Protecting the child, a collective responsibility- Part 1

Jummai had what you would call a happy childhood and normal too in terms of her relationship with her family, i.e. her parents and siblings. Her dad told folk tales to her and her siblings every night before they slept, he took them out to the zoo, amusement parks and to visit family friends during the weekends and they prayed together as a family every night. What else can a little girl ask for? Her father was one of the few bankers of those days, he was well respected in the community and theirs was what you would call a very decent family. They lived a very comfortable life and did not lack anything.

When she was about five or six years old, they had a driver. This driver was recruited by her dad’s bank as his personal driver to take him to work and back everyday, he also sometimes ran general errands for the family whenever the need arose. His name was Dauda. He was quiet, respectful and diligent in his job. He came to the house early in the mornings, waited in the car until Jummai’s dad was ready to go to work, took him to work and he brought him back in the evening after work. Everything looked okay and he was seen as someone who minded his business and did his job. What no one knew however was that he was a treacherous pedophile. Each time six-year-old Jummai went outside the house to play in the morning during the holidays, he would lure her into the car with sweets and would proceed to caress her and kiss her passionately like he would do to an adult. When he was done with her, he would let her go, just in time for her dad to come out for them to go to the office. This he did for many months, undetected until he was replaced for an unrelated reason. For some reason, she knew that what he did to her was wrong, it confused her because it disgusted her and also excited her too, as she got the attention she did not get at home from this driver. She never mentioned it to anyone and life went on as usual and she even forgot that it ever happened to her. It wasn’t until she became an adult, knowing what she now knows, that she realised that God must have been on her side for not allowing the driver to go beyond what he did to her.

A couple of years later when she was a teenager of about sixteen years old, while she slept in her bed, she felt a hand caressing her breast, she thought she was dreaming or something. Then as she cracked her eyes open she wasn’t sure who she saw leaving the room in a hurry.   She lay in her bed as realization hit her, she felt revulsion- it was her 25-year-old male cousin Yusufa from the village, who had lived in their house for about a year. She said nothing because she needed to be sure before taking any action. A few days later, it happened again, this time she opened her eyes and their eyes met before he ran out of the room. She was livid, jumped out of her bed and ran after him. When she got to him she screamed, “What the hell were you doing to me?” He pretended not to know what she was talking about. He said nothing. She felt so much anger and hatred for her cousin that day and if not for the size of him she would have beaten him to a pulp, all she could do was to keep cursing him out. She swore that as soon as her parents were back from their trip out of town she was going to report him to them. The noise attracted their aunt who came and asked what the problem was. After Jummai narrated what happened, she reiterated her promise to tell her parents when they got back from their trip. Her aunt listened with patience and in the end begged her not to tell her parents or anyone because it would cause a big family issue. Her dad would not take it lightly; this cousin was from her mother’s side of the family. He was sent to the city from the village to come and learn how to do business, he ran the family shop and the plan was that after a few years, he would be given some money to start his own business. Reporting him would mean that he would be sent away with nothing, his poor mother in the village would be disappointed, and he might go back to the village and lie that the allegation was false, which would definitely cause a family feud in the end. Jummai refused to budge and insisted that she would report to her parents. But after a lot of begging she finally agreed to “see reason”; she listened to her aunt’s pleas. Since then she stopped talking to her cousin; she hated him and did not hide that fact from him or anyone. They basically stayed out of each other’s way until he left their house a few years later, to start his own business and family.

This week’s topic is one that touches my heart greatly. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) has been going on for many decades, but is just being looked into in the slightest of ways, in the last couple of years. Little attention and effort is given to it, this is because of the lifelong issue of stigma and discrimination that could be faced by victims as a result of it being exposed. A lot of families that it has happened to would prefer not to deal with it because of the stress it might cause to them, they do not want their family to be stigmatized, they do not want to “blow it out of proportion”, because they think that it is easier to burry it than to actually confront it, deal with it and stop it in its tracks. Forgetting that there are other long lasting future effects of child abuse on the victim, which include emotional instability, increased sexual behaviour, faulty interaction with others, drug and alcohol abuse and other deviant behaviours. Sexual abuse is linked to poor mental and physical health with outcomes that include self-harm, thoughts of suicide and sexually transmitted infections. Jummai is one of the lucky few who did not go through the trauma of rape and violent sexual abuse, even though what she experienced was also sexual abuse.

The Child’s Rights Act of Nigeria (not many of us know that it exists), passed in 2003, defines a child as anyone under the age of 18 years old. This means anyone who is under 18, is a child. It does not matter how womanly or mature she looks, she is still a child who is unable to make informed choices about sex.

Although all forms of sexual abuse whether perpetrated against adult victims or child victims, are wrong and have been prohibited, with sentences for offenders, child sexual abuse constitutes a huge percentage, which has not been adequately captured by statistics. This is not unconnected to the underreported cases of child sexual abuse due to families’ wish to avoid stigma and discrimination against the child victim and even the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse is even more insidious because the victims are given very little or no choice and they are powerless to make an adult decision, which they know nothing about. This then affects them in future and makes them live a life that was foisted on them due to circumstances beyond their control. Rather than live a normal life that every child is expected to have.

There are some myths about CSA, which have been ongoing for some time that has helped in the perpetuation of child sexual abuse over the years. Next week I will highlight some of those myths and some suggested solutions to this problem.

Until then, have a blessed and thoughtful week. Lots of love!

Help gone wrong- “Madman”

Everyday when I drove home from work or to church on Sundays, just before the right turn that led to my church, I would see this “mad man” at the bus stop. Sometimes he sat dejectedly under the shade of the bus stop, with his tattered grime-covered clothes, his hair overgrown and dirty. I sometimes saw him sleeping on his make shift bed, made of cartons straightened to form a mat. I felt sorry for him each time I drove past and something tugged in my heart to render some sort of help, no matter how little. Sometimes I wondered where he came from, whom his family was and if they knew he was there. I asked myself what could have been responsible for him being there- most likely a mental illness of some sort.

I wished to help somehow- get him some food, clean clothes or provide help in the form of psychological rehabilitation- Just to give hope to a fellow human being. However, in spite of my altruistic thoughts towards him, I could not summon enough courage to approach him. This was because I couldn’t tell if he dangerous; what if he attacks me and I had no way to escape and no one to help me out? Or worse still, what if he bites me? (Ha!God forbid). There’s this superstitious belief I heard of that if a madman bites you, you would also become mad. Despite my fears, each time I drove past the bus stop, I thought of ways to go about my “mission” to help the mad man.

I still have memories of when I was a little girl growing up in the cold city of Jos, Plateau state, in primary school, we always passed by a madman at a place called farin gada, on our way to school in the school bus. This man could be described as a creative madman. In his case, he started by sleeping under a tree, in the cold weather. Gradually, he started gathering sticks and wood under that tree. As children, we wondered what he was up to, as we all gathered by the windows to watch him whenever our bus passed that place. In addition to the sticks and wood, he kept adding all kinds of knick-knacks to his collection daily. Then when he was satisfied with his supplies, he started building a house just by the road. Everyday, we watched his progress with interest. Anytime we approached farin gada, we all crowded eagerly at the windows of the bus to see how far he had gone with his task. As each day passed, we saw the progress he had made- starting from the foundation, to the frame and up to the roof of his little shanty. Finally, after a couple of weeks, he completed his project- a shelter to protect him from the elements and what he would call a home. Then we stopped seeing him outside like we used to before his shelter was built, he now resided inside his new home! I often wondered what it was like inside the shanty. Well that’s a thought no one in his or her right senses would want to pursue further, for the sake of safety. As kids, we had to find other things to interest us on our ride to and from school, when the creative mad man show was over.

Anyway, back to the current mad man. I will call him Erin (Elephant in Yoruba language), You will know why I call him that soon enough. For the past couple of months now, I have started listening to myself speak to me, instead of listening to the outside world speak to me and tell me what to do. I started doing this when I realised, after several researches and soul-searching exercises, that most answers to our questions, resided right inside of us, if only we asked, searched and listened to our inner self. Since I started listening to my inner self, I started getting good results- the world started looking different to me and its been great. Ok back to the reason why I went into that explanation. Each time, I passed by his bus stop shelter, my inner self kept telling me to take some food to Erin and I knew it was something I had to do or else I would keep getting the same push to do so.

Finally, when I had had enough prodding and was tired of making the “I am busy” excuse, I made up my mind to just do it! (Nike style :)). On the first Sunday of this year, a day I knew that a friend was coming to visit, I packed some Jollof rice and chicken in a bowl, with a bottle of coke, put them in a plastic bag. When my friend came in, before he had time to settle down, I told him of my intention to take food to someone. Well, I said something like this, “Please I need you to go with me, to give some food to a homeless man somewhere not too far from here”. Luckily, he readily agreed to go with me. So off we went in his car. On our way, I decided to explain the situation to him- the fact that I was not sure of the mental state of this man because this was my first time of taking food to him and that he is what we would call a madman. I was relieved when he said “No problem, let’s go”. As we approached the bus stop, I started getting scared, my palms started to sweat. All sorts of thoughts ran through my head about this mission. I wondered if I was in my right senses because I know that here in Naija, we always avoid mad people for so many reasons, the most compelling is to avoid being bitten and becoming mad too (I know that no one would want to test the falsity of that superstitious belief because even if one does not become mad from being bitten, the pain of being bitten by someone with an unstable mind would definitely send maddening pain all over ones body!).

Anyway back to my gist, as we neared the bus stop, I asked my friend to slow down. We drove slowly until we got in front of the bus stop and stopped, with the engine still running of course and the car in gear, just in case we had to flee. Erin was asleep stretched out on his carton mat, so my friend honked his horn. He woke up with a start, looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun to take a proper look at who was disturbing his afternoon nap. He walked cautiously towards the car, looking unsure. Then we greeted him, he responded and I thought to myself “This is going well”. So I picked the bag and said, “We brought you some food”. He collected the bag with its contents, then he said “God bless you, thank you”. He asked for our names, I hesitated a bit, but when my friend told, his, I also did the same. We asked for his name as well and he said “Erin…something” (I didn’t get the last part of his name). It was a Yoruba name. What struck me was the fact that he spoke coherently and not like I had expected. I mentioned this to my friend as we drove away, having concluded my successful mission. My friend however advised me that I should be very careful about helping an unstable person because of my safety.

Needless to say, I was pleased that I had accomplished this task and was looking forward to doing more acts of kindness. You know that feeling of joy and satisfaction that comes from giving to someone who you expect nothing from in return? That was what I felt throughout that day. The next Sunday, I decided to take some food and drink to him again, since he didn’t seem to pose any threat the last time we went there. So off I went again. I greeted him and he responded and I reminded him that I had come the previous week with my friend. Then I gave him the food. Before driving off, he asked if I could buy him bottled groundnut and bread. So I said I will do that and bring it to him the next day. However, I didn’t anticipate my schedule for that week – what I call crazy busy days. I couldn’t fulfill my promise to Erin to bring him groundnut and bread. Finally, on Saturday, which was another busy day for me, I managed to squeeze out time to buy a loaf of bread (I bought the groundnut a day before). Then I headed for the bus stop that was Erin’s shelter. As I drove by the place, I didn’t see him. Although I saw his mat and a few rags where he slept. Anyway I decided to go home and try again the following morning on my way to church.

After getting dressed the following morning, I headed to church, with the intention to drop the groundnut and loaf of bread with Erin. When I got to his shelter bus stop, I saw him standing leaning on the wall of the shelter with something like a small radio held close to his ears (I didn’t want to believe it was a cell phone). I stretched my hand over to the back seat to pick up the bag of goodies. When I looked up my mouth dropped open in shock when I saw that the guy was actually smoking Indian hemp! My hand was stretched over the passenger window with the bag I held. Imagine my second wave of shock when he opened his mouth and said something like this to me with an angry tone of voice, “You told me you were going to bring these stuff to me since last week, and I waited for you but you didn’t come, what is the meaning of that?” Then he hissed and proceeded to snatch the bag from my hand and walked back to his shelter. Well words failed me; I drove away and slowly closed my mouth.

So many thoughts came to my mind as I drove- the first was a resolve that I was never going back to that ungrateful “mad man” again. I was also quite annoyed that he would talk to me like that. But I stopped being angry when I told myself that he was unstable, what did I expect? To be treated like a long lost cousin? Then again, I thought of my safety, what if he had attacked me and no one came to my aid? Thank God that did not happen. I drove past the bus stop on my way to church a couple of times after that and saw him but I knew I had to preserve myself from harm, so the thought of stopping, stopped crossing my mind. All of this happened in January within a space of three weeks.

Last week, on my way to work, I was listening to a radio programme I usually listened to every morning. The presenter of the programme had invited the police as guests on the programme to sensitize the public about safety. The policeman then informed that the police recently apprehended a “mad man” who everyone thought was actually mad because of the way he looked. I didn’t catch the part about the location where he was apprehended (I was distracted by my son who was saying something to me), but the rest of the story was that he was caught with Indian hemp, a small gun (yes a gun) and some other items that might have been stolen. The moral of the story was this: not every madman you see on the streets is actually mad, some pretend to be mad just to attack unsuspecting victims. I haven’t seen Erin at the bus stop since the day I heard about the mad man who got apprehended by the police and I seriously suspect that he is the madman who was arrested by the police.

Tosne, note to self (pull ya ears well): future charitable acts of kindness towards the indigent shall be targeted at and carried out through appropriate, formal and regulated channels e.g. orphanages or IDP camps, where you would find people who are sincerely in need and where your safety would be assured.

By the way, did I tell you that I was given 100 dollars the first time I gave Erin food? Who says my inner man isn’t super?

Have a blessed, productive and wonderful week guys!

Random Ramblings… because it doesn’t have to be serious*

*Random ramblings are just what they are –random ramblings; my thoughts, my imagination running wild, other people’s thoughts; real or unreal, with light humour meant to just make you smile. This I will feature on Tosne’s Blog from time to time, I hope you get it, because it really doesn’t always have to be serious.*

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Its 2pm on Saturday and I have been in my towel for about one hour now, doing nothing: not taking a shower, not wearing my clothes – I just feel so comfortable in my towel and if possible I can be like this all day. I remember my mum scolding me for doing this many years ago when I was still a teenager. She would shout, “When are you going to get out of that room and take a shower? Owuro lojo!”

Then as a teen I’d be distracted by an interesting movie showing on TV or a book that I am reading (I have always loved reading books). Then I’d tell myself “Let me just watch/read for 5 minutes before going to shower”. Then I would sit through 10 minutes of the show or book. I would then say to myself again, “maybe I should just watch/read for another thirty minutes”. By the time its thirty minutes into the movie or book, I’d tell myself that the movie is almost over anyway, so its better to just see it to the end (or read that chapter to its end). By the time I’m done and decide to finally go and take a shower, two hours or more has already been spent!

Ok back to Saturday afternoon, just before deciding to go into the bathroom, yet again, I felt my stomach grumble with hunger, so off to the fridge I went still in my towel, in search of a snack, which took another 10 minutes. Ten minutes after, hunger satisfied, I hurriedly jumped into the shower and took a bit of time daydreaming about Idris Elba (yes he’s my man crush, ok lets not go there okay?) and how wonderful a date with him might be. Shower over and I came out of the bathroom to put some lotion on my body.

Just as I picked up the lotion and balanced myself well on the edge of my bed, facing the TV, a show started on Investigation Channel, about how a husband killed his mistress a few weeks after she told him that she was pregnant. “Hmmmmn,” I said to myself “Na wa oh, some men are wicked sha…” Then I decided there and then to see how the show would end, because my immediate desire was to see what happened to the “killer man”. Though I already knew that for the show to be featuring that story, the man must have been caught, convicted and serving time or a death sentence already carried out on his unfortunate soul. Anyways, as I slather my body with lotion, I watched as the story unfolded. Then I started to wonder to myself if such a thing could happen to me: I put myself in different roles of the characters of the story and asked several “what ifs”: What if I was the wife, what if I was the husband and what if I was the mistress? What would my reaction be if I found myself as one of them in different scenarios? As the man, would it not be better to have come clean and divorced his wife if he truly wanted to be with his mistress? (Though a long process and expensive choice, its still better than murder); Would it not be better for him to leave the mistress if she was just a fling? (Since agbada don dey hook for nail). Or better yet, maybe he should have used protection, to prevent a pregnancy (common sense is not so common when it comes to lust!). So many what ifs… but in conclusion, I always tell myself that a lot of people get into trouble because of selfishness and fear, which prevents them from thinking though their actions before carrying them out.

Anyway, I’m finally done with the lotion, walked to my wardrobe where I spent another 15 minutes trying to decide what to wear. By the time I decided on what to wear with clothes strewn all over the place, the show was over, with the end that I expected: conviction and a long sentence for the man. Then I hopped out to meet up with my date … 2 hours after I said I would be there shortly (oh no!).

So are you still wondering why I took so much time getting ready and being there on time?

 

 

New year resolutions or something close to it!

 

Hello folks! It’s been a minute right? No, scratch that, it’s been a whole year! I know… the year 2015 flew by so fast, it made my head spin literally. I missed you guys and blogging. Sorry I took this long to write again, but I promise I am back for good now (fingers crossed).

So happy New Year people! I pray this year is better than last year and the previous years. I say and believe this is going to be my best year so far!

Most times people at the beginning of the year, write down new year resolutions; some promise to lose weight, take exercise more seriously, stop that bad habit, start a business, leave a dead end work and look for another, get married, get divorced, be a better spouse, parent or friend etc., the list is endless. I have had my share of resolutions that got abandoned half way through the year (oops did I just say that? You are equally guilty jor!) J

While having several conversations with a good friend of mine, who is successful in business and who I tell all the time, is way wiser than his age, I was able to get some success tips or nuggets that he has gathered over the years. These tips resonated so much with me that I have decided to share them with you, as a guide for you in making your resolutions through the year and even through your lifetime. We all want to be successful in our fields of endeavour don’t we? So, I have decided not to be selfish and share. In no particular order, here are the nuggets I got from a wise man (he’s going to be surprised when he gets to read this!):

  1. In your business, differentiate between your workers who are your “core” and those who are your “periphery” – He explained to me that your core staff are those members of your workforce who are almost like family, they are those who will keep the business running despite all odds. They have a sense of ownership of the business and would do anything to make it work. They are very loyal to their boss and the vision of the business and would make whatever sacrifice is needed to help in achieving that vision. They are not usually the best paid or visible, but are strategic and can be considered the soul of the business. These are your cores. On the other hand, your periphery staff are those that are important in the day to day running of your business, but are not strategically important to the long term survival of the business. They work for you strictly based on their qualifications, experience and the remuneration you give them, they have no stake in the business whatsoever, and can be hired and fired at will. The irony is that a periphery staff could be earning more than a core staff. However, the core staff have ownership and could become the pillars that hold the business as they build up on their experience and trust of the leader (the boss), while preparing themselves for leading the company in a new dispensation. That is more important than any monetary gain a periphery staff could be enjoying at the present. This saying by Sir Richard Branson easily comes to mind: “The most important people to your business are not your clients but your employees, when you take care of your employees, your clients get taken care of”. Now, if you are not yet a business owner who has employees working for you (like yours truly) ask yourself, which category do you fall into; are you a core or are you a periphery? (I won’t tell you mine, just think about it).
  1. Think far into the future and make your present decisions based on future projections and the constancy of change: I have a friend who has changed jobs like ten times since I knew her within the last 12 years. When I asked her why she does that, she said she needs a job that pays her better than the one she’s leaving. While I’m not saying that a better salary is not a good motivation to leave a job, I would say that there would always be the next salary better than the one you currently earn. According to my friend, “I can also authoritatively say that no one can pay you what you believe you deserve because for anyone to pay you that much you must be making so much more for him.” So how many jobs do you have to leave before you get satisfied? How much experience would you have gathered from each job before moving to the next? Can you guess what kind of staff category this kind of person would fall into? Yes, you got it right! Periphery staff of life! Think well before you leave that job because it pays less or reject a job only based on the salary, without considering all other benefits you stand to gain from it which exceeds the pay, like the wealth of knowledge and experience you would gain, the contacts, network of people you would get to meet which would help boost your future prospects etc.
  1. Work very hard now while you are still young and have the strength, for when you get old and don’t have any strength to work: Simply put, invest your energy now for your future. This may sound cliché, but hard work always pays in the end. That extra effort you make always counts and those that burn the oil always have the edge. That little pleasure or gratification you let go of, would be worth it in the long run. There used to be a time in my life when I thought I could not do without watching some of my regular TV shows or browse through all gossip sites on the Internet. I was surprised that when I decided to cut down on all those and face my work and other self-building endeavours, I did not even miss the TV and gossip sites. Need I say I gained a lot in terms of self-development and even got so much work done and money in my pocket too? So, hard work really pays especially now that we are still young. When you work hard now you can retire early and have enough time to enjoy the fruit of your labour. On the other hand when you start making money much later in your life, you would have just a few years to enjoy it before you die and some other people would enjoy your sweat in your stead. A word is enough for the wise.
  1. Understand that financial variables are not necessarily growth-propelling variables: When I talk about growth propelling variables I’m talking about attributes like loyalty, dedication, reliability, humility and integrity. When there is an opportunity to learn or grow in a particular job/ skill (growth-propelling variables), take it over and above financial gain and show dedication to it. I remember that a couple of years ago, I worked for a whole year as an intern at an organisation, without being paid anything. I worked as hard as the paid staff and was proud of and dedicated to the work I did. I got to work and closed at the same time as those who were fully paid staff. In the end I learnt a lot, gained experience, got to make important contacts and build a good network. So when a substantive position opened up at the organisation, I was immediately considered and recruited for that position. If I had given up half way or taken my job unserious because I was not paid, I would not have been considered for the job. So it’s not always all about the financial gain there are far reaching and more beneficial reasons to take a job without considering what you are paid or if you would be paid. When you do that, money would get attracted to you and you will have it in abundance.
  1. Attach little importance to material possessions – Yes we want to wear the latest clothes, carry the latest bags and wear the latest Loubs (Even me sef I want them well, remember these are not my nuggets?). Don’t attach too much importance to them, because they won’t last long anyway- clothes would fade, go out of fashion, get burnt down in a fire (story for another day) and so on and so forth. Work so hard that getting those things would not be a big deal and losing them would not even faze you one bit either.
  2. You need family and key long lasting friendships to give you a sense of belonging to a community- You also may never know when you will need a friend – No man is an island. You cannot live in this world in isolation. You need family and friends to take the walk of life with you. For your health and emotional wellbeing, form long lasting, honest bonds of friendships, so that when you become old, you still have people you call friends who you share great memories with.
  1. The same natural laws that governed the world from inception still govern it now– The law of sowing and reaping which we see in the Holy books exists up till now. When you give, you receive more than you give. I don’t know how many times I have tested and tried this law and it always works. Another natural law, in fact, the first according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, is that of self- preservation; we all want to preserve ourselves first and perpetuate our existence in every way that we can. Therefore when in doubt about your path, read the history books, read your about the world and how it came to be and how we became civilized, read the Holy books, and expand your present level of understanding. You will get a better understanding of how the world operates and you will be happy that you did. If you don’t know where you are coming from, how can you know where you are going to?
  1. Wealth follows one, people don’t follow wealth i.e. wealth comes to you when you have the capacity to embrace and handle it – Do you know that some people work so hard chasing after money and yet they still fall short of achieving their goal to make wealth? Yet there are people who do not work as hard yet wealth follows them everywhere they go? Yes it happens. Some call it good luck, but I think in addition to luck, it is a mental preparedness to accept wealth and the elimination of fear that brings wealth to the wealthy. My friend told me that you have to be mentally ready for real wealth before it can come to you. I am not talking about politicians who stole us blind or those born into wealth that may not have a real grasp of the realities of making wealth through hard work and determination. I am talking of those self-made wealthy people. Most of them cannot explain how they came about their wealth in the real sense of it. Mental preparation, ability, lack of fear and readiness to accept it, is what actually brings wealth, its like a force or energy that follows only those who are ready for it. So how ready are you this year 2016 to be a wealthy person?
  1. Change is a constant and is a must – An individual who does not adapt to change, would eventually expire or become extinct! Change does not happen immediately or in the twinkle of an eye. However when change occurs, it appears like it happened within a twinkle of an eye. What was unacceptable a few years ago has become the norm now e.g. acceptance of the rights of women, blacks, gays, and so on and so forth. Some people say the world has become more spoilt and is perishing, but I say that the human brain capacity and abilities have expanded more than it had ever been before now. We are evolving gradually because evolution is a must! It has to happen. This is the age of technology and in another 50- 100 years time, those of us in the present world would not recognise the world we lived in, it might not be the age of technology then but something higher and different. Everything would have changed exponentially. So the lesson here is open yourself to change and have an open mind towards things that seem different to you. Your evolution depends on this.
  1. To whom much is given, much is expected– Do not waste any opportunity given to you regardless of how you got it. If you really want to make something out of your life, work hard and don’t expect too much from anyone except yourself. People are looking up to you and you were created for a purpose. Find your purpose and pursue it diligently and you will reap the rewards. No one can make you who you are supposed to be except yourself and God.
  1. Lastly, make out time to connect with your source i.e. God -this is where and when you get your depleted energy levels restored. Make sure you relax and really take the time to ask for answers to your questions and bring your requests to God. The answers you seek may either come immediately or even much later. Also, when you pray, it is best to pray to God for wisdom, knowledge and understanding rather than for wealth, just like King Solomon. Need I elaborate on this? We all know what happened to King Solomon after his request to God.

There’s still more, but I will release them gradually… or not! These are more than enough nuggets for a start. So keep your eyes on the space, because I ain’t going no where :).

Have an awesome, fulfilling and successful 2016!

Termination of Employment issues: Do you know your rights?

579159_539754289436228_1861797341_n A few weeks ago, I got a call from my cousin who said he needed my help regarding an employment matter. He told me that his employment with the company he worked with was suddenly terminated for reasons that were quite dubious and the worst part of it was that he was only paid a month’s salary in lieu of the period of notice, which meant that his termination was to commence immediately. Also, none of his entitlements were paid to him after putting in about 6 years of service to the company. I recently got another complaint from a lady, who had taken a one-year study leave from her company after working with them for 6 years. Upon her return, not only did they tell her that she could not be reabsorbed into the company, but they also said she did not have any entitlements! She and her husband are very angry at the greed and meanness of the company; so they are telling her in other words that her 7 years of working in the company was to be thrown in the dustbin. What was even more bizarre is the fact that it is clearly stated in the company handbook that any employee who is not reabsorbed in the company upon returning from study leave, would be paid his/her entitlements.

As a lawyer I know that the employers in both cases were trying to be greedy and attempting to eat their cake and have it: they wanted to downsize their company by letting some employees go based on flimsy reasons, and not pay them the money they were entitled to upon termination. A typical average Nigerian, who does not know his/her rights, who would rather complain and do nothing, would go home and lick his/her wounds, and not contemplate going to see a lawyer for help to contest such a termination and refusal to pay entitlements. Reasons for this is probably because they believe that an individual cannot fight a big corporation and hope to win. First of all they have to think of the legal fees that would be charged by a lawyer to accept their brief; secondly, a big corporation would probably hire the best lawyers money can pay for, who could bring in all sorts of technicalities into the matter, which could potentially make the case unnecessarily lengthy, which leads to the third reason; the lengthy judicial process of litigation in court before a resolution of the matter, which at the end of the day could defeat the purpose of the case. Employers who have refused to pay a terminated employee’s entitlements, take a gamble based on these above-mentioned reasons and hope that the employee goes away without contesting an unjust termination. Unfortunately, most of the time their gamble pays off, leaving the company smiling and celebrating all the way to the bank.

However, what most people do not know is that a lot of times, such a matter does not have to get to the court before it gets resolved. A letter of demand with an ultimatum to pay, written by a lawyer is oftentimes all that may be needed to get the company to pay the entitlements owed. This was actually what I did for my cousin, whose entitlements were immediately paid after a letter of demand was written to the company. One thing most people do not know is that a lot of these greedy companies usually do not want to have a bad reputation or image in the public eye, which such a lawsuit could potentially bring. Secondly, a company would spend lots of money to hire a top-notch lawyer to defend it in court against lawsuits for unjust terminations and refusal to pay entitlements. Sometimes the legal charges to a company by a top-notch lawyer for just an appearance in court, could exceed the sum of entitlements that were not paid, which is the subject matter of the litigation in the first place, lastly, a case such as this has a fifty/fifty percent chance of being resolved in favour of either of the parties. The percentage is higher in favour of the employee where the termination was not for disciplinary reasons (a termination for disciplinary reasons (known as dismissal), usually does not require payment of entitlements to the employee). So most companies would prefer to cut their losses and pay the employee once they have seen that he/she is not afraid to go and seek help from a lawyer to help to defend his/her matter.

What am I trying to say? There are so many people out there who are scared of going to court or worried about seeking legal advise for issues bordering on the violation of their right to work. Even though employment in Nigeria is mainly governed by contracts of employment, the Labour Laws of Nigeria still give protection to workers to prevent exploitation by employers. It is very important to seek legal advise when you feel you have been unjustly terminated by an employer, especially when you are being denied what you are entitled to after such termination. This is because even though you have been sent out to the job market again, the money you are paid as your entitlements would go a long way to save you from unnecessary, avoidable financial hardship while looking for employment in another organisation and the emotional or psychological trauma of knowing you have been cheated but can do nothing about it.

Dear readers, I would like to know your thoughts on this post: have you had experiences of unjust termination or do you know anyone who has been unjustly terminated and not paid their entitlements? What actions were taken and how successful were you in your pursuit for justice?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Culture Shocked!

cultureshockHello folks! I hope you are all doing great and you all had a wonderful weekend.

So I just came back from Sao Paulo a city in Brazil, where I attended an international human rights colloquium organised by a Non-governmental organisation called Conectas. This programme has been ongoing for over 13 years now and this is the 13th colloquium since it started. It had in attendance, human rights activists from all over the world and it was a very rich experience for me. Read more about the event and Conectas here.

Well my trip to Brazil brought another topic of discussion for my blog today: Culture shock! I am sure most of us who have travelled to one part of the world or another, different from where we have lived all our lives, have experienced one form of culture shock or another. According to Wikipedia (which by the way I have been told by my professors is not the most reliable place to quote from… oh well I am lazy today!), “Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.”

It is said that culture shock consists of four distinct phases, they are: the honeymoon phase, negotiation phase, adjustment phase and the mastery phase.

I still remember vividly my first time in the United States a few years ago – the first month I spent had me oohing and ahhhing at how beautiful and wonderful everywhere I went was. Sometimes it felt like I was in the movies that I watched. As a matter of fact, the street I lived on reminded me of Wisteria Lane of my favourite TV show Desperate Housewives. I remember I playfully pointed out Gabby’s, Susan’s, Lynette’s and Bree’s houses (apologies to those of you who did not watch the show), as I walked to and from school everyday. I loved the buildings; the fact that everything worked well- electricity, water, and roads, Internet was super fast, customer service and social services were great etc. It was just amazing to me that I was in a country like that and I walked around with a smile on my face all the time. I derived a lot of pleasure in discovering new things, people and places. It was absolute joy for me. In fact I found it interesting that their lunch most of the time comprised of cold sandwich, which I happily munched on even though I was not used to eating such food. Meanwhile in Nigeria I had hot food in the mornings, afternoons and at night. That was my honeymoon phase. Then after about 2 months in the US, I started getting tired of it all, in fact I hated it; I so badly wanted to come home! I missed my family to start with, then the food- I couldn’t stand eating cold sandwich for lunch anymore, I longed for hot-pounded yam and egusi soup, the scents of my country, the way we talk- I wanted to speak in my real Nigerian accent instead of changing my accent a bit in order to be understood, I wanted to say “Toilet” instead of “Bathroom/Washroom”. Sometimes I just lay under my duvet and cried for home! I was angry too because I started seeing that life was not perfect in the US after all. That was my negotiation phase. Then another few months passed and I found out that I was adjusting to life in the US, I knew more places to buy stuff that I needed, understood the life, the weather and people more and even came to the realization that I could actually live there if I wanted to. That was my adjustment phase. However I never got to the mastery phase because my programme ended and I had to pack my bags and say goodbye to the US. I have to say at this point that I am grateful to God for my wonderful school, the University of Notre Dame and the Center for Civil and Human Rights which had very helpful staff and a family oriented community, which made sure our stay in the US was mostly wonderful. In general however, Americans are very warm and friendly people, I know I can not say the same about the British.

My stay in the Gambia was quite similar to that of the US, but it was not as intense because the Gambia is an African country and I had lots of people from Nigeria who lived in the Gambia and helped me to adjust to living there. We are also all black :D, so there was no distinction or contrast of our colour at all, therefore not as shocking for me, unlike in the US where I saw lots and lots of white people around me all the time! Gambians were very friendly, accepting and nice to foreigners and I stayed for much longer in the country, so adjusting and mastering the place was a piece of cake for me.

In Sao Paulo, during the colloquium while different people made interventions and presentations, what struck me was the fact that there were many complaints of serious racial discrimination against the blacks in the country. There were complaints about the rights of black Brazilians, as citizens not being recognised – they were not given access to higher education like the whites, they were profiled as criminals, thereby ensuring that their prisons were filled with mostly black people, they could not get good jobs based on the colour of their skin and so many other complaints. I felt bad and shocked that a country like Brazil would still have racial discrimination as an issue because I remember the famous Brazilian footballer Pele is black, so I somehow expected that they would be treated as kings, this is unfortunately not so. There were very few blacks in the area where our hotel was and whenever I walked down the street or even to a supermarket close to the hotel, I discovered that my colleagues and I from Africa were the only blacks in those areas. I actually noticed that while I was there, I was sometimes looked at in a weird way when I went to some white dominated places, that is until I spoke the English language, which of course meant I was a foreigner, and then they become nicer and more open to help me. My stay in Sao Paulo made me appreciate more where I come from, even though we have so many problems in Africa, I can move around as I wished, I saw blacks just like me wherever I went, without being stared at or treated differently. Racial discrimination is still a very present problem in several parts of the world and we should continue to speak against it because we are all the same human beings before God, regardless of the colour of our skin.

Moving on, what about the foods of different countries and cultures? Were you shocked by the food people from other cultures eat? For me I can say I have seen different foods- the good, the bad and the ewwww. From eating Benechin, the Gambian rice delicacy communally, to eating raw fish in some European countries, to not eating any beef at all in India, the experiences are very many and varied where food is concerned. I love food and I believe I can eat anything.

These are a just few experiences I have had during my trips. There are lots more because I have been to different countries for long and short visits and had different wonderful experiences. Luckily, I have not had any really nasty experience in the countries I have been to.

So tell me, what was your experience like when you visited some countries for the first time? What fascinated or shocked you? Were you treated well or not? What about their way of dressing in these countries, did you find it odd or not? In large countries like Nigeria, culture shock can happen within the boundaries of the country without having to go outside, for example, someone from the north who travels to the south and vice versa. The cultures are different in these two parts of the country and could also elicit some form of shock just like it may when you are out of the country. I would like to know your own experiences.

Have a wonderful week peeps.

Dignity of the Human Person

file1101277665895Hello folks! Its been a while right? I have been battling with Internet issues that somehow got in the way of putting up posts on the blog. However it seems today things are looking up again. I pray that we will one day finally overcome Internet issues in this country. Amen.

So after thinking of what to talk about today, I remembered another issue that frequently occurs in this country which gets me really upset and sad: lack of respect for the dignity of the human person. Nigeria is signatory to many international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention Against Torture and other related instruments, which clearly state that no one should be subjected to torture, cruel or degrading treatment, and we all have the right to dignity of our persons as humans. In spite of our country’s international and domestic commitment to respect these rights and others, we still find a lot of cases of violations, with little or no intervention from our government. Section 34 of the Constitution of Nigeria states that:

Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly:
1. No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Let me just briefly define some of the terms I have mentioned above like, Cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and dignity of the human person.

Cruel is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “disposed to inflict pain and suffering: devoid of human feelings”. Not having human feelings that are expected of normal human beings in the face of pain and suffering of another person is cruel. Cruelty is starker when the person inflicting the pain and suffering does it with no feelings of pity or sympathy for the victim who is the subject of the cruel act, but instead does it with indifference and even pleasure.

Inhuman” is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as “lacking pity, kindness or mercy: not worthy of or conforming to the needs of human beings” This definition connotes the suffering which no human should reasonably be made to go through or endure and which no human should inflict on another.

Degrading is “to lower in grade, rank or status: to lower to an inferior or less effective level. Treating a person in a degrading way, when looked at in the context of the definition is putting a person in a position or situation which is lower than that of other humans, in order to humiliate them. Almost as one would treat animals that one does not care about. I must say at this point that nowadays, even animals have rights as animal rights activists now abound :).

Dignity” in this context according the Merriam Webster dictionary means “the quality or state of being worthy, honoured or esteemed.”Dignity of the human person in my view would therefore mean treating a person with respect, as being worthy, treating a human body in a honourable way, in a manner that gives high esteem to the person.

Just last week a friend sent me a link to read. When I checked it, the caption was something like this: “woman caught cheating on her dead husband”. That got me really puzzled. When I scrolled down I was appalled when I saw pictures of a naked man and woman who were being paraded on a street by a mob. Then I decided to go ahead and read the story. I was even more appalled by the story, which read that the woman’s husband had died a few days ago and she was caught having sex with her lover before the deceased husband was buried. I had to take a pause and ask myself why what she did was classified as cheating. Is it actually possible to “cheat” on a dead person, who no longer has the ability to feel, think or even get angry that he has been cheated on? If the answer is “No”, then why mete out a demeaning punishment like that on the widow? Even if the man was still alive, could such degrading treatment be justified?

Usually, it is expected according to tradition in most parts of the country that a widow should mourn her husband for a few months or a year after he has passed on. She is also not expected to have any relationship with a man during that period, out of respect for her deceased husband. However, if a widow decides not to do so, for reasons best known to her, should she then be subjected to such demeaning and degrading treatment of walking around the village naked and asked to sit on the bare ground with her lover in that state? All of this was done, according to the perpetrators of the degrading treatment, to supposedly “cleanse” the village, for their immoral acts. I am a little bit satisfied that she was not asked to do this alone, as it happens in some other cases, where only the woman gets singled out for punishment for adultery; as in this case her “partner in crime” was also included in the punishment. However there is no justification for treating anyone in that manner. We have laws that govern all our dealings in the society and the rule of law must be upheld in all situations. Otherwise we would not be different from animals in the jungle.

What puzzled me most were comments that came after the post: so many people lauded the punishment, heaping insults on the woman, saying: “it serves her right”. I then wondered what our country was turning into. If in this day and age, people still applaud barbaric acts committed against fellow humans, all in the name of justice. Then I ask this question: in this case, justice for whom?, especially since the husband was dead.

The horrible “ALUU four” incident that occurred about a year ago readily comes to mind. Four young men, who were university undergraduates, were killed by a mob in the most barbaric manner, over an unfounded allegation that they were robbers: they were tortured, cruelly treated, degraded and eventually killed. This sort of mob justice keeps being a recurring decimal in our country and it is time for us to stop it. We have to stand up against injustices that we see happening around us on a daily basis, we should condemn in strong terms all acts of torture, cruel and degrading treatment and extrajudicial forms of justice, instead of supporting them. Who knows if tomorrow it would happen to us or very close to home? Only then would we realize that these are menaces that should be stamped out completely from our society regardless of our traditional beliefs.

Have a wonderful weekend!