Black African Nightmares and the Case of Citizen Nasir

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Earlier this week a video that questions the place and dignity of dark-skinned people went viral in cyberspace, and for any thinking Black African who has watched that humiliation of a race, a short-lived revolutionary was born. Confessing to being devastated, even though that is not the worst record of such shame in recent time, is to admit the least of my reactions. It is the video of the many horrors experienced by Black Africans in Israel. The Jews too hated us? But a friend corrected that the Jews hate whoever infiltrates their territories, citing the history of their conflicts with Palestinians.

But I’m least interested in the politics of Israel’s repression. If it doesn’t need Black African migrants, legal or otherwise, it’s a concern for the United Nations and the many humanitarian organisations being dismissed as advocates of white superiority even where their efforts have redeemed those who attack their complexes. My worries have always been over the factors responsible for such flights to predictable miseries by our people. We were in the Americas as slaves, which ought to remain a lesson for our race and years after the abolition of slavery in the West, the descendants of the slaves are yet to regain their mortally destroyed pride. Sadly, we offer ourselves willingly to an equally debasing form of slavery, in pursuits of an economic freedom.

Our displacements follow a natural order; man was born to chase a friendlier clime, to migrate, to flee an impotent world in search of that which can redeem him and his. And it’s on this excuse that one seeks the moral rights to engage the society that offers nothing aside from the responsibilities it heaves on the people who developed and stole its resources. The same West that hunts us down and either sends us to prison or to deportation camp, celebrates Africa’s brains and talents. We lost our finest people to Drain Drain because we couldn’t build the trust and institutions where their resources can be tapped in building a viable civilisation.

This brings to mind the frustrations of many returnees who returned from years of studies and self-developments overseas only to be disappointed on realising that their country of origin has nothing on ground to tap from their resources. In many cases, it’s the corruption and the pull-him-down syndrome that deny returnees the desired opportunity to help their fatherland or people. My friend, Nasir Yammama is one such brilliant and creative Africans whose proposals for an enhanced digital Africa were frustrated by the unprogressive minds in charge of our national affairs. Having majored in aspects of the Information Technology at a university in the UK, and his other private engagements and exploits, he designed brilliant concepts for digitisation of Nigeria, especially in the areas of security and processing of data by our institutions. While I don’t have the legal rights to discuss his proposals, his methods if adopted may be convenient alternatives to existing systems being that he proposes to adopt a method that will cut down the cost of running certain aspects of administrations in our civil service and corporate organisations.

Nasir left Nigeria this week unable to realise this dream. Just like that. Like every other who had come down here with dreams and energies to change our ways. In my years of engagements and friendship with IT nerds, his place in my heart and memory is most cherished. This explains why his departure for yet another academic engagements hit me hard, especially the nightmares he encountered in his attempts to sell his ideas to a people and government unready to compete with the thinking world.

On our way to the Airport, I knew why it’s going to be long to adjust to his migration. In this phase of our history, I don’t think that Africa needs more unusual stars in the arts and humanities. We have had enough. Be a professor in the arts, social sciences and even engineering and medicine, if you don’t add anything new to your discipline, you’re just as ordinary as every John and Ahmed you have trained – and you’re not my model, yes! In a country where we have our labour force packed with poorly designed robots trained for a dysfunctional Civil Service, all misled by the allures of “marketable courses”, I’m most happy to find an adventurous friend going for a PG study in Creative Technology in the UK. This is what comforted me, the realisation that this trip is purposely for self-development and that Africa needs his species, thoroughbred geniuses, to explore and exploit the unusual, just to restore our lost esteem. For Nasir and his curious kinds born with a passion to create where none exists, I say: may God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (25/05/2013)
@gimbakakanda

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Abuja: Diary of a Social Theorist

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Abuja: Diary of a Social Theorist

It is Eid again, the festival we seem to dishonour what we set out to celebrate. I’m seated in a resort with friends enjoying the panoramas of Abuja. Prices of food items have risen, clothes are no longer cheap, and rams which are the symbolic acquisitions for this feast to commemorate the aborted sacrifice of Abraham, a remarkable test of faith, are going for more than the price of a motorcycle. All to emulate the faith and modesty of those fine people.

On the phone my friend is lecturing his family about the need to “manage” the little he has sent home. He gives them statistics of how a day in Abuja ends, and his survival tactics. Even though he exaggerates, I still feel for him. Abuja, to some non-residents, is an Arcadia where money grows on trees; a land of vast opportunities where the President of the Federation himself posts money to residents – or just a city where you earn the same thing as the politicians.

“I should learn to save my incomes?” My friend echoes, obviously the words of the tormentor on the phone. We burst into laughter. And for this realisation that we have been listening in, he ended the call. That is a typical phone call from certain mathematicians back home who seem to have idea of what you earn and how it is, or must be, used. Let’s stalk a lucky Ibrahim in Abuja: he works for N100,000 per month. His house rent is half a million naira, which means what he earns in five months belongs to the landlord. Ibrahim has to transport himself to and from wherever works in Central Area for not less than a thousand naira every day. At the office, Ibrahim has to eat. Mama-put joints are not close to everyone. If you include his regular utility bills and some emergency events, you don’t need my friend accountant Remi to officially declare him BROKE!

Landing a job as Ibrahim’s in Abuja is a miracle for which it’s okay to organise a Thanksgiving. A friend of ours, a graduate of Sciences, earns thirty-five thousand naira working in a private hospital. Another friend, a lawyer, is paid twenty thousand naira every month slaving in Chambers whose owner thinks he’s doing him a favour. He has been miming “I need the experience first!” as an excuse for the consensual slavery for the past four years. These cruelly underpaid friends are still being depended on by family, and by relatives obsessed with the delusions of an Arcadian Abuja.

The day you go broke in Abuja is the day you will testify to the absolute inhumanity of man. Like every other city, it’s soulless and unsympathetic to every failed survivalist. This wisdom is carried by a consellor who once said, “Abuja is one place on earth you don’t want to be broke… Strive to attain certain level of financial freedom even if it means starving your grandmother at the village!” Elsewhere you may be broke and still have your parents or relatives to save you, but here everybody, even your closest friends, wears the Don’t-Go-Broke philosophy around like they would a bullet-proof vest in a war zone. Of course Abuja is a war zone of political and financial crises. Wallahi if you go broke in Abuja even your girlfriend or wife, who had previously called you the names of strange-sounding fruits, will no longer be available or friendly. She’ll either be too “busy” or “sick” to see or tolerate you.

My friends refused to go to their hometowns for Eid for fear of the “leeches” awaiting their returns with all they had plucked from the money tree of the federal capital. Their confessions resemble mine in a sense that some of these people desperate to have their shares of sallah palliatives are actually in self-inflicted palavers. An uncle of mine who is in his late thirties has four wives, his own irrational way of contributing to a religion he does not understand – yes, polygamy is one of the most abused practices among our people. For my uncle is a mere fisherman, with no financial and mental ability to discharge his duty as a husband in accordance with Qur’anic stipulations, being that fishing is a seasonal occupation. Which means he relies on us to feed his wives and uncountable children when the going gets tough, which is almost always. Evidently no supports can have all of those children in school. This is how we ruin our society, by remaining insensitive to time, to an age that requires outright application of progressive ideas to better our lots. In festive periods, their demands become unbearable.

I also know of a man who is presently in Saudi Arabia for a self-sponsored Hajj while his two wives and children are left to depend on neighbours for their benefits of eid-el Kabir. You put in over half a million naira for your pilgrimage to Hajj, just to be seen as a respectable Muslim, an Alhaji, even though you’re not a responsible Muslim by expressed activities, but your family has not even a thirty thousand naira ram for an important season of their life. This is also where I fault even our governments’ sponsorships of pilgrims when the money invested in individual pilgrim could set him/her up in an SME where s/he can eventually afford to privately fund his/her Hajj exercise.

We leave the resort discussing our people’s and governments’ ways, to catch up with other friends at Silverbird Galleria, an entertainment hub in the heart of city. The place was beautifully crowded. Beautiful because it’s my own definition of an open society; I see groups of ladies dressed in hijabs and others in spaghetti tops and mini mingling without staring each other down. This scene is unusual, thanks to sallah fun-seekers. To me, the sight is symbolic, it colourfully expresses the tolerance of an average human being. Is this co-habitation difficult? Do the clothes of those ladies poison one another? Do turbans distort the views of suit-adorning persons? No! Then why and how is it hard to show some respect to our different Ways? You go, Nigerians. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (18/10/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Islam: In Receipt of the Outsiders’ Criticisms!

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I was seated in a tea stall in my neighbourhood, among an entirely Muslim clientele, when a conversation between two fellows struck me. One was a provision store owner in one of the illegally occupied parts of Life Camp and his colleague was just who I may call “a random hustler”—a fellow you may dial to supply you with water, do your laundry and even run an errand for a small fee. Both were people of amazing faith in God, in the future, in a kinder destiny. Though on the surface, they seemed similar being both homeless and living in the mosque, their worldviews would never co-exist. They were debating a post-prayer sermon delivered in the neighbourhood mosque a day before which the store owner disagreed with. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to condemn your good neighbours’ religion in that fashion,” the store owner said of the preacher’s sermon. He added, “There is always a need to respect one another in any religion!” I followed their conversations not only because the store owner panders to commendable political correctness, but in my amusement at the private exchanges of fellow Muslims. Especially among the supposedly unenlightened of the lower social classes, those who grow up in closed societies where the foreign is either inferior or unacceptable!

Last week, I followed the arguments against perceived unresponsiveness to terrorism among Muslims by some non-Muslim social critics who are not in the know of the frictions amongst Muslims along the lines of personal, ideological, cultural and sectarian differences. In their unjust reviews, terrorism thrives on the silence of the “moderate” or politically correct Muslims. Loudest among these are from professors Wole Soyinka and Okey Ndibe, who both insist that Muslims must “take back” Islam and “stand up to be counted” in their justified outrage over the killing of the middle-class citizens in Nairobi and of the socially subaltern citizens we mourn in north-eastern Nigeria. I do not consider their criticisms as mischievous, even though Soyinka has always struggled with the temptation to condemn an entire faith for the sins of some confused members. I was thus happy that this time Soyinka candidly observes in his commentary “Humanity and Against”, that “as for their (the terrorists’) claims to faith, they invoke divine authority solely as a hypocritical cover for innate psychopathic tendencies.” Gbam!

I testify to the corruptions of religions. I am a witness to the sheer lack of ability among my Muslim brothers and sisters, which is also so among Christians, to tell adherence apart from fanaticism. The line between the two is too thin; many, as I always offer, don’t know it when they cross the line. Fanaticism is when you obey the commands of your God without respecting the “live and let live” principle of existence. You’re a fanatic unless you respect that your neighbours and friends and fellow citizens who practise other religions are under no obligation to follow your Way. That they only owe you one thing: respect!

As a younger person, I witnessed an interesting drama that still remains with me. Once, I returned from the Koranic school with a revelation: never prostrate, kneel, squat or bow for anyone aside from Allah. I was afraid because it was going to affect my relationship with my beloved mother, and also because I was cautious about losing my spot as her favourite child. In my culture, it’s a mark of respect to squat or kneel down while greeting elders, and here my mullah asked me never to do this again. Even to my own mother. I invited Mum to the room and told her that I was going to offend her and that it was not meant to disrespect her—that thenceforth I was going to stop kneeling or bowing whenever I greet her. The following day, while we were in school, she stormed with other neighbours whose children and wards were also affected by the “revelation” to challenge the mullah’s ways. They called the mullah an “Izala”—a member of a religious group promoting what it views as abhorrence to “innovations” while promoting an adherence to a strict orthodoxy of their own strict interpretation. The parents said his attempts to corrupt us had failed. We, the children and wards, were then taken out of the school!

This and the example of the provision store owner are just instances from the many resistances to extremism and contested fundamentalism within Muslim communities. To the outsider, Islam has been taken over by extremists but among us they are simply a bunch of confused minority in whose minds are riots of identities and consequent loss of humanity. Muslims have always been sensitive to deviancy, so asking them to take back Islam reeks of the campaigners’ ignorance of the frictions within. You can only take back what has been taken over; there are two sides to everything, and here the statistics still favour the “moderate”. Every religion has always in the hands of two sides at every time and in every issue, every article of faith, sometimes in the hands of more than two schools of thought and practice even. In the case of this escalating terrorism, one may only rightly ask the government to regulate religious activities. Let’s at least recognise the efforts of the “moderate” who have suffered to challenge religious aberrations, to my mother and to every Muslim who have been risking their lives to stop the productions of religious robots. What method hasn’t been set up to defeat the ideologies of these insurgents? And if you’re expecting the Muslims to take up arms against the terrorist, the Civilian JTF are already up in the North-East. That our fanaticism devolves into terrorism is not due to the silence of the Muslims, it’s the insensitivity of the government. Yes, the only option right now is government—to defy this “Freedom of Worship” blackmail by regulating and stamping out any religious activity, especially education that threatens our existence. You don’t have to be Turkey’s Mustafa Ataturk to protect your citizens from the religious corruptions. Theirs is not religious, I agree! You’re not religious until you’re humane; you’re human first before you earned any other label. And until you’re able to reconcile your love for whatever you worship with your love for the humankind, my last words remain: May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (11/10/2015)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Zamfara 8000: Truth is Not a Divorcée!

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As a student of Commonsense, certain vindications of one’s publicly challenged and vehemently defended views ought to be occasions to go for a carnival of I-told-you gloating. But the people shamed by the embarrassment of 8000 women protesting over scarcity of marriageable men in Zamfara State refuse to acknowledge the societal dislocation that produces these many unfortunate women!

8000 women, and these are just those bold enough to exhibit their woes! Among them are over 5000 divorcees, says the reports. Here is the vindication of my fears for a society that refuses to respect the sociological demands of this century. Just a few weeks ago, Nigeria was polarised by debates over child brides, which a section endorsed on religious grounds. The Muslim ummah too was heavily polarised as the section that highlighted our social challenges and the consequences of underage marriages in a region where poverty is the most common asset and healthcare is a fantasy, were labelled “liberals” and even “apostates!” The jokers who argue that a child bride is better than a prostitute would not even admit that prostitution is not, and never, a virtue anywhere. Prostitution is a collapse of an individual’s morality which, even among married couples, is practised. Though they choose to call theirs “fornication!” even where a benefit is given for the shared pleasure.

Sorry, I will never gloat over this vindication. This is the reality of my society, one also supported by the ignorance of many educated people among us. And by our refusals to acknowledge the dangers posed by our insensitivity to modern challenges based on our (mis)understanding of religious dictates, we have set our future to self-destruct mode. Yes we distort the meaning of marriage the moment we have it simply defined as an arrangement where a man who has attained puberty pays the bride price of an insecure girl just to feed her or bear children. In this modern civilisation, with its myriad of challenges, going into life without proper empowerments earned in educational or commercial ventures is of the consequences that just erupted in Zamfara. Here is a patriarchal society where an empowered lady is seen as either wayward or westernised, which are about the same sin!

I was trained by an unlettered mother whose sufferings were inherited from the flaws in the society that denied her privileges granted her husband. My father had a sound education, and was a renowned school teacher in his days. He was trained to overcome modern economic blows, but as life would play its game of treachery, he succumbed to ill health midway through their marriage – an attack he never survived. He left his wife to fend for the children alone, to suffer I mean. She became an emergency businesswoman! She couldn’t have been able to do so if our father had not come from a rich people whose interventions saved us from that social embarrassment. Women are vulnerable in this closed society of a people who extol the superiority of men, a society where widows and divorcees depend on Allah for what Allah has given them life to acquire themselves.

Zamfara is now a symbolic place being the headquarters of policised Islam in Nigeria, and also where an equally symbolic politician whose religious sophistry is both selfish and destructive, has succeeded in planting a seed of conservatism among a people who ought to demand more from this ridiculous form of fascist theocracy imposed on them. Instead of implementing welfarist policies to ease the poverty of this landlocked entity, we have leaders who quote Allah and the Prophet to perpetuate their selfish political and even financial interests.

The child bride arrangement in this society of the dubiously religious, where undue polygamy is also practised, is not only a breeder of divorcees, but also of destitute beggars and medically unfit paupers. We built a closed society where criticisms of any sham wrapped in the foil of religion is apostasy, where even genotype testing is a taboo to many and where, until recently, HIV test too is against the teachings of Islam.

What we need now is an immediate realisation that so long as we continue with these unprogressive approaches to modern issues, and politicising what requires painstaking application of commonsense to be redeemed, we’re bound to a certain doom. We have been deliberately avoiding the truth, unsure of what it really is; but truth, however we seek to accept it, can never ever be divorced. We have to confront these monstrou truths. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (4/10/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)