Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

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!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Truly a horrible situation with Boko Haram–somehow this STILL is not on the world’s radar screen. What if the kidnappings had happened in France?

    • You got it! It’s not just the kidnappings, but all the other destruction. Crops, homes, markets, all damaged or destroyed. Families shattered by killings and kidnappings of men, women, boys and girls.

  2. I hope the UN will send the help and the Nigerian government will accept it.

    On a lighter note, spoken words can be confusing too. Tonight I was in the mail room. I had on a watch cap and my jacket hood over the top of that. A man told me, “Staying warm.” I thought he said, “Same worm.” One of the fun things I do in some of my classes is a “You can’t lose” multiple choice quiz. I describe situations and a statement made by one of the characters. The trainees have to choose between various interpretations of the statement or replies to the statement. None are wrong because it all depends on how they interpret the character’s words. Yet they argue hammer and tongs over which one is “right.”

    • I love your ‘same worm’ story, Margaret. It made me chuckle! I can well imagine the arguments over which is ‘right’ when none is right or wrong. I’m sure it doesn’t have to be hearing the words differently. It can be what we bring to whatever we hear.