Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Desire and the Sacrifice (of our generation)

(Desire-Plan-Execute-Actualize strategy to achieving a goal)

Oh God of Creation
Direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders right
Help our youths the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign

That is the 2nd stanza of our national anthem. It’s a wonderful prayer that have been written in many social studies texts, read on many school assembly grounds and the words have been neatly tucked away in government literatures and history books since the ‘60’s. I believe God of creation is well and alive ever since and will yet be tomorrow and ever more but many generations have come and gone and even our own generation has come and will go, but as long as Nigeria remains one entity, this anthem will continue to be sung. There is a part of scripture which says “the letter (words) kills but the spirit gives life. There is deadness in any letter or words except the spirit quickens the reader to see beyond the letters into the passion, purpose and mindset of what those words carry.

The last part of the stanza read “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. This part is a summary of the desire expressed in the beginning and the middle – a desire of which we beseech God to grant Nigeria. But I really would want us to understand something about desires and realities quite well. Take for example, you desire a car (you do not have one at the time), a particular model (Honda Accord). You have a job but realized that it is not possible within a few months to get one (you do not want to take a loan, more so it is not easily accessible (save for bankers…lol)), so you get the price of the car from a dealer and you were told it would cost N1.2million. Then you sit down with your paper, pen and calculator and decide that in order to realize the dream of the car, you will have to save towards it from your monthly salary. So, you write out your salary and subtract some fixed monthly expenses and try to get as much savings as possible by cutting down on some other expenses which are good but for which the desire for the car has overtaken.

Thus you have the plan and you are ready to roll with it. So, let’s say you manage to save N50, 000 every month (the possible savings would depend on the salary range of the individual concerned) , which means you will need to consistently save for 24 months in order to get N1.2million which is the cost of the car. You then begin to save the money while closing your eyes to some things which beckon in the shops and try to turn down some invitations to parties which you know will make you spend unnecessarily or make commitments which you are not just ready for. This period is a big test on your ability to stay true to the plan of achieving the car. It’s a test of how-badly-you-want the car. If you are faithful to the plan, at the end of the day, you will be able to write a cheque to the dealer and have your car delivered to your house. All the necessary documents transferring the ownership to you will be provided and the car will now legally be yours. You will be proud and happy, won’t u. Oh I will!

This sort of desire-plan-execute-actualize method of achieving a goal is applicable to any goal be it building a house, setting up a business, taking the business to a higher level, getting an education or nation building. I will quickly add that in the car example made earlier, there might be unplanned events within one, two or three months that might affect the fulfillment of the savings for those months. So, this should come into the plan. It’s a probability but it may or may not happen. This possibility should be worked into the plan to ensure that the nothing stands in the way of the desire to own the Honda Accord.

This analogy can be brought to bear on our desire to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. So let’s just fit this together in comparison:

Desire (compared with Honda Accord) is “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”

Plan ….do we have a plan as a people to achieve this desire? There is none whatsoever (or maybe I don't know about it).

In all these years we have this desire but we never came up with a plan like when we desired to buy a car or build a house or marry our sweethearts. A desire is not wishful thinking. We need to know how much national peace and justice will cost. Since we can’t put a price to it, we then need to list a few things that can make it happen. The difference between the car example and national desire is that the first one involves one person but the latter one involves a whole lot of people with various backgrounds – ethnic, religious, tribal, beliefs, etc. In order for peace to happen, there has to be a large number of citizens empowered and enlightened about this desire  and the benefits – security, tranquility of mind in plenty or in want, faith as opposed to fear, concentration of body, soul and spirit. In obtaining justice, a key requirement is that leadership is gotten right and the people understand what justice means (not selective or partial). The truth of the matter is that the situation in Nigeria at this point in time is not that of celebration, frivolities and parties but that of sacrifices and sweats which are required to lay the foundation required to make every other desire achievable. I am in no way saying you have no right to enjoy what you have worked hard for but how easy is it to “really enjoy” in an atmosphere of uncertainties and insecurities as we have had in Nigeria in recent years? Would you not rather want to work hard and spend your money however you want without fear or favour? I very much would like that but I am realistic, Nigeria is not safe. Many live in fear of one thing or the other.

When I became a mother, I began to understand what living sacrificially means. A mother gives up some certain privileges just so that the children can be well provided, nurtured and catered for. I understood this also when I visited a friend when she had her first child. She told me how she has started thinking ahead of what she will need to cut down in order to have more time and resources for her little one. She told me how much she appreciated her own mum and other mothers more. This act of sacrificing goes on until the child is able to physically take care of self but goes on even in the aspect of emotional, spiritual and moral guidance, growth and development.

If as a young mother, I look at an older woman whose children are all grown and thriving and I try to do what she does, what do you think will happen? My little child (ren) will suffer as I will not be paying the special kind of attention and care required on infants/toddlers. I have drawn this analogy to help us see what our situation in Nigeria is. We are a young mother (developing nation) who is trying to envy older mothers (developed nations) whose children are fully grown. We want to party, dress like, eat like, speak like, and have abandoned fun like the older woman without considering the huge responsibility of nurturing our child (ren) to a level of independence and later on of inter-dependence. Such a well trained child will make us happy and proud as older mothers.

But so many young Nigerians do not quite understand this position and are unwilling to make the sacrifice that is required to nurture the young Nigeria which at the moment is even very sickly and on the deathbed. This sickness is due to lack of care by the older generation of mothers, fathers and caregivers. They abandoned the sick child and went a-frolicking with the child’s inheritance while the child lay dying on the bed. We need to understand that in order to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign (these two values are requirements for success and prosperity), we need to make some sacrifices of time and resources as much as lies in our power. When there is peace, there will be security of lives and properties, young men and women will have adequate peaceful mindsets required to bring our their innate creative energies, corruption will be unnecessary and will be a taboo (frowned on by everyone in the society) and it will not be required to waste endless amounts of public resources and time to fight it. Such resources would well be channeled into providing better infrastructures for the citizenry. The health sectors will be well equipped to care for the people to ensure the well being and wholeness which is necessary for one to contribute one’s best to one’s society. Also, contracts for road construction and maintenance will be awarded to companies which have demonstrated competence and consistent quality in previous works. There will be a means of checking the quality of such works. The level of commitment in every individual will be such that is responsive to others within the community they are. There will be deep understanding of the connection between the quality of work done and the lives of our people by everyone – contractors, government officials, public workers, private workers, market women, security personnel, school boys and girls and just about everyone in the nation.

How badly do we want change? What are we willing to sacrifice for it? I have heard many of my colleagues, friends, neighbours, relatives express a desire for a better society but many will not even leave their comfort to register to vote in an election (which holds once in every four years!) talk less of voting. Such people will see people who are clamouring for “occupy Nigeria” as fools who don’t love their lives yet they will say with their mouths they want change so much. Many young persons will accept bribes yet complain of corruption in government offices. Many young people will close their mouths tight when issues that affect EVERY Nigerian are being discussed. Some think to themselves “babes don’t get involved in such issue” or “real guys go to clubs, parties, hang outs and generally have fun”, yet the roads to the clubs are filled with holes many of their friends have lost their lives on them. Some have been robbed while coming from such places in the night. Some female bankers have been traumatized by incidents of robbery in the banks they work in (one such event happened last week in Sagamu involving three banks – Skye, GTB and Diamond banks) yet they go about their banking business the very next week (the banks are still under lock and key as at the time of publishing this post) still doing “babe” and thinking to themselves “God help us” and “let others (the men and other willing women) handle the issues”. Well, I’m sorry this is everyone’s business this time. The banks and other organizations where you and I work are located right here in Nigeria where the security issues are prevailing every single day. There is no protective covering for anyone as long as you are in this country; we are all in this boat together.

Many emerging young middle class individuals now think to themselves “once I’m able to build my mansion in Lekki (or any high-brow area in any city), I’m free from the ills of this society”. You wish….., that’s self deceit and living in self denial. What if they actively join in campaigning against bad leaderships (except they themselves and their families are the bad leaders in the first place)? What if they join in empowering other less privileged Nigerians through sponsoring through school or helping to rehabilitate some infrastructures which make learning and life conducive for such people? What if they form town hall meetings where they seek out practical ways of impacting other lives apart from their own (not of their neighbours who already have as much as they do)? What if…..? There are so many what ifs that we can all ask in order to pursue the desire for a better nation. These will form part of the plan to achieving the vision “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. This is in line with a popular saying “Know ye not that there cannot  be peace in the hood when thy neighbour hungers? Know ye not that thy neighbour’s peace is thy security?”  This is well understood by the Europeans and the Americans. The problem we contend with in Nigeria requires many people who are aware of the deception (and conspiracy) of the older generation of leaders and who will be willing to spend time and resources to enlighten and educate those around them about it and about the solution. This is part of the plan y’see. If we work dedicatedly towards the next election (2015), we might have been able to save just about enough to secure the desire of peace and justice (in the form of quality and visionary leadership).

The aim of this write-up is to help us to see beyond ourselves and our social, financial, family and sexual status regardless of highly or lowly placed we might be and for us to begin to seek out ways to join in the crusade for a new Nigeria where everyone can be safe enough to enjoy the labour of their hands in peace and tranquility of mind. You can’t afford to be an onlooker, I must say to you. The New Nigeria is possible and the dream will be achieved faster if you join in on the campaign train wherever you are. Remember that God will not come down to save the money for the car, that responsibility is solely yours (the one who needs it).

God bless you and God bless Nigeria!

Friday, November 11, 2011

“Factoring the X”

I have followed the TV reality program “The X factor” and many of its likes (Project Fame, Glo Naija sings, American Idol) for a while now. I learn quite a lot from such shows. I saw young Americans display high level of maturity and confidence. A particular 14 yr-old rapper, Brian Bradley (nicknamed Astro) was exemplary for this. The first time I noticed him was during the auditions where he ‘dissed’ Simon (one of the judges) and transitioned into his song. During the live show, he was first to perform and I was stunned with his performance. He was absolutely brilliant.
I saw real emotions show through the contestants when they were told they passed or didn’t go through.

I saw real emotions on the judges’ faces when they had to tell a candidate ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

I saw the tears, the sadness, the disappointments, and hugs of encouragement (and that of genuine happiness).

I saw genuine laughters, smiles, openness and honesty.

I saw passion and expressions of how-badly-I-want-it.  For a particular guy, Dexter Haygood the sum of his life was a car and some jackets for a change of clothing. He said he needed to win the competition more than anyone else. When he was told he had made it through to the live show, he was so excited, he dove into the swimming pool (in the judge’s home) fully clothed, shoes, scarf and all. Such momentous expression of "I can't believe this is happening".

I heard songs coming from deep within the souls of those who have the talent for it and who have recognized that talent.

I saw admission of weakness like the guy, Chris Rene, who was trying to stay clean from drugs – barely few months out of rehab.

I saw expressions of great delight, genuine emotions, tears of joy and those of sorrow.

I didn’t see intimidation of younger contestants by the adults. Girls and boys of age range 13 – 16 performed alongside age range 26 – 59. No one felt it was their ‘father’s right to be in the competition. There was no visible expression of superiority or inferiority complexes. It was a true competition. There was respect for one another’s talent and there was respect to/from the judges, voice coaches and other people involved with the show. I don’t know much about what goes on behind the scene but I read through the whole scenes and imagined the scenes not presented on TV.

I didn’t want any of such moments for myself (my voice might not be as good but it isn’t bad) because my purpose doesn’t align with singing on the stage but standing on the stage for some other reasons. I felt my own people deserve chances such as this (in addition to the ones which runs in Nigeria). I really desire more opportunities for more and more Nigerians to explore good passion (expression of talents) and unforgettable moments of their lives.

I saw honest exchanges of greetings and honest assessments of contestants’ performances highlighting details of strengths and weaknesses.   

I saw genuine concern in the judges’ communications. I saw the difficulty on the judges’ faces when they had to choose from a number of good singers. Of course they knew from the start that they had to do that but it was clearly difficult. Truth is, no matter how good a voice talent is, there might be another which is more consistent and sultrier. There is also the element of “appeal” to the crowd and to the judges as a factor for selection. More so, only one person will eventually win the competition (I detest the winner-takes-all principle).

“The X factor isn’t just about having the best voice but about the personality, charisma, and having the confidence to carry through” said one of the judges during the live show.

A young black boy, Marcus Canty, acknowledged that music for him was a solace, sort of like a safe haven which prevented him from indulging in vices which were prevalent in his neighbourhood. He also wanted to make his mum proud.

A little girl of 13, Rachel Crowe (with a voice better than that of many music stars) expressed her desire to win so that she could have her own bathroom. She explained that she stays in a 2-room apartment with 5 other members of her family. Such innocent desire.....

I saw beauty in the environment, green landscapes beautifully designed and artistically arranged.

I saw expressions of astonishment, stage fright, speechlessness and shock, and I identified with the sacredness and beauty of each human life.

I saw a journey which at first involved thousands thin down to numbers in the tens.

Something interesting happened on one of the episodes. After having told Melanie Amaro (one of the contestants) that she didn’t make it to the live show, Simon Cowell (the lead judge) admitted to the rest of the judges that he had made a mistake. He immediately set out to make amends by heading to the home of the girl (unknown to her). They were all surprised to see him. He apologized to her and the family admitting he made a serious mistake and asked her to come back into the competition. I saw the expressions of joy on the faces of members of Melanie’s family. This decision changed the allotted number for the girls (from 16 to 17) who went on to the live shows. Well, I guess that's why it’s called "The X- Factor". I learnt a serious lesson from that episode.

In all there were great lessons to learn (never give up on dreams no matter what and no matter how long –Leroy Bell and Stacy Francis) and beautiful expressions of wonderful moments in some other humans’ lives.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is it not written?

If I have learnt anything in this life, it is that the only sacred thing in this world is human life not skyscrapers, cars, clothes, money, food, or anything for that matter. And this sacred thing is being defiled on a daily basis, yet religious people tell me “we will keep praying”.

As long as the boat is not rocked, it’s ok.
As long as they are within their comfort zones, it’s ok.
As long as their salaries are being paid, it’s ok.
As long as the bank accounts of leaders are swelling, who cares?
As long as they have access to the good things of life, what else?

Y’know what, it’s not ok to be satisfied with  the status quo and not do or say anything about it. According to Albert Einstein (who may not have been religious by Nigerian standard) “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything. The Christian faith will not be destroyed by liars but by those who know truth and refuse to speak up for fear.

What makes one different from the marauders who pillage our resources right, left, back and front? As long as your voice rises in defence of men who allowed (and profited by) the degeneration of nationhood and not in defence of the defenceless, the widows, fatherless, the poor, you are in the camp of the oppressors. As long as you have not bound the words of truth about your neck, pray tell how you differ from those who lie and deceive others.

More than ever, the people who know the truth are required to declare it to the world where lies and deceits are daily breads of most families, organizations (religious and secular), governments, nations. Wake up Nigerian and particularly the Nigerian Christian (soldiers), wake up Africa. Let the truth that you know set you free. Any truth that makes one to cower in fear needs checking again for veracity.

While sharing with a friend the day before yesterday (during a visit to her house), our discussions drifted to matters of spirituality. She asked what I thought about Jesus living in our present day, whether he wouldn’t be using a jet. We weighed it together and came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t. The woman with the issue of blood would have had no access to him if he was that high class. Many beggars and commoners who thronged about him will also not have the opportunity they freely had. In his days, there were many rich and influential men and women but his messages to them was always simple – where your treasures are, there your heart will be also or go sell all you have and give your monies to the poor.

The message is simple but we have made it so complex that a lot of people have been misled. Many now believe in sowing seed offerings so much that they will steal from anyone and anywhere just so they can get the approval of the pastors (who will not be interested in the source but the amount). Many Christians now believe so much in “ori oke” (translated mountain top) so much that they despise their own prayer sessions in their bedrooms. They have been so brainwashed that they cannot see that Jesus himself advised that few words were required in prayers and he encouraged praying in secret. Many no longer have secret places; they are either at crusade grounds, church auditoriums, camp grounds, mountain tops, etc. And it doesn’t amaze them that the conditions oftentimes worsen. They keep lingering on the words of the man rather than on the words of life. They have been brainwashed, you can’t blame them much; the blame lies at the doorstep of those who have been given the mandate to feed the sheep (with truth) but instead fleece the sheep and grow rich. How long more? Many can’t see that Jesus’ words are true even now which said “they are like sheep without shepherd...the harvest is plenteous but the labourers are few”. Jesus never taught rocket science, his words were clear, he said the kingdom of God must be received as a child (faith). We see what is wrong yet we find explanations as to why it is not condemnable. Our minds have become twisted. Our love has waxed cold (perhaps we never even knew what love was?).

Little wonder why some groups of Christian leaders will agree with the government’s plan to remove fuel subsidy on behalf of Christians in Nigeria. Shortly after this was made public, Northern Christians (in the same body – it’s a wonder how the maths doesn’t add up) in the daily line-of-fire quickly spoke out against such declarations. I didn’t hear anywhere that this was a topic on any pulpit the next Sunday. Everyone carried on as though all is well yet many human lives (the sacred) are still being lost and targeted as we speak. The bible declared (not me) that it shall not be well with the wicked (I don’t care if such wicked persons are clothed in pastoral garments, papal regalia or apostolic frocks or taskmasters’ suit).

When we quote scriptures, we usually steer clear of any one which connotes evil on us or requires responsibilities on our part like the scripture which said “if my people who are called by my name would humble themselves and pray (we usually stop here) AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, I will hear from heaven and heal their lands.  Take note that there is turning away required before the healing of our land. In the same vein, we stop at the blessings of Deuteronomy and will not speak (as was instructed the Levites unto all the people of Israel) with a loud voice “Cursed is he that perverts the judgement of the strangers, fatherless and widows. And the people shall say Amen....”
"If you will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day, that all the curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness and astonishment of heart. ....And thou shall become an astonishment, a proverb and a byword among all nations where the Lord shall lead thee.....”. "Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people (let he that has eyes, understand) and thine eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all the day long and there shall be no might in their hands. THE FRUIT OF THY LAND, AND ALL THEY LABOUR SHALL A NATION WHICH THOU KNOWEST NOT EAT UP (does this sound familiar?) AND THOU SHALL BE ONLY OPPRESSED AND CRUSHED AWAY.... "
(Excerpt from 2Chronicles 7 and Deuteronomy 28 )

 Are our eyes popping and our ears tingling or they have been so dulled by fat that they can’t see and hear? These words are not mine or is it not written? Were the Levites (church leaders of today) not commanded strictly to speak it out loudly in the ears of the people and also to remind them constantly?
For such a time as this are we children of the most high. We must sound the message!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Amazing Conspiracy!

Of course we all know that whenever you see a “white” man in any part of the country, his/her job position is a superior one compared to many nationals. They are called expatriates. Even Romanians, Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, South Africans, as long as their skin colour is white. I think the simple definition of these people to a lay man is “a superior being” (I had a debate about the name “Oguntoyinbo” with some Yoruba people over this topic sometime back.). But then again when you do see some behaviours of some of our people, then that definition will not be so far-fetched – it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people lack decorum, behave like animals (dog eat dog), when leaders see themselves as lords and taskmasters... the definition is just not so far-fetched sometimes.

It’s one thing for someone to have earlier exposure to equipment, machineries, knowledge, education but it’s another thing for another to feel inferior to such a person simply for being’s sake. Having worked in very diverse organizations, I observed that many “white” men come in with the mindsets that every Nigerian or black man they come across must be a fool but alas some of us know a thing or two about mindset and readily make it clear that being black doesn’t mean being stupid. The skin is just a colour, it doesn’t depict content. What however amazes me is the agreement by Nigerians with the “white” man’s definition of black.

How easy does it make it when an oyinbo comes into an organization to meet mediocrity of our system? They will just help to encourage us in it and get highly paid for just being there. Very few of them have made a difference to me in that regard. Many times they laugh about our system, the blackouts, the people, the noise, the leaders, the system yet the people who work directly with them do not understand the role they play in standing as a role model to contradict such notions through diligence, leadership, responsibility and decorum. Once the man brings chocolates, perfumes, shirts and gifts, my people lose themselves and will refuse to speak about the over-exactness of the man. The black man will “organize” babes (their own sisters (indirectly)) for the oyibo man. Many are too afraid of their jobs that they will rather die than report any shadiness or unfairness of such man. The only complain these my people will talk about is the salary – how the oyibo man earns in a day what they earn in a month. That is not the main issue for me but rather the apprehension of the necessary skills and knowledge of those people? I told a Nigerian colleague one day after one of our regular “showdown” of this mind game that I am looking forward to the day when positions will be swapped and it came from deep within my soul. It might seem farfetched but who says I am not allowed to dream. I try to ensure that I am daily empowering myself through study, interactions and taking responsibilities and I challenge others to do same. It’s a big picture many of our people can’t see.

I have heard stories of Nigerian safety personnel who sweep incidences (which happened to their own people) under the carpet because they have been handed some foreign currencies. That’s like colluding with a third party to rob your own house. It’s a sad thing that we can’t still see far enough but will rather sell our souls for “mirrors”, “cigars”, wines, dough just like our forefathers did back then. How long more people of rich humus colour? How long more will we continue to remain foolish?  

Many job positions are defined with complex words so as to deceive the immigration officers that no Nigerian has the requisite certification, knowledge or experience to carry out the job. The truth is that many private companies who use them actually do this so that they can present these “white” men to the black mentalities some of which are still darkened and choked with many different kinds of complexes. The government officials also who are very well known for their inefficiencies will take the smallest amount of money to kill the system (and their entire nation) where they work and provide for their family from. They forget that if the system collapses altogether, that means they themselves will be adversely affected.  This accounts for why a mere handshake with a “white” man is enough for a black leader to acknowledge that all is well within his jurisdiction even though the dailies fill up with the bombings and killings of his people on an almost daily basis.

I recently read that Shell Oil Nigeria was accused of funding armed militants who kill and torture residents in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

It doesn’t come to me as a surprise and I do not doubt the story one bit because for fewer benefits many have killed off their brothers and sisters. This can be an action of a people who have lost their identities and who want to identify with another race and think that only by amassing things on the outside like the oyinbo man can he compare with him. Michael Jackson was so talented but he bought into the lie that he was still an inferior being as long as his skin colour remained dark. Eventually the lies destroyed him and we lost him. How many more black man have we lost in that wise and how many more are we losing on a daily basis. Boko Haram members are wreaking havoc on helpless people all in the name of religion forgetting that they share same link in history – common brotherhood - with the same people they are attacking.

Many oil companies (Shell, Chevron, Total) in Nigeria have a high level of this conspiracy at play. A black leader on a platform will want his subordinates to lick his butt and not ask any questions. If you do not follow them to play the game, you will remain on the lowest rank when it comes to promotion. They will tell you that “you think you are the only one who knows something eh?” At that level, the oyibo man knows nothing of the neo-racism which goes on but as long as his own account (and that of his nation's company) is being updated as the production is kept on, who cares? Meanwhile, all the oil is in effect being produced for the “white” man. Much of the oil is bunkered while the remaining is used to service the corrupt leaders’ excesses. When will the black man see beyond his nose?

What does it take to get us out of this jungle and are we willing as a people to do all that it takes? Someone said we are all stakeholders in this entity called Nigeria and I could not agree more. The cleaner in an office must understand it and the manager must understand it. The woman must understand it and the man must understand it. The young must understand it and the old must understand it. No one must be left out. The one who understands it better must teach it to the ones who are still grappling with ignorance. Everyone must begin to gain the understanding that the black man is not inferior but if he doesn’t acknowledge the strengths and gifts which lie within him, he will easily fall prey to any lie sold to discredit him.