Tuesday, December 5, 2017

KILL THE DRUNKEN POLICEMAN.

One sad day, I stopped at a printing press to pick some copies of my books. Then I decided to take Lawanson and connect Oshodi expressway through Itire road. I was alone in the car. After covering a good distance away from the Oba's palace at Itire, I ran into some policemen. About four or more were in a van and one was standing in the middle of the road. He was a monument in a vast land. I think it was his turn to contribute to the fraud of the Nigerian state that is a tragedy of a 21st century. He waved me to stop. So I slammed my leg on the brake and slowed down. My car rolled to the corner and parked few poles away from their van. 

Then the creature whose eyes were crimson red and his head shaven like an egg walked up to me. "Good evening,” he said. He smelled like a bar and let go a yawn that took some time to mix with the air. "What do you have in your boot?" he asked and kept a straight face.

"My books!" I said and flashed an exaggerated smile at him. 

My innocent smile could not win him over. He stared coldly at me and flung a glance at the back seat to see if he could find what could implicate me. There was nothing. And then he returned his gaze to me and cleared his throat. “OFF YOUR ENGINE!” he bellowed. “COME AND OPEN YOUR BOOT!”

I complied and placed the car keys in my back pocket. As he walked to the back of the car, I made for my wallet. These men worship mammon. A few naira notes could get a condemned thief out of jail. So I decided to take advantage of his weakness. Flash a few naira notes and be left off the hook. I got some naira notes so that I can be out of Surulere before nightfall. My plan was to beat the traffic along Apapa-Oshodi expressway. But I never knew that I was in for a long night.

He watched me opened the boot as his colleagues who sat in the van fixed their gaze on us. He was sweating and smelling. I could not tell if the weight of the rifle was killing him. Or the bewilderment that rules the heart of men who drown themselves in liquor was standing taller than the pair of legs that carried him. He could be a victim of both worlds. The rifle was old and it is a tragedy for a drunken man to be left with a firearm. Here, the law was out of my hands. I was not in the position to fix the problem. I was the victim. He was supposed to be my friend and protector. The man who the law has entrusted my life to his miserable hands was failing. He had betrayed the state and the people he had sworn to serve. I threw the boot open, turned to him and crossed my arm over my body.

He nodded, simpering and staggered to my side. He almost knocked me over as he tried to steady his already disorganized soul. He swallowed hard, licked his lips as he inspected the over 500 copies of my books in the boot. I proudly showed him my picture at the back of the book, my name on the front cover and my ID CARD. At least, I was proud to let him know I was a writer. But I received a rude shock. He had barely glanced at the ID card, when he yelled at me, "SO NA YOU DEY PIRATE PEOPLE BOOK ABI? I DON CATCH YOU TODAY!" He turned to the van and signaled the other men to come. About three policemen jumped out of the van and approached us as if they had caught a big thief. 

Before I could blink, he told them that I was a thief. They glanced at me and our eyes met. They smiled after he spews out the rubbish. Knowing that their colleague was drunk, one of them threw out a question, "Identify yourself, my brother."

I handed him my ID CARD. He checked it and looked at the books. And then he looked at my face. He nodded his head. I think he realized that I was clean. He returned my ID and ordered me to return to the car. 

But his colleague who was under the spell of liquor became furious. "WHY WILL YOU LET HIM GO?" he barked at the policeman. "HE IS A PIRATE. HE MUST BE ARRESTED."Then he turned to me, "IF YOU GO ANYWHERE, I WILL SHOOT YOU!"

Afraid that I could be robbed of life in the belly of the night, I stopped. Now, there was a struggle between them. Two of the policemen held the one that was drunk and tried to take the rifle from him. As they battled with him, he yelled at the top of his voice, "WHO GAVE HIM AUTHORITY TO WRITE? HE SHOULD PROVIDE DOCUMENTS TO SHOW HE IS A WRITER!"

I was a still water in my corner. Not long after, they disarmed him. One of the men walked up to me. He apologized for the embarrassment that the man had caused me. As he we walked to the car, He whispered, "Oga, find us something. Make you go."

I smiled. I gave him the naira notes. Entered my car and drove off. 

As I descended the bridge at airport road, my mind began to work. What would have happened to me if the policemen had not intervened? Likely the drunken policeman would have shot me. He could have harmed me or kill me!

I was lucky today.

Kill the drunken policeman.


Omoruyi Uwuigiaren studied Mass Communications. He is a writer, cartoonist, and a blogger. He has published several books which include The City Heroes and other stories from the heart of Africa, Giant in a Hut, Little Okon, Tom the Little Man. His short stories and articles have appeared on Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal, Vanguard Newspapers and other literary journals. You can reach Ruyi @ ldsomoruyi@yahoo.ca

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rapid fire Thoughts on Libya: What Africa Needs to Do.

I was on a national radio program here yesterday to offer my thoughts on the recent tragedy of black slave auctions in Libya. Here we go.

1) I am shocked and outraged like everyone else but I am not surprised.

2) I am not surprised that black Africans are being auctioned in broad daylight in Libya because I am not divorcing what is happening now as we speak from the overall history of the Arab Slave Trade in black Africa.

3) It is more fashionable to talk about the trans-Atlantic slave trade which moved millions of black Africans to the Americas. The history of Arab enslavers of black Africans is not well-known. It is hardly present in the school curriculum in Africa.

4) Yet, Arab Slave slave traders and hunters preceded European slave traders and hunters in black Africa by seven centuries.

5) For seven continuous centuries before the Europeans, Arabs traded in black bodies, routed them through North Africa to be sold all over Arabia and the Middle East as slaves.

6) The reality of Arab slavery goes hand in hand with a certain imaginary of race. Blacks are deemed inferior. In many parts of North Africa, belonging to Africa is treated like a geographical indignity.

7) In essence, what is happening in Libya is to be seen within the framework of historical continuities going back several centuries. It is only more outrageous now because of the power of the image - CNN and social media have brought centuries of the treatment of black bodies in North Africa and the Arab world to your dinner table.

8) The African Union and many African states are jackasses with no political willpower or moral authority to do anything meaningful about the tragedy in Libya, hence the largely disgraceful response from Africa thus far. They have not even expelled Libya from the AU.

9) The European Union, the UN, the West are the congenital hypocritical jackasses we have always known. They are making perfunctory noise and expressing outrage. When they want results in Africa, they know how to get results. When Robert Mugabe began to target whites in Zimbabwe, they massed on him, choked him with sanctions, and hastened the course he was already on - the destruction of Zimbabwe's economy. None of them is talking about sanctions against Libya and expelling her from the international body politic - the victims are expendable black people who would have become burdens on White Europe had Libya not done the needful! Now they are saying that the Libyan authorities have reassured them that they are looking into the matter. Shior!

10) Africans looking up to the West and asking where is the outrage must, therefore, cut the crap. Africans in Paris, in London, have been marching and protesting. Where are the protests in the capitals of Africa?

11) The Nigerian President is yet to hear of what is going on Libya although someone who heard in his government has ferried Nigerians home from Libya. The Ghanaian President is heehawing and blowing hot air on Twitter with no real action. I am the one who should be blowing hot air on Twitter, not the President of an African state. Uncle Jacob Zuma was recently honored with a statue in Nigeria by one of the most irresponsible state governors on offer in Nigeria. He is still basking in the fact that Nigeria accorded him worth he does not have at home in South Africa so he is yet to hear about Libya.

12) These are the characters in charge of the state in Africa. They are the ones that the citizens of Africa should hold responsible. They are the ones we need to put pressure on to act decisively about Libya - starting with Libya's expulsion from the AU. After all, their misrule of the continent is why our citizens are crossing the Sahara in the first place.

God bless Africa.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Pius Adesanmi is a Professor of English and Director, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He was previously an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University in the United States. He is the inaugural winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing in the non-fiction category

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confronting Anti-black Racism In The Arab World.

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history, and anti-black racism in the region is something that must be addressed.

Migrant workers from African countries often face abusive conditions in the Middle East [AP]
In response to an essay I wrote recently regarding the "essential blackness" of the Palestinian struggle, I received this reaction, among others: "What about Arab anti-black racism? Or the Arab slave trade?"

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history and anti-black racism is a fact of current reality, a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. Though I claim no expertise on the subject, I think that applying notions of racism as it exists in the US will preclude a real understanding of the subject in the Arab world.

I spent much of much of my youth in the Arab world and I do not recall having a race consciousness until I came to the United States at the age of 13. My knowledge of Arab anti-black racism comes predominantly from Arab Americans. Like other immigrant communities, they adopt the prevailing racist sentiments of the power structure in the US, which decidedly holds African-Americans in contempt. This attitude is also becoming more prevalent in Arab countries for various reasons, but mostly because Arab governments, particularly those that import foreign labour from Africa and Southeast Asia, have failed to implement or enforce anti-discrimination and anti-exploitation laws.

In many Arab nations, including Kuwait where I was born, workers are lured into menial jobs where their passports are confiscated upon arrival and they are forced into humiliating and often inhuman working conditions. They have little to no protection under the law and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, including extraordinarily long working hours, withholding of salaries, sexual, mental, and physical abuse, and denial of travel.

The recent case of Alem Dechesa brought to light the horrors faced by migrant workers in Lebanon. Dechesa, a domestic worker from Ethiopia, committed suicide after suffering terrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese employers, whose savage beating of her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate went viral last year.

Defining Beauty

An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former - and current - colonizers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies. That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That's why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.

And yet, when Palestine went to the UN for recognition of statehood, the vast majority of nations who voted yes were southern nations. The same is true when Palestine asked for admission to UNESCO. In fact, when the US cut off funding to UNESCO in response to its members' democratic vote to admit Palestine, it was the African nation of Gabon that immediately stepped up with a $2m donation to UNESCO to help offset the loss of income. It was not Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or Lebanon, or Sweden, or France. It was Gabon. How many Palestinians know that much less expressed gratitude for it? So concerned are Palestinians with what the European Union and the United States think of us. So engrossed are we in groveling for their favour and handouts as they support a system of Jewish supremacy pushing our ancient society into extinction. We dance like clowns any time a European leader spares us a thought. Have we no sense of history? No sense of pride? No comprehension of who is truly standing with us and who is sabotaging us?

In a world order that peddles notions of entire continents or regions as irreducible monoliths, the conversation among Arabs becomes a dichotomous "Arab" versus "African", ignoring millennia of shared histories ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the solidarity of African-Arab anti-colonial unity, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and cannot connect the dots when it comes to national liberation struggles.

Arab Slave Trade

When I was researching the subject of the Arab slave trade, I came upon a veritable treasure of a website established by The African Holocaust Society, or Mafaa [Swahili for "holocaust"], a non-profit organisation of scholars, artists, filmmakers, academics, and activists dedicated to reclaiming the narratives of African histories, cultures, and identities. Included in this great body of scholarly works is a comprehensive section on the Arab slave trade, as well as the Jewish slave trade, African-Arab relations over the centuries, and more, by Owen Alik Shahadah, an activist, scholar, and filmmaker.

Reading this part of our shared history, we can see how a large proportion of Arabs, including those among us who harbour anti-black racism, are the sons and daughters of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves.

Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems and whose children were full heirs to their father's names, legacies, and fortunes, without regard to their physical features. The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped outright and hauled across the Sahara.
The race was not a defining line and enslaved peoples were not locked into a single fate, but had an opportunity for upward mobility through various means, including bearing children or conversion to Islam. No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs, but one need only look at ourselves to see the shadows of these African mothers who gave birth to us and lost their African identities.
But while African scholars at the Mafaa Society make important distinctions between the Arab and European slave trades, enslavement of human beings is a horror of incomprehensible proportions by any standard, and that's what it was in the Arab world as it was - or is - anywhere. There are some who argue that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved because the word "Arab" had cultural relevance, not racial.

One-Way Street

This argument goes hand-in-hand with the discredited excuse that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, with warring tribes capturing and selling each other. But no matter how you look at it, the slave trade was a one-way street, with Africans always the enslaved victims. I know of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; nor do I know of an African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves.

I think humanity has truly never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa. This Mafaa has never been fully acknowledged and certainly never atoned for - not that the wounds or enduring legacies of turning human beings into chattel for centuries can ever be fully comprehended or atoned for. But one must try, because just as we inherit privilege from our ancestors, so do we inherit their sins and the responsibility for those sins.

Gaddafi's Role

The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi understood this and he used his power and wealth to try to redeem our shared history. He was the first Arab leader to apologize on behalf of Arab peoples to our African brothers and sisters for the Arab slave trade and the Arab role in the European slave trade. He funneled money into the African Union and used Libya's wealth to empower the African continent and promote pan-Africanism. He was a force of reconciliation, socialism, and empowerment for both African and Arab peoples. Gaddafi's actions threatened to renew African-Arab reconciliation and alliances similar to that which occurred at the height of the Non-Aligned Movement during the presidencies of Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Thus, NATO's urgency to prevent "massacres" and "slaughter" in Libya was manufactured and sold wholesale. The fear of African-Arab solidarity can be seen in the way the US-backed Libyan insurgency spread rumours that "black African" mercenaries were committing atrocities against Libyans. Gaddafi became an even bigger threat when an agreement was reached with the great anti-imperialist force in South America, Hugo Chavez, to mediate a solution to the uprising in Libya.

Now both of these champions of their people are gone, and the so-called Libyan revolutionaries are executing "black Africans" throughout the country. Gone, too, is NATO's worry about the slaughter in Libya, and another high-functioning Arab nation lies in ruin, waste and civil strife - primed for rampant corporate looting.

I wrote previously that the Palestinian struggle against the erasure of our existence, history, and identity was spiritually and politically black in nature. So, too, are other struggles, like that of migrant workers throughout many Arab nations. These are our comrades. They are the wretched, exploited, robbed, and/or, at last, liberated.

I refer to Black as a political term, not necessarily a racial or ethnic descriptor. In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: "Black People is a construction which articulates a recent social-political reality of people of colour (pigmented people). Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group. Political Blackness is thus not an identity but moreover a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms. The word "Black" has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas."

But that word has been reclaimed, redefined, and injected with all the power, love, defiance, and beauty that is Africa. For the rest of us, and without appropriating the word, "black" is a phenomenon of resistance, steadfastness - what we Palestinians call sumud - and the beauty of a culture that is reborn out of bondage and oppression.

Right To Look The Other Way

Finally, solidarity from Africans is not equivalent to that which comes from our European comrades, whose governments are responsible for the ongoing erasure of Palestine. African peoples have every reason to look the other way. Ethiopians have every reason to say: "You deserve what you get for the centuries of enslavement and neo-enslavement industry by your Arab neighbours." African Americans have every reason to say: "Why should I show solidarity with Arabs who come here to treat us like white people do, and sometimes worse?"

Malcolm X once said: "If I was that [anti-American], I'd have a right to be that - after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren't anti-American."

We can substitute the word "Arab" for "American" in that sentence and it would be a valid statement. And yet, Africa is right there with us. African American intellectuals are the greatest champions of our struggle in the United States. The impact of solidarity from four particular individuals - Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney - can never be overestimated.

Last month, the former South African ambassador to Israel refused a "certificate" from Israel confirming the planting of trees in his name. In his letter, he called Israel a racist, apartheid state and said the gift was an "offense to my dignity and integrity". He added: "I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of '18 trees', in my 'honour', on expropriated and stolen land."

I would like my countrymen to think long and hard about this until they truly comprehend the humbling beauty of this solidarity from people who have every reason to be anti-Arab. I wish my countrymen could look through my eyes. They would see that black is profoundly beautiful. They would see that Africa runs through our veins, too. Our enslaved African foremothers deserve to be honoured and loved by their Arab children. And it is for us to redeem their pain with the recognition and atonement long owed. Arriving at this understanding is a good starting place for reciprocal solidarity with nations and peoples who are standing with us, in heart and in action.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010). She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children. Follow her on Twitter: @sjabulhawa
Source: Al Jazeera

Sunday, November 19, 2017

JOY ISI BEWAJI: A MAN KEEPS YOU HAPPY WHILST YOU ROLL YOUR BUTTOCKS IN CIRCLES TO PLEASE HIM.

So, when did polygyny become a distasteful arrangement in Nigeria?

I am confused. This entire side-chick syndrome didn't exist a decade, or so, ago because most of you did come from a polygyny setup. And if you weren't aware of it initially, you were fully informed when your father died. Branches of his polygyny sprouted from the family tree at his burial, and you met new siblings that lived just as well as you did.


We despise polygyny because it isn't "woke" enough. That's the stuff our fathers did. Polyandry is being applauded in some quarters because, well, it sounds different. It's the same way we embrace feminism without having a clue what to do with it.

While you are all slashing the cheek of some side-chick for trespassing, realize that polygyny is going nowhere.

As long as the Nigerian masses still live below a dollar daily; as long as there are no jobs, no water, poor institutions that meet our health, legal, educational needs... as long as our aspirations cannot come true under the Nigerian dream, sorry, nightmare, polygyny is the only way average Nigerians can meet their needs. The few successful ones will have to love, sex, and provide for the majority of broken dreams. It's that simple.

I had a relationship where the account manager of my boyfriend would call by 11pm, flirting and throwing all the green lights she can afford to give. You think she is calling to share the word of God? She probably has a "fiance" somewhere, but she can see very clearly this customer has the kind of money that will sort her out for life. If he agreed to the chase, and ask that she come over to wherever he was at that moment, you really think she's going to turn him down? Of course not! It's a mix of a lot of errors - poverty is one. Not blatant poverty, but lower middle-class poverty that is always one cheque away from being broke.

Polygyny will thrive in a country where credit facilities do not exist. If you want a house, you're going to have to bring your N1.2m annual rent along. No monthly payment, except you, live in Oshodi, paying N4,800 monthly for a crib that occupies you and a chicken. If you have dreams, the system doesn't support you. You need a car? You'll have to bring the entire N8.6m cash along. Bank facilities? Don't even bother. As tough as the system is in Nigeria, religion allows you to act like you are against the lifestyle that keeps you.


Polyandry is hip now because a few "civilized" countries talk about it like a cool sport. And feminism along with transexual rights are focusing on empowering women. However, polygyny reminds us of the patriarchy we need to dismantle. But as long as Nigeria is concerned, I am yet to see how polygyny is a bad thing. 

In third world countries, many women rise out of poverty because polygyny exist. This country has no proper system for alimony, child support, spousal support... what we have is a man who is willing to love you and take care of you. It's belittling, yes. But so is profound lack. If you don't want to live that way, you'll need to work hard and think hard. But we are not thinkers per se.


There's a girl on Instagram that hops around celebrities' comment section to drop this:

"Plix I want to be in a movie. How do I do it? Help me."

She's an adult. But she wants a route that wouldn't require any kind of work. At the end of the day, she's going to find someone who'll invite her over to a guesthouse, have sex, play a dead role in a movie that mean absolutely nothing, continue with the sex for roles hoping it'll eventually mean something for her career, get pregnant, become a baby mama and probably get a neat crib at Mafoluku to keep baby and mama happy.

I worked with a writer once who drove a badass Mercedes Benz, hardly repeated a dress twice and lived in Lekki (No, it wasn't company accommodation).  Me, her boss, was riding a Rav4 and living on the mainland. Do you really think her staff writer wage could afford her that lifestyle? No, it is not her parents' money either. I earn ten times more than she could ever be paid as a writer. Yet she lived an easier life. We never talked about it, of course. It is none of my business. But that, to a large extent, is what I call "polygyny lite" - when a man keeps you happy whilst you roll your buttocks in circles to please him.


These things will always be with us, because poverty is always around the corner, and poverty is not an easy option.


Joy Isi Bewaji is a prolific writer, editor, columnist, Managing Director at Happenings Radio, co-founder of wahalanow.com, and Creative Director at The Network Bank.