Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Life comprises of rainstorms and rainbows, and this year was no different
Photo: Shayera
Wait, it’s December already?! I can’t believe the year is almost over. Where did the months go?

It’s that time of the year when one pauses to reflect, and I’m doing so with the help of the ‘tab list’ I wrote earlier this year. I’m delighted I achieved most of the outlined objectives in addition to taking on undertakings that weren’t on the list.

I’m impressed with my achievements this year vis a vis last year. For instance, I got around to reading Nigerian newspapers and perused more books than I did last year, focusing mostly on classic novels. I broke the record of 12 books I had set, reading a total of 14 books – 11 books more than I read last year. I completed The Art of War by Sun Tzu, read 48 Laws of Power, George Orwell’s 1984 (I wonder why it took me this long to discover this treasure), Fahrenheit 451 and Uncle Tom’s Cabin among others. And once more, I attempted reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, but my eyelids got the best of me. Maybe someday in the future, when my eyelids cooperate, I’d read it.

Furthermore, this year, I blogged more than ever. I hadn’t set out to do so, it just happened. I suppose it’s because I started writing short stories, the first of which was inspired by a conversation I had with an acquaintance. Admittedly, publishing my very first story was a little daunting as it was the first time I’d ever written one, so I didn’t know how it would be received. Nevertheless, I put on a brave face and clicked ‘publish’. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? To my surprise, there was a huge response in readership, which then emboldened me to write more short stories.

Another exciting and unplanned happening from this year was getting published in a major Nigerian newspaper as well as an online African magazine. Not only was I happy that I reached a larger audience, I was glad my articles received positive feedback and reviews. So lookout 2015, my writings just might appear in a much larger publication!

During the course of the year, I reviewed past blog entries from 2012 and 2013, and found some cringe-worthy writings – which, by the way, have long been reedited and rewritten. It wasn’t the content of the entries that was the source of my abashment, but the quality. In retrospect, however, those old entries were an indication that I’ve grown as a writer – and still growing.

Also included on my tab list was a paragraph about savings and investment. This year, I invested in myself by taking a course in journalism, which so far has proved to be a good decision. Furthermore, I’m glad I saved more than I did in the previous year.

Now to the part of the tab list I’m not very keen on writing about.

I wrote that I was going to practice meditation and work on being more patient. I can’t say I did OK on those two goals, and it wasn’t not for lack of trying. The problem was, even though they were at the back of my mind, I didn’t actively seek to challenge myself by tackling them head-on. This challenge is succinctly described in the following quote, “When you ask for patience, what you get is a line at the bank. In other words, life gives you the people, places and situations that are going to allow you, once and for all, to develop what it is you need.” Thus, if you ask for a virtue, then be prepared to do battle with its complementing vices. Seeking to meditate or asking for patience is one thing, doing the ground work is another. 

Lastly, seeing how successful I was in accomplishing my goals this year, I look forward to next year’s boxes of surprises. I can’t wait to start writing in the new 365 days book.

Here’s to a New Year filled with golden opportunities. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seafood Mélange

Bon Appetit
Photo: Shayera
Nonyem shuts the back door of the car, “Hey ladies.”

“Hey,” Chidera and Nkem reply simultaneously.

“Your perfume – is that Ange ou Démon?”  Chidera asks.

“Yes, it is. It’s my mom’s Christmas gift to me,” replies Nonyem.

“Nice. I love the fragrance. It’s one of my favorite.”


“I like it, too. So have we decided on where we should go for dinner?” asks Nkem as she reverses out of the gated compound.

“I’m craving some seafood. Should we do Ocean Basket?” suggests Nonyem.

“OK,” Chidera accedes.

“I hope there won’t be a crowd there,” says Nkem.

“Well, if there is a crowd we could try Yellow Chili or ---,” Chidera volunteers.

Nkem abruptly slams on her brakes in a bid to avoid ramming into the SUV ahead of her.

Shit! Stupid idiot didn’t even trafficate!” hollers Nkem. “If I had hit him now, he would have acted like it wasn’t his fault.”

“Don’t mind all these drivers who buy their licenses,” Chidera says. “I was at a round-about the other day when some guy almost hit my car trying to force his way in. And when I gestured my annoyance, he yelled ‘stranger’ at me. I don’t know if he meant it as an insult or if he was saying I should know as a Nigerian that basic traffic rules don’t apply here.”

Nonyem and Nkem burst out laughing.

“I think he meant it as an insult,” Nonyem says. “It’s only in Nigeria that turning on your hazard lights at an intersection means you’re driving straight on.”

“I know, right? It’s so silly. Some of these drivers aren’t cognizant of traffic rules and delude themselves into thinking they’re driving, when all they’re really doing is moving the car from point A to B,” Nkem says drily to the amusement of her friends.

Nkem changes the radio station and starts humming to John Legend’s All of Me. “Which reminds me, Dera, you didn’t finish that story about the wedding you attended last weekend.”

“Oh, the wedding was nothing to write home about. It was rowdy and full of politicians, considering it was the governor’s daughter that was getting hitched. There were a lot of protocols observed, and an unending stream of speeches made from anyone who deemed himself important. Let’s just say I’ll never attend such a high-profile wedding again – not even if the groom is my brother.”

“Isn’t it funny that all of the governor’s kids got married during his tenure?” It’s like they planned it so ‘daddy’ could throw them big weddings on the State’s account,” mocks Nonyem.

“I think what’s funny is that they all got married to the offsprings of politicians. If I’m not mistaken, his first two daughters married the sons of the governors of Enugu and Bayelsa state. His son and the last girl are married to senators’ children. This is what I call modern-day-arranged-marriages,” says Chidera.

“It amuses me that the political class thinks they’re building a political dynasty or solidifying their grip on power with these marriages, but they’re not - just ask the European monarchies how far they went with their political schemes. Sooner or later, the public is going to wake up from their slumber and demand their rights, then all these politicians ---,” Nonyem says.

“Easy,” Nonyem interjects gently as Nkem drives into a pothole.

Mtchew. I didn’t see that one. When will we be free of these potholes?” Nkem laments darkly.

“Hmm, you guys have it good in Lag o. You should see Port-Harcourt. It’s a mess, yet they keep saying the governor is trying. I say, how is he trying?” Chidera protests in a tone of displeasure. “He started his tenure by putting up pillars for a monorail, yet the roads are riddled with potholes every 0.5 meters. Now the monorail pillars stand tall and proud as a reminder of the wastefulness and ridiculousity of his administration.”

“Misplaced priorities,” concludes Nkem.

“Sounds like a vanity project,” Nonyem says.

“Yes, it would have been a vanity project if he’d completed it, but he didn’t. This is just sheer profligacy,” hisses Chidera. “And how was he even planning to run it without constant power supply?”

“Well, you know this country is in dire need of people who can put the horse before the cart,” quips Nkem before winding down her window to speak to a security man.

“Is there space there?”

“Yes, Ma,” replies the security man, who then proceeds to guide Nkem into a parking space.

“Should we sit upstairs?” Nonyem asks.

Chidera and Nkem nod in agreement.

Now seated, a toothy waiter appears and swiftly takes their order.

“What do you guys think of the protests in New York over the death of Eric Garner?” Chidera asks.

“I hope they can sustain it peacefully because justice wasn’t served. Did you see the video of the cop choking him to death? It looked like a snuff film,” Nonyem says, shaking her head. “Even talking about it sends a chill down my spine. People say cops should wear cameras and whatnot, but here’s an instance where there’s video evidence, and yet the grand jury decided it wasn’t enough to bring the case to trial.”

“I haven’t seen the video yet, but I hear the guy said, ‘I can’t breathe, 11 times, so why didn’t the cop release his grip? I understand the man had an imposing figure, however there could have been other ways to immobilize without asphyxiating him,” argues Nkem.

“And to think that he was just selling loose cigarettes,” Chidera ponders aloud. “In my opinion, the policeman should have simply given him a warning without any physical confrontation.”

“Yes,” agrees Nonyem. “It’s a pity it ended the way it did. I read homicide cases involving the police rarely go to trial, because prosecutors work closely with the police department and so are reluctant to try cops. In other words, prosecutors are on the horns of a dilemma - they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.”

“Then maybe such cases should be tried outside the area where they occurred. That way, the prosecutor isn’t beholden to the police department since its area of operation would be outside the prosecutor’s district,” suggests Nkem.

“Yeah, critics have suggested that as well as making the grand jury process transparent,” says Chidera, looking up at the waiter who was now setting a large platter on the table.

“Yummy!” Nonyem exclaims excitedly, rubbing her palms with glee.

“Bon appétit.”

“Thank you,” the trio choruses in reply before digging into their Christmas meal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dessert: Banana Cake

“Dera, please pass me the baking pan. Thanks.” Nonyem says, folding the rest of the flour into the cake batter.

“What are you making?” Nkem asks, peering into the mixing bowl.

“A banana cake.”

“Hmm, banana cake? Have you ever baked one before?” 

“Um, no, but I like to experiment.”

“OK.” Nkem responds in a tone suggesting skepticism.

“Nkem, are you currently working on another blog entry?” Chidera asks.

“Yes. My next entry will be on the rule of law in Nigeria. By the way, did you guys see the embarrassing footage of lawmakers scaling the gates of the National Assembly this week?”

“Yes, I did. Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I mean, I wasn’t shocked when I saw the footage because nothing is beneath our lawmakers,” Chidera replies, shaking her head. “Aren’t these the same lawmakers who exchange blows with one another? Even the title lawmaker is a misnomer when attributed to Nigerian House of Representatives and Senators.”

 “Don’t mind them. Rather than draft or pass meaningful bills, like the Petroleum Industry Bill, they spend their time drafting senseless ones and fighting like children,” adds Nkem.

“Why are people surprised at our legislature’s childishness when the basic entry requirement to the National Assembly is a secondary school certificate?” Nonyem asks mockingly.

“I agree,” concurs Chidera. “There are several anomalies in our system that need to be addressed. What right has the Inspector General of Police to the bar the Speaker of the House from accessing the National Assembly? And why should legislators defect from one party to another capriciously when they’ve been voted on a particular party’s ticket? Imagine if after the current mid-term elections in the States that House Republicans decamped en masse on the assumption that the next occupant of the White House might be a Democrat. They would have made a mockery of the elections since the electorate, having voted mostly Republicans for a reason, would have still ended up with Democrats in the majority.”

Nonyem slides the baking pan into the oven. “Elections and politics in this country are a joke. Politicians keep decamping from PDP to APC and back for nothing more than where they can find enough butter for their bread. In my opinion, a typical APC member is a disgruntled erstwhile PDP member. If he feels his voice isn’t heard, or that he doesn’t have a chance of winning a post with PDP, then he cross-carpets to APC. And since there’s no manifesto that remotely differentiates PDP from APC, it makes defection all too easy.”

Banana Cake
Photo: Shayera
“That’s right,” affirms Nkem, “all parties are the same, unlike in the States where Democrats and Republicans have distinct agendas. By the way, per the constitution, shouldn’t the Speaker of the House and the others who decamped have vacated their seats since they did so before the expiration of their tenure?”

“Yes,” nods Nkem, “that’s what the law states, but hey, laws are flouted in this country. When you have our so-called police breaking the law with impunity, venal judges and a weak legal system, what do you expect? This is a lawless country where anything goes. I bet the Wild West was better governed.”  

Chidera chuckles, “Will you be voting in next year’s presidential election?” 

“What for? Am I crazy?” Nkem replies with indignation. “Remember Malcolm X’s advice on voting - ‘A ballot is like a bullet. And until you see your target, keep your ballot in your pocket’? Well, that has been my mantra, so I won’t be voting until I see a credible candidate.”

“From what I’ve read, the PDP presidential nomination form costs 22 million naira, that’s roughly 132,000 dollars, while the gubernatorial nomination form costs 11 million naira,” notes Chidera. “Why should political parties charge exorbitantly for nomination forms? These outrageous fees drastically narrow the playing field, allowing only the rich or those which rich patrons to run. This is the reason godfathers exist - they purchase these forms and fund election campaigns (if we can call them that) in the hopes that if the aspirant wins, they can ask favors and pull the strings. Essentially, the electorate doesn't really have a voice.”

“Yep, and that’s wrong. Maybe presidential aspirants should be interviewed and partake in public debates. That way, the public can see what they stand for, and those who aren’t worthy of the Presidency are rooted out early in the game,” Nonyem suggests. “There are so many people who are blinded by their allegiance to a candidate, and if you asked them why they supported such-and-such a person, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

“I agree. Most people would vote Jonathan simply because they feel Muslims and the North have ruled Nigeria far longer than any other group,” remarks Chidera. “It doesn’t matter that his administration has been marred by corruption scandals – like the missing 20 billion dollars the NNPC has yet to account for, or that he hasn’t been able to rescue the missing Chibok girls, or annihilate Boko Haram. Plus, who can forget the controversial Presidential pardon he granted to Alamieyeseigha, the ex-governor of Bayelsa State who was convicted of money-laundering?” 

“If Obama was plagued by the same problems during his re-election campaign, there’s no way he’d have won a second term,” Nkem opines. “By the way, why is it that in Nigeria, one can’t differentiate one administration from the other, unlike in America, where, for instance, the Clinton years were markedly different from the Bush years?”

“That’s because there’s been only one party or set of people ruling Nigeria, and with each change of government, things have gotten progressively worse – not better. It’s insane,” acknowledges Nonyem. “Getting people’s votes in this country doesn’t take much. There’s no need to impress anyone with campaign speeches; no need to state your views on relevant issues or discuss solutions to Nigeria’s problems. All you need to do is bribe the masses with bags of rice and they’d sheepishly vote for you. That’s the problem with Nigerians – we’re so myopic in our thinking. What use is a bag of rice when you’re forced to run your generator from morning to night, because power supply is unreliable? Of what use is a bag of rice when you can’t get clean running water at home or find gainful employment?” 

“The problem with Nigerians is that we complain and complain, but won’t admit we’re part of the problem,” quips Chidera. “I won’t be surprised if some Nigerians believe Nigeria’s status as Africa’s largest economy is as a result of Jonathan’s leadership.”

“Oh, yeah, I saw something like that in The Guardian recently,” Nonyem says, walking towards the oven. “I think the ad was paid for by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria. Only people with half a brain will believe that rubbish, because with or without him in power, the rebasing of our GDP would have yielded the same result.”

“Umm, that smell emanating from the oven...” Chidera licks her lips animatedly. “I’m salivating.”

“Nonyem, your cake smells heavenly. I just hope it doesn’t disappoint,” taunts Nkem.

Setting the cake on a cooling rack, Nonyem faces Nkem with a look of feigned annoyance, “Em, Nkem, if you keep talking, your tongue will not taste any of it.”

Nkem smiles and pinches her lips in attempt to stop herself from talking.

“What would you like to drink? I have freshly squeezed pineapple and orange juice, soft drinks and there’s green tea.

“I’ll have juice,” Nkem replies.

“Same here,” chimes Chidera.

“OK. So juice it is.” 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chicken Suya Parley

Fiery Suya
Photo: Losgiddy '13

There is a knock on the door.

“That must be Nonyem,” Nkem says, rising from her seat.

“Hey,” Nonyem blows air kisses at Nkem.

“Hi. What have you got in your hand?”

“Chicken suya. I’d been waiting for WHO to declare Nigeria Ebola-free before venturing to buy it.”

“Ah ah,” Chidera protests lightly as she hugs Nonyem, “did they tell you Ebola can be contracted from suya? May I remind you that suya is traditionally made from chicken, goat or cow meat.”

“True, but you can never be too sure. Besides, don’t you recall that story about Nnamdi’s brother who had ostensibly bought suya only to realize after biting into it that he’d bought blankets covered in spice? Come to think of it, vultures don't patrol the skies like they did when I was growing up. Can it be ---?”

“Oh, come on, Nonyem!” Chidera and Nkem groan in unison.

“But think about it?” Nonyem grins mischievously as she sets the suya on the wooden coffee table.

“We don’t want to think about it, so quit talking and let us eat in peace. Or is this a ploy to stop us from partaking in the suya? It will not work!” Chidera jokes, throwing a sideways glance at Nonyem prompting her to laugh out loud in return.

Chidera picks up the remote control and starts channel-surfing.

Ugh, it is Ebola mania on CNN. There are more Ebola experts commentating than there are patients in the US,” Chidera comments sarcastically. “I wonder why they and other media outlets enjoy whipping the public into a frenzy with their excessive reporting on Ebola.”

“Well, TV networks care about their ratings because that translates to profit for them. Right now, Americans are hooked on the thriller that is Ebola, and TV networks are all too happy to oblige them by constantly rehashing the same story,” explains Nkem.

“It’s crazy. Some states have imposed mandatory quarantine on returning health workers. In my opinion, this is just a ploy to deter medics from volunteering,” says Chidera. “Meanwhile, I heard Australia was criticized for banning travel from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa and also for not sending medical personnel.

“Yep, but who can blame Australia?” Nonyem responds nonchalantly. “They’re scared they won’t be able to contain it if someone with the disease shows up there. Plus, they don’t want to deal with the risk of having Australian medical personnel returning with the disease either. I mean, you can’t force them to help because it’s not really their problem.”

“Really?” Chidera hoots incredulously.

“Yes, really. Look, I’m sick of hearing people say the West isn’t doing enough to help. Why should they? If our governments did their jobs, there would have been enough qualified West African health workers at hand to handle the outbreak, and we wouldn’t be waiting for foreigners. Also, there’s a chance African scientists would have developed an Ebola vaccine if our leaders saw the importance of investing in R&D. African governments need to sit up and stop acting like they’re impotent!”

Nkem nods her head in agreement. “I think we should start taking education seriously. If I’m not mistaken, I read in an article that there were only 50 doctors in Liberia prior to the outbreak.”

Fifty!” Chidera ejaculates in disbelief. “Wow, that’s shocking. I guess a lot of them who left during the civil war haven’t returned. The truth is, if we don’t invest heavily in infrastructure and the training of teachers, doctors and what have you, we can never build a strong and progressive nation.”

“Tell that to your politicians,” Nonyem says drily. “I’m surprised the Nigerian government got its act together and contained the virus.”

“Of course they had to, or it would have found its way to the National Assembly and Aso rock in only a matter of weeks,” Nkem adds. “Ebola is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t care if you’re a millionaire. And since there’s no cure for it, hopping on a private jet to consult a Western doctor isn’t going to help you. That’s the reason the Nigerian government got off its ass and did what needed to be done.”

“The Nigerian government and medics did a good job,” says Chidera, “though the Western media doesn’t give them enough credit. Instead, they chalk our success up to luck and talk about how the CDC and the polio control center financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped in halting the spread of the virus. While there’s some truth to it, the competence of the Nigerian medical team shouldn’t be overlooked or downplayed seeing it was their first time encountering the virus.

“True, true,” affirms Nkem, now sniffling from the pepper. “By the way, I wonder if all appropriated funds were used up for the containment of the virus, or if the remainder ended up in someone’s pocket.”

Pausing, Nkem glances at Chidera and Nonyem.

“Oh, please, you two shouldn’t look at me like I’m some die-hard cynic,” Nkem shoots back, rolling her eyes. “You guys know no one does any fund-raising for election campaigns in this country. So don’t be surprised if the remaining funds go into that. Besides, The Guardian recently published a report stating the Ministry of Health had allegedly misused funds for the immunization kids that had been provided by GAVI. Now, the organization has suspended cash-based support and frozen unspent funds that have been disbursed. If there’s one thing our government is quite adept at, it is the misappropriation of funds.”

“Anyway, I still think Nigeria should have shut its borders,” Nonyem volunteers, throwing the last piece of onion into her mouth. “I hear a lot of people saying it’s not a good idea, but think about it: If Liberia and Sierra Leone had shut their borders, the outbreak wouldn’t have spread beyond Guinea’s borders and would have been easier to contain.”

“You’ve got a point,” Chidera concurs pensively. “But now that it has spread, shutting the borders wouldn’t be effective considering the fact that medical personnel need to go in to help the sick and be allowed to leave at will. I’m not even sure taking temperatures at the airport is effective since people can develop a fever long after arrival; plus not everyone will come into Nigeria by air.”

“That’s scary. We all have to be extremely careful and take personal hygiene seriously,” Nkem muses.

“Hygiene?” scoffs Nonyem. “Have you been to a public toilet lately? I visited a restroom at Radisson Blu the other day, where I witnessed some lady sashay away without deigning to wash her hands after peeing. 

“That’s gross!” Cries Chidera.

“And to think that she touched the door with her hands. Ugh. So you see why I ALWAYS carry and use my hand sanitizer wherever I go?”

“Germophobe!” Nkem exclaims jokingly to the amusement of her friends. 

“I gladly accept the moniker – rather be that than a germophile. But seriously, people ought to wash their hands after using the toilet - and stop spitting and urinating in public. Both activities are unpleasant to watch and the latter stinks.”

Nkem and Chidera laugh and shake their heads.

“Anyway, I’ve got to take my leave. Need to head to the gym.” Nonyem says while walking to the kitchen to wash her hands. 

Nkem and Chidera follow suit after which they walk Nonyem to her car.

Although the sun still cast shadows on the ground, the heat had subsided giving way to a balmy afternoon breeze.

“I love the weather!” Nonyem says.

“Yes, it’s cooler than it was earlier in the day. Thanks again for the suya. It was deeelicious,” Chidera says smiling.

“My pleasure.”

Then the friends embrace and wave goodbye as Nonyem drives off.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Labels and Identity

Raven-Simone said in a recent interview with Oprah that she was tired of labels and didn’t want to be called gay or African-American, but simply American because it’s all encompassing. She also added she didn’t know where in Africa her ancestors originated from, but knew her roots were in Louisiana. Oprah’s prediction that her comments were going to create a storm on social media came true shortly after the interview aired. People were up in arms over Raven’s interview with most feeling she was disassociating herself from African-Americans.

While I understand her reason for not wanting to be tagged with labels because they are reductive, I also understand the public backlash against her comment. As much as labels can be constrictive, they can also serve to highlight or identify a marginalized people. Usually, these people have been pushed to the periphery of society or have had their rights trampled on, so for them a label is their way of saying: “We exist, we are here, and you’re going to hear us out.”

For instance, the suffragettes of late 19th century Britain advocated for women’s right to vote. Feminists seek to highlight and end gender bias against women since they have long been denied parity with men on social, economic and political affairs, even though they constitute half the world’s population; while gay advocacy groups exist to fight homophobia, educate the public and emphasize the problems gay people encounter.

The term African-American was chosen by Black Americans as a way of identifying and connecting with their origins and ancestors, who were violently robbed of their identity when they were slapped with the religion, language and names of slave masters. Black Americans may have also chosen the label, in lieu of ‘American’, to shed light on the racial inequality that has plagued them as a people from the days of slavery through the Jim Crow era down to present day America.
Labels: They make for easy identification, but can be constrictive.
Photo: Buzzfeed
Some individuals may argue that differentiation and labels only exacerbate the problem of discrimination, but does sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending that the problem doesn’t exist make it go away? People normally won’t slap labels on themselves; external forces make them do so and sometimes the epithet is given to them by the oppressor. 

Therefore, if one wishes a label away, then more should be done to eradicate the source for the labeling. Case in point: Feminism will cease to exist once gender parity is achieved; gay rights will no longer be an issue the moment discrimination against the group ends, and perhaps African-Americans will call themselves Americans the day racism against them disappears or fades away.

Although labels have their advantages, they also have their disadvantages in that they diminish a group and force people to conform to certain social or cultural norms. 

I have been told by my Nigerian and non-Nigerian friends, much to my chagrin, that I don’t act Nigerian. Although they mean no harm, I find it rather annoying. What does it even mean to act Nigerian? Does it include knowing all of Fela’s songs or scamming people via the internet? Is there a scientific formula to being Nigerian? 

While I grapple with the Nigerian question, I've also had to deal with accusations of harboring opinions that aren't African. That’s right, as an African I’m expected to possess certain thought patterns and interpret life like every African. Isn’t it hypocritical that the same people who complain about stereotyping turn on you the moment you commit a ‘thought-crime’, by not conforming to their ideas of what they consider African?

Many Africans believe a woman should know how to cook because it’s her traditional responsibility in the home. Personally, I don’t believe it’s a woman’s duty to cook for the household. However, if she’s a better cook than her husband or returns home from work before him, then by all means let her do the cooking; otherwise, the husband should do it. Having a vagina doesn’t mean one should do the cooking neither does it confer one with any cooking prowess. Besides, not all women can cook or enjoy the process – I for one am no cordon bleu chef, I hate cooking and only do so because I have to live. So do my views make me un-African or less of a woman? 

Catholic doctrine teaches that couples shouldn’t use artificial birth control methods. It also preaches that divorced couples who remarry cannot partake in Holy Communion and women cannot be ordained priests. However, in reality, there are several Catholic couples who use artificial birth control, of which the Church is aware since family size has drastically reduced, and staunchly identify with the Catholic Church. 

Also, there are Catholics who believe remarried couples should receive Holy Communion and that women should preside over Mass as priests. Should such people be excommunicated for not toeing the party line? Should they be branded non-Catholics for having differing views from those espoused by the Church?

It’s true that we are products of our environment, but that doesn’t mean we all assimilate information and experience life the same way. With the advent of the internet and cable TV, the nature of our immediate environment has been altered and expanded thereby making opinions more diverse and less parochial. Therefore, people shouldn’t expect individuals to fit the perfect mold of whatever label they have ascribed to them.

For what it’s worth, life would be much easier and better if we recognized one another as human beings without any embellishments. But since it’s impossible to do so, feel free to label; however, be prepared to be terribly disappointed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Independence? What Independence?

Image: Shutterstock
As Nigeria celebrates her 54th year as an independent nation, ordinary Nigerians are left wondering if they’re truly independent. Nigeria, like most countries, is a multi-stratified nation composed of the haves and the have-nots, the educated and the illiterate, the ruling class and well…the rest. But in countries where the ruling class is competent, structures are put in place to ensure those at the bottom rung of the social ladder can move up, or at least benefit somewhat from the state’s wealth. Also, those in the latter categories are made to believe they aren’t being ignored, that they matter, and that all citizens have the same rights regardless of their position on the social ladder.

In Nigeria, however, that isn’t the case as inequality keeps rising under the watch of the inept ruling class. This reality has many Nigerians feeling they are second class citizens at best and a people merely occupying a land mass called Nigeria at worst. Take, for instance, the case of the Chibok school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, and still remain in captivity. If these girls were daughters of those in the ruling class, we can safely assume they would have been found within a week of their abduction – even a week is too generous a time frame. Unfortunately, since the girls’ parents aren’t part of the ruling elite, they’ve been subjected to months of silence and anxious uncertainty.

How can a country consider itself liberated when the governor of a state can brazenly demand state lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow him earn an outrageous pension to the tune of 200 million naira ($1.2 million) per year, for life, at the expense of Nigerians? In a country where more than half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, such an act should be viewed as obscene, crude and selfish.

How can a country call itself independent when civil servants overtly misappropriate public funds without any fear of imprisonment or prosecution? Case in point: The former aviation minister, Stella Oduah, ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to procure 2 armored BMW cars, ostensibly for her protection, at the inflated cost of 255 million naira ($1.6 million). While intense public backlash led to her being relieved of her duties, the setback didn’t stop her from bagging a chieftaincy title or prevent her from declaring her senatorial aspiration in next year’s election cycle.

Evidently, Nigeria is a country where politicians, for the most part, think it’s their right to gorge on public funds.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, and the Federal Government thought it wise to throw a party in Abuja and honor, amongst others, Sani Abacha, the military dictator who ruled and looted Nigeria blind from 1993 until his mysterious death in 1998. It’s been reported that during his regime, he embezzled approximately 5 billion dollars from the nation’s coffers. Why would anyone honor a dictator and a crook?

For what it’s worth, in marking the amalgamation, the Federal Government should have commissioned a series of documentaries showcasing Nigeria’s history and cultural heritage prior and subsequent to the amalgamation rather than hand out dubious awards.

In a country where corruption is the order of the day and venal politicians are being celebrated in the papers and on the streets, Nigerians have become inured to news of huge sums of public monies vanishing. Earlier this year, reports surfaced that 20 billion dollars realized from crude oil sales between 2012 and 2013 hadn’t been remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and up till now NNPC hasn't explained to Nigerians the whereabouts of said funds.

Following the disclosure of the missing funds, the then CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, was suspended for whistle blowing, which wasn't a surprise to Nigerians since gross mismanagement of public funds and duplicity are par for the course for politicians and public officials.

As Africa’s biggest economy and largest producer of oil thumps its chest like an alpha male gorilla, roads remain in disrepair; power supply is mercurial, security iffy, while education and healthcare infrastructures are in shambles. It’s been over 50 years since the discovery of oil in Nigeria, yet she remains something of a paradox. How can a country sitting on enormous oil reserves be entrenched in poverty?

The reason the political status quo persists is because Nigerians have collectively and quietly accepted the corruption and thievery perpetrated by public officials. This tacit acquiescence arises from a deeply flawed notion that Nigerians nurse, which is that one day they’ll assume the mantle of power, and when that happens, they, too, will loot more than enough money to satisfy their greed.

This kind of thinking leads to nowhere. It’s this kind of thinking that keeps us in the abyss and blots out any chance for improvement and progress. This reasoning is a form of mental slavery, and until we expunge our minds of such base and selfish thoughts and act conscientiously, we can never claim to be truly independent.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Novel Escape

A world without novels would be like a world without music.

My love for novels began at age 13 or 14. Prior to discovering novels, my literature diet consisted mostly of books that were foisted on me by my school’s curriculum and teen fiction. I recall reading Danielle Steel’s Mirror Image and feeling I had been transported to another era. My reality became the world described in the novel, and I was so engrossed in that world that I’d skipped lunch and would have forgotten dinner had my stomach not rebelled. In an instant, I became a crazy Danielle Steel addict and sought to devour every novel of hers in sight.  

It’s been years since I read a Danielle Steel novel, and though I have long grown weary of her plots, there’s an admiration I have for her novels because they introduced me to different worlds and time periods, not to mention expanding my vocabulary. I also learned a few things about human relationships and appreciate the research that went into her novels with cultural or historical undertones. Furthermore, Danielle Steel inspired my search for other novelists.

“Reading is a poor man's way of travelling, not just around the world but into the minds of people.” 
― Anonymous
Photo: Shayera

With my fixation on Danielle Steel over, I set my sights on John Grisham. I suppose I gravitated towards him because he fed my dreams of becoming a lawyer. Through his books I lived the life several lawyers, and while TV provided a glamorized version of law as a profession, John Grisham offered a realistic picture of it. Consequently, it wasn’t long after reading his books that my aspiration to become a lawyer lost its shine; and to ascertain my obsession with the profession had been purged from my system, I opted for a management degree with the option of minoring in law. Now, I can confidently say I harbor no regrets over not becoming a lawyer, thanks in part to a steady diet of John Grisham novels.

Currently, I have gone cold turkey on prolific, bestselling novelists with the aim of focusing more on classic novels - some of them are difficult reads, but I’m happy to explore, learn and challenge myself. I have also started reading novels by up and coming African writers, which not only serve to educate and entertain, but act as mirrors to my own world, experiences and history.

I love novels for they hold a magical quality that movies don’t possess. Readers are given the carte blanche to run away with their imagination, which is why I don’t watch movie adaptations of books I wish to read because they’d warp or constrain my ability to interpret them to my choosing. I also love novels because they not only are the easiest, cheapest and safest means of travelling, but provide an interesting alternative to studying history and understanding the human mind. Novels are a sweet escape to distant lands and foreign cultures. They promote self-awareness, are silent conversationalists and patient teachers. In short, with novels, I indulge most of my interests and much more.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Ice Cream Stand

Chidera, visibly irritated and scowling, sits in the back seat of the car that’s been hired by her company, or rather her erstwhile company. The negotiation between her and RainSted management had gone south, and she gave her one month resignation notice.

After three years of working in such horrid conditions and having to constantly fight for what is rightfully mine, I think it’s time I bowed out.

“Madam, are we going to the hotel?” the driver asks, snapping her out of her train of thought.

“Um, hold on.” Ransacking her bag, she picks up her phone and makes a call.

“Hey, Dera. What’s up?” An excited voice emerges from the other end of the line.

“Hey, Nonyem. I’m good. How are you doing?” Chidera asks.

“I’m alright. I’m tidying up my desk for the weekend. How did the negotiation with your management go?”

“Not good. I can’t talk about it now,” Chidera says looking at the driver. Then wiggling her wrist, she glances at her watch, “Listen, why don’t we meet up at The Palms this evening, and I can tell you all about it? It’s 5.13pm, so if you leave the office now, we’ll have ample time to chat before Half of a Yellow Sun starts showing. I’ve been dying to see to that movie!”

“Sounds like a plan. I hope you’re OK though,” Nonyem inquires in a motherly tone.

“I’m fine, honey. Never felt better. In fact, this feels like the best decision I’ve made in a long time,” Chidera replies reassuringly.

“OK, if you say so,” Nonyem says, unconvinced. “Does Nkem know you’re in Lagos?”

“Yes. I called her yesterday when I touched down in Lagos. She said she was up to her eyebrows in work, editing some articles and opinion pieces for New African, and wasn’t sure she’d have any spare time before Sunday. As I’ll be leaving for Abuja Sunday morning, I doubt I’ll see her.”

“Hmm, Nkem? She’s always busy. You won't believe I haven’t seen her in five weeks. One day she’ll work herself to death,” Nonyem quips, to the amusement of Chidera and herself.

“Well, you know she’s always been a workaholic, even in school,” Chidera adds with a chuckle. “Anyway, I’ll send her a BBM and convince her to escape work for a few hours.”

“Good luck with that.” Nonyem responds sarcastically.

“Thank you,” Chidera retorts in a similar tone. “I’ll hang up now, so you can tidy up.”

“Alrighty. Ciao.”

Chidera hangs up and sends Nkem a BBM while giving the driver instructions.

Thank goodness, there’s packing space. Chidera thinks to herself as the driver stops her at the entrance.

Alighting, she makes her way into the sea of people exiting and entering the mall. The animated voices and the smell of ice-cream emanating from the Cold Stone stand make her forget the conversation from two hours ago she’d been playing in her head en route to The Palms. As she walks towards the ice-cream stand, she feels her phone vibrate. Searching her bag frantically, she finds it and answers. It’s Nkem.

“Hi, Dera. I’m in the parking lot. Where are you?” Nkem asks.

“I’m inside, by Cold Stone.”

“Ah OK. I’ll meet you there,” Nkem responds and hangs up.

A few minutes later, Nkem meets Chidera at the ice-cream stand and they embrace tightly.

“Long time, no see!” Nkem exclaims exuberantly. “I love your hair. You look like a Nubian princess!”

Even though neither knew what a Nubian princess looked like, it was Nkem’s quirky way of saying someone was beautiful.

“Aww, thank you, Nkem.” Chidera replies, grinning from ear to ear. “And I love your lipstick. It suits your skin tone. Makes you look very sultry,” Chidera chimes.

“Thank you. I got it from MAC over there.” Nkem replies, pointing to the store.

As they stood chatting about trivialities, Chidera’s phone rings. She answers informing Nonyem of her location.

Shortly afterwards, Nonyem approaches the ice-cream stand and lets out a short laugh on spotting Nkem. 

“Is that Nkem I’m seeing, or is it a ghost?” Nonyem asks rhetorically. “Dera, how did you manage to get Nkem out of her dungeon?”

The trio laughs as Nonyem hugs Nkem and Chidera.

“I’m meant to be on a diet this week,” Nkem mutters resignedly to the amusement of her friends as they order ice-creams. “But what the hell, it’s been ages since I had this.”

The ladies leave the stand and proceed to an adjacent bench.

“Umm, pleasure,” Chidera moans as she eats her ice-cream. 

“Yes, the little pleasures of life. Speaking of life, what happened today at the office?” Nkem asks.

“Oh, that. Mtchew,” Chidera irreverently kisses her teeth as a slight frown appears on her face. “As you guys know, I was asked to relocate to Lagos from Abuja, but the company wasn’t willing to pay the relocation allowance I asked for, so I resigned. Can you imagine they offered me 380K?

“380K?” Nkem and Nonyem chorus in disbelief.

“Are they high or what?” Nonyem inquires sardonically.

“Maybe. They thought I’d quietly take it and find myself a flat on the Mainland.” Chidera pauses to take a spoonful of her ice-cream, then continues talking: “It seems they’d expected me to commute from the Mainland to the Island every day, because they kept saying they would exceed the budget if they met my demand. But I’m pretty sure they had no budgetary worries when they relocated Pierre and put him up in an expensive, self-serviced apartment in Ikoyi. And to make matters worse, he’s my subordinate! Imagine the nonsense!” Chidera exclaims indignantly.

“Pierre gets an expensive apartment just because he’s an expat staff, but I, a Nigerian staff, cannot get a decent relocation allowance! What sort of discrimination is that? He uses the company car and driver without any regard for his fellow colleagues because,” in a French accent, Chidera mimics Stephanie, her boss, “‘Lagos isn’t very safe so he needs the car to move around.’ Damn right it isn’t, but it is safe enough for him to go clubbing until 5am.”

“There’s a double standard RainSted applies to some of its staff and consultants. For example, when RainSted's CEO visited Nigeria last year, Stephanie sent an email inviting only our expatriate consultants to dinner. I was surprised when I saw the email, but you know what I did? I forwarded the email to our Nigerian consultants. Stephanie only realized what I’d done when one of the Nigerians RSVP’d,” Chidera says with a wicked smile. “Then she called me asking why I had invited the Nigerians and said that she purposely didn’t want to invite them. When I asked her reason for excluding them, she said they were going to bring plus ones. What sort of an excuse is that?”

“A stupid one,” Nonyem replies dryly.

“Prior to my joining RainSted, they weren’t contributing to their staff's pension accounts. If this happened in France, would they get away with blatantly cheating their staff? It’s the same thing with taxes - they evade them. Yet Stephanie has the chutzpah to say Nigerians are corrupt.”

“Don’t mind them,” Nkem chimes supportingly. “They say Nigeria is corrupt, and yet they benefit from the status quo. Reminds me of when I worked for Trip manpower. They would pay a taxman on the sly to produce income tax certificates for foreign workers whose taxes they weren’t paying. Then there was also the issue of quota trafficking where Trip exceeded the number of expat staff it was allowed to employ per year for a particular job designation, so they bribed immigration officers to turn a blind eye to their questionable activities. What people, especially foreigners, fail to understand is that the briber and the bribee are both corrupt.”

“It’s a shame the Nigerian government doesn’t compel multinational companies to use local labor, especially since unemployment is rife here,” Nonyem says incredulously while eating the last of her ice-cream. “Tell me why a company, like YOTOL, should hire a generator mechanic from Spain, when there are so many capable mechanics in Nigeria. It just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I understand the logic of employing specialists from abroad to fill a skills gap, but when it’s obvious the position can be filled locally, why not do so?”

“What pisses me off the most is when an expat who’s working back to back with a Nigerian gets paid almost 400% more for the same job. What justifies his salary?” Nonyem demands in annoyance. “He doesn’t pay for accommodation or for transportation as those are provided by the company, but Nigerian workers have to pay for all that with the meager salary they earn. YOTOL keeps talking about cutting costs, but won’t source locally for workers; neither would they ensure the transfer of technological knowledge between foreigners and Nigerians, so they can keep using the skills gap excuse to hire expats. I’m so sick and tired of these oil companies and their antics.”

“Well, you know since the recession, Europe and America have been struggling to keep their citizens employed, so one way of ensuring they remain employed is to have them hijack jobs meant for Nigerians.” Nkem remarks matter-of-factly.

Chidera and Nonyem nod their heads in agreement.

“It's a crying shame the Nigerian government is in league with multinationals to screw Nigeria over,” Chidera says, sounding almost defeatist. “I wonder when we'll have leaders like Thomas Sankara, who cared more about his country and less about his pocket.”  

“I wonder, too,” Nkem sighs then looks at Chidera with inquiring eyes. “Dera, do you think you made the right choice? I mean by quitting.”

“Hell, yes!” Chidera interjects. “I just need a few days to clear my head and determine my next course of action, but I’m pretty certain I’ve made the right decision.”

Nkem, now smiling, looks at her phone and announces, “It’s 6.47. Let’s head upstairs to the theatre before all the good seats are taken.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

There's More to Illegal Immigration

Photo: Erik Brandt/ Typografika
The issue of illegal immigration is a complex one. One reason countries guard their borders jealously is that no country has infinite resources, hence there’s a need to ensure these resources are adequately managed and available to their citizens. 

There’s also the fear of the unknown that frightens people into rejecting those they deem ‘different’. As with social animals, we humans are innately weary of outsiders for fear that they may disrupt the existent social order, or worse, infect members of the group with a disease. But how far would we go to exclude foreigners – the ‘others’?

Consider company boards as an analogy. Diverse boards generally have more advantages than homogeneous ones. Not only are diverse boards more innovative and productive, they also spell profit for companies that are operating in an increasingly interconnected world. In a similar light, diversity has conferred a host of competitive advantages on countries like the US and the UK, over those countries with less diverse populations. 

That said, countries that have been historically open to immigration have become vehemently opposed, and understandably so, to the arrival of undocumented immigrants seeking a better life on their shores. But is illegal immigration merely a case of moochers looking to benefit from tax payers money? And should the issue of illegal immigration be treated as simplistically as black and white?

It is a fundamental human right to live peacefully, work and earn a decent wage, and these are what are at the heart of socio-economic migration. Being that we live in a globalized world, activities occurring in one country could create a socio-economic or political imbalance in another country. Case in point would be the demand and supply of illegal drugs plaguing the Americas.

Most undocumented migrants from Central America migrating to the States are simply seeking to earn a living and/or are escaping drug-related violence in their home countries, which is being indirectly fuelled by America’s deadly love affair with illegal drugs. Hence, it is not enough for America to ask the governments of these Central American countries to combat human traffickers; she also has to look inwards to determine how best to curb her drug appetite. It’s only when the demand for illegal drugs diminishes in America that Central America will be able to benefit from legal economic activities and growth, and then create job opportunities for the unemployed.

Another example of how one country can create an imbalance in another would be America’s invasion of Iraq. America’s invasion created more problems that existed in the Iraq prior to Saddam Hussein’s dethronement. The long, festering hatred between Sunnis and Shias that was suppressed under Saddam has reared its ugly head, while hardline jihadists have infiltrated Iraq threatening to rend it. 

Amid the turmoil and madness, Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes, thereby becoming refugees within and outside Iraq. Supposing Iraq was America’s next door neighbor, would they have considered invading Iraq knowing they’d have a refugee crisis to contend with at their doorstep?

Many countries in Africa have seen citizens flee the continent in search of greener pastures due to bad governance, oppression, war and lack of job opportunities. Notwithstanding the absence of leadership in Africa, it would be too simplistic to ask African governments to get their act together to stymy illegal emigration and brain drain, since these governments do not operate in a vacuum.

Part of Africa’s woes results from foreign interference. An example would be the government to government aid. This type of aid is detrimental to Africa’s economy as it corrupts and makes governments less accountable to their people and more accountable to their donors. It also disincentivizes African governments to find sustainable ways to build their economies, because at the back of their minds they know they can return cap in hand for more aid.

Indeed, donor countries are more interested in their economic interests and expect aid recipients to fully accept their conditions, even if it’s to their own detriment. These conditions may involve unfair trade practices like forcing recipients to open their nascent markets to foreign products, which in turn kills home-grown businesses and employment opportunities.

Foreign interference in Africa takes another form in the unhealthy relationship Africa has with her former colonizers. For example, France actively meddles in the financial and electoral affairs of her former African colonies. Francophone countries are mandated to deposit 85% of their foreign exchange reserve in France’s Treasury, and can’t access it as they please as there’s a limit to the amount they can borrow. 

Moreover, France is complicit in propping up corrupt and incompetent regimes, and will continue to support such regimes, regardless of how the electorate votes, so long as she has free reign over desired resources. Thus, this begs the question: If Francophone countries aren’t in control of their economy and growth strategies, how can they ever develop?

Off the coast of Somalia, large trawling ships from the West decimated the fish population and drove some Somali fishermen to resort to piracy to eke out a living. Some of these unemployed Somali fisherman turned pirates were recruited by the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, who for a time utilized profits derived from piracy to finance its attacks within Somalia and neighboring countries. Amid the chaos and instability, it’s only natural for people to gravitate towards safety and to places where they think they can make a living.

Another factor that may contribute to a surge in illegal immigration in the near future is climate change. Low-lying countries, such as The Philippines and Bangladesh, are already suffering the effects of climate change as water claims more land. Considering this predicament, one wonders if those countries that have been dubbed major polluters will be keen to accept migrants with open arms when they come knocking on their door.

The world is more connected than ever before, thus events are no longer insular to one region and are liable to cause significant ripples in other parts of the world. In light of this, every government has to accept their involvement in fueling illegal immigration and actively work to mitigate it. Treating undocumented immigrants harshly for seeking a better life doesn’t solve the problem of illegal immigration. Perhaps it would be more productive to ask ourselves what role(s) we may have played in ruining their livelihoods.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ebola's Revelation

Ebola virus
Photo: CDC
The recent Ebola outbreak that’s been plaguing West Africa has revealed to Africans and the rest of the world the unpreparedness of African leaders, as well as just how dangerous things can get when countries neglect their healthcare systems. When the first cases of Ebola were reported in Guinea, appropriate steps should have been taken by neighboring countries to prevent it from spreading beyond Guinea’s borders. Instead, there was a collective ‘it’s not our problem’ attitude, which ultimately led to further outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Liberia and, most recently, Nigeria. 

In Nigeria’s case, there was plenty of time to take preventive measures against a possible Ebola outbreak after it had spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, but nothing was done until it was too late. For starters, the Nigerian government should have suspended all flights to and from infected countries, especially with the knowledge that such an outbreak occurring in mega city like Lagos (which is a hub for all regional flights) may prove enormously difficult to contain. But judging by the Nigerian government’s track record of handling critical issues, their slow response wasn’t surprising. 

The outbreak has also revealed just how toxic ignorance can be, especially when tainted with fear. Within days of the first reported case of Ebola in Nigeria, a ridiculous message, advising that people bathe with salt water or drink it for protection against Ebola, had spread like wild fire via text message and social media. Needless to say, some hapless persons heeded the erroneous advice and ended up either dead or hospitalized.

Assuming salt water was the vaccine against Ebola, wouldn’t WHO have announced it eons ago? Moreover, anyone with some secondary school education or access to the internet should know that osmosis will occur when a cell is placed in a solution of differing concentration. It’s the logic behind why people adrift at sea don’t imbibe sea water, as it will only make them thirstier. 

Ignorance also took the form of a well-known pastor based in Lagos. He made a proclamation urging Ebola stricken patients to visit his church for healing. Why would anyone attempt to endanger public safety by making such a comment? Fortunately, officials from the Lagos state government intervened and advised the pastor not to admit anyone with the disease. Meanwhile in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, armed men stormed and raided a quarantine center. What they’ve achieved by committing such an inexplicable act remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that some have unwittingly infected themselves. 

Apparently, thinking has become such an arduous task that people no longer process information. 

An inconvenient truth that's been brought to the fore by this Ebola outbreak is that African governments generally do not invest in healthcare, and on the rare occasion when they do, it’s for the elite. Take for instance the 705 million naira ($4.3 million) that was earmarked in the 2014 budget for the addition of a VIP wing to the presidential clinic in Aso Rock (the official residential area and workplace of the Nigerian president). Is it logical to invest such funds in a clinic that’s only accessible to a few individuals, when teaching hospitals are in dire need of medical equipment and well-trained staff? Moreover, it’s common knowledge that the President will be flown abroad, on taxpayer’s money, for any ailment that’s more than a headache. 

Conversely, in Rwanda, government officials seeking medical attention abroad are not allowed to use public funds. Essentially, this approach should incentivize Rwandans, especially those in government, to invest in their healthcare infrastructure. Furthermore, the Rwandan government has been able to provide health insurance coverage for all Rwandans. If Rwanda can achieve this feat, then other African countries have no excuse to not follow suit.

Africans are slowly paying the price for their government’s negligence to healthcare. Not only are they dying from inadequate medical care, they have inadvertently become guinea pigs for drugs that have yet to undergo clinical trial. What’s more, the World Bank has offered $200 million to countries battling Ebola, which seems like a sweet, genuine gesture until pay back time comes around. 

Consequently, there are three basic questions African governments ought to answer: Firstly, when will Africa stop playing Lois Lane to the West’s Superman? Secondly, when will they start investing heavily in pharmaceutical research and development, and adequately train and equip healthcare workers? And lastly, at what point will Africa take charge of her affairs, like Batman, and harness all the wealth, human resource and modern technology at her disposal for the betterment of Africans?