Friday, October 22, 2010

My thoughts on the current Niger delta crisis

Stumbled on an opinion piece  I wrote at the height of the militancy problem in the Niger Delta last year. Think it is still relevant...

My thoughts on the current Niger delta crisis

A whole lot have been said on the Niger delta crisis, governments have come and gone but this situation have persisted, for too long government and Nigerians have been held to ransom by a faceless group of so-called freedom fighters and militants. They have killed, burned and kidnapped hundreds of people and have recently effectively turned Nigeria into a kidnap haven only second to Mexico.

The money that has exchanged hands in the course of this crisis is enough to address the issues raised by the so-called militants. Granted, the oil explorations have caused untold hardships and environmental degradations, also the dividends of the crude is diverted to other well connected pockets while the goose that continues laying the golden egg is left root in abject poverty of want.

The so-called militants moved from being that to terrorists long ago. I believe that it is the lack of political will that have allowed them to thrive, that and the meddling in governance by greedy politicians and business men, who in my opinion should be lined up and shot. To move forward as a country we need to take our destiny into our hands and do away with all the money loving politicians and terrorists gabbed in the toga of freedom fighters.

I say destroy all the camps, capture all the leaders and find out from them who their godfathers are (yes they all have godfathers in Abuja) and let them all face the justice of the gun.

Why give them clemency to loot, steal, and then kill again? Why allow their godfathers to further subjugate the Nigerian nation? Why create a ministry to siphon more money into already heavy pockets.

Now we hear they killed some army officers in an unprovoked attack. Why won’t they attack soldiers when the government invites their leaders to Abuja for lunch and dangle a very big carrot of clemency before their painted faces.

We should see these boys for what they are, jobless youths who took the path of crime to earn a living that rivals that of senators. We should also see their political and businessmen sponsors for what they really are, mean mindless men who are so deep in corruption, they organize the oil bunkering that is ongoing while they lie back in posh air conditioned offices, sipping French wines.

I am tired of hearing the same sad story, I don’t want to pander to their whims and allow my nation suffer, I don’t want to wait anymore to let the truth be known, I want to make a difference and make sure it works, not hoping it works. Let’s move forwards together and allow this season of madness pass for ever.

As for the so-called militants, I am tired of their constant threats and kidnappings, I am tired of their constant killings and disruptions of oil flow by blowing up pipelines, I am tired of their blatant hypocrisy.

They are not the only wronged parties in Nigeria. If they must know, any Nigerian who is making do without good roads, constant electricity, portable drinking water, a good job and decent housing, is also missing I action.

Ok now, let us all rise up to bomb Nigeria! Stupid!

As for the army, I am sorry it took the deaths of senior officers for you to rise up to your responsibility, but the deed is done and any right thinking person will tell you to weed out the rotten eggs and not bomb entire communities in the search for elusive militants, whose sponsors obviously eat and dine with the powers that sent you to war.

For the oil companies, I think it is time we drive all of you out and find indigenous companies that can do your job. Oh! You think we cannot. Mind you, it is our people that work for you; I bet they know the job terrain better than your expatriate staffs in air-conditioned offices.

Thinking about it, I could not find a foreign oil company operating in America, abi them self no get oil? Shell na dutch company abi? How many oil Holland get?

As for the political class we have now, I have said before that, they should all be lined up and shot! With the exception of the very few good eggs amongst them anyway, only it will be very hard to know them since the system always find a way to corrupt the virtuous, see how Dora don dey miss yarn!

What am I doing? Well…I am writing a comprehensive novel set in the Niger delta. I have given it the title Rivers of blood. I am looking at all the possible situations and people, I will not spare anyone and I will kill all who needs killing while staying with the story. I will look at arms smuggling and the bunkering, I will look into environmental degradation and its effects on the locals, I will talk about the love lives of the militants and the people they kidnap, above all, I will tell a tale that is as truthful as fiction can get. I hope that it will open people’s eyes to the truth, but I will not take up arms to fight my government…yet.

If you are safely anchored in an air-conditioned office, drive around and air conditioned car after waking up in an air-conditioned office, I doubt if the reality of a stuffy mosquito infested shack will readily come to your mind. If it does, it is probably as a shivery horror that is someone else’s nightmare. How wrong can I be?
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ranting for Africans

It was my intention, this morning to write a flash fiction about the coming independent anniversary for Myne Whitman's

But as I browsed through the day's news and took in some opinion pieces in a Lagos based newspaper, I suddenly realised how much we as a people have drifted, carried away by what I see as an ill blown wind, fanned by an overreliance on western opinions.

First, I read a piece where a woman, way into her fifties by her picture's reckoning, speculated about the coming of what she saw as a new fad, a first of its kind; denim jeans cut to fit the African woman's waistline. Timely, she says of it, but then she went on to complain about the route it took - from the west via China - and bemoaned it for not being African enough, as if trousers were ever African in the first place.

I was about to consign that experience to the dustbin when I was drawn to another article, this time the accompanying photograph placed the writer, also female, somewhere between late twenties and early thirties. This time the topic was food and she was complaining about our local foods, which she said she abhores because of the high calorie content. I would not have picked issues with her had she not gone on to reel out healthy food lessons that she obviously copied from a western fashion magazine, more or less calling diets that kept our forefathers strong and healthy, poison.

I would have screamed aloud if decency allowed it.

However, I actually let out some curse words (sub vocalised anyway). We seem not to know it, but our society, our Africanness, that thing that makes us whole, is slowly fading away and the painful thing is that we are doing nothing to fight this trend.

Yes, a society is supposed to change with time, to evolve.

This may or may not mean assimilation with another culture. In our case, there is little assimilation going one. Truth is, what we have is a one-way thing, with our culture being suppressed and overshadowed by imported values. Our gods are mostly dead, starved of the worship that all spirit beings need; our dances are mere show things; our customs are being shoved into the dust bag of history by youth who deem them too local and outdated, even as they embrace those of another, believing them to be new age, pristine.

I talk not for talk's sake, but to draw our eyes backwards, to return our souls to those days when we sought very little, when in harmony we breathed with the land we live, not the degeneration that people call modernity. Imagine, an African woman calling African food poison, all because a doctor who has never breathed a lungful of African air told her so.

We might not have the resources of the west, but we still have, or should still have, our head firmly on our shoulders. How can anyone say garri is poison, or call palm oil an artery clogger?. The fact that some of you have forgotten how to live in harmony with the earth does not mean the earth has changed.

I will tell you what the poison is. The poison is easy living, from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices. From comfy couches at home to comfy swivel seats in your offices. The poison is those lumps of dough you buy in your high-class fast food stores. The poison is the lack of exercise that is big money's gift to you. The poison is processed sugar that you stock you refrigerator with. That is the poison making 

Africa fat, not our traditional cuisine.

As for fashion, well...a woman above forty really should have little or nothing to do with fancy jeans and whatnot. It is this misplaced fashion sense that has turned our young ladies into scarecrows. Yes scarecrows, with fake fingernails, fake hair, fake skin tone, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake bosom held in place by padded bras and the like and fake accents.

We are not just losing our selves to this new elite-driven-western-hobnobbing, but our souls too. These days it is more fashionable than not to espouse ideas by the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters. Our ladies make their lifestyle choices based on premiums set by a society that is continually seeking to recreate what is already perfect. We try to dress like the western media tells us is best, mostly without recourse to our weather conditionality; we force our feet into extra high heeled shoes, regardless of the discomfort inherent in our mostly unpaved roads.

Africa, we need to wake up before it is too late. We should be exporting new ideas to the west, not embracing their junk. Now is the time to start, why don't we all start by not rubbing those foul smelling relaxers on our hair?

This piece was published in the passion for fashion page of Next newspaper on October 3, 2010
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MEND, sorry but you missed the mark.

Several months ago, as a direct result of the seeming futility of constantly complaining about the state of affairs in my dear nation, I swore off commenting on Nigerian political affairs. A few days ago, I also decided that the celebration of independence was not for me.

I made these decisions based on my assessment of the Nigerian nation. Having looked back at my own life and the achievements therein and discovering that those failures that stared me in the face are not necessary personal failures but the effects of the continuous propagation of governments that places little faith in the accomplishment of its future leaders.

It would not do to start recalling the myriad of ways that the leadership of the Nigerian state has gotten it wrong over the years, as those instances have already been documented and commented upon by better informed commentators. However, I think it would serve this commentary some measure of service if I talk about why I decided to break my silence and again comment on the Nigerian question.
I broke my silence because of the audacity for violence, which seem to be the new mantra of an organisation for which I used to harbour some form of sympathy.

As I write this, the apology tendered by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is circulating in the media. I do not much care for the fact that MEND’S belated apology cast doubts on the efficiency of our security forces as presently constituted, especially as the announcement by MEND  effectively counters President Goodluck Jonathan’s assertion that the Bomb blast that caused the death of several Nigerians and cast a dark pall over the independence day celebrations was not MEND’S doing.

I agree with those who want to give the President the benefit of doubt and read between the lines of what many called his defence of a violent organisation that claims to represent his (the president’s) home region.

I base my argument on common sense, especially since the death of fellow Nigerians would serve the organisation little. More or less, a bomb away from their home region, at this time that they can be said to have control of the Nigerian state through the office of the president, is nothing short shooting themselves in the foot.

As it stands now, by attacking Abuja and killing innocent Nigerians who have nothing to do with the situation that the Niger Delta found itself in, MEND has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that they are nothing more than a terrorist organisation and should be treated as such.

For an organisation that effectively gifted its catchment area the much sought after presidency of the federal republic of Nigeria (some might disagree, but it is my believe that Jonathan becoming the vice president was as a result of the activities of the militants and the need to calm nerves in the Niger Delta), MEND acted very much the clueless winner.

I know the reasons given for the attack were viable grounds for descent, but using a bomb to stress a point was taking it too far. They should have followed the examples of those of us who chose to boycott the event or the example of the majority of the Nigerian commoners whose apathy to the whole wastage made it seem like an elitist Halloween party.

MEND and other militant groups have cried about neglect loudly for a long time. They have spread the news of the degradation of the Niger Delta for years; they have brought the pains of the citizens of the Niger Delta closer to us, but in doing this they have also gotten rich and bold, too bold if one might say so. In their quest to push their agenda, which I used to subscribe to, MEND has emboldened itself to begin seeing us as acceptable collateral damage. This I am forced to say no. No, we cannot be collateral damage for an issue that we have no hand in.

By making us collateral damage, MEND is forcing us to take sides, forcing us to strike out at them as we seek to defend ourselves. MEND, by killing us, is effectively making itself the enemy of the Nigerian people, not just the government, especially now that it has all the reasons in the world to keep the peace.

MEND’s desire to shift the blame of the deaths to the Nigerian security agencies, which it claims did not respond to its calls to evacuate the areas around Eagle Square cuts less cheese than a knife made of air. The fact is, they set the bomb, primed it to go off at a certain time. Had they not wanted the bomb to go off and cause casualties they would have told the authorities the location of the bombs, and keep the goodwill of Nigerians.  MEND FUCKED UP BIG TIME and deserves little or no sympathy from Nigerians. 

 As it stands, my heart goes out to President Jonathan, for surely the question would be asked; “how come he can’t keep his boys in check? “
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