with equal zest in the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north,” the board said.

 

Homosexual intimacy is criminalized in 78 countries, including 38 of 54 African countries. That’s why Africa is often pointed to as the most homophobic of continents.

 

The death penalty is at play in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen as well as parts of Somalia.

 

 “Same-sex marriage may be acceptable in some countries of the world, but in Nigeria, the majority of the people – by words and deeds – have shown it to be an abomination that they must stand against,” wrote Emma Madaubuch, an assistant editor, in the Daily Independent.

The same sex bill passed by the Congress in Nigeria, waiting assent provides that a marriage contract or civil union entered by persons of same sex by a virtue a certificate issued by a foreign country shall be void in Nigeria.

The bill provides that persons that enter into such union are jointly liable to 14years imprisonment each, and those that administer, witnesses, screens, aid and abets, supports, operates gay clubs, societies, procession or organization in Nigeria commits an offense and liable on conviction to a 10 year jail term.

Nigerian President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has aligned himself with the country’s majority view and the anti-gay laws adopted by the National Assembly.

While Nigeria has dug in its heels on the issue, attitudes and polices in other countries are softening and shifting toward greater acceptance. In 2001, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution supporting equal rights for all, no matter their sexual orientation

 

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 16 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Uruguay, and New Zealand. In addition, gay couples can wed in England and Wales beginning in March 2014.

 

They can also marry in some regions of Mexico and the United States, though President Obama didn’t support legalization until May 2012.

 

The spiritual view

 

The Rev. Rumo James, a Baptist pastor in Jos, told me that homosexuality is affliction and disease for which no compassion should be extended.

 

“Homosexualism is a virus that degrades the family and its values, corrupts human cohabitation and offends God,” he said. “It eventually leads to social decline.”

 

Nigeria’s Christian population is Africa’s largest, with 80 million followers, according to the Pew Research Center in the United States. Clergy cite Bible-passages as the God-given reason for their condemnation of same-sex relationships.

 

Two of the most frequent verses cited are from Leviticus. One states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (18:22).

 

The other says: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (20:13).

 

Christians supportive of same-sex couples say those Old Testament Bible verses are misinterpreted, made obsolete by the New Testament or simply out of touch with modern life.

 

They also argue that all people, gay and straight, are made in the image of God. Besides, they point out, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

 

‘I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel laureate from South Africa, said this year in response to Russia’s anti-gay laws.

 

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals are intrinsically disordered and should live celibate lives. But Pope Francis also made headlines when he offered a softened tone on homosexuality than that heard from the Vatican in decades.

 

“Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” the pope told reporters. Many Catholic bishops, priests and church members take a harsher view.

 

Bishop Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese in northwestern Nigeria isn’t one of them. Like the pope, he strikes a conciliatory tone.

 

Would the bishop welcome gays and lesbians in church? “

 

“The church is a place for everyone,” he said. “I would not chase one out. I would not report that person either.”

 

It should be noted that people who help conceal same-sex couples can be punished by up to 10 years in prison under Nigerian law. Some consider those who choose not to report defiant and others see them as courageous.

Conclusion

 

As in all repressively homophobic cultures, LGBT people continue to find ways to express and to live out their authentic selves.

 

They are part of Nigerian society at all levels. Some hold prominent jobs in government, businesses, the military and even as religious leaders.

 

But it’s not a leap to suggest that the majority keep their sexuality a secret for fear of losing their families, friends, jobs, freedom or even their lives.

 

Despite Nigeria’s strict laws, the debate over LGBT rights and same-sex relationships is nowhere near resolution. My reporting reveals Nigeria’s gay culture, though largely silent, isn’t going away.

 

On this vexatious issue, I believe in windows of possibility. Nigerians and other Africans need to strike a balance.

 

Might the day come when Nigerians respect the rights of its LGBT community and the LGBT community be respectful to those who uphold heterosexual relationships exclusively?

 

Learning to live in peace doesn’t mean we will agree with one another on all matters. Nor does being civil toward one another mean we endorse one another’s behavior or beliefs.

 

Change is a part of life and throughout life we change and accommodate new understandings of behavior and circumstances.

 

As a journalist and writer, I strongly believe there’s need for understanding and that understanding is key to Nigeria’s path forward on this issue.

 

Should the LGBT community be discriminated against? Should their human rights be abused?

 

Should they face imprisonment? Should they be flogged?

 

Should they be put to death?

 

My answer is NO!

 

Prince Charles Dickson is a Nigerian Journalist. 

LGBT Rights– God’s Laws, Nigeria’s Laws is a reportorial for the ICFJ/Henry Luce Reporting Fellowship