Feeds:
Posts
Comments

be a manI can say with a great deal of certainty, that as an adult man in these parts, you would have at one time in your life heard these words “be a man” or “man up” said to you, be it over shedding tears at physical pain, failing at some task, or even while enduring an emotional heartbreak. Indeed we begin to hear it early in the formative years when you are not supposed to cry in a verbal fight with your female siblings or when you are compelled to internalize the biting pain of cane strokes because it is unmanly to show such emotions. It is like a given, something we’ve all come to accept as normal. What you might not have realized is that, these words and the experiences have affected you in some way.

On their own, these words are not bad. Life presents challenges which everyone, male and female must face with a degree of resolve and determination, and this often requires toughening up our emotions and growing a will of still. However, when they are applied as some kind of status we must live up to, especially the way they are used for men, they have the tendency of becoming very problematic, distorting our understanding of masculinity and turning the concept of manhood on its head.

Over time we have created a stereotypical image for men which we all struggle to fit into. The instruction to “man up” becomes essentially a call to fall in line and conform. This builds insecurities, forces us to repress our emotions, hide weaknesses and effectively disconnect from who we really are. When the phrase is used in relation to the lurking, serious shadow of depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, the results can be harmful. It is a medically researched fact that men dealing with mental disorders are less likely to seek help than women. Suicide is higher in men than in women. Abuse of alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling can be seen at a much higher percentage in men than women; possibly because the manly psyche built over years of being told to “man up” has to resort to seeking an escape route to truly express himself.

The compulsion to act manly can also be traced as the root cause of domestic violence with men taking out their fears and frustrations on their wives because they know not any other way of expressing it. It doesn’t help that the male chauvinistic society these men are raised in tells them also that it is a classic show of manliness to beat your wife and not entertain her views on any matter.

It can also be argued that a lot of men have failed to really live their full potential in life because they have had to conform to this stereotype. Because there has long been established types of careers which are fit for men. The world must have lost many a great dancer, musician, chef and artist – all because they were afraid to exhibit any emotional or creative behaviour when they were younger so that they are not taken for weak or unmanly.

My thoughts on this topic flow from my personal experience and a discussion that came up recently during a chat at the filming of an episode of the Onyeka Nwelue Show. I lost my wife and best friend a little over a year ago and have battled all kinds of emotions since. Through it all, I could not help but notice the nudge to ‘die’ the emotions, to come off it, in the comments, framed as condolence messages from friends and family alike. It is essentially a “Man up” call, to swallow it all up and keep a straight face, because that is what men do.

Because people have different ways of processing emotions, there is a tendency for some men to collapse under the weight of these unshed tears, bottled up feelings and unexpressed thoughts. We therefore do our men no good by telling them to “be a man” or “man up”.  Men are men already by virtue of their genetic make-up and do not have to “become men” in order to prove any point. There are certainly many better suiting words in English and the vocabulary of our indigenous languages that will accomplish the same feat if what we really intend to convey is a message of encouragement to a man going through certain challenges.

First published here

MacronEmmanuel Macron has become France’s youngest ever president following the official handover by François Hollande. Since the victory of the 39-year-old centrist whose campaign took France by storm, there has naturally been some reaction among Nigeria’s very young population, referencing Macron’s age in relation to their own realities.

This is not unexpected. Despite the provisions of the constitution, at 39 most politically active Nigerians can at best aspire to be hand luggage carrying Assistants to politicians and social media aides, acting like thugs online to burnish the narrative around their principals. They appear only useful during the campaigns where they are either used to run ‘situation rooms’ or on the field as political thugs to manipulate results but not deemed fit to handle sensitive positions where they can bring their intellect to bear in influencing the policy direction of government.

It is a situation where 39-year-olds cannot even be Youth Leaders of their political parties. When you consider that Macron has already been France’s Economy minister two years ago, you will see the sense in the outcry among young Nigerians and the merits  of the “Not too young to run’ campaign.

Personally I align myself to calls for younger people in government but with a caveat which I will explain shortly. There is no doubt that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking (and the same people) who created them. We have been held back by years of recycled politicians, yesterday’s men who have refused to retire, who have planted themselves with deep tap roots in the system because they have the resources to sustain their influence in Nigeria’s rent-seeking polity and buy their way through elections. And like chameleons, they have mastered the act of remaking themselves to suit the current circumstance. They’ve dumped military Khaki’s for agbadas and swear to be converts of democracy. The PDP lost power and they trooped in their numbers to the APC, singing tunes of Change…just anything to remain relevant and keep young people out.

You would wonder why a population tilted heavily in favour of young people has not taken a clear stand to birth a new order, just like we’ve seen in France. The politicians have been able to (and continue to) exploit the most basic necessity of life — food — to remain in charge. Young people are happy to take the handout and crumbs, to be seen somewhere in the photo ops of the politician, they are content with feeling among, or being driven in the long convoys of the old man, in the hope that perhaps, if they show enough loyalty (even if this goes against the principles they loudly espoused as private citizens) they will someday be found worthy of a seat at the table, to commence their own ‘chopping’. One hopes we get to change this mindset and that ongoing advocacy is able to change the system to make it more favourable for young people to run.

But it is not enough to allow young people into office though. This is the caveat I talked about earlier. The fact is that when it comes to leadership age doesn’t matter – competency does. Our own history is full of examples of leaders who have succeeded and failed at every age, a good number of them young people.

Most of our post-independence leaders, military and civilian (most of who continue to hold the reins today), got on the podium first as youngsters. In recent times we have also had a few democratically elected youngsters whose performance does not in any way solidify the argument in favour of young people.

It is thus clear that just as corruption and incompetence do not have any age limits, the passion, character, commitment, discernment, and talent to be a good leader certainly also does not depend on a person’s date of birth. The real issue is competence and it is important we hold this dear in all conversations around leadership, especially as the 2019 drums begin to roll out. It is not enough to be young. You must also be competent. If somebody exhibited a certain level competence and success, nobody looks at your age.

While experience counts, energy matters and certainly, as we have seen over and over in our recent history, health also does feature strongly on the checklist for our next set of leaders. Some more salient issues are education and exposure. I am still not certain why being a graduate is seen as the minimum qualification for holding regular jobs but we leave the more sensitive issue of leading this nation to persons who have as much as attempted the secondary school certificate. That doesn’t appear very smart to me.

The whole conversation around Emmanuel Macron is one I hope will inspire changes in Nigeria and bring about a paradigm shift in the composition of our leadership. I hope that young people will sit up and take back their country from those who are currently running it down. This is a conversation that has to be had. But even more, we must interrogate more closely, the competence and moral character of the people we vote for and send to take decisions on our behalf at all levels of government.

First published on May 17, 2017 on Olisa.tv

Bail is FreeAlong with “police is your friend”, one inscription you are certain to see boldly written in every police station in Nigeria is “bail is free”. You might have even heard the police top brass make such claims in public statements. If you believe any of that, then you will believe anything.

But it ought to be free, or at least on paper it should be. Bail is the temporary release of an accused person, or a suspect, from police custody pending the conclusion of investigations or the final determination of the case, on the condition that he would report to the police station when necessary or attend court for trial. It flows from Section 35 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution which intends to preserve the liberty of a suspect and is built on the assumption (at least among democratic states where the rule of law is more than a mere campaign slogan for politicians) that an accused person is innocent until he is proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Anyone who has had a police case will tell you a different story. It doesn’t matter whether the arrest was for a criminal or civil offence or even a mere disagreement with a neighbour. The Nigeria police will demand money in exchange for your freedom, the amount charged and paid depending on such factors as the size of the greed of the investigating police officer, the profile and bargaining power of the accused and the nature of the case. It is now almost a non-issue. Bail payment is sacrosanct. And when you fail or are unable to meet the payment terms, the Nigeria police, who do not have the best of human right records nor regards for the rights of citizens, will torture you, even sometimes to death as was recently reported in Ibadan.

That this sad situation which is illegal and a mockery of the popular police lingo continues to prevail is however not the subject of this intervention. So many legal minds and human right groups have been in the trenches on this matter for so many years and the struggle continues. To them I pay my respects for the thankless job they are doing. My interest in this piece however is to ask what exactly the police do with the bail monies they receive from people?

You see, ideally, the bail payment is a bond placed as guarantee that an accused person will be available to the authorities when needed and forfeited otherwise. That’s ideally. Nothing about Nigeria as we know is ideal. Here it is a payment for freedom. Are there any records of such payments kept? Does the police issue receipts for such payments? Does the police account for such payments and/or forward same to revenue generating agencies of government? Are you really able to retrieve from the police any payment you make to secure bail after an arrest if investigations later indicate you are innocent of any offence?

The answer to these questions is obvious to all of us. What we have done is that, in furtherance of the rent seeking culture, we have created an industry for criminal minded police officers through which they dubiously make money from the public by extorting innocent and often hapless citizens. Because there is no consequence whatsoever for this, it is not uncommon for a team of police men, who need money to augment their paltry pay, to carryout raids, and round up innocent people including bystanders and pedestrians minding their own businesses, to whom they read no charges and cram them up in filthy cells. They then each have to pay a negotiated amount to secure release or be left to languish. This money collected is shared by the police officers.

This is a very sad situation. You don’t fully understand how bad it is until you have experienced it. When we talk about corruption, I wonder if we capture such as corruption. When you remember that the Police is supposed to be an anti-corruption agency of government but has successfully institutionalized this daily act of fraud, you then appreciate how deep the rot is.

Who do we look up to for help? The protection of the rights of citizens including enforcement of their bail rights lies with government. But when government itself is a culprit, disobeying court injunctions and rulings and infringing of the freedoms of expression of citizens, then there isn’t much to expect from them in terms of succor.

Nigerians, especially those who are not wealthy, who cannot afford lawyers, who are by virtue of their social status even ignorant of the law and their rights, will unfortunately continue to be taken advantage of by officers who are paid to protect them and a nation they had the misfortune of being born in.

The report of African migrants trying to reach Europe is a daily news item. Many as we know and see frequently in the news meet their deaths in the Mediterranean. According to the International Organization for Migration, many others are being sold by traffickers into slavery in Libya, including for sex, for as little as $200, while others still are killed and their organs harvested for sale in the booming human organ trade.

Many young Africans find that after having paid human traffickers in the hope of finding a better life in Europe, they end up being held hostage by their traffickers who exploit them and their families, turning the dreams of a better life into a nightmare.

The International Organisation for Migration says slave markets and detentions are becoming increasingly common on the illegal migrant routes as criminal gangs cash in on what has become a very sad situation.

According to IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, Othman Belbeisi, selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger. In his words, “Migrants are being sold in markets as a commodity” at a going rate of between $200 and $500” .

While some migrants sold this way managed to escape, many wallowed in captivity for months before being bought free or sold on. Others die and are unaccounted for and many among them are Nigerians fleeing harsh economic situation back at home or simply chasing the myth of greener grass on the other side.

The reality is that for many young people in Nigeria, the ultimate ambition in life is to go abroad. And the exodus has been on forever. There is hardly anyone who does not have a relative or someone who has “checked out.” In the late ‘80s and ‘90s there was a massive brain drain of Academics and professionals following the collapse of our educational institutions, and the persecution of perceived pro-democracy activists by the military dictators who held sway then.

The brain drain continues even today. You see it in the long queues of visa applicants in foreign embassies. I still have vivid memories of the crowd of rowdy, sweaty applicants in a zigzag queue, I saw on my first visit to the UK Visa application centre in Abuja close to a decade ago and how very willing they appeared to endure any kind of manhandling in their quest for a visa.

Such is the value placed on obtaining a visa that it is often a major prayer point in churches and a good course for testimonies. This obsession very easily turns into desperation. Many short-term visa applicants have absolutely no intention of returning. Some on student visas do not honour the terms. They live illegally in the shadows abroad, many getting deported, or jailed. These stories of the fate of their compatriots do not stop those who intend to seek the West’s presumed greener pastures, as the risk is considered one worth taking.

The denial of a visa or deportation does not stop the determined Nigerian immigrant nor does the fear of the dangers associated with migrating illegally. As long as there is a chance of success, no matter how slim, there will be willing people. This has resulted in the growth of what is today an industry of powerful people and their agents, feeding off the gullibility and desperation of young people in the guise of helping them reach their dreams of a better life abroad. These issues form the theme of my new e-book, ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’ recently published by Bahati Books.

We have read of people who faked travel documents, of folks who braved life inside airtight containers sailing across the sea, of stowaways in the wheel compartment of international flights. We are also quite familiar with the malaise of human trafficking, of young ladies who either by coercion or by choice, are taken to European cities to work as prostitutes and the daredevil journey to Europe through the scorching heat of the Sahara desert and the stormy waves of the Mediterranean.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2016 warned that the trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy by boat was reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe. About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of that year, and more than 80% of these women will be trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe, the IOM said.

We need to stem this tide. Many of those who make this trip do not know any better. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Nigerian government’s agency set up in response to the situation can only do as much. While we continue to clamour for a better deal from the government in terms of the state of the economy which is the ultimate solution to the crisis, we must also step up advocacy and public campaigns targeted at young people on the dangers of falling prey to criminal traffickers.

This is one issue where ideas are needed. It concerns us all because, in small instalments, our country’s future is disappearing…never to be recovered again.

The way things are going, one cannot help but note that when the history of this government is written, it would be one blemished with violence and bloodshed. This is not a prophesy. It is a statement of fact, what with the ongoing killings and destructions associated with the Fulani herdsmen and local farming communities that has continued unabated.

Even though every other day there is new news report and statistics of unnamed victims thrown at us, like all things with us, we have since grown numb to these news stories. Fresh or reprisal attacks by herdsmen on farming communities do not hold the same attention in the news and in public discourse as they once did. Much the same way we all grew use to boko haram attacks that in February 2014 fifty-nine boys were killed at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi and the nation moved on like nothing had happened. We are seeing this happening again. Herdsmen killings are increasingly taking the back seat in our national consciousness. We are gradually resigning to having it as one of those things we have to live with…like corruption, power outages, annual Lassa fever and meningitis outbreaks and the super eagles not qualifying for major tournaments.

The ease with which we move on is an issue that deserves deeper study. Perhaps it is the most apparent evidence of a deep rooted cynicism, the expression of a people who have been disappointed for so long by their leaders that they have resigned to surviving on their own and in the process have deadened their conscience to any issues that affects anyone other than themselves. So when the victim of the current pain is not directly them, they make a little noise just to fulfil all righteousness and then move back to the rate race that is their private lives. Like I said, this is a matter than requires a deeper study.

The subject of this intervention is however the failure of those whose sworn duty it is to stop the killings to do so. It appears that the Nigerian state has thrown her hands up in a show of helplessness as concerns this issue. Over and over what we get is condemnations from Aso Rock of a new episode of mindless killings so much so it appears the media aides to the president simply edit the location of the incidence and the date and issue it. Reminds one of the days when the boko haram attacks was at its peak. These statements are deeply frustrating to say the least and inspire no confidence whatsoever in the citizenry. What is more, despite the ever present promise of ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in bringing perpetrators to book, hardly anyone has really been sent to jail for this nor those behind the scenes writing the cheques that funds the madness.

Read the full article published on Olisa.tv on April 28 2017

my-mind-is-no-longer-here-book-image-final1

Yipeee!!! Today, finally my ebook, My Mind Is No Longer Here was release by Bahati Books.

The book is available for purchase Amazon and on the popular Nigerian ebooks platform, Okadabooks app

And as part of the launch, I did an article here for TRUE AFRICA on the general theme of the book.

Someone who has read it said they really liked it.  Buy, enjoy and do share what your thought about it.

And yes, a print version is in the works for all you print book lovers. Just watch this space.

Europe is currently dealing with a migrant crisis and Nigeria is one of the main sources of the influx. So why are people leaving and how can we persuade them to stay?

According to a recent report, around 30,000 undocumented Nigerians crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in the last year alone. A whole lot died while trying to.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says at least 521 Africans have so far drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year. The majority are Nigerians.

The stories of the fates of illegal migrants do not deter others. Young people in the country are desperate. They are faced with an uncertain future caused by economic hardship and a biting ongoing recession.

Nigeria’s economy shrunk by 1.51 per cent in 2016. More than 112 million Nigerians live below the poverty level. That’s over 67 per cent of the population. Unemployment rose to 13.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2016. Young people, who make up about 45 per cent of the population, account for majority of the unemployed. For many, the dream is to go abroad in search of greener pastures.

This desperation has lead to the growth of one industry in particular. Powerful people and their agents feed off the gullibility and desperation of young people. They pretend that they can help them reach a better life abroad. In some instances, the victims are forced, threatened and blackmailed into co-operation.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article i did for TRUE AFRICA around the theme of my new ebook, My Mind Is No Longer Here. The book is available here  and on the OkadaBooks app

 

%d bloggers like this: