Apr 26, 2014

Review- Chicken -Efemia Chela

Caine Prize 2014 is here. The short listed authors have been announced. One of them is a 21-year old Efemia Chela whose story is titled, "Chicken".

"Chicken" is an emotional story of a young educated woman by the name of Kaba, daughter of a wealthy African family. Kaba’s got quality academic degree for which the African employment market is not ready for. Her parents insist she go back to campus for what they consider a better degree, in Law, especially since she is still young. She is not ready and takes up a job as an intern in a global firm, hoping to use it as a springboard to a paid job. All she comes up with is a business card, stolen from the pocket of a superior, made lame by drug addiction.

Life becomes extremely tough since her parents have become increasing unsupportive in terms of the stipend they have provided to help her pay rent and take care of other recurrent demands. The parents are using this as a weapon to get her to cave in to their demand that she have a professional switch. Eventually, the hard knock life pushes her to prostitution. But seeing that prostitution isn’t going to make things easier, she remembers the stolen business card and where it points to: an agency accepting the donation of female sex cells which are made available to needy couples.

In the end a baby results from her donation. Her experience teaches her that for every individual, life presents a spectrum of options: benign and otherwise. She is not mothering the result of her ovum donation but prays, so deeply, that life sways the destiny of the baby in a direction entirely opposite to her own bitter experiences. 

Efemia writes with an extremely covert chic, demanding that one reads with highly concentrated mental energy. The theme of her writing is, definitely, creative, demonstrating that besides those issues of poverty, corruption, war and crime that has preoccupied the minds of most African writers, there are other issues that have been little explored or never at all. Thus her story features the issue of same-sex relationships which Efemia appears to favor. She calls attention to the kaleidoscope, there is in African cuisines and not forgetting to cause a splurge on the struggle for the possession of the minds of Africans, between Africa and the West.

Young Efemia, in her writing also showed how permissive she can be when she writes: “it (the wind) pranked me in public, lifting my skirt. I got used to a flash of my thigh and untrimmed hedge creeping just past my briefs. I wasn’t having enough sex to be greatly concerned with my appearance down there.”

There is a little of that collision that plays up the fiction that the story is.  Such wealthy parents, especially in Africa, would hardly allow their children to go through such ordeals. They haven’t got that guts; they love the child plus they would not be able to shoulder the reputation crash that comes with such abandonment.

Apr 18, 2014

The Nigerian Security Apparatus and Boko Haram

When the Islamic Jihadist, Boko Haram, started in the town of Maiduguri, North-eastern Nigeria in 2007, many thought it was going to be a flash in the pan. Today, it has grown into a callous, mass-murdering monster, consuming in its way, many of its cynics and casting a blanket of uncertainty on the future of Nigeria. Thus Boko Haram has become the bitter toast of Nigerians and the true salt of the earth.

Also, the question on the same lips is the question of why it has become difficult to defeat this bunch of poor kids who are either uneducated, quasi-educated or miseducated. It is difficult for one to believe that the Nigerian security agents lack ideas to how to overcome the religious combatants. One can, however, presume that they have run out of ideas on how to end the deadly shootings, slaughtering, abductions and widespread subversions of the political errand boys turned terrorists.

Without doubt, Boko Haram is a descendant of International terror organizations with Al–Qaeda as the ultimate ancestor. Critically-minded Nigerians worried about the frequency of mass killings, are of the expectations that the Nigerian security organs should have studied their American counterparts to understand how Al-Qaeda was brought down and rendered slumberous, thereby making America and other target territories safe.

The defeat of Al-Qaeda was made possible by the fact that it is (or was) organogramic.  The Americans reasoned that if they can get at any member within the leadership ranks and covertly track his movements, it will lead them to the ultimate target, Osama Bin Laden, who was the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda. Getting to any of these leaders was possible since field combatants who take orders from the top were often arrested and many where in Guantanamo detention camp. That was how Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed Al-kuwaiti’s name was mentioned to the American interrogators at Guantanamo. Since Bin Laden was said to have trusted Al-Kuwaiti so much, the Americans figured out that if the superior was alive, there was a good chance the two were together.  It worked and Bin Laden’s hideout was discovered through a phone call Al-Kuwaiti made from a house where the two lived with siblings, wives and children in a town called Abottabad in Pakistan.

Bin Laden had remained on the run for close to ten years because of the level of sophistication of the operations of Al-Qaeda. Boko Haram, on the other hand, lacks that level of advancement. It is made, largely, of ignorant and misguided youths whose desperate search of what to do made them easy targets of recruitment into Boko Haram.

The operations of Boko Haram can never be successful without an organizational structure too. Getting at the members of the leadership ranks should, hence, be relatively effortless. A lot its field combatants are already undergoing interrogations at various detention centers across the country. It is the reason why Nigerians wonder the sort of questions these detainees are being asked, given that the killings, mayhem, burnings and general sabotage have continued like normal daily routines. Nigerians are of the hope that detainees should be answering questions such as: who are the other leaders besides Abubakar Shekau? Where are your camps? How do you mobilize yourselves for major operations or atrocities? Where are the weapons coming from and how do you bring them into the country? … At this point too, the search for mobile phones numbers of the key leaders should have also become crucial in the effort towards undermining the leadership of the sect.

Courageous youths in the city of Maiduguri, who go by the name of Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF), have volunteered themselves to fortify the security apparatus towards overcoming the unconventional soldiers. This decision of the youths does not imply they are punks who do not value their own lives. Hence Nigerians feel that the Civilian JTF should have been used in a manner that minimizes the frequency of their deaths. There are people who feel that the Civilian JFT should have been used, covertly, to infiltrate the rebels of Boko Haram, bringing out useful information. This can lead to uncertainties within Boko Haram, a situation that will undermine their confidence.

There is the need for the Nigerian security apparatus to act fast and wisely. The extent of killings has reached an unbearable extent.

Apr 14, 2014

The Vile Face of Born-To-Rule

Nigerian Flag
Without a shadow of doubt, the uniqueness of Nigeria’s history worked to place power in the hands of a Nigerian with a northern root. There is nothing irrational about that. If our colonial ancestors must relay the baton of power to Nigeria, there had to be a Nigerian, who must come from one part of the nation, to inherit and become the indigenous successor of Lord Lugard, as it was at the time. What was unacceptable was the manner the inherited power was perceived and put to use. The power was perceived as belonging to the North and was used to ensure that it remained that way. This was a mistake because the implication was that the others will remain slaves.

For almost four decades, power remained, firmly, in the grips of the Northern political class. This was made possible through a string of military dictators with, occasionally, short spells of democratic regimes. Democracy which should have corrected this power lopsidedness was locked out and kept in the cold. Democracy would have given us that break with which to pick, as leaders, individuals with the extremism of desire for a nation we would have all been proud of, a nation Nigerians would stop at nothing to protect.  Democracy would have given us leaders with a strong precognition to see that the denial of sameness to all Nigerians would amount to building a castle in the air.

Four decades was a long enough period. It created a feeling of superiority and pride in the minds of the commoners of the north and a contrasting feeling of inferiority and despondency but also the art of patience in the minds of all deprived Nigerians. The long period created the notion that the North was born to rule the folks of the other regions, hence the offensive phrase,” Born-to-rule” that became common among reckless commentators of the North.

Ordinary people of the North find pride in Born-to-rule as it made them feel superior and so the backed it. The unpopular political ideology however had a restrictive benefit, benefiting just the political class of the North and their southern conspirators as it did very little to bring the desired progress across the nation, with the host region of Born-to-rule most awful.

The truth is that the oil wealth of Nigeria is largely the reason why Nigeria is among the richest nations. This oil prosperity comes form the Niger Delta. The stunning ravages of Born-to-rule was not just the denial of the region of the subterranean resources it possess but taking away basic resources for subsistence such as the nourishment of farmlands and the coziness of marine habitats, dealing a huge blow to the economic life in the creeks and the coastal areas and defiling drinking water, the most basic of all human needs. While the peasants of Olibiri and sister villages reel in dire need of the basics of life amidst the abundance of the land, the benefactors of Born-to-rule flaunt Nigeria’s oil riches in the best shopping streets in the world: Fifth Avenue, Bond Street, Rodeo Drive … The people of the Niger Delta see these and considers them a huge transgression against them.

To understate the fact, Born-to-rule created a melancholy in the heart of Nigerians but a psychological storm in the minds of Niger Deltans. This is manifested by the highest degree of defiance to constituted authority that one sees in the Niger Delta today. “We were often told that the things we have always asked for were in the pipelines, so we resorted to breaking the pipes to get them fast.” This has become a saying among some Niger Deltans trying to rationalize pipeline sabotage. Another Niger Deltan raved with furry when asked to comment about oil theft in the region thus: “the people of the Niger Delta do not see it as stealing when they go getting a resource that actually belongs to them.” When the Niger Deltans got fed up with Born-to-rule and its greedy traditions, they resorted to building unauthorized quasi-military groups for the emancipation of the region. In desperation for a splurge, they found solace in pipe-breaking and arm stockpiling with which to hold the nation at ransom.

It is sad that with the uncertain situation that Born-to-rule has engendered, northern political leaders have remained stiff-necked, upholding the old tradition by insisting that power must come back to the north. There are people who strongly feel that Boko Haram is an extension of the struggle to preserve Born-to-rule and that some of the northern political powers are actually financiers of the ferocious religious movement.

A this critical moment in the history of the nation, it is expected that the political class of the north must be having knowledge of the reality that the nation now stands on edge and can fall over with the slightest push.  Hence they should be working to return the nation to well being. They should insist on having a leader with a capacity to tow the nation to that position where all Nigerians can be certain that the future will be brilliant for posterity and hence sleep with all eyes closed.

The political class of the South-south must also understand that the responsibility of rebuilding faith in the minds of Nigerians is not just the onus of the northern political class but theirs as well. As a matter of fact, the burden rests more on them, given that the man who calls the shots in Nigeria at the present is one of them. Rather than designing the nation so that the South-south can keep on trucking, they must join hands with the wise from the rest of the country to find a successor with the wisdom and courage to reverse what seems a looming apocalypse to the state of Nigeria. The region a new leader comes from should not be criteria. What should be criteria is his quality.

The ordinary people of the north must understand that they have a role to play in the search for a nation of their dreams, that building a nation involves courage and sacrifice, that the nation is heterogeneous and fellow Nigerians elsewhere across the country have feelings as well and that they cannot truly love the nation without respecting the rights of other Nigerians.

 In a way, one could say that the ex-militants of the Niger Delta have become power brokers Nigeria. Despite the wrongdoings of Born-to-rule, not just to them but the state of Nigeria at large, they can channel the power they now wield towards a better nation, rather than looking at it as a tool of blackmail. It takes sacrifice and humility but the humble, as often said, shall inherit the earth.

Apr 7, 2014

Causes of Mathematics Failures in Secondary Schools

Writing Board
I search, online, for figures relating to mathematics performance in Nigerian external examination for secondary schools. The figures are contradictory. It is generally known, however, that the level of Mathematics failure for external examinations at ordinary levels, such as West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO) …,  is often high. The figures available for 2011/12 examination show that 80% of candidates failed Mathematics that year.

The phobia for mathematics in Nigeria has succeeded in creating the impression that the subject cannot be passed. Hence a lot of students don’t come with a doggedness to pass the subject. The few that come determined to pass the subject are frustrated by administrative failures that make the implementation of the curriculum bumpy.

If students must succeed in mathematics, there are steps and conditions that are inevitable. First, there must be an inclusive curriculum, covering all the key sections necessary for building up a student with a sound mathematical foundation. Secondly, the curriculum must be implemented by an experience teacher. A teacher must meticulously keep a record of what he has taught. This is important to enable a succeeding teacher understand the starting point in his new assignment. Where a child changes school, it is wise that the parent get a record of what the child has already learnt and what has not been learnt to enable the child reconcile issues with the destination school. Then there has to be the relevant book(s).

Mathematics has extremely sensitive topics that can be seen as the pillars of the subject. If the knowledge of these topics are lacking in a student, any mathematic knowledge a teacher attempts to build in a student collapses.  It is important that the teacher covers the curriculum comprehensively to ensure the sensitive topics are not left out. From my own experience, the sensitive topics include factorization; formulae and subject of formulae; standard form; handling of mathematical signs; handling of decimals in addition/subtraction, multiplication/division. Once a child gets a grip of these sensitive topics, he could become independent in mathematics and less reliant on the teacher as a result.

Teaching a mathematic topic successfully involves the initial stage of carefully working out examples by the teacher. Then the teacher gives out exercises to enable him understand individual student’s challenges and then carries out corrections with emphasis on the areas students find difficult as reflected by the exercises. 

The next rung is the student practice, which is synonymous to rehearsal. At this stage a student must carry out as much examples of exercises as possible to enable him build a photo, of the procedures for solving the problem, in his mind. For a new topic, this can be achieved in a matter of hours, perhaps three at most. This is where the text book becomes very important as the exercises are taken from the text book with answers at a specified page of the book, for self appraisal. There is often no adequate time in the school’s time table for this. This is why it has to be done independently by the student at home or in the dormitory. At this point, the role of parents or teacher on duty, as the case may be, becomes very crucial.

When a teacher is working out examples, it is important that he touches different angles of a topic at different lessons with a week spent in handling each angle. If for instance a teacher is teaching the topic, “Changing the Subject of a Formula,” using the equation shown above, he must address making a term in the numerator a subject of the formula in one lesson and then address making a term in the denominator the subject, at a letter lesson. The one-week gap between the two lesions is to give adequate time for the practice of exercises in the class but also at home or dormitory.

The fact that results in mathematics have perennially been poor in Nigeria is an indication that these conditions are not been fulfilled. The bedrock challenge is the verity that the school appendage of the Nigerian nation has been forgotten continually. As a result there are always inadequate teachers who work mostly without supervision; teachers are always on the move in search of greener pasture, greater days within the session are lost as a result of teachers sharing their time between their jobs and sources of residual incomes elsewhere, the best brains are not always in the profession plus the neglect has given the basis for subversive actions. The result is that it is impossible to implement the delicate stages of teaching a subject that should be taught with extreme caution.

To an encouraging decree however, the conditions necessary for successes in mathematics are fulfilled in private schools. This explains why the result is often good for private schools but also why the fiscally capable prefer to educate their kids in private schools. Since bulk of parent population cannot afford private school tuitions that are constantly on the rise the results are generally poor for consecutive sessions creating a nation with a culture of mathematics phobia. 

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...