Niggas in a Death Scandal

 

Scandals are subjective, a representation of the collective subjective. We simply have to agree that something is scandalous and it shall be, after all the audience are the most important component of a scandal. Scandal is indeed democratic. Just because scandals often have to do with the violation of moral codes (or ethics) it doesn’t mean scandals are morally corrective; instead they are interesting deviations from the norm that have a willing crowd ready to express concern. This became clear to me recently after engaging in a discussion about a “scandalous” selfie; although late after the storm of the scandal has subsided. The selfie shows the self-er, with what seems like two friends and a wrapped dead body in the background given a Muslim burial. It was snapped at the burial of the selfer’s friend. The selfer posted it on his Instagram page with the caption:

Selfie with my dead nigga !!! Rest in peace !!! Keep rocking till we come !!! Safe journey man

The picture was widely shared with outrage and it seems there are a number of points that offends people’s sensibilities. How dare he take a selfie at a solemn burial where he should have been reflecting. How dare one of the friends smile in the picture. How dare he make such a comment about the dead. How dare he share it on social media. The outrage is guttural, emotive, reactive, instinctive but hardly reasonable after closer inspection. Beneath the surface of the scandalous accusations, there is lack of thoroughness, hypocrisy, inconsistency and ignored but relevant aspects of the picture. The scandalous contagion was widely spread and accepted; hence it became a scandal. The responses and comments on the issue are reminiscent of a scandalous blasphemy  in Kano when a Muslim man referred to another as the personification of God; many Facebook commentators said it was worse than all the killings and pillage and oppression carried out by Boko Haram. Similarly I see uncritical instincts shadowing reasoning in this case.

In summary, my arguments are two. The picture does not merit the scandal it caused, if scandals are to be based on careful reasoning. Secondly, the person deserving the most heat of the criticism is not the selfer but those who promoted sharing of the picture in the first place. Although Christians also found the selfie offensive, Muslims took it more personal, to the level of blasphemy or sacrilege; and when asked they incline towards religious explanations. It is for this reason that I shall argue from a Muslim perspective.

It seems the issues people have with the picture are that: it was taken as a selfie; the language used in the first comment; and the pose and smile of one friend in the picture. Scandals, even on selfies, should not be based on careless presumption on the circumstances of the event. Selfie being a prevalent phenomenon today has even warranted a fatwa (or opinion of scholars) on it; most notably selfies with Ka’bah in the background. The egotistic nature of selfie contributes to its ability to disturb our ethical sensibilities. Any thorough (Islamic) legal ruling condemning a cultural phenomenon is bound to be padded around by so many conditions that the focus would be on the conditions rather than the phenomenon. For example, a ruling on the appropriateness of cultural ceremonies like weddings and birthdays depends on the conditions (activities) under which the ceremonies occur. The exception to this is where there is clear scriptural basis to make a judgement on that cultural phenomenon (which probably must have existed similarly at the time of The Prophet).

If selfie itself is not a taboo, then perhaps the public excitement comes from conditions around the selfie, most notably the first comment. Language also is another cultural phenomenon that may be used rightly or wrongly, regardless of the form it takes. The object of language which is subject to moral judgement is its content; not so much its form. So let us now take the scandalous comment and change its form, but maintain the content.

The original form is “Selfie with my dead nigga !!! Rest in peace !!! Keep rocking till we come !!! Safe journey man” in ebonics (Black American English). It is important here to note that ebonics and rap have been unjustly associated with bad morality in the public’s subconscious.

The content of the comment in a more a recognized English is equivalent to:

“Selfie (a moment to remember) with my deceased companion. May you rest in eternal peace. May we also share in the eternal peace when we die. May you reach the peace that awaits you”.

I don’t think many would find the content shocking, after all we have similar sayings which are considered virtuous. So the outrage seems to be merely on the form of language, by those who don’t appreciate the form; I would say that is classist. Interestingly, it appears the selfer is not completely ignorant of Islam’s burial rites because the last comment on the picture is him referencing the late Albany of Zaria on the topic.

So who has definitely violated a moral code; at least in Islam? As we have seen, the action of the selfer, is marred with ambiguity since the content is open to different understandings. However, there is less ambiguity surrounding the action of those who shared the picture, especially those first to share. The language used by those sharing to accompany the image leaves little space for other interpretation other than they are escalating the scandal; or creating a scandal. The first sharer was the one who made available the “scandalous” image to an audience outside the reach of the original post. The first sharer is probably a “friend” of the selfer. The first sharer is like a friend who broadcasts what he sees as your flaws to the world for them to judge. The circle of friends may not be as closed, because hashtagging could easily expose your post that would typically be restricted to a circle of friends, now to a community of strangers who can judge you with little or no information about your background which could contextualize your action. Nonetheless, it appears there was no hashtag on the picture posted by the author, so it seems someone else took the liberty to share the picture to the public for judgement.

Defamation of character is a serious offense in Islam, attested to by Qur’an, Hadith and Seerah. As a result privacy in Medieval Muslim architecture was a major design consideration. Even adjudication in cases of character assassination is very stringent in Islamic legal philosophy. We may not see it that way, but social media has primed us to celebrate the failings of others, even if we have to imagine them failing. Perhaps it makes us feel good about ourselves since the level of astonishment at scandalous failings is proportional to how far we consider ourselves from committing the same act.

Rather than investing time into promoting a scandal that may not even be justified, why don’t we justify our claims of superior moral character to the scandal actors by considering the morality of our response to them. In an attempt to shame them, rightly or wrongly, we shame ourselves. Selfie + ebonics + burial may not be wrong. But sharing a post on character defamation for no reason but to confirm your disapproval may be wrong.

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Celebrity Sheikhs

As cultural phenomena, popular music concerts, Christian evangelical crusades and Muslim ‘lectures’ are more or less the same. There is always a celebrity figure, there are always fans, there is always hyping the event and promotion (posters, billboards and media promo), and there is the tendency to be considered ‘cooler’ after attending. The main difference is the content. It is like having a tank; some use it so deliver water, others kerosene, and others diesel. Recently Nigeria has witnessed a frenzy in Muslim celebrity speakers, featuring such platinum speakers as Zakir Naik, Mufti Menk, Khaled Yasin etc.

Consumerism has long infiltrated Islam, shortly after colonisation via capitalism. These popular Muslim lectures are a product of a consumerist culture, where the product is lectures, and the sustaining myth is that listening to more lectures leads to being a better Muslim. Compare that to the consumerist phenomenon where the product is gadgets (phones, headphones, watches etc.) and the sustaining myth is that owning these gadgets would make you cooler, or rarely more efficient. In the case of gadgets, there is a veil of deception because many are either unwilling to admit, or are unaware zombies, that they are aiming to be cooler/hip/current. Whereas in the case of Muslim lectures, many Muslims are quick to defend that they are indeed performing righteous deeds which would lead to their righteous transformation.

But how true is the sustaining myth; are these lectures making better Muslims? That requires a statistical answer and criteria for evaluating better Muslims. Since the power of any myth lies in the ability of the myth to be propagated and believed, then we can assume they believe they are becoming better Muslims. Perhaps we can count on a psycho-social placebo effect.

Now what is the effect of Muslims believing they are becoming better Muslims? In other words, what is the effect of consumers who believe they are becoming cooler or more effective? In addition to contentment in keeping up with their practice, even at the expense of more useful practices, we can say that the Muslim consumer would continue consuming, more and more.

Having celebrated Sheikhs is not new to Islam’s tradition, but I contend that having celebrity Sheikhs is a new phenomenon because celebrity as we know it today is a product of consumerism; energised by capitalism. Sufi Islam is more accommodating of celebrity culture given its aggrandisement of Sheikhs and donations. On the other hand Salafi Islam, being similar to protestant movement, is very vocal about its disapproval on aggrandisement of Sheikhs which they consider as a serious threat to monotheism. To the Salafi strand, sainthood is deification, and so ascribing divinity to them, or contradicting the sole monopoly of God’s omnipotence. So it is quite interesting when a common theme in lectures given by Salafi-inclined Sheikhs is the denouncing of celebrity status; often in the catch phrase “There is no celebrity in Islam!”. This is pure irony!

It appears those preaching against celebrity status of Sheikhs forget one key fact, which is not simply that they are celebrities, but that they are being listened to precisely because they are celebrities. What is the effect of a celebrity Sheikh who constantly reminds his fans (audience) that he is no celebrity, and that there should be no celebrities in Islam? Some would be quick to call it hypocrisy, and that would be justified, but not charitable.

I would like to think they do not understand the complexity of celebrity as a product of culture; as would be elucidated by cultural studies. They would then appreciate that cultural products are a result of interaction. They would also know that their actions have more impact to culture than their spoken words; such that even if they organise a specific event to discourage celebrity status, the more lasting impact is that they were able summon their fans privileging their celebrity status rather than what they were able to tell their fans. They would then appreciate why the Prophet (SAW), on many occasions, does an action before explaining it, making him a conscious culture producer; walking before the talking.

The situation of those celebrity Sheikhs then becomes one of saying one thing consciously, and doing and promoting its opposite unconsciously. It is not different from those who seek to justify their actions by first saying “I do not mean to justify so and so, but…”. Or those who excuse their actions by saying “I am not trying to provide an excuse for my action, but…”. This self fulfilling deception comes in several varieties.

Others criticise the phenomenon of celebrity Sheikh as an unnecessary expense because inviting these celebrities is quite expensive due to logistics; because I don’t think they charge for their lectures. In addition to plane tickets and accommodation, the venues are typically worth millions of Naira for rent; although the venues may be donated or sponsored by a ‘big person’. The criticism actually has two parts: first, organising these events are expensive; second, why not make use of local Sheikhs instead. Understandably, many have no issue with the first part because they understand that transport and accommodation is not free. The second criticism is often presented as a variation of the import-vs-local debate, where the critics say: why don’t we patronise local Sheikhs as we do international celebrity Sheikhs. Which would mean creating local celebrity Sheikhs, if that criticism is taken seriously. Alas, the criticisms are not at celebrity Sheikh culture but about celebrity Sheikh consumption.

Perhaps the Celebrity Sheikh is above criticism. After all he would be the hardest on himself.

Some celebrity Sheikhs however embrace their celebrity-ness, and simply put effort in humility. But they understand, I believe, that there is now celebrity in Islam, and they are it. But I wonder if they appreciate how entangled their celebrity status is with consumerism of Islam’s knowledge, and what that does to Muslim consumers.

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Dorobucci

Dorobucci! Dorobucci!

It kept resounding in my head after a colleague played it over and over at the office. So when Youtube Nigeria suggested the video of the song to me, I caved in and clicked. How enlightening that experience turned out to be. Even exaggerated frivolities can lead to epiphany. I decided to watch the video again and share some of that insight. My claim is that Dorobucci (music video) captures the imagination of many Nigerians on how intertwined power and self-aggrandisement are.

Here is the link to the video. The video is suitable as social commentary because the producer and the several artistes are as representative a sample as can be. The opening scene is at a CEO boardroom presentation with a pretty female presenting her slides as well as herself to the male CEO, while he and others sip expensive looking drinks. The scene ends with cash opened in a briefcase for all to celebrate which shows that the “CEO” is more a mafia boss than a leader of a corporation, or perhaps the two are not different in the imagination of Nigerians. Nigerians tedn to treat a crook and a statesman/politician the same way without an ethical distinction, but with a benevolent assumption of humanitarian generosity.

The two groups of statesmen and business men (crooks included) are grouped under the name of Big Boys. What Big Boys do is they call the shots; or swing the shots, since the sports of the rich man is Polo. For the less energetic rich men, golf is the next appropriate metaphor for a rich man swinging shots. For favour golf has over polo with the white man, the video captures a Big Boy from a rooftop in Ikoyi (Lagos) taking a swing with his expensive golf club, the ball flies overseas and lands in the courtyard of the White House – a hole in one! The Big Boy is that rich man who swings shots from the business capital and lands effortlessly in the government capital; both are executives after all. With the such easy access into the government domain, and the easy access to “scoring”; it can be interpreted as having the government’s administration in the pocket of the Big Boy. The White House here symbolises any government with considerable global influence; after all globalisation is a phenomenon consuming both in governments and businesses. Nothing appears like progress to the colonised subject than the White House especially when it is occupied by a Black Man.

The Big Boy and Big Girl are further enshrouded with the garment of a celebrity. The video shows this connection effortlessly in subsequent scenes. Business men compete with politicians in this arena for celebrity title. To the uncivil and tabloid-minded public, they two groups are simply Big Boys and Girls treated as celebrities. At this point in the video the two titles (business men and politicians) are now smugged together so that henceforth the video only deals with celebrities. Next we see the glorification of fashion consumerism by a female artiste whose worth and popularity depends on her choice of fashion; she seems to have a personal fashion assistant. Then a male artiste living the celebrity vacation in speedboats filled with foreign light-skinned women. The next artiste sings his part lavishing in fame at a club, showered with fans supplicating at the red carpet… and of course a well decorated woman delivering herself to the club aka the domain of the male artists where he wears a hat like a crown. All of this is celebrity gossip material; fashion, vacation, clubbing and red carpets.

It came as a bit of relief to see the next artiste playing the role of the wife of a Big Boy; so far it has been about male artists having females. Actually the female is still being had here but at least she is milking it and becoming a Big Girl by association. Most wives of Big Boys automatically become Big Girls, just in the same way with offspring. This reflects a reality in Nigeria where relatives of Big Boys/Girls become Big by relation; even in-laws these days enjoy this social privilege. The scene ends with the female artiste slipping into the arms of her Big Boy husband, living like a queen and protected by bodyguards. The song had many artists so it wasn’t a surprise that one more artiste gets his scene acting as a Big Boy who is a big careless spender, gambling James Bond style, and of course surrounded by women, in that rare occurrence of a gambler’s streak.

The final scene is a culmination point of all the several Big Boys and Girls that have been featured in the video. It is a celebrity party mimicking the high-class parties from The Great Gatsby. The parties in The Great Gatsby in a lot of ways are an melting pots for ambiguation between the Crook, the Businessman, the Lobbyist (politician). In two words, the personalities at those parties are Big Boys or Big Girls or Shady Figures.

PS: This is among posts that were written several months ago which I dug up and decided to publish.

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Marriage Certification: The Open Legal Man-Hole for Muslims

Marriage is full of surprises, and weddings are cliche, but legally certifying a marriage in Nigeria can be misleading. What follows exposes a prevalent misdirection, so that Muslims, and others with similar issues, don’t fall for the (unintended) booby traps.

Like many traditions, marriage is fundamental to building a sound society for Muslims. For that reason, family law is one of the most prominent section ever-present in books of Islamic law (Fiqh). The Shariah regulates several aspects of the family life through family law. Unfortunately, the constitutional process of certifying Muslim marriages in Nigeria can be misleading; especially due to the officers one encounters. At the risk of stating an irony, Nigerians rely on other Nigerians for much information from directions to locations, to whether President Buhari controls Boko haram, but rarely from officially verified documents and instructions. Not that government agencies make these documents and instructions available.

So you have had a stressful week engaged in your wedding activities. You barely kept your cool to make it through the countless events. You don’t wish to go through another ordeal like this. Relief settles on your mind simply knowing that those last few months of stressful planning are over. Now you know why fairy tales end with “happily ever after”, because there is always a wedding at the end even if the author doesn’t mention it; anything after the stress of wedding seems like “happily ever after”. The Nigerian constitution laughs at you when you feel accomplished that you are married, because it is not legal yet! You need to have a Marriage certificate!

There is hardly any Muslim, faithful to Islam, who would have their marriage regulated by anything other than the Shariah. To be regulated by the Shariah, it is sufficient to have any legal framework that does not contradict the Shariah’s position, or that which allows for Muslims to live according to Shariah. It is a matter of compatibility/accommodation of Shariah rather than exclusively identifying a homogeneous rule-book called Shariah Marriage. Fortunately, Nigerian constitution allows for Muslims to opt to have their marriage legislated by the Shariah. But unfortunately, the Marriage registry staff can be misleading , and often successfully, even if unintended.

Basically, there are two main options to certifying marriages in Nigeria. One is “marriage according to the Act”, and the other is customary (Native Law and Custom) marriage; at least these are the two options we were exposed to. For either, the process begins with obtaining a declaration documents from a court. At this point, the couple is often not aware of the two options for certifying a marriage. So they proceed to the next stage which is the marriage registry. This is where the couple is often presented with the two options to marriage certificate; those that have an idea beforehand probably are just as misinformed as those who are unaware at this point. This second step is also the step of possible misdirection.

Steps to Certifying a Marriage in Nigeria
1. Obtain Marriage Declaration from court
2. Obtain Certificate at Marriage Registry

Do you want blah blah certificate or the flah flah certificate? This is the first question thrown at the couple, or at least the way they hear it. The registry officer who is used to couples being puzzled by the names of the options mentioned, goes on to clarify. If the couple looks Muslim, the officer knows just the right way to break it down to them. Do you want the one-wife certificate or the many-wives certificate? The latter allows for the man to marry more than one wife. The officer might elaborate by saying the one-wife certificate is a more tedious process than the other. All the while with the smile resembling a mischievous smirk. Not all civil servants are devoid of customer service after all.

Actually that is Customer Disservice! Based on an episode I witnessed, when you ask a newly married couple whether the husband would want to take another wife, what do you expect? This is how many Muslims end up taking the option of one-wife certificate. Only a few are bold, or insensitive, enough to go for the many-wives certificate. While polygamy hardly fails to attract interest, that is not the issue at stake when making that decision. By misrepresenting the issue, the registry officer has done a disservice to Muslim couples, probably without intent.

The issue is not whether the marriage can accommodate more wives or not. It is about whether the Shariah court would adjudicate and regulate the marriage, or other courts. The one-wife certificate is actually marriage according to the 1990 Marriage Act, whereas the many-wives marriage is marriage according to customary laws; and Shariah courts fall under customary laws. Marriage according to the Act, which means no Shariah court, also means the marriage would be regulated by other acts like the accompanying 1990 Matrimonial Causes Act which conflicts with the Shariah on matters such as divorce (dissolution of marriage). The 1990 Marriage Act already conflicts with the (default) Shariah in restricting number of wives to one; without a valid justification for sidelining the options provided by the default. Other areas of interest would be the process of re-marrying and child custody, etc.

Basically Muslims are mislead into regulating their marriage using a document that contradicts the Shariah, though unintentionally. Seeing that many Muslims only acquire marriage certificates for official reasons and conveniences, it is no wonder that the many Muslims who have been misdirected to the one-wife certificate are not necessarily affected by the certificate in practice. These same Muslims, follow the Shariah but not via a court, often through family and community. Nonetheless, any of the spouse could insist on taking the other to court for violating stipulations of the marriage regulating acts; which is foreseeable when passions are high and one feels the Shariah is to their disadvantage.

Nigerian Muslim couples, new and old, should be aware of this likely pitfall during marriage certification. Do not be baited into thinking the issue is polygamy, the issue is the regulatory framework of the marriage.

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Anty Bilkisu: For Social Justice & Gender Equity

Anty Bilkisu

Hajiya Bilkisu was Anty Bilkisu to me

And many others like me who lived in

 

Houses
That complain about unstable ecosystem in
Her absence

 

Stairs
That lift her up like she did them with
Her presence

 

Walls
That want to endure harsh outside weather to get
Her welcome

 

Carpets
That are soothed by the whispers of
Her supplications

 

Curtains
That selfishly block a secret not too many notice –
Her radiance

 

Us
That miss her we seek her by living
Her ideals

Anty Bilkisu - 1 - CoverAnty Bilkisu - 2 - BackAnty Bilkisu - 4 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 5 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 6 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 7 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 8 - Content

To purchase a copy contact Usman Musa on 0803 286 6545

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NYSC: Kufr, Sexist and Tyrannically Bad

Having background in Computer Science applications, I appreciate that the design of any information (collection and processing) system is crucial. Performance of a system could be the best there is, theoretically, but a disregard of potential users in mind could make the enterprise a failure. That crucial design stage is when cultural nuances are embedded, religious options are made available, minorities are made relevant… In the past few weeks, while assisting my wife in registration, I have laid the following charges against NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corp): Kufr, Sexist, Tyrannically Bad… and for good reasons

NYSC has been automating its registration process; which seems like progress. It depends on whether progress is simply moving forward, or moving forward without crushing your subjects.The main issue is simply that when a woman decides to keep her surname after marriage, the precocious NYSC registration system changes her surname for her, and even cleverly requests that she cannot proceed with the registration until she provides documentation for Change of Name. And her forcefully changed name is what will appear on the NYSC certificate; that necessary paper to get a decent office job in Nigeria.

Who cares if you are married or not, during your NYSC? Your spouse and kids if you have those. Without a proof of marriage, get ready to be deployed to any of the thirty six other states in Nigeria. But show up a marriage certificate, and you shall be with your household.

Kufr

NYSC is Kufr! Kufr to Muslims mean rejection of an established truth. Groups like Boko Haram attribute it to individuals, institutions and organisations to legitimise deadly attacks on them. Forcing a Muslim to take an option, which is not conducive to the Shariah, is to force a Muslim to go against the Shariah; in other words Kufr. So when two separate NYSC staffs inform you that you have to change your name because that is what the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution says, before you can perform the obligatory NYSC as a married Muslim woman, then many will be willing to call the practice of NYSC is Kufr! I thought so… for a while.

But it is actually not. What the NYSC is doing is that it is enforcing an option that is not recommended according to Islamic tradition. True that some would insist Islamic tradition requires a woman maintain her maiden name, but it is mostly for the sake of identity and lineage so some sophisticated social security number could make it easier for those Muslims to accept that a woman should change her name to her husband’s. Until Nigeria’s social security number (or National Identity Number) gets fully deployed to address this Shariah requirement, those who consider NYSC as the arm of the devil would have a strong point… if only the reference to the Nigerian constitution is true. We checked the Nigerian Marriage Act of 1990, and guess what, it is quiet about change of name. Neither do customary laws instruct adherents to change their names on marriage; which by definition depends on the varying custom. So it is not Kufr because the NYSC staffs are wrong. Whether it is Kufr or not, the issue remains: a woman who decides to retain her name after marriage cannot register for NYSC.

Sexist

NYSC is sexist! This issue is a female issue; specifically a wife-issue. Since NYSC has failed to give an explanation for why this issue exists, we have no choice but to interpret as fit the situation, with no obligation to be generous in the interpretation. By refusing a married woman the option to keep or change her name, NYSC is saying what many men are saying, which is that married women have no identity seperate from their husband’s; while accepting that her husband’s identity is indifferent to her existence. Double standards, from point of view of both equity and equality. This set up even makes women’s maiden name ominous in the sense that changing her name is equivalent to the her husband purchasing her from her father; that’s what you do when you buy a car from someone.

Perhaps it is not sexist. But how could this excuse pass? There is one way to pull this off, and even courts, as well as the Shariah, agree with me. The crime of the mentally sick is a crime void of intent; in other words it may not be punished but someone is going to fix the issue, and someone else is going to a facility/hospital to be fixed or quarantined. The crime here is by NYSC on married women. NYSC registration system is either sexist or mentally sick… actually it could be both, but let us focus on the latter. Simply looking at report cards of kids in primary school, it is a thin line between being an extremely poor student, and a developmentally slow. So NYSC is either an incompetent organisation or developMENTALLY poor.

Tyrannically Bad

Based on the above, a conclusion to be drawn if one is generous to NYSC, is that NYSC registration system is poor at best because it is discriminatory.

When incompetence becomes the air you breathe, or the water you swim in, you lose your sense of identifying excellence. As we have seen, you become difficult to distinguish from the mentally incapacitated, which also means critical thinking is nowhere to be found around you. Your arguments become appalling so much that the only more unsettling thing is the casual way you defend your actions. When you stay quiet on an issue, we can only suspect why you fall short, but when you speak, you risk exposing your dumbness. After engaging the management of NYSC staffs on the above issue, there were two defensive arguments where I think staff of the NYSC outdid themselves.

The first defense is that their registration system forces women to change their surnames to their husbands’ in order to prevent other women who lie about their marital status from manipulating the NYSC into getting posted to the state of their fathers. Apparently these women create fake documents showing that they are married to their fathers. I’m sure NYSC felt really smart coming up with this idea, but they seemed almost dogmatically amnesiac in how they fail to see the implications of their “brilliant” idea; or how they dismiss it. The first implication is that ALL married women in NYSC who do not wish to change their names will now have to change their surnames just so they can do NYSC. Secondly, the registration system automatically rejects the application of any married woman who has the same maiden name as her husband’s surname. Imagine how many tens of thousands of graduates suffer from this, every batch from this batch.

Their second defense is simply “deal with it, what is the big deal”. Very Nigerian indeed. The message we kept receiving was what is the big deal in changing a woman’s name to her husband’s surname. It came in different flavours: “Just change your name, it is easy now”, “every woman should be proud to use her husband’s surname for herself”, “It is just change of name, it only means changing your surname, not that your own name has to change”. Patience is a virtue when you are being condescended on by people who fail to see the implication of being forced to change your name. Identity and its construction is obviously something the management of NYSC have not pondered upon. How could an organisation like the NYSC with the aim of nation building be so sociologically ignorant?!

As far as critical thinking goes, there were other noteworthy but less impacting follies which they brought up as their arguments. But I reserve the right to forget them. I thank God I am done with NYSC, and I am not a married woman going into NYSC. May God make it easy for married Nigerian graduates.

PS: Any feminist or women rights group interested in raising this issue up, contact me please for more info.

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Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate Crisis – A Review – Part 2

 

The agenda of the film is clarified by the context in which it is unveiled. United Nations COP21 is around the corner and this is perhaps the most optimistic convention on Climate Change since the inaugural edition in Rio 1992 which has since become one of the biggest disappointment on the “international community”. The optimism in the air is further strengthened by the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in September of this year which has taken over the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Even though the Nigerian government is counting on fossil fuel to fund its near future development, environmental issues are poised to become a relevant consideration, by the appointment of Haj Amina Mohammed as the Minister of Environment. Haj Amina Mohammed was the senior special assistant to Nigerian president on MDG, then as special adviser to UN Secretary General on post-2015 development planning, so part of the architects of SDG until its launch while working with the UN.

The production quality of the film is impressive. It could easily pass for the Nigerian version of Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth which became a phenomenon in itself; for many, there was the climate change issue, and there was Inconvenient Truth. Advocacy via good quality films are convenient for audience from middle class Nigeria, which is why Youtube advert-clips are getting better and better in terms of quality. One technical issue in the experience of watching the film is the frequent and rapid subtexts showing profile of those interviewed which competes for attention from the message being passed; I found myself snapping back into the film trying to figure out what I missed for the last few seconds.

There were useful facts and specifics with regards to data on location, date and quantification of the climate crisis. For these I encourage you go watch the movie. Though some of these predictions are not new to some, it rings a different chord in us when it is presented by fellow Nigerians; it feels more believable. For instance “By 2050, much of Lagos and 75% of the Niger Delta could be underwater”, “Nigeria annually loses approximately 150,000 hectres of land to advancing desert”. If you are Nigerian, how does it feel reading this, knowing it is coming from the works of Nigerians. In the documentary, you are shown familiar beaches in Lagos, and for those who remember scenery of the beautiful beaches on Lagos in the 90s, now you have an explanation; climate change.

In its effectiveness as a tool for advocacy to the middle class, therein lies a conundrum worth resolving: does the movie-grade quality of the documentary gets it to be regarded as entertainment, or is it both entertaining and advocating without the former undermining the latter? One thing repeatedly happened during the screening; the audience reaction to what they considered was indistinguishable from similar audience reactions in blockbuster movies. The thing with blockbuster movies is that the funny lines are usually cheap and almost predictable, but what is even more predictable is the synchronised laughter and giggles of the audience in the cinema. Except for one funny statement about a traditional ruler taking environmental crisis seriously because it is heading to his house, the other “funny” moments were hardly coined to be funny. In fact they were mostly funny only to the middle class because the joke was on the interviewee speaking broken English; audience were laughing at the interviewees not with them. It was a sort of mockery of a character who is actually not a character but a person explaining their problems. These are people we meet everyday and who we don’t find funny when they talk to us, but when they appear on the big screen with high quality production, they become funny in a mocking way.

Just as these “funny” and entertaining moments on big screens distract movie viewers from seeing the underlying politics, ideology, social commentary, and even nothingness that pervaded blockbuster movies, I fear the message of the documentary may be missed. Let us not dismiss that Climate Change has become a formidable ideology; and I support it being fully aware of this.

Talking about politics and ideology, a review will not be complete without mentioning the sponsors and supporters of the movie. There is the EU, National Security Adviser’s office, … and Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation of course who is the executioner of the project.

These are the stark predictions of an interviewee, which is believable if climate change continues worsening globally, “People from the North will come down, people from the south will come up”. Yet I am amazed that Nigeria’s climate crisis may be the reason to eventually coexist more tightly, geographically. Whether that would birth peaceful coexistence or its opposite, only time will tell. Unless humanity does something about the crisis, and re-understands its role in the cosmology and ecology.

Climate Change Trailer- HD from Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation on Vimeo.

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