A Stand Against Oppression

Abdulmumin (1)

— By Abdulmu’min from Nigeria

It was back in high school some years ago, on the Lagos Island of Lagos State, Nigeria. We had finished prep class, and it was around 9:50 pm on Tuesday night, in the boys-only high school in which four different houses: red, yellow, blue, and green, served as the major difference in the lifestyles of the boys.

We were in our finals, and as the most senior students in the school, we had every other thing going easy. We usually had our whites sparkling, well ironed out such that it could tear one’s skin. Every student had to respect our seniority, those were the benefits of being a senior class student, except of course for the tight schedule of having to prepare for the senior school exams. Everyone barely had time to do other chores, so we had to do those chores after prep class, which usually ended at 9:30 pm leaving us with just 30 minutes before lights-out.

Lately we had been complaining about our stuff going missing from the large building which the final year students of the four houses occupied as dormitories. Every dormitory contained bunk beds, arranged in rows and columns, and locker rooms to keep some of our belongings. We had started to blame each other for the theft.

The Sunday before I was up at night, like every other day, studying, when I suddenly noticed one of the security guards, employed to secure the school, trying to find his way to the hostel, which was already locked, around 2:30 am. I alerted some of my housemates who were awake then to also see what I had seen, we decided to pretend to be asleep. Just as the security guard jumped in, I switched on the lights; the guard noticed this and absconded. There were about ten security guards in the school.

The next morning was a Monday morning, at the beginning of the week there was much to do so we didn’t discuss the incident. It was Tuesday and we had just 10 minutes left until lights out, and I was determined to end the treacherous acts of the guards.

I was standing with the utility prefect, Stanley, when we saw one of the guards by the name Innocent, heading towards the hostel. Now aware of what had been happening, once prep was over, Innocent alongside two other guards nicknamed Boko and Haram, Boko was friendly while Haram was the strong faced guy, would all come into the hostel claiming to send everyone to bed even before lights out, with the aim of getting everyone to sleep at the same time to give them enough time to do whatever evil act they had to do. Innocent was the team leader.

One funny thing about the Name Boko Haram is that, it’s actually the name of the dreaded terrorist group which had been causing insurgency in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, where over 280 schoolgirls were kidnapped.

Innocent wasn’t just heading towards the hostel, he had a bamboo stick in his hand. I told Stanley, “What the hell does this guy think he is going to do with that stick in his hand, hit anyone of us! Hell no, just see what I’m going to do tonight, this will have to stop.” As he got nearer to the hostel Stanley cowardly went into his dormitory, while I went to the front of mine.

There were five of us from blue house, Steve, Owuri, Tobi, Toba, and myself. I informed them of the incident and asked them not to move when Innocent arrived, we had to stop the act. Innocent was in the hostel and as usual chasing everyone to go to bed, he got to where we were standing and suddenly Tobi and Toba made away to their beds, while Steve, Owuri, and I were left. Innocent said “Go inside,” but we didn’t respond so he told us to get on our knees.

By then the whole building was quiet, Steve and Owuri were about to kneel down, when I moved forward going head to head and chest to chest with Innocent, even though he was the leader of the security guards. My words to him were, “Why should we go to bed? Is it because you and your gang want to come and steal our valuables, No! This would have to stop today.” 

Owuri had left, Steve was about to do the same when Innocent suddenly dragged him back and hit him hard on the head with the bamboo stick. Haram was with his boss by then and both were fighting against me. We were exchanging blows and words, more students now trooped out and aided the struggle against oppression after hearing the noise, and finally the fight against the oppression of innocent students had been won.

I thought to myself the school management wouldn’t have believed us if we had gone ahead to report the incident, since we had no evidence, but now we had fought, I had fought for us. They stopped coming to the hostel, which wasn’t their responsibility in the first place, and our properties were safe again. What if I had not taken my stand against oppression?

What Unfairness Has Fate Brought?

— By Editoro from Nigeria

It was not the rays of the sun that seeped through to the road, nor was it the dog barking with so much ferocity, the stench from the heaps of abandoned refuse has given them an enduring purpose: to become the downtrodden and the wretched in the society.

They neither smiled nor frowned, perhaps they were content, but their eyes were begging pleas. Clinging to their arms were children, that have already become a mockery to the perfect deity anyone worships. Buzzing from giant flies was more of an accompanying tune, rather than a discomfort.

I walked faster, with haste, head down in weariness. Knowing I could have become one of them with a mischance in the game of genes sent shivers down my spine.

The aroma of richly cooked food hit my nose, it was from an adjoining fence. Before my eyes were the glitz, the glamour, the ostentatious nature of wealth. Cars of varying sizes and colours were laid one after another spectacularly, like rainbows. Bulky cheeks, potbellies, and proud disposition characterised their features. These were the elites, the ones whom fate had been ‘partial’ to. A mother with richly designed headgear and shoes that made her tiptoe, held her son who was suckling his lollipop. If only he understood what was happening to his peers few metres away.

I scuttled along, my feet dragging on. My eyes watered, not at the deep social divide that has plagued most third world countries, nor what unfairness fate has brought, but the ever-present lacking of the poor.

That experience gave me a powerful sense of responsibility and purpose, and it became my compass in the midst of my travail.

I Was Simply Getting Ready for the Day…

adebisi

— By Adebisi from Nigeria

Some days seem hotter than others; especially in April when the morning sun is in a haste to beautifully display its radiance and cast its heated smile on everyone. That was the case that Monday morning. Until a big bang altered the day’s DNA. It knocked me out of the bed and woke me to a shaky building, the walls vibrating and the roof gnashed their teeth until its sound hit a crescendo.

I rushed briskly to the window, wondering at my own safety, but everywhere was calm the very second the blast ended. I overheard someone says it was a rock blast at a quarry site nearby, so I moved ahead with my day like nothing significant had happened. Hurrying to fix breakfast and get set for the day, I was barely done with any particular chore when my phone rang. “Hello, hope you are fine? I’m just checking up on you”. That was the voice of a very old friend. Then the phone rang again and it was my mother. Why is she calling again this morning after we already spoke last night? Then it was my dad calling; “We heard there was a bomb blast this morning, just checking on you”. He hung up. It was at that moment I realized the whole neighborhood was rowdy with everyone rushing to the scene of the bomb blast.

It was Monday the 14th of April 2014. A bomb had blasted in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and it was obviously the handwork of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. Looking up to the sky towards the direction of the scene (a few miles from my residence) was a gigantic cloud of smoke rising slowly into the heavens. Minutes later, images of hundreds of dead bodies, all burnt and blasted to death made headlines social media. Headless bodies mingled with shredded human parts. An arm lying atop a car, limbs across the culvert, a woman holding tight to her baby (both dead anyway), busted bellies, broken brains and a few survivors still shivering in an almost lifeless state. Then an unborn baby busted out of a pregnant woman alive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, lying in a pool of blood left everyone awestruck.

About thirteen luxury busses, then some smaller busses, countless private cars got caught in the blast. It was the worst attack ever, yet it happened so close to me. But that Monday morning had a lot more in store. As victims were rushed in their hundreds to hospitals and pharmacies, the telephone lines jammed as a result of the thousands of calls emanating from that direction. Over the news, the incident was reported mildly “A bomb blasted in Nyanya, killing about thirty people. Boko Haram has taken responsibility for it. Also over two hundred girls were reportedly abducted from a boarding school in Chibok; a small village in Borno state of Nigeria”.
The president came on air to condemn the act and consoled the family of victims while promising to take care of the survivors’ medical bills. Just as days went by, and the events were about to be swept under the carpet, a global movement began.

Everyone, demanded the President to “Bring Back Our Girls” and that was it; the birth of a new movement that continuously sat-out in public places and daily requested the speedy return of the Chibok girls. Then as this movement began gaining momentum, the news reported that no girls were abducted in Chibok on that morning and that this movement was politically driven, and aimed at destabilizing the government. That sounded believable and just as I was about to believe it, the news reported that seven of the abducted girls had been rescued by the military. Then I heard that a search party from the United States of America had arrived Nigeria to comb the Sambisa forest (a forest that lies along the Nigeria and Niger republic border) and rescue the Chibok girls. Then I heard silence, and again a series of rumors every once in a while about the rescue of some more Chibok girls.

The government through our local media agencies had at some point lied about the total reclaim of territories controlled by the terrorist group. The truth is only made known through international media agencies since the Nigerian government cannot influence nor have their report edited by the State Security Service (S.S.S) as they do with the seemingly largest television network in Africa before broadcast. What this implies is that the larger population is fed with lies and only those that can afford the high rate of subscribing to cable networks monthly have a chance of hearing the truth as it happens.

Her Name is Adura

adelakun

— By Adelakun from Nigeria

Adura is 18 years old. She hopes to get into the university next year to study medicine. She lives in a makeshift shelter in my community. What strikes me the most about Adura is the fact that she’s so intelligent, so, I took a special interest in her as a mentor. Her mother had no formal education but was encouraged by my late mother to send her daughters to school. She sells soda and bottled water to earn some money so that she can send Adura and her younger sister to a low income private school in the community. Adura’s father is dead. Here’s a peek into what her day looks like.

Adura gets up at 5:30am every morning.

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She makes sure her younger sister is ok.


Meanwhile, her mother who sells her wares through the night rests.

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Then Adura takes delivery of Ice blocks which her mother uses to chill the drinks and water she sells. Aftet that she takes a shower in that cubicle. (I cried while taking this picture. It’s amazing the things we take for granted. This is what Adura calls her bathroom).

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Then she has her breakfast (if available.) and reports to a graphics design shop where she is currently on internship. She’s very good at using Corel Draw!

After a long day, she retires to her mother’s shed to sleep. Dinner may or may not happen.

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Adura remains cheerful though. She is the definition of hope in the midst of nothing. When there’s life, there’s hope.

No Pity Please

chimezie

— By Chimezie from Nigeria

Why should you pity me simply because I lack Melanin? Why look at me with that discriminatory countenance? Why on earth would you even contrive my Albinism for disability?

I and other People with Albinism have been victims of society’s stratification; a sort of construct studied under social sciences. Society looks down on us and believes that our light skins are signs of weakness, conferring us with a disabled status. A toga the society would gleefully adorn on us covering our mouths from speaking up, pushing further inside to continue that frightful cower.

Apunanwu, Onye Ocha, Ocha, Nwoke Ocha, Oyinbo pepper, Afin, Orisha, Ebo, Obobo, Bature, Anasara. . . from East to West, South to North, the names are endless. The taunts, pranks and snide remarks… Hateful and wicked… It leaves deep and unforgetable scars.

In Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and other parts of East and Central Africa, we are haunted and hunted like prized gazelles. For what? To chop our bodies into bits and use us for rituals for money making, good luck charms etc., I weep when I watch, read and hear of these tales but yet I say strongly: No pity please. After all, in English, an adage goes thus “person wey dey cry dey see road.” Even in the midst of my tears, I am still sane.

While I weep for the fate that have befallen many over there and the acceptance of such dastardly acts by their society, I am more petrified by the situation back home.

You see in 2014, I tried to apply for the Graduate Internship Scheme, YOUWIN, organized by the Federal government. Whilst filling out my application, I got to a spot tagged “any form of disability?”. Guess what; “albinism” was number 7 on the list. I was devastated, I stopped forth with. I have been betrayed by my own government who branded me an invalid because I lack pigmentation. But again: No pity please!

Socialization is said to be the best way by which culture can be transmitted from one epoch to another. Culture is the total sum of our way of life and social perception plays a major role in the formation of culture. Today, I’m saddened by the many misconstrued perceptions, the subtle yet very strong hunts for Albinos in East Africa; I’m disappointed in the discriminatory stance of the Nigeria society towards people living with Albinism, emboldened by the fact that there are Albinos out there who are smashing records, breaking down doors and doing the extraordinary things; even in the midst of daunting challenges.

I stand to announce the #Albinism_Not_Disability campaign and hope you join me by taking a picture with the hashtag written on a piece of paper and sharing with your networks on various social media platforms.

I look forward to your support, but I must warn you; it’s not a pity party and all you very piteous and pitiful people, are not invited. It’s a party of like minds who believe that we are as endowed and gifted, blessed and perhaps cursed as the man with a huge dose of Melanin. So, No pities please

Join me in standing against discrimination and harassment of the Albinos.

How I landed my First Job

festus

— By Festus from Nigeria

The job hunt started with a celebration after I finished my final exam as an undergraduate at the prestigious University of Nigeria. I will never forget that wonderful day. I can still picture the wonderful celebration that came with it the usual “four years don waka” ritual inspired by Nigeria’s style plus track titled: “four years don waka.”

This is a popular celebration in Nigeria’s Universities. It ushers students into a moment of celebration laden with joyful screams, hoots of laughter, tears of joy and a period of thanksgiving to providence for a successful or safe degree programme—four, five or six years, depending on the course of study.

During this once in a lifetime celebration you would see students clothed in white vest—emblazoned with autographs of different colors of permanent marker pen or highlighter, you’d see excitement palpably woven amongst them.

I joined in the celebration too. I enjoyed every single minute I spent with my classmates—reveling.

After the celebration, I came face-to-face with reality. We shook hands, exchanged contacts and soon became friends. This reality’s baptismal name is also known as: Life after school. What I call “Life of a graduate”.

It comes with a lot of thoughts and challenges. It’s at that stage you start hunting for job and this time around you’ll hear news like: “there’s no job.” Well It’s true; there’s no job. But, I’ve never accepted that cliché for once. I’ve always believed in God’s grace and hard work.

Still, the search continued. I kept sending mails to editors; I never relented in checking out for opportunities on the Internet. I kept applying till I even became tired of applying. Days turned into weeks, weeks rolled into a month—still, nothing happened.

However, the story changed on the 30th of August. I received a mail from U.S based African Exponent that was only a few weeks after I applied for a staff writer position. Amid anxiety I applied and when I was invited for an interview on Skype, my heart was housed in fear too. I didn’t expect anything big. The thoughts of “You don’t have your certificate yet” flooded my thoughts. “After all you just graduated few weeks ago,” I continued, in deep thoughts.

But, the interview panned out well. My three-year experience as a young journalist paid off. I got the job. And here is the surprising news: I was the only person offered employment as a staff writer out of 198 applicants all over Africa.

I was gob smacked. I shed tears of joy. I screamed, I celebrated.

The news is still unbelievable even as I am writing this piece. It is an experience I will never forget in my life. An experience I will preserve for my children and my generation is to always believe in themselves, in God and in their hustle (hard work).

The Moment That Changed my Life

franklin

— By Franklin from Nigeria

Back when we were asked what we wanted to become when we grew up, I always mentioned medicine and honestly, being a doctor was it for me. I knew it was my calling. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t sure of the different categories of medicine available, but I was just comfortable with being called Doctor up and down the whole place. Seemed cool!

Fast forward to secondary school; I join the Nigerian Red Cross Society you know? Somewhere along my supposed life path I got acquainted with basic first aid and in my fourth year, I was even made an assistant Health. Prefect! So I got to be in charge of the sick bay. It was then I found out I wasn’t really the most comfortable person with blood. For a doctor-to-be, that meant war. I mean, what kind of doctor loathes blood? I dismissed it and prepared for the university to get rid of my fear of blood.

Somewhere along the line, I had a one-on-one with the school’s guardian counselor and it was as though she was specifically speaking to me as if she knew I had a thing for blood. She kept talking about how we have to stick to what we enjoy doing and not rush into plans simply because someone else was doing it or because it seemed cool. I was shaking. I had to sit down and think and it dawned on me that I might have just liked the idea of being a doctor. It was very cool to say but the least. They were adored and given respect as they moved in their white coats with pens by the right pocket. It was then I had my moment of clarity, the one moment that I would say changed my life for good because I may have been an average doctor endangering the lives of people all because I wanted to feel cool or enjoy the respect.

I eventually went to the university, studied Microbiology and now, I write for a living on OMGVoice. I mean, I like to think I’m pretty cool to my readers and people who say nice things about what they read on the website regularly. I am, I’m pretty sure.