So, I have been very quiet online because internet access has been sporadic at best in my apartment complex despite having a lease agreement that has that included in the services to be rendered.  I have been forced to either use my phone or services at my school to do any thing I have to do online.

What have I been up to….? I have so much to share…

The other day, I was at a little grocery store near where I live and this guy started following me.  I moved to one aisle he was there, I moved to the next aisle and there he was, I moved to the outside aisle and he was there and then I kept on making these movements and he kept on following me. Suddenly, I felt as though I was in New York where many times as a person of color, you are monitored when you go into the store, I was very angry and I stopped and looked at him, looked into his eyes and said, “‘why are you following me around?’.  ‘I don’t like it.’.  He was shocked, maybe because he didn’t expect to be confronted or maybe it was because his intentions were innocent and I misinterpreted.  He apologized and left the store.  Then, I knew that he was a customer who probably had been trying to garner the courage to say,’hello’ and I just messed that up…Boo HOO HOO…LOOOOL!  Maybe, that wasn’t meant to be.   Yes.  That was interesting. On another note…..

I love my policy class. It is a class that brings together all kinds of people in the medical field and other fields and we look at public health from different lenses.  For the past two weeks, medical doctors have been on the hot seat, a lot of the articles that we have been discussing have to do with doctors who might be behaving in unethical ways in their practice and billing with particular emphasis on specialist doctors.  But, one thing I have definitely learnt is the importance of checks and balances, you can’t assume that because one has a particular kind of training, that the person will always behave in a way that is ethical and is for the greater good; they might be pushed by economic reasons to do unethical things or things that go slightly into the grey area.  To all the medical doctors in my class, particularly the specialists, sowey,……:-)

Yesterday, we were discussing the tobacco industry in my class and how the tobacco industry is extremely powerful in this country (USA). The question became how do we control this industry?  Is there a need for control? The aim of this control is to get people to stop smoking, so that they can live healthier lives.    Someone brought up the recommendation that if the price of cigarettes are increased, then those in lower income communities will be priced out of purchasing it .  Because, they can’t afford it, they will automatically be healthier. Of course, since people will not purchase these item, then the industry will be forced to close down, lessen production or move to a country that might be accepting.   It is an interesting concept but in my opinion, quite unrealistic and seems paternalistic.  Paternalism stems from attempting to make decisions for someone or  people because you feel that a) they do not understand or have the ability to understand b) they are incapable of making the right decisions (your decision).   Basically in paternalism, you become the all knowing one.

Tobacco is addictive.  When you are addicted to something, you will always find ways to get that thing that you believe you need. There are many things that realistically should be priced out of low and lower income communities but they aren’t. In fact, some might argue that many luxury items are often found more in low and lower income communities which raises the question about priorities and why, many aren’t investing in the right things. That will take us into the issue of socialization and community expectations but I digress.

Back to his solution and I say that If someone from  a lower income community  wants  cigarettes they will definitely purchase it. Moreover, his comment makes it seem that those from higher income community do not use cigarettes but they do. So, what’s the plan for them?  Furthermore, like cocaine and it’s cheap alternative which is crack, when you manage to price something out of the market for a community of people that feels they need it, there will always be a way to come up with a cheaper alternative. Often times, these cheaper alternatives are often more dangerous.

I will end on a personal note by stating that when I was younger, a friend of mine was very passionate about controlling tobacco use.  I was not as passionate as she was on this issue for several reasons but the main one was the issue of freedom of choice.  My belief was this, i.e, if I go out of my way to warn you, to tell you that the risk of getting lung cancer is increased with this product, you see people are dying from lung and other cancers from using a particular product, everywhere is littered with advertisement and information about the dangers of this product and you make that choice to purchase that product and use it.  Then, my dear you are on your own.  You made that choice to walk that path.  I believe that is called autonomy. In fact, at one point in my life, I wanted to work for the tobacco industry because it really made no sense to me , why people will blame an industry that has gone out of its way to warn you about the dangers of its product?  But, fortunately, that need to work for that industry is gone.  I hate cigarettes.  I have never smoked it and will never smoke it.  But, I still believe in the freedom of choice.  I also believe that smokers should not use their choice to take away my need to have clean air.  Basically, smokers – smoke at home, behind closed doors because some of us are allergic to many things and smoke could be one of them.

On that note, I hope to explore my historical community this weekend.  I learnt we have a couple of museums around here…

Till next time,

OPUSC

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Random Thoughts: Nigeria- A Case Of Criminalization And Misplaced Priorities

Last year, a ban on same sex relationships in Nigeria was passed in the Nigerian parliament, and then a couple of days ago, it was signed into Law by president Goodluck Jonathan. This law which is called the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition bill makes it a criminal act to enter into a same sex marriage contract or civil union, it bans gay clubs and will imprison gay people who display public displays of affection. Any same sex marriage contracted outside the country will be considered null and void in Nigeria. The sentence terms for these acts are between ten (10) to fourteen (14) years imprisonment. This law can be read to say, you can be gay but we do not need to know. Remain in the closet. I shook my head!  (1)

Nigeria is a deeply religious country which often vacillates between a deeply traditional mindset and modernity. My shock did not come from the president making this decision but the fact that he signed this into law without looking at the impact that this decision will have on several law abiding citizens in the country. He has also refused to acknowledge that with the high corruption Nigeria has, this law has opened up an avenue for rampant abuse and blackmail to occur. This bill is one that is negligent in nature because it criminalizes adults who are involved in a consensual act.

As I mentioned earlier, Nigeria is an ultra religious country and many of its citizens are either Christians, Muslims or traditional worshipers. For many Christians and Muslims, the act of homosexuality is an abhorrent one that is not allowed in their holy books. But, what about the others who do not fall into these religious classifications? Should their perspective be nullified because they aren’t one of the majority and majority rules the day? Is there no sense of the separation between religious institutions and states or are people being forced to follow a particular religious order because the president belongs to it?

The president has argued that a poll was conducted and that about ninety percent of Nigerian citizens are pro this bill and they are anti homosexuality. I will love to see the questions in this poll to see if it was made up of questions with the questioners bias inherent in them? I will love to know where this poll was taken? The particular demographic details of those who responded?   Basically, how he came up with his numbers.

Many Nigerians will argue that the president is right about the numbers because homosexuality is a choice and that it is an imported Western culture. But, according to research, homosexuality might not be a choice  as many will think, there are those who are gay by choice because it gives them easier access into industries and money but then a majority of gay people believe they were just born that way. For many, they struggled with this difference for many years before they just chose to accept that’s who they are. Many gay people that I’ve spoken to, have argued that a thinking gay person will choose to be straight particularly with the kinds of persecution that exists for many of their kind. So, dear moralistic hypocritical Nigerians, could you be punishing people who were just born that way with this new law? (2)

The hypocritical part of this argument lies in the fact that there are many wealthy men and women who do not call themselves gay but they do sleep with young poor men and women. These poor menand women become the victims and if they are caught, highly likely these poor men and women will be the ones in prison. In addition, for many wealthy young people that are gay, they have no problems relocating to a place where they can be true to themselves. So, what happens to those who are too poor to relocate? This becomes an issue of economics.

Beyond the economical part of this issue, we have to look at the health impact. It is quite clear that this will have a psychological and possible mental health impact on many gay people in Nigeria, because now they will have to live in fear. Now, more will be depressed. I hate to say this, depression could lead to a more permanent ending. But beyond the psychological, there is another health impact which is the spread of STDs as more gay people will decide to hide in the closet to continue their acts. Now, some might argue that many are already in the closet in Nigeria but I will argue that it will become worse. Now, more gay people will need to prove their ‘normality’, many single men and women of the same sex loving persuasion will be forced to go into marriage and continue their now illicit relationships which might lead to the rampant spread of STDs to more innocent bystanders.

Another issue I have with this bill is one of the methodology of collecting information. Now, this bill leaves it open ended as to how people will prove that they aren’t gay. Will the courts of law just go by hearsay? Will the police just go with their gut instincts based on the superficial, i.e, how a person speaks, sits, the friends he/she has etc? What kinds of proof will be needed before one gets punished and will there be a standard way of collecting this proof?

My thoughts on this issue are quite simple. First, I do not believe that homosexuality is a western import. I believe that this has been in Africa as well as other parts of the world for centuries but that traditional Africans knew how to manage it. These people were given a place within society and in some parts of Africa were allowed to participate in society. For example, amongst the Igbos, women married women, I do not know if they had sex with these women that they married but the fact remains that traditional Igbo society of the past had a place for same sex marriage. (3)

Secondly, the misinformed fear that is being spread in Nigeria is that homosexuality is catching. That isn’t the case. If you are a person with strong values and you are heavily attracted to the opposite sex, then there is no way that you can get caught in homosexuality. It becomes ‘dangerous’ for those who have questions and are curious, then they might try and realize it isn’t for them or they might find out that is where they are most at peace. What of those with weak values? I will argue that those with weak values can be caught anyway either with aristos, sugar mummies, sugar daddies or same sex loving people. That homosexuality is catching argument isn’t a valid one.

Further more, I mentioned two years ago, that I was in Nigeria and I saw that Nigeria still needs a lot of work in terms of its infrastructure, corruption, education and the list goes on. I believe that will be a more worthwhile venture for the president to pursue with his bills than pursuing human rights violations against people who are participating in a consensual activity. There is a problem of misplaced priority and I wonder if this new bill is not being pushed by the 2015 election which is around the corner. Maybe the president is leveraging the verbally homophobic tendencies (because we know that many do other things in private) of the citizens to push this ploy of a God fearing president who would not allow his citizens to rot in eternal damnation. The problem is that he is forgetting that straight and gay are his citizens. He will be respected more and voted in without playing the homophobic card but by actually playing the card of the man who accomplishes what he set out to do. Obasanjo (that crazy ex-president who should seriously just be focused on his farm work) is tied to the mobile phone era and telecommunication in Nigeria, though some could argue that he was just at the right place at the right time. So dear president Goodluck Jonathan, what will be your legacy? Human rights violations?  Finally, If he is against same sex relationships and marriage because of his personal and religious beliefs, he could have left that bill pending and focused his energies on other things because that will be humane and will be protecting your citizens human rights. Same sex marriage isn’t an issue in Nigeria. Finding new cartegories of people to persecute will be an issue in Nigeria because of this bill.

 

1) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/01/nigeria-passes-law-banning-gay-marriage-2014113151626685617.html

2) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/12/11/scientists-may-have-finally-unlocked-puzzle-of-why-people-are-gay

3)http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/tradition-same-gender-marriage-igboland-nigeria

 

 

opusc

When Activists Get It Wrong: The Case Of Basket Mouth

Basket mouth is a Nigerian comedienne who got into the wrong lime light because of a joke that he placed on his facebook page. Please note, that the joke isn’t an original one but rather one that had been forwarded by several people before he placed it on his page. I actually believe that the joke must have started off on a blackberry (which is a mobile phone tool that many Nigerians are fond of and that they use for such forwards) , then moved to twitter which is probably where he got it from and then moved to facebook. I saw that joke about 5 days before he placed it on his page.

Now, the joke is a crude one. One that talks about the difference between an African girl and a Caucasian one. One that states that with a Caucasian girl, after a few dates, it is very easy to have consensual sex. It is actually expected. But, with an African girl, after several dates, spending so much money, often times, nothing comes of it and some men then force their attention and then non consensual sex might occur. Basketmouth’s mistake was that he left the joke hanging he didn’t state where he stood on the issue. He left it as a funny occurrence/ a might happenstance. Activists saw this joke on his facebook page and before he could say ‘jack Robinson rabbit’, he became the man who is in support of rape.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, Basket mouth is a comedienne. That is what he does for a living. His job is to go up on stage, and make jokes about any and everything. Sometimes, the more irreverent the joke, the funnier it might be and of course, the more money he gets. If he wants to, he might use his joke to talk about something that he has seen occur within his society. But, remember the bottom line is to make you laugh for that moment and forget your worries. Now, a great comedienne is one who gets you to laugh and then when you leave that arena, you actually think about the issue that he has raised. I will have to say, only few comediennes have that ability.

Should Basketmouth have been crucified by social media activists ? Actually no, he should not and for several reasons namely:

a) It isn’t an original joke which he created. He just copied and posted.

b) He didn’t support rape with this joke. He didn’t put his personal opinion. He didn’t even respond to the comments. I repeat he just copied and posted.

c)He is a comedienne. His job requirement is to make people laugh and if he is using his job to talk about something that occurs in Nigerian societies, then he should be applauded. He should not be crucified by activists who are looking for a popular scapegoat to make a point. Rather, his copied joke should be looked at as a tool to further enlighten people about rape and its impact, what could lead to rape and create an open dialogue with both men and women about consensual and non consensual sexual activity and its impact. His joke gave activists a tool to continue the discussion but many were so caught up in the idea of punishment that they lost that golden opportunity.

What can we learn as activists from this faux pas?

a) Social Media is very powerful. It connects a lot of people and can create a negative or positive impact

. b) Before using such a powerful tool, we should make sure that we understand all sides of the issue. Is the person that we are going to make the scapegoat really the one that should be punished or are we using his/her ‘clout’ as an avenue to bring other issues to light?

c)Understand the issue. In many cases of activism, activists are talking about social issues. In this case, they are talking about how men believe that when they’ve spent money on you then you should pay back in sex and kind. This mentality goes beyond the dating scene and actually goes into the marriage ceremony and beyond. We have men who pay the brideprice in Nigerian society and believe that because they’ve spent that money, then the woman’s life belongs to them. As such, they treat the woman as a house girl/slave, sexual and otherwise.

d)Rather than look for who to punish, see if the situation has created an avenue to actually educate and illuminate.

Finally, I believe that Basket Mouth should be left alone to go about his business and his work/job which is to make people laugh. Activists should go about their work to create change, create a discourse or a conversation and to challenge the status quo. 

Yes, It Is On!!! First Thoughts!! Random Thoughts!

So, Yes, I am in Texas and I am loving it. I permanently changed residence about two weeks ago even though,I’ve had an apartment in Texas for a while now.

My mum describes the state of Texas as dry but compared to Florida, I say give me dry Texas that allows and accepts people’s independence to move around. Unlike Florida where you are forced to depend on people to do anything or go anywhere, here, you just pick up , and go meet people and solve problems.

I love Texas.

So, why am I in Texas? As I mentioned earlier, I was accepted into a graduate program in the state and I am excited about the opportunity to first, pursue a passion; secondly, pick up skill sets to become a voice in a particular field; finally, have the tools necessary to impact lives either in this country or Europe or somewhere in Africa (not Nigeria). For someone like myself, education and learning is my thing and as such, I do tend to get frustrated with people who seem to want to place me in a box of who I am supposed to be and how I am supposed to react.

Things that have irked me about Texas:

a) people stating that my youth is the reason that I am impatient: I, often want to respond that the word really should be enthusiastic.  Put me on the path and send me along. I am definitely not youthful even though I still fall within that age range. People that have gone through half of the life experiences that I have gone through, cannot be described with that word – youth.

b) People who make assumptions about you: I’ve been told that I am standoffish. I wanted to ask, okay, where did you get this from? If I remember clearly, when I met you, I had a cold, my eyes were red, my nose was red and I had a mucus filled cough. Moreover, I do not get this American thing of putting your whole business out in the street at first meeting. Honestly, I am from the old school. I stick to the point of my meeting you and as time progresses, I, start opening up to you. But, opening up to you is at my discretion. There are people that I have worked with for more than 3 years that really do not know anything about my private life because I believe in the separation of the private from the public.

c) Assumptions about one’s  academic background:I often want to say, sweetie, we can put this all to rest by actually just asking me or giving me an impromptu test.

d) Assumptions about the legality of my stay:I’ve had to correct this several times. Yes, I speak with an accent but then from what I see, many within my program do…so get over it!

e) no water: Okay, I am a water baby. I calm down when I am around water. Water gives me a sense of peace, sense of calm, a sense of belonging. So far, the only natural water source that I’ve seen seems to be a dirty, brownish river that people were kayaking or canoeing on. I hope to see something different this Saturday.

So, far that’s it …

But, there are many things I love about Texas namely:

a) The weather : It does not snow here but there is quite a bit of dust around.

b) The ease of transportation:  You can actually get around without getting on the high way, you also have high speed trains and other means of transportation. Everything is so connected.

c) The people:  Everyone is so friendly and they genuinely want to help you.  

d)The people:  everyone is so polite.

e)Getting things done: there is this common misconception that people are as slow as molasses in the South. But, I’ve not found that to be true yet. But, I’ve seen people use their phones at inappropriate times. Today, a lady kept me standing on the line while she had a conversation on the work phone and then on her cell phone. LOOOl

f)The houses: The houses are made of bricks and in many cases, red stone bricks. I love it. My late grandma’s bungalow in the village used to be made of red bricks and so, being in my apartment, is actually very nostalgic. I also believe that the redstone bricks help in regulating temperature.  

Will I recommend Texas?

I really don’t know. It all depends on what you are looking for. I do believe you can find everything you want here in the lone star state but then you can do the same in other states as well.. …it all comes down to you, what are you in the market for? 

 

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