And 6/8 It Was

Published January 27, 2016 by ezinne

2016-01-20 17.00.40

 

I recall those days when I referred to someone as my mentor. I always thought Oga Uche was that someone because I admired him. No, don’t get it twisted yet. I admired his skills, his expertise, his dexterity, agility, energy and the zeal he put into his job from which he seemed to derive so much satisfaction. Having supervised my undergraduate thesis, a supervision that was never intended and never did bring us closer than we already were. Between us was that teacher-student relationship and I saw him like some sort of idol and respected him for his worth. I hoped to be like him, if not better. Better still, I hoped to emulate him. I wanted to. I intended to. But teaching is not a craft that one learns, nor a profession with some methodology. It is a calling, a talent that soothes and smooths. Little wonder teachers are the salt of the earth.

 

So did I define a mentor. Some sort of idol whom one looks up to, a role model, an example or a sample. Thanks to Birmingham City University. Not essentially for a new understanding of the role of a mentor. I could have learnt that on my own basically. I bet Google could be so kind to spell out the roles of a mentor. But thanks to BCU for providing mentoring opportunities for mentors and mentees. I remember my first days in a UK university. Still recovering from the shock of change in practically everything I could think about, adjusting to teaching methods, accent and DIY culture were bigger challenges. How lost I felt. And was hopelessly so for several months. And did it tell on my studies? Come find out! I do not give BCU the entire credit for a seamless blending in during the first year of my PhD studies. I give her the entire credit for what I know now about certain things. Ask me what!

 

One of my best experiences is the mentoring scheme. I do not regret applying to be a mentee. I love my mentor. She is neither an idol nor a mirror I look into and wish to be like or emulate. That isn’t what a mentor is anymore. With Khulod, mentorship has got a new interpretation. It is not one sided, but a win-win relationship, a journey through personal development where we both share and learn. Yes, mentors are meant to be more experienced, more knowledgeable, better exposed, perhaps older and wiser. With Khulod, friendship spiced it all up. Mentoring offers an image of a mentor on a higher ladder and the mentee holding up a hand to be taken up. Ours was as lovely as that cup of cappuccino – a relationship on the same level brainstorming to work out everything and anything.

 

Thanks UNN. Thanks BCU. Thanks ADM. Thanks Sarah and Jacqueline. Thank you Khulod. Besides my supervisors, you are the best things (people?) that ever happened to me in my first year at this great citadel of learning. Loving the experience so far.

 

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Blue-White-Red

Published November 17, 2015 by ezinne

blue-white-red

 

I have been ruminating over this France massacre, especially since nothing else is on the news except updates on the unfortunate loss. I am not sharing my thought as much as I am preserving it here for future reference. I will start by condemning the act as unfortunate, unnecessary and inhuman. What happened didn’t need to happen. People tired of living should die alone and those who want to make a point need to find less fiendish ways of doing so. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a dear one and my prayer is that the dead find rest and the living, consolation.

 

My thoughts really are reflections on the events unfolding following the Paris attack on Friday the 13th. Call the following biased, thankfully, it will only be your opinion; call it critical, well, I guess that is what I am aiming at. A critical reflection of my society in the light of global events. By Saturday following the attack, Facebook had launched a solidarity call to all Facebook users to update their profile pictures with the French national flag to show support to the people. It is noble; a great way to empathise with the grieving nation. But then I thought, why was it just France that needed such empathy and support? Nigeria, over series of attacks, recorded ten times more deaths than the number of people France lost, but Facebook launched no such call. But some argued that it may have been coincidental – the development of the app and the Paris attack. Some ignored the point of argument totally (the role of Facebook), and condemned the observation as cruel, sickening and evil considering that France joined Nigerians in the campaigns against Boko Haram and for Bringbackourgirls. Question: if Facebook hadn’t launched the app, will Nigerians not have shown their support? To think of it, how have Nigerians shown their support till date? By updating profile pictures? Oh how sweet and convenient! We like it easy and simple, don’t we? No challenges, no stress, just anything from the convenience of our homes. Yet French women marched naked on the streets for the Bringbackourgirls campaign?

 

The news showed ‘important’ countries and gatherings in mourning and observing minutes of silence in honour of the dead. Where was or is Nigeria? If observation of silences were to be profitable and monetarily rewarding and avails opportunities to loot national treasury, I bet our government would have declared five minutes of silence if not a public holiday. Yes, it doesn’t matter that such things don’t mean much to us. For how often in these times of bombings of churches, mosques and shopping malls has any minute of silence been observed?

 

Another point of reflection is on the speed with which the French people have identified suspects. Barely three days into the attack, seven suspects have been identified – the dead amongst them! Amazing!! How long did it take to release pictures of the missing Chibok girls? How long to identify or arrest a suspect? All hope must be lost on bombings then since the supposed suicide bombers must have died as well. What help did France get? Don’t even begin to say we are not as advanced as France to do any of these things. What technology do we need to collate and project images? What trainings are given to police investigation squad? (Just a few examples). No money to do these things? Oh yea, but we have enough to ferry thirty-three men to the United States to have handshakes with Obama at a time when civil servants’ salaries were unpaid. How has that trip increased the value of our fast depreciating naira? Yea, right, we actually do set our priorities well. Now point it at Goodluck Jonathan. We like shifting blames, don’t we? We are experts at that. Excuses, excuses, excuses, anything to not accept we are in the wrong. That is why we are not anybody’s priority. That is why the world does not pause for a minute when tragedies befall us. That is why we will continue to be seen as second-class citizens.

 

I continue to maintain that our problem is us and our salvation is equally us. We can’t be our problem and expect the western world to sort us out. Like they say, they have better priorities and if that is not saying enough to us yet, then we are fools. We can’t blame them for our not being their priority. We have everything we need, yet we love to be so dependent. Who loves burden? I don’t and I guess they don’t either. And if they have to carry any, why will they neglect issues of prominence including their own security in the face of ‘global’ dilemma like ISIS? Or issues of refugee sheltering which threaten to create divide in their eminent nations? An Igbo proverb asks, does a man whose house is one fire chase mice? Nigeria, West Africa and if you asked me, the entire Africa is not currently the western world’s priority.

 

And it brings me to the conclusion that we need to go back to the drawing board. It is high time we accepted that whether we look up to the mountain or down the valley, our help can only be found among us. The day leaders become selfless and the led become dedicated and both parties put the country first before their individual gains, that day will mark the beginning of a true independence. We have been free from colonial rule since 1960, but we have remained completely dependent on the west. And don’t even begin to think that we do not have a choice. We bloody well do. We have everything it takes to be a truly independent nation, but our selfishness, greed, insincerity, division, and a culture of dependence and beggarliness hold us under the waters like a heavy log tied around the neck. May we not drown before we realise our hands are free to take the shackles off our feet. Consider that the whole world is currently under the waters struggling in the tides. No one is playing the hero here. Save yourself. God bless the world, France and Nigeria. For I love Nigeria. And I am proudly Nigerian!

I have a testimony

Published August 29, 2015 by ezinne

testimony While completing a form recently, I came to a section that asked for recollection of a difficult situation and how I handled it. I thought hard for work related difficulty, but none came. Does that mean my work isn’t challenging enough? Dunno. Perhaps no situation has been tough enough to be described as difficult. I am empowered to do all things and overcome all situation after all. Well, but then I remembered a personal experience on the Nigerian roads and made a note to share it here. It happened those days when I felt invincible, confident that I could escape where others got trapped. It was faith. It worked for me. However, after that incident, I put some checks, like never travelling at night. The situation left me with a phobia for travelling after dark.

This is my story….., this is my song…. (just singing)

At one time, back in Nigeria, when I lived and worked in Kano State, I found myself in a near rape situation. Infact, it was not ‘near rape’ as some ladies got raped. I had joined one of the luxurious buses (coaches) heading to the east from the north. It was the last bus to leave the station. It was past 7pm. After riding for several hours, the driver stops, offering no apologies, no explanation. Without letting us out of the bus, he left his seat. Murmurings rose from every corner, but we were murmuring to ourselves. Realising this on time, passengers went quiet, silent prayers substituting complaints. It was dark both inside and out. Then it happened after about ten minutes. Starting as a small stone hitting the window, all hell broke loose on us. Stones followed each other in quick successions, glasses cracking and shattering, screams rising as passengers got hit. Sleeping children woke up and cries blended in. We were having a smoothie of chaos. The back door opened. How was that even possible? We had tried earlier to let ourselves out, fearing the danger of being packed up in an unprotected vehicle, but we couldn’t pry the damned door open.

Everyone in the coach (bus) was asked to lie flat on the floor after being filed out of the coach. Monies and valuables were taken off us. Young and unmarried ladies were separated from mothers and elderly women. One after another, the robbers/rapists took the ladies into the bush. I was certain what was happening. It was night time, dark and help was nowhere close. We were in the middle of nowhere. Empty, potholed roads lay in front and behind us.  By our sides were thick bushes. Why in God’s name the driver stopped there was beyond my comprehension. At one time, there was a gunshot in the bush and we feared one of the ladies had been shot. I had my handbag which had been stripped of valuables and thrown back at me. Only papers and sanitary towels were left. The pads were leftover from my monthly circle that had practically stopped that day.

When it was my turn to be taken into the bush, I declined. I expected some beatings or another slap, having received one earlier for carrying little cash. What fault of mine was that when travelling was such a risk! When asked why, I explained that I was menstruating, producing a towel as an evidence. He must have felt disgusted. It was dark, I could not read his face. But he turned away and I laid back down separating myself from those to be taken into the bush. I was safe. My heart didn’t stop jerking like a faulty vehicle till we drove off over one hour later.

It feels like a situation, but it is one of my numerous testimonies. Many lost everything, a lady got shot at. A man cried like a baby when he couldn’t find his daughter. Another man wailed after discovering the huge sum of money he hid on the bus was gone with the robbers. Ladies were raped and would have to get checked for STIs. A passenger faced a trial of faith that night. He prayed with such disappointment after his ‘I am a Chosen’ could not stop the robbers from mugging and beating him real bad. And worse, there was no apology nor explanation from the driver who reappeared after the robbers were gone. Na God win shaa.

Groom your Grass till its Greener

Published May 3, 2015 by ezinne

Grass

One afternoon while having my lunch, I looked through my flatmate’s textbooks on the table. I saw one title that really caught my attention. The Price of Inequality. Like I do with all books, I glanced through the table of contents. Quite unlike me though, I started reading the preface. Don’t know why, but I rarely read prefaces. I simply jump to the chapter of interest. But the preface kept me going and reminded me of an earlier post on Facebook about growing your own grass to be greener rather than abandoning it and going to feed off another’s.

Here’s a quote from the book. It’s especially needful for my fellow Nigerians who think that going abroad is the solution to all their problems. It ain’t, I tell you, not for everyone.

Early on in my book tour, in Washington, DC, I realised the magnitude of the student loan crisis. Student after student described the dilemma that they confronted: there were no jobs; the best use of their time – and the best way to enhance their prospects – was to go to graduate school. But unlike the child of a well-to-do parent, they would have to pay for the graduate school themselves, with student loan.

Let’s pause a little bit. This is especially for my students back in Nigeria. American citizens go to Uni with student loan, which they pay back once they begin to work. You got parents who pay for you to go to school. What do you do with your time in school? Play games? Partying? Socialising? Forming gangs and groups? And forget the reason for going to school? How much effort do you put towards bettering yourself while you are under their sponsorship? You complain there are no infrastructures. Yes, but at least you know. If you can’t do much about it, can’t you work your way around it? A problem identified is partly solved. It would be very different if you didn’t know of the infrastructural deficiencies. Point? Maximize the opportunity you have till such time when we can root out all our problems. At least you don’t get to school on loan. If you want to understand the import of that in Nigeria, go find someone who’s taken a loan before from any bank.

Their bitterness increased as they looked around at peers with wealthy parents, who could take unpaid internships to beef up their resumes. The children of ordinary Americans can’t afford that. They have to accept whatever temporary job they can get, no matter how dead-end.

Forget everything, but don’t forget this: class difference exists everywhere in the world. Live with it. Some people are born with silver spoon, some got only plastic, some got nothing. However, I also know there are people who were born spoonless, but later acquired golden spoons. At that point when your parents can’t do more for you, face the reality of life and do what you got to do. Graduating and going back home to eat three square meals a day defines over-dependence. If after graduating you still do not know what to do with yourself or have no plans on how to get started, then you may have succeeded in wasting four or more years of your life. Cut out that escapist mentality of ‘if I had rich parents or knew an uncle who could put in a word of two for me, all would have been well’. That is an indirect way of wishing for another’s greener grass. Everyone’s got a grass. Do you even know your grass? You can’t make it green without first knowing it!

While tuition and fees in public colleges and universities increased, on average, by a sixth between 2005 and 2013 …, median income continued to shrink. Perhaps the statistics that most resonated as I met with groups from coast to coast – and the ones that most surprised foreign audiences – were those relating to lack of opportunity in America. Both those in America and those abroad had simply assumed that America was the land of opportunity.

Having lived in the UK for a short while, this does not surprise me. A classmate of mine is doing a PhD because he could not find a job. Job scarcity is a reality even in America and the UK. But it should surprise those who look to America for greener pastures. What colour is your own pasture? Again, can you identify or locate your own pasture? We always blame the government, the society, anyone but ourselves. American society has been acclaimed as more advanced than ours, but majority Americans still agree that

Our society should do what is necessary to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

If an advanced society still gets such call, what do we expect in Nigeria? It is attainable, trust me, but it’s a long way coming. Till then, what? Sit down, fold your hands and sulk? Cast aspersions and play the hate games? Till we get equal opportunity, build, maximize the opportunity you’ve got, equal or unequal. Some people are where they are today because they followed a simple formula: whatever your hands find doing, do it right. You’ve got education on your hands right now, are you doing it right? You’ve got a job on your hands right now, are you doing your best? You are learning a skill, how diligent are you? Grow your grass till it’s as green as you want it to be. It’s got the potentials.

Reference

Stiglitz, J. (2013) The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.