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Travelling in America

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I am writing these lines around 7am in Buena Park, California, but it is close to 3pm on Tuesday afternoon in Nigeria. I had to wake up consciously remembering the time difference between here and home.

That is a constant part of my consciousness when I travel around the world: Eritrea, Canada, Western Sahara, Guinea, India or even Darfur; it is a long list of destinations!

My life remarkably reflects my nomadic origins and as I often tell my friends (a painful fact that my family lives with!), I carry the gene of travel; and in the past week, I have been in the United States. I have retained a very ambiguous relationship with this incredible country!

This time I have been in Houston where my sister-in-law was delivered of a set of triplets. Then I decided to do the Greyhound bus to Dallas to see my old friend from the Radio Nigeria days, Frank Oshodi.

Back in secondary school we used to read those James Hadley Chase books, and I cannot quite remember which one was set around Greyhound buses. Somehow, I always felt I should do the trip and almost like a Nigerian experience, a smooth trip through the expansive Texan countryside came to a sudden halt about 34 miles to Dallas.

The bus developed a fault! The African-American driver was some character; he regaled us with stories which kept everyone laughing and he wanted us to know how lucky we were anyway, because a $1million Mercedes Benz bus was on its way to pick us!

There was an assortment of human types on the bus, including a Nigerian Pentecostal preacher from Warri.

His phone was the busiest and his voice, the loudest too! I naturally spoke with him and he told me he had been out of Nigeria since February! He was on his way to attend a son’s graduation ceremony.

Monday brought home to me the horrors of the various American wars in distant destinations around the world. I was on the queue at Dallas airport to take a flight to Phoenix, Arizona, on my way to California.

I was dressed in the normal Northern Nigerian kaftan with a cap when a huge soldier-type, White man tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and he asked: “Which was your confession sir?”

I paused for a while puzzled about his question and he saw that on my face: “Oh, it is because of your dress sir”. I answered that I am a Muslim. “Well, a few weeks ago, I would have been loath to come close to you”, was his answer!

Frankly, I was worried, because this hulk could wring my neck in a minute! He then went on to tell me that he was a soldier and had just completed a training/therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (I recollected that I wrote about that in last week’s column!). It was that therapy which has calmed him considerably.

He assisted me to put my bag through the screening process as I also told him about my late cousin, who I believe died from complications of PTSD after Nigeria’s tragic Civil War.

We were headed for different gates for our respective flights and the last thing he told me was: “May Allah be with you”! That was another unintended consequence of imperialist wars! But the humanity we all share will somehow seep to the surface of all manners of subterfuge.

And talking about our humanity, I was to have a two-hour stop over at Phoenix, Arizona. It is a destination I am familiar with; and I picked up a conversation with an elderly Somali woman cleaner dressed in a typically Somali manner, especially in the USA and Europe.

A couple of minutes after our conversation, I saw her at the counter of a beverages shop where I wanted to purchase a drink.

She asked where I came from and I replied that I was Nigerian. I knew she was Somali, but strangely, I guessed that she was from Puntland, and I got it right! She was pleasantly surprised I knew that corner of Somalia!

She ended becoming my ‘saviour’, because I had mixed up the time, still using the time from Dallas! She suggested that I checked with the airline about time for my trip; the boarding pass I held read Gate 21, but the flight had been processed through a different gate.

I was so sure of the gate and had been engrossed with my reading of Naomi Klein’s SHOCK THERAPY. I needed some amount of shock to find my way to the flight; the gate was about to be locked.

And I just made it; just! We arrived on time in Los Angeles and my friend, Adeyombo Aderinto, picked me up. We drove through to Buena Park, listening to and discussing the last debate between President Barack Obama and his rightwing opponent, Mitt Romney. America’s election impacts upon our lives.

I was not caught up in the Obama wave four years ago, but I am realistic enough to know that he is generally more progressive than his opponent.

I want Obama to get a second term; the alternative of Romney will mean more invasions and killings of peoples around the world and Iran might just be the first!

That is what Bibi Netanyahu is priming the world for and if Romney wins, then the Israeli tail will certainly wag the American dog into another war! It is so scary really!

The Sultan, Archbishop Onaiyekan, CAN in the North: Significant gestures for peace

WHEN the story broke recently, that both the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’adAbubakar and Archbishop John Onayekan, had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the significance of the gesture was very clear.

The two leaders have been significant voices for inter-religious harmony in Nigeria. In the Sultan, we have a blend of the traditional and the modern; the will and energy to provide leadership for the Muslim Ummah in a difficult historical conjuncture.

It has not been smooth sailing for the Sultan, and there have been omissions and mistakes while the traditional structures of leadership are straining, as society has become ever younger! To the Sultan’s credit, he  has maintained a consistent effort at re-building inter-faith and inter-communal relationships, especially in the North.

I have known Archbishop John Onayekan from his time as the auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocess of Ilorin during the 1980s.Onayekan is a legend in Northern Nigeria. During the 1960s, he had been the best student in the WASC examination in West Africa, and so excited was the late Sardauna of Sokoto, that he took the entire cabinet of Northern Region to Onayekan’s school outside of Gboko, in today’s Benue state, to congratulate the young Onayekan. Archbishop Onayekan had already made up his mind to become a priest and in his calling, has remained an exemplary leader, working with single-minded devotion for peace and inter-faith harmony.

The Sultan of Sokoto and Archbishop John Onayekan are emblematic representatives of the tendency for peace building in a most difficult period of our lives.

Their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant recognition of the work they have done jointly and in different forums over the years. It is also recognition of the thawing of the animosity that built up over the years between our faith communities.

An equally significant development was the advertorial placed by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of the 19 Northern States, in LEADERSHIP newspaper of Friday, October 12, 2012.

The advertorial was placed by the Northern CAN and signed by Archbishop Peter Jatau, Ptesident, CAN of the Northern States Prof. Daniel Babayi, the Executive Secretary in solidarity with the Muslim community and it “utterly deploy(ed) and condemn(ed) the shameful video ‘the innocence of Muslims’”. Northern CAN argued that the film “was clearly designed to defame and provoke Muslims the world over.

This slander of the Islamic faith is entirely unacceptable and we stand in full solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Nigeria in the face of the assault on their religion”.

Those who have followed the work of Archbishop Peter Jatau in Jos, testify to the effort he has made to build peace between the Muslim and Christian communities in that part of the North.

The work of these religious leaders has never been easy, especially with the inflamed passion that they often have to deal with in their daily work.

These leaders work with many individuals, men and women, young and old, in the peace building efforts essential to rebuilding the ethos of communal harmony, mutual respect and understanding without which we cannot begin to achieve meaningful development in Northern Nigeria. These are efforts that should be recognised and applauded!

Olusegun Mimiko: A victory foretold

THE last time I saw the Ondo state governor, Olusegun Mimiko, was about six months ago. The buildup to the recent election was beginning, and one could catch a whiff of the coming battle.

I asked him about the coming Tinubu threat; and he frankly answered that he was not fazed. He had kept his side of the Social Contract with his people, he assured me, and if his record of service was the basis of judgment, then he believed he would win the election.

We never saw again and were not in contact, till last weekend’s poll. But I had written that I hoped he won; and he did!

There are several reasons why I wanted him to. But above all else, there was Bola Tinubu’sarrogance which seemed to have put off so many people, not just in Ondo state, but around the country, given all I have read on the internet.

The ACN machinery of propaganda, disinformation, abuses and threat went into overdrive; while the more intellectual detachment tried to present a doom’s day backdrop of a much-vaunted ‘sacred’ integration project as an inevitability and reason why Mimiko was going to be uprooted.

Bola Tinubu in his delusion boasted that it was over for Mimiko. In his mind the Ondo satrapy was just a matter of time; unfortunately, even his Ondo satrap, Akeredolu did not win in his constituency!

And to add salt to the open injury, Tinubu’s satrap only came third in the election! There might be other issues that led to Olusegun Mimiko’s impressive victory, but for me, the grotesque level of indecency which the Tinubu machinery deployed was one of the most annoying parts of the campaign and it must have rankled people in Ondo.

When governors and political leaders turn out like thugs and area boys, in a desperate urge for power, and did not even respect their opponent’s humanity, then something was seriously amiss!

In the end, Bola Tinubu got his comeuppance! Olusegun Mimiko is not the lightweight their propaganda profiled him to be.



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