ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Month: February, 2015

Essays from exile: The oporoko chronicles

Ikhide is a genius! I recommend very strongly.

Pa Ikhide

for you Mrs. C!
Princess of  the Earl of Sandwich!
Your eyes are teasing me again…

I am hungry. Very hungry. And hunger drives my brain cells to a certain point of brilliance, that hell-nirvana that my adversaries, and quite a few friends, call stark raving, certified lunacy. And as always happens when hunger places my growling stomach under house arrest, I commence esoteric ruminations, thinking deeply profound thoughts, or as my detractors would say, hallucinating. I am wondering for instance, when will Chinua Achebe, the world’s greatest writer of all times, get the Nobel Prize for discovering the Internet? Achebe lives! Yes, when will that brooding god of the white man’s letters sue the United States Government for stealing his ideas about a world without boundaries? Achebe lives! It is a poorly kept secret that Chinua Achebe discovered the Internet but the white man took credit for it. Achebe…

View original post 3,177 more words

Chatham House Full Speech of APC Presidential Candidate Muhammadu Buhari

Permit me to start by thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk about this important topic at this crucial time. When speaking about Nigeria overseas, I normally prefer to be my country’s public relations and marketing officer, extolling her virtues and hoping to attract investments and tourists. But as we all know, Nigeria is now battling with many challenges, and if I refer to them, I do so only to impress on our friends in the United Kingdom that we are quite aware of our shortcomings and are doing our best to address them.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating a lot of interests within and outside the country. This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, is at a defining moment, a moment that has great implications beyond the democratic project and beyond the borders of my dear country.

So let me say upfront that the global interest in Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all and indeed should be commended; for this is an election that has serious import for the world. I urge the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment. Given increasing global linkages, it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates; that they should be free and fair; that their outcomes should be respected by all parties; and that any form of extension, under whichever guise, is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.

As you all know, I had been a military head of state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.

In the last two decades, democracy has grown strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are now so commonplace. As at the time I was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, only four African countries held regular multi-party elections. But the number of electoral democracies in Africa, according to Freedom House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in 1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006. According to the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted multi-party elections between 1990 and 2002.

The newspaper also reported that between 2000 and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries (Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully handed over power to victorious opposition parties. In addition, the proportion of African countries categorized as not free by Freedom House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003. Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current global wave of democratisation.

But the growth of democracy on the continent has been uneven. According to Freedom House, the number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not free’ assuming for the sake of argument that we accept their definition of “free” increased from 35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have been some reversals at different times in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo. We can choose to look at the glass of democracy in Africa as either half full or half empty.

While you can’t have representative democracy without elections, it is equally important to look at the quality of the elections and to remember that mere elections do not democracy make. It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation – that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.

With this important destination in mind, it is clear that though many African countries now hold regular elections, very few of them have consolidated the practice of democracy. It is important to also state at this point that just as with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not enough to hold a series of elections or even to peacefully alternate power among parties.

It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.

Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.

The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria.

But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focussed on this year’s elections, chief of which is that the elections are holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure.

Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency. I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country.

You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many other peacekeeping operations in several parts of the world. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue.

Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.

On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has brought our economic and social stress into full relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of 7% for about a decade.

But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity. A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?

The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery.

Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom. There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult population and almost 60% of our youth unemployed. We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world.

With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and UNDP’s Human Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.

In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.

On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.

But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.

In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.

As a progressive party, we must reform our political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity and productivity of the Nigerian people thus freeing them from the curse of poverty. We will run a private sector-led economy but maintain an active role for government through strong regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions and incentives to diversify the base of our economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve the productive capacities of our people and create jobs for our teeming youths.

In short, we will run a functional economy driven by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by itself, but as a tool to create a society that works for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe the people will choose wisely.

In sum, I think that given its strategic importance, Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we need to get this critical election right by ensuring that they go ahead, and depriving those who want to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling democracy. That way, we will all see democracy and democratic consolidation as tools for solving pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as ends in themselves.

Permit me to close this discussion on a personal note. I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch.

I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.

You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a question I ask myself all the time too. And here is my humble answer: because the work of making Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still believe that change is possible, this time through the ballot, and most importantly, because I still have the capacity and the passion to dream and work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will be proud of.

I thank you for listening.

America: The trees sing of home…

Beautiful. Poetic. Cool.

Pa Ikhide

trees3America. Morning, the skies have dandruff, the trees are draped in white lace, there must be a wedding somewhere. Dawn peers at falling leaves, anxieties dyed deep into trees, beehives in the woods, masquerades, moody deities, mourning the day’s war. The skies weep white chalk, trees, raging totems, gnash the teeth of wailing children, and gnarled limbs wag effete fists at weeping women. Across the gulf in the woods the trees stare at the car, glum. They know. The heart is packed and ready. They don’t like this leaving.

Grey is the restlessness of trees in the fall, breaking the waters of the birth of the coming leaves, victors of the nights of fading lives. Today is a portrait; lovely are the colors of fall draping the shoulders of trees. Brown gods mug for the speed camera. The skies have eyes. I love you. Do you believe the wind’s rush, do…

View original post 687 more words

Open Letter to Kathleen Addy

For those, who don’t know, GHANA is NIGERIA’s twin-sister; a perfect look-alike, only that Nigeria is a little uglier, but JUST a little 🙂

Mind of Malaka

You this Kathleen Addy woman. You asked for it…now come and receive it!

Dear Kathleen Addy:

When I accepted your friend request on Facebook a little over a month ago, I did it with blind faith. We share some similar “friends”, and I thought we could be cool. I can now see that nothing could be further from the truth, and I am writing today to give it to you. I shall not hold back!

You see, Kathleen, I have evolved. I am not that idealistic woman you met online in December of 2014. I have taken off my Polly Anna rose colored glasses and MOVED on. I have outgrown the things that concern you…those things in particular being your thoughts about how Ghana should look/act/operate. You are just going to frustrate yourself, because quite frankly, you are frustrating me. When you grow, you will eventually reach my levels.

There…

View original post 1,245 more words

MidWeekSpecial: Cote d’Ivoire Parallelisms in Nigeria’s Presidential Election by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Isiaq Hammed An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. Isiaq Hammed came to us READY-MADE! He is a giant contributor.

Isiaq Hammed is Nigerian and political activist. He shares his time between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. He is a passionate believer in Nigeria and discusses Africa, particularly Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. He writes extensively on many international issues affecting the continent and the Middle East. He guestblogs on AhjotNaija.

Saturday, February 7, 2015 can definitely not be said to be a day like any other. It was indeed a historic day for Professor Attahiru Jega with several brainstorming sessions and negotiation with the various political actors and stakeholders in the electoral process. The INEC Chairman finally surfaced on that fateful night to the full glare of the waiting  gentlemen of the press. Millions of Nigerians and perhaps friends of Nigeria, home and abroad, were equally glued to their television sets. Those who were not lucky with the electricity distribution companies resorted to their generating sets. Others who could not access live streaming settled for the instant briefing on the social media platforms (Facebook, twitter etc.) The issue of the rumoured postponement, true or untrue, must be laid to rest. As Nigerians wait to hear directly from the horse’s mouth, the tension was palpable… Prof. Jega, using the security report from the service chiefs as a force majeure, finally officially extended the Presidential election by six weeks, during which the Nigerian military and the Federal Government vowed to crush the Boko Haram sect once and for all.

On hearing of the new March 28 and April 11 election dates, many were disappointed. For some, nothing much to worry about. As long as the May 29 handing over date remains sacrosanct. Yet some were of the opinion that the new development will allow more Nigerians who are yet to collect their permanent voters’ card (PVC) to do so.

Personally as Nigerian, I did not know what word(s) I could use to describe my feeling: betrayal, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, scepticism… It was definitely not that of relief or indifference. Indeed the stakes were and are still high. And I have a stake in the (un)becoming of my nation. Every Nigerian should in fact have. Like many others I settled for calm and vigilance. I ruminated on any similar event in history that I could remember. With historical retrospection, one can peep and permit oneself an introspection in to the future. As Providence would have it, exactly twenty four hours after, the next capital of call for the African Nations’ trophy will be Abidjan, just two years after it was in the Nigerian federal capital, Abuja. Cote d’Ivoire, a country still recovering from the vestige of a deep politico-military crisis that threatened its very existence, narrowly defeated the Black Stars of Ghana in a keenly contested penalty shoot-out at the AFCON final. A lot of political pundits will agree that Nkrumah’s Ghana has become a model of democracy in governance, albeit in a politically unstable West African sub-region, having succeeded to have civilian to civilian intra- and interparty transitions. From the likes of John Kuffour to Late John Attah Mills and then to the current President John Dramani Mahama.

As the euphoria of seeing the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire becoming the new African champions waned, the perplexing and tensed Nigerian situation reared its head again in the mind. The new itinerary of the AFCON trophy seems to pass a warning signal. Will Nigeria go the Ghanaian or Ivorian way in the days and weeks to come? Eternal vigilance is the watchword! Let me digress a little. Cote d’Ivoire used to have two political gladiators too, especially before, during and after the 2010 presidential elections. We will draw some interesting yet shocking parallels in subsequent lines. It is an axiom that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Alassane Ouattara, like Muhammadu Buhari, was born in 1942 to Ivorian parents of northern extraction. After completing his primary and secondary education, he proceeded to Philadelphia in the United States where he bagged his Bachelor degree, Masters and Ph.D. in Economics. Ouattara later rose to become the Director of Africa at the International Monetary Fund before he was then nominated by President Felix Houphouet-Boigny as the Prime Minister and Head of Government in 1990. He held this position until Houphouet-Boigny’s demise in December  7, 1993… Let us also do a quick panorama on Laurent Gbagbo before going back to the crux of our analysis.

Laurent Gbagbo was born in 1945 in Gagnoa, a city in the southern part of Cote d’Ivoire. He obtained a degree in History at the University of Abidjan in 1969 and proceeded  in 1979 to complete his Ph.D from Paris Diderot University, France. He lectured at the University of Abidjan for many years before finally joining politics and forming his opposition party Front  Populaire Ivoirien (Ivorian Popular Front) in the 80s. He contested and lost to Houphouet-Boigny in the 1990 election. Gbagbo later actualized his Presidential dream in 2000 in an election which saw Ouattara disqualified on the ground of not being an Ivorian descent and hence his nationality certificate was cancelled. A legal decision that can be said to be the genesis of the country’s decade-long crisis.

Laurent Gbagbo whose tenure was supposed to end by 2005 had the general elections postponed several times. He disbanded or caused to disband several electoral commissions. Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko, ‘the Ivorian Jega’, who finally organised the 2010 election was also threatened and frustrated. And when the elections finally took place and Bakayoko was set to announce Ouattara winner, Gbagbo rejected the result and refused to concede defeat. The International community (ECOWAS, AU, UN, US,  France etc.) all accepted and aligned with Ouattara as the rightful winner. In fact, Mr Soro Guillaume, the  Prime Minister under Gbagbo accepted the ballot’s verdict. Gbagbo kicked. He manipulated and managed to secure a contrary verdict from the court. Hell was let loose. The Ivorian national TV and radio stations became instruments of propaganda. Independent International news media like Rfi, TV5 were stopped from transmitting. Pro-Ouattara news media were muzzled. And that was how far Gbagbo went in his desperation to keep power at all cost. Several thousand Ivoirians and foreigners paid with their dear lives in the ensuing post-election violence which ended only after Gbagbo’s capture on April 11, 2011. And he is presently cooling his feet at the ICC in the Hague… The rest is now history.

The similarity in the opposition parties’ strategies is equally worthy of mention here. Just like Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) merged with other opposition parties to form the All Progressive Congress (APC), Alassane Ouattara also formed a coalition alliance, Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Democratie et la Paix (RHDP) in order to have a common front against the incumbent and his party. This indeed proved effective as it really made the election a keen contest and not an easy walk-over that the power of incumbency always breeds. And that in fact brightened the opposition’s chances at the polls. Alassane Ouattara finally ascended to power in 2011 since his expression of interest for the Ivorian highest office as far back as 1995.

Watching current happenings in Nigeria with the various legal cases seeking to disqualify Muhammadu Buhari from contesting the 2015 Presidential election on the ground of his school certificate (remember Ouattara’s birth certificate saga), the recent postponement of the elections, rumoured plans to have the electoral umpire removed and replaced or even the outright scuttling of the Nigerian democratic processes via the search for an extension of the incumbent’s stay in power, institution of an Interim National Government or instigating a coup d’état etc. all make one to wonder if indeed we learn anything from history.

As we seem to be at the crossroads now, and yet as our nation seems to hold her breath, we can’t help but ask if  Nigeria will go the Ghanaian or Ivorian way in the days and weeks to come. And that is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question to which the Nigerian political class must give an answer, most especially the two major political gladiators: President Goodluck Jonathan and Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari. The actions and inactions of the duo  together with those of their individual foot soldiers and sympathizers will indeed determine in what direction our national pendulum will swing. Verily, the thin line separating the two nations scenarios will be determined by how far the two Nigerian heavyweights choose to go. Alas, only our proverbial thin line separates the Hague from the West African coast. Both Charles Taylor and Laurent Gbagbo know better though, as they are both living testimonies whereas we the poor masses are living witnesses.

Our fingers are more than crossed!!!

WAIT! THE TIME TO PROTEST THE POSTPONEMENT IS NOT NOW | by Ayo Sogunro

Ayo Sogunro

A typically passionate Nigerian who wakes up this morning—or more likely stayed awake last night—to the news that the much anticipated February 14 elections have been postponed would likely get into a righteous kind of mad.

This isn’t just about what party this individual supports or what candidate the individual desires to vote for; the theft of the people’s legitimate expectations goes beyond party politics.

February 14 is not a sacrosanct political date. But still, a negative emotional reaction is not unreasonable in the circumstances. Expectations have been high, plans have been made. A number of people have drawn up their actions and decisions around the date of the elections. Meetings have been scheduled, deals have been postponed, work leaves have been taken, tickets have been booked, monies have been expended. If this was a private affair between individuals, the postponement is a valid cause of action in contract or in tort.

View original post 1,379 more words

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): The Homes in His Head

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

There are four homes in Uncle Tunde’s head. Home when Maradonna was the Military Head of State (HoS) and president at the same time. It was this home that Mr. Ajibade visited weekly because Daddy had promised to lend him some money. The government had devalued the Naira and Mr. Ajibade was unable to import the 3 printers he wanted from Germany.

His financial ruination happened in the space of three days. On Monday, he had the whole sum for three industrial printers! 50,000 Naira! On Wednesday, the money for three could only buy one! Consequently, he wasn’t able to execute the printing contract he got from a multinational!

Thereupon, the bank threatened to take his house. Mr. Ajibade died one Saturday morning. This Job’s message came to us while we breakfasted. High Blood Pressure (HBP) snatched his life! He was a man in his prime!

Uncle Tunde smiles when he remembers that home because beside the many downs of that home, they had it good a number of times. Before school, they ate good food and Milo was in granules. They could afford tin-milk. Water ran in many houses. They had light so much that they only noticed when it was taken. It was from that house and home they built and moved to our present house where I was born in 1996.

Many neighbours also moved to their houses. Life was a mélange of good and bad, a cocktail of having and not-having, but they enjoyed the excitement of riding in parks, the fun of waiting for Christmas and how they drove to school in Daddy’s car. Sometimes, they used the school bus and so did his friends.

He said: Back then, we were not rich but we were not poor. No wonder we hated so much the man that made our lives miserable and less pleasurable.

There is a second home in Uncle Tunde’s head, home when General Sani was HoS. It was in this home that everybody forgot what it meant to have a right! In fact, they forgot how to talk! They must learn to register displeasure in whispers! Political activism was noticeable only in buying Tempo or Tell Magazine or other newspapers. In them, the cruelty and idiocy of the bad government was exposed.

Visitors shrank drastically. Family members and friends had checked out. Uncle Seyi escaped to London; Uncle Kayode made it to Saudi Arabia; our neighbor, Aunty Gladys travelled to Italy. One man went as far as Azerbaijan!

In the second home in Uncle Tunde’s head, they groaned under the heavy oppression of a Monster but they could still afford something close to dignifying lifestyle, only that they lost their voices. Gani Fawehinmi, Tunde Bakare, Femi Falana, Chris Ubani and many others spoke louder and stronger like everybody had donated their voices to them.

There is a third home in his head; home when OBJ was president. It was in this home I began to talk and run around. From here Mummy took me to kindergarten. I know this house fairly well. People began to find their voices in this home. They began to gather again at news-stands to abuse our president. But beyond finding our lost voices, nothing much changed. In fact, things grew worse. For one, Daddy complained we used too much milk, Mummy removed Milo from our reach. So we needed permission to take a tablespoonful of Milo! It was in this home Daddy bought tyres infrequently. He could only afford to change them yearly. Before, he did that twice a year.

Even the number of foreigners on our street thinned out. Ghanaians, Togolese and Beninese began leaving for their countries. We heard their countries were now better. Genevieve told Uncle Tunde that Ghana had changed. They had light longer, she said.

The fourth home. Actually, two fourth-homes. In that home Baba Go-Slow was president. Upon whose demise Mr No-Shoes took over. Uncle Tunde said they were one and the same. You can’t say the root of a tree is not part of a tree. So I agree. We live here now. Many people have since moved to our home in Lagos. They are jobless. Neither Ibadan nor Abeokuta where their parents live, provide them with their needs. Lagos is no better place to get a job either. In short, finding jobs in Nigeria is like a wind-chase. The longer you chase, the faster it eludes you!

In this home, Uncle Tunde and friends argue every day. He is now a philosopher, he has stopped going to church. His reason: religion is our problem! Religious leaders are crooks. I don’t know for him. When my other brothers argue, he faults their argument for generalizing. But now he generalizes and blankets all religious leaders! How many does he know sef?!

Anyway apart from his problems with the religious leaders, I like Uncle Tunde because he says the truth almost all the time. For example, yesterday he said: Our country is bad because of President No-Shoes. No reasonable person pushes for the renewal of MEGALOMANIAC EPITOMIC CLUELESSNESS.

I suspect he was right. The big English confirms my suspicion 🙂

Nkem’s Shoeless-Dothan by Emmanuel Oris’

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon
We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

See the blood course through my veins as I try to slow him down before he crashes and burns. He shrugs my hands off. Hear my voice call out to him just before he heads off a cliff. He deafens his ears to my pleas. His heart is fixed. He is bent on reaching Hell’s gate, to ascertain if indeed it is what it is.

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”

Was that not what the philosopher Dante figured the inscription at Hell’s entrance would read? Yet I wonder why Papa Nkem wants to dare the Fates and hopes his gamble pays off. We all thought he was joking when he told us that he was going to marry off our favourite daughter, Nkem, to that unsophisticated Fulani soldier man. For God sakes even the village lunatic remembers Maigari’s days at the helm of affairs at our village’s military consignment. Those were dark days.

Like a slave master, he placed shackles on our freedom. Like dogs we were put on leashes. He called that discipline. A long standing curfew paralyzed our night trade and completely put my late uncle out of business. Papa Ada, who was a palm wine tapper, never truly recovered from the ban on all drinking parlours. He died during Maigari’s repressive regime. It’s a pity he couldn’t hold out a little while longer, as God heard our prayers soon after and Maigari was kicked to the curb.

I can hardly believe Papa Nkem would wilfully allow such a man into our family. I know my friend Dothan really treated Nkem poorly at some point, but no one can deny the fact that the man still loves her. And the look on Nkem’s face this afternoon when I saw her was that of the moon when the sun has been stolen away from it. A thousand stars wouldn’t compare. The moon needs the sun to shine.

It was exactly four years ago we all rooted for Dothan when he asked for Nkem’s hand in marriage. The man was the epitome of humility and servitude. It’s a fact he has gotten a bit overambitious over the years but unlike others I still see that gentleman that charmed us all that sunny afternoon. I remember it like it was yesterday.

The clouds hid themselves that day, heralding the sun’s heated embrace for red earth, thatched roofs and bald heads. Papa Nkem, the family elders and I sat under the Ukwa tree in front of his compound awaiting the arrival of Dothan and his brothers. We had had our fair share of flamboyant displays from red cap chiefs, city businessmen and the likes for the hand of our daughter, but we weren’t impressed. And we were certain this man from the south would be no different.

Soon after they arrived and our hearts were turned. He was a common civil servant, dressed in khakis. He introduced himself and we got to question him further. It was then we discovered his luck was good. Out of nothing – from having no shoes—Dothan had become the vice principal of his community’s grammar school. Soft spoken and mildly tempered, we were certain this was the man for our Nkem. It was Papa Nkem himself who convinced those who weren’t. It behoves me why he has changed his mind to a point that apologies and promises bounce off him like a ball off a brick wall.

I have tried telling him over and again that his temper would one day get the best of him and this looks like the perfect storm, but I’d rather he doesn’t drag Nkem down with him. In times like these patience is more than a virtue. He’s crying for change, but that’s not what we need right now. We need to keep moving forward.

Dothan has started us off on the road to success. I mean, take a good look at Nkem, she was crude and seemed to lack an idea of what to do with herself, but look at what Dothan has done with her. He paid for her to continue schooling. The other day I heard her speak through her nose in a manner I’m sure her white missionary teachers would be proud of. Instead of keeping her at home to rot, this man saw the best in our daughter.

Life is a journey where we sometimes stumble and fall, but that’s no excuse to throw in the towel and return to base. Dothan –much like every man alive – is not perfect and has made some mistakes in times past but I’m sure he’s turned a new leaf and is ready to do what’s right this time around. I may be wrong about him, but I doubt it.

They argue that Dothan hit Nkem, but marrying her off to Maigari – that brute of a man – would somehow make things better. If anything, that sentences the poor girl to severe brutality and this time we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Papa Nkem doesn’t understand the politics Maigari’s playing. Maigari is a proud man who believes everyone is beneath him and the only reason he’s sulking up to everyone right now is because of Nkem. And when he has her, I bet he’ll show everyone his true colours. And God forbids he does worse to Nkem, is it her lily-livered father that will storm a military man’s house to drag her out like he did to the quiet Dothan? I think not.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but it’s often a mirage. I wish we would be grateful for what we have, understand that no man’s perfect and be patient with this man – Dothan. He may not deserve it but it just might be the only wise thing to do. For I will sleep better knowing that our daughter Nkem is lying down in the arms of a common civil servant than be in the neck crushing chokehold of a malevolent fiend of a man.

It is said that “those who do not remember history are bound to repeat it”, but must that be our story? I mean, the man has shown us his hand several years back, must we allow him deal his last card when the power is in our hands this time around?

Have you heard? Our Nkem is getting married this Valentine. Have you gotten your Invite? Of course, the Invite is the PVC. Your vote is your voice in her betrothal…do have your say wisely.

Take charge.

Coming to Lagos (Continued)

When Soji returned from school, I was behind the door, holding its handle as if undecided to go out or not. He pushed it from outside, wanting to come in. He was shocked when he saw me. He had not been warned I was home. He got himself together quick enough and greeted.

We were a little confused on how to relate. At first, he said nothing beyond the greeting. I responded. He came in. I stole glances at him. He did same. Our eyes did not meet. My first impression was that of a shy boy. His school uniform was dirty and oil-stained.

“Who are you?” I said my name. He repeated the name. “Yes. I am Baba’s daughter. Father to Mummy.” “I don’t know you personally. But I have heard Mummy talk about you people. Yes…Yes. Mummy mentioned that before she travelled. When did you come? Where is Mummy? Did she cook? Is she at home? Welcome home. What are you doing then standing at the door?” The questions were too many I did not know which one to answer first.

With the door-question, I realized I was looking for nothing at the door. I acted. I left the door-handle and entered proper. He began changing his school uniform. I answered his questions one after the other. “Mummy is not at home. She did not cook. She left you money somewhere on the table. You should buy something to eat when you return from school”.

“I was about to ask if she left money for me. Good you guessed my next question.”

I continued. “She did not say where she went. The bus that brought us dropped us in front of the house. We came in, she went to the bathroom. I took my bath after her. She gave me a change gown. I was wearing it when she said she would be back. That was not long ago, really”. I asked Soji if he had asked a question I was yet to answer. He was now more relaxed and looked less shy.

Looking on the table, he fished out his meal-money. He pulled from under the bed a plastic basket. Hanging in the side-holes were spoons and forks. On top of the plates was a knife. I recognized at once the plastic basket was our container for plates and cutlery. As if Soji read my thought. He turned to me. “This is our plastic basket for plates and spoons”. “You don’t want to sit alone here”. I understood at once he wanted me to come along. I wore a slippers-pair I saw in a corner. “My slippers. But you may have them. That way, I will get Mummy to get me another pair”.

Soji still had his school sandals on; with a bowl in hand, he opened the door. I followed as he led the way to the house-exit.

“Look over there!”. He pointed to a mosque. “We go there to pray. We go with Boda Fatai. But with or without him, we like to go there.” I could touch his excitement as he talked about the prayer. He was yet to master the process. He had an alibi- the prayer-leader said the words too fast. He went twice to the Koran school with Jelili, one of the house-children. He could only learn few letters in Arabic. He was surprised that the language was written different from English. “Can you believe that?” He paused to catch a breath. We continued to the food-vendor’s place talking excitedly.

We went round a corner to arrive at the the food-vendor’s place. The shed was part of the mosque. I wanted to know if Soji liked beans that much. “Not really. My taste is fluid. Sometimes, I eat it endlessly. Like this week. The week before it was rice.

We only stopped talking when the woman shouted at us. “How much beans?!”

“Ewa o ni 50 Kobo.”

She scooped into the bowl.

“With beans-water too, please.”

“Now, tell me exactly what you want!”.

“I told you already. I wanted 50 Kobo worth of beans. Only that I did not know you were going to sell me only beans-water. Beans-water is free once I bought beans.

She scooped weevil-infested beans into the bowl.

“I don’t want that.”

The bean-seller did not as much as look us in the face. She simply scooped on, then she pressed the weevil with the back of the scooping-spoon. Soji appeared a little rested with the disappearance of the weevil under the beans.

“What else do you want?” she asked rudely.

This time around, I answered.

“Pay here. Take eko in the basket there.”

Soji paid. I took one eko-wrap from the basket.

A child ran out from the mosque. Actually, I wasn’t so sure from where he appeared, he practically happened on us, all of a sudden. Before I could blink an eye, he was already on us. He knelt down to blow fire. At first, he blew with his breath alone. When he wasn’t getting far that way, he grabbed a hand-fan and began blowing away with full energy.

The pre-fire smoke entered our eyes, the beans-sellers’ eyes too. The child was coughing where he knelt, yet he did not stop. The woman yelled. “Terrible being! Direct your smoke somewhere else!! Do quick so fire come out!!! Abirukireke!!!! Leave the fire alone till I finish. Go away!!!!!”

She was not yelling again when she said she was sure the terrible child was intent on removing her eyes from their sockets. “Only God will pay you back in your coin!”

The child had stopped blowing, only coughing intermitently. He was not kneeling anymore. He sat in a corner, if not for the cough, he made no sound. It was as though the words were not meant for him; he appeared too exhausted to care. His reaction reminded me of the proverbial goat back-sending a curser’s curse.

I told the beans-seller I had never met anyone so terrible. I spoke my anger not in Yoruba but Igashi. She did not understand but noticed I was angry. I turned to Soji. “If I were you, I will never buy something from this woman again. Never again!”

%d bloggers like this: