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Archive for December, 2011

 

An Igbo adage loosely translated to English says that once the hired hand contracted to cut down palm oil fruit heads from the oil palm tree is tired, he suddenly becomes very concerned about the chicks picking at the heads already on the ground.

A world of meaning is lost in this translation; but it is just apt in describing the efforts of our political leaders to leave off confronting the meat of the matter at hand and instead blame their inability to fulfill the tenants of their office on ‘political detractors’ (real or imagined).

The blame game, with its finger-pointing and mutual buck-passing, is a familiar feature of politics and organisational life; and blame avoidance pervades government and public organisations at every level.  In Nigeria today, political and bureaucratic blame games are simply the other of the day. It is a sorry situation that finds root in our tendency to, under the guidance of one traditional witch doctor or a ‘man of God’, quickly blame a neighbour or a relative for any of our misfortunes in life, from the absurd to the downright ridiculous.

So when some video appeared online of five men raping a helpless girl and the available evidence pointed to ABSU as the theatre of that absurdity, the Abia State Government made a quick dash to the defense, insisting that the said rape did not happen in the state and blaming the orchestration of the incidence online on political detractors. Instead of condemning the act, investigating it on its merit, helping the effort to unmask the perpetrators of the crime and showing himself as a responsible leader, Governor Theodore Orji chose to look for enemies to blame in what has remained a most illogical comment.

Enter Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos who until recently was perhaps the most loved governor in the country until his recent string of unpopular actions; top among which includes the astronomical increase in the fees to be paid by students of the state owned university, LASU and the mismanagement of the Lekki toll collection issue. Last Saturday, residents of Lekki who are affected by the issues surrounding the toll collection by the LCC on the Lekki Expressway came out in a peaceful protest.

The protesters were attacked and assaulted by both police and thugs, who beat them up and damaged gadgets used by the media. Many of the protesters were even arrested. It was so laughable and completely unbelievable to hear the state government blame the incidence on political detractors in a desperate effort to shift the discussion away from the shameful actions it superintended.

One wonders, in both incidences above, what would have informed the involvement of the said political enemies in the matter, how within the realms of logic the so called political enemies could have pulled off such feats, and how their carrying out such actions would have helped them score any political points against the state government in the first place.

When I listen to such childish and banal excuses from government officials, I feel the urge to tell the person to shut up. We are certainly not illiterates, nor are we fools as their lame talk suggests. We keep seeking for the source of our problems in the wrong places, instead of owning up to the realities of our inadequacies and taking responsibilities for them.

We must remember the famous line from Walk Kelly’s 1972 Pogo Comic: We have met the enemy and he is us. Until we accept responsibility and take action, no authentic progress is possible in this country.

DailyTimes 31st December 2011

Photo credit http://bytesdaily.blogspot.com/2011/04/quote-walt-kelly.html

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I belong to a generation that is today referred to as the Facebook/Twitter/Youtube generation; the ‘jet age’ by some others. A generation that grew up during what has been referred to as the “acronym years,” the years when our dear country Nigeria took the spiraling turns that has left her almost a pariah nation today.

It does sound like we had the ill-luck of growing up in a gloomy period. Perhaps so, but no matter how hard I try, nothing can take away the fact that we had the very happiest of childhoods and memories of it today – each time we cramp them up into text messages or posts that go viral on social media- reminds us of a time once cherished, a peace so desirable, an experience every child deserves. An experience that now seems lost.

Yes, it was the time when the television (usually NTA) began at 4.00pm with the national anthem. It was the time of Captain Planet, of Super Ted and of Voltron.

Fond nostalgic memories no doubt but above all these, one factor that was responsible for the happiness we enjoyed as children was the fact that back them we still had family. We still had parents who had time for us. Parents who asked us about our assignments and helped us get our notes right. Parents that sang us to sleep, read us bed time stories and shared our childhood fantasies.  Back then, we still ate meals together as a family. We still watched television together as a family.

But our parents could also be hard on us with the way they spelt out instructions and punished malfeasance. Going to school and coming top of the pack was our job. We had had better excel. There was no option to discipline. And even though we always got spanked for wrong doing, we never ceased to feel the love of our parents in huge measure. That made our childhood different.

Those simple, but deep experiences of our childhood are who we are and have contributed in shaping the course of our lives today. Truth is, not all of us share the same happy memories and it is not so difficult to tell when we encounter such people. Child psychologists state that children with unhappy childhoods are more likely to grow up into anti-social adults, violent partners and persons with imbalanced emotions. It therefore goes without saying that not only does every child deserve a happy childhood, we all share the responsibility of giving this to them.

Today, pause and access yourself, are you contributing in any way to taking away any child’s happiness? Are your daily activities directly or indirectly robbing any child of happiness? Are you too busy chasing money and career that you have forgotten that your children need more than DSTV and the Internet to be truly happy? Do you abuse or molest any child? Do you take advantage of children put in your care? Do you divert funds meant for child care projects? Do you know people who do and you keep quiet?

The disturbing fact is that the happiness that swelled the childhood experience of my generation is conspicuously lacking today. The Nigerian child of today endures the challenges of a family system gone awry, a society that is eager to exploit a child and a government whose care doesn’t seem to go beyond electioneering campaign slogans.  I fear therefore that we are raising a generation that is as much a threat to itself as it is to us. The evidence already abound. The world certainly cannot survive their enormity.

Every child deserves to be happy and we are called upon to be vanguards of this call today.

This post is part of a series inspired by the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign, hosted by Stepping Stones Nigeria.  Please add your name to the PACT petition to prevent abuse of innocent children in the Niger Delta and visit the site to find out more on the website.

Published in Daily Times Nigeria

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December is a beautiful month for many reasons. From the twinkling light,s to the music in the air, to the change in the weather and the feeling of expectation in our hearts, no month compares to December. Sharing is the top engagement this month. As we share hampers and boxes of special gifts, it is also a good time to share literature and the simple stories-words pitched together into beings- that give meaning to our lives.

This December, I share with you, 3 of my creative efforts that have been published in various online journals this Month. I hope you enjoy and share them as my little gift to you.

A review of The Pulse, a book by Ferdinand Adimefe published in issue #8 of Sentinel Nigeria Magazine.

http://sentinelnigeria.org/online/issue-8-november-2011-january-2012/essays-reviews/a-review-of-pulse/

The Check Point, a short Story in the December 2011 issue of the Cyclamens and Swords Publishing Newsletter.

http://www.cyclamensandswords.com/dec_2011_nze_sylva_ifedigbo.php

Guest of the SSS, a short story in the Winter 2011 issue of The Fears of Monkeys Magazine

http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_eleven/guest_of_the_sss.htm

May this season bring us enough joy to enter the new year with optimism. And may we continue to tell our stories for the world to read.

 

Photo credit: http://wiredprworks.com/pr/sharing-stories-book-group-suggestions/#

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Nigeria must be one large stony field; and our government is made up of a collection of career stone pickers who are specialists in picking and upturning stones for the purpose of finding what is hidden beneath them.

Or, how else can one explain the “No stone shall be left unturned” remark – that long over flogged threat line we always hear in press statements from the presidency and other government agencies, each time something new goes wrong or an old one repeats itself? It is a promise of action that is never fulfilled, an idiom that has lost all its meaning under the weight of unimpressive leadership and collective hopelessness in the country.

How do we turn up the stones? After the absurdity occurs and we have made the customary threat, we set up a committee and open a new file in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.  Members are appointed. An elaborate committee inauguration is organised. It is shown on national television. The head of the committee reiterates the determination of his team to walk the whole rocky field and ensure that when they are done, the stones will feel that something like a tsunami had just gone through them.  We clap. Cameras click away. Hands shake. The occasion ends.

A month, two, or a year later, depending on the terms of reference of the committee, a bulky report is submitted. By then, the file opened somewhere at the SGF’s office is already also bulky. The committee makes requests for expenses; they are approved. The committee members have in their wisdom sought the help of others in the stone turning exercise. Plenty aides and assistants were engaged.  The report is received and yet another promise of leaving no stone unturned in implementing the recommendations made. Cameras click away. Hands shake. The occasion ends. The problem continues.

When shall we stop this turning and turning in the widening gyre (apologies to W.B Yeats) approach to solving problems? When shall we begin to convert all the threats and energy into concrete plans and precise action? Pile and piles of well bound paper, containing tones and tones of ideas left gathering dust somewhere in our unturned stones archives, dead to us and to our problems, yet the sloganeering continues.

No stone shall be left unturned yet the many murder cases are still unresolved. No stone shall be left unturned, yet the armed robbers are never caught and like invisibles, continue to do their thing in broad day light and go away free. No stone shall be left unturned yet people are kidnapped and some released but we don’t see the hostage taker no does their activities stop. No stone will be left unturned yet monies disappear and continue to disappear from the public coffers and we treat it as one of those things, one of those brazen absurdities that have become normalcy.

And has become popular of late, no stone will be left unturned but Boko Haram continues to make successful heists on human lives in our Northern cities.  It becomes imperative to ask, how many more stones before we begin to get it right?

In my thinking, there are now no stones left in our stone field. All the stones have been turned at one point or the other and all their rough edges have become fine from excessive handling. They have become polished out from the years of talk and no action.

Our leaders should know that time and patience is running out and this stone turning story now sounds like a broken record on repeat.

Published in DailyTimes 08/12/2011

Photo credit: http://summitstonesadventuremusings.blogspot.com/2010/01/no-stone-unturned.html

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