Nigeria’s Only Problem

Old-Oshodi-in-lagos-painting-by-ayeola-ayodeji-awizzy-600x600

“Old Oshodi in Lagos” (600×600)  by Ayeola Ayodeji 

What is Nigeria’s Problem?

When you invite a Nigerian to describe what the country’s problem is, get ready to die of boredom, because they’ll go on for too long, in an attempt to describe things that aren’t close to being problems. “Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and greedy officials, bad power supply, bad this and bad that, ba—” It’s okay, my brother. Let’s breathe.

Most of us Nigerians don’t even know what Nigeria’s problem is, and that itself is a problem.

Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and officials, bad power supply, and whatnot, are not problems. There are bad roads in Northern Canada, and poorly-built houses and classrooms in Flint, Michigan, and bad power supply in Cameroon, and corrupt governments and officials in Russia, Israel and North Korea. Well, they are everywhere, even in the United States- the “most democratic” of them all. The secret handshake deals that take place between and among public and private interests would take more than a fortnight to analyze.

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“Procession” (20 x 16 x 2 inches) by Tunde Afolayan Famous

Bad facilities and all that are mere consequences of Nigeria’s only problem, or second problem, the first being the one aforementioned- Nigeria doesn’t know what its problem is, and that’s a problem.

Nigeria’s only problem is that we Nigerians have a wrong sense of entitlement, and we can be quite aggressive and close-minded, even to change and development. It is not that we sometimes do not set our priorities right, or something else that you probably anticipated, if you did.

By a “wrong sense of entitlement”, what do I mean?

From the mechanic that is willing to beat you up or yell “ashewooooo!” [prostitute!] at you if you refuse to give him your number, to the policemen and soldiers who expect you to treat them like demigods when your paths cross, and offer your sacrifices in naira notes when applicable, to the local and state government officials who find it okay to steal from the people (after all they’re in charge) instead of getting things done with the resources available, to the pastor who deems huge offerings his right, regardless of the means of survival of the donors, because he is God’s mouthpiece, to Alhaji, who doesn’t really care if his car is packed in your driveway or the sound from his speakers is giving you a migraine- you must be Beelzebub’s girlfriend for not liking noise pollution- to Mummy ‘Dekola who deems your business her business and will die of high blood pressure if you don’t kneel before her properly, to our street men and roadside NURTW tax collectors who do not mind breaking windows and removing doors if they do not get a chance to extort drivers, even when the union dues have already been paid, to the drivers who think it’s okay not to pay their union dues, to Yahoo boys and men who think its okay, and even necessary, to make someone else wallow in depression, for their own survival and well-being- the interesting thing is, the rich almost never fall into their traps; it’s people like their own mothers or other members of the working class who do, to everything and anything else you can think of.

Whew! Yes, it really is that stressful- all of it.

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“Fulani Ladies” by Ayeola Ayodeji 

Inadequate infrastructure and corruption and whatnot all stem from the root- the devil itself- having a wrong sense of entitlement. The bloody Nigerian Assembly is a mess for the same reason. Climbing fences. Throwing chairs. A mess.

The interesting this is, a wrong sense of entitlement might develop in someone because someone else has it: “You think it’s your right to block my driveway with your car, and I will show you that I have a right to break your glass.” What does it all result in? A mess.

Unfortunately, a wrong sense of entitlement and the “me first” approach to things is not just a Nigerian problem. It’s the problem of the world. However, in places where it is less dominant in the culture of the society, there have been lots of infrastructural, economic and social success. They are the “better” societies.

Let everyone, that would include me, and you, stop thinking they own or deserve to own the things, or the extra things, that they haven’t worked for and/or simply don’t deserve, and watch the nation, and the world, heal and grow.

It’s okay if my wife doesn’t want to cook today. As the “head of the house”, if the title matters so much to my ego and self-esteem, I should be able to fix something for myself and my family. I am not automatically superior to anyone because I belong to a certain ethnic group. When I use words like “aboki” and “mola” [mallam] or “omo nna” in derogatory ways, I must know that I am wrong. It’s okay if I don’t win someone’s soul to Christ or to Allah; why am I so obsessed with winning it, like a trophy? It’s okay if I don’t get your number; you don’t need to be insulted or disgraced for it. The money in the public purse is not mine, and I don’t deserve more than what my allocated salaries and benefits are.

A reorientation is needed, and I am fully aware that a reorientation is easier said that done, but we can try, at least. We can start from the elementary schools. There should be subjects/courses like Ethics, for instance. I don’t know how algebra has contributed to my existence, in the way that I interact with the world. The schools barely prepare us for the real world; I’ll discuss this some other time.

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These are some of the things that should be considered:

The spirit of volunteerism has to be encouraged among Nigerians, and in the world, to begin with. Also, I don’t know what has happened us-  sympathy and mutual respect melt in online communities and spaces. The wrong sense of entitlement gets worse when you give people Internet privileges.

1. Throw your thrash away properly. It’s not your street, you only live there.

2. Driving is a privilege, not a right. A little patience could save your own life.

3. I don’t deserve every woman and everything because I have a penis. My masculinity is not an egg; it shouldn’t be so fragile.

I’ll leave 4 and 5 and 200 to you to come up with.

Let me know what you think. 

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As Bright as Darkness

HELLYWOOD:
When your lights go off,
or when they don’t shine as brightly,
darkness is turned on in your heart,
and a new evil is birthed in your soul.

You do not like to not be
seen as often you used to,
so you turn more of your rays on.

As soon as another light becomes brighter,
and another surely will,
you turn even more rays on.
You’d do anything and everything
to not be overshadowed by another light.

You more light the others see,
the more of you they see,
and the less you they see,
and the less you, you see,
and the more of them you see
but the less them you see.

Everyone knows what you are,
but no one knows who you are.
You shine so bright, so exceedingly well,
but there’s deep darkness inside.

For everything you do not do,
and for everything you do,
for everything you do not become,
and for everything you become,
there are consequences.

Live

To know is to know thyself.
To be is to be thyself.
To love is to love thyself.
To live is to do the three.

Silence is the Best Comeback

“It is for the beauty, that a woman
holds her breasts while she runs.
It’s not because they’ll fall
to the ground if she doesn’t.”
-Ashanti Proverb

It is out of discipline and self-respect that a wise person holds their tongue and closes their mouth in response to disrespect. It’s not because the other person’s mouth is bigger, or because they can speak better.

Love is for Everyone

Love is for people who can’t say “love”.
Love is for people who can’t see “love”.
Love is for people who can’t hear “love”.
Love is for people who can’t write “love”.

Love is for people who have no
knees or legs to propose with.
Love is for people who
can’t afford to buy diamond rings.
Love is for people who haven’t
stepped out of their native countries.
What we sometimes celebrate in
the name of love is the lack thereof.

Love is for everyone!
There should be no discrimination in love.
Love is for me;
love is for you.


 

Whenever differently-abled people or people with special needs especially step out to share their pre-wedding photographs and whatnot, like the other human beings that they share the earth with, they tend to get very terrible reactions.

“Oh my God! He’s a dwarf!” 

And?

“Is he blind? The woman must be stupid to marry a man like that.”

Yes, he can’t see, and so? Also, you’re the stupid one. 

It’s just ridiculous.

Keep your pity, feelings of disappointment, feelings of disgust, ridicule and scorn in your pockets. If you have nothing nice to say, shut your mouth; it’s simple.

Love is for everyone. Love is for me; love is for you. There is no “them”.

‘No Use’ is Abuse

He doesn’t want to eat whatever meals she prepares; the old him wouldn’t even be satisfied with just one serving. Yesterday, she made this delicious plate of yam-pottage for him. He gets home, heads straight to the dining table, ignores her greeting and her presence, and calls his eldest daughter. She responds, and he asks, “Sade, talo s’ounje yii?” [Who made this meal?] She says it was her mother. He gets up to pour it into the dog’s bowl. “Sade, make me another meal with the ingredients in that bag.” He points to the nylon bag that he arrived with. “I don’t want to be poisoned by this witch.”

Liberian Artist Ehi Obinyan

Art by Liberian Artist, Ehi Obinyan

She says “good morning”, and “good evening”, and “good night”, and the days keep going by, but he never responds. He doesn’t sleep beside her in her room like he used to; he doesn’t sleep with her. He sleeps in his own room, and it’s been 10 months. He’s an angel of evil; nice in open spaces, psychopathic behind closed doors.

It all began the day he yelled at her for taking too long in the market and she, being very stressed and upset, briefly apologized but called him a “short-man devil”. He has always been very sensitive about his height, and it really hurt him. He swore to himself to show her how much of a devil he could be.

He hasn’t really spoken with* her since then; only the children know about it. They speak to each other briefly when they have visitors or when they attend social functions together but that’s about it. She has apologized many times. She even slipped an apology/love letter under his door one night, but he tore it into shreds after a quick glance.

It’s domestic abuse, but a different kind- the kind that kills the soul. It’ll be the 11th month in 10 days; it hasn’t stopped. 

The Free Wear the Chains Now.

It’s one thing to be Black and proud.
It’s another, to be an African,
or with African roots, and proud.

How can it be, that children of the same parents don’t regard one another as siblings, as brothers and sisters?

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“Faces”: Abstract African Art by Nigerian Artist, Ezekiel Udubrae.


Romanticized Queen Africa Has the Strength of a Thousand Men. She Has Large, Perky Breasts and Big, Round Buttocks:
Many of the Black people of America are so proud of their “Ancient-Egypt roots”. Their ancestors spoke Yoruba, and Igbo, and Twi, and Hausa, and Tiv, and Qanawuri, and Etuno, before heavy chains were tied around their hands and feet. The sad truth is these ancestors were not all titled king and queens, but Móremí’s sons and Idia’s daughters would prefer to claim that they were directly breastfed by Nefertiti.

An Egyptian lady told me she’s from the Middle East, not from Africa. You’d expect that if anyone was to be proud of Africa, it’d be her.

The Chained were set ‘free’ [whether or not they are truly free]. The Free wear the chains now.

The Society’s Guide to Being a Man, 101.

The only way to be a man
is to not be human.
Don’t cry;
be sad, but don’t say why.
Don’t feel;
hurting someone is the best way to heal.
Don’t express yourself when you do feel,
and if you must,
do it with clenched fists.

The only way to be seen as strong
is to insist that you’re never wrong,
and if a woman isn’t under
your absolute control,
you can’t be a man on your own-
you can’t possibly be whole.

If Man Could Fly

If man could fly,
the earth would be uninhabitable.

People would have committed suicide by trying to kiss the sun or get to Heaven, and the birds would have been bullied a lot if the first man was created with wings.

Oh, the chaos!

Slavery would have happened still. People’s wings would have been cut off. Someone would have sprayed something in the air and rendered people’s wings useless so they could be captured, especially for migration reasons.
“Fly back to where you came from!”
“Get out of my way! No, fool!”

Maybe God didn’t give us physical wings because we are each other’s wings. We just haven’t mastered the art and act of helping one another and flying together yet, if we ever will.
Greedy, money-hungry, power-seeking people don’t deserve wings, for one. Life would have been unbearable if we could do more evil with the aid of wings.

Privacy? Haha haha haha.

The air would have been poisoned more as a way of maintaining territory.  Blah to the blah to the blah.

Think about it; I really enjoyed doing so.

Heal: You Are Beautiful

Were there terrible men and women in your lives,
relatives or non-relatives, at any point,
who found it pleasing to compare your beauty to someone else’s, 
in order to get to you and make you think less of yourself
or get you to agree to whatever perversion they wanted to try with you.

“You are fine but not as fine as your mother; why are you feeling yourself?
Remove your skirt, let me see your legs” and such.

I bring you healing. You are beautiful, and I’m not just trying to patronize you. Don’t ever let anyone determine what you think of yourself.