Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

January 21, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Finding My Way in Nigeria

Finding My Way in Nigeria

From my first days in Nigeria, I knew I had to depend on others for help in finding my way.

My school’s headmaster gave me the address of the apartment where I would live. It was 25 Glover Road.

Honda 50 like the one Roger had in Lagos

Honda 50 like the one Roger had in Lagos

Roger, my friend and Peace Corps colleague, drove me up and down Glover Road on his Honda 50 motorbike. It was near the Peace Corps Rest House where we were staying. We found a few other numbers. But no sign of number 25.

After the headmaster described the location Roger and I went back. We found the building. It was near the entrance of Ikoyi Hotel where the Hausa traders sold their wares. The major road into Ikoyi, Kingsway, was the nearest intersection. I moved into a second floor apartment a couple of weeks later and lived there happily for the duration of my Peace Corps service.

In that apartment I first served palm wine to my future husband Clem. It was my second meeting with him. When he came to the door with a mutual friend I didn’t recognize him.

My first meeting with him had been a near disaster. I had been summoned to the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria’s headquarters. The memo I received said the ECN staff had come to inspect my electricity usage. I hadn’t been home. So I had to report to the Chief Electrical Engineer. I was annoyed.

Wedding photo as it appeared in Life Magazine, Jan. 1965.

Wedding photo as it appeared in Life Magazine, Jan. 1965.

But I liked him when he visited my apartment. I got interested after attending a party at his house. I later learned the party had been organized on my behalf! We were married 14 months later.

Finding the Obi’s House

During our Christmas holidays in Nigeria, we went to Onitsha to meet the Obi, as I wrote about last time. We had an address for his house. We drove up and down the road we thought was the right one. We found numbers close to his, but the one we sought wasn’t there.

We asked several people and got conflicting directions. The final person we asked, when we were getting late and desperate, pointed us to a side street. With no street signs, we had been on the wrong road. There we found the house!

Driving to Nnewi

On January 1st we visited Clem’s friend from secondary school days, Dr. Dozie Ikedife. He lives in Nnewi, about an hour and a half from our town of Nanka. Our driver Hyacinth kind of knew the way, as did Clem.

Driving through the town of Nnew

Driving through the town of Nnewi

But at an intersection in a town along the way neither was sure of the road. There was no sign to indicate the way. So Hyacinth got into the intersection, leaned out of the window of our car, and shouted to a passing driver, “O uzo Nnewi? Is this the road to Nnewi?” He pointed to the left, which he thought was our road.

The driver shouted back, “O nya. It’s the way.” So he continued his turn and we reached Nnewi half an hour later.

Two Conference Proposals Accepted

I am thrilled that two proposals I submitted for upcoming conferences have been accepted.

SOAS Legacies of Biafra 

Flag of Biafra - The Rising Sun

Flag of Biafra – The Rising Sun

The first is for a conference, Legacies of Biafra, honoring the creation of Biafra 50 years ago. It is at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, in London in April. I will talk about my husband’s role in the break-away republic. Here is part of what I wrote in the abstract.

Powering Biafra, One Key Actor

The dream of Biafra was built on the hard work of many individuals. The war heroes and political leaders are known; their stories have been written. The technical people who worked behind the scenes are not known and their stories haven’t been told. I relate the story of one key actor.

Clement Onyemelukwe was Chief Electrical Engineer of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, ECN, in 1967. We lived in Lagos. In May he received call to say he was needed in the Eastern Region, as it was then called. Though secession wasn’t directly mentioned, it was clear that this was part of preparation for an independent country.

We left Lagos for Enugu where he led the Fuel and Energy Commission overseeing the Coal Corporation and the electricity sector. He was responsible for the power that kept Biafra alive. The capital, Enugu, depended on the energy from Oji Power Station, run with the Coal Corporation’s output.

When Enugu was about to fall, he oversaw the move of workshops to safe locations. He sourced power from a different generating station. He also installed new generation to supply the needs of war.

Yale African Literature Conference

The second is for the 2017 African Literature Association annual conference at Yale in June. The theme is Transnational Connections.

Nigerwives: A Major Transnational Connection

Nigerwives was founded in 1979 by three women. I was one. Nigerwives has become a fixture of life in Nigeria with branches in the major cities. There are also branches in the UK and the US. It continues to serve its mission of helping foreign wives integrate in Nigerian society.

Nigerwives is a clear source of transnational connections for Nigerians. The wives of Nigerian men come from England and the rest of UK, the US, Jamaica, Iceland, Russia, Japan, Sierra Leone and many other countries.

Although the custom of marriage being between two families is less dominant in the home countries and societies of most Nigerwives, nevertheless the families of these wives are affected by the marriages of their daughters, sisters, cousins, and aunts.

2017 Inauguration and Women’s March

Did you watch one or both? Did you go?

January 18, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
1 Comment

Nigeria Tragedy and Traffic

Bomb Falls at Refugee Camp

The New York Times had a story yesterday about a bombing at a Nigerian refugee camp that killed dozens of people, including aid workers. Tragic! Click on the picture to read the story.

President Buhari has apologized. He said it was an error. But how terrible for the families who had already been displaced from their homes, now to lose loved ones in a military event meant to defeat Boko Haram.

Lagos Traffic

You wouldn’t believe the traffic in Nigeria. People insist that their drivers act like they own the road.

Even on the expressways! I remember being excited when the first expressway, between Lagos and Ibadan, opened years ago. It was a joy to drive on the first couple of times. Then many of us drove ourselves, instead of relying on drivers as we do now. It was somewhat orderly.

Benin-Ore-Lagos Road, From Investigative Centre for International Reporting

Benin-Ore-Lagos Road, From Investigative Centre for International Reporting

Today drivers do not stay in lanes. They weave in and out looking for the best way to get ahead. Occasionally cars or buses are stopped, even on expressways, to pick up or discharge passengers.

But the most challenging is on the expressways where the road is damaged with massive potholes. Or the road may be torn up for construction, or there has been an accident that blocks the road. Then the drivers all go to the other side, into oncoming traffic.

Once in a while there will be a sign for a diversion, but often there is no sign. And you often find vehicles coming at you on your own side.

Tanker on Fire

We were returning from Nanka on Jan. 6. We were on the Benin bye-pass to avoid going through the city. Cars were coming at us. A passing driver told us that the road was blocked by an accident and we should divert. So we turned around and followed the traffic through Benin.

Tanker on fire, being directed by self-appointed traffic director

Tanker on fire. We were being directed by self-appointed traffic director

This allowed us to pass the University of Benin, our older son’s Alma Mater, which I always love to see.

We finally got back on the expressway. Twenty minutes later I saw a column of black smoke a couple of miles ahead. There was a dense line of cars, so we went to the other side as others were doing. Again there was a line of traffic stretching in front of us for at least half a mile. Soon we could see a blazing tanker in the southbound lane where we should have been.

Drivers were trying to pass the standing vehicles, so instead of just one lane, we took up all the space. There were at least five lanes in what should be two, although they weren’t actually lanes, just masses of vehicles. Oncoming traffic could not get through.

Fortunately we were a three-car convoy. Chinaku had hired a security firm to give us protection on the road. Clem and I were in their car, driven by Bode and piloted by Emmanuel. Hyacinth and John, Chinaku’s drivers, were in our own car with our nephew Edozie and our cook Nathaniel. We were led by a police vehicle, part of the security detail, with flashing lights.

Our convoy negotiated our way toward the front of the line, cutting in between the other vehicles. A couple of self-appointed traffic directors waved us forward. They cleared a path. Then they told us to get back on our own southbound side where the burning vehicle was. “Don’t stop. Go fast!” they said. We didn’t hesitate!

I searched Google for a report on the tanker fire. But there are so many tanker fires and other accidents that this one didn’t even make the Nigerian news.

To the Airport

Two days later Clem and I went with both drivers, John who was driving, and Hyacinth, to Murtalla Muhammed Airport. We had hoped to leave at 7:15 pm for my midnight flight. But it was nearly 8 when we departed.

Clem told the driver to pick up speed as we were leaving Victoria Island. John wove in and out of lanes on the approach roads and on the expressway to the airport. We turned off onto the airport road. Five minutes later we hit the airport traffic jam.

The two lanes became 3, then 4, then 5. We were driving on the shoulder bumping through gullies and ruts. When we reached an obstacle blocking the shoulder John nosed into lane 4, then back onto the shoulder, even going around other cars also on the shoulder.

Clem on right with our driver Hyacinth at Shoprite Mall in Lagos

Clem on right with our driver Hyacinth at Shoprite Mall in Lagos, before Christmas

From 1/2 mile out, we began seeing the ‘helpers’ who appear with trolleys, ready to help passengers get to their flights. I resisted hiring one. So did Hyacinth, who said it was “too far for Madam to trek.” We kept inching forward with John doing an excellent job of changing lanes for any advantage.

We passed an airport parking lot. A few cars were entering, whether to try and park or to find an exit further ahead, I couldn’t tell. But soon after that the road narrowed. The traffic got into one lane, then quickly expanded again into two. We were 500 yards from the airport entrance and at a standstill. It was nearly 9 pm.

Hyacinth called to a trolley operator who was passing, looking for customers. We got my luggage out and loaded on his trolley. He started off with Hyacinth, Clem and me following. I asked his name. “Frank,” he said. “I will take you in at the Arrivals entrance. Departures is too crowded.”

There was a guard at the Arrivals entrance. His job was to keep people from entering. But he waved us thru after Frank gave him a small gift. Inside Frank led us to the elevator. After another small gift to the elevator guard, we were whisked up to the Departures Hall. I was early for my flight!

January 13, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

New Year and A Traditional Ruler

Happy New Year!

Welcoming the New Year with relatives in Nanka

Welcoming the New Year with relatives in Nanka

I hope you had a joyful New Year’s celebration, or at least a relaxing one! We rejoiced in Clem’s hometown of Nanka with a group of 20 people in our living room. We drank champagne and wine, and toasted the New Year together.

Before going to sleep, I called my sister in Cincinnati to wish her a happy new year, and she said, “You’re too early!” It’s true – we entered 2017 six hours ahead of the eastern U.S.

The Joy of Sons

We stayed with our older son Chinaku in Lagos for several days before travelling to the east, and then for two more days before I departed. Spending time with him was one of the best parts of the trip.

My seat-mate took a pic of him and me, so I did the same. On the plane from Frankfurt before take-off.

On the plane from Frankfurt before take-off. My seat-mate took a pic of him and me, so I did the same.

I arrived back in the US on Monday afternoon. Even this morning, five days later, I still woke up before 5:00 am. But otherwise, I’ve recovered from the time change and travel.

I’ve sorted the mail, bought groceries, and most of all enjoyed the company of our younger son Sam. He is with me for a few days on his way back to Nigeria from California. His wife is there with the children while doing a graduate program in Human Resources Management.

And not to ignore our daughter and her family! Sam and I will see them this weekend if the threatened storm doesn’t hit Philadelphia.

The Obi of Onitsha

The Obi of Onitsha Igwe Nnayelugo Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe is the traditional leader of Onitsha, the largest city in Anambra State, southeastern Nigeria. Igwe is the Igbo word for sky and also the title for a chief.

Clem and I met him briefly at the wedding ceremony for my brother-in-law’s daughter on Dec. 26 in Nanka. I asked him if I could talk with him further about Igbo customs. He agreed.

So on January 2 we went to Onitsha to see him. He was gracious and easy to listen to as he shared his ideas.

Exchange of Gifts

I gave him a copy of my memoir, In return he presented me with a beautiful and massive two-volume work edited by Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu, professor of Africana Studies at Binghampton University, New York.

The first volume is Onitsha at the Millennium. The second is A Ten-Year Milestone of this Obi who ascended the throne in 2002. It is a compilation of his speeches and writings, with a few article by others that reflect his views on the need to raise Onitsha to new heights.

The Obi of Onitsha

The Obi of Onitsha

He is the 21st Obi in a line that stretches back 550 years. He is recognized by the state and federal governments of Nigeria. He is the chairman of the Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers.

The photo is from the website Nigerian Biography.

The Obi’s undergraduate degree is from Stanford, and his MBA from Columbia. We noted that we are fellow ‘Ivy’ alums since my MBA is from Yale.

Most of his distinguished career was in senior management with Shell in Nigeria and overseas.

Need for Progress While Respecting Tradition

Since the civil war, the Biafran War, 1967 to 1970, the city has suffered.

The Obi said during his coronation, “[Onitsha is] at a crossroads, faced with the dual challenge of being a relevant part of a rapidly changing and more competitive world, and of preserving and promoting those qualities, norms and practices (our culture and traditions) that have earned us respect and distinction as a people.”  (page 7, A Ten-Year Milestone)

A Ten-Year Milestone for Obi Achebe.

A Ten-Year Milestone for Obi Achebe.

He created a strategic plan for change and improvement. After ten years, the city is now thriving, according to the book.

The Onitsha market, the largest in West Africa, wasn’t open. January 2nd was a national holiday in Nigeria since New Year’s Day was on Sunday.

So we were able to drive by it. The traffic would have been impossible if it were open. I admit it looked in a sorry state without the bustle of activity.

Several years ago the home where Clem grew up, at 5 St. John’s Cross, burned. Clem had a block of six apartments  built on the site. Our building is in good shape, but the area now looks disgraceful, with trash everywhere and older buildings in disrepair.

The Obi said in our conversation, “We try to drive our own development with an emphasis on youth.” He talked about programs he has for young people, like training in business.

I loved hearing the Obi speak about the importance of upholding traditional values while checking messages on his cell phone. He was following the election of a new chief taking place that day in Nanka.

He said, “It’s important that every community is properly organized with its own town union and traditional leadership. That’s why I’m watching Nanka.”

He also interacts with other traditional rulers in the country, not just among the Igbo people. And he promotes the development of science and technology.

Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu, editor of A Ten-Year Milestone and the Onitsha history

Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu, editor of A Ten-Year Milestone and the Onitsha history

In 2007 he traveled to Paris for a meeting at UNESCO. According to A Ten-Year Milestone, he informed the Director-General of UNESCO that “modern African traditional rulers are strong proponents of change.”

Interest in Art

We met him in his home rather than the palace. As we waited, we had the chance to look at the works of art surrounding us, an amazing collection of contemporary Nigerian art.

Many of the works of Onitsha artists are reproduced in A Ten-Year Milestone.

More to Come

There is much more to share about my time in Nigeria. Meanwhile, tell me in the ‘Comments’ how you spent your holidays and how you welcomed the new year. And a huge thank you to those who sent cards and notes. This year, I just didn’t make it! Maybe for Valentine’s Day? Or next year!

December 12, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Two Stories of Boundary-Crossing Marriage

Boundary-Crossing Marriage

The first story of Boundary-Crossing Marriage comes from the online media site

Online media is alive and well in Nigeria. I would even say thriving!

Vera Ezimora who wrote about Boundary-Crossing Marriage, from her website Verastic.comVera Ezimora from her website

Vera Ezimora from her website

One of the popular online media sites is ‘Naija’ is the way Nigerian’s refer to their country and its customs. now has a youth version, though youth as defined in Nigerian culture often extends to people in their 30’s and 40’s.

Vera Ezimora wrote about her boundary-crossing marriage in “I’m Not Raising a Yoruba Child.”  She is an Igbo woman married to a Yoruba man. She said that even before she met her husband, she had decided that she would give her children Igbo names. This is only right, she says, because the woman does all the work of bearing the child.

Sexism, Tribalism, and Feminism

She begins by saying, “Among my Nigerian people, in the issues concerning gender and tribe, there is covert sexism and tribalism.” I disagree – the sexism and tribalism are overt!

Her husband’s people tell her their child is Yoruba, omo Yoruba, like her husband. She says, “No, she is an Igbo-Yoruba girl.”

She didn’t even know the term ‘feminism,’ she says. But now she knows she is clearly a feminist.

She ends with, “And while we’re on the subject of not raising a Yoruba daughter, I am also not a Yoruba wife. But that’s a story for another day.”

I posted this comment:

“Loved your piece. I married an Igbo man. I was happy to give our children Igbo first names. But I insisted on calling our daughter by her ‘English’ name since that was the name of my sister and aunt. Our older son goes by a shortened version of his Igbo name, and younger son by his Igbo grandfather’s first name, which is also an ‘English’ name. In my memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad I recount the time I had to point out forcefully that I was not an Igbo wife, rather the wife of an Igbo man!”

Loving  – the Movie

I saw the movie Loving last night. You probably already know it. The movie tells the story of the inter-racial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving. They married in 1958, six years before me.

They were forced to leave their home in Virginia because of the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Their case was eventually taken up by the ACLU. It reached the Supreme Court in 1967.

This Time Magazine article from June 2016 states that Mildred Loving never identified as black. She was Indian, she said. But the ACLU needed the black identity to bring their case.

“Mildred insisted she was Indian; but how could the legal team present a case aimed to dismantle the last of the slavery laws to a Supreme Court that viewed this issue only in terms of black and white?” the Time’s author asks.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court decision was a landmark. It made my marriage legal in the state of Kentucky, the last place I lived in the US before marrying.

When I married in Lagos, Nigeria, I didn’t even know about the miscegenation law in Kentucky. Not that it would have changed my mind.

But my parents felt the repercussions after the Kentucky Post printed a picture of our kiss on their front page the day after our wedding. My parents returned to their Kentucky home to hate calls.

It’s probably as well I didn’t know. I brought our first son, clearly mixed-race, to visit my parents in 1966. Could we have been arrested if the authorities knew? Did anyone care by that time?

And Music That Combines Two Cultures

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

Yesterday our choir presented our annual Christmas concert. Our Music Minister and Director Ed Thompson said, “You knocked it out of the park!”

My favorite was Ubi Caritas. It is a 10th century Gregorian chant accompanied by organ or piano, combined with an African chant and drumming.

In the choir. The sun was just beginning to hit me.

In the choir. The sun was just beginning to hit me.

In his program notes, Ed wrote, “Paul Halley was the Organist and Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. He was rehearsing this chant one day when, simultaneously, there was a group doing African drumming and chanting down in the basement.”

After irritation at the disturbance, he decided to create a new piece combining the two.

You can watch this version which is accompanied by lush visuals. If you want to get to the section that includes the African music, go to just after the 4th minute. Or relax, watch, and listen to all 10 minutes! You will not regret it.

Christmas Celebrations

On Saturday evening, before the music, were the parties. I was so fortunate to have two holiday festivities to attend. The first was at the unusual home of Rev. Dr. John and his wife Francis.

I couldn’t believe the transformation. I had been to their home a few times before. But they had opened up an additional room so the 100+ guests could flow through several spaces. And it was decorated to the 9th degree. So it was gorgeous, warm, and inviting.

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

One of several decorated trees at Marcelle’s.

Then I went to Marcelle and Eric’s annual Cookies and Cocktails party at their home in Wilton. Marcelle also loves decorating for the holidays. Barely an inch was without festive ornamentation.

Again it was lovely. And it was full of writers so the conversation held exciting ideas, writing triumphs, and shared interests.

Holiday Travel

I’m leaving for Nigeria on Friday the 16th for 3 weeks. I will post intermittently, if at all, while I’m away. I will definitely  go to the Afo market in Nanka, the reason for my every-four-day schedule. And I’ll have pictures.

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you happiness and peace.

December 8, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

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

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

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
Comments Off on Two Very Different Author Interviews

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

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

November 19, 2016
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

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!