Wednesday, 25 February 2015

2015: The Change We Need

President Goodluck Jonathan in the last few weeks has come under a barrage of criticism for failing to conduct election as earlier scheduled, even after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its readiness. And Nigerians, especially the main opposition party, APC have grudgingly accepted the postponement on the ground that the presidency acted within the ambit of the law. The election postponement was seen as a ploy by the incumbent government to buy time, and it did work for them. A new date has since been announced. Goodbye February 14. Hello March 28. We are waiting.

The “fight” for the soul of Nigeria is gathering ominous clouds. It is PDP’s Jonathan and APC’s Buhari in the ring. We hear the brash cry for change. They say enough is enough, that Nigeria cannot continue in this direction of corruption, impunity and wanton wasting and looting of public treasury; and then from the other end, we hear the boisterous “moving forward” campaign for continuance, the agitation that Nigeria cannot go back to Egypt. They claim that a million years to the ‘promise land’ is better than a minute of slavery in Egypt. Well, your vote, come March 28 will decide.

However, March 28 is few weeks away and Nigeria is on the verge of history. But the situation demands careful examination of critical issues such as the likely gain or pains of our decision.  My conviction, and I say it with every sense of responsibility, is that neither Goodluck nor Buhari deserve my vote, and I say this with a strong feeling. Unfortunately, these two men have been presented to vie, undeservingly, for my precious vote. It is clearly an issue of system failure. For me, it is a matter of choosing a “lesser evil”. Come March 28, I shall cast my vote. But before that, I must make my demands for change.

I belong to the class of Nigerians, not party, that seek change. Yes. I seek change so that my brothers and sisters in North East can sleep with both eyes closed, and those who have become strangers in foreign lands may return. I seek change that the gory tale of Baga carnage will be of more importance to our government than that in any foreign land; that Nigerians can walk in the streets with some sense of safety and freedom.

 I seek change today that polio, diarrhea, cholera, malaria and other avoidable and treatable diseases will no longer kill our children in the 21st century. Oh, I believe that change is due, that our children will no longer go to school without shoes on their feet; that they may enjoy their right to education, and come to terms with the mystery of perpetual doom and penury that is continually being orchestrated by few egocentric, infamous politicians; and that after 15 – 16 years of ‘painful’ education, our youths may not tramp the street in search of unavailable jobs, or even find death in search of jobs as was the case in what was aptly tagged  the “Nigeria Immigration Recruitment Tragedy” on March 15, 2014.

I look with great anticipation to the time when electricity shall be no luxury in a nation with near unprecedented endowment of natural resources; when our children shall never ‘squeal with pleasure at the infrequent lighting of a bulb’. My friend wrote me, asking why we complain of high price of fuel and kerosene. He says, “…in my area, the cost of water is nearly half of that of fuel.” But this is one of the basic needs of life, and we need not applaud any government who gives us water. Our world, certainly, painfully, is different.
I seek change that my brothers and sisters  shall no longer cross bothers in search of ‘greener pastures’ when we have more than enough to make our land sprout and flourish, and when they do, that they shall no longer be exposed to weird scrutiny just because they are Nigerians.

I was still a little boy in the 80s when Olikoye Ransome-Kuti was a health minister under Gen. Babangida. So I expect that you pardon my ignorance. But thanks to literature, through which Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche has saved my blushes with her story, “Olikoye”. In this story that could adequately suffice a tribute for Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Adiche paints a vivid picture of a practical democracy, a government for the people. But it was of course Gen. Babangida’s military government. Oh, how beautiful! I saw Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, through Adiche’s eyes, shaking hands with the villagers, whispering life and success secrets to a people upon whom life’s weight was great. “The Minister treated all of us like human beings”. Olikoye was not just a cabinet minister but a health campaigner, and he saved lives. That was democracy in military garment. But Jonathan’s democracy, after 4 years still has millions of Nigerian children dying of treatable diseases. I need a change!

Now, as their campaign trains make rounds across regions, we hear their loud passionate voices pleading for our vote. They know our needs. They make promises. It is the same promises they made us years ago, though they may have changed platform and come in a different banner. And my fear grows – Despair. Distrust. Disbelieve. Disgust. Disgrace. Dis- all these…

I am not the only Nigerian who now relate with our leaders in this realm of dis. The reason is that we have a dysfunctional system that needs a fix. But an average Nigerian is complacent. They have been conditioned to pretend to trust, to believe that all is well or rather that all will be well. But nothing becomes well in a smug, unworried society like ours, and this is why we must push for change.
The media, both local and international have been awash with needles political stunts. Obviously, the die is cast.  Let the popular candidate win, but let there be change.

I have held strong sentiment and reservation about president Jonathan’s government that has been deservingly under relentless public salvo for lack of political will or is it might to restore Nigeria to the glory we hoped, a dream that saw us vote him into power in 2011 after his heartrending “shoeless school boy” speech. We saw the emotion and optimism in his face.  We believed him, hoping he could strike a chord in our already abysmal economy. We voted for him, and it was an overwhelming landslide over a familiar political foe, Gen. Buhari. Four years down the line, many school children, those who are lucky or privileged to go to school, still walk shoeless. One had expected that the motivation behind a change of government, which is one of the beauties of democracy, is to right wrongs and move the nation forward. But no, President Jonathan and his coterie of ministers have fallen below par.

So, as March 28 beckons, you will play a part in the history that would be the destiny of our nation. President Jonathan has told us in one of his campaign speeches that ‘no one can fix Nigeria in four years’. If he had said this in 2011, chances are we might not have voted him, because we don’t want a president who only knows what he cannot do. That in itself is limitation.

But APC? My conviction, again, is that this party could be likened to an “old wine in a new bottle”, plus something worse. I am wondering how a camp that has Bola Tinubu as a leader would fight corruption. And for Rotimi Amechi, I admire his courage for pitching tent against a sitting president. It is not easy to fight a sitting president. But I believe his credentials do not show a trusted servant.  And Gen. Buhari? Does anyone think he is, or could even be the change we hanker? Yes my friend does. And there are many like him gunning for the retired General. But history teaches me much of what and who General Buhari is and can become. He says he has changed and cannot be the same person he was in military government. But can this leopard make history by changing his spot? Hmmmm!

Buhari has pointed confidently, that he would end Boko Haram if voted into power. Ok, let us consider this; if Buhari is in a position or knows how to end Boko Haram, why would he wait until he is voted into power? Or is it a condition? My position is that Nigerians are not cowards. I believe that if by any magic wand Gen. Buhari had stopped the Islamic extremists, he would have won a larger part of my heart and of course that of many Nigerians. He would be a hero.

I was still too young during Gen. Buhari’s spell as military head of state. But I have read much about his ‘many sins’ and why he ‘may never’ rule Nigeria again. And the General has not proven otherwise. He is just adamant, obsessed and power-hungry. At his age, one had thought that Buhari would honourably resign to the role of a statesman.

Nevertheless, like a woman in her prime, Nigeria is ripe for change. I am particularly glad that the time has come; that our government now has a strong opposition, and we can no longer be pushed or cowed like hopeless slaves.  Yes, change is imminent. If Jonathan and his PDP survive the heat and remain in Aso Rock, they will know that it will no longer be business as usual; and if Buhari and APC prevail, they too, will know that Nigeria ‘has gat to work’. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

African Fiction blazes the trail as Teju Cole, Helon Habila & Vladislavic wins $150, 000 Windham Campbel Prize.

It is good news once again!

The third edition of The Windham Campbel Prize has been announced. Nine winners emerged from different categories: fiction, non-fiction and drama. Interestingly, all three slots dedicated to fiction were swept by African novelists.

 The trio ace of African literary giants, Teju Cole, Helon Habila and Ivan Vladislavic scooped $150,000 each as a part on the back for “a body of work or extraordinary promise.” You can say it was an African show!

The Windham Campbell Prize was established in 2013 by novelist Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell with particular interest in fiction and non-fiction writers. Its core objective has been “to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.”

There is no better time to raise our glasses for these illustrious sons, these men with busy hands making tremendous inroads in shaping global ideas through storytelling. African literature has come of age. And we are proud!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Sorry, Am Just Curious

...and I enjoyed a selfie with this cute buddy of mine
Sunday, February 22, 20015

So, today I return to my Parish, The Cathedral of Twelve Apostles, Abuja. I have missed everything here. I do not expect anything less than a spirit-filled Holy Mass. And so it was, with Fr. Patrick Alumuku and his priest-friends at the altar.

Today, my curious mind pricks me again. There is something to learn and unlearn. The homily is on-point. Fr. Patrick is no greenhorn. He’s like that, always subtly luring you into the sermon with certain touchy stories. There is something to learn. I am blessed. Yes, we are.

The atmosphere in our church today, as always, brings with it the aura of prestige, a dashing sense of style and glamour in a way that assures you that all is well. It is a place of worship and our God is not a poor God after all. You could always feel the spirit of God moving among His people, blessing us. During consecration, the silence can be stony, as we focus on the altar in solemn prayer, inviting the Holy spirit to accept and turn our ‘gifts’ into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  During this period, I have always thought the congregation a near-perfect people. There is a breath of freshness and newness. I think Fr. Ojukwu, the one I call the Priest General, deserves some credit for the continual spiritual and physical transformation in our parish.

But then there is something that often repels my Eucharistic appetite each time I am here for the Holy Mass, and today is not different. It is the chocking, often confusing smell of posh cologne, perfumes, deodorants and other cosmetics worn by this highly classy congregation. Sometimes I develop an upset in the stomach because of my allergy for strong smells. Once in the church, I expect only the sharp scent of the incense used during consecration. But when the atmosphere turns a convergence of piercing smells, it becomes a problem. And I don’t think this is befitting for a place of worship.

And the ladies made things worse with those deep colours on their lips. I recall how my lecturer sent away from the class ladies who wore excessive make-up. He said he was allergic to superfluous make-ups. I did not mind, for that was a class room environment. But this is a church, a holy place. But they don’t care, and so they march to the altar during communion with lips painted in devils-red. And this is the part that makes me feel unease, as I imagine a contact of the ‘pure, unblemished Lamb’ with that red thing on their lips despite Father’s effort to avoid that. With this, I have seen the height of arrogance. Or is this ignorance?  God save us!

During offertory, my eyes left me, prying into people‘s purses, pocket and clasped hands. It is one thing you don’t do in church. But that’s the problem with my eyes and my curious mind. One of the things we were taught as children was to “keep your offering a secret”. But things have changed so much in the church. So while my eyes wandered, it found people with high denomination naira notes loosely squeezed in their palms. I imagined that those who closed their palms tightly had lower currency; those who yet are not part of the well-off class; those still praying for God to #katapot# them so they could sing #Godwin#. Hmmm!

Well, we want the house of God to be a place of attraction not distraction. So, next time you are off to the church, check yourself and check again to ensure you maintain utmost decency, that you deserve the attention of the Holy Spirit whom you go to meet. And don’t forget you are there to worship God, and whatever you give “let not your right hand see…” for He sees your heart.
God bless you!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Reps Suspends Debate On Involvement Of Military In Elections

By Leadership

The House of Representatives on Thursday suspended the debate on the deployment of military personnel for election purposes in the country.

The House had been considering the issue following a motion by its Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC-Lagos).
In the motion, Gbajabiamila said it was unconstitutional for military personnel to be deployed for election duties in the country.
He also prayed the house to investigate the role of the military during the 2014 governorship elections in Ekiti.
He pointed out that the use of military personnel at election centres may intimidate the electorate.
According to him, the presence of military personnel in polling units and wards is capable of generating unwarranted apprehension that will scare away innocent citizens.
The lawmaker said that the action was capable of preventing voters from peacefully and wilfully exercising their franchise.
In his contribution, Rep. Sunday Karimi (Kogi-PDP) said that the matter which the motion sought to address could not be debated because it was in court.
“This matter is still a subject of litigation at the Supreme Court,” Karimi said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the All Progressive Congress (APC) had sought the nullification of Ekiti governorship election result for reasons, which included the involvement of the military in the elections.
Ruling on the issue, the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, directed the Committees on Rules and Business, Judiciary and Justice, to advise him on the matter.
“In view of the sensitivity of the matter and the unfolding events in the country, please I want us to take this matter very seriously.
“I will therefore direct committees on Rules and Business, Judiciary and Justice to advice the speaker, and come back to the house on Tuesday,” Tambuwal said.