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Archive for March, 2012

In recent time I have read a couple of opinions on whether or not people with positive ideas who are yet untainted by the ‘system’ should join government. As you can imagine, there are two schools of thought; those who think if you leave governance to nit-wits, we shouldn’t expect things to get any better and those who think public service is the shortest route to squandering ones reputation and goodwill citing that very few people come out of government’s cesspit of corruption intact. I support the former.

One of the reasons “credible” people (for the sake of argument, let’s say we mean by this people who combine the twin attributes of truthfulness and Competence) don’t want to go into politics is that they are reluctant to sacrifice the reputations they have succeeded in building up over decades to the bitter attacks that characterize public life, the automatic bad person status it often confers or to the temptation to derail that it offers in plenty supply.

As genuine as this concern is, it will be wrong of us to conclude that government is by its very nature corrupt. The system as we often refer to the polity is an amalgam of people, processes (including laws & policies) and technology where applicable. In all of this, the people component remains the most significant as it controls all the other components. It there for implies that to change the system (as we all too often clamour for) we must change the people operating the system.

Because we had no say in who led us for a better part of our history and because for the other half, good people shied away from participating in the process, what we have today is a system that is corruption ridden. The few good people who brave it and either get caught up in the maze or end up not achieving their intentions end up so because they are simply outnumbered. It’s like a battle field. The number counts. A lone good voice is easily outnumbered by a herd of dissenting voices.

I hold strongly that while one can make change happen outside government in your immediate environment, the easiest way to influence the lives of a greater population of our impoverished people is through government. We cannot deny the fact that one single policy, executed to the letter can have a huge impact on the people. It points therefore that instead of shying away, we should as a matter of urgency encourage more credible people to accept various roles in government and contest elections. As one commentator said, it’s about achieving a critical mass.

I must state however that leadership is not for everybody. That you have successfully managed a business at the highest level or attained the best qualification in a field and enjoy the toga of “technocrat” does not automatically qualify you for leadership nor does your years of active activism or ability to ferociously criticize government or mobilize the people against corrupt leaders.

Indeed it would be naïve to think ordinary Nigerians, untainted by power, are more virtuous than the elected officials who lead us. It is even more ironical to stay outside government, offer various consultancy services to government and yet join in bashing her.  The ‘holier than thou’ stands of those of us out of power must stop.  In addition, this way of treating those among us who joins public service as a “sell out” and tainted even before they do anything that shows them as such is bad. It discourages more credible people rising to the challenge and changing the system. In fact, in most cases, the people in government become unrecognizable not necessarily because they have changed, but because we have changed the way we look at them.

In Thinking about Leadership, political theorist Nannerl O. Keohane argues that leadership is about “providing solutions to common problems or offering ideas about how to accomplish collective purposes, and mobilizing the energies of others to follow these courses of action.”So, if you are a passionate person, if you’ve got ideas, if possess that innate attributes of a mobilise people on a good course, If you are sufficiently worried that our inaction amounts to sanctioning a continuity of then my first bit of advice for you is don’t wait!

Think of this, If you wait for that time when the system would have been cleansed and it would become honourable to run for office, there could be millions more children with no access to healthcare, millions more dead due to our bad roads, Education will continue to be eroded and the right (and hope) of citizens to live a good life and be respected across the globe will continue to dwindle.

We cannot wait because, literally, our survival depends on it. It is time the pretenders made room for fresh minds. So come off the stereotyping. Join a party. Run for office. Join a credible candidate’s campaign. Accept to serve in public office. And while doing all these, encourage everyone around you who has got what it takes to do same so you are not lonely in Government.

It’s important however that before you take the first step, you determine what aspect of our national life you wish to impact, what aspects you really have the wherewithal to leave a mark in. A square peg in round holes is worse than having no pegs at all. Go where your heart is and where you truly want to make the difference.

I say this with 2015 in mind. We must step forth at dawn (apologies Kongi) Now is the time to galvanise our ideas, into action, into making change happen from the inside, into participating, not just as proud owners of a voters card but also as faces on the ballot. There is still balm left in Gilead.  There are enough brains to save this country if only we use them.

First published in Daily Times

Photo credit: http://shashanknd.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/how-the-government-is-killing-indian-startups/

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We see and say nothing good about them, these men in uniform. The colour of the uniform doesn’t matter, our collective loathing for them cuts across. They carry with them the burden of everything wrong with our country. Of corruption, incompetence and abuse of power.

In the past as is now, we see them as a symbol of oppression. They take bribes. They break the law. Some elements among them can be extremely annoying, unreasonable and brutal. Their image has been anything but good in recent time with the rising insecurity in the land. All these and many more are true; but I make bold to say that the Nigerian security officer deserves better from us. If not respect, at least some appreciation; and If you will hold on a while, I will explain why.

These men put their lives daily in harm’s way so we are (or feel) a little safer. As we leave our homes every morning to air-conditioned offices, spending the day punching away on Internet enabled computers, even finding time to throw banters on social media, the officer leaves his house daily to a poorly furnished office, the street corner, under the sun, into some fast moving vehicle, or condemned to walking/standing behind some politician or his wife, every second of the day, prone to danger and insults.

The Nigerian security officer is poorly trained and poorly equipped. What could be worse?  He is groping in the dark for a needle. There is no intelligence to support him. No forensics. Communication gadgets are of the last century. His work is made even tougher because the community sees him as an enemy, so would not volunteer information to him. In the absence of intelligence, he falls back on brute force and grand standing. He takes bribe, which profession in Nigeria doesn’t? His take home pay, we all know, cannot take him home.

We give a hungry man an AK47 and place him in the harsh sun, what do you expect his psyche to be like?

                       

Yet they have been resilient. Daily we hear of officers killed by criminals. Does it make any sense to us? Do we realise these are men with dreams, with families who love them? Do we recognise their sacrifice? The Police are the number one target of Boko Haram; do we sympathise with them? No. We squeeze our faces and blame them for the extra judicial killing of the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf; thus reducing the product of national failure to a police problem. By our silence and lack of sympathy, we sentence them again and again to death.

Many of those police officers who die today know nothing about Yusuf or the conspiracy that led to his death. Many are so low in the ladder to have a say or to have played any part. They have no hand in the poverty, deprivation and hunger in the land. Indeed, they are victims as well. Ever seen a barrack? Or the worn shoes of an officer?

Each time another bomb goes off; we renew the venom in our tongues against them. “Our security agencies are not doing anything” we say. Maybe it is not apparent because they have not made it go away totally, but for every bomb that goes off, we can never imagine so many that they thwarted even with their handicap. I have friends, young men my age, graduates who signed up into the army. They command troops. They do those patrols night and day in far flung and very dangerous parts of the North while we sleep or catch fun. They share their tales of near fatalities and of friends and colleagues that are no more.

It is difficult for me to sit around and say they are doing nothing. It is indeed grossly unfair really, to make such sweeping accusations.

Last week, Deputy Inspector General of Police, John Haruna, and three other officers died in the line of duty. They were in Jos because some elements among us have decided to make the country inhabitable; to keep our blood pressures perpetually on the high. They paid the supreme prize doing their job.

Yes, it comes with the job description you would say and no one forced them to sign up; but then, think of it, what if no one went into the force? What if they do not make the effort no matter how inefficient we think them? What if no one controls the traffic? Does that not qualify them at least for some salute?

And for the majority, when they die in active duty, the highest recognition they receive is that anonymous mention in the news: ‘Five police men and a soldier were today killed by a drive by shooter”. We don’t even mention their names. Like they were objects, not human beings.

They become nothing but statistics. In our heads, they don’t count. In fact, we even blame them for their deaths. They died wrongfully (apologies to Fela) and the family they left behind receive pittance, if ever they do; and then we send some fresh boots to take their place.

In truth, security officers are not meeting our expectations. But then, which department of our polity is? They cannot give what we as a society have not given them; and in my thinking, given the kind of mess we are in, they are really giving quite a lot.

First published in Daily Times Here

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If you have written a book or novel, you’ll want to be sure that it meets the basic criteria of book publishers and literary agents. Follow the rules of genre fiction (whether it’s romance, Western, thriller, fantasy, historical, sci-fi, or horror), and you are more likely to get your book published.

The Rules Of Genre Fiction

Genre fiction refers to books that are published widely for popular appeal. Publishers tend to place high value on these books, especially when a writer shows a palpable enthusiasm for his or her particular genre. Usually, genre books are published in the smaller, mass-market book size.

Genre writing is all about crafting great stories that appeal to a distinct audience with particular preferences. Do your research and learn what is expected from your genre. Read widely in your genre. Join a creative writers’ group. Research recommended book lengths and what publishers are buying—and not buying. Again, you don’t have to be a slave to the standards, but—as with grammar and punctuation—a professional writer must know the rules in order to effectively break them.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that the information below is an overview of generalized genre guidelines: Always research information about your specific project for the best results.

The Rules Of Romance Genre Novels

A romance novel ends with a happily ever after. It starts with the introduction of characters and the conflict, and at some point the relationship is consummated in some way. The story usually emphasizes the heroine’s experience, and the reader should be drawn into caring about the characters and cheering on the eventual romance.

How long is a romance novel? A single title (or stand-alone) romance novel runs between 80,000 and 100,000 words. A category romance novel (like those published by Harlequin) is generally shorter, and each “line” or “imprint” will have its own strict specifications. Save yourself a lot of trouble: Research before you write!

Subgenres of romance include paranormal, erotica, Regency, historical, contemporary, women’s fiction, Christian, time travel, erotica, fantasy/science fiction, and more.

The Rules Of Fantasy Genre Novels
Create the parameters of your fantasy world in advance and stick to them. Design the environment (geography, weather), the characters (race, creatures), and other details such as the use of magic, the history of your environment (wars, etc.), and limitations of powers. Avoid clichés in your characterization (no The Lord of the Rings impersonators), and let your theme (good vs. evil?) be consistent yet subtle.

Pay particular attention to publisher guidelines: One publisher specifically states caveats such as “no time machines, please.”

How long are fantasy novels? Between 80,000 and 150,000 words (approximately). They can be a little longer than traditionally published novels, and are sometimes serialized as trilogies.

Subgenres of fantasy include alternate history, urban, dark, high, historical, steampunk, wuxia, fantasy of manners, and more.

Note: Be sure you’re familiar with the subgenres before you attempt to position yourself as an expert author in your field!

The Rules Of Western Genre Novels 
Westerns should be set in the Old West (west of the Mississippi River and before the year 1900). Historical details should be accurate, but the story is what really counts: Focus on three-dimensional characters and strong plots, with the hero facing some sort of conflict. While Westerns are very specialized, be sure that you’re not relying on clichés!

How long is a Western book? Westerns tend to be on the shorter side of fiction books, anywhere from 45,000 words to 75,000 (loosely).

The Rules Of Historical Fiction Genre Novels
The details are important in this genre. Set the stage carefully and accurately so that your 18th-century character doesn’t wear clothing or use products that weren’t around at the time. Pay attention to details like social customs, holidays, transportation, and food, and make sure they are relevant to the period.

Don’t judge your characters by modern standards—a person’s behavior should be dictated by the customs and society of your time frame. Careful research is especially important for this genre.

How long is a historical novel? Generally, a stand-alone historical may be 85,000 to 100,000 words. For first-time writers, submitting a book longer than 100,000 words is especially difficult, but historical novels have been known to be longer.

The Rules Of Mystery Genre Novels
Pay special attention to plot in the mystery genre. Introduce the murder or the crime early in the story, and research the methods by which the crime was committed (is it really possible for a five-foot woman to decapitate a large man?) and how the investigation proceeds. Research forensics, criminal justice, and detective procedures to lend credibility.

Avoid supernatural or unbelievable methods of solving the case. And create a solvable puzzle for your readers—mystery novels are supposed to be fun to read and fun to solve, but if the reader isn’t provided with plausible clues to follow, they’ll lose interest.

How long is a mystery novel? Mysteries vary in length depending on subgenre. Single-title mysteries may be between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Cozy mysteries, like those in a mystery series, may be on the shorter side.

Subgenres of mystery include hardboiled, supernatural, crime, true crime, amateur sleuth, police procedural, cozy, and more. Be certain of whether or not you are writing a mystery or a thriller.

The Rules Of Thriller Genre Novels
Thrillers are designed to do one thing: thrill. Strong characters, tight plots, and an emphasis on action over flowery prose drive this genre to daring storylines. Thrillers often feature determined protagonists and clear antagonists, and they can be set in nearly any location imaginable. Thrillers can be graphic (gritty) or somewhat more subtle, but focus is always on suspense.

How long is a thriller novel? Thriller novels hit the genre-standard sweet spot of 90,000 to 100,000 words for new writers (loosely). Thrillers tend to go a little longer as well, but new writers will probably see better results with shorter books.

Subgenres of thrillers include action, conspiracy, disaster, crime, eco, political, erotica, legal, and more.

The Rules Of Horror Genre Novels
Horror novels capitalize on emotion (fears, phobias) more than plot. Create a feeling of dread for your reader, and sustain the suspense throughout until you reach a climactic conclusion. Avoid clichés, like the monster that seems dead but really isn’t.

Horror novels vary in length, but generally, a stand-alone novel will be between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

Subgenres of horror include psychological, ghost, weird menace, erotic, body horror, occult detective, and more.

The Rules Of Science Fiction Novels
Science fiction blends science and technology that push our imaginations to the limit with elements of reality. Sci-fi novels tend to explore alternative possibilities and are often philosophical and filled with thoughtful commentary.

How long is a sci-fi novel? Science fiction novels can vary in length, but generally speaking, a stand-alone sci-fi novel may be between 90,000 and 120,00 words.

Subgenres include hard, soft, cyberpunk, space western, alternate history, space opera, military, and more.

The Rules Of Young Adult (YA) Genre Novels

Young adult (YA) fiction targets boys and girls between the ages of 12-18. The tone, style, and content of YA novels change significantly, depending on the specific age a writer is targeting. YA writers write for a specific audience without “talking down.” The genre can tackle G-rated issues or it can be very edgy. In all cases YA provides a safe place for young readers to explore the challenging situations they may face in real life.

Young adult novels vary in length depending on demographic, but generally run between 40,000 and 75,000 words.

Subgenres of YA include most of the same subgenres of adult fiction. “Edgy” YA tackles especially controversial or difficult issues.

This article is reproduced with permission of Writers Relief.

Writer’s Relief (est. 1994) is a highly recommended author submission service. Check out their free publishing leads, calls for submissions, and tips! This article was originally published here 

Photo Credit: http://www.writers-block-help.com/book-writing-techniques.html

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Recently, I saw a picture making the rounds online of a bride who during her wedding service was ‘pinging’ away right beside the groom, her face bearing that characteristic excited expression that denotes a detachment from reality and complete obliviousness of the immediate environment which BlackBerry users are known to have when busy on their phones.

Pinging is a phone nomenclature made popular in Nigeria by the wide spread use of BlackBerry phones in the country. For the uninitiated, it’s important to explain that to ping on a BlackBerry is one way to get another BlackBerry owner’s attention on the Messenger application but in my country, where the mobile device sits atop the list of most sort after smart phones, the act of pinging has taken a whole new meaning and has become a synonym for the very act of using a BlackBerry. This is having a huge impact on our lifestyles and relationships.

BlackBerry smartphones take their users from their world and transfer them to another world. Communicating with friends worldwide has never been as easy as since the introduction of Smartphones. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is the instant messaging app for BlackBerry Smartphone on which pinging occurs. In a country where data service is just beginning to gain ground, the BBM is not just the Unique Selling Point of BlackBerries but the main reason why many people buy one in the first place.  No doubt, the BBM has helped users make large numbers of friends and facilitate their communications regardless of distance and time. It has become the go to point for socialising, sharing intimate moments or having fun with friend.

But does it come with a cost?

Often times I wonder if RIM, makers of the BlackBerry, are aware of the level of insanity they have unleashed on my people both young and old alike through the BBM. It’s a common sight to see people walking on the street, both hands on their phone, smiling or giggling to themselves.

A friend once told me of a party where instead of discussing and networking, or at least keeping the dance floor active, most of the invited guests were sitting, more interested in their BlackBerries, defeating the very aim of the party. Even drivers on the highway dangerously share their concentration between the road and their BlackBerry phones.

Like every other gadget, the BBM can both be a powerful communications tool or the very opposite of a carefree, merry experience. In a recent study conducted across various Middle Eastern countries about BBM and its effects on family relations, a theme of disappointment was found among individuals who had hoped for better. One reoccurring issue was of how the BBM could help partners build a strong bond when far apart and becomes a huge threat to relationships when the partners are now together. Partners complained that when they were together the other part spent more time pinging and chatting with friends and colleagues rather than giving them attention.

This must sound or feel familiar for most couples here in Nigeria. As with all kinds of text-based communication such as SMS, Instant Messaging (IM) and to a lesser extent email, there is a great risk that the emotional part of our messages is left out, leaving us with a flat, lackluster stack of words to work with. This could (and I challenge psychologists to carry out studies on this) have a subtle but far reaching effect on communication and relationships at the friendship and family level. The society without doubt is at the receiving end of it all.

As in all things, the threat this pingsanity, and its related variants such as 2go and whatsapp, brings to human relationships calls for moderation on the part of users. No form of interaction can beat the physical verbal/nonverbal form of communication. In our quest to live the trend and explore modern forms of communication, it is important that we realise that a smile emoticon, no matter how beautiful, can never replace or exert as much impact as a genuine smile on our face.

First published in my Daily Times column

photo credit http://www.thehindubusinessline.com

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There is a general assumption that every writer is a good speaker. It seems only natural that the two attributes should go together. If you can put words together and deliver such clear messages, it’s expected that with a microphone in hand, you can face an audience and deliver moving talks, bringing the words you write to life and having them leave an impression far more vivid than written words alone. As logical as this seems, it is not always true, at least not in my case.

Besides fiction, I write a weekly column and I blog about issues that I feel strongly about. I also tweet. The last time I checked, I had over ten thousand of those 140 character messages in which I have expressed everything from my creed, to my sexuality and everything in-between. In simple terms, I am pretty much at home with expressing my thoughts in writing but speaking those words is a different matter altogether.

I trace the origin to one disastrous event many years ago. Back in Secondary school, I was a star of the literary and debating society. I wrote wonderful essays which won me many honours and proud appearances before the school assembly. Well, that was before my humpty dumpty-like fall. The school was invited for an inter-school debate competition and it was only natural that the best essay writer should be part of the team. On the day, when it all mattered most, I failed to deliver even to my own astonishment.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was the third speaker. It meant I was to wrap up my sides argument, like the last runner in a relay race. The topic was on Girl Child Education. We were opposing the motion, arguing in favour of girl child education. The coordinator of the literary and debating society, Miss Okpala helped us fine-tune our presentations. The rehearsal sessions were perfect. We seemed set to win. But on the day, something different happened. In the middle of my presentation, I stuttered and lost my line. It was the climax to a disaster that had announced itself first when marching boot soles took over the left of my chest as soon as we assumed our seats on the day of the debate. I barely sat steady while the earlier speakers made their arguments.

So when I handled the microphone, I spoke like someone who had just run down a hill, my breath coming in heaves. My words flew out like objects of irritation out of my throat. My hand, the one with the microphone, trembled. It was only a matter of time before I stuttered and came to a halt like a car with a faulty radiator. All my carefully rehearsed lines took flight and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get them back. Standing there petrified, I wished the ground would open and swallow me.

Noticing my helplessness the audience began to clap. It was an overwhelming ovation that helped me trace my way back to my seat without collapsing. The sound of the claps and the throbbing in my chest that day still echo in my memory till this day. They haunt me like sins from my distant past each time I am to speak to an audience, be it the mere act of voicing an opinion during my team meeting at work, addressing a rally of youths or even while praying in a group. Anywhere I have to speak in a formal setting with or without notes.

It is not a lack of what to say or the command of language to say it. Indeed, it is not the absence of the guts to face the audience and convert thoughts to words. No. it’s something more. I hate to sound superstitious but it feels very alive, like some kind of spirit and it enshrouds me, overwhelming me from deep within and making me feel as though I am about to choke as I speak. Like I needed to vomit all the words quickly. Like I needed to say them all at once before I lose them like on the day of the school debate many years ago.

It’s all psychological. On the other hand, I blame it on my being overtly emotional. So attached am I to every word I write or think of that when speaking them it is not just my lips moving, it is my entire being taking life and because of the deep conviction in my heart about the point I am trying to make, I become prone to stuttering as I hasten to speak them all and get my listeners to believe them as much as I do.

Sadly, as someone who is known to write, wherever I find myself whether it’s a vote of thanks that needs to be made at a party or my teams report at work, every other person, oblivious of my challenge delegates the duty to me in the belief that I am most suited to handle it. I often pass off such responsibilities when I can and when I can’t, I handle it, being as brief as possible and employing a smile, to cover up the turmoil going on in my heart and head.

But there are other situations when as a writer I must speak and not be brief. My collection of short stories is due out soon and heralding it has been a flurry of book readings. The most challenging aspects of these readings are the interactive sessions. I have had situation where my publisher had to step in to buttress certain points following my obviously too brief answer. I have no doubt in my mind that with every new reading, I will get to know my audience more and that their smiling faces and the appreciation they show for my writing will be my ultimate weapon for overcoming the debate debacle.

First published here  in Life As a Human Magazine.

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Bianca and Ojukwu

How do I sum up 23 years in one page? I don’t know. How do I describe you? I cannot. Not in any depth. Not for anybody else – you were my husband, my brother, my friend, my child. I was your queen, and it was an honour to have served you.

You were the lion of my history books, the leader of my nation when we faced extinction, the larger-than-life history come to my life – living, breathing legend. But unlike the history books, you defied all preconceptions. You made me cry from laughter with your jokes, many irreverent. You awed me with your wisdom. You melted my heart with your kindness. Your impeccable manners made Prince Charming a living reality. Your fearlessness made you the man I dreamt of all my life and your total lack of seeking public approval before speaking your mind separated you from mere mortals.

Every year that I spent with you was an adventure – no two days were the same. With you, I was finally able to soar on wings wider than the ocean. With you I was blessed with the best children God in heaven had to give. With you, I learnt to face the world without fear and learnt daily the things that matter most. Your disdain for money was novel – sometimes funny, other times quite alarming. It mattered not a whit to you. Your total dedication to your people – Ndi-Igbo – was so absolute that really, very little else mattered. You never craved anybody’s praise as long as you believed that you were doing right and even in the face of utmost danger, you never relented from speaking truth to power – to you, what after all, was power? It was not that conferred by the gun, nor that stolen from the ballot box. No. You understood that power transcended all that. Power is the freedom to be true to yourself and to God, no matter the cost.

It is freedom from fear. It is freedom from bondage. It is freedom to seek the wellbeing of your people just because you love them. It is the ability to move a whole nation without a penny as inducement nor a gun to force them. When an entire nation can rise up for one person for no other reason than that they love him and know he is their leader – sans gun, money, official title or any strange paraphernalia – that is power.

To try to contain you in words is futile. You span the breadth of human experience – full of laughter, joy, kindness and sometimes, almost childlike in your ability to find something good in almost everyone and every situation. You could flare up at any injustice and in the next instant, sing military songs to the children. You could analyse a situation with incredible swiftness and accuracy. In any generation, there can only be one like you. You were that one star. You were a child of destiny, born for no other time than the one you found yourself in. Destined to lead your people at the time total extinction was staring us in the face. There was no one else. You gained nothing from it. You used all the resources you had just to wage a war of survival. You fought to keep us alive when we were being slaughtered like rams for no reason. Today, we find ourselves in the same situation but you are not here. You fought that we might live. The truth is finally coming out and even those who fought you now acknowledge that you had no choice. For your faithfulness, God kept you and brought you home to your people.

You loved Nigeria. You spent so much of your waking moments devising ways through which Nigeria could progress to Tai-Two!!! You were the eternal optimist, always hoping that one day, God will touch His people and give us one Vision and the diligence to work towards the dream. It never came to pass in your lifetime. Instead, the disaster you predicted if we continued on the same path has come home to roost. You always saw so clearly. Your words are indelibly preserved for this generation to read and learn and perhaps heed and turn. You always said the dry bones will rise again. But you always hoped we would not become the dry bones by our actions. Above all, you feared for your own people, crying out against the relentless oppression that has not ceased since the end of the war and saddened by the acceptance of this position by your own people. In death, you have awakened the spirit that we thought had died. Your people are finally waking up.

At home, you were the father any child would dream of having. At no point did our children have to wonder where you were. You were ever at their disposal, playing with them, teaching them of a bygone era, teaching them of the world they live in and giving them the total security of knowing you were always present.

In mercy, God gave me a year to prepare for the inevitable. I could never have survived an instant departure. In mercy, God ensured that your final week on earth was spent only with me and that on your last day, you were back to your old self. I cannot but thank God for the joy of that final day – the jokes, the laughter, the songs. It was a lifetime packed into a few hours, filled with hope that many tomorrows would follow and that we would be home for Christmas. You deceived me. You were so emphatic that we would be going home. I did not know you meant a different home. The swiftness of your departure remains shocking to me. You left on the day I least expected. But I cannot fight God. He owns your life and mine. I know that God called you home because every other time it seemed you were at death’s door, you fought like the lion that God made you and always prevailed. In my eyes, even death was no match for you. But who can say ‘no’ to the Almighty God? You walked away with Him, going away with such peace that I can only bow to God’s sovereignty. Your people have remembered. The warrior of our land has gone. The flags are lowered in your honour. Our hearts are laden with grief.

But I will trust that the living God who gave you to me will look after me and our children. Through my sadness, the memories will always shine bright and beautiful. Adieu, my love, my husband, my lion, Ikemba, Amuma na Egbe Igwe, Odenigbo Ngwo. Eze-Igbo Gburugburu, Ibu dike. Chukwu gozie gi, Chukwu debe gi. Anyi ga afu na omesia.

Bianca is the widow of late Dim Chukwuemka Odumegwu-Ojukwu

2nd March 2012. Nnewi Nigeria.

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It’s either a case of increased media attention, or indeed cases of pedophilia, molestation and sexual abuse of children is on a rapid increase in Nigeria. There are daily reports on traditional as well as social media about the occasional uncle, neighbor, or even parent taking advantage of minors in unimaginable cases of perverted sexual orgy. Whichever is the case, there is no doubt that children in our society have become very unsafe in the face of unspeakable atrocities perpetuated by adults around them.

We hear about these suspects being arrested by the police, but not their convictions. I am not sure how many make it to court rooms or if they are released soon after based on the now popular excuse of it being a “domestic affair” as the police are often known to say.  What remains a fact and a very worrying one however is that such action, besides the traumatic impact on the victims, has the capacity to inflicting a lifelong damage to their health, perception of life, love and sex.

Already, life for many teenage girls is a painful tug of war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, friends, family and oneself. Growing up—negotiating a path between independence and reliance on others—is a tough business and the tendency of older men hiding under the toga of being “uncles” to emotionally exploit and sexually abuse these extremely gullible youngsters summarises the issue under discuss here.

The period of adolescence is filled with intellectual and emotional changes in addition to other major biological and physical changes. It is a time of discovery of self and one’s relationship to the world around. Female teenagers- who develop faster biologically- are often at the greatest risk here. The sprouting breasts soon begin to induce a more than normal surge of the wrong hormones in the “uncle” who, combing persuasion and coercion, gradually turns into a secret lover.

The issue is made worse by the fact that these male individuals are persons the girls have known and trusted since childhood; people who buy them stuff and help them with their home work. People who bathed them when they were much younger and helped them get into their cloths. Persons they confined in and have received advice from. When these favourite persons begin to pull up her skirt, the little girl is often at a loss as to how to handle it.

This way, the unhealthy relationship continues right under the nose of the parents.

The long term implications of such childhood experiences can best be imagined. Some of these girls grow up into perverts, antisocial elements, frigid wives or very emotionally unstable adults. So many people are suffering this in our society though not too many might be bold enough to admit or talk about it. While such persons now depend on counseling and prayers for help, it is important we help others avoid such a fate. About a hundred percent of the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulder of parents.

I am not yet a parent and might not qualify to tell parents how to be parents. However, I believe I can remind them of their responsibility to their children. It is wrong to have a child and hand same over to a stranger to raise for you right in your house perhaps because you are so busy trying to get to the peak of your career.

Your children deserve your presence and constant monitoring.  They also require your trust to be able to tell you when something is not going right. When due to your absence, or lack of attention, you let your children create parents out of your gardener or security man or even your blood brother; you should also be ready to accept whatever kind of teaching they get from these pseudo parents.

Men who cannot control themselves to such extent that they take leave of their senses and begin to violate underage girls are no different from animals in the wild and should be treated in the same way. We must continue to name them and shame them and ensure they face the full weight of the law. Our daughter or sister could be a victim.

Postscript: Some of the feedback i have received since this piece first appeared in Daily Times indicates that child sexual molestation is not restricted to girls. Perhaps, because it is grossly under reported, we tend to ignore the fact that boys are also abused. We must all stand up against this trend and protect our children. 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipphamedl/1408259798/

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