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“Easy Motion Tourist” by Leye Adenle

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I always scavenge for the latest Nigerian Literature books. My latest read is “Easy Motion Tourist” by Leye Adenle.

In this book, the author calls our attention to the lack of social justice and inequality crippling our society. He reminds us that prostitutes are humans and they also deserve our protection and respect. He challenges us to protect even the low income earners in our society and in an amazing style reminds us of the repercussions of ignoring our restless youths, the powerless and the voiceless in our society. He also brings back the debate on the regulation — or the lack of it — of prostitution in Nigeria. Should prostitution really be illegal?

The author addresses prostitution, police brutality, money ritual and corruption in Lagos, Nigeria.

The story was narrated through the voice of Guy, a half-baked British Journalist sent to Lagos to cover the upcoming elections. In the churning city of Lagos, Guy soon got caught up in its frenzy when he got picked up by the police as a witness to a gruesome murder case of a lady whose mutilated body was discarded just outside the bar where he had decided to hangout.

The protagonist, Amaka, is a fierce young lawyer and the only child of a Nigerian Ambassador. She devoted her life to protecting sex workers from abusers and ritualists in Lagos. To take one from the smorgasbord of Pa: There are feminists and there are feminists, Amaka is a double feminist. She has a database for the sex workers and their prospective customers which she had built over time. The prostitutes would text her the plate number of the car of a prospective customer and she would respond by letting them know if it was safe or not. Once they got there, they texted her other details that could be used to identify the clients. Amaka’s character is not patronizing; she is not perfect. Sometimes she is the angel who protects sex workers, take some off the streets and even send some to school. Other times, she resorted to blackmailing men who maltreated the working girls as a means of revenge. Amaka is gutsy; she raises a middle finger as she takes on the rich and powerful who try to harm sex workers in Lagos.

In her own words to Guy: “Prostitution is illegal in Nigeria so nobody watches out for these girls. They are molested, extorted, short-changed, raped, killed, you name it. What you saw, it has happened before. Not like that, not so openly, but at its worst that’s exactly what we try to prevent.”

There are lots of characters in this book. They were mostly all over the place but Leye masterfully interconnects them — albeit fleetingly in some cases. Each character feeding off others as they grow into their own uniqueness. Amazing stuff!! I thought there were some well coined monikers for some of the characters in the book that are worthy of a mention. To name some: Catch-fire, Go-slow, knockout, and the hot headed police officer, Sergeant Hot-temper. The author used the character of sergeant Hot-temper to highlight the brutality and recklessness of the Nigerian police. The impetuous police officer killed prisoners for the fun of it, with little or no accountability.

Leye also reminds us that the Nigeria Police force is structured to — primarily — protect the rich and powerful in Nigeria.

It is also important to point out that the title of the book was inspired by one of the songs of the king of Highlife, the late Guitarist, Fatai Rolling Dollar — “ Easy Motion Tourist” which was about a nocturnal misadventure.

Easy Motion Tourist” is a deliberate book that awakens ones sensitivity and awareness.

Grab a copy, read and enjoy. I got mine on Amazon.

On Language and Nigerian Literature

NB: The target audience — to me — is very clear. The characters were not overly explained. Leye didn’t write like someone trying to prove his intelligence, he simply wrote. I thoroughly enjoyed it and not once did I roll my eyes because a Nigerian colloquial was overly explained for the benefit of the other. That was the only problem I had with Chigozie Obioma’s “The Fishermen”. Listen to Obioma describe Molue: A beat up squeaking yellow painted bus with a constant metallic rattle”. For what? Ordinary Molue? I understand the need to overly explain indigenous words for the benefit of the other; the reason may be economic and I don’t blame those who do it. I don’t blame those who feel the need to prove their intelligence too. We are all humans. I’m also guilty.

I gave my Chinese-American colleague Americanah to read and for the past one week, we have been talking about the book; she has a ton of questions. She totally loved the book. Here is what she told me about some of the Igbo words: “Olu, I came across some words that seemed to be Nigerian language, I had to google some of them to understand what they meant. Some of them are just expressions”. I was proud of her. That is a serious reader who gives a damn about the space she’s reading about not someone with a shocking sense of entitlement who thinks everything should be overly explained for them.

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Never again – Will I sit on the fence And I wish I could also March with Tu-face Idibia

I wrote this post on Saturday before I read the protest had been called off by Tuface himself. It is not my place to judge Tuface given that I am writing this post thousands of miles away from Nigeria. It is what it is. I believe that the protest is still going to happen but I’m not sure if it would be as effective. Today, I salute those who gave everything including their lives for our freedom, no be beans.

Please read!

I am just a man who was lucky enough to be born into a middle-class Nigerian family somewhere in Osun-State, so I doubt if I would have been able to swing votes or any of that stuff during the 2015 presidential election; not even that of my siblings who were old enough to cast votes. However, one of my deepest personal regrets in the past few years has been my fencist position during the last election. My position during the 2015 election was more nuanced than those who outrightly supported Buhari and presented him as the best thing since sliced bread.

I was utterly disgusted with the ineptness of Jonathan’s administration like a lot of Nigerians that I did not consider a fact — now known — that we could have it worse and not necessarily better. I was faced with a conundrum of desperately wanting the Jonathan led administration to go and a Buhari I knew had nothing to offer Nigeria. I knew that the iniquitous APC leaders were just opportunists who were ready to do whatever it took to get into power — even if it meant merging and repackaging one of the old clueless relics from Nigeria’s past, wear a makeup for him and present him to Nigerians as a messiah. But my desperation for the former outweighed the latter and I kept quiet; I secretly wanted Buhari to nick the election. In hindsight, this decision of mine was vapid and immature and time has kicked my butts for it.

I am happy that Tuface Idibia will be marching on Monday and I wish more than anything that I could be there in Nigeria marching with him straight into the heart of the Nigerian Federal Government until they understand the hardship they have plagued the Nigerian masses with. I expect a huge turnout on Monday. Nigerians don’t need an expert to tell them they are hungry. My only fear Is that the uproar and the anger brewing up in the Nigerian youths would — on this day or — some other day turn into a paroxysm of rage that would be too late to curtail. I say this because I know that the orientation of the Nigerian Police force — just like the colonial days — is to protect the Government and the elites, and not the Nigerian masses.

So please, for those who will be marching on Monday, let us try and make it a peaceful and an effective protest. #ISTANDWITHNIGERIA

Buhari was the wake-up call the Nigerian middle-class needed

This is a threnody; one with a topic.

Nigeria has always been saddled with the litany of bad leaderships since 1960 and the middle-class has always been silent or at worst — they somehow justify the incompetence of the Nigerian government even when they should know better. The middle-class are either silent or making faint noises as long as they are able to pay their rents, eat three square meal, switch on their generators, and take a once-in-a year trip to Dubai. They have enjoyed their heaven until Buhari came with his half-baked policies which are now making sure that the numbers of middle-class are fast diminishing while being left in state of impecuniousness.

The Nigerian politicians built a system that favors them. A system where they strategically position themselves and their friends to attract wealth for themselves and their generations to come. If the policy doesn’t favor the rich, it dies while it’s still in its gestation period.
The middle-class are only vociferous when the government denies them of their ‘heaven’. When people are being killed in Southern Kaduna, they won’t say anything. When the blood-sucking-horse-climbing demons called herdsmen go on a killing rampage, you won’t hear anything from the Nigerian intellectuals and middle-class. If it doesn’t affect their finances or loved ones, they are fine. But the incompetency — a type that hasn’t been seen for some time now — of the recent occupant of Aso-rock has brought the hypocrisy of the Nigerian middle class to the fore.

Yesterday, a Nigerian military jet mistakenly dropped a bomb on one of the IDP camps in Borno; leaving some people dead and many injured, and the president is yet to visit them. It seems the president is allergic to domestic trips. Where is the outcry? The Nigerian middle-class do not care about the danger that comes with their silence, or the damage it leaves in its wake. When are we going to start valuing the life of a Nigerian?

One would think the middle-class and the intellectuals should be the voice of the poor but this is obviously not the case in Nigeria.

The Nigerian middle-class must wake up and lend a collective voice to every ill of the government; and not only when their master card is blocked and they cannot use it outside the country. It is time to stop cherry picking on issues. Every issue must matter; every life must matter.
And to those youths who write potboiler articles to justify the actions and inactions of the government, I hope the brown envelope is fat enough, you will answer to posterity. Those who dish out amphigories for the glory of clicks, I hope the traffic is worth it. And the town criers who get hired to cloak a blatant ineffective government with palliatives and give them a tap on the back, you will all get your reward.

I will end my rant here by taking one from the smorgasbord of Soyinka: The man dies in everyone who keeps quiet in the face of tyranny!

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Benue Massacre (Nigeria)

The food basket of our nation,
We stand with you
As you are being ripped apart
By Horse-climbing-blood-sucking-demons;
The turbaned ones.

 

Comrade Napoleon’s hearing is now dysfunctional.
His sojourn to the land of men who talk through their noses
Hasn’t helped his cause,
He still cannot hear your cry for help.

 

Today, we wax lyrical about your braveness.
We rave about your doggedness,
As you wade through the flames of this consuming inferno
Lighted by blood-sucking-demons
Scribbling epitaphs of fear on your streets.

 

Today we chant dirges
For all those
Whose dreams have been aborted by
Demons wielding AK-47s

 

Shame on those
who keep mum 
As your ranks are being diminished

 

Your heroes have traded decorum
For Pieces of silver.
They now reek of foreign currency.

 

Shame on those who promised
To speak for you.
Those who now have lost their voices
To cynicism.

 

Those who promised to Protect you
Now ply the enticing corridors of power;
Completely disconnected from all their pledges.

 

Those who promised to listen to you
now wine and dine on the altar of politics
Where your dreams and future are being ravenously ravished
By feckless mortals
insensitive to your tears.

 

Stay strong our brothers and sisters,
Hold the fort while yet you may.
One day,
These demons.These fake heroes.These frauds
Shall be exposed
And justice shall be served
Collectively.

 

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We should all be Storytellers

Depending on the mindset or interest of the reader, the idea presented by the bulk of this article could be considered already so archaic that there hardly could be anything done to effect any change about it. However, I don’t by any means buy that.
There is a perennial debate on the use of language in the Nigerian classrooms. I do not want to dwell too much on this but i will quickly like to ask both sides of the divide a few questions. Since we don’t have basic texts translated into our own languages, how do we compete globally if we decide to relegate the English language? Also, what is the hope of our core cultures and traditions if children are only proficient in English language?
There are writers who write in their native language, a good example being the prominent Kenyan writer—Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. I remember reading a comment of Achebe in one of his interviews. He made a submission that the difference between himself and Ngugi as writers was the fact that while Ngugi believes it has to be writing in English or one’s native language, He (Achebe) believed one could decide to write in both. Achebe mixed both English and his native language, Igbo in a very fascinating manner. He appropriated the use of English language so well that the reader could sometimes be lost in between the lines with a feel of reading in the Igbo language.
For Achebe, I think English language is a weapon he had to master so as to achieve his dreams of telling African stories in his own unique way. There was no other way.
I am with Achebe on this one. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but a fine balance between the languages as one so desires. The children can learn both.
We find ourselves in an age in which globalization is driven by Science and Technology. English language is the fuel that drives this vehicle. This is a reality we must face.
In the past, there was the emergence of a crop of literary icons from Africa; such as Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Jomo Kenyatta and some others, who decided to challenge a certain tradition of the British writers writing about a mythical Africa. These African writers rose up to tell their own stories with the aim of creating a balance, at the very least or going head to head with the European writers for our right to write our own stories. Achebe spoke extensively about this in his apt and engaging book titled “Home and Exile”. To draw some excerpts from the book;

This was said about Africans by Elspeth Huxley in his book white man’s country; Perhaps it may be, as some doctors have suggested, that his brain is different: that it has a shorter growing period and possesses less well formed, less cunningly arranged cells than that of the Europeans-in other words, that there is a fundamental disparity between the capabilities of his brain and ours.

As mentioned by Achebe in his book, a British writer, Mr. Pedler wrote, “When Europeans talk of Africans buying a wife”. This particular one by Pedler lacks veracity and is also misleading. We don’t buy wives and the hypocrisy in that statement is loud and clear.
The aforementioned excerpts are statements made decades ago, so you can imagine my amusement when I got to America less than 3 yrs ago and found that certain condescending questions about Africa still thrived.
To mention a few examples; my Chinese friend said he thought Africa was just a country in a bush with no roads. A Caucasian asked me where I learned how to use computers or the one who was stupefied on hearing there are “African writers”. A black American once asked me if I learned how to speak good English in America.
In the eyes of some of those who ask these questions, one can see the spectacular naivety masquerading as innocence. In some others, one can see the feigned innocence laced with bigotry so thick. It seems to me that this singular stories written of Africa by the old British griots built a mansion of false and misguided impressions in the minds of people outside Africa and these impressions are being passed to subsequent generations.
Some would argue that my claims are banal or obsolete or I am being too sensitive, but we need to ask ourselves if these issues have become really obsolete. Should we really not bother about these “banal” topics? Is it that the Achebes and the Tutuolas didn’t do enough? Why am I still being asked such condescending questions Achebe was asked in 1967? These men could only do so much, what about us?
Should we continue to blame the iniquitous British colony and western media for painting Africa in any light they see fit?
This is the 21st century, the age of a beast called the internet. The beast that allows one to go on a trip to anywhere in the world without moving an inch physically. Why are we not telling our own stories to the world? This is our job and we can’t leave it to “the others”. Writing is not the only weapon that can be used to achieve the results I/we desire. The African musical industry and the Nollywood have also done incredible jobs in telling African stories but their efforts alone are clearly insufficient to propagate the accuracy of our stories to all parts of the world.
While I quite agree you can only do so much, people will believe what they want to believe. Yet, I believe playing a part by telling these stories will go a long way in sowing a seed of truth even in the most obstinate of outsiders.
If I, in all the glory of my demureness, with but a few years in the west under my belt often come face to face with these experiences, I wonder how many times Africans abroad are being asked laughable questions about Africa on a daily basis.
A friend of mine, a fellow Yoruba man, the other day told an American that the Yoruba language is a dialect, I had to stop him right there, scowled at him and quickly corrected him, that Yoruba is a language and not a dialect. Many a time, this is how we create false impressions in the minds of highly impressionable people. How can you properly and accurately tell a story you know nothing about?
One of my favorite African proverbs goes thus; “until Lions learn to speak, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunters”. In this article-‘the secret to a promising future’, I talked about the importance of having an identity, of knowing who you are and where you are coming from, the importance of telling your own story.
Shame tries to keep us mum, but we need to rise above shame and tell our stories. We can’t afford to leave it to “the others”, else, we should be ready to embrace the damaging distortions to our stories as well as the labels we face every day.
Continue to Rest in Peace Chinua Achebe – The master storyteller
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Camelot’s Coronation Chimes

And when it’s all said and done,
In the future, Sarathur Kindragon will turn
to the people of Camelot.
He will ask to be crowned king.
He will hire vuvuzelas,
with drums and flutes carved out of the gaunt bones of the common man.

They will eulogize his greatness.
With measured Cadence,
They will sing his encomiums
The ovations and adulation will be loud,
Pretentious, and patronizing altogether.

Even the Ahithophels?
The ones with Summa cum laude?
For few pieces of Silver and 140 characters,
They will work as town criers,
Chanting propaganda at the market square.

The sanctimonious and the pseudo puritans?
The will hold Vespers in his honor.

And we, who stare history in the face and call her a liar.
We, who see death and call it life.
We, who tag Absalom the unsullied one;
Who even swear David’s lush-haired son is Moses.
We, who become mute as mules in the face of tyranny,
until things fall apart.

Would we ignore this blatant Travesty?
Would we ignore this well staged charade?
Would we take off our shoes and dance?
Again!??
I am no soothsayer.

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We are dying a ‘cultural death”

I am not an Economist and I do not intend to sound like one, but I have always believed that culture plays a very important role as far as economics is concerned.
Discussions and deliberations about economics should not be left to only the Economists, it is expedient for even the common man to be a part of it. The reason I decided to write this isn’t far-fetched, it is the same reason I wrote the ones I have on my blog, the ones on my social media accounts, and the ones on my iPad; that will never experience the beauty of the internet (because they are too dark or the internet is simply too beautiful for them)—the urge to share my thoughts. The things that keep me awake at night.
As Thomas Sowell mentioned in his brilliant book Wealth, Poverty and Politics; Geography, Demography, Social conditions, Politics and Culture all play important roles in shaping the economy of a nation. These are factors that are conveniently swept aside when discussing policies and Economy; especially in Nigeria. Why is it that when we try out proven policies, they still fail in Nigeria? We keep running around in circles, trying this and that and nothing seems to work, yet when Nigerians travel abroad, they soar, why? This proves that the best policy could be counterproductive in a place or nation if the aforementioned factors are not carefully considered. This is why context is important.
In 2013, virtually 25% of the 120 blacks in Harvard business schools were Nigerians. As early as 1999, Nigerians were overrepresented among black students in elite American colleges and universities by a factor of about ten. Nearly one fourth of Nigerian households in the USA have incomes of more than $100000 [Source: Wealth Poverty and Politics]. Someone should have shown Mr. President these stats before he decided to slander us on an international stage.
This tells us that our political structures or the lack of it, coupled with culture are the major factors that keep us from reaching our potential as a people and a nation. Culture especially is the banana peel on our road to prosperity. I am by no means blanketing our culture as a whole and shaming it, but there are some aspects of our collective culture that need to be brushed aside if we really want to fulfil the potential we’ve been talking about since 1914.
A nation that creates social obstacles to the use of the talents and potentials of its own people, whether those obstacles be ethnicity, sex, or what have you is not going to fulfil its potentials.
Are we saying that, if a time comes in the future and the best person we have for the presidential job is an Igbo man or a Nigerian woman, we would reject him or her? Chew on this, Barack Obama is a Luo man from Kenya and the chances of a Luo man being the president of Kenya are as good as having a female or Igbo president in Nigeria.
Just read this article about one of our leaders (here) as he gingerly opposes a bill that speaks on “Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women”. The problem is we don’t want to learn; we don’t want to evolve. We are too quick to oppose certain motions by tagging them “western culture” when it should be basic human rights. On women’s day, our senators were busy discussing how they should take more wives. They turned plenary to an upgraded beer parlor. Why do we keep thinking in this manner? The bigger problem here is that education cannot even save us from this. I have observed that the thickest form of misogyny and bigotry is found among the learned in Nigeria.
What I see is that, our culture dilutes our level of education thereby making it next to useless. See my article on Cultural ethics and education. Our leaders send their children to schools abroad but are now trying to discourage others from schooling abroad. Imagine my amusement when the president said at his Al Jazeera interview that “those who can afford the tuition can still afford it”. That statement means CBN will not allocate forex for education again. We really want to joke with that? We really want to reduce the numbers of students who school abroad even though we know the abysmal state of our tertiary institutions? Our nation has nothing to attract the best brains in the world, so how exactly do we intend to burgeon economically? Governor Ambode, the other day was begging the Nigerians abroad to come back home and make a difference in Nigeria. Our leaders know better, it’s the reason most of them send their kids abroad anyway.
Nations that are not immigrants attractive understand why they have to send their best brains to the U.S. Or UK for education. Take China for example, the Chinese are not ready to change their ways (politically or culturally), there is language barrier so it’s the last place any immigrant wants to go to school. They send their best brains outside for upgrading the nous of their science and technology, economics and so on so as to return with new ideas that can be applied in their own context.
One of the reasons why America is great is because of its ability to attract the best brains in the world. The arrivals of Jews from Europe to America helped in the creation of the first nuclear bomb on which America’s international position as a superpower rested.
Between 1638 to 1868, the government of Japan cut the country from outside the world, emigration from Japan was forbidden and those abroad were forbidden to return and that was the beginning of the end for Japan. They started to diminish drastically until they lifted those ridiculous policies. China did the same sometime in the 18th century and they paid a heavy price. There was a vast increase in the technological gap between them and Europe.
Most of the countries that rose from obscurity to prosperity e.g. Singapore, South Korea in the 20th century, Japan in the 19th century didn’t do so by saying no to foreign investors or by putting policies that are not attractive to foreign investors. Nigeria is doing the exact opposite. Springing up policies that are not attractive to foreign investors, making statements like “Nigeria for Nigeria”, “dollar is not our business”.
Culture isolation keeps us from keeping up with the advances of others. Cultural evolution is by no means a change that can happen overnight but when we have the chance to do so, we must embrace it. Again, I read the equality bill, and this could have at least breached the gap between men and women in the Nigerian society but our leaders shunned the bill with petty excuses.
A lot of honest and blunt Nigerians would agree that corruption is a culture in Nigeria, it is our way of life. Here is an excerpt about Nigeria from “Thieves of States” by Sarah Chayes “if there is a project, every minister checks the money on the project first and not its usefulness. If it is 10 million, the director tells them to make it 12 million and the permanent secretary further tells them to inflate to 25 million. Then they award the contract to themselves”. We must talk about these things and face them head on before we fade into obscurity.
And our amnesic tendencies, where we totally ignore history as though it never happened, Pitiable!
I was on twitter the other day and I came across a tweet. “If you are a billionaire, why then do you have to join politics?”. This exactly is the mentality most of us grew up with, that public office is supposed to be another means for amassing wealth, rather than, at best, an addendum to the desire to serve our nation. While this is not a negative thought, it must not be what drives our political ambition.
Thomas Sowell puts this brilliantly “Third world countries are not being asked to create their own societies, after some calamity, they are being asked to create a western economy without the centuries of a particular cultural evolution that led up to those economies in the west”
We want to flourish like the west but we don’t want to go through the processes. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but culture is another Jonah in the boat that needs to be tossed into the river if Nigeria wants to fulfill its potentials.

Credit to Thomas Sowell (Wealth, Poverty and Politics)

Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun (Adichie Chimamanda)

Nothing but respect for Adichie, she is a genius.

Half of a yellow sun is about the inferno of the Nigerian civil war; laced with a love story. A book every Nigerian should read. Adichie joined the list of prominent writers who did their part to keep Nigerian history alive in the heart of Nigerian readers since our government has decided to expunge history from the educational curriculum. For this, we are grateful. The book was properly written and intended for the African audience, albeit some debatable points. But then, like our elders say- until the lions present their own historian, the story of the hunt will only justify the hunter. So if anyone wants a debate, go ahead and write your own story or proceed to America and engage Adichie.

This is not a review so I would advise anyone interested in Half of a Yellow Sun to simply pick up the book and read. However I was particularly impressed with the laconic mention of the Asaba massacre using one of the caricatures named Alice. Olanna who is Igbo and also one of the main characters dated a northerner called Mohammed (Adichie showed us a northerner once loved an Igbo).
Like someone had said, she revealed her gift as a “perceptive observer of human behavior”.
How she was able to dovetail the civil war in this fictitious book is virtually unbelievable.

 

Americanah, however, is a book about race, immigration and the power of first love. The first few chapters made me nauseous when all she talked about was hair. I found it boring, and it reminded me of one of my exes who always talked about her hair and took it upon herself to educate me on the different types of hairs and wigs. I would pretend to be listening but in reality, it made me sick. It’s the same thing I felt in all chapters where the crux was hairs and saloons. As it went on, I started enjoying it. I could transport myself back to secondary school days and fit some of the stories into my life, I could easily represent some of the characters with my friends. A typical Nigerian secondary school, the kind of experience we all had.
In some chapters, I quickly boarded a boat of imaginations to the life in America, carefully and joyfully fitting some of the stories into my life and that of my friends in America.
The way some Nigerians in Diaspora turn to political commentators on Social media, knowingly or unknowingly comparing life in the west with life in Africa; their own way of killing the distance between home and Abroad, the urge to breach a certain gap, to fill a vacuum, to travel home-using the social media. The struggle of hanging on to that Nigerianness, pretending America cannot change you.
The way Africans suddenly realize they are blacks after landing at the American Airports. The unending discussion about racism, pretending to understand racism more than the black Americans, sitting in front of the television playing victims but would never go out to join in on protests. Everything was meticulously touched in this book.
Seeing your highs and lows written in a book; the lows you cannot talk about staring back at you with audacity—yes!….That is the kind of power the book wields.
But still something was wrong, I can’t really place it, perhaps the way it was written. I still do not think the book was intended for an African audience. Even though the book is majorly about Africans, one could argue it’s one of those books about Africans intended for the western audience (NOT POVERTY PORN). I didn’t have this feeling when I read “Half of a yellow sun” or when reading anything Chinua Achebe. But then, there is only one Chinua Achebe. Also, I think the power of first love demonstrated using the two protagonists, Ifemelu and Obinze was exaggerated. Sigh! I can’t even remember my first love. Exaggeration-they say, is a necessary recipe for good writing.
I also think Adichie should have mentioned the prejudice that exists between African Americans and Africans, she shied away from it. Even those who morph into Atheist after experiencing 24hrs of electricity and speedy internet in the west—sigh
Well done Adichie, your writing adroitness deserves a bow.

For anyone who is interested in an extensive review of Americanah, you can read (this)

Manuscript: Education ~ the most Potent weapon (The roles of Nigerians in Diaspora) as delivered by Olusegun Tinubu

1) How many of us really care about Nigeria? For those who do not care, who do not consider Nigeria home anymore, it’s okay. I also believe Geography should not define or decide where a man calls his home. So if you have your whole family here and decide America is home, it is totally fine. Who even says one cannot have more than 1 home? Even if your green passport was replaced with a blue passport, your identity as a Nigerian is still there. What earns you the right to call Nigeria home? The traditions, the modus operandi, the experiences, your Nigerian-ness—cannot be taken away by the blue passport. Only if you lose them completely can you severe ties with Nigeria.

2) What is the essence of our education? The essence of education is not only to get jobs and create a better life solely for yourselves but also to impact lives and give back to the society that made you.

There’s no point going into the obvious quagmires that plague the educational system of Nigeria (as seen in the lack of equipment, corruption, poor educational standards, exploitation, overcrowding in classrooms, inadequate funding, poor parenting, examination malpractices and so on) or lament at the obliviousness of our rapacious leaders to these problems.

The purpose of this lecture is to challenge you and I (Nigerians in Diaspora) to give back to the Nigerian society—either from here or when we go back, by applying our western education.

According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the literacy survey conducted by National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria in 2010 estimates the literacy rate in Nigeria at 56.9%, While the Central intelligence agency (CIA) facts book in 2015, shows an estimate of 59.6% of literacy rate (15 and above that can read and write). I don’t need to stress how poorly educated we are as a nation as it is evident in these stats and the backwardness of our society today. I do not think the problem is from the inception. The education being offered at the primary school level is decent. The collapse, however, starts at the secondary level. It is also important to note that, out of the 59.6% literates in Nigeria, some passed through the public schools at the secondary school level which means their education is at best mediocre, at worst nonsensical. One could argue that, most of those who passed through the so called best schools cannot compete at the international level.

Taking a wild guess, I believe majority of the literates go to the public schools. It should also be noted that, it is the children of the rich who attend the private schools while the poor has no choice than to settle for public schools or no education at all. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider as years go by. So, putting all the aforementioned into perspectives, less than 20% of Nigerians can compete globally—sad! But it’s our reality.

Education is one of the most potent weapons that can be used to drive societal reform; an inadequacy of it would spell the doom of any nation sooner or later. You and I are the privileged ones who are able to get good education from developed nations and I believe we must wield this weapon (good education) and effectively use it to resuscitate our dying nation.

Now let’s take few steps into the past. There was a time when the children of both rich and poor got quality education to lay solid foundation for the life ahead and the story of our incumbent President, M. Buhari and late President Musa Yar’adua (RIP) is a testament to this fact. They both went to the same school, and while Buhari was the son of a peasant, Musa’s father was a minister, but they both got the same quality of education. Again, between 1954 and 1959 when Chief Awolowo was the western premiere, he gave free and quality primary education to people who were residing in the western part of Nigeria, who were interested in going to school, regardless of their background. Some were also able to get scholarships to further their educations thereafter. This is one of the reasons why some of us are here today because our parents were born in that generation and they enjoyed this benefits. In our present society, the rich and the poor no longer get the same kind of education.

Unfortunately, what was quality then is not quality now, the world is evolving but we are still lagging behind as we slowly find our way to extinction. We have decided not to invest in the educational sector.

What should we do or what can we do? How can we chip in our 2%?

  • Elucidate: This is the age of technology and we must use it to our advantage. (Internet-writing, and debates) Our social media accounts should not only be used to trumpet the supposed comfortable life we live in diaspora. We should try to educate people using our social media, let them understand the need to be politically informed and how their political decisions can increase their chances of a better life. Basic and clear explanations like this can stop someone from selling his or her vote.

I have read several articles where people were lamenting at the death of books and libraries and their cause for lamentation befuddles me. Like Pa Ikhide said, the death of libraries and books should not be mourned, what we should do is meet the African youths at the points of their availability—the internet. The internet is the book of choice for many Nigerian readers. We must elucidate by making things clear, engage in healthy debates-and everyone can learn from each other through this.

  • Fit in: This is also very important, especially for those who plan on moving back to Nigeria after some time. You must consciously strive not to lose your Nigerian-ness. Don’t go back speaking with your nose or playing the “do you know who I am” card at every chance you get. While I agree that integrity is an expensive virtue for people in Nigeria because of the hardship, we must not dump our integrity while attempting to fit in. The moment you left the shores of Nigeria, she moved on—for good or for bad. You have to be patient, to understand this new Nigeria, and only then can you make tangible difference.
  • Modified Solutions: We must present our western oriented solutions in a local context; a context which our people can understand. We tend to just go back to Nigeria to literally present western oriented solutions to African problems, forgetting they are two different societies, failing to account for the differential in human thinking. The problem with our leaders is that they want to transform the country overnight without putting the basics in place. There are some of these abracadabra we are not ready for, some levels we are yet to attain, some developments that won’t work in our context. They want to make Nigeria a mimicry of the west overnight without undergoing the required process and patience. An example is the Governors who claim to invest in the Airport business when they are yet to tackle roads and rail system issues. What percentage of the masses use to air? (bar our Benin people) Why embark on big things when you don’t have the basics in place?

I remember having a discussion about the ethnicity and religious card being played by the political parties during this past election with a friend. For example, APC chose a Muslim northerner and a Christian from the west as Presidential candidates to have a better chance at winning the election. My friend was quick to point out that Jeb Bush could leave Texas to be the governor of Florida. I told him, that cannot work in Nigeria, at least not now and that is our reality. While I also hope for a Nigeria where a southerner can vie for a prominent post in the north and vice-versa, I do not think we are there yet or the ethnicity disease has eaten so deep that we can’t recover from this disease. I believe Azikwe was the western premiere sometimes along the corridor of history.

Also, we need to encourage more women to go to school and reach the zenith of education if they wish to. We need to allow them to elevate to more prominent positions. I believe we are getting better in that regards albeit slowly. Babangida ran Nigeria for 7yrs without a single female minister in the 80s. But currently, we have 8 female senators out of 109 present senators. In the House of Representatives, only 18 of 360 representatives are women. Definitely not good enough in a nation where half of the population are women. [Source: Tolu Ogunlesi]

In conclusion, most or some of us here would be presented a chance to make changes in Nigeria in the nearest future. It is no secret that most of this prominent positions back home are reserved for people with western education. A number of these positions in the country are filled with people like ourselves who schooled in west but unfortunately, they are making little or no impact. It is not because they have no knowledge but because they are applying it wrongly. While the approach of elevating people with western education (people like you and I) into prominent positions is supposed to be productive, it could also be counterproductive if not properly harnessed. As Nigerians, when we go back home to make changes, we must understand that we can’t be a mimicry of the west overnight, we must understand that we need to crawl before we walk,  and we must walk before we dare to run. We cannot offset the law of nature. We need to keep in touch with Nigeria, we need to understand her basic needs so we just don’t go there to run around in circles making little or no impact.

I would like to thank those who have contributed to this work one way or the other; either directly or indirectly. I appreciate my friends- Tega Agbogidi, Dayo Anipole, Bisola Odebunmi, Jimi Buraimoh, and Oreoluwa Ayeni for all the healthy debates we had on this topic.

As delivered by Olusegun Tinubu at the Nigerian Independence Day Banquet; organized by Nigeria Student Organization,

Carrolton, Texas. 10-02-15

Cultural Ethics and Education in Nigeria by Olusegun Tinubu

My first few days as a graduate student in America were torrid ones. I found that it was expected of me a graduate student to have knowledge of quite a number of things that’ll enable me join in chorusing responses with my colleagues in class. However, to my dismay, I was soon to discover that I hardly knew well enough of the things I needed to have known, so I’d just sit there clueless, feeling sorry for myself as the minutes trickled by and tangible learning went on.

You see, I like to believe that the educational background I had prior to my arrival in the states was largely inadequate. I mean, it ensured that I really couldn’t stand toe to toe with my classmates as I didn’t know a fraction of what they knew. I was really enslaved by my limitations as many things were taught theoretically.

I came across a full blown rant about Nigeria’s flawed educational system by a guy on twitter a couple of days ago. The fellow shared a personal experience on how he went to obtain his certificate 10 years after leaving school only to find that there was hardly any upgrade in the learning standards of the said institution – one of the best universities in Nigeria. He went further to state his displeasure at an incident that happened during his short return to his alma matter; it involved a lecturer who jumped a queue well populated with students in order to get ahead in the line.

Before the allure of my own rant about jumping queues and cutting corners gets too strong, I’d like to at this time state that my major reason for this article is to give my two cents about the role our cultural ethics have played in the backwardness of our educational sector, as seen in the lack of equipment, poor educational standards, exploitation, overcrowding in classrooms, inadequate funding, poor parenting, examination malpractices and so on.

Cultural ethics refers to the moral principles guiding our culture. In layman language, it refers to our ideas about the rightness and wrongness of certain things in our culture. Cultural ethics is one of the banana peels in our educational sector, as it has consistently dragged us back as far as quality education is concerned. For example, quite a number of educators/instructors have slowly robbed their students of confidence all in the name of cultural respect; challenging a professor or a lecturer in Nigeria would mean an automatic F in most cases. An educational system that discourages boldness, confidence and a questioning spirit in a student just because the teacher’s ego feels threatened cannot be good in any way. Students cannot get to build a decent relationship with their teachers because of the fear of being knocked down. Some of us bury our ideas and can’t speak up in an innovative environment because we have been robbed of our confidence.

A university is supposed to be a universal environment where teachers and students converse with no barriers between them. It should be an environment where students are free to express their thoughts without the fear of being trampled upon. The job of the teacher is to create an atmosphere where students with diverse backgrounds and personalities can express themselves freely and learn from each other, including the teachers. Teachers are not supposed to be unapproachable and hubris laden all in the name of cultural ethics. Most of our teachers have failed in this area, they have treated the school like a one way street, where students are supposed to just listen and not contribute, disagree or challenge them. Some of our teachers have used the same notes for 30years or more without updating them; thereby passing down obsolete knowledge to subsequent generations. How many governments’ schools in Nigeria can boast of ICT/ computer centers with adequate teachers anyway. Governments will prefer to employ teachers of music without training in education rather than those with degrees in computer, maths, sciences all in the name of politics.

I’m someone who is big on cultural ethics but I believe it shouldn’t have such negative effects on our educational standard. Our teachers should not mix their profession with cultural ethics. They should give students the freedom to express themselves, and also show them love. Sometimes, when a Nobel Prize winner is being honored with an accolade of a job well done, there’s always a student beside him or her who has also contributed to the job. That is the kind of relationship a student and a teacher should have.

Anytime I think about our educational system, I feel it would be okay if it were even stagnant, but we’re faced with the harsh reality that it has taken a nosedive due to the aforementioned factors. Sometimes we wonder why some people send their kids abroad to study. It’s not just because of bragging rights, it’s because they know how backward our educational system is, and of course why not send your kids abroad if you can afford it? For someone like me, community loan had to be acquired to study abroad too (:D),  and it’s because we want the best in contrary to what others might think. I’ve seen people throw tantrums at politicians who send their kids abroad to study. How dare you question a parent for wanting the best for their kids? However, some of these politicians know they have destroyed the standard well enough for their kids to be in it. They go into politics to make money, not to better the lot of anyone

Education is supposed to be the major force that drives societal reform or upgrade but that’s not the case in Nigeria, it has caused more harm than good. I can’t help but arrive at a conclusion that the stagnancy or even backwardness in our country can be traced to our failure to improve our educational sector.

Edited by Ademola Aboluwarin