Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Despondent Soul

I have often heard about people who committed suicide and I would get angry that they did that to themselves and didn't think of those they were leaving behind. I was so judgemental and I once commented that maybe there should be a public service where if you are feeling suicidal, you would go there, donate your organs and then ended it if you really wanted to.

But When I was on the receiving end of the very thoughts people who had taken their own lives may have experienced and didn't know how they were going to get out of it. I finally understood what it felt like to be backed in a corner and not have much to say in your own defence against your own thoughts.

I never thought it would be me. I am better and stronger than that. But in those few minutes and hours when my mind became so powerful and my will fighting to be heard, I learnt that people who take their own lives do so for many reasons. I am not excusing suicide and never will. But I think I'm beginning to understand the mind is one of the most powerful machines in the world. Not the ones we as men create but the very one that embodies our character, personality, dreams and aspirations; the very fibre of what holds us up and together when the going gets tough.

Next time, you hear that someone took their own life; before you get angry and judgemental, say a prayer for them and their loved ones. It is not easy to shake off despair and some people are not wired to handle it very well.

Image: Waves Of Despair Regina Lafay (

Not Another Decade of Skinny Africans

Last week, in fact, allow me to be precise. It was 22 October and I was watching ABC News with Charles Gibson. I have to tell you, I love me some Charlie. He has a sense of humour, well...a little and the way he ends the news programme is forever ingrained in my memory. He is about to retire and I wonder what I am going to do without Charlie.

But what stood out on the news agenda for the night was the fact that Ethiopia was once again struggling to feed its own people. Earlier in the day, I had read reports on the BBC News website and that the Ethiopian government and aid agencies were calling on the international community for help in order to avert another bout of famine.

I have to be honest that fear hit me like a boxer would hit a punch bag while practising. The images on the screen changed and all I saw was tiny little children like the ones we have all become so familiar with. The images that many would argue have come to define Africa. The ones the media just love to show, over and over to make the whole continent look like we are all starving. You know the ones I am talking about, the ones from 1984.

And I was worried. Worried that just when we are finally getting to the point of realisation that its time we tell our own stories and not allow others do the job for us, the trouble that might be bigger than us is about to unleash itself and invite the outside world to the masquerade dance of hunger; a dance that might leave another decade of images full of skinny Africans with their ribs showing like they are about to break. Another decade of Live Aid concerts to raise money for Africa, another decade of aid dependency, another decade of self-pity...another decade of trying very hard to re-brand ourselves. It will be another decade of heartache and pain for those affected by this new threat of hunger and famine. And these are the people we need to turn our attention to and ask why this is happening again?

The number one culprit at the moment and this is not me talking. This is what everyone is blaming…climate change. So, this is where I ask, Ethiopia is not one of the richest nations in the world and so does not produce the same amount of waste that goes into the atmosphere which in turn affects the world’s ever changing climate like a few countries I don’t want to bother my fingers and type their names. Why is Ethiopia bearing the brunt of the actions of those across the ocean?

Let’s not forget the issue of poor harvest and of course drought which some say is linked to the challenges imposed by climate change. Ethiopia is growing in population but does not have the social infrastructure to take care of its own citizens. And that is a scary thought just like it is with a number of African countries.

We cannot forget the way the nation is governed either and how this has contributed to the problems which just seem to compound year in and year out. Again, it is the same with a number of African countries. Hence, the question remains, what can we do to avert another decade of skinny Africans gracing the screen of every western media news programme you can think of like a cover girl graces the front of a magazine?

For me and I speak and write as an individual who hates to see other people suffering, how are we going to get Ethiopia to that place where it can take care of its own and provide for them? I admit I don’t want those images becoming what defines Africa again but I also want my fellow Africans to survive.


Thursday, October 01, 2009


Is it the fact that we have one of the best national anthems in the world, which I can no longer remember the words. I know, shame on me but I can't sing ‘God Save The Queen,’ either. But I do I pledge to Nigeria my country.
To be faithful, loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.

So it’s October 1st and practically everyone’s facebook status is about the fri**ing independence. By now you can tell my patriotism is out the window today. You could say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. No, I am not angry at the people, whose facebook status is about Nigeria and its independence from colonial masters. I am pi**ed off at the fact that for almost 50 years, we have only had 10 years of civil rule which as things stand, is not civil at all.

It still feels like a dictatorship and the rich are getting richer while the poor wonders when their time to eat will come. We have a lame duck leader, who if I am fair to him tries but his best is just not good let alone good enough. Things are not getting better but worse. Rather than hear about how the president is making things work for the country, all I hear is how Fashola, Lagos State governor is making things better for Lagosians.

So, this is where my gripe begins...I never lived under a civilian government in all the years I was growing up in Nigeria, I know, seek counselling and get over it, right? But that’s not it. It has not left me starving for a perfect government. There is no perfect political party or government. For crying out loud, take a look at Britain’s New Labour, soon to become Old Labour and all their promises when they came into power; 12 years on, you do have to wonder where it all went wrong?

Let’s go one better, take a good look at the good old GOP…better known as the Bitter Republican Party of the United States. Talk about a bunch of sad grumpy old men who have nothing better to do than moan and moan about the fact that they lost the plot. And of course, you look at the leader of the free world, Barack Obama and his change programme, and the efforts being made to destabilise the change he wants to implement by the same people he is trying to lead. Goes to show you can never please mankind. So, don’t bother trying.

However, that is not the case in Nigeria. I am yet to hear of a Nigerian leader who put the needs of his people before his. If they are not busy stealing from us, they are busy killing us. Our current president is referred to as a snail, well, I can’t blame them. I was not born in the 60s but I hear the soldiers took over because they felt the civilian government was mismanaging resources. We will never know the truth because in all my 30 years, all they ever do when they get to power is take, take and take; those who desire to give back or help the people, they ‘waste’ them.

So, its 2009, the ninth year of the new Millennium and the current trend is kidnapping people who may have a penny or two to their names. What's interesting is that some of them have no political history just Nigerians taking their fellow country men for ransom. I wonder why they don't heap the same horseshit on the mugu politicians we have and get them to surrender the money they have been stealing for years. I wonder why IBB or Abacha's family have not felt the wrath of these angry young men. Why take ordinary people who have money, ill-gotten or not?

Education is in shambles. Many students have been waiting to graduate for months but are still waiting on ASUU to end its strike. Or is it the fact that while universities are on strike in Nigeria, the half dead president Umaru Yar’adua flies to Saudi Arabia to open a fri**ing university. If he was not inspired by what he saw to do right by his own people, I guess they have to start praying for the next election to come sooner than later.

Medical care is more like a slaughter house. People go to the hospital to get well but they end up dead because some joker didn’t know what was wrong and rather than tell them the truth, they lie to them in order to get their money and kill them. Knowing full well, no one can bring them to account. Imagine a friend goes for blood transfusion a few weeks back, and ends up infected with Hepatitis C. In addition to suffering from diabetes, he swells up in pain and dies. Though I have been dealt a similar blow when the doctors misdiagnose you and rather than tell you the truth, they sentence you to a life time of medication, hospital visits and surgeries and oh, did I mention the scars. You look in the mirror and you wonder, why me? But the game was on them because I'm not one to sit around feeling sorry for myself. Healthcare has gone from bad to worse.

Let’s not talk about the epidemic of corruption or the very fact that Nigerians have a reputation for being 419ers world over. The guilty and innocent suffer the same fate at airports and immigration offices. You know when you start getting the funny looks and they are looking at each other in recognition of your fraudulent passport be you guilty or not. In fact, you have Nigerians going to China, Bulgaria and Libya. And with all due respect, I mean, with all due respect, they are treated like second class citizens. Based on a recent documentary by Panorama, I saw Nigerians locked up like sardines in jail with men from other nationalities. They talked about being mistreated, I bet the Nigerian government saw it but cannot do a thing about it. Or is it the news story carried by Focus on Africa a few weeks back that some 200 Nigerians were to be executed and the fri**ing Nigerian government is not doing a thing about it. Instead, the silly Nigerian ambassador to Libya said it was not true, they are offering help and branded those who were not getting assistance criminals.

For crying out loud, a young British woman... well she is originally Nigerian but being British saved her life. She was meant to face the gallows a few months back was sent home from Laos because a, she was pregnant and b, the British government helped alongside Human Rights groups. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condole committing crime at home or in a foreign country but when there is harsh treatment, Western countries fight for their citizens but the Nigerian government, you will be lucky if you get a cup of water in a Nigerian jail let alone when you are locked up in a foreign jail.

Bottomline of the matter is that the government is as useless as you can get. What we have is a failed state and it has failed its people over and over. I mean why would anyone pack up and go to China, yes, I know it is a developing economy or go to Bulgaria if the different Nigerian governments, civilian and military in the last forty years used the country’s resources wisely? I bet you, Nigeria might be in the same group known as the BRICS (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) for being developing economies.

And please do not get me started about the level of unemployment. Young men and women graduate from university but have no job prospects. And if they find one, they either get it using their backside or their father pays for them to have a job. Those who get a job without paying for it or sleeping with an asshole are said to be the lucky few. When neither is possible, you have young women turning to prostitution as a way out. Prostitution becomes the way to desperately fulfil their dreams. Desperate Dreams are costly.

People are as poor as you can get. With no jobs and means of making an income, how are they expected to feed their families or pay for medical care? Nigeria is in an appalling state.

But there is also the side of my country I love and appreciate. The culture and traditions of the different tribes, you go to a Nigerian wedding, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of what I am talking about.

If anything is thriving at the moment, it is the entertainment industry, though I sometimes think we have lost our way in an ideology that's not original to us. Koko Mansion being the best example I can give. However, I also appreciate the work of Nollywood, good or bad, it makes an effort to tell the stories of ordinary Nigerians, the ones a westerner will hear and say no way, that’s not possible. I dare say, yes way it is possible in Nigeria.

This reminds me of the time I spent in the village while growing up. In fact it gave me some of my best memories. I still remember time spent by the riverside or my journey to the river. Hearing the trees sing and dance and the beautiful gentle breeze that comes with the music, you can’t beat that. The sense of community was and is still very strong. That’s one thing that you can never take away from my people. We help each other though there are also wicked people who do evil things.

I am not saying there is no form of development taking place. It is happening one day at a time but at a heavy cost to the millions of people suffering. This is where I say its time we ask ourselves where we go from here? We are going to be 50 next year, a significant year on the African continent with the World cup and the fact that several other African nations are going to be celebrating five decades of independence.

I think its time we ask ourselves what we are going to do next, continue like this because we think this is what God wants for us? For crying out loud, I am tired of the message that suffering is in the will of God. By all means excuse me on this. I don’t claim to know the whole bible but I know for a fact that there is no place where God condemns Nigeria to eternal suffering. Yes, we should pray Christians and Muslims but hell, I am sick and tired of the lie that the current state of Nigeria is the way God wants it. Its time we ask ourselves serious questions and since the politicians make it a point to make their faith part of their work, the religious leaders in the country need to start asking questions or they too can step aside and let God do his work by himself.

Nigeria and Nigerians have created a world that has different sides to it and they are all very contrasting. But if I come back in another lifetime, I want to be Nigerian. There is a sense of pride I see in my people which despite years of political mayhem, instability, corruption and abuse of power refuses to die. It is that sense of pride that makes us not give up and wherever we find ourselves in the world, we leave a mark. I love my people, I respect my people. I admire our resilience and hunger for success. I want us to do it right and I want us to do with our head held up high.