Monday, March 23, 2009

The Power Of Your Mind. Part 1

How do you feel about your present situation? I can tell you that I don't like a thing or two about life right now but I am so grateful to be alive. Grateful because I have another chance to change what I don't like. There are different elements that bring change into being but the most powerful ingredient to making it happen is the fact that you must make up your mind. This cannot go on. Not on my watch.

Now I sound like some motivational speaker right? Well excuse me but the last time I checked if you don't motivate yourself to making your life happen, I got news for you, no one will. You have to make those decisions even if no one agrees with them.

I am sure you know realise the power of your own mind. The power to make your life what you want it to be is in your hands. The power to draw that canvass you came up with as a child about the picture of your life is in your hands and it starts in your mind.

The only thing that will change the situation you are in is you changing your mind about it. If you decide, that's it; I don't want to so this starts with you making up your mind to give it up.

An addiction, a relationship, change of career, going back to all starts with you making up your mind.

Your life’s trajectory is determined by the power of your mind. The pictures and stories you tell yourself about your life.

I am going to stop preaching at you but I want you to know I didn't write this because I wanted to tell you about changing your mind. I wrote it because I have just changed my mind. I have said it out loud, mediocrity is not an option. I changed my mind. My life is worth more than average. I refuse to be lukewarm but I chose to get up and get on with life.

Knowing that whatever comes my way, I have the most powerful deposit of creativity in the world... My Mind to make life the best it can be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Andry Rajoelina is a disgrace to the process of democracy...

Andry Rajoelina is a disgrace to the process of democracy. Oh, oh, how dare she say that? Well, I just did. Get over it.

I'm not one for politics, my father hates it and my mother...she has a passionate hatred for it. But my uncle is a politician. I guess it is not so bad at the end of the day.

Back to this rat...Rajoelina...yes I did it again. He may have a point that President Marc Ravalomanana was a dictator and misspent public money but abusing the process of democracy does not make you the right man to lead the people. I know you don't need a Degree or a Masters or a BSC, PHD, PGDIP...and all the degrees and Fahrenheit’s Africa has as far as the weather is concerned to become a president. But I have a passionate dislike for people who are disrespectful. And when I say disrespect… I mean every form and type of disrespect; from disrespecting your elders to disrespecting authority. I cannot stand it. It makes me angry when an irritating jokey thinks that because he has money and the army behind him, that makes it okay to do as he pleases. Yes… he has the support of the people but how long will that last? Take it from me, I lived under dictators throughout my childhood…when you don’t deliver, they are going to hate your guts and wish death on you and your family.

I don’t deny Ravalomanana could have done things differently but he was elected and if you were so desperate for power, why not go to a referendum and do it the right way? As far as I am concerned, Rajoelina took democracy back by 10 years in Madagascar. African nations have been trying hard to do right in recent years where democracy is concerned. They don’t always get it right but they are making efforts and when a joker like this silly little boy who is still in diapers thinks he is ready to rule pulls a stunt like this…it makes my blood boil.

If you were not so power hungry, why wait two years for an election? Rajoelina has an agenda and it is a personal one. Not one for the people but one to prove a point to Ravalomanana who is in control. I guess you did just that little boy.

No one has said anything about the fact that Ravalomanana’s daughter was once in a relationship with Rajoelina. Ravalomanana did not agree with it and it ended. It is also a case where Rajoelian was once in Ravalomanana’s inner circle and can do the dirt on him. This political battle is more than a political battle. It is a personal feud between David and Goliath and it looks like this David won though he is not God sent. This David needs to grow up because he is about to find out that being a president will make you age so fast you will not know what hit you.

I must say, you live by the sword… you die by the sword. Ravalomanana may be gone and Rajoelina is in power but I won’t shed a tear if one of the army officers decides to put a b****t to his head tomorrow. It has been known to happen before. Ask Samuel Doe, his own people gave him up. Charles Taylor thought he was clean and clear but they gave him up also. You can’t dine with the devil and decide to eat from afar. When you take up the invitation, you get close and enjoy dinner. Welcome to the table Rajoelina because you are about to find out that being a president is not for little boys.

I may not know you personally, pretty sure you are sweet…got a lot of charisma, you had better be able to spin the right tune or very soon…sooner than you think, you will be out on your ear and while I don’t wish you evil. I get the funny feeling that your end will be worse that than of Ravalomanana and his predecessor. Ask Sani Abacha, he died like a dog and people were on the streets rejoicing. Thank goodness I am not one of his children who witnessed people in jubilation over the death of their father. Not because they cared or loved him but because they hated the little b****d. Ask Ravalomanana, he took power from the president while he was mayor and the same has been done to him… goes to show that what goes around doers come round. Cliché, but that’s life. Deal with it because it is about to deal with you.

I can’t wait for this joker to find out that charisma or being a charismatic leader does not feed hungry men or desperate ones at that. Get ready Rajoelina, the dance is about to start. While I really dislike you for the role you played in this drama that has danced out on the world stage like the Brazilian samba…one that contributed to the death of innocent people; I would like to wish you luck because you are going to need it.

Andry Rajoelina may be talking about constitutional change and making things better...great but that does not make it right. Malagasy law says the head of parliament's upper house should take over after a president resigns and organises an election within two months. But Rajoelina is saying elections within two years. According to a legal document obtained by AFP news agency, the constitutional court "proclaims that Mr Andry Rajoelina exercises the attributions of the president of the Republic as stated by the provisions of the constitution". The disorder has already started...things are being done to suite Rajoelina. Isn’t that the making of a dictator????

It is only in Africa that people will pull stunts like this…of course they have their South American counterparts to compete with when it comes to political uncertainty.

The situation in Madagascar has done nothing but bring attention to the depth of disunity on the continent. When fellow country men turn against each and it is perpetuated through generations in the land. This is a cycle that must be broken when people change their mindset and we need to do it now.

The Curse of Oil In The Niger Delta

While it is really sad, I would like to ask and please feel free to disagree...why is it that almost anywhere in the world, a community of black people is characterised with disorder, crime and disunity? If we are honest with ourselves, the atrocities we commit against each other are worse than the ones we blame the West or anyone else for.

The news stories from the Niger Delta either give you the chills or make you wonder what in the world is going on down there??

I have read a few that brought tears to my eyes. The murder of a young girl as she tried to save her brother from getting kidnapped made me so angry.

But when I read this: Nigerian militants 'rape women'

I felt sick in my stomach. Oil has given Saudi Arabia great wealth but Nigeria, hell no, it is the basis upon which evil has flourished. A country which could easily count for being one of the richest in the world, yet it is home to some of the poorest people in the world.

I am ever so proud to call Nigeria home but when incidents as distressing as this one come to my attention, it makes me wonder... what if there was no oil? Would The Niger Delta be better off? Would things be different? Would it make any difference at all??

I can ask every question in my bone but I know there are no answers out there.

I believe this man captures it best when he vents his anger about the day they discovered oil in the Niger Delta. The day oil was discovered in Nigeria

Despite the wealth of the nation, the people who own the land and live in the area are yet to see a kobo of the Naira that flows into the country let alone a sign of the dollar with which Nigeria trades in oil. It is a low down dirty shame that they have been systematically raped and no one gives a care in the world.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Telling My Own Truth

It is always scary to expose yourself through your words because you don't want people to form an opinion before they meet you or hear you talk. However, as a writer, you are your words and your words are you.

A few weeks ago, I told someone my age and she almost fell over because she could not believe the teenager she was starring at or at least the young lady she thought was in her early twenties was way past her teens and twenties.

I didn't take any offence because if I did, I would have fought with every bus driver who asked me to pay child fare when I first came to the UK. I must be honest and let you know that I did pay the child fare they asked and saved a few pennies...don't look at me like that. You know if you were in my shoes you would do the same.

So, what's telling my own truth? Telling my own truth is the fact that I was confronted with that friend known as the green eyed monster this week. You know when you hear good news about others and you are in desperate need for the same news. Luckily this good news is not yours.

I tried real hard to be happy for her. I showed interest, asked questions and went through the motions. But when I looked at myself, I knew I had wished that was me. Am I being too hard on myself? No. You see, I was brought up to always be happy for others because you will have others celebrate with you.

I have also been taught that it is sometimes hard to be cheerful at someone else's good news when you are in desperate need of one. It was just so hard to reconcile these truths this week.

I was really angry at myself because I know I am better than that. I know I am on a different journey and path in life. So, why was I feeling this way about a good thing? Why did I feel the need to make an effort to celebrate in another person’s good news?

This isn't me. I am Belinda Otas, the lady that was raised with nothing and has learnt to make it happen for herself. I must say I didn't do it all on my own. I have always had people to help me.

Why did I react and not respond? That is what I have been taught to do, be matured. Why did I act like a spoilt little child?

I could go on and on and might not even arrive at a good enough response.

When I got home, I sat down and asked myself, why did I do that? What was behind my action? I had to say to myself, this is what telling my own truth is about.

When I face myself with no one else around and tell me, myself and I that I messed up. That I know better and should do better. But I must also tell myself that I am a human being and these feelings are all part of growing up and I should never be afraid of exploring what I feel as long as I don't let it control me.

Telling my own truth is about confronting my weaknesses and digging deep at the root of anything that could come back and haunt me in the future. Telling my own truth is not being afraid to admit my flaws while embracing my strengths.

I know am good at what I do and I don't say that out of arrogance but from the very fact that I have worked hard to get here and I am going to keep going.

(I must come back and explore this)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The times and seasons of life have a way of making you take a deep look at yourself. You have no choice but to strip naked and when its you, yourself and you, and in my case; me, myself and I before the mirror... you have to ask, am I doing what I promised myself as a little girl/boy? (For the record, keep your mind in check and don’t see naked people.)

The Morning of life is your time to make the decisions that will stand you in good stead for the future. And when you look back in the evening of your life… you can say… I planned in the morning, made it happen in the afternoon and in the evening; I reaped the rewards of my labour.

Two weeks ago, I had to walk away from something that was mine. It had my stamp all over it but I had to let it go. Was it easy? NO. But there will come a time when you have to walk away from things, people and even family if you are going to get to your Israel. Now, don't get it all twisted, if you are married, stay married. If you are having issues with your family, sit down and find a way out with them. Don't get lazy or come up with excuses and take the easy way out. When I say walk away, I mean if they are standing between you and that place we all call destiny. When I say walk away, I mean the things that want to hinder you. Bottom-line, I mean obstacles. Copy!

Good, now let’s get back to the business of shoulda, coulda, woulda!

It is so much easier to make excuses and avoid taking responsibility but you have to do it. If not, you are going to end up saying; I SHOULDA, I COULDA AND I WOULDA.

It has been a while since I spent time thinking about certain things I have always wanted to do. You get carried away with what you are doing right now and you continuously put back what you wrote down 5 years ago as part of your five-year plan.

Yes, there are times when you have to put a few things on hold in order to achieve others. It is always tricky to know which one to place on hold. The question is how long you can put them on the shelf? You could easily say, well… if you are really passionate about that goal or vision you won’t put it on hold.

Of course, that is a valid point but there are times and seasons in life and you have to know the season of life you are in…to enable you know what your next move should be about.

Don’t we all wish we could do the things we dream about without the obstacles? One thing is certain; don’t ever negotiate yourself out of your dream. That will kill you faster than being jobless.

I personally think it is wrong to allow your current job take over your life. It is your current means of income but not your entire future.

This is where I ask the question I woke up with this morning, how do you begin to negotiate with life and all your commitments in order not to lose sight of your passions?

I would hate to wake up in the evening of my life and say these words; I SHOULD, I COULDA AND I WOULDA!

Does Africa have a Right To Be Angry?

At the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General said Africa had a right to be angry. Angry because Justify FullAfrica was not responsible for the financial crisis but will suffer greatly because of it.

Call me naive but I really agree with what people have been saying for a long time. Africa needs trade and not aid. When the protectionism, selfish and sick trade embargos Europe and other continents have in place is taken off and African countries can trade on the world stage the same way their Western counterparts do, then I think we can begin to hope that we are on the right path to rebuilding the richest continent in the world.

While I agree with Annan's comments to a certain degree, I also differ with him, for the simple reason that for so long Africa has become a little child always waiting on mum to come home and make dinner. We are dependant on aid despite being a great continent with rich natural resources and a whole ton of them are yet to be discovered. Yet, Africa is inhabited by some of the poorest people in the world. We have intelligent people and people who are not lazy; they are willing to work to earn their living. Africans didn't always see the need for corruption or becoming fraudulent in order to get ahead. No, we are raised to work the land in order to eat. I say that boldly because that's how I was raised. Yes, this girl knows how to work on the farm, plant yam, cassava and other crops and oh hell yes, I know how to harvest them too.

However, we have a system that has raised leaders with the mindset of me, myself and I. They care about themselves more than they do the people they are leading. Our politics have become ethnicised and religionised (don't search for the meaning, flow with me) that we kill people who speak a different language and believe in a different god to us though they are our neighbours, shame on us.

Our dependence on aid has played a great role in keeping us perpetually poor. Now before you get your gun out and aim at me with the intention of taking me out for life. Just hear me out. I agree that humanitarian aid should continue. I agree that people have benefited from charitable aid. I don't dispute that. They have helped a lot of people more than some governments have. The aid that must stop is the one which goes directly to the governments. I don't care the clause with which they are handed over, it never seems to work. Necessity is the mother of all inventions and while that is a great cliché, man will always find his way around a challenge. It takes pen and paper to make it happen.

'Systemic Aid' needs to stop and while it will be hard, there is a big chance it might also work. When you have nothing to depend on like many families in Africa have nothing to depend on, they become inventors and find a way to survive. Humanitarian aid should continue but governments must clean their act and learn to make it happen for their people. They must negotiate betters deals and stop settling for less. They think of the now but not the future of the unborn children the nation is yet to deliver. They also need to speak up and the world must listen. It is a low down dirty shame that South Africa is the only African nation at the forth coming G20.

Years of bad governance and of course continuous interference by those little boys in uniform who think a gun empowers them to lead a nation. I mean the military jokers who have taken nations to the drycleaners and cleaned them out financially. Nigeria being the best example I can give. And before you say she is so rude. I was born and raised in Nigeria, lived under military rule for the 16 years I was there. So, I know what I am talking about. Copy!

So, where were we? Yes, aid and not trade...the passage to trade freely must be opened up to African nations. The West needs to realise that buying the goods they feel benefit them is not enough. Let Africa trade with you in all areas, the same way you send your goods to Africa with little or no restrictions from African governments.

And this takes me back to the comment of Mr Annan. I agree that Africa has a right to be angry because it is not responsible for the financial crisis but is beginning to suffer for it. However, I also disagree with him for the simple fact that African nations have had their chance to build some of the world's richest economies and they have never risen to the occasion. Rather, they have squandered the wealth of future generations on projects that don't exist. We have borrowed the future of our children over and over and paying back debts that will take generations to clear up. We don't know what it means to save for the rainy day anymore despite the fact that we have one of the most well established traditional means of saving. I am sure you remember your grandmother's clay pot where she keeps her money. But fast forward with me to the 21st century, we have not maximised our opportunities to build our economies and the markets we created.

It would be so easy to argue that the West most likely likes Africa the way it is. Helps to keep it as the Dark Continent but how long are we going to use that argument to make us feel better about our situation?

My anger level is beginning to rise, an indication I need to wrap this up. We cannot afford to get angry. We need to get active and even better take pro-active steps in this economic crisis and search deep to rebuild.

No doubt a lot of healing is needed but we need to get past the blame game and start thinking...and the world should be BUILING, BUILDING and BUILDING. Building Africa and building our economy.

Our governments need to wake up and rise to the August occasion of serving the people. Democracy is after all, government of the people, by the people and for the people.

We need good leaders at the top, we need smart and savvy economists who know their game and can play well. We need people who care about the people.

The AU needs to wake up and stop electing comedians (no names please!) as their leaders...makes all of them look like a bunch of jokers. SADC needs to keep doing what its doing and even better. ECOWAS, sometimes I wonder if it still exists needs to be active again. We all need to pull ourselves by our bootstrap and stop playing the blame game and wishful thinking won’t cut it.

There is always something to be gained in a bad situation, they key is to look for it and I an bold enough to say, if Africa will look deep, there is a big chance, this current economic crisis is what it might just need to get its bounce back. So, let’s not get angry. Let’s get working and let the world see that we are capable of building our continent. I double dare you Africa.

'Everybody knows it doesn't work'

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Journey 3 - My Name Is More Than A Byline. It Is My Signature.

I did say this year was about the journey. Everyday, I am learning new things: the good, the bad and the ugly. And in the world of journalism, I have learnt, people can really screw things up but you must never take it personally. Some people... their job is for you to make them look good but you must realise... you are a voice and not a noise maker. You must learn to raise your head and speak up. I don't care if you have an accent or not, don't ever let anyone make you get to the point where you can no longer speak. Even when they say or do things you don't appreciate, you don't need to raise your voice. All you need do is let them know, I appreciate what you have said but there is where I stand.

I remember getting the commission, doing the research. It was so much fun. I loved a very minute of minute. With every interview, my adrenalin was pumping because I was so close to getting this feature piece that seemed impossible yesterday. I had been connected to the key players.

Most of them based in the US, and as you know our time difference is huge. For three days in a row I had to stay back at work in order to get my interviews. I loved the process without a doubt.

It was great. This is why I studied to be a journalist, went on work experience and wrote for free just to build my portfolio. I was finally doing what my A’ levels teacher had said was not my reality.

You see, I was born in Nigeria, came to the UK at the age of 16 and believe me… I had and still have my Nigerian accent. Back then, it was thick. Let me tell you the part that I love the most. I am a very proud Benin Girl, I am Nigerian and I don’t care about the ideas or theories anyone has about Nigerians. Maybe this teacher thought…she is an African girl, with an accent and wants to be a writer. So, when I wrote the essay of what I wanted to do with my life... to become a writer. Her feedback on my essay paper was, ‘Is This Realistic?’

I wish she could see me now because she was wrong. I am writer and very soon you will hear from me Miss T. I am proud of my heritage and if you can’t deal with it, please take your leave and keep stepping. I can do all bad by myself.

Back to this feature... it was a piece about Nollywood. The brief was to examine the impact of Nollywod on the West African film industry. It was for an international magazine, owned by a brand name, one that prides itself on accuracy among many other virtues. And those virtues are still at the core of the brand.

So, I wrote the of the best I have ever written to be honest and I totally enjoyed it. I wrote it in less than 3 hours. Only to be screwed over. But I am not going to let it get to me.

It was decided by the team to add a line about an actress, a so called Nollywood actress who only flaunts her assets...breasts to be precise. Reason is that she embodies the brash and in your face and powerful part of Nollywood. Bulls**t.! A line I didn’t write someone I didn’t interview but that one line and image comes in and takes over the work. I made it known that she silenced everyone else. My piont was srictly on the grounds of editorial intergrity and value. Nothing else.

Besides, she is not a big figure in Nollywood and rarely gets roles these days. The best she has managed so far is a role in a music video. That for me and the decision to use her image totally overshadowed and silenced the voice of everyone else I interviewed. And to think that these people know their craft and she is famous for her breast, editorially, it defeats the purpose for which I was commissioned to do it. I stated my case that I was not comfortable with the image. To me, it took the whole feature. Besides… editorially, I had rather have respect than create sensation with a woman’s twin girls on display.

I spoke to my mentor, who happens to be a senior editor at work and her exact words were stick to your guns when I explained why I was not happy with what had been done.
So, a few emails went back and forth...finally a meeting. It was a funny meeting because I had three of them and just one of me. Told them I was not happy or comfortable with the image and the line based on the reason I stated above. It overshadows and silences all my interviewees. To me, it also defeats the brief and purpose of the feature. So, we danced around the matter...I was even asked if it degraded me and why I didn’t want to be associated with the actress. I have to say I didn’t find the image offensive. However, using an image like that says a lot about what you think of your audience. I remember saying it is not about it degrading me. It is my editorial integrity and value that matters to me and this is my work. If this was part of the brief from day one, then I have nothing to complain about.

I must say I understand what they wanted to achieve...create a good splash that would get huge responses. That’s what magazines want right? We all know that but there are different ways of doing that. And when it is another person’s work that a lot of their time and effort has gone into, you don’t have the right to do that as far as I am concerned. Not being naïve, I also know there are editors who do it. It is a tough world where people use their power to rub others but such is life. I must also state, not all magazines do this. So please, keep buying your mags...some of them have great content.

The meeting was a dance around and at one point, the editor asked, what if I decide to take your name off it and put our names? Maybe he thought that would scare me and make afraid and say okay. But you see, I am not an impressionable 25yr old nor am I some 28yr old who has no knowledge of herself. So, I told him to go ahead and do that. The others then said that would be unfair. One of them also said I had double standards because I didn’t have an issue with the picture of a man with a gun in the same feature.

For the record, guns are part of the culture in Nollywood and all over. You see it on the site of this well known news organisation but a woman with her knockers; you can count the number you will ever come across on the same site. And in Nollywood, it is frowned upon. I know of actresses who have been told off for dressing in certain manner. However, that’s not what this is about. It is about my work, my time and something I am not comfortable with. It is also a tough world.

So, double standards, we all have them was my response to him. That ought to have shut him up. We take different views to different things…after all one man’s meat is another man’s poison. That man with a gun didn’t take over my work.

To round this off, I went off and thought about it. Contacted my mentor again because I am sure that would have resulted in another meeting but in life, you have to learn to stand on your own and make life work for you.

So, I sent them an email, take my name off it. The content of my email was that I was very happy with the process of getting the feature to them and would do it again. But to avoid defeating what they wanted to achieve, take my name off it.
It made the process easy for the editor because he can hold his hand up and say she decided...but remember he also said to me, what if I decide to take your name off it and put ours on it? It was already decided. Nothing I said was going to change it as it was made clear. 'We are editors, we have to broaden a feature to make it...' oh hell yes, broaden they did.

Sounds like a bad decision to take my name off it but a journalist has the right to say take my name off something you are not comfortable with. It was a good experience. Learnt a good lesson, my name is my signature and I have a write to decide what it goes on and does not associate with.

I always thought it was the job of the Sun and Daily Mirror newspapers with the famous page 3 to show scantily clad women in order to achieve its aim. I didn’t know a magazine under the brand name of the (B**-We are smart people, we can figure this out) needed that also and had to resort to showing a woman with her knockers drooping down to achieve it. It was an interesting discovery.
A good experience for the future I must say. Who knows what’s around the corner?

Finally, "What you are willing to walk away from determines...(one of my favourtite quotes in the world)

My name is more than a byline. It is my signature.

I didn't come to take sides, I came to take over!

I didn't come to take sides, I came to take over. I sound like an angry woman right?

No, I am not angry. I am fully aware of who I am and whose I am. I am also aware of my heritage and the journey I have been on. I celebrate myself and every African out there making it happen. I celebrate our journey, our struggles, our achievements and our future and I celebrate our men and women. I weep for the heinous crimes committed against us but my tears for the crimes we have committed against each other is much more that those perpetrated against us.

Living in the Diaspora gives you great opportunities and you must seize them as they come. Living in the Diaspora opens your eyes to a great deal of injustice but that must never stop you from becoming what you want to be. You have to keep going and encourage yourself. To be honest, living in the Diaspora is a great gift because you really get to see the world, people and have a rich mixture of experiences.

It would be so much easier to give up and say I tried. But it is more rewarding to keep going no matter how hard it gets and make your voice heard. Someone needs to hear you loud and clear and then they will know that you are serious about business. There is a saying in Nigeria, “Who no know go know.”

I have been fortunate to work in highly prestigious news environment lately. As an African I have worked on building my knowledge and understanding of the motherland while in this organisation. It has been a steep learning curve and I have learnt some lessons the hard way but who hasn’t?

I have learnt to speak up and be heard. I should never have to bow my head and I must put my stamp on my work. You have to define who you are in a large room full of people or someone will be very happy to that for you.

But what has really got my taste buds going is the very lesson that just because you are desperate does not mean you must settle for less than you know you re worth. You must say to yourself, I didn’t come to take sides…I came to take over.

That is the mental strength you need if you are going to get to that place you envisioned years ago. It does not mater what others around you are doing. What maters is that you know where you are going and you stay on your life’s course.