Mama’s Voice

From turkeys stolen by an elderly man, who probably thought eating tomorrow’s turkeys would make the festival of garri and groundnut in the days to come more palatable; to the inhumane burning to death of human beings due to the explosive tendencies of our nemesis and savior, PMS. On to the exploitative tendencies of terrorists and religious extremists who have no code of conduct in the dark books of their imaginations, and who have exchanged their God-given consciences for a heap of stones and without batting an eye-lid would use the innocent purity of children to whet the appetite of the grave once more. The news is no longer shocking, we have been shocked one too many times.
It would appear that just like yesterday, Mama is once again at the brink of death spurred by the destructive and sometimes suicidal tendencies of her children. The ones who were supposed to redeem her and cultivate her land after the colonial masters seemingly gave it back. It would appear that the Nigerian situation is no different from that of the world at large, after all almost all countries are plagued by wars; for some the battlefield is marked by the incessant spread of the Ebola virus, for others it is the pot bellies of young children which is at a gross discordance with their thin arms and legs accompanied by dry cracked lips and red-brown hair caused by too little of the important parts of a balanced diet, yet for others it is a research laboratory searching for the cure to cancer and the other exotic diseases that the developing world cannot be bothered about. We are yet to fully master the art of curing and firmly eradicating malaria. For the other countries who are the heroes of the entire world whose battlefield is against the big boys of terrorism, the battlefield is marked by soldiers who never make it home, the ones who make it home without a limb, and the once who are physically whole but internally as scarred as the rest.
Mama is groaning once again for the children who have failed again, she weeps, for the beautiful ones yet unborn, she yearns. Dreams of golden streets paved by the oil money well spent, devoid of beggars and mentally unstable people who could be better cared for if anyone cared. Of schools with windows and classrooms filled with students who are eager to learn because they had a goodnight’s sleep and a good breakfast, and teachers who are eager to teach because they have passion and they are not owed their used-to-be meagre salaries. Perhaps, the day is coming when the fire raging through a country which lives in constant denial, eyes closed to the charred remains of what used to be relatively peaceful, what used to be relatively good, what was relatively cheap. When the sinking naira will rise again from the bottomless pit of useless currency, and petroleum will no longer be her sole source of survival.
Mama’s children claim to love her, they claim to cherish her, and they make empty promises daily, with their enchanting optimistic chants of ‘better tomorrows’, yet they know nothing of her history. How she was sold by her royal parents to the oyinbo ‘misssionaries’ how the folly of the oil boom was the progressive doom of the cultivation of her land. How the health sector became a death guaranteed sector with teaching hospitals marked by never-ending strikes; simply moving from one aggrieved category of staff to the next, each protected by unions with stubborn leaders . The wards became full of ‘what if’ stories, “what if doctors were not on strike when my father was ill?”, “what if the drugs were available?”, “what if the government had paid?” ‘What if this was a country that worked’ became the constant rhetoric amongst cynical adults on the balcony of joblessness and pain.
They know nothing about how the travails of Obafemi Awolowo which has become a story told to naïve public school students taught beneath the falling leaves of good education, the classrooms transforming rapidly from beautiful well-structured buildings to those with no louvres and fences marked by ghosts of bricks past.
They do not remember how Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed for being a poet for truth and justice for his people, and easily they forget Dele Giwa’s death by letter bomb at a time when speaking the truth was dangerous business, those who fought for the place you now occupy knew that. Yet they chose the dark and lonely path of martyrdom for descendants who would not appreciate the value of the freedom that was purchased with the blood of men and whose weak backbones cannot fight for truth and justice once before gained. If the dead could see, these men would roll in the grave, they would wonder why we parade ourselves as being resilient; resilience being the ability to be beaten with many blows without fighting back and still be alive and apparently well.
Easily, like only children can, they forget the many explosions caused by inflammable pipelines and oil tankers and they are steadfastly unable to prevent it or adequately compensate those affected by it.. Forgotten as soon as the headline changes to something more entertaining and less graphically disturbing as the display of charred remains generally is. Perhaps who the next ‘Miss World’ is, although they will only ever remember Agbani Darego, our own Miss World.
Mama’s children are plagued with a disease characterized by; an inability to fight for rights which belong to her, a constant drive to work under the harshest of conditions without breaking, and amnesia, the inability to remember what was and what now is threatening to be. Some call it a blessing because the alternative is a depressive tendency for suicide.
She awaits the awakening of these sleeping children or the birth of another generation whose name is ‘Hope’, earnestly wondering which would come first. Her eyes brighten at the news that her children in the diaspora are doing well, ignoring the bad eggs that threaten the names of the good. However her shores await their return, the ones who have tasted comfort and blatantly refuse to let her go, until it is time to be buried. God forbid that they are buried in another man’s land. American in life, Nigerian in death. Her eyes brim with tears at the children that her ashamed of her, who deny her and who sometimes wish they had been born by another. Come home will you, till my lands and build my roads, light up the cities and rid yourselves of those who profit from the thick darkness that has become a part of the Nigerian situation.
Behind the dark gloominess of what we know to be Nigeria, a beacon of hope shines forth in new leadership and chants of ‘change’ reinforced by a 50% slash in the salaries of the President and his deputy and the bailout money for the broke states. We hope as we always do, that tomorrow our streets will be paved of gold, our streets free of beggars and the mentally unstable and that finally, the menace called Boko Haram will be a myth told to children to keep them on their best behaviour.

(c)Olamide Oti
July 10, 2015

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MAGICAL BOOKS AT IFLA CONFERENCE.

Hello everyone, this is my first featured article and it will run for a week. Enjoy!

“At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing.”  – William Golding, The Spire.

Magical Books, a Nigerian social enterprise involved in reading advocacy was selected to, and did present an innovative poster at the just concluded 80th edition of the International Federation of Library Associations – World Library International Congress held in Lyon, France from the 16th -22nd of August, 2014.

The World Library International Congress organised by IFLA is a yearly event that brings together actors of knowledge from all over the world to discuss, share and disseminate knowledge. This year’s theme was tagged “Libraries, Citizens, and Societies: Confluence for Knowledge”. There were several programmes which included open sessions, workshops, pre and post congress satellite meetings and poster sessions with several interesting sub-themes.

At the poster session, Magical Books had the opportunity of presenting her poster titled “Magical Books: A Reading Advocacy Project” at stand 121 in the midst of about two hundred (200) poster stands. These stands were available to approximately three thousand and Five Hundred (3500) participants for viewing, networking and partnerships.

The poster created by the C.E.O/Program Coordinator, Mrs Seun Aina and presented by Mrs Adetoun Oyelude of the Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan, an active member of the Magical Books Network detailed the organization’s active role in promoting healthy reading habits and lifelong learning attitudes amongst children, teenagers and adults in Nigeria. The photographs on the poster highlighted their activities in the area of reading advocacy in the media, schools and organisations.

It also showed other activities which include organising of reading clubs for children, book clubs for adults and seminars and workshops that build life skills in children and adults.

Just recently, Magical Books and Global Youth Leadership and Girl Child Foundation (GYLGF) concluded a three week Summer Reading Club  from the 11th – 30th  of August, 2014. This year’s edition was coordinated by Dr Adepeju Oti, founder of GYLGF.

The edition included loud session story times, book talks, craft, educative games, excursions among others.

With the support and partnership of thousands of people in their network, Magical Books is getting closer to achieving its vision of seeing a Nigeria where both young and old see reading as a lifelong activity, a tool for personal growth, social change and national development.

To know more about this organisation, visit and like their Facebook page at Magical Books Nigeria and follow on Twitter @magical_books1.

Church Rules!

rulesI am a christian and I love church but there are so many churches now that it is hard to make a choice especially if you are young and misguided. I recently made a change from a a bigger church to an on-campus fellowship and although I wish I made it a more graceful exit, I do not regret it.

As a family, we made a couple of changes when it came to church, most leaving happy memories, others not so much. My first experience in an ‘Ibadan’ church had me hating church as an 8 year old. There were people who complained to my mum about my sisters and I wearing jeans and not tying scarves(at 8?). Anyways, I was so glad when we made a change to a more ‘social’ church which at the time did not have any issues about children in jeans and was more ‘children friendly’. Although, back then, I hated being treated like a child and was a member of the adult Sunday school class(I was way too serious for goofy, talkative kids).

Participating in drama and choir presentations was fun until the ‘kiss’ that is, the unsolicited kiss from a budding paedophilic instrumentalist. I mean, what 9 year old wanted a kiss from the disgusting mouth of a 30 something year old nobody. I remember looking up at him, and telling him in my ‘grown up’ voice to never try that with me again or I would tell the pastor, and hence halting what would have been a story of abuse.

images (19)Throughout secondary school, going to church was a chore for me, one I soon stopped bothering to attend to. The chapel then was a lot different from what I was used to at home, and for 6 years I refused to adapt, not because I hated God, but because I hated the rules associated with going to places of worship. The ones about hair coverings were so extreme that the formidable ushers at the door would turn you right back if you dared to go without a scarf or a beret. After a couple of months, I just stopped bothering and only went for thanksgiving services, carol and valedictory services.

Now the head covering rule is back again, I am not totally averse to it anymore, I just don’t understand why it should be imbibed within the doctrine of a church especially for young people. Paul wrote, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man (that is Christian men and women) is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head” (1 Cor. 1:3-6).”

I do not wish to get into a never-ending argument about doctrine in the Christian faith but it appears to me that Paul was speaking to married women, and since I’m unmarried, why should the doctrine of a particular church tell me to cover my hair, that is not the only reason why I left though(too petty), I wanted a chance to know God for myself, among people in my age group without the familiarity and super-human expectations that come with being a preacher’s kid.

Although, it would appear that I have commitment issues, I probably do. I cannot really say that I have felt like I belonged in any church until now, I can safely say I’ve found my niche here, the trick is getting involved in what I do best, and utilizing my talents for the gospel while staying faithful to the one true God who knows no race, doctrine or language.
I am personally not against rules, because rules ensure order, but I don’t want to be imprisoned by doctrines made by men, all I want is to serve the Lord my God with all my heart regardless of legalistic ‘churchy’ righteousness.

There is no perfect Christian, we all strive toward perfection by the undiluted inexplicable grace that comes from the Father, and not by following all the rules.

Blessed Nigeria!

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Hello, my name is Olamide and I am proudly Nigerian, on some days; but on others, not so much. Our characteristically green coloured passport could get me into a lot of trouble at any international airport. I would have to wait for hours to go through the rigors of getting searched by airport security like a bomb-carrying terrorist just for owning that little green document.

When I was much younger, I loved to read the papers. I would pore over every column and take in every word at the breakfast table in my over-sized nerdy glasses and homemade pigtails. I would read about news of market places burning to the ground, a few kidnappings here and there and on a few occasions, plane crashes. Each time I came across news of terrorism and insurgency in other countries like Iraq and Afghanistan I would shrug and think to myself, “that’s never gonna happen here.” I could not have been more naive and childish. I knew there had been religious uprisings in North but I had never imagined that I would hear news of bomb blasts or that sacred word ‘terrorism’ spoken with reverence in a country that I had just begun to know and love.
Nigeria my Nigeria, O how the mighty have fallen. Now that I am all grown up, I almost never remember to read the news because I live in a bubble, a ‘med school induced bubble’, my life now revolves around those large sized texts that I sometimes cannot get my head around. I love my country and I want nothing but the best for her. Although I may not be involved in any peace keeping or humanitarian tasks, I can only hope that I can make a difference in my immediate environment. I will admit that when I heard about the first bomb blast in Abuja, I was stupefied! My young mind could not comprehend such barbaric acts, and then I thought to myself, ‘nobody deserves that’ but then I shrugged, and thanked heavens that it didn’t affect me or my family. I couldn’t have been more wrong. If my motherland sneezes, then I sneeze as well.

 

For so long, I, like millions of other young Nigerians have lacked a true sense of belonging and patriotism for a nation that we have pledged to serve. I have been cynical about Nigeria mostly because I had grown up listening to conversations by disillusioned and disappointed adults that only told of hiking fuel prices, unemployment and insecurity, and I would silently wish that I had been born elsewhere. I am probably not courageous enough to be the Nelson Mandela of my generation but I dream of a nation where things actually work like they are supposed to and where leaders are not in an endless battle of wills while scrambling for their piece of the national cake.

I am not a citizen of any other country, and I have no place to run if things spiral completely out of control. The land of my birth is hanging on by a thread. Storms are brewing and nothing short of a revolution can save us now.
Complacency and nonchalance are the worst of our many weaknesses. News of bomb blasts and kidnappings of innocent school children shock us for only a minute, and then we shrug and move on. I long for a peaceful Nigeria where I can take an evening stroll with my lover without fear of being attacked or blasted to pieces. It is no longer enough to complain for a minute and move on for that makes us no better than the perpetrators themselves.

Hope is all I have now, hope that Nigeria will rise and fight for her life and win too. Then like a phoenix, she will rise from the ashes of corruption, violence and moral decadence.

So help her God.

Licensed to touch?

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How often have you wanted to say NO to the touch of his hands on your skin but could not quite get the word out? How many times have you pushed aside and ignored the inner voice of your conscience telling you to stop? For how long have you dealt with a constant feeling of hopelessness and inner turmoil? You justify yourself based on the socially accepted view that because he is your boyfriend he is licensed to touch you. Although you cannot quite shake the feeling that you are defiling yourself day after day, and you are never quite at peace, but you console yourself with a false sense of happiness. Your self esteem takes a plunge each time you go back on your resolutions to stop and run.

Fairy tales are overrated and prince charming doesn’t really exist. I would know, I almost fell for the fairytale idea….you know the dark and handsome guy who seemed like the perfect guy, except well…he wasn’t tall.  And then the cliché whirlwind romance begins with the good and ends with the ugly.

The good is basically when the guy gives you a lot of attention,  without being creepy that is and then somehow you begin to like him, and think to yourself, ‘this could totally work’. You go on a couple of dates and you realise OMG! He’s not so bad, and then somewhere along the line, he pops the ‘let’s make it official’ question… by then  you’re already into him. You just might tarry for a while pretending to think about it and then you say “Yes”.

Then the bad follows, say a few months or maybe even a year into your seemingly perfect relationship.  You begin to notice his flaws…how he puts those football games above you and how he thinks your cookies are freebies. Then the arguments and fights begin. Next is the ugly, say after a year or so of dating..The person you thought you were so in love with has begun to bore you, his jokes no longer make you laugh and the excitement is fast evaporating. You try to hang on for a little while longer but it just really gets old.

There’s the part where you have sex in a wild moment of passion and along comes baby or worse still a wide variety of STDS. What can I say? I’m a cynic.  No relationship is perfect and no one is without flaws  but the disillusionment  that follows after this discovery is almost crippling and hurts like hell. There’s the lust of a  few weeks, months or maybe even infatuation that could last a year maybe, but oh well… there’s the love that transcends borders, overcomes obstacles and lasts a life time.