Author Archives: Malaka

My Interview with Noella Wiyaala

Hey MOM Squad!

Guess who has a new best buddy? Go and get yourself a cookie if you said “You”! And that’s “you” as in me, not YOU.

Wiyaala, my latest music crush, granted me an interview this morning, and it was absolutely brilliant. The sound was garbage, but the content is amazing. I think you can hear her portion if you watch it with earphones in, and I hope that you will. Wiyaala is so raw, real and uninhibited in her responses. She gives a lot, but leaves you wanting more!

Her artistic journey has not been an easy one. She talks about how her mother has ALWAYS encouraged her in her art, even when her father was less so. This is a huge testimony considering her conservative background, hailing from Upper West. She talked about how she grew up poor with no vocal training or perming arts training. All that she has achieved is from unharnessed talent.

When we spoke about her background and how supportive her mother has been, she broke into tears, which alarmed me, because I started crying too. Even though there’s poverty and then there’s poverty (I’ve never had to fetch water from a borehole or a river), I could identify with her struggle having been born of meager means myself. It feels overwhelming to finally see the fruit of all that hard work, especially after people have spent so much energy taking a dump on your dreams!

Wiyaala is  hungry for success and has been blessed with the right advocates at the right time. She talked about how so many people in the music industry passed her up, but her current manager believed in her and recognized her talent. It’s proof that you don’t need everyone in your corner: you just need the RIGHT people in your corner.

We will redo the interview and hopefully resolve our technical issues, but since this was my first MOM interview with a real star, I felt it was important to archive it.When do things ever go smoothly for the MOM Squad anyway? (Answer: never)

Y’all have a great Sunday, ya hear? :)

Updated 5/29 with our second interview.

 

When is it a Woman’s Turn?

I just got one of those calls that set my britches on fire. You know the ones that have you seeing red and looking at your own partner/spouse with a side eye, daring him or her to “try that mess if they want to”? Yeah. That call.

I have a brilliant acquaintance who has a degree in engineering. She and her partner have been together for almost four years and have a child together. I care about both of them deeply, but he became my friend because she was my friend first. He’s a nice guy: hard working and dedicated, but not very ambitious. He is comfortable in his job and has no designs to move up, move out or move on in order to earn more. She on the other hand has her life and its trajectory planned out for the next six years; but now the unplanned has happened.

Because she has poured so much into her work and performed her duties with such excellence, the VP of her organization has singled her out to take on a position he’s creating based on her skill set. She is thrilled, of course, but hesitant to take the offer because it requires a move to a small town. She knows that her partner is comfortable where they are and would not want to move. I’ve seen this scenario too many times. Heck, I even lived through it myself! The man is comfortable where he is, and the woman is supposed to kowtow and abandon her ambitions for his benefit.

I lived with resentment for this very reason for almost three years, which is the only reason I gave her this tidbit of advice when she asked me thoughts.

“Don’t be like me o! If you get a chance, take!” The words could hardly leave my mouth fast enough. “There are so many women who have left America – and their husbands – to return to work in Ghana and make a life. It’s not like you’re leaving the country. If he wants to follow you, he can. If not, he can just get an apartment as you suggested. Why should you suffer and lose out on an opportunity just because he’s not comfortable with it?”

Ladder to successWhy indeed? There has been a long standing tradition in just about every culture that expects women to drop everything – to delay their hopes, dreams and ambitions until a man figures out what he wants to do with himself. It is rare that a man has the gall, compassion, fortitude or whatever you want to call it to put his woman’s professional needs above his own…even when she’s the major breadwinner in the family (as it in this case). It’s rare, but it’s not unfathomable or impossible, which is why I don’t understand this dude’s deal! Two women who have trumpeted the unwavering support they have had from their husbands are Ruby Buah, creator of KUA and Tosinger. Can you imagine your wardrobe without a KUA bag, or your playlist without Tosinger’s happy-go-lucky melodies? I mean COME ON!

Ooooh, I’m so furious! Every day I look around me and I see women who have missed out on fabulous opportunities because of the sacrifices they are expected to make for children, family, spouses and mates. It sickens me. What’s even more stomach turning is the amount of vitriol that women who chose to do the very opposite are subjected to. I have a small number of friends and acquaintances who took the brave step to initiate divorce when their mates had become dead weight, and for that they were rewarded with ridicule and scorn (never to their faces, of course). I say bravo to them! A woman’s burdens in this life are far too heavy already to compensate for the failings of a man or his tender feelings on the matter.

TSEEWWWWW…

There is an adage that says “Well behaved women rarely make history”. Let’s do a test. Grab a pen and paper and write down the names five prominent women. Go!

What were their attributes? Would you consider them daring and determined? What kind of obstacles did they face? Did they overcome them by playing meek and subservient, or did they attack and conquer them?

It’s already too late for me, but I’ll be damned if I let another woman live a life of mediocrity without putting my two pesewas inside her palaver. I’m so TIRED of seeing women walking down their individual boulevards of broken dreams, grinning and bearing it because this is what life for a “good woman” is “supposed” to look like.  My dear friend, if you’re reading this: Go for yours. The path to greatness is trodden by few. Don’t let ANYONE stop you from achieving and obtaining what is specially carved out for you!

 

Do you agree women are expected to make sacrifices for the benefit of others? Is it selfish for a woman to consider herself before her family/mate? What would you advise my friend to do in this instance? Better still, what advice would you have for her man? Discuss! ↓

Introducing: Noella Wiyaala. You May Thank Me Now!

The year was 1988. It was a hot day. I know this because we weren’t in the rainy season, and all days outside of the rainy season in Ghana have one temperature: hot.

There we stood; a ragtag mix of children with short-cropped hair, brown and beige uniforms and shoes shined with that wonderful black polish my father kept in his room and that I sniffed in secret pleasure when he was away. He had angrily forbid me from doing this when he walked in on me with my nose buried in the tin. I didn’t understand his ire then, but I do now. How was I to know I was getting high? If he had just told me I was taking myself down the path of becoming a crack head, perhaps I would have stopped. Or perhaps not. That polish DID cause such a calming rush within me…

What was I talking about? Oh yes. The choir.

Perhaps this was only something that was done in my Christ-centered primary school, but there was a fair amount of fakery that took place within its walls. For ages we had a “basketball court” with neither balls nor nets, a “soccer patch” with no grass or goals, and now we had a “school choir” with no real singers. There was an important visitor coming from abroad who was touring our facility, and we were tasked with entertaining them.

I forget the name of my teacher at that time, but by day he was our Technical Drawing teacher and – apparently – a chorus conductor by night. I remember when he selected me to be a part of the small “choir” he’d cobbled together.

“But, sir,” I protested, “I can’t sing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said sternly. He then told me I would sing soprano.

Anyone who’s ever heard my speaking voice knows how absurd this notion is. I have always had a deep voice, and it’s only gotten deeper in adulthood. I wanted to sing tenor, but he forbade it. He instructed me and all the other girls (for ALL girls are sopranos in Ghana’s primary school system) to sing like this. “This” was a horrid imitation of the mewing of a sack full of dying kittens. He demonstrated how he expected us to belt out the words to the hymns approved by our school’s Director. Mr. Technical Drawing waved his pencil (he didn’t have a baton) and sang our phrase with the pitch of a man having the juice squeezed from his balls.

It was awful, but come presentation day, the honored guest clapped her hands in delight and it all seemed worth it.

This is the sort of training female singers in Ghana receive. As a result, we have a bunch of “artistes” who do not sing within their natural range and produce really awful music. We pretend we like it, they keep performing, and society suffers. becca-jesusWith the exception of Becca, Efya and Sena Dagadu, I can’t conceive of a single Ghanaian female artist whom I’d pay money to see, let alone buy an album from. That’s why I’m so blood excited to have been introduced to Noella Wiyaala.

 

 

Just look at her. Isn’t she stunning?

Noella-Wiyaala-3

Her voice, her look, her vibe…it’s all so very refreshing. Everything about her is a departure from the cookie-cutter commercial mold that many Ghanaian women in the music industry try to force themselves into. Just like an alto trying to sing soprano, it just doesn’t work.

I only found out about Wiyaala a week ago via Anita Erskine’s Facebook page. Her story is truly intriguing, and I mean that in every 80’s feel good rise-to-the-top-from-nothing reference possible. She comes from the Upper West region of Ghana, a part of the country which is renowned for its natural splendor, but still mired in abject poverty and social amenities circa 1772.

As legend has it, she asked her mother to allow her to sing in front of a local bar in Tamale where she did so well that a crowd began to gather and give her mother money. Add a trip to the big city, a promoter, a little sprinkle of the internet and the rest is history! If this doesn’t have the makings of a Crush Groove: GH edition, I don’t know what does.

Wiyaala’s latest hit single is an anthem for the Black Stars in commemoration for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. It has all the trappings of the success Shakira enjoyed with Waka Waka: This is Africa. Everything about Wiyaala’s performance of Go Go Black Stars…Goal! is right for the moment. Her look is modern and unique. The track has that thumping quality requisite for an anthem. And that voice! Good heavens.

Have you watched the video? Great. You may thank me now. J

So, What do you think of Wiyaala? Have any stars or causes risen to fame in association with football? (Or soccer for us Yanks) For example, I just learned about the #ProtectTheGoal Campaign that was trending on Twitter recently. It’s a cause to fight HIV/AIDS. Go ahead: Share and Discuss! ↓

Is Marriage The Silver Bullet to Ending Poverty?

There has been an interesting discussion brewing in social media about the benefits of marriage as they relate to “ending poverty”. It’s no mistake that this discussion is taking place now. We’re in an election year and politicians are pandering to their respective bases. Everyone, Democrat or Republican, wants to be seen as serious on the issue of poverty reduction, but as is to be expected, they cannot seem to agree on how to handle it. What’s even more frightening is that they cannot be seen as agreeing on how to tackle the issue. There’s a dirty word in Washington called “bipartisan”, and few politicians want to be called the “b” word.

The Heritage Foundation has termed marriage as “America’s #1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty”, and for good reason. The statistics speak for themselves. Children who live in two parent households are less like to have behavioral problems and perform better in school. One in eight children with two married parents lives below the poverty line compared to the poverty of 65% of children residing in female-headed households. When you have a better foundation to launch from, it gives one the opportunity to build generational wealth. It takes three generations to build wealth: one to generate an idea, the second to perfect its method, and the third to propagate it.

The converse is true as well. A poverty mentality is generational.

Photo courtesy of Black Girls Code

Photo courtesy of Black Girls Code

As it relates to proliferation of childhood poverty, many have argued that this has more to do with the feminization of poverty than it has to do with the benefits of marriage. Women today make 72 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. It is by no mistake that web designers and mechanics out earn daycare workers and teachers, despite the fact that neither job is more taxing than the other. Even in a society as egalitarian as ours (relatively speaking), there has long been a push to bar or discourage women from certain kinds of work or study – including math, science and mechanics – because it’s not considered suitable to their gender. It is only in recent years that there has been a push for STEM programs targeting young girls, especially African American girls, which I find particularly pleasing. No one has been more vilified and demonized for her poverty than the young, single Black mother.

It is well documented that poverty in the Black community was engineered by the American government. At its advent, it was stipulated that in order to get welfare benefits and social assistance, a poor mother had to be single with no male above the age of 18 (i.e. of working age) living in the home. Between 1960 and 1985 when the welfare culture exploded, under/unemployed Black males were driven from their homes to ensure the survival of their children. As a result, Black mothers took on the reluctant role of both mother and father and an entire welfare culture was created. It’s a daunting and humiliating experience. When I found myself pregnant and unwed with my first child, my first foray into the sordid world of welfare was to the WIC office on Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs. It’s as though every person hired in that office was screened for the ability to make a woman feel less than a failure, like she was born to be an intentional drain on society. I’ll never forget a blue and white sign that hung by the exit door that read “Get a job, so that your child will not be the next person on welfare”. I looked around at the young women: college students, retail and fast food workers, and para-professionals like myself, and wondered what they thought of it. For my part, I felt violently ill.

Isn’t it ironic that when a rural farmer applies for a government subsidy, he is not asked to put his wife out of the home to obtain it? Or when the CEOs of the banking and automobile industry went with cap in hand to the government for a bail out, they were not required to break up their families? But the government has no problem separating the families of the poor and colored. Interesting.

And no, we can’t blame this on one party or another. Both Republicans AND Democrats are guilty of the demise of the Black family. They created our nation’s dreaded Welfare Queens and crowned them with food stamps and SNAP cards. I wonder if they are proud.

It’s not often that I get to agree with my hardcore feminist sisters, but in the instance of marriage failing to be the silver bullet to ending poverty, I do. Marriage alone doesn’t end poverty: equality, education and opportunity do. There are many cultures in developing nations where marriage is a priority – the priority in some cases – and their poverty levels are far more abysmal than those of the United States’. If marriage alone could cure poverty, then all my sisters in the Serengeti would be flushed with wealth. After all, they marry them off young and circumcised, don’t they?

The best thing a woman can do for her family is to educate herself, travel, learn new languages and earn an independent income for herself. That is how we will reduce poverty in this nation and the world over. That is how we will build generational wealth…or self-sufficiency at the least.

The truth is we can do our best to manage poverty, but it will never truly be eliminated. Jesus said so Himself.

 

Mark 14:7 “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.”

Don’t believe the hype. Get married if you want to, but unless you’re marrying Ben Bernanke or Oprah, don’t assume for one moment that it’s going to zap all your money woes.

The Making of a Mother

My job as a recruiter demands hours of sitting and staring, dreaming up searching strings and praying that they unearth the candidate(s) that I’m on the hunt for. Oftentimes, a bad string can introduce you to the most unlikely of resumes.

My co-worker Darrin knitted her eyebrows together and with concern, blurted out the title of a resume that showed up in her feed.

“Lactation consultant.”

“Yes. Also known as ‘Nipple Nazis’.”

Darrin threw her head back and laughed wildly. A buxom woman with auburn colored locs and a set of very pretty lips, it’s hard not to join her in laughter.

“Girl, I ain’t never heard that before. ‘Nipple Nazi’, you said? Whooo!”

I nodded and cackled wickedly. Lactation consultants are very passionate about their jobs, I added.

“They can’t wait to get in there and get their hands on your titties.”

“Girl. It’s like they’re waiting outside of the delivery room with their little nursing kit and powder scented gloves!”

“I remember when one of them told me that learning to nurse a child would probably be easier for me if I was in Africa…because I’d have my mother, all my aunts and sister around me to teach me how to do it.”

Shemmice, who sits to the left of me, rolled her eyes and denied that anyone would ever say something so stupid. I promised her that it was said, and that they day they invented a machine to retrieve and record memories I would prove it!

Shemmice’s build is similar to Darrin’s, though she is more conservative in her dress. Instead of a loud, gregarious laugh, she often employs a soft chuckle to show her amusement. She speaks quietly as well, hardly ever raising her voice above an audible whisper.

“They can get pretty aggressive,” Shemmice conceded. “I remember one walked into my room and proceeded to unhook my gown without asking. I put my hand in her face like ‘this’.”

“You face palmed her?” I gasped as Shemmice demonstrated the action with wide-spread fingers.”

“I sure did,” she said quietly. “Didn’t nobody tell her to grab ahold of my titties. You touch me, Imma touch you back.”

Still waters do run deep indeed.

In that moment, something magical happened between the three of us. We were bonded and transported back to a delivery room and date that was most impacting for us. Darrin has one child. Shemmice has three. I have four. All three of us had delivered our children via c-section (which if you’re a Black woman in America is not by coincidence, but that’s a discussion for another day).

“Do you remember the first time you had to stand up after you C?” Darrin asked. She was about to launch into a missive about the pain that comes after the drugs have worn off when I cut her off.

“NO. Let’s talk about that first DUMP you have to take after you C!” I hissed.

We both spread our legs and gripped our cubicle walls.

“I may not have given birth vaginally, but I sure did have a baby out my ass!” Darrin roared. Shemmice joined her in contained laughter while I snorted.

One of these dumps is not like the other...

One of these dumps is not like the other…

“I took a picture of my deuce,” I revealed. When I was asked why, I was shocked. “I had never seen anything like it! It was massive.”

Darrin wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and leaned back in her chair, recounting how her daughter was born.

“I remember I was having contractions, but they weren’t nothing. I was so ready. The nurse came in the room and asked me how I was doing. I told her everything was fine! ‘But you’re having contractions’, she said. I told her yeah, I could feel a little something, but it was like a tickle. It wasn’t so bad. She gave me one of those ‘I hate you’ looks, you know?

Anyway, I ended up having to have a c-section because the baby’s heart rate had dipped down into the 60s. It was supposed to be 120 and above. They rushed me to the surgery room and took her. All I felt was this yanking and tugging…had my titties beating me in my face!”

Shemmice and I nodded knowingly.

“They did the same thing to me,” I said pensively. “Lying on that table is brutal with all the tugging, sucking and pulling.”

“They sewed me up and sealed my wound with glue,” Darrin added. “My doctor doesn’t believe in staples.”

“Same for me,” Shemmice said. “My line is a thin sliver.”

“I had staples,” I added mournfully. “They hurt like hell when they took ‘em out. I have a scar as thick as my pinky finger.”

Darrin and Shemmice were aghast. Using staples was absolutely medieval, as far as they were concerned. Of course, our conversation turned to needles – the epidural, to be precise.

All but one of my epidurals sucked. Darrin’s was a breeze. Shemmice didn’t have time to get an epidural for one of her deliveries.

“What?” Shemmice and I asked in unison. Unbidden, she proceeded to explain.

“I was feeling so sick that day. I asked my man to take me to the hospital and he did. Then I started feeling even worse when I felt like my water had broken. I asked him to take a look and he went almost white when he started yelling for the nurse to come it. I thought my water had broke, but I was hemorrhaging.

The doctor came in with a stack of forms and was yelling at my man ‘It’s him or her. You gotta decide now, now, now!’ They didn’t ask me about procedures or nothing. He signed the paper and they rolled me into a ball. They put four needles down my spine and took me into surgery. Can you imagine that? Six months pregnant and my forehead was touching my knees. I’ve been scared of epidurals ever since!”

I looked at Shemmice quizzically. She had 3 girls. I had never heard her mention a son. I broached my next question gingerly, afraid to hear the answer that I feared I already knew the reply to.

“Did the baby live?”

Shemmice nodded and looked at me with a smile tinged with regret.

“He did. For 17 hours.”

We each grew quite, reflecting on our private thoughts for a good while before returning to the world of Boolean searches and resume formats.

There is a saying that I read a while ago that says “The moment a baby is born, so is a mother.” For some women, connecting with their child begins even earlier, some as quickly as the moment they see a (+) on a home pregnancy test! Some women, by the design of biology or socio-political circumstance will never know the joy and heartache that comes with conceiving and bearing- and yes- possibly losing a child; but as my First Lady says “You don’t have to carry a child under your heart to carry one in your heart”.

Of course, my mind is always turned towards my sisters in Nigeria who will no doubt receive an outpouring of sympathy on this Mother’s Day as they continue to come to terms with reality that their daughters have still not been returned to them. I also mourn with the others who had their sons slaughtered in their sleep in their dormitories when all they wanted was an education and to make their mothers proud.

So today, I join the millions of other people saluting their mothers as I say “Happy Mother’s Day” to you all. They were brought to you from your womb or brought to you in the adoption office, whether they’ve been yours for 30-some years or for a mere 17 hours, they are and will forever be yours.

God bless you mothers!

 

Ghana: What’s the Use of #BringBackOurGirls When We Mistreat Our Women?

Someone copied me on an article written by Ghanaian President John Mahama which was posted on the online version of Ebony magazine. The title is bold, empathetic and pleading:

     Slaughtered Boys, Missing Girls: Who Stands Up for African Children?

I read the article without knowing who the author was. My heart swelled with pride. “The person GETS it!” I thought. Then I scrolled down to the bottom and was immediately stunned by the article’s creator. Ah, ah? John Mahama? How?!

My admiration was immediately transformed into irritation.

I am a mother. I am a civilian. I am politically agnostic, which means unlike my friends who have die-hard political affiliations, I find myself at greater liberty to judge my leadership by their actions, rather than their party colors and slogans. That said, I remain woefully under impressed by John Mahama and his performance as president, no matter how good he looks and smells. (And the brother is SO good looking. Anyway…)

As far as we know, it took John Mahama – who is now the head of ECOWAS – just as long to come out with a statement of solidarity as it took President Jonathan to do the same on the issue of the captured girls from Chibok. That was around three weeks. To his credit, Mr. Mahama seems to be on a serious media blitz to at least appear as though he’s engaged and sympathetic to the plight of not just these students who were snatched from their beds as they slept, but for all African children everywhere.

John Mahama challenges the global apathy towards the plight of African children is the tagline in the Ebony article. How ironic, when he and his party ran on promises built on the backs of children in 2012…promises of free school uniforms (rather than the free education his NPP opponent proposed) that have largely yet to be delivered! Tell me, who cares about African children indeed?

It’s not difficult to understand the molasses-in-January pace that West African governments have taken in rescuing these girls. I mentioned in previous posts that African girls and women – particularly of certain classes – are lowest on the social totem pole. And as egalitarian as Ghanaian society believes and perceives itself to be, we still exhibit behavior that is completely abhorrent in the area of women and children’s rights.

Have you ever been to Cape Coast Castle? It’s a sobering experience. The male dungeons are located deep underground, still dank with the stench of human excrement and fear. The women’s cells however are located above, one of which is located just beneath the governor’s bed chambers. Just outside the women’s cells is a courtyard with 3-4 cannon balls cemented into the stone floor. Guides will tell you how the most “undisciplined” slave women were chained to these balls and made to sit/stand in the sun for hours for their unruly behavior. Twenty minutes in the Ghanaian sun is enough to douse the fire in one’s soul, let alone hours.

It’s ironic therefore, that John Mahama came out with this article raging against global apathy for Africa’s children when Ghanaian women were physically abused for his sake just days before. I read with horror and disgust how a group of nursing students in the Mampong Midwifery and Health Assistants School were punished for carrying placards detailing their grievances during the president’s visit to the locale. The nurses – who have not received their contractual allowances – demonstrated peacefully with the goal of bringing Mr. Mahama’s attention to the fact that they have not been paid for their service. In retaliation, Mohammed Kwadwo Aboasu, MCE of Asante Mampong ordered these women (many of whom are wives and mothers) to kneel in sun for up to 45 minutes because “they had disgraced him and the school”. Then he seized their rice cookers so that they couldn’t prepare their own food, subjecting them to greater out of pocket costs.

Humph.

Are people actually shocked at the behavior of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau when those who claim to operate under the banner of lawfulness and civility treat women in this way? When it becomes a crime to demand wages you were promised? No wonder these militants feel so brazen in their attacks against women and girls when their so-called ‘betters’ behave no differently! A bully is a bully whether he’s armed with a gun or a microphone. At the end of the day, Mohammed Aboasu and Abubakar Shekau are slaves to their ego and soley concerned with exerting their will. The same applies to any man who would abuse power in this way.

So please Mr. President and all those who would compel me to be impressed with his fancy words on international media, let’s see to our own culture and assess our own form of terrorism before we go a-scolding others. Tell your cabinet, local leaders and the nation to treat all us women with respect. Show us by example that you value the lives of women, and not just with words. Or are we to continue to believe that the militants are right, and that a woman can be punished simply for seeking her education and all that goes in tandem with it?

Nursing-Trainees

Act Like a Diplomat, Think Like a Terrorist

Note: I am not a security advisor. If I was, I’d be making hundreds of thousands of dollars on the crisis in Nigeria right now. Terrorism and counter terrorism are big business in the new century. That said, take this post for what it is: my observations and predictions of things to come based on the information available to me, which is of course limited…because I’m just a regular ol’ civilian, not a security advisor.

In my new book ‘Act Like a Diplomat, Think Like a Terrorist: A President’s Guide to Success in West Africa’, I detail how current leaders – and those to come -can use historical trends as a tool to help create a more peaceful and prosperous continent for us all. And to do this, they have no further than to look than at the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.

Imma kill all y'all who mess with Murrika!

Imma kill ANYONE who messes with Murrika!

I know that I have been critical of Mr. Obama in the past because I am fundamentally at odds with much of his liberal agenda, but there is one thing I will NEVER take away from him. And that, folks, is his killer instinct. You see, unlike President Bush, who was extreme in his brand of “cowboy diplomacy”, President Obama is far more subversive. You will never see Mr. Obama coming. One minute you’re sipping sweet tea in your well hidden nomadic compound, and the next minute you’re dead. No warning, no finesse; just dead.

These are the tactics African leaders – particularly in this hour of militant extremism under the false guise of Islam and “carrying out the orders of Allah” – must employ. It is very clear from the response to the kidnapping of the Chibok 234 that West African leaders in general, and the Nigerian government in particular are not serious when it comes to security. They wait for things to come to critical mass and REACT, instead of being proactive in preventing this level of scourge. Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc on the Nigerian people for close to 5 years now, and in all that time, the government hasn’t switched up its tactics. Why? Because they are still conducting warfare like it’s 1999. This is 2014. It’s time to get techy with it.

President Obama has taken a lot of heat for the use of drones in his combat against global terrorism. We will never know the true number of civilian deaths and unintended targets from drone strikes. Have insurgents been hit? Absolutely. But there is no denying that the deaths of these innocents who find themselves in the mix is akin to going under the guillotine to alleviate a migraine. America and the Western world is willing to help Nigerian bring back these girls – whose numbers keep swelling as just this Sunday Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau ordered more girls kidnapped and promised more to come – because they understand that terrorism anywhere is terrorism everywhere. The West has more to gain from West Africa’s stability than it does from its destruction. Where else where they get their cheap chocolate and diamonds from if Boko Haram takes over?

It is unfortunate that ECOWAS or the AU (or whoever is supposed to be presiding over Africa’s security) has not taken these threats seriously. If you see a kid with matches in his hand next to your house, do you wait to see smoke and flames before stopping in his tracks? No! You take his intent and his threat seriously. Abubakar Shekau, a deranged madman and product of forced child marriage, reminds us all that he made his intentions known from the beginning. He not only showed us his matches, but told us all that he planned to set the entire neighborhood on fire. Part of his hour long web rant included this warm and fuzzy edict:

“I am going to marry out any woman who is 12 years old and if she is younger I will marry her out at the age of nine just like how my mother, Aisha, the daughter of Abubakar, was married out to Prophet Mohammad at the age of nine.
You are all in danger, I mean all of you.
I am the one who captured all those girls and will sell all of them. I have a market where I sell human beings because it is God that says I should sell human beings. Yes I will sell women, because I sell women.
I captured and abducted girls in a western school and it became a worrying issue for all of you.
You have forgotten that I have said that it is not only girls’ education I am against; I am against everyone who attends western school. Girls should go and marry, I am repeating it again. Slavery is allowed in my religion and I shall capture people and make them slaves.
Don’t think we are done yet because we are not. We are on our way to Abuja and we shall also visit the south, not to look for Jonathan but to destroy the nation’s refineries.”

So as President Jonathan and his military corps NOW scramble for answers because of a massive, global social media campaign (and thank God for it), we now know they should have been working with leaders in the region to develop an elite tactical force specially trained to deal with this level of insurgency years ago. On the surface, it’s great to look clean cut and show up on Jimmy Kimmel to crack a few jokes, but behind iron doors, you better have your Navy SEALs cranked and ready to go. To the civilian, you must look like a diplomat – but to the terrorists you MUST appear completely unhinged. The job requirements for leading in the 21st require a degree of bipolarism that only President Obama seems to have perfected. The man is the nicest stone cold killer you will ever encounter.

Abubakar Shekau has already said he will sell the girls on “the market”. Now, the first idea people who operate within the boundaries of decency will conjure up is to run to the market to rescue the girls. But if you pause and think like a terrorist, you’ll quickly realize that these girls are nothing more than bait to get as many military forces into a single area and blow them all to smithereens. You can’t send a battalion after Boko Haram. What is needed (in my humble opinion) is a small, agile force of outstanding African men AND women trained in combat and rescue operations. The idea of sending in large coalitions to do this sort of job is obsolete and ineffective. If it sounds like I’m talking about developing our own wing ofThe Expendables, you’re precisely right.

America has offered to send immediate assistance to end this scourge. I don’t know what America will want for its trouble (and they will surely want something in return for their assistance in this crisis), but I hope Nigeria is prepared to pay it. It’s glaringly obvious that this situation is beyond the country’s resources and know-how. I hope that other West African leaders are watching, learning and strategizing. Yes, our people are hungry and desperate for jobs, but jobs are no good when you’re dead.

It’s time for West African leadership to get truly focused on creating both a sense and reality of security for its people, but you can’t do that if your days are consumed with fighting over party slogans and looking for a bump in your ex-gratia/government remittances. However, if the turmoil of 18th century Europe has shown us anything, it have proven that the challenges are many and diverse, but they are not insurmountable if you Act Like a Diplomat, but Think like a…

 

PS: I really don’t have a book coming out by that title. But you might want to write one. Go ahead and use it if you like. My gift. :)

The Honorable Hannah Tetteh (Unintentionally) Explains why Boko Haram Stays Winning

It’s a myth, you know? This whole business about African’s being divided, unable and unwilling to cooperate. That we can’t think beyond ourselves. Who does this myth benefit? Certainly not WE the People. The Myth of African Disconnection only serves those groups and individuals, both foreign and home bred, who seek to dominate over our resources and destroy us as a people.

More than two centuries ago – no longer satisfied with merely taking Africans away from the Slave Coast and shipping them to the New World – our freedom was threatened (and taken) by European invaders. African nations – as a collective – fought for and won their individual independence. It is well documented how revolutionary leaders during the struggle for sub-Saharan independence worked in tandem to provide intelligence, tools and weapons in some cases in the fight against colonial rule.

Today, we face a similar threat from Boko Haram and our leadership corps acts like; looks like; functions like they don’t see it coming!

We the People have been moaning about the lack of intelligence, wit and compassion in our governing bodies for time immeasurable now. I’ve heard friends and family and the country cat asking God anyone else who will listen for “new leaders” for as long as I have been able to understand the basic concepts of politics. “The ones we have now just won’t and don’t cut it!” they say.

That’s actually a misnomer. I have come to a different conclusion. What we need is ‘old leaders’… leaders of the ancient ilk, in fact. In my own native Ghana, many of the social structures that exist now were conceived and developed by the first regime after independence. For almost 40 years, we hardly had a new road built (let alone a library!) as we were caught up in coup d’états and government manufactured food shortages . This is the sort of self-serving leadership Africa has suffered under for decades and we are yet to recover from. But way before that, before there was an Afrifra, a Rawlings or a Limann or the long list of other puppet presidents preceding them and those who are yet to follow, we had rulers who took their sovereign mandate seriously.

These early rulers, some of whom I have only become recently acquainted with, saw the threat of colonial invasion for what is was and gallantly fought against it. Nana Jonkone, whom I just learned about in 2013, was one of such heroes. When the Dutch came to his coastal town of Pokesu to take possession of a fort the German’s had built and abandoned (on donated land), he was understandably hostile to the invasion. With neither enough guns nor military power to repulse the invasion, he sent for military assistance from Nana Prempeh in the Ashanti Kingdom. For the ‘small price’ of one calabash of gold per mercenary, Nana Prempeh sent a contingent of forces down to battle the Dutch. One can imagine that the Dutch did not find it easy to overpower this band of fighters, because the Dutch left and didn’t return until almost 20 years later when they received wind that the Ashanti warriors had left. It was only at that time that they were able to overpower Nana Jonkone who has since disappeared into history.

Now, why do I bring this story up, and what in the name of good gravy does it have to do with modern Africa and Boko Haram? Because, like 17th century colonialism and Islamic militancy (or whatever the politically correct term is), the players have changed but the motivations have remained the same. The who thing reads like a perverse version of a Tolkein tale. Like Saruman cross breeding uruk hai, they are raping with young, frightened girls with the goal of creating the next wave of child soldiers.

Boko Haram, al Qaeda, al-Shabaab and any other Als a-comin’ have made it abundantly clear that they are not playing around with the idea of dominating Africa. They have been left to stew and fester in their poverty, mistrust and disenfranchisement for too long; and now that they have rotted beyond redemption, they are striking ordinary citizens. That’s what a terrorist cell is: a disenfranchised group of people abandoned by its government which is in turn further brainwashed and funded by lawless private entities seeking to take advantage of the same poverty that plagued this group in the first place. It sounds like the plot of a Steven Segal movie, except it’s very real.

The attack on the Girls Government School in Chibok is only the latest in a string of growing attacks. These outbreaks of violence against the ordinary citizenry of Nigeria have largely gone unchecked and underreported for close to five years. In that time, the militants have gotten bolder, more strategic and more cunning. I said it before, but I believe it bears repeating that “peaceful” nations like Ghana must make a real show of their solidarity with Kenya where the Westgate attack took place and with Nigeria where the Chibok 200 have been abducted. Did we not lose our own Kofi Awoonor in the Westgate attack? Do we not see how terrorism anywhere in Africa is terrorism EVERYWHERE in Africa? Yet still, our leaders are sucking their thumbs waiting on…shoot. I don’t know what they are waiting on! I do know our people are looking

I don’t know much about Hannah Tetteh other than she’s the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Ghana and was/is a barrister. She took the brave step of coming onto Twitter to field questions about Ghana’s response to the attack. I say “brave” because Africa’s leaders have been largely silent on the matter and people were swift to swoop in on her timeline to get a reaction.

I swear…this silence reeks of utter apathy. It’s heart breaking, gut-wrenching and soul rending.

han PR

We’re human beings, us Africans, whether the world believes it or not. Like any other human, we want to have confidence that those we have appointed and trusted to guide and care for us actually have that mandate on their agenda. It’s all about the show, and that’s one aspect the Americans understand very clearly. Like the Maori warriors, they know that half of the battle is getting into the mind of the enemy. They have press conferences, they leak articles, they hint (but never reveal fully) that there are plans of doom and destruction coming to their enemies, they bloody get public opinion on their side!

What do we have in West Africa? Excuses.

I don’t know if her twitter handle is personal or official, but on it Hannah Tetteh herself pondered aloud what good it would do to send local forces to Nigeria who do not speak the language nor know the terrain. How? What an excuse in 2014! When I can give you a general description of my house this instant and anyone in the world can find me on Google Earth? So why can’t our soldiers read a 3D map of the area? Google has it! And when 80% of all West Africans speak some sort of pidgin English? Did Nana Jonkone let unfamiliar terrain or a language barrier hinder him from seeking help from Nana Prempeh or the other from giving it? What is she talking about???

hannah geography

But again, I appreciate her coming online to make her position clear, since it most likely mirrors those of her counterparts: and that’s scared. Just straight up afraid! And that’s why Boko Haram stays winning. They are not scared. They are ruthless. They are innovating and reinventing how they do warfare and more importantly, they are motivated to win. What are our collective governments doing? NOW trying to figure how they can share intelligence with each other, hoping that these guys will be kind enough to resort to the regular rules of wartime engagement. SMH.

Have you heard any statements from YOUR government (Nigerian or not) on the crisis? Should Africa do more to assist in this issue and others like it? Should every African nation just shrug and expect to deal with terrorism on its own? Discuss!

#BringBackOurGirls

Why Is it so Hard to Bring Back the Chibok 200?

It’s been 16 days weeks since they were taken at gunpoint. Sixteen WHOLE DAYS. I’ve waited this long to make any remarks about the abduction of the 200+ girls in Chibok, Nigeria, snatched from their dorms as they prepared to take their final exams because I was truly hoping for a different result. With the exception of the military’s blatant lie concerning the rescue of all the students (who in their right mind would do that?), everything has turned out as I privately predicted.

The world has been largely silent.

The Nigerian government has proven itself hapless and hopeless in the face of insurgency.

The girls have been sold off into forced marriages and slavery.

I understand what we’re dealing with here; I really do. We have known for centuries that the Black woman – African women in particular – sit on the bottom of society’s totem pole. Throw a hijab on her and she may as well not exist. What is an African Muslim woman? The stereotypes are set like concrete: She’s uneducated, fit for childbirth and a life of drudgery, the property of her father and eventually her husband. This obviously explains the Nigerian government’s lackadaisical response to this crisis – and make no mistake, it is a crisis now and setting the foundation for several others to come in the near future. Bet on another 12 – 14 years.

I don’t think Africa’s governments as a whole have any clue what we are dealing with. If they did, they would be clamoring to offer military assistance, aid, intelligence and any other support they can muster to bring these girls back, because mark my words – this is just the tip of the iceberg.

young girl is a victim of abductionWhy would a group of men kidnap girls between the ages of 16-18? They are vulnerable, impressionable, and more importantly they are of childbearing age. This crop of insurgents didn’t pack all these girls into a caravan to ferry them to a magical land of joy and plenty. These girls will be raped (if they haven’t been already), the most defiant of them will be made an example of in front of the others, and the children they bear will be used to feed the next wave of Islamic Militant Insurgency and then West Africa is going to have a real pile of crap on its hands.

Unless ECOWAS does something to act NOW.

There should have BEEN aerial surveillance going on in the region from day one. The military should have BEEN mounted up and chased them into the forest to recapture the girls. And there should have BEEN immediate calls for neighboring countries to lend their assistance. But again, we are dealing with impoverished Muslim girls, so authorities thought it would be cute to proclaim that they had ‘rescued’ 40 girls (they escaped), fudge the numbers of the number kidnapped, and hope that we would all go back to watching Berenice on YouTube or Big Brother Africa.

Humph.

These people are not serious.

As anyone who has dealt with children and criminals will tell you, there is one allowance you can never afford these two groups of people: they must never be made to feel as if they can get away with anything.

We’ve seen it in Ghana. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a spate of robberies and murders, particularly surrounding the stealing of cell phones. Since technology is ever developing and evolving, would-be thieves backed off cell phone theft as models would be considered obsolete within the year. But what they learned from that experience is that Ghana’s police structures are weak and its task forces are ill-equipped and under motivated. It emboldened hardened criminals; and now we find ourselves in a juncture in history never seen before. Government officials are being attacked robbed and/or murdered in their own homes. 30 years ago this was unthinkable!

The fact that Goodluck Jonathan and his crew have done so little to curb insurgency in the North has not gone unnoticed.

“Ahhhh…so long as they keep their foolishness in the North, we are okay, eh?”

And then they bombed the very cosmopolitan city of Abuja and killed 88 people. This act of terrorism is but a taste of what Boko Haram is willing to do and WILL continue to do if African forces do not band together and quell this. They are a disease, and like any other sickness it will affect everything that it touches. Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon should never imagine themselves fully sheltered from such a movement. There is a storm brewing. The time for meetings and strategies has long come and gone. It is high time for drastic measures.

All hands must be on board to rescue these girls. One group in particular must be engaged, and that is the Islamic religious leadership. They MUST speak up against this insurgency and others like it. The international media MUST give these voices a stage. These acts of wickedness and barbarism must be condemned by those that profess to share the same “faith”. When insurgents yell “Allah Akbar!”, they must do it with the shameful knowledge that imams all over the world condemn their acts. Western education may be forbidden, but there is no god but the devil that would ever tolerate these rape, murder, terrorization and evil.

I urge every reader to do their part to pressure governments all over the world – in your corner – to quell this unholy revolt and #BringOurGirlsBack . You think they will stop at just 200? Think again.

Of Men and Monkeys: Dani Alves’ Reaction

“I’m tired of talking about/writing about/getting mad about/pondering racism. Sh*t is exhausting. Like fighting…air.” – Denene Millner

My friend Afi asked me to weigh in on the latest and hottest (as of two days ago) racial kerfuffle, but I couldn’t resist quoting Ms. Millner. By the time I’m done writing, someone will have upped the ante on the Racist Games and we’ll be forced to refocus our attention on that. As Denene Millner rightly says, this stuff gets exhausting. Is it so hard to ask people to exhibit some basic courtesy and respect? Just basic ooo! I’m not even talking about the sort required to get you through the afternoon in an Elizabethan Era court; just a simple “How do you do?” would suit the masses, I’m sure.

Anyway, the Racist Games collided with another well known sport: soccer. For those not in the know, soccer is a brutal, vicious sport. Don’t misunderstand me! It’s not the game itself which is as violent as it is its fans. The reports of the number of fights, injuries and deaths at the hands of opposing fans over the decades are beyond count. But what is violence without a sprinkle of xenophobia the garnish it? That’s what gives brutish behavior that certain finesse, that je ne sais quoi, that “oomph”! What would be an appropriate flavor? What would racism taste like? Well in Europe, it appears to have the tang of a banana.

daniThis week, Barcelona and Brazil star Dani Alves – who is of mixed race – took the field for a free kick (or a corner kick, I don’t know which) and was pelted with a myriad of items as he did so. One of those items was a banana. Banana throwing, hooting and screeching to taunt brown and black players in European soccer is very common and has been since the days of Pele. Players of darker skin who find themselves victims of racist jeers react in a myriad of ways, from stoic silence to protesting to officials. I have seen it all, but I have yet to see a reaction as brilliant as the one Alves demonstrated in this latest incident.

When a fan threw a banana on the pitch he walked over, peeled it and took a bite before executing his kick. It was magic. In a show of support, pro soccer players around the world have begun posting smiling pictures of themselves with bananas with the hash tag #WeAreAllMonkeys in accompaniment. I’m certain if you dig hard enough you will find a number of people who take offence with this manner of support, but no one is really checking for them, are we?

#WeAreAllMonkeys

Hmmmm…. Now what exactly do monkeys eat?

What Dani Alves and his colleagues did was show how unimaginative racists really are. These idiots like to trot out tired phrases like “go back to Africa” and “can I see your tail?” when talking to people of African decent or mixed race in an effort to reduce them. All they really succeed in doing is displaying how (barely) educated they truly are. I decided to find out for myself what monkeys eat. Here are the astonishing results:

“Wild monkeys will eat a variety of foods. They eat fruits, leaves, gums and sometimes other monkeys. Insects are also a part of their diet in the wild. Sometimes they will eat blossoms and leafy things to supplement their diet. Ants and termites are a favorite snack of monkeys.”

My goodness! Maybe we all truly ARE monkeys! Let’s name some monkeys in our family tree, shall we?

Jeffery Dahmer ate other human beings, which certainly qualifies him as a monkey since cannibalism, after all, is a monkey-ish trait. There are several women in my office who take psychopathic delight in the perpetual chewing of gum, and let’s not forget the millions of people who nourish their bodies with leaves and fruits on a daily basis! Are you eating a salad right now, aren’t you? You are all monkeys!

I got even more curious about monkeys. Did you know they have complex social structures? Like humans, monkeys practice a variety of mating habits and form family bonds based on tradition. Some are monogamous with their offspring venturing off to form their own nuclear families at the age of maturity. Some are polygamous with one Alpha male leading the troop. Some monkey species are even polyandrous! In that final regard, I consider them far more advanced than their human cousins.

So yeah, we should all hope to be monkeys.

Come on racists. C’mon! Get a grip. The more retarded your behavior, the less chance we have of creating the warp core, or the transporter beam or a bloody time machine. You’re holding humanity back! Don’t be such a bloody primate.