Saturday, December 22, 2007


  1. The Minister of Health has confirmed the long-feared presence of Birds Flu in Benin Republic. This pronouncement is sequel to an analysis result received from a Canadian-based Laboratory.
  2. Following this report, inhabitants of Benin have been thrown into panic over what to eat during the Christmas and New Year festivities since most families had already penned down chicken as part of delicacy to garnish their tables during the Yuletide celebrations.
  3. The Vice President of International Red Cross, Cotonou Chapter confirmed to me this morning, that his team have been placed on RED ALERT following this announcement. He confirmed that their members have been adequately trained to handle any cases of outbreak.
  4. Meanwhile, Health officials have been coping with mass burial of affected birds so far detected.
  5. Most families have resolved to make it a fishyish celebration rather than risk the chicken disease that has dified the medical profession.
  6. Here is wishing all my fans and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Naked Dancers

I had boasted to my friends about my royal background in order to acquire for myself some measure of respectability on campus. To buttress my claim to royalty, I would show them a photo album of my parents’ marriage anniversary, which supposedly attracted very huge crowd. Almost every member of the community was at that party. That was during the boring war years in Biafra.
People had grown weary of having to spend most of their time hiding from air bombardments. Some couple had taken advantage of this forced isolation of an entire community, and been trying to overcome the effects of malnutrition that was so widespread among the populace. They had resorted to having chicken served at almost every of their meals. Not that they had a poultry farm of their own, neither could they afford to buy even a single chicken; yet they shared a whole chicken between them every day.
People in the neighbourhood had been unable to untangle the wrangle of endless disappearance of one-chick-a-day from families. More mystifying was the fact that almost every one in the community, except this couple, looked half-well-fed or half-malnourished on account of the global hunger imposed by the war.
Cat was let out of the bag one moonlit night. A man who had eaten half-cooked cassava for lunch had developed a runny stomach that kept him awake all night. The food poisoning had ballooned up his stomach to the size of a triplet pregnancy. His wife whose fault it was to have fed him with half-cooked cassava had offered to play the midnight midwife in order to save herself from the wrath of the villagers should anything worse happen to her husband. She had posited that she could not collect enough firewood to have the food properly cooked, owing to prevalent desertification.
As she was escorting her husband to one of the bout of visitations to the public latrine some metres away from the living enclave, they had accosted another couple in the cold lonely night. At first they thought it was another victim of runny stomach that had gone to answer the call of nature. They halted to exchange commiserations. The pregnant man was impatient to halt for such distractions that would impede the urgency that lay behind his heels. He had to incline his feeble frame on his wife’s shoulder. This other nocturnal couple tried to copy their example, but could not immediately decide who was to lean on the other’s shoulder.
In the faintly lighted night, it could be detected that this other woman had a larger stomach size than she used to be. She was neither pregnant nor had eaten raw cassava during the course of the day.
The cause of her artificial pregnancy came to the open when the object behind her wrapper tried to struggle for breath? It had let out some embarrassing shriek of a cry as the woman tried unsuccessfully to snuff out its life. The hidden object turned out to be a cock they had just stolen from another unsuspecting family in the neighbourhood
“What!” queried the sick man. This was quickly followed by a high-pitched alarm raised by his one-night midwife. “E-wo-o,” A-lu-o,” echoed the couple in unison as they ran back to the village centre, leaving a trail of watery human faeces apparently dropping from the bewildered sick man. Such embarrassing display did not matter anymore in the face of the overbearing discovery. This alarm startled people from their sleep. Men emerged from their huts armed with machetes; not very sure what was the matter. Women came out, clutching their children protectively as if that was the only object they cherished. Vigilante groups quickly mounted post at the various entrances to the village to hold back any intrusion. With this type of barricade, the thieves knew that it would be fatal to attempt to escape. They simply had to present themselves at the court of the traditional Prime Minister. Bad news spreads fast. Rumour spreads even faster. Soon it was peddled even across to the neighbouring villages that a couple had been caught with a pack of chickens. Some other versions claimed that it was a goat. Some later related how they thought that enemy soldiers had invaded the village.
People could not wait for the break of day before thronging to the residence of the Prime Minister to catch a glimpse of the thieving couple;
As tradition demanded, the thieves would dance naked round the village starting from the Prime Minister'’ court-yard and terminating at the village square from where a verdict of banishment would be pronounced on them. It was in the hall adjoining the village square that my parents’ marriage anniversary was being held.
The youths angered by the fact of having to mount unnecessary guard at the boundaries at unholy hours of the night, had opted to lead the carnival. They had also adorned the couple in all manner of fetish-like objects, with the stolen chicken dangling just above the lady’s groin. The lady seemed to feel comfortable on her newly acquired outfit, which allowed her some forward inclination so that the dangling chicken would cover her confusion most of the time.
By virtue of the restrictions imposed by the war, it was not often that people were treated to some fun like this. Some ban had been placed on various traditional ceremonies such as the annual New Yam festival, which usually attracted a gathering of all sons and daughters of the land from home and abroad. But this incident bordered on morality, which the people held in religious esteem. Besides, it is not often that one sees a naked adult in full view. So, both curiosity and the call for justice and respect of moral values had prompted the large crowd from within and abroad that accompanied the train.
The duo danced frenzily to the drumbeat rendered by the angry youths who had just been deprived of a good night’s sleep. As for the youths, this dance was more of a vendetta than the usual carnival we all had missed for so long.
It was generally acknowledged that the woman had danced more hysterically judging by the flexibility of her bulky stature, and the way she resonated rhythmically to the deafening rattlers, cymbals and every manner of noise-producing object that constituted the orchestra. It did not really matter whether a culprit danced well or not. Afteral, this was supposed to be a parting token, indeed the last dance that would in no way turn the course of events around. Getting rid of a criminal was like avoiding an epidemic. There was no going back.
The camera-man that covered my parents’ marriage anniversary had inadvertently captured most part of this intruding carnival, which portrayed the mammoth crowd as being part of the marriage anniversary thereby infusing some air of importance to it.
It was this feeling of greatness that I had sought to impress on my college mates at the campus. And it almost worked, except that I was in a dilemma with having to explain the presence of those naked couple garbed in tatters and some dead chicken.
Could I have said that they were mad guests that had wandered into the crowd uninvited, or that it was part of side attractions that attended the culture of my people?

Saturday, August 18, 2007


REWARD - by Vincent NNANNA

For a reward to be truly rewarding, it has to be manifold in its manifestations. It has to impact lives apart from that of the beneficiary alone. Its end result ought to be to magnify or bear testimony to the grace and glory of God. This multifarious expression of a single act of gratitude coincides with the picture as conveyed in the first Epistle of Peter, chapter 4, verse 10, which says: "As every man received the gift even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." I have highlighted four key phrases which clearly define what should be our attitude in the giving and receiving process.

Webster dictionary defines manifold as a whole that consists of many diverse elements. That is to say, a reward, like the single word it is, consists of one whole attitude that contains diverse elements. Bearing that in mind, it is important to look beyond what we would receive as reward and try to discern its component parts.

Not long ago, a surgeon friend of mine says that what gratifies him most is not the fees paid by his patients. In the save vein, he has never felt any regret by the inability of some of his clients to pay their medical bills. In each case he does maintain an equilibrate state of mind. His attitude lies in the understanding that he is only a tool in God's hand, that the manifold blessings he receives do not always come from payment of medical bills. He went further to say that the fact that most of his patients do open their mouth to outpour their feelings of gratitude to God, is always a great reward that money cannot buy. He is always elated by such simple expression like: "The Lord has done it;" "I thank God for your life, doctor;" or still, "I don't know how to thank you for what you have done to my life." To him, the honest acknowledgment of wellness humbles him beyond expression and constantly reminds him of the faithfulness of God who says: "I am the Lord that healeth thee." (Exodus 15:26b). I am persuaded by this gentleman's attitude to believe that giving does not impoverish us, neither does withholding make us richer.

In trying to comprehend the import of reward, it might be rewarding to take a cursory look at its opposite, denial. Denial has to do with withholding something that one had looked forward to receiving knowing well that he had laboured enough to deserve it in return. I do not know of any normal human being who would pretend to be cheerful in the face of apparent denial. It is natural to express anger and disappointment. These feelings only serve as escape valve for some emotional combustion that denial could build in us; they do not make amends for the denial. Often times, the reaction would vary according to the magnitude of the object or the degree of attachment, nay the premium on the reward. It is usually difficult, if not impossible to look the other party in the face and say: God bless you! Neither do men walk up to the pulpit to testify before the body of Christ as to how kindly they have been treated by someone who denied them of a reward. Like its opposite, denial also could give rise to various emotional, mental or physical, but nonetheless unpalatable reactions. It is an ill wind that blows no one good - both the perpetrator or the offended person. Rather than cement or solidify the bridge of friendship between persons, denial creates a gulf that separates even the best of friends or blood relations. It therefore, beats me hollow to understand why some outwardly serious-looking Christians would fall prey to the temptation to deliberately prefer to deny others their legitimate rewards. In so doing, they inadvertently deny God of the opportunity to receive the glory due to His holy name. When God blessed man and gave him power to subdue, as contained in the Book of Genesis, chapter one, verse 28, does that mandate include the authority to subdue and dominate or deny our fellow human beings? Maybe, we need to seek a better interpretation and understanding of our bounds and limits with regard to that command.

Without risking overflogging the issue, it might be of immense help to appreciate some of the adverse consequences that might result from denial. It can and does give rise to a feeling of discontentment; a feeling of an unexpected vacuum begging to be filled. It leads to loss of confidence. A measure of trust that took many years to cultivate, could crumble in a twinkle of an eye. Disillusionment would make someone who had held another in high esteem to begin to doubt his integrity or moral rectitude. It could make one to wonder just how much of a hypocrite a professing Christian could be.

History is replete with violent reactions resulting from denial of one sort of another. Strong empires have fallen with huge loss of lives. Micro family units and business relationships have been torn apart. The list is inexhaustive and so are the consequences. In most cases the effects have been disproportionate to the original cause.

My system always runs riot and I tremble much at the prospect of struggling daily to live up to the spirit of the Golden Rule in a positive way. I however, obtain my consolation from the Messiah's admonition immediately following the Beatitudes; Luke 6:38: "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." From the foregoing, it is clear that the reward phenomenon is preemptive. That is to say, we must first engage ourselves in some noble deed before expecting to be rewarded. This sounds like another injunction of Jesus regarding where we should store our treasures. Alas, how much we resist being meted with the same measure we have doled out to others, let alone having it shaken, pressed down and overflowing. One would have taken pitched tent on the loophole if this text had only stopped at "measuring unto you." But it categorically states that "shall men give into your bosom." This, to me, implies that what we will receive as reward will have great impact in our innermost part, the heart which is the vital organ of every human being. It goes beyond scratching on the surface. How often do we hear some aggrieved person remark that the wrong someone did had touched their heart? Were it possible that men could borrow even one phrase from the Epistle of Peter earlier referred to, such as "ministering as good stewards" in our relationship with other, there would be a world of men with manifold blessings pressed down and running over. A world where there would be no room for lack or want. Who says we cannot have absolute satisfaction in life? This is attainable because it had been our original state from creation. It is only by implicit obedience to the Scriptures can a sure return to the promised land be made possible.

Let us give impersonally and impartially. Let us act as good stewards of Him who is faithful. The Scripture says that our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing. My understanding of this passage is that we should not behave like the Pharisees who stand by the road side to sing their own praises. We ought to give without expecting anything in return, especially from our benefactors. According to one celebrated American author and religious leader, "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father, and blessed is the man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good." (Science & Health with key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy). This appears to sum up the attitude of my surgeon friend, and is supposed to be the attitude of every man made in the image and likeness of God.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Human Right Violations in your neighbourhood

If we look back to what were considered traditional values, and the violations they imposed on certain individuals, it would not seem inappropriate to call for truth and reconciliation panels to seek redress for the victims. Obviously, some of those practices were instituted on misconceived or selfish premises. It has since become common knowledge that some of the so-called oracles that had to be consulted for pronouncement of certain impositions were themselves mere conspiracies of charlatans and criminal-minded rulers. Most of the laws were designed to keep enemies and/or suspected competitors at bay. Was it not ignorance, suspicion and fear of the unknown that prompted the oracle in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" to decree the cold blooded murder of the white missionary and to bind his 'iron horse' to the tree lest it ran away to tell?
My mother was 12 when she had to be betrothed to a 40-year-old king from a neighbouring clan, just because she was a princess and the two kings wanted to consolidate their political treaty, using the innocent girl as a token. The cruelty she had to suffer from both sides was better imagined. On the one community, it was forbidden to accept back a female child once she had been married out. On the other, it was a taboo to keep a woman that delivered of twins. My mother was trapped between the two barbaric traditional practices, for no sooner had she settled into premature motherhood than she delivered of a set of twins. Because she was the King's wife, they did not have to carry out the prescribed custom to the letter. Otherwise, both mother and the twins would have been killed immediately. The oracle had to be consulted. The charlatan who had been eating my mother's food by virtue of his being the King's personal physician and fortune-teller had the audacity to pronounce that the twins must be killed. My mother, who had endeared herself to the King's heart, proved very stubbord for once. She had insisted on keeping her twins or die with them, knowing very well that her husband would not want to loose her either. While the controversy lasted, another consultation had to be made to see if there was a way of pacifying the gods. Unfortunately, precedents had already been set with previous elimination of many sets of twins and their mothers; and the law is no respecter of persons. This particular case proved very knotty because there was another custom that forbade any son of the land from shedding blood of any member of the royal household. Any violation of this law attracted death by sacrificing the culprit to the shrine. This impasse re-echoed the question of "who will bell the cat?" After protracted consultations amidst murmuring by impatient members of the community, the oracle reluctantly came up with a verdict of banishment of mother and the twins into the evil forest. This was a piece of land that had not been explored or exploited since time immemorial. It was there that unwanted property of dead people had to be deposited in case they would need them. People who had had to pass through that forest at noon or by night claim to have heard sound of clattering of utensils or pounding of mortar, which reinforced the notion that dead people actually carried on their activities there. Paws of wild animals like hyenas and wolves had been identified by hunters along the foot track. Only very powerful native doctors did venture into the inner parts of the forest in search of rare herbs and barks of medicinal trees. They, too, had testified to the existence of ghosts in the forest. Some even talked about a pond of fresh water which could pass for a lake. Water drawn from that lake was believed to cure stubborn diseases. But drawing from that source was not easy because all those wild animals and pythons did go there occasionally to bathe and drink from. It was into this evil forest that a teenage mother and her twins had to be banished, wearing only a piece of wrapper and nothing else.
The fact that she survived four days and nights in that jungle cast a shadow of doubt over the authenticity of the stories surrounding its evilness. She had found shelter within the cavity of a tree trunk. Her food consisted of palm-nuts, wild manioc tubers and fresh familiar leaves. She recalls that at one time during her incarceration, a pregnant antelope had ventured onto her abode and layed by her side as if to comfort her and her twins. She had felt really comforted because that was the only time she could manage to take a nap during which the neighbourly antelope had wandered away. By her third day in the forest, she had woken up to find the uncovered twins stone dead as a result of exposure to cold and insect bites. She had dug a shallow grave as far as her strength and bare hands could go and buried them. Tears and sweat from that task and the sorrow it entailed had soaked her cloth so much that she could squeeze out enough to douche up herself later. By this time, she had decided that she had no reason to remain in that god-forsaken solitude any more. Going back to her parents was out of the question because of that obnoxious custom that forbade the return of a daughter once married out. She had to risk wandering along the path to see where fate would lead her. It was at that juncture that she encountered one young man who was returning late from farm. The sorry sight of an unkempt lady who wore the distinguishing royal bead on her neck and wrist aroused the young man's curiosity. This farmer was not in the habit of passing through that road, but on that particular night, he had to because in spite of the mystery surrounding it, it was closer home, and he needed to get home fast. As they entered into conversation, it had become clear to him that she was not yet another ghost that had assumed human form to entice an unfortunate and unsuspecting victim. Her story evoked so much compassion that the young man could not resist the urge to offer her shelter even for some temporary period of time. It had been decided between them that she concealed of her regal paraphernalia in order not to attract attention and to save the young man's head. Days ran into weeks, and weeks into months, until I was born. Today, my modest bungalow is standing on the very spot where the tree that housed my mother and her twins had been. There are a dozen of other houses within the one-time evil forest. The rest are very fertile farms. One would wonder where those ghosts had moved on to. Or was it only a myth?
Now that some of those belief systems and practices are on the verge of being dismantled - thanks to religion and civilisation, what manner of restitution can adequately compensate for the wrongs they had inflicted? I do not expect an answer except to open our eyes to the fact that more heinous practices than my mother's unfortunate ordeal still abound all around us in the likeness of child slavery, forced marriages, dedication to deities, debt bondage, sex rituals purported to cure epidemics, perpetual female confinements, female genital mutilations, and a number of human right abuses; all in the name of upholding traditional values. In all these scenarios, women are the most vulnerable. I am therefore, inclined to quote a nineteenth century American writer and human rights activist, Mary Baker Eddy: "In olden times it was the Amazons who conquered the invincibles, and we must join hands with their daughters to overcome our allied enemies of evil and to save us from ourselves." (Pulpit & Press, 1925) Italics mine.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Periscoping Benin (3): Legislative Elections

The 5th in the series of legislative elections since Benin adopted a Democratic-based Constitution in 1990 was held last Saturday. The results, as demanded by the Constitution, were supposed to be announced within 48 hours after the voting exercise. But the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA) needed some extension of time to enable her tidy up some knotty issues.
With the results now officially announced, four parties have emerged tops with the Force Cauris Pour un Benin Emergent (FCBE) of President Boni Yayi leading with 33 or 633.241 votes out of the total 83 seats. Others are Alliance pour une Dynamique Democratique (ADD) with 21 seats or 476.338 votes; Parti du Renouveau Democratique (PRD) 10 seats or 276.348 votes; and Union Pour la Releve (UPR) with 03 seats or 127.834 votes.
A total of 3.891.536 voters were registered for the election, out of which only 2.812.048 was accredited representing 93.53% of total votes cast.
The voting pattern is truly a test of the support the regime of President Boni Yayi is receiving from the populace. It will be recalled that he had emerged into the political arena as an independent. Soon after it became clear that he was the most popular choice, some group of political parties then known as the ‘Wolougede Alliance’, formed a coalition to support him. This is the Alliance that has metamorphosed into FCBE. The ADD party is made up of Antoin Kolawole Idji the outgoing President of the National Assembly in alliance with former President Nicephore Soglo and Bruno Amousou, who both, contested the presidential elections of last year. The PRD belongs to Adrien Houngbedji who was one time National Assembly president, who also was unsuccessful during the last year’s presidential elections. The URP is a popular party embraced by people of the North. It belongs to Issa Salifou, a frontline businessman with substantial investment in the Media. He is said to have opted to lend his votes to the support of President Boni Yayi, who by the way, is from the north as well. This does not give the FCBE party a comfortable majority in the House, but it is enough to cushion the ground for a smooth lobbying and to instil in the President some sense of the need to be cautious in his conduct of the affairs of governance.

Monday, March 26, 2007


If there be anyone to whom much credit should be given regarding her role in abolishing slavery, it is the American author and religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, whose name is boldly written on the American Women’s Hall of Fame. She was married to the famous Colonel Glover of Charleston, South Carolina, who was considered wealthy, but much of his property was in slaves. Upon being deceased in 1844, Mrs Glover Eddy (as she was then known), refused to inherit her husband’s wealth of slaves. As she later wrote in a letter to The Mother Church in 1902, page 15, “I could never believe that a human being was my property.” She had taken this stand in spite of the abject poverty and political persecution she was facing at that time, coupled with her publisher’s refusal to pay her royalty on her first published work, Science & Health with key to the Scriptures. As she later wrote in that book, “Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard, but the abolision of mental slavery is a more difficult task. Men and women of all climes and races are still in bondage to material sense, ignorant how to obtain their freedom. The rights of men were vindicated in a single section and on the lowest plane of human life, when African slavery was abolished on our land. That was only prophetic of further steps towards the banishment of a world-wide slavery, found on higher planes of existence and under more subtle and depraving forms. Slavery is not the legitimate state of man. God made man free.” Paul said, “I was free born.” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Love and Truth make man free, but evil and error lead into captivity.” (ibid. 225). As the world celebrates the abolision of slavery, it will only be fair and just to remember the pioneers such as Mary Baker Eddy, who vehemently resisted the urge to sacrifice her woes on the altar of human slavery.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Periscoping Benin (2)

With a couple of days before the 5th legislative elections in Benin is held, candidates have resorted to grassroots close-door strategy. The fanfare and motorized carnival that characterised the first week of the campaigns have completely disappeared. Though president Boni Yayi came onboard as an independent, some group of political parties have formed a coalition to carry his banner of 'change' which has since become a household slogan in the country.
This campaign of proximity has seen every available hotel and restaurant within the city fully booked. The most catchment targets are the youths, market women and housewives. This has to be the case because business activities seem to have grinded to a halt owing mainly to diversion of attention to politicking to the detriment of business preoccupations. This situation is compounded by the incessant power outages which ironically appears to many to be the only visible evidence of the regime of 'change'.
With the election of a new National Electoral Commission Chairman in the person of Eugene Capa CHICHI , there is renewed hope of conducting the election of the 83 Deputies as scheduled, because he has pledged to ensure that the voters' lists which had been confiscated by some Commission representatives will promptly be retrieved to facilitate planning.
One factor which is most likely to fool the candidates concerning the huge turnout at their campaign meetings is that success at the polls cannot be measured by these numbers because most of them come not to listen to manifestos but for the stipend and snacks that are distributed during such gatherings.
Preponderant majority of the contestants come from the old brigade of politicians who had contested during the 2006 presidential elections and failed, but have found it not derogatory to condescend to vying for a seat within the 83-member Parliament. The desperation to stay within the corridors of power is apparent among this group judging from the amount of resources they seem to pull together against the meagre input of the greener candidates. Needless to say, generally the campaign has been peaceful and orderly, typical of Benin culture of modesty and decency.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Periscoping Benin republic

Benin republic (république du Bénin), originally known as DAHOMEY, is a country of about six million inhabitants. It is lying between Togo/Ghana on one side and Nigeria on the other side – all in West Africa. Its chief export product is cotton. Its official language is french, having been a colony of France. After gaining her independence in August 1960, the country came under Marxist-socialist rule for a long uncomfortable period of time. By 1990, democracy was installed after a national constitutional conference. This transition was embraced with mixed feelings because it was the once-feared military dictator who succeeded himself after he had personally undergone some spiritual transformation to become a true Christian. In order to perpetuate himself in office beyond the constitutional mandate, this born-again Christian sought to amend the constitution which attempt was vigorously opposed by the Parliament. By March 2006, presidential elections was held. Former Economist and Regional Bank Director who had contested as an independent candidate emerged victorious. A few months before the end of tenure of the Parliament, clandestine overtures were initiated to elongate their life by one year. This effort was quashed by the Executive. On the 15th day of March 2007, some unidentified gunmen shot at the presidential convoy as he was returning from a campaign rally for Legislative election at which he had given support to some loyal contestants sympathetic to his administrative. By 20th March, some six suspects had been taken into custody by the Police in connection with the attack on the presidential entourage. This same day, the president of the republic held crucial meeting with members of the Autonomous Electoral Commission at the end of which the Chairperson was sacked for administrative irregularities. Legislative elections are to be held on Sunday March 25. Meanwhile, some Electoral Commission agents have confiscated some voters’ list from some constituencies alleging that some allowances are being owed them.