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kimoonDear Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,

We are already counting down to yet another World Peace Day, on September 21st when we shall once again commemorate a day instituted by the organization you lead, to strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples of the world. This year will mark the 30th anniversary and I understand that you have aptly chosen “Right of People to Peace” as the theme.

Ordinarily, this should be a happy day to look forward to because over and above every other engagement the UN has today,  the advancement of the ideals of peace is the thinking that inspired its founding. However, there is hardly any excitement leading to the day nor will the day make any significant impact on the world for in many ways, the very idea the day seeks to celebrate has long been lost on the world.

What if the United Nations has failed?

The League of Nations before it failed, ending in a bitter world war which the world is yet to fully recover from. The thinking behind setting up the UN was to prevent any such conflict again. There seemed to have been a unanimous scream of “never again” by those first 51 member nations and the hundreds of others that have since joined in. How successful it has been remains a subject of intense academic debates but in the real world, the UN has besides becoming bureaucratic also become increasingly irrelevant in the face of crises.

A few examples will suffice. When close to a million died in the Rwanda genocide, the UN did nothing despite clear PeaceDay-Logoknowledge of the impending massacre. In Sudan’s Dafur, it took several years and over 300,000 deaths later for the UN to quell the devastation there. There has been the Cold war, the Gulf wars, the Srebrenica massacre, the rise of terrorism and the madness that has followed the Arab spring to highlight just a few.

The fact that nuclear weapons and small arms continue to be proliferated and circulated is perhaps the most obvious evidence of the failure of the UN. But even more worrying today are such issues as Human Trafficking, Child labour, and Environmental degradation all of which are important ingredients for peace.

What if the Third World war is already being fought?

Yes, it is. Not with the frenzy of the two earlier episodes but piece-meal, with battle fronts scattered all over all parts of the earth and with many of the fighters not even wearing uniforms. There is an ISIS sweeping people and cultures off the surface of the earth much like the Nazi attempted. There is a Russia obsessed with arousing the ghost of the Soviet Union at all cost in a conflict that has seen passenger planes become collateral damage. There is a North Korea that has perfected the art of pushing the world’s buttons whenever it feels like with its nuclear threats. There is an Israel and Palestine for whom weeks of attacks and counter attacks have become an annual feature on the calendar. The drug wars in South America are as alive as ever. There is Al Qaeda and its many franchises. There is Al-shabab and Boko Haram. There is Ebola.

In my country, over two hundred girls have been missing for many months, taken away by people whose ideologies are in direct conflict with those of the UN. In many parts of the world today, young girls, some not long out of wetting their beds are traded, transported over long distances, exploited and abused. Young boys are being recruited, taught to hate and forced to fight wars they know nothing about. Poverty continues to expand with the stronger nations exploiting the weaker to maintain a structure that keeps them on top.

un logoWhat if the world cannot survive all of this for much longer?

That precisely is the reason I write. We cannot last for much longer living in denial, spending billions of dollars annually in payments to your workers who are detached from the issues, funding NGO’s who are really businesses feeding off humanity’s failures, supporting projects that add absolutely no value and claim we are promoting peace. This conspiracy of silence around the proliferation of firearms which fuel conflicts, the instigation of wars purely for economic reasons and the endless arguments that are your Security Council meetings continues to push the world closer to the precipice. Perhaps, we can make this year’s celebration count for something. Getting the world to rethink our definition of peace may be a good place to start.

Dear Senator, what if your daughter is raped?

Well, I know you’ve got them all secured. Your house is a fortress. When they go out they are chauffeur driven with an armed police escort in tow. You’ve made sure they are in the best schools with extra layers of security and of course, the older ones are in universities in safe climes where getting raped is not a likely possibility.

Sincerely, I hope by God they remain safe, but imagine for a second that something goes wrong and one of them falls victim perhaps in the hands of a trusted one, a favourite uncle or even their husband. How would you feel?

Bad, I imagine?

What if you feel even worse? What if you discover after the fact, that there are no laws to effectively prosecute the perpetrator, that there is no support system for her except that which you and your equally heartbroken wife can provide, because existing laws against domestic violence in Nigeria are restrictive and obsolete?

How would you feel knowing that you had the chance as a member of the Nigerian Senate to put such a law in place and you looked the other way?

Yes, I am talking about the VAPP Bill. I am not sure it rings any bells, does it? Things like estacode and constituency project and 2015 take up the top spaces in your memory these days so I forgive your amnesia. There is only so much a person can remember especially when the elections are looming so large on the calendar.wbf-1

So, I will remind you free of charge. VAPP is an acronym for Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill. It is a bill that has made repeated unsuccessful journeys through the National Assembly, a proposed law which you and your colleagues have continued to ignore like it doesn’t matter, a law you would wish existed while cursing and swearing, should your daughter come to such misfortune.

You see, domestic violence is no respecter of social strata or geographical location. Rape is so prevalent here that according to one report about 3,800 cases were reported in the print media alone in the last 3 years. Its close relative, spousal battery is a fact of life for so many especially women which is not entirely a surprise given that in this age, we have laws that allow a man chastise his wife in order to correct her. You doubt me? Go read the provisions of the Penal Code again.

A little while ago, you and your colleagues’ tactically sanctioned child marriage after one of your colleagues, a distinguished Senator of the federal republic, played the religion card in justifying an action that should be repugnant to all discernable minds and you all screamed Aye in support.

What if Child marriage is no less a crime than rape and sexual abuse? What if by referring to it as ‘marriage’ we are giving it legality and promoting it as something that is morally acceptable?

 

But I digress. We were talking about the VAPP Bill which is gathering dust somewhere in the cabinet of the National Assembly and which might end up in the cemetery of legislative misadventures.

Your colleagues in the lower chamber have done the needful since March 15, 2013. The ball is now in your red chamber. A first reading is all that you’ve achieved on the bill and even that happened some six months ago. Since then, each time it manages to make the Order paper, your distinguished selves manage to fill up your sitting time with enough argument that you never get to it.

Distinguished Senator, I understand that at this moment anything that does not bring in the votes and guarantee your safe return to the chambers or promote your gubernatorial ambition is not a priority. Believe me, I do. But I also know that there are certain things that matter more than just another four years, things that will get your name cast in stone. Being remembered kindly by posterity surely matters to you, I imagine.

It is not too late to get this right. You can in the months left before the election, do something that will impact on the lives of so many Nigerians especially the poor and the most vulnerable amongst us including generations yet unborn? You can pass the VAPP Bill. If nothing else, imagine your daughter being raped and do it for her.

First published here

Chairman!

We know you are a government contractor but Chairman sounds better than Contractor. Oho, you agree.

You are happiest on the day the President gives assent to the annual budget. Such a day signifies the start of the hunting season. The Business Class seats on flights to Abuja hosts you more frequently than your toilet seat. The briefcase you pull along is bulging with business cards and letter headed papers for your many companies that exist only on paper.  Your pot belly precedes you, announcing your credentials as a big man.

This is your career, legitimate, yes, but only on the face of it.

What if you did not announce yourself wherever you went though? What if you were not so noisy on the phone in public places, in the departure lounge, in the hotel lobby, in the men’s room? Hysterical laughter, exaggerated courtesies and all.; you are always on to one Excellency, one Honourable, one Ranka Dede who can or who has access to somebody who can give you a handsome cut of the annual budget. corruption

You do not joke with your business. That is perhaps the only admirable thing about you. You can dance to Kwam 1 at the weekend owambe or allow yourself to be dragged to a night club by your undergraduate sugar girl, but when it comes to chasing those papers in Government offices, you are more serious than a brain surgeon. Even aggressive.  When a bid is opened, you are like a bulldozer on site, uprooting and over-turning everything.

What if you pursued the execution of the contract with the same enthusiasm, the same frenzy with which you pursued the award?

But your passion is fleeting. It lasts only until the commissioner or the minister or the DG has appended his signature on the award of contract letter. Depending on the number of zeros the value of the contract bears, you might dash it out to one of your protégés as something for di boys or your concubine as a birthday present or you sell it (sub-contract is the nice term for it) to the company with the real expertise to execute it after slicing off a handsome profit of course or worse still, you collect the mobilization fee, grease a few palms and vanish.

What if you did not add an extra zero to the contract value? What if you did not pad it so much that the cost is now almost twice what it ought to be?

The extra zero is the real value in the contract to you, not the accidents that will be reduced after the road is fixed, not the number of pupils whose lives will get a boost with new chairs in their classrooms, not the lives that would be saved from cholera when the village borehole finally begins to flow.

The extra zero is the gasoline which keeps our culture of patronage running. It is the steroid that keeps corrupt civil servants uncivil and anything but servants. They are almost choking from your bribes, from the gatemen who wish you happy weekend when you arrive the ministry to the oga-at-the-top whose cut you must guarantee before your file makes the triumphant journey out of his office to the Accounts unit and every one in between. This seemingly harmless extra zero is the reason why a dizzying number of people who share an equal citizenship of this country with you are unsure of their next meal. It is this extra zero that oils the wheels of disease and ignorance and ensures neonatal and maternal mortality remains abysmally high.

This extra zero which you and your cohorts add to the contract figure almost as if it was an innocent mistake is reason why you can afford to send your children to universities abroad and they get to acquire the effrontery to speak ill of their country, and make a career out of bad-mouthing her government on social media. How convenient. They get to pick their teeth with our collective patrimony and then turn around to fart in our faces with their self righteous indignation.

Your passport bulges with Visas to a dozen countries. The moment this house crashes, you are off to some safe clime. But not so for millions of us. So on their behalf and in the name of God if you believe in one, I ask you to leave already for we cannot survive your parasitism for much longer.

What if you had died?

The doctors say you took a cocktail of pills. The discovery was, thankfully, early. The prompt surgery took life out of the coloured pills that were hungrily gnawing at your being. Alas, they, not your heart, ground to a halt.

What if the discovery was not made?

What if it hadn’t been a whole week before I read the story in the Metro pages of the newspaper?

It has been over a year since we last had a proper conversation, one on one, like we used to, before life happened and put a blade to the thing that held us together, making our friendship fadeout into awkward hellos and how are you doings, delivered through chats that always returned a positive response; fine.

What if I always knew everything was not fine with you though? domestic_violence_543

Thankfully, this is not a funeral oration. But it is. Not for this bucket you missed kicking by inches but for the death you died some years ago when you took the decision to marry that man.

We were young and eager for marriage. It was the next cap, an icing on our freshly acquired degrees. He came along, like a smile from heaven; oozing affluence and trouble. You refused to see beyond the affluence. The Prada bags made up for his drinking. The designer outfits covered up his open womanizing. The love, you convinced yourself, would grow. When he said jump, you screamed how high?

What if I admit I was slightly envious, standing there as your maid of honour, watching as you exchanged diamond rings and swore to be with him in sickness and in health. Alas, you alone took that oath seriously. For him, the words paled into nothingness no sooner than they left his lips.

He hit you and you stayed. You made excuses for him. You even claimed to have been at fault. The most ridiculous excuse I heard was that the sex was good, a worthy compensation of sorts for every time he turned you into a punching bag. You stayed.

What if death is a decision? Not a state. Not an end.

You decided to marry him even though you hardly knew him. You decided to stick with him even when he was a monster. You decided to close your eyes to the other women even when you saw glaring evidence. You decided to quit your job because he said his wife should not work. You decided to lock the world out, telling us to mind our business.

You died long before you chose to commit suicide!

What if you remembered your strength, your independent mindedness, how you infected me with your love for life and success. Back when we were teenagers in secondary school, you told me of your desire to be a successful career woman, a professional, someone high up in the corporate world, combining beauty and brains and making men catch cold when you sneezed?

How did one decision ruin it all?

What if you had said yes to someone who loved you back instead? Someone whose brain is not stuck between his legs? Someone who knew your worth and valued it. Like that guy you dumped for this man, who you said was a broke ass fellow. He certainly would not have told you few months into your marriage, that he married you so you could stay at home and be a wife. A cook and a hen hatching children.

What if…?

The man you married would have been only too glad if you had died. In a matter of weeks he would have announced your replacement, one of his many mistresses, with a face buried in layers of Mary Kay.

Would I have been able to forgive myself for not being there, for not going beyond those awkward phone chats, for not stepping in to support and not to judge?

The last time we saw was last December at the end of year party of our Old Girls Association. You looked spent, twice your age, like a sucked orange. Two rows of seats separated us and when our eyes met, we exchanged an inaudible Hi, your face, a signpost of regret and pain. I was going to pull you aside after the guest lecturer’s speech to ask what was wrong. But you did not stay long. By the time I looked in your direction again, you were gone.

Picture credit http://www.dawn.com/ 

Dear Stranded Emigrant,

It’s been ten years now.

I remember the day you announced with glee that you had finally gotten the Visa. “I am checking out for good”  were your words dripping with excitement.

I was happy for you, a cheerful climax to over a year’s hunt. In the period following our graduation, you had made looking for a Visa, any Visa, a full time job. You were obsessed by it, consumed by the promise of a better life on the other side, convinced that it was the only thing to do. So, from embassy to embassy you went, casting your net like a fisherman in shallow waters. For many moons you caught nothing, only tales of how on the balance of probabilities, some bored blue eyed consul did not find you worthy to visit their country.

Then, there was this miraculous catch and we celebrated.

What if that Visa was not for only six months?

‘I have it all worked out’ you had boasted. Your agent who you had paid huge sums had laid out a sure plan that sounded a little too grandiose. ‘That is how everybody does it’you reassured when I expressed some doubt. I did not push it. It was futile. No being born of a woman could have talked you out of it. You boarded the plane.

It’s been ten years now.

What if your going abroad dream has since become a nightmare? illegal

What if the sure plan was not so sure after all?

You became a cash cow for your agent. He fleeced you. For fake papers.For an arranged marriage.For cover from the cops. When you could not produce any more juice, he spat you out like chaff and left you to freeze in the cold. You became a shadow. Living in the backwaters. Fighting for survival.

You have done the rounds; from working as a nanny, keeping watch at night in the cold, to washing dishes in a fast food restaurant and driving a taxi. What you make is hardly enough to keep a cloth on your back. You have no savings. Your rent is late by many months. Your life has waned by many more.

But you refuse to beat a retreat still.

You keep putting up appearances, making like all is well. You post pictures of yourself in oversized jackets and basketball boots on social media. When we speak on phone, you speak like you were born there. Better comes out as berra. When I ask when you plan to visit home, you make excuses about being busy at work. When I visited on vacation and asked for your address so we could hook up, your phone became unavailable until my vacation period was over.

What if you’ve just been deceiving yourself?

What if it’s an open secret that all has not been well with you over there?

It’s been ten years now.

All of us your friends back home are not doing badly. We might not be millionaires but we can all afford annual vacations to the country where you are holed up and the government welcome us warmly because of the figures they see in our bank statements. There have been marriages and children. Higher degrees and Promotions; Appointments and awards; Savings and Investments.

What if the grass is greener on this side?

What if home is really sweeter than the deception you are currently living abroad?

In the news, we hear of austerity measures. Of your host country defaulting in loans.Of jobs being cut.Of taxes being raised. Of Immigration laws being tightened. Here, there are talks of a middle class re-emerging. People are starting new business, building Africa’s Silicon Valley. The cloud over our land is heavy with venture capitalist fund. There is plenty money chasing after talents and creativity. Even those who unlike you did not get in through the back door, who have enjoyed appreciable career success in that land are moving back home, taking over the juicy jobs.

What if you took the next flight home?

Admitting that your sojourn over there has been a mistake is not shame but bravery. Burying your head deep in the sand in that cold, cold land however is not just foolhardy but also pure cowardice. It’s not late yet, rush back home, son.

First published HERE

female-radio-presenterDear Radio Presenter, sorry OAP; these days it’s hard to see you as a journalist. ‘Celebrity’ is perhaps, more apt a description.

You give actors a run for their money on the red carpet. You compete with musicians for space in society magazines. You rack up more scandals than the two in gossip blogs.

But that is not what this is about.

I am often worried about your health because you seem to have a permanent cold. What with the way you speak from your nose, trying by fire by force to give off an accent that is neither American nor British nor anything that is identifiable to the literate mind even though we both know the longest you have been abroad is a week holiday in the UK.

What if your accent is confused?

What if nobody is impressed?

What if these hybrid nasal sounds you make in lieu of speaking jar the ears and do not add an ounce to your credibility?

But again, that is not what this is about.

When we were younger, our parents encouraged us to listen to the radio. Next to books, it was the warehouse of new words, of correct pronunciations, of enviable diction. Not so today. You and your colleagues have fouled it all up with your street lingos and social media age desecrations of language. Parents now switch off the car radio when the children are in the car for fear of your strong language, your lewd discussions, your daily contribution to the chiselling away of whatever is left of our moral values.

But that is not still what this is about.

There is a worrying emptiness about our society that is so loud. Even the deaf can hear it. We complain on end about how our people are always seeking for short cuts , how there is now  a dearth of creativity and originality, how our lives now seem to be heavy on fluff and very little on substance. You speak of it often on air. But you are as guilty. Your programme is ten per cent sensible talk, fifty per cent music, then you open up the phone lines to allow in a myriad of opinions ranging from the hilarious to the downright ridiculous, to make up the remaining percentage.

What if you were not so lazy? What if your programmes were not so empty, so weak on researched and professionally packaged material that you have now rechristened them shows, not programmes?

But you make like you are a jack of all trade. Your opinions are as tall as the Burj Khalifa. You have something to say about everything, from politics to economics, to relationships. You know it all, an expert in every fields. The solution to all of humanities problems has been vested in you and it’s your prerogative to dispense it. You mount the podium in your studio, a faceless god, and sermonize. Your tongue is sharp to criticize. Your ego is so fragile to admit mistakes.

What if you sound like a broken record?

What if you sound so ridiculous when you pontificate on subjects you know nothing about that one feels pity for you?

The other day you assumed the persona of a health professional and decided in-between bouts of back to back music, to teach your listeners a thing or two about their health. Google and Wikipedia have graciously democratized knowledge and everybody can now offer an opinion on all things. You chose Anthrax as a topic. It is one that provides enough facts to sufficiently alarm your listeners and produce the desired effect especially in this time of Ebola. But then you spoilt it all. You called Anthrax a virus. At first I thought it was a mistake which you would promptly correct. But you repeated it over and over, spewing so much ignorance with so much confidence one would think you had an inkling of what you were on about.

This finally, is what this piece is about.

Disinformation, my dear friend, is a lot more dangerous than misinformation or no information.

When what you say has become an extension of beer parlour gossip, or a variant of the kind of exchange that occurs in the comments section of blogs – a giant heap of garbage – you shape your listeners reality tunnel in ways not conducive for proper reasoning and in the process you contribute in making the society a lot more unsafe.

First Published HERE

Photo Credit: http://www.dannygibson.net/ 

You have made begging an art, a trade, an excuse.

You walk up to me at the bus park all dressed up. I listen to you because you look serious. Even sound important. Your English is clean. Your cologne, inviting. Few seconds in and it is clear you are a story teller. Your themes are like the stars above at night. A wallet got lost in the bus. You took the wrong bus and ended up in this strange place. You have not had anything to eat all day and will appreciate a little token.

What if you are stranded at the same place and at the same time, every day?

Your stories like the weather keep changing. The next day, you will narrowly miss the person you came all the way to see on the Island and you will need just some little change to get back home. The day after, your car will develop a slight fault down the road and you had left your ATM card at home….

What if the stories are not so convincing, so capable of milking out mercy from even the meanest of minds?  What if they were not fiction, pure fiction, steeped in undiluted hilarity?

What if you found yourself a real job, like erm erm selling these stories to Nollywood ?

What if you wrote them into short stories and published them as vignettes and hawked them in the Lagos traffic? What if you tried out stand-up comedy instead or became a sales man convincing people to buy insurance policies they cannot understand?

How much longer would you stay exploiting the goodwill of good Samaritans? Corporate-Beggar-in-lagos-Picture

What if not every Samaritan is good?

What if I told you I am looking at how to grab the much you have sef? That beneath the façade of this dry-cleaned shirt I have on is a mountain of needs. Bills unpaid. Rent that is late. Loans overdue. Dreams now so deferred they look like nightmares.

What if…?

I met your kind, your clones at the airport the other day.

One of them whispered as he frisked me on the tarmac. An onlooker would have thought that he was wishing me a safe flight. Oga you know sey na weekend, anything for di boys? That was what he whispered in my ear. The meaning was not lost on me. The nauseating feeling made me sigh as my mind did a double back flip to the other fellow in uniform who just seconds ago at the security check-in, asked me the very same question.

He had said with a note of finality that I am not allowed to fly with frozen tomato stew on a local flight, (even when it is all wrapped up and I was checking-in the bag.) But he was going to allow my luggage pass anyway. He smiled a knowing smile, like he had just absolved me of all my sins. Still reeling from shock, I smiled back in gratitude. His next statement sent me back into shock. It was more of a demand than a question, Oga anything for di boys?

What if there is nothing for di boys?

What if they just did their job the way they ought to and not expect anything in return?

Another one is flipping through my passport but his eyes are not reading the pages. It is his lips that work instead, complimenting my shirt, asking what I came back with, reminding me what day of the week it was. He was begging, cajoling me to part with some dollars, subtly threatening me with unjustified delays if I did not play ball.

What if my papers were forged? What if I was entering the country illegally? What if my cargo was arms or hard drugs, or fake medicines?

What if…?

I am looking at you as you tell your dog-eared story about being stranded, your hand running through your well kept hair and scratching at nothing. Your help me in the name of God makes me wonder if God has a sense of humor, if He was  amused as I was by your trickery, by your subsidized cleverness in His name. I make like I did not hear you nor see the look of entitlement on your face as I walk along. Yes I know it is weekend but No, I made no plans whatsoever for di boys.

This piece was first published HERE

Picture Credit, VibeNaija blog

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