OPINIONS

The Shame of Condoms

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The first time I ever purchased a pack of condoms, I had to literarily travel to get it. And when I say travel, I mean it. I made sure to go to a different and distant neighbourhood where no one would recognize me. And what’s more…I went in the night, a pair of glasses across my face just perfectly enough to conceal my face. And as I pulled the pack of raincoat off the shelf, I quickly took along a few other products and went to the cashier. I couldn’t stop trembling with fear as I approached the woman, even as my palms felt wet with cold sweat. But then my worry subsided after the elderly cashier woman spotted my most prominent purchase and gave me a knowing, friendly smile instead of a beseeching frown.

“Better to be safe than sorry, right?” the woman said as she kept smiling knowing at me. She then proceeded to offer a few advice, saying that there was nothing to be ashamed of  condoms. Perhaps I should purchase another pack just so I wouldn’t have to come back soon afterwards for me, she said. But I declined her suggestion. It wasn’t as if I was planning to fuck everyday of my life, I reasoned. I was only buying the pack of condoms because I had had a few occasions where the romantic sparks might as well have resulted into some more magical stuff but unfortunately had to be interrupted just because I didn’t have the almighty raincoat readily available. Perhaps I might never even get to use the pack I was buying that night until the contents expire. So why did I need to buy two packs that could as well never be used? 

Anyway, moving to the important question at hand- why do men have to be so ashamed of buying condoms? This is a question many have asked themselves but never got around answering. So let us answer it right about now. I personally think that the answer to the above question is because has a lot to do with the same shame and taboo associated with sex itself. Walking into a supermarket or a pharmacy and purchasing a pack of condoms is more like broadcasting to the entire world that you are going to have sex. It can be worse still if you make the purchase in the same neighbourhood where you live and can be easily recognised by the person who sold it to you. A friend of mine once recounted how the person who sold a pack of condoms to him reported the purchase to his mother. Can you imagine nonsense?

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Let it be known that it is the stigmatization and shame experienced while trying to purchase some condoms that often push people into resorting to raw [hardcore] sexual experiences. I mean, first of all, condoms are known to limit the pleasure as against doing the do skin to skin. So this, coupled with the fact that purchasing the rubber can be so damn stressful can cause most people to just forget about it and go about sex the more natural way. Unfortunately, there are several risks posed by the natural way of sex which can easily be avoided if so many didn’t have to made to feel ashamed for purchasing some condoms.

So here is to make my preachment loud and clear- condoms are great and there is nothing to ashamed about buying them. The stigmatization has to stop already. And when next you have to buy some condoms, please wear a T-shirt that reads “I love sex”… That should pass the message across to everyone as to why you are buying the raincoats

-Emmanuel Abara Benson

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The Diary of a Non-Male Chauvinist

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I know they think I’m weird. They call me a Feminist, and then wonder if there is even such a thing as a Male Feminist. And so they make light of my masculinity, going short of calling me a woman. But I am not a woman; I just dearly love women. Moreover, I am  by every standard male and masculine. But one thing I will never be is chauvinistic. I cherish the fact that a woman’s vagina birthed me. And in the same vein, I hold the belief that everyone deserves the right to be respectfully treated at all times, no matter whether it is a penis or a vagina that they have in between their legs.

Growing up as a little boy, I was always in awe of women. I always knew that there is something very special about them; something almost beyond human. Their resilience to life’s hurdles amazed me and inspired me. And so did their beauty, which up till date continues to mesmerize me by the way. But with every passing day ever since my childhood days, I came to realize that these beautiful set of humans called women aren’t always treated with as much justice as they deserved. Being female in our clime (African traditions) and indeed elsewhere can be synonymous with disadvantages. Women are short-changed at every level and aspect of life. And so I realised earlier on that this injustice has to be called out, repudiated and denounced. This is so important, because short-changing our women simply amounts to short-changing the whole of humanity. And this isn’t what we truly want for ourselves; is it?

As I have become grown with my worldviews expanded, I have come to become a total advocate/supporter of feminism. It is a good thing to be, because having availed myself the opportunity to learn about the long history of female oppression and the struggles that led to breaking down most of the glass ceilings, I knew right away that I had to become a part of the movement- the movement to break down the rest of the glass ceilings that is. Moreover, the truth is that I myself have been negatively impacted by the injustice called gender bias. My paternal grandmother was of course female. And even though I never met her, I knew the story of her life. She was a woman short-changed and disadvantaged by her own father, maybe not purposefully, but because it was what the culture specified. You see, she was the first child of a local Igbo Chief. Her father had the resources to put her through school just like he did her younger brother. But she never got that opportunity because it was uncultured for a young girl to go to school when she ought to be married and “tending her husband and children”. Consequently, my paternal granny never got the most basic education. This was unlike her brother who acquired a masters degree back in the 1960s. To cut this story short, my grandma, who married a local farmer, died as an impoverished farmer, whereas her brother became one of the most influential men of his time. The difference between them was that one got the opportunity to thrive whereas the other was denied that same opportunity…just because she was female.

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The decision to treat women and girls with respect does not do any harm. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case when women’s rights are violated and abused by culture and maybe legislation. I therefore use this medium to call on every well-meaning man to embrace gender-equality; embrace humanity. Respect and empower women, because s it is often said, the rest of humanity succeeds and thrives when women succeed and thrive.

Best!

-Emmanuel Abara Benson

 

WHY IS THE FASHION INDUSTRY SUCH AN ELITIST CIRCLE?

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Ever been interested in the fashion industry as much as I am? Perhaps the glitz and glamour of the Lagos Fashion Week fascinate you too! And of course there are the models, [mostly] skinny and beautiful; gracefully-composed/poised as they walk the runways. Such sophistication! Yet, we must all agree that mainstream fashion represent the perfect example of what everybody longs for but can hardly get to have. Why is that?

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Across the world, the fashion industry is such a closely-knit, exclusively-wealthy and obviously elitist circle. Those beautiful clothes and accessories are reserved for those who are rich enough to afford them.  Indeed, no hungry human can afford to buy a Lanre Da Silva dress or a Zizi Cardow dress. It is almost as if there is a pact between the superrich and the fashion industry experts to make it an all wealth affair, dedicated solely to those who are moneyed and classy.  Perhaps by deliberately making fashion elitist, those involved justify Hadley Freeman’s opinion that “fashion that is not elite is just clothing”.

“Rampant elitism is the cornerstone of fashion’s foundation garments. It’s like… I wear Alexander McQueen, therefore I am part of a select group that can afford it. Fashion has such a sense of self-importance it comes with a dry-clean-only label as standard…”

So why exactly is fashion so elitist? Well the fact that it can be F***ing  expensive forms the basis. Big fashion brands anywhere in the world are quite the luxury items and only those with real disposable income can afford them! Consequently, the price tag automatically excludes a wide range of any given population. They can only be the spectators, looking from outside the circle and never able to have an insider’s feel.  Such is the way of fashion.

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But the belief that fashion must be elitist to thrive comes with very many negative implications. And this can be blamed on the “matriarchs” of the industry. These are the fashion designers themselves, the Creative Directors and the Brand Ambassadors whom can be summarily grouped as “Complete bitches”. These set of humans [perhaps not all] are totally obnoxious in their ways. They feel they alone can dictate everything there is to know about fashion. More so, because they earn quite the money by selling to their select clientele, they inevitably feel like they are the richest and most sophisticated people. They have the highest expectations of newbies, including their demands that models be skinny and extremely beautiful. These recruitment yardsticks are set despite the fact that those who set them more often fail to meet the “standards” themselves.   And then there is the unfortunate aspect of the entire situation- the fact that the “matriarch’s” obnoxiousness overtime [inevitably] robs off on the “recruits” and sadly contributes in further perpetuating this culture of “perfect imperfections”.

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There is a lot on my mind on this topic and I daresay most of them aren’t patronizing. So I will just cut it short by saying that the fashion industry is such an important sector of our economy and society. And in order to ensure its longevity and continued success, it’s imperative that the prevalent culture of classism and “bitchcraftery” be done away with; please!

Written by Emmanuel Abara Benson

THE CHARMING, COMFORTABLE AND PRIVILEGED LIVES OF NIGERIA’S AFFLUENT ONES

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Let’s be clear about one thing- wealthy people get away with many things in this Nigeria. What can I say…theirs is a privileged kind of life! It only goes to show how some people are indeed above the law and as a matter of fact use the constitution as their foot mat. But then again they are the privileged ones! Imagine that while some of us have to attend grammar schools, others are flown in private jets to exotic places like the Swiss Alps to attend private schools. Even those whose parents’ are “patriotic enough” to let them study here end up attending schools where a term’s tuition for a single student can pay the salaries of nearly one hundred [UNDERPAID] civil servants. That’s not all. Have you [yet] heard the story about some rich  Abuja kids who literarily fly from Abuja to Lagos everyday to attend school? I mean, they fly into Lagos every morning, get chaperoned to the school  and then fly back to Abuja by the end of the day… under-aged school children those are! It’s almost incredible, right? Well how about those fancy men and women who simply cannot “risk their lives” by taking local flights from Abuja to Lagos;  so they fly to London instead and from there head to Lagos!

In the world of Nigeria’s super rich, life comes with less worries. Everyday is like Christmas, and no place could be better than home. These super rich black humans would rather do their shopping in Paris than actually live there. And the reason is not farfetched- there are numerous privileges they enjoy by being rich in Nigeria which they cannot enjoy elsewhere. Therefore, they travel often but always return home. Home sweet home, they say as they touch down at MMA. The ladies  among them, (who are fanciful by the way and consumes the latest high fashion items from the best designers) have just flown first class from Europe where they shopped  for lipsticks and luxury gowns at Chanel and other well-lit stores in the main streets of Paris. The men on the other hand are good money spinners themselves. They would always import the latest cars and purchase properties in choice cities across Europe, the Americas and of course Dubai. Also the extremely wealthy ones  acquire private jets to be able to fly around, in most cases either borrowing or stealing to do so. All of these things keep happening in the very  place where most people  find it difficult to buy yellow garri and cook okra soup for dinner. Sad stuff!

Now just so we are clear again, I actually do love rich people. I know a couple of them personally, and I’d love to be so fucking rich myself when I grow up. *Winks. The problem I have with the privileged ones however is that most of them get away with serious offenses! You are probably familiar with the likes of Obanikoro, Stella Oduah, Allison Madueke, Bode George… I mean, the list is endless. These people stole billions of naira and never got to face the full weight of the law. But then again there are other stories of crimes committed by wealthy Nigerians we don’t get to read in the dailies. Sometimes last year, a friend of mine in Abuja was walking home from work (because he couldn’t pay the bus fare) when he got knocked down by a fanciful middle-aged rich woman. She simply carried him to the hospital, dumped his a** there and ran away. But that incident was one that ended nicely because a similar incident (also in Abuja by the way) ended tragically. This man was crossing the road when another fancy car crushed him to his death…

These crimes never get investigated. These wealthy people (some of them), they abuse their employees and their house helps and nothing happens. They are the MDs who receive fat salaries and give peanuts to the ones that actually work hard for the money. And when serious economic recessions loom, they quickly sack thousand of employees so that they may continue earning fat salaries. For their crimes they get nothing near a reprimand. Their stories are unlike the petty thief who get cut to pieces and burnt for stealing petty stuff like bread, transistor radios, cheap cell phones.

I am speaking out on this topic because I believe there needs to be change in our justice system. But most importantly, the impoverished masses must be enabled out of their penury. The time is now!

~Emmanuel Benson

THE GIRL WHO RAN AWAY

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She was from a really small town in Northern Nigeria, fleeing all the way south, away from the dirty old  man she had been betrothed and away from all the chaos and the hardhsip she had known her entire life. All she had with her was her little savings from working on people’s farms the previous year, the money she made from selling fura da nono, and of course the dowry money  Alhaji Tanko had paid to her father which she stole! But more than that, she  had a wishlist, top of which was to visit a beach. She had only heard amazing tales about oceans, saw a few pictures of beautiful beaches but never got around seeing one in real life. Good thing she was finally escaping to a place where the ocean’ waves lapped against rocky cliffs; a place where pretty girls wore bikinis and strolled on the beaches without molestation! She was fleeing to her freedom, or at least so she thought!FATIMA

At the age of twelve, Fatima was the only girl (of all her mates) who was yet to get married. Her situation had become so scandalous to the extent that it brought shame to her family. Rumour had it that no man wanted to marry her because she was too wild and wouldn’t remain in a husband’s house; her mother hadn’t raised her well, they said. Well, the little girl was okay with being labelled “wild” as long as no man thrice her age and more had to force his way through her young man one horrible night. She was satisfied with being “untrained” as long as she had the opportunity to be a child. She could not understand why her childhood should be taken away from her so forcefully. But most importantly, she could not understand why her parents “especially her father) would want to put her in the same condition as most of her mates who were forced to marry before her. Each time she saw them carrying their frail-looking babies with flies trailing them, she never understood why they usually had that horrible urea stench about them. But whatever the cause of them, she didn’t want to get married if that was what marriage was about.

But her parents never listened to her pleas. They were too eager to get rid of her in order to stop the rumours that were making the rounds due to her continued stay in the house. But more than that, they wanted to earn an extra income for the family through the bride price they would certainly receive on Fatima’s head. Consequently, the moment Alhaji Tanko came along with his money and his disgusting self,  Fatima’s parents jumped at the offer and readily decided to give their daughter to him. The bride price was hastily paid the following day. And that night while everyone slept, Fatima made a drastic decision in a spur of the moment to leave her family and escape from her house. But before she did, she stole the bride price from her father. This was to spite him, but more to support herself as she journeyed to the unknown…

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Ten years later after young Fatima made that drastic, almost dangerous decision to save herself, she had become one of the most important humans in her circles. Her story was nothing such of a miracle-  a beautiful, disadvantaged girl who was opportune to have caught the attention of a good human somewhere in Abuja while she languished under the heat selling  fura da nono. Yes, she never made it down to the south until seven years after initially setting out to the place. But ending up in Abuja had paid off big because that was the place she got discovered and made a local film star…

~Written by Emmanuel Benson

*This story is not entirely fictitious and the issue discussed is real…

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TOWN HALL MEETING WITH NIGERIA’S VICE PRESIDENT: #UACmeetsOsibanjo

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There is no doubt that our Vice President is an intelligent man; after all, he’s a professor of Law for a reason! This afternoon I was opportune to be in a town hall meeting organized by the United Action for Change at the Airport Hotel Ikeja during which Professor Osibanjo was hosted as the guest of honour. As typical of such events, the man was barraged with a number of questions (twenty difficult ones in total ), the responses to which this piece is about. Read through to see the efforts and policies this administration is making towards curbing unemployment, providing amenities and ensuring better lives for the Nigerian public as well as the encumbrances militating against the change agenda.

 

The Vice President had decided not to give an official speech. But in the cause of responding to the questions fielded to him by civil society groups he gave what is [perhaps] the most powerful speech of the year. Reiterating the present administration’s commitment to change (which he also posited as the Nigerian Dream) he declared that the need for change is imperative. Now is the best opportunity to change Nigeria he said, and nothing else occupies the Government but bringing about change in all aspects of Nigerian life.

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He said the Federal Government is working hard to ensure a wholesome national health insurance scheme for every Nigerian and that a special security fund would enable the FG uplift about twenty five million poorest Nigerians out of poverty. According to the Vice President, there are two basic ways this administration intends to rid Nigeria of unemployment. The first one is through direct government involvement which will provide what he called “palliative measure “, including the much talked about 7800 teachers’ recruitment scheme. The second method is through intensive training in technology (especially for women) during which there will be “tech demos” by the students which will guarantee that the best of them [students] are given contracts and grants. He believes that improvement in technological know how is a must for Nigeria and that is why the Government is already partnering with an organization called CISCO to train these young people in technology.

 

Reacting to a question about the impact of religious differences in the Nigerian political space, the VP noted that religion is not actually the major plight of our polity. This is because for him Nigerians collaborate very well in every everything including corruption irrespective of their religious differences. He noted however that what we need in the country is collaborative effort for developmental purposes and the good of the country; putting aside our differences.

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Meanwhile, moving on to the all-important issue of fuel scarcity in the country, Professor Osibanjo gave a reasonable [but not so welcomed] explanation as to what is causing the problem. He said that prior to this time, the importation of petroleum products into the country was carried out by both the NNPC and the private marketers. Unfortunately, due to the recent global oil crash and the subsequent negative impacts it had on Nigeria’s foreign reserve as well as Government’s restrictions on FOREX, the private marketers are unable to import the products as they cannot afford foreign exchange. This thereby leaves the bulk of importation of fuel on the NNPC who simply cannot handle it all. And to contribute even more to the challenge, the NNPC, (after importing the products into the country ) sells to the private marketers who in turn resell to the filling stations and often times even resell outside the country to places like Benin and Nicer where they reportedly make extra profits. But he gave good by saying that Government is considering ways to put a definite end to the challenge of fuel scarcity…soon.

 
One of such is probably by  ensuring that the current refineries [and the new ones hoped to be constructed] become functional. But even at that, Mr. Osibanjo outlined the major problem facing the actualization of functional refineries to include the fact that they are publicly-owned by the state. As such he noted the need for privatization even as he pointed out that the private investors are reluctant to come into agreement due to uncertainty about how to fix the right prices in order for them to make profit as the current prices for the refined products will certainly not favour the private business people.

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Answering a question about what the FG is doing about railway construction across the country, he reiterated the FG’s commitment to construct the Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar railroads in order to ensure easy transportation of goods and services. He also hinted on the agreement between the FG and the Chinese government to help in this regard.

 

Vice President Osinbanjo agreed with a comment that the Federal Government could make a lot more money from the Maritime sector even more than it makes from oil. However, he insisted that a lot of improvements in the sector will need to occur (especially as regards ICT) before that happens. He also agreed with a call for the incorporation of local engineers when carrying out major engineering projects instead of just contracting the jobs to foreign contractors. But even at that, he demanded that there must be standard on the part of the Nigerian engineers before this happens.

 
He explained the reason for shortage in power supply, citing pipeline vandalism and reduction in dam water as major causes. In the same vein he explained the need for the increment in electricity tariff, saying that it was to ensure sustenance as “the CBN does not have a limitless source of income…” This statement was also a reaction to a request that the CBN resort to pardoning old loans in order to encourage entrepreneurship as Malaysia supposedly did once. He noted that although AMCON had done this before, it cannot continue doing it as the government is nearly 3.2 billion (dollars or naira) in debts…

 

The VP then talked about the recent trade agreement between Nigeria and China, citing its advantage as the facilitation of Nigeria’s foreign trades especially during this difficult economic times as the country struggles with FOREX. Here is his explanation- the Yuan naira agreement provides a financial facility that enables the naira trade against the dollar without the negative impacts associated with such trades…

 
Finally, the VP agreed with musician Kenny Saint Brown and the master of ceremony Kofi that the entertainment industry in Nigeria (especially Nollywood) provides a lot of youth with employment opportunities. This should never be undermined, he said. However, he pointed out that the Government does not need to set up government agencies solely dedicated to entertainment matters in order to validate it’s efforts in empowering those in the entertainment sector.

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The town hall meeting was attended by various dignitaries including the Convener of the meeting Dr. Muiz Banire (Senior Advocate of Nigeria )  Mr. Pat Utomi of Lagos Business School, Honourable minister for Solid Minerals Dr. Kayode Fayemi and others.

Emmanuel Benson reporting.
*The authour chose to report this in a not so typically news format because this is not a news platform. The story will more appeal to the readers of this blog when presented this way…

POSITIONING NIGERIAN STARTUPS AS A MEANS TO DIVERSIFYING THE COUNTRY’S ECONOMY

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In the past few years, entrepreneurship in Africa’s largest economy (Nigeria) has become manifest more than ever before owing to the establishment of startups across various sectors of the economy. These new companies are mostly owned by some of Nigeria’s teaming, unemployed youths who must earn their living somehow in the face of unemployment. Interestingly, most of these startups have recorded amazing success stories. As the Programme’s Committee Chairman for the 2015 Annual Conference of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers told The Sun, the activities of these startups immensely contribute to economic growth; giving hope that [perhaps] the future will not be as bleak as most people fear.

Unfortunately however, these small scale enterprises do not get the needful encouragement that will spur them to continue with the
cushioning effect they provide for the economy. For most of these startups that operate in hitherto unexplored or downright unconventional venture areas, they deserve special attention which unfortunately they do not get. Instead, the attention has continually been on traditional businesses- Banking/Finance, Oil and Gas and to a lessening
degree Agriculture. Little or no attention is given to emerging sectors in filmmaking, music production/marketing, hospitality/tourism, fashion, craftsmanship and other creative industries. This situation does not augur well for the country as it more
or less discourages the entrepreneurial spirit in young. Now this does not have to be the case. There is need for lots of changes in the way we treat emerging enterprises in this country.

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How then could the identified problem be solved? The solution is simple- Nigerian startups deserve as much sponsorship and exposure as they could possibly get. The sponsorship should come in the form of financial aids/grants and even [uninhabitable] loans which should help ease the costs associated with running new
companies. In the same vein, the media need to report more about the activities of startup companies across various sectors of the economy. The news stories should profile these young Nigerian CEOS who make everyday all-important decisions to keep their businesses afloat even in a system
that does not exactly favour them. This is important because not only would startup ventures be given the needful publicity they deserve, it will also serve as an opportunity to encourage more entrepreneurs to unlock the entrepreneurial skills in them. This is because by reading the success stories of people like Mai Atafo, Uche Eze and Kunle Afolayan for instance, many more unemployed youths will be spurred to participate in what can best
be described as a “movement in the right direction”.

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Now it should be noted that this is not to imply that Nigerian
entrepreneurs have not received any form of help. It is after all common knowledge that a bank like Fidelity Bank and a few others continually demonstrate genuine efforts to ensuring entrepreneurial wellbeing in the country. The point however is that the existing help (assistance) has just not been enough. For an economy whose mainstay is on the brinks of collapse due to falling global crude oil prices, the focus should
indeed shift from the traditional sectors of the economy to emerging markets. There is no gainsaying the fact that it is high time we positioned the Nigerian economy to become a global player. But there simply is no way
to do that without vibrant, functional and highly-equipped entrepreneurs.

Therefore, special attention should be given to entrepreneurs in the country. Enabling environment should be provided for them and the right assistance given. We should recall that all of the biggest players in the world of global economy all started from the bottom. The relevance of startup companies and general entrepreneurship in any economy should never be undermined.

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~Emmanuel Benson
*This is NOT a sponsored post.