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Becoming A Modern Feminist By Omoh Giwa |The Harmattan News

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I inappropriately have been known to wear the tag of feminism but certain incidents and developments have caused an awakening in realising my actual placement in the “feminiverse”. Many believe that the modern manifesto for feminism is Adichie’s We Should all be Feminists but alas I have to admit that I was also wrong. Feminism is the advocacy for the rights of women which requires that women be considered and treated as people as against objects or properties to be violated and disregarded.
Although the message of feminism is being preached at every corner, many still live in fear of its tenets and believe the movement to be a radical ideology negating the spiritual order designed by the Supreme Being. Hence your fear and animosity towards women who label themselves feminist and a desire to avoid them like the bubonic plague. However, I have noticed a trend in feminism (you can call it a variant strain like the ever-evolving Covid-19) and so magnanimously, I have decided to help you navigate the labyrinth of modern feminism. Do not be inundated by the multiplex constellations of feminism and knowledge, they say is power. The first wave of feminist ideology was centred on women’s right to vote and be voted by ignoring non-white women while the second and third waves tackled issues ranging from pay equality, reproduction rights, and domestic violence to redefining femininity and celebrating differences in race, class and sexual orientations. However, I am here to help you perambulate fourth-wave feminism (please keep an open mind and abandon all prejudice). I have divided fourth-wave feminists into two; the ancient and the modern feminist though the focus of this commentary is the latter.
You might think that the target of every feminist is to be viewed as autonomous, intelligent beings but the modern feminist has moved past this phase in the struggle (ancient feminists need to keep up) and has other troubling challenges to tackle. I will not bore you with the ideological underpinnings of the modern feminist so I will keep this light. The modern feminist can be identified by her fashion choices which are not bound and restricted by societal moral policing, unlike the ancient feminist. The modern feminist has adopted a fashion style; alté. They also employ a minimalist fashion approach (not to be confused with interior decorating styles), literally if I might add. When they wear skirts and gowns~ as minimal fabrics as the designer can get away with or what do you expect from an emancipated convict that has broken the stifling chains of masculine hegemony? I once read an article analysing brassieres as symbols of the patriarchy which we must combat like our very lives depend on it (if this makes you uncomfortable, you might have to consider that you are a misogynistic pig who cannot allow women to remain liberated).
A modern feminist can also be identified by her love for big, sturdy leather boots often found on frigid European and American continents (although I have no argument for the rationale behind wearing them, except they look ready to stomp on the crown of their enemies and the chicness of it). I especially love the chunky, bulky bracelets and tattoos that accompany the modern feminist dress code. Howbeit, the nose piercing is the most prominent feature of their dressing (and a personal favourite). You might wonder about the significance and importance of body mutilation (or was it modification?) to the feminist agenda but I like to say it is in solidarity with the Arab feminists who are deeply oppressed (or it could be for the aesthetics of it even though some pierced noses remind me of cows being led to the slaughter).
An endearing trait of the modern feminist is her sympathetic plight to other marginalised groups especially the rainbow community (if you wrinkle your nose then allow me to call you by your rightful name; a Homophobic bigot). They feel an empathetic connection towards transwomen as victims of discrimination and must at all costs (even sacrificing their proverbial nose to spite their faces) support their integration into female activities including sports (they seem to find men becoming women and beating biological females at every sport, liberating and so must you or else you shall be cancelled. Ask Adichie and JK Rowlings).
Cruelly, the modern feminist is often considered brash, confrontational, haughty and antagonistic but I often wonder if this reaction stems from the fallacy that women are cool, docile, amenable and subservient. In a ridiculous plot twist, the misconception about women serves the purpose of educating the populace on the monstrous feminine as theorised by Barbara Creed who claims females are capable of monstrous actions.
I cannot understand why modern feminists have refused to acknowledge that women are capable of being perpetrators as well as victims. I am befuddled especially at their defence of Amber Heard (estranged wife of American actor, Johnny Depp). Despite the ample evidence laid against Heard, these modern women have refused to see her as a perpetrator. Some have even claimed Heard’s abuse as a defence against Depp’s abuse when there is no evidence of such. It was ridiculous listening to supposedly intelligent women defend Heard on Twitter Spaces like deranged addicts (addicts to falsehoods and manipulation). To worsen an already bad case, Heard herself, dragged every woman into the fracas by saying her loss (at not being able to play the victim and riding on the DV survivor wave) was a negative impact on the female discourse. She claims women have lost their voice as though she is the forerunner of feminism and its discourse. Take for instance Ronnie Long who served 44 years in prison on false rape charges yet rape victims are never discredited with reference to Long’s indictment.
Therefore modern feminists who insist this is a slight against women can relax their nerves. No one will discredit you based on Heard’s conviction and loss. You have a voice and will be heard and seen (do not allow badly behaved bullies and perpetrators to tell you otherwise).

Speak up and speak out.

Giwa writes from the University of Lagos.

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On Father’s Day | The Harmattan News

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Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The whole world said June Sunday the 19th was Father’s Day, and different emojis flew into my social media space from biological and non-biological wards, from students I taught twenty, thirty years ago, from social media ‘off-springs. ‘Thanks for all that you have been to me’, one wrote. There was sour grape too. One father observed: which one is this again, bringing me more expenses? It’s Father’s Day I will still be the one to take them out, just as I did on Mother’s Day and Children’s Day! Hahahaha!

I didn’t grow up with the tradition of observing Father’s or Mother’s Day. Father was father, papa really. And Mother was mama, you know. Duty. Social responsibility. Provision of everything. Meeting all our needs from a modest civil servant’s income. It was a given. It was part of me, of us. The man in the house called the shots in a firm way but also ensured that we were comfortable within his means. What he could not afford now, he promised to get us later. And he did. Somehow, we knew our limits. We never asked for the moon. From deed and action, Papa taught us how to be a father, a dad, a friend. Friend? That came later, that is, after A ’Levels success and he bought me a beer at 18! I was dizzy after a glass. But a beer from Papa would not harm me, the same man who never spared the rod if I as much broke any of the rules of engagement like going to play football without permission! But all of this prepared me for fatherhood! To be a father by example…

I was 27 when I became a father. And a dad. That early morning in the hospital when I bore my tall thin baby girl in my arms, I stared at her for hours, wondering abut the beauty of a human being that had come out of my loins, my very first, (beginning of my strength’, the bible says) how the experience would change my life, how I would always have to reckon with three persons thenceforth, how I would have to ensure that she was fed regularly no matter how expensive baby formula was and how I would care for her no matter the circumstances. I had always wanted a girl, having come from an immediate family of seven boys and two girls, one five years older and the other six years younger, and how that deprived me of a close relationship with a girl at home. Odd, isn’t it? But that was it.

I also peered into the future, what I would do, what I wouldn’t do, and what direction I would give, religious, philosophical, spiritual, moral, and perhaps political. Sound education was a given. To pay fees for her through school without seeking support from my wife a given. But I did not foresee the world which she came into later as things began to tumble, as salaries were delayed, or withheld when ASUU was on strike, when our Take Home Pay could Not Take us Home, when inflation hit the roof, when the purchasing power of the naira took a terrible nose dive, or when herdsmen came into the narrative, when I ordered her to return home to Nigeria from the UK after an MSc to be able to meet a spouse and marry, how I changed my mind and asked my children to live anywhere in the world after my abductors threatened to kidnap my kids so I would be released from their custody to look for ransom money to free myself! That was not part of my vision!

READ ALSO: Democracy and Money Politics

Fatherhood was trying. Stressful sometimes. Did you worry about school fees sometimes? About what they would wear? About taking them to and bring them back from school, supervising homework, organizing private coaching, preparing them for entrance into secondary school and later JAMB examinations? And they passed the examinations. There was happiness. Sense of achievement. Accomplishment. So, fatherhood was joyful too. How could, how should a father from a conservative home handle ‘tabooed sexuality subjects’ with a child of the modern age? It was a tough question! Push some to the mother? Allow her to discover some?

So, it was that as I journeyed through the walls of education as a teacher, I encountered many students who made me a father, boys and girls who said daddy was absent in their lives, they didn’t know what it was like to have a father, how to bring a child into the world was not everything, how to provide material things was not fatherhood, how being an aggressive male in the house destroyed anything about fatherhood. And in a Creative Writing class, I asked my students to describe their relationship with their father and one of them broke down inconsolably as others wrote, and how she said the only thing about her father she knew was his photograph because he died when she was two or three. Or was it before she was born? I don’t remember now. But there were no dry eyes in the class of twenty-five that day when her experience of a no-dad hit the class, especially those who had taken presence of fatherhood for granted.

There were others too who said once a second wife came into the picture, they ‘lost’ their father to the charms of Mrs. New Wife! How he didn’t bother anymore about the details of their lives. Children of ‘Baby mamas’, who grew up with dad never visiting the child’s school. Love child with no open love for the child. What about the one who grew up in Yorubaland with a Yoruba mother, and who thought his dad was Yoruba, who spoke Yoruba, who was told that his father died when he was a baby, how he once attended a party with his mom and a cousin to his mom cornered and told him his father was from Imo State, and he was alive somewhere in Port Harcourt and before she could complete the story, his mother burst in on them and almost had a fight with the woman, how she warned him never to go to that woman in his life. Pained, as a final year student, what would he say was his home state when he went into politics, what would he tell his children, why did his mother blank out his father, why the bitterness? Questions. Questions! Questions!

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Fatherhood and Father’s Day. Much later all the other kids came, and I learnt how to deal with each of them individually, separately, and together. They all came in their different ways, character, brilliance, attitude, food choices, choice of academic career, even marriage choices. So, as I was fathering kids, having eat-outs, having family dinner to encourage bonding, I was also a student of parenting too, learning things Papa never taught me, making mistakes even while correcting them, learning lessons which no book or teacher or guardian taught me. Leant that it was better to allow them blossom while you guided them into self-discovery and if they trusted you enough, everyday will be FATHER’S DAY in their lives, they would remember you positively and reciprocate proper fatherhood with good ‘children-hood! And of course, we soon moved to another level- that of a grandfather, welcoming a second generation of my own brood, male and female, a blessing which money cannot buy! Lessons learnt while grooming their parents may no longer be applicable while relating with your children’s children. It’s a new world, where a five-year old could put me through the intricacies of an android phone! Marveling about it all is part of the pride of being a father and a grandfather.

So, let everyday be a day for fathers, mothers, and for the children. So, when your son writes: ‘I’ve never really been a fan of Father’s and Mother’s Day because for me I believe my parents are special and I thank God for having you every day. I thank God because I was blessed to be able to grow up, stroll to the sitting room and have someone sitting there who I could ask any questions and from whom I could get wise answers’, one feels fulfilled. And let the spirit of love, parental, sibling, filial, govern the world. Perhaps if we had that consciousness, there would be less tension in the world!

Professor Hope O. Eghagha, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka Lagos

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Lasisi Olagunju: Sold votes and a dead duck democracy

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From a lack of horses, we always saddle dogs, or cows, or even the ugly, scaly-backed alligator (agílíntí ab’ara hòìhòì). We do it every four years in the name of democratic elections. We choose bile as leaders then lament soon after that we are orphaned by the government.
The Arabs tell us that to understand a people, we should acquaint ourselves with their proverbs. As we lament the woes of being Nigerian and try to figure out who to vote for next year between crippling identical candidates, some snakes are providing guides across the north. They come in the form of Hausa proverbs. A friend who speaks the language forwarded them to me last week. One is “Koman lalachewan akuya, ya fi kare daraja (no matter how useless the goat is, it has more value than a dog).” Another is “mushin rago yafi alade da an yanka (a dead ram is better than a slaughtered pig).”
The Bible says that with Jesus at the Golgotha were two gentlemen: one to his right; the other to his left. Between the two, I have heard the question being asked: who was the better thief? You may have to find an answer to that question now if you intend to vote next year to elect a president for Nigeria. Up north, the above Hausa proverbs of goat and dog; of ram and pig have come in handy. I am a Muslim, so I have no problem knowing that goat meat is a delicacy in Muslim homes while dog meat is haram. Again, I know that a ram not properly slaughtered may be unclean for consumption but then, it is better than a pig properly slaughtered. That is the graffiti on the political skies of the north. Some candidates attract metaphors of pig and dog; some are goat and ram. Proverbs provide hidden contexts and kicks for actions, positive and negative. In politics, they are the horses on which guns are mounted. Everyone should listen to what the proverbs are saying and to what they will say going forward to the elections.
Another cycle is here. While dark imageries of region and religion rule electoral choices in the far north, dirty naira notes thumbprint for the electorate in the south. The Ekiti election has come and gone. For me, the most interesting spectacle there was the man in a viral video who said, with all innocence, that he took N5,000 bribe from a candidate before voting. He insisted he did it for posterity (nítorí ojó iwájú ni) and that the N5,000 was even small. “They were supposed to give us N10,000.” He would use the money to farm, he told his interviewer. He said so with a straight face before a rolling camera. He was not alone but he was the only one ‘stupid’ enough to speak the truth. And payment for votes in that election was not about any particular party. They all did it according to the strength of their muscles. Vote buying poisons our democracy and it is reprehensible. For the voters, what I have for them is not straight condemnation; it is pity. With a very heavy heart, I understand their problem and the harlotry in their decision. Prostitutes sell what they have to have what they lack. Whatever happened in Ekiti on Saturday will happen in Osun State next month (July 16). When people heard that a vote went for as much as ten thousand naira in Ekiti, I could hear expectant palms itching in other states. This house has fallen; it collapsed a while ago. People will collect money and choose their leader; if there are reasons to lament government negligence six months later, let that time come, the reasons will take care of themselves. It is a cycle, vicious and sad.
The Ashanti of the Republic of Ghana says “a good farmer will not cook the seed yam.” The Yoruba of Nigeria counsel their farmer not to eat his yam seeds because next season is just one night away (àmódún kò jìnnà k’éni má hú èbù sun je). But that remonstration is for the farmer who will be alive to see the next harvest. Everyone in Nigeria is sure only of the present. How do we convince very down people without hope not to sell anything within their powers to sell, including their votes? People are hungry and abandoned; they are very unsafe at the same time; none of the poor millions with PVCs is sure of being alive to ‘enjoy’ whatever the new government may bring. Some will be killed by hunger; some others by herdsmen without cows; many more by princely bandits who are beyond the short arms of our law. Those who manage to be alive will become displaced, abandoned citizens. The people are convinced by their circumstances to eat the food of tomorrow in the womb of today. They will sell their votes while they wait for Nigeria to bring whatever affliction it has. If we want democracy to work, we should first take hunger and fear off the menu of the Nigerian voter. Only the living sing the praise of the Lord.
The factors of money, region and religion did their thing in 2015 and 2019 and the result is today’s government of dead ducks and sinking floaters. Governments are like ducks; they exist to protect their flocks from kites and hawks. A duck that is mortally absent and exposes its children to predators is called a lame duck. Can we check what users of the English language mean when they describe a government as lame duck? Could that be what our president has become so soon? Not even the media remembered to ask why President Muhammadu Buhari was not part of the grand finale of his party’s campaign in Ekiti. He was not there; in his stead was Senator Bola Tinubu, the man positioned by APC and its governors to replace Buhari in 345 days’ time. And were we not told that presidential democracy has no space for two presidents at a time? Nigerian politicians are foisting that on us. But that really is not my bother here. My thoughts are on how our conditions are affecting our choices and how our choices are affecting our conditions. My thoughts are also on how helpless Nigerians struggle to live through these very bad times. It is like being boxed in a troubled plane with a pilot that is not there.

READ ALSO: Democracy and Money Politics 

On 28 December, 2008, Joe Klein, a columnist with the Time Magazine, published a review of the fading tenure of President George W. Bush whose Republican Party had just lost the presidency to Barack Obama of the opposition Democratic Party. The piece is a full definition of what a duck is supposed to be and what it is when it is lame. I quote Klein verbatim here: “At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he (Bush) has become the lamest of all possible ducks… This is a presidency that has wobbled between two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence. The latter has held sway these past few months as the economy has crumbled. It is too early to rate the performance of Bush’s economic team, but we have more than enough evidence to say, definitively, that at a moment when there was a vast national need for reassurance, the president himself was a cipher. Yes, he’s a lame duck.” Klein described his president’s “disappearing act” in the very middle of an economic crisis as “a fitting coda to a failed presidency.” His focus and his judgement sound very Nigerian. But I cannot use those words for my president and his government. I do not have the courage to do so. But day and night, I look with anger and sorrow at what we have. I see Nigerians dying for hope. I imagine a mother duck too hobbled and absent that its ducklings become targets for predators. A certain Ken Greenwald would describe this duck as not just lame but worse – a dead duck – “a thing done up, played out, not worth a straw…”
Nigeria is like pepper; you pound it, you grind it, its smarting character remains its defining feature. It devalues people and their prized possessions. It is easy for the elite to condemn voters who sell their votes. English writer and Queen of Romance, Barbara Cartland, said “when we judge other people, it is always by our own standards and that often prevents us from understanding them or giving them the compassion they deserve…that we may denounce a thief, but how can we understand his action if we have never felt the compulsion to steal? And if we have never seen anyone we love hungry, ill and deprived.” How many Nigerians will survive or are surviving these very hard times without cutting corners? Businesses are fainting and dying as diesel goes for N850 per litre – and this at a time when electricity competes with the absence of government in people’s lives. Elected politicians promised to light up lives; they also pledged to power the country as had never been done before. Now, where are they? NEPA may have changed its name a million times, but the name change adds no value to it. The cost of cooking gas is setting fire to homes. Kerosene has long moved away from its friendship with the poor. Every item of survival is beyond the reach of everyone without access to the public till. Yet, there is no route for an escape. Injured hope is wheeled into the temple of the coming polls. The people are doing a count-down for the Buhari regime – 345 days to go. They think the coming election will remark the script of existence for the poor. But they see that the 2023 road is being narrowed when they hear politicians promise to continue the legacy of this president. You know what that means for the unsafe, the hungry and the jobless? Even if the coming change will bring some progress, the election that will birth it is February next year; this plane has till May 29, 2023 to land. You and I have eleven months, ten days more of gruelling turbulence without any reassuring action in the cockpit.
We have had seven years of a hideous game of blame and of “overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence.” We will have one more year of both, and even more years of the same, if the successor is as wobbled as what we have. And it looks like it. The child of a duck is a floater; snakes always give birth to snakes. I heard Tinubu, the man who wants to lead Nigeria’s two hundred million for the next eight years after Buhari, say something suggestive of business as usual. In his acceptance speech after his nomination, and in a letter to the president this past weekend, he spoke about erecting his structure on Buhari’s foundation and that the country is in trouble today because the PDP, in its 16 years, “depleted our resources and left us with hunger.” Playing the blame game. They all do it. If the PDP wins in February, there is no guarantee that it also won’t mint blame as the dividend of people’s investment in its election. It is the system we run – the fault always lies in others. You know what the toad did when it missed its way to the stream? It hopped into the valley of mirage to fetch illusions for its thirsty community. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad said “when people are lame, they love to blame.”

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Those are very true words. We will continue to be ruled by excuses and the country ruined by blames. It is the logical harvest from a field of diseased seeds. This democracy is dying – and will die – unless we move fast to give the people back their lives. We cannot win the 21st century race of progress with a team of cross-party cripples. Sadly, that is what our democracy offers and we can all feel it.

Lasisi Olagunju

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Democracy and Money Politics | The Harmattan News

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Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The initiators of democracy in 5th Greece never envisaged a situation in which only the wealthy or super-rich would become representatives of the people, whether in the legislative or executive arm of government. Its original meaning – rule of the people – is quite instructive in this regard. For, it is in the sense that aristocrats would no longer rule over the people that democracy was born. To be sure, aristocrats were the money and propertied people, who dominated the economic and political lives of society, virtually dictating the private and public lives of citizens. It is true that with the passage of time, the nuances and practices of democracy have been redefined and adapted to prevailing circumstances. And so, we have such spurious, fanciful terms and notions as ‘autocratic democracy’, ‘liberal democracy’, ‘consensus democracy’ and ‘supermajority’. Ali Mazrui warned that ‘it is suicidal in any democracy for a majority without economic power to hand over political power to a minority with economic power! Which is the current scenario in Nigeria. And the nation is paying for it.
The last special conventions orchestrated by the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) in Abuja brought to the fore the power of money at the heart of politics and politicking in Nigeria. There was a time in our history when the political rulers in Nigeria managed to pretend about public morality, pretending to respect the naira, pretended about fighting corruption, pretended about setting the right standards, pretended about inclusive politics, and pretended about their image in the eyes of the people. But that era has gone with the wind of time. In Abuja during the conventions, although the event was beamed for the whole world to see, it was mainly to entertain the people and give the illusion of transparency. Everyone knew that the dirty things had taken place off camera.

READ ALSO: Much ado about Presidential ambitions

In a most blatant and imprudent manner, the future rulers of the country brazenly passed a vote of no confidence on sociopolitical ethics and the value of the naira in relation to the American dollar. Apart from the scandalously high price tag on the Nomination or Expression of Interest Forms, there was a battle by aspirants to pay the highest bribes to the delegates who are charged with producing the flagbearers of the Parties. In this regard, the future ‘rulers’ showed disdain for public opinion and the image of brigands which the conventions flashed or etched in the minds of the hapless citizenry. As usual, there is acquiescence on the part of the people who will vote for or against the envisaged representatives in 2023.
Man’s ingenuity in crafting new political frameworks has been his life and of course his death. Speaking broadly, we could speak of ‘parliamentary democracy’ and ‘presidential democracy’. Ingeniously, man learnt how to elect five or ten persons into a cult-like group who in turn dished out instructions to the common people as a form of democracy. The society also created ‘god fathers’ who pulled the strings behind the scenes and dictated the persons who were qualified to be in parliament or occupy the executive seat of government.
There is a fundamental contradiction between democracy as a form of government and the power of money in the emergence of persons as representatives. Men and women with deep pockets but with little popularity among citizens or a questionable source of wealth have become the major nominees. This goes beyond bellyaching. There is the pervasive narrative that these men will bully their way through the power of money. What is your price tag, the flagbearers seem to ask the country? What can we do, the people seem to say? As for the Peter Obi Movement which is Even in advanced democracies, a poor man cannot really represent the people. Expressed differently, a poor man can only represent the people if he is able to raise funds to finance electioneering. In some jurisdictions, there are legal prescriptions on how to raise such funds.

 

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If democracy as currently practised was very successful, the notion of people power would not have developed. People Power! This is a ‘political term denoting the populist driving force of any social movement which invokes the authority of grassroots opinion and willpower, usually in opposition to that of conventionally organized corporate or political forces. In principle and practice, democracy ought to be about the power of the people to elect their representatives. But it came to be that certain subterranean forces grabbed power and dictated willy-nilly the nature and practice of politics, as we saw in the Arab world which led to the historical Arab Spring in 2010; that led to the END SARS uprising in Nigeria in 2017. People’s power takes over when the people are frustrated with the type of democracy and the personalities/actors who pull the strings of politics in a country. Nigeria has reached that point. What seems to have withheld those forces from taking over is the façade of ethnic and religious diversity in the two big regions that form Nigeria. For those who really know, it is a veneer. The fate of the oppressed, suffering man in the south is the same as that of the ordinary man in the north. The difference is in how they react to state oppression and exploitation in the short run. Ultimately, suffering will unite the northern and the southern youths to take back their country. It is only a question of time.
As the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections, angered by money politics and the politics of official exclusion, the youths have started a movement around Peter Obi. How successful this will be we are no prophets to know. There is anger in the land. Northern youths are angry. Southern youths are angry. Some people in the south believe that the Presidency of the incumbent President has favoured the north more in terms of access to the good life. Nothing can be further from the truth. Things are generally bad in the country. The odious display of money politics in Abuja during the Conventions is a breaking point for us all. Sadly, it happened under the watch of the unsmiling General who campaigned on an anti-corruption mantra. This signals the end of hope that mainstream politics can resolve the deep contradictions of the Nigerian state. So, the big question arises: NIGERIA, WHAT MUST BE DONE TO SAVE US FROM MONEY POLITICS?

Professor Hope O. Eghagha, Department of English, University of Lagos

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