You Deserve to be Happy

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With the advent of the social media, the world is suddenly hyper-noisy, with everyone screaming to be heard. Unfortunately, people who have nothing to say are the ones shouting loudest and our ears and hearts are burdened with their false knowledge and twisted wisdom. They spread doom, pain, hate and hopelessness, all because they want to be heard. They say there is no love in the world, yet evidence abound that many are finding it and enjoying it. They only talk about the people dying of lack and do not mention the many that are leaping out of poverty into abundance. They talk about victims and casualties of disasters but never about the survivors and the amazing stories of the resilience and courage that save many among those affected.

But deep in the heart of each one of us, there is hope that never dies, faith that is never shaken and strength and courage that no force in the universe can break. When you turn your attention away from those things they say and focus more on the beautiful gifts within you, you’d see the true reality of life: that life is beautiful and you are safe, blessed and deserving of peace, love and the best of the comfort you desire. Listening to all the negativity people around you and in the media say, will cost you this beautiful side of life. You will see nothing to cheer you up, just pain and despair, which your mind will even amplify beyond actual proportions.

You have to jealously guard your heart and your mind. We are in the end times, but equally the most beautiful times since the fall of Adam because the spirit of God is poured out on all of us and we have the capacity to withstand the world and all its evil machinations. Now we see visions and dream dreams; work all manner of miracles with just faith and the name of Jesus. We are a blessed generation, called, chosen, ordained and secured by grace. The devil knows this and has been using the media to drive us crazy with fear and kill our faith. You’ve got to be vigilant my friend, be strong and resistant to this his fear, pain and sorrow. Trust in God’s love for you, for you are worthy of it. So my friend, cheer up, you deserve to be happy.

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Mandela Makes Me Cry

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Each day I wake up to face the reality of life in Nigeria, one man’s picture comes to my mind: Nelson Mandela. Few thoughts make me as emotional as that of what a remarkable soul this great son of Africa is. The story of his bravery, determination and spirit of sacrifice that drove him to commit over half a century of his precious life to the struggle for the freedom of not just his black lineage in South Africa, but that of all of humanity, never ceases to amaze and inspire me. He is a great lesson we need to learn in Nigeria, that there is no easy walk to freedom; that freedom is fought for and won and never gotten from charity. I wonder from where this great man derived his strength that no one in my country has been able to reach. What force pushed him to take responsibility to fight for the freedom of his people, that no one in my country is yielding enough to respond to its drive. Mandela is such a remarkable man that makes me cry by merely thinking of him. More so because I wish for a man with his kind of heart in Nigeria.

Mandela inspired his countrymen and women to employ social disobedience, mass protests, non-conformity, rejection of the oppressive apartheid system etc to fight against the oppression they were suffering in the hands of the white minority rulers. It is disheartening and embarrassing to realize that here in Nigeria, just anyone can intimidate and oppress Nigerians. All you need is the courage to stand up and command them. With all the noise my country people make, they are just empty and plenty in number, they can’t fight for anything. I can’t understand how in a city like Abuja, a bus conductor harasses a bus full of about 30 – 40 people, most of them civil servants, commanding, insulting and exploiting them and he gets away with it.

When did we become so weak like cattle that anyone who holds a stick can hit us and order us about the place until they feel satisfied? Why are we never ready to stand up for our rights? What has made us such pathetic cowards; so fearful and lazy that we always seek excuses and consolation in prayer and looking up to God when we do not have the courage to exercise our faith. How could people who are so ‘religious’ and who express so much faith in God give up all hope in themselves and the ability of God to change their country?  When people say you cannot change the country, it is only an excuse they use to escape from the responsibility of fighting for a change. When they say let’s pray that God would do this and that, they are only pushing their responsibility to God without realising that God doesn’t come down to fight battles, He gives victory to those who fight. That statement comes from the voice of the coward in them.

There is nothing God cannot do, so why would a Nigerian think God can change their genotype from SS to AA, yet He cannot give them the courage to fight for their rights? Who afflicted this nation with the spirit of slavery that its people are so comfortable been mislead, oppressed and tortured by a few? The bad people are the courageous ones, while the good people are took weak and cowardly to stand for what is appropriate.

Where is Farouk and what has become of his bribery case? What has happened to the oil marketers that fraudulently collected billions of dollars from taxpayers’ money for petroleum products they never supplied? What has happened to the privatised companies and of what benefit are they to Nigerians after the government sold them to their cronies at giveaway prices, only for them to sell off their assets and use some as collateral to collect loans from banks and spend them for their other concerns? The millions of dollars spent on Ajaokuta Rolling Mill, the textile companies, our refineries and power stations, what has come out of them? This is not to talk about the billions state governors simply convert to their private monies and ministers lavish as they so wish. There are a million questions about which no one is demanding for answers from the authorities. No one is being held accountable for any act of corruption and bad governance. What has happened to our fighting spirit? What has made us to believe that our freedom and the change we need will come out of nothing? That we do not need to fight for it?

We must realise that in stead of asking God to change this country, we need to ask Him to give us the courage to change it; the victory while we stand for the right thing and the character to be the good thing happening in the moulding of our country into a united, strong and prosperous nation, under His leadership. We must realise that what we need is not endless prayers but the willpower of the kind Nelson Mandela had and used judiciously all of his able years, to fight for the freedom of humanity and the betterment of our world.

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35 Years of National Embarrassment: The Mistake on Nigeria’s Coat-of-Arms

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One of the most important national symbols we have in Nigeria is the coat-of-arms. It is a symbol of our national pride, unity and the authority of the state. It has a scandalous blunder on it that is a big embarrassment to the entire nation and all her citizens and intellectuals. Our national flower, the Costus Spectabilis is erroneously represented on the coat-of-arms in red petals.

The flower actually has yellow petals and not red. Since 1978, we have used it as the official seal of authority and we have it all around us, yet we have either not been attentive enough to observe it or cared to ensure it is corrected. It shows that Nigeria is a careless brand, developed by careless people and managed by more careless, and mediocre minds. That our coat-of-arms has such an obvious blunder on it and we have been parading it that way before the whole world is an embarrassment of unquantifiable proportion. I am so ashamed of myself that such an important item could carry such an obvious failure on it and for about 35 years and still counting, and we have not bothered to correct it.

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My second issue with the coat-of-arms is with the eagle on it, which symbolises our strength as a nation. There is a common saying among philosophers and many cultures around the world that every good thing comes from the east. Ocean currents come from the east, the sea flows from east to west and the sun rises from the east. Sunrise represents a new beginning, hope and life. The sun lights the world, gives it strength and supports life. Our eagle, the representation of our strength, should have been facing the east, where the sun rises with potent force and life. But it is facing the west where it sees the sun only when it is a faded shadow of itself; when it is setting after the energy and life in it is spent.

Little things of this nature count much more than the amount of importance we place on them. They say a lot about our character and indeed they affect our destiny. It shows we are a careless people with no regard for excellence. And there are several of these errors pervading the entirety of our identity as a people. The hope we have today lies in our ability to find out all anomalies associated with our character as a people and to correct them. Such an audit will be the beginning of an era that will bring us the true rebirth we crave for.

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Nigeria’s Season of Strikes and an Administration’s run of Lies

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Nigeria is in a season of strike actions. Doctors are on strike, virtually all the trade unions in the universities are on strike, staff of CAC are on strike too, just as polytechnic trade unions are also set to embark on an indefinite strike. And the best this sick government can do is to politicise the situation. Jonathan’s government was built on a sandy foundation of sentiments and the president and his handlers think he can survive on it forever.

The problem in these institutions and possibly all of the civil service is that every worker is being owed some arrears of one emolument or the other. These monies, like that of pensioners have been embezzled by those in primary custody of it, in connivance with the powers that appointed them. The culture is that a governor or president simply calls the head of a ministry or agency and tells them to raise an amount of money for him. Imagine that the president calls the Registrar General of CAC and tells him to raise 300 million for him. The poor man will have no option but to take it from any account of his agency that has such an amount, which could unfortunately be the salaries account. When the time for payment of salaries comes, the money won’t be available. They may then mop some other monies from some other places and manage to pay the salaries while withholding the allowances. This is what happens that results in workers being owed money by the government. And that is why the president or governor never questions how the workers get to be owed when monies were released for their benefits.

Every head of an agency gives returns to his bosses, godfathers and legislative committees that have oversight functions over it, like the case of the former minister who shared unspent funds of his ministry and gave Iyabo part of it because she was the chairman of the senate committee in charge of his ministry.

Every financial year, the government makes hundreds of billions of dollars. The money is spent, yet the government owes contractors, workers and records scores of uncompleted projects. Every agency cries of ‘paucity’ of funds, yet their heads buy chains of cars, build estates in cities across the world and live in provocative affluence. That is the irony. And what does the president, governor or legislature do? Nothing, because they were the first to take before the guys in charge did and so do not have the moral rights to hold them accountable. How could the ex-pensions boss have escaped if not with the connivance of the powers that be, after he stole such a ridiculous amount of money? He didn’t steal it alone and his ogas could not hold him because if he breaks the pod of scandals, he will spill fat beans of bewildering revelations that will consume the ogas too.

Consider the poor quality of GSM services, why is the NCC, ministry of communications and the legislature not able to enforce standards within the industry? With the hundreds of billions the GSM companies post as profit every year, they can afford to settle all the ogas in billions such that no one questions them even if they take guns to the streets to rob Nigerians.

Instead of the presidency to address the issues leading to the strike actions, they are calling the demand by workers for the benefits of their sweat and blood to be paid to them as politics and some ignorant and gullible people are listening to him. The politics of ‘I am a Christian’ or ‘I am from a minority tribe’ or any sentiment at all, will not work on our psyche anymore! The Jonathan administration should stop deceiving Nigerians and playing sentiments with people’s livelihoods that they have suffered to earn and dully deserve to be paid. Are these people being owed or not? What happened to their monies? These are the questions the administration should answer before the trash about the strikes being politically motivated.

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Thrilling Awoonor Tribute As AWF Hosts Obemata and Egwudah

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It was not part of the original plan for the Abuja Writers’ Forum’s Sept 28, Guest Writer Session    but then Kofi Awoonor’s death was also unexpected, and given his eminent role in the development of modern African poetry in English, it made sense to have a tribute.

 In a thrilling poetry performance supported by background  guitar and violin music,  Actor Jide Atta threw the audience into a solemn mood as he recited the poems of Awonoor, who is one of Africa’s renowned literary icons. He read ‘The Cathedral’, “The Weaver Bird,” “This Earth, My Brother,” “Across a New Dawn” and “Dzogbese Lisa Has Treated Me Thus.” Emotions rose high as he recounted Awoonor’s history, lamenting his untimely death by the hands of the Somalian Al-shabab militants and the painful loss it portends to the continent’s literary community. Someone  hearing about the Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor for the first time through Atta’s reading would have felt very familiar with him and felt the pain of his demise like that of an old friend. The presentation received a prolonged and resounding applause. Kabura Zakama and Obemata also read poems dedicated to Awonoor.

Although Temi Sode could not make it to the venue because she was indisposed, the other two originally billed for the event did not disappoint. Activist, lawyer and poet Abdul Mahmud, popularly known by his pen name, Obemata, read from his debut collection of poems titled Triptych. The collection  he said was inspired by his urge to express his frustration on his identity crisis, being an Abdul Mahmud from the south; his years in exile during Nigeria’s dark years of military rule and his deep love for his fatherland.

Obemata’s recollection of the history that inspired his writing of Triptych revealed the travails of a young man who as the president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), organized the largest students protest in the history of Nigeria, against the plans of the Babangida regime to remove government subsidy for petroleum products. Obemata was arrested and detained in 1991 at the Kirikiri Prisons under the dreaded State Security and Detention of Persons Decree Number 2 of 1984, on account of his opposition to the military dictatorship led by General Ibrahim Babaginda. He was again arrested in 1996 and detained by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and the State Security Services (SSS), following claims that he knew or participated in the killing of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Abiola.

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Obemata is widely represented in poetry magazines and anthologies, notably Sentinel, African Writer, Wordriot, African Writing, Origami, Liberty, Swalelife, Blackbiro, Next, Ijele, The Nigerian Guardian and ‘Witness’: anthology of war poetry (Serengeti Press, Ontario, 2004).

The story of the devastation that was brought upon Ibaji, a Local Government Area in Kogi state by the floods that ravaged many communities along the coastal lines of the rivers Niger and Benue in 2011 was told in a documentary produced by a non-governmental organization, the Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE) and International Rescue Commission (IRC). The NGO had intervened, bringing succor to the people of the local government, with funding from ECHO, a donor organization based in New York, United States. Peter Michael Egwudah who represented CISCOPE recalled that in 2011, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) issued a flood alert that the agency said would affect communities along Nigeria’s coastal line. He said governments at the national, state and local levels did not heed the warming and so were not prepared for the disaster when it eventually struck. The documentary detailed the calamity the affected communities faced with thousands of families losing their homes, farmlands and other sources of livelihood. Visuals of whole communities submerged along with their sources of livelihood painted a picture that to many who had not witnessed the floods, was shocking, to say the least.

The greatest tragedy of the situation was the inability of the government to make a timely response to the disaster. CESCOPE’s intervention in Ibaji saw the organization inject 1million Euros, which was a grant it was offered by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a United States based aid agency.

While answering questions from the audience, Mr. Egwudah said the government of Kogi state had initially refused to cooperate with them in their relief efforts. He said the Deputy Governor of the state on a certain occasion, threatened to arrest them, accusing his organization of bringing ‘terrorists and spies’ to the state and at some point fumed at why such a huge amount of money had got to the organization without passing through the state government. Responses from the audience praised CESCOPE and its partners for their humanitarian gesture which had brought hope and survival to thousands of distressed members of our society.

Egwudah said working with CISCOPE has enabled him support the poor and vulnerable in different communities in Nigeria with skill-acquisition, education and advocating for pro – poor policies for the vulnerable as well as support and rescue people who are affected by one form of disaster or the other.

Film producer and director Kasham Keltuma, Jide Atta and Obemata, also   presented certificates of participation to the second introductory class of the AWF’s Creative Writing Workshop. The participants had undergone intensive training on creative writing techniques spanning the four Saturdays in the month of September. One of the participants, Oluchi Agbanyim responded on behalf of the class. She praised the forum, for the great initiative which has provided writers and aspiring writers, the opportunity to develop their writing skills and take the quality of their literary output to a higher level.

It was also a reward day for winners of the forum’s monthly writing challenge as they receivetheir prizes for winning the contest in various categories. Other features were  musical renditions by Tokunbo Edward who showed up this time with a backing duo including a violinist and soul rock singer Adzer David.

The Guest Writer’s Session of the Abuja Writers’ Forum began in 2008 and has remained consistent, creating a platform to celebrate published authors resident in Nigeria and abroad. The Forum also runs Creative Writing Workshops, as well as a critique session that holds every Sunday at the Internal Institute of Journalism, Asokoro, Abuja.

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A thief who own…

A thief who owns up to his crime and will not judge another man for stealing is better than the one who points fingers at other people and pretend to be holy. At least he has a conscience.

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I Need to be Proved Wrong

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I cannot keep quiet, though so many times I really wish I could. If you are a Nigerian and you are by nature, someone who feels a sense of responsibility over the situation of things and events around you and you also have the courage to always intervene when something goes wrong, you will often have to either speak out or take action about something, otherwise you will never know internal peace. I cannot pretend about my feelings toward issues in Nigeria, neither can I be indifferent to them. I am glad I can write because someday I would have just burst like a punctured balloon. The shameless absurdities that supposedly rational people enact in Nigeria are infuriating enough to make someone want to run out of their skin. Writing releases me from that pressure and helps me stay in my skin.

I woke up this morning to watch President Jonathan’s broadcast to the nation. After the 25-minute barren talk, I pondered over the essence of the ritual beyond the ordinary fact that the president gave a nation-wide broadcast on October 1, but I couldn’t find any. I wanted to pretend that it never happened and there is nothing I should react to, because there was nothing new that he said or promised. After all, this is not the first time this president would give an uninspiring speech, full of infuriating rhetoric and a failed attempt to appeal to our emotions and this will most probably not be the last time. Yet much as I tried, I could not pretend nor resist the urge to react to his address.

Trust is not a right. It is a reward you earn through a demonstration of good character and trustworthiness. On that account, I say with all boldness that I do not trust Goodluck Jonathan. He does not deserve my trust; he has failed to win it and if anything, he has proven to me that he is not someone I should dare to trust if I do not want to be made a fool of. And I believe I share the view of a good majority of Nigerians, from the political class, to the ordinary man in the streets.

Since Jonathan became president, against his promise to transform the country, we have not had any improvement in power supply, no refinery has been built and we are consequently still depending on fuel imports. Corruption is still booming as an industry that has gone beyond our control, no improvement in infrastructure, our universities are still shut down and Boko Haram are still slaughtering innocent people at will. This is the state of our country under Jonathan’s misrule. How can I trust a man who promised us fresh air and a new approach to governance only for him to deliberately preside over the destruction of our commonwealth, our hope and our future? Perhaps this is what he meant by fresh air. Fresh air, in his terms, means a wave of corruption and rot that we have never witnessed before. Fresh because it is new, not because it is free of pollution.

Because I do not trust Jonathan, I have no faith in the national dialogue drama he is about to enact, as he announced in the broadcast to the nation. There was a committee he set up to investigate government’s fuel subsidy regime. He made Ribadu the chairman of that committee to give us the impression that he was up to something we could trust as a sincere move to cleanse the system. What have we had out of the report of that committee? This is just one out of scores of committees he has set up to purportedly solve problems in our system, whose reports no one can see their outcome. Our dear president, I submit, does not have the moral clout nor the willpower to institute a sincere effort to resolve our national issues. If he truly loves this country and has its future at heart, why would he allow his personal ambition to scuttle the attempt to entrench democratic ethics in our politics? He was quoted to have promised he will not run in the 2015 elections, why is the PDP now divided because he is believed to be working towards reneging on that promise? One would have expected that he will use the Presidential media chat to state categorically that he will not contest in 2015, in the spirit of truth, integrity and patriotism. But he did not, which means he is contesting and the allegation that his ambition has informed the lack of internal democracy in the PDP is true.  He knows he will not win the party’s ticket on fair grounds and so has devised various undemocratic means to prevent his perceived opponents from staying in the party and having their right to contest against him. And that is what led to a split in the party.

The only thing I found reasonable in that presidential address remains, to my judgment, the promise to convene a national dialogue and I do not believe his motive. It is a mere act of deception in order to score cheap political gains, which he has failed at because majority of Nigerians do not trust him. The sycophants around him may deceive him that they do, but the reality will soon play out to his knowledge. What we need at this point to solve our unending troubles as a nation is the sincere sacrifice of patriots. If he is ready to make one of such, he should let go of his inordinate ambition to contest again and rather focus on entrenching true and fair democratic ethics in our politics by presiding over and ensuring free and fair elections in 2015. A step in that direction will assure me that Jonathan’s national dialogue holds a promise for our future, but as long as I don’t see that, I remain skeptical until he proves my fears wrong.

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