ajagunna

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

Month: May, 2015

Inaugural speech by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

I am immensely grateful to God Who Has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.

I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.

I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes count and were counted.  I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media. At the same time, I thank our other countrymen and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive.

I thank all of you.

Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.

I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.

A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.

Our neighbours in the Sub-region and our African brethenen should rest assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it. Here I would like to thank the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria.

I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century.

At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.

In recent times Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.

Furthermore, we as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan fodio’s caliphate, the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flow in our veins. What is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernize and uplift Nigeria.

Daunting as the task may be it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.

For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.

Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government can not interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.

However, no matter how well organized the governments of the federation are they can not succeed without the support, understanding and cooperation of labour unions, organized private sector, the press and civil society organizations. I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity. The Nigerian press is the most vibrant in Africa. My appeal to the media today – and this includes the social media – is to exercise its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism.

My appeal for unity is predicated on the seriousness of the legacy we are getting into. With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us, namely; Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment especially among young people. For the longer term we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.

The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory can not be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.

This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.

Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil. For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.

Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.

The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta is due to end in December, but the Government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place. I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the State and Federal Government in the rehabilitation programmes which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.

No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.

Unemployment, notably youth un-employment features strongly in our Party’s Manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick – start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.

Your Excellencies, My fellow Nigerians I can not recall when Nigeria enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our long – standing potential of pulling ourselves together and realizing our mission as a great nation.

Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar

There is a tide in the affairs of men which,

taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life,

Is bound in shallows and miseries.

We have an opportunity. Let us take it.

Thank you

Muhammadu Buhari

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind(TPoM): Goodluck, Mr. President!

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari,

Now That You Are Inaugurated, you must be very busy so let’s do away with protocols. You do not like them, anyway. Congratulations on your installation as President of the Federal Republic. Once again I am proud to be  Nigerian.

The task before you is herculean, like rolling a rock uphill. I am sure you know. So, lets start right here. These are worth considering.

Your predecessor, Mr. Jonathan, had some strong (wo)men in his cabinet, comparable to turbo-engine cars in performance, but he preferred to run at 30KM/H. Some of those who you may consider recruiting from the former cabinet are Osita Chidoka, Aminu Wali and I believe Barth Nnaji has great ideas and services to offer us. Pease do not forget the super brainy Omobola Johnson! Caution: Under no circumstance, should you be tempted to engage Mrs Okonjo Iweala!

Yes, I know we have to support local products and employ people, but please and please, come up with ways to regulate the monopolistic tendencies, particularly those of Dangote and Femi Otedola. Sir, look into the pension funds. A number of our (grand)parents worked in the civil service because they looked forward to a life of pension after service. Unfortunately, Chief OBJ in his eternal wisdom tampered with the plan. It is unfair to renege on agreements especially when assured pension was one of the motivations for staying in the civil service. Sir, I heard there are still issues to be attended to in NITEL. See to them immediately.

Mr President, as it is, you do not have an opposition. Forget about PDP, they are as dead as hieroglyphics. Take the people serious, their voice and yearnings are now the opposition. In addition, please tell all to stop calling you ‘Baba’. The last person we called Baba was a conceited farmer whom luck shone on, but decidedly left us a terrible legacy; your predecessor, Mr. Jonathan was one of many.

What is more, you are now the president. There are many badbelle people, this is not the time to take chances and leave your safety to fate. Do not do that paparazzi you did as president-elect by rejecting a Rolls Royce. Buy yourself  a bullet proof car. If just one! Oh! I forgot you must have inherited one or two from your predecessor, please use one. You can sell the rest.

In conclusion, your son Yusuf is Nigerian’s hottest male right now! His name was everywhere on Twitter yesterday. Your son’s emergence into limelight is a parable; most times, people care less about the process or making of a product (in this case your son). For real, those, on whose fingertip Yusuf trended yesterday were not interested in Yusuf’s formative cum growing up years! They cared less that Yusuf was not ready-made, that his process of becoming this presumed hottest plus finest young man was rough and not always smooth! All they saw and WANTED is the full grown man! So, same is what they shall demand from you right now. I hope you are ready-made for this challenge! You must be!

Make sure you do significant things. Let those be the essence of your governance. Give us electricity. Secure our lives and properties. Give us jobs. Walahi, many Nigerians will worship you if you ensure our refineries work again! Watever it may cost, achieve these things. For your name and integrity.

Remember, you bear the appendage of a messiah. Hence if Nigerians do not see a messianic presidency, the over 12 Million people who voted against you will increase to your downfall!

Goodluck, Mr. President! Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Finally! Mr Muhammadu Buhari is President!

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari is Inaugurated. For the first time in 16 years Nigeria will today inaugurate a president who emerged from the opposition in the March/April 2015 General Elections. The hithero ruling party PDP will occupy the opposition- a role it has thus far despised as being responsible for badmouthing Nigeria’s huge achievements while the party ruled the country into the mother of all ruins. The realization of a dream it is for the new president, but a larger dream come true it is for Nigerians because they worked tirelessly to vote out the incompetent incumbent. The till yesterday incumbent President Jonathan was the worst president to ever happen to Nigeria by all standards. We congratulate President Buhari on his inauguration and wish him a successful first term in this historic presidency.

A FINAL FAREWELL TO GEJ | BY AYO SOGUNRO

Ayo Sogunro

AYO SOGUNRO PRESEN

Dear Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR, BNER, GCON,

Congratulations on your successful exit from Aso Rock without the use of force or the tragedy of untimely death. In fifty-five years of Nigerian post-independence history, only Olusgeun Obasanjo and Abdulsalami Abubakar have been able to achieve this feat. But, before you handover, here’s a final farewell from me—one of your most unrelenting youth critics. Despite my criticisms, I have wished your administration nothing but success, not for your sake, but for the sake of millions of Nigeria whose lives and welfare depended on your leadership. Please consider this as an exit appraisal and, maybe, a sort of guide in your future role in public affairs.

To summarise directly: if I were to score the overall performance of your administration, I would, unhesitatingly, label it “Below Average”.

Yes, you did well in some areas, especially in fixing some infrastructure, agricultural improvement, and some…

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The 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize Longlist

Writivism

The longlist for the 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize has been announced today (Friday 22 May 2015). The longlist was selected from 277 entries received before the deadline for the prize submission. The panel of judges this year is chaired by Chika Unigwe and comprises Mukoma wa Ngugi, Tendai Huchu, Ainehi Edoro and Rachel Zadok. We are grateful to our readers for this year, namely Ceris Dien, Sumayya Lee, Emmanuel Sigauke, Lineo Segeoto, Kagure Mugo, Patricia Egessa, Anthea Paelo, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, for helping us whittle down submissions to a reasonable number for judges to select the longlist. Anthea and Idrees won the 2013 and 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize respectively.

The 2015 longlist comprises:

A Ball of Thread by Vivian Ogbonna (Nigeria)

Being a Man by Adeola Opeyemi (Nigeria)

Blues for Absalom by Erica Sugo Anyadike (Kenya)

Caterer, Caterer by Pemi Aguda (Nigeria)

Devil’s Village by Dayo Adewunmi Ntwari (Rwanda)

Dream

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Merchants-of-Memories (MoM): This Is Growing Up

cropped-upload-gq9u7q43rfm1ntpe2aaaj4rj30397680-final.jpgThis Is Growing Up. I was playing outside, playing ball with other friends, I can’t tell how many exactly now or who they were. Of course, if I had to guess I would immediately think of Jelili, Biodun aka Agbako, Saburi, Wasiu et al, who played with me on that day. We had an unripe orange as ball, and we kicked it around until it was no more playable, then we got another or engaged in other activities.

I am sure what I did exactly at the moment mother came to call and informed we were moving. I had both my hands on the ground, rested firmly on my palms, I wanted to sommersault, I laughed while I did, apparently enjoying myself. I saw mother coming from behind through my bent head which could see what went on behind. ‘Come, lets go’, she said. I did not ask why. I followed.

I changed into another clothe. Mother had cooked beans, not exactly my favourite, but since I did not have to eat immediately, I was less concerned. She packed it into a bag, we carried few bags and set out for our new house. I made the journey with mother, my sister and an aunt my age. I am not sure now if my brother came with us, but this I am sure of: Mother did tell me what would happen to our clothes, furniture and other things in the room that had housed us since I was barely five. I know for sure now because I asked her what would happen to our loads. She responded: ‘Akin and Alfred will bring them tomorrow for us.’

We walked to the bus-stop, about three kilometres from our face-me-I-face-you-house. We had always walked this way to connect omnibuses when we had to go to church, to LBSS, to General Hospital or to visit friends and families who lived faraway. We walked this route again so we could enter a bus to Oke-Odo. The buses queued in rows of two, waiting for passengers to fill up their empty seats. We walked past Orile-Agege Primary School, Saka-Tinubu High School and past Orile Agege Baptist Church, in front of which was a transformer. That transformer used to be like a giant each time I walked past it. Maybe it still is, I think my child-size magnified it in my eyes. Even now in my memory I still see it as the giant transformer.

We walked past the poffpoff seller. She had her market not too far-removed from the transformer. Whenever we walked to church on Sundays, I was sure to hold on, patiently hoping mother would buy us some hot poffpoff. If she did not, I wept the rest of the way. If she did, my joy knew no bound as I devoured the delicious sugar-fried flour-balls as if nothing else ever mattered.

We crossed the busy road and walked the few metres, barely 300 metres, into a waiting bus. There was a Y-junction just before we reached the yellow-with-black-stripes omnibuses. On the left were the omnibuses, the road on the right led to the palace of Oba Orile. I looked with wonderment each time I went past the palace gate. Memories. Memories. Memories. I hope I would be patient enough to tell you all. I must not forget to tell you this very quickly: Just opposite the Baptist Church, on the other side of the road was Ile-Esu-Orile. The small shoplike room housed a particular deity. The deity is sacred and must not be moved or destroyed, so she stood at that spot gidigba. Any construction work that had to be carried out must find a way to accomodate her space. Well, lest I stray too far into many things I want to tell you, thereby killing you with too many unstraightened memory, let me return to the journey at hand. I will tell you later of Igbale Egun sited three houses away from our house. I will tell you too of Ile Osa right beside our house, which doubled as our communal football field and mini waste-dumpyard.

Boarding a bus was not always fun especially when we had to maximize a space of one to accommodate four persons. One needed be prepared to meet the anger of the busboy. We met that of our busboy, but with the help of other passengers, we succeeded in calming him. So, one passenger carried on her lap my sister, my aunt sat on the engine in front of mother. I sat on mother’s lap. I am sure I was very excited to sit on mother’s lap. With this arrangement, we paid a fare for a passenger. After this, we had two other buses to join before we reached our destination. The story was not less different- unfriendly and angry busboys who thought, and that rightly so if I may add in retrospect, that they were being unfairly cheated.

It was night when we reached our destination, our new house. Once again we walked from bus-stop home, this time around, it lasted less than three kilometres. Unlike busy roads and bustling activities of Orile Agege, Ijoko welcomed us with a nightly serene I have come to cherish till today. This is in no way to say I cherish any less the ever bustling life we lived in Orile Agege before we moved. If anything can be relied upon to remind how much I enjoyed growing up in these two places, then my memory is.

Now, let me talk of our arrival.

We arrived. There was a burning shakabila two plots away from us, it was from Baba Ile-Keji who henceforth with his family of eight became our only close-by neighbour. His house was a modest hutlike one room house, he was sure to build the house big enough to accommodate his big family. More on Baba later.

Mother, accompanied by my aunt made their way to Baba Ile-Keji’s house. In what happened to be a coincidence, Baba had called one of his sons to follow him to our house. He said he heard unusual movement and sound from our wallside of his house, so he wanted to check that it wasn’t thieves. He was pleased to come out into mother’s arm and that of my aunt. ‘Ma’a Sunday, it is you’. He had a bush cutlass in one hand, a torchlight in the other, his son had a lantern. They all came over to us. We greeted. Bringing out the cooked beans, Baba sent his son home to fetch gaari. He came back with his mother and Sister Basira, Baba’s eldest daughter. When it was time to eat, the gaari leebu they brought was a perfect match for the beans we had brought all the way.

Before food, we lit candles and spread clothes on the floor. The breeze of the night behaved like a good breeze, it cooled our traveled body. Once in a while, lizards in the ceiling broke the silence that ensued when no one talked. They ran here and there in that part of the house. Later, we believed they were no more lizards but runaway cats who have grown into big dangerous wild cats. Baba and his wife and his two children left after we ate. They were visibly delighted a neighbour arrived. We thanked them for welcoming us. The tiredness from our journey returned, sleep overtook our overwaka-limbs, we laid on the spread clothes and slept. I woke up in my own pool of pee when morning broke. It was such a night!

So, before I continue with Ijoko-Ota, I will tell you of the three or more memories I touched on already. Fairness demand I do. I love and hate suspense like kilode 🙂

Palace Oba Orile. The palace was right in the middle of Oja-Oba. Two market kiosks away from the palace were chicken sellers. I was always delighted to see the chicks. They looked beautiful and innocent. The joy in my eyes made my heart race fast whenever I saved enough to buy one of them. There was even a time I was able to buy two! Double joy!! Come and see my happiness!!! I (actually, not only me) would raise the chicks to become real big chickens. Anyone who cared could touch the pride in my eyes. So strong was my sadness too whenever we had to go throwway dead chicken because gutter rats had chosen to kill them with their sharp teeth when the chicks slept at night. Really, we tried all we could to keep the rats away, but like any human endeavour, success was not always guaranteed.

Past the palace led a road to Mrs. Siwoku’s house. Mrs. Siwoku owned a post office box. So mother would send Tunde to go collect Dad’s letters from London. I used to be very excited whenever he allowed me to follow him.

On the doorpost of a one-storeyed house was an inscription, it read: ILE ABENI ILORI. I was sure to look at the inscription each time we went past the house, as if to be sure it was still intact. Years later when my Yoruba subject-teacher taught us the importance of sign-placement in order for our written-thoughts/sentences to be so understood as intended, I could not stop laughing; my mind brought back the inscription on the doorpost of that house when I used to accompany Tunde to collect Dad’s letters.

The road to Mrs. Siwoku’s house was gully and rocky, the earth was mud-red. So, enough about the palace and its memories. At least for now.

The only thing I remember about Ile-Esu-Orile is this: Close to it was fruit-tree. People sat under for shade. I passed the shrine to deliver mother’s errand to her friends.

Ile Osa was sacred land. It belonged to the gods and must be left undeveloped. We did not only play football here, we sometimes dug out old bottles and metals which fetched us good money from merchants who dealt in this business. Once in company of friends, we attempted to make money from lizard-head. There was a myth that lizard-heads dey turn money, one only had to do the ritual well. When after three days nobody talked about the lizard-head we buried for money-sake, I concluded the ritual did not work for us. To be sincere I thought one of us probably outsmarted the rest in that he went earlier to dig out for himself alone the money we had all wished on the lizard-head when we severed it from the rest of its body. We had buried the head not too faraway from the goalpost, the body we threw into the smoky fire that burned wastes dumped in that space which was meant to house the gods.

Igbale Egun. Apart from being the spirit-yard from where human beings, turned masquerades, emerged in colourful costumes with scary heads of different shapes and sizes, we were often told anyone who entered without permission go die mysteriously. This held my curiosity under control. The closest I got into this yard of ancestral spirits was few steps past the open gate one day like that. It was masquerade festival period. I was damn scared to go beyond the gate. It was horrible enough that the masquerades scared the hell out of us when they moved around streets with whips and sticks. The whips, we used to believe, were poisoned, anyone beaten with it, would need special intervention to avert ominous end. There was a rumour that one Alfa, once beaten by a masquerade, stood his ground, beat up the masquerade, and unmasked this rude masquerade. The story had it that the spirit being disappeared when it became impossible to prevent Alfa from desecrating him. I did not witness this event. I wished I did each time this adventurous encounter was narrated.

So, now that I have unburdened these memories, I will tell you what happened after I woke up in my own pee. E ma ba mi ka lo.

I packed my wet sleep-clothes, changed into another and went outside. I heard mother and aunt talking at the backyard. Looking up, I saw guava tree. Birds chirped at ripe fruits. I breathed in fresh air, the freshness was touchable, the air smelled strongly of it. I walked to the tree. On the sandy path were guluso-moulds, I scattered some with my legs, some with my hands, I let others be. There were neatly dug holes too, small, and plenty. Aunt showed us later we could trick out the caterpillar-like insects that lived in these holes. So, when we saw any, we cut juicy yet-to-mature part of this yeriyeri-grass and inserted it into the holes. The caterpillars in this earth always bit the thing and we dragged them out without delay. Sometimes we killed them, other times we let them be, at times we simply looked on in wonderment.

On the guava tree, I spent a pretty good part of the morning. The birds all flew away when they saw me. I sat on a branch and helped myself to as much I could. I plucked and filled my pockets. When they filled up, I let them fall on the ground. I was going to gather them when I got down the tree. I went home when mother called out that food was ready. I adapted to my new life seamlessly.

In the afternoon, Brother Akin and Brother Alfred arrived with our loads. Two more uncles accompanied them. They began unloading at once. We helped them while they did.

New home. New life. New friends. New families. New memories to make.

Pastor Akinleye was a carpenter. I got to know before we reached his house. He had helped with carpentry work in the new house. That was how mother happened on him. Since, he has been very supportive. The road to his house became the road I walked very often in my sojourn in Ijoko-Ota. It led to the houses of my new friends. Mother took me along to pay him a courtesy visit. Following Sunday he came with church members to pray on our house. That was a week or two before the house warming ceremony.

I have told somewhere of the sacrifice mother offered when we moved in. It wont be out of place to repeat it here. It confirms the Yoruba proverbial saying of faith/Western religion not forbidding participation in the traditional Oro cult. This is what I was able to spin from the little hearsay I remember today: Mother was afraid, or rather unwilling to move into our new house. She thought she had it too easy! Imagine a woman building a 3 bedroom flat with such a big expanse of land to join! That was 1995. Unbelievable! So, for fear of this-or-that ills, she did not want to move in fiam like that. She confided her fear in her brother, who in turn told their father. Baba Igashi acted swiftly. ‘Iyabo, it is bad omen to finish a house and not move. It is not good!!! Have you forgotten Lagbaja Omo Lakasegbe who built a house and refused to move on time!? You have to move into your house, even if not complete yet. We shall consult the oracle to know if need be for a sacrifice.’ This way Baba Igashi was able to convince mother it was time to move. The oracle advised we sacrifice a big goat. We slaughtered a big goat when we moved, so people had enough to eat during the house warming ceremony.

If I had thought religion was a big part of my life in Orile Agege, then it became my very existence in Ijoko-Ota. The church and her members did not only play a very active role in my growing years, the mosques in and around our street contributed in no little way to my interculturalness and acceptance of you-for-you- you might belong to a different religion, but you are first human! How else does one survive in a community with a potpourri of all possible religious confessions and colourations. Of particular interest was Baba Laila. We did not know his real name, he got his nickname because he would say this word times without number when he talked. He was a Muslim. Many thought he was not completely sane, but I wondered what yardstick we measured sanity with. If the words Baba Laila spoke were a yardstick for sanity, then he was not mad. In his many rants it was clear he detested hypocrisy and intolerance. He spoke good English too. For me, Baba Laila was neither Muslim nor Christian, he was a bit of both and a traditionalist at the same time. This old man spoke wisdom almost all the time. So, when we returned from church, it was the mounted loudspeakers of the muezzins’ call to prayer that welcomed us. When Mukadam, the young Muslim cleric beside our house began holding night vigils in his Quran school, I began to rethink many things I had hitherto thought were only common to the Christian faith. I will still talk about Quran recitation feasts celebrated to showcase successful attendees of the Quran school; it was a necessary rite of passage for devouts of the Muslim faith. I witnessed many of them. Just be patient with me, I will tell you all about them. Trust me, I wont forget to tell you too of many Baptismal classes and Holy Ghost Services plus Special Services held to eat The Lord Last Supper; they were all part of me.

There was this big fight between Baba Ile-Keji and a land-urchin, popularly called Kwara. Among land-urchins, he was least-liked. He could be loud and unruly. Overtime Baba Ile-Keji became a land-dealer too. One thing one thing, it happened that Kwara felt Baba’s landbuyer was a former potential landbuyer that Baba snatched from him. I did not know how it all began but it became real messy at the end. I saw Baba Ile-Keji high up, bourne in Krawa’s hefty hands, landed on the bushy footpath. I am not sure if he intentionally dropped him at this spot so he did not get killed. Baba Ile-Keji sprang on his feet and ran home while two of his sons scratched and tore at Krawa’s flesh. He pushed them off with fists thrown in all directions. Baba’s voice did not stop being heard on his way home, he shouted instruction to his children not to let Kwara escape. Apparently, he was coming back. And back he came! He came with a small chord. I saw him held the thing to his tongue, licked and spat at Kwara, then cursed! The curse-words were better left unsaid, I swear. Kwara would take none of this charm-shakara! He dashed at Baba Ile-Keji and landed him a hot slap on the head, then back-sent the curse. This were his words: Igi ti arigisegi base ori are re lo fi nru!

When we saw the fight was not going to end in peace and on time, we dispersed one after the other. With nobody to voice-separate the fighting duo, the fight ended.

Another crowd-puller was when Alfa was caught red-handed in the act. I was coming from Thursday Revival Hour when I noticed this strange figure on the rooftop of a church in front of Orolu’s house. That strange figure, silhouetted by night’s darkness became Alfa when street people gathered to see the face of our rooftop-thief. We did not know what to do with this familiar thief. Alfa was once an influential landseller, his family owned our street before he and his sibling sold the whole land plot by plot. Mother once told of a time when Alfa and family whisked away large chunk of money in baskets, and when there was not enough baskets they wrapped hard-earned monies in their dansiki and carried them away. In short, Alfa was rich until another family won a court case and claimed Alfa’s gold-shitting donkey.

We were children and women who had caught Alfa. Pity almost rescued him until Baba Anu appeared. I had seen him running towards us, he must have heard that his distant relative was caught stealing roofing sheet. With a tight fist, he went straight for Alfa’s face. Successive fist punches landed on the thiefman-face. Alfa was heard shoutcrying for mercy under this fistrain. ‘Shanu mi! Shanu mi!! Shanu mi…!!!’. This is the truth: Where I grew up, a thief is not among creatures to be pitied. We beat them till they bleed or die! I will tell you why. Just hold your breathe first 🙂

I was barely 7 years old when thieves came to Alhaji Raimi Street. The following day, different stories filled the air. One story in the mouth of all was that of Omo Alhaji. She had returned from Mecca few weeks. They wanted gold. Some version had it that she had first flown to London, then routed her flight to come home via Mecca. In short, news of her expensive trip must have reached the thieves who held us hostage in our own houses that night. Not to long the talk sha, Omo Alhaja aka Madam Custom died two months later from post-thiefvisit trauma. Doctors confirmed that her condition could not have survived such a shock! She was pregnant, she died with her foetus.

The drama that accompanied this thief-night was horrible and funny. Imagine. Married men shat in their trousers, toddlers clamped to their mothers howling their throats dry for fear. Different scenarios of thief-stories stared me in the face. I was terrified! Scenes of rape, handcutting, correct beating, outright killing, Naija-style humiliation, all of them flash-flash my head in an instant! I died and ressurected, all the nightmares came rushing back! We were cramped in the passage and rooms. Mother scooped the money she had and gave Brother Bayo. ‘Tie it inside nylon and drop it inside drinkwater-drum. Stomach dey turn me!’ Our hell hot hotter with bullets. Only when day broke were we sure of our safety. Such a nightmare!

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Three-And-A-Half Thoughts

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).

Many thoughts on my mind, all seeking for attention, I will develop them into something more elaborate in the future, but in the meantime, these thoughts outdid others.

Thought 1: Nigeria is not a bad country because we are bad people, Nigeria is bad because we have no structures. This thought seems trite but let’s look at it this way. As a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, someone who looked like a professor chided us for trying to cross a lawn through a clearly cut footpath around the faculty of Social Sciences. He took us all the way to America and Germany; places he claimed he had visited and he did not find such footpaths on lawns. So today I saw on German soil, one highly organized country in the world and I am like ‘this professor can lie for Africa sef!’

It proves that as humans, we all want the fast route. What sensible governments have done is to place rewards and punishments for law upholders and law offenders respectively, at least to a very large extent. It has not been as easy as getting LaCasera in a hold-up though – it’s a process that has undergone trial and errors, re-workings and adjustments.

Thought 2: Let the search for an alternative opposition party begin; the PDP is a bad party bereft of initiatives and sound arguments. Innovation is as scarce in their meetings as finding a man of integrity is in their party. Since after elections, they seem to have lost their voices until the president-elect took a wrong step by barring AIT from reporting his activities. Nothing on the PWC report, not that APC was that constructive as the opposition but you could find an atom of constructive criticism and intelligent hooliganism in their oppositions.

In the light of this, the All Progressives Congress needs close monitoring. I don’t know about other states but Lagos, which has the poster-boy of APC’s good governance (Gov Fashola) as its governor, has on several occasions experienced the high handedness of the bespectacled barrister-governor. Apart from the LASU fees which was rescinded after the party lost in Ekiti, the government has not been known to withdraw on its decisions. Think of the toll gates.

Thought 3: Can we talk about this ethnicity business? It is an open-secret that the various nations that make up Nigeria have not seem themselves as one yet. The last elections are testimony to this. So, should we revert to regionalism or form our own system of government the way we like it not necessarily within the scopes of what Western powers call democracy. This system of government and federalism should be built to recognize all the nations that make up Nigeria.

Also, the pretense and hypocrisy around the civil war has lasted a long time. In my opinion, there has been no other period in our collective history as a country when an overwhelming number of Nigerians have followed a conviction to that extent. So we have been thinking that the horrors of the civil war that saw extra-intelligent minds like Christopher Okigbo could be wished away General Gowon’s 3 R’s a la Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and ReCONciliation (You google that! 🙂 ).

The recent reference to this horrific event by a number of opinion writers and intellectuals is a reminder of what is wrong with us. The war has no closure, the earlier we accept and retrace our steps the better. We are one big pretentious country! I read that at least 10,000 books have been written on the American civil war. We run away from our past praying it won’t catch up with us. I shake my head.

Thought 4: Why do girlfriends ask their boyfriends (and vice versa) to scream ‘I love you’ in crowded places? Most times, ‘victims’ of this emotional bullying know it is not for affection but a stamp, a roar to scare intruders away!

MayDay…BlahBlahBlah!…Raw Potatoe…!

MayDay is good. 24 hours to live my life my way. Holiday. And I did. My two daughters learned to ride bicycles, my son drove his scooters, screaming like an excited overfed puppy behind their back. I love him like kilode! And he knows too. He is my Number One Fan. For real. I busied me with my new hobby, photography. I will photogist you of my new-found love very soon.

See the joys of fatherhood as I see them make those bold moves, pressing hard to pedal to emancipation. If I had them where girls who ride bicycles at their age must have mothers, who tell them to close their legs because they are girls, I would never be happy with myself. This is my message to my girls as they daily live their lives: See, hapiness is doing what makes you happy. So be happy!

The last time I took them to Mass, I needed to ask the priest to forgive my foolishness. Ibukun was more than loud. She ran everywhere, the Mass held amidst the chaos and the priest mumbled words I can never remember. I don’t even know why I took them there. She had protested she never wanted to be part of my old life that has refused to let me be. It was like she threw back my own injunction at me: Pa, if Mass makes you happy, go there, I have every right to shout in Mass because I had never wanted to be part of it anyway.

This girl will not kill me! Hehn! New discovery: She is not a vegetarian. I would bet she’ll never be. Each time I munch my leaves, she reminds me emphatically how strongly she detests salad like leprosy. ‘Child, I never wanted you to be anyway. Thanks for being what I wanted in a girlchild: BEING YOU!’

Twenty years ago. Nawarudeen Primary School. Ijoko-Ota. On an open field, I rode a bicycle for the first time. I had thought Bro Tope still got my back. Long before I realized he left me alone, I was pedaling as fast as I never could imagine. Yay! My joy knew no bound. I have never stopped riding since. Rest in peace, Bro Tope.

For years, I and two best friends stole water money to rent BMX bicycles. Five naira for a thirty munute bike-rental ride would become two hours of riding around because we were scared like shit to return for fear of loosing shoes as fine for our foolishness.

‘But why do they make shit here?’ That was my son asking to know what rights have the bird to dirty our street. ‘Look, this tree houses the birds. You know they live up there. They do nothing wrong to empty their bowels under this tree. Only dogs are not allowed to do that. We once talked about naughty dog owners who would not clean-up their friends’ shit, you remember?’

I am a happy man. Finally, I can live forever in peace! My children care about animals, their environment and all that etc. The other time I heard Ibukun warned my other daughter never to scare rabbits again. I was all smile. I love those beautiful creatures gaan gidi.

If I see paradise, I know. Here in Dortmund, birds don’t run too far away from you because they know you wont stone them to death. Few days ago, two rabbits hopped few centimeters from me to allow me pass, then they returned back to continue their play. One jumped forward, the other jumped after him, and on and on they jumped till I lost sight of them. I suppose they know about sugarcandy mountain.

I have told few people of sugarcandy mountain. Now I will tell you all so you know what and where that place is: This is where animals go when they die, an afterlife paradise for these helpless creatures and friends. How do I know? Yeah, it was a day like that when I saw too animals, a dog and a tortoise, they talked and I overheard their sadness.

They were in doubt as to where their end shall be. I did not know how to comfort them, but a squirrel came to the rescue. She had just returned from a journey where the air tells you of things to come, so she knew what she was talking about. The wind had told her about the no-more sorrow palace where the souls of dead kins(wo)men go when they leave us. For real, words could not express the joy like a river I glimpsed on the faces of both animals.

Like now, I take my time to tell anyone who cares why I love flowers so much. I do because I do! Like cooking, they literarily saved my life two years ago.

Imagine this: You have prepared that same Eba the wrong way all your life! One day you cooked her right, then Eba, knowing what you have done, sprang to her feet, looked you in the eyes, kissed you real hard, and tell you to your face: Thank you Dear for doing me right! For once! I hope we do this again.

Meanwhile you did not know you have been in the wrong all your life. It wasn’t your fault, but neither was it Eba’s fault either. She never could talk until that moment. Would you have forgotten that?! I bet you never will!

The same way I was forgiven by a flower who opened my window one morning like that, she never minded I lived on the tenth floor of a skyscaper, walked right into my life and declared: I forgive you for ignoring me this long! I love you. Henceforth, live this life as if I only mattered to you. I fell in love with this new kind of kindness on the spot!

If you know a man who threatened to eat raw potatoe because a woman did not return his love, don’t ignore him. Help him pill the thing, cook it, add salt, if you have oil, add it too. If there is time, watch him eat your love or feed him while you wipe his tears. Your warmth will do him good. Good men deserve good love.

Freddie Gray’s Death: Baltimore Officers Charged! President Obama wants Justice and Truth

It is confirmed. Mr. Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland was at the time of arrest innocent. He did nothing to have warranted arrest. Yet six police officers of the Baltimore police department arrested, handcuffed and locked him behind their van for a rough-ride, from which he sustained spinal cord injuries. His death resulted from injuries in this death ride.

Up till today, the city of Baltimore had erupted in protest, being joined by sympathisers and cities from accross America and beyond. The major part of the protest had been peaceful with pockets of violence and property vandalisation recorded, which had also since been condemned in order to focus on the primary purpose of the protest, nanely police brutality against Blacks in America.

President Obama weighed in twice on the matter, first to condemn violent protesters while emphasizing the import of objective media reporting. Baltimore is a city with a history of unacceptable brutality, a soul searching mission within the rank and file of the city police department, within the community, Black and White and accross America were pressed home in the president’s message. Upon the charge of the six police officers, the president emphasized the necessity of justice to both the deceased Freddie Gray and the officers facing possible death sentence if convicted. The people of Baltimore want the truth, President Obama said with a voice laden with sadness and calm, deep in thought.

At least one of the accused is facing a second degree murder charge, a graver accusation than those of his accomplice whose action while on duty helped snuffed out life in Mr. Freddie Gray. In a CNN report, it was pointed out that being charged with murder is not same as being convicted of murder.

Thus, the celebration which is now ongoing upon the news of hearing the charges against the police officers is a first step in a two-step victory for the protesters. Many protesters knew this, they are but satisfied that the first move has been taken to getting justice for the death of Mr. Freddie Gray, an unarmed! Black, whose crime was running away for fear of death upon citing the police. As if Mr. Freddie Gray had known he would be killed! by the men who were meant to keep him alive. What an irony!

From hastag stop police brutality to Black Lives Matter to hastag FTC, meaning F*ck The Cop, rising frustration in America, particularly Black communities to underline the long history of unnecessary extra judicial police killing meted out to Blacks, not only in Baltimore, but in America at large is being aired. The Baltimore police, it was revealed in the past days of protest, has been particularly violent and adopted unfriendly policing policies of Blacks in the city.

Baltimore houses many crime prone areas, however experts warn that brutal policing is never an effective crime combating mechanism, in fact it could bolster that which the city wants to curtail. Looking outside the hammer-and-nail approach/tactics a la mass incanceration culture, police brutality (e.g killing Blacks for being Blacks etc) would help; issues of abject poverty among Black communities, existing wage disparity between Black and White communities and high unemployment cum unemployeability of young Blacks in the city need be addressed.

Like the long walk to freedom from slavery, the struggle for equal rights for Blacks fought for by the Civil Rights Movement, it is clear that the journey to ending police brutality against America’s Black population will be long. One can but be comforted in that old slave song which hold true till this day, and anytime sung, connects to the fight/yearnings for freedom by foremothers and -fathers as they tilled the massa’s plantation: WE SHALL OVERCOME, WE SHALL OVERCOME, WE SHALL OVERCOME SOMEDAY…! And they did overcome!

Like the president, I demand that the process of getting justice for Mr. Freddie Gray be fair and truthful, only then can true soul searching to finding solution to the American police culture of brutality commence.

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