She grew up to hear relations and neighbours call her a ‘bastard.’ She would rush home and ask her Mum why that ‘name’ should be her portion. Her Mum would tell her to ignore her tormentors and reassure her in cryptic Yoruba: “Olorun lo nwo omo were” – meaning, it is God who cares for the child of the lunatic. It is true. Children of difficulty imbued with good heads always sprout and survive through the thorns and thickets of life. Stand-up comedian, Helen Paul is my favourite. I pause things and times to listen to the excellence she serves. She worked very hard and got a Ph.D last Thursday at the University of Lagos. Then, in just a few emotional lines, she wrote a compelling story of her forced conception, the wear and tear – and the tears of the difficult take off. And then, of her success as a child of destiny and a compelling brand. She dedicated the doctoral certification to her strong mum.
Helen Paul’s jolting story should teach some lessons in success and survival. She is a definite piece of good news in a nation taking daily dosages of pains. Her story provided an interlude in the interminable drama of unhinged deaths in Zamfara, of killing poverty North and South – especially in the far North, and of unending bloody electoral contests and contestations in Rivers State. She gives hope as well as a challenge to all seeking a cure for deprivation and hurting injustice.
“I dedicate this to my mum, you gave birth to me out of rape. They told you I wouldn’t amount to anything. I grew up hearing from family members, being called a “bastard” – and each time I asked you, you said ‘Olorun lon wo omo were, Olorun ma wo e‘ (meaning God watches over the child of a mad person; He’d watch over you),” she posted on Instagram. And God did watch over her. He did, otherwise we won’t be bursting veins with laughter and getting glued to our seats watching this iconic comedian demonstrate how ‘very expensive’ it is to be a ‘fine girl.’
The heroine of her story is her mum. Mothers are angels. Whether here or anywhere, they work hard to shield their children from the shit of shame. Across the seas, there are stories just as we have on this side. A former Hollywood actress, Tirralan Watkins’ Tinseltown Mom, contains a trove of such invasive births and blinding successes: There is civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson and his rape-birth story. His mum was 16 when she had him. Helen Paul’s Mum may not have read the story of American journalist, Kelly Wright, a former Fox & Friends weekend co-anchor who was also conceived in rape. His mum was also 16 years old when she was raped by a pastor -and husband of her friend- and then conceived him. Growing up, he wrote in his America’s Hope in Troubled Times that his Mum always assured him that although he was conceived the way that he was, God had a purpose for his life. US actress and singer, Ethel Waters who died in 1977 was an Emmy and Oscar nominee. Her birth wasn’t different from the other examples here – another rape case. She was raised in poverty by her grand mum but grew to become a music icon. She would look back at her struggle through the difficulties of her growth and say: “I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” But her hostile world could not stop her success. She blossomed and bloomed. Same with the hugely successful TV personality, Faith Daniels, a product of rape who would tell the world that “it really doesn’t matter how you were conceived, only what you’ve become.”
The same week Helen Paul used her life to remind us how ‘stubborn’ destiny cooked success for her famished being, Africa’s richest man and philanthropist, Aliko Dangote lamented very loudly in Kaduna that Northern Nigeria is the living room of poverty. He said: “While the overall social economic considerations in the country is a cause for concern, the regional imperative are in fact very alarming. In the North western and North eastern part of Nigeria, more than 60% of the population live in extreme poverty. It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states which account for over 54% of the country’s population and 70% of its landmass collectively generated only 21% of the total sub National Internally Generated Revenue in 2017.” Nothing changed in 2018 and nothing is changing this year. Northern Nigeria is another story of rape.
Kofi Annan once said that “extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.” We are seeing that truth very alive with our North. Our president said he is the most unhappy president in the whole world because of insecurity in that clime. He proffered no coherent solution to his unhappiness. But Dangote has recommended “closing the poverty gap” with what he called “multi layer investment’ to be driven mainly with massive private sector investment to create jobs and grow wealth. He said: “As more people get employed, you will notice a sharp decline in some of the social vices now prevalent in our society.” He definitely spoke well but I am surprised he did not identify high illiteracy rate in the far north as the single most devastating factor against the regional health. Throwing big money at poverty won’t thaw the ice of rank want or dislodge the bandits of Zamfara and the Boko Haram of the North East. Something much more effective and sustainable is needed there: Education in its right mode and dosage. Thomas Friedman, in a March 11, 2012 opinion piece published by the New York Times advised all poor peoples to “pass the books (and) hold the oil” if they desire a breakthrough. Using Taiwan as the peg of his anti-poverty prescription, Friedman noted that that country is “a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea” having absolutely no natural resource – “no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold…” yet it has turned out a remarkable success. How did it achieve that? It had the sense to develop “the habits and culture of honing (its) people’s skills which turns out to be the most valuable and truly reneweable resource in the world today.” In Yorubaland, we say the only lasting bequest a child could get from a responsible parent is sound education. The North needs that wisdom urgently.
There is a way in which a person’s life trajectory speaks to the problems of his society. I would advise that we use the life of Helen Paul to design the North’s Noah’s Ark. It is a turnaround story from abuse to celebration. It did not just happen. The comedian’s strong mum gave her the right dose of education. She got the message in her mother’s God-factor proverb and plunged into life with a determination to succeed. She was trained and she retrained herself and became a first in her career. That is why she could today flaunt her history of rape and societal rejection and eventual victory. The difference between her and the unsung, violated millions in the ghettos of life is education. Otherwise, she would be just another weather-beaten housewife somewhere with occasional flashes of brilliance. Let our North educate its children the right way, then it would have peace, its prayers would be answered and it won’t need gold and diamond and oil money and, even life presidency, before it shines out of poverty.
Rivers of bloody interests
Rape is everywhere – and it does not all end glorious as Helen Paul’s. While we celebrate Helen and interrogate the poverty of Northern Nigeria, down south in Rivers State, their thinking there is just different. The whole world may be in thought of a tomorrow of peace and prosperity; in Rivers, the elite thoughts are about societal rape, about power and more power. There is no end there to invasive political exploits, electoral contestations and litigations.
With the declaration of Nyesom Wike as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State last week I said “Thank God the killings and destructions are over.” I thought I was right. Election in that state do not take prisoners. It kills and moves on to kill and maim more. People died. No big man died, none injured. Very innocent people got shot and killed – and buried with lofty dreams. There were other casualties. When the Walter Onnoghen scandal broke, destructive rumours laid it at the feet of Rivers politics. There were stories about Abuja getting him out ahead of the very notorious APC primary case berthing at the harbour of the Supreme Court. But Onnoghen was out and the case got to the apex court and APC lost comprehensively in February. The court said the party had no primary and therefore no candidate in all the elections. It suffered self inflicted hemorrhage.
But the APC is an audacious party. It does not go gently into any good night. Every war ends only when the APC has won. Now, it turns out that the election may have ended only for the ordinary Rivers voter. For the APC, it is Aluta Continua. It is back at the Supreme Court and this week may be of fireworks again. There won’t ever be an end to litigation unless APC gets what it wants. There is a bedlam of four appeals, two of them intra-APC, at the apex court. The appeals are those of Senator Magnus Abe against INEC and others; Mr. Tonye Cole against Senator Magnus Abe; the All Progressives Congress against the Peoples Democratic Party and the fourth by the APC seeking a consolidation of all the pending appeals.
The Yorubas say unless Aroni stays at home, Onikoyi won’t stop going to war. Let no one assume the Rivers war will be over once Abuja’s invasive monitor-lizard eats crocodile eggs of Port Harcourt. It is true that the Supreme Court last February struck out an appeal brought by members of the APC challenging a decision of the Rivers State high court which nullified the congresses held by members of the APC in the state. But it is also true that there are other cases there. The APC appears set on reversing every step taken so far by the voter and the court. It may silently be praying (and working hard) that the Supreme Court reverses itself and wakes up the buried elections in Rivers, putting itself on the ballot again. And the party is so powerful, the law kneels for its storm. So, if I were Wike or any of the victorious lawmakers, I would take my daily prayers from the Book of Psalms, Chapter 35. I would invoke that Psalm from the first to the last verse. And if I were that voter who escaped the bullets the last time, I would beg God to give the powerful very cold water for them to cool down. I would pray that the powers that be let the concluded polls be, and let peace reign – at least till 2023. Enough should be enough.
#ENDSARS PROTESTS: Could this lead to the Revolution Nigerians want (Photos)
What started as child’s play has spread like wild fire, taking over major cities of the country. The anger and bitterness of the Nigerian youths to the extra-judicial killings by officials of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) and its sister agency has fueled the fire of aluta.
The youths have flooded the streets in unison to demand for the total disbandment of these units of the police force that have created an extension to their job description; with some of their officers ruthlessly killing and maiming members of the public especially youths.
The protest which began on Thursday 8th October 2020, in Abuja, Lagos, Imo, Edo and Delta states have awakened other states to the realization of a better Nigeria, only if the people speak out in one accord.
However, amidst the boisterous noise, there seem to be silence in the camp of the government. Major media organizations suddenly have ‘better news’ to report, and the captain of our ship still holds fast to the words that the agency cannot be disbanded but reformed.
Nigerians are record keepers as they recalled that the president has called for a reformation of FSARS four times in a space of four years with no obvious positive changes.
Citizens are teargassed, shot at and even shot at, for holding a peaceful protest which is their constitutional right.
A lady in Lagos was shot in the mouth, a young boy who was passing by was shot in the leg, a DPO almost shot at a harmless protester, yet there is still calmness in government.
A report was circulated of a police officer killed in Ughelli, Delta State.
Gradually, the call for war is subtly made. The youths are not giving any sign of retreat. Celebrities such as Falz d bad guy, MC Macaroni, Runtown, Elozanam, Small doctor amongst others have joined in the protest while others are giving their massive online support.
The social media platform, Twitter is buzzing with photos and videos from the protest. #ENDSARS is currently the Number one trending hastag on the popular online medium.
The international communities are getting interested and gradually the fire of unrest in the most populous African country is turning up.
Could this be the break of the Revolution Nigerians have always clamoured for?
Would Nigerians understand that the true power rests in the office of the citizen?
Time will tell.
Why Nigerians believe Tolu Arotile’s death wasn’t an accident but a planned murder
In the early hours of Wednesday, the nation was awoken to the death of one of it’s rare gem, a 23-year-old Airforce combat helicopter pilot, Tolu Arotile.
She was actually the first female combatant pilot in the 55-year history of the Nigerian Airforce, a great feat so.many considered was as a result of hard work, focus and endurance.
It was gathered that the young record breaker was also good at what she does, meaning gender wasn’t considered a barrier for her in the male-dominated profession.
Tolu Arotile didn’t die on the battle field which many could have thought that’s where she may end her life but the greatest shock and surprise was when it was gathered that she died following an accident that occured at the Nigerian Airfoce Base in Kaduna State.
It was learnt that a reversing car had hit her and she sustained a head injury.
While mourning the late combatant, Nigerians especially netigens have requested for an investigation into the event leading to her death. Many believe this was a calculated murder rather than a mere accident as widely spread.
Below are some of the reactions as posted on one of the social networking site – Twitter
It’s a known fact that Islamic state (IS) terrorists’ worst nightmare is to be killed by a woman – they believe that they won’t be admitted into heaven if killed by a woman.
I’m not saying Arotile’s death wasn’t an ‘accident’, but all possibilities must be considered
It's a known fact that Islamic state (IS) terrorists' worst nightmare is to be killed by a woman – they believe that they won't be admitted into heaven if killed by a woman.
I'm not saying Arotile's death wasn't an 'accident', but all possibilities must be considered
— Osato Corleone (@ReXkPiT) July 15, 2020
May her soul rest in peace and anyone who has hands in her death shall never find peace😢
They just murdered her like they killed formal and only Kaduna Christian governor and some high military chiefs and leaders of southern Kaduna, how can a reversing car kill her is she a kid or is the car reversing with speed?
Rip.. Meanwhile this matter ought to be investigated! Circumstances surrounding her death is too shady
Why do I suspect a foul play?
Accident in a Military base, with all the speed limits and on duty Personel?
23yrs , first female combat pilot, FEMALE and Christian…
An inquiry will help resolve this seeming foul play
Something is not adding up on this her death ooo…looks a stage manage killing ooo…we demand full investigation. Someone said a car reversing knocked her down which led to her death…if that’s true…was the car moving at 100km/Hr…ro have killed her? I dont understand ooo.
They said that she was hit by a reversing car.. If u know Aw to drive, u won’t believe that cooked up story
The exceptional Tolulope Arotile joined the Nigerian Air Force in 2017, went to Starlite International Training Academy in South Africa to complete her flight studies and upon completion was recognized as the first Nigerian female combat pilot just few months after she became a pilot.
RISE OF OTHER NATIONS OUT OF SMOLDERING NIGERIA!!
READ THIS PIECE:NIGERIA: A NATION IN REVERSE SEPERATISM
Calls for the rebirth of the defunct Republic of Biafra have been increasingly heard on the streets of Nigeria in recent times.
Following the reunification of Nigeria and Biafra in 1970, the world looked forward to a new Nigeria without the ethnic-tinged political injustices that had alienated one of the most important ethnicities in Nigeria – the Igbos and their near-kins- to the point of seeking a country of their own by force in 1967.
But soon enough, it became clear that, rather than do the sensible thing, some successive Nigerian regimes have used unitary tactics to further alienate the Biafrans that inhabit Nigeria’s oil belt. While some previous regimes had made-pretend that this was not the case, the current regime that came to power some four years ago has made no secret of its disdain for the former Biafrans.
This disdain has lately spread to other ethnicities as well, especially the minorities in central Nigeria and the Yorubas in the southwest of the country, thus leading to the notion that Mr. Buhari, a Fula, is driving a neo-supremacist agenda aimed at elevating his own people to the status of the new suzerains of Nigeria. In other words, Buhari is unwittingly engaged in a course of ‘reverse separatism’ from the very top as President.
Late last month, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo virtually accused Buhari of stoking ‘fulanisation and Islamisation’ of Nigeria; and on July 15, Obasanjo published an ‘open letter’ warning Buhari that his ‘hateful’ policies are fueling agitations that might disintegrate the country. Before this, a former Nigerian army chief who had fought Biafra, Theophilus Danjuma had submitted a petition to the UK Parliament alleging essentially the same thing; and this is after he had called on his people of central Nigeria to prepare to defend themselves. On the global stage, President Trump, VP Pence, and others have expressed concerns on the rising spate of an unchecked mass slaughter of Christians by non-State actors – the Fulani herdsmen – who are credibly suspected of being pampered by Mr. Buhari.
Before all these, Nigerians appeared to have succumbed to this new low until the coming of a fiery British citizen of Igbo ethnicity, by name of Nnamdi Kanu. He alone is responsible for the recent reawakening of the passions that have managed to push-back at President Buhari’s evident mistreatment of the region of Nigeria that was once Biafra, a region Buhari has derisively referred to as ‘five per cent’ of Nigeria after failing to win its electoral support.
The rapid-fire growth of the Biafra independence movement since early 2016 is proof of its rising popularity and lends credence that all is not well in Nigeria of the current era. To some degree, Kanu’s consistency and near-prophetic renderings have encouraged non-Biafrans to now be speaking more boldly of a ‘restructured’ Nigeria. Mirroring Mr. Kanu, some have even ramped it up to calling for outright dismemberment. This includes ranks that had enthusiastically joined in fighting Biafrans in 1967.
Kanu leads an internationally coordinated and well-organised group best known by its acronym – IPOB, which has disavowed the military option (unlike in 1967) but is instead calling for a well-ordered separation through a referendum.
In September 2017, governors from the Biafran region were already talking with Kanu when Buhari ordered his military to crack down on him and his followers, leading to many casualties. This – plus other recent military excesses against IPOB – has increased domestic and international support for Biafra’s self-determination. The Nigerian government’s military response was wrong and silly if the intention was to compel Biafra’s loyalty or get the gutsy Kanu to back down.
The absence of provocation for the military operation expectedly led to the credible suspicions that the Nigerian government merely wanted Kanu dead as a means of breaking the ‘stubborn’ Biafrans and discouraging other ethnicities from following the same path.
Independence movements commonly start with a small number of idealists, yet quickly grow when central governments respond with repression.
In such circumstances, the desire for freedom takes deeper root and flourishes the more. So, the initial responses of central governments to such movements are critical to their ultimate outcome. While that of Scotland, Quebec and a few others slowed due to the pacifist approaches of their central governments, that of Nigeria appears to be on a geometric rise. It’s not hard to figure out why. It happened in the former Soviet bloc.
There are currently millions of open followers of Kanu and many more that are passive. This is perhaps part of the reason the government of Buhari panicked and decided to pursue the military option. Yet, the bloodshed and trauma such approach has wrought are well in excess of any practical gains for Nigeria’s nominal unity and appears to have strengthened the resolve of the agitators, in addition to winning them new friends in Nigeria and abroad.
All considered, with high risks to its leaders and the uncertain path to success, a secessionist movement is rarely about a lack of patriotism for one’s mother country but is often a pragmatic response to the injustices of such mother country. Even with popular support, these movements rarely have the military capacity to impose their will on the state from which they intend to secede. It, instead – like IPOB – seeks to raise the national consciousness to a point where it hopes will encourage genuine dialogue for a better, looser union or a ‘velvet’ divorce, as we saw in Czechoslovakia.
Kanu’s rhetorics may have been passionate and frank but that he was already talking with Nigeria’s leaders was demonstrative enough that he was smart and adequately attuned to the realpolitik of a modern independence struggle. So, what was it Buhari secretly feared that led him to pitch his troops against civilians; and even proceeded to get them declared terrorists when he very well knows that they are not?
It bodes well that, prompted by the meteoric rise of Kanu’s movement, some of Nigeria’s other important regions – such as the Southwest – have suggested that what is more practical in Nigeria of the moment is a relatively high level of regional autonomy like it was before Nigeria’s civil war. The logic is that loosening the ties that bind can ease tensions and make the federating ethnicities/zones and the central government more stable. A wiser Buhari should have seized on this as a cover to launch sincere talks with Kanu.
The Nigerian President’s response to Biafra’s demands is therefore precisely the wrong response for a leader wishing to contain a popular demand for autonomy. It was, after all, Buhari’s unwise policy of selective exclusion that did most to spark the present calls for independence.
The question, therefore, is this: How can the national government in Abuja step back from an ultimate showdown, not only with a large chunk of its estranged citizens but with a watchful international community? The answer is simple: President Buhari should know enough to stop stoking the fire of separatism, just as Obasanjo has also suggested.
As it is, if Nigeria breaks, it’s bound to be blamed most on Buhari’s ‘reverse separatism’ rather than the current Biafran agitation or what Obasanjo called ‘smoldering agitation,’ a thinly-veiled slip that a new agitation may be in the offing.
Crowe, a commentator on African affairs, wrote from Australia.
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