Saturday, 14 September 2019

Xenophobia and the Fears Killing Africa


I was thinking this morning..... about Xenophobia and the fear that is killing Africa. Last week Saturday, I needed to buy an item from Game Shop at the mall in my axis of Lagos and was getting ready to drive out when I was reminded that the better part of the mall which also houses Shoprite remains shut. 'How can we be punishing ourselves like this?' I had quipped. 'Our best efforts thus far at decent shopping is at the verge of being killed. Is this reprisal attack on South African firms really hurting South Africans as much as it is hurting Nigerians? I asked in frustration, looking at my young wife. I quickly let it be when my wife gave me a dissenting look, like 'really, is that your response to the savage attack on Nigerians in South Africa?'

But what's really going on? In the last two weeks, xenophobia has been trending on Google, mainstream and social media. News of South Africans attacking foreign nationals in their nation particularly in Johannesburg region has been making headlines. At the last count there were 11 dead, many wounded and millions of dollars lost to looting and burning of the livelihoods of many, including losses from reprisal attacks in Nigeria. While most Nigerians were spitting venom against the South African rascals, many missed the little interesting information coming from the Nigerian response.

First, those that looted and stole from Shoprite in Lagos left the bookshelf untouched. Why would the people focus on looting perishables and ignore the priceless value in books? Then began the musing as I took a deep dive as to the reason why? The fear of books....I would have called it 'bookophobia' but the English man has a word for it, 'Bibliophobia.' This is an unusual phobia of books. Haha!!! I get it, the problem is not xenophobia but bibliophobia. It must be bibliophobia that the South Africans are suffering from. If they had been reading books, they would have discovered the role Nigerians and other Africans played in their independence from apartheid. When a people don't read, they will eventually turn against each other out of ignorance.

Governments of different countries responded to the xenophobia incident in different ways. While Botswana, Zambia and Lesotho immediately issued travel alerts to its citizens, others withdrew their reps from the World Economic Forum (WEF) planned for South Africa. The Federal government of Nigeria also took some steps, but when I read the Daily Trust report that the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has advised the Federal government to take steps to nationalise all South African companies operating in Nigeria to protest the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, I was like wow! Why should he make that suggestion? Nothing came to mind but 'Sophophobia.' Sophophobia is the fear of knowledge or learning. Our leaders must be suffering from Sophophobia, they are not learning otherwise they would have learnt from the experience of Zimbabwe and Mugabe that forcefully nationalised foreign companies. If that was farfetched, they should have learnt from the bungling of the P&ID contract that has resulted in over $9 billion penalty against Nigeria.

When a people suffers from bibliophobia and their leaders sophophobia, the natural outcome will be xenophobia. Suffice to say that at the root of xenophobia is bibliophobia and sophophobia. Truth is, I do not worry much about the xenophobia in South Africa, I am rather troubled by the local xenophobia of a scale like we have never seen before, Fulaniphobia in southern Nigeria, Ibophobia in far north, itsekiriphobia in Gbaramatu kingdom, Jukunphobia in Tiv land etc. The signs are ominous if we do not address the unhealthy fears of bibliophobia and sophophobia. Our people and leaders must read books to be free. No wonder Hosea 4:6 says 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.' Read for knowledge to end domestic and international xenophobia.

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey. 

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Life is a Class of One

Picnic-themed Backyard Reception 

I was thinking this morning..... about our speed in this race of life. Last Sunday, I was privileged to attend the wedding of the daughter of my good friend and former classmate in the University. As I sat as part of the 80+ guests at the picnic-themed backyard reception, listening to the proud MOB (mother of the bride) giving her speech, I reflected on how far we've come as former classmates in Uniben. I considered how her children are of marriage-able age (the youngest just turned 20), while mine are still teenagers. I recalled another classmate of ours whose son just graduated as a medical doctor, but mine just about entering the University. As I pondered on why it seems I am lagging behind, the face of another of our classmate flashed by and I was reminded that his children are still in Primary school. At this point, it dawned on me that though we were all classmates and graduated together in 1991, life has shuffled us and placed us in different classes today. We were classmates in school, but not classmates in life. Everyone has his unique class. I concluded that in the school of life there are no classmates, because Life is a class of one.


Life is a class of one. Hmm!!! That conclusion held me down for a bit. Ten years after I got employed in my dream job, getting a second promotion became a prayer point. One day, a colleague that we came in together on same level walked up to me and said 'Bros, na wao. We came in together and I have gotten three promotions and you, just one. Is there something you are not doing?' I left him feeling bad but not for long because soon after, I realised that in the school of life there are no classmates. Life is a class of one. He is on his path while I am on mine.

Have you considered why, from the same branch of a tree you have both ripe and unripe fruits? The seeds were released same time, exposed to same nutrients and environmental conditions but yet some ripen before others. Identical twins that deliberately wait for each other to be in the same class, engage in the same business like P-Square (Peter and Paul Okoye) and even wed on the same day, will not get their wives pregnant on the same day. Life is a differentiator. My mind is made up that Life is a class of one.

If it is true that in the school of life there are no classmates, because Life is a class of one, then why do we look at another and feel inadquate, like we are not where we should be? Why would someone that has been privileged to be in a somewhat lofty position look down on others like he is superior in some way? Life is a class of one. I am in the class God wants me to be and you are in yours. Do not sweat over the class others are in, because there are no classmates in life. If you like, give yourself double promotion like we do in those days, life will eventually place you in the class you are meant to be.

Do not compare yourself with anyone, because you are in a class of one. There are no classmates in life. No wonder 2nd Corinthians 10:12 says 'For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.' Be wise!

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey.


Sunday, 1 September 2019

FBI 77 and the Criminals Amongst Us



I was thinking this morning.... about the unapprehended criminals amongst us. This past week, news broke that the US Federal prosecutors had indicted 80 people on charges connected to participation in online scams that raked in millions from unsuspecting victims in the United States and abroad. The FBI released the names of these cyber criminals amongst which were 77 Nigerians that are now referred to as the FBI 77. As the story broke, my heart broke as well because again we are on the global stage for the wrong reasons. 

Before I could move away from that story, my mind did a rewind to one month ago. Just 4 weeks back, one name on that list, Chika Odionyenma was better known as a member of one of the sub-committees that inaugurated Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State and was subsequently appointed to a committee for the recovery of looted properties. Another name,
Obinwanne Okeke (Invictus) was featured by Forbes as one of the Forbes 30 under 30. He's been on BBC, given a Ted Talk, spoke at London school of Economics Africa Summit. He has a conglomerate spanning across many African countries dealing on oil, agriculture, infrastructure, solar energy etc. He had a lot of International awards celebrating his achievement, but that was yesterday. Yesterday, these two young men with 75 others were seen as successful, but today, they are referred to as the FBI 77.

The whole drama got me thinking about how one can be a champion today and a villain tomorrow. I reflected on how our political office holders, governors, reps, ministers and others are looting our commonwealth but are being celebrated by many. Imagine N17 billion being budgeted for the entire Nigeria Police Force in 2019, while 469 lawmakers budgeted N139 billion for themselves. This sum and much more will be looted before the year runs out. Not to worry, something tells me that the Lawmakers, governors and ministers of today will tomorrow be known as EFCC 469 or ICPC 36. 

As I mused, there was the Daily Trust headline 'Bandits kill 3, kidnap dozens on the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway' and another on Friday August 30th, 'How Kidnapping is making Families Poorer: Banditry - 1,460 deaths, 330 attacks in 7 months -FG.' I immediately asked, who are those perpetrating this evil in our land? Why are they so elusive to the security agencies? The answer was obvious. They live amongst us in the day and commit their crimes under cover. I am aware that many of these criminals (like Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Wadume) may be champions amongst us today but I also know that tomorrow, they will certainly be known as the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) 22.

'I agree with you', some will be saying. What about the rest of us? I considered the millions amongst us stealing from their employers or their church. Contractors cutting corners and giving kickbacks. What about those coveting their neighbour's wife or properties? Most people will not be caught like the FBI 77 or come under the radar like EFCC 469. But one thing I know is that all will form part of the 'Judgement Day 144,000.' While I join millions to condemn the act of cyber fraud, I admonish all to look inwards and be wise because 1st Corinthians 10:12 says 'Let he that thinks he stand take heed, lest he falls.' You may not be part of cyber crime but are you part of any vice bringing this nation down?

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey. 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

The Portfolios Life Assign to Us



I was thinking this morning.... about the portfolios life assign to us. I was woken up that morning by daylight lazily passing through the floor-to-ceiling panoramic window walls of the apartment on the 37th floor of the building overlooking the city. I couldn't go back to bed because my mind kept dwelling on recent announcements of portfolios to ministers and commissioners at the Federal and State levels respectively. The portfolios assigned to many of the nominees opened up to me fresh lessons about life.

As a child my dad and his friends called me 'doctor.' They said I was smart enough to be a medical doctor and was convinced I can be one. I studied hard and applied to read medicine in the University. When JAMB results came out, I fell short and was admitted to read Microbiology instead. As hard as I tried to transfer to Medical school the next year, I still ended up with Microbiology. As I thought about it today, it seems like life had assigned me a portfolio like Festus Keyamo. As a SAN, Festus Keyamo had all the qualifications of being the next Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. With the way he defended PMB as his campaign spokesman and chased after corrupt politicians as EFCC prosecutor, everyone had thought that Minister of Justice was the job for him, but alas he was assigned as Junior minister under the man he once prosecuted for corruption. Life!

Life had made many like Lai Mohammed. They get portfolios that match their personality profile and sometimes their names. Lai Mohammed (or Lying Mohammed as fondly called by his haters) is a well known tormentor of the opposition. He has the gift of spining the narrative on any issue. Many say he has 'diarrhoea of the mouth,' because he could 'lie for State' and sometimes speak before thinking. When I saw that he was assigned the portfolio of Minister of Information and Culture, I agreed it was apt. Life is Good (LG).

For some others, life had assigned them strange portfolios like Joe Igbokwe. He is the most prominent APC stalwart of Igbo extraction in Lagos State. As the APC spokesman for the State, he disparaged everyone including 'his country people' in defence of the policies of APC. At the end, he was compensated with a position in the Jide Sanwo-Olu government. Unlike Lai Mohammed, he wasn't given Commissioner for Information but was made Special Advisor for Drainage Matters. Wow! Many didn't see that coming but felt it was apt. You know how you sometimes think you have worked hard enough to deserve a great position, but what eventually comes to you seems like gutter management? That is life for you.

You know life can sometimes alter the portfolio given to you. You believe you have the capacity to do something, you boast to everyone about how you will turn things around if given the opportunity. God heard you and gave you the opportunity and you did not turn up. As I thought about this scenario, I remembered Babatunde Fashola and how he was assigned the portfolio of Ministry of Works and Housing. What happened to his signature Ministry of Power he was superintending before now? He has been stripped of it. His super sized jacket has been cut to size. That is life for you.

Truly, many are like Godswill Akpabio, Rotimi Amaechi and Timipre Sylva. It doesn't matter the amount of corruption allegations levelled against them or how hard the opposition fights to discredit them, life still assigns them choice portfolios. In all, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the newly appointed Minister of Interior, encapsulates my point when he said 'Buhari has put me in a strange Ministry.' For many of us, life has put us in strange positions, but we have chosen to accept it and make the best of it. Like we say in Warri, last, last, it doesn't matter whether life made you a senior or junior Minister or put you in charge of gutter management, Ecclesiastes 9:10 says 'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.'

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Marriage is like Rice

Ofada Rice


I was thinking this morning..... about the many sides of marriage and Nigerian rice. I recently watched a Netflix movie titled 'Otherhood.' It was about three mothers who felt bad that their sons had not remembered them on Mothers Day. They decided to pay them a surprise visit in the city. While in New York, they found out that their husbands had in the past cheated on them. One had found out soon after and divorced her husband pronto, while another discovered but forgave her husband. The third lost her husband many years ago and had only just found out about his infidelity. Ignorance was bliss. It happened that the three men committed the same sin, infidelity, but their wives responded differently. As I reflected on the trajectories of the three marriages, I remembered the statement I read recently that 'Marriage is like Abakiliki rice, no matter how well you wash it, there will be stone. But your ability to navigate between the rice and the stones will determine how far and well your marriage will go.' True talk!

As I taught the subject 'Success Concepts in Marriage' at the Bible School during the week, my mind began inditing this matter. While growing up, the only options of rice available to us were the local Ekpoma rice and imported Uncle Ben's rice. While about 20% of a bag of Ekpoma rice was stones, the Uncle Ben's was simply great. For that reason, Ekpoma rice was never our first choice, but we recognised that it was the smart option, going by our financial state. Therefore, for those in the valley of decision about marriage, know that marriage is like Ekpoma rice, it may some times not be desirable but it is necessary and expedient. One may say, I am broke and short of cash. Yes, cash may be short, that's why I said marriage is like Ekpoma rice, though the grain in short, it doesn't affect the quality of the rice.

My mind will not let the matter be. I thought again and remembered a lady, management staff in her organisation, holder of Masters degree that decided to marry a jobless school certificate holder. Every of her friend said she was bewitched but she went ahead. Years later, her marriage was one of the happiest amongst her circle. From that I learnt that Marriage is like Ofada rice, that it is unpolished does not mean it will not taste good. Ehnn, how can you say that? Do you mean education is not important in marriage? Someone may be thinking. To me, what is important is a polished character. I found out that respect and love are key ingredients in marriage, and agreed fully that Marriage is like Ofada rice, it is not the same if served without the Uma leaf (Thaumatococcus daniellii) and the 'Atarodo' (spicy) and 'Tatase' (sweet) pepper made sauce.

Abakaliki rice, Ekpoma rice and Ofada rice are great and nutritious, but I will never forget the pure joy we had eating Uncle Ben's rice as children. It was white, clean and smooth in the mouth, particularly when buttered. I therefore surmised that Marriage can be like Uncle Ben's rice, it can be long, polished and nice only if you make the necessary sacrifice in preparation. I would have ended my thought on a happy note, but just recalled the sad passing of a friend on Thursday. She had recently picked herself from an abusive and destructive marriage, but died leaving a 12 year old son. When I considered the contribution of the abusive marriage to her eventual death, I concluded that marriage can be like spoilt jollof rice. It doesn't matter whether the jollof was made from Abakaliki, Ofada or Uncle Ben's rice, if it is soured, you can never enjoy eating it. In all, I believe Hebrews 13:4 that says 'Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.'

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

What Lies Dormant within Us

What comes out in hot water?

I was thinking this morning...... about what lies dormant within us. I returned from work tired last Tuesday and was on phone at about 8pm when I head a bang and the voice of someone shouting. I looked through my window and saw that a car had crashed through the dwarf fence separating my neighbour and I. I ran downstairs to see that my neighbour's son of about 13 years had crashed the parents new Mercedes Benz S-Class. In panic, he was shouting 'Oh God, God. Jesus no, no, no.' He went on and on even as I tried to calm him down. He was in shock and could not stop shouting and asking God and Jesus why. The number of 'God' and 'Jesus' he shouted was enough to start a church. I helped him move the car from the crashed fence, turned it off and asked him if he had learnt his lesson. Apparently, he had sneaked out with no one noticing to hone his driving skills since both parents were out. As I left him with his older sibblings, walking back and thanking God that no one was hurt, I could not help but wonder how the situation had brought out the spirituality in the young boy. All he was saying was 'Oh God, no, God, no. Jesus why?'

Really, tough situations can unearth what lies dormant within you. I can't in any way be regarded as a violent person because in all my life I can only remember just an occasion when I hit someone. That day has been a surprise to me till date. It was my first year at the University of Benin and I had some fellow squatters in the room in the second floor in Hall 2. Because I was squatting, the only available space for me to keep my provisions securely was the top section of the wardrobe. As a result of the financial drought I was faced with, Oxford Cabin biscuit and Blueband butter were my most precious meal. A packet and tin were my portion for one month. On this particular month, I had left the room for lectures. On my return, planning to snack on my Cabin biscuit plastered with butter, I observed my locker was open and my provisions plundered. In the room at the time were three of my room mates including one called Tunde. These guys were twice my size. I asked who caused the damage, but they laughed at me. I would've sulked or cried myself to sleep, if they had ended it at that point, but Tunde will not let it be. He teased and dared me, getting close to me in the process. From within me came strength like I have never known and I gave him a slap that blinded him for some minutes. When I was done, I knew I was a dead man except someone came to my help. God answered my prayers, because before Tunde could charge at me and throw me down from the second floor, his friends held him back. Though 'saved by the bell,' the provocation had brought out the violent strength I did not know was lying dormant within me.

As I thought about both experiences, I remembered the words of the longest serving First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt who said, 'A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.' I agreed with her but with a little variant. For me, 'Humans are like tea bags - you can't tell what is in them until they are in hot water.' 

The question for you is what comes out of you when in hot water? Virtue or vice? It is not how you act in cold water that counts but what comes out of you in hot waters. No wonder Mark 7:15 says 'Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.'

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Buns, Fish and Ministerial Mismatch

Nigerian buns

I was thinking this morning...... As we were driving back from church that Sunday, we were tired and hungry after having FaF (Fellowship-after-Fellowship). From the small snack shop in church, we picked up some buns and few bottles of Coke Zero and were munching as we headed home. Suddenly, I observed my wife smiling. In my curiosity, I promised to give her a penny for her thought. She grinned further and said 'I just remembered 'Osayi buns and fish.' 'Who is Osayi again?' I asked. 'Osayi was a lady that prepares and sells a special delicacy of buns and fish when we were kids at NIFOR, Edo state,' She answered. As I shuddered at the strange combination of buns and fish, my mind was literally pulled to my early days in Uniben. Our delicacy was not 'Osayi buns and fish,' but bread and moimoi. Oh my God, those three words conveyed such delight to me in those days. With all the noise of the daily frenzy in the University community of Ugbowo now dead as we go past midnight, the only students left reading in the lecture theatres were the 'efficos,' a group to which I was a proud member. Most nights, as I tried to concentrate, I was distracted by that soft voice echoing from along the earth road to Hall 2 Hostel, which was at least 500m away, announcing 'Buy your bread and moimoi. Bread and moimoi.' That announcement usually signals the end of 'jacking' for that night. It was time to go enjoy the special combo of bread and moimoi sandwich. Good old days.

Today, while bread and moimoi seems a compatible pair to me, buns and fish just ain't a good combo. I dropped the thought of food and went about my week. Then on Tuesday, 23rd July, after about 2 months of waiting for PMB to submit the ministerial list, it finally happened. Everyone was expecting an experienced team well spiced with technocrats, but the majority on the list were recycled politicians. Some with corruption allegations hanging over their heads. There were diverse reactions from Nigerians. While some gave the list the 'ewolokanmi' attitude, others thought it was uninspiring. To me, when I juxtapose the transformation we are looking forward to and the names on the list, what came to mind was 'Osayi buns and fish,' because It just doesn't match. 

From the 'Take a bow and go' sham at the Red Chamber of the Nigerian Senate to the United Kingdom where Kemi Badenoch, a British of Nigerian extraction, was selected into the cabinet of the new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. I was excited and proud that a Nigerian was worthy enough to be so appointed. However, when I read that Kemi studied Computer Systems Engineering at University of Sussex, UK, and worked as a Software Engineer, but was given the position of Children's Minister, I was like 'hmm! Osayi buns and fish.'

But what do I know? Since I am not an epicure or gastronome (a lover of good food), I may never understand what I am missing in buns and fish nor understand the pure satisfaction my wife had while savouring steaming hot Osayi buns and fish as a child. If in these days of small chops and finger foods, you can mix and match as you wish, and still enjoy the food, I may not know what those that seem like ministerial mismatch would achieve in time. So, let those that enjoy bread and moimoi not look down on those that love Osayi buns and fish. Hence Roman's 14:3 says 'Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.'

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey.