On Biafra: Please Don’t Go Your Own Way

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On Biafra: Please Don’t Go Your Own Way

I think I was in Primary 6 when I first heard the word Biafra.

It was in a Social Studies class, if I remember correctly, and we probably spent all of one minute discussing it, if we did at all. I mostly learned that the Igbos of Nigeria had once decided they no longer wanted to be part of Nigeria, and had tried to break away (silly Igbos!). I learned that this act caused the civil war, but that Nigeria was eventually preserved as one country. Most of my class, including myself, joked about the incredulity of the whole thing. How could they have tried to leave Nigeria??

More than a decade later, waiting for a meeting with one of my bosses in a Director’s office in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, I decide to ask him: What do you really think about Biafra?

He becomes immediately animated, speaking of the ill-advised youth agitating for Biafra. He talks about his experience of the war in Sierra Leone. Then he talks about his experience of the Biafran war. He tells me how as a child during the war, he would play a game with two of his friends one afternoon, and by the next afternoon one of them would be dead. He mentions a contact he has, in one of the Nigerian ministries, and explains that they took school lessons under trees together in Biafra, as the Nigerian army was bombing school buildings. He pauses a minute, and I realize with sadness that he has gotten emotional. I flash back to something a colleague had said to me previously, about how emotional some of his relatives that experienced the war got, when the subject was brought up. I had thought he was exaggerating then, as he often is, but sitting in the Director’s office with my boss, I believe him.

Like many young Nigerians, my real introduction to the Biafran story was through Chimamanda’s book, Half of a Yellow Sun. I cannot say that I believed all of the narrative. I recognized that the author may have embellished the story, made it much more tragic than it was, for the sake of art. Fast forward again to a time that I was crying, right after watching a movie on the Rwandan genocide. I wondered how people were able to bear so much pain and suffering. Then the next movie was announced. Another movie on a war that happened in Africa. “All these African countries,” I thought, “Why do they always do things like this?” But then lo and behold, this war happened in my own part of Africa. I watched as an American soldier tried to help a woman whose breasts had been sawed off by a Hausa soldier. At a point in the movie, a priest bade the soldiers farewell, saying “God go with you.” The soldier (Bruce Willis by the way) responds by saying “God has left Africa already.”

Now flash forward to the present day. On the news yesterday I heard that six pro-Biafra agitators lost their lives. Yesterday, I joked with an Igbo taxi driver that declared he was going to marry me. “How can you marry me when you’re all saying you want to go to Biafra?” I’m surprised when his smile disappears, and he remains silent for the rest of the ride. I tell my colleague jokingly but seriously, “If the Igbos go, then we won’t be Nigeria anymore. There’s no Nigeria without Igbos, they’re so much a part of the Nigerian identity.”

One to three million Igbos died in the Biafran war. From one, to ten, to a hundred, to one thousand, to a hundred thousand, to one million, to three million, possibly more. One to three million Igbos died in the Biafran war.

There’s a famous picture on the internet that makes me incredibly sad whenever I see it. That picture of an extremely malnourished African child, trying to crawl her way to food, and a vulture trailing her. It hit me recently that this picture could have easily been taken during the Biafran war.

That night, I send a friend a text, I don’t want you to go to Biafra : ‘( !!! After a while, my phone lights up with a response, Haha, to go and do what. I feel a little better but not much. I go to bed feeling very pained for my country and its people. I can’t shake the feeling of being in a house where everything and everyone that is precious to you resides, and trying hard to deny the fact that you can smell smoke.

p.s. The title of this article was derived from an Economist article on the same subject –  “Go Your Own Way”

Yeah, he said there are way too many dickheads in Nigeria….

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This is his article.

This is my response.

Aww, shucks, he’s probably right. It’s basically the same thing I’ve been telling my friends, just in err, more appropriate terms. I do honestly agree, that the problem with Nigeria is Nigerians (including yours truly).

This white guy said something that struck me.

“If you were to replace the politicians – let’s say our 109 senators from before – with 109 random people from the Nigerian citizenry, you would get no change in behaviour.  You could repeat the experiment a thousand times, and you would get no change.  There is no ruling class in Nigeria, there is just a set of rulers.  Where any change is expected to come from I don’t know.”

If you take a moment to think about it, you’d realize that unfortunately, this is very true. Tim Newman discovered the thread of greed that runs through most of us. Greed white greed (forgive me). Think about it though, even the supposedly rich are shining their eyes. Maybe that should be our slogan: Nigeria, shine your eyes. Most of the population, including me again, has a strong desire to be wealthy or to better pass our neighbours, and most of us want to attain that wealth with the least possible effort. C’est le problème.

Whenever I’m discussing the Nigerian situation with someone, and they start singing that broken record about the government this, the government that, I’m always like “Err, excuse my french, but bullshit”. I proceed to draw their attention to numerous polls (though informal) that have been carried out asking average Nigerians if they would dip their fingers into the infamous national cake, if given the opportunity. Needless to say, majority of them admit that they most definitely would. Including kids in high school, our leaders of tomorrow.

It’s not the government. It’s us Nigerians, as a whole.

The Nigerian mentality. The hustle mentality. I gats to be rich. Emi na ma di bigs girls. Our eyes are always open, waiting for our big break. No one wants to venture into anything that does not directly and immediately benefit them. My dad recently lamented to me the fact that majority of Nigerians would prefer to acquire multiple cars and houses than invest in the progress of science and technology.

People often say that I do not sound Nigerian (not that I have any sort of foreign accent) and I say, yes, I’ve somewhat neutralized my accent. Usually, they get all worked up, accusing me of not being a proud Nigerian. I am, in fact, not a proud Nigerian. I love my country a lot, but I am currently not very proud of it. I will identify myself as a Nigerian whenever I have to, but I will not throw the fact of it in people’s faces. Like many other people, I think we as a country, are performing way below our capacity.

Before I ventured out of Nigeria in search of higher education, I was oblivious to our worldwide reputation. Soon enough though, the overwhelming negative fact of it hit me like a slap on the face. Just about thirty minutes ago, in a tutorial class, the teaching assistant was advising us not to be like the Nigerian students because they don’t attend lectures and resort to cheating in exams. Some people that knew I was Nigerian, protested and said it was a student thing not a Nigerian thing but he insisted and said,

“As for Nigerians, that’s their record”.

Trust me, I gave that T.A. a piece of my mind, but I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth because I knew that there was an underlying truth in what he said.

There’s a lot I have to say on this issue as it is very very close to my heart, but I’m going to cut it short. I once told a friend (one of those that criticized me for neutralizing my accent) that one of my goals in life was to do something for my country. She hissed and said “You even have time.”, which generally translates to “Why bother?”.

I do think Tim Newman should not be too quick to condemn Nigerians. He was working in the oil and gas industry, which could arguably be described as the nucleus of the country’s corruption. There are a lot of Nigerians that are rising above the cycle of greed, that genuinely care about their country, and are actually trying to do something to veer it off its path of destruction. That girl on YouTube, sadly, is not one of them. This other girl though, definitely is.

Please be one of these Nigerians. Nigeria is not an abstract concept. It is not its government. Nigeria is you and I (was going to type “me”).

Afterall, the whole sex thing is over in five minutes…….

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i-am-woman

I’m hungry. I’m really hungry. In fact, I’m starving. My tummy rumbles in agreement.

Walking back to my hostel, I see that the African Studies department is hosting an event. I seriously consider attending the event, mainly because a buffet has been laid out.

I shake my head.

A friend of mine got a Galaxy S4 just the other day. I’ve been trying to save for a phone for the past four months. The same goes for everything else. Groceries, clothing, shoes, rent. I always have to be very careful before I make any expense, because mehn, Ice cream and pizza today can equal garri and peanuts tomorrow. These other girls though, they only have to pout their perfectly stained bottom lips, and their needs are met. Just like that.

I have long since resigned myself to the fact that I am not like them, and would never be like them. There are two main reasons why not. There is God, then there is my pride. Sometimes, though, I’m sorely tempted.

Later that day, I’m invited to an event.

This man, he’s fifty, same as my dad, and says he wants us to be good friends. I laugh my delightful little laugh, and ask what what exactly he means by that. I am overwhelmed by the alcohol in his breath as he guffaws. Then he tells me good friends are friends that take good care of each other. I smile and take another sip of my drink, stealing a glance at the gold band on his ring finger.

Looking into his face, smiling as I watch him speak, listening to what he is saying, and hearing what he actually means, my mind wanders. I imagine not having to walk under the hot sun to hustle for a bus when I have to go somewhere. I imagine having all the latest tech toys at my disposal. I imagine ignoring, as opposed to frowning at the price tag on a coveted dress. I imagine the marvelous state of abundance in place of this state of want. I flashback to all the other promises, always made with that infamous clause.

“I can actually get you an internship at KPMG…”, “I can get your articles published in the national paper…”, “I can pay for your ticket to SA…”, “You should come with me to this beautiful resort in Togo…”, “I can get your pictures in that magazine…”

After all, like a dear friend of mine concluded, the whole sex thing is over in five minutes.

But no. There is God, then there is my pride. I will not turn this temple of God (my body, in other words), to one of those oriental fertility temples. I will not sacrifice my dignity for material things. I will continue to support myself. I will learn to sufficiently provide for myself. No man will be able to take credit for the amazing success I know for a fact that I’ll become.

I will not lie on my back, but will stand on my two feet.

And in other news, I am woman, hear me roar (couldn’t help it, sorry).

Young and Stupid

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I’m lying on my bed, laughing to and at myself. Sometimes, I can be really stupid. Often, I do a lot of stupid things.

The way I see it, I’ve done a lot of stupid things but I can’t say I’ve done enough. In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting the next set of bad decisions I’m going to make. The next set of unfortunate consequences that I’m going to endure. It gives me a thrill you know, the whole cause and effect thing. This thing is happening as a result of that thing I did. It makes me feel like, I’m in control.

I was saying, I haven’t done enough stupid things. I’m young, therefore, I’m allowed and even expected to be stupid. It’s a cliché I embrace with my whole being.

I just finished reading a book-Forrest Gump-about an idiot. A real idiot. He was always saying, to paraphrase, ”What do I know? I’m just an idiot.” Honestly, I think we are all idiots in our different ways. We try not to over-analyse things as it makes the little understanding we have of them slip through our fingers, like smoke. We just go with it.

Just go with it. Let me be stupid. Let me make bad decisions. It’s okay if I don’t know what I’m doing. Really, who does?

The Importance of Being Beautiful.

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The  Importance of Being Beautiful.

 

Yes this also applies to guys.

Sometimes I stand in front of my mirror, just before a crucial outing, and ask myself the age old question-”Do I look beautiful?”(i.e. Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of them all?)

Usually I study myself some more then I lower the bar-”Do I look pretty?”(i.e. Mirror mirror on the wall please am I finer than some of them?)

Well to cut the long story short (the story is very long, trust me), I finally conclude by assuring myself-”At least you’re not ugly”.

Actually, the truth is, when I finally step out and people start gushing ”Oh my gosh you look so beautiful”, I’d immediately feel beautiful.

What does that imply?

The perception the majority of us have about our looks are based on other people’s opinions. This is very wrong. I should let you know that even some of the so called beautiful people, require other people’s words of approval and adoration to assure them of their, errrr, beautifulness.

I’ve given this some thought (and you should too). Why do we as humans require approval before we can feel certain or confident about ourselves or what we’re doing?

We are made in God’s image right? I think that’s where we have our answer. God does require praise, worship and appreciation from both us humans and his angels.

Now let’s look at it from another angle. God requires praise and worship but the absence of these couldn’t make him any less the God that he is.

What am I trying to say? The fact that someone doesn’t appreciate your very stylish jacket doesn’t make it any less stylish.

Some people would particularly not tell you that you look nice because they are jealous of the way you look. Sometimes they even resort to saying bad things about you just to cover up their insecurities.

I’ve had some experiences that have convinced me that not much value can be put on most people’s opinions about us. A simple example is my height. On a certain day long ago, my family and I visited some relatives. They (the relatives) went on and on about how tall I’d grown and I was glowing with happiness. Then someone that had been previously absent arrived. She looked at me and exclaimed loudly, ”I expected you to be taller than this by now!”

What people (especially boyfriends, girlfriends, potentials and idols) say can matter a great deal to us but we shouldn’t let it take away from or add to our esteem. Look at your reflection and assess yourself honestly. This might come as a shock to you, but, nobody’s perfect. We all have our assets and our flaws. There are some things that you can’t change about your looks. Learn to accept them. They make you who you are.

A popular actress once said, ”I believe beauty comes from confidence”.  Yes, I know, beauty also shines from your heart. I honestly believe that beauty (handsomeness, sexiness) is overrated. Leaving that aside, God -the master sculptor- has assured us that we’re wonderfully and marvellously made.

So therefore, the next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, well, you know what to do.

p.s. Those of you that have boyfriends or girlfriends like Bruno Mars(Just The Way You Are) shouldn’t make noise at all.

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