Category Archives: Society

On What To Do When Women Shine

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Aisha Ahmad, nominated to be Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria
To those chaps on social media in Nigeria forming “conservative northern men” re: Aisha Ahmad‘s nomination as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, here’s what to do. When she formulates policy and gives directives, feel free to refuse to comply or feel the effect. Only then will I know you truly have virile penises.
The present conservatism is disturbing only because of its pretence. The idea that a generation of young educated men from the north would speak as if they believe any strict homogeneity exists in the region can only be a deliberate pretence. Sadly, this is the pretence that fuels fanaticism and extremism.
The north has always had its variety and flexibility. Your fathers curried the favourable intervention of Rupert East’s Fulani wife not seventy years ago. Your own grandmothers would laugh you out of your minds and then curse and divorce you if you tried half what you try with your sisters and wives each day. And even today, you must feel the pressure from the number of women in the region who call you out, new voices being added each day. And you think the way forward is to put your head in the sand eh? Listen to me, the women are here to stay and they will be your colleagues, your bosses, and there is nothing you can do about it, if they have the stuff upstairs. That is the only arena that counts. So you too can shine. That is where you should do battle, not becoming a tailoring consultant or a dealer in headscarves.
I do not care to defend Aisha Ahmad. I thank her only for demonstrating exactly what the inclusive, cosmopolitan spirit of central Nigeria is–it is the attacks on this inclusivity that I mourn when I am sad about my hometown, Jos, for example. And I wish her the very best at her new role in the Central Bank.
– Ra.
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On this CAN SUKUK Issue

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 I think this is one of those instances where CAN has gotten it sadly wrong. A cursory study would have seen that the FGN’s SUKUK Road Development Fund is for the purpose of building selected roads, which are specific and have been listed. Secondly, it is structured to appeal to Muslims especially in only one key matter—the issue of interest which they are forbidden to earn. To do this, what is earned is not in fact interest but a profit—which is called jara (in my Jos Hausa) and is perfectly allowed for them. How is this profit generated? By building the roads from the proceeds of the subscription and then leasing these roads for a seven year period for which FGN pays a rent. It is this rent that is then divided to all subscribers in proportion to the number of units they bought. Thirdly, what happens after seven years? The roads become the property of FGN and your initial subscription is returned to you.

Now, to the gravy. The rate of return on the subscription is set at 16.47% and is compounded twice a year no questions asked. Even the best alternative funds give, currently, around 18%, compounded quarterly, and you are at the mercy of the markets.

When CAN takes up the trumpet that the FGN SUKUK Fund is to “islamize” Nigeria, I ask whether the roads built with the funds will be used by Muslim travellers only? When it speaks of foreign Arab investors buying subscriptions, I ask whether they did not read that the roads revert to the FGN after seven years? When the full details are HERE?

The effect of this time of unintelligent criticism is that gradually one stops being taken seriously. And this would be a sad, sad place for an organization like CAN. We saw this process happen when the Pentecostals were busy yelling their heads off about the former administration being a god-sent. We have seen it with the inevitable loss of relevance when earlier, extremely blind and partisan criticism from the North attended the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, with the wholesale manufacture of conspiracy theories. We have seen it too, not two years in, in the criticism currently attending the Buhari administration. We see it most shamelessly in the quite comical opposition of the thoroughly incompetent and delusional Shehu Sani in Kaduna State. Why court this disastrous effect?

Me, I bought my fifty kobo units because even though it does not yield me the best returns in the interim, I think it is important to put my fifty kobo where my mouth is regarding support for this government (despite my disappointments) and development for the country. My thinking is, if we cannot help, let us not hinder. And that is the core of all that is sad about this criticism from CAN.

 

Ra.

NB:  1. I presently identify as an Unbeliever, with no religious beliefs whatsoever, even if my background is one acutely familiar with the issues of indigenous protestant Christianity, Pentecostal Christianity and all the country’s variations of Islam from Sufi to the Wahabis.

  1. The subscription window ends today.

 

On This Moment

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Happy. On a morning when I don’t have a car, all engagements shifted to later in the day when the mechanic returns it. I have Fatoumata Diawara playing, the love song called Kanou, from the album Fatou. I am working on the revised edition of a memoir of a much older friend of mine, a babban yaya na, who was at the centre of the convulsions of my country in the crucial year 1966, and in the period since then until the mid-90’s. I’ve decided already yesterday to put some money in a mutual fund, having asked advice, and in the government’s new SUKUK development fund. My sisters are settled into their lives and are thriving. As are all the people I care about. My lawyering is going well. Most of my books are shelved.

And I think, maybe this is happiness? This morning thing. You hear songs of a land whose language you do not know but every verse is spoken in beauty. You are not afraid of any possible cash calls in the next two months. You have nowhere to go when you do not have to go anywhere. You wish to travel to East Africa again, but that won’t be until months yet and you are certain it will sort itself out. I’ve just brewed a coffee on a moka pot I’ve actually come to enjoy using. And this here is now happy.

I’ve been thinking about something I read recently, about happiness not coming from things. The writer wondered if a French caveman a thousand years ago was not exactly as happy as a French investment banker today. And I thought, how interesting. It is possible that for that caveman, that hut was the state of the art and he was indeed happy. Just as for our man today the apartment with a view to the Champ Elysees, or whatever it is investment bankers want to view, makes him indeed just happy. To each his own. To each his precise balance of chemicals in the brain.

On behalf of Fatoumata Diawara, who is now singing Makoun Oumou, and my half mug of excellent Uganda coffee, I salute you, my friend, my brother. Here’s to the little things and to our this moments.

On Meeting Imam Ashafa

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Richard Ali with Imam Ashafa today at the Search for Common Ground Multi Stakeholder Joint Planning & Development Process meeting.

As part of my governmental/non-governmental engagement, I attended this meeting today where we workshopped and networked with various groups engaged in peacebuilding in Nigeria. The height of it all was getting to meet and greet Imam Ashafa, one half of the world famous Nigerian story of “The Pastor and the Imam”  which centres on dealing with conflict. In these times of hate speech and tensions, it’s important to salute people who have shown there is a different, better way out that insists on putting people at the centre of all actions. The idea that human life is important to be preserved always and the best course of action is the one that leads to greater happiness of the greater number of people. That all people are brothers in humanity.

“In the 1990s, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa led opposing, armed militias, dedicated to defending their respective communities as violence broke out in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. In pitched battles, Pastor James lost his hand and Imam Ashafa’s spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed.

Now the two men are co-directors of the Muslim-Christian Interfaith Mediation Centre in their city, leading task-forces to resolve conflicts across Nigeria.

The Imam and the Pastor tells how they made this remarkable transition. It is both a moving story of forgiveness and a case-study of a successful grass-roots initiative to rebuild communities torn apart by conflict.”

One must remind oneself, sometimes, why one does what one does and how even when our idealism is not-understood and unpopular, that we are not alone in this, this foolish, important, crucial fight for an idea that should win.

– Ra.

 

On the Rape Culture in Nigeria

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Reverse descent of Man

 

On the issue of the rise of rape in our societies and its current popularity on social media, I have chosen an engagement. There will be no emotive post about it from me. I have instead accepted to join the board of trustees of Karniel’s Next Generation of African Men’s Initiative (KNEGAM Initiative) based here in Abuja. Its stated objective is to “empower boys so they overcome challenges as they transition from boyhood to adulthood”.

I see no justification for rape at all except a disregard for the sanctity of a body that is not yours. Yet, everywhere I see various cop-outs that more of less justify this traversing of another’s body. Whether the victim is male or female, a child or an adult, there is only one implication. I believe that the point of 5000 years of civilization is the privileging of the human body as being above that of any other animal from which it is, in fact, indistinguishable. The implication of a rape culture is to turn us all back 5000 years and more, so we are no different from any “lower animal”. We thus become lower animals. This eventuality I will not accept.

So, I will do my little bit to work with kids so they have a balanced sense of self and know where they stand as inheritors of many centuries of advancement and civilization and thought. The initiative is targeted at male kids because they are most in danger of inheriting bad assumptions as a result of the current power relations in society.

KNEGAM Initiative is run by a friend of a friend, Uchenna Idoko, in the name of her son. I thank them for asking me on their board. I am certain it will be a platform to fight bad ideas that threaten to send us all back to the times of pre-history. I hope my contribution will be concrete.

 

– Ra.

On Baldwin Again

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“…a very complex country which insists on bring narrow-minded…”
– James Baldwin.

As an African, I have often thought of Baldwin as being central to understanding the African-American experience. The biopic/documentary, I Am Not Your Negrofurther underscores this and makes his position accessible to a new generation. I have been fascinated by him because to be an African, which is my insistence and protest, is to aspire to be the heir of all that is Africa, from Egypt to the Genocide in Rwanda to the African American population in the United States and elsewhere. That these experiences are organic and umbilical to mine.

This quote struck me.

And I think how the more things change the more they stay the same. In surveying the inter-African intelligentsia of which I am a part, the seemingly deliberate desire to be narrow-minded cannot be missed. In the argument for component countries, for example, or in the intelligentsia’s arguments for the ideological fruits of poststructural, globalised world of which the African people are the victims. In the desire to be accepted by members of a frame of reference based on excluding you.

Africa as a country is my argument. And this Africa is immensely complex. And it requires a broad based engagement with it, in its triumphs and catastrophes, its vagaries and variations. I am black. And everything black, to the precise extent of its blackness, is organic to me. And I will not say no to any of it.

I think that only when we have defined for ourselves the scope of what to be African means and accepted the reality of our descent and the validity of our dreams can we then become anything in global terms.

Hiding behind things, as adjectives and adverbs, is self defeating when what we are are nouns and verbs.

On Boogie Street…

As a person who keens a lot to melancholy, certain songs speak to me, capture my mood well. So, today, I’ve thought to share one of my all-time favourites. Boogie Street, recorded by Leonard Cohen in 2001 for his album Ten New Songs. Boogie Street is, of course, the mental and physical space in which we live while we are still young, still beautiful, or still happy.

– Ra.

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Video HERE

A sip of wine, a cigarette,
And then it’s time to go
I tidied up the kitchenette
I tuned the old banjo
I’m wanted at the traffic jam
They’re saving me a seat
I’m what I am, and what I am,
Is back on Boogie Street

And, oh my love, I still recall
The pleasures that we knew
The rivers and the waterfall,
Wherein I bathed with you
Bewildered by your beauty there,
I kneel to dry your feet
By such instructions you prepare
A man for Boogie Street

So come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made
In love we disappear
Though all the maps of blood and flesh
Are posted on the door,
There’s no one who has told us yet
What Boogie Street is for.lc.jpg