Posts Tagged ‘Inside Nigeria’

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by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

I woke up this morning thinking of Nkem –that beautiful ebony girl with sleepy eyes and seductive smile. I woke up this morning thinking of her –the way she laughed, the softness of her voice when she said OK, and the awkward manner in which we ended our conversation last night. It is not just the silence that hovers annoyingly in our chat these days that worries me. It is not just the occasional “How are you” repeated over again to make up for the lack of something concrete to say. No, not that. It is this nagging feeling that our relationship has entered into that phase where conversations become clichéd –filled with the same hollow vowels and consonants and very little passion that are insufficient to justify two hundred, a hundred, fifty or ten naira credit spent in making the telephone conversation possible.

I woke up this morning arguing with myself whether I should call her or not. Perhaps, this is what idleness does to people, having been in this state for over a year, I must confess that I am a slow learner, because I’m still figuring it out.

The time was 9: 23 am and I was just waking up, though still rolling and turning on my bed wrapped in my bedspread. The sun rays were pouring into the room like columns of hungry ant in search of food. My shirt was soaked through with sweat –there have been no electricity for two days now. I staggered to my feet and reached for my blackberry. It was off. I had switched it off last night to conserve the battery. What can a poor man in Nigeria do? I forgot about Nkem, and my thought went to my Mom. I saw her in my mind sitting under the rain with an open umbrella in her hand, selling okpa on the street. “What would she have said about situations like this?” I thought to myself. “When the desirable becomes unavailable, the available becomes the desirable.” Yes, that was what Mother usually said whenever she found herself in an unpleasant situation that she could not change –like when my father took a second wife and stopped taking care of his kids, or when she fed me and my siblings only pap for breakfast, lunch and dinner due to lack of money to make a decent meal, or when she withdrew us from private school and put us in public school. Mother was a typical Nigerian –resigned to her fate, irredeemably optimistic, always religiously hopeful that I wouldn’t be surprised if she found a way to crack a joke if faced by a firing squad. I smiled dryly at this thought, and switched on my phone. I had 35 new emails, most of them facebook notifications. I skimmed through them, and finally went to the ones with job adverts.

An hour later, and with 3 job applications sent, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. My thought went back to Nkem, and every emotion, every fear and feeling gradually returned accompanied by the argument –should I just call her or should I not. It was now becoming a tug-of-war –a fight between my ego and that little gentle voice. I took some water and rinsed my mouth with it. Then I spitted out the water, and I looked long at the broken mirror on the bathroom wall. “When did it come to this –debating and looking for a reason to call her?” I asked the reflection on the mirror. “This is Nkem.” I thought to myself. I could still remember the time when we had something interesting to say, when our love burnt bright, and our chats were long and intimate, full of longing and love for each other. “What happened to us?” I thought out loudly to myself as I stood there at the mirror, looking at my reflection. My eyes were still pale from sleep, and two stretch marks ran through my face. My beard was bushy and needed shaving. I ran my hand on my hair and sighed. “I need to call her. I have to call her.” I said wearily to myself.

A knock on the door just then interrupted my thought. I came out of the bathroom, and opened the door. It was my landlord’s youngest son –a boy of nine. He was standing there at my door half asleep, completely unaware of the battle going on in my mind. He must have just woken up then. His hair was untidy and so was his clothe. He was also barefooted. He always has this disarming smile, and a hopelessly naïve outlook on life even for a 9 year old. I smiled when I opened the door.
“Arinze, how are you? How may I help you?” I said to him.
“Good morning Uncle Val.” He muttered with a forced smile hanging conspicuously on his face. “My daddy wants to know if we can borrow sugar from you.”

I scratched my head. My six day old St Louis sugar was almost finished from overuse. I bought it initially for my personal consumption, but it had since become a public property, serving me and a family of six. I just couldn’t refuse to share something as cheap as a packet of sugar, or salt, or my only belt, or the occasional two hundred to one thousand naira I borrow to them which are never paid back. I left the door, went into the kitchen and brought out the packet of sugar and handed it over to him. He smiled, thanked me and ran off to their side of the house.

I went back into the kitchen, washed the dishes from yesterday, warmed the leftover foods, and put the kettle with water in it on the stove. Tea and bread –that would be my breakfast. The water boiled and I poured some into a cup with Lipton in it. I searched for the sugar and remembered after few minutes of ransacking my cupboard that I had just given it out. So I ran over to my landlord’s place to retrieve whatever was left of it.

11: 07 am. I was sitting on my bed slowly sipping my tea, and going through my phone at the same time. I noticed a status on facebook that read: “How can something so sweet, suddenly becomes stale.” It was from Nkem. The time stamp said that it was posted about 11 hours ago, which was less than an hour after our last phone conversation. Guilt and anger both swept through me.
“I should have called immediately I woke up. I should call her.” I said loudly to myself. Still I made no effort to dial her number. Instead I sat there sipping my tea. “If the relationship was becoming stale, it was also her fault.” I thought, almost smiling to myself then like I just discovered a cure for Aids, “yes she should have called me this morning too instead of posting trash on facebook.”

I finished breakfast and tidied the room. Then I made use of the toilet, showered and dressed up. I checked the time after I put on my clothes, it was 12:52 pm. NEPA as Nigerians prefer to call electricity was still unavailable. I picked up a book to read but it was hot inside the room. I opened a window, the sun rays that flooded the room were so irritating to my skin that I quickly closed it and drew the curtain. The room — stuffy — sat in uncomfortable dullness. I decided to sit outside. I picked up my phone; the battery was already almost down. “I should at least text her and see how she was doing.” I thought to myself as I paced the room, searching for the right words, and the right way to put them in order not to sound too needy and less in charge. After about ten minutes of soul searching, or to put it more aptly vocabulary searching, I typed: “Hey babe, how is your day going? Hope all is well? Do have a nice day. Love you.”
I erased the last two words, then typed them back, then erased them again. I typed “missed you” in their place. I scratched my head and thought about it. “Love you. Miss you. Love you. Miss you.” I repeated the words to myself as if saying them over and over would deliver me from the sick feeling in my mind. I looked up at the ceiling. Besides the dilapidated and worn out plywood which leaked water during the rainy season, there was nothing there for me. “Just call her.” The little voice in my mind whispered gently to me, “Just call her.” I shook my head, switched off the phone without sending the message, and stepped out for a walk.

More than three hours later, I still haven’t called or sent the text. My phone had been switched off since then, so I didn’t know if anyone tried reaching me through it or not. I had initially intended to walk around my street and back, but on stepping out, I’d bumped into an old friend. We both had a lot of catching up to do, a little more strolling, and two bottles of beer to help water the garden of our friendship. I came home at around 4:22 pm. NEPA was still unavailable. I took a shower, changed my clothes and lay down on the bed. I switched on the phone, nine emails and one text message. The text message was from Nkem, and it read, “Hey Val, how are you? Hope all is well. We seriously need to talk about everything. Hear from you soon.”

Something jacked off in my brain. The stubbornness — those walls that I built — which had prevented me from calling her all day gave way and in its place; fear. “What exactly does she mean in the text message?” I thought to myself. I stood up and started pacing the room. My mind was racing and I was also biting my tongue. I dialled her number immediately. She didn’t pick up the first time. On the second try, she answered.
“Hey My love, how are you baby.” I said as gently and as lovingly as I could.
That was when my phone battery died.

THE END

Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo, photo by Emmanuel Ezeh

Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo, photo by Emmanuel Ezeh

charlie hedbo

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

“The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity.” — Cf. Qur’an 5:32

On 7th of January 2015, two masked gunmen armed with assault rifles and other weapons forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is [the] greatest”), fired many shots, and killed twelve people including a French National Police Officer and injured eleven others. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Five more persons were to be killed later and another eleven were wounded in related shootings that followed in the Île-de-France region.
The same day information started trickling of a much bigger massacre in Baga, Nigeria, by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram. The official number of the dead and missing is still yet controversial, with local sources and international media reporting that it was in the region of two thousand, while the Nigerian Military gave a more meagre (though still very high) number of around one hundred and fifty people.

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria  

While outrage for the much bigger death toll in Baga was very minimal and in some quaters non-existent even in Nigeria where the incident took place, that for Charlie Hedbo was far more extensive and widely expressed.

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Procession and protest was held in Paris for the victims of Charlie Hedbo and for free speech, while in Nigeria, the victims of Baga were send gently into the good night without so much as a whimpher.
The publishers of Charlie Hedbo has since cashed-on on this publicity. The magazine now has about seven millions subscription for its latest issue, which has on its front page cover the cartoon image of a weeping Prophet Muhameed holding a banner which reads; I am Charlie.

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

This has generated serious outrage and condemnation from the muslim world which the massacre in Baga did not generate, which the massacre of innocent people in Nigeria and Cameroon by Boko Haram did not generate. Now this is both an abnormal and contrasting reactions to two incidents.

Boko Haram have been kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians, many of whom are muslims. ISIS have been kidnapping and killing innocent people in Iraq and Syria, mostly muslims. Al-Qaeda has been kidnapping and killing people in Yemen, majority of who are muslims.
All these they do in the name of Islam.

There have been some condemnation against these actions from some prominent muslims leaders, scholars and imams. That is the truth, but what was not seen is a protest in Niger Republic condemning the actions of Bokoharam, or a solidarity vigil in Turkey in memory of the victims, or a procession in Pakistan demanding the elimination of Boko Haram or ISIS, or a huge banner in front of a mosque in Nigeria denouncing the sect and their violence.
In Nigeria these are what you mostly hear:
-A fight against Boko Haram is a fight against Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram should be given amnesty like the Niger-Delta militants.
-Boko Haram members are not from Northern Nigeria, in fact they are not even muslims.
-Boko Haram is the military wing of CAN, Christian Association of Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is working for President Goodluck Jonathan, they are Igbos trying to destroy Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is a conspirasy by France, by Usa, by the west and their media to discredit Islam and divide Nigeria.

In all of these, Islam is never part of the Equation. Muslims are never the aggressor, it is someone else, it has to be someone else. Yet when a mediocre magazine in France published a cartoon of Muhameed, there was widespread condemnation from the Muslims. There was violent protest in Niger Republic, there was a vigil for the terrorists in Turkey, there was a procession in Pakistan, there are banners now in some Nigerian Mosques condemning France and the cartoon.

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

As an independent observer, I am compeled to ask if the sanctity of human life, the sacredness and preciousness of this one and only life that we all have got, if it is worth less to some people than how others percieve their religion?
The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity, does this no longer apply?
How can someone claim to love a God, whom he/she has not seen, who might not even exist, when he/she does not love (by love I mean appreciate the sanctity, the sacredness of) the life of his fellow human being that he can see?
How does one justify publicly and privately the murder of 11 cartoonist, the burning of churches, the pains of an opponent, the death and destruction of an enemy and yet bows his/her head in prayer to a God who is all merciful?
What happened to love for an enemies and prayers for those who persecuete us. What happened to turning the other cheek, to forgiveness, to tolerance, to patience, to moderation?
Is it that the actions of those two men at Charlie Hedbo is not murder –a mortal sin? Is it that the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other islam sects who go around killing innocent people all in the name of a God who is all Merciful and his holy Prophet, cannot be classified as blasphemy, as a terrible insult and as a major threat to Islam?

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. Good men are behaving more cowardly and evil men are becoming bolder and bolder, but in the words of Edmund Burke: all that evil needs to triumph is for people of good conscience to remain silent. So I ask; Is it so difficult for some of us to put aside our biases, our religious inclinations and to look solely on our humanity and choose that which is right between our creed and conscience?

Okoye Ezeamalukwuo writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him @mr_charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this write up is solely those of the writer, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Liberty of Creativity

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by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

This useless man everywhere, this useless man again –that must had been her thought as she ripped another poster off the wall, -that or something more sinister, something more derogatory. Who could read the thoughts in her mind, or exorcise the demon that assailed her that morning. I found her action to be somewhat intriguing, somewhat amusing though I did not know what her story was, or the reason why she was standing by the side of the main road, ripping off only the campaign posters of Mr President from the wall.

Perhaps it was the heat. The temperature that morning was over thirty-five degrees centigrade, and was enough to drive anyone off the edge. Perhaps it wasn’t something physical or something that could be easily quantified. It should take more than an increase in temperature for a person to engage in such act of public spectacle -I thought to myself as I sat on a wooden chair of a decrepit bus at Ikeja bus-stop, staring at her. She neither stopped to acknowledge the increasing crowd of onlookers that had gathered around her, watching her work, nor did she pause to wipe off the rivers of sweat that ran across her face and met at her jaw. The posters was all she cared about and she was determined to rip them all off.

Indeed it must be something serious, something much deeper, something indelible like a crack on a mirror or the breaking of a camel’s back that had endured fifty-four rigorous years of marsh and misrule.

Perhaps she was a mother of one of the Chibok girls. Perhaps she had lost someone dear to her in Baga, or in Mubi, or in Gwoza, or to the rising wave of insecurity that had engulfed the nation in recent times. She looked exasperated like someone tormented by an unseen demon. They say: a hungry man is an angry man –perhaps it was just plain hunger, or poverty or the burden of two months unpaid salaries which had been attributed to fall in global oil prices.

The face of Mr President on those posters was wearing a smile that was somehow queer, somehow mischievous, like he was smiling only at her, taunting her, daring her to rage, daring her to rip him off, to vote him out if she can. It must have been so frustrating for her.

A part of me felt sorry for her as she stood there all alone in the sun like a lone soldier staring straight at the nozzles of a thousand enemy rifles. I felt like calling out to her from where I was sitting in the bus. I felt like walking up to her, to ask if all was well, to tell her that it was going to get better, but I didn’t, I couldn’t. The look in her eyes was enough to stop anyone from coming close to her. It was filled with pain and bitterness. It was clear to me that she was ready to fight anyone who tried to stop her. In fact she would have killed Mr President if he was there in person, but since he wasn’t there, she was contented to destroy all his posters, as if doing so would hurt him physically in some unexplainable way.

Nigeria is really a crazy place and it does get to people sometimes, and make them do crazy things. I have seen a well dressed man in suit and tie; fight a bus conductor over ten naira change. I have seen federal legislators jump gate on national television amidst fanfare and solidarity songs. I have seen policemen change their uniforms into civilian clothes in the face of armed robbery attack. Ours is a crazy country, and the people living in it are crazier. It can only take a full-fledged Nigerian to appreciate the force acting on that woman -a wife, a mother, at that very moment.

Sometimes I wish that solutions to Nigerian problems can be as easy as ripping a poster off the wall, so that I can go about tearing down the posters of corruption, tribalism, nepotism and religious intolerance from our land. Alas! This is far from the case. In fact, in our society, the act of ripping campaign posters from walls can constitute both liberal and criminal offences.

I do not condone her action. I think it was crude and barbaric, and to be carried out in such a public manner without fear or shame, set a negative precinct that might have disastrous consequences for us all. Ours is a young democracy, which has witnessed many rapids and cataracts in its 16 years of existence. We do not need this kind of occurrence especially at this time when the nation is tinkering on a knife edge. It is worrying to read on paper about the shooting of APC supporters during a rally in Port-Harcourt, or the burning of PDP campaign buses in Jos. What is more worrying is the huge number of educated Nigerians on both sides of the divide, who cheer at this kind of news, urging the perpetrators to carry on.
Indeed I do not support her action at all, even though I can relate with whatever it was that she was passing through.

Still she continued her work, ripping the posters with one hand and squeezing it with the other hand. The crowds continued to swell. There were nods of approval from some sections, and in other sections there were angry murmurs of discontent. Someone raised a voice to applaud her, another shouted angrily at her to stop. There was a suggestion that she should be forcefully stopped, someone even said that she deserved a beating. The atmosphere was already charged with accusations and counter-accusations, suspense and suspicion. Just then the driver of the bus I was in, started the engine and drove the bus away taking me with him.

Several days have passed since that day but I can’t get the incident off my mind. Right now as I sit at my writing desk, staring at the map of Nigeria on the wall, I still hear clearly the shouting of that day. I still feel the heat, see clearly the woman rip the posters off the wall, and somewhere in my mind, hope for this country is gradually being ripped off as well.

Ezeamalukwuo writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach him on Twitter via @Mr_Charlze

Liberty of Creativity

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd (right)

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd (right)

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

Now that the issue of who the major contenders for the 2015 Presidential election has finally been resolved, the i-s are gradually being dotted and the t-s being crossed, the debate rages of who is better and who is worse, and the mostly unhealthy rivalry goes on, the momentum keeps building up, and insults continue to be hurl on both candidates by opposite fans, the stage is finally set for what might actually be the last nail on the coffin of an ever-disintegrating Nation.

Nothing has sharply polarised this Nation since the dark days of the counter-coup of 1966 as a Buhari-Jonathan rivalry. A fight between the core muslim North, together with a large section of South-Western Nigeria on one side, and the Christian South-East and their South-South partner on the other side. Judging from online media news; the rhetorics and militant speeches spoken by supporters of both men, one is left with this unnerving premonition of an impending bloodbath, no matter who emerges winner come February. It is quite an unpleasant sight to watch the continuous unravelling of the already worn-out stitches that hold this nation together, the steady tearing of one thread after another, all for the sake of two men whose known portfolios show clearly that both are neither qualified to run nor fit to lead a nation as complex as ours.

On 31st of December, 1983, Buhari and his fellow coupists overthrew a democratically elected government. With a bold and militant speech, filled with contempt for democratic and civilian rule, he ended the second republic and ushered Nigeria once more into the dark days of military rule which was to last for 15 years. This act was initially met with joy and celebration among the citizenry. Little did he know back then that the same citizens would rejoice 20 months later on his overthrew, or that 31 years on he would be contesting as a civilian in a democratic setting for a record four times in a row.

Image of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State, & Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria

Image of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State, & Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria

Time is a funny thing, and Nigerians with their chronic amnesia are even more funny. Our infinite capacity to forgive and forget is incredulous, and borders on cheer insanity. A man who advocated brutality and torture as a means of getting things done. Who scorn on the rule of law, who had people incarcerated without trials, and kept them in prison even after their acquittal under the most inhumane of condition is today the messiah we need. A man who had no problem serving under Abacha; that corrupt mantra, who was reported as saying that Abacha had no case to answer in terms of corruption, and who currently is working with Tinubu, Amaechi and other ex-PDP thieves and co, men who had and are looting their state and constituency dry, that same man is now an anti-corruption general. What hurts me the most is when I see youths of today; many of whom are 21 years and below saying that Buhari; a 72 year old man, who was governor at the age of 30, minister at 30-something, Head of State at 41 is the future for Nigeria. The irony of this statement is neither palatable for me, nor is it beginning to make sense beyond it being a figure of speech.

Looking that Goodluck Jonathan; our president for the past 5 years (going to six), who appealed to us back in 2011 with his speech of fresh air and change. A lot of us believed him even though we had our suspicion of PDP. The Truth is that we were already tired of the old guard who have been there since Flora Shaw seduced Lord Lugard into naming this entity; Nigeria. Thus we threw our lots with him believing that at least, President Goodluck would break the old hegemony and give us something different. 5 years and counting, with fuel selling at a higher price ever, a growing and embolden cabal, zero conviction of corrupt public officials, pardon for convicted public officials, high insecurity in the land, rise in terrorism, disarray of the army, decrease of Nigerian status in international circles, civil disobedience, unpatriotic and treasonous statements from political proponents and opponents, growing inflation and unemployment, high level of youth restiveness etc, a lot of us are beginning to repent from our previous decision.

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan in his 5 years as Head of State, and Commander in Chief of the armed forces have failed majority of Nigerians, especially the lower class and the lower-middle class. He has not shown leadership quality, and a-times had appeared unwilling to seize the initiative or to make the hard decisions needed to secure Nigerians and Nigerian interests. His decision to remove petroleum subsidy instead of persecuting the beneficiaries of subsidy scam exposed his lack of willpower to make the hard choice, rather he chose the path of least resistance, which is to dump the burden on we; the ordinary people of Nigeria. His lack of imagination and innovation, strong-will and strictness in handling the Boko-Haram mayhem betrayed his lack of judgment and understanding of what the role of government is; which is first and foremost the security of lives and properties of Nigerians. This actions and more have led to the loss of faith in his administration, by many previous supporters, save a few who are currently benefiting from his rule, and others who are driven by tribal and religious sentiments.

Hence with election 41 days away, and with the presidency (if there will still be a Nigeria after the election) going to one of the two, the future for Nigeria is dire. The foot soldiers of the two are getting their arsenal ready to cause mayhem in the eventuality that their candidate loses. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom (God know there are so many of them already) but if care is not taken, and with the way things are developing we might be having two or more nations, or a civil war by the end of the year.

To be fair the both candidate; I must concede that there are some factors that mitigated against the two of them. Buhari ruled for only 20 months, in which time he oversaw the persecution of large number of people for corrupt practises albeit mostly southerners and members of the opposition party. He tried to instill a rule of discipline among Nigerians who before then (and after then) had carried on their unruly and rowdy behaviour of jumping queue, dumping of refuse indiscriminately, urinating in public places etc. He also tried to put a rigid and disciplined hold in the handling of the economy, which was a failure though, but who knows what might have been if he was allowed back then to continue to say; 48 months.

President Goodluck Jonathan, on the other hand have ruled beyond the 48 months period, and I am not blind to some of the developmental strides he has tried to introduce in a decayed system such as ours. Such as the revival of our rail system, the rehabilitation of our roads, the containment of Ebola, the building of schools especially in the core-northern areas, the increase of minimum wage, the privatisation of power, conducting of credible elections among other things. Being from a minority tribe and having little political weight in Nigeria, plus having an very powerful and ever-power-hungry cabal of Northern origin who are not only opposed to his presidency, but have continued to agitate what they see as the lose of their turn to rule. I must confess that the challenges before him is enormous and calls for some pragmatic steps, and one might be tempted to sympathise with him.

But the truth is that after 54 years of taking scraps and shit from our ruling class, Nigerians can no longer afford to vote based on “What If” or “Sympathy” or tribal and religious affiliation. We saw hell during those 20 months of Buhari’s draconic regime, and Nigerians are seeing hell during this over-gentle and over-indulging regime of Jonathan. Who would have taught that two very opposite regime; Buhari and Jonathan, military and civilian, draconic and civil, brutal and gentle would have such similar effect on a Nation. A lot of us will not like to admit it, but Buhari and Jonathan are birds of a feather, and no matter the weather, will always flock together, and if past experiences are anything to go by, both will take us nowhere greener. I do not envy Nigerian voters at all. Having being asked to choose between the duo; Buhari and Jonathan, Nigerian voters are now left with no choice except the Devil and the deep blue sea.

The statements, views and opinions stated in this write up is solely those of the author, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of guiness google

Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of google

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

It was a fine harmattan evening with bright stars upon a clear sky. On my table, a bottle of Guinness beer –the bottle chilled and dripping of sweat, or ice or whatever the evening has in store for me; which was not looking so good. I sat in this fancy beer parlour, trying so hard to enjoy my overpriced beer. My team was losing, and my mind was going gaga. Externaly; I was an image of solitude, internally; I was breaking into multiple jagged pieces of broken bottle. I was trying hard to ignore the painful taunting of an opponent fan. He was loud, and he was also painfully gifted in the art of taunting, I just had to give it to him. Just then, the Guinness advertisement of ‘Made of Black’ appeared on the tele. I don’t know if it was for want of escape or the need for enlightenment, but something in me was stirred. I was forced to start a conversation with my jeering neighbour, who as it appeared was skilled in other areas besides taunting. We had a very interesting conversation about what Guinness meant by “Made of Black” and what being black was really all about, but I must conclude that besides the commercial gains to be made by Guinness from the advertisement, we both ended up being more confused about the notion: “Made of Black”.

Made of Black. What does it really mean to be black, to think black, rep black, act black in this 21st century of bleaching creams and Brazilian hairs…in this age of bimbos and bambinos. I saw in the advertisement that black is an attitude, and I must ask which kind of attitude? Is it positive or negative?

In my NYSC days while I was serving in one beautiful village in South South Nigeria, I met all sorts of artistic local hairstyles and cosmetics. And I fell in love with them, and with the women who wore them. But I now know that I was all alone in my love affair. One particular incident confirmed my solitary-ness. A young village girl in my compound had just plaited one of those beautiful and artistic hairstyle, and when I saw her, I loved it, and I told her in no little way. She thanked me, and left. Less than an hour later, a guy in that compound saw her, and told her that her african-styled-hair made her to look like a maid. I overheard that, and I came out of my room and rebuked the guy and told the girl that her hair was beautiful and unique. By evening time, I saw the girl wearing a new, different and weavon-fixed hair.

Some would say that this is just an isolated event, but I have rolled with women to understand that this is a norm among them. My ex girlfriend nearly fought me one day because I wanted to see her natural hair. She was beautiful and fair, the kind that turns heads everywhere she goes. Yet in all her beauty lies this unquenchable desire to makeup for the blackness in her blood. That day, she had just removed the wig on her hair and was in the process of putting it on back when I entered the room. I being my inquisitive self wanted to see the beautiful damsel in her natural state, but the damsel was indeed distressed with her own self.

I have always ask african ladies especially those who are so ashamed of their hair, why they feel so uncomfortable with their short kinky hair but so completely at home with loads and loads of wigs and weavons. The answers have always ranged from excuses to downright foolishness.
This has left me with the belief that many black people are not comfortable with their morphology. Is it the case of whitening soaps, creams and bleaching toiletries, those ones are another case on their own.

Another incident that informed the inferiority complex of many dark faired folks especially women took place sometime last year. I was in a park to board a bus one very hot afternoon, the weather was dangerously hot, and my queue was longer than the anaconda. I was contemplating cancelling my journey before my fairly black skin becomes baked cake, when this much more dangerously hot ebony chic came and sat on a bench near my queue. My conflict with the weather disappeared that instance. I was no longer worried about the queue, in fact I became worried that the line was moving too fast. I didn’t speak to the girl, I only wrote a quick poem there in my head, and secretly blessed her for the solace she gave me. I told this story later to a female friend of mine without mentioning the colour of the girl. It was she who brought the colour up, when she said that she believed that the girl was light skinned. I had never quite appreciated the fixation and flirtation with light skin before, but that day it dawned on me.

Women being women crave attention and fair or bright skin calls out attention better than dark and dull skin. And I now know that this pressure for women to be fairer than snow white is mostly applied by men, men who deride darker girls. Black men are less affected by the need to lighten their skin colour than women are, but the attitude of many black men to blackness and black girls help in no small way to fuel the problem.

I feel that the problems of blackness is not just artificially made, but also self-sustained. The media we watch or listen to, images and stories we see and read have shaped our thinking over the years to despise black skin, kinky hair, blackness and many things associated with it.
You switch on the TV and all you see are women with hairs as long as River Nile and skin as bright as the sun’s reflection on a mirror. You open a beauty magazine and you are brainwashed by all that you see and all that you read. You go into a mosque and God becomes a foreigner, who has to be served better in a foreign tongue. You go into a church and what you see is heaven made of white and fair beings, and hell full of dark and depressed souls. These images can be tricky. Children playing Jesus and Satan, Student depicting Good and Evil, find themselves equating perfection with light skin and imperfection/ugliness with darker skin.

Some would argue that these are not really that important, but a look at Africa and African countries and communities, would show the big-brother adoration black africans give to people of fairer skin, be they Europeans or Chinese, Indians or Lebanese. It is the same; “I know you are much better than I can ever be.” How pathetic. In Nigeria today, made in Holland peak milk sells much more faster than its Nigerian counterpart even though it is more expensive. European and Arabic names have since surpassed the Native names in number and importance. Foreign accent is now seen as a measure of enlightenment and sophistication. The list goes on and on.

How can a people who are down and downtrodden, rise to develop and better themselves when they have lost all sense of pride and purpose, all sense of dignity and duty, innovation and inspiration. Everything Black is gradually fading away, from religion, to language, from names to traditions, hair style down to skin colour etc.

So I ask again, what is made of black? What does Black being an attitude mean? What does it mean to be black, think black, act black, rep black in today’s world of bleach and Brazilian hair?

Okoye Chukwudi writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him on twitter @Mr_Charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and does not necessary represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

Some of us want to be loved. Some of us want to be respected. Some of us want to be feared. But few of us have the natural attributes in their right proportions to acquire one or more of these. Most of us don’t even know what we want, where we belong, where we are going. Most of us just have weight and occupy space, drifting through life unconscious of the value of time, of the power at our disposal, merely existing without living.

Love, Respect, Fear. Three attributes that run the world. We all desire one or more of these three. Some desire to be the name on everyone lips, uttered with passion and affection. Some desire to be the ones that get the salute at every turn. To have the world look upon them with awe and admiration. Some desire to be the ones that get the mountains to move. On whose name every kneel bows and every tongue confesses.

Love, Respect, Fear. I have always wondered which of these three is the greatest of all? Which of these three is most vital for a human being to live his life comfortably and effortlessly on earth, without having on his death bed to look back with regret and pain at things done and undone.

LOVE
Love as was preached by Christ; is the greatest of all there is. Yet it didn’t stop him from being betrayed, abandoned, scourged, spitted upon, kicked, denied, dragged on the streets, crucified and killed. Most times people say, Love is all that matters, yet when you look at those same people, you see them living very miserable lives. I have come to understand that when people say they love you, they usually believe that they are automatically entitled to certain favours from you. I believe that Love is a useless weight if it’s without Respect and Fear. Respect; in the sense that there is something about one that you admire or are bound to. Fear, that you are afraid of losing the person, or his/her friendship or association.

RESPECT
Respect; some say is a compromise between love and fear. But this definition already makes Respect a Love-Fear thing. Is it ever possible for people to really respect you, without actually loving you? In my school days we respected the offices of the Principal and teachers. We still respect the offices of the President, Governor, Senators etc. These offices don’t demand that their occupants be loved or feared, they just come with the territory. But for the occupant to really make impact, he has to lean more on the Love or Fear side of the spectrum. Else the respect becomes nothing but a symbolic gesture.

FEAR
It is much better to be feared than to be loved wrote Niccolo Machiavelli. Most people understand well the concept of pain. They are more incline to obey with a gun on their heads, than with smiles and sweets. Human beings are mostly wired that way. But no one is ever really comfortable with something that scares them. They may follow you today, but they will surely despise you tomorrow. Nobody praises a tyrant when he is power, they may remember him ten years after he has been removed with nostalgia, but today they are opened to working against you.
Fear like Love is a powerful tool, that consumes both the giver and the receiver.

Having looked at these three, I feel that Respect is the best of all. Respect you can control. You need not worry if people love you enough, because you know that they fear and admire you. You need not worry if people fear you enough, as long as they love and feel you. Respect is a compromise between the two extremes that is Love and Fear. Respect is in the middle. All you need to do is to adjust the knife edge of your metre rule in the right direction at the right time, and you are good to go.

So how does one get Respect. Real Respect (not official respect) is earned not given. You need to go into your inner chamber and evaluate yourself; your strengths and weaknesses, your gains and losses over the years. Be honest to yourself in order to reinvent yourself. You need love, but you don’t need the world’s love, it is ever changing, ever swinging. You need a first and foremost to love yourself, then cultivate a little love here and there, from your teachers, your bosses, your chairmen. You need to be feared, but you don’t need the world’s fear, what you need is to stamp your authority, mark your turf, and do not compromise unless it’s a matter of life and death, or for the right price. Step on some small toes that refuse to step aside, and people will start taking you seriously.
Remember it is not really love that you want, it is not really fear, many people don’t need to love you, many people don’t need to fear you, just earn their Respect. Love and Fear, a mixture of both, applied in the right doses will gain you admiration, affection and awe.

Remember it is not going to be easy, it will definitely be hard, but with practise, performance and perfection, you will make impart on your society, school, church, association etc. Life is a one time thing. You need to enjoy it on your own terms. Learn today to live it, and not just to exist for other’s rules and regulations.

The statements, views and opinions in this article, are solely those of the author, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

Reading; makes a Man. Discussion; a better Man, and Writing; a complete Man.
— Francis Bacon

Most Nigerians don’t read; this is a statement that has been proven beyond reasonable doubts. But why are most Nigerians allergic to books? Now this is an observation which has so many divergent theories trying to explain it.

I was discussing with a “Friend” about this blog, and also about the culture of reading and writing in Nigeria. He told me that he has been seeing my post for awhile now, but he hasn’t opened it, and he is not planning on doing so. He went further to tell me that Nigerians don’t read. And this according to him is because Nigerians (and in extension Africans) are hungry, and that as long as Hunger persists in Nigeria, Literature (Reading and Writing) will remain an art for those who dream and are not willing yet to wake up to the reality of our situation.

He also prophesied to me that in 10 years time, that frustration would have stopped me from writing, and he even dared me to bet with him.

It is funny to me now how less we value our own, and how much we let our words run riots and spill lava upon the dreams and aspirations of our neighbours.

Nigeria has frustrated us all, and still does frustrate us today, but some of us remain optimistic about the hope of redemption for this Nation. We don’t cling on to this hope because we are dreamers, or idealists. No, we do cling on to this, because that is what good men do.

According to my friend, Nigeria will never get better, not in the next 200 years at least. He calls himself a realist, I call him a negatively skewed case. Being a realist does not mean that you can’t dream and seek for a betterment of a screwed situation. It does not mean that all you see is the unrepentance of the present situation. No, it does not intel seeking to uplift yourself alone to the detriment of the community, or folding your hands and condemning the Nation without as much as lifting a finger to help, or uttering a word of advice, encouragement or praise. No, Being a Realist is acknowledging that the Nation is fucked, but those who wish to make changes have to go about it in a certain manner, in a manner filled with thorns and thickets, the narrow road, where feet may fail…yet willing to make the move.

I believe that Nigeria will never get better until Nigerians start changing first and foremost their attitude, their Mental Attitude towards the Nation.

I don’t believe that Nigerians don’t read because of Hunger, I believe that Nigerians don’t read because of the Decay in our Educational System…where graduates like my friend, are proud to say that Books make them sleepy, that they only read to pass, or to get money, and nothing else. I write this because I know that folks who went to school in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, they read and they read a lot. But Children of Today don’t even know how much they have been robbed.

There is a need for Organisation…Nothing can be achieved without Organisation. Good men should come together today to form a group and try to reason a way out of this mess.

Nigeria does not need a million people to change it. Boko Haram I believe are less than 2,000 men. With a 100 men and women of similair aim, with Organised Structure, focus and determination…Nigerians will feel something new.

Can Nigeria change…YES,
Will Nigeria change…Only You and Me can answer that.

Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo writes from Lagos. You can reach him on twitter: @mr_charlze

Map of Africa showing Burkina Faso

Map of Africa showing Burkina Faso

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

“While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
—Thomas Sankara

The events that took place in the past few days in a small impoverished African country of Burkina Faso, which saw the 27 year old regime of President Blaise Compaore toppled, is unprecedented in Sub-Sahara Africa where illiteracy, poverty, tribal differences, neo-colonialism and a wicked twist of fate all work together to keep majority of the indigenous population enslaved, divided and indifferent to their condition.

Popular uprising where a large number of the citizens of a country take to the street to demand the resignation and removal of the Head of State like the one of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain etc has never happened before in this part of the world. Che Guevara and his Cuban revolutionaries tried it in Congo in the 1960s without success. Nelson Mandela and his ANC members tried it too in Apartheid South Africa, with mixed results. So seeing the footage of Black Africans protesting on the streets and achieving the aim of the protest, did come as a surprise to a lot of us, but to the observant eye, the toppling of Compaore’s regime was inevitable, and only a matter of time.

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

The history of Burkina Faso is similar to the histories of most African Nations. A promise of progress at Independence, a conception of a dream, the nurturing, then a little bump on the road, another bump, and yet another bump, and another, and another, and the promise becomes a lie, the progress becomes one perennial regression, the dream becomes vague, and the demons creep in, and nightmare becomes the reality.

A lot of people (Africans included) have argued that Africans cannot rule themselves, that our blackness runs deep into our hearts, that we are irresponsible, naïve and lack the creativity and discipline to develop ourselves and our countries. A quick survey of the conditions of most African countries will confirm the true in this. But a deeper study of the facts, the why, and the how, will show a network of finery spun webs, a canvass of conspiracies, a mirage of misconception, perfectly painted by a much higher force to keep a whole continent, blind and backwards.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do like to examine every aspect of a problem, so as not to leave any stone unturned.

A look at the formation of African Countries, will show that all African Countries (excluding Ethiopia) are an invention of the Berlin Conference of 1885. African communities were not consulted before their assemblage into a Nation. The customs, cultures and contributions of the indigenous population were not considered, or required to form a state even till this very day. These issues of National identity, tribal, cultural, religious and language differences were not discussed or resolved before Independence. Most Africans today don’t see themselves as Nigerians, Rwandans, Ivorians, Liberians, Somalians etc but as Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Hutus, Tutus etc. A typical African Nation is but an agglomeration of countless nations whose common identifying factors have been blurred by Corruption, wars, famine, religious intolerance, illiteracy and Neo-Colonial manipulations.

Furthermore, Africa has produced its share of great, charismatic, disciplined and innovative leaders. The problem is that the very good ones, the ones that would have made the change did not last long in office, removed by the same imperialistic factors that scrambled Africa in Berlin. Leaders like Patrice Lumumba of Congo who was arrested by African Peacekeeping Force in 1961, and later killed on the order of Mobutu Sese Seko, for the pleasure of USA and Belgium. Amilcar Cabral of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, killed in 1973 by some of his disgruntled guerilla fighters on the request of Portugal. Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, killed in 1987 on the order of Blaise Compaore for France imperialistic interest. And other African Heads of States who were removed in office by western sponsored coup de’tat.
The only ones who last so long are those who were or are in bed with the colonialists, leaders like Senghor Sedar Leopold, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Blaise Compaore, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Paul Biya etc.

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral

Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara

African governments are not African’s. What we have in Africa as presidents are foreigners in black skin, who look African in nothing else but skin colour. Every other thing about them is either Eurocentric or Americanized. These are leaders whose wives go to London, Paris, Brussel, Lisbon or USA to give birth, so that their children would become a citizen there. These are Leaders whose children don’t attend school in Africa. These are leaders with all their investments abroad. Leaders who will die tomorrow, not in an African Hospital but in Europe, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Usa. Africa doesn’t have a government yet, or a constitution that is truly African, which recognises the similiarities and differences of the various ethnic tribes, religious and cultural groups in the Nation. What we have are revised constitution of France or America. What we have are illegitimate Regimes who rigged themselves into power with the blessing of the international community (USA, France, Britian, Canada and EU). Once the international commuinty recognises you as the leader of an African Country, even the voice of God which is the voice of the people will not disapprove of it. Herein lies the bane of African Society.

Nevertheless, what happened in Burkina Faso has now shown that all is not lost. Africans are down, but they are far from out. Like I wrote above; to any observant eye, the dismantling of structures of imperialism and Neo-colonialism is inevitable and only a matter of time. The world is getting more globalised, it is getting smaller, and African people have suffered enough, they are getting wiser, bolder, and more persistent in their pursuit of justice and equality. A lot of good men have died, many more will die but the blood of good men is the seed of our liberation. You can kill one man, two, three, a thousand men but as Thomas Sankara said; revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill [their dreams and] ideas.

Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo writes from Onitsha. You can reach him on twitter: @mr_charlze

The statements, opinions and views expressed in this write up is solely those of the author and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Map of Nigeria, courtesy unknown

Map of Nigeria, courtesy unknown

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

Are you currently sitting in a hold up? Are you looking for a job, or being laid off? Are you presently being harmed or harassed by the security personnels stationed to protect you? Or are you tearing apart a stewed leg of an innocent chicken? There is this thing in the air, and it’s not Boko-haram (though T.B. Joshua may beg to differ), it’s not the unelectrified bulb, and it’s not witches or the woman-bird. . .it is the 2015 general election.

With Atiku and Buhari declaring their intentions to contest, and PDP agreeing on Goodluck Jonathan, and with Kwankwaso, Rochas, (and maybe Chris Okotie, Pat Utomi et al) soon to declare their intentions as well, I believe that the ground is being watered for the plundering.

But in all of these politicking and lobbying, there are three things I am sure of; come 2015, with all things being equal.

1) There will be no change in the socio-political structure or economic imbalance in the nation regardless of which party wins the 2015 Presidential election.
2) APC and PDP are the same. A vote for APC is similar to a vote for PDP and vice versa.
3) President Goodluck Jonathan does not deserve to be Nigeria’s president beyond 2015.

Some folks will call me a prophet of doom; one who is pessimistic about the fate of the Nation. Others will call me a skeptic, a blind un-believer who can not see the achievements and promises of positive change that the opposition has got. There are still many who will want to chastise me for not understanding that the current administration has tried so much in the face of all the opposition and sabotage the president has had to endure and still endure, and that the opposition is our major problem.

But I am not a prophet of doom or pessimistic. I am neither a skeptic nor an un-believer. In fact, I believe that the opposition has a major role to play in any democratic setting. I believe that the challenges before the present administration are enormous, and that the opposition has not been helpful at all in providing reasonable solution to any of them.

APC as an the opposition in Nigeria under the scrutiny of a microscope is mainly an aggromeration of disgruntled individuals, many of whom have failed in their respective mandates and manifestos. APC to me is a party without ideology (as is with PDP), with no manifesto, no code of conduct, no vision except to gain the presidency. And for APC to admit aggrieved PDP members, many of whom are beneficiaries of the same corrupt system that they claim to be fighting, has shown most of us sitting on the fence that the party is no messiah at all, and that we have to wait awhile for the messiah to come.
APC die-hard followers have always argued that there is strength in number. And that sometimes a good man has to seek alliance with evil men in order to win. This I totally disagree with. Darkness and Light have no connection at all at all. Show me your friends and I will show you who you are. And having seen APC members, I can comfortably say that APC is PDP in everything but presidency. A quick look at there Presidential candidates so far shows the same crop of ancient politicians who might have been there when Flora Shaw seduced Lord Lugard into naming this country; Nigeria. Kwankwaso is a bit young, but he is a PDP product who has no structure outside the core north. Atiku is seen by almost all as the controller general of corruption. Buhari; the anti-corruption general has history against him. His regime and Abacha’s are both competing for the all time most brutal and draconic regime. He is old, and seen by folks in many places in the south and middle belt as not being a Nigerian candidate, but a core Northern candidate.

Coming to PDP, the ruling party that has been there for 15 years now. Whose first president is now half PDP, half APC, and who gave us two violent selections in the name of 2003 and 2007 elections. PDP to me is the main problem of Nigeria. It is a cancer that was given birth to during the “10-percenter” days of the first republic, survived the civil war, and the lacklustre regime of the second republic, nurtured by the Babangida’s and Abacha’s administrations, legalised under Abdulsalami’s regime and Blosoomed in 1999 as a full blown epidemic. Yes PDP as well as Goodluck Jonathan’s administration does not deserve to exist beyond 2015.
A lot of folks say that President Jonathan is a good fellow and has good plans for the Nation. Some say that he is trying his best. But the truth remains that whether it is Boko-Haram, Kidnapping, Oil Bunkering, Corruption, Youth Unemployment, Low Power Supply, Insecurity, Lawlessness, Infrastructural Under-development. . .name it; President Jonathan is not a casualty of any of these, or is his immediate friends and family among the victims of any of the myriads of Nigerian problems. The same can be said for the opposition leaders. It is the common Nigerians that have to suffer these, so the idea that Mr President is the target of some local and foreign detractors are nothing but bullocks.
Has Mr President done enough to curb any of these problems? The answer (even in Thunder) is a resounding NO. Corruption and Impunity have grown exponentially under his administration. And coupled with his unwillingness to take a decisive step in tackling any of these problems, is not helping his case among those of us sitting on the fence.

So APC and PDP are out of the question in terms of producing a messiah. Then what is the way forward? Is there light at this really long dark tunnel? With the way things are shaping out, there doesn’t seem to be. It is unfortunate that Nigeria is a non-homogenous, and complex country that have a simple way of partitioning us all into opposing groups. . .we swear, we curse at each other, and at the end of the day we support the same group of men who kept us in this harsh condition. Many people who support President Goodluck Jonathan, do so simply for sentimental reasons…and they are mainly South-southerners and South easterners with a mixture of Middle Belterns and South westerners. You can hardly see a core Northerner supporting Goodluck Jonathan, they are Buhari’s core supporters. Yes Buhari’s base are mainly in the core North, a mixture of South-westerners, Middle Belterns. You can hardly see a South-southerners or South-easterners supporting Buhari. Same can be said of Atiku and Kwankwaso, who have there supporters restricted to their region. We are all Tribalist, and this makes 2015 very interesting but with little prospect for change.

The only way I see towards having a change in Nigeria is to for the good men (who are in large numbers) to go and form their own party. A party with clear ideology and strict code of conduct which will regulate its members. A kind of association built from the ground up. Which should involve every strata of the Nigerian socio-economic society. . .which should include traders, teachers, scholars, students, church leaders, muslim leaders, farmers, carpenters, technicians, bankers, lecturers, etc. Everyone is called to partake and contribute their quota. . . and not a party of the elite for the elite.

The problem with Nigeria (and indeed Africa countries) is the failure of Leadership. Achebe said this, and I’m reaffirming it. Our government is not ours. It is a foreign entity legitimatised by a sham election and a broken system that is recognised by the West. If we pulled down the government and the system that sustains it, and replace it with a government that truly draws its power from the masses, then the domino effect will be drastic and progressive.

How do we change our system? Simple, start changing from the bottom, because the up will only take divine intervention to change. Good men need to start organising themselves, and start taking back their community little by little. Find people of similar ideology, form an association, a cult. . .contribute money, share ideas, and then go out to the streets and make it better.
You are paying N50K a term on school fees, that’s N150K per year. Try and get one or more parents to your side, join your money together, send your child to a public school, and use the money to develop that school. Stop complaining, APC and PDP won’t improve education in Nigeria, their children are not here. Stop waiting on those men, they and their children are not Nigerians anymore. And until we realise that APC and PDP are not here for Nigerians, until we do, and start working towards regaining our nation, until then. . .the light at the end of the tunnel may remain ever elusive.

The statements, views, and opinions in this write up is solely those of the writer, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

He is a white man; with white beard on his white face. He is a poet, whose lines made us dream the celestial dream of the gods. He is British; of Scottish origin. He spoke of the Scottish nation and Scottish nationalism. He told us of the Scottish people, of Scottish politics and Scottish pride. His eyes lighted up with fire, glowed with love and passion when he spoke of his dear country. He made us fall in love with Scotland; a place far removed from ours. A land across many mountains and seas…a land across many tribes and tongues…a land across the Sahara, the Mediterranean and the European continent…a land that none of us had ever been to, yet was ever real, ever beautiful, ever intriguing because of the way he described it.
But when he spoke of Africa, of Nigeria and Lagos, his words shed their august leaves, and wore the garment of mourning. His imagery were dark and doom, filled with strife and struggle. There were no fireworks, no glow, not even a flicker, His eyes bore no light for a people whom his imagination could only paint as being plagued and poor. His lines held little respite for a land he saw in his mind’s eyes, but of which he hardly knew anything about.

On Sunday, the 28th of September, 2014, I attended a poetry reading event at the British Council Building Ikoyi, Lagos, that was organised by the “Committee for Relevant Art” (CORA) which had in attendance: Nigerian poet; Dami Ajayi, British poet; Tom Pow and many other writers and book lovers. The event had so many colourful moments, great performance and poetry. A mixture of politics here and there, a bit of humour, intelligence, jokes and seriousness all entwined to make the event a success.
Tom Pow read some poems from his poetry collections. Great poems I must say, but the poem that touched me most, was the one he wrote about the city; Lagos, titled: “This is Lagos.”
Mr Tom had never actually been to Lagos when he wrote the poem, and so should be forgiven if the poem told not the actual tale of Lagos. The poem was good, the theme and imagery on the other hand were bleak. It was a one-sided (a little bit negative-ish) account of the land that is Lagos. It held almost the same image of Africa that we have got use to seeing and hearing of on CNN, BBC, Ajazeerah et al. It told the same story of struggle, poverty, plague, disease, crisis, chaos, etc. Mr Tom did confess that his knowledge of Lagos was from what he had read. . .from what was readily available to be read. . .from what was mostly written about Lagos and indeed all of Sub-Sahara Africa in the west.

“The single story” a termed coined by the Nigerian Novelist; Chimamanda Ngozi Adiiche, remains one of the greatest injustice ever done to the people of Africa. The part of the world known as Sub-Sahara Africa is still viewed today in the West and in every other part of the World (including a times inside Sub-Sahara Africa itself) as being inhabited by species with low-intelligence, who are incapable of organising themselves, whose skins are dark and whose hearts are even darker. A land of corrupt and barbaric people, ridden by drought and diseases, by plagues and poverty, by chaos and crisis, and every other thing negative.
I must confess that some of the negative stories about Africa are not far from the truth, but the fact remains that Africa have much more than negative occurrences. Africa is not just bad news, Africa has both negatives and positives. For example a survey of Lagos from its eastern entrance, journeying through Ojota, Ikorodu road, Surulele, CMS. . .passing through Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Lekki to the far boundaries of Ajah-Ibeju-Lekki, one would express a great degree of awe, astonishment and surprise at the amount of diversity; ugliness and beauty, poverty and wealth, conflict and comfort, hunger and excesses that is Lagos. There is no one story to describe a people. There is no one way of telling about a people’s experiences. . .In fact, I don’t think that the Chinua Achebes, the Charles Dickens, the Mark Twains et al of this world can actually be able to fully tell the experiences of being a Human, an African, a Nigerian or a Lagosian. . .the only way to fully appreciate it, is to experience it for yourself.

I do not really blame Mr Tom, I hold nothing against him. From our little interaction, he seemed to me like a very good person, down to earth, and genuinely honest in his poems. I believe he was unconsciously caught up in the dominant stereotype of Africa as a land of strife and struggle.

Stories of Africa have mostly been told and written by folks who know little to nothing about Africa. And unfortunately, those stories have so become common that they now seem to have a mind of their own, and like butterflies have now pollinated and polluted the flowers of so many minds, that they now appear to be the only fact anyone knows about Africa.
Africa writers and scholars also have a share of the blame. A quick survey of African writers’ blogs about Africa will show mostly the negatives. A look at our media houses here in Nigeria, like Sahara Reporters, Nigeria News Desk, Premium Times et al will mostly show the conflicts, the great divide and the tribal differences among us as a nation. Is it on facebook, twitter, yahoo and co, we are mostly always bashing each other and our dear nation.
In 2010, when I went for the Total Summer School in Chantilly, France, I was asked by some foreign students (those who were also part of the programme) to tell them about Nigeria. I must say in my own defense that I was young, naïve and overwhelmed by the french experience so to speak, that all I could say was; ‘It is in the news, you should check the news.’ I have not forgiven myself for that, and I pray everyday for another chance to make amends.
I know of a Nigerian poet, whose poetry of Nigeria and Africa is usually depressing. He has a fairly good life, and his experiences in the Nigeria nation have not really been that bleak, but yet his writings say otherwise, because he has been indoctrinated into thinking of Africa like that. A lot of us are guilty of this, we lend our voices in condemning Africa, in maintaining the status quo. . .we don’t usually do this consciously, we are just caught up in the moment, and we lose the opportunity to tell the world our own side of the story.

In conclusion, I must say that it is about time Africans started telling their own stories the way that they actually are. I am yet to see or read a European tell an American story, or an American tell a European story. I believe that the stereotyping of Africa as a land of plagues and poverty will persist until African writers start seeing beyond the negatives, until they start showing the world the other side of Africa, and start writing more about the total experiences of the African people. I believe that until the day that true African voices are heard (like in the days of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Senghor Leopold, David Diop, Lenrie Peters et al), until the positive side of living in the African Sub-Sahara continent are told with the same vigour that our negatives are being exploited, until we as a people start loving our countries, our continent, our black skins, our kinky black hair, and start constructively criticising the negative aspects of our societies, our governments and our race, until the scales of inferiority are removed from the African eyes, until our governments, our writers, our philosophers stop trying to win the approval of the west, stop writing for the western markets, and start focusing on Africa itself, until that day, the stories of Africa will continue to remain one sided; the negative stereotyping of a people whose past, present and future serve only to remind humanity of it’s imperfect nature.

Okoye Chukwudi Charles writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him on twitter: @mr_charlze

The statements, views and opinions written in this post is solely those of the writer and does not necessary represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity