Excellence In Leadership Conference 2013

As a Nigerian youth, I’m tired of the common notion that you can only be relevant if you hop into the political ‘mudscape’.

I’m tired of the notion that everyone is corrupt

I’m tired of self serving septuagenarians saying the youth are still leasers of tomorrow but aren’t ready to be leaders yet – till they die.

I’m tired of youths who think leadership only exists in government.

But I’m glad that some organisations are wholly committed to raising leaders in all spheres of the society.

I’m glad that some organisations are committed to not just raising leaders, but excellent leaders.

I’m glad that despite the dark cloud of gloom, some organisations are committed to poking though with rays of hope.

Because of this, I’m glad that the future ain’t so bleak afterall.

Here’s a special Invitation to the Excellence In Leadership Conference 2013 By Pastor Sam Adeyemi, the Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Center.

If you’re in Lagos, I sincerely hope to see you there…

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SPLINTER MOVERS

The log in my eye is a trifling matter,
The splinter in yours offers more to conquer.

You’re angry, shocked and disappointed at the same time. Despite all your motherly efforts, Charity, your unmarried 27 year-old daughter, still wound up pregnant. You’re ashamed. It shouldn’t really be your problem but it is. How can you now hold your head high amongst your peers? What will your fellow members of the women’s body in church say? Your husband isn’t helping matters. His opinion: if she’s 27 and old enough to drive a car, vote and go to jail, then she’s old enough to get pregnant.

You’re castigated in church. Some women deliberately shun you. The Catholic Women Organisation’s leader has moved a motion for your immediate suspension and demanded your resignation as the secretary of the society. She’s disappointed that you’re not a shining example of motherhood in the church. What a disgrace! You feel let down by your daughter and even contemplate leaving the church. Unknown to you, your accuser’s daughter, Chioma, has committed three abortions. Each time, she was accompanied to the hospital by her mother.

Beats me too…

That’s the summary of what the parishioner said about Charity’s mother’s travails once her daughter became a conveyor belt on a 9-month standby for an heavenly package.

I overheard Charity’s case when I was ironing my uniform for school that Sunday evening. Mother didn’t even know the gist was as hot as that. So hot that I almost burned my shorts too; this would have been a bad thing because it was my last good pair. The remaining two were already decorated with a shiny iron mark – like a badge, one smack on the right butt cheek. The parishioner who paid us a visit gave mum the update – the CWO leader’s dirty linen. I know Charity, she taught me catechism when I was nine and she was kind to all of us. I wondered if it was a bad thing to get pregnant. Mom was pregnant a few years ago and it wasn’t a big deal then . Anyway, what did I know?

The next day at school, agony was what greeted me. I was flogged by Mrs. Lucas. Students – including myself were of the opinion that she’s a witch. My uniform was clean and ironed but I had no socks on. Then I was made to crawl 50 metres on gravel on my knees with the others. And that was just the beginning because she was put on gate duty much more often from then on. We hated her – so much that we called her Cyclops behind her back because the frames of her spectacles looked like the one Scott – Cyclops – wore in X-Men.

I was happy when they transferred her, a joy shared by my classmates and many others. She was like a hawk in the examination room. You couldn’t even look to your left or right without being hit on the forehead with a metric ruler. We believed the glasses she wore gave her special abilities. Cyclops was transferred because she tried to slip her son who was in science class, a cheat sheet during exams. Some students saw her and given the beef, were more than happy to rat her out. That was the first time I gloated over another person’s misfortune. I didn’t care; my knees and butt would rest and this was solace enough.

That left me with one less woman to worry about but Mrs. Okome was still a thorn. Okay, I didn’t bow properly – with the back of my head paying homage to her chin – when I greeted her on Sunday in church. Okay, I also had a penchant for hiding out of Sunday school. She was so particular about how children should behave and kept reporting me to my mother. Mum would smile and apologise to her while pulling my ears at the same time. I still admire mom’s multitasking skills. As a result, I stopped greeting Mrs. Okome altogether, choosing to ignore avoid her instead.

Two years later, I saw Chuks, Mrs. Okome’s second son in a fine ‘94 model Honda Accord. He’s transformed into a big boy. He even renovated their house and bought a Corolla ‘First Lady’ for his mother. Three months after I saw him, I was told he’s skipped town because the police were looking for him. I wondered why. I later learnt that Chuks was into internet fraud, one of the yahoo boys.

I expected him to be in the university because he aced his WASCCE and JAMB examinations. He was in the same school his mother taught but he didn’t write his final exams there because his mum wanted him to pass so she enrolled him at a ‘special centre’. I wasn’t so lucky – I had an E in maths.

Today I still meet people like Cyclops, Mrs. Okome and the CWO leader; male, female, adults and teens alike. Like a neighbour of mine who back then threatened to shoot me if I came near any of his daughters again. I’d known those girls since I was pre-wet dream 13 but it has suddenly dawned on him that I’d grown. I understand, a boy is no threat to the purity or innocence of girls, but a man is. Just ask Senator Yerima. We’re cool now, there’s mutual respect between us. Sometimes we cross paths at the barber shop or at the hotel behind my house where I choose to watch the English Premier League matches. On those latter occasions I raise my glass of Heineken and pay homage to him – and his side chic.

Speaking of beer, I remember a friend of mine back in my undergraduate days. Then, he was the closest I’ve come to politics because he’s a politician’s son. He once got upset when his laptop was stolen. For the first time, I heard him rail about insecurity and greed and thieves. I was there so I told him his father was one, pointing to a community newspaper accusing his father of misappropriation as evidence. He laughed about it really hard, clutching his belly with one hand and pointing at me with the other, adding a f**K you in between for good measure. We ended up sharing a few beers amid talk on random stuff. He’s not as bad as his dad. He didn’t have mad moneyyet, or a political appointment.

I’ve got a splinter in my eye and I’m sure you do too. In that regard, we’re not so different; our flaws are what we have in common. But there are those who try to be ‘helpful’ – only they’re not. They have splinters too but they deny it, choosing to focus on every other splinter they see out there. That’s where the Pinocchio Syndrome kicks in because you cannot not have a splinter in your eye – not if you’re human. That would be a lie. To deny the splinter would mean denying your humanity and our error prone nature. In this case, the Pinocchio Syndrome doesn’t make the nose grow uncomfortably long; the splinter does instead till it becomes a log.

I need help with my flaws. I acknowledge them and do what I can to become less flawed and better with each passing day. We all need help. But if you’re going to judge or condemn someone all in the name of ‘helping’ them, you’ll be better served shoving that help up your nether region.

Cast the first stone or love like Jesus? The choice is yours.

WHAT UNCLE FANI AND I HAVE IN COMMON

First published on 21 August, 2013. My little known response to Femi Fani-Kayode’s incendiary remarks after the much derided Lagos relocation (deportation) episode.

I have a confession to make: I’m really beginning to like Uncle Fani Kayode. Since it’s possible we’re going to be on a nick name basis really soon, I’d just refer to him from now on as FFK. He must like this acronym, after all there’s a JFK, an AVB at Spurs, my dear RVP and Uncle Raji (BRF) of Lagos. Oh my, I almost forgot our dear GEJ! Sorry President Jona, you’re not really trending now; maybe that’s a good thing. Acronyms are endearing, so if you get your name coined in the press as an acronym take it as a show of love.

Fani Kayode

I also like his look, his sleepy eyes will fool anyone into believing he’s harmless. But he’s a lion like he once said. Our dear ‘attack lion’, Doyin Okupe is only trying to imitate him. Besides, he looks like a black, better looking version of Steve Buscemi. I like Steve, he makes me laugh. Since FFK looks like Steve, I think I like him too.

See what I mean 😉 ?

I know you must wonder where I’m going with this; please be patient. Some angry person recently said FFK is a drug addict and a Yoruba bastard due to his recent comments on the relocation (deportation) of destitute Igbos from Lagos State. I find those comments interesting.

The drug part caught me. I couldn’t place a finger on it before but it’s clear now. You have to be high on something really special to be saying what FFK has been saying lately. I only hope it’s not cocaine or heroine because I want none of that. But if it’s kush, I just might change my mind. I had the misadventure of eating beans laced with kush once and I don’t want a repeat experience. But FFK’s weed has to be really special so I’d like some of it.

I do not know how that person arrived at the conclusion that FFK is a Yoruba bastard. I do not care. But I had the opportunity to speak my mind on a website that published FFK’s article – the one in which he denied being a person with tribal prejudice towards Igbos. I like the way he cited his credentials of being a detribalised Nigerian by saying he’s had intimate relationships with some admirable Igbo women. Like I said, you’d have to be high on some really special stuff to tell the world the way he did.

I however disagreed with his points on who owned Lagos and all that. You see, I’m from Ondo State but I’ve lived in Lagos most of my life. My parents work in Lagos, the same way I do now. Tax is deducted from our salaries to embark on projects in Lagos and fatten the treasury temporarily in Uncle BRF’s custody. In a way, our money is used to run Lagos. Therefore my family owns a small part of Lagos, at least the half-plot of land we have our house on. An Igbo man can also argue like this and he’ll win. That is where FFK went wrong. He’s almost always wrong though – cue his ran’t on Obama being the Anti-Christ and other misguided vitriolic essays.

I wouldn’t even go into what the constitution says. Femi Falana has written extensively on that. I like the way Daddy Falana talks, always smiling when he’s arguing on legal matters on TV. I think he loves his job, I like that. Contrary to what FFK says about Lagos being the patrimony of the Yorubas, the fact that I’m from Ondo and a Yoruba doesn’t give me any right to Lagos. If you’re not an indigene of Lagos, you’re not from Lagos. It’s that simple. So when people say Lagos is ‘No man’s land’ let’s not take it out of context, it’s more on the cosmopolitan outlook of the city than anything else. To have a stake in Lagos, FFK says he’s half Lagosian; I don’t know what that means. FFK is a genius though, taking the concept of sucking up to a new level; small people suck up to big people, big people like FFK suck up to states. Maybe I’ll try it on a smaller scale with a local government should the need arise.

I’m Yoruba. However, I’m more Nigerian than Yoruba and I do not agree with Femi Fani-Kayode. Yes, Lagos is in Western Nigeria and is a Yoruba state but it is part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When the Ibos say Lagos is no man’s land, I agree because as far as you’re Nigerian, you have as much right to Lagos as an Awori does.

Today, we pronounce Oyingbo with a Yoruba accent but Igbos have settled there as far back as the 1500’s. I know Yoruba’s who have been in the North for so long that some of them have chieftaincy titles. FFK and BRF make me wonder if the Mayor of New York can deport an American citizen who is from Chicago. You don’t deport a citizen of your country. I wonder how BRF managed to do what he did while attempting to even justify his position under grounds of resettlement. Maybe all this politics has made him rusty in the law. If this is the case, I think he needs to borrow Daddy Falana’s notes.

No problem, I’ll dust them up for you Tunde 😀


Due to my position against FFK’s opinion, some folks on social media said I’m ‘omo ale Yoruba’ – a bastard Yoruba. That’s where I think the similarity with FFK lies: someone called him a Yoruba bastard; some people have called me a bastard Yoruba. They’re two different things but we share a strange kinship in our social media conferred ‘bastardhood’. I’ll take that.

I’m not a bastard Yoruba. But I’d rather be a bastard Yoruba than a tribally prejudiced Nigerian whose actions will be inimical to the progress of this country. I do not have to say Onitsha is no man’s land; I can live there for as long as I want and thrive there too. My mother was raised in Jos. My great-grandparents lived most of their entire lives there and they didn’t have any problems. We all have to wake up, we won’t be here a century from now if Jesus tarries and don’t be shocked in your grave if your great-grandchild has Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo and even Idoma blood mixed in his/her veins.

I refuse to be a contribution to the problems in this country and if I have to be a bastard Yoruba to improve the lot of this nation, so be it. We do not carry Yoruba passports, but Nigerian ones. When a white man calls a Nigerian a monkey, he vexes and froths in the mouth but what we’re doing now is no better.

I’d rather be a disgrace to race than be a disgrace to humanity. So what if the Igbos did it? Do you reciprocate inhumanity for inhumanity or choose to be a beacon of truth, justice and kindness? We’re deporting each other here and northerner’s are killing your brothers over there. Because of what: land and the rights to it? Does it make sense? I proudly wave my Ondo identity in anyone’s face. Being Yoruba doesn’t give you a right to Lagos; being a Nigerian does. Who’s fooling who?

The truth is, at the rate which BRF is going, it won’t matter if you’re from Lagos or not, or if you’re Yoruba or not. It will only matter if you’re rich or poor. Every student at LASU now pays the same exorbitant tuition fee – indigenes and non-indigenes.FFK is rich and can say whatever he likes but we shouldn’t allow those people to set us against each other while they keep looting and scheming. They spark the flames; we grab the bellows and fan the flames of disunity.

Till this country breaks up (if it ever does), I remain a Nigerian and nothing more. That’s all.PS: I’ll give my kids a lesson should they be rebuffed when making advances towards Non-Yoruba ladies for marriage. They should simply say, “You can run from us now, but sooner or latter we’re gonna hump you. So if we’re gonna eventually mix why not start now?!”

BROTHERS ACROSS BORDERS

From a good friend with a brilliant mind. See it as a sort of rejoinder to my earlier poem, FUSION. Much respect Dante!

Naija House of Dreams

ert

We are NOW. Racially, we are colourless.
We are the fleshed prayers of the sixties, though our jeans
Are hand-washed, our ruffled hairs, cheaply styled
And our infatuation for bright colour placards fixated.
We are the troves of warm interlocked voices,
Swarming the stomachs of national alleys
Searching for the last frontiers of human justice.

Like torn chapters, stolen from ancient manuscripts,
We are the swiftly classified futures,
Whispered in hush voices behind blinded closed doors-
Scared to be hugged, too delicate to be freed-
So we roam the arid corridors of all nations,
We, the detonating remnants of the sons of Facebook,
Tweeting our bloodlines beyond iron grips of legal incantations.

As policies tightens and batons loosens,
As smoking canisters dances and wild orders prances,
We plug our tried minds together and steadfastly sway slowly-
From the musical gun-notes YouTube from the streets of the Arab spring
To…

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FUSION

The world is merging
Continents are melding
Not by space
Not by time
Consequence of media fusing strangers

Traditions clash
We get shocked
Ways of one
Taboo to another
Diverse in background, uniform in humanity

Africans bleach, Caucasians tan
We’re fast becoming one clan
We tinker, we compromise
Light up the melting pot
And season the stew with conflicting perspectives

Culture becomes subculture
White embraces black or the other way around
We blur, we grey
We’re going global
Enjoy the ride

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT

We’re tired
We’re worn
Faces ground to ground by tyrants’ boots
But we turn the other cheek
And embrace the caress of Italian shoes
Welcomed into arms proffering rotund bellies

We’re suffocated
We’re chocked
Tarrying for the gutsy wind of transformation
Wasn’t it called a ‘breath of fresh air’?
Still we await a draught
Slipping through a sliver of hope
To assuage troubled pharynx

So we grow restless
And chant
Backing the new dark horse on the track
Hoping to outmanoeuvre the loathed stallion
We just might win
This just might work
The odds look good, don’t they?

We want change
That unyielding constant clothed in variance
What if it’s garbage-in-garbage out?
Leave that worry for the dirt cart pusher
A flushing of faeces with clean water is welcome
Even if to await impending shit

We pray for our champions to take over
Robes for robes, rogues for rogues?
A change of colour with the vagaries of location
But remaining a chameleon still
Oga tabi Oga?
O ga!

Barabbas is freed
Silver Judas is damned
Ole ji, jaguda gba
A rogue for a traitor
Jesus is slain
Salvation has come
Really?

#APC

PS: Yeah we’ve cheered the registration of the Alliance for Progressive Change (APC) as being good for Nigerian democracy. It just might be. But I wonder if they’re the change we really need or if we just want any kind of change – anything to get the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party out. Is it a matter of any change being good; same roguish intent but different affiliations? Till then, fingers crossed.

PS 2: Native language use:
Oga tabi Oga? (Verse 5, line 5): the two words have the same spelling in Yoruba language, but are pronounced differently and mean different things too. The first word means chameleon; the second, master. The sentence is roughly translated to mean, “Chameleon or master?”

O ga in verse 5, line 6 is just for effect. In the context in which it is used, it indicates a feeling of resignation, like saying “Oh well…”

Ole Ji, Jaguda gba (verse 6, line 3) is a Yoruba saying used to imply a common thief stealing for a robber to claim. In essence, nothing’s changed.Apologies for the lack of a Yoruba keyboard to include the different markings indicating a change in the application of stress and sound variations.

CRA’Y PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

Shit happens. That’s what we say, adding a shrug for good measure while we go on with our daily lives. We’re used to it – those bizarre occurrences that shake up our seemingly normal routines, making us stop and gawk while trying to make sense of what just happened. We can’t, so we say “Shit happens”, shrug and move on.

How do you explain high school kids setting off home made bombs at the Boston marathon a few months ago? In the same vien, how do you explain two men running an off-duty soldier over and hacking him to death with meat cleavers? Still, how do you explain the press trying to link the perpetrators of the crime to a country that has no business in the matter, tagging them as Nigerian-British? Yeah, that ranks high on my list of crazy too. What the hell is Nigerian-British?

Okay, let me localise…

I once boarded a bus heading for Agege from Iju, both neighbouring towns in Lagos. Fortunately, I was able to get a window seat (my preferred position) in the middle row, furthering my objective of avoiding any disturbance or transit debate that might crop up about the driver, conductor, the driving, the police, LASTMA officials, the state of the nation, or even the price of beans in the market. For good measure, I plugged my earphones.

My bid for a solitary cocoon in the midst of 14 people was nullified when an argument ensued in the row before me. I often say that my curiosity would have killed me dead even if I was a cat with nine lives. Earphones off, I discovered the argument was about a new passenger telling another to shift. The latter said there wasn’t space for him to shift into, except the new passenger wanted a human merger or life from that moment onwards as a Siamese twin. Before anyone knew it, the new passenger did a ‘Suarez’; biting the unyielding passenger on the head. No insults, no further protestations, he just frigging bit him – on the head! As I expected, it became the topic for the rest of the trip. Earphones were back on by the way.

I simply shrugged it off as one of those crazy episodes, knowing another one was coming sooner or later. As we say in church, the glory of the latter shall exceed the former; in this case, replace glory with craze.

I was not wrong. This time around, my sister was the witness. She went to the beach with friends as all kids do *clears throat*. On their way back, they were almost clattered at a junction by a car coming from the opposite direction. As usual, an argument ensued about who was wrong and who was right. Next thing, the offending driver goes back into the car and brings out a gun. For what? Over an argument on bad driving? My sister’s friends – smart boys – simply told the guy there was no need for such extremes, backed off, and drove away.

Then the gunner shot at them.

He didn’t shoot into the air to make a statement, he frigging shot at them! For what, I ask again? What if the bullet hit someone? Will it be explained as another episode of accidental discharge? There are many questions but one simple answer: people are crazier than we think. Like a comedian once said, many are mad but few are roaming the streets with unkempt hair and torn clothes.

There’s no moral here, except that the person next to you might actually have lost his/her marbles but is just awaiting that trigger to set him/her off. As Nigerians, we pride ourselves as being the happiest people on earth despite the problems around us. We scoff at suicide rates in the western world and wonder why people choose to end their lives in the midst of prosperity. We smirk at the fundamentalists in the Middle East and their penchant for blowing up stuff. Guess what, we have our own version of bombers here too (hello Boko Haram). Nigerians are no strangers to suicide too: remember the girl who drank bleaching liquid because she was jilted and many others?We are not the happiest people on earth. We are people, human like everybody else – with the same wiring, nuts and screws. And like people around the world too, we have problems -big ones. We just choose to wear masks and smile – like everyone else, saying nothing is wrong till we blow up when others least expect. But we are what we are; flawed specks of protoplasm littering the earth. Vent a little, it helps – before you do a Suarez when you least expect.