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IMG_1293There are simply no words to capture what you meant to me or convey the full weight of my grief over your passing. When I met you over six years ago I knew at once, that I had struck gold and I know many men have a wonderful wife but no one has ever had a better one than I. For Miebi you were simply amazing – beautiful, witty, highly intelligent, quirky, stubborn and always immense fun to be with. I am grateful for every minute we had together.

We shared a friendship, a bond that no one else can understand and together we tore down barriers of creed, tribe and culture that threatened to keep us apart and at once turned all of it into love and laughter and oneness. You always said family mattered most and you embraced mine so intimately that you easily passed for a daughter to my parents and a big sister to my siblings. You were humble, faithful, efficient, and true and in your unassuming way, made everything around you beautiful.

As cliché as it may sound, Mimi, you were my everything.  My happiest years were those spent with you. You gave me the experience of being clearly understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved. You inspired me in ways I cannot explain. You were my number one fan, blowing my trumpet the loudest. When I was worried, you said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, you figured it out. When things were difficult you were a pillar. And even there on your sick bed when I neared my wits end, you would hold my hand and reassure me that everything would be okay.

I remember fondly those long hours spent on skype calls while you completed you studies in Brazil, those blackberry voice notes every morning, the joy of welcoming you at the airport when you came home and the tears when you had to leave. I shall never forget the dance, the laughter, the promises and the plans. I miss your presence, your companionship, the notification on my phone of a new ping from you, the joy of watching Manchester United play, together…your love.

You see, love is at once this cruel and uplifting. We are dead without it, and yet made so much more vulnerable to pain for experiencing it.  However if the day I walked down that aisle with you someone had told me that this would happen, I would still have walked down that aisle. For the beautiful flowers you have planted in my memory will be treasured for the rest of my lifetime.

Alas, my love could not save you. We fought long and hard though. You did not want to die. I did not want to let go either. We were confident this would end in praise. In my spare hours, I planned the thanksgiving Mass that would follow your recovery in my head. It was also going to be our baby’s dedication. But the creator thought your work here was done and decided to call you to Himself, to swell the number of the Saints triumphant. Camera 360

I am consoled however by the fact that we’ve buried only your body. Your spirit, your beautiful soul, your uncommon ability to calm the storm is still with us. You live on in the stories those who knew you are sharing of how you touched their lives, in the memories of our families who you touched most closely, in the love that is so visible in the eyes of our daughters. Things will never be the same for us yes, but we all have been made better because you were in our lives.

The words of Alan D. Wolfelt  in The Wilderness of Grief, aptly captures my feelings on this day. “My grief journey has no destination. I will not ‘get over it.’ The understanding that I don’t have to be done is liberating. I will mourn this death for the rest of my life.”  But I will not stay drained by grief. I assure you that I will be strong for the girls, and that together, we shall make you proud.

With all my heart,

Your Husband

Nze

First published here on Thursday May 5, 2016

pmbIf the town crier, as we know him in the traditional African village setting, speaks the mind of the king, then the words that have been coming forth from the mouth of various aides to President Muhammadu Buhari in recent time, presents a genuine reason for worry.

At a time when Nigerians are experiencing the worst forms of power and energy shortages as have been seen in recent history, which coincidentally is about the anniversary of the election of the current administration, one would have expected that anyone speaking for the government would be sensitive to the plight of the people and exhibit moderation in their comments but that has unfortunately not been the case.

First off was Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Spokesperson, who has a history of throwing unguarded statements to dismiss critics of his boss and the administration. Mr Adesina is credited with the ‘wailing wailers’ comment, a product of a tweet he made early in the administration in response to Nigerians who had expressed concerns about the slow take off of the promised change. Mr Adesina took his apparent impatience with Nigerians, or disdain for criticism as it where, a notch higher a few days ago during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics. It was bad enough that the presidential spokesman was grinning and laughing while discussing an issue that mattered so much to Nigerians as though it was some trivial issue, saying fuel shortage was a ‘normal thing’ and insinuating that Nigerians were just being unreasonable by complaining.

It became very bad however when he, in response to questions concerning the power situation in the country, a major campaign point of his boss, told Nigerians crying about darkness to go and hold those vandalising gas installations responsible. In essence, the President’s media aide was abdicating duty and making citizens responsible for the power situation. It is hard to imagine anything more embarrassing coming from the lips of a media aide to the President.

FUEL-0

fuel scarcity biting hard

Mr Adesina was not quite the first to fire a miss-aimed salvo on the fuel situation. That honour will go to Ibe Kachichukwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum, who also doubles as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC. While addressing journalists on the current confusion in the country as regards the return of fuel queues, he said, “I am not trained as a magician” before going ahead to indicate that the fuel situation was not going to end anytime soon, effectively truncating the hop he had built in the minds of Nigerians a week before when he said it will end in a few days. This was a very insensitive statement to make and caused the resultant panic buying that aggravated the crisis.

At a time we had the Minister of aviation in Belgium resigning following the terrorist attacks in that country, we have a minister in Nigeria effectively telling us he had failed at his job and instead of throwing in the towel, he is rolling his eyes at us.

Next to ‘misyarn’ was the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora matters, the otherwise respected Mrs Abike Dabiri.

A Twitter user, Onuoha David, had in a tweet to Mrs. Dabiri complained about unstable power, high insecurity, low wages, poor infrastructures, etc, at home, wondering why he should decide to return home. In response the former member of the House of Representatives, tweeted back “But who is asking you to come?” Though the lady has taken steps to apologise, claiming she was misunderstood, or that what we read was not what she meant, the response was so harsh and quite unbecoming of a presidential aide who should if anything be giving citizens reasons to come home not sounding dismissive of the desire to return to ones motherland.

The last example of the King’s town criers who has been saying things the president should find worrying is one Nasir S. Adhama who by his profile is Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Student Affairs. Reacting to the fire outbreak in Sabon Gari market, Kano, the SA put up a post that was as both grammatically embarrassing and indicting on the competence of the people the president has around him.

Here is what Mr Adhama posted verbatim “I pray to entire people of Kano over the tragicmis fire outbreak at Sabon Gari Market May their lost be replenished.” Your guess is as good as mine on the quality of advice the President is receiving from this Special Assistant who clearly has a serious issue stringing a correct sentence together. Ironically he handles ‘students’ affairs.’

That these aides to the president can say these things in the first place without any qualms whatsoever speaks volumes of the arrogance on which this government is built. It is an arrogance that came from the victory at the polls and the presumed infallibility of the President. It is an arrogance that has gained substance following the very little opposition the government has received and the fact that very few are questioning the president.

We are all still in that state where we are looking at the President as one who can do no wrong, who cannot be challenged, who is always right. But the condition on the streets today do not support this notion, neither does the comatose economy. I am not sure how much longer we can endure this inactivity and insensitivity? The question is for Nigerians to answer.
@nzesylva

nepotismLast week, through the investigative effort of two media organisations, the recruitment of the children, wards, wives and mistresses of top government appointees and politicians by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) became public knowledge. These recruitment were done secretly, without advertisement and clearly in advancement of the patronage culture on which we have unfortunately built our country. The details of the identities of those so recruited presented the picture of the President giving out Board sits and ambassadorial positions, to his loyal party men and women.

The revelation was the confirmation of what has long been known, that those ‘juicy’ government agencies and parastatals who never advertise vacancies, who are never known to conduct tests and who on inquiry will retort firmly that there is no vacancy, yet their payroll continues to burgeon monthly, are actually actively recruiting daily based on the strength of surnames, short notes behind business cards and other forms of nepotism. And when they care to advertise, it is to fulfill all righteousness as the list of those to be taken, comprising of candidates of federal legislators, senior military officials, ministers, top party men and Aso Rock, is already compiled, despite the fact that poor graduates are running from corner to post to complete the applications.

The CBN in an effort to save face, christened their shameful discriminatory hire 3recruitment strategy, which goes against all known ideals of fairness and even the much battered federal character law, “strategic recruitment”; suggesting that it required resources with specialist skills that, for some reason, is found only in children, wards and relatives of the top elite in our country. How convenient.  One wonders what criteria was used in conducting the search for these so call specialist skills. Did they send requests to universities home and abroad? Or did they simply send a classified memo to the APC national secretariat announcing that the annual job bazaar for those in power was now open?

One would ask, after the revelation, what has happened? What will happen? Where is the outrage? In serious climes, somebody would have resigned his/her job, there would be an investigation, people would be answering questions, the parliament would be interested, labour unions would be up in arms, the citizens would be screaming foul play, but not here. The press statement from the CBN to justify the unjustifiable was all we’ve got and it is likely to remain so. The reason is simple. This is about them not us. It benefits them, not us and when it comes to a battle between them and us, we lose all the time.

It should become very clear to us, and by us I mean the majority of hardworking Nigerians not included in the top one percent that run the show, that these people do not really care about us. After maintaining presence in and out of power for the last thirty years and more, these persons are resolved to ease their own into the spaces they vacate. It is not enough that because of their unfettered access to our common wealth their children have enjoyed the best of upbringings including access to the best education abroad, they are also making sure they fix them into the best positions such that twenty years from now, we will be led by the very same names that we have known since birth.

How we react to this matters a lot. It doesn’t help that we daily claw at each other on social media, defending them based on our parochial political or ethno-religious leanings. It doesn’t help that we are prepared to take up arms and kill each other to enable them advance their selfish political interests, just as we saw last weekend in the re-run elections in River State. They play us like pieces on a draught board. Today they are APC, when their interest is no longer served under that platform they move over to the other side and suddenly those former perceived enemies become friends and the joke is on you, their foot soldiers. And while you while away your time and life being their tool of warfare for the pleasure of the few crumbs that fall off the table or the now ridiculous SA on New Media role which they hand out to you, their Children and wards are insulated from the madness, obtaining their ‘specialised skills’ and returning home unannounced to take up the most important roles in the inner working of the bureaucracy. Suddenly, you will find yourself soon doing PA job for the daughter after years of serving the father in the same capacity.

We must wake up. Our mumu don do. Prof Pius Adesanmi said recently, that “no Nigerian politician is worth missing your lunch for let alone dying. We can expand that to include “no Nigerian big man”, because they don’t really care about you. The more they have you at their foot the better. For many, they are happy there is a forex challenge for as the President declared on international TV, only those who can afford it (read this to mean those who can access cheap dollar through the CBN) will be able to continue training their children abroad. The rest of us are doomed to our fate.

Waking up starts from coming to the realisation that we are on our own in this country and it is either we continue the rat race of hustling to get into position to lick their behinds in order to guarantee a semblance of a good life for yourself and family or we band together and fight for a better deal. We are in the majority; we have simply not realized what we can do and how much we can change the course of history for our unborn children by saying enough to them, in one voice. We need to come to that realisation fast.

@nzesylva

New short story Alert

So friends, I have a new story “Will you hug me again?” just published on Brittle Paper, the African literary e-zine of repute dedicated to reinventing African fiction and literary culture.

There’s been quite some interesting feedback from readers. Generally It would appear the story resonates…well,I cant be so sure. Why don’t you find out for yourself and share through the comment section, what you think.

Click here to read. Enjoy!

 

 

rochas

Gov. Okorocha and his aides on a London train

Last week I saw a picture online of the Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha riding on a train in London. The picture, I suspected, was taken during his recent visit to the UK where he delivered a speech at Chatham House. Is it just me or are invitations by this institution which stands out as a symbol of neocolonialism now going for a dime a dozen with every character now having the ‘honour’ of speaking on their podium? But I digress. The picture of the governor on the train was an interesting one. He was puffed up, a lot bigger than his current size, by garments meant to keep him warm I suppose, and he sat humble, like every other passenger, his aides like minnows about him.

Such an irony you will agree. A similar trip across town by the same man in Nigeria would have been an excuse for elaborated fanfare and megalomania. He would have done so in a long siren wailing motorcade of sycophants, political urchins and overzealous security men.  He would have also been without the patience to confront the daily realities of the inefficiency in the system he superintends over such as traffic, narrow bridges and pothole-infested city roads. He would have shoved other road users (the very taxpayers whose mandate keeps him in office) out of the road, with possibilities of severe punishment if they failed to leave fast enough (recall the case of Governor Al-makura of Nasaarawa and the young lady who his convoy roughened up). Every other thing would have had to come to a standstill because an emperor is making his way. This however is not what this post is about.

Our leaders enjoy travelling out of the country, a lot. The reasons range from the much-hyped effort to attract foreign investment which one may describe as important (even though we never see evidence of investors attracted), to more mundane issues like attending a daughter’s graduation or even the usually unofficially stated trips to suck up the extra fat in their protruding stomach in a high class hospital or to have conjugal sessions with a mistress.  Whatever the reason for the trip, I often wonder if they do not notice how things work in the places they visit. For if travel they say is a form of education one would expect that these fellows would manifest their learning in the way they run the affairs of whatever office they hold and should at the least be able to find simple examples that they can replicate back home.

bubu

President Buhari departing Nigeria on a foreign trip

For example, should Governor Okorocha after riding on the train in London not desire to do something about urban public transport in his state? When he alights from the train, happy at the speed with which he had reached his destination, the comfort of the trip and the precision in timing of his movement, should he not wish the same for his people in Owerri who daily live life out of road unworthy buses and keke napep, plying equally car unworthy roads and streets?

When our minister of aviation, for example, lands at an airport abroad, does (s)he not appreciate the serenity and orderliness (s)he beholds? Do they ever think of how in contrast that is to the airport they took off from in Nigeria? Are the simple things such as cleanliness, usable restrooms, proper access to flight information, working conveyor belts, courteous airport staff and immigration officers that do not ask ‘anything for the boys’ not appeal to them? Does it ever register to them that these things they enjoy aboard were made possible by human beings like them not by ghosts?

When a big politician is evacuated abroad for medical care, some for issues as simple as common cold, do they not feel any shame? Beyond shame, (if they feel any that is) does it not inspire a resolve to put such medical facilities also in place in their country even if with the money looted from the treasury? And believe it, the cost of putting in place those well-equipped hospitals they fall over each other to visit is nowhere near the amounts of money you read about every day in the news that have vamoosed in broad day light from state coffers. Only last week, some aides to the same Governor Rochas Okorocha, including one Obi Paschal Chigozie, Uzoho Casmir and Iheoma Kenneth, were arrested by the EFCC for pocketing N2billion from the state’s bailout funds (we are all making like they did it without the governor’s knowledge and he also did not raise any alarm that the funds were missing).  Imagine for a minute the kind of state of the art hospital that N2billion can build for the people of Imo state.

Clearly it doesn’t seem like they learn anything from their many junkets abroad. Quite frankly, they don’t seem to have the capacity to learn anything, even the most elementary of ideas.  One could conclude that they abhor learning, that they are made blind to reason the moment they jet out of the country. In their minds, they seem convinced that it is simply impossible to replicate those things that make those foreign countries desirable. This impossibility might be blamed if you like, on witches and wizards or on the conspiracy of their political enemies or more appropriately because most of them are corrupt, intellectually lazy and summarily incompetent.

Hopefully, we shall all be wiser with our votes next time.

@nzesylva

First published here on 16/03/2016

school1These days, perhaps due to my largely sedentary lifestyle occasioned by some ongoing personal events, I find myself increasingly having very deep thoughts about my country. These thoughts, which are often triggered by the news and the discussion (sometimes not so much of discussion as it is pure noise) it generates on social media, continue to point me to one major conclusion; that we are a nation of pretenders, both government and citizens alike. Everyone is acting according to a prescribed script and this has now been elevated to a national policy of sorts.

It’s everywhere, in everything we do, in every sphere of our national life. Take the

bubu

President Buhari

educational sector for instance. President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking to Al Jazeera recently (by the way, I guess we are now resigned to the fact that we shall only learn about major policy statement and the true inner thoughts of our president when he travels and sits down before some reporter with an accent) indicated he was no longer willing to avail Nigerians studying abroad of forex to pay their fees, essentially telling those who in his words ‘cannot afford it’ to perhaps withdraw and come home to study. This (and many other faux pas in the said interview) has naturally been generating quite a buzz on social media with some commentators pointing to the insensitivity and ‘unpresidential’ tone in which the president spoke while others marveled at how a president who claimed just a little over a year ago that he was broke and had to take a loan to purchase his nomination form was actually at said time, and even currently, sponsoring his children’s education abroad.

Not much have been said, about the real reason many Nigerian middle and upper middle-class families who are barely scraping out a decent living (majority of who can now no longer afford to pay the fees at current parallel market exchange rate) are desperate to send their children abroad to study. The answer simply is that our universities are glorified secondary schools and we have for so long kept up the act that they were really universities, even establishing new ones by the day like our very existence depended on it.

The students in our universities pretend they are learning. They resume every semester, pay their fees, which fulfills the requirements of their part in this giant theater of deception, and then they settle into character. They sit in classrooms that look like party rallies and pretend they hear and understand what the lecturer whose voice is not even aided with a microphone is saying. They live their lives out of hostels fit only for animal habitation and pretend their character is being molded. At the end of the semester, they pretend they have become more knowledgeable. When they graduate, they pretend they have achieved a feat and update their resume with the pretense then they appear at a job interview and reality sets in.

The lecturers help to keep the show going. They pretend they are actually teaching and passing knowledge across. They pretend they carry out any real research. They pretend they have the funding, that the labs are well equipped, that the libraries are stocked. Once in a while when they feel the need, they down tools, roughen the government up a little to add few coins to their take home pay and then the pretense continues. For the show to go on, they package whatever ‘copy and paste’ publications they have into journals published by their friends and with it secure promotions to professorship without adding an ounce whatsoever to knowledge. Every year they grade and graduate a new batch who they pretend know jack about the degrees they are being admitted to.

classroom

Crowded university lecture room

The university authorities pretend all is well. They even go about boasting about the schools they head. Being a vice chancellor is the apogee of an academic career here but it is also a very sensitive job that requires a great measure of skills in pretending. Like every other political appointment (forget that governing councils nominate, it is the Visitor that says yes and, believe me, the politics involved is unbelievable) the VC must pander to many interests while walking the tightrope of balancing relations with the students, his staff and the governing council. He certainly cannot be the one screaming about the deplorable state of things in his school. So he pretends all is well while grabbing as much as he can and praying his tenure ends without any major crisis. Annually (and this is rare, many graduates don’t see their certificates until many years later), he signs off thick pieces of paper that pretends to find students worthy in character and in learning and the show goes on.

The Ministry of Education and the Universities Commission gives this game of pretense an official seal. They pretend the allocation to education in the annual budget is adequate. They pretend the universities are not overcrowded and the facilities obsolete. They pretend the teaching staff are improving themselves as they ought to. They even rank the universities and when one of our universities makes the top 100 in Africa, they roll out the drums and give themselves high-fives. Meanwhile, all their children are either in private universities or abroad.

The visitor, (President or Governor as the case may be) is the chief pretender of the lot. Education is always prominent in every manifesto, in every campaign speech but that is as far as it goes. When the budget is read, the story is different. The universities awards them honorary doctorate degrees, they accept it with both hands and pretend that it is right to do so. When the teachers down tool, they hurriedly reach an agreement they know they will not keep just so the show continues. From time to time, they create new universities in line with the political exigency and record it as an achievement then they use the appointment of vice chancellors and governing councils to oil the wheels ahead of the next election.

The end result of the above is that we have universities that are so in name alone hence the desire of Nigerians to ship their children to places where education is taken seriously. I will expect that beyond putting up a cautious mien when speaking about Nigerians who demand forex to pay school fees (and in the process making those who cannot afford it feel less Nigerian), Mr president and his team should sit down and ask themselves the hard questions on why our own universities are so undesirable and how they can work to change their fortunes. The alternative is to pretend as we’ve all been until their tenure ends and another bunch of pretenders arrive on the scene.

@nzesylva

First published here on 8 March 2016

fulani 1I will assume sir, that you’ve been briefed by your people about the very sad occurrence last week in Agatu LGA of Benue State. I am assuming because there was no sign that you were aware well over forty-eight hours after the community was attacked and sacked by rampaging Fulani herdsmen.  Like your principal who was at the time seeking spiritual interventions for the problems of Nigeria in Mecca and inundating us with pictures every step of the way, there was no official statement of any kind from your office which is most unfortunate.

As a well-read individual and a retired army general, one will expect that you appreciate the importance of prompt communication in crisis situations. It is therefore very baffling that over 200 Nigerian lives (some say 300, it depends on who you are reading) can be lost within the country and your office does not deem it fit to make a statement, even if just to acknowledge said event and reassure the rest of the citizenry on what steps are being taken to stem the killings and rehabilitate the displaced.

That said, one must note that the killings in Agatu came barely a week after similar events happened a little further South in Abi community of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. These are just two of the most recent occurrences of these dastardly assaults on Nigerian citizens which have indeed become a reoccurring event in parts of the middle belt and southern Nigeria extending to the South West and Eastern heartlands. To put it more succinctly, we are witnessing a silent genocide and government seem to be pretending that it is not happening. The question is, are we going to allow this to continue? Are we throwing our hands up in surrender? Are we saying we cannot solve the problem of Fulani herdsmen in this day and age? Are we inadvertently giving the impression that the herdsmen are immune to the law?

destroyed community

Providing answers to the above questions is the reason you have a job, sir. Suffices to state here that it is high time we as a people, tackled the Fulani herdsmen issue head-on with the sincerity and sense of duty that it deserves. Our country cannot survive these cycles of barbarity. A group of people no matter the grievance cannot continue to operate outside of the law and take lives whenever it pleases them and without any consequences whatsoever.

There is no mystery around the bone of contention here. No need to setup fact-finding committees as governments is quick to. The report of many committees of times past has never been implemented anyway. So we don’t need new ones. The issue is simply that of grazing cattle and the destruction of farms crops in villages along the path of the nomads. You might wish to note that the strategy of papering the cracks in which government hurriedly convenes a meeting of actors on both sides at the end of which you declare that ‘peace’ has been negotiated and television cameras roll away has not helped anyone. As long as desertification continues, and the Fulani herdsman has to go deeper south to get green pasture for his cattle, these clashes will continue if we do not do something intelligent about it.

Mention has been made for grazing reservoirs, for the definition (and demarcation) of grazing routes, for the domestication of the Fulani herdsmen, for working with them to go from nomadic animal husbandry to a structured farm style husbandry. But mention must now also be made of finding out the source of the sophisticated weapons these herdsmen bear, the need for proper surveillance of communities and the creation of a robust internal security architecture that is not reactionary but able to predict crises and nip it in the bud. This again is the reason why we pay you handsomely.

Failure to deliver on these will among other things mean your tenure as Internal security Czar was a failure and that those that died in Agatu and Abi and many other communities before them, died in vain. Remember, they too are Nigerians and share fully in the commonwealth which guarantees you round the clock security protection. They deserve better. The protection of their lives and properties is sacrosanct. It is enshrined in the constitution as their right and we cannot continue to fail them so.

Honourable minister, we have glossed over his Fulani herdsmen issue for too long and it is becoming as much an embarrassment as it is an indictment on us all Nigerians especially those of us who live in the relative peace of cities and semi-urban areas far from the killing theaters.  The conspiracy of silence has run its course. It is time for use to do something. We look up to you and your team to provide leadership in this area.

@nzesylva

First published here on Monday 29 February, 2016

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