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.

Lessons from my Mandela Washington Fellowship Experience

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— By Edem from Nigeria

I think the first impression which struck me was that there were no boundary walls separating the Arizona State University (ASU) campus from the rest of the community. Right behind the law building stood the very cosmopolitan Sheraton Hotel, next to the impressive Walter Cronkite school of Journalism stood the grand Arizona Science Centre. Also a few blocks from the University student centre stood tall glass offices of Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. I had never encountered a University without walls or borders and so I had been in the ASU Downtown Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, for well over 10 minutes without realising. It wasn’t until we got to the front of an attractive student dormitory building called Taylor Place, which would be my home for the next 6 weeks that I suddenly understood. At that point I looked at the cab driver and escort with a look of surprise and asked “when did we go through the university gates?”

I would later discover during the course of an intense 6 weeks Fellowship experience that the absence of walls bordering ASU Downtown campus was a manifest expression of the system’s belief in the fluidity of interaction between knowledge and transforming human societies. For 6 weeks I was immersed in a progressive style of learning. During academic sessions we engaged in rich discussions and team work which yielded simple solutions. During community service we visited schools, community centres, Native American tribes, non-profits, city bureaus and offices. We also helped build houses, plant green spaces, distribute food at shelters and food banks and paint school walls. As part of our cultural exchange we ate American hot dogs, went on hiking trips, watched 4D movies, attended a 4th of July baseball game and gazed at fireworks whilst making sure that we left behind in all the places we visited the reverberating sounds of our beautiful African philosophies, songs, drum beats and rhythms.

I gained many valuable lessons during my Fellowship experience and I would like to share 3 of these lessons with other youths who might be reading this:

  1. All over the world, there is no perfect society and no, the United States of America is not perfect. The Country has its issues and the citizens confront problems as well. However there are strong societies. Such societies reflect deeply entrenched values, a keen investment in knowledge and research, transparent and effective systems of governance and robust working economies. As is to be expected, such societies deliver a high standard of basic comfort to average citizens, making their borders attractive to people around the world. A lesson I gained during the Fellowship is that such societies are built and sustained through vision, effort and sacrifice. This is clear from the attitude of both the leaders and the citizens of America to work, education and innovation, governance, community service, and the deep rooted values of freedom and opportunity. Contrary to the opinion of many, Nigeria will thrive if we imbibe the many lessons of our past as well as lessons presented by strong nations like the United States. As young people we must first believe in the possibility and then we must strive to attain it through effort and sacrifice.
  1. There is value in networking and building relationships. Our value as individuals is not limited to our personal skills or potential alone but encompasses the collective strengths of everyone who forms part of our relationship circle. The more relationships we build the more value we can claim or leverage and vice-versa. Americans are big on networking because they realise the importance of social integrative power. Through networking and relationship building we can easily share resources, discover opportunities, reduce costs, enjoy mentoring or peer review and accountability amongst other important benefits. As youths, we are currently the largest demographic on the African Continent and this is an opportunity. The more connected we are, the more resourceful we become. This implies that we can travel much farther today than any previous generation in Africa ever could.
  1. The real value of an education is in the solutions we are able to create. We are not relevant merely because we have a university degree or we graduated with first class or second class upper honours, as many often boast. Those credits are simply presumptive labels indicating to the world what we are capable of contributing. The world will not be transformed just because we are literate or have a brilliant mind. The world will only be transformed when we take our brilliant minds and use them to create useful solutions that address current issues the world is grappling with. If we are to improve our communities and our nation we have to move beyond the current obsession with tagging ourselves as “literate”, “graduate” or “first class holder” to creating real valuable solutions. As I witnessed during my Fellowship experience, having a college degree or a fancy one at that, isn’t nearly as important as the innovative skills and critical mindset you bring to the table and how relevant those skills are to present day challenges.

Written by:        Edem Dorothy Ossai (2016 Mandela Washington Fellow),                                                                   Founder of MAYEIN: www.mayein.com 

 

Dance of the Dead

sebastiane

— By Sebastiane from Nigeria

My people have a saying that sleep is a kin and brother to death. As a child, I often battled with comprehending such proverbs; ‘why would anyone liken sleep to death?’ would I often say to myself. But then I saw him (again) today, and it all made perfect sense.

For a moment I wished he was truly as asleep as he looked like he was, and that he would jump up the next second to answer his name… ‘Oh Ade’ was all everyone could mutter in dripping tears and silent cries. The priest had said earlier that ‘no one should shed a tear but rather rejoice, for our brother (and friend) who had gone to meet with the lord!’ Either no one listened or they didn’t believe him!

As I looked into the coffin from a distance, behind the swamp of other friends and relatives who stood there to catch a last glimpse of him, I recalled all the wonderful times we spent together , the happy and not too happy times (No, I shouldn’t be remembering that part!).

Was he smiling or was that how his face has always been? Is he happy? If he were given a second chance, what would he have done differently? We have been friends for as long as I can remember; he was my best friend and brother. As I looked at his firmly shut eyes, a story my grand dad told me many years ago came to mind. It is a story about what happens in the spirit world after a person dies.

Grand pa said when a person dies, he goes to meet his friends and family who have died before him and they throw a big party in his honor where they eat, drink and dance, laughing as he tells them tales and all that have happened on earth and within their families after their demise.

Was he really with the lord as the preacher had told us earlier or was he engaged in the big banquet prepared to welcome him into the spirit world? Somehow, grand pa’s version stayed. I stood there imagining my lost friend happy and celebrating with all those who have died before him and are long gone, great grandparents and ancestors.

Was this true? I imagined my friend looking down at the whole of us mourning and crying. Could he be partaking in a dance of the dead right now with a calabash of palm wine in his palm and kola nut in his mouth, celebrating his passage to the other side while we all cry and mourn here?

‘I know he is happy wherever he is’, came a voice from behind. I turned to see an elderly woman smiling at me as if she could read my thoughts and hear my questions. Without looking back in the coffin, I walked out of the room. Was the woman a messenger from the other side and could she really see through me into my thoughts? It was all becoming too scary!

Oh Ade… But could he really be partaking in a dance of the dead while we mourn?