Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

December 8, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
2 Comments

Nigeria in Need

Nigeria in Need

Displaced persons, showing Nigeria in Need, from NIgeria's Daily Post

Displaced persons, showing Nigeria in Need, from Nigeria’s Daily Post

A frightening article in AlJazeera online warns of the situation in northern Nigeria. It says Nigeria is in need. President Buhari is claiming victories against Boko Haram. The article says, “The counterinsurgency has clawed back some territory, but Boko Haram has responded by stepping up guerrilla tactics, ambushing troops and attacking civilians.”

The UN has asked for massive relief money. Seven million people – that’s more than 3% of Nigeria’s population – need help. There’s a 2+ minute video on Newsweek’s website that tells the history of Boko Haram.

The country is mired in a recession. Oil, the major source of government revenue, is still fetching less than $50/barrel, and the Niger Delta insurgency is cutting into that income stream.

So the government doesn’t have the resources to assist all the people displaced or whose crops were destroyed by Boko Haram. They don’t like to see the phrase ‘Nigeria in need.’ But I think they’ll have to come to grips with needing aid. They will also have to be monitored to be sure the aid gets to those who need it.

Abosede George, speaker at Yale

Abosede George, speaker at Yale

Bring Back Our Girls

Abosede George, associate professor of history and Africana studies at Barnard College in New York City, gave a lecture at Yale yesterday.

She “teaches courses in urban history, the history of childhood and youth in Africa, and the study of women, gender, and sexuality in African History. Her book, Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor, and Social Development was published in 2014,” her bio says. And she is working on another book, The Ekopolitan Project, “a digital archive of family history sources on migrant communities in nineteenth- and twentieth century Lagos.”

She spoke about the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. She began with a few references to historical events in Nigeria where women were the activists and organizers. The one you may remember was in 2002 when a group of women from Delta State boarded a Chevron off-shore facility and shut it down for several days.

The photo originally used by the #BBOG campaign was altered to add a tear drop. She said, “The photo drew on already deep-seated feelings about African girls and women.” For 300 years, she said, African women and girls have been shown as abject beings in need of rescue.

Current logo of #BBOG campaign

Current logo of #BBOG campaign

The success of the campaign has brought some resentment in Nigeria, she said. Some people have felt it has given too much attention to one group at the expense of others. Many boys, other girls and adults have been kidnapped.

She sees a parallel with Black Lives Matter. Their campaign puts the focus on people of color. But some believe it ignores others, including the police.

Speaking of Police

And speaking of police, TEAM Westport met with the town’s Chief of Police Foti Koskinas on Tuesday morning. Dan Woog wrote a great piece about him when he was sworn in. I’m using Dan’s picture.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, from Dan Woog's website

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, from Dan Woog’s website

The police chief asked us to tell him our concerns. The first comments and his responses were measured. But the second half hour became fairly intense.

Koskinas is trying to ensure his people are sensitive. Still, he said, some officers would rather stand out in the cold directing traffic than be on patrol and risk stopping the ‘wrong’ person for speeding or texting. They do not want to face the possibility of being accused of racism.

He thought Eric Holder was wrong to defend the black residents and criticize the police after Ferguson. Harold Bailey, our chair, said, “People of color felt exactly the opposite! It was the first time the authorities seemed to understand what the black community has known for a very long time.”

Koskinas didn’t defend the police shootings of unarmed black men. But he said that years ago, most people who wanted to be policemen had been in fights, and knew how to respond with hands. Today, although they are better educated, many have never used their fists. Their first reaction when threatened can be to reach for their gun.

There will be more conversations. He would like to bring his supervisors in to hear us.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, from Dan Woog's website

Cousin Victor in front of the Danforth house

My Grandparents’ House

My cousin Victor sent a photo of the house where our grandparents, named Herman and Louise Danforth, lived. It’s in Danforth, Illinois. Yes, the town was named for our granddad’s grandfather, I believe it was.

We spent a couple of weeks there every summer growing up, often at the same time as the cousins. Today I’m in touch with Victor, who was called Perry growing up. He is the middle of five sons.

I’m also in touch with Louise, of the other family of cousins. I wrote about a visit with Louise and her family in my memoir.

Words Can Be Confusing

This morning I went to PaperSource. I bought birthday cards for my ‘twin’ Alec who was also born on Dec. 13, same year as me, and another ‘twin’ with same day though not year.

The clothing store next door to PaperSource had a sign outside. I glanced at it and read, “Donate a cat and get 10% off your purchase.” I walked on, puzzling over what the store would do with cats. Then I realized it must have said “Donate a coat!”

I went on to the post office to mail the card to Alec who lives in England. Driving home, I saw a license plate that said, “Not Eze.” Eze means king in Igbo.

“Not a king?”  Is it an Igbo who’s proclaiming his non-royal status? Then I caught on – Not easy! Maybe I should find out who has that license plate and explain my confusion!

December 4, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
2 Comments

New US Ambassador for Nigeria

New US Ambassador to Nigeria

New U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria meets President Buhari

The new US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, submitted his credentials to President Buhari on December 1.

You may have recognized his name. I did. His family has been well-known in US Democratic political life for generations.

His grandfather was a Missouri Senator from 1953 to 1976. And his father served in the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years to 1977.

New US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington

New US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington

The article in Premium Times says, “Mr. Symington has a broad background in U.S. policy, with experience supporting peacekeeping missions, democratic transition and consolidation, counter-terrorism, economic development, and public health.”

He is a career diplomat. He has spent several years in Africa and on the Africa desk. He served in Rwanda, Central African Republic, and Djibouti. He was most recently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs.

I found his picture on Wikimedia.

I hope he and his wife Susan enjoy living in Nigeria.

Yale Renaming Committee

You may recall the controversy of the last couple of years about names of residential colleges at Yale University. Calhoun College’s name has been debated for decades. It became a particularly hot point of contention after the Charleston shootings.

John C. Calhoun's name, still at Yale

John C. Calhoun’s name, still at Yale

Should the university continue to retain the name of someone deeply implicated in racist beliefs?

John C. Calhoun was born in South Carolina in 1782. He graduated from Yale in 1804. He returned home to run his family’s plantation while he practiced law. He entered public service, was elected to his state legislature and then to the federal House. He became vice-president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

He was a major defender of slavery. He believed in the rights of states, and he also found the institution valuable for economic reasons.

He didn’t believe that the Africans, or for that matter, native Americans, were in any way equal to white people.

Sent to Committee

After months of extended debate, the Yale President Peter Salovey announced that the name would remain. But that generated more controversy. So he appointed a committee to wrestle with the issue. They were not specifically to settle the Calhoun question. Instead, they were to “articulate principles to guide the University in deciding whether to remove ‘a historical name from a building or other prominent structure or space on campus.’”

Salovey wrote to the Yale Community on Friday to say the committee has issued its report.

He said, “Questions of naming and commemoration raise difficult but important discussions. These are complicated intellectual and moral issues faced by universities and other institutions around the world. From the outset, I have sought for Yale to bring its scholarly resources to bear on this subject of national and international import.”

Yale University Economist Sharon Oster

Yale University Economist Sharon Oster

I was pleased to see that Sharon Oster, my econ professor at the Yale School of Management, was on the committee. She wrote an acclaim ‘blurb’ for my memoir.

I’ve read most of the report. Its twenty-six pages are certainly clear, scholarly, and thoughtful.

I especially liked this paragraph which speaks of the expertise of Yale faculty.

“Scholars of cultures around the world wrote to share with us different ways in which renamings, for good and for ill, have symbolized change. Psychologists shared with us the findings of a literature on the effects of salient stereotypes on academic performance. Linguists brought to our attention the ways in which names can function as signals of affiliation and exclusion. Philosophers drew careful distinctions among ways of remembering.”

I enjoyed reading Section III A, “Renaming around the country and around the world.” Section III, B, 1. which starts on page 12, reviewed Calhoun’s life and achievements.

I was prepared to find nothing of merit. I can’t get over his views on slavery and people of color. However he was a highly respected constitutional scholar.

I loved this sentence. “In particular, and ironically, devices designed by Calhoun to protect the interests of white slaveholders are now deployed as institutional defenses of minority interests against majoritarian tyranny.”

I learned from the report that Calhoun’s name was not used after his death in 1850 because of his views on slavery. But in the 1930’s it was given to the residential college, because, “Ironically, . . . he seemed unlikely to engender controversy among the University’s students, faculty, and alumni. To the extent the name would be able to help draw students from the South, it seemed to hold out the prospect of a certain kind of diversification of the student body.”

As I learned from discussion around The Half Has Never Been Told, the 1930’s was a period when most white Americans – those in charge at Yale and other institutions – did not acknowledge the injustice or horrors of slavery.

Other Challenges

Other institutions of higher learning have also been challenged about names and the legacy of slavery.

I wrote about Georgetown University a few months ago. That institution has been contacting descendents of slaves sold by the university in the 1800’s. They decided to offer admissions priority to these descendents.

They also decided to rename two buildings.

Attucks The School That Opened a City

I just saw the film Attucks The School That Opened a City. produced by Ted Green and Indiana Public Media. Fay Stevenson-Smith showed it for those in our Baker’s Dozen Book Group who could come to her house this afternoon.

This Indianapolis high school proudly took the name Crispus Attucks. Do you remember him? I remember the name but I’ll have to do a little research.

She attended the all-black high school and is interviewed in the film. It’s a powerful story of a community’s response to racism.

Here’s a preview.

I’ll tell you more next time.

December 1, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
8 Comments

Two Untold Stories

Untold Story by Edward Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist, is the book we read for my Baker’s Dozen Book Group, which met tonight. Somehow I got confused. I thought we were reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Turns out The Alchemist is for the Mount Holyoke Book Group next week!

Despite my late start, I was able to read a good part of Baptist’s ‘untold story.’ I listened on my phone at the gym and in the car, and read the Kindle version on my iPad. I found his writing and his ideas compelling.

In the introduction he explains the source of the title. In the 1930’s one way the WPA put people back to work was by hiring writers and students, “to interview older Americans.”

Claude Anderson, an African-American master’s student from Hampton University, interviewed Lorenzo Ivy,  born in slavery in 1850. Ivy had studied at Hampton Institute, taught generations of African-American children, and built his own house in Danville, Virginia where Anderson met him.

Anderson had questions suggested by the WPA. The questions reflected, Baptist said, “a sanitized version of the past into which Lorenzo had been born.” That was what white society expected and wanted. An example: “Did slaves mind being called ‘nigger’?”

Finally Anderson asked a somewhat deeper question: “Did Ivy know if any slaves had been sold here?”

Author Edward Baptist

Author Edward Baptist

Lorenzo said, “They sold slaves here and everywhere. I’ve seen droves of Negroes brought in here on foot going South to be sold. . . They walk ’em here to the railroad and shipped ’em south like cattle.” He poured forth more detail about what he’d seen and how many people were affected.

“Truly, son, the half has never been told,” Lorenzo said.

Reviews of Baptist’s Untold Story

I read two excellent reviews of The Half Has Never Been Told.

Eric Foner in the NY Times Review of Books, said, “Where Baptist breaks new ground is in his emphasis on the centrality of the interstate trade in slaves . . . and his treatment of the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system.”

Indeed, he did describe the movement of many slaves to Louisiana and further west, as land was stolen from the native Americans and sold to white Americans for growing cotton.

“Almost one million slaves, Baptist estimates, were transported to the cotton fields from the Upper South in the decades before the Civil War.”

The Huffington Post reviewer Braden Goyette calls the book, “a gripping read.” He recommends reading it. But for those who can’t, he offered Baptist’s five main points.

The two I found most striking in his summary are

  • The stories we learned about slavery in social studies, which are perpetuated in American white culture, are false. Enslaved people were torn from their families. They were tortured.
  • America’s wealth was built on enslaved labor. This is true of northern and southern wealth. Cotton was the engine that drove the creation of capitalism.

Our Own Comments

Our conversation tonight was engaging as usual.

Fay said the book made her angry at the ignorance our country has shown about slavery. Sonja said the term PTSD – in this case post traumatic slave disorder – is something we have never recognized. But it is real, continuing, and should be acknowledged.

Elizabeth knew Eric Foner, the NY Times reviewer, when she was a grad student. She went to NY City last week to hear him speak at Columbia!

Biafran Untold Story

Flag of Biafra - The Rising Sun

Flag of Biafra – The Rising Sun

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d seen a Call for Papers, or CfP, for the annual Igbo Conference in London. I presented a paper in April 2015 when the conference focused on Igbo Women.

Since 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Biafra’s creation, the conference is called “Legacies of Biafra: Reflections on the Nigeria-Biafra war 50 years on.”

I looked through the list of suggested topics and didn’t see one that seemed to have my name on it! Then I mentioned the conference and topic to my husband. He said, “You know, people have said that I was among the top ten most important people in Biafra. But my story has never been told!”

In the list of topics I found, “The War and its Key Actors.” I have my topic.

As we drove back from Philadelphia after Thanksgiving, he reminded me of the major facts.

Here’s a preview for you of what I’ll say in the abstract I need to submit.

“Biafra was built on the hard work of many individuals. Some were war heroes, some were political leaders, and some were providers of aid. The technical people who worked behind the scenes did not make news and have not appeared in accounts of the conflict.

“Clement Onyemelukwe was Chief Electrical Engineer of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, ECN, in 1967. We lived in the capital Lagos where we’d been married.

In May that year he was called by Eastern Region officials to say he was needed to head the Fuel and Energy Commission. Though secession wasn’t directly mentioned, it was clear that this was part of preparation for an independent country.

“Coal Corporation had been without a general manager for months. Clem would take on management of the corporation as part of his new job. The entire electricity system in the East would be under him.

“When the war started, we were in Enugu and he was handling these two organizations. Soon he was asked to head the civilian Airports Board, with the Air Force general reporting to him. When a Biafran victory seemed likely he was also placed in charge of reconstruction.”

Do you think there’s enough of an untold story? I do.

November 26, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
0 comments

Two Very Different Author Interviews

Author Interview: Catherine Onyemelukwe, an American in Nigeria

Catherine Onyemelukwe, an American in Nigeria

Catherine Onyemelukwe, a white American, went to Nigeria with the Peace Corps in the early 1960s and stayed twenty-four years. Now based in the U.S., Catherine serves on the U.S. Committee for UN Women, She is an activist for racial justice in her community and her Unitarian congregation.

Catherine’s memoir, Nigeria Revisited—My Life and Loves Abroad, kept me turning pages as fast as a good novel. It also showed me a different world. Yet, I found some facets delightfully familiar when Catherine used some of the very persuasion, consensus-building and communication skills I teach, coach and write about.

I wanted to know more, so I asked Catherine for an interview. Her answers to my questions are as interesting as her book.

MEA: In the 1960s, racial tensions in the U. S. were running high. How did you expect your parents to react to the news that you were engaged to a native Nigerian? And how did they react in fact?

Margaret conducted the author interview

Margaret Anderson, blogger, author, consultant

CO: I expected my parents to accept my decision without prejudice, though I admit I was a little worried. But they did! I was grateful. I think they had raised me to feel comfortable living in a different culture and with people of another race, so I wasn’t surprised.

My mother said she had one question – was he Christian? She had taken a class about Nigeria at the University of Cincinnati so knew that half the country was Muslim.

After a few other questions, Margaret asked about cultural differences.

MEA: I have observed that we sometimes cut foreigners more slack than those of our own nationality. We may excuse, as cultural differences, things that would offend us if a fellow American said or did them, even if we don’t know exactly what those foreign cultural differences are. But we may not realize that “offenses” committed by someone of our own nationality can stem from unrecognized intra-national cultural differences such as gender, region or generation.

Did knowing that you and Clem had cultural differences make resolving disagreements easier or harder than if you had married an American?

CO: I think it made it easier. We have tried to talk about cultural differences after a disagreement is resolved, but rarely as we’re getting into the disagreement when emotions are high! But I have to say that he sometimes says I should excuse his behavior because “I’m an African!” I usually laugh!

MEA: So are you saying that, during the disagreement, when emotions are high, there is a subconscious realization of cultural differences that helps you reach that resolution? That you do cut each other more slack?

CO: Yes, for sure.

MEA: Putting the shoe on the other foot, have you ever done something, and Clem said, “I’ll excuse that behavior because you’re an American”?

CO: You’re kidding, right?

Flag of Biafra - The Rising Sun

Flag of Biafra – The Rising Sun

MEA: You lived in the Igbo territory in east Nigeria, the region that became “Biafra” during the civil war. What was hardest about coping with that war?

CO: The uncertainty was the hardest. When the war started many of us on the Biafran side felt fairly certain that we would succeed. For safety, we moved from Lagos to Clem’s village. But after six or eight months living in the village, refugees came into our town of Nanka. I recognized that Biafra was losing territory more quickly than the government was admitting. That and news on VOA and BBC led me to suspect that the news we were hearing from the Biafran government might be embellished.

You can read the whole interview here.

Margaret and I follow each other’s blogs. She’s told me a little about her background and her books. I’ll soon ask to interview her!

And you may read about her again if our proposal for a workshop at the 2017 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly is accepted. She will be the moderator of a conversation between me and Iyabo Obasanjo about West African Customs.

Re-Connecting with Yale Professor, and Another Interview

In 1986, after 24 years living in Nigeria, I came back to the U.S. I’d been accepted at Yale’s School of Organization and Management for my MPPM (Master’s in Public and Private Management) degree.

The school’s name was later shortened to Yale School of Management. The degree is now the MBA, like everyone else’s.

The first professor I met was Dr. Bena Kallick. She taught the IGB – Interpersonal and Group Behaviour – class that was an important part of the first semester curriculum.

Last year I learned that she lived in Westport. I gathered my courage and got in touch. We finally met for lunch last week! We had a wonderful, warm conversation.

I gave her a copy of my memoir. I told her about my second book on Igbo customs and community. My first chapter, about Yale SOM, features the IGB class.

She spoke about her intriguing work in education consulting.

One of her co-authored books is Habits of Mind. Here’s an interview where she explains the habits. She also speaks about other aspects of teaching and learning.

We agreed to get together again in December near our common Dec. 13th birthday!

Family, Fun, and Food

Nkiru and Ikem at the Thanksgiving table

Nkiru and Ikem at the Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving with our daughter Beth and her family was splendid!

Beth cooked all day, with occasional ‘help’ from Ikem!

When we drove into their street around 4:30 pm, grandson Kenechi, home from Cornell, had Ikem in his stroller. He said he’d been asked to get him out of the way for a few minutes!

The candied sweet potatoes and collard greens were my favorites, and maybe the pumpkin pie!

Were you with family? Friends?

November 22, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
2 Comments

Africa Business Conference

Africa at Wharton

Electricity panel at Wharton Africa Business Conference

Electricity panel at Wharton Africa Business Conference, Clem at left end.

On Saturday last week my husband Clem was a featured speaker at Wharton Africa Business Conference. MBA African students put on this conference annually, we learned.

In the morning Clem participated in a panel, “Electricity Infrastructure: How to Bridge the Gaps Sustainably.” Electricity is in short supply in much of Africa, including Nigeria. Many individuals who can afford to, and companies, depend on generators.

Electricity Infrastructure

The panelists for the Africa Business Conference were

  • Moderator: Marcus Watson – Senior Manager, Dalberg Global Development Advisors
  • Chad Larson – Co-Founder & Chief Credit Officer, M-KOPA Solar
  • Femi Akinrebiyo – Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation (IFC)
  • Chinedu Igbokwe – Head of Africa and Middle East Region Energy Storage Development, NEC Energy Solutions, Inc.
  • Pat Bydume – Director, Endeavor Energy
  • Clement Onyemelukwe – Chairman, Colechurch International, and Chairman, KOKO Free Trade Zone.

M-KOPA Solar works in East Africa. The company provide solar panels to consumers. Their customers are among the very poor in rural areas where there is no connection to the electricity grid.

Without the solar panel, the people use kerosene lamps. They may have a battery radio. They pay to recharge their phones. M-KOPA’s solution can save them money.

According to an excellent article on Bloomburg. com last year, “The company’s core innovation has less to do with its physical product than the method it has developed to make it affordable. Kopa means ‘to borrow’ in Swahili, and each system the company sells is in effect a loan of about $165.”

Chad explained in broad strokes what I read in more detail online: “Clients pay $35 upfront and agree to make a daily payment of 45¢ for a year, after which the system is theirs.”

Customers get “a solar panel, two LED bulbs, an LED flashlight, a rechargeable radio, and adaptors for charging a phone. The kit comes with a two-year warranty, and its battery is designed to last at least four years.”

The founders of M-KOPA believe that everyone wins! They are making money, the buyers are able to save money, and the environment is better off.

Labor Intensive Electricity Generation?

Clem spoke about the need to use labor intensive methods for electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. These are suitable for a still-developing country like Nigeria.

He said bringing in foreign companies and consultants to advise on electricity is not beneficial. They want only the latest technology. But the capital intensive solutions are not the best when there is a surplus of labor and a deficit of capital.

Another panelist offered micro-grids as a solution. All the speakers were interesting.

With Dr. Ngozi Onuoha whose sister had read my book!

With Dr. Ngozi Onuoha whose sister had just read my memoir!

My Memoir Nigeria Revisited

The most fun for me came at lunch. Dr. Ngozi Onuoha, an Igbo woman, was sitting to Clem’s right. She was studying his name tag. “The name is familiar to me,” she said. Clem explained that there are two families with the name. Then she saw my name.

“That’s why I know the name. You wrote the book. My sister just finished reading it!” she said. “I’m going to read it next.”

She immediately called her sister. We ‘face-timed’ for a moment, though it was difficult to hear in the crowd. I will get in touch with Ngozi again.

Then we spotted the name Achebe on the next woman’s name tag and found she was the grand-daughter of Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s most famous author.

Koko Free Trade Zone

Clem at podium lecturing on Koko Free Trade Zone at Wharton Africa Business Conference

Clem at podium lecturing on Koko Free Trade Zone at Wharton Africa Business Conference

After lunch Clem gave a lecture on Koko Free Trade Zone, Gateway to the West African Economic Region and the World. He explained the rationale for a free trade zone, the importance of Koko’s location, and the facilities that will be available for industries in the zone.

He said the size of ECOWAS, the Economic Community for West African States, should be appealing to manufacturers. They can also take advantage of Nigeria’s many natural resources.

As our son Chinaku said, he knows his stuff!

He didn’t leave much time for questions, but there were a couple. One person asked how an individual could be involved.

I helped with an answer for the MBA students at Wharton, most of the audience. “Convince the companies you go to after you graduate that Africa is a solid investment opportunity.”

I’d say at least 15% of the Wharton student attendees were Igbo, many more were also Nigerian.

I greeted several of those with Igbo names in Igbo. Only one was able to answer. Most said, “I don’t really speak Igbo!”

Neighborhood Love Notes

Two of you posted comments after I wrote about Neighborhood Love Notes.

Margaret said, “I haven’t heard of Neighborhood Love Notes. Can you give us an example or two?”

A while later Lowell said, “Thanks for ‘Neighborhood Love Notes.’ I realize I saw some of these on the doorsteps in Northampton, MA, a week ago and Julie has seen them here on the Windsor Trail. We had not known what they were. A very positive note in a troubling time.”

I asked Lowell what he’d seen, and instead of answering, he researched! “I googled ‘Neighborhood Love Notes’ and came up with a Facebook page. It has photographs of the Neighborhood Love Notes.”

Do post a comment if you write Neighborhood Love Notes yourself. Tell us where you write them.

Thanksgiving with Family

Ikem helping Mommy make Sunday morning pancakes

Ikem helping Mommy make Sunday morning pancakes

We stayed with our daughter for the Wharton event. Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition in our family. Ikem was helping his mom make the pancakes.

Sunday afternoon I went with Beth, Kelvin, and Ikem to Jumpers, a huge play space for kids.

Ikem with Grandpa and at Jumpers

Ikem with Grandpa and at Jumpers

We’ll go back to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving.

What about you?

Next time I’ll share Margaret Anderson’s interview of me. She is the Persuasion Coach, and blogs at persuasioncoach.com.

November 19, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
4 Comments

Humanitarian Crisis in Northern Nigeria

Child Deaths in Northern Nigeria

For months there have been hints that all is not well in the camps for IDPs – Internally Displaced Persons – in northeast Nigeria. I’ve read bits about the humanitarian crisis.

Humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria

Humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria

The New York Times had an article on Tuesday about the report from Doctors Without Borders that provided stark details about child deaths from starvation.

I might have missed it but Vinnie Ferraro had the news and the link.

This humanitarian crisis is such a major tragedy for Nigeria. It is also a reflection of the government’s being unwilling to acknowledge the situation.

Don’t we all know how difficult it can be to ask for help? At least I know it’s true for me. I’d rather not admit that I’m in distress.

Yet I know it is not shameful to ask for help, for individuals or countries. It is a sign of strength to recognize that you’re not all powerful.

Humanitarian Crisis – Get Help!

It is certainly not a sign of weakness for a country to say it needs help in confronting a disaster like this. But it is necessary to say there is a problem in order to get assistance!

The authorities have denied the havoc caused by Boko Haram for too long.

Neighborhood Love Notes

Have you heard about the “Neighborhood Love Notes?”

Senior Minister Rev. Dr. John Morehouse asked us in his Sunday sermon at The Unitarian Church in Westport to do several things. One was to write “love notes” on the sidewalk with chalk. He explained that people especially in larger cities are doing this. It’s their way to say to people who may be frightened by the election results, “We’re with you.”

To be honest, I had forgotten his call for this action. But on Tuesday I was reminded.

I was searching online for Ashley Horan. Our Intern Minister Lara Fuchs read Ashley’s words about community as her opening words on Sunday. I wanted to use the quotation.

Rev. Ashley Horan, formerly minister in Joliet Illinois

Rev. Ashley Horan, formerly minister in Joliet Illinois

Another Coincidence – a Familiar Place

I didn’t find the quote. But I did find that Ashley is a UU minister. She had been the minister at the UU Church in Joliet, Illinois. And I thought right away of my series of coincidences!

Have you even heard of Joliet? It feels very familiar to me. We used to see the name and even drive through it on our way to Chicago from our home in Normal, Illinois. Or when driving to Chicago from my grandparents’ house in Danforth Illinois (definitely not a place you’ve heard of unless you’re my relative! It has a population of 587. It was 350 when I visited as a child.)

I found Ashley on Twitter where she was tweeting about Neighborhood Love Notes. But I still hadn’t found the words that Lara read.

Onward Toward Greater Connection

So I emailed Lara. I wanted the quotation for closing words for our board meeting on Tuesday. Lara sent me the quotation. I read it for the board. Here it is for you:

“You are enough, you are precious, your work and your life matter, and you are not alone. You are part of a “we,” a great cloud of witnesses living and dead who have insisted that this beautiful, broken world of ours is a blessing worthy of both deep gratitude and fierce protection. Whatever happens tomorrow, our ancestors and our descendants are beckoning us, compelling us to onward toward greater connection, greater compassion, greater commitment to one another and to the earth. Together, we are resilient and resourceful enough to say “yes” to that call, to make it our life’s work in a thousand different ways, knowing that we can do no other than bind ourselves more tightly together, and throw ourselves into the holy work of showing up, again and again, to be part of building that world of which we dream but which we have not yet seen.”

Do you like it? I realized as I read it over that the words about our ancestors and our descendants attracted me. The ‘greater connection . . . greater commitment to one another’ pulled me in.

What Makes Community?

Because I’m writing about belonging in my second book, I’ve been thinking often of what binds people together in community.

kola nuts, a sign of welcome and belonging

Kola nuts, a sign of welcome and belonging

For the closing words at the board meeting I also shared kola nuts. I had nine nuts left over from the Sunday service in Stamford earlier in November.

So I explained to the board that these were for welcoming people. I said kola nuts are a sign of sharing and being in community. I held up one of the nuts and said, “We thank our ancestors. We praise them. We honor those who will follow us.”

I explained the custom of giving a visitor a nut to take home. Then I said in Igbo, “Oji luo uno, o kua ebe o si a bia, When the kola reaches home, it will say where it came from.” The visitor will tell his people how well he was treated by his hosts!

Environmental Care in Nigeria

Buhari was in Morocco for the recent Climate Change conference. He made a commitment for the country.

“In his speech delivered during the opening plenary session, Mr. Buhari pledged that Nigeria would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2030.”

I’d be curious to see what the current greenhouse gas emissions are. Don’t we need to know that to understand what the 20% reduction means? What ministry has responsibility for monitoring this? Hmm – research needed!

November 14, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
Comments Off on Small World Coincidences Abound

Small World Coincidences Abound

Small World Coincidences

As I get older and have more connections, small world coincidences seem more frequent. Do you find this too?

The past week has been overflowing with small world coincidences.

Nick Thiemann photo from Legacy.com. Having him nearby was example of small world coincidences

Nick Thiemann photo from Legacy.com

First – my friend Nick Thiemann who was a lawyer in Westport. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria. My group was Nigeria 4. He was in the Nigeria 12 contingent.

I always thought it was such a coincidence to have another volunteer who had been in Nigeria living nearby, especially someone who knew the Eastern Region of the country.

I concluded my Peace Corps service in June 1964, returned to the U.S. for the summer, and headed back to Nigeria in September. I had a teaching job at the smaller school where I had been a volunteer. But my main reason to return was to get married.

Nick arrived in Nigeria in that same September. He was a community development volunteer. He left Nigeria a year before the civil war.

We saw him now and then in Westport. He loved to use his Igbo words with us.

When Peter Hansen and I were establishing Friends of Nigeria a couple of decades ago, Nick helped us with our nonprofit registration. He served for a time on the board of Friends of Nigeria.

Nick died in late October. Clem and I went to the funeral home to speak to his wife and son. They said he had loved his Peace Corps experience. I’d never met the son but he knew who I was right away when I said my name.

Nick at end of his Peace Corps service

Nick at end of his Peace Corps service. Can you find him?

I searched among the many photos until I found one of Nick’s Peace Corps days. He was with village elders in Orlu who were thanking him for his service.

Seeing the photo felt familiar. I could so easily imagine the scene when it was taken!

I only have the iPhone photo I took. It’s hard to see him – just look for the one white guy in the center!

And Other Small World Coincidences

We had dinner Friday night with Stephanie Newell, in New Haven. I met her last month.

Small world coincidences started with her writing a book about the English novelist who lived in Onitsha from 1905 until his death in 1939. Clem wanted to meet her. Thus the dinner.

You may remember what I wrote last month: “In The Forger’s Tale: The Search for Odeziaku Stephanie Newell charts the story of the English novelist and poet John Moray Stuart-Young (1881-1939) as he traveled from the slums of Manchester to West Africa in order to escape the homophobic prejudices of late-Victorian society.”

The Forger's Tale by Stephanie Newell

The Forger’s Tale by Stephanie Newell

Steph and Clem shared bits of information about the man. Clem told Steph that he had seen a place called Alhambra, all underground, that Stuart-Young was building. She didn’t know about that.

She spent a lot of time in Nigeria between 1996 and 2006 when her book was published.

More Coincidences

During one of her times in Nigeria she gave a talk to the Nigerwives group in Ibadan. I surprised her by telling her I was a founder of Nigerwives! Small world coincidence #2.

And #3? We talked about the SOAS Igbo Women’s Conference in 2015, where I presented a paper. She had heard wonderful reports about that event. She hadn’t been able to attend and was surprised to learn I had been there.

I said, “I’ve seen a CfP (Call for Papers) for another Igbo Conference in April 2017. The theme is Legacies of Biafra: Reflections on the Nigeria – Biafra Conflict 50 Years On.”

“But I’m having trouble with a topic,” I said. She strongly recommended submitting a proposal. As we spoke about the theme, she said, “They will like something unusual. You were there on the ground. You have a lot to tell.”

Clem said he was one of the top ten people involved in running Biafra. So I can tell his story and mine!

I asked if she knew the blog where I’d found the info. She surprised me by saying it was started by her students! So four small world coincidences over one dinner in New Haven!

Boko Haram Update

There is almost daily news about Boko Haram. Recently it has been a little discouraging. But it’s better than no news!

Punch newspaper photo of Col. Ali receiving award for bravery

Punch newspaper photo of Col. Ali receiving award for bravery

A few days ago Lt. Col. Muhammad Abu Ali, “described as a gallant, battle tested and trusted patriotic soldier of the Nigerian Army,” was killed.

The news report said he and four other soldiers died. They were attempting to capture the town of Mallam Fatori in Bornu.

“He served the nation with unwavering commitment and dedication, paying the ultimate price so that millions can sleep on their beds in peace,” the statement from Lafiya Dole, the Theatre Command Centre of Operation, in Maiduguri, said.

He had been honored for his bravery and commitment.

Patience?

In another recent article Vanguard reported that the Defence Minister is asking Nigerians for patience. For the people in the area it must be very hard to be patient!

Economic Distress Takes Many Forms

There was news that part of the expressway around Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (Nigeria’s Washington DC) was in darkness as night fell.

Thieves took electric cables worth millions of Naira. 

The article, also in Punch online, said that, “the  FCT [Federal Capital Territory] minister, Malam Muhammad  Bello, who visited the scene, reiterated the resolve of the FCT Administration to take stern measures against vandals, stressing that the government would not condone the wanton destruction of public infrastructure and utilities.”

Of course they don’t condone it. But can they catch the thieves?

How did the vandals manage to do this? Was there no electricity running through those cables? Stay tuned!

November 10, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
3 Comments

Were You Surprised on Tuesday?

Surprised and Disappointed

I was completely surprised on Tuesday night! Hard to believe how wrong the polls were.

Jim Himes at Democratic Hdqtrs in Westport Tues afternoon

Jim Himes and me at Democratic Hdqtrs in Westport Tuesday afternoon

What about you?

I was also disappointed. On Tuesday afternoon I had volunteered at the Westport Democratic Headquarters.

My assignment was to call registered Democrats to ask if they’d voted and remind them if they hadn’t.

I had to check a box for each call. ‘Already voted’, ‘Plans to vote,’ are a couple of choices. Others were ‘Not home,’ ‘Refused/hung up,’ ‘Wrong number.’

I made more than 100 calls. I reached 8 or 9 people. One man had difficulty hearing me. I finally shouted, “Are you voting today?”

“I ain’t votin’ for no one. They’re all stupid. F. . . ’em all!” he said. I clicked the box for ‘refused,’ took a deep breath and moved on. I wonder if he was surprised on Tuesday.

Voted for Roosevelt

Later I reached a woman whose profile said she was 93. She said, “Of course I voted. I voted for Hillary.”

I thanked her. Then she said, “I’m 94. I’ve voted every time since I first voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

I didn’t ask which year. Roosevelt was elected four times. But I figure if she’s now 94, she was born in 1922. She would have been 21 by 1943, so she must have voted when he ran for a 4th term in 1944!

Jim Himes

Himes being interviewed. He was re-elected so wasn't surprised on Tuesday.

Himes being interviewed. He was re-elected so wasn’t surprised on Tuesday.

Jim Himes, the Congressman from Connecticut’s 4th District, came by.

The atmosphere was upbeat. I was optimistic, like everyone else there. A couple of people reminded me to stop by later for the party.

Jim Himes was re-elected. But I doubt if there was a party.

Africa in Words

I follow the blog Africainwords. (Take it apart and you’ll see the name – it took me a few times!)

Often there is a book review; sometimes there are calls for papers. That’s where I found the conference on Igbo women in 2015 in London. I submitted an abstract on Igbo widowhood and inheritance.

I was thrilled to have my paper accepted. I read it as part of a panel at the conference.

A few days ago I saw another call for papers for the Igbo conference, this time not just on women. “Legacies of Biafra: Reflections on the Nigeria-Biafra war 50 years on” is the theme. The organisers (not a spelling error; it’s British) list twelve suggested topics.

There is none that says, Pick Me! But I could probably make something work. I did live in Biafra from the time of the declaration of independence May 1967 to Sept. 1968. The war ended in January 1970. So I was there for half of it!

Deadline is end of December.

These days I try to go to conferences only if I’m presenting, so I need to think hard. If you’ve read my memoir, look at the suggestions in the list and help me decide!

Travel anthology on Nigerians

New travel anthology Route 234

Today Africainwords had an enticing review of the new book, Route 234 An Anthology of Nigerian Travel Writing. Jade Lee who wrote the review says, “The anthology is varied enough to cater to a broad audience but, for me, the stand out pieces were those that incorporated broad social observations with meaningful personal interactions.”

One author talks about living in Amsterdam.

She finds the Dutch attention to time management alienating. How can one live, the writer asks, “where you have to schedule weeks ahead to have a dinner date with a friend?” So contrary to Nigerian life!

Another author writes about meeting a European woman who organizes cultural ventures in East Africa. Seeing the (I assume) Masai women dress up to dance for tourists is jolting, she says. She asks whether a white woman should be in charge of this event.

Lee concludes her review, “For me, the strength of Route 234 lies in its ability to re-centre the travel narrative in different places with different points of view whilst maintaining a nuanced and, ultimately, humane attitude to other peoples and cultures.”

I would have said that I don’t like travel writing or short stories, but this book might change my mind. And I love the name, Route 234. Do you know the significance of the title ‘234?’

The reviewer Jade Lee who discovered book by female colonial officer

The reviewer Jade Lee who discovered book by female colonial officer

Female Colonial Officer

But the most fascinating item was about the reviewer’s PhD thesis.

As part of her studies at SOAS, “Jade undertook archival research which led to the discovery of an unpublished book by a female Colonial Officer serving in what was then the British Cameroons. This formed the genesis of her PhD which is entitled ‘Women of the British Colonial Service: Contested Identities and Liminal Lives, 1936 – 1961.’

I’ll have to look up ‘liminal.’ Does it mean limited?

President Buhari and Trump

Many world leaders have congratulated Trump on his victory.

President Buhari was among them.

“President Buhari in a statement by a media aide, Femi Adesina, congratulated Mr. Trump, saying he ‘looks forward to working together with President-elect Trump, . . . including cooperation on many shared foreign policy priorities, such as the fight against terrorism, peace and security, economic growth, democracy and good governance.’”

I like the way Buhari’s name comes before Obama’s in this headline.

President Buhari, Barack Obama Congratulate Trump on His Victory

Belated Halloween Picture 

Grandchildren Teya and Bruche on Halloween

Grandchildren Teya and Bruche on Halloween in California

Our grandchildren Teya and Bruche had an American Halloween this year. Sam’s wife Onome is in California studying for her Master’s degree in Human Resources.

Teya, age 7, was a movie star – perfect for her! She is an amazing dancer with a real sense of drama!

Bruche was Spiderman. Perfect for an active 5-year old boy. I wonder if they’ve finished their candy yet; maybe we’ll find out if we talk to them this weekend.

Reminds me that I spent the year 1975-76 in California for my MEd. I had the 3 kids, ages 9, 7, and 3 with me. What did we do for Halloween?

November 6, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
4 Comments

Guy Fawkes Day is Celebrated

Guy Fawkes Day 

An image of Guy Fawkes from The Telegraph, UK

An image of Guy Fawkes from The Telegraph, UK

I had forgotten, despite the chant, “Remember, remember the 5th of November!”

I first learned about Guy Fawkes from my children. When they were at St. Saviour’s School in Lagos, Nigeria, they were introduced to Guy Fawkes Day.

Do you know this holiday?

Guy Fawkes Day is also known as the Bonfire Day or the Gunpowder Plot. It’s celebrated in the UK with fireworks.

Professor Vinnie Ferraro reminded me in his blog yesterday.

“Guy Fawkes was a Catholic dissident who . . . conspired to blow up King James I during the opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605.”

His plot was foiled. So the day of his failed conspiracy is celebrated.

The Anglican religion was still fairly new. Catholics like Guy Fawkes wanted to bring Catholicism back to England. They hoped to bring about the change by killing the king, installing his daughter on the throne, and marrying her to a Catholic.

Solar Power in Africa

Most of Africa is plagued by the lack of reliable electricity. So I was interested when I saw a Twitter reference to solar power posted by Inventiveafrica.

The writer of the article about using solar power in Africa says, “Wherever you are in the world, solar technology is only affordable for certain social groups. It is a long term investment that some simply can not afford.

But, he says, there are organizations finding ways to make it affordable. One is ‘pay-as-you-go’ where payments are in small increments, eventually leading to ownership of the panels.

Another is a town uniting to purchase panels for schools. But then there is the problem of security.

“One company has come up with an easy way to pack solar panels away at the end of the day when school closes, to prevent thieves (heartless thieves!) from coming at night and pinching them,” he says.

The SolarTurtle solution is a simple, scalable and secure solar battery charging system housed in a shipping container.” It gets unlocked for use each day.

Tortoise as in lessons from Africa

Giant African spur tortoise, from Sun UK

But it must be stored. So, “At the end of the day, the solar panels can be folded away back inside the container for night time protection (just like a turtle hides away in its shell to sleep).”

Synchronicity, or Coincidences

I’m smiling as I write this. Why? The turtle!

This morning I gave the sermon and a “Story for All Ages” at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Stamford Connecticut.

I’ll tell you about the sermon in a minute. My story was about the tortoise, or turtle, and the birds. I took it from Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Here’s the very short version: The tortoise begged the birds to take him along to a feast in the sky. They loaned him feathers so he could fly to the feast. Then he ate most of the food.

The birds took their feathers back. He had to jump from the sky.

His fall broke his shell – that’s why the tortoise doesn’t have a smooth shell!

After the Story for All Ages about the tortoise, I demonstrated blessing kola!

After the Story for All Ages about the tortoise, I demonstrated blessing kola!

The sense of belonging was the topic of my “Morning Message” today. I used words from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as a theme. He said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we shall all perish as fools!”

I gave this sermon last summer in my Westport congregation.  You can read it here. I changed it a little for Stamford.

And it is somewhat similar to the responses I gave to Rural Reporters who interviewed me recently.

Rural Reporters

An editor from Rural Reporters asked if she could interview me for her paper. I was happy to oblige. The story came out on Saturday!

If you’ve read my memoir, you already know the answers to some of her questions.

If not, maybe it will make you buy the book!

Catherine Onyemelukwe: Nigerian Culture Gave Me a Sense of Belonging

Will the Tragedy Never End?

There is continued news of the tragedy created by Boko Haram. Some areas are being retaken by the military. Civilians are returning. But with their farms destroyed and no seeds to plant, people are still desperate.

Then there are the women in refugee centers. Human Rights Watch issued a report on October 31.

It was picked up by PBS who wrote about it in The Rundown, a blog of News and Insight. They said, “The Human Rights Watch report documented stories from 43 women and girls in seven Nigerian camps who said they were raped or sexually exploited by the guards and officials assigned to protect them.”

One 25-year old woman from Dikwa accepted a marriage proposal from a man who had access to supplies. She knew no other way to feed herself and her 3 children. When she became pregnant the man disappeared.

She said, “If I have a gun, I will shoot him. It is because of him that people call me and my babies names. I am so ashamed that I cannot participate in camp activities and keep to myself because of the jeers.”

Thieves of State by Sarah Chayes

Thieves of State by Sarah Chayes

Disappointment in Government

I’m reading Sarah Chayes’ book Thieves of State which describes how groups like the Taliban are able to attract followers.

She is writing about Afghanistan and corruption. Because people are disgusted with government’s corrupt practices, they may see the Taliban as the only alternative.

But her comments could equally apply to mistreatment by soldiers and others in power. Where do people turn when those in authority can’t be trusted?

November 2, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
Comments Off on Feminist and Feminine – We Can Be Both

Feminist and Feminine – We Can Be Both

Feminist and Feminine

Chimamanda is making ads for Boots No7 make-up. I like her combination of feminist and feminine.

The Americans may not be familiar with Boots. I know the product and the stores from the UK.

Boots was started in 1849, I learned on Wikipedia. Two years ago it became part of Walgreens.

Boots stores are like a slightly upscale CVS. Their shops are usually on the “high street,” Wikipedia says. Do you know that phrase?

My local CVS drugstore carried Boots products three years ago, for about a year. Then they disappeared. That must have been when Walgreens bought Boots.

Feminist and feminine Boots make-up

Feminist and feminine Boots make-up

Walgreens says on their website, “No7 is the UK’s #1 beauty brand.* Launched in 1935, No7 has been rewriting beauty history for over 80 years with the mission of helping women look and feel their best every day.”

And I love Chimamanda’s ad. She makes every word count. She talks about herself and about women, not about the product!

Aisha Ayoade wrote the blog post in Brittle Paper where I found Chimamanda’s ad.

She said, “You typically don’t look to a make-up ads or beauty campaigns to tell you something meaningful about feminism. Maybe that’s what’s different about this one. Adichie sends out a clear and unequivocally political message about feminism in her Boots Campaign. The premise of the ad is simple: it’s okay to be feminist and feminine.”

I’ll check out Boots products at the Walgreens in Westport.

The Pull of Community

I’m writing about West African, specifically Igbo, customs, as I’ve told you. I’m giving the sermon at the Unitarian Congregation in Stamford, Connecticut, this Sunday on the topic.

kola nuts

I’ll use kola nuts like these on Sunday

I ordered kola nuts online (why not?). They’ll be here tomorrow. I want to bless the kola nuts at the service on Sunday. Kola nuts are such a wonderful sign of welcome and community in Nigeria.

I’ve submitted the proposal from three of us – Iyabo Obasanjo, Margaret Anderson, and me – for a workshop, Living in Community: Lessons from West Africa, for the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in June.

I had new insight about belonging and living in community in the last few days from a novel!

People Captured by Native Americans or Indians

I just finished the amazing novel, News of the World, by Paulette Jiles.

Paulette Jiles' novel about a girl captured by Kiowa Indians

Paulette Jiles’ novel about a girl captured by Kiowa Indians

The story is about a young girl, an elderly man, and the bond they form.

Captain Kidd is an itinerant news reader.

The summary on Amazon says, “In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.”

I started listening as we drove to and from Ithaca to visit our grandson Kenechi. I finished it yesterday and was sorry it ended!

The girl resists being taken away by a strange man who doesn’t speak her Kiowa language.

Captain Kidd reflects on white people, mostly children, who were captured by Indians and didn’t want to return to their homes, families or communities. They believed they belonged with their ‘adoptive’ Indian families.

At the end the author names a book to read for more information on these people. I’ve ordered it. It’s called The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier. 

I've ordered this book; should be very interesting to read.

I’ve ordered this book; should be very interesting to read.

The author is Scott Zesch

You can read more about the novel on Amazon, or on the Goodreads website. I encourage you to read the book and tell me what you think.

Bananas or Oil – What a Choice!

The Guardian had a funny and perceptive article about the Nigerian economy and its problems.

The author of the article, Feyi Fawehinmi, asks, Do people want bananas? More specifically, do they want to grow bananas?

Maybe not, he says.

Even though the government has made a mantra of diversification recently, people suffer from what he calls the Dutch Disease. His description: “when a country starts exporting natural resources, foreign exchange starts to flow heavily into its economy. . . it becomes easier and cheaper to just import stuff than to produce them locally.”

The result is that local industry fails. Agriculture likewise is neglected in part because of the “psychological Dutch Disease,” he says. Oil production seems so easy, once the original investment has been made.

To make money from bananas on the other hand, “you have to harvest them while they are green, then wash them. They also have to be shipped at exactly 14 degrees centigrade in special refrigerated ships to stop them from ripening during the journey. Timing is so important so that they start to ripen as they get to the supermarket.”

He concludes, “after all this wahala and hard work, a banana costs only 18 pence (less than N100) at a Tesco supermarket in the UK. If you’ve once enjoyed oil money, one way or the other, you are going to look at this banana business and conclude there must be easier ways to make money in life.”

Banana trees from Andreas

Banana trees, photo from Andreas Fytoria

Oil is too easy, and oil money, even at $40 a barrel, still makes a profit.

Of course what he doesn’t say is that only a few individuals are fortunate to own oil concessions. The government gets most of the revenue from oil whether at $100 or $40 a barrel.

Most of us have to do the equivalent of growing bananas to earn a living!