Problem and Solution 9

The Pastor in my friend Nneka’s church is always talking about tithes. He uses the Old Testament to tell people why they should give a percentage of their salary to the church. Many pastors in this country do that. They always tell us to go and read Deuteronomy.

But what did Jesus think of money? Remember that the teachings of Jesus are more important than the laws of the Old Testament. Otherwise there would be no point in being Christian. Christianity is about Jesus Christ.

If we read the story of Jesus Christ, he didn’t really approve of wealth or money. In fact, he seemed to prefer poverty.

Please read these verses:

Mark 10:25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”

Solution: Those pastors who keep telling us that wealth and God are linked should stop it. Just stop it. They should preach about honesty and kindness and forgiveness and being good to your neighbor and working for the wellbeing of your community. They should leave money out of it. They should tell government officials to stop stealing. They should stop acting as if the people who give more money are somehow more blessed and will get more blessings. And instead of always talking about Old Testament verses that tell us to give our money to the pastor, they should preach about the New Testament verses.

Problem and Solution 8

Professor Ali Mazrui was a Kenyan scholar. Ceiling has read some of his writing, I haven’t. Ceiling isn’t too hot on him, especially because he said the man and Big Uncle Wole Soyinka used to seriously disagree. And Ceiling does not joke at all with Big Uncle Wole Soyinka.

Anyway, Prof. Mazrui was an important African scholar. He died recently and this is the heading of the obituary in The New York Times of October 20 2014 : “Ali Mazrui, Scholar of Africa Who Divided U.S. Audiences, Dies at 81”

Surely he did more than ‘divide US audiences?’ Surely dividing US audiences was not the most noteworthy—and therefore headline-worthy thing about his life? Headlines, as we know, give the reader the eyes with which to read a story.


How about ‘Ali Mazrui – Controversial/Iconoclastic/Much-discussed/wide-ranging etc – Scholar of Africa, Dies at 81’

That would give him a bit more dignity. He deserves a bit more dignity.

Problem and Solution 7

Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free.

On October 20, 2014, The Washington Post wrote this:

According to WHO, the success of Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation — was attributable to ample funding, quick action and assistance from the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the non-profit Doctors Without Borders.”

This is a lie.

Below is a direct quote from the WHO report (in case you are wondering who WHO is: World Health Organization)

“What accounts for this great news?
To a large extent, the answer is straightforward: the country’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response. The Nigerian response to the outbreak was greatly aided by the rapid utilization of a national public institution (NCDC) and the prompt establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre, supported by the Disease Prevention and Control Cluster within the WHO country office.
Another key asset was the country’s first-rate virology laboratory affiliated with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. That laboratory was staffed and equipped to quickly and reliably diagnose a case of Ebola virus disease, which ensured that containment measures could begin with the shortest possible delay.
In addition, high-quality contact tracing by experienced epidemiologists expedited the early detection of cases and their rapid movement to an isolation ward, thereby greatly diminishing opportunities for further transmission.”

Also, WHO writes about the investigation into the possible spread of Ebola in Port Harcourt here:

“An investigation undertaken by a team of epidemiologists from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme and the State Ministry of Health, assisted by WHO, revealed an alarming number of high-risk and very high-risk exposures for hundreds of people.”

WHO certainly does not dismiss the impact and importance of foreign help (and this being a WHO report, WHO always seems to be in the middle of the action but hey.)

WHO however is clear about this: the success in Nigeria was mostly as a result of NIGERIAN action.

Why then does the Washington Post not credit a single Nigerian body?

This is very poor journalism.

This is the kind of journalism that is not about informing the reader but about making sure that the readers’ real and imagined petty prejudices remain undisturbed.

In the mind of the Washington Post, the American reader thinks that all the problems in the world are solved because of American action. And the American reader expects that Africa is a continent of people who cannot act, who are limp dolls, who have no agency.

And so the American reader has not been informed about this simple truth: it is mostly local Nigerian action that helped contain Ebola in Nigeria.

And while we are at it, here’s the New York Times of September 30 2014, writing about the containment of Ebola in Nigeria:

“The success was in part the result of an emergency command center financed in 2012 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight polio…Also, the C.D.C. had 10 experts in Nigeria working on polio and H.I.V., who had already trained 100 local doctors in epidemiology; 40 of them were immediately reassigned to Ebola and oversaw the contact tracing.”

All well and good. America The Beautiful.

But if you are going to have that level of detail in a newspaper piece, why not start with the most significant details? First Consultants Hospital in Lagos and Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh.

Nigeria is a country that has no history with Ebola. We Nigerians think Ebola happens to other Africans. So in comes a man with symptoms. If he had not gone to a good hospital and if he had not been diagnosed by an excellent and conscientious doctor (who I am assuming had never had to diagnose Ebola in the past) and if the staff of First Consultants Hospital had not resisted the intense political pressure to release the Ebola patient and if hundreds of Nigerians had not volunteered in the Ebola effort and if federal and state governments had not acted quickly and if religious and community leaders had not educated their members, then Nigeria would have ended up with a big Ebola outbreak like Sierra Leone. Even with a thousand American CDC experts.

And if Doctors Without Borders and the American CDC are solely responsible for the success in Nigeria, why have they not succeeded in other countries? Are we to assume that they are not helping our brothers and sisters in Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone?

This is not to discredit the wonderful work of so many dedicated foreigners (more on Doctors Without Borders, tomorrow) but the story of Ebola in Nigeria must be told with honesty, and without the small-minded arrogance that comes with power.

If a doctor like Ameyo Adadevoh had been in that Dallas Hospital the first time the Liberian Ebola patient arrived with symptoms, perhaps the United States would not be in the Ebola panic that it is in now.

Sometimes it takes a small, local effort to prevent a catastrophe.

Those small, local efforts must be acknowledged – and encouraged.

Problem and Solution 6

Nigeria did well with Ebola. Me I am proud o. Oga Jona deserves credit. If we were like Liberia now, everyone would blame him for not dealing with Ebola. Oga BRF deserves credit. Not only because Lagos state really started working fast but also because he understands that symbolism matters – he went to the health facilities himself, he took pictures with survivors; he made sure he was PRESENT. The biggest heroes are our health workers. The doctors and the nurses and lab technologists and the people who traced contacts. May those who died continue to rest in peace. May we always remember them with gratitude. We are trying. They are taking temperatures at airports. And banks. And public offices. But most people who travel in Nigeria do not do so by air. They do by car. Every day buses enter this country from other parts of West Africa. Why are motor parks not getting the same attention as airports? (I remember Oga Health Minister – before he left to run for governor – saying that sick-looking travellers need to show a health report before boarding buses at motor parks. What kind of rubbish is that? Health report kwa? In Nigeria? Me as I am here in Enugu I can produce twenty health reports now from a typist on Ogui road). Just because the first person who brought Ebola into Nigeria came by air does not mean that the next possible person will also come by air. Let us pay attention to road travel. We have tried but Ebola is still spreading. There is still a big chance that we will have another Ebola patient in Nigeria. So please keep washing your hands.

Problem and Solution 5

From THISDAY, September 17 2014:

“Rivers State Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, has dismissed the comments by the state former Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, who while apparently referring to Amaechi, described himself as a lion who tamed the governor in Port Harcourt.
‘How can a man who has no strength of character to be himself, to be a man and stand up to a woman, a man who willingly submits himself to serve as the puppet of a woman call himself a lion? How ironic! Mbu, no lion behaves like that! You are a disgrace and shame to the Nigerian Police Force.’”

This is like two little boys fighting in the playground. It is beyond juvenile. We all know the Governor is referring here to Aunty Patience. But maybe the lion-like way of accusing another of not being a lion is to eschew forthrightness, otherwise known as ikpo okwu afa.

Best solution is don’t fight in the playground. But if you must fight: Governor, please try and insult Police Commissioner without showing this kind of ugly misogyny.

Would it have been better if Police Commissioner had ‘served as the puppet of a man?’ We hope not. Even though you seem to be suggesting that.

The point should be that he ‘served as a puppet.’ It should be irrelevant whether or not he served as the puppet of a man or a woman.

Here is some news: women are in fact as fully human as men. Oh and you are men, not lions.

Problem and Solution 4

I would hate to be the Health Minister right now. I sympathize with him. Dealing with striking doctors is stress enough. But Ebola? Ebola is supposed to happen in Congo or Uganda. Not here. I would never have imagined Ebola in Nigeria. Maybe the Health Minister never imagined it too. Maybe that is why he doesn’t inspire confidence whenever he speaks about Ebola. Maybe it’s why he sounds as if he does not fully understand what he is saying. He reminds me of myself in physics class in secondary school, correctly answering questions about circuits even though I didn’t know exactly how circuits worked.

The other day he told us that only one Nigerian in Lagos was infected and all the others had been discharged. And then suddenly we heard about the doctor who died of Ebola in Port Harcourt. Isn’t that contradictory? Doesn’t that show that the minister did not, in fact, have the full information?

By the way, why do Nigerian Ebola cases recover so quickly? Those two Americans, even with their fancy Zmapp that they refused to give anybody else, stayed in hospital in America for a while. But here in Nigeria, they tell us after a day or two that the patient has recovered and been discharged.

Remember when the minister said a Nigerian was ‘symptomatic’ but had tested ‘negative?’ What does it mean? What is the average person supposed to understand from that information?

I feel uncomfortable. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable? My sense is that we do not have the full story of Ebola in Nigeria. Our minister is more concerned about maintaining calm than about telling the full story. We all want calm, but falsehood in the name of calm is wrong. Obfuscation in the name of calm is wrong.

Nigerians should be told about ebola in the clearest of terms. Spell things out. Use clear simple language. Stop saying ‘index’ case and ‘primary contact’ as if we all know what that means. Remember that you are talking to millions of Nigerians who are scared and superstitious. Explain to us what ‘under surveillance’ means – and why people ‘escape’ from this surviellance. And while we are at that, can we please re-think the language we use in referring to ebola patients? We call them suspects. We say they ‘escaped.’ We say they were ‘reprimanded.’ Let us remember that these are people who are ill and terrified and confused, people who deserve sympathy, people who have not committed a crime.

Oh, and please, Channels Television, stop showing a montage of gorillas and chimpanzees when you want to talk about ebola. It is misleading. And unnecessarily sensationalistic. Ebola has been reportedly traced to bats but where did you get chimpanzees and gorillas? Oya, why not use snakes as well?

Seriously, here’s a solution: use an image of a person washing her hands properly. Simple and proper handwashing with soap and water. Which is much better than using a hand sanitizer. And which, instead of scaring viewers, will give them useful information.

Problem and Solution 3

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The main gateway to Africa’s largest economy.

The roof is leaking at different spots. Filthy plastic buckets are placed randomly. These eyesores collect the leaking water. Travellers carefully sidestep them. Travellers also dodge puddles of water.

I talked to Mr. Christopher. He is the man who installed the second AC in my flat.

Cost to fix holes in the roof of an old large building, even if temporarily: Not more than eighty thousand, according to Mr Christopher.

Cost to sweep the floors: thirty thousand a month

Cost of removing horrible buckets and throwing them away: None

Cost of a bottle of liquor served at government functions: Fifty thousand

Problem and Solution 2

From the UK Telegraph of 22 December 2013, a profile of actress Elizabeth McGovern: “I get the impression that in Africa people have sex far more freely than we do back home,” reflects McGovern. “You see certain cultures where there’s just endemic cruelty to women. I wonder if World Vision would take on the problem of women wearing the burka? And that clitoris thing is awful.”


Dear Elizabeth McGovern, The only place that Africans have sex far more freely than other human beings is in the wonderful imagination of people like you. I really wish we did though. By the way, Africa is huge. I have a feeling you mean sub-Saharan Africa. Even that is fairly large. By the way, we do love Downton Abbey. Never mind its large population of not-terribly-bright women characters. And speaking of women, there are intelligent capable women in the world for whom the burka is a choice, not a problem. And there are equally intelligent capable women who are taking on female circumcision. And who actually know what they’re talking about.

Problem and Solution 1

From The New York Times of April 22, 2014, about Barack Obama’s relative:

“On a recent morning in Kenya, she sat in a bright orange dress and blue head scarf on the veranda of the Obama homestead. Recovering from a bout of malaria and rubbing the left knee that she blamed for keeping her from attending Mr. Obama’s second inauguration, she said in the Luo dialect that language barriers impeded communication between her and the president.”

Dear New York Times,
Luo is NOT a dialect. Luo is a language. (That sentence would work if you said ‘a’ Luo dialect instead of ‘the’ Luo dialect) In general, people in sub-Saharan Africa speak languages. Those languages, in turn, have many dialects. For example: 30 million people speak Igbo. Igbo has many dialects. Some are charming and some are not.

Solution: Stop referring to African languages as dialects. Stop it now. (At least you didn’t say ‘tongue,’ Thank God)