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I Went To The War Zone and Instead of Racism, I Saw Love by Reno Omokri

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THE ALTERNATIVE

By Reno Omokri

I was moved by the plight of Nigerians who were affected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The human suffering involved moved me. Knowing our government, we could not expect a quick resolution of their issue (although I must commend General Buhari for approving $8.5 million for their evacuation).

However, what troubled me the most were the continental wide outrage at the alleged racism that was said to be going on in Ukraine against Black Africans. I could not just watch helplessly.

I personally went to Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and The Czech Republic. I am a civilian. I am not in government. Nobody gave me a dime to do it. But I did it. Do you know why? Because it is not enough to use your mouth to complain, if you can’t use your hand to help!

Nigerians are trapped in Ukraine and its neighbouring nations because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Without understanding that in war times, you prioritise your own citizens, you sat in your living room, complaining of racism. I went there myself. In all of these places, the so called racists have been helping Nigerians. The Ukrainians had a policy in place for war time evacuation. Ukrainian women and children first, Ukrainian civilian men next, then foreigners. That is not racism. It is pragmatism.

If I were Nigerian President and Nigeria was fighting a war, I would do the same thing for my citizens. I will not prioritise foreigners over my own countrymen and women.

Complaining will never help Nigerians abroad or in Nigeria. What will help us and change our country for the better is if we take individual action to create the Nigeria we want to see. Talk is cheap. Actions are not!

Not only was I in Eastern Europe, by the grace of God, my team and I were able to raise money for to get stranded Nigerians out of the war zone.

Let me quickly say here that because I know my countrymen, it is important that I establish that nobody donated money to me to go to Eastern Europe. I went there to help. While I was there, I did a video appeal and asked my supporters to donate directly to Pastor Edward in Ukraine. I flew here with my money. I used my money to help. And I returned with my money. If anybody on Earth gave me a penny directly, I authorise them to expose me.

I am just being proactively transparent, because, like I said, I know my people!

Having said that, let me now explain to my fellow Black Africans what our unwarranted cries of racism will do to us. Yes, BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera and MSNBC will carry such stories with glee, not because it is true, but because it is sensational and will drive traffic to their sites, which is what they need to command huge advertisement revenue.

But those stories were false and the Eastern Europeans are now more likely to be unwelcoming to Black Africans after this this crisis has blown over, because at a time when they faced a calamity, we did not show understanding. Rather, we whipped up false sentiments that had the capacity to turn the world against them at a time when they needed all the help they could get.

I ask my Black brothers how many Black Africans have been killed in Ukraine by the Ukrainians since this incident began? How many have had their property looted? How many have been attacked by mobs?

Not one single Black African.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, we have seen repeated waves of xenophobia and Black on Black racism, by South African Blacks against Black Africans from other African nations, whom they christen ‘Makwerekwere’.

In multiple waves of these xenophobic attacks, hundreds of Black Africans have either been killed, maimed, had their properties looted, or frustrated out of South Africa by their own fellow Black Africans, who are now raising a hue and cry against the beleaguered Ukrainians and their neighbours.

Within Nigeria, various Northern groups have given quit notices to people of Southern descent to leave their region, which was immediately reciprocated by some Southern groups. And we are the ones shouting that Ukraine is a racist country.

Meanwhile, back home we are more intolerant of each other than others are.

I give a good example. The largest church in Ukraine is the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations (also known as Embassy of God). It was founded by a Nigerian-Mr. Sunday Adelaja.

So, Ukrainians are so racist that they gathered and worshiped in large numbers at a church with Nigerian roots? What is more precious to a man than his connection to God? Where are human beings most open and sincere? Of course that is in a house of worship.

Now, imagine that the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations wants to help poor people, who would they help first? Members or non members? Mind you, scripture says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith”-Galatians 6:10.

So, even Scripture and common sense dictates that the church should prioritise its own members first before others. If they do that, is that discrimination? Of course not.

Then why would we as Black Africans accuse Ukraine of racism in their weakest hour and time of need, when they need good media the most, simply because they prioritised the evacuation of their own citizens before foreigners? It would have been delinquent of their government to prioritise foreigners over their own citizens.

No serous country would ever doing. But it is us. We must be emotional, rather than rational. We must antagonise rather than empathise. We must react, rather than pro-act. And we wonder why we are where and how we are!

What we have done to Ukraine and Eastern Europe is not yet clear to us. But the war will be over. The dust will settle. It is only a matter of time. And when that time comes, they will remember how we stoked the media against them in their darkest hour.

Sadly, we Black Africans have a victim mentality. We need to change that mindset. We need to acquire a victor’s mindset. Yes, racism does exist. But when we cry wolf even where there is clearly no wolf, time will come when nobody will listen to us, even when the real wolf comes.

Reno’s Nuggets

Dear wife,

Your husband is not irresponsible because he refuses to carry your siblings and your parents welfare on his head. Rather, it is your father and mother who are HIGHLY irresponsible for collecting bride price and still want your husband to collect bills! The ideal situation is for your husband to use his money to care for you and your children. However, if he has extra, then he should invest for the future, not on your parents and siblings. Marry and leave your father’s house. Don’t extend your father’s house to your husband’s house!

#RenosNuggets #FreeLeahSharibu

Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, Vice-Chancellior, LASU: My Vision for LASU Is Unique and Focused

Prof. Ibiyemi Ibilola Olatunji Bello is an eminent scholar of great pedigree, reputed to have won several laurels, breaking records of attaining great heights. For her, it has been a record of first among equals all the way. She is the first professor of Physiology in the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), having been an associate professor at the University of Lagos, College of Medicine between 2005 and October 1 2007. She was the first female acting vice-chancellor of LASU between July 2010 and October 2011. She was also the first female deputy vice-chancellor of the university between December 2008 and December 2010. She was the first substantive head of the Department of Physiology Lagos State College of Medicine between October 2007 and December 2008. In addition, she was the pioneering director of Lagos State University Directorate of Advancement (LASUDA).   Prof Olatunji-Bello grew up in Lagos under excellent parenthood. She attended the Anglican Grammar School in Surulere between 1970 and 1974 and later Lagos Anglican Grammar School also in Surulere. She also attended the Methodist Girls High School in Yaba and Lagos State College of Science and Technology Ikosi Campus for her ‘A’ Levels in 1982. After graduating From the University of Ibadan with a B.SC Hons degree in Physiology in 1985, she proceeded to the University of Lagos for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Apart from her victorious intellectual exploits leading to being awarded an MSC degree, she also deepened her academic and research breakthrough leading to being awarded a PhD at the University of Lagos in 1998. For so many years, she has been so versatile in the issues regarding leadership and management configuration perspectives in LASU, having been the state government’s representative in the university’s Governing Council between 2004 and 2008 and Senate representative in the council. In 2012, she was nominated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to attend Course 34 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru Plateau State. She was awarded a ‘Member of the National Institute’ (MNI) Certificate. She was awarded a fellowship by the Physiological Society in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2007, which led to a similar fellowship of the Physiological Society of Nigeria. During an interview with THISDAY newspaper on the commemorative edition on Women’s International Day 2022, she bares her mind on many issues, including the takeaway lessons from the race to become LASU vice-chancellor. Excerpt:

In retrospect, how would you describe your growing up years and the impact of your upbringing?

Growing up was interesting. I was brought up to be a very curious person about my environment. I am also a goal-getter; when I’m determined to do something, I will do it. By the grace of God, I rose very fast in life, and in fact, I seem to be in a hurry to achieve everything. Sometimes, I ask myself: ‘where are you hurrying to’? Everything about my life happened so fast. I went to secondary school at age nine going to 10. I left secondary school when I was 15. When I graduated from university, I was barely 21 years. It was as if I needed to be in a hurry to get all those things done. My vision was to be a professor before the age of 40, but I couldn’t make it. I became a professor at the age of 43, which was still ok by all standards. Regarding my childhood, I had very influential parents but God-fearing. And they brought us up well. I became born-again in my secondary school days. I love God and serve God all the time. By the time I entered the university, I didn’t think I had free time. I was focused on myself and my goal of becoming a professor. It wasn’t as if I wanted to try my luck. From day one, I knew I was going to get a PhD. I went to UNILAG for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) after I had graduated from the University of Ibadan. Before I got to UNILAG, a lot had been discussed about me based on recommendations and reports from the people at UI. So everybody was interested in meeting me. However, when I got there, I was just myself. Although we were two serving at UNILAG then, I was the only one retained initially on a part-time Demonstratorship. While at UNILAG, I did my master’s and registered for my PhD. And immediately there was an opening, I was employed on a full-time basis. So my trajectory was quite fast. However, while I was in a hurry during my growing up years and as a young adult, God used this vice-chancellor’s race to stabilise me. From lecturer to HOD to professor to DVC to acting VC, everything happened in quick succession, but becoming a VC took time, and I thank God for it.

Has there been any time during your earlier career that you have been limited by gender? Or, you couldn’t get something because you are a woman?

I never saw myself as a woman. I saw myself as a colleague with my contemporaries. From my days in school to work, everyone was my colleague. We discussed everything together, shared jokes and did things as colleagues. For the guys, I knew their girlfriends, and they knew mine. Their girlfriends know me. It was all like a big family. When they have challenges, they inform me and vice versa. We usually gist during the practical classes, so no limitation. But I realised later that I’m in a male-dominated environment. It dawned on me that I have to publish or perish, and if I have to publish, I have to do as much as twice my male counterparts. As a married woman, I do my school work, take my children to school and pick them up. I make sure dinner is ready for everybody in the evening and get the children ready for school for the following day. In those days, the computer was not as prevalent today. Hence, we kept writing and writing. That was the situation. From the onset, I never saw myself as a woman, but while rising up, it dawned on me that I was in a male donated profession. And I have to prove a point. And I thank God I was able to be a challenge to others.

Being a professor at 43 years is a feat. Many could have fallen off the line along the way. What did you do differently that helped you to succeed over the years. What were your strategies, the philosophy, or your benchmark growing to the top level?

As I said earlier, I worked twice as hard as my colleagues. As a young academic, I had mentors and role models. I would always go to the senior ones and ask, ‘Prof, how did you do these things?’ And at meetings, I was always talking. I believe that as intellectuals, we should debate things. Whether your point is taken or not. You should debate it. In the end, the person that has larger support would have his way. I also saw University meetings and Conferences as a way of expressing myself. Even now, I will always say my mind. I may not win the argument, but it will be on record that I have said my mind. You must not shy away from speaking the truth; it may not pay at a particular time, but in the long run, when you look back, history will justify you. So I had role models who encouraged me. Mention can be made of Prof. Shofola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Lagos. Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos. Former Vice-Chancellor of Ondo State University of Science and Technology. Also President of the National Postgraduate Medical College. Prof. Odugbemi would always ask me, ‘Yemi, bring your CV’, and I will give it to him. Three months later, he will ask again, and I will say, but I gave you three months ago. And because I knew he would ask of me every three months, I would make sure that there was something new added to the CV before he would ask for my CV again. That was the push. Prof. Sofola will tell me, ‘if we push you, you will move’. They were pushing me because they had great belief in me. Some other people would have run away, but I did not.

What are the lessons regarding the contest in your appointment as LASU vice-chancellor?

There are two lessons. One, believe in yourself. The vision I had for the university was the same I submitted during my first contest for the position. People will say go and look at the way they did this or that. It is not done this way. They will ask me to go and read other people’s visions and model mine after theirs. But I realised that what I have is better than what they are saying, and I stuck to it. The only thing I added to the first one I did was the decision to create new faculties. It was the same vision during the first, second and third contests. I would have entered into the Guinness book of records as the only person that vied for the same position five times. The second lesson is never to give up once you believe in yourself. The competitions were stiff, and the oppositions were strong, but I continued, and I never gave up.

I have said it in different churches where I have given my testimonies that I was focused mainly on becoming LASU vice-chancellor. I never applied to any other university. It was not that I was desperate to become vice-chancellor of LASU, but I was called (by God) to be vice-chancellor of LASU, so I never attempted to be vice-chancellor elsewhere. Most of the others that contested with me since 2011 have gone somewhere else, but I am here. I’m maybe the only person who didn’t go elsewhere despite seeing many opportunities.

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Strictly Personal

Nigeria’s Currency Crisis: Time to deploy Amotekun, By Chinedu Chidi

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I have thought long and hard about just the right solution to the downward spiral of the Naira, and confidently believe I have come up with the perfect response. It is my humble proposal that the time is right to deploy the dreaded Amotekun to arrest this situation. I’ll explain why.

 

Since it is now clear that the Naira’s salvation is not in the hallways of the CBN or the gold-plated policy rooms of Bretton Woods, but in the battle grounds of the nook and cranny of Nigeria, all patriotic Nigerians must now rightly ignore suit-wearing technocrats and search for militant solutions with real promise. As a patriotic citizen, I have risen to this challenge. I would humbly like to thank the patriotic Nigerian leadership, from the CBN to the Executive, for leading us into this new era of mortal combat.

 

Only a few days ago, we were greeted with the live action scene of security operatives combating BDC operators in the nation’s capital, discharging live ammunition in broad daylight in an open civilian space like fearless patriots at the battle front. The EFCC and accompanying security operatives charged forward and backwards as the enemies of state dared challenge them. It was almost like a combat scene from Gibson’s Braveheart. I was touched. I’m not too sure, but I may have heard the humming of the national anthem from these fearless patriots as they battled the savage saboteurs. What a touching moment! Someone who was at the scene mentioned that these patriots recited the pledge before the onslaught. I can’t confirm this for sure, but if it did occur, it would be consistent with the new nationalistic fervour of the Tinubu administration as reported in the news recently that citizens would be required to recite the pledge at events. I also hear the operation is going on in different parts of the country. All these, coming only days after Sahad Stores, a retail supermarket in Abuja, was forcibly shut down for “economic sabotage”, fill me with great joy. Some unpatriotic citizens had shockingly opposed the move, claiming Sahad Stores was one of the good ones, and that deploying force would not resolve the inflation crisis. Cowards and co-conspirators! They’re too distracted by textbook ideas to see that we’re in war. Shame.

 

Normally, I would have recommended the army for this most important national assignment, but they’re overstretched. They’re battling terrorists, bandits, armed robbers, secessionists, their welfare; just about every violent aggressor around. The police would have been my second option but they too are preoccupied and, as some mischievous people claim, have a special DNA for compromise. For these and some other reasons which I will explain, Amotekun has my blessings.

 

I know Amotekun is also seriously engaged with battling bandits in the South West, but they must be pleaded with to spare some personnel for this all-too-important national emergency. Their stealth, daredevil disposition, and my favourite—charms from the gods— will come in handy.

 

I have heard rumours that some of the BDCs hide their stockpile of dollars in forests. This is the domain of the Amotekun warriors. Through their local intelligence gathering and tactical navigation of the forests, they can uncover these dollar chests and win for the country a huge deliverance. Their spiritual protection against wild animals and attacks from dark forces will be very useful here.

 

I am also confident that what has for so long appeared to be the near-impossible goal of finding the dollars some loud-mouthed people claim are hidden by politicians, bank executives and— I struggle to even contemplate it— CBN officials will be spiritually detected by Amotekun. We desperately need this.

 

It was with great joy that I also received the news that our gallant security personnel are now stopping truckloads of food from leaving the country. What took them so long! How can any patriotic businessman think of trade and profit at a time of economic crisis? This beats my imagination. I am even more infuriated by the argument of their unpatriotic defenders that we don’t have food scarcity, just food unaffordability, and that we can’t seriously let them abandon their goods in warehouses while the vast majority of Nigerians can’t purchase them. This is so inconsiderate and sad. Their argument that the exports bring in needed forex at this time of forex crisis is also another textbook nonsense. Shame on them.

 

I am particularly touched by Cardoso’s sincerity and humility. Realizing that the air-conditioned policies have hit the brick wall and that the fight has morphed into street combat, he did not try to deceive the populace about it. This is uncommon (apologies to Akpabio) pragmatism.

 

I want to enjoin the President to rally leaders in the South West towards mass mobilization of Amotekun for this national assignment. We can’t afford to fail!

 

Chinedu Chidi is a public affairs commentator. He can be reached via: chiobe24.cc@gmail.com

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The problem of DRC’s beautiful wife, maize it planted by roadside, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Watching the upheaval in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent days, one is tempted to invoke the African proverb that “the man who marries a beautiful woman and the farmer who grows maize by the roadside have the same problem.”

The police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse protesters who burned tyres and US and Belgian flags near Western embassies and UN offices in the capital Kinshasa, angry about insecurity in eastern Congo.

The protesters claim the West supports Rwanda, which they and their government accuse of backing the M23 rebellion, whose advance could see them seize the strategic border city of Goma in the east.

This is a new phase of what has become an entrenched tradition of the Congolese oscillating between blaming everyone else but themselves for their problems, and demanding that other people solve these problems, including fighting for them.

In recent years — rightly — the Congolese have railed, then attacked, the long-running and ineffectual United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) for not ending the rebellion in the east.

In late 2022, DRC’s kin in the EAC dispatched the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to separate the warring sides. Before long, Kinshasa and the people had risen against them, hounding them to go out to the jungle and fight the rebels for them. At the end of last year, EACRF left DRC with its tail between its legs.

Because the Congolese are our brothers and sisters, and we have a responsibility to love them, we also have a duty to tell them uncomfortable truths that will help them overcome.

So, we will return to our proverb. African proverbs are complicated. First, one needs to know that they passed into society through the mouths of men who were not feminists, so too many of them tend to portray women in bad light.

This one paints a heroic hard-working farmer (although it is mostly women, not men, who work the land in Africa) whose maize is stolen by passers-by, in contrast with the beautiful wife who betrays her husband and falls to the charms of other men.

However, African proverbs are also layered, so there is what they say, and the many things they mean. In this case, that people will covet a good thing — a good crop, a beautiful woman and, if we may add, a handsome, enterprising man. The “problem” here is how to keep your maize, beautiful wife, and enterprising husband. If you are better than all the men who hit on her, your beautiful wife will stay faithfully by your side.

Having your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend run off with someone else can be very hurtful, but if you have a cantankerous truth-telling African aunt or uncle, they will also whisper to you that a partner whom no other man or woman has ever or will ever want is probably not worth having.

In real-world Congo politics, then, the reality is rebels will have friends and allies at home and abroad. Even Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as despicable as a rebel group can ever be, had friends outside who backed it.

The thing that should terrify everyone is a rebel group that no one wants to touch with a 10-metre pole, both in the day and night. The opposite is also true of rebels fighting to overthrow a government. If it is a government that doesn’t have a single friend even in the cynical world of geopolitics, then it’s probably worse than a cabal of cannibals.

For Congo, what is left is how to solve this “problem”. To stay with the farmer and the beautiful wife, what the Congolese are doing is like the strapping young man in old Africa who spent all his time attacking his parents, relatives, neighbours, and their friends because they failed to give him cattle to pay a bride price for a wife and build a hut for him to live in with her.

The scale of surrender of agency by many Congolese, including the political class and the government, is unsettling.

It’s partly understandable, too. The unusually brutal Belgian rule; the exploitation of all sorts of vultures for its vast minerals lasting over 100 years now; and an unbroken long spell of corrupt and cruel rule, have broken its self-confidence. The way to come to terms with the scale of failure and remain sane is to externalise all the problems to evil forces.

It has led to national paralysis, a belief that they can’t do much on their own to overcome.

DRC’s neighbours to the east, Uganda and Rwanda, offer good lessons. When President Yoweri Museveni took to the bush with his small band of rebels in 1981, the odds were stacked up against them. The British had a big programme with a special police force; the Tanzanian army that helped overthrow military dictator Idi Amin was on the side of the government, and hardy North Koreans soon got into the fight against them. They still won.

The prospects were even worse for the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front when it crossed from Uganda and took to treacherous hills in 1990. Apart from Uganda, it was alone against the world, including one of the world’s superpowers at the time, France, which was in bed with the government in Kigali. They suffered setbacks, picked themselves up, and won.

Congo can win, but first, it will have to plant its own maize and fight its war for its own beautiful wife.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». Twitter@cobbo3

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