The things I like to do- I do not
The things I don’t like- I do
I did you
I liked you
But I like to do other things now.
The things I like to do- I do not
The things I like to do- I do not
The things I don’t like- I do
I did you
I liked you
But I like to do other things now.
We say mainstreaming
You pay lip service
We say inclusion and rights
You label angry, single feminist
We say quotas
You shout get a dream- like Sarah J
We say career
You demand kitchen service
You say head
We shout neck
You say cooks and servants
We say you’re courting hunger
You say it’s your rib
We say we’re made of the same stuff
There are so many things you want to say
But we don’t want to hear
You want a clean pant after soiling many- we love cleanliness too
You want to pat your ego- can we get a suite for ours?
You want to do as you want- we want resources too
You want entertainers and cheerleaders- we want to be on the high table too
But who says we can’t?
Globally, unemployment- especially youth unemployment- has become a key debate, testing the capacity of government in solving problems and pushing society toward increasing levels of unsavoury attendant problems. It has become a global terror and target, getting concerns and efforts from government bodies, civil society, private business interests and concerned international groups. Unending studies and reports continue to be churned out in an attempt to understand the extent of this terror and identify the major components making up the whole, which need to be dealt with. The more authoritative of these noble efforts are indeed carried out by concerned external friends: I have participated in one myself. Governments have risen unto power in the unlikeliest of places with brooms that would sweep away the scourge of youth unemployment and deliver the green dreams that coloured the labours of past heroes. Even the media is replete with employer descriptions of unfit, unskilled but ‘educated’ job seekers: negative externalities from the education system (that’s where they come from, in their view). How is it possible that a young person can be educated, or better still pass through education, and be unfit?
Some recent arguments take this position: “While the importance of basic education in development has long been acknowledged, there is increasing recognition that without higher education too, none of these goals will be achieved. Yet, the university sector faces nothing short of a crisis. Systems have been allowed to expand without corresponding resources, leading to a catastrophic drop in quality and the churning out of increasing numbers of poorly equipped graduates onto an already congested job market (British Council’s ‘Students in the Driving Seat: Young People’s Voices on Higher Education in Africa (2015)”. This is the situation that perfectly describes the menace of graduate unemployment. In the same publication, “Expanding enrolments to higher education have allowed new segments of the population to experience the richness of wider social and cultural interactions and opened new possibilities of work and enterprise. Nevertheless, for many, the great promise of the university has not been fulfilled”. Pointedly, “Diplomas have not provided automatic white-collar employment as may have been the case in previous decades, and in some contexts such as Nigeria, rates of employment are not significantly higher for graduates than for those with primary-or secondary- level qualifications (National Bureau of Statistics (2011) 2011 Annual Socio-Economic Report)”.
If there is no significant difference in employment rate between primary, secondary and tertiary qualifications in Nigeria, then what really do we need to know about the processes that lead to employment and unemployment (whether graduate or youth)?
According to a chart showing career aspirations of surveyed final-year students from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana in the British Council’s 2015 publication “Students in the Driving Seat: Young People’s Voices on Higher Education in Africa”, Nigeria is characterised by a high proportion of students (28 per cent) opting for further study, compared to 7 per cent in Kenya, 13 per cent in Ghana and 13.2 per cent in South Africa. There is, rather than “might” which was used in the report, a pull as well as a push factor here, with students feeling it is their only option given the lack of employment opportunities. I would most likely have gone unto a graduate program immediately (which would have been perfectly justifiable by what many of my undergrad lecturers regard as my ‘academic potentials’) if not for relevant and timely employment. Others, like my friends, have gone from pharmacy to photography – terrific switch. And others have settled into self-employment.
An undergraduate degree carries no weight again – even masters degree is declining, in some quarters. Contrarily, an undergraduate degree is an important experience that should give the holder a foundation to thrive for a decent period of time, without the crown of an instant graduate degree. The mass trend now is to study further, after spending valuable four to six years for an undergraduate course, as the key to jobs. Two things can be drawn from this reality. Students don’t get the kind of robust experience that is expected from an undergraduate education. Even among those graduates who do find employment, there has been widespread criticism by employers about what are perceived to be falling academic standards and lack of broader work skills and dispositions. For these, the blame is packaged on the doorsteps of education providers/universities. While universities can be blamed for falling academic standards, which essentially implicates government and regulatory agencies, broader work skills and dispositions are not their sole duties and they cannot achieve anything as long as they operate in a parallel universe from employers. Employers cannot wait for the right applicants to show up at their doorsteps, too. In the most effective interventions, employers and education providers work closely to design curricula; they may even participate in teaching directly, by providing instructors. This is where Andela (www.andela.com) belongs as a model.
The other side to this examination of responsibility is the disposition of the student (but I understand that this is a turtle on another turtle; we shall get to the turtle problem in a bit). As I said on my panel which discussed graduate employability in Sub Saharan Africa in the British Council’s Going Global 2015 conference in London, excelling in Nigerian undergraduate schools is basically up to the student: the student, aware of the unsmiling face of the labour market, has to commit to seeking out opportunities, going the extra mile in class- beyond what the lecturer gives, and securing internships, volunteer opportunities and work experiences that are relevant to life after school. Simply, if your system won’t help you to succeed, concentrate on pursuing success on your own. It is possibly because of this lack of trust and assurance in undergrad experience, which is a result of the system that they are themselves part of, that employers cannot trust basic degrees, rather preferring proof of further studies (especially foreign studies) which is believed to be some sort of assurance.
Fundamentally, however, gaining skills and relevant experiences to succeed in one’s chosen career does not begin when a young person gains admission into university. Wrongly, discussions narrow too deeply on universities, almost as if university experience/education can be disconnected (or can stand alone) from that of lower levels; even when it has been pointed out that their employment rates are not significantly different. So many young people enter university with no clue on what to expect and pursue (the logic going: they better be in anyways, for a chance!). To start work on them at this stage will be difficult. Practicable solutions and designs start to appear when the skills issue is viewed from the perspective of an historical institutionalist: constructing the whole picture rather than treating snapshots which won’t give comprehensive understanding. This is the turtle problem (the particular turtle picked as the starting point for a story is actually standing on the back of another turtle, or else an elephant or a tiger or a whale). But we can identify, in this case, the most relevant turtle that our explanations and solutions can begin from.
Closely following this is the ambiguity, as pointed out by a friend, which surrounds what the needed skills really are, especially when we emphasize skills at university level to young people who cannot relate it to past experiences. What really are communication skills, asked my friend, Faith Abiodun who teaches at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. What are leadership skills? What does it mean to have analytical thinking skills? What about adaptability? As long as we don’t go further to practically break down what these skills are and how they can be measured and assessed against global standards, but continue to publish them in really ambiguous terms in research reports and studies, these young people may not get it. It was hard enough for me teaching in a state polytechnic in the North Central part of Nigeria where the better numbers of questions my students asked in the middle of lectures were about breaking down my vocabulary; words like “endow”. How can they, then, understand what Bloomberg or anybody means by strategic thinking? Again, this is not to say that this is what obtains everywhere, but to allude to inclusiveness.
Additionally, organizing skills trainings- which last for two weeks, forty hours, and so on- will not solve these problems in any fundamental way if they are not provided in the context of an organized ‘life plan’. Young people will continue to approach these provisions the same way they approach formal education: study to pass and immerse yourself in it because you need the certificate; ‘la cram la pour’ (common expression in Nigerian universities translating loosely to ‘cram and pour’) that they seldom remember two weeks after examination.
In conclusion, without government’s intervention and collaboration, society will not be strengthened to implement this ‘life plan’, leaving good education and large opportunities to those who have the means to seek private education providers, who understand change and invest resources to create needed systems. This is why Asheshi University students in Ghana and many top private secondary schools’ graduates in Nigeria are distinguished. But again, it is obvious that not all private education providers can justify the huge profits they make in terms of the success of the students. Designing a system that works, on the long run, has to target young people in secondary, tertiary and even post-tertiary groups and feed off the collaboration of young people, education providers and employers.
My participation in the British Council Going Global 2015 annual conference on higher education in London was nothing short of a defining experience. The journey started in February 2014 in my last year as an undergraduate in the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. At the time, I was running an education technology project called Acada360 and also had a rare opportunity to work with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of my university as a student manager for ‘UInnovate’ Business Contest- a business idea competition for students and staff of the university which the vice chancellor initiated.
It was during these activities that the research on graduate employability led by Dr. Tristan McCowan of the Institute of Education, University of London, engaged me alongside some other students with a view to participating in the research. Then this year, I was contacted and preparations began. A lot of effort was put into ensuring that the student session was successful; which meant that the panelists had to be informed, adequately aware of the research and the issue of graduate employability in their home country and confident enough to speak on a global stage. I particularly found this part of the preparation very exciting and engaging. Research materials were passed around and even beyond that, each of us had to independently think about the reality of the situation in our environments, as it affects us and those around.
A key highlight of the panel discussion on graduate employability in sub-Saharan Africa was the exchange between myself and an education leader from Nigeria. One of the findings of the research revealed that students are less critical of the education they receive in public, and often say nice things about their institutions, whereas their outcomes and conversations in informal settings say different things. We were still trying to make sense of this important finding when the education leader attempted to shoot down some things I said about inclusive provisions for entrepreneurship education on campuses across Nigeria, maintaining emphatically that her commission, which is in charge of universities in Nigeria, put a policy on the ground insisting that every student must have taken one entrepreneurship course or the other without which they cannot graduate. Then I asked, “I have just recently graduated top of my class from arguably the best university in Nigeria and I wasn’t required to take any entrepreneurship course, how then did I graduate?” At that point, it was clear that either the policy isn’t working or implementation is not followed up or it was a mere attempt to divert attention from the real issue and shut ‘an outspoken student’ up.
Students don’t speak up because their institutions are not sufficiently democratic and open to criticisms which could attract damning consequences ranging from victimization to expulsion. Also, in the absence of jobs, entrepreneurship is the ready tool to neutralize after-school shocks and where possible, create jobs for other people, hence the popularity and acceptance of entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
My participation in the research and panel discussion has exposed me to the situation in other focus countries for the research- Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. While South Africa fares better in the group, she nevertheless shares common issues like prestige level of institutions and their connection to industry. While it takes a Kenyan graduate an average of five years to secure employment, Ghana is doing relatively well in the provision of entrepreneurship education for students. Across board, the four countries need to widen skills development and careers advisory services and ensure greater participation of industry in efforts to prepare students for the job market.
The next British Council Going Global conference takes place in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016, and I hope as many industry leaders and representatives as possible from the four focus countries will be able to attend as was the case in 2015, and important developments and innovations that address the focus of the research would be captured and promoted as steps in the right direction. The Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) of the University of Ibadan, which was established by a directive of the federal government which provided for the creation of entrepreneurship centres in all federal institutions across the country, deserves recognition for its growing involvement in student and staff engagement and development.
It was my first time in London and I enjoyed my stay absolutely. The UK is no doubt a very popular study destination for students from Africa because of the quality of its education and no wonder that explains why graduate holders of UK degrees are highly regarded. I would like to study there myself in the future. Against this setting, the British Council’s role in promoting the UK as a study destination and as a place to look for partnerships in furthering education and forging futures cannot be overemphasized.
Congratulations. You have taken a giant step, which you’d always be remembered for. I do not mean that the government will remember you- they really never do- but your spirit will bear deep witness; that you rose up for your country at a very dangerous time in her history; that you made people’s votes count; that you were an important part of democratic development and consolidation. You had very many reasons not to participate, but you somehow made a decision, took a risk. Whether that risk is worth it or not is not a paramount consideration in this piece, since any answer given will largely be subjective; indeed, the most objective of any such replies is fatally opinionated. I am very sure that you will know the worth for yourself at the end of the exercise- if you are not killed, of course. And this is the simple truth. I am not trying to be a pessimist or a kill-joy, I am merely telling what previous elections have done to your predecessors. Some of them have died while serving their country. For them, it was more of ‘on the earth or in the ground’ than ‘under the sun or in the rain’. The greatest harm you can do to yourself is to be deluded so much you do not know this, for knowing is good for prevention. I am well aware that most of you are taking this risk for different reasons. For some, it’s a money affair; for another, it’s the ‘runs’ and deals that they will make on election day; for yet another, what will they rather be doing when their mates are making cash on the field? Only a tiny number will do it because they want to be part of the making of a better Nigeria. The merit of your motive is left for you to evaluate, just like the worth of the risk you’re taking. Whatever motive you (might) have, I say thank you very much for willing to be at the polls. Democracy will be achieved through you, and if it is subverted through you, bravo! You also will have a place in remembrance : your children and family and loved ones will live to experience the consequences of your mess. And you’d be a big fool for sacrificing their future for instant gratification. Within days, that huge money you make will be gone and your customers will never even remember how your face looks like, even if they came to inspect a damaged road in your area that took many lives, and acidentally saw you. Your mistake will hunt you when they do not repair that road and you are in daily fear for the lives of your myopic self, your adorable children, your ‘Darego’ wife and or your special family of orientation.
I am going to tell you some truths and give you some orientation about best behaviour and safety measures. Here’s why: I am a youth corps member like you. I participated in Permanent Voters Card distribution as Distribution Officer 1 for Kofar Yahuza polling unit (Ashige Ward, Lafia LGA) and Assistant Registration Officer for Ashige Ward, Lafia LGA, both in Nasarawa State. Take note that Ashige ward has twenty five polling units, and yes, I was in charge of computer registration for the twenty five units. It was a damn hectic job but I pulled it off. I wasn’t beaten or anything like that, instead, I was in full charge of my territory. If you consider how petite I look and appear, you’d doubt that I did that. Most of the people I dealt with were illiterates who school was as funny to them as the exact way I pronounced ‘Makaranta’ (Makaranta is Hausa word for school). But they learnt to listen to me and respect my authority. I teach introductory government in the Department of Local Government Studies at Nasarawa State Polytechnic and I teach ND2 students (the rough equivalent of sophomore level in the university). I guess I had good experience already in maintaining decorum and being in charge of my jurisdiction. More than that, I was determined not to be beaten or slapped; it was a test of my education. I had friends who were beaten. I had friends who ‘did runs’. They were all over the place. I participated because I studied Political Science and I felt it was a great opportunity to be on the field, away from the the theory-dominated education I received in the University of Ibadan (Aren’t schools in Nigeria like that? UI was even a bit better). Also, it was a good step in the right direction, since I desire a career in public service. So, everyone has a motive that keeps them going even in the face of hard slaps. I wasn’t prepared to receive no such slap just because I wanted an experience. Maybe I’d have taken it for money (peanuts that were paid?) or ‘runs’. Ludicrous, right?
The first thing you should take with you to the polls is respect. Dig it up and let your mama be proud of you. If you weren’t so privileged, the internet is now everyone’s mama in times of need. Treat your voters as polite as you can. If you’re in a village or not-so-developed area, you can avoid a face-off by sticking to this truth. Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
Next, recognize key people in the queue who are like thought leaders. This is very essential. Try to win them to your side reasonably and they can stick up for you in trouble times. Don’t just look to educated people, some lousy uneducated ones are more powerful thought leaders. I used this strategy to my advantage and it worked very
well. In fact, they enjoyed working with me so much they came to help the next day. I couldn’t have performed their role: they were the middlemen between my little self who couldn’t speak Hausa and the people who didn’t understand English.
Next, establish your authority. They will likely want to take advantage of you, since you’re just a ‘common Corper’. Except maybe you’re a macho man. Especially the touts and street guys. What you need to do is to demonstrate without coming off as rude that you’re in charge. Speak out; tell them to be on an orderly queue; let them know they’re the losers if they don’t behave and make things move fast; if they still don’t listen, find a way to silently invite the soldiers. It works every repeated time. Soldiers are their ‘husbands’. Just sighting an approaching soldier is enough to restore sanity to their minds. I said soldier, not police or civil defense or man o’ war.
Next, treat everyone equally, on the basis of where they stand in the queue. From my own experience, there is nothing that makes the common man very mad as the feeling that they’re being cheated because of education or class/status, right in their community. Do it in the government house, not in their ‘lungu’. Do not answer anybody feeling too big they cannot queue up. Direct them to follow the procedure. Let them know, and let the people hear it if possible, that those who have come to queue early are also humans like them. The people sure like it when they see you’re sticking up for them. I was once in that difficult situation when my NYSC Local Government Inspector brought someone from nowhere to my desk for registration. Of course, I delayed him and let him face the people.
If you are unfortunate to be provided with problematic equipments by INEC, do not be cocky about it. The people will get mad and fling insults around. Identify with their frustrations and concerns and let them know you’re also not happy at all; that you’d react just like them if you were in their shoes; that what is happening is not right and therefore not acceptable. You’d do yourself harm by trying to defend INEC or the government. What’s there to even defend? In such a case, like when the finger scanners I was given were problematic, try to confirm that you feel their pains by being nice. Buy them a bag of pure water if you can. I bought different things: pure water, sugar cane, coke, etc.
Last but not the least, be watchful and careful. Even if you know they’re insulting you, do not attack them or dignify their manners or a lack of it with a bad response. Maintain your calm and cool. Know what you’re to do very well and do it excellently. They are thrilled by a show of rich knowledge of your tasks and greatly irked by a meaningless dance around your job. Although you’d find this piece more beneficial if you’re working in a village or rural area with little education, it’s not totally useless for literate settings. Do your job well, come out alive and let Nigeria be proud of you. We’re counting on you. Remember, ‘Nigeria’s ours and Nigeria we serve’.
It was 8pm.
The tricycle came to a rather hasty halt. The driver -a young man in his middle thirties- ordered the passengers to come down.
“This is my last bus stop”, he declared with a Thrasonical toast of lordship.
“Last bus stop? It’s still way down”, an old woman at the back seat fired back.
” This is my own last bus st-“.
Before he finished the last word, he was out of the tricycle and vanished into a gathering bush nearby.The old woman motioned in the direction of the driver, whose pose and pee line could be made out faintly with the help of the dying street lamps that laced the whole way up to the entrance of the city. Her face and voice looked late sixty, her physique, however, told tales of a girl tired of youth. She continued toward the peeing driver, pausing intermittently as if sharp moments of fits flashed flashed through her head, riding on the cool night breeze that occasionally distorted the driver’s pee line. She finally reached his back and stopped.
“Dreba, do quick and take me to the last bus stop”, she uttered, touching his back line with her nail less middle finger.
By now, he was done peeing and turned to her with a gentle grin.
“I told you this is my Rehoboth. I’m turning back here”.
“Na wa for you people in this country. Why did I board your vehicle if I’d have to walk, eventually?”
The driver whistled and walked past her- towards his three legged business.
“At least, give me ten naira as change since you’re not taking me to my destination”.
“Mama, your money don complete. You don’t have any change. The distance no far again. For all this back and forth, you would have reached the last bus stop if you had reasoned with your legs”. He turned on the ignition and zoomed off.
She stood for a while – making it into another tricycle that headed for the last bus stop. Almost immediately, another tricycle stopped at the point where the old woman’s did. This time, two people came out.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name”, the young man mentioned in a low tone as he tried to catch up with his mistress.
“I didn’t catch yours either, young man”.
“Oh! Bopongo. Thought I mentioned earlier”. He looked at her like his face bore a handshake.
She stopped at a wooden kiosk that overlooked the lonely road. There was a group of dark, tribal marked men enjoying a local dish made of corn and bitter leaf in front of the kiosk- they recognized her instantly and exchanged greetings in their local dialect. She returned their greetings. Bopongo brightened up half of his face with a fake smile and nodded a greeting.
“Do you take cigar?” She asked him.
“Yes, I mean sometimes”.
“Very well. I won’t feel out of place in your company then. You have no idea how some guys make you see how terrible you are”.
“Is that true?”, Bopongo thought to himself as he examined the full project in front of him and the implications of a task of such magnitude. He let out a sigh. He was certainly in for a long night at the hands of his fair, short stranger whose black hijab hanged loosely around her neck. One would think her a Moslem. Other things certainly fight that thought; like her tight top that struggled, albeit unsuccessfully, to maintain a cover on her cleavages, her extra short and extra tight skirt that gave recognition to her unconventional butt size, and her cigar love too, of course.
“Two packs”, she said to the stout man who stood up among the group of men. Bopongo removed his wallet and paid.
She held his hand and turned into the next street.
It wasn’t the best of days that day. The day started on a rather hot note. The fierce sun that had come to turn a legend worthy of a biopic started so early- something around six o’ clock. It was this legend of sorts that woke Bopongo up. By the time he was on his feet, his back had beautiful, artistic designs; the designer being the mat that provided respite during nights when the heat was ferocious- like the previous night. As he bent to roll up the mat, his phone rang. He dashed inside his room and hissed almost immediately he picked the phone to check who the caller was. He held the device for a while, until it stopped to ring. He reached out for his toothbrush on the trolley, beside the remnant of the fanciful wardrobe he had wasted his money on. So he thought when he came back from a trip, only to meet the giant wardrobe lying on the floor.
Again, his phone rang. This time, he picked up immediately; he said nothing; just kept the phone pressed to his right ear. Finally, he said something.
Throughout the conversation, his eyes wandered the entire dimension of the small room he so happily cherished, so much he yelled at Ogogo, his privileged, spoilt friend, when he jokingly described the room as a hole. From a frame of his mother hanging loosely on the wall to empty containers labelled ‘salt’ and ‘sugar’ in the middle compartment of a dusty trolley, his eyes were on repeat. When he finally ended the call, he picked up the empty sugar container, stared at it like a sober child whining about a stick of candy he had just finished, and dropped it back into the trolley. Without a thought, he dashed into the bathroom.
By the time he reached Broad Television, his producer was furious. Sighting him at one corner of the production studio, he doubled his steps.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was–“.
“Save your excuse”, the stout man cut him. He was used to his frequent acts and was not prepared to give him the satisfaction of attention.
” Are you ready to record?”, he asked.
“Yes sir. I woke up late because I prepared late into the night”.
” Persisting bastard!”, the producer thought to himself as he looked at him blankly. He wanted to tell him, one more time, how no media organisation will staff him if he continued like this- but he didn’t want to puncture the morning so early. He walked towards the cameramen, and after some seconds, motioned Bopongo in the direction of the centre stage. Wednesdays were busy days for an intern.
“Sir, I’m back. This is the food; there was no coke but I got a 7up; this is your change too”, he dropped a nylon on Mr Nwokem’s desk. He smiled at him as if he owed him his life and handed the change back to him.
” This is yours”.
Bopongo thanked him. Apart from being the one that helped him secure an internship at the media station, he was the only one whose errands promised reward, good one.
“I’ll give you a call later in the day, sir”.
” No problem”.
It was no surprise that Bopongo and Friends decided to relax in the evening. It was no coincidence, also, that he ended up with Somto.
‘So, tell me, how many girls that you met in a tricycle have you followed home like this?’, Somto’s voice crept out of the bathroom weakly. She was the madam of a leisure crib. Bopongo wasn’t very comfortable, and it was obvious in the way he observed the whole room with keen attention.
‘None. You’re the first and probably last’, he responded.
‘Hmm… Why are you here? What do you want?’, she fired again.
How does one even start to answer a question like this? Bopongo couldn’t imagine. For one, Somoto was the seducer. He was on his own, after downing three bottles of Beer, inside a tricycle he joined in front of the bank where he went to withdraw money to pay off bills at the bar he and his friends patronized. The seducer came in along the way, offered him fruits and asked him a few questions. As if that was not enough, she removed her cover and the sight of her cleavage screamed for attention. When a lady does these things, the menfolk think it a clue, a green light, a passageway. He merely followed the clue and it got him where he was. But how do you tell your prey you had no prior intention to kill it, but it somehow showed up at a very unfortunate time when you were hungry and angry?
‘I guess I liked you immediately I saw you and something told me there’s more’. The smart boy answer.
‘Join me in the shower’, she said. Shower? Lucky boy. He pulled everything off and stepped inside the bathroom.
‘So, who am I to you? I saw the number of guys who called you on our way back’, Bopongo asked calmly.
‘You’re my tonight guy and I’m going to rock you all night long’.
When he got out, his head was filled with thoughts. Tonight guy? There’s a guy for every night? Is she a witch? Will she eat me up or sacrifice me at 1am in the midnight? What if she has HIV? Shouldn’t I run?
It would have been a perfect ending after a long day and chilled booze. But this is a mystery girl. The country is already bad enough. At a point in a man’s life, he has to make a choice, embrace risk. So, he thought. ‘I’d go a round, lure her to follow me to a bar to buy a drink for the all-night task, and find a way to run away’.
He had made a choice; he was going to eat his cake and still keep it.
She brought out the cigarettes and match box and switched on her stereo. Hozier’s words filled the smoky atmosphere: ‘I’ll fall in love a little oh little bit everyday with someone new….’
Lover of my youth,
Mist of my young eyes,
Art that my curious hands adore,
My whole body shivers,
Like a hundred years slave.
Throw caution to the winds.
Disown common sense.
Forget about everything.
Stay with me.
As a dog at the shrine of my lies,
I took all in.
And became clueless.
Not dumb shit.
Anytime I cross your mind,
I, too, am capable of emotions.
I, too, am human.
I, too, can take risks.
Don’t call it senseless.
Love is already senseless.
For some Nigerians, especially those from the (yet?) ‘untouched’ Western and Eastern parts, the kidnap of more than two hundred school girls from Chibok, a small community in Borno State, is the wake-up call to a spiritedly driven group that shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon, and a leadership that desires no committed part in the ‘mass-destruction struggle’- a wasteful interest to be minded by government, they probably think, in the face of supreme agendas beyond 2014. Many thanks to the increasingly active segment of civil society greatly aided by the Twitter platform.
The Chibok happening is no less confronting and touching as the several other impunities that ‘Nigeria’ has stopped talking about, waiting only to be blown out by a curious search of the internet data on Nigeria. The ‘enemy of the people’- so the people think, and truly, partly so- that needs no elegant introduction is the Boko Haram sect: the nightmare of the North (I would have reckoned ‘Nigeria’ instead, except that using ‘North’ as a matter-of-factness brings out the folly of those in other parts of the country who are yet to see the national factor in the situation). Only recently did Nigeria become the giant of African economy (on paper). While Minister Okonjo Iweala spoke, and other government officials smiled in all directions, ‘time’ laughed hysterically and ran off to hide somewhere around the Northern populace. The bombing of Nyanya Park in Abuja was a terrible aftermath. Lives were lost, properties were destroyed. One question comes to mind here: How many people actually died? Was it only a single ethnic group that suffered? Was it only Christianity or only Islam? Very clearly, it couldn’t have been designed as a sentimentally targeted attack. That same day, while the country grieved, President Goodluck Jonathan danced. It wasn’t a sufficiently credible reason to halt any activity of government.
“After all, these lives get lost, and our people do not seem very disturbed. What havoc can it, another one of what they are used to, wreck?”
We tweeted like we used to. We said all sorts like we used to. Gradually, we moved into other businesses as the days rolled by. The present business of the day started about one month ago. Boko Haram had abducted girls from Chibok in Borno! Where are our girls? Even if we find out where they are, how many girls are we looking for? The Military responded: “Hundred girls”. Now, the search begins. Again, they cried out: “We have recovered them”. Everyone cannot be fooled; we got to know the truth: the number the military stated was not even up to half of the real number abducted and they recovered no one. The only girls that escaped did it themselves- even in the face of instant death, were they caught. Shall we then share their praise with an opportunistic military? Were their lies and deception intended to relieve the concerned parents of initial shock? One month gone and no sign of our girls. The concerned parents organized themselves and attempted to search for their girls, the same thing we do in all parts of the country whenever we realize that the government will either not do it or will waste time. We tar our neighbourhood roads, we fix our community security challenges, we build our own schools and hospitals where we can be sure to have the best facilities for our people. Aren’t we, the people, government in our own right? They revealed that their girls and others are held in Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest Camp. What next?
For one thing, the paramount role of the ‘international’ cannot be overlooked in this situation. The increasing intervention of several foreign media agencies and celebrities, running commentaries and write-ups and posing with the #BringBackOurGirls poster; pledges of military assistance; the link that binds the local insurgent groups with other groups outside the confines of the country. There is no gain without pain. For the assistance rendered, we should not forget that a price will be paid. But we should not care too much about external interference in our matters- have we ever been free from it since independence?
Perhaps, the greatest danger that we need to bother about is the allegiance of the presidency. It is now common to hear that the president is incompetent, visionless and weak. One reason for this could be the 2015 elections- in which case he should think he is deploying political wisdom. There are two options for Mr. President. The first is for him to put aside his second term ambitions and focus on the job of securing Nigeria from every threat. The second- and obvious- is for him to do the reverse of the first. It will be time-wasting for Nigerians to think that not having Jonathan as president in 2015 will solve the Boko Haram problem. Our concern should be to fight Boko Haram- 2015 or no 2015. And who knows, Jonathan may laugh last if he follows the first option above with all sincerity.