Honor thy father; Alhaji Olanrewaju Kareem

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Kilonshele my people, this post will be of a very personal nature.

Praise be to Allah, my father was 77 years yesterday may he continue to be blessed with longevity and good health.  The reason I am dedicating this post to my father is because it was not till a few years ago that I truly began to appreciate him as a father. One of the reasons being, I have a couple of friends who have lost their own father’s, them sharing the pain of not have them around galvanized me to forge a closer relationship with my own father.  The primary reason being that, I did not realise the impact my father had on shaping my outlook on life until I completed my book “Memoirs of a Young African” (MOAYA).  Many have said that the stories relating to my father were probably funniest (especially the Methodist Grammar School incident).  Alahaji is a proud Egba man who was very protective of his children as one teacher found out. Writing, MOAYA unleashed a flood of memories about my childhood interaction with my father. I didn’t begin to truly appreciate him until I read the completed manuscript. Sadly, the appreciation was twinged with some regret. Firstly because I didn’t not dedicate the book to both my parents.  (I promise to dedicate my next novel to him). The boALok was dedicated to my mother because she was the inspiration for writing it. Her sacrifice has been well documented and shall never be forgotten. The second reason for the feelings of regret was because I don’t feel that I sufficiently acknowledge the sacrifices my father made and I wished I could have added a couple more stories about Alhaji.

For every boy, his father (good father’s) will always be his hero and it the same for me. My childhood memories of my father were mostly that of a disciplinarian but it’s the rare moments of softness that will always stay with me. He was bigger than life, there was nothing he couldn’t do, I always felt safe around him and not once did I ever go hungry.  As some of you may know, my mother travelled abroad to work when I was about seven or eight years old.  This was the period when Nigeria was going through the throes of an economic down turn due to but not exclusively the structural adjustment programme (SAP). For a few years, Alhaji was a single father. He had lost his job at a multinational organisation and had turned to farming. Some of the memories are of hearing Alhaji leaving the house at 5am to go the farm, coming back by 7am to pick us up for school, going back to the farm, picking us up from school at 2pm, making sure that we were fed before going back to the farm, before returning home around 9pm, 6 days a week. To me, as a child, that was just my father working, but looking back now as a man, my father looked gaunt. Times were hard but he took on the role of mother and father, roles he performed admirably.  While my mother was away, he was more gentle and softer than usual. He cooked often when we didn’t have a maid, took us the amusement park and Ibadan country club to soften the blow of not having our mother around.  Alhaji instilled in all his four children a strong work ethic, although we had maids sometimes while growing up, we still had chores that had to be completed regularly, promptly and efficiently. There were not traditional gender roles in our house; everybody did everything (I am sure my future wife will be very grateful). One of the stories I wish had made it into the book was with regards to an event which occurred when I was about ten years old. My dad instructed me to make him some eba. I felt honoured and I put the water on the stove. I was inpatient and didn’t let the water heat up to the right temperature before I put the gari into the pot. The outcome was less than impressive (it was quite cold, but my father ate it like as if it was gourmet meal prepared by a world class chef.  That was my father’s way of showing his love; I have never told him about how I felt as I watched him put each lump of cold eba in his mouth. So I just want to use this opportunity to say, thank you.

It has not been until I reached manhood, that I began to appreciate the words of wisdom and discipline Alhaji instilled in me. As a youngster, my love for television was insatiable. I can still remember my father pleading with me “Kabir, please please go and read your books. The programme you are watching now, they will repeat it and you will be able to watch it a hundred times, please please go and read your books”.  The man was a visionary; this was 20 years before the advent of YouTube.  If I had listened to him, you never know, I may have been the one to invent YouTube. But kids will be kids. There are many more examples of how my father’s words in childhood have come to fruition in adulthood.  As a kid, my thoughts ran along the lines of “it’s just this old man talking again, he is always talking about something”. As an adult, it’s more of “ahhh, so this is what this old man was talking about, now it makes sense”. As alluded to in the book, Alhaji constantly reminded us to never forget that we were African (this advice will form a major part of the Q4IS series- stay tuned).

Although MOAYA was about the effects of immigration on me, I have begun to appreciate the effects of the transition on my father. He sacrificed a lot so that his children can have a shot a better life. Before the economic collapse in Nigeria, he was an experienced accountant who had worked for various multinationals and was in charge of major departments. It must have taken a lot of humility and courage to come to the UK and to do jobs which he was woefully overqualified. There were periods were he would work 20 hours a day. In Nigeria, he was a man of importance and prestige, respected in the neighbourhood and across the city; he had built his own house, he was a successful business man, and head of the Kareem-Bello family. He left a society where his age, education and position commanded instant respect to a place where a pimple faced kid could tell him to shut up without facing any consequences.  Not once did I hear my dad voice regret at coming to the UK, but I am sure it must have been difficult for him to adjust. Additionally, he is a man who believes in traditional African values. So it was big risk to take his four children to a foreign land where they may lose their sense of identity, heritage, religion and language.  He worked hard to ensure those element were maintained and we will be forever grateful. At an age where most of his enjoying retirement or suffering the effects of old age, Alhaji is still running a successful business and planning to establish more. He is still as sharp as ever.  For me, the greatest quality about Alhaji Kareem is his perseverance.  He has faced many challenges in life but he never gives up. There is no such word as failure in his vocabulary; a trait which he has passed on to his children and many others.

Any man can get a woman pregnant and have a child, but a father is one who puts his child’s needs above his own and does his best to give that child the tools to make it in the world. My father showed me his love through his words and actions (I am now grateful for those ass whooping’s), the discipline gave me boundaries, and his words have helped me to chart the course through to manhood. I could not understand the words as a boy; those words now hold immeasurable value to me as a man.  He instilled in us principles and ethics that will pass on for generations to come. I will be forever grateful for the sacrifices and words you used to nurture me, it has made me the man I am today.

Alhaji Olanrewaju Kareem- KKB Honors you.

Till next week, KKB out.

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Till next week, KKB out.

Quest for Identity Series-Part 2: Black History Month: Is it still relevant?

IMG_0278My Starting Point….Egba Land

 

#Going beyond October, Slavery, School, Icons, Heroes, Inventors, Civil Rights, Race……….!!!!!

A person who does not have a clue to his or her history stands a very poor chance of mapping out a future. Dr Maya Angelou 

Kilonshele my people

This week’s post is the 2nd in the Quest for Identity Series which will henceforth be referred to Q4IS. I trust you have all had a wonderful October which as some may be aware was Black History Month (BHM) in UK.  Honestly, I had no idea.  I have not really been one to “celebrate” this event for reasons which I am still trying to decipher. The subject of “history” and “black history” has been marinating in my mind for a few months now, it coincides with my own personal quest for meaning. The catalyst for this particular post is a viral video called “#what I wasn’t taught at school” made by a young man named Samuel King. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNfH41-LI4w) Kudos to Samuel and his team for this courageous undertaking. I have had similar views for quite a while now and I agree with a number of points he highlighted. Unfortunately I will not be able to provide a full debrief of the video message but I will attempt to go allude to some of the points made.

He made a number of valid arguments, the most critical of which being that “We” are taught the same thing every year during BHM e.g. Aparthied, Slavery and the Civil Rights movement. Nothing new is ever taught.  Based on this, he feels that he is not able to take BHM seriously and I am sure many people feel that way too, especially the young. One of the core issues highlighted is that there is so much that “We” are not told. He poetically goes on to name a number black Icons/Heroes I had never heard of, for example the black men who invented the light switch and the traffic light, the richest man to ever live was King Musa of Mali and the first Black Roman emperor was Septimius Severus. For me, the most poignant point he made was “there is so much to learn in one month”. I say therein is where the problem lays. I will attempt to take philosophical approach the question I have posed above. I must confess, my knowledge of BHM is limited at best and I am not exactly a Rhode Scholar when it comes to African History. A number of questions should be asked before assessing the relevance of BHM but I will focus on two.

I write this post with the utmost humility and unintended ignorance. I am thinking from the perspective of the brand “Black History Month”. I understand that the original objectives of this concept was to create a “facility” for black people in the West (America and UK) to learn and celebrate their history. The first question I would like to ask is “what is Black History”? Personally, I find this term restrictive. I suggest that it puts every black person into one category without acknowledging individuals or group’s country, tradition, culture, tribe, language, religion etc. When I was in secondary school (1992-1996), during BHM, I learnt about the Civil Rights Movement, Aparthied, Marcus Garvey, and Martin Luther King amongst others. Thinking back now, as a young Nigerian-British boy, and without diminishing their significance or contributions, I am forced to ask myself; what the hell did the civil rights movement in America have to do me as a young Nigerian in diaspora? Ironically, I didn’t know I was black until I arrived on these shores. Learning about Olaudah Equiano would probably have made a greater impact on me and many others.  Now in 2014 Nigerian-British man in his early thirties, what impact will knowing about Septimius Severus or King Musa have on my quest for identity or fit into my personal history. Looking at it from a different perspective, how pertinent are these men to my 14 year old nephew?  Born in England, his father is from the Benin tribe and mother is from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. This is not to say that learning about Olaudah Equiano would be more beneficial to him. Like others, he has to find his own “starting point”. But on the flipside, learning about King Musa and Septimius Severus could serve as an inspiration to an individual or groups in a society where perception matters a great deal. Learning about these individuals may not only inform about the past but could also serve to empower and liberate the present generation.  For too many years, there has been a negative perception of Africa and the origins of the black race. So if just one person is inspired by the Civil Rights Movement or King Musa, who am I or anyone else to determine its significance. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!

It would be impossible to learn about “black history” in one month or in one lifetime. The wealth & diversity of black history, and the differences within the black community (another term I have a problem with) in the UK should to seriously acknowledged. I noticed that Stephen used the pronouns “WE” and “OUR” with all good intentions, (I cannot testify of his meaning) I suggest that it may be counterproductive to his argument. These are unifying words but may also mask the issues which I personally don’t feel has been acknowledged or fully discussed. For example, I have seen many fights break out when a black person has been called an “African”. On the other side, many black “Africans” who arrive on these shores straight from (and on) the continent do not consider black Americans’ or West Indians Africans. I suggest that the transatlantic slave trade is not a subject most “Africans” are aware of or can connect with. Although all black people share the same source, each one of us has a different starting point and will take different paths when it comes to charting his or her history. The starting point and paths for the British, Jamaican or American’s history will be very different from that of Nigerian or Senegalese. For example, the starting point for every Nigerian would be the amalgamation in 1914. But the path to learning about my own history would be based on the tribal history of the Yoruba’s.

 The second question I would I like us to consider is: who is responsible to teaching “black history”? A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a friend asking me to sign a petition calling for more black history to be taught in his child’s school. After much pondering, I opted not to sign the petition. The reason being, I am an advocate of the philosophy of developing a pluralistic society. I remember when I arrived in 1992; one of the most fascinating things about my primary school was the array of different races and cultures which I came into contact with. What would happen if every race or ethnic minority requested/demanded more was taught regarding their relevant history? Even more significantly where would the school begin? Going back to the point of vast differences and richness in diversity! Ladies and gentlemen I put it to you, KNOWLEDGE IS INFINITE; TIME IS LIMITED (KKB ©).  It could be  unproductive to rely on one or few sources to gain knowledge. Ultimately I believe that the quest for understanding one’s history should start within oneself but the foundations for this journey should begin at home. BHM, schools, parents, etc should not be taken as a holistic source of information, there are limits to the type and level of information they can provide. They can be the “starting points” but then it up to the individual to determine the paths taken.

We also have to take into account the impact of Globalisation vs Tradition. In the globalisation age, the easy access to information has probably diminished the desire or ability to take an interest in history. There is a general consensus that traditionally, African history was passed down orally. I may be wrong but I believe this art is in decline or has been lost as a result of globalisation. (Google is god post) In another twist of irony, in comparison to the young Africans on the African Continent and West Indies, young Africans in the diaspora like my nephew and Stephen are at a far more advantageous position if they want to learn about their history.

In conclusion, I would say that BHM as an entity is still relevant but I would suggest that it may need a change of strategy to acknowledge changes in society. The gradient must constantly be on upwards trajectory, if you are standing still you are regressing. I would suggest going beyond History, and begin to encompass topics such Philosophy, Art, Sociology, Politics, Language, and Science.   I propose that BHM can be used as a “starting point” for individuals and groups to learn about their own history and that of others.  I strongly advocate that individuals take responsibility for learning their own history with the objective of sharing their knowledge to gain an understanding of the other’s history. I am in favour of the ethos QUID PRO QOU: “I learn about mine, you tell me about yours”. The desire to understand one’s history should be relevant to each individual’s quest for identity. (I acknowledge that not everybody has a desire to learn about their history).  Before embarking on the journey, I would urge you to reflect on the quote below by ConfuciusLearning about history can easily produce nothing but a list of details and facts. One needs a comprehensive framework that gives coherence to everything one has learned. My take on this is: “one who embarks on a journey into history will probably have a more productive experience if they define the purpose. Catalysts, reasons and desires will be different for each individual but ultimately it should have meaning. The objective of learning history is to get an understanding about past traditions and cultures that could change individuals and society for the better. What is learnt about the past can be applied today with the objective of creating a better tomorrow for future generations”.

Ultimately ladies and gentlemen, Black History is part of World History.

Where is your starting point and what path will you take?

My Paths

My Paths

Thank you for your time, I hope you found the post illuminating. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below or challenge any of my arguments.

Till next week…….

KKB out

*A small addendum I would like to make is that “WE” should not romanticise “Black History”, “WE” don’t all come from Kings and Queens. But that’s a discussion for another day.

 

 

KKB VS THE CHAIRMAN: Does one’s perception supersede the other’s reality???

This is an extract from a philosophical debate between KKB and a friend based around the concept of Freedom. It was a totally spontaneous discussion which took place over four hours using Whatsapp.

Chairman- The main reason people don’t do certain things is because of the law and restrictions on society, ironically society mainly in form of your family and peers. People naturally want to have and do whatever they want, be it loads of money, have multiple women or men or just spend endless hours playing computer games etc.

KKB- Is that living or existing. Will that bring one “peace and happiness?”

Chairman- I am existing right now. So it’s a matter of perception

KKB-Life is a perception; nothing exists until our mind comprehends it

Chairman-and I say those who say you can’t buy happiness aren’t shopping in the right places.

KKB-Loooool, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can make misery easier to deal with

Chairman- You are right on one part. Humans are never fulfilled

KKB- I am looking for eternal happiness

Chairman- So why make it worse by not having the things you long for? Doesn’t that make you feel worse?

KKB-I am looking for peace on earth and eternal freedom, joy and happiness in heaven

Chairman- You want a wife and kids, will that make you happy?

KKB-On this earth yeah…but on judgement day each to their own. All I want to take with me is a sound heart.

Chairman- and you are unhappy because you have got that yet.

KKB-Yes, it’s a desire of mine. But I believe it’s not my time yet.

Chairman-Exactly, so why should somebody else’s desire be less than yours because you say so?

KKB-Did I say so?

Chairman-Point is, we all want things we think will make us happy, what we will think will make us happy is not necessarily a desire.

KKB- My desires or needs are shaped by a quest for meaning.

Chairman- I didn’t choose to be here. Whilst I am here, I want to live how I want.

KKB- So you don’t think you are free

Chairman- Definitely not!!! As I pointed out earlier because of social pressures, law ethics, morals etc we are not in reality actually ever free.

KKB-Without laws and tradition will we be free? What is freedom to you?

Chairman- Being able to do what one wants to do without repercussion!

KKB-I think not sir. There is no true freedom without discipline.

Chairman- Are Gorillas free?

KKB- I am not a Gorrilla, so I can’t tell you.

Chairman-Lol

KKB-You are free to choose to be free with discipline

Chairman-Freedom is an illusion!

KKB-Without limitations, there will be anarchy within the self. So limitations give me freedom within myself

Chairman- I know that! But what humans have created is a pretty much a paradox.

KKB-Please explain sir

Chairman-You can’t be free without discipline and u can’t be disciplined without freedom. Paradox! But again I ask in this day and age of social pressures and restrictions. How can one be truly free in its true definition?

KKB-Where is the paradox?

Chairman- It’s a contradictory statement that also happens to be true. But let me ask, how could I be truly free right now?

KKB-It’s up to you to decide your perception of freedom. Human beings are born in conflict.

Chairman-So you can’t say, and that’s my point.

KKB-I am on quest myself chairman, like all human beings.  But I know for certain that doing whatever I want won’t give me the freedom I desire.

Chairman- U can’t even tell me! It’s an illusion. Since our evolution we have put restrictions on ourselves that are not necessarily natural to us but through conditioning it has now been accepted. For instance, not everybody wants to get married or have children, however, because of social pressure, they go through with it.

KKB- That’s social pressure. Ultimately, men should be free to decide. .  I believe I am free; I am on a quest to achieve ultimate freedom by attaining peace. Like I said yesterday, ultimately having children is a selfish act. It’s a desire for some and a duty for others. We didn’t choose to be born. What do mean by public perception?

Chairman- What people think of you or how they see you, which I believe leads to Mental enslavement. These pressures and public perceptions stop one from attaining one’s true desire, desires which I personally believe leads to some form of happiness be it temporary or not.

KKB- So you think getting what we want is happiness?

Chairman-If happiness is a feeling and down to perception who are you to argue with mine?

KKB-Who is arguing, we are in dialogue? Fools argue wise men dialogue!!!

Chairman-You disagree that getting what we want makes you happy? Yes or No?

KKB- Sir, that is unfair

Chairman- you just asked me “So you think getting what we want is happiness?” well sir, yes, I believe so.

KKB-If getting what we want is happiness, we will never be satisfied because humans always want more, so what is true happiness

Chairman-Semantics!!!

KKB-I was unhappy when I left you house yesterday because Arsenal lost

Chairman-Because u weren’t getting what u desired

KKB-But a few hours later I was happy

Chairman-Because you were getting what you desired

KKB-Because I was getting what I wanted…yes

Chairman-So what are you disagreeing with?

KKB-Sir all I am saying is although I got what I wanted, I want more. More meaning, more purpose. I want peace within myself

Chairman-Ok so we can’t achieve true happiness because there are too many things we want and won’t be able to get.

KKB-From my understanding of faith, this world is temporary. Nobody can tell me what true happiness is, I believe in a world after I die so that’s my quest.

Chairman-Imagine a perfect scenario. Wife, kids, money, good health, family and friends are all good. U telling you won’t be happy?

KKB- I would be happy but that doesn’t mean I give up. I would be thankful.

Chairman-People in that scenario who aren’t happy or content is usually because they want more.

KKB-Yes, but more what? What is missing?

Chairman- Depends on each individual. The average man probably wants more women?

KKb-Why?

Chairman-Why?!!! You are a man and you are asking me why?

KKB-That’s not freedom then is it, it they want it just because they want it.

Chairman-If God said you can have 10 more women would you decline?

KKB-Depends if they are hot? Who am I decline a gift from God?

Chairman- Lol. Ok, so far it appears we both have different definitions of freedom

KKB-For me freedom is I love my wife and I won’t sleep with other women. Discipline is important.

Chairman-That’s good, for you

KKB-Yes I want more women, but I can control myself

Chairman-For me, freedom is I can have more women if I want

KKB-But u will always want more women

Chairman-if I decided but chose to control myself. Without the other, that is not true freedom.

KKB-For me, that’s true freedom.

Chairman-No its not, because you are only controlling yourself because ur wife won’t let you do what you want

KKB-No no sir, freedom is what you want it to be?

Chairman-No one is ever truly free, please tell me you get that.

KKB-I don’t believe that one can’t ever be truly free…..the first steps to achieve freedom is with limits, discipline and responsibility

Chairman- What if a slave in their mind thought they were free, does that make it so?

KKB- I put it to you sir, what is a master without a slave? I am a slave of Allah, but I free to choose to serve.

Chairman-Ok, well I am a child of God blessed with freewill but inhibited by man.

KKB-Doesn’t freedom begin in the mind?

Chairman-Is your mind more powerful than my reality?  Again I’ll ask, if the slave in their head thought they were free, does that make it so?

KKB-If he a slave, his physical freedom is taken away and he has no choice but to serve. But a slave with a free mind always yearns for physical freedom. Kunta Kinte for example.

Chairman- OK, so what I’m saying is I’m mentally enslaved so I don’t feel free.

KKB- Then begin your quest for freedom sir. Nobody, but body can take away freedom of the mind if the mind believes it’s free. The Quran gives me discipline and helps me on the quest for freedom.

Chairman-I think others are too (mentally enslaved), but fail to comprehend or just simply won’t admit it.

KKB- Society is more enslaved now than we realise. Freedom is not doing anything we want…. that’s dangerous. We have a duty of some kind, firstly to ourselves.

Chairman-You mentioned the Qu’ran but the Simple fact that you are looking to a book (that suggest you should do as it commands or you go hell) to guide u suggest to me that you are not fully exercising you’re true free will.

KKB-Sir that is a simplistic and superficial perspective which I utterly reject but that’s a debate for another day. The “book” guides me and gives me freedom by enabling me to control my carnal desires.

Chairman- Fair enough

KKB-Closing statements please sir

Chairman – Ok here goes: You say freedom can be whatever you perceive but I think this a mistake many make. To me it’s much more; it becomes reality, much like the feeling of LOVE. If you choose to live away from human contact have no need for other human contact then it will work for you. Because then you can trick your mind into all sorts and make it your reality. However with our quest and need for social acceptance we are forced into doing things we don’t necessarily want to do. Putting us, I believe in a subconscious state of mental enslavement. A JUXTAPOSTITION because u choose to do stuff because u can or want to but in fact if you didn’t, you’d be judged, ridiculed or just feel bad which of course you don’t want. My definition of true freedom is having the ability to do something within my power/ability without any repercussions and so when I chose not to do it, it’s because I am demonstrating discipline and not because I’m afraid of the alternative or consequence.

KKB-MY CHAAAIIIIIRRRRRMMMAAAANNNN.

Chairman-My guy!

KKB- Na body blow you de give me o. My response: I stick to the notion that there is no true freedom without discipline. I can’t define for you or anybody else what freedom is or should be. But because one thinks one is free doesn’t mean one is free.  Picking up on your statement about being able to act without repercussions, ppl do a lot of acts without fear of repercussions and they still believe they are free. I propose that there is personal and societal freedom. What happens when your freedom impacts on my freedom?  Some people want to walk around naked but I don’t want to see ur naked body. Without rules, there will be anarchy. That goes for personal freedom too…..human beings are always in conflict between good and bad. With discipline, you can choose to be good or bad. Acting on emotions doesn’t mean one is free…..in fact one who is subject of his/her emotion is not free. So I put it to you sir, you can choose to decide whether u are free or not, or develop the discipline required to achieve true freedom. But as we said….its all a perception!!!!

What is your perception of true freedom, is it being able to do whatever one wishes or can freedom only be achieved with discipline? Or is it all an illusion.  What say ye?

Till next week

KKB Out

The Quest for Identity: Part 1-Introduction

Kilonshele my people

Hope you are well.  I trust you have enjoyed my recent posts and I am grateful for your support.

I would like to invite you all to take a journey with me over the next few months. This is the first of many post which aims to focus on a subject which has been on my mind for the past few months, the concept of Identity.  The world has gotten smaller over the past few years with the advent of air travel and advancements in global communication. One of the effects of the creation of the global village is that the methodology of defining one’s self or the “other” has become more complex.  Identity now transcends boarders; we now live in multiracial, multicultural, and multi-faith communities. (And any other multi- you can think of). There are so many “labels” which we can use define ourselves as individuals and/or as part of a group.

For example, I can be described black man, but does that go far enough to define who I am. How far does race go in defining one’s identity? Do I have to act a certain way because I am “black”? What about my culture, tradition and nationality. I am of dual citizenship, British by culture and Yoruba by tradition- which one best describes me? How does one define oneself with so many labels to choose from? What does it mean to be African? Do Africans have superiority complex about being “real” Africans? Do African Caribbean’s and Americans romanticise what it means to be African?  Can a person with Indian origin born in Uganda be considered African? There are a million questions I could pose but this is just the beginning of the journey. Identity can divide and can also bring people together.  Over the next few months, I will be inviting guest writers to share their perspectives and personal views on what it means to be……

I will post the views of one or two guest writers a month on this blog site, there will be no restrictions on what each  writer presents, no discrimination based on age, race, sex, nationality, faith, etc etc etc…all views are welcome. This is a very important subject which I believe requires frank discussions and open dialogue.  I hope to use this blog as forum for people to share their views and get answers to some of the questions they may have.  The objective is the get the perspective of a wide range of individuals and groups which will culminate in an anthology of thoughts and ideas which we would all benefit from. It would also go a long way to form the basis for the documentary I am currently working on currently tiled: The Search for Meaning.

For a personal perspective, my quest for identity began when I left Nigeria as an 11 year old in 1992 although I didn’t know it.   I was standing 173 meters above sea level when I realised that I had continued a journey which I thought I had completed. I will reveal more over the next few months, if you would like to join me on my quest…..stay tuned.

Till next week

KKB Out.

 

Religion: Is it moving Nigeria backwards or forwards?

“Blacks hold onto their God just as the drunken man holds on to the street lamp post–for physical support only”. Dr Tia Solarin

 “CHEI. CHEI. There is God O! DIERRIS GOD O!!!” Patience Jonathan

Was up Ya’ll

This week’s post comes courtesy of a debate organised by a group called Nigerian Thinkers.  Members meet once a month to have honest, stimulating and intellectual discussions, debates and dialogues about all topics relating to Nigeria. The topic for this months’ meeting was to debate the notion: Religion: Is it moving Nigeria backwards or forwards?

The discussion was opened up by a brief debate between two members, one arguing for the “forward” notion and the other arguing for the “backward” notion.  Both sides put forward solid arguments before it was opened up to the floor. The chair for the “forward” notion opened the debate with reference to philosophers who have long argued that religion has no place in the advancement and progress of society. She deftly countered this statement with reference to Plato’s “allegory of the cave”, arguing that education is the key to breaking the culture of those who use religion as a platform to perpetuate intolerance and abuse on the masses. In support of this, she highlighted the role of faith based organisations have had on building educational institutions.  The “backward” notion strongly argued that the Abrahamic (monotheistic) religions have moved Nigeria backwards.  The spokesman argued that the `African` has lost his mind in religious dogma and for him to move forward, he has to release `himself` from the alien religion.

The discussion was opened up the floor and for the first few rounds, the notion for religion took a beating. The opening salvos highlighted the impact the Abrahamic faiths have had in relegating the traditional African/Nigerian faiths to the level of been seen as backwards or satanic. Before the “alien” religions were brought over and forced on the Africans through violence, (a notion I don’t agree with personally) there was a spiritual system which enabled the African man to connect to his creator. The inconsistency in the African way of thinking was also highlighted, on one hand, we say we are proud Africans, yet we worship a white Jesus while millionaire preachers fly around in their private jets. There is irony in the fact that Nigeria is the most religious country in the world, but there is strong perception (with valid reasons) that it has changed the way we treat each other which is holding our country back. A profound statement was made at this junction “faith without deed is death, where is the action”. 

A strong theme which ran through the whole debate was regarding identity, history and education. The adoption of the “alien” religion was a plausible reason for the loss of identity in the modern era at a subconscious level. Because we have moved away from our traditional religions, we have moved away from our culture and are losing our language in the process. This is despite the fact that although our forefathers adopted the Abrahamic faiths, they never lose their identity, ethics, culture and moral values which have been passed down many generations, but this is slowly being eroded because of the adoption of western ideology and culture in the new generation.   A statement was made in the heat of the debate that a lot of Yorubas are Muslims but they are not terrorist like the Hausas in the north because Hausas consider themselves Arabs. The role that religion played with regards to the transatlantic slave trade was hot button issue; the Catholic Church was accused of using “Christianity” to justify slavery. An attempt to counter this argument was made that although “Christianity” was used to justify the trade in human cargo, it was also the basis used to abolish it. In addition, the point was made that Islam and traditional religions also held slaves. This argument was swiftly batted away with a counter argument stating that the slaves of our forefathers were captured during inter-tribal wars and were eventually assimilated into the relevant tribes.      

The spokesperson arguing for the “forward” notion raised a valid question as to what did the western religions provide in terms of education that the native religions did not or could not provide, to meet the needs of the people. This caused a heated response; the question was described as fallacious because “African history and education” was transferred orally. The “African” tribal religions offered a sense of communal togetherness, living off the land etc. With regard to education, two members from each side made what I consider to be excellent points for the importance of self-education. Babatunde in the “backward” notion camp highlighted the fact that he made a conscious effort to take a personal journey on the quest for identity which led him to gain a better understating and to connect with the spiritual gods of his ancestors.   A young lady named Fatima made what I personally believe was the most cogent argument of the evening. She said personally religion has given her inner peace and has moved her forward.  She was a Christian, became a freethinker, and then became a Muslim. Although from different ends of the spectrum, these two individuals shared the same virtue which I feel many people lack-courage.

Towards the end of the evening, somebody asked a poignant question, why do Africans cling onto religion like a drunken man leaning on lamppost? (I paraphrase). Why would they give their 10% tide to the preacher before buying food for themselves to eat? Or join a terrorist organisation. It brought into contention the state of our nation. Hope of the better tomorrow caused many people to look to the Church or Mosque for support. The stress of the daily grind, no job, no money, lack of health and security makes people look to a higher power for “salvation”. This is not to say that only poor people go to religious institutions. The social structure of religions provides a communal sense of togetherness, there is a need for welfare, which religious institutions are able to provide if applied in the right way.  A member made a statement regarding preachers which I find humorous and equally serious; preachers could not be politicians so they should not use religion to achieve their goals, doesn’t that just put the cherry on the parfait?

The debate was put to a vote at the end of the evening; and the “backward” notion camp was in the majority.  I hope I have provided an impartial analysis of a very lively, intelligent and stimulating discussion of an important subject by a group who obviously love Nigeria and want the best for their motherland.

On a personal note and writing as an independent observer, I feel that although illuminating, most of the evening’s discussions did not achieve the outcome I would have liked in the sense of answering the question- what do we do now? I reject both notions!!!!! Since the dawn of time, religion (or any other form of ideology) has been used as tool for evil and has also been a force for good. From the Catholic Church condoning* the trafficking of human cargo from the 16th-19th century, to Boko Haram today, these actions dramatically demonstrate man’s inhumanity against man using religion as a tool. Religion should not be blamed if “man” cannot live up to the ideals of the relevant faith, be it alien or native.  I put it to my fellow Nigerians and fellow human beings, we should work together to build a society of pluralism and tolerance in all spheres.   “Religion” in all forms is not going anywhere in our beloved Nigeria. Our country is at the cross roads and is ripe for change, I propose that we as Nigerian Thinkers and patriots  (regardless of tribe, religion, class, sex) come together to develop cohesive and sustainable solutions to the problems facing our country. Religion cannot be solely or majorly blamed for the problems in our country nor should it be seen as the singular solution. I firmly believe that it has a major role in creating a better Nigeria and a better tomorrow which we all yearn.  Based on the discussions by the Nigerian Thinkers members, I believe that education is key tool; personal and societal, take note from the two names mentioned in this post. For a better Nigeria, with equality and freedom for all, hope, courage and perseverance is required. We should not be naïve and must remain vigilant; we must not ignore “man’s” innate desire for power and selfish interests for the few. This must be countered through the constant strive for peace and freedom by all and for the masses. 

Ultimately I believe that we as a society have lost the essence of religion, with education we can get it back and build a society we all deserve. To move forward, we have to look at history, but we cannot be bitter. So I put it to you, my fellow Nigerians (and friends of Nigeria) what shall we do now to move our country forward. What say ye?

Till next week

KKB Out

*Allegedly

 

A tribute to Dr Maya Angelou

Kilonshele my people…….

I woke up this morning, and my first thought after thanking my maker was “the world is the still f**ked”. I can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing some depressing news was with ISIS, Boko Haram, potential terror on the streets of London, Ebola….the list goes on and on. If all that wasn’t bad enough, I don’t get paid till the end of the month and my colleague who I was working on today’s original post with informed me that he wouldn’t be able to submit his portion before the deadline.

Not one to be defeated, I have decided to dedicate this week’s post to the Great  Maya Angleou. You may be thinking this is the oddest introduction to a tribute, you would be correct. Tributes have been paid to this wonderful human being by Bill Clinton, President Obama and Oprah Winfrey. This tribute comes from a man who did not know value the influence this unique individual had on his life till he read about her passing earlier this year. My body went numb without me fully knowing why. I have read two of her books, I Know Why Cage Birds Sing and Gather Together in My Name. I have explained to many that she was one of the greatest influences when it came to writing my first book, Memoirs of a Young African. It wasn’t until her passing that I realised that she inspired me to write my own book. I believe that I have always had the writing ability in me but it was because of her that I became a writer without even realising it. I admired her writing style, prose and wit, she put words to paper like an Eagle takes to the air. I am not ashamed to say that I emulated her writing style initially until I developed my own style. People have often asked me if I took creative writing at University and they are surprised when I say no.  I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Doctor Maya Angelou. One of the greatest things I took from her as a fellow writer as courage… courage in the sense of pouring my heart out on paper. There are a few stories that would not have made it into the MOAYA if I had not reflected on the courage it took for her to  share  her trials and tribulations with the world through her writing. I value her courage even more now  because there is one story I was not courageous enough to put in the book, something I regret every time somebody complements me on the book.

Upon her passing, I realised that I loved and admired Dr Angelou and the reason her passing hit me so hard was that I had always nurtured the hope of one day meeting her even for a few seconds. Through her words, I had learnt the meaning of courage and humility. I once heard her say “courage is the most important virtue a person could have, without courage one cannot practice any other virtue consistently”. Through her I have also realised that humility is probably one of the greatest virtues one can attain, humility is a virtue one should always strive to attain throughout one’s life. In my opinion, if one believes that he or she has achieved humility, one is in danger of falling into a state of arrogance – that’s just my interpretation.  Humility supresses the ego, without the ego there will be no desire for power, there will be no appetite for war, no greed, no envy and so on and so forth.

Another reason I have dedicating the post to Dr Angelou is that she brought to my attention one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” (I am human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me) by Terrence. This quote has had a profound effect on my life and I implore you all to reflect on this.  I say to all who believe that their faith, status, wealth, class, race or education make them better than anybody else, please remember this quote. It will make the world a better place. I believe I have tried to apply these two virtues over the course of my day. Despite all the troubles in the world, I have the courage to hope and pray for a better tomorrow. I am humbled by the fact that there are millions out there who will not get paid at the end of the month and others won’t get paid enough to sufficiently feed their family. I am grateful.

I believe that Maya Angelou epitomised what it means to be courageous and  humble.  She  brought a smile to a million faces and inspired millions more. She may be gone, but through her words, her legacy will live on. She showed me the power of words and I aim to continue her legacy through my own writing

RIP Dr Maya Angelou.

Till next time

KKB Out

“Google is god……”**

A friend of mine made the above statement recently; I was a little perplexed because he was a Muslim. If he were an atheist I would have pointed out the contradiction in terms, if agnostic I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. He clarified his position in that he meant god in the lesser sense and as a concept which could compete with `smaller` gods. Do we dare say Google is Omnipotent, Omniscience and Omnipresent? (OO) I digress, this is not a theological dialogue. Let’s get to the crux of the matter.

For the past few months, I have been reflecting on the impact technology has had on `our` (limited to western society) ability to think, communicate and function. I know from whence I speak. In 2012, I returned to study eight years after finishing Uni. My first assignment was due for submission within 10 weeks.… this was a long time so I thought….I procrastinated for three weeks before tackling the assignment. I typed the question on Google, within a split second it had given me thousands of links. The first 10 links didn’t give me the required answers so I rephrased the question. I read a few more links but to no avail. The only way I can describe how I felt is to imagine a Bedouin lost in a snowstorm in Alaska…no hope. For a week, I stuck to Google like glue, I refused to believe Google couldn’t give me the answer…. I mean come on….this is Google. Two weeks after a many different re-phrasing and reading useless links, I felt that Google had made me dumb. I had forgotten the skills required to study, research, review, books, etc. Panic set in and I began praying to God. Long story short, I went into a Library borrowed some books and submitted the assignment on time. (Now ask yourself honestly, when last you went to a library to gather information) I am not blaming Google for making me dumb or for decrease of intellect in the `world`, one cannot ultimately discount personal responsibility. But I put it out there that the ease and volume for which information can be accessed has contributed to the general decline of the average intellectual aptitude. I mean, why should one go hunting when the game can come to one’s dinner table? With ready access to so much information, we have to dispose of the old more quickly to make space for the new. We lose the capacity and ability to dissect, process and reflect on what on the information we have received.

My people, don’t let us confuse information with knowledge. Google and other technologies should be used as a tool not a means. I am sure all are familiar with the phrase “just Google it”, now compare that to Mathew 7:7 “Ask and you shall receive” (paraphrased). Or the ultimate Oh my God (OMG), we say this things without even realising their significance. (NOW DON’T FORGET, this is not a theological post)  “I read it on Google” is probably the most dangerous statement one can make during an argument. I would respond “but have you read the latest version” (LGW). Although we now have ready access to the works of Socrates, Wole Soyinka and John Rawls, “I read it on Google” seems to have more weight. (Don’t get me started on Wikipedia….yeeesssh) There is a fear to quote these intellectuals because one may come across as too serious or erudite.   Kwame Ture once said “Ignorance is no excuse for a debate”. Need I say more?

You may think that I am Google bashing, no believe me, I “love” google, I have used it approximately 20 time in the process of writing this post. Technology is intrinsic to my daily life… to a certain degree. It has positive and negative effects on the world (that is discussion for another day) I use Google maps on a weekly basis, google books, google drive etc. But I am weary that the world will become so reliant on technology that slowly but surely we will decrease the use of our brains. If something is not exercised or used, its function diminishes and becomes useless…this is dangerous.

Wisdom is gained over the course of a lifetime, knowledge is sourced and attained over a period time and information is provided in an instant. I believe society has become lazy, there is no desire to look behind the curtain or walk down the yellow brick road. But ironically, Google should the start of that yellow brick road, walk down the path and there are endless possibilities. It’s a gateway for which if one has the will, desire and intellectual courage can change the world for the better. A word of warning: intellectual courage without intellectual humility is in itself dangerous.  There was a time people used to travel for months and even years to visit majestic libraries in Alexandria and Timbuktu. Knowledge was valued and Scholars were revered because it was known that they worked hard to gain that knowledge.  But now that we have answers to a million questions at our finger tips, we have stopped searching for meaning.  There has never been a time in history when the level literacy has been so high but yet, the level of intellectual capacity is on the decline. If this is not the perfect example of irony, I don’t know what it is.

I conclude by saying that, I do not blame Google for the ills or congratulate them for goodness of the world but merely to acknowledge technology’s powerful influence on shaping the 21st century mind-set. Ultimately, they have laid down a path, it’s up to us walk down it, ask questions and seek meaningful answers. We should never stop the quest for meaning, human beings have a natural desire to seek answers. There is a school of thought which suggests that this is the purpose of religion. Has Google taken over this function? What say ye?

Before you answer the question, please ponder the following Chinese proverb:

“When the wise man is pointing at the moon, the fool is looking at the finger”

Thanks for reading and thanks to my fellow collaborators (TK, DM, TO, OO SC, JA, and LGW)

**Coined by T. Sadiku

Till next time….KKB Out

A PERFECT WORLD……….Imagine

A world without the have’s and the have nots

A world without boarders

A world were conscience rules the hearts of man

A world where equality is paramount and inequality is obsolete

A world where nobody lives in mansions, nobody lives in mansions, nobody lives in tin shacks, nobody is homeless

A world where  WAR, HUNGER and FAMINE are remnants of a bygone era

A world where true democracy means the will of the majority not the desire of the rich and powerful

A world where education will not be for some but for all

A world…………..

KKB Out

Back to reality…………….

Kilonshele everybody. It’s been a while, hope you haven’t missed me. Its seven days since I returned to the UK after my trip, and I am beginning to recover from my holiday blues. I have had a chance to reflect on my trip, and I feel that it as one the best decisions I have made in my life. Toward the end of the trip, I began to think about what I would write about in my final blog. It was gonna be poignant, heart-warming and …………… 1st of November arrived and I did not write a single sentence. I had forgotten that my best writing comes when I don’t plan or think too long about what I want to write. Well now I am in the zone, so here we go………..

I got the inspiration to write this post at Euston underground station on my way home from work at a snail’s pace trying to get on to the escalator. It highlighted the difference a week makes. As people complained about the traffic on the way home in Lagos, people in London complained about the packed underground trains- it’s all relative. Pic below.

The last week of my trip was pretty uneventful; I hung out with Titi most of time and just relaxed. I took my mother and Oba to watch SARO in Lekki on Sunday and I saw my boy Olu who was visiting Nigeria from the Uk with his son.  As my journey drew to a close, I realised that it wasn’t long enough. I didn’t execute all the things I had planned for the trip but I had accomplished more than I expected. The trip had given me the belief and renewed focus to work towards making my dreams a reality. I had made new friends, renewed friendships, reconnected with family and accomplished my ultimate goal of feeling at home in Nigeria.

I experienced different enviroments within days or even miles from each other. For example, one day I was having lunch with the Governor of Ogun state and Royalty, the very next morning I was eating at a Buka (local eatery). Eating at Bukas was probably one of my greatest experiences, because it provides people with a relaxed environment to eat good food, relax and mix with people from all walks of life. There is a classless society within a Buka, multi-millionaire or pauper, everyone is welcome to sit and eat at the same table- everyone is equal. The world would be a much better place it was like a buka. The gap between the rich and the poor was one of the most significant things which impacted me. This was epitomised on the day I took public transport from Victoria Island to my hotel in Ikeja. On the island, I saw the rich side of society; big expensive cars, grand houses and yachts as far the eye could see.  Within 20 minutes while I was on the bus at Obelende, an old woman came to the entrance of the bus begging for money. She looked frail and un-kept, I gave her =N=100 and the prayers she said for me was priceless.

Despite all the obvious issues with the country, the most meaningful moment of my trip was of the young street hawker who worked so hard for =N=100 (Never Expect Power Always). It epitomised the hope of a better tomorrow which every Nigerian believes.

I have met a lot of special people of the journey, it has been a life changing experience and I am thankful for grabbing the opportunity when it came round.

This will be my last post for a while; I need to concentrate on my 2nd Novel and a number of other projects I am working on. Thank you all for your support and comments, it inspired me to continue to write every day and it has made me a better writer.

Till next time…………………….KKB out

 

 

omo eko

The past two days has probably been the most exciting on this trip. It was exhausting, that’s why previous post wasn’t the most entertaining. I was exhausted after returning from working all night, it wasn’t till after I had published the post that I realised I did not comment on why paying =N=300 for a bottle of water was so significant, each bottle usually cost =N=70. I am now back in Ibadan after spending a few days in Lagos, this post continues from when I left the venue at 3:30 pm on Thursday……………. Although I am not a Lagosian, the traffic on the 3rd Mainland Bridge was legendary and I knew that if harboured any hope of reaching mainland at a reasonable time, it will be in my best interest to leave before 4pm. The hotel I was working is in Lekki , which wasn’t too far from the bridge. I was advised to take a taxi from outside the hotel which wouldn’t cost me more than =N=1,500 from Lekki to my destination in Ikeja. When I reached the hotel gates, I asked one of the security guards where I could get a taxi to GRA in Ikeja. “You want taxi? Here” he said as he pointed to a man in a grey shirt standing by the gate. The security guard motioned him over and I repeated my destination. He studied my face and said “that will cost you =N=5,000 (£20). “No way!!!!” I exclaimed and I brushed past him outside the gate”. I was really angry, I was surprised by how angry I was. I was a few meters outside the gate when I heard “kissssssssst kisssssst”. I turned around and it was the taxi driver, “ok how much you want pay” he asked. “I was told =N=1,500” I said adamantly. He shook his head vigorously, and waved me away.The baking sum had started to get to me, I was tired, hadn’t bathed and I smelt really really bad, so I walked towards him and said “ok, I will pay 2,000. He waved me away again. “Okay how much is your final price” I said. “3000” he replied. I turned around and continued to walk away from the hotel.

I was really annoyed, after walking for about 1 minute the reality of my situation suddenly hit me. I had never taken public transport from such a far distance before, this was an area I was unfamiliar with, plus I was carrying sterling and over 30k in local currency plus my passport. I said to myself “KKB, think about what you are doing”. I briefly considered going back but I had walked too far and my pride would not allow me. I saw a man wearing army fatigues coming towards me so I said “oga I beg, how I go take moto from here to GRA Ikeja” . “IKEJA? Ok, take a bus from here to Obelende and change for a bus to Ikeja”. “thank you sir”, I said gratefully. I was about to begin a journey which would be one of the defining moments of my trip. I walked a few meters to the bus stop and luckily for me the first bus that arrived was going to Obelende. It came towards the bus stop at full speed with the conductor hanging out of the side door, shouting, Oblende, Obelende, Obelende!!!! I got on and took me seat at the back, as I was getting on I heard the conductor say “I no get change o, make sure you have change o”. Luckily I had a =N=50 note with me which I gave to him when the bus started moving. These buses are not built for passenger comfort, believe me. After much turning, horn pressing, shouting, and moving very slowly through the Lekki traffic, we finally arrived at Obelende. I got off the bus while it was still in motion. As I observed my surroundings, I could not believe how relaxed I was. It was noisy and chaotic, private cars, commercial buses, okada’s and people were hustling for the limited amount of space. Everyone talking seemed to be shouting even if the person they were talking to was right in front t of them. I asked someone where I could catch a bus to Ikeja, he pointed me in the direction which looked like the roughest part of the place. I made my way to as directed and I found myself in a bus garage with hundreds of yellow commercial vehicles. The noise in this place was astronomical, conductors and drivers where standing next to their buses shouting their destination at the top of voice touting for customers. Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba,…….. They said these destinations with such speed and rhythm, one would think that it was an orchestra/opera. I finally found a bus going to Ikeja and when I confirmed the destination with the driver, he unceremoniously waved me on “get in!!! he barked. I said Bisimillah, entered the bus and sat next to a young lady eating plantain crisp. After taking my seating, I noticed a man standing in front of the bus holding small bottle and pitching to the passengers on the bus. His mouth was so sweet; he talked about the medicinal benefits of a herbal product called Moringa, “it has the ability to heal headaches, body pains, and broken bones”. He went on and on, he stopped short of saying it could cure cancer. I just sat there looking at thinking to myself that this guy is wasting his time because none of the passengers seemed particularly interested; they were just waiting for the bus to fill up with people so that we could move. The sales then said “if you don’t believe in the powers of this product, those of you have internet on your phone, guagle it (Google) and see if what I am saying is not true”. Thanks ma, you see, someone is taking out their phone and guagling it,” the young lady next to me was a pharmacist so she asked a few informed questions. After that, people on the bus began to ask her about the product, “is it good2? “How does it work”. The sales man had character and perseverance and in the 30 minutes of waiting to move, he sold three of his products. He showed that that perseverance will always achieve result. A lot more happened in the bus stop it would be too much to write about- I will save it for my next book. By 5:05pm, we were on the move, I got to talking to the young lady and I enjoyed the conversation as we crossed the third mainland bridge going towards Ikeja. I counted my lucky stars that I had avoided the infamous traffic. The journey cost me =N=250. I got off at Leventis and took an Okada to my hotel which cost another =N=50. I was very proud of what I had achieved, to others it may seem like taking public transportation by oneself is a minor but for me, I was able to say I had accomplished one of the objectives of this trip- to be independent.

Till when the internet access lets me- KKB out