Month: September 2015

Notes from Kajuru

Somewhere worth going
Somewhere worth going

I have never been fond of travelling, anything that puts me on a Nigerian Federal road makes me uneasy, especially now that I recently survived a near fatal car crash. So you can imagine my particular surprise when I found myself looking forward to a trip to Kajuru in Kaduna. My friends (about 20 of us) had pooled our resources together to get the chance to see the famous Kajuru castle. At this point I must confess the excitement build up as the day drew closer was hard to contain. Based on pictures I had looked up on the internet and word of mouth I had gathered Kajuru seemed like THE PLACE to be.

Kajuru Castle
Kajuru Castle

It’s been 2 days since we got back and the euphoria from the experience is just beginning to slowly ebb away and the memory of the view all around the castle. Now that is something I am not willing to let go so easily. Anyone who gets to see it probably should never forget such a view, at least I know I won’t for the foreseeable future.

Part of the things that impressed me about the castle itself were the efforts to make it look as authentic as possible; from the knight sword and armor to the hanging shields and weapons. Then there was the secret room behind the bookshelf that bit of revelation was so cool for me and now I feel grateful to that visionary German who made quite an effort in bringing such a European concept and piece of architecture to the North Central of Nigeria.

Just look
Just look

Something understated that struck me about the castle was how I could barely think of any Nigerian who had embarked on such a significant project without requiring it to edify him or place him in the public spotlight at considerable length. Maybe the German was going for that and as a result of him being an outsider didn’t quite get the reception he felt he deserved, maybe, but he sure built something that has helped make a great impression about the Nigerian landscape.

The greenery, the massive/towering rocks and the near endless rolling hills still take my breath away when I stare at the pictures I took on this trip.


It might not be for everyone but I quite honestly wish a majority of Nigerians could experience the opportunities involved in seeing our own country side at its most original and untouched state; beautiful and majestic. Maybe just before these untouched vistas are tampered with and physically eroded and degraded people will eventually get to see such places. I honestly do pray so, if only for the calming effect it might bring or if I were permitted to wish for the impossible, for people to for just a moment be at one with nature.


In the Court of Social Media

I have always heard of ‘being tried/judged by the court of public opinion’ but what I saw on social media yesterday was quite disturbing. Over the past couple of days the 14 year old Ahmed Mohammed has been at the centre of an Islamophobia storm in Irving Texas after being handcuffed and arrested in his school for building a digital clock and bring it to school, upon showing his teacher she thought it was a bomb.

Yes people, the world has come to this, people don’t even wait till these kids have gotten their driver’s license before they are profiled as extremist or not. Truth is Irving Texas has been famous for quite some time now. The Mayor is widely popular for holding anti-Islamist views apparently and it is no surprise this reflects on the mindset of its other public servants a few rungs down the pyramid structure of governance.

What makes me dwell on this case two days after it initially happened is what I found myself spending the better part of my day on social media doing yesterday. There is no debate about whether the school authorities and police force of Irving Texas got it wrong because it is clear they could have handled the situation way better than they did despite all the excuses about school shootings and terrorist threats. What shocked me yesterday morning was the seeming attack and castigation of the boy when pictures of the said clock surfaced on the internet.

You see, someone had taken the effort to take a somewhat crude picture of the said clock and put it on the web in a manner that was altogether misleading. The picture being circulated on social media depicted something that looked like an open suitcase judging by its chrome like metal frame and dark  felt inside, inside the case were a couple of wires, a red bar at the top half of the case (most likely the digital display), a small circuit board and a power source. Sounds rudimentary and simple, right? Well this picture covered the entire frame of the picture except for a plug which was left on the table while the picture was being taken.

I can see how easy it was for people upon first viewing the picture to draw conclusion that what they were looking at was clearly a suitcase which would have been somewhat inappropriate when making a clock hence suspicion should have been raised, but when I looked at the same picture it simply didn’t add up.  Why would anyone repeatedly call a suitcase a pencil case in such a delicate matter and why would the boy’s parents allow him leave his house holding a suitcase while calling it a clock. So I decided to do a brief research on Google. I first of all read up a few accounts of the story, viewing reports I considered unbiased, then right leaning reports and reading a few blog post that I felt were opinionated and well-informed, in all of those reports and posts, none of them made any allusions or references to a suitcase. The literature was consistent that Ahmed had brought in a pencil case clock to class and shown his teacher in order to impress him. The boy was even wearing a NASA T-shirt (how nerdy can one get).

So I did a search on what the pencil-case actually looked like. Judging by the results observed it was clear I wasn’t the only one who found the picture being circulated questionable. It didn’t take me long scrolling through the images that came up to find what the pencil-case actually looked like. I quickly posted both pictures on twitter trying to start the process of dissuading people from embarrassing themselves but it seemed I was too late. Most of what I met was resistance and rebuke for being ignorant of the various ways IEDs could be presented or the harm such a small-sized explosive device could cause( I won’t get into the matter of IEDs today but some responses I got had me doubling over in laughter). At that point I knew I was fighting a losing battle but I still persisted until I could persist no more.

The experience brought into focus most of our folly while engaging or commenting on issues, how ill-informed most of us are of the context, multiple angles and perspective a developing story has but we will still choose to comment, condemn and take sides. This is the Court of Social media, one where its ease of access to a wealth of information ought to promote a more informed group of people but is still populated by those who can be emotionally manipulated or those who do not feel the need to fact check or consider multiple facts presented or easily available.

Yesterday exposed me to the ease we have chosen to quickly box ourselves in with fear and paranoia, claiming that this post 9/11 age inevitably presents a strong case for racial profiling and islamophobia. Forgetting the multi- religious society we live in I didn’t expect to hear that from a Nigerian. I was born into a Christian home and lived most of my life amongst Muslims but 9/11 didn’t make me see them differently. For a town like Irving Texas, I see the possibilities of a narrow minded group of people pronouncing judgment on the boy for bringing a clock that might or might not have looked like a bomb to school but I wouldn’t expect such from what I thought were a hand full of well travelled and read Nigerians.

For a while now I have hailed the internet and social media as a game changer for traditional media institutions, called it a new estate where truth can be sought out. But just maybe it isn’t the right place to seek or expect justice.

My ship, Your ship, our relationship Part 2

Still my ship. How is yours?
Still my ship. How is yours?

I remember beginning a piece in 2013 about uncertainty, how steering my ship had seemed…so unsure and near aimless. It seemed as if I was terribly reaching for something to grasp. Not out of desperation or hopelessness but with a strangely dissatisfied sense of hope, searching towards positive things ahead. I confess I feared for myself in moments of deep introspection back then, worrying I would never see proper new horizons of light and purpose I longed for.

I must admit that period stands out as a low ebb for me, my days were filled with pondering. Nevertheless I never for once accepted the storm would claim me, as days went by I began to accept I was going to be alright, needing mainly to become more adept at seeing the early signs and seizing winds of opportunity.

Fast forward to 2 years from that post and I think I am finally getting a little hang of this steering thing. I’m still a bit clumsy but at least I’m heading somewhere now and I feel the wind of managed expectation blowing against my face. The jagged reefs and the shallow shores have become familiar and there is the understanding that all I need is a reinforced hull and a willingness to keep pushing further out to sea no matter the many times I feel marooned.

As for you guys, it’s been a while. So how are your ships doing? Peachy I hope…

Africa Awake

Western media & entertainment is beginning to show its hand more prominently in the white washing and image laundry of its governing national powers. There had always been this predominant perception that the west was the good guys and anyone who they held up gun against were the bad guys, so much for such a notion now considering what has transpired over the past nearly two decades of invasions and illegal bombings in places such as Iraq and Pakistan.

Traditional media in the west have come under threat from the unorganized body of the internet and social media which has created a new window for the rest of the world to see what really goes on behind the scene. Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and Mr. Snowden have now become the new faces of unprecedented scales of whistle blowing as well as the exposure of never imagined state secrets. America’s true paranoia has been ignited before millions of faces and everyone imagines them as men in bright blue and red suits sitting in dark rooms with those blood shot eyes sifting through millions and billions of personal data.

The questions that now require an answers is ‘what really is freedom’? What kind of media have we held to such high standards? If the real research and investigation was to be done, you would realize that newspapers and magazines were largely if not totally owned by corporate America, the same corporations who own the military and oil companies that have benefitted from these conflicts and instability.

So western media tilts and manipulates the perspective and shows us the news from an angle which completely favors them. What about entertainment? That’s where it gets even more distasteful, with the elevation of the reality TV stars and the constant coverage of mediocrity to the constant presentation of beauty as being embodied in a slim or well built mostly white male/female. Talent is now second on the priority list. A sex tape might get you started but a good PR team with the right string of endorsements will help you conquer the world as well as the hearts and minds of adolescent young women/girls.

From the African perspective I think it’s time we stopped before it’s too late. We need to turn off the cable and ask ourselves if this is the kind of content we want to be immersed in on a daily basis, if this is the kind of material we want our children being raised on. At some point we really have to be able to define what constitutes African content because to be quite honest I can’t stand what is being paraded as western pop culture these days. Africa needs to look within herself and find that true personality, list of values and principles that are self defined not brought about by what is now largely termed western culture.

Africa has an opportunity to break this cycle of misrepresentation and help define what the truth is, how misguided the news is and what real values truly are. We cannot continue to embrace both junk and the nurture equally.

A New Age

The proper information age dawned on us over a decade ago when the dot coms initially came and went, then properly thought out internet platforms and portals started springing up. Today things have taken a step further with the ease people can access different forms of information, redefining what proper media used to be. The changes are no longer at breakneck speed for sure but one is guaranteed to miss out if they don’t jump on the wagon soon enough.
The information age came along in a period of pretention in retrospect, a time where it was widely believed that the world had finally learned the true meaning of equality, just after the official death of apartheid and obvious racial discrimination, or so we thought. The next phase which we have unknowingly stumbled upon is a most revealing and disturbing one, one which coincides with several upheavals in market dynamics and economic recessions, a period of dishonesty and bailouts.
Racial tensions never went away apparently; they were just hidden in the background by controlled media, now the world gets a front seat view of its own fuck ups as God’s own country struggles to understand how word got out that a significant portion of its population is made up of bigots and harmful pacifists. The civil wars and proxy wars in the middle east has forced mass immigration from Syria, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Iraq into Europe exposing more intolerance amongst Europeans. It had been an accommodating world all along, a world dynamic based on the mantra ‘as long as you don’t bring it to my door step’.
How did the world get so selfish? Who made us all forget how important it has become to be more open to helping the helpless? Have we all become so insulated from the tragedies and strife? I thought the advent of cable and 24 hours news made people more aware of the harrowing tales in troubled regions. Images of Bob Geldof and live aid singing their hearts out mean nothing to me now when I juxtapose them against immigrants trying to make it into the UK via the channel. All of a sudden Geldof and Live Aid have gone quiet.
It’s easy for these charities to beam images of themselves standing side by side with starving children in Sudan and Somalia talking about raising money for food and clothing but shining a light to the greater international community on desperate migrants stranded at sea or being mistreated in migrant camps doesn’t really help the shock value and rating clearly but luckily these issues are in the news being reported along with updates of reality show stars doing their own fair share of nothing.