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“Beasts of No Nation, egbe kegbe  na bad society, beast of no nation oturu gbeke…..”

 

For some reason I had heard nothing about this Netflix event that everyone had apparently been waiting on; the film  premiere of ” Beast of No Nation” directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Naturally, my face flushed with expectation the minute I read the title: Beasts Of No Nation (BONN).I felt that familiar warmth which happens to my brain whenever I speak about, dance or listen to the music of  the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Had Netflix  outsmarted the competition completely and decided to launch its first movie about one of the greatest musicians of my generation?   These guys got game for real!

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And It all made perfect sense.The launch of  Fukunaga`s Beasts Of No Nation was slated for the 16th of October. October is Felabaration month. Now in its 18th year, Felabaration  is a yearly music festival at the  new African Shrine in Lagos which brings Fela apostles and  lovers of Afrobeat  together in an intensely spiritual celebration  of a musical maesro and a deeply concious human being.

World Music - Fela Kuti - Lagos - #uj_0114

If Netflix was sharp enough to ride the Fela wave, kudos to them. I was thrilled to be a witness to see how a director might tell both the human and the socio-political stories which Fela vocalised in his political lyrics. Stories of lives in a  society struggling to shape its identity amid corrupt public officials, insane corruption and  a global hierarchy which was only concerned with its own survival.

Alas, as I read teasers and watched the trailer for Joji  Fukunaga`s Beasts of No Nation, a forced acceptance dawned on me and  the applause began to dim.

BONN it is, only in title.
No Fela. No Egypt 80.
No dancers of beautiful vibrant ebony.
No Pepple street.
No lanterns on wooden tables selling many things  for the head.
No Reagan.
No Thatcher.
Not even a Botha lookalike!

So second base jare.
In BONN like most of his songs,  Fela was in a state of direct protest; making a mockery of failed governments and political leaders both within Nigeria and internationally  who were  not just corrupt but cruel and completely oblivious to the suffering of their people.

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One such leader  was  P.W. Botha – president of South Africa who in 1986 was famously quoted as saying, “This uprising will bring out the beast in us”, in reference to the U.S  introduction of  the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

Fela was fearless. As many nations across the world pretended that aparthied was acceptable, Fela  wanted his voice to ring out clearly at the continued cruelty of  Botha`s brutish and arrogant reaffirmation  that the apartheid system would continue unchanged.

In BONN Fela says:
MANY LEADERS AS YOU SEE DEM
NA DIFFERENT DISGUISE DEM DEY-OH
ANIMALS IN HUMAN SKIN
ANIMAL-I PUT-U TIE-OH
ANIMAL-I WEAR AGBADA
ANIMAL-I PUT-U SUIT-U
 

These words continue to unpeel the layers of  the “beast” , espousing the inhuman attributes of  many leaders who simply are deaf to the voices of the people they govern. He develops  the metaphor  further suggesting  that there are many  leaders who look human on the outside in their suits and fancy  clothes but lack the compassion which qualifies them as human. With their nations in chaos and dissary, these leaders disguised as humans are  really beasts of no nation consumed with an overwhelming sense of their own importance and  a distinct lack of sensitivity and disregard for anyone or anything else. 

Growing up in Nigeria,  listening to these songs was instrumental.  Watching Fela perform live at the Kalakuta Republic at Pepple street was an experience to be repeated over and over again.  It was a deep sizzle of  intensly stirring  rhythms, politically charged lyrics,  an ambiance created by an unleashing of all inhibitions and a journey  somewhere quite extraordinary. Fela inspired me to think outside the box. He inspired me to understand that the process of political agitation to challenge injustice and raise issues of social change in society is a responsibility for every citizen.

Watching his travails and his cruel mistreatment at the hands of  government allowed me to understand that not all of us can be brave and openly fearless in challenging  the wrongs in society. However,  to those who do so at great risk, the rest of us must graciously acknowledge and give revered respect where it is due.

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I remember cutting everything I could find in the newspapers when Fela passed on. And I can safely say the streets of Lagos have not seen such an outpouring of respect  and grief in such numbers for any man dead or alive since then.

Warts and all, Fela was human, a poet whose lyrics even now continue that metaphoric resonance. 26 years after these words were first written, they seem almost prophetic as we watch on a grand stage the tragic consequences of having leaders who are beasts of no nation. 

The beauty of Fela for me is in the freshness of his message, the genius of his music and the truth which he refused to be quiet about. As I sing along to BONN and stomp my whole body in response,  I am still moved to action- no jonesing here-exactly as Fela would have wanted his audience to be.

 

I am reassured as I creep closer to the long awaited corner. Hopefully, the cause of this delay would become clear for all to see.

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I might just see the lone harassed immigration officer having to deal with all of us, perhaps his colleagues were taking a day off; that might explain this almost un-moving mass of tired, hungry and seemingly deflated Nigerians.

I am wrong.

There is a stable of immigration officers and it would appear that things liven up a bit as you get closer to the desk. People are marshaled here and there, questioned about this and that. The vigilance is commendable but does it all have to be painfully slow? As a proud Nigerian, it tires me to ask: is all this ever going to change?

When can Nigerians expect to be treated with some obvious compassion by those paid to serve them – by officials who represent something greater than the lone individual.

Don’t we deserve some conciliatory words after standing on tired feet for eons?
Don’t the mums rocking  tired, crying children deserve somewhere to sit and maybe an offer of some water?

Faced with these  scenarios , for me, the eternal paradox resurfaces again and again. On one hand is a real sense of confusion about why what appears like a straightforward organizational routine -checking and stamping a passport in an orderly and expedited way becomes a blinding, painful chore, takes hours to resolve and does not end quietly at all, as hungry, tired people will be heard one way or another!

On the other hand, I am home. My own inner sense of triumph is  real and palpable; indeed it  fuels my feet and my mind as I am determined to try and make it all make sense. And finally, as I stand in the baggage hall waiting to collect a trolley in another line, it all makes sense again- this line is orderly and happily swirling with conversation.

As I gyrate with bouncy feet with my mass of fellow Nigerians towards the exit, my relief is imminent and yes- I can taste the fresh fish pepper soup trapped in my imagination!

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Despite the soothing green spaces, the powdery blue sky and the softly lit horizon,  I was completely unprepared for the flood of conviction which took shape in my mind.

Eking  out a living in Nigeria requires far more mental  and physical stamina than any other place I have had the opportunity to experience first hand. As I observe the world outside slowly merge with mine,  faces blur into a mist of life and the scope of  human enterprise is both energizing and challenging.

I am warmed by the ready smiles of the  roadside  hawkers, eager to sell their freshly farmed produce of corn, yams, tomatoes, peppers, garri, palm oil, plantain and a myriad of organically grown vegetables.

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The visual collage intensifies vividly as we pass through the iconic city of Ibadan; famously described by John Pepper Clark as: “scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun”. In this metropolis of over 3 million Nigerians,  Ibadan is teeming with wide parades of people  seemingly on the move-engaged in an endless number of human activity.

All around me, in mobile stalls balanced on their heads, young boys, girls, men and women  have most of what you might need  on a hot humid afternoon and commuters stop here and there to stock up.

Lone bystanders look on intently, buried in their own universe of things to do and places to get to ; waiting for the next bus or vehicle to carry them along to someplace else;  moving or standing, humanity here is indeed in motion- man go chop-the hustle moves on.

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Despite  what for many  might seem like difficult odds and uncertain times, like anywhere else in the world, ordinary Nigerians continue to see to their established routines of work, family and enterprise.

Isn`t it  these immediate experiences and the  relentless energy to keep it moving which gives individual lives meaning and adds value to everyday stories?

 

 

 

His gallery was alive with colour, ethnic motifs and imagery rich in African themes delicately expressed in a collection of different artistic styles.

Gbolade Omidiran in his gallery showing me  his online gallery

Gbolade Omidiran  on his IPAD  showing me his online gallery

This was such  an awesome place to be.Here I was in Gbolade Omidiran`s art gallery, 5 mins from my home in Ile- Ife, Osun State Nigeria.

As my eyes darted in glee, adjusting to this fairground of colour and creativity, I literally didn’t know where to begin my visual feast. Every piece was unique, every piece drew me in and excited both the aesthetic  eye and the imaginative spirit.

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Being a teacher, I am always so enthused when I get the chance to see young people engaged in learning and I can tell when young people are enjoying their learning.

All around me Gbolade`s students were clearly having a blast.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

The bouncy ambiance and learning chatter  in the working studio which adjoined his gallery was vibrant.

Students (mostly undergraduates from the local university) were in various states of learning and experimentation; sharing and discussing ideas, actively discovering the balance between raw talent and self-discipline.

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Gbolade himself wistfully recalled his apprenticeship with the great teachers – Agbo Folarin and Baba Lamidi Fakeye of Obafemi Awolowo University.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade  completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

All in all, it was a great afternoon.

To have spent an afternoon inspired by this soft-spoken gentleman was truly satisfying and an eye-opener.

Despite what else may need fixing in Nigeria, people like Gbolade Omidiran and his contemporary Ibukun Ayoola were using their skills,  passions and individual agency to make their dreams a reality and inspire a future generation of artists.

It made me imagine how much more they could accomplish with support from the state government, you never know!

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

See more pictures of Gbolade here Gbolade Omidiran in Pictures

Click here to contact Gbolade and see more of his exquisite pieces of art online.

 

Fresh fish fetishism is delightfully a part of the psyche of  many Nigerians at home and abroad.

I cannot honestly think of a single Nigerian who would turn away the opportunity to eat some fresh fish done up in hot, spicy pepper soup.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Fish -Epe market

Fresh Fish -Epe market, Lagos

It was  early Saturday morning and Lagos was awake and bustling.

My friend was in the car and ready to roll.

We were off to waylay the ladies with their cache of fresh fish and unlike me- the alien in Lagos- she understood this ritual perfectly.

The earlier you leave home, the higher your chances of getting anything done in Lagos.

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We hit the road

Whether like us you were cooking your fish at home or like many Nigerians who regularly found themselves with  fish pepper soup in hand, positioned in one of the many evening joints sipping a cold Gulder, Star or  Guinness , you paid a small premium.

Nonetheless, you found a way to hustle yourself some.

And trust me, with some money in your pocket, good haggling skills and an easy smile, you will find fresh fish just right for  your budget.

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We arrived at the stall to set up our ambush and unbelievably, there was already a small party of people waiting .

I was surprised at the mix of faces.

 

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

 

A young lady who worked in a bank and cooked fresh fish every Saturday as a treat for her husband, an older gentleman who was buying fresh fish for  his wife, a rather tense looking teenager and of course there was us-the two fresh fish disciples.

The atmosphere changed in an instant.

Voices were raised, miraculously,  a surge of bodies appeared from… everywhere.

They had arrived.

 Laden with blackened baskets  bulging with their treasure of golden gills, the fish ladies quite calmly took their places behind the stalls and laid out their wares.

 

 

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

 

My friend looked at me. We only had a thousand Naira between us.

Was there any real hope of outbidding the affluent looking madams who arrived in SUVs and big jeeps or the stern faced market women who had come to buy for further resale?

As I waved the naira note in my hand, I realised this was not going to be easy.

This was going to take some special  Lagos style haggling -I pushed my friend forward and prayed silently.
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In the end, we didn`t  get the biggest fish of  the lot but  in typical Nigerian style, we did not leave empty handed.
We got  enough to make a truly satisfying pot of homemade fresh fish pepper soup –hot, spicy and just right !

 

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Click here to for a video on how to make Nigerian Catfish Pepper Soup

 

Read more about Fish markets in Lagos here

 

Ibukun Ayoola with visiting students

Ibukun Ayoola with visiting students

 

As I traveled around Osun state, I heard of a potter taking ceramics to  new heights.

Highly respected by his peers and living quietly in the middle of the rural village of AtamoraIbukun Ayoola was creating fabulous works of art sought after by many.

How curious I thought to myself.

 

JAKES WEDDING 1743

 

Nestled close to Ode Omu, Wasimi and the town of Gbongan, Atamora Village is 30mins outside the town of Ile Ife in Osun State.  This is the hub from which Ibukun operates.

 

 

The Potter`s home

The Potter`s Home

 

 

A cross section of pieces from the shop

A cross section of pieces from the ceramics shop

 

Two minutes off the main highway into the rural farmlands, I marveled at the serenity of the space where Ibukun actually created these exquisite pieces- his working studio and outdoor gallery.

This shaded grove felt like the perfect place to get in touch with creative energies -to be inspired and rejuvenated by nature in a most integral way.

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Crowded with beautifully made pottery of all shapes and sizes, the visual effect of the sunlight playing on the green of the trees and  the ceramics was truly stunning.

I felt I was just simply going to “ lift off” into ceramic wonderland.

 

 

Ceramic wonderland

Stunning outdoor gallery

 

Looking around, I completely understood the phrase “working studio and gallery”. This space was as much evolving as it was dynamic.

I saw the largest potter`s wheel, it  simply loomed as Ibukun explained in meticulous detail and demonstration, the process from earth to exquisitely sculptured object.

 

The giant potter`s wheel

The giant potter`s wheel

 

Inside the workshop with Ibukun

Inside the workshop with Ibukun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all happened here-the thinking, the making, the technical completion and the celebration of art.

The outside space was a spontaneous gallery where  finished pieces were exhibited and shared with visiting teachers, students and  enthusiasts like myself.

 

In various states of the creative process were students from  the local university and further out. They were all  completely engrossed by the intelligence of the man- asking questions, making notes, digging the mud pits, sifting clay and experimenting with clay bricks.

Experimenting with making hybrid bricks from clay and other materials.

Experimenting with making hybrid bricks from clay and other materials.

 

All in all,  it was clear that Ibukun Ayoola was no layman mucking about in the clay.

This was a man who understood his talent. He understood his medium, his materials and the power of creativity to inspire and generate even bigger ideas.

Importantly, Ibukun understood his responsibility to teach what he knew to a new generation of youngsters who all held him in very high esteem. I was impressed.

Two commissioned huge ceramic vases ready to be delivered somewhere special.

Two unusually large ceramic vases – commissioned and ready to be delivered somewhere special.

As the day slowly came to a close, Ibukun shared some of his struggles to get to this point where what he had to show as evidence of his talent was more than just ideas locked in his brain.
It had clearly been an eventful journey but he was determined to hold fast to his dreams.

Artists like Ibukun Ayoola and Gbolade Omidiran inspire me with their honesty, hard work  and  tenacity  to go after visions greater than themselves.

 

 

 

 

Read more about Gbolade here An Afternoon With Gbolade Omidiran

If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou

 In typical ” Naija” fashion, many voices gyrated unceremoniously ( all at the same time, I might add) in passionate response to the question: if you could fix one thing and one thing only in Nigeria , what would it be?

We all mostly know how it works.

Everyone has an elaborate opinion as to what needs fixing in Nigeria- yet it’s never quite one which can be explained in a few clearly articulated sentences.

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Nonetheless, on this occasion, I was determinedly at odds with everyone else. My answer, unlike the group favorite, did not lie with executing a line of corrupt Nigerian leaders in a ” Rawlings-like” coup, or a French Revolution style rebirth in the cold light of day. The way forward  in my view, lies not with our leaders but with us- the general populace and Nigerians in the diaspora. We  who think so little of ourselves as agents of change that we cannot demand more from those  we have democratically elected to  serve and protect us.

Well, after spending most of the evening not really listening to each other but happily  spouting individual theories of change, the rhetoric exhausted, we moved on to other matters…as we do.

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A few days later, quite unexpectedly, two things happened in quick succession  .

First I read Okey Ndibe’s typically scathing but deeply thoughtful article : ” Again, A Case of Uncounted Billions” (http://saharareporters.com/column/again-case-uncounted-billions-okey-ndibe)

Despite the wrenching weight of hyperbole which hit home in the first few lines, I had to shake my head in vigorous agreement – the truth of his assertions seemed completely undebatable.

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That Nigeria has been and continues to be mostly  blighted by a continuum of “small minded” political leaders who scuttle along in nonsensical but highly destructive self -gratifying labyrinths of darkly corrupt networks, nefarious wheeling and dealing and blatant cronyism is a truth well corroborated in Mr Ndibe’s article.

That these same leaders are propped up by a psyche completely disconnected from notions of service  is a view that many of us, in our collective social pods have come to accept and discuss. In strident voices  we writhe in what sometimes feels like a cauldron of  overwhelming frustration.

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However, what really got me gasping in total discomfort  was Mr Ndibe’s  statement that: ” many Nigerians, one suspects, are hostile to the deep thinking that is a precursor to remarkable transformation”. 

Many Nigerians”? Surely, the man could not be referring to me as part of  that dubious herd? Then, the second event .I clicked on a link which took me here: http://youtu.be/wUX6LP6H3Z8.

Egunje.com ke?

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There they were,  the well knitted, highly stimulating documentaries put up on Youtube by  Egunje.com  and Public Integrity Networks (PINS) in  2012  to promote the message of civil action against corruption.

Here was a civil organization proactively  instigating a platform  akin to  having a civilized debate about  conquering the culture of corruption in Nigeria.

Shockingly, out of an estimated 150 million potential  “Nigerian” viewers in this new age of an internet savvy audience, I was only among the first handful of people to view these videos almost two years after being posted online.

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Why wasn’t this campaign being highlighted, talked about and debated back and forth by the Nigerian media to at least  begin a series of conversations which people could pick up and maybe run with?

Why hadn`t any of my 458 FB friends posted or shared any of these videos on their page in the last 2 years?

In fact, with all my self-acclaimed interest in a progressive Nigeria, why had I not heard about or come across these very engaging clips?

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My mind churnedThe penny dropped.  

The picture of inertia which emerged had me brooding dis-quietly for days. Clearly, it’s not just  our  leaders who are really far gone. In all honesty, it appears to me that through a distinct lack of proactive acumen, we, the so called educated elite may be slipping down the abyss of “all words-no action” so steadily  that  we may become part of the problem of Nigeria.

Therefore, as we look to a future Nigeria we rhetorically  insist on being a part of, we must envision a country that we can all collectively  take responsibility for shaping and steering as much in actions as in words.

Less talk. More work.

Floating School-Maroko

Floating School-Maroko

Visit Egunje.com here

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As the Yorubas say, ” Ojo ti a o ba da ni ko ki un de”- it’s only the day that isn’t scheduled that doesn’t arrive.
Well, the 9th of August was scheduled and the 9th of August is here.

Today, from Ila Orogun to Ejigbo, from Esa Oke to Ile-Ife, infact from every crevice and corner of Osun State, men and women will get a chance to go to the polls and affect the scheme of governance for the next four years by voting for their next politically elected governor. And it is with some trepidation but with a great deal of determination that the people of Osun with both feet firmly on the ground, appear ready to say something about what they want.

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Despite any partial views I might hold regarding this political party or the other, as a non- voting observer with a deep partiality for the continuance if peace in Osun State, the reverberations on the ground, left and right of the axis are quite crucial to me.
As days inevitably do, this day too will be done and when the 9th of August is cast into the annals of history, what tales will be told I wonder?

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Like so many citizens of Osun state bonded psychologically by that ongoing internal dialogue focused on the importance of today and the potential risk that this day might bring, I seek some solace in the everyday routines of human arrangements.
We wake up today like most Saturday mornings to stroll outside, linger by the gate or balcony tentatively to catch a neighbor or two for an animated morning chat. We share, don’t we that electric charge of hope that perhaps this day can unfold without the violence of gunfire, reckless thuggery or bloodied gashes as we exercise our freedom to choose and to choose freely.

Naturally, as these things go, social media platforms are primed for another big day. Even now, the intensity of last minute campaigns on FB are surpassed only by verbal shots fired sporadically from the camps of disparate party sympathizers. It is indeed all very interesting but I am already looking past the 9th of August.

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I am looking to the days post elections when friendships will have to be reforged and relationships fragmented in the heat of party passions may need to be carefully mediated. I am hoping that the good people of Osun wont have to take the brunt of any repercussions this way or that. Afterall, there are still shops that need to sell, schools that need to re-open for learning and buses that need to ferry people from place to place even after this day is done.

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Let us remember that there will be life after the 9th of August.

When all the big political cabals have shipped out back to Abuja, the people and state of Osun will remain. We must ensure that regardless of the results at the end of today, a peaceful aftermath is all that really matters.

Long live Osun.
May the will of the people be done and may that will be peacefully respected.

It’s 5.20am. It’s humid, warm, my back aches and I need the loo but the line for ” Nigerians” stretches about a mile.

Yes, I’m at MMA waiting to be ushered through immigration.
Maybe it’s just my luck, but having a Green passport and being in the queue for Nigerians seems to be my undoing right this minute.
However, quite delightfully, the air conditioning is blowing some seriously cool air and yet again,
I am reminded of how this is indeed a country of many, most striking contradictions.

But I have to ask.

Why do we as Nigerians in Nigerian always seem to get shoved the short end of the stick especially in our own dear country?
Why for crying out loud must our line be the slowest, most tedious one?

I try not to scowl too hard as I watch ” non Nigerian” passport holders breeze through with relieved smiles.
They were much closer home than I certainly was, standing still in a line as long as the eye can see.

Something else is amiss.

If getting the 177 from Thamesmead to Peckham on a good day is anything to go by, Nigerians are usually an animated bunch.

Indeed , you might even risk a rebuke and say Nigerians can be just plain loud. But you would`nt think it standing here looking at the many tired, strained faces.

I can`t help but notice the many elderly men and women, half bent over, desperately in need of a seat anywhere if only for a minute.
And the young children running amok, temporarily abandoned by their bedraggled mums and dads.

It strikes me as decidedly odd that that there is not a word of protest …from anyone.

Maybe it’s the time of the day, maybe it’s just not worth the effort of having a moan anymore. I can tell you though that the line is suspiciously quiet for a whole line of Nigerians.
I mean I hear more animated retorts in Yoruba and Igbo on the 53 bus from Woolwich to Westminister.

What “gwan”? I ask incredulously.

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119460-117532 frustration

To say the results of the Ekiti elections which took place in Ekiti State, Nigeria on the 22/6/2014 took me by utter and complete surprise is a bit of an understatement. Like many Nigerians living within and outside the country, I just really believed that the incumbent Governor would be reinstated for another 4 years-full stop.

This view had nothing to do with my personal affiliations with mainstream political parties in Nigerian but everything to do with having heard a lot of “good things” about the tenure of this particular gentleman. He had beautifully restored the iconic Ikogosi Warm Springs which I had lamented about for years as a superb natural resource left to languish to near decrepitness by many previous governments in Ekiti State.
In addition, he and his team had embarked on a project to deliver public sector reforms which were both visionary and absolutely necessary.

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In my quite simplistic rationalizing, good deeds speak for themselves after all; it makes sense that the men and women of Ekiti state whose lives were being enhanced everyday would only want this to continue. As it turned out, my analysis was a little naive.
The incumbent was voted out and his much maligned opponent swept the polls. How could this happen, I mused?

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And I wasn`t alone.My friends on the ground in Nigeria appeared just as confused as I was, if not more!

Many used Facebook and Twitter to lament what they saw as a result which defiled “all logic”. How could the masses vote overwhelmingly for the much maligned opponent and leave the preferred “ tried and tested” incumbent out in the cold?
Didn’t Nigerians actually know what was “good” for them, some wondered? Were the masses so consumed by immediate gratification- parabled by the rumored bags of rice- that people simply “sold their birthright”?

Too simple I thought. These implied explanations just felt way too simplistic- especially since I had a sneaking suspicion that the Nigerian electorate have become much savvier over the last couple of years.
Clearly, I wasn’t the only one with questions. Twitter was agog. I skimmed through many commentaries and read a few rushed responses hoping for a glimpse- something to give me some intelligent insights.

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Despite Nigeria`s mottled democratic history, the process continues to evolve. Its clear that the Nigerian electorate is beginning to understand the power of the vote as a potent tool. Not least of all in Ekiti state where on the 21st of June, people turned out in substantial numbers- voter apathy was clearly not at play here.

Suffice to say, unlike many elections in the past, even though there had been reports and counter reports of political shenanigans and aggressive muscling of the opposition, many were quick to say how “rigging” wasn’t a factor. Ekiti people did come out to vote and the result of that vote is what it is.
So what could explain this anomaly?

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As I continued to scour the internet and ran into an article which made me ask very different questions about the delicate relationship between the electorate and those who wish to lead them and the ramifications of social power as a protest tool in the democratic process.

In an interview for channels TV titled – Ekiti People Voted Against Fayemi Not For Fayose, the commentator explained that, aside from not being able to: “connect with the grassroots” during his tenure, the incumbent had been in “ back and forth tussles with civil servants and teachers in the state for about 18 months, asking the teachers to take competency tests that resulted in heavy shakeups in the system.”

Apparently, this standoff with civil servants over attempts to sanitize the system had gone down pretty badly. Hence, many people registered their displeasure through a protest vote for the opposition. Simple as.

A little quick digging through newspaper achieves did establish the facts. There had indeed been a long running “battle” between the incumbent and the Teachers Union in the state over competency tests which the government claimed was a boost for teachers but teachers argued was a shortcut to rooting them out.

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From where I am sitting, as part of delivering good governance, competency tests made perfect sense. Being an educationalist myself, the importance of having qualified and able teachers in schools is almost a basic requirement to ensure teaching in our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions is of a consistently high standard across the board.

On the other hand, the issue of the stalemate on tests, represents a much larger metaphor. It highlights a dilemma for our burgeoning democratic process. How do we manage the tensions which exist between the zeal of well-meaning politicians and the psychological readiness of the electorate- the masses-at the receiving end.

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Political psychology is not a new concept and in my view, moving forward, we need to thoroughly understand the psyche of the people we aim to serve and take seriously elements of their psychological responses to their everyday realities.

The Nigerian masses have a unique psychological framework and paradoxically, their needs are basic and yet evolving at the same time. They have to be considered. These are people who have survived being let down over and over again by a generation of governments (military and civilian) and who quite frankly are bruised and smarting from years of poor governance and acts brazen corruption by public servants.

Despite the bravado, the political psyche of the ordinary Nigerian in the street is fragile. And if their trust in public figures continues to take a pounding, well meaning politicians with a reform agenda will have an uphill battle to say the least.

It’s a delicate balance indeed- If we mean to serve, we have to understand how affected the polity is by the generational layers of socio-political experiences and the historical trail of distrust and broken structures which have permeated the idea of governance in Nigeria.
Change which involves the breaking down of their paradigms of social existence -well-meaning or not (like a competency test which inevitably people believed would see many lose their source of livelihood) is just not going to make sense to them at this point in their very wobbly democratic development.

Unfortunately, the picture which the electorate have of the political ruling class goes beyond immediate serving public servants in Ekiti state. Their picture of the ruling elite is spliced with stories of federal ministers with private jets, national delegates in Abuja collecting thousands per day for snoring through entire sessions and billions of Naira somewhere-still unaccounted for.

For the ordinary man in the street these stories have taken on almost mythical status in their imaginations. To then be almost forcibly encouraged into doing something which they feel is going to mean the loss of the meager social power that they have, may just be a step too far.
Herein lies the dilemma for social reforms which must have the backing of the people at the grassroots as well as inspire the confidence of the voters.

I mean how did a whole generation of teachers end up in the system without the standard qualifications in the first place? And this is not a malaise specific to Ekiti state- its a national problem which needs a comprehensive response at a national level.

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This is turning into a longer article than I intended. What is clear though is that as predicted, the elections in Ekiti State were indeed a watershed and our attempts at a democratic process is maturing.
In this particular instance, the people of Ekiti decided to use their power at the polls to send an emotional message of disaffection to their governor. Hopefully, we are all listening.

The power of the electorate to make something dramatic happen once every four years is fast becoming apparent. However, a balance needs to be negotiated much earlier in the delicate relationship between the electorate and the elected; people must not feel that their only recourse is to vote emotionally once every 4 years. Finding ways to invest a sense of social power in ordinary people needs to become more of a routine expectation as we attempt to understand what really makes people tick apart from the proverbial bag of rice.

In the end- it would appear that the people of Ekiti state exercised their power to register a vote of protest. However, as protest votes go, there are consequences, invariably not all of which may have been fully thought through or are even desired by the protest voters themselves.

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