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!

Is everybody an addict?

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I was listening to the song John Doe, performed by B.O.B and Priscilla, last night and some lines from the song go like this.

Errybody’s addicted to something
Errybody gotta grip onto something
Even if it’s just to feel the response of appeal
Maybe once, maybe twice
Maybe hundreds of times, hundreds of times

This got my mind racing; is everyone really addicted to something? Is addiction part of our make up as humans? Does it help one to fight his/her inner demons?

To answer these questions; yes I think everybody is addicted to something or capable of being an addict and addiction is a part of human condition. However I don’t know if it helps us crush our inner demons.

Whether it is drugs, sex, violence, alcohol, porn, nicotine, food, gambling, coffee, shopping or something seemingly innocuous like gossiping, exercise, power, religion, love, attention, TV series, music, looks or obsession to work, every individual has addictive tendencies. So, it is left for one to acknowledge that particular bane of his/her life.

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Our world encourages and demands addiction. Just like Oliver Twist, we yearn for more – more money, more power, more knowledge, more success, more status, more gadgets, more cars, more happiness.

Boredom is directly proportional to addiction. Most people can’t handle boredom. To be fair, nobody likes being bored. Once we are bored, we look for things to keep ourselves busy until we cross that fine line between loving or using something a lot, and being addicted. You know what they a say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

In the end, it is safe to presume that everybody is addicted to something and everybody is an addict but we can channel our addictive tendencies into something positive.

What are you addicted to?

Top Ten Anglo-Born Players That Can Improve Quality of Super Eagles

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After impressive debut of 29-year-old Carl Ikeme in Super Eagles’ stalemate with Tanzania in Dar Es Salam recently, many have questioned why it took so long for Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to woo the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper to dorn the Green and White of Nigeria.

Ikeme was first called up to the Super Eagles squad back in 2007 but finally made his protracted debut for the team as he stood in for the bereaved Vincent Enyeama, and was Super Eagles best player on the day, making some good saves to earn his team a valuable point.

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Nigeria have lost some talented players such as Ross Barkley (England), Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales) and David Alaba (Austria) in recent times due to inability of Nigerian Football executives to swiftly cap these players at senior level.

Now let’s look at ten English-born players who can be added to the Super Eagles to improve the quality of the team.

1. JORDON IBE

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Jordon Ashley Femi Ibe started his career at modest football league side Wycombe Wanderers where he became their youngest-ever Football League player when he made his debut in 2011 aged just 15.

Following his 16th birthday, Ibe was transfered to Premier League giants Liverpool but had to join the U-18 squad to continue his development. He made his Premier League debut aged 17 in Liverpool’s final game of the 2012/2013 season against Queens Park Rangers (QPR), assisting Phillipe Coutinho for the only goal of the game.

However, his progress was stunted by the emergence of Raheem Sterling and he was loaned out to Birmingham City and Derby County for the rest of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 seasons respectively. Now 20-years-old, Ibe is expected to play a huge role in Liverpool’s season following £49m sale of Sterling to Manchester City in the summer.

He has already played for England at various youth levels but is eligible to play for Nigeria at senior level through his father. New Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh announced via twitter that Ibe has turned down the chance to switch allegiance to Nigeria however he remains eligible for Super Eagles until he makes a senior appearance for England.

2. Tiago Ilori

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Tiago Abiola Almeida Ilori is also on the books of Liverpool. The Portugal U-21 International was born in England to a Nigerian father and a Portuguese mother in 1993.

He started his career in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon but earned a £7m move to Liverpool in 2013. However, he has found games hard to come by at the Merseyside club and was loaned to Granada in January 2014 for the rest of the season. He also spent the entire 2014-2015 season at French Ligue 1 club FC Girondins de Bordeaux. He was farmed out on loan again this season on transfer deadline day to Premier League club Aston Villa where he is expected to see more playing time.

Ilori, 22, has already been approached by the English FA to play for England at senior level but he declined opting to play for Portugal instead. One hopes the Nigerian FA and Super Eagles can use the father to woo him to switch his allegiance to Nigeria.

3. Dele Alli

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Bamidele Jermaine Alli plays for Tottenham Hotspur but started his career in League One with Milton Keynes (MK) Dons in 2012. He made his debut for MK Dons in 2011 aged 16 and went on to make 74 league appearances, scoring 22 goals over the next two-and-a half years.

He came to the limelight after a wonderful display in the middle of the park in MK Dons’ surprise 4-0 League Cup win over Manchester United last season. He earned a £5m move to White Hart Lane last January but was loaned back to MK Dons for the rest of the season, helping them to gain promotion to the Championship.

Ironically, he made his Tottenham debut against Manchester United in this season’s curtain opener. He has featured in 4 of Spurs’ 5 games so far, scoring once to earn his team a valuable point at high flying Leicester City. He has been compared to Steven Gerrard hence the English authorities are keen to have him on Three Lions roster. It was reported earlier this year that John Fashanu will help convince the 19-year-old to play for the country of his father.

4. Chuba Akpom

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Chuba Amaechi Akpom is an England youth International who has been at Premier League contenders Arsenal since he was eight. He made his Premier League debut in 2013 at the age of 18 in 3-1 win over Sunderland.

Akpom, now 20, was expected to be part of Arsene Wenger’s plans for the new season but was surprisingly sent to Championship club Hull City on a season-long loan. He hit the ground running immediately, scoring on his debut in 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town back in August.

Akpom can add pace and power to Super Eagles’ attack which lacked bite against the Tanzanians.

5. Dominic Iorfa Jnr.

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Iorfa, 20, is a right back by trade and also the son of former Nigeria international Dominic Iorfa. At club level, he is team mates with Carl Ikeme at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Iorfa has become a fan favourite and a first-team regular at the Molineux Stadium following his impressive displays. He was adjudged Football League’s Young Player Of The Month in January 2015. He is expected to move to the Premier League at the end of the season when his contract with Wolves expires.

He was called up to England U-21 squad for last week’s International games and was also promoted to train with the senior team by England coach Roy Hodgson for their Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino. His father has reiterated that his son will represent Nigeria at senior level but with his stock rising, it is only a matter of time before he is capped by England so NFF need to act fast and give him a call-up to Super Eagles.

6. Sammy Ameobi

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Sammy is younger brother of former Super Eagles striker Shola Ameobi. Just like his brother, he started his career with Newcastle United but is currently on a season-long loan to Championship club Cardiff City.

The 23-year-old left footed winger pledged his allegiance to Nigeria in 2014 following his brother’s appearance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He had featured in friendlies for Nigeria U-20 side against Saudi Arabia and Egypt back in 2011 ahead of 2011 African Youth Championship.

However, he returned to England U-21 set up the same year but hasn’t featured for them since 2013. Ameobi deserves a look-in and may be a good asset to Nigeria. He can be added to the national pool to increase the quality of players available to Sunday Oliseh for selection.

7. Tom Adeyemi

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Christened Thomas Oluseun Adeyemi, he was born to Nigerian parents in Milton Keynes in 1991. He started his career at Norwich City in 2008 after coming up through the ranks at the club.

He had to forego a University offer from the prestigious Cambridge University to focus on football. He later gained A* grades at Advanced Level in Biology and Chemistry and an A grade in Mathematics.

He was named League One Apprentice of the Year at the Football League Awards in March 2010 but subsequently found himself on the fringes of the side and was loaned to Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and Brentford. Following expiration of his contract, he joined Birmingham City on a free transfer in 2013.

He was the spine of the Birmingham City team that went ten games unbeaten last season but suffered a back injury which affected his performance. However, he did enough to be voted the club’s Young Player Of The Year at the end of season awards. He surprisingly put in a transfer request amid interest from Cardiff City in the summer of 2014, days after being appointed vice captain of the club, and completed the move days later.

Following the managerial shake-up at the Welsh side, Adeyemi was loaned out to Leeds United for the 2015/2016 season. He has been described as a gifted, athletic and powerful midfielder. He is still uncapped at International level and could provide steel to Super Eagles midfield.

8. Alex Iwobi

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Iwobi is the nephew of former Super Eagles captain Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha. The 18-year-old midfielder was born in Nigeria but moved to England as a kid.

He featured for Arsenal in Pre-Season, scoring a sublime goal against Olympique Lyon in Emirates Cup. Arsene Wenger has rebuffed offers from various clubs to take him on loan and insists he is part of his plans this season. A move away from the Emirates might be what he needs to continue his development.

He has represented England at different under age levels but recently accepted to play for Nigeria, citing the influence of his father, uncle (Jay Jay) and Kanu Nwankwo on his decision. However, he remains eligible for the Three Lions of England until he plays a competitive senior match for the Super Eagles.

9. Dominic Solanke

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Solanke is just 18 years but has been tipped for a bright future in the game by many. He has been at Chelsea since he was seven but came to the fore in 2013/2014 season when he scored 20 goals in 25 games for Chelsea U-18 side.

This prompted Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho to declare that he would have himself to blame if Solanke fails to become a senior England international under his management. Thus, he promoted Solanke to train with the first-team squad for the 2014/2015 season and gave him professional debut, as a 73rd minute substitute for Oscar, in 6-0 trashing of NK Maribor in the Champions League. This made him the youngest player to debut in the Champions League for Chelsea.

However, he found himself way down the pecking order behind Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy. At youth level, Solanke continued his prolific goalscoring rate, finishing the season with 41 goals enroute to FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League triumphs. He has been loaned out to Dutch Eredivisie club Vitesse Arnhem for the 2015/2016 season to gain more first-team experience. He has since been given the number 9 jersey and also opened his account for the club in 4-1 drubbing of SC Cambuur in August.

At international level, he has represented England at U-16, U-17 and U-18 levels. He was named England Men’s Youth Player of the Year 2014 in January 2015. He also picked up the Young Player of the Year award on 25 March 2015 and was invited to train with the senior England squad. He plays primarily as a striker but can also play on both flanks and as an attacking midfielder. His versatility could be useful to Sunday Oliseh and his new look Super Eagles.

10. Nathan Oduwa

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Oduwa is an England U-18 International, who plays as a winger for Scottish team Glasgow Rangers, on season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur. He has been at White Hart Lane since the age of eleven (11), rising through the ranks to sign his professional contract in July 2012 following his 16th birthday.

He is the least known player on the list but following his scintillating displays for Rangers this season, it is just a matter of time before the 19-year-old grabs media attention. He is still a raw talent but has enormous potential and it would be good to keep an eye on him.

Pay Attention To Your Feedback

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As a Nigerian, I have come to realise that one of the things we, as a people, are often afraid of is people’s criticisms/negative feedback. No one likes to be criticised so we tend to develop strong resistance and reluctance to it.

Critiques often trigger strong emotions in us all. We tend to get bitter, angry or try to hurt people who have offered their critiques. We create a defensive stance to protect our self-worth which we feel is under vicious attack.

As a result, we try to disconnect from our social environment and prefer to live in our heads or associate with people who share our ideas and values. We develop an intemperate dislike for other people’s values/opinions and grow insensitive to people’s differences.

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Our environment encompasses people from different cultures and backgrounds who we interact with on a daily basis. We fail to understand that paying attention to our environment is necessary for human survival.

Almost everything we do is for the public – large or small. For instance, an entrepreneur develops his/her products for public consumption, a teacher/lecturer does his job for his students (public), the students do their school work to impress their teachers (public), the public office holders serve the poor masses etc. Thus, no matter what you do, we depend on people’s feedback to forge ahead.

Your ideas/work may seem brilliant to you but without feedback from people, our ideas/endeavours become especial and illusions. Hear American Rapper 50 Cent, “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they are telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

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I remember when I presented a scientific paper about a year ago. In my head, I did pretty Ok amid the response from the audience but the examiners thought otherwise. Although they commended my delivery, they critiqued the information. I was disappointed at first but after meeting with them privately, areas of the presentation that were flawed and needed to be worked on became magnified/clearer to me. 

Just as I had thought, we often deceive ourselves into thinking we have an insight into how the public feels about us/our work but this information is often tainted and false. This is because we prefer to surround ourselves with friends/family or sycophants who may envy or praise our every move thereby creating a distance between us and the real information out there (the public).

For example, our politicians/leaders/public office holders distance themselves from the people they represent, lecturers distance themselves from the students they teach, employers/superiors distance themselves from the employees/subordinates thereby creating a huge communication gap and thence false feedback from the public. Distancing yourself from the public can be tragic because feedback is so crucial to success. By bridging this gap, we encourage direct interaction with the public and allow them to voice their criticisms and feedback.

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It is impossible to please everyone or control what other people will say, whether they’ll approve or share their opinions but the strength of interacting with the public does not come from the quantity but the quality of your feedback. If you have little or no access to the public, then how do you learn from your mistakes? How do you improve? How do you know you are ignorant? How do you know what the people want?

Criticisms and critiques are never easy to receive/accept but they give you an idea how people see you. Pay attention to your feedback, the most important information in the world, and transform it into an opportunity for personal growth, emotional development, time efficiency, improved relationships, and self-confidence.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Mental Health: A Need For Awareness

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Mental health problems are on meteoric rise across the globe. I read an interesting article which identified mental health disorders as the fifth leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Interestingly, Nigeria, along with China, North Korea and Japan were the four countries mentioned to have low burden of death and disease from mental disorders.

This could be due to the fact that the average Nigerian mind races to madness (psychosis) probably inflicted on a person by haters from his or her village, when mental health is mentioned. Many fail to realise that alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, sleep issues, emotions such as anxiety and depression, levels of stress, self-harming and suicide are all linked to mental health.

As a result, very few Nigerians pay attention to their mental health. Judging with what is happening right now, one can predict that mental health issues of Nigerians, especially the youths will skyrocket in the next five to ten years. And this should be seen as a major public health concern.

Before you start critiquing this; I am yet to research on this so I have no raw data to back my claims hence this is just an opinion, observation or assertion.

Nigerian youths are faced with numerous problems in our country today. From joblessness (unemployment) through relationship/marriage problems to alcohol and drug abuse etc. And these can do serious damage to one’s mental health.

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First, parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to study and become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Many may lack the abilities and capabilities required to reach the educational goals set by the parents and in the end, become stressed, anxious and depressed or may resort to drug abuse/alcoholism to take the pain away.

Then, if one scales through these hurdles and graduates, one enthusiastically applies for numerous jobs as many believe their job defines them and earns them respect. If unsuccessful after a long search, one may lose confidence and self-esteem.

Unemployment can take a huge toll on a fresh graduate’s pysche. The stages of unemployment are initial shock, depression and finally adjustment. Depression may cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Next, the never-ending pressure on a young Nigerian lady, from family and society, to marry and have a family. Although many claim unfazed, being single may increase the risk of developing mental health problems in adulthood.

Nevertheless, ending a relationship/marriage through separation, divorce or death may also cause an increased risk of mental health disorders. Relationships are hard-work and often drains one’s emotional energy. People may be happier whilst married or in relationship but the effects on mental health once separated by death or divorce may be far worse than being single.

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It is never easy when a relationship/marriage ends. The breakup can trigger negative emotions, such as sadness, hate, disappointment and depression, which one may never recover from. The more break-ups one has, the more his/her mental health  progressively deteriorates.

Emergence of social media hasn’t helped either; it has increased comparison, cyber-bullying, restlessness, glamorization of sex, drugs and alcohol use and crowd mentality amongst the youths to appear cool. People put more pressure on themselves when they see achievements of others thereby elevating their stress levels, anxiety and depression. If they feel they are falling behind, they may make matters worse by turning to drugs or alcohol.

Mental health issues can prevent one from living his/her dream, starting a family or becoming useful to his nation. And this should be treated as a serious health scare. Mental health awareness should be made to safeguard emotional wellbeing of Nigerian youths.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.