Poles and Notions

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It is quite astonishing how quick we, as a people, are to pick sides when something happens. Nigerians and sentiments are like yin-yang. Inseparable!

When news reports trickled in about the arrest of former Petroleum minister, Dieziani Allison-Madueke in the UK for allegedly laundering $13bn, two groups suddenly emerged. Those in her support were assembled in the blue corner whilst those against her were in the red corner.

Those in the red corner desperately want to see Diezani jailed and thence celebrated her arrest, without asking questions how the media came to that figure of $16bn. The opposition, in the blue corner, described Diezani as innocent until proven guilty and slammed the President’s anti-corruption war as mere noise used to harass and persecute his political enemies.

This is based on their belief that the President has surrounded himself with chronically corrupt citizens like Rotimi Amaechi et al. Perhaps they are right about Amaechi et al but if they feel Dieziani deserves time until UK court proves her innocence/guilt, why can’t they extend such benevolence to the likes of Amaechi etc? After all, everyone has a right to a fair trial. Or maybe not!

Some days later, there was a fight between new Super Eagles handler Sunday Oliseh and veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama which led to the latter announcing his retirement from the national team. As expected, Nigerians, without waiting to get to the root of the matter, were split again into two sides with both teams hurling insults at each other.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion and taking sides but the least one can do is to be objective about it and back up your claims with facts, not assertions. Objectivity was lost during the aforementioned debates, and replaced by bias. Being objective is a herculean task for many due to the amount of bias we carry around.

It will amaze you how bias, especially what we hear others say, can sway our judgements and decisions. For example, if you were told that someone is good or bad at something, it would be hard for you to forget that information when you observe the person and in the process, miss other vital positive/negative traits of the person. Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his new book LEADING, “It is astonishing how many biases and preconceived notions we carry around, and these influence what we see, or more precisely, what we think we see.”

Subjective thinking is based on an individual’s emotions, opinion and perspective hence it comes easily and naturally to everyone however objective thinking doesn’t. It is a skill that is acquired and developed by paying good attention to details. Just as kids develop vital personal and social skills by observing behaviour of their parents, siblings, peers or teachers, that’s the same way one needs to be a keen observer to think objectively.

Objectivity is based on facts and observations. It is a very important skill to acquire because it stops one from making hasty conclusions by taking a step back from one’s own thinking to critically examine facts/opinions/assertions at his/her disposal.

It also requires one to look at things from other people’s point of view hence one has to be willing to give a fair hearing to what others have to say. No matter how right your opinion may seem to you, a single perspective never reveals the whole truth.

Observing and listening are underrated activities, and they cost nothing. Follow arguments with objectivity, not bias.

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Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!

Nobody Is Out of Your League

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I went for a wedding with some friends  a fortnight ago where I met a pretty nubile damsel. We got talking; I must admit the conversation wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped but I was lucky to cart away with her phone number and social media usernames at the end of the day.

On our way back home, I was filled with all joy and excitement that overwhelm one when he/she meets a new person. However, my friends were so pessimistic about my chances with the said girl. They all told me, “Guy, forget this girl. You stand no chance, she’s way out of your league.”

I was bemused at their level of pessimism; I mean these guys were alobams. So to feed my curiosity, I asked them a myriad of questions like why do you think she’s out of my league? Is it because you think she’s too “hot” for me? Richer/cooler than me? Too smart or sophisticated? Their answers weren’t convincing so I shouted in my drunkeness, “she’s not out of my league. In fact no girl is out of one’s league so I’m gonna give it a try.”

You see, just like my friends, many people believe leagues exist when it comes to the opposite sex. They seem to think that once a guy/lady is ridiculously attractive, smarter, more ambitious, richer or funnier than them, they are out of their league. Many guys are scared and intimidated to approach such ladies because they feel they don’t stand a chance with them. They find themselves constantly analysing the potential compatibility between themselves and these kind of ladies, oftentimes how can such a person be interested in me? serves as a valid excuse not to push further.

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Contrary to popular belief, leagues are standards set by an individual to protect himself/herself from possible rejection. Standards are subjective; they are based on personal contructs and not completely social constructs. For example, most of us are guilty of asking questions like “how did they end up together?” when we see a person we hold in high esteem with an average or below-average looking partner because we have set certain standards for them.

Back in 2009/2010, some of my female friends were livid when they heard Nigerian A-list actress Genevieve Nnaji was dating singer/entertainer D’banj. Then, Genevieve was bigger than D’banj in terms of celebrity status and international recognition. I wonder what they’d say if Genevieve and D’banj started seeing each other now.

The fact remains that every guy has 50:50 chance of getting a lady’s number or dating a lady but this chance can drop to zero real quick unless one goes for it. All one needs is to gather some liver to approach the lady and say your mind. I mean what’s the worst thing that could happen? She decides to give you a fake number? Lies about an imaginary boyfriend? Ignores your calls? Or politely/coldly turns you down?

Rejections are a norm in life. God has given a man the right to ask the lady out and the lady the right to accept or decline his advances. Everyone has suffered (and will still suffer) rejection in one way or the other. Even the “out of your league” girls we often worry about have their own insecurities. So don’t let rejection thoughts eat you alive when you haven’t even told her how you feel about her yet. She might be interested and patiently waiting for you to make a move or maybe you could go for her and discover she isn’t all that after all. Either way, it is better to try and find out than wondering what if.

We are so hung up on how we see others and the halo effect. Leagues are something we create in our heads. They are an illusion. Nobody is out of your league. Before you limit yourself and say you’ve no chance of being admitted into that guy’s/lady’s life, try and apply first. You can’t gain admission without applying.