Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Hard View (The Time Of My Life)

                                                                                                                                Wed, 27/04/2011
Penultimate week, I ran as an aspirant in the 2011 National Assembly elections but I didn’t win. I had the best and worst time of my life and unwittingly found myself in the centre of one of the most acute, grimy and gripping political dramas.
I didn’t start off wanting to be in the front line of any political race: contesting for elected office was not my forte or desire. And, certainly, being at the centre of any political controversy was never my goal.
Yet, somehow, providence thought I was worthy of such accolade, such a role. To be fair, I did play a major role in what played out like a callous local political soap opera, in a drama that I refused to vacate even when I was intimidated by impossibility.
Today I stand as a proud female aspirant from Katsina who was able to, against the odds, challenge the royal establishment in my village of Musawa, the unscrupulous calculations of the chairman of the CPC in Katsina State, Dr. Yushau Armayau, top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my village and millions of public funds that were deployed to the constituency of Musawa and Matazu local government areas in order to deliver that particular seat to the CPC.
Today I stand as the main reason why the Musawa and Matazu federal constituency remains the lone seat in Katsina State that the CPC was unable to capture - the single seat that the PDP won. Today I stand as the main cause of CPC’s failure in my constituency. This is how it happened:
 My journey into the murky world of politics started a little over 11 months ago when high ranking members of a newly formed party asked me to come and run as a member of the Federal House of Representatives on their party’s platform. “We want you to run for the House of Reps under the new hope of the common man, the Congress for Progressive Change,” they said.
At that time, my first reaction was one of rejection. I had no interest in offering myself for elective office even if it was on the platform of the party that was created by my mentor, General Muhammadu Buhari. After much persuasion of the effect I could have on my people, the example I could set, against my judgement at the time, I eventually accepted the offer.
One of the reasons why I accepted the offer was because of the ethos and honour of General Buhari. I knew he represented integrity, decency and honesty. I had a firsthand exposure of this because I had, for over a decade, been in the movement that General Buhari had created. And so I found myself running for office under the CPC.
From the time I began the race, I was advised by my mentor and my father to go into politics with the purest of intention of helping people and to take my campaign to the grass roots. My father had always been a grassroots politician and I had watched and learnt from him about relating one-on-one with the populace. I knew that my main challenge was that I was a young woman contesting for election in a very conservative part of the country.
So I turned that aspect of my gender into an advantage. You see, as a woman in the conservative north, I could enter into the houses in the villages without any condition. As a contestant, I walked from village to village, entered house to house and spoke to people in person. I saw my village folks at their worst and their best, I learnt much from the ways and culture of my ancestors.
Within them, I woke to beauty that compels, beauty that repels; and I was confronted with their poverty, their reality. I ate with my people, celebrated with them, mourned with them, spoke with them and understood them. They related to me because they said that I was the first politician that had ever taken the time to come to see their reality firsthand. I did this for five months straight while my opponents concentrated their efforts on wooing the top executives in the party.
When it came time for the primary elections of the CPC and it was announced that the party would conduct direct primaries, the masses that I had related with came out in their hordes to show their support for me. The national headquarters had rejected the use of party registration and membership cards because they learnt that certain state chairmen had issued fake cards to their favoured members in order to ensure they won the primaries.
In my constituency of Musawa and Matazu, Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u had allegedly given his favoured contestants over 10,000 membership cards to ensure that they emerged from the process. Executive members of the CPC in my constituency were directed not to register any person that supported me.
When I presented this evidence to the national headquarters of the party and wrote a petition on the matter, the national headquarters called on all CPC members, with or without membership cards, to participate in the direct primaries. The rationale behind this was to see which candidates had the most support in the community in preparation for the future battle with the ruling party.
During the primary election, people all over Musawa and Matazu lined up one after another to choose me as the flag-bearer of the CPC. Almost before the election was concluded, there were protests from those that had not emerged from the primaries, and so the party was compelled to conduct another primary election. Five days after the first primaries, people were asked to go out and vote in a second primary election.
Again, the people of Musawa and Matazu LGAs came out in their thousands to vote. In the second primary election that was held in Musawa/Matazu, I scored over 26,000 votes while my closest contender scored just over 4,000 votes. With a difference of 22,000, one would have thought that the matter of who would fly the flag of the CPC in Musawa and Matazu was concluded.
But that wasn’t to be the case because the people that the chairman of CPC in Katsina, Dr Armaya’u, favoured did not emerge from either of the primary elections. Two days after the election was finalised, while I was in Kaduna, I received a call from a party member in Katsina who asked me whether I had participated in a third primary election that had been conducted a day before.
Shocked that a primary election would be held in addition to the two that we had done before, and confused that a further election would be called without the participation of the aspirants, I placed a call to CPC headquarters in Abuja and was told that there had not been a directive for a third primary election. I then called my coordinators and agents in Musawa and Matazu to ask if people were called to conduct another election to which they answered in the negative. Everyone asked in Musawa and Matazu about a third primary election in the CPC, gave the same answer: there was no third primary election conducted!
It is to my benefit that all two primary elections held in Musawa and Matazu were recorded on video: from Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u speaking on tape, to the dispatch of the election materials, to the conduct of the elections, to the collation of the results.
The video footage includes the participation of all the required security agencies, INEC officials, contestants and the live collation of the results. I intend to mass-produce and mass-distribute this footage in future in order to finally clear up the mystery and controversy surrounding the rightful winner of the CPC primaries in Musawa and Matazu in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
It was only days later I was to learn that my opponents in Musawa and Matazu had obtained the election materials, filled out the result sheet, obtained post-dated signatures from Katsina INEC officials and presented these fake results as evidence of victory. Believing that INEC would have the reliability of upholding the truth, in the flash of an eye, the issue of the candidate to represent CPC in Musawa and Matazu got tangled up with an already existing case in CPC between two factions of the party. By the time the court case was concluded, the dynamics in Musawa and Matazu had completely changed.
I wanted so desperately to do well for my people, to meet their needs and do everything just right, but as I sat in the court-room listening to the judgement of Justice Abdul Kafarati, I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt as though I’d been sucker-punched because, right before my eyes, the judge upheld an election that had never even taken place.
I was flabbergasted and thought of going into the chambers after the judgement to show the judge my video evidence of the real election that took place. How could he have made such a wrong legal decision despite the fact that the purported third fake election did not satisfy vital legal prerequisites in order for it to override the elections that had been held prior? How could he, with one judgement, have destroyed the hopes of so many people that came out to line up and register their wishes?
I knew at that point that my choices were limited. With only 49 days to the general elections, I could take the matter of Musawa and Matazu separately to court, but I knew that the matter would not be resolved before the general elections. For a minute, I thought of pulling out of the race, but I knew that there was so much hope and reliance on me; and to do that would be to pull the carpet from under those who relied on me. So I quickly went back to my constituency to consult with my supports. At the time, with all the intrigues and schemes of Dr Armaya’u and the Katsina CPC, we felt that the only option left for us at that time was to leave him to his machinations, to do the unthinkable: move to another party.
It was a massive risk, but one that I was willing to take to do right for my people. With only 47 days to the general election, it was a risk that could only be taken if one had full confidence of their support base. Despite the fact that my mind was filled with all sorts of thoughts, the one thing I was sure of was that the people of Musawa and Matazu would not vote for the CPC knowing the injustice that had been carried out by Dr Armaya’u and his team.
It was never a given that the people of my constituency would vote for a new party purely because I had moved to it, but I knew for certain that they would not vote for the CPC once I had vacated it. And so that’s a brief insight of how I came to contest for the Federal House of Representatives under the CPC and eventually found myself moving to the ACN. That is the story of how and why the CPC managed to lose the sole seat of Musawa and Matazu in Katsina to the PDP.
Consider that, in almost all of the constituencies in Katsina, there is still no identifiable candidate owing to the fact that the cases of the rightful candidates are still in court, but, despite that, the party still managed to win all the seats because of the popularity of General Buhari in the state. Does it not then speak volumes that the party was able to lose in the one constituency that there was an identifiable candidate due to the fact that I had left? With that in mind, I rest my case!
I used to think that the people who participate in politics and find themselves shifting from one political platform to another symbolize a major part of our country’s greatest political tragedies, I’ve written about it numerous times in my column. But now that I have become one of the people I used to deride, I realise that there are some redeeming features in their actions, in that, at times, there is some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed within such an act. I’ve never been afraid to do what I feel is right even when people disapprove.
When I moved from the CPC to the ACN, I did so in order to reject injustice, to take a stand. I used my inner compass, trusted my instincts and followed the wishes of my people to do what I knew was right. In doing so I knew that I was taking a risk; I knew that I may have been mortgaging my chance of success at the election but, regardless of the outcome, I knew that once I stood for what is right, I and my supporters would always come out stronger for it; and we did.
Despite the wish of the royal lineage in Musawa, the wish of Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u and top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my village, it is impossible for me and my supporters to be unspotted from my roots in Musawa when we are in it, when our dust is from it, and our spirit-made-new wages war for freedom in the unseen nooks and crannies of the villages. One cannot make their own righteousness; it comes from the Almighty and the consciousnesses of the masses that cry out for truth, fairness, transparency and change.
When the village and district heads were given the order to deliver each of their areas to the CPC, when top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my area gave out motorcycles, jeeps, tens of millions of naira to social leaders to deliver the constituency to the CPC, when Dr Yushau Armaya’u and his CPC team in Katsina connived, lied and set up a fake primary election in order to secure the party tickets for their chosen candidates, the people in my constituency reflected on mine and their personal battles, trials and the triumphs and they protested by rejecting the party in spite of the popularity of the party in Katsina.
When I reflect on the true meaning of my candidacy, I don’t think there was anything that fueled me more than the need to stand up for what I believed in. Too often people let themselves get bullied into submission, sway to popular opinion, or let the ignorant rant and injustice of one or a few people force them to question their own stand. When something matters, when something needs to change there will always be opposition. The only way to make change is to steal the wool and charge adverse opinions head-on.
When I made a covenant with the people of Musawa and Matazu that I would stand by them, I knew that I would have to stand by my words, enforce them with my actions, and be willing to take hard decisions against my greatest opponents. I have learnt so many things from this journey, among which is that, sometimes, one has got to be ready to sacrifice everything in order to complete the unfinished agenda in one’s march for what is right and that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable because every step toward the goal of justice requires suffering.
But the greatest lesson for me is that in one of the major losses of my life comes my greatest victory. I may not have won the election, but today I feel vindicated and I stand proud that I was able to stand up to injustice and make a difference.
Am I sore about not winning? Nah, I have fully embraced the choices that God has made for me. From the beginning of my candidacy to the point that I am at now, I am not oblivious to the fact that my destiny is God’s destiny for me. God’s plan for my destiny is, by the Grace of God, a done deal finalized in my life and death. I don’t believe that the fact that I ran for an election which I didn’t win is an accident of fact but a design of destiny.
When people query me as to why I am not contesting the election in court despite the plethora of malpractice evidence I have, I tell them that I have participated in four different elections for the Musawa/Matazu House of Representatives Federal Constituency seat - two in the primary elections that was held when I was a member of the CPC, one in the first election that was aborted midway and one in the final election that was held last week.
Although I am positive that in all four elections victory was ours, the fact that I was unable to attain the seat despite four elections means that the seat is not my destiny, is not my place. God knows everything and I trust His judgement completely. And if His judgement is that I will not attain that position which I have sought four times, then, I can only thank Him for his choice, pray to Him to grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
My journey on this political quest has been a long and tedious one, but I believe that I have just about started and have a long way to go. I believe that no matter what I was confronted with in the last 10 months, as long as I knew that my actions were governed by what I believed was always in the best interest of the collective, then, I was always willing to put myself out there. It’s the only way I know to make a difference.
No one ever changed the world by agreeing with the self-appointed dictators, corrupt party chairmen or the political tyrants who endeavour to police our unfortunate, warped political norm in this country and who hover over polling stations and INEC headquarters with the dominance and rigid mental demeanor of fundamentalist zealots.
I was determined at all costs to take a few blows in order to stand up for what I knew was right, to push back regressive thinking and to push forward for real change. I was always willing to engage in fisticuffs, toe-to-toe with the bully in the courtyard in order to undo the tyranny of fear. Trust me, once you take to the mat and show the world that you won’t back down, others will follow and therein the tide of change can be ushered in.
I strongly believe it is the person who never gets started that is destined forever to lose. I have just begun in my march for the liberty of my people, in the fight for their freedom. And even though that march came at a price, that quest for freedom must be protected because, to sacrifice it even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.
I have kept heart and faith in the face of what some see as a disappointment and consider my defeat not as an end but as a new beginning. I wish the successful PDP member-elect in the Federal House of Representatives for Musawa and Matazu, Alhaji Danlami Garba, all the best for the next four years. He is the successful candidate to emerge from a very long and grueling general election - an election that I neither won nor lost; in fact it was an election where I had the time of my life!

Hard View (The Silent Epidemic)


“I am an addict. A seemingly normal twenty-two year old Nigerian boy from a prominent family. It is ironic that my parents dedicated their lives to my siblings and I giving us the best of what money could buy and the morals and values which it could not.  My childhood memories are happy-with a solid foundation in education at one of the most reputable private schools in the country. During my JS II, my father believed that the boarding school I was in was not an ideal learning environment. He came to this conclusion whilst visiting me at school and observed the ceiling and walls in our hostel were covered with damp patches. He had a taste of my school lunch and was not impressed. Even now I remember the question he asked me, “I have always prided myself in providing the best for my children and I am not happy with this school.  Son, how do you feel about going abroad to study?”

Most of my older brothers and sisters were studying abroad so it only seemed natural that I follow suit. I was never a particularly intelligent student but was always creative and I was able to express my feelings through paintings and sketches. I was always top of my Art class. My father enrolled me in a private school for boys in England, I knew he wasn’t expecting A’s but neither was he prepared for the downward spiral my life would soon take. I found myself drawn to a group of Nigerian boys with a similar background to me. Even though we all had guardians residing in the U.K, we were always longing to come home and began spending our pocket money recklessly trying to impress each other.  One cold, bleak winter – we were on a weekend outing and behind a dingy fast food place my daring new friends encouraged me to take my first sip of alcohol and inhale my first joint. After the initial coughs and sputtering, I discovered with foolish wonderment that I felt so alive, happy and free.  I felt invincible!  The R. Kelly song sprung to mind; I believe I can fly. I did believe I could fly! All hesitation and anxiousness I had before disappeared. I found myself drawn to a new hobby… and it wasn’t Art.

My friends and I became professionals at covering our tracks. We helped each other with class work and home work, for we knew that if we started failing in school then too many questions would be asked. It became routine to sneak in papers for tests and exams and as a result my grades remained average yet stable. Inevitably, like anyone leading a double life I was to have a rude awakening. While shopping in one of the London’s biggest stores my friend dared me to steal a bandana off the rack. Given that I had just taken two glasses of vodka, I felt I could do anything. I took several bandanas and stuffed them into my pocket and of course and soon as I stepped outside I was arrested. I then became that stereo-typed rich boy turned failure, a statistical problem common globally. My disappointed but ever supportive father had no choice but to bring me back to Nigeria where I was to face my demons.

I quickly found out that at home it was even easier to feed my monstrous habits. After all, even when denied pocket-money I could steal a watch, a mobile phone or anything remotely valuable from my mother and sell it off for a quick fix. I knew my mother wouldn’t expose me and I knew the police would not be involved. With rising unemployment and poverty engulfing our nation, it wasn’t difficult finding people who would do almost anything for a quick deal. I became a stranger to my family and they became my enemy, an obstacle to my dark sordid world. By the time my family clocked on to my reality, I was too far gone into my new obsession. My mother became a nervous wreck, continuously crying and praying for me. My father, sisters and brothers became angry and distant with me. I defensively reacted by retreating into my shell and became even angrier with my relatives and myself. I was my own worst enemy. Physically, I was a skeletal ghost, a shadow of my former self. In and out of Nigerian rehabilitation clinics I went. They were poorly equipped and usually congested with not only addicts but criminals as well. As a final resort my family were advised to take me to a remote clinic in the outskirts of Kano, far away from civilization itself. There were no bedrooms or proper running water. Instead there was a large unventilated cemented room where we were supposed to ‘sleep’. I spent 41 days seated with my back against the wall, without a place to stretch my legs or lay my head at night. The clinic was severely congested with a large number of boys and girls from privileged homes just like me. We were fed meagre and tasteless meals, often being beaten and counselled around the clock. We were chained to each other at all times not unlike the black slaves captured in the 19th century by human merchants. I ceased to feel completely human and saw myself as an object of ridicule and disgust.

Sadly, even with the immense degradation I went through; I have been unable to turn my life around. The drugs and alcohol that I crave so much have become the sole purpose of my life. I exist within a black hole, in the drug infested gutter of my Armageddon. When people see me now, they are afraid to approach me. My family is unable to look me into the eyes. I guess the emotional scars that I have burdened them with have cut too deep for them to ever forgive my sins or accept that I will never again be. I know what has become of me, I know what I am. But even within the backdrop of my desire to actually live a good life, I know with certainty that my cravings; my absolute need for my drugs and alcohol will continue to define me for the rest of my days...!”

This is the harrowing but true narrative of a boy who continues to go through hell on earth. Tragically this is a familiar story for many families. One would be hard pressed to find one extended family whose lives have not been troubled with the epidemic of drug abuse in one way or another. Drug and alcohol abuse in our society is a frightening but real problem and it is no longer relegated to the throngs of the poor or to any specific gender. Substance abuse disguises itself in many forms, many of them not obvious. Seemingly harmless cough syrups, painkillers, glue or even petrol are being abused daily by our youth. Horrifyingly, addiction often begins with that innocent sip or sniff of some substance. Frequently, when teenagers or young adults begin this abuse, parents or teachers are unlikely to notice at the very early stages when counselling and intervention could make the most effective difference. Young adults can be very creative and convincing with their stories when suspicion is raised about their behavioural patterns.  We, as adults, need to recognise the subtle warning signals and tackle the problem at its early phases.

The drug epidemic can no longer be swept under the carpet and can no longer be treated as if it is not a monumental problem that is plaguing our youth. Because we are still growing and developing as a nation, support groups and free counselling sessions and therapy are not yet provided by the government. As a result, parents need to play a more active role in ensuring children are educated about the ill use of drugs and alcohol. The government also has got to address this epidemic that is ravaging our young generation by coming up with programmes that will begin to eliminate this scourge from our society.

When we encounter tendencies of antisocial behaviour from teenagers, let’s choose not to ignore it or pretend it will go away. Show them your care and are ready not only to guide and give advice but to listen too. Just like the boy narrating his story indicated the symptoms of abuse are not so obvious in the beginning. Let us strive to protect our children against this evil silent epidemic.
Hannatu Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hard View (2012: Year of The Dragon)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012
"At the time that the bearded star is seen, three great leaders will become enemies, Earthquakes and disaster falling from the heavens, The Po and Tiber Rivers flooding, a serpent is seen on the shore."- The Nostradamus Code, World War III (predictions for the years 2007 through 2012).
Michel de Nostredame, the 16th century physician and philosopher was better known as ‘the man who saw tomorrow’ and was said to have predicted the future of mankind. In the above prophecy Nostradamus exposes a startling view of the world at a period which he referred to as a “time of troubles”. His Quatrains suggest that war and despair would be a problem in 2007 through to 2012 in the Middle East, but it will also be the start of new hope. Specifically, in referring to the year 2012, Nostradamus painted a bleak picture of massive destruction and havoc brought about by a comet which will cause massive earthquakes and other cataclysmic occurrences.
Although his manuscripts were found to be very difficult to decipher, Nostradamus’ declarations have for centuries been fascinating. As part of his forecast for the future, Nostradamus prophesized that in the next coming years there will be more natural disasters. He said, “A very bright comet will appear at the time of great geological troubles, with earthquakes and flooding causing famines, droughts, and social upheavals. Nations that are considered powerful will be weakened”. Already within the last year the world has fallen victim to the sprawling anger of Mother Nature. Between global warming and the El NiƱo phenomenon, many have perished under the relentless force of tsunamis and hurricanes.
While Nostradamus has made predictions on numerous world events, the question is; is it really possible to predict the future? Well, according to the Chinese Zodiac and the ancient Mayan civilization of South America, it is absolutely possible to predict the future. Under the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by an animal, with 2012 being the Year of the Dragon. In the Year of the Dragon, the Chinese anticipate that there will be more international conflict and disharmony, leading to regional warfare and unrest, or even an overthrow of government in certain countries but it will bring positive changes to benefit the future of humanity. The Mayan prediction is a lot more chilling when it boldly states that the world will come to an end on the 21st December 2012.
One of the common features of all three schools is the prediction that 2011 would be a very challenging year in most countries.
Here in Nigeria we will probably attach very little significance to the predictions of Nostradamus, the Mayans and the Chinese zodiac, we may even consider them quite preposterous. However, few Nigerians would disagree that 2011 was a truly ghastly year for us, defined by feckless political decisions and unwarranted violence. It is almost with a sigh of desperation that many of us couldn’t wait for the firework display that heralded the end of 2011 and the start of a new year.
It was a year full of surprises and shocks locally and internationally. Who would have thought that 2011 would be the year that Libyans would see the end of Gadhaffi? Who could have envisaged that 2011 was the year that Osama Bin laden would have been found and killed? On the local front, it was the escalating violence unleashed by a phantom force calling itself Boko Haram that dominated the minds of many of us. We can only hope that the unruly mobs who are trying to hold this country hostage will be completely defeated, although the problem of an increasingly febrile Nigerian underclass is not going to solve itself. The government has no choice in the matter; they have got to reign in this imminent threat posed by those unleashing violence on innocent people. Unless it does, then Nigeria could very well be staring into a dangerous abyss.
Then, of course, came the untimely New Years present in the shape of the removal of the fuel subsidy. The sovereignty given to this government by the people who voted it into power seems to have been betrayed by this very draconian decision. One would have thought that with the numerous problems facing the nation at this time, the government would not tempt such a troubling fate. The decision of government on this topic is almost like political suicide and the idea of repressing the polity to impose the ideas of a few unelected characters is totally unaccepted by the Nigerian public. To remove fuel subsidy at a time that Nigerians are gravely suffering is evidence that judgement has fled to brutish beast and our leaders have lost touch with the reality of the hundred or so million poverty stricken people in this country. Only last week the President under the powers conferred on him under section 305 of the 1999 declared a state of emergency in some parts of country as if this theoretical fire brigade approach is the answer. We are at the edge of the cliff and in front of us as a nation lies a gorge filled sea of Acid. I pray the government will listen to the voice of reason and wisdom of the people of Nigeria. Unless the government completely backtracks on this anti people policy, it’s reasonable to predict that Nigeria will be no stranger to social unrest in the form of public sector strikes and protests. Anger at the perceived injustice of government will continue to flare up, fanned by the careless pronouncements of politicians of all hue.
Nostradamus was never known for his unambiguous prophecies but most believe he predicted the two world wars, the assassination of John Kennedy, the victory of Obama and the rise of Napoleon and Hitler. Whether his vision of 2012 is authentic, it’s anyone’s guess, but it really doesn’t take the ramblings of a 16th century philosopher, some ancient South American prophecy or Chinese astrology to know that this country is literally on the precipice and unless government really stops to take stock of the reality of the masses on the ground then it may all end in chaos.
I have always believed that the kind of experiences of our history should always be an essential indication of where we need to steer our future. Based on the elements we have lived through, Nigeria is certainly not short on history lessons. We have this chance to apply our experience in a positive way to ensure that our future is the kind that the fathers of this beautiful land wished for us. A lot has happened to us within the last year and only God knows what is ahead of us. But whatever it is, we must stay united as one nation, against all evil doers. At this point, at least we can take comfort in the fact that, as long as the Mayan prophecy doesn’t come to pass, considering we survived 2011, there is no reason why we can’t get through 2012 as well.
As the Chinese Year of the Dragon begins and Nostradamus’ times of trouble continue, may it treat us with the kindness that has eluded us in the past couple of years. May Nigerians be blessed with health, happiness and peace, live honourably and give abundant thanks to the Almighty. As we welcome the year 2012, the Year of the Dragon, I wish all of you patience, unity, the joy of the season and safety throughout the coming year. Ameen
Article Written By Hannatu Musawa
You can follow me on Twitter-@hanneymusawa

Hard View (Buried Alive)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Buried Alive

‘Once upon a time many centuries ago an epidemic swept over a land far, far away. As the epidemic spread, many fled the land. The King of the land became very distressed and sought the advice of a wondering hermit. The hermit informed him that they had to bury some living things.
In desperation, the King followed the advice. First a cock was buried alive. Next, a goat and a poor orphan boy were lured to a wood-covered hill where a deep hole was dug. The boy meantime was enjoying a piece of bread and butter.
When the grave was deep, the boy was dropped into it. He begged them not to throw dirt upon his bread and butter, and in a few minutes, still alive, he was entirely covered and left to his fate!
The plague wasn’t cured and the King buried more of his subjects in order to cleanse his Kingdom until he became last one left. To this day, many who pass the hill where the boy was buried, hear a voice, as if from a dying child, crying, "Buried alive! Buried Alive! Buried Alive!"’
-This chilling tale of a Swedish legend reminds me of the scenario we find ourselves, where out of desperation for the survival of his kingdom, a leader is ready to apply a most severe policy.
Since the beginning of his rule as the acting president in 2010, President Jonathan never resembled the man ‘who would be King’, but did come across as a gentleman who, while chosen by providence, was ready to accept the greatness thrust upon him. There was a belief that he was a man that had the heart to sympathize with his country. This belief was further augmented when he choose to surround himself with the brilliance of seasoned technocrats.
However, the main benefit that a technocrat offers, that hypothetical way of governance in which the knowledge of science, engineering and technology is in control of most decisions, happens to also be the most impractical feature to apply in a country of 150 million poverty stricken people. When highly knowledgeable officials tell us that Nigeria will collapse economically unless grave action is taken, we believe them. But when they say the reforms that will alleviate the future suffering of people can only be achieved by the current euthanasia of the collective, we ask them to find another way.
This idealized vision of the economic experts on the removal of the fuel subsidy has blinded them to the actual state of those that exist in the country. With a belief that the removal of fuel subsidy is the only way the Nigerian economy can be stabilized, the economic team assume that the Nigerian people have the ability to absorb what the government considers a necessary sacrifice. I watched the fuel subsidy debate held in Lagos and I was deeply upset when the Minister of Petroleum-Resources, Mrs Diezani Madueke said that this initiative was a small sacrifice that Nigerians had to absorb in order to ensure a more stable future. While those who spoke on behalf of the government had valid reasons for the necessity of the reforms being proposed, I don’t think they fully appreciate the dark-dearth of the Nigerian situation. For most Nigerians the consequence of this policy is not about making the kind of sacrifice Mrs Madueke spoke about, it is literally about life and death. When experts talk about making sacrifices for the future, it is as if they don’t understand that the majority of Nigerians will not have a future if the present remains as it is. What kind of sacrifice are we talking about when most people cannot even afford to eat?
I have always known that there is abject poverty in Nigeria, but it was only when I contested for elections that I saw how deep that poverty was at the very grassroots of society. Honestly, it is no exaggeration to say millions of people in this country can literally not afford to eat, drink, even live. If a whole family could only afford to eat once in a day before, they will probably only be able to eat once every other day now. For most Nigerians, it is not about making the kind of sacrifice that the minister is talking about, it is about the fact that people will just absolutely not be able to live and be alive with the increase in prices. And I really believe that that is the point that the government is missing. What makes the situation worse is that people in government and the cabal that have contributed to the bankruptcy of this nation are living it up in their million dollar mansions, exclusive yachts and private planes while the countries’ infrastructure continues to disintegrate.
This is why Nigerians have reacted in a passionate manner. I don’t believe the agitation was ever so much about the removal of subsidy in itself but the long standing grievance that people feel regarding the total neglect of our infrastructure and the corruption in government, not only in the last ten years, but in the last fifty years. The agitation over the removal of subsidy is, if you like, the casus-belli of our long ingrained insecurity, of bad roads, of lack of transparency, of corruption. There is a bus load of issues that reflect the lack of health care, stable electricity and transparency. Unfulfilled hopes of democracy and dissatisfaction with government are what have culminated in the huge national upheaval of today, in which millions of Nigerians are protesting all over the world.
Nigerians have sacrificed enough and should no longer be the sacrificial lamb to feed fat-cats and the cabal that have introduced this political gas chamber which will eventually suffocate Nigerians by sending them to their early graves. Instead of targeting the general populace, government should cut back its spending by at least 50% and should curb waste by going after the fuel subsidy cabal and the bloated plutocrats that abused the subsidy in the first place. What about all those past government officials that have looted the treasury and are roaming about scot free? They still have Nigeria’s money in their possession. It would be foolhardy for government to remain impervious to better reason and not listen to the wishes of the people. The government should take the diplomatic and political opportunity to retrace their steps by jumping into the window of opportunity given to them by the House of Representatives when it moved the motion asking the government to suspend subsidy removal.
But even the House of Representatives, despite their heroic stand, are not absolved of fault. When they collectively spoke on behalf of the people, what they did was say to Mr President, “You are on your own”! Like your proverbial Pontius Pilot, who after handing Jesus Christ over to the crucifiers, turned around to say “My hands are clean”. They spoke as if they weren’t part of the element that gazumped a humungous part of past government spending. Someone in the legislature should have made the point that the fat-cat salaries they receive at the detriment of Nigerians needs to be slashed by a proportional amount. One of them could have taken responsibility for their own contribution to this impasse.
Like the King in that old Swedish legend, President Jonathan is proposing a policy that he has been advised will cure his country of a near fatal epidemic. But hopefully, unlike that King, President Jonathan will find a way of curing the plague eating away at our economy, our infrastructure and our country. For unless that happens, we may just become the country that will be lying six feet underground begging not to be "Buried alive! Buried Alive! Buried Alive!"
Article Written by Hannatu Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Hard View (Cries of Pain and Anguish)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Her clothes were worn and tattered but clean. Her shoes were old and frayed but they shined. Her face had erupted in premature wrinkles and deep grooves of crow’s feet, but she held a proud and determined look of resilience as she walked with a sense of purpose and dignity to the bank to pay for her son’s WAEC (West African Examination Council) examination. She felt great joy at the prospect that one of her very own offspring was to have an opportunity to become a graduate; although she was already painfully exposed to the fact that it would be a hard, bumpy and rocky road ahead.
Life had never been easy for the forty year old mother of four. From the age of five, she was exposed to unbelievable hardship. In the barracks where her Father had been employed as a washer- man for a Lieutenant Colonel in those days, she had watched sadly and helplessly as her mates had marched off to the barrack primary school clutching their bags with happy, freshly glistening ‘vaselined’ faces; as she burnt her blacked fingers starting the small fire to which she roasted sweet corn under the old mango tree behind the Lieutenant Colonel’s house. In the evenings, she would pack her unsold wares and rusty utensils ready to go home, but on her way back she would also pass through the school playground and pick up pieces of papers or smudged leaves of torn books. She would hide them under her dress, and after she had swept and cleaned the one- room that her whole family called ‘home’; along with her three brothers (who were training as apprentice mechanics), and ate their sparse evening meal, usually left over’s from the main house, she would use little matches to try and decipher the shapes of strokes and lines that she saw. Sometimes she would peer through the cracked windows at the older children who had classes later in the day; and this is how slowly but surely over the years, she began to be able to piece together the letters to form words and by the time she was in her early teens she could proudly read the greasy discarded newspapers on her own. She took the opportunity to also use the cool pieces of blackened charcoal from under the cooling fire to practice writing and soon she was able to write her name and string together sentences.
It was when she was sixteen that she met her soon to be husband. He was employed as one of the junior guards at the barrack gates. He was a low ranking Officer and in those days he had the most charming smile with twinkling dark brown eyes. When he took an interest in the shy, soft spoken roasted sweet corn seller, she was shocked that out of all the girls in the barracks clamouring for his attention- it was her he chose to dote on with little packages of heavenly smelling lotions and creams. The memorable day when he came with elders from his family, her father almost pushed her out of the door with them as they departed; as he was painfully aware of the scores of spinsters around the barracks, desperate for indeed just about anyone to ask for their hand in marriage. The economic implication of having one less mouth to feed in the tiny one room home was a welcome relief.
On her wedding day, her parents stood proud and happy in front of the large party of friends, relatives and well wishers waving farewell to their only daughter, who was to move into her own two room flat with her young dashing Officer. Life as a bride was new and an adventure, for she was hard working and polite to her new neighbours and bossy relatives; but soon her fairy tale romance came to an abrupt end. For it was with dismay that she discovered her husband’s beautiful, twinkling eyes were not the natural gift of God, but were fuelled by his incessant alcohol consumption. He would drink and in minutes transform from a pleasant person to a demonic monster. He would slap her around when his beer was not cold enough, his uniform not starched to his liking or his food not as spicy as ‘his mother used to make it’. She saved up what little money she could from her grocery shopping, always on the look- out for good bargains, and soon she started to sell small amounts of provisions to neighbours’ in order to subsidize the paltry allowance that her husband gives her to run the house and cater to their growing family.
In ten years, she had four children and it was a struggle to buy their books, keep their uniforms tidy, buy sufficient provisions for them and ensure that they went to bed without being hungry. She was secretly pleased with herself that even though she had not formally gone to school herself, she could quietly easily help her children with their homework- this was a relief for she watched as the other children in the neighbourhood struggle with their work from school as their Mothers were either illiterate or just too busy making ends meet to be of use to their kids. But as her children got older, their needs changed; and shoes would be outgrown quickly or uniforms so worn that they could no longer be mended. Her husband became ever more engrossed in his late night and excessive drinking; many times it was the paltry profit from her little thriving kiosk that saved her from the shame of begging for help from anyone else. Many dark nights she would toss and turn on her thin, old mattress wondering about how much she had to give the children for transport to school and back and how much she would have left to buy food for the house and stock her little kiosk. Times were hard and getting harder by the day, but she had her trust in God and felt that positive changes would come in future and her children would one day make her proud by going to university and becoming independent. She had dreams for them to make something of themselves; she had ensured she had imbibed in them positive core values of good, honest hard work-she did not want them to be tainted and plagued by poverty and hardship like she had been subjected to.
So it was with joy she went to the bank that day to pay for her first sons’ external WAEC examination. It was a Friday and there was an incredibly long cue at the bank; but she was elated at the prospect of her son writing his WAEC examinations. Most of her savings had gone towards the payment of his examination so things were tighter than usual at home; but she was hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.
A few days later, she and her neighbours’ woke up to the news that the fuel subsidy had been lifted from N65 to N142. She was in a depressive daze for days as the NLC and TUC grappled with the government and for days and there was a national strike. When the strike was finally over, she and her children huddled around the small radio as they listened to the President’s address, announcing that a litre of fuel is now N97. She paused, reflected and calculated the impossibility of how she could continue to educate and sponsor her children...!
Her story; this one woman’s story stands as a practical example to government about the reality of living on the other side of the debate. All across Nigeria, millions of families were plunged into an unbelievably depressive dilemma as to how to continue to maintain their current ways of life. Yes, all across the nation were cries of pain and anguish.
Article Written by Hadiza Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Hard View (The Greatest)

Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Last week, the world celebrated the 70th birthday of one of the greatest icons of our time. It was a welcome reprieve for the fans of Mohammed Ali to see him in celebratory mode after the recent reports he was loosing his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. It was reported that after fighting a two-decade battle with the crippling disease, the Parkinson’s is progressing and Ali’s condition has worsened considerably leading to his hospitalization. At the peak of his career Mohammed Ali delighted audiences with his charisma, excess skill and humour but Parkinson’s has rendered him virtually powerless and robbed this most verbose and loquacious of men his physical co-ordination and speech. However no matter how bad his illness gets, his dignity never fails to shine through.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay. He began to box at the age of 12 after an incident in which his bike was stolen. Hurt by the theft, he vowed to "whup" whoever stole his bike. A local police man cautioned him and advised him to “learn how to box" before carrying out his threat. Within weeks he trained, boxed and won fights. He had 108 successful amateur bouts before his 18th birthday and in 1960 Cassius Clay won the Olympic gold medal in Rome . Due to the segregation of blacks in Southern America during that time, Cassius was refused service at a local restaurant despite his Olympic achievement. This fuelled his ambition to succeed and reach out to minorities. The ultimate glory came when, against the odds, he defeated Sony Liston to emerge heavyweight champion of the world in 1964. While training for that title bout, he announced to the world that he was a member of the Nation of Islam and that his name was Cassius X, latter to be changed to Muhammad Ali. The response to this news was negative but it never stopped him from wavering, sticking to his beliefs or even joking about it. Whenever he was asked about his attachment to Islam, Ali joked that he was going to have four wives: one to shine his shoes, one to feed him grapes, one to rub oil on his muscles and one named Peaches. In 1967, as the Vietnam War was escalating, Ali was called up for induction into the armed services. He refused induction on the grounds of religious beliefs. Typically in a joking manner he said “I done wrestled with an alligator; I done tussled with a whale; Clean out my cell and take my tail to jail; 'Cause better to be in jail fed than to be in Vietnam dead” and latter he declared "I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong”. The national anger over the last comment combined with Ali’s refusal to go into the armed services caused the authorities to cancel his boxing licenses. He was convicted, stripped of his championship title, his passport confiscated and he faced a 5-year prison term. Eventually after 2 ½ years, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and restored his license. This action elevated him into a champion even more than before because he was the first national figure to speak out against the war in Vietnam .
Among the highlights of his career lays the ‘rumble in the jungle’; a fight between him and a fearsome champion George Foreman in Kinshasa , Zaire . Before the match, in his usual boastful manner, Ali predicted “To prove I’m great he will fall in eight”. And true to his word in the 8th round Foreman was knocked out of the match. To his credit, Ali became the first man to win the world heavyweight title three times. He revolutionized boxing by pioneering a style that went against many of the game's consecrated traditions. By the end of his career, Ali had fought an impressive 61 bouts with 56 wins (37 by knockout) and 5 defeats (1 knockout). Shortly after his retirement he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has been battling it ever since.
Before Muhammed Ali started boxing the sport was largely controlled by the mob but he came along and defended it as a sport. He gave this most uncompromising of sports beauty, grace, style, magnetism, humour, class, sheer excitement and he fought with emotion and heart. In his usual stubborn way he refused to adhere to the conventional way of boxing and told the establishment "I don't have to be what you want me to be; I'm free to be what I want". In the ring Ali used a method that flouted boxing logic; for one he had arm reach and used it so that he didn’t have to get close enough for his opponent to hit him. Additionally his powerful legs allowed him to dance, shuffle and float in the ring. The ‘Ali shuffle’, a foot manoeuvre invented by him allowed him to elevate himself and sometimes deliver a blow while dancing. At the time when his career bloomed, boxers never talked to the media but Ali disregarded this by boasting and predicting matches in a very public, bragging and poetic manner. In a rhyme that latter came to define his mode and manner in the ring Ali said of himself “I float like a butterfly, I sting like a bee; his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.” Floating, stinging, striking, winning or rhyming Ali has today emerged as the world's most adored athlete.
His actions outside of the boxing ring continue to speak volumes. In his journey he risked everything; his standing, his title, his achievements and his livelihood yet he managed to surface as a hero and a man of principle for all time. He’s always been known to stand up for his beliefs, loves children and respects women. He is a super, super star, confident, smug and incredibly handsome. Ali will always be a great inspiration to mankind as a whole and black people in particular; we can all learn a great deal from him. He gave people hope and proved that anyone could overcome insurmountable odds to achieve their dream. Since his retirement from the ring Ali has been a relentless advocate for people in need, having delivered millions of dollars in food and medical relief to third world countries and raising in excess of $50 million for charities throughout the world.
For the last two decades the terrible disease that has dogged Ali has done its share of crippling him, but he has fought and refused to let it beat him. He continues to fight Parkinson’s disease with the same courage and determination he brought to the ring and to his work aimed at alleviating poverty, hunger and intolerance. However if reports of his worsening condition are true then we shall continue to pray to God to bless him and keep him safe and pain free until the end. He touched the world and in return the likes of myself will always love him from the bottom of our hearts. With the exception of Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Ali is the one public personality that I consider as my personal hero. I thank him for representing so many things in so many people’s lives and for instilling in me the love of poetry and freestyle rhymes.
How does one comprehensively describe the story of a man like Muhammed Ali? Well, one needn’t go far because in his own words Ali once said of his story “This is the legend of Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter that ever will be. He talks a great deal and brags indeed of a powerful punch and blinding speed. But I think more appropriately Ali was, is and will always be; that which he proclaimed to be- the greatest!
Article Written by Hannatu Musawa

Hard View (Redemption Song)

 Tuesday, 7 February 2012

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds,
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our Prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say it’s just a part of it;
We’ve got to fulfil the book.
Won’t you help to sing, this songs of freedom- ‘Cause all I ever have:
Redemption Song; Redemption Song; Redemption Song!”
Out of his life’s work, this song more than any other truly defines the essence of the message Bob Marley tried to convey in his music. Apart from being a brilliant piece of art, Redemption Song was Bob Marley’s way of uplifting the downtrodden and oppressed people of the world. When one visualises the oppression of a people, the image that usually comes to mind is that of black slaves in shackles being whipped during the slave trade or crowds of South Africans being shot at during the Apartheid era or even the followers of our Prophets back in the Prophetic Days being dehumanised and slaughtered for daring to believe. While such images maybe its extreme face, the oppression of a people can take many forms. Situations where women are denied equal opportunities and abused by virtue of their gender is a form of oppression. Where a developing nation is buried under a mass of unreasonable foreign debt, it is a form of economic oppression. Where a 157 million people are living in a country that cannot boast of any maintained structure, or stable electricity, or clean water, or a successful educational system, or sound security, or jobs for graduates, the people are oppressed. Where the most populated country in Africa operates a one party democracy where the same party that has been in power since the inception of democracy continues to effortlessly win elections despite the public’s general dissatisfaction, those people are oppressed.
For anyone familiar with our political escapade, news that PDP had won the governorship election in Adamawa state came as no surprise. Nigerians have come to accept that alomost every election that is held will result in a positive outcome for a rulling party that insists on lording its might around the jugular of this nation. Many Nigerians may not recognise it as such, but the one party system that the PDP has hoisted on us, where the dynasty and reuse of leaders has gulped our structure, where the wishes of the vast majority is never adhered to and people have lost hope of ever seeing change is one of oppression.
No matter how much one admires the freedoms enjoyed by others or identifies ours as that which is oppressed, the responsibility for our situation does not lie soley with the rulling party, it must be shared by each and every Nigerian. By now all of us must have accepted the fact that there is a problem in Nigeria. Our inability as a people oppressed to admonish and reject the perpetrators of our decadent state forms a very large basis of the problem. Every day the likes of me and my colleagues continue to moan, groan and print all manners of profanity against our government on the front and back pages of newspapers. Market men and women huddle together in quiet protest, whining about the Nigerian leadership. But in effect all we seem to do is whinge, talk, complain, write and still tolerate. That was what was so special about the recent occupy Nigeria movement. The fact that for once in our history, Nigerians were able to collectively stand as one and reject a limb of oppression, is the very essence of what freedom is all about.
Throughout history when a people’s patience has been pushed to its full limits, those people eventually react to counter the oppression. That was why Nigerians reacted the way they did during the removal of fuel subsidy debacle. This is how the African-American people led by Dr Martin Luther King won freedom, to establish a post-racial society and push back the barriers to black advancement. As he led his people in that massive struggle Dr King told them that the freedom they wanted is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. He was correct. The freedom from the oppression that has engulfed this nation for the past many years will only be won once the people of Nigeria stand up for their rights at every call.
The majority of the people in this country are poor and their one focus is to meet life’s most basic requirements. Each day they wake up to an empty stomach; they are not concerned so much with the policies in Aso Rock or the Bills passed in the National Assembly, but with how they will provide their families with food. This dearth renders them hostage to their nation’s bureaucracy and has overpowered their will to reject the oppression they are stewing in. Perhaps more than ever in our history, Nigeria is, at this very moment, a union of collectively oppressed people at its most oppressed. People who have no say so in the direction of their future, no enthusiasm, expectation or devotion to their nation. People who are so clearly fed up with the status quo.
Unless the mass population of this country unites itself to create an effective opposition to the affairs of state we are dissatisfied with, we will continue to suffer a continuous tragic failure of leadership. Our contentment with the static debauchery we continue to operate as a political system has in effect invigorated the lack of accountability we see in our leaders. The fact that we continue to complain in the privacy of our homes and behind closed doors, instead of confronting the issues that corrupt and bleed this nation dry only sends the message that business as usual is okay as usual.
We have become like the zombies depicted in Hollywood movies that no longer have brains because their brains were eaten by other zombies. Living dead monsters with their hands outstretched that have no purpose but to feed, float, wander and walk slowly; very slowly into nothingness. Growing up as a child, if I was asked the one thing I could call myself as a Nigerian, I think I most definitely would have said that the one thing I was as a Nigerian is proud. But I am afraid today I do not know what the meaning of pride in the Nigerian context is. What is there to be proud of exactly?
The writing is on the wall folks, the march to freedom that was started by the Save Nigeria and Occupy Nigeria group cannot be allowed to evaporate. We have the challenge and responsibility of keeping our government on its toes and ensuring that our democracy emerges out of the dungeon of a one party system. A viable, good faith opposition has got to emerge soon, otherwise the predictability of all our future elections will be so heightened, there will be no point in having the elections. But we also have to realise that the politics of this country will only change if we, the people put away religious and ethnic sentiments and arise without fear or cowardice and legally demand for it to change.
In the Redemption Song, Bob Marley urged the oppressed to “emancipate themselves from mental slavery, none but themselves can free their minds”. He’s right because until we understand that we each have a responsibility in the future of Nigeria, we will continue to suffer. We all have a stake in this country and must hold each other accountable no matter the price. Therefore, as Marley sang, we should each ask ourselves, “Won’t you help to sing, this song of freedom- ‘Cause all I ever have: Redemption Song; Redemption Song; Redemption Song!”
Article Written By Hannatu Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa