Background on Nigeria
Nigeria is a land of conflict and contrast. Since it’s civil war in the late 1960’s and even earlier, this country is no stranger to acts of violence and tragedy.
According to an article from CNN written by Faith Karimi , “Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with 175 million people living within its borders. It is a key partner to the U.S., is rich in oil, and a major trading partner with China.”
According to Wikipedia, “it [Nigeria] has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world at 7.4% over the last decade, but it has retained its high level of poverty at 63% of its people living at or below $1 a day. It’s two main resources are oil and agriculture. However, oil contributes to government revenues and about 15 percent of the Gross National Product and only employs a fraction of the population. Agriculture revenues go to 45 percent of the Gross National Product but employ about 90 percent of the population.
Nigeria’s government provides Nigeria’s states and local governments with autonomy including 50 percent of government revenues as well as responsibility for public services. But, lack of stringent regulator and monitoring systems has allowed for rampant corruption. It has hindered past poverty alleviation efforts and will continue to do so since resources meant for public goods or directed towards investments (and so create employment and other opportunities for citizens) are being misappropriated.”
Add the fact of centuries of tribal rivalry and war and you can understand why Nigeria is where it is today.
The southern part of Nigeria is made up mostly of Yoruba and Igbo peoples (Nigerian tribes). Most Nigerians in this part of the country are Christian and there are a few Muslims, and this part of the country has embraced western ways.
In the North, there are many Hausa people (Nigerian tribe). It is a much heavier Muslim population. For the most part, the Muslim population in the Northern part of Nigeria is peaceful and follows the teaching of Mohammed and his peaceful ways. However, there is a small sect of Islamic Militants who are enforcing Sharia law (Islamic Law) over the majority through terror and violence. Unfortunately, this group is usually what puts Nigeria in the headlines. This group is called Boko Haram and their name means “ Western education is a sin.” in Hausa.
Like so many religious leaders who have called for violence under the cover of religion, that is exactly what this terrorist sect is trying to do. According to an article written by Rosie Collyer for Nigeria Report in November 24, 2011, “people manipulate the system for political and religious reasons,” she adds. “And the average person either doesn’t understand the system or doesn’t have the means [financial], required to navigate it.” (quote from Remi Atunwa, practicing Muslim and barrister in Northern Nigeria).
According to an article written by Faith Karimi for CNN entitiled “ Boko Haram: A Bloody Insurgency, A Growing Challenge”, “Boko Haram was founded 12 years ago by Muhummad Yusuf. He was killed in 2009 by the military forces. After the killing of its leader, Boko Haram became even more defiant and a new leader for the organization came to power named Abubukar Shekeu.”
As stated before, anyone can manipulate something for different reasons and that is what is happening with Boko Haram and it’s interpretation of Sharia Law. Right now, 9 states in the north are under full Sharia law and 3 states have some form of Sharia law in the Muslim population.
Some may ask, how can the people in northern Nigeria agree to these practices? Most people in the north do not support Boko Haram but there is some sympathy for Sharia law according to Faith Karimi in her article for CNN. She reports that “there is much sympathy because many Muslims in the north see it as the only way to end an inept, corrupt government.”
She goes on to report,” Poverty is prevalent in the North region. The military is trying to halt Boko Harams’s attacks but the group is winning the most important battle: Making Nigerians question government competency.” She continues to report that Boko Haram has been responsible for several attacks in Nigeria ; the most recent ones being in 2011 with a suicide bombing in Abuja (Nigeria’s capital) outside the United Nations building which killed 25 people. In November, several Christian women (pregnant and others with small children) were kidnapped and later returned. And most recently a few weeks ago, Boko Haram was responsible for blowing up a bus station in Abuja and killing 71 people.
As a result of Sharia law, this militant group believes that girls should not be educated and should be married off which led to the capture and abduction of over 200 girls from a government school in Chibok, a city in the north of Nigeria.
The fact that these girls were attending school at all meant that each day they were putting their lives in danger for something that we, in the west, take for granted. With each passing day, the likelihood of the girls returning gets smaller and smaller.
Some parents of the kidnapped girls are afraid to talk to the police for fear that their daughters will be harmed by the militant group. The fact that they are too afraid to talk to the police only strengthens what is already widely known to many Nigerians: they cannot trust the government to do their jobs. But, in turn, without cooperation from the parents to supply any kind of vital information, it becomes less likely for the police to do their job at all. And so, the cycle of ineptitude continues…
In a book I recently read entitled “Every Day is For the Thief” by Teju Cole, a Nigerian author, he says there is a saying in Nigeria that says “idea l’a need” which means “all we need is the general idea or concept.” I saw this many times myself while living in Lagos. When Lagos state instituted a law saying that all okada (motorcycle) drivers and their passengers had to wear helmets, the drivers wore mopping buckets on their heads and the passengers riding the okadas simply held a helmet, bowl or bucket over their heads (who had just had their hair done simply held a bucket over their head without it even touching their heads) because it was the idea that they had a helmet…it didn’t actually have to function. There are so many things like that which I observed happen while I lived in Nigeria.
My hope is that President Goodluck Jonathan does not take the approach of “idea l’a need”.
I hope he doesn’t think just by doing his one press conference on Sunday that he somehow fulfilled the concept of what a president should do to help his people and will actually be a functioning president to do something to get these girls back to their homes. The whole world is his stage right now, and we are all watching this performance unfold. It is time for the government of Nigeria to show the world it can function and that it cares for its people and their desperate needs. It needs to function to protect its children.
These kidnappings are a cry to the world that the people in Nigeria are desperate, and if the Nigerian government ignores the poverty and ineptness in its government too long, the people of that country will only see what they already know in their hearts. They will witness a government that is there in concept only and not really there to take care of its people.
For more information on what you can do to help, see our previous post, Standing in Solidarity to #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS.
What are your thoughts on what is happening in Nigeria? Anything you’d like to add to this post?
This is an original post by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back to life in the U.S. on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com/
Photo credit to Flickr creative commons and www.freestock.ca
Articles used in the writing of this article include:
“Boko Karam:A Bloody Insurgency, A Growing Challenge” by Faith Karimi CNN April 22, 2014
“Sharia favours the Rich, Claim Nigerian Rights Activists” Nigeria Report November 24, 2011 by Rosie Collyer
“Every Day is for the Thief” by Teju Cole (novel)
Growing up in Illinois, when I was in elementary school, it was commonplace for our school to have several emergency drills in case there was a tornado. We knew to hide under our desks and cover our heads with our hands and wait until the drill was over. The thought behind the drill was that we would be ready if a disaster ever struck. We followed up with fire drills as well. We prepared for what we knew could happen but hoped would never happen to us… (more…)
It happens every night when I lay my head on the pillow. I replay many of the day’s events back over in my mind. “Was I good friend, wife, sister, daughter, etc.? Was I good mother to my children? Did I set a good example?”
However, the events which have been playing over in my mind more and more frequently are the times I am not sure if I really listened to my children. “What was it my daughter was telling me about a friend of hers at school as I was hurriedly sending a text to my friend? What was my son showing me that he learned on his new video game as I nodded and pretended to see him play it while I sent an email?”
I know we all get caught up in this thing called life, but are we really present for our children?
At any one minute during the day, I feel like I have a laundry list of things to get done. A lot of times, I find myself sitting listening to my daughter read, and I am making a mental list in my mind of what I need to get from the grocery store. When I’m driving the kids to school, and they are in the backseat laughing, I am thinking of the things I need to get done that day while they are in school. What were they laughing about? I don’t know because I wasn’t really listening. And, that makes me a little sad.
I know one day, I’ll look in my rear-view mirror and they will be in junior high and then high school and they won’t be my little children anymore.
I have read so many articles and talked to so many friends about our kids being able to pay attention to what we, as parents, say. We have talked and discussed how too much time on electronics isn’t good for their attention. What about us as parents? It became crystal clear to me a few weeks ago when I took my children to the park. My son was on the swing, and I received a text from a friend. I was replying to her text while my son was saying something to me and I remember nodding and saying “Okay.” It turns out that he asked me if I would pay him a quarter for every time he jumped off the swing. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me I had to pay him $4.50 for jumping 18 times!!!
These past few weeks, I have been thinking about how I have approached mothering, and I think I had something wrong. For some of you this may not be earth shattering, but for me it was ground breaking. And here it is…I will never be done with a grocery list, laundry list, cleaning, cooking, etc. There will always be broken things which need fixing and plants needing to be watered.
I was approaching things in my mind as things to check off like a list. I was thinking of my days as a destination, and that just isn’t how life is. In my head I thought if I get that grocery list done, then it is complete. If I finish this load of laundry, then it is done. But, the truth is, neither of those tasks are ever done, and unfortunately, I feel that I have wasted some of my precious time with my children using that approach.
I have started to look at my life as a journey and to try to enjoy it more along the way.
Coming to this realization has freed me to sit with my daughter and just listen to her read for 20 minutes without my phone right next to me. I don’t have to answer texts right away. I am able to watch my son play his new video game and show me his new trick because the laundry will always pile up, and I can get to it after I take 10 minutes to listen to him. I am waking up 10 minutes earlier to get lunches packed so I can talk to my kids in the morning while they are eating breakfast. I am taking a little of the pressure off myself to get everything done. I am getting most things done, and the things I don’t get to can wait until tomorrow if it means I can have some extra special moments with my kids.
I have found that slowing down my mind and my “to-do” list have made me a bit more calm, and in turn, it has helped me to be in the moment with my kids. Every night, we have dinner together and there is a “no toy and no electronics rule” at the table. It’s a time for our family to really listen to each other and make sure that we have a few minutes to “check in” all together as a family.
The one thing that won’t always be there are my 5 and 8 year olds. They are only like that for one year and then they just keep growing and growing and there isn’t anything I can do about it. As I look at them in my rear-view mirror, I want to know that I have really enjoyed them and not regret not spending precious time with them.
Do you have a way to really be “in the moment” with your children?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Photo credit to the author.
I am the first person to admit that I had no clue about adoption before I adopted my son. I remember when I was growing up, I would tease my brothers that they “were adopted”. There was a girl in my first grade class who was adopted, but I was always told not to talk about it to her. I came to think that adoption was something that was a secret, and because it was a secret there might be something wrong with it. (more…)
The past few months, I have been listening to a few songs which have really “spoken” to me. The first one is Katy Perry’s “Roar”. It just makes me want to stand up and really tell people what I really think instead of what I think is the polite thing to say. The second song, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, says so eloquently what my inner self has been whispering to me for years…“I just want to see you be brave.”
Growing up, I went to Catholic school, and I was always taught to not draw too much attention to myself, and to always make everyone feel welcome. I always remember feeling that I should agree with what the majority said because my own ideas weren’t as good as the others. After all, who would want to listen to a gawky junior high girl?
As I got older, those traits seemed to stay with me to the point that I think I would go out of my way to please others because the thought of someone being upset with something I had said or done was too much for me to handle. I started to feel like no one really knew who I was because I had built up so much of a false identity trying to make other people happy when deep down I was unhappy because I was too afraid to be true to myself and tell others what I was really thinking.
In the last few years, I have started to realize I do have my own voice and my own opinions to share with others and my fear of disappointing or making others upset is dissipating. That may sound silly to someone who has never had any trouble speaking her mind, but for me, it is a huge deal.
Now that I have my own children, I often wonder if messages I am giving them (sometimes unintended) could cause them to feel the same way. I find myself telling them that they don’t have to be just like everyone else, but when we have friends over for dinner with their children and the kids have a disagreement with a friend over what to play together, I tell them that they should play what the other friend wants and then try to take turns.
Often times, we will go to another friends’ home and the children in that home are allowed to do many things that my children are not allowed to do. I find them coming to me and whispering to me about things that are happening, and I can only tell them that it is not acceptable for them to do those things. They observe the other parent saying nothing to their child. I know they don’t quite understand how I have one standard for them and another for other children.
I have always told my children not to tell a lie. So, when my daughter opened her present from a friend at a third birthday party and declared in front of everyone that she didn’t like it, I should have been proud, right? Or when my son told my Father-in-Law he was “fat”, I should have been proud of him for not lying, right? Embarrassed was more the feeling that was engulfing me at that moment. Cue the talk about the “little white lie” to my children so that we don’t hurt another person’s feelings with words we may say to them.
Are these “mixed messages” going to cause my own children to be afraid to speak their own minds and afraid to stand up to what they see is wrong? I guess only time will tell. I just keep hearing the words from Katy Perry’s song in my head, “I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.” I look back at my own life and how I am just now seeing how important it is to stand up for yourself. I guess it is all a learning experience. Along the way, we have to decipher the mixed messages until we come to our own conclusions of what is wrong or right from what we have been taught along the way.
I wish I could make it so simple for my children and tell them that when they speak their own mind and are true to themselves that they will always be accepted no matter what. But the truth is, they may not be accepted. And, isn’t that what true bravery is? Bravery to stand up for what they believe in is really what I want for my children. Being brave and true to oneself is what leads to ultimate happiness. I hope it won’t take them as long to figure out not to be scared of what others may think, but if it does that’s fine, too. My hope for them is that they do figure it out because it would be such a shame for the world not to know the bright, kind and brave souls that they truly are.
How do you teach your children to stand up for what they think?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can read more about her life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.