My Youth and Other Unfortunate Things

                           by Moji Ogunkanmi

The Guardian recently did a Lagos week . For a whole week the spotlight was our struggle and chaotic existence. They highlighted something that has been bugging me for some time now. It seems to me that since my move back to Nigeria, my status in society has been devalued.

The bases for my sudden demotion are personal characteristics I never really noticed; but these have now become very familiar because for some reason, people feel the constant need to verbally remind of my new rank. The first charge brought by Nigerian society against me is that I am unmarried.

Although, I have never seen marriage as an achievement or essential for my existence, it turns out that the general consensus on the matter in Nigeria is quite the opposite. I am yet to acquire a spouse; therefore, I am not a full human being. Surely, as I am yet to tie myself up to another individual and embark on the last legal form slavery, I cannot be a responsible person.

Secondly, I am a woman. That is self-explanatory so I will spare you an exhaustive treatise on sexism in Nigeria.

The third and final abhorrent issue is my age. I am young, therefore, I cannot formulate coherent thought. I have no intellect of my own as only older people can think. I am young so only a fool would take what I say seriously. I am young so I might as well be invisible. I have moved from a society where my youth is admired and celebrated to one that sees it as nothing.

I refuse to be dismissed as a negligible citizen. My youth is my greatest asset to this country. Unlike the older generation, I don’t carry around in my pocket the tribal and political pains that have caused much terror in the past. I see Nigeria as a clean canvas for whatever we want to paint it to be.

Furthermore, it’s rather obvious that in Nigeria age has no bearing on wisdom. The older generation has had over fifty years to make their mark; yet they seem to have achieved nothing except one mess upon another, and they are still leading us in no clear direction. It’s about time those grandparents and great-grandparents take the overfed bellies home, sit down and chew kola nut.

Let a younger generation with greater strength, fresher minds, youthful optimism and clarity of vision take the wheel. Too many talents are wasted simply because older people refuse to let go. More room needs to be made for clean fresh air in this country.  Then again, I’m probably misguided. After all, I am young, unmarried and a woman.

Moji Ogunkanmi is a recent Natural Sciences graduate from University College London who recently took up writing as a healthy outlet for all the confusion and frustration that came with moving back to Nigeria from the UK. She writes on her own blog, RationalNigerian. This post is in line with today’s International Women’s Day celebration. To all the strong women out there trying to make it happen in an unbalanced world, Jisike!

Is There Hope For This Generation?

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Everyday I see and hear people talk about embracing positive vibes and dropping people that exude negativity. I’d like to say that I belong to this school of optimism but that’s entirely not true.

I believe in reality and can’t fight it. From a realistic point of view, positivity is certainly not a bad thing. Realists pay heed to the words of Dalai Lama “See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.”

Positivity helps keep one motivated to continue doing the things s/he needs to do instead of wallowing in self-pity, despair or negativity. However, dwelling on just the positives is a problem. Focusing on just the positives ALL the time can/will deter one from experiencing life in the present and assimilating the lessons embedded in these experiences.

I try to look at things from both sides; there are positive and negative aspects to most situations. In other words, everything that has an advantage has disadvantages and vice versa. It is left for one to weigh and study these consequences before taking action.

This approach helped me understand and process my emotions. And in the process, I became in charge of my life. I still make mistakes regardless – lots of them. Nothing is a given but hey, it is called being human.

Consequently, realism paves way for us to be liberal; willing to accept whatever life throws at us by accepting ourselves and allowing others to be themselves. So I implore you to be liberal about some shit I’m about to say because you may not like it. Excuse my french.

In the past one month, I’ve argued atleast on three different occasions why I am negative about my generation’s ability to change the course of this nation. Despite the overflow of educated, talented, smart, innovative and intelligent youths in Nigeria, I still believe that my generation will be a lot worse than our parents, who are believed to be the reason why our nation is deep in corruption.

I know it sounds harsh considering we are more educated and exposed than our parents but the fact remains there is no platform for the genuises among us to thrive so they scamper to leave the country for good. Meritocracy is abhored and mediocrity is celebrated; it is all about who you know.

Go to social media and complain how mediocre Naija music artistes sound and wait for the ensuing reply. I bet you someone will tell you how the artistes have enough money to feed you and your family. Money and titles are everything. No matter how you get them, just have them.

This is why many parents steal anything that looks like money they come in contact with just to make their children comfortable. Parents also try to sort their kids’ way through school – from primary to tertiary – thereby contributing to the depressing number of educated illiterates in our society. As a result, the kids become relaxed and a tad lazy. After all daddy & mummy will come to their rescue with money/connections and get them that job/contract etc.

A leopard cannot change its spots and a lion cannot give birth to a goat. It is the same blood that flows from the father to the son hence these kids will grow to continue this trend and do the same for their own children.

Our generation love to have fun – hang out, party, smoke weed and get drunk. Possibly, take after the Kardashians; ball all day and still rake in money. That’s how it is supposed to be, isn’t it? Living young, wild and free.

The worst of all, we compare ourselves – what we have or have achieved. With social media, comparison is easier. There’s pressure on many to have vacation in an exotic location with bae, own exotic cars, wear designer clothes, jewelleries and shoes so we can show off.

There’s also enormous pressure on the men to give their spouses the kind of wedding worthy to feature on Instagram & BellaNaija. All these encourage stealing because money is a prerequisite for these things. In the end, we become wannabes who are ready to do anything to fit into certain groups.

Those living abroad are not better; a lot will surprise you with their reasoning and mentality. They complain about Nigeria on social media and wish for things to get better. However, I have seen many in diaspora come back to loot more than the leaders they used to complain about.

Nevertheless I like surprises and I would love it if my generation could spring a surprise on me and prove me wrong.

Marriage Equality: For or Against?

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Marriage seems to be one of the most lucrative “business ventures” in Nigeria right now. It is ubiquitous; all across our country, in every region, every social class, every ethnicity, every religion or non-religion, people are getting married in drones.

Everyone I know is either getting married or planning to get married. Okay! Not everyone but you get the picture. One cannot hang out and enjoy a glass of beer or watch footie anymore without friends/family reminding you of your age and the need to include marriage in your to-do-list.

Emergence of social media especially instagram, has made weddings a competition. A Nigerian wedding is incomplete nowadays if it does not appear on Bella Naija and/or sites alike. Everyone is trying to out do each other in decoration, organisation, pre/post wedding shoots, costumes, couple entrance etc.

For some, especially the female folk, marriage is something they aspire to and holds the key to the pursuit of happiness. Many are of the belief that married people are better than single people (who are often termed les miserables) and that a healthy marriage has a huge effect on physical/mental health, longevity and prosperity.

Before one goes further, let’s define marriage. Marriage, in all honesty, is complex and hard to define. It encompasses all aspects of life; conjugal relations, friendship/companionship, love, procreation, mutual responsibility and/or solidifying family alliance (special thanks to Game of Thrones).

Traditionally, marriage is between a man and woman for any or all of the aforementioned reasons. Generally, it is believed that marriage gives one a greater sense of responsibility, life and purpose.

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However, our society is at a turning point. The monopoly of traditional marriage has been questioned resulting in calls from different works of life for everyone to embrace marriage equality i.e. marriage between individuals of the same sex.

People are more vocal nowadays and throw their weights behind same-sex marriage; whether it contradicts religious doctrines or not. Recently, marriage equality won the day in Ireland and is soon to be legal following approval of a referendum to constitutionalise the recognition of marriage irrespective of the couple’s sex.

Despite the large Catholic community in Ireland, 78% voted in favour of same-sex marriage hence becoming the 22nd country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Other countries include: Netherlands (the first country to do so in 2000), Belgium (2003), US (some states in 2003), Spain (2003), Canada (2005), South Africa (the first African country to do so in 2006), Norway, Sweden (both 2009), Mexico (some parts in 2009), Argentina (2010), Portugal (2010), Denmark (2012), New Zealand, France, Iceland, UK, Brazil, Uruguay (all 2013), Luxembourg (2014), Slovenia (the first Slavic and central European country to do so in 2015) and Finland (2015 but will not take effect till 2017).

Unsurprisingly, despite the marriage madness in our country, Nigeria doesn’t appear on the list. Nigeria and its citizenry still uphold the sanctity of the traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Civilised individuals believe traditional marriage is obsolete and based on religious and moral tenets – which cannot be proven.

This is what piques me the most about same-sex marriage advocates. They are quick to tag people who do not share the same view as homophobic (fear of gays), unexposed and haters. According to Matthew J Franck who wrote in First Things, “In the contemporary debate on the future of marriage, there appears to be, amid many uncertainties, one sure thing. Those who publicly defend traditional marriage can be haters, bigots or irrational theocrats and perhaps all of these at once.”

My question is, how is it homophobic for anyone to reason and express his views based on religious and moral grounds? What happened to one’s right to freedom of religion? It is our constitutional obligation to respect others’ freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of thought/conscience as well.

I am not for/against same sex marriage; I respect everyone’s decisions but you can’t and won’t force certain things down the throats of people and expect them to smile and say thank you. A number of religions do not support same-sex marriage but if your religion or non-religion supports it. That’s fine!

However, I don’t support people who clamour for religious rules to bend to satisfy their desires and ambitions. If you are a same-sex advocate and your religion abhors marriage equality, it is nobody’s fault. Human beings, whether religious or non-religious, base their lives on beliefs and use reason to distinguish between right and wrong.

From a Christian perspective, “therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.”  Proverbs 18: 22 also says “He who finds a wife finds what is good and obtains favour from the Lord.” Before you frown at my Bible citations because of your belief or view about the Bible, the truth is that we all tend to make sense of things on the basis of limited evidence available (beliefs).

The Igbos believe marriage is a public institution hence the saying “otu onye anaghi alu nwanyi.” Truly, the only certainty in this unending debate about marriage equality, is that marriage is the business of the society and its success or failure has a huge impact on the society. Live and let live. Don’t expect religion(s) or anyone to bend a knee to your beliefs.

What do you think about marriage equality?