ajagunna

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

Tag: Culture

Lost in Transit? A Long Poetic Conversation on Language, Culture and Identity by Ola Dunni (!SiDOS)

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Doctoral student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Hasten up,

I’d like to take my shower before we leave

No, it is take your bath, not shower, my friend corrects me

No, it is shower, I insist

No, you shower when you want to cool off your body

And take your bath when it involves scrubbing your body

Whatever, I’m off to the bathroom

Lets continue this English lesson in the bus

Ola I’d like some tea

No I don’t have tea

But I got chocolate if you want that

Well that’s tea, my friend shakes his head at me

No it’s chocolate, I insist

Tea comes in a bag

We argue over this for some minutes

Until I shrug my shoulder, “Whatever leave me be”

 

Hey Ola

Can you direct me to the closest cafe around here?

Sure, it’s right around the corner after the traffic light

You want to get some bread and coffee?, I inquire

What?, my friend stares at me incredulously

I want to print some documents

Oh! Its a print shop you need and not a cafe

No, its a cafe I need to go

 

These are the excerpts of conversations

between my newly arrived Nigerian friends and me

For two weeks, I’ve been made to pay attention to my grammar

With the realisation that I’ve picked up the German English

And lost my Nigerian English

Replacing peculiar Nigerian words for German phrases

It doesn’t end there

 

Wake up, your phone is ringing

The guy slaps the girl lightly on the shoulder

Wake up, it’s your alarm

Wake up, you have a message

I stare at them both incredulously

Why you do you have to wake her up to pick her call?

You should just mute the call and when she wakes, she calls back

Why would I do that?, he replies

Your suggestion is weird

Well, you waking her up to pick a call is weird too

I sigh

 

The guy is gone to class

Just me and my girlfriend at home

Her phone rings

I am awake so I mute it

She wakes up later

Hey Ola, did my phone ring?

Yeah, you were asleep so I put it on mute

Why didn’t you wake me?, she grumbles

You didn’t inform me that you’d like to be woken up to pick a call,

I replied

 

Hey Ola, can I use your perfume

My friend shakes my shoulder to wake me up

Is the home on fire?, I ask sarcastically

My sleep ridden face all squeezed

No, but I’d like to use your perfume

You actually wake me to ask this question?

I wasn’t even pissed

I was flabbergasted

You know you should simply use it or leave without using it

Either way, it’s rude to wake me up

I note the differences in our interaction

It will be difficult not to

 

These differences are very obvious

How I walk, how I interpret and respond to messages

My gestures, short mechanical smile I give to strangers

Do you know that person you just smiled at?

They ask

No, we don’t know each other. It’s just simple mechanical smile

Why you smile then? They ask

The hugs of goodbye and welcome I share with my friends

These ones opening the door without hugging me

Me still talking about the weather while they already gone back to the room

Weird people, I shake my head at them both

You are the weird one, they laugh at me

Why you hugging everyone

You not even in a relationship

 

My two newly arrived Nigerian friends

Remind me of the fact that I’ve lost the authentic Nigerian identity

Yes, I have a green passport

And I say I am Nigerian to everyone I meet

Holding on to that identity

But I realise I am swimming against the tide

And I am at the point of drowning

My friends tell me every minute

You are not Nigerian

You are so German

You wont fit into the Nigerian society

 

I have not visited home in 4years

Without my friends showing me what it means to be Nigerian,

I would continue to insist on my authenticity

Telling archaic stories and slangs

No one uses that word any more

They’d laugh at me. This is how we say it

Even your English is all mixed up

It has lost that peculiar Nigerian accent

Your words are pronounced on a very high pitch

Our pronunciations are very flat and low pitched

You are hybrid, just accept it

 

Then I remember the woman at the train station

On a Sunday morning

Shouting in anger at a young boy

It was a small argument that quickly escalated into a fight

I was tired

It was 5am and I had partied the entire night

All I wanted was to take the bus home in peace

But these two were at it

Exchanging words

And then the outburst

Go back to your country!!!

The woman shouted at the dude

It was obvious his facial structures was Arabian

We all turned in alarm

Shock written over our face

Condemning her in our silence

But of course we said nothing

That’s how it always goes

No one was willing to tell her how terrible that was

Then the dude responded, back to where? Bitch!

I was born here, same as you! I belong here!

I am from Germany!

 

He was from here

This is what he’s known all his life

But his identity was snatched from him in seconds

And he had to fight to reclaim it

Who knows how many times he’s had to do this?

Fight this identity battle

Telling everyone willing to listen, I belong here same as you

I pondered to myself

He didn’t look fazed

His statement was very flat

 

So when you say, tell me about Nigeria

I can only tell you about memories

Locked up

Brought out once in a while

Cleaned till it glitters

And locked up again

To be pushed out when the occasion arises

 

But my Nigerian identity has been contested

By my newly arrived friends

I cannot even eat their food

Neither can they mine

I talk about how we eat pepper a lot

Not realising that I do not eat the Nigerian quantity of pepper anymore

They say my food is bland

I say theirs is too hot

Almost ripping my tongue out

How can you feel the taste of the food if you douse it with this quantity of pepper

They say the pepper is actually the taste

So we decided to cook separately

 

I do not know what I am

Of course I’m not German

But they say I’m not Nigerian either

And I’d have to learn how to be Nigerian

So I cannot in good faith regale you with stories of Nigeria

Or how it feels to be one

That will be claiming an identity I do not 100% fit into

Neither do I 100% fit into the German society

 

So I have decided to juggle both

Be the German in the very Nigerian camp

You should lower your voice when you talk

Use your earpiece when you listen to music

Wait for the traffic light, be very time conscious

And be Nigerian in the very German camp

Laugh at the top of my voice, be the pepper eater, invite strangers into my home

This way I have my peace

And I do not have to try too hard to be anything.

Open Letter to Prof. ‘Remi Sonaiya by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Professor 'Remi Sonaiya was KOWA Party Presidential Candidate in Nigeria's 2015 Presidential election

Professor ‘Remi Sonaiya was KOWA Party Presidential Candidate in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential election

Dear Prof. Sonaiya,

Five months ago, if I had written this open letter with this same caption, a deluge of questions would have poured in. Who is the addressee of this letter? Why is an open letter addressed to her? What relationship exists between the writer and her? Of what concern is the letter to us, members of the public? Just name it. Any question an inquisitive mind could elicit.

Today, by that singular audacity, you, Prof. Comfort ‘Remi Sonaiya, have saved me the stress of having to proffer answer(s) to satiate the people’s genuine curiosity. This audacity, encapsulated in your eight-word motivational statement, “Ordinary citizens like me can be President too”,  resonated across the length and breadth of our nation. With that epochal electoral participation, Mrs. Sonaiya has etched her name in gold in our History books as a woman Presidential contestant in the male-dominated Nigeria political terrain.

By garnering 13,076 of the total votes cast, which were spread across the 36 states of the federation plus the FCT, the KOWA Party candidate trounced two other male contestants out of the other 13 male hopefuls in the March 28 historic Presidential election. As modest as this may appear, it is definitely no mean feat most especially for a woman and a new comer to the rocky and bumpy  roads to the highest office in the land. Today, Remi Sonaiya, this name of an “ordinary” Nigerian with an “extraordinary” dream rings a bell, from the far north to the near south. From the remote east, to the proximal west. That in itself is a resounding achievement. It offers a rare springboard for a more forceful comeback and a leverage to sweep to victory in the future.

Still about the future, General Buhari’s triumph at the polls was a symbolic defeat and demystification of moneybags politics. The dedollarizaion and denairalization of our political space were a necessary rite of passage which we had to undergo as a people so as to guarantee a level playing field and ensure the enthronement of meritocracy among the political class. Never again will financial inducement of the electorates be so potent as to fetch undue advantage for unpopular and mediocre political desperadoes to lord it over the rest of us. Henceforth, it will be foolhardy and naïve to rely solely on buying votes as a means to get to power.

It was the need to ensure that paradigm shift that made a number of us to pitch our tents with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. We understood that by siding with him, we were supporting a man who possesses and depends solely on the strength of his character and willingness to serve  as a means to get the people’s mandate. We understood that the former Head of State was not the best, but definitely better than those currently misruling us. We understood, like the Yoruba proverb captured it, that trees that fall on each other should be sorted out from top downward. Buhari was therefore a means to an end. And not an end in itself. He offered the tool with which the masses vented their anger and taught our present crop of (mis)leaders the lesson that never again should the people be taken for a ride.

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

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

In effect, we were, perhaps inadvertently, paving way for the emergence of “ordinary citizens” like me and you in occupying, why not, the highest office in the land. With the corrupt politicians’ buying dollars put to shame, and with massive rigging drastically checked and reduced, the coast to the Presidency is more than ever clear for the likes of Sonaiya who were hitherto shortchanged for being unable or unwilling, as a matter of personal principle, to go on dollars’ spray. I hope we will consolidate on that paradigm shift.

That is not all. The unwritten north-south power rotation pact as well  as power zoning between the six geopolitical regions is another hurdle we must cross. Moreover, the level of our sociopolitical evolution and sophistication as to embrace the idea of a female President is still subject of contention and cynicism. For a  patriarchal nation like ours with deeply rooted male chauvinistic tendencies, it will at best remain a tall order.

However, none of the hurdles is insurmountable. Like you rightly pointed out in one of your pre-election interviews, serving in the incoming administration may not be out of place. In my estimations, most of the personal principles and sociopolitical norms and values that you hold dear are not anathema to the President-elect. Without you cross-carpeting or compromising on the KOWA Party welfarist ideology, taking a political appointment will afford the opportunity to showcase your leadership prowess and endear you more to the electorates. That will also silence the skeptics who were cynical about your leadership credentials and experience. Hillary Clinton, Oby Ezekwesili, Late Dora Akunyili etc all offer shining examples in this regard.

Alternatively, our dear Professor of French language and Applied linguistics turned politician can focus on building KOWA Party to become stronger and by so doing deepen our democracy while serving as watchdogs and constructive critics of the ruling party. I completely agree with these lines in your post-election statement:

I am also convinced that there is a quiet majority out there who see the truth in our message that only a leader with strong values and an independent mind can give us the change we need. As such, I intend to spend the coming years working with other members to grow KOWA Party and establish it as a solid and attractive platform of excellence for politicians of character and integrity.

The road may seem long, tedious and unending. I dare to think otherwise. The most difficult was having the audacity to embark. That you have done. By mere coincidence or not, General Buhari’s twelve-year journey to Aso Rock Villa started when he was sixty years old. You are also starting at that particular age. How long yours will take still begs for answer. An answer that only Providence has a clue about. In the months and years to come, we can only wish you the best of luck and assure you of  our unwavering belief and unflinching support of your noble dreams for our nation and the common man.

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Home! away-from Home! H!aH!

The question to ask is this: Why must people give me reason(s) to connect good things with bad. And it seems they often do. At least, each time I enter Afro-shops in Dortmund. Home away from home. I am not missing home. Good?! That exactly is the problem! There are things I definitely want to miss about home, some of them prompted my departing after all. Top of the list is dirt!

The other time I went to buy okro. My sister followed me. I was thankful at first the usual close-to-badfish odour did not welcome us. The thankfulness was short-lived. The pay-counter was beyond dirty. The young oldwoman attending us was unkempt. Yes, she is young, but must have chosen to age herself faster. She hit the rickety scale. Then tried to type in something. The machine did not respond. She hit again. When it finally answered, I paid for my two plantains. My sister handed over her fish. The woman put her fingers into a small transparent cup beside the scale, punched in something to tell the price of my fish. I already mentioned the pay-counter was beyond dirty, allow me spare you the details. In short, the whole place is a successful mess.

Skin-bleachers are everywhere, in Germany too! I was lucky my own laughter did not choke me when I read someone said she was not bleaching, that she was only toning. Was it Yvonne Nelson or another actor like that. Yes, this is how good our sense of comparison and humour is. It sounds perfectly cool, init?! Crazeman-logic.

In there I had attempted to strike a conversation with my sister.

Me: Iya Bukunmi, have you heard?

Iya Bukunmi: What?

Me: I heard our people now use shampoo toner cream to “tone” skin colour to yellow! I read it on a blackberry thread.

We continued our conversation outside the Afroshop. I began the shampoo toner talk because I saw a woman who must have been a user of this terrible method of skin degradation. She left too soon for my sister to notice what I saw. Her whiteness yellow pass palmoil. But why are our people like this?, I asked my sister.

Apparently, self-hate would stop at nothing to kill her victim. That was how the other day I saw this teenager who overnight turned mulatto; she is now a mix of bad yellow and spot-stained black around neck, fingers and wrists! I almost screamed at her! ALMOST! She used to be black. She was beautiful. We used to enter (enter!) the same metro and tram, so I knew her well. What desperation could have driven her to damage her skin this bad?! I will not pretend to know.

Bad role models? Maybe. Talking of bad role models reminds of a black couple I saw last year in Bochum. I was sure I set my eyes on them, saying nothing until they disappeared into their parked jalopy. I was beyond thankful Ibukun did not follow me out that day. She would have asked why I looked on with so much pity and disgust. The mulatoness of this couple showed they are unrepentant bleach cream users. The husband has a burnt back neck. The redness lay between deep-pink and light-lila. The wife looked more terrible. When the young lady I was with told me they had actually come to buy more bleaching cream from the Indian shop-owner, I could not be more surprised. I remembered the Yoruba logic of that proverbial cough-victim who but would not stop biting at coconuts and chewing dry-corn. This stubbornman-story was the only explanation I could find for the couple’s addiction to bleaching.

Now think of children birthed by these parents and the picture of a shampoo toner offspring is perfect. I told a friend she could consider our friendship over that day if she ever shampoo-tone herself. Abi? Even if I hate myself, I will not be foolish  enough to teach my children to self-hate. Lailai!

I think of using the toilet in a “normal” African church somewhere in Europe to see what is wrong with anything communal in Africa. If the toilet is not being cleaned non-stop (yet stinks of piss plus uncomfortable to use), then the water-pipe is leaking. I might even have to pour water using a bucket to flush my business. Scratch that, I exaggerate a little. The last time I was in such a toilet in London, memories of Iza-antiseptic tormented me. I missed and I did not miss home in that short moment. I was sure to keep my bladder under control till I got home. Each time I entered a good toilet, say Mc Donald, I was sure to tip the toilet-boy/-girl well after I finish. And I think of say many of these boys/girls (read MEN/WOMEN) are good churchgoers.

Yeah, it is that bad, so I avoid at all cost being haunted if I could. Hear a nightmare: I once heard a slab covering a pit-latrine gave way under the feet of a toilet-user. That was long ago. Each time I squatted, remembering the fate of the unknown fellow scared the hell out of me. If you don’t understand why I was that scared, stop trying, you never would!

Hell is real! At least for those who chose to live in the hell they left behind. The last time I showed up in that congregation was on my second visit. I went with Tumi. I throw-way face when he first complained the mounted loudspeakers were deafening. Our own noise as fellow-singers only increased the whole thing. He began to cry. Ibukun pinched me. I took a walk, away from the noise. We met a bird on the green grass and I was sad we had no food to feed the beautiful companion.

Some worshipers walked past us into the congregation of hell-believers. A woman was shout-talking. When we returned, the pastor was cursing himself to prove he told nobody secrets left in his custody by counsel-seekers who had visited during office hours! During prayers he saw some of us had trouble sleeping because a python pursued us in our dreams; the python spirit was in our midst, he concluded. When service ended, he prayed favours for those who shall visit government offices the next day. His declaration confirmed my fear all along. I was (back) home!

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.

WeekendStarter by Oladimeji Abiola: Felebrating the Enigmatic Fela

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guestblogs for AhjotNaija

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guestblogs for AhjotNaija

Sent to the UK in the 1950s to study medicine, Fela Anikulapo Kuti opted for music. He was a non-conformist. He spoke against bad government and infringement of human rights. This made him the man of the people. To the ruling elite and the clergy, he was an irresponsible fella.

In his song Shuffering and Shmiling, Fela denounced the exploitation of the masses by religious leaders. This assertion is valid. Thus, he was generally disliked by many Christians and Muslims. In 1989, his song Beast of no Nation criticized the composition of the UN Security Council. Each member of the Security Council has a veto-power that is is equal to 92 or more votes of non-permanent members.

The songs Look and laugh and Army Arrangement accused Chief Obasanjo of corruption and aiding bad leaders to power. Fela, aka Abami-Eda (Enigma), depicts contract awarding system of the Nigerian government and the non-realization of awarded projects. Fela faulted the judicial system too. He says,

go to court, na big big English. … Case of 1809 na him dem go bring to judge the case of 1980.

To him, language usage in courts was grandiloquent. He mocked the judicial tradition of using precedent in adjudication as archaic.

Due to his anti-elitist stance, Fela, alias Omo-Iya-aje (Son-of-a-Witch) chose Pidgin English to transport his songs. He wanted the man on the street to understand his music.

To be critical, Fela was too Afrocentric about certain issues. He supported any anti-imperialist African leaders, good or bad. Idia Amin of Uganda, a nepotistic,  corrupt and brute-dictator was Fela’s hero. He was apparently carried away by the struggle against imperialism, he ignored criticizing African despot so long they shared his anti-imperialist views.

Abami Eda experienced racism in its ugliest form when he studied in the UK. This explains his strict Afrocentrism. I celebrate virtuously Fela’s activism and deep appreciation of African cultural values. I subscribe to his emphasis on  the African origin of ancient civilization and the use of traditional medicine.

Fela could be as strange as unpredictable. He pulled out of a deal with Motown, an American Record Company. He said, Motown sounded “Mo ta ohun, the Yoruba translation of I sold my voice. To him, the word Faculty bred cultism on Nigerian campuses.

These utterances are unbelievable but true. Prof. Sola Olorunyomi, a Fela expert confirmed them in his book. Wole Soyinka’s Memoir You must set forth at Dawn confirmed Fela’s view of himself as a reincarnated Egyptian God.

Actually, upon his death, the people deified Fela; he became an Orisa (a deity). Lagbaja’s tribute song to Fela pointed to this, Abami ti di Orisa, i.e. the Enigma finally became a Deity.

Abami-Eda was certainly a hero, celebrated till today. This piece is written in the spirit of the ongoing annual Felabration to celebrate his life and works. As we felabrate, there is a lesson to learn. Criticism of foreign oppressors must not exclude homegrown oppressors.

Some vulgar Afrocentric rants on the social media feel Europeans have no right to criticize anomalies in African society. I disagree. If the criticism is factual, ridiculous updates on social media in defense is unnecessary. Prof. Niyi Osundare described such defense as newsance (nuisance).

Videos of hungry children in Western media are not fabricated. We need not be annoyed they are shown. Many in Africa need help. Arguments abound that such videos portray Africa in bad light and/or used to justify further interventions in Africa. However, many Africans still benefit from the awareness created by these media reports.

The love for African culture becomes problematic when one denies the lapses in African societies because Non-Africans pointed to these ugly sides. Afrocentrism can never be a response to Eurocentrism or any other ethnocentrism. It distorts reality. We should rather put the VIP Vagabonds in Power, Fela’s reference for bad African leaders,  on their toes.

If you still don’t know Fela, the words of Harald Sun might help: Imagine Che Guevara and Bob Marley rolled into one person and you get a sense of the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

WeekendStarter: A Path towards Nigeria’s Renaissance by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Isiaq 'Deji Hammed is a passionate Social Media commentator and contributor on various world issues, particularly those of Nigeria and Africa and Middle East interests. He bares his mind on issues objectively and engages dissents with civility. He is a Scholar presently based in the Middle East and guestblogs for AhjotNaija

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed is a passionate Social Media commentator and contributor on various world issues, particularly those of Nigeria and Africa and Middle East interests. He bares his mind on issues objectively and engages dissents with civility.
He is a Scholar presently based in the Middle East and guestblogs for AhjotNaija

Nigeria has no business being poor. Nigerians need not suffer in their own country. Our citizens in diaspora have no reason to be humiliated and dehumanized day in day out. And if we are bedeviled by all these excruciating existential angsts, then some things are very wrong. Hence, the need for us to retrace our steps becomes imperative.

In this light, an interconnected three-legged solution comes to mind: 1. All-inclusive Education 2. Food Security 3. Prudent Resources Management. Each of these will be expatiated upon in the subsequent lines.

Under the All-inclusive education, Nigerian children should have access to free primary and secondary education. The university education should be, if not tuition-free, greatly subsidized with possibilities for loan, payable upon completion of studies. Efforts should be made to ensure that graduate studies are geared towards productive researches that will cater for societal needs, solve national problems and improve our national security, growth and development.

The unlettered adult citizens will not be left out. And that explains the inclusive nature of the educational agenda. Structures and mechanisms will be put in place to organize adult education evening or week-end classes. No Nigerian, on account of age, gender or social class, will be left out of our educational revolution.

Furthermore, asides the formal education, we will engage in national (re-) orientation by rejigging  our national values system. The ethics and virtues of hard work, honesty, contentment, selfless service and sacrifice  will become the hallmarks of our nation. And this will be coupled with a robust civic education and public instruction. In so doing, ours will become a progressive democracy where every citizen is conscious and responsive. This will be a perfect demonstration of Zik’s West African Pilot newspaper’s slogan: “Show the light and people will find the way”.

The second leg of our tripod-solution is food security. As long as the twin-brothers of poverty and hunger abound in the land, our educational and value revolutions will remain a mirage. A starving stomach has no ears for moral preaching. Hence, the need to empower and liberate our people from the manacles of excruciating and dehumanizing starvation and pauperism.

We will again need a massive agricultural scheme. We will take advantage of our abundant rich arable soil by mechanizing our farming methods and practicalizing suitable homegrown  techniques proffered by our agricultural institutes and university scholars. Remember we talked about productive and problem-solving researches under our educational revolution.

Aside the career farmers, we will engage, with full compensation and incentives, the services of our youths under the NYSC scheme, prisoners and some paramilitary bodies like Civil Defense Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps etc. Yes, in the new self-reliant Nigeria we are building, all hands must be on deck. No readily available human labour will be left to fallow, while pangs of hunger continue to bring our fellow countrymen down on their knees, in every sense of the word: physically, morally, socially, psychologically, economically etc. A starving man is a sick man. He can also be very desperate and hence portends grave danger to himself and to the society.

In no time, our agricultural sector will experience a boom. And many agro-allied industries will crop up. In terms of food and cash crops, we will have enough to feed on and to cater for our people’s needs, as well as earn foreign exchange from exporting our excess produce.

The last leg of the tripod is  prudent resource management. Our continual tolerance of corruption and corrupt people among us is a result of lack of management culture. Our commonwealth are stolen, wasted and abused and yet nothing is being done by the citizenry to arrest the situation. Despite our unhindered access to water, wind, natural gas and solar energy, we still have not generated enough electricity to power our homes, offices and industries. Nothing can be as wasteful.

In our attempt to start managing resources and minimizing wastage, we will frown at and enact prohibitory laws against educational, health and recreational tourism. Any political office holder must have his/her kid(s) study in Nigeria, assess health service in Nigerian health institutions and if desirous of recreating outside the shore of Nigeria, then that must exclusively be at his/her own expense. In so doing, leaders will be forced to upgrade and standardize our educational, health, road and tourism infrastructures as well as improve on our national security while stabilizing the economy by bringing a halt to capital flight.

When leaders have a sense of belonging, they tend to be more proactive. The  indiscriminatory nature of the Ebola infection and how Nigerian leaders at all levels promptly braced up to arrest the menace  better illustrates this fact.

And finally, if we want our national renaissance and development to move exponentially, instead of taking an arithmetic pace, we must start by becoming a truly federal nation with the regional governments progressing and competing at their individual pace. The unitary style federalism that we are currently practicing will only be tantamount to all motions without movement.

Mr. Hammed wrote this piece exclusively for “My Building Plan Contest on the  Nigerian Revolution Group Page. AhjotNaija is privileged to publish it. Ideas and visions discussed therein remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of the blog.

!Simply-Dunni-on-Spot !SiDoS: Palava-Series-2

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

See me see wahala! Finally it seems I’m gonna have to ask my heimleiter (housemaster) to make me his secretary o. Abi why do guys keep knocking on my door asking for the direction to their rooms jare- their rooms are not even in my building for crying out loud! Ok. It’s just two guys who has knocked so far, I probably needn’t make a mountain out of a molehill sha.

Ok, listen to my predicament o. So, this guy knocked on my door while I observed my usual idiotic siesta. Did I tell u guys I can sleep through a storm? I can even sleep standing, even with my eyes wide open sef! Being born in Nigeria taught me this.

It’s not an easy feat, I must tell you; especially when you have to sit on the dinning table to read for four hours everyday after school, and your mum sits down like Boko-Haram with koboko watching you! You have to be very smart now to evade her sharp eyes o!

I guess you wanna know what I did back then. I’d just hold my pen tightly in my palm, balance my hand on my book and act like I was writing, rest my face on the table like I was concentrating real-hard. In this position I would be far gone already to say hi to Angel Gabriel in Heaven. Mind you, my Number 6 would be very alert and wired to my mum’s footstep because she checked on us every 20 minutes! Hehehehe *smiles aloud*.

My mum too is one smart woman o chai, I love her die.

My recalcitrant cousins were always sent at least once in their life to live with us. God punish them if their parents made the mistake of calling my mum, chai! chai! chai! Even before they got to our house with their baggages, they started peeing in their pants! The only thing of interest in my house was reading anything in print and ink; and the only SPORTING ACTIVITY we engaged-in was *mum-kid-chasing* us round the compound with her koboko…! Chai! Diaris God o!

So, immediately I heard mum’s footstep, I would open eyes sharply and start writing the first thing that came to mind. God help you if you were not quick enough or if she saw this saliva-mark on the side of your mouth! The neighbours wont be able to rescue you from her grasp that day!

Ok, back to my story jare. I was in this dreamland when suddenly I heard this knock. Like being prompted, the knock got an automatic *come-in* response. I practically screamed the response. By the way, if you don’t know, we Africans are very quick to invite everybody into our home, even goats and cows!

I took a look through my duvet. *Don’t be surprised I use duvet in this hot weather o!* I sized the guy up… Hmm not bad though, I seemed to tell myself. I asked him in ENGLISH which ultimate search brought him to my room.

Then he began… Hallo, Ich möchte…
I went berserk!
Oh jeez, this one can’t even speak English o!
Mo gbe, temi ti bami. Am I not finished today?
Eni leni n je. Today na today.
Then, I calmed my nerves and listened to him speak my self-imposed fourth Language – German. Fortunately, I must have been God-inspired from the dreamland, because on a normal day, even when all my senses were alert, you’d have to say something uncountable times before I could decipher the meaning. When I eventually did, I would code-mix English, Yoruba, Pidgin and German in a response. I’m that bad with language. You know I lived in Ondo town for 14 good years and could not speak the local language saving the f**kya-words. Excuse me please.

But this particular time was a good day. I understood everything he said! So excited! Now, the next problem was quick to show head: How do I give him the description?

Ok now, shebi I know that right is recht and left is link. So I allowed him into my room because its description-in-German we are talking about here o. The heimleiter’s house is actually behind my building, but too bad for me, I don’t know the German word for behind. I did what I had to do sha. I improvised! I inserted *zuruck* and *wieder* which I knew was absolutely wrong, but shebi it’s me, I’m no respecter of rules as long as the receiver understands me. Life can be real good with lesser rules, I swear.

I took him to the window. In my pidginized German, I showed him the heimleiter’s house. Surprisingly, this guy could not see it. And that was after I described for ten minutes with saliva running down my mouth! mucus dripping down my nose! tears gushing outta my eyes! and my head bobbing up and down like agama lizard! Mehn!!! speaking German is not easy o!

Mind you, through my description, I noticed this guy stared at me with a placated smile on his face. He did not even look where I pointed. The holy chant became my dagger! *NO WEAPON FASHIONED AGAINST ME SHALL PROSPER! THOUSANDS SHALL FALL AT MY RIGHT AND TEN THOUSANDS AT MY LEFT BUT NONE SHALL COME NIGH UNTO ME!*

I was worried at this juncture. The reason being this: you know I still don’t understand white people o! If it were a black person, I’d easily give a name to the smile: good! Bad! or sick! But he’s white, so how do I tell jare?

Anyway, I’m a strong black girl and nothing scares me except two things: falling in love and a roller coaster ride. That na story for another day sha. In short, I had to forgo my siesta. I took him to the heimleiter’s house. On the way, he did not relent from staring. Now, I did not care anymore. I was already at my wits end.

I needed to use the toilet when I returned. Guess what I saw in the mirror! Me, of course! And particularly, my NO-LONGER-AT-EASE-HAIR- It stood on tiptoes praising God…! My hair *coup-d’etat-ed* me! It took over my whole face. No be World War III we dey so? i could not even see my eye-brow. My nose was buried! Now, I knew the reason for the (strange???) smile on the white guy’s face. He must’a been wondering all through the vivid explanation what went wrong with the hair! It is not as slick as his!

Oh no! This is why I don’t like to see oyinbo o when I wake up in the morning I would want to tame this wild, untamable raggae-hair. Abi how could he see the house with my hair in his face? He probably was even scared of me sef! Did he even wonder from where I hailed? I don’t blame him.

Oh, did I tell you I have these two crazy oyinbo friends. They would not have glanced at me twice. My white friend would actually have shrugged the hair off my face or his face He does that often. The hair is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. LOL.
They are so used to my black theatrics- the wild hair, the make-up, full lips, white teeth, and particularly my murderous sarcasm and dark sense of humour.

My other white friend even likes me to paint her face with my black make-up…*real cool, I think. How we always clashed over the colour of my skin! She calls me brown. I call myself black. I retaliate by calling her red or yellow. Hehehehe *smies aloud* She so hates it when I call her yellow. She says Asians are yellow! This colour-thing ehn dey tire me at times jare. The good(bad)-thing is but you cannot live in Europe without being aware of your skin-colour.

Aha, you know what? I remember going to watch a football match with my oyinbo-friend. I had to worry for five minutes if the people behind me could see the screen above me. Why? – Its my hair again o, and you know Germans are very nice ehn, they’d never tell you your hair obstructs their view.
I trust Nigerians now with their lack of decorum and courtesy. They’d say something like this… *Ehn ehn ehn, abeg comot your head or hair jare or go sit for back with this your kain-hair!* Nigerians! Ehn! They never cease to amaze me!
But how can Germans say that? Good ones never would even dare; the fact that the hair looks weird and add to that I’m also black- if they tell me to remove my hair or go sit at the back, they’d think I’d mind because everything always have this racial undertone in Germany.

But seriously, if they had done so, I would not have minded though. I am a happy-go-jolly-fellow 🙂

Ok, I must stop my story here.. I have to study.. I’m on this deadline. I really hate deadlines, but who am I to complain when German machines are at the helm of affairs!

I’ve been counting my blessings for some days now. I will certainly get some work done with these oyinbo-guys who keep barging into siesta. I await the third knock tomorrow but first I must look real cool for him o so he does not run outta my room in fright. I’ll have to tie my hair in a scarf before observing my usual siesta! I always look on the bright side of things…

!Simply-Dunni-on-Spot !SiDoS: Palava-Series-1

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Lookit me!!! Methink I’m becoming germanized ooo…! Or why should I get pissed because a guy knocked on my door without prior notice through email or whatever that he would come knocking! And that while I was sleeping like i-don’t-care in the afternoon. He wanted me to describe the heimleiter’s (housemaster) house.

Come to think of it, how did I sleep in Nigeria in noonday through the screams from my mum to get her something, which is right in front of her! Then she would be like *oh sorry you are sleeping, but still call again in five minutes thereafter!

And there would be my cousins too on the other hand doing their waka-abouts searching for God-knows-what like in a Gulder Ultimate Search (GUS) on my own side of the room.

By the way, having your own room doesn’t mean it’s yours. Anyway, I had MY OWN BED I could lay claim to. That was enough for me. I no be OLIVER TWIST who’s always asking for more..

There were mum’s spontaneous visitors too knocking on the door and you were expected to leave everything with immediate alacrity, including your *sleep* and attend to them till they leave! Who born you to do otherwise!

I must not forget to mention our dog barking for reasons best known to her. By the way, Yoruba-Nigerians believe dogs bark when they see evil spirits, witches and wizards flying to their afternoon-meeting. So our dog probably always see them flying because she never stopped barking. I wish I knew better, but since I am not a dog, how do I know.

The cocks who have decided to make your window an abode of worship-to-God would be busy making a call and finally the generator making its own kinda noise…

In these times, my patience was never stretched to its breaking point oooo… and oh, if you were pissed, or squeezed a fraction of your face or eyelid…. hehehehehe *smiles aloud*. Pity betide you! You would be making the greatest mistake of your life allowing mum see it on your face, as in you putting on a *poker-face*

If you’ve been wondering why I smile or laugh even when nothing is funny… now you know! The outcome of your *poker-face* is this: slaps that would make you see stars in broad-day light and you’d also feel like you are on a roller-coaster.

If she was not in the mood to dash you free slaps, then you were gonna have to stand for an hour while she tells you stories of all bad and disobedient children in the bible e.g. children of Eli. They ended up in Hell!

Come to think of it; I don’t know why my mum took a fancy to Eli’s children – Opheni and Phineas*Please confirm spelling in the bible and read the detailed story while you do*.

She talked to my brother about Samuel, David and the good children; and when it got to my turn; it was always these same people- Opheni and Phineas, the disobedient Eve who ate the apple, the proud Goliath who got killed by the dwarf David, Absalom who got hung on a tree by his hair!

In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if Absalom had such extremely strong and tough dreads because I still don’t understand how a tree carried someone up from the horse with his hair! I doubt this could happen with this slick oyinbo-hair o. Anyway, that is none of my business o jare! *just saying though while I go back to sleep*

Baba E Wi Hun Hun By Professor Pius Adesanmi

Prof. Pius Adesanmi dressed with a Baba-Awololwo-styled cap.

Prof. Pius Adesanmi dressed with a Baba-Awololwo-styled cap.

Baba E wi hun hun would be approaching his 100th birthday by now if he was still alive. My Dad, who passed on three years ago in his seventies, used to call him “boda”, a common Yoruba cultural honorific, possibly a domestication of the English, “brother”. Like my Dad, Baba E wi hun hun belongs in that generation of Spartan, colonial, missionary-trained teachers who were the very incarnation of Nigeria’s moral and ethical fabric from the fifties down to the very early eighties.

Surely, you remember this teacher if you are a Nigerian of a certain age. Do you remember his well-starched khaki shorts that reached down to his knees, stopping just where his long socks started their descent into his well-polished black shoes? Do you remember that those khaki shorts were pressed so hard with a charcoal iron that the edges – called “gator” in local parlance – almost cut like a razor blade?

Do you remember the starched short sleeve white shirt that he tucked in and his immaculate black tie? Do you remember his glistening black hair, about half the size of the African American Afro style? His wife combed it for him every morning, faithfully putting the obligatory “parting” either in the middle or on one side of his head, just before he went to the schoolyard for morning assembly. If you grew up in the village when Nigeria was Nigeria, you probably called him “tisa”.

The remnants of this generation of teachers, who toiled to build Nigeria alongside British District Officers, Irish Catholic priests, and Canadian missionaries of the Sudan Interior Mission, and later took over the moulding of an unimpeachable national ethos when the colonial oppressors departed, are the same people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s who now drop dead in pension queues all over Nigeria, tragic victims of a polity ruined and looted beyond repairs by younger generations of Nigerians they trained.

Before he passed on in 2007, my father used to stand in those horribly dehumanizing pension queues until I snapped and stopped him. I couldn’t take what Nigeria was doing to his dignity anymore. From the early 1960s when he made the mistake of quitting his comfortable perch in Dundee, Scotland, and returned home like other dreamers in his generation to build the newly-independent country, up until 1985, he had been “tisa” (teacher) and “pinrinsipa” (principal) to the generation of rulers that was now making him stand in those queues, exposing him to the elements in the evening of his life, especially that horrible sub-Saharan African tropical sun.

It is not easy to explain the pension queues in Nigeria to a Western audience such as we have here today. Fifty years after independence, that is how the giant of Africa has elected to treat those who forged and shaped her foundational ethos. Those of you who love to sunbathe in the summer, protecting your skin from the biting rays of the sun with all sorts of creams, should go and experience Nigeria between noon and 3 p.m. You will gain a firsthand understanding of what that country did to my father and Baba E wi hun hun in the last decade of their lives.

Baba E wi hun hun and my Dad were not asking for their share of Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt and putrescent national cake. They would never have wanted any part of that cake. You see, they belonged in a totally different moral and ethical order. Theirs is a generation that took the saying, “a teacher’s reward is in heaven”, too literally. All they wanted was what Nigeria owed them: their pension. The never got it till they died.

My father was luckier than his older friend and colleague, Baba E wi hun hun. My father has a son who – I’m sure you will allow me this immodesty – is not doing too badly as a University Professor in Canada, a son who could afford to tell the Nigerian government to go to hell and take care of his father through the kind offices of Western Union money transfer. If he can afford it, there are things a son must never allow Nigeria to do to his father: expose him to the elements in his 70s just because he is asking for his pension.

But my mom, also a retired school principal in her 70s, disagrees with me. She has other ideas about dignity. Dignity, for her, is not allowing Nigeria to get away with robbing her late husband, even if it means gathering my father’s papers every month and heading out to Lokoja, the state capital, to stand for hours on end in those horrible queues. We argue endlessly on the phone. I tell her to forget it. After all, I stopped Dad from going to the queue because it broke my heart to see him dehumanised by the generation he trained but mom won’t be deterred. Calmly and with as much dignity as Nigeria allows the oppressed to muster, she explains to me that she was my father’s wife for 49 years till death did them part, watched him mould and shape that country through the generations he trained as a teacher in Katsina, Kaduna, Minna, Kabba, Isanlu, and Egbe and would therefore never allow Nigeria to steal his entitlements.

Recently, the wicked rulers of Nigeria upped their game in the dehumanization of this generation of Nigerian seniors. I phoned my mom and she answered from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. What could she possibly be doing in Abuja?  Aren’t pension queues restricted to the state capitals anymore? Well, she got one of those terse government circulars (memo here in Canada). It was actually addressed to my father. Wait for this one: somebody somewhere was directed to invite my father to some ministry in Abuja to prove that he is dead so that his entitlements could be paid to his wife! Failure to come personally and prove that he is dead would of course lead to the forfeiture of his claims.

As we say in Nigeria: things dey happen! Pardon my use of “directed”. That is the language of government in Nigeria. Every government memo, every circular, starts with: “I am directed to inform you that…” That allows us the luxury of democracy without responsibility. If things don’t work, no problem, carry go. After all, you were directed by someone who was directed by someone who was directed by someone. One day, the president of Nigeria will forget himself and address a memo to his ministers saying: “I am directed…”

Let us leave one woman’s pitiful attempt to stop Nigeria from rubbishing the dignity of her husband three years after his death. Let us return to Baba E wi hun hun. Apart from being a church warden in our local Catholic parish and the scourge of kids who fell asleep during the homily of Father Léo Leblanc or Gérard Fournier, Baba E wi hun hun was one of the formidable teachers in the Catholic primary school system that was established throughout Lokoja Diocese in the 1950s and 1960s. The schools litter both sides of the Federal road from Kabba to Egbe. Isanlu, my home town, got two of those schools, one in the Ofin axis, the other in the Itedo Oba axis of the town. Both were called Saint Joseph’s. Government would later take over those schools in the 1970s and transfer them to the Oyi Local Schools Management Board (OLSMB).

Government takeover was a path to perdition for those schools. They would become part of the narrative of rust and decay that attended government takeover of Christian missionary schools all over Nigeria. My parents withdrew me from the public primary school system after only one year and enrolled me in the elitist nursery and primary school system run by Spiritan Catholic priests from France and Québec – the origins of my acquisition of the French language and acculturation into the civilization it carries. I was privileged to be a pupil of Baba E wi hun hun for one year before my parents enforced my pilgrimage to the upper middleclass elitism of the nursery and primary school system of those days.

His acquisition of the sobriquet, Baba E wi hun hun, is itself a study in the sociology of aliases and onomastics in rural Nigeria. A very broad range of traditional occupations provided ready-made sobriquets that often replaced the real names of many a matriarch or patriarch in the village. My world growing up in Isanlu was one in which I had to prostrate to say good morning to Baba Elemu (the palm wine tapper), Baba Olode (the hunter), Baba Alagbede (the blacksmith), Baba Oni gan gan (the gangan drummer), Iya oni resi (the rice seller), Iya Abiye (the midwife), Iya oni diri (the hair dresser).

Sometimes, the sobriquets came from the verbal artistry of the named. Is there a refrain that a patriarch or matriarch repeats often in situations of verbal fioritura? That refrain could end up replacing his or her real name for the villagers. For instance, there was a palm wine tapper in the village called Baba oro rinda. I never got to know his real name. Legend has it that he was so proud of the quality of his palm wine that whenever consumers of his white froth praised him, he would exclaim in his Yagba West dialectal variant of Yoruba: “oro rinda”! Standard Yoruba would have this as: “oro ni mo nda” – I tap the best palmwine! Luckily, you have all read Things Fall Apart and I shouldn’t have to explain the atmospherics of palm wine consumption in my part of the world.

It was such verbal artistry that got Baba E wi hun hun his own nickname. The future that Baba E wi hun hun and his peers all over Nigeria envisaged as they toiled in our primary and secondary schools after independence was that of a nation that was going to become the sum total of the values they were instilling in the pupils. In each pupil, they sought to build what the American historian, William Bouwsma, calls the “model of the educated man” – a psychic and sentient being socialized into an elevated sense of personal and collective honour, civic responsibility, professional competence, self respect, honesty, and integrity. Their approach to training and making us ready for the future they dreamed for Nigeria was a methodological mosaic that combined strict Christian morality with unimpeachable indigenous values. They lived what they preached. They did not spare the rod.

Baba E wi hun hun started our day at morning assembly with lofty speeches delivered in the tonalities and cadences of Yoruba verbal art forms. He loved the engagement of antiphonal call and response that is characteristic of traditional story telling sessions or the Catholic responsorial psalm. While other teachers preferred “yes sah” and “yes ma” as responses to instructions, Baba E wi hun hun taught us every morning about honesty, integrity, hard work, and dignity in lyrical declamations in which he required us to utter the refrain “hun hun” after his every sentence. It was his way of ensuring our participation and undivided attention. It was his own peculiar way of ascertaining that his message was sinking into our consciousness. For the Yoruba expression, “e ma wi hun hun”, literally means: utter hun hun in response to my proclamations.

Generations of Isanlu kids chorused hun hun during morning assembly to Baba E wi hun hun’s mandate that we should aspire to build a Nigeria ensconced in the values that he and his ilk were teaching us. The shape and condition of Nigeria at fifty` is, of course, evidence that these colonial teachers, who laboured all over the country, had cast pearls before swine. The generations that they trained, those fellows in their forties, fifties, and sixties, who are making such a thorough mess of Nigeria today, are not just content with betraying the dreams of Baba E wi hun hun. They are doing it in the most profligate manner possible. The labour of our heroes past… hun hun.

Because of the nature of the man who runs the show at the Nigerian High Commission here in Ottawa, we have been asked to assemble today and celebrate Nigeria at fifty purely as a feast of ideas, a meeting of minds, a bazaar of critical faculties, and occasion for red-eyed sobriety and head-bowing. I wish I could say the same for his hedonistic bosses in Abuja. I am not going to tell you how much they are spending on this independence anniversary. Even by Canadian standards, you will faint. I am not going to tell you that the President of Nigeria has a harem of nine presidential jets. I am not going to tell you that the President of Nigeria considers it a crime against humanity for him to travel even to the toilet with less than two jumbo jet loads of accompanying aides. I am not going to tell you that his wife travels with a “luggage officer” tucked somewhere in her Kilimanjaro of aides. The labour of our heroes past… hun hun.

I am not going to tell you that the President of Nigeria is a teacher who doesn’t seem to understand that all over that country, the teachers who taught his generation and established the ethos that should have guided us in the last fifty years are dropping dead in pension queues on his watch. I am not going to tell you that I suspect that the wicked generation now in charge of Nigeria are deliberately punishing those who have refused to die in the generation of Baba E wi hun hun. For it doesn’t make sense for a nation to entertain the world with the spectacle of the foundational generation of teachers dying in pension queues. Every one of those colonial teachers still alive is a living indictment on the looters. In those sunken eyes, the looters see evidence of the dreams they betrayed and the expectations they never lived up to. The labour of our heroes past… hun hun.

The labour of our heroes past… shall never be in vain… another old teacher drops dead in a pension queue somewhere in Nigeria before you get to the end of that song. To serve with heart and might… and they drop dead in Aiyetoro Gbede, Mopa, Ponyan, Isanlu, Ejiba, Odo Ere, and Egbe. One nation bound in… in… another teacher drops dead, his gratuity stolen by government officials. It is an insult to the labour of my father, Baba E wi hun hun, and all those colonial teachers that Nigeria is punishing as I speak for this anthem to be blared whenever Goodluck Jonathan steps into a room. The labour of our heroes past… does he even know the meaning of those words? Our corrupt state governors step into a room and that song is also blared. That is an insult. The labour of our heroes past… hun hun.

After October 1, 2010, the fumes of wine and the bacchanals will clear from the eyes of our oppressors in Abuja. They will prepare the presidential jets and the protocol officers and the luggage officers in readiness for the next jamboree trip abroad. My mother will dutifully prepare my father’s documents and travel to Lokoja or Abuja. Some government official in his forties or fifties, high on his daily dosage of bigmanism, will keep that seventy-two year old woman standing in the sun yet again. Her grey hair glinting and roasting in that sun, the wrinkles on her forehead, the ache in her knees as they threaten to give, and that tear drop, always a single tear drop whenever my mother is defeated in ways patented only by Nigeria to defeat a citizen, are, for me, the signposts to the next fifty years in the life of Goodluck Jonathan’s Nigeria.

Hun Hun…

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Advocacy for Nigerian English (Tiwantiwa)!

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).

You cannot expunge your language from your culture and by extension your identity. Words possess the meaning we ascribe them and who we are helps us give meaning to words.

I bear no grudge against the English Language. However, I dislike the pretence the language assumes; for example the Queens English is never wrong. Only speakers in the post-colonial countries can be wrong! The language changes according to the culture of the Brits. Consequently, the Anglophone keeps adjusting all along like train-waggons attached to the locomotive engine. So we grapple with what they call pronunciation and grammar problems. I have however realized that pronunciation problems like languages are constructs too. A few examples will suffice.

My grandmother pronounces the number 7 as seh-bin; a pronunciation that will earn her the tag of a semi-literate. Interestingly, Germans pronounce the same number almost in the manner just that theirs begin with sie and not seh. No one dares call them semi-literates as a result of the non-alignment of their pronunciation to English pronunciation rules. They have their own rules and culture which are products of history, fantasy, culture and experiences.

Another example is the French way of pronouncing tomato. To the French, it is tomate. This pronunciation is close to the prononciation by Yoruba speakers of the English language. We call it: tomati. Some pronounce tomat depending on which part the Yoruba speaker comes from. So if the British and American speakers of the English language evolve and alter several pronunciations for their convenience, what stops the Yoruba speaker of the English language from doing same?

In trying to convince me to see reasons to speak the ‘proper’ English, a friend argued that for every invention, the manufacturer’s manual should be followed. To me, that argument is not valid on two grounds: Firstly, Inventions are made with the cultural atmosphere of its target society in mind. The car manufacturer Toyota does not send left-hand drive vehicles to the UK or South Africa. Secondly, inventions are products of inventions. My knowledge of the Sciences betrays me here but I am aware of the fact that inventions by Einstein, Editon, Newton and other scientists inspired other inventions. Here is an example: The invention of smartphones are not unconnected from the existence of electricity. The world started with Abacuss. now there are modern and faster computer products. Inventions need be altered to suit the times.

Some have also argued that it is easier to understand each other when there are universal rules of usage. I do not subscribe to this argument. If comprehensibility is the premise for this argument, then the argument may also be flawed. Homi Bhabha, Prof Soyinka, Gayatri Spivak are some of the best post-colonial users of the English language but they are not easily comprehensible to the ordinary man. In fact Spivak has been accused of using inaccessible euphemism and academic jargon to avoid comprehensibility.

Furthermore a constraint to this universal rule of language usage is the question of who cares for the minority in the vast sea of the major Englishes? I like food and it pains me that any time I have to write Fufu and Egusi (Yoruba/African food) etc, the words are signaled as incorrect. Thus, I have to italicize them.

And the simplest reason I have heard for keeping the Queens English is this: It is more intelligible than our languages. In protest, I point out severally that ‘the response you are welcome is the weirdest I have ever heard to thank you.

By the way, I have learnt not to trust a language that says a slim person is skinny. Skinny should refer to a person with (a lot of) skin: So skinny should mean fat or something close to that if the English language was so intelligible. In the same light, how can inflammable be synonymous to flammable? Does the prefix, in- not negate?

Also, we may have to interrogate why the middle of the ocean is called sea , as in high-sea. Take a look at this too: Why should the earliest part of the morning be called night as in –midnight– in an intelligible language?

Beyond this, there is a pertinent question: What happens to words in the English language that have assumed different meaning in usage in the commonwealth countries like Nigeria? Here are some examples: A word like tribe and a sentence like I am coming do not have the same meaning as they do in the English language of the UK.

In addition, concepts in our native languages are at the risk of extinction if we keep up with the Queens-English-only-mentality. This is my proposition: Words that can only be translated loosely into English such as Alakoba, Olofofo, Ekule, Eleda among others should all be incorporated into the suppositional Nigerian English.

On a final note, let me remind of my submission at the start of this piece of mind: A language is a construct; it is an invention and it is dynamic. Therefore, it can be dynamically de-constructed and re-invented. So let the discourse begin. I strongly believe, we can all find our voice and put it into even better use by the tool of the language speak.

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