May 27, 2015

Happy Children's Day

The first time I saw this popular image a few weeks back, it haunted me. The girl in the picture is a 4 year old Syrian refuge. She raised up her hands in submission when she saw the photographer point his camera towards her thinking it was a gun.

Today is Children's day and we celebrate them but are we making the world more conducive for them? I mean, not all kids are like the Syrian girl in the picture who lives in the constant fear and thinks any black and long object is a gun ready to take her life. We have kids in the West African coasts slaving away on Cocoa plantations who have never tasted a bar of chocolate. We've got some locked up in terrorists cells and are being raped and (or) brain-washed into fanaticism. 

Of course not all kids are refugees, slaves and hostages, we also have the over-protected kids. I mean, those kids who at 17 years are NOT ALLOWED to have independent reasoning, be responsible for anything and can't even make simple decisions on there own like how to take a bus to school but at 18 years are ALLOWED to invade a country, sojourn uncharted terrains and be equipped with the most sophisticated weapons. The scaffolding model of learning life's important skills has been robbed from them.

We can not all be UNICEF Ambassadors or Social worker but in our little space we can make a little difference in a Child's life. It may be helping protect the environment for them, teaching them a skill and what have you. In Nigeria, according to the most recent UNICEF data, Primary School enrollment is 57.6%. That means almost half of the kids don't get to see the 4-walls of a classroom. We need change, and change starts one kid at a time and their different avenues through which we can contribute.

BUT SERIOUSLY... let's show the kids what a wonderful world it can be

March 14, 2015

Pidgin English to the Rescue!

Over the past few months, I have been making some posts on my Facebook page and just this week, I remembered I HAVE A BLOG!

Since the days of the tower of Babel, it has been evident to mankind that language has a huge part to play in the development of a people but unfortunately Nigeria doesn't have a language. But...but...but English??? Yeah! English is considered the official language but what is the use of a language when it is pretty safe to say that well over half of the population do not have a good command it (as evidenced by the amount of unintentional typos you might see in this post). This can be attributed to the fact that we have a diversity of tribes and each tribe takes a lot of pride in their language and would rather converse in their separate languages because it breeds a deeper level of understanding that English language can not reach. So what then happens when two people from different tribes want to communicate? Good question. They use Pidgin English.

Pidgin English popularly known as Brokin in Nigeria can be considered as a lingua franca across Nigeria. We are in the season of elections and a trend that I have noticed is that when a politician goes to a place that he can not speak the tribal language of the people, he turns to Brokin for help. Nigeria has over 300 tribes. Each with their own form of music (and musical instruments often times) but there are some songs that are played and enjoyed in almost any part of the country you go to regardless of the tribe of the musician. A common denominator in those songs that break the barrier of tribes and cultures is the use of Brokin in the lyrics (the beats help though :)). Go to any market in any city or town, if the buyer and seller are from different tribes and they speak different languages, the default language of transaction is Pidgin English.

Seeing that Brokin has become the lingua franca in trade, entertainment and politics (especially during campaigns) and it has been shown that a very large percentage of Nigerians feel more comfortable expressing themselves in the language, I believe it should be adopted in schools and I would go as far as saying that it should be adopted as the official language. I know this may sound radical but we have been struggling with English since 1914 and we have our own Brokin which we easily understand and communicate in. What is the use of language if we can not communicate in it? I mean, English Language is often wrongly used in the  media, in speeches by top government officials and at the highest level of academia and it has got to the point that it is no a thing of shame or an awkward moment when it happens. Even, in high level meetings, when the speaker doesn't know how to express his/her idea in English, they default to brokin. Case in point, The First Lady and The Principal - “na only you waka come?”.

So what is the way forward. I believe the first step is that Pidgin English should be formalized. My colleagues in the Linguistics departments all over the country can define a formal grammar and rules that would guide its usage. Thinking about it, the grammar of Pidgin English is not as rigid as that of English Language. Verbs in Pidgin have only one form. For example the present, future, and past tense of the verb “waka” is “waka”. Nouns might not necessarily be touched as we can easily borrow that from English Language. But...but… it would no more be PIDGIN English because the PIDGIN in it means a non-formal language right? Yeah, it would no more be Pidgin English once it becomes formalized and standardized so we can call it something else - Nigerianese, Waffi, Brokin, etc. Afrikaans is one of the official languages in South Africa and Namibia and it is a formalized form of Pidgin Dutch. I believe we should follow suite.

The benefits Brokin would have on our society if it is accepted as an official language would be immense and I predict a radical change in pace of development as a result. Imagine the number of students that would be rooted in useful background and fundamental concepts if Brokin is accepted as the official language in Primary and Secondary schools. Imagine if your Chemistry teacher explained Avogadro’s principle in Brokin, I bet it would stay with you 10 years after. Think about the number of deaths or complications that would have been avoided if usage of drugs and prescriptions was written in Brokin. Am I saying English should be completely phased out? Not at all. But it is no doubt that Nigerians communicate better among themselves in Brokin than in any other language. The advertising world knows this that’s why much of the jingles are in Brokin. It is high time we tap into the power of this language and formalize it for our development sake.

BUT SERIOUSLY.... abeg, this oyibo no dey work jooor!

October 11, 2014

Help! The Igbos need a Brother.

Just finished reading a piece about the appalling condition of the Enugu-Onitsha express way and I am confusingly wound up. Not at the government but at the Igbo people.
I can remember driving down that road Christmas of 2012 with my dad and it was so terrible that on the return trip we had to use the narrow, ox-bow-lake-like old express road. This is arguably the most important road in the South East as it links two commercial power houses together and the volume of trade that happens as a result of this road can be said to be the highest in the region. It is a federal road and it makes the Lagos-Ibadan road look like an F1 speed track in comparison.

If you ask the typical Igbo man about GEJ, he would spew the disgraceful ethnic-religious rhetoric of "Jonathan is my brother" as an answer. Seriously it baffles me how such an eyesore which is constantly before the Igbo people is left unattended to and they still get up in arms all in support of GEJ. It can be said that Obasanjo started the Onitsha-Owerri express way and Yaradua completed it. But what has GEJ done for the South-East region except from promising an invisible 2nd bridge that is of little or no significance because the iconic current bridge serves its purpose adequately. I am not trying to slight PDP or gain rep for APC, I'm just stating the facts as they are.

This begs the question of if the Igbos really have a "brother". I certainly do not think so. The Chairman, Senate Committee on works, Sen. Ayogu Eze is from Enugu state and not one word has come from him about repairing the road. His counterpart in the lower house (Chairman, House Committee on Works), Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, coincidentally is also from Enugu State and no work is being done on the road. The Finance Minister, while approving trillions of Naira for other projects has not deemed it fit to push for a fraction to make the road that leads to a close ally of her father's Kingdom. Stella Oduah (former aviation minster) is from Anambra and couldn't push for the major road that leads the whole of Anambra state to Enugu International Airport to be made. At the risk of sounding like a superficially tribalistic person, if these people are (were) all in power and the road is still in an abysmal condition, then seriously, who can be said to be a "brother" to the Igbo people?

BUT SERIOUSLY... The Igbos are pretty stuck.

April 23, 2013

Boko Haram in Boston

The past week has been very eventful especially if you are a resident of Boston. It all started when two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston marathon. Three people were killed and scores were injures as a result of the explosions. Security operative swiftly responded to these attacks and started a manhunt to get the suspects whose photos they released few hours after the attack. At the end of all the house to house searching, shoot outs and the likes, one suspect was killed and the second one was captured just after 4 days.

Seeing how fast it took to track down the bombers, Nigerians took to their BBs, tablets and what have you and started comparing the event that happened in Boston to that in Nigeria. The hashtag "#ifitwasnigeria" was trending on twitter nationwide. After studying tweets from that trend, i came to the conclusion that all what they were saying was that if the bombings happened in Nigeria, the suspects would not have been caught. They used Boko Haram to justify their claim.

I think its a little bit unfair to draw a comparison between the Boston bombings and the frequent or occasional bombings that occur in Nigeria. Seriously, I was surprised when people were comparing the Tsarnaev brothers (the suspects of the Boston bombings) to Boko Haram. The latter is a well organised group with a well defined hierarchy and loads of cash from both local and international sources while the latter is just a duo of disturbed brothers with no allies nor mega bucks. So please tell me where the comparison is? The only thing the Tsarnaev brothers and Boko Harm have in common is that they have maliciously detonated bombs in public places. Furthermore, studying some of the tweets from #ifitwasnnigeria, I could infer that some Nigerians believe that all Book Haram members would be caught within four days if they were operating in the US. That is just pure delusion.

We all know the state of security in Nigeria but let us not be blind when criticising it and it is very unfair comparing it to that in the US. The defence budget alone of the US can equal the National budget of all African countries put together. So the resources their security operatives would have access to would definitely out weigh that of Nigeria. I am not trying to say that the government is doing well in as regards boko haram but the impression that if we had Obama as president, Boko Haram would be completely flushed out is false and inaccurate.
PS: This post was typed with a phone so please forgive any typos you see because editing is very difficult when posting via phone.

March 31, 2013

My Oga and His Arms

My first post since October 2011. My apologies for the blogging slumber and any rustiness you observe during this writing,

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since October 2011 so which event should I start writing on. Is it the thousands of life that have been lost due to terrorist attacks in the North (seriously, we are really underestimating the degree of the violence in the North. The body count of victims of terrorist attacks in the past 12 months in the North only is higher than that of the whole Iran and Pakistan put together)? Or the President's willingness to negotiate with terrorist (anytime I hear him say that, I just pinch myself to make sure what I'm hearing is real)? All these issues depressing and put me in a somber mood. I'll rather write about less depressing issues like the latest viral video in Nigeria, "My Oga at the Top". Yeah, I know it's been like 2 or 3 weeks since the release of that video and all the hype and excitement is already dwindling but behind the humour and sardonicism, there are some important things to note.

On the morning the video went viral, I was going for a presentation with My Oga at the Top at my workplace. After all the initial jokes and banter we made about the man, we sort of switched to "serious mode" (the trip was obviously too long for us to spend all the time laughing). It was during that "serious mode" talk that he made me aware of the fact that the NSCDC (Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps) now carry arms. I was like "who the hell would give them arms?"(but then, I remembered the president we have in this country).

I've been thinking for the past few weeks why that agency should bear arms? What is even their responsibility (I don't want to check google but the roles and responsibility of an agency that bears arms should be very obvious to the citizens)? To be honest, I  grew up thinking that the role the NSCDC played was like that of KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline). I grew up knowing them as people that help control traffic when "yellow fever" is not around (especially in the east) and they protect public property (like street light, water pipes etc) that's all! Some years back, the customs guys were given the right to bear arms (that one is a bit understandable because some of those drug dealers actually carry arms and involve customs officials in shoot outs) but the NSCDC, an agency which Nigerians barely know or hear about, who have no clear cut role or function, whose officers did not go through any kind of background check before joining the agency, carrying arms is just incomprehensible. They might as well give NAFDAC and FRSC officials arms!

Some few days after the video was realesed, it was reported that the major character in the video has been suspended (if you've not seen the video, this is a youtube link). And what surprised me most was that a lot of people were supporting his suspension saying it is deserved because he doesn't know his agency website. In my opinion, I don't think that is a valid ground to suspend an offical. In Nigeria, IT literacy is poor. I have come in contact with a a lot of students who don't know the URL of the web portal of their University, every time I'm on the queue to use the ATM, i meet at least one person who doesn't know how to use the machine and I can go on citing more and more examples of how poor our literacy level as regards technology and the Internet. It is ironic that a lot of the people who are making the loudest noise about the whole issue and who support the suspension of the man are just as ignorant as him (they might not even know what NSCDC means who may be hearing it for the first time). I'm not a fan of the man, but I'll rather have a leader who doesn't know the full website of his agency and is honest than a leader who is a tech guru but is corrupt. Our reaction towards the video is a clear representation of our disdain for public officials which in my opinion is acceptable but we took it too far with this man.

Now the dust is slowly settling and the sales of "Oga at the top t-shirts" is reducing, Nigerians are waiting for the next official that would fall prey of their harsh criticism and judgement in the court of public opinion. I just hope that we not only laugh and mock these people but we also learn. From this, I think it is obvious that the whole country needs proper orientation and sensitization on Internet and technology issues because at this time and age, a good and sound knowledge of this is required.

BUT SERIOUSLY... the URL of this blog is butseriuosly.blogspot.datsAll!

October 31, 2011

My Letter to the 7 Billionth Citizen of the World

Today, the 31st of August, 2011, the world population would reach 7 Billion. This is what i have to say to the the child that makes us hit that milestone:

Dear Mr./Miss Seven Billion,

I would address you  like how I addressed the 1 Billionth child born in 1830, the 2 Billionth child in 1930, the 3 Billionth child in 1960, 4 Billionth child in 1975, 5 Billionth child in 1989 and the 6 Billionth child in 1999. Although, the circumstance in which you were born is different from that of the previous children mentioned above. You are the 7 Billionth child born in the world and that's a special landmark for the world.

You were born in a time of revolutions in the Middle East, drug wars in the Central America,  economic crises in Europe and loss of jobs in America. You would hear of things like natural disasters (perhaps, the Turkish President and the Thai  Prime Minister can enlighten you on that after the recent earthquakes and floods in their respective countries), but I pray you don't experience them. Also, you must learn how  to spend money well so you wouldn't be a victim of the recession (the Greek President could give you some tutorials on that out of experience)

In this world you would meet a lot of good and bad people. You were born shortly after the death of some seriously bad men. One of them died a couple of days ago after ruling his country for 42 years and terrorizing his subjects while another one was killed a couple of months ago and was buried at sea after notoriously earning the title of the world's most wanted man. Your history teacher would teach you about a very very good man called Adolf Hitler (I hope your literature teacher tells you the meaning of sarcasm). There are also good men in the world. In fact,  before you came to this world, the "Apple of our eyes" left us (perhaps, I might get you an iSad to console you) . You would grow up using his gadgets and inventions  and I would like you to impact the world just like how he did.

                                                   The Good, Bad, Ugly and the Beast

They say out of six blacks in the world, one is a Nigerian. So if you are a black, there is a high probability that you are a Nigerian. You might be wondering what Nigeria is. Nigeria is a country with good people and it's a great nation with the happiest people on earth and the highest paid politicians in the world! We have a President that was shoeless when he was young, and now that he's old is clueless with a First Lady that probably skipped English classes while at school. We just had the first indigenous successful suicide bomber some couple of months and our President said it is Nigerians turn to deal with such issues. If you are a boy, you are expected to die by the age of 38 in this country but I pray God preserves your life. If you are a girl, there is a slim chance that you might go to the university. Nevertheless, you'll be celebrated as the 167 millionth Nigerian!

So my dear 7 Billionth citizen of the world, I'll advise you to live each day like it's the last and trust in God to watch over you. Welcome to the world. Hope you have a nice time!!!


October 19, 2011

The Tale of Four Governors

It's been a while since I've done a post on this blog. It was due to some circumstances beyond my control (permit me for using that lame excuse that media houses always use). A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the last time I posted a piece. Most notable is the unfortunate bombings that were carried out by the Boko Haram guys. May God console the families of the lost and wishing the other victims speedy recoveries.

Actually, what woke me up from my "blogging sleep" was not the bombings but the arrest of four (4) former governors by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).  The governors are Gbenga Daniel,  Adebayo Alao-Akala, Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Akwe Doma. As we all know, it's a normal thing for ex-governors to be rightly "harassed" by the EFCC especially when their successors are from an opposing party but the money involved in the case of these four men is really appalling, upsetting and inexcusable! These men were arrested for "misusing" $674 million (that's over 100 billion naira)! They all have different degrees of misappropriation of money but I'll evenly divide the 100 billion naira amongst the four of them. That gives us 25 billion naira per governor. Let's assume that these 25 billion naira was stolen (tired of referring to it as 'misuse') in just a term in office. It then implies that each of them stole 17 million naira every day while in office!
The four Musketeers

In their last report on how far the world is in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the UN reported that 64.7% of Nigerians  live under $1 dollar per day. That means 97 million Nigerians can't afford  150 naira  for eating, transportation etc per day and just 4 Nigerians by virtue of being public servants had the audacity and effrontery to embezzle 17 million naira every faithful day of service! What a service to the people!!! Do these people know what 17 million naira would do to the lives of the citizens of their states in a day??? Imagine the number of public secondary schools that would have  desks and chairs if these governors decided to be sane for just a day! Imagine the number of beds 17 million naira would have provided for their hospitals! Do you know what? With this amount of embezzled money, they had the ability to give scholarships of 100,000 naira to 170 tertiary education students every day of their administration!
A Public Secondary School

It's a pity Nigerians hear and see all these ungodly levels of corruption and still praise, salute and blow the horns of the perpetuators of the evil act. It's no news that Danjuma Goje has over 30 honorary degrees and awards from Nigerian Universities and also 20 chieftaincy titles! This is wrong!!! Many Nigerians celebrate these men and it gives upcoming public servants the urge to follow in their evil and shameful footsteps because every man wants to be celebrated! It's a fact that hypocrisy and sycophancy are good catalyst that boost misuse of power. These guys are voted in to serve and I see no use dancing and forming parades  when one of then builds a road or provides pipe-borne water because that's his job! He's to SERVE!!!

At this juncture, I would like to state that the cases of these governors are still in court and it's also likely that they embezzled more but the EFCC couldn't track the other sums. So as our public servants continue buying vehicle foot mats for 150, 000 (Bank Ole) and renovating houses for over half a billion naira (our dearest Patricia), let's do our own part by stoning them with bags of pure water whenever they are driving past (it was my friend that suggested that ooo).
Weapons of Warfare