Love for Country and Other Drugs

Love 4 Country & Other Drugs

Because of Nigeria, I’ve been accused of false optimism, “How can you hope for change when we keep doing the same things?” I’ve also been accused of Elitist Patriotic Syndrome, a type of patriotism that conveniently lives abroad and so doesn’t wash its hands in the muddy river of change. But how do you bury love for country? Where are its roots that I may pluck it?

Looking ahead to Nigeria’s Independence Day, three writers and I wonder if hope can be reinvented.

Education is Training the Mind to Think

Desmond Tutu, in one of his stories said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” I wonder why we prayed with both eyes closed. And who helped the white man steal the slaves that crouched in the belly of the whale on the way to the plantations in America? Tell me who? The white man has gone and Africans stagger, drunk from the rich red of millions that flowed in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

I am glad the white man came to Nigeria and brought education with him1. One day, a friend visited a motherless baby’s home to inform the administrators that he was committed to educating two kids as far as they wanted to go. Starved of funds, they greeted the news with glee and asked him to pick the two kids. As he looked at the kids, his heart ached because choosing one meant rejecting another, but his pocket was simply not wide enough. The administrators chose for him, they chose their brightest two. Two plus two equals eight. Four plus four equals thirty-two.

I have dreamt of the past. Show me the future that I may live the present.

Education can teach us to read and write, appraise and solve, question and answer, and chew and spit. It is why I want to write prose with the eloquence of Chimamanda Adichie and the humanity of Chimeka Garricks, that another generation can read stories of hope and redemption, and pray with both eyes open.

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant. – Maximilien Robespierre –

Timi Yeseibo @ Livelytwist

  1. “History rediscovered – Emeka Keazor at TEDxEuston” YouTube video, posted by “TEDx Talks,” on February 21, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN3hCjbA_dw 

 

Humans of Nigeria

It was Christmas Eve, and we expected the roads to be free. We drove past Iyana Ipaja roundabout and entered one of those traffic jams that force you to turn off the AC, roll down the windows, and watch pedestrians cover distances you won’t in hours.

Suddenly the traffic began to melt as engines sprung to life. A tall man in combat trousers was swinging his arms and giving directions to relieved drivers. Sweat glued his muscles to his khaki t-shirt and outlined them. He had a broad smile on his face—an antithesis of Nigerian work culture.

On our roads, police officers pounce on naïve drivers who miss one-way road signs or waylay bus drivers for fifty Naira notes. The police are not alone. The prevailing mindset is that no matter how hard we try, we have nothing to gain from our jobs. We work without a sense of ownership, purpose, or dignity. Oga ta, oga o ta, owo alaaru o pe1. Na lie! Our work is a reflection of who we are, and the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

The exceptions are the Humans of Nigeria, like the soldier who volunteered as an impromptu traffic warden and the doctor whose diligence prevented a national Ebola tragedy. They worked with verve and took charge. Like pebbles thrown in water, the ripple effect transcended their original goals. The government may never give them national awards, but they are the reason Nigeria is not a complete hell.

IfeOluwa Nihinlola @ ifenihinlola.wordpress.com

  1. Oga ta, oga o ta, owo alaaru o pe: (Yoruba) whether the boss makes profit or not, the labourer’s wage will be intact.

 

A History of Industry

After World War II devastated Japan, the island country underwent a rapid industrialization that surprised the world. The Japanese Miracle happened because strong leadership inspired a diligent citizenry, the threat of scant natural resources notwithstanding.

Did something else influence this phenomenal comeback?

I discovered that the world’s oldest company is a Japanese construction company founded over 1400 years ago. Japan rules the list of world’s oldest companies, a sustainable culture of industry perpetuated in the soul of a nation for centuries.

A careful consumption of Nigerian history reveals a similar culture of industry. Gigantic groundnut pyramids once drew tourists and business tycoons from all over the world to northern Nigeria. These pyramids were the brainchild of Alhassan Dantata who became West Africa’s richest man. Generations later, his great-grandchild is one of the richest black men on the planet.

Stretching further back in time, beginning from around 800 A.D., powerful rulers of Benin Kingdom in southern Nigeria, successively oversaw the construction of what became the world’s longest earthworks; city walls that reached an astonishing 16,000 kilometres.

Nigeria can bring about her own miracle if we unify the legacies of industry spawned by our various cultures under strong and visionary leadership at all levels.  Moreover, we cannot forget that unlike Japan, we have an unbelievable wealth of resources waiting anxiously for a call to service. Will you give the call?

Samuel Okopi @  samuelokopi.com

 

The List

Four years ago, I moved back to Nigeria with many preconceptions that prevented me from being as happy as I could have been. I know now that I know nothing about Nigeria, but I also know that I know more than I did before and I will know more tomorrow. Everything I’ve learned is in this list, which I will patent as, Simple Rules for Visiting or Returning Nigerians, and Maybe Locals too.

1) No one wants to hear you complain

If you have a sob story after a month’s stay, how many sad stories do you think people who live here have? Twenty, fifty, uncountable?

2) You don’t have the magic solution

People who begin their sentences with, “You know what the problem with this country is . . . ,” make me roll my eyes. No I don’t know, eminent genius, tell me what the problem is!

3) You can’t be tired of this country

Nigeria has problems. You proved that by leaving. Don’t throw your hands up at every challenge you face. Remember when your mother embarrassed you in public and you thought, oh God, I need new parents? How did that work out for you?

Here like elsewhere in the world, your task is not complicated: be a decent person and be decent to other people, whether in molue or presidential motorcade. Good leaders come from caring people, and I now know I belong at the starting line.

If you find the list above disagreeable, you can opt for the Babalawo1 Price List (medicine man’s potions):

BUSINESSMAN  PACKAGE                              ₦60,000

Super Business boom

No double cross*

Success job contract

No more promise and fail

*Stops people from double-crossing you. Does not prevent you from double-crossing.

 

LANDLORD PACKAGE                                    ₦50,000

Command tone / Do as I say (tablet, grind into water or dissolve in mouth)

Win court case

Reveal enemy+

Silent Rich

+Only reveals enemy, does not destroy them. For complete, also buy Destroy enemy from A LA Carte menu. Can combine.

 

ROMANCE PACKAGE                                    ₦35,000

Love only me (potion)

Go all night

Easy to satisfy**

Avoid divorce***

**Do not combine with No more promise and fail.

List continues here

Tolu Talabi @ naijarookie.wordpress.com

  1. Babalawo: (Yourba) an Ifa priest, who ascertains the future of his clients via divination. Loosely used to refer to native doctors.

 

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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What Should I Write About?

EB WHITE QUOTE

This question never leaves me. Suspended in my subconscious, I answer it every moment, every day. The events of my life and yours, past, present, and a future I envision, are being stored somewhere in my brain cells. To write, I start with a title, which provides direction. Developing the story resembles opening a wardrobe and sifting through clothes, pulling one and then another from the rack, admiring, discarding, until you find the perfect outfit for the occasion. Most times, my wardrobe is full, so full that choice is the problem.

Another problem arises from the opinion of others. How many times have you asked someone, what do you think I should wear, and they picked an outfit that was just so not you? Or asked the question that makes the people we love dance around the truth—how do I look?

But, input from external sources also comes without me soliciting for it.

“I definitely think you should write about it,” Toyin said quietly.

“Mmhmmm.”

“This is an issue that touches the heart of the nation. Can you just imagine . . .”

She was right. Newspapers and social media channels brimmed with the controversy over section 29 of the Nigerian Constitution and legitimising child marriage. I had skimmed a few articles but had neither researched the issue nor signed the child-not-bride petition. Like her, I was upset, unlike her, I had not yet reached boiling point. A couple more friends called. I felt the steam from their whistling kettles, so I caved in. Between midnight and 2 a.m., I wrote an opinion piece centred on an imaginary conversation with my daughter in 2025. It had many holes that I could not fill.

That Friday, I stumbled on an elegant piece written by a lawyer. Wading through the tide of emotion, he separated fact from fiction and proposed platforms to channel the wave of mass hysteria. Hearsay and conspiracy theories belong in fiction novels, and so, I was relieved that Sunday was still faraway. I would have sent my article to the recycle bin, but for a few sentences I felt I could use in a future post.

I have not let people convince me to use my “voice” to “talk” for them since then. Although I read political articles, I rarely write about politics because I don’t have the resources to carry out investigative journalism that would result in balanced pieces.

When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.                              – Samuel Butler –

My blog gives me freedom to wear anything I like from my wardrobe. Four criteria guide my choice, inform, entertain, inspire, and provoke thought. Oh, and try to keep it short!

Someone accused me of misleading readers since the tag line of my blog, because life happens to all of us and sometimes we get a second chance, isn’t reflected in the posts I publish. Perhaps he is right, and only I see the redemptive theme woven in my stories or maybe, you see what you want to see depending on the strength of your lenses.

So, what should I write about? Anything that catches my fancy, which I think will add value to you. Including this piece, which on the surface isn’t about redemption, but if you reflect on it, a large chunk focuses on wrestling my voice from peer pressure and speaking a language I understand. Second chances? Maybe, maybe not.

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.  – Isaac Bashevis Singer –

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Interpreting Silence, Mine and Maybe Yours

Malala

. . . and I began to see that the pen and the words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.1

I was at a meeting. The preacher declared, “If you haven’t found what is worth dying for, then you haven’t started living!” In my mind, I said, “But I am living and I enjoy my life although, I don’t know what I would die for.” The preacher reeled off convictions on which he would stake his life. I thought, that’s good for you, my children are still small, my marriage too young.

In my university, when students would gather to protest against government policies, I always left the campus and went to stay at my aunt’s, as I did not fancy being tear-gassed, arrested, or beaten or raped if the protest degenerated to a free-for-all.

Their protests annoyed my middle-class sensibilities. Shielded by my parents, I had never felt the sting of socio-economic or political policies. The more daring the protest, the more likely, that my university would be shut down, so that, instead of graduating at twenty, I would graduate at twenty plus x, x being anything from one to five years. This concerned me because I had mapped my life’s trajectory without the possibility of detours.

And so, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography interested me, as all biographical material does, but more so because she is a teenager. She’s described as the educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, who came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. News about her work had floated in and out of my attention in years past, but as I settled to read her book, I shook my head, what was she thinking?

The man was wearing a peaked cap and looked like a college student. He swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.

Who is Malala? He demanded?”

No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I later learned it was a Colt 45. Some of the girls screamed.2

Malala’s story, in my view, traces the journey of her convictions, how they were shaped, how they crystallized, and how she learnt to live and expect to die for them. Her father is central to her story. She interprets her world through his eyes. But I get the sense as I read that even if Malala were translated into another set of circumstances, mine as a youngster, for example, she would still shake the world. Named after the Pashtun heroine, Malalai of Maiwand, when she was born, she popped out kicking and screaming.

Malala gives us a history lesson on her beloved Pakistan and Talibanization. It is a story I recognize: Nigeria before and after British colonization; Nigeria in the age of Boko Haram. Politics never sleeps. Poverty and illiteracy make indoctrination and intimidation potent. But Kalashnikovs and RPGs make the rich and educated flee too.

Her photo on the book cover hides fear and courage, a tension that she draws her readers to share with her family in Taliban-controlled Swat Valley and beyond.

Are you scared now?” I asked my father.

At night our fear is strong, Jani,” he told me, “but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”3

She writes that her father hated the fact that most people would not speak up. She knew he was right. He kept a poem by Martin Niemoller in his pocket.

First they came for the communists,                                                                              

and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.                                           

Then they came for the socialists,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.                                                 

Then they came for the trade unionists,                                                                        

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.                                        

Then they came for the Jews,                                                                                               

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.                                                        

Then they came for the Catholics,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.                                                 

Then they came for me,                                                                                                     

and there was no one left to speak for me.

I live in a land where my concerns range from 30% income tax deductions to choosing between Gouda and Maasdammer cheese. Comfort is a familiar place and I do not apologize for it. Privilege comes with responsibility and many are not silent. But I must break my silence and scream with more than sympathy, with my words, my money, my time, and my votes, because Malala proves that one voice can be heard. At a cost, at a cost . . .

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

1. Yousafzai, Malala with Lamb, Christina, I Am Malala (London: Orion Books, 2014), 131.

2. Ibid., 6.

3. Ibid., 115.

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The Last Flight

the last flight

Days after Malaysian flight MH17 exploded in Ukraine, I board a KLM flight at Schiphol. I read during the long meander on the runway and snooze after take-off. I awake to the sound of a flight attendant asking, “What would you like to drink?” My mouth is dry. I spy my options; coffee, tea, or fruit juice, before he turns my way. When he does, his eyes widen, “Ma’am you’re reading that,” he gestures at my book, “here . . .  in this airplane?”

“Yes.”

“In this plane?”

“Um . . . yes?”

The Last Flight?”

I cringe, as I comprehend the irony. While he serves me tea without milk, I explain that it is a book about the civil war in Nigeria, which took place a long time ago.

“Would you like a sweet or salty snack?”

“Sweet please.”

He rolls his service cart up the aisle. Three rows up, I overhear him say to his colleague, “Zij leest het boek, The Last Flight, in dit vliegtuig!”

He motions with his chin. I tuck the book in the seat pocket. The chair cannot swallow me although I shrink my shoulders and slide lower in my seat.

Seat belts clack, clack, clack, and feet shuffle as soon as the plane taxies to a stop. At the door, he and the captain greet passengers goodbye. A huge Manfield bag, my laptop, and a suitcase that I struggled to fit in the overhead luggage compartment, I am Nigerian after all, are not agents of my discomfiture. I recite in my mind, how I will tell him that I do not have a death wish, that the book was a coincidence in poor taste, maybe joke about it. My fellow travellers’ impatience is contained by the queue in the narrow aisle. Will they forgive my small talk? Blond hair and blue eyes is already looking past me to the passenger behind. Does what a stranger think of me matter? I test the steps with my six-inch wedge. I wobble and steady myself. No more drama, I pray.

On my return trip, although I have not finished reading, The Last Flight, I read a Neil Gaiman novel. I crane in all directions searching for blond hair and blue eyes, as if his approval is penance that secures my redemption. He is not on this flight. I read Neil Gaiman’s title again, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I notice how a ‘P’ could have changed things and think about how one decision can alter events. Nevertheless, I still hide the book in the seat pocket just in case I am missing another irony.

 

P.s. remembering those who lost someone in a plane crash: Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them. – George Eliot –

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.