Jan 31, 2011

Im writing a book

Hey world,
I just began a new project that attempts to tell the story of the Nigerian political environment through the life of one man. Yaay!! A book. 
I've been told that I do write well, and on the rare occasion, I actually believe it. So now am going to put all that gift into what will hopefully be a great book. I am trying not to over analyse my intentions in telling this story, because I know sometimes my ideologies get me all impassioned and get in the way of the tale I want to share. So Im going to just write as my mind speaks, and think about it later. Im still thinking of a solid name, and Ive begun a bunch of scribblings. Please you great writers of blogsville, like mynewhitman @verastic, @egodujour and @niceanon to name a few, help out here. Give a brother a few rules of thumb for fiction writing. This one has gone beyond essay, which is where my comfort zone is. Now, this is a real story, that should draw in the reader, and engage them and force them to think while providing them pleasure at one time. Im more than a little scared *shivers*. 
Anyways, I believe I can do it. I have no doubt about that. I also dont have any doubt that if I do not ask for help when I should, to the right people, then no matter how high my confidence is, I will do a bad job. And that will mean that I may NEVER pick up a pen again. *shivers once more* (rubs goosebumps). Please, I can't not write. I would go mad. Which means, I cant mess this project up. Which means I need some help. Which means I need yall. Thanks as you come. :D

Jan 23, 2011

Crime Pays In Naij. Big time.

    Pls Dont take this Too Seriously. Some truths are not so healthy unless we pepper them with sarcasm
You know one thing I have discovered is that in Nigeria crime does not pay. Yes, it does pay. Now before you rush off and say that I said that we make crime lucrative (which we kinda do anyway) just hear me out.
Why is it that when you are hustling, slinging rock and stone to make an honest living, no type of assistance comes ur way. Nothing seems to be there as an aid to your ambition, unless you are relatively well off. But just attempt and be one brand of criminal!! Omo, all sorts of windows of opportunity open up you will think u migrated to Greenland.
For instance, see how many amnesty programs are being offered to people who were militants in the Niger-Delta?  not that Im calling militants criminals or anything, cos to be honest, I feel where they are coming from. I understand the anger from watching ur land raped and getting nothing for it. But you and I know that the people who really understand these issues and the ones fighting the real fight will not be the ones taking the amnesty. Cos all that the government is offering is self-serving bullshit, so the only ones that will really take it are those ones who are just in the fight for the money. so yea, *kanye shrug*. Guess what Im saying is that many of those militants are just glorified and khakified criminals (no be me talk am oh).

Another one is this program that involved training and aid for people who used to engage in cyber-crime. Now, if I in my own right had been doing all sorts of legal work from my computer, I am disqualified. No one will offer to train you to do better. See why I said we reward the wrong things? is there a reason why those of us who have been good resisted the spirit of "Yahoo-Yahoo" cannot get things like this?  cos it seems crime is paying right now oh..they will enjoy the proceeds from their crime, and when it runs out, they will delcare amnesty, turn in their weapons and get a N50,000+ severance pay and a direct line to a new career.  Its kinda ironic, cos either way, the criminal is better off than Mr. Honest. I mean, i get how we need to get them off the streets and away from crime, but my point is for every bad guy turned amnestee (correct grammar abi?) there are a thousand good boys turned bad to expand the criminal labor force. so why not tackle d problem BEFORE it begins. Oh, i forget. Its #onlyinNigeria that cure is better than prevention.
Now, they are blaming boys for changing career paths. As my friend Laolu will say: Dem don dey madt abi?

Jan 18, 2011

Can African Countries Compete Globally?

Most times, Nigerians when pointing out that things are not all that bad with our country, point to facts like these and these as encouraging signs. Okay, granted, we may be the third biggest economy in Africa after South Africa and Egypt. But what exactly does that mean? First, is it enough to be third in a continent of, honestly, really mediocre economies? Becuase, when you look at it critically, there is really nothing so sustainable about the economies of most African states. The whole Nigerian economy is worth from several estimates, around $350 billion. In other words, the  state of Texas in the United States makes around a third of that in trade with other countries alone. And their total economy is worth over a trillion. And that is just one state among 50 that make up one nation. Some would think about this and dismiss it as the US factor. But we are all in this world together, and while we can never all be equal, we all have potentials and we in Africa are not maximising ours.
So if you ask me if African countries can compete globally, my answer would be a realistic, no. When the biggest African economy, South Africa has a worth of about half that of the state of Texas, the competition becomes clear. We do not have the size.
We do not have the population either. Only Nigeria has a population above a 100 million in the continent. And the cases of India, China, Brazil and even Russia has proven that it helps to have a sizable population. The way countries are structured in Africa makes them little more than counties.We cannot sustain a decent amount of economic activity in a countries with populations of around 20-40 million poor people. You need size to stimulate activity, and size to grow. Most of the countries who grew despite their small size were mostly homogenous, uni-national states. African countries are comprised of thousands of little tribes with their own sense of history. If growth is to be even sustainable, it would serve us better to merge the 52 countries we have now into 4 super states. These would confer on us the advantages of size, population, level of economic activity, economies of scale and the growth potential we need. For instance, imagine if all the countries of Western/Central Africa combined into one state. Angola, Nigeria and Ghana combined would make it the third biggest producer of petroleum in the world, behind only Saudi and Russia. Plus, the combined cultural influences and tourism potential would make the whole region a top cultural center. The imagine if the countries of Eastern Africa and the East central region merged into one country. With the combination of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and all the others, that country would have the highest tourist activity of all countries except US and Europe. and it certainly would command the most expansive and exotic destinations. All the southern African countries joined together would become by far the top mining economy and the biggest diamond exporting country in history. And the northen African countries pooled together will have more than the economies  of Carlifonia and Texas combined at over 4 billion dollars.By combining only, we will have effectively increased our competitiveness over 200 fold. This of course doesnt count the fact that almost all the regions will be sporting populations of over 300 million and especially in the western part at least 500 million people. That would put us on the map of the biggest countries, and of course launch a power house of economic potential that will eventually spur growth and activity.  And then and only then can we even dream of being remotely competitive on the global scale. And since there is little chance of that happening anytime soon, we have to accept that at the moment, African countries just cannot compete globally. Who, if I may ask, are we going to compete against? I rest my case. Think about it.

Jan 12, 2011

What American Moms could Learn From African Mothers

People wonder how American kids are falling so backwards academically compared to students from other parts of the world. And every time they talk about this in the news, they blame the educational system. Granted, the school system here has its problems, but those are actually secondary to the child's academic performance. I just feel that the more you look at it, the more you realize that parenting and family life is what develops a child's performance.
For instance, its almost a stereotype now that African immigrants outperform native born Americans by a wide margin in a lot of areas. And while we do not have access to anything remotely close to the kind of educational system Americans enjoy, we're not doing so bad. In fact, we're actually doing pretty good. So whats the secret?? Simple..dad and mum, most especially mum. Here are some things an African mother rarely allows her child to do:

* attend a sleepover
* have play dates
the boy is reading animatedly.
* stay  late bcos of a school play
* always sit in from of a TV
* complain about the parent's decisions
* choose their own extracurriculars
* get any grade less than A
* not be the top kid in every subject except Physical Education and Drama

I'm using the term African mother loosely cos I know some Jamaican, Irish, Indian mums who raise their kids like this too. And I know a lot of African mums who spoil their kids as silly as any American kid. And there are lots of American mums who are strict, I acknowledge that. But even when American mums want to be strict, they rarely ever come close to Afro-mums. For example, American mums usually make their kids practice their instrument for 30 mins a day. And while African parents r not large on instruments (I mean, you gats chop belle ful b4 u buy piano na) the few that do will tell you that the first hour is the easy part. Hours 2 n 3 r the clinchers.
This is not a matter of stereotype, its a true and tested fact that the parental model in Africa and the US are largely different. For instance, studies show that African kids spend 10 times more of their home and free time drilling academic exercises. American kids spend roughly the same amount of time participating in sports teams. Also, in a study of 50 American parents, a whooping 70% said it was not too healthy to 'stress academic success' to their kids and that 'parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun'. By contrast, less than 2% of African parents believe the same thing in a similar survey. What African parents realize is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. And to get good at anything, you have to work hard at it consistently and constantly over time. Also, children on their own (and even adults, to think about it) hardly have the motivation to do that work on their own. So parents have to override their preferences with all fortitude because the child will resist. And this is where American parents often give up, at the beginning, when it is hardest. Americans overrate innate prodigy and underrate the power of simple repetition. Thing is, once the child breaks through that hard part and begins to excel at something, be it math, music or reading, the praise he gets often is enough motivation to keep him working. The trick is to persevere until he gets there. That is when confidence comes in, and the once not-fun activity becomes fun.
African parents can get away with things American parents can never dare to do. Once, when I was young I was very disrespectful to my older sister. My mum scolded me bitterly and called me "animal shit" in our Ibo language. It worked well, because I felt dumb and terrible. But it didn't damage my self esteem. I knew I wasn't what she called me. I certainly didn't feel worthless. I just knew I fucked up. If an American parent tries that, hmm..suffice it to say that social services may pay a visit. Fact is, many thing African parents can get away with, are even legally actionable here in the US. African parents routinely tell their kids "het fatty-ma go lose some wieght" or "quit eating so much, soon our doors will be too narrow for u!". Not so with Americans. They will tip toe around the issue and talk about calories and health and things the average kid barely understands, still their kids end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self image. I actually had a friend who is overweight now. She used to be really obese as a kid, and her dad would always say "ur competent and incredibly beautiful in your own way". she told me that made her feel like garbage.
African parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents often tell their kids, "its okay, you tried your best."
There are several reasons I think the American parents raise kids the way they do.  For instance, if a child comes home with an A- on a test, American parent will almost always praise the child. If he comes home with a B, he is still likely to be praised, though with a little 'you can try harder' appended on it. Some will sit the child down and express disapproval, but they will always try not to make the child feel insecure or inadequate.  And if the grades don't improve, the concerned ones will often go to the school, and try to question the teacher's competence. Others will just decide that maybe the kids strong suit is not academics and try to find the child's talents. An African child though that comes home with a B will hide and avoid his parents for a while. And when that fails and his parents finally see his result, there will be yelling and fit-throwing first. Ears will be pulled, and the child will be forced to engage in what I call 'head-counting' which involves parents asking "how many heads do those kids that made A have?". and if u dare go below a B, u already know u are in for some good old child abuse cos u will get beat. Finally, the mum sits with the child going over practice tests, books and notes until the grade gets up to an A. Most African parents demand a perfect grade from their kids because they believe they can achieve it. Also, African parents often feel that they know what is best for their kids, and often painstakingly make sure the kids realize that. Not a perfect world, but sometimes helpful. Especially in the long term.

Sometimes African parents are stereotyped as overbearing, callous and some times abusive, and there is no denying that sometimes that is the case. But most of the time, its not. African parents often make deep personal sacrifices for their children, and feel the need not to let that sacrifice go to waste. This makes them a lot more insistent on the direction they want their childrens lives to take, while many American parents surprisingly seem perfectly content to let their child turn out as bad as he dares to be. Not that they dont have good intentions for parents, biologically and instinctively, parents want the best for their children. Just that American parents give up too easily. And the worst thing you can do to a child's confidence and ability to compete is to give up when raising him is hard. Because when you give up on them, yur letting them give up on themselves too..making them resign to whatever the environment or their own poor choices foists on them. Many a bad child wishes his parents had been more coercive. And when American parents finally learn to stick to rules and bend their children in those formative years to follow them, thats when American kids will have the skills, inner confidence and competitive spirit to take on a world that is increasingly global.

Jan 8, 2011

Nigeria is not Sudan

The recent news that Sudan has finally ended its long years of war and is about to usher in a new referendum that will separate the Christian south of the country from the Muslim North has sent a collective sigh of relief across the continent and half way around the world. It has also sparked discussions among several of the well meaning Nigerians I happen to know.
Their position is that Nigeria may benefit from towing a similar path, i.e. issuing a referendum to split the country along the North-South divide. A very nice sentiment, one that i can understand a person having in view of what Nigeria's been through. There is one little problem however. There is no 'North-South' divide in Nigeria. Our problem is far messier than that. There is the North-South distrust and disagreements, the East/West rivalry, the South East/South South grudge, the Middle Belt/ Deep North in-fighting, the Midwest/West exclusionary tactics. No, there is no easy way to divide the country. To the man in Jos, the 'Northerner' is as much an outsider to him as it is to a southerner. We live in a country where the tribe, the place of origin, is king. With over 200 of them, which tribe commands enough of the Nigerian space to go off on its own? None.
If they want us to fix our problem, lets figure out a way to do it that will encompass our reality. Lets not just say things because its been said over and over. Nigeria is not Sudan. I wish them the best, God knows, Im glad the killing is over. I hope their arrangement works out. But please, let no one try to apply the same logic to Nigeria. The last time it happened, it left us with the bitter taste of war in our mouths. no one swallows a bitter pill twice, unless they are really sick. And I like to think we're not. Peace out.

Jan 6, 2011

New Year Thoughts

I remember around this time, every year, when I would be like, "where did the year go?". Not this time. I was perfectly aware of the passage of 2010. Mostly because I was earnestly waiting on 2011. And when it came in, it came in with a bang.
But now that the festivities are over, I can come quietly to my blog once more and think with my fingers. What do i want out of this year? 
I particularly dislike the assumption most people make about how one single day is d first day of the rest of ur life, every day is d first day bcos today will become yesterday, and then tomorrow will become today. I prefer to bliv that new year is a time to take stock--of the previous year.
However, there is one thing I do believe is a worthwile thing to do. Make a list of the 10 things you want to achieve this year. It may be as simple as, I wanna get a new girlfriend/boyfriend or as complex as I want to learn a new language. Or as basic as, I want to go to Vegas, or make an A in astrophysics *insert evil grin*

All I believe is that if u make that list, and believe it in faith and do what you can to achieve it, you may not get all, but you'll have a lot of testimonies. Take it from someone who did the same in 2010. Have a wonderful 2011...may the best years be the ones ahead.