On Grieving, Mama’s Death and Traditions

Content

Introduction

What does death mean?

On Mama’s death

African Culture and Death

Lessons About Grieving

Conclusion

INTRODUCTION

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
(Shakespeare, Macbeth: Act V, Scene V, Line 23)

Every day, a gun is pointed at us and it is death’s finger on the trigger. Yet, we are not prepared. I agree with Macbeth when he says life “signifies nothing” but a breath.

My Mama died.

That news caught me unawares. I had spoken to her on Thursday. And, by Easter Monday, her soul left her body. The news broke something in me. Blood came to my mouth and it flowed into my head. Some questions flowed through my veins: Why? How? Where? When? Couldn’t you wait a little longer? How did she leave at the tender age of fifty-five?

I wish I was prepared. Then again, does one prepare for death?  Does one ever want to hear this kind of news? Is there the right time to die? Preparing would mean contemplating the fact that one day we would all die or lose loved ones. Delusion made me think otherwise: death is a facade; as if, I am in control of destiny and as if living is not dying and dying is not living. This is an attempt to answer some questions through my own experience of hearing about my Mama’s death and some lessons learned about grieving.

WHAT DOES DEATH MEAN?

None of us seems psychologically able to cope with the thought of our own state of death, with the thought of our own state of death, with the idea of a permanent unconsciousness in which there is neither void nor vacuum—in which there is simply nothing.” –How We Die, Sherwin B. Nuland

Sherwin Nuland’s book presents the grim picture of what we run away from and why we shy away from death. I, too, was not psychologically able to cope with the thought of my own state of death. I am not going to die. No. It won’t happen to me. I bask in that useless delusion that my life is guaranteed. And, after my Mama’s death, I was reminded that every moment could be the last.

Prepare for death. How can one do that? It’s simple. First accept that we are mortals and the end is nigh daily. Second, cherish the present and worry less about the past and future.

For death is the natural process of living and it is not an enemy. Only if we understand this would we be able to actually understand its significance. James Hollis reminds us in his fantastic book that death is “a mystery so profound that none of us really seems to grasp it until it has indisputably grabbed us.” Perhaps, our understanding of death has been influenced by religion. We pray that it doesn’t happen to us and we pray that it happens to us when we are old and that’s denying the natural human trajectory.

What does it mean “to die” and what is “death”? I believe “to die” is an ongoing existential phenomenon. We carry the ticking time on our head and when it stops ticking, that’s that. The more we live the more we are close to death. Our daily actions all lead to that inevitable end. I am going “to die” and I am in the act of dying as I live daily. I don’t know the time but it is an inevitable destination.

Death is actually not an ugly word. It is an end to an action called living. The cessation of the organs in the human body. Once the functional capabilities of the body stops, something leaves the body. It’s not only the demise of the body it is actually the cessation of something deeper.

I saw my Mama in the morgue. She couldn’t move. Laying there with eyes closed. Stiff. Something was out of her. That thing that binds us together was missing. Touching her would mean nothing as “death” itself has come on her; death shot its bullet and it caught my Mama. It took away her breath.

ON MAMA’S  DEATH

I can’t describe my Mama’s death clearly with words. So, bear with me. Martin Heidegger once observed that the terrible has already happened. In this case, however, the terrible is hard to comprehend. What led to the terrible? That’s the question.

To describe her death in simple terms, she slept and did not wake up.

To describe it in long terms, she concluded her night prayers went to sleep. In the wee hours of Easter Monday, she wouldn’t wake up. Dad screamed for help, called the doctors  but they couldn’t bring her back to life. And, just like that, she was gone.

I spoke to my Mama on Thursday before Good Friday. I didn’t know that that would be the last time I would hear her voice.

And, what’s worse, I had tried to reach her via WhatsApp on Easter Sunday but my efforts were to no avail. I was told by my siblings that the best way to reach her was to call her directly. I was on my way out and I promised to buy the calling card later. When I returned, I was tired and decided to push the call to tomorrow.

Next day, I decided to buy the call-card after my morning workout. After purchasing the calling card, I received the news.

I think I would live with the regret of that procrastination forever. There is no way to forget about how I allowed procrastination block me from saying goodbye or maybe if she heard my voice that Sunday something different could have happened. Now, I wished. I am bouncing on the balls of “should have” “could have” and “would have” and trust me those balls are really doing a number in my mind.

I keep wondering: why couldn’t she wait for me to make that call. There are so many things running through my mind. A deluge of crippling thoughts plagues my soul. A whirlwind exists in my mind. I don’t know if I would forgive myself but I think she would want me to. So, I would try.

Because my Mama’s mama is still alive, in a traditional sense, my Mama has to be buried immediately.

I traveled to Nigeria pronto. It was the longest six hours to Nigeria I have ever endured. I was numb throughout the flight. There was a man by left-hand side, who by all indications, was happy to be traveling to Nigeria. He sparked up a conversation:

Man: Where are you going to my brother?

First, I didn’t want to sound rude. But obviously, the flight was going to Lagos. So, there was no response from me.

Man: I mean are you going from Lagos to somewhere else.

I didn’t respond.

Man: Well, my name is S…..

Me: Nice.

Man: When was the last time you visited Nigeria?

Me: December

Man: Since 2015, I’ve not been home.

Me: Where is home?

Man: Anambra

Me: Good.

Man: I’m going to see my mum.

Me: And, how old is your mum?

Man: She is eighty three.

The cool breeze from the airplane’s air conditioning system literally went into my brains and crept down to my legs. I didn’t know what to say. To be honest, deep down, I wished I was the one going to see my mum at that age, I wished I could steal his space and energy, and I wished other things. After some seconds, I was able to allow the reality step into my consciousness: “I’m going to bury my mum.”

I closed my eyes and cried inside. No tears. I wept.

I think the man noticed that something wasn’t right with me and he never spoke with me again.

After six hours, I was At Murtala International Airport, the queue at the immigration was long and I could hear ticking clocks. I was exhausted not only by the long journey but also from too much alcohol I had drunk before and throughout the flight.

The next day, my siblings, a friend, and I traveled to Edo state for the burial of our Mama. It was a long seven-hour drive. That journey was physically and mentally bumpy.

 

ETSAKO CULTURE AND DEATH 

The history of funerary rites in Edo state, Nigeria and in particular Etsako East, reveals the creativity of cultural and western agents in a local setting. Villagers, griots, and Christians all play their roles in the burial rites of any individual from this part of Edo State. My mother was an indigene, therefore, these influences played a significant role in her burial.

As a de-colonization scholar, I have to be careful not to dispose of the traditions of the Etsako people. These traditions are the people, moulds the mentality of the people and direct their daily well-being. However, I begin to ask myself what really is the benefit of these cultural innuendoes? Do they really matter? My cousins, aunts and uncles, all say it does. One of my aunts, in defence of the traditional rites, says “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” In this case, there were two Caesars.

Before the traditional burial rites, we moved my Mama from the morgue to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Emokweme, where the priest from said a mass for her and prayed for her soul to enter the gates of heaven. After the mass, we took her again to my father’s compound in Emokweme where her casket was sprinkled with some holy water, some prayers followed and the casket was laid carefully into the ground. My siblings and I cast some soil on the casket and the priest said another set of prayers. I sat on the floor and watched as more soil was poured, now with frantic pace, by men employed to do the physical burial rituals at the grave site. There were some tears flowing in the background, there were so many people around the grave whispering and some people talking about the deeds of my mum while she was alive.

Everything gets lumped together in the scheme of things. How is the merging of two various beliefs—traditional beliefs and Catholicism— not going to be confusion? Surprisingly, it didn’t. As Africans, we have learned to mix them effortlessly.

So, as the priest departed, the vultures of traditions swooped in with coldness. The most important traditional rite is called Utugiemi. This ritual is carried out for an Amoya (the first daughter of a family) like my Mama. For an Amoya to find peace with their Maker, Utugiemi is performed and what’s more, it is a general belief that when this particular tradition is not done the person’s spirit will wander without finding peace with God. Dr. Vilma Ruddock’s asserts, in a similar vein, that the deceased must be buried “correctly” in order not to cause harm to the living. This correct burial is what we aimed to do but there are holes in this belief of correctness.

Now, to perform this particular ritual or to bury my Mama correctly in the traditional sense, a list of items was provided. The elders of the community collected items. Furthermore, the children of the dead must share some items to the community to complete this particular traditional rite.

These things were done swiftly. I’m reminded of that statement of giving unto Ceasar what belongs to Ceaser. But, then again, I am deeply pained at the capitalist approach of the so-called traditional burial rite performance. There I was watching as they called out the amount required for this particular event. I tasted the bitterness of culture and it was like pouring too much salt in one’s mouth.

I don’t know if it’s good or evil, these traditional rites. I think even Ceasar would be mad at the concept. Culture has been twisted on its head and now serves as a conduit to mask selfishness and self-gratification.

Elders were consulted, money prescribed. That’s the only way the rites would be complete. The gods are not to blame. When my face squints, there are strange looks thrown my way, whispering hurled at me and mocking fingers pointed at me for my lack of understanding traditions. How can one grieve as these events unfold?

In the meantime, there was food, loud music and lots of drink. I watched how we celebrated death. I was learning. I have a great, endless appetite for culture, but this particular one smacked it out of my mouth.

But as soon as I agreed to study the actual traditional burial rites in this part of Edo state, with regards to its significance, the fact presented an ugly face. When I dug deeper into the traditional construct, I concluded that it was simply extortionist propaganda. As with death, birth, weddings, and any other African tradition, this was visited with the intention to get money. African culture, in my mind, now wears a different attire.

LESSONS ABOUT GRIEVING

Quite often, after one loses someone close, there is an unusual amount of love poured towards the deceased and the family members of the deceased. I received my own fair share of love from family and friends. The amount of love and support poured on me by REAL family and friends was remarkable. I appreciate it and hold those individuals dear to heart.

However, there is that gnawing question that is always hard to answer after one has lost someone close. The question goes like this: “how are you?” I think this particular question doesn’t require truths. An answer like “I am fine” can’t work for me. No, I’m not fine. Sometimes, I wish the conversation starts with another question.

Fact: “we must all grieve sooner or later”. People keep telling me I will be fine. They say time heals. I hope so. Having asked some friends who have lost dear ones, how they handle grief, they all say the same thing: “it happens to the best of us and we all have to keep moving on”. What’s the best way to grieve? How does one move on?

“Moving on” is what I find hard to comprehend. How does one move on knowing that one would never see that same individual who gave you life? How does one take into consideration that the vacuum can never be filled again? And, how does one explain the disconnection? If we must all grieve, why am I hurt? Why did blood flow into my head and came out through both nostrils? If I know that death is our heritage in life, why do I feel shattered inside? My own sense of “moving on” has been plagued with so many questions.

Imagine making a call and there’s no one on the other side. You try and try again but your efforts are to no avail. That lack of connection, thereof, is the heaviness one carries around. That’ how grieving is to me. There’s a disconnection. It would never go away; it can only be managed.

I carry the memory of my Mama daily. I keep thinking what is the best way to honour her and I keep wishing she stayed a little longer. I know she won’t return but my mind keeps playing these little tricks that she is going to, one day, turn up at my door front.

No, I don’t know how to grief. I am learning. As time flows, I keep wondering how best to cope with this great loss.

Some others have said, “you have to remain strong.” I don’t know where that strength will come from. Again, it is something that I would have to learn.

I know that the gap will never be filled. I have learned, over the past couple of days too, that people grief a person’s demise for so many reasons—financial disconnection, emotional disconnection, and physical disconnection. My own grief stems from an emotional and physical perspective. I have learned, also, that there is no sure way to mourn a person. I know that sometimes one would have to be vulnerable to the emotional disconnection but at some point, one has to pick oneself and continue to live.

One important thing about grieving is that you miss the ordinariness of little things. For example, the simple “good morning” texts. I wish I could get one more of those texts. But, the reality remains, those texts would never come again. In addition to that, I wouldn’t see that full smile again. These little things become big and their simpleness makes them hard to forget.

On grieving, one must not draw solace from substances that subdue emotion or numbs the emotion. This could lead to dependence and consequently, lead to adverse effects. This is a vulnerable phase in life. It’s cool to be vulnerable but it’s not cool to lose reason and more importantly, one must watch out for individuals who try to thrive on these periods of vulnerability. I think one must face the issue at hand, understand the issue and move on from there.

For me, the lesson is, one should swim in the positive memories of the lost individual and tools to create a positive future. As such, I have decided to make a collage of memories in my head, use them when necessary to find strength and keep thriving to make my promises to my Mama come true.

CONCLUSION

 

Every step I take, every move I make

Every single day, every time I pray

I’ll be missing you

Thinking of the day, when you went away

What a life to take, what a bond to break

I’ll be missing you—Puff Daddy

 

I know grieving is hard. It’s something we would do one day or another. It carries lessons and I am learning to manage it.  Our final destination as we know it remains death and, as such, cherishing the present should be our main goal in life. Regardless of what it is, this is life and one must learn to take it all in—one step at a time.

 

Twitter: @moshoke

…And The Next Level Brouhaha

 

Let’s admit it, election in Nigeria is war. I have known this since. I witnessed it in 1993. After the Moshood Abiola of Social Democractic Party (SDP) defeated Bashir Tofa’s National Republican Convention (NRC), the elections were annulled by Ibrahim Babanginda. People took to the streets fighting, protesting and fighting over the annulment. It was a glimpse into structure of how elections are weapons of selection. What would have happened if Moshood Abiola ruled? (I digress)

J. Shola Omotola reminds us that elections “are not in themselves a guarantee for sustainable democratic transition and consolidation” and they can be used to disguise authoritarian rule. Omotola opens up a can of disgusting worms by saying democracy can be used as a ruse. But, truly, that’s what it is. We are clamouring for a process without really believing in the tenets and without really paying attention to the process. Elections in Nigeria or Africa is simply a show at the feet of the West and a bloody drama within the shores of the land.

It was reinstated again by the recent election. It’s a dog-eat-dog scenario where winners walk around with the blood of the losers dripping from the side of their mouth. Over 30 lives were lost in the just concluded elections in Nigeria. If the just concluded Nigerian elections were to be a movie, it would be called There Will Be Blood.

Why do I feel bad that election in Nigeria is a war? Because, it is. The answers are loud enough. A friend asked: “Why bother?” It is a legitimate question. Why bother about a place you have not lived in for close to a decade? Can’t you watch from a distance and thank God for leaving, what Donald Trump describes as, “a shit hole”? When I visited last year for a family member’s wedding, a friend reminded me that I am a guest in a town where I was born. For me to only visit, for me to only spend some days, for me to sweat too much on my forehead while eating Asun, means I am a guest. These are next level things I can’t handle. I must leave Nigerian things to Nigerians living in Nigeria. Therefore, when it comes to Nigerian politics, I must behave like a guest.

After all, some of my critics on social media have boxed me into the diasporan corner. A corner that is mostly for the arm chair critics. A corner where I can wail and never be heard. A corner where my wailing ends up on twitter, a blog or serves as a Facebook rant. And, to be honest, it seems they might be right.  I am always reminded when making logical sense in this space to come home and fix the problems. I never understand the diasporan labelling and I will never understand it. There are reasons for this digression. One, the just concluded election ended relationships with some friends. Discussing Nigerian politics with some Nigerians is like juggling a lazy dog in the air waiting for it to explode. These friends can’t comprehend why I would never support President Muhammadu Buhari (aka Sai Baba) or Abubakar Atiku or any of the other representatives of the party(I have talked about that here) and blamed my stance on existing  “in the diaspora.” Second, and most important, a diasporic element like me talking about Nigerian politics is tantamount to a child born in London talking about his ancestors in Lagos and Edo state, Nigeria. It doesn’t add up. But, back to the point.

Yes, the main election is over. The winner? I don’t care. I lie. I care. I actually do care when I think of the affiliations I still have in that country. I want them to be safe. I want them to exist in a sane society. However,  this time, they will be in the hands of the same culprit.The same actors that will act out the script of their godfathers. The truth remains the same– a continuum in the geriatrics of chasing after corrupt heads, chasing after offenders and forgetting the main mission of good governance.

The next level will be shrouded in massaging of egos and extermination of enemies. There will be nothing new. The next four years will be a reminder of the past four years. And, of course, in the dialectics of politics in Nigeria, there is always the one who plays the pipe and the one who dances to the tune. The figure head that Nigerians rush out to vote for does not even know the colour of the pipe, how many holes in the pipe and will never touch the pipe. He will only dance to the rhythm.

Our brand of democracy is stained with a tinge of kowtowing and ball-licking on a grand scale. Our brand of democracy means the victor have to call on God for handing him the power of powers. It’s not driven by a sense of purpose. It is driven by a selfish mission, a macabre vision and a forceful move to fatten stomachs.

In the move to the next level, there will gnashing of teeth by the losing party. There will be orchestration to undermine the ruling party. Different type of games will be played to dirty the name of the winner. Again, there will be blood.

I am reminded that the next level might mean victory for some and might mean a return to the backward existence that already exists in Nigeria. I am reminded to maintain an optimistic outlook in the face of a misplaced democracy. I am reminded that the likes of Sowore, Moghalu, Oby and co. who made an attempt at presidency,  wouldn’t continue to work hard to maintain a momentum to keep their fires burning till next election. I am reminded that the next level is just another phrase in the mouths of those who chastise humans and display a stylish demonstration-of-crase.

 

Twitter: @moshoke

SMARTPHONES SMARTLY SEEPING LIVES

Content

Introduction.

Why Check Your Screen Time?

Enter Digital Minimalism

The Hard Truth

What Are Our Children Learning

Conclusion

 

Introduction

How much time do you spend on your smartphone weekly? It’s important you do this. As there is an increase in smartphones smartly seeping lives like a straw dipped into a cold drink. In other words, the smartphone sucks out our senses, our brains, and our existence.

Why Check Your Screen Time?

 Studies have revealed that an average adult can’t go a day without their smartphone. Therefore, it’s important for one to check one’s use of the smartphone. In my case, I’m off and on. In a good week, I spend more time on Kindle, reading. And sometimes, more on WhatsApp, chatting away. By measuring my screen time, I found out where my time flows to and that has helped me plan better.

On a grand scale of things, we use our phones quite often and maybe notoriously to our personal detriment. It is important, therefore, that we check how much time we spend swiping, clicking likes and leaving comments. See below, my daily and weekly screen time:

 

 Enter Digital Minimalism.

Cal Newport in his new book argues that while using these devices could be meaningful, we need to ask ourselves a tough question: what value is this app adding to my overall career or life’s goal? He argues that we should use our phone less. Clicking like on your friend’s baby pictures on Instagram is different than buying a gift and visiting your friend.

The Hard Truth

It is hard. These days one is expected to answers calls, reply to Facebook or WhatsApp messages and emails immediately. It shouldn’t be. One must learn to play it fairly by scheduling how and when to ping back a message. This act opens time for one to get other things and engage in what Newport defines as Deep Work

 What Are Our Children Learning?

I was at a friend’s house the other day. His daughters–aged four and seven– were glued to their i-pads. When asked how many hours they spend on their screens, the father gives a defensive reply, “I try to control their screen time but it’s hard.”

And when we checked his screen time on his mobile phone, we found out that he spends forty hours on Instagram weekly.

Is this the case of the apple not falling far from the tree? Children learn by what they see adults do.

If the iPhone or Samsung is a limb to the adult, then the child would think he/she needs that support too. Are we teaching our children that life revolves around dependency on these devices?

We are attaching our children’s to these devices.

What would this do?

It will make them anti-social and depressed when they don’t get their screen-fix. Parents need to schedule how much time children spend on these devices and on what application.

Conclusion

It is important to measure how we use these devices and reduce our slavish dependency on them. Ask the tough question: how is this one hour I spend on this app going to add value or draw me nearer to my goal?

 

 

Twitter: @moshoke

 

Of 2019 Nigerian Elections

Content

  1. Introduction
  2. What Do Nigerians Desire?
  3. Who Are The Contenders?
  4. What Nigerians Will Get?
  5. Conclusions/ Future Suggestion.

**

  1. Introduction

The 2019 Nigerian election is here. Politicians, as they are wont to do, are campaigning and the Nigerian electorate, as always, react to their feverish tales with a heightened sense of expectation.

Most Nigerians know elections in Nigeria are selection processes orchestrated by party godfathers and thugs. Yet, they expect change from such systems. Juxtaposing these thoughts present a complex Nigerian reality.

History shows that the Nigerian political elites never deliver their promises after been elected. It is a case of campaigning in poetry and delivering in prose. The typical scenario is where the elected individual forgets about governance and dances to the tunes of party puppeteers.

This piece argues that Nigeria needs more than an election, it enumerates the Nigerian desire, briefly examines the contenders and concludes that a re-orientation is required for that desired change to come.

  1. What Do Nigerians Desire?

Citizens of any nation yearn for basic amenities— security, jobs and working institutions. Democracy, it is argued by scholars, is the only way to provide this existence. At the twenty-sixth OAU summit, OAU Secretary General Salim Ahmed Salim reminds us that democracy in Africa should aim to please Africans and treat their needs with utmost importance.

Today, however, African democracy presents numerous disadvantages. Respect for human rights, official accountability and popular participation which are the corner stones of a democratic state are missing.

A Nigerian citizen expects to be treated as a human and more importantly, to enjoy the benefits from a democratic state. However, to desire something as citizens is different from getting the ruling elite to meet those demands.

Furthermore, there is an argument that Nigerians get the leaders they deserve, an echo of Joseph De Maistre’s statement. In that, a corrupt bank manager shouldn’t complain about a corrupt commissioner or a lazy airport official shouldn’t complain about a lazy senator. There’s an element of truth in that argument. But the point remains that leaders ought to set examples for their followers . After all, the fish rots from the head.

As 2019 draws nearer, the hopes of Nigerians are raised which will be deflated after the elections.

 

  1. Who Are The Contenders?

Focus here is just on the presidential aspirants.

For long, the mantle of leadership has exchanged hands among a circle of friends. They’ve held it from the early 1970s to present. In this circle, you’d find Babangida, Tinubu, Atiku, Obasanjo and Buhari. These are the cream on top of Nigeria’s political coffee. There’s no chance to win any political race without adding any of this cream to the coffee.

Nigeria is not a country and there are those who own it.

In 2019, the owners will—drum roll please!—present Buhari and Atiku who represent All Progressive Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or which Oby Ezekwesili describes as Butiku. Two parties cut from the same fabric. In summary, there is APC, PDP and others.

The others represent the minority parties which includes Oby Ezekwesili for the Allied Congress Party; Donald Duke for the Social Democratic Party; and Kingsley Moghalu for the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and many unknown others.

The “minority” label is for the party with lesser people power and individuals with credible resumes. The heated debates about how these individuals will change Nigeria misses the point. Character doesn’t win elections in Nigeria. Religion, tribe and party affiliation does. But, there is a way out.

First, to uproot the existing powers of APC and PDP requires a deeper understanding of the power structure in Nigeria. There is something regional about playing politics in Nigeria and you can’t have a major vote if you don’t know how to play the grassroots game. Second, someone like kingsley Moghalu and Oby Ekwezeli have not caught minds of the real voters who exist in the corners of various regions. They have not caught the eyes of voters who lack internet.

To undo PDP and APC’s powers require a strong force, a coalition of sorts and a revolutionary mindset. This can only work when individuals with a singular goal come together and map out concrete plans to achieve this singular mission.

Nigerians know the winners before the game starts and they know what they will get.

 

  1. What Nigerians Will Get?

Nigerians, in 2019, would get what they’ve always got. A president from the existing cream—Buhari or Atiku. It has always been the case of who is the lesser evil. Nigerians will pick the person who would deliver a lesser blow of woes on their daily existence.

For now, the other minority parties don’t have what it takes to snatch power away from the elites. They have, through their various actions, put their personal needs and desires above a more lasting solution. They want power without understanding the construct of the evils they must fight. They want the presidential seat without been pragmatic about how it can be done. It’s easy for anyone to whip sentimental claims and grammatical geriatrics but the work to get to the seat deserves deep work and systemic approach.

To put it in another form, there is the need for a lot of Davids to fight against the Goliaths present in Nigeria. There is no need for the Davids to carry different weapons. They must shoot from a single string in other to fall the existing power.

 

  1. Conclusions and plans for future.

Nigerians should never trust the least evil president that would come in 2019. Again, this individual will use power as a weapon for self-gratification and pleasing godfathers and their political party.

There is a need for a re-orientation and this re-orientation borders on furthering the betterment of a truly democratic Nigeria. Sensible figures who want to cut out the old leaders must agree and should agree to work together. These ones must come together to build a weapon that is characterised by reputational essence which will in turn give them the competitive edge to win the minds of millions. They must not turn against each other. Their arrows must be shot from one bow.

The naïve presumption that power will shift because of moral integrity is preposterous. There is a need to now remove the veneer of morality and understand the underpinnings of these existing power then put into motion a mission that would disrupt the so-called status quo. That should be the plan in the future. For now, Nigeria is stuck with Butiku.

 

I’m here on twitter.

 

 

We Have fuel and We Have Scarcity.

IMG_6258
Picture by Ayo Akinwande

Last Wednesday, I called my sister based in Lagos, Nigeria. The conversation was short and unusual. On any given day, our gist rides into thirty to forty minutes. Not today. She reminded me ominously that “fuel scarcity dey; I need enter petrol station”. Those were the words that ended the call. A reminder, a sad one; that, again, fuel is scarce.

That fuel is scarce on a land that produces one of earth’s best crude oils is a known paradox(another telling will not do). However, there’s something metaphoric and symbolic about the consistent scarcity. These elements are what I’d try to unpack in this piece.

Let’s make something clear before we journey into these search of symbols and metaphors.  I think a basic equation will help us comprehend these complex paradoxes that plague not only Nigeria but the continent as a whole.

Equation:

Think fuel; think riches. Think scarcity; think poor.

So,

Fuel-scarcity = rich-poor.

To think on this level is to acknowledge the following truths: Africa is the richest continent and yet, is the poorest continent in the world. Africa houses more than eighty percent of the world’s resources and yet, imports all its finished products.

Let’s add another twist to the words “fuel scarcity”. Place the conjunction “and” in between these words to create the finished phrase: “fuel” “and” “scarcity”. Separating them would allow anyone assimilate the equation well.

We have fuel.

We have scarcity.

One can extract various images from the above truths. If Franz Kafka’s Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis  wakes up to find himself as a giant bug, Africa sleeps and wakes up as a bug. She knows she’s a bug. Unlike Sartre’s assertion that we are condemned to freedom, Africa is condemned to something sinister, a bug-life and suffers consistent swipes.

But, what’s safe? To love scarcity more than fuel or to love fuel more than scarcity? Edward Said in Reflections on Exile: And Other Literary and Cultural Essays  argues that “it is what one remembers of the past and how one remembers it that determine how one sees the future.” Following Said’s argument, one can raise these potent questions: what do Nigerians’ remember about fuel? What memories are abound about scarcity? And, more importantly, where are we now?

I remember the lashes of scarcity. I trekked from Orile to Ijesha. Water left my body. Scarcity meant suffering.  One hour and some minutes, I walked under Lagos’ sun which squeezed me. What I remember here is that long, tortuous, and painful work caused by scarcity of riches(word replaced as per equation). Every step tore my soul. The land’s abundance blurred in my mind. Scarcity weakens. It kills ambition. It, as Chuma Nwokolo puts it, makes one meek. If anyone had invited me for a question session or any other national activity after that walk, I would have declined respectfully.

However one tries to remember or to borrow Said’s words “determine the future” by remembering, it solves nothing. These paradoxical truths watches one and another reality never comes to the fore in between these blinking realities. Tides will ebb, the rivers in River Niger will produce fish, another black gold will erupt from another part of the continent but there will be scarcity in the land. That’s where we are now. There’s fuel and there’s scarcity.

Scarcity was constructed for Africa by Africans and non-Africans and abundance is an  illusionary destination.  It’s a bad dream with no end but sprinkled with good tales in the middle. Riches keep slipping away. Africa is that thirsty bug floating on water. To weave another narrative fabric for the continent becomes harder. Nigeria, as a giant of Africa,  wears that synecdochal hat for the contient.

Scarcity spreads its tentacles wildly and widely. Moyo Dambisa in Dead Aid: Why aid is not working narrates another level of scarcity when she reminds us about lack of strong leaders and goes further to propose that poor countries acquire “benevolent dictators to push through the reforms required to get the economy moving”. What Dambisa forgets is that the continent has been blessed with “benevolent dictators” like Mugabe, Gaddafi, just to mention those two, who later pocketed their benevolence. It’s not hard to have tyranny and benevolence in one body as explained by Dambisa, Americans, the French, and the Brits have mastered the act, africans haven’t. I think Dambisa thinks Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is the “benevolent dictator” Africans must emulate. I mean, why not? Rwanda’s economy grew 1.7 percent in the first Quarter 2017. Let’s not forget, however, that Kagame, too, is described in other chimes as a dictator but not a benevolent one.

How hard it is to avoid the paradoxical discourse of the continent. Yes, I warned that it was another tale that needs no retelling but, what I have done is to give a holistic reminder. That feature of riches and poverty existing side by side sprang like a dubious masquerade in the 1914s and it is there, always been there and will always be there.  This is a known fact. But, there’s nothing, I repeat, nothing that can be done to drive the masquerade away from town. Even if our eyes are watching God, the cycle repeats itself.

Or maybe there’s another level of scarcity—the scarcity of reasoning. Greg Mills was bold to make a dangerous, yet truthful summation that “Sub-Saharan African countries have not fulfilled their potential since independence.” Ouch! I don’t know any African country that’s independent. There’s none. That’s Mills first display of simplistic thinking. Again, Mill spreads naivety in this essay like an amateur artist spreading and mixing colour on canvas. At one point, Mills is telling Africans to ignore what Said describes in Culture And Imperialism as the “imperial context” in our contemporary existence and to solely focus on liberalising some industries to beat scarcity on the land. That’s like asking an adult to murder what Sigmund Freud describes as “infantile wish” in Interpretation of Dreams.

But, for some seconds, let’s focus on this potential described by Mills. Let’s give him a third ear. There’s potential but I think reasoning is missing. By reasoning, I mean that power to think critically, forge new missions and create a new existence. That’s what Nigeria and many post-independent(a useless term used here for lack of another descriptive word) nations need.  Many Nigerians grew with scarcity and they’ve become comfortable with it. To not have, is normal. To know that things are in existence but can’t be had is a daily truth.

How did this scarcity come in 2017? I mean, to borrow Dambisa’s phrase, we have a benevolent dictator. He’s not only benevolent but has has three heads in one: minister of petroleum, the president and former dictator. Even with many eyes and heads, he can’t fix scarcity. He can’t change it.

The president means well or so he says but his actions depeens the meaning of well. His expedition can be compared with that man in search of water in a desert with no concrete plan. But, if we give room to his staunch supporters, they would innaudate the world with his great achievements, they would bring numbers of moneys collected back from thieves and they would tell you about the death of Boko Haram. However, there’s scarcity which his non-supporters will narrate: economic recession, increased tribal jingoisms and bipartisan politics. But, to be fair, all blame can be laid at his feet. He, with his cartel of old heads, have been steering this Nigerian ship for over thirty decades and have no destination.

Again, there’s fuel and there’s scarcity.

Scarcity altered the normal conversation I’d have had with my loved ones. When, one must ask, would we focus on the fuel on our land? When would individuals in Nigeria not worry about scarcity? When? I don’t know and I can’t predict. It’s Christmas, I’d call again, and hopefully, scarcity won’t direct our gist.

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If you love her, kill her and vice versa

The issue of love is complicated. It’s not a one-fit-all type situation. One person’s way of expressing love might be different from another person. The destinies of many individuals have been reshaped–good or bad– because they fell in love. That said, love shouldn’t spark devilish acts. If it doesn’t meet humanistic standards, walk away.  Society taught males to be in “devilishly” in love. 
 
As a boy growing up  in Ijesha, Surulere,  alpha males existed on the scene. Men who displayed their manliness on their hands, swag and voice. They were easy to spot.
There was Baba carpenter. Whenever his wife offended him, he told her to  “put her hands up and close her eyes” while he lashed her with copper wire. Neighbours begged but he reminded them that he had the right to punish her for not cooking and obeying his orders.  We only pitied her as she swallowed phlegm and dried streams of tears from her face. There was nothing anyone could do. 
 
There was Baba Uyi–the most violent of all. He once smashed a bottle on his wife’s forehead leaving her almost blind in the left eye. He beat her, at least, twice a week. And, they still managed to ride on the illusion of love. When there was no love, there was fighting. They pushed the line of love and hate willy-nilly. It was hard to tell if she was committed to receiving the beatings or was simply in love. 
 
Daily, we heard one women crying under the blows of their husbands . It was the normal thing in Ijesha. It was rampant. And, Paul, one big bros at that time, who was good with putting pictures on paper with pencils recorded numerous cases. Brother Paul always said, “if you love her, beat her.” Well, that was his only way to measure love and tame the wild beasts who lead men out of Eden. 
 
Then one brother Femi once beat his girl friend  for exposing her boobs to another man under the powerline near Ijesha market. We looked at her as an ashawo because: (a) women are born to be faithful to their bobos (b) only a man has the right to many girlfriends (c) since, he’s the man, he’s always correct. Brother Femi’s friend hailed him for his folly. That’s how it was.
 
In the corner of the street, men were hailed for their insatibale appetite for sex and were highly exalted for the way they brandished their despotic natures in their homes. Women and children were boxed into a spot of obeisance. 
 
Of course, some women fought back at Ijesha. Once, one woman pounded her husband’s face with a pestle and when the in-laws came around to ask why she did it, she replicated the same action on them. They tumbled over chairs and stools as she swung her pestle. She was fierce and stirred negative rumours on the street but she didn’t care. Men feared her and women respected her. Brother Paul made a comic about her, she had two secret balls in his comic book . 
 
To kill her, we realised only too late in life, was not the only way to love. We discovered that there was a way to command her respect and to judge her not by physical features but by her actions. 
 
Many men have the idea that the best form of showing their love powerfully is by acting irrationally which is wrong. No one needs to die while in love. 
 
How do we correct this? Like I told a colleague, there needs to be another orientation. What do we tell our kids? Do we want to raise another generation of children with the ideology of a Brother Paul? Or, Brother Femi? No. For years, children have been taught the same thing: “it’s a man’s world”, “you’re a woman and women don’t do this” etc. It’s high time we redefined these labels we grew up with.
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When They Gather

I don’t know if you know this. Authors from a particular tribe are often proud of their culture when they gather. They often sing only of their own existence, as if every other tribe in the gathering matter less. I was at the recent African Writes, and that’s what really happened. A group of “African” authors gathered in a space to measure their dicks and boobs to see who has the biggest organ. I don’t understand the groupie behaviour though. Is it to promote African literature or to promote personal egos? Really, the whole gathering sucked and reeked of something strange. Why waste time on such?