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Why We Must Teach Our Children That Men Are Not Scum

It started like a joke on Twitter. At some point I must have even joined in tweeting it as banter. But in the past few months, it is beginning to crystalise into a movement that is spurred  by man hate. 

This is dangerous.

I had a conversation with someone on Twitter some time ago, we talked about​ the core values that feminism seeks to propagate. That men and women should be treated equally and the quest to remove gender stereotyping, to fight patriarchy. Our conclusion was that patriarchy hurts men, perhaps even more than it hurts women. I recall this statement each time I see the statement men are scum. This “movement” hurts women, perhaps even more than it hurts men.

Let me share with you the Teacher Expectancy Effect Theory. Expounded by some scholars it is the theory that students often turn out to be exactly what the teachers project​ they will be. If a teacher believes that a student should be in the top percentile of the class, they will expend their energy and resources, even giving the child extra classes to ensure they meet the projections. They are also more likely to pay less attention to a child they have written off, given them less attention, and generally overlooking them such that even if the child had the potential to be better, they don’t reach it. Sometimes the students realise the teacher does not think much of them and go right ahead to prove them right.

Society is a socialiser, read teacher. In fact, sociologists generally agree that one’s peers, a big part of society has greater influence over who a person becomes at adulthood than ones parents. Therefore, what society projects on the people is what they are likely to turn out to be. If you project on the younger generation that they have the potentials to grow into stable adults that make the right decisions, then you are more likely to teach them what it will take to be the sort of people you want them to become. Conversely, if you project that they will amount to nothing but raping thieves and scoundrels, you are less likely to teach the behaviors that will make them better people.

We really do not want to win the battle and lose the war. We cannot win the war by deprecrating and denigrating people. The war against gender violence requires civil discuss. Everyone should be invited to the table for this conversation to have any effect. We really should not shame people into doing what is right, should we?

Ultimately, the “men are scum” movement will hurt women.Whether we like it or not. Men and women will always meet and get into relationships. As they get into relationships, there will be expectations. Expectations based on personal and societal values. If society promotes that men are scum, then this erodes the very basis of a healthy, happy relationship. Men enter believing nothing good is expected of them and women enter feeling, they are going to get the short end of the stick. Some will even socialise themelves to accepting bad behaviour as normal. At the end, we all lose.

Where then do we draw the line?

Rape and sexual violence against women and the need to identify behavior that promotes same can be discussed without labelling people. They can be discussed without turning it into a war between sexes. They can be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. People should be allowed to tell their stories and speak their minds without censorship. Like someone rightly pointed out, I am yet to see a man who was handed a drink by his friends for raping a girl or sexually harassimg her except his friends are sick too. Sick people don’t need a hashtag, they need to be identified and put in hospitals till they are cured. 

These sick people should be shown that they hav deviant behaviour, they should not be led to believe they are in the majority. Their behaviour should not be reinforced in this way. Have you ever heard the phrase majority carries the vote and if you can’t beat them, join them?

Women, who have gone through series of failed relationships and harbour bile against men in general should not be allowed to hide under the umbrella of activism to spread hate. Some women  have indeed been the recipients of the short end of the stick in relationships. It is easy to blame the men they have met for all their woes. But when we think about it, if we can’t be happy​ relationships, should we not rather look within ourselves to see what we are likely doing wrong? 

In all, we need to teach our children that they can be better. We need to tell our boys that girls are humans and deserve the same respect that they will give their fellow boys. They should be taught not to prey on women or exploit their vulnerability. Women should be taught how to use their strengths, to be proud of their womanhood. Men and women should be taught to be decent in word and in deed. Let us tell our boys and girls that neither men nor women are scum. Let us set before them the best examples to follow. Let us show them that we can all be better, more decent humans. Only in this way can we begin to build a just and egalitarian society where everyone feels safe. 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in General

 

Musing about Friendship

This year, I have lost more friends than I have made all my life…and it’s not even June.

Yesterday, I had a dream. The dream forced me to take another look at the friendship decisions I have made in the past months, friendships I have walked away from and why. Some made me ashamed of myself, others made me think if really when I make people my friend, I am not handing them a burden too heavy. 

To start with, I do not use the term friend lightly. I do not think of people as friends just because we exchange tweets of social media or because we say a greeting on the streets, that a person visits often does not even make me think of them as friends. My friends…I have a special place for them in my heart.

A few years ago, losing a friend would make me physically sick. I would have a fever for days like I literally was going off a drug and then I would eventually get better. I think, losing friends over time has so hardened me that I don’t feel sick anymore. It has also made me very selfish.

My selfishness is a result of the fact that I have realised that no one is ever really there for you, except maybe you have a loving family. These days, I don’t allow anyone get too close to my heart. I give without any hope of receiving, I love without any hope of being loved back and when I get tired, I walk away.

If you are one of those I have walked away from, I apologise that I couldn’t stay. Maybe this is another phase in my journey. Maybe I just got tired of bothering you with my friendship’s burden. Maybe I became afraid because I trust you too much.

One thing though…if you ever were important to me, you always will be. Even if I am too proud to speak to you in person…I have a table in my heart and there I have over a dozen friends but when I set the table in reality, I dine alone.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in General

 

Of Choices and Consequences, Actions and Reactions.

Of Choices and Consequences, Actions and Reactions.

Imagine if I sold you a piece of equipment which malfunctions while still under warantee and when you return I tell you that I cant help you because I am not the manufacturer!

Imagine if knowing fully well that I am drunk, I picked up a bunch of kids in my car and then crashed into a trailer. I survive, they die but I insist I was only trying to help them and so should not be liable.

Imagine if I knew of a plan to get my friend raped because I saw some guy add a substance to her drink but I said nothing. After she gets raped I claim its not my fault because I did not drug her.

Every choice we make has a consequence. Every action we take begets a reaction. We are liable for the consequences of our choices and the reactions to our actions.

I often wonder whether when the terrorist group, the Black Hand sent groups to assisinate Archduke Ferdinand, they expected that their action would lead to WWI. Or when the soldiers struck January of ’66 they knew they would set off reactions that would lead to the Nigerian Civil War. But can either the Black Hand or the coup plotters of ’66 honestly absolve themselves of responsibility for the consequences of their choices?

No gain saying that the Nigerian political atmosphere has taken on a toxicity that many never envisaged. When the wind of black propaganda and outright lies were being sown, the planters perhaps never expected to reap the whirlwimd of intolerance, discord and arbritrariness. If they did, there probably will be less talk about rights to pick a candidate who is turning out much more flawed than envisaged, hoping this will somehow free people of responsibility for their actions. 

Yes, it is an indisputable fact that by design, every election presents an opportunity to make a choice.Each choice is valid and the supporters have a right to sell their candidate anyway they deem necessary within the ambits of the law. What then happens after elections have been won and lost? 

Let’s pause for a minute and talk about the spirit of sportsmanship. A person is said to have the spirit of sportsmanship when he imbibes fairplay and respect for self and others in his conduct before, during and after play. When competitors shakes hands before a game or after, exchange shirts, pull opponents up when they fall, show empathy when the competition is hurt we smile because we are seeing sportsmanship in action. Sports is of course first of all play.However, when the competition cheats in order to win or is foul in word or action, we do not think much of them as individuals. The same applies to politics. People should be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. 

Your “right” to victory gives you the “responsibility” of not gloating about your victory, mocking the loser, making him feel like he is scum for choices  rationally made.

In the same way your “right” as a loser, gives you the “responsibility” of not being a sore loser, exhibiting pettiness in explaining why you lost or accusing the victor of cheating without tenable evidence.

But what happens when the winner gloats? Or the loser whines? 

For every action there is a reaction. You have a right to free speech but you cannot scream fire in a crowded theatre and then refuse to take responsibility for the ensuing stampede.

Right after the 2015 elections were won and lost, there was a noticeable gloating by the victors. Everyone could testify to considerable improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians after. These improvements, we have come to know, were a fallout of the policies of the previous administration. They were, for lack of a better metaphor, what one would term ‘aftershocks from Tremor Jonathan’. But they were explained away as vibrations from the Buhari Bounce. The direct result of the Bounce Theory was added derision not just of the former president but people who voted him. And if anyone is wondering who fueled this disdain look no further than the President’s July 2015 interview. While fielding questions on running an inclusive government, President Buhari said, “Constituencies  that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated equally on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While certainly there will be justice for everybody, everybody will get his constitutional rights. But while the party in constituencies that by their sheer hard work they got their people to vote and to ensure that their votes count, they must feel that goverment has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I see this as fair.”

Excerpt from “Buhari, Working Magic in Body Language”, by Godwin Ijediogor, Opinion piece in the Guardian 18th August, 2015.

Earlier, July 1st to be precise, the phrase “Wailing Wailers” had been  released as a teaser to the enshrining of the 5% from the 97% dichotomy. By September 2015, in an article celebrating milestones of “the new sheriff in town’s” 100 days in office, the President’s media aide presented the Buhari Bounce, as an official economic policy.

Any calls for better governance by the 5% was greeted by phrases like “you are pained”, “GEJ is not coming back” and the like.  When the 5% mentioned that no provision was made for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2015 appropriation bill, they were reminded that they did not vote in the current administration and so technically had no rights to demand anything.

Did these supporters have a right to express their views? Of course they did. Free speech is a right that no one should even contemplate taking away from anyone. But remember responsibility? 

Two years on, the Buhari Bounce has dropped, lost its velocity and rolled to a halt. But those who predicted the disasters we are now seeing are again being denied the right to gloat. I say let them gloat. I say you cannot take action and still dictate reactions. I say  let people say “I told you so” for as long as they wish. I say let them remind you of all the signs you ignored. I say let them remind you of errors you should not make again. This is really a small price to pay for your lack of sportsmanship.

Granted, people of the I-told-you-so gang were sore losers as well. You would have been well within your rights to remind them of the mess they wanted Nigeria to remain in if things has turned out different. But they didn’t. And here we are.

Some are insisting that the present gloaters profer solutions. I dont think it is their job to save the country. The president and his team swore to protect and to serve, let them do their jobs. It is not the job of the “opposition” to govern. If the ruling party think the kitchen is too hot, they should step out and let someone else take over the cooking.

Same goes for those who were at the forefront of selling a candidate who has turned out very flawed. They cannot decide not to take responsibility for their actions now. If I came out to tell you that God showed me something about Nigeria’s future and it turns out wrong, I owe it to God and man to confess that maybe I did not really hear the voice of God lest I make God a liar. And if I decide not to, then I should be ready for whatever backlash I receive for my stance. 

When we begin to assume responsibility for the actions we take, when we understand that every choice we make has consequences, maybe we will be closer to making the world a better place. This itwasntmeism and dontblamemeism can only breed a nation of selfish irresponsible individuals. No nation ever moved forward with this type of thinking. In fact, this is the very thinking that created our problems to start with.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in General

 

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Lest we Tolerate Intolerance

In the medieval times, it was a crime to translate the Bible into the languages that could be read and understood by common people. People who tried to defy these laws were captured, charged with heresy and sometimes burned at the stake. If you are one of the more liberal minded albeit religious persons today, you will frown and condemn such acts of intolerance in the dark ages. Back then, you could have been burned for daring to speak up.

In Nazi Germany, simply being a Jew meant you would be targeted. You might end up being burnt in the gas chambers or if you are more fortunate or less depending on which you would prefer, you sent off to a death camp in Germany, Austria or Poland due to this accident of nature. The fight against this intolerance led to WWII.

The problems in Nigeria can be traced to intolerance evidenced in the fear of domination by one tribe or the other. To what would you ascribe the killings in the North that ultimately formed a strong basis for the declaration of the State of Biafra and ultimately the Civil War?

One thing you would notice in these acts of intolerance is that the perpetrators often act in sincerity, based on a belief that they are doing the right thing. Some would have even thought they were doing God’s will. But history has been mostly unkind to them. The results of their lack of tolerance have shown that perhaps we would have a less bloodied history if they never did the things they did.

The word intolerance derives from the Latin wordintolerantia which denotes an unwillingness to endure a differing opinion or belief. It is an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differs from one’s own.  Synonyms of intolerance include bigotry, narrow-mindedness, small-mindedness, parochialism, fanaticism, dogmatism, illiberality; prejudice, bias, partiality, partisanship, sectarianism, one-sidedness, inequality, unfairness, injustice, discrimination.

It is important to give an in-depth definition for intolerance because it sets the premise of this piece. Intolerance is a negative word but its effects on society are even worse. A lack of tolerance can destroy the very fabric which should hold together any society. Intolerance means there is more reasons for disunity; it creates a people so divided that they cannot come together for any cause.  One fears that society in general and the Nigerian society in particular is slowly being eroded by intolerance. 

Once upon a time, the division was between the government and the masses, the oppressors and the oppressed. One could easily rally the masses under the umbrella of labour or civil society and so distinctly see the ‘us vs them’. These days the partisanship is not so clearly cut.  We have the APC/PDP, APC/APC, PDP/PDP, KOWA/APC, government/masses, inner caucus/others in government, volunteers/aides, paid volunteers/paid aides, civil society favourable to government/civil society seeking the face of government/ civil society not seeking face of government, fragmented labour…even more fragmentations, each group trying to own the narrative. 

What this means is that before you can garner support for a cause, you will have to cross so many hurdles and be forced to run a marathon at the speed of a hundred metre dash. You will be left so frustrated that you may decide it is better to suffer the intolerance that led to the purposed rallying.

Outside politics, intolerance holds sway in religion. There are not only the different religions in the world but even among the bodies of religions there are sects and counter sects. Protestants broke away from Catholics but continued protesting within whilst sowing wild oats and birthing children in the myriads. In Islam, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and other religions there are also numerous sects. Many so intolerant to each other that they sometimes resort to wiping out people of a particular sect. The continued incarceration of cleric Ibrahim Yaqoub El-Zakzaky in Nigeria has been linked to the Shi’a/Sunni divide. In fact, the recent conflicts in Iraq have been linked to the difference in ideology based on these two groups.

If you think that running away from politics and religion will save you from intolerance, then think again. Intolerance has crept into our social lives and is threatening to destroy that too. There is the division caused by the gender wars and the divides resulting from sexual orientation. These days, you not only have to be careful what you say but how you say what you say so as not to trigger attacks from a group that disagrees with your views. The protection of minorities and minority views often leads to the bullying of the majority and vice versa. Even when you choose not to express your views you will be labelled by the zealots of one group think or the other. Your silence is a submission to the oppressors and oppression. Oppression itself is a construct of what thinking you adhere to.

Let us get this straight; there is nothing wrong with bias. We all have our biases. In the same vein, we all have things we can tolerate or not tolerate. For instance, some people cannot tolerate milk. This does not mean that milk is bad. It only means that milk is bad for them. A person who is lactose intolerant may choose to become an anti-milk advocate. They may choose to start telling people that milk may not be good for their health and cite examples of people who should avoid milk for their own well-being. Even persons who drink and love milk may welcome their advocacy and even share in it peradventure they have someone in their family /friends are lactose intolerant or would benefit from not taking milk. But what if this person decides that everyone must stop taking milk and then begins to target and label people who do not agree with their anti-milk advocacy?

The above example may sound extreme, even unthinkable, but read a book like The Wave and you will see how easy it is to go down the slippery slope of intolerance. All it requires is a group of people who believe they are right, and they have a right to impose their will on everyone else. Give these people authority and they believe they can help others think what is best for them. But let us remember that even if our cause is right, it is wrong to impose our beliefs on others. You can evangelise but you should not colonise. You can propagate but don’t facilitate hate. Any idea that you need to use intolerance to propagate is not worth the violence you infuse into it. Remember one person’s lactose intolerance could be another person’s milk.

When we all realise – conservatives, liberals, neo conservatives, neo liberals, alt-rights, alt-lefts, fact checkers, truth seekers, revealers of fake news, creators of alternative facts, narrative shapers, shape shifters, communists, socialists, evangelists, atheists, religious, irreligious, areligious, agnostics, homosexuals, transsexuals, asexuals, white feminists, black feminists, neo feminists, feminist feminists, narcissists, extremists, pundits, intellectuals, neo intellectuals, Kabiyesi intellectuals, intellectually challenged, witches, wizards, pro-lifers,pro-choicers,  men, males, boys, teenagers, women, females, girls, children, the unlisted- when we realise that we are just people with different views maybe then we will get rid of intolerance. When we realise that this can just be about milk, we would probably be more tolerant and respectful of the views of others.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in General

 

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Introducing Grill and Read Annual Readers’ Awards

Introducing Grill and Read Annual Readers’ Awards


The Speech House International, initiators of Grill-And-Read programme are happy to announce a call for nominations for the inaugural G&R Annual Readers’ Awards  (GaRARA).

The awards seek to recognise the contributions of the reading community to the socio-economic development of the nation. The awards also recognises that readers occupy a position of influence in the society and that their collective strength can be harnessed to bring about change in the way reading and writing are perceived.

The awards which will honour readers, authors, publishers, and organisations will come in 13 categories and will include the following: Reader of the Year; Celebrity Reader of the Year; Readers Event of the Year; Readers Show of the Year (Radio/TV); Reader’s Person of the Year; Book of the Year; Classic Read of the Year; Author of the Year; Book Discovery of the Year; Book Review Site of the Year; Book Club of the Year; Book Cover of the Year; and Publisher of the Year.

There will also be special awards for NGO of the Year and Spirit of Reading Award.

Nominations will be open from February 1 through to April 30, 2017. All nominations will be made on the dedicated site: http://www.grillandread.com/readers-award.

Nominations are to be based on books and literary activities in the outgone year up until December 31, 2016.

All nominees and nominated books should be resident in Nigeria.  Further information on the awards will be provided in the coming months.

Grill and Read is committed to putting the hip back into reading and encouraging individuals to read for pleasure through fun events and other activities.

Signed,

Abigail Anaba

Project Co-Ordinator

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2017 in General

 

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A Side Note on Objectivity

A Side Note on Objectivity

The social media space lends itself to a lot of analysis. Even a website like Instagram which should be about pictures has a comment section because when you think of it, even thougn a picture can speak a thousand words there is still room for a few hundred more.

Everyday, we are hounded by our very presence on social media platforms to offer an opinion, solicited or not, on an ongoing issue or situation. It takes string restraint to not comment on every issue when you know you have an aufience ready to listen. When we do offer our thoughts, we do not one to be judged as people taking sides, who are showing bias in our judgements, who are subjective.

The facts remain though that even before we open our mouths we are already biased by  our upbringing, religious leanings and learnings, political preferences, education, level of exposure or not to a given topic and so on. How then can we be objective?

The years between 2012 and 2015 will always be pivotal in Nigeria’s history. Most of the sociopolitical conversations we are having today were shaped in those years. People took camps or were camped based on the comments they made during the Occupy Nigeria protests. Terms were coined to label people, because really how can you identify people if you don’t label them? There was no room for neutrality (read objectivity). You were either for the government or for the people. The people eventually morphed into the Buhari camp and objective analysis of issues was replaced by group think.Today, there is a crisis of identity. Who really stands for the people?

In a way, I see Nigeria being replayed in America. But, I am no ‘expat’ in American politics and my observation is confined to the local exposure of one living thousands of kilometres away. The dynamics may definitely be different but the “Us vs Them” mentality that prevailed in Nigeria then is what I’m seeing now: If you voted for Trump then shame on you for supporting anarchy. If you had not been that stupid, we would not need America to be great again! 

Lines are being drawn and objectivity is getting blurred as each individual is forced to take a side. The sidelines have been eliminated.

With the dearth of objectivity, one can imagine that if this trend continues, we will be running an obituary soon. 

However, a few people are fighting hard to see that objectivity does not die. They are trying to keep it alive by engaging in what I term ‘Equal Bashing’. This is a system whereby one quantifies bashing in measures.Each bash is termed a dose. So if one issues two doses of bashing to Camp A, he must as a matter of principle find a reason (even if it does not exist) to issue two doses of bashing to Camp B.

When I was growing up, my father would never take my side in an argument that involves non family members. He said this is becuse he held me to higher standards. He felt I should know better. This annoyed me to no end. I felt this was really unfair. 

This is how I feel about the Equal Bashing technique. Instead of helping build objectivity, it is actually providing the nails for this coffin. For example, A presidential media aide goofed, the proponents of equal bashing will after bashing them for impropriety, find a reason to bash the other camp no matter how ridiculous their reasoning sounds. It could be: If Jonathan’s media aides didnt set the bar low, you wouldn’t be able to go lower or why do these GEJ people always come to defend him when his name is mentioned. ( Will it be over the top if I inserted a meme here?)

One dictionary defines objectivity as fairness.Where is the fairness in turning logic on his head in the name of Equal Bashing? Can a person not consistently lend support to a side and still be objective? If we say they can’t, it means we are postulating that loyalty and objectivity are parrallel lines. Are they?

Objectivity means balance. Perhaps Equal Bashing borrows it’s tenets from this. Perhaps seeing a scale and wanting to ensure that one side is not tipped against the other on each issue raised. But here is the thing, balance is not judged based on equalising the scale but on presenting every possible side of an issue and weighing them. An objective mind will put all arguments on the scale weigh them and decide which is heaviest. His balance is achieved in weighing every argument and not throwing any out. At the end, one side may be tipped against the other as a result of objectivity.

Happily, there are still a few objective voices who can analyse issues with an open mind. Who do not care how they are being labelled and would rather remain open minded. To such people, I say, may your light not be extinguished. To those trying to learn the art of objectivity, I say, stay away from Equal Bashers. Try not to join people who are quick to throw labels. And this last thing I was taught: do not be too quick to give your opinion on matters on social media. Most issues have a life, when they are born a lot of people come out to talk about them, especially when their birth is accompanied by feasting of a ‘naming ceremony’ but the true worth of that child is in the growing and maturing. Then you will know in what direction the child is going and have something tangible to say about them. Always wait for a story to mature, when you have heard from all sides, then you can do an objective analysis.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in General

 

ABUM NWAFOR BIAFRA (A poem inspired by the book #SectorIV

Sometime last year, I got a DM from @dictrace. We had met for the for the second time at the #GrillandRead book party. I will be sharing his DM with you, with hs permission of course and I hope you enjoy it too😃 

 I just finished your book SECTOR IV and it inspired some writing, I’m a closet writer (I write for my own consumption) but I thought I should share this with you…

ABUM NWAFOR BIAFRA

I believe in the land called Biafra

I believe in the people of Biafra

I believe in the spirit of Biafra

I believe in the Diplomacy of Zik

The Dexterity of China

The Ferociousness of Kaduna Nzeogwu

The Courage of Ojukwu

Nwannem Abum Nwafor Biafra
I love the Calmness of Enugu 

A town akin to that talked about by the Messiah

Indeed it is set upon a hill

And enveloped by nature

Oh! What a city to behold

I’m in love with it’s industrious people

The serenity of its environs

The language of it’s people

Oh! What a song to behold

Imana Abum Nwafor Biafra
I love Rivers State

A land laced with aquatic splendour

A land where I have found a home

This land is the reason I can dream

I love the pride of the Kalabari’s

I love no nonsense Ikwerre man

And identify with the struggle of the Ogoni’s

This land is indeed the treasure base of Nigeria

Yet its people carry on in poverty

No wonder they avenge

Nwannem Abum  Nwafor Biafra
Sadly I hear cries of death in my beloved Biafra

Sounds of war, though distant but near

These sound are carried by waves 

By the people who claim to love my beloved

I hate to think these sound would envelop my beloved in no distant time

I hate to think that destruction may abound
Have we not learnt

From Stories

Stories told, though not by moonlight

We cannot yearn for more destruction

Have we not learnt from 3 years of Destruction

Nwokem idi sure na I bu Nwafor Biafra
Remember Aleppo?

The once bubbling city brought to rubbles

You want an Aleppo in Biafra

Mbanu!

My Enugu would not be brought to rubbles

Our garden in Port Harcourt shall not be turned to death fields

We shall resist the calls for War

We shall rather jawjaw

Jawjaw that our Biafra may remain 

Dianyi 

Abum Nwafor Biafra…

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in Poetry

 

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