#Imagine Nigeria, through the lens of Ogenna

Ogenna

Hi. Ogenna here but I refer to myself as Sunshine, not because I’m yellow, but because I’m hoping to touch the entire world before I burn out.
You know stars don’t fade away, they do the afore mentioned.
Model, Student Engineer (I mean there are student doctors), Part time mother to my brothers, Writer and last but most important Dreamer.
Nigerian. African.

Blank slate.
That’s all I want really.
Hope.
That’s all I have truly.
Faith in the unfaithful.
That’s my mantra
Peace.
That’s what I dream of daily.
Chanting prayers like a war cry.
Like a little child waiting on Santa’s delivery.
I wait for the world to become one.

Back it up, let’s start from the top.
Let’s imagine this.
Zoom out of your map, way further, further out.
Do you see any borders ?
No ? I don’t too.
So why are we killing our brothers ?
Because I was under the impression that he who shares land with another,
They become one, just like the land they live on and toil on.
So tell me, why. Are. We. Killing. Our. Brothers ?

Let’s cut out religion
Cut out the fear of hell or heaven.
Do we have to choose ?
Muslim ? Christian ? Buddhist ? The rest ?
Let’s paint a picture and blur out the edges.
Cloudy. No hard lines to separate us.
No paper in the form of spiritual books to sway us.
Let’s imagine a world where there’s no divide.
You can say it’s just imagination.
But the earth was built out of nothing.

Black and white.
Imagine if there was no black or white.
And the whole world was grey.
If there was no Nigerian, American, Somalian, Pakistani, oh. The list is endless.
Picture if we were all grey.
With no colors to separate us.
We wouldn’t have to put our hands up all the time.
We would actually breathe.

This list is endless.
The hopes are rising.
You say I’m a dreamer.
You say I’m just a little girl.
But I’m an African little girl.
A Nigerian, an Igbo.
Would you like to hear some Igbo ?
It beats you asking me to “speak some African” when you see I’m black.
Tell me the capital of Africa.
I’ll wait. No answer ?
AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY.
Read a book. Educate yourself.

I’m coming down home.
So I don’t have to “Raise my hands” every time I wear a hoodie.
So I can run in the cold and not be termed “man on the run”
I’m coming home so “I can breathe”
But I’m home now.
And Mr police officer stops me to ask “anything for the boys”
The sales girl gives me a blank stare when I ask “why’s petrol so expensive”
The NEPA officials laugh when I say “there’s been a blackout”
I’m home and I drive like a drunken man to avoid these pot holes in my road.
How am I supposed to maintain a vehicle on these roads ?
I’ll buy another then.
But when I’m done with petrol for my generator.
“Something for Mr Police officer and his boys”
“Buying goods that are imported but could have been made here in my home”
“When I am done providing basic amenities the government should provide with my tax”
“When I’m done providing my tax”
What will I have left ?
Then I’m home and these explosions are going off in my head.
But they’re not in my head.
They’re here. In churches. In Mosques.
Why are these places running red with our blood ?
Shouldn’t they be the sanctuary we seek ?
Shouldn’t they be the getaway when we want to get away ?
Between the government and the BH boys,
My country slowly becomes uninhabitable.
Is this where I’m coming home to ?
Where I can’t even call their names for fear of the next explosion tearing me apart ?
Where my voice can’t be heard over the screams of my people.
Where my tears can’t be seen through their blood.
Shall I hang in the air now as the obodo oyibo isn’t good but ala nna’m is horrible ?
Where racism rules the former and tribalism, corruption and you name it rules the other.

I want to imagine a Nigeria without boundaries.
I want to imagine my baby girl happy as she used to be.
I want to imagine our baby girl prosperous.
Because Nigeria is our girl.
Our baby girl.
And we must come together as a family to protect her.
We must hold hands together and stand at her boundary and keep her safe from them who seek to destroy her.
Regardless of color, tribe, religion, language.
In our diversity we must become one.
I imagine.
A beautiful Nigeria.

Ogenna.
Sunshine.

***

I have known Ogenna all her life, she inspires me a whole lot. I doubt if she know’s what an amazing talent she’s got. The world hasn’t scratched her surface yet. I am a dreamer too and someday we’ll behold the Nigeria of our dreams. By the way I’m blessed to have her as a Sister. Loads of love

N/B Obodo oyibo – Is an Ibo word for The White Man’s land

Ala nna’m – Is an Ibo word for my father’s land

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#Imagine Kenya, through the lens of Mitch

Mitch

My name is Mitchell McTough. I am originally from Kenya, having schooled and grown up in the lakeside city of Kisumu until the age of 13. Whilst in Kenya I studied at an English boarding school at a place called St. Andrews Turi. My mother, siblings and I eventually moved to North Yorkshire, UK, during the summer of my 13th birthday. All three of us attended a school called Ampleforth College. After completing my GCSEs and A Levels I went on to spend a year working and volunteering in the ecotourism sector in Kenya from 2007-2008. It was here that I carved my passion. After completing this, I then went on to study at Sussex University, in Biomedical Science. However this did not last long (2 months). In love and recklessly for love I moved north and began at Bradford University, in Geography and Environmental Management (From 2008-2014 with a 2 year leave). Whilst working and completing my 2nd year, I founded (along with 3 other Leeds East African Students), the Tribal Instinct fashion show and movement at Leeds University. Several months on in 2011, I launched Tribal Instinct Volunteers. From 2011-2013 I ran the programmes, however addressing the many issues on the ground was difficult without truly understanding the causes. In January 2014 I decided to formerly launch Wild Instincts www.wildinstincts.co.uk a non-profit ecotourism organisation. This, alongside entering into a Masters in African Peace and Conflict was what I believed would strengthen my understanding on how to tackle the problems facing particular nations in East Africa.

My current hobbies include sailing (summer), running/trail running/fell running, gym, and art.

Imagining a peace and Kenya as I know it:

To imagine Kenya, is to believe that I can create an image in my mind so vivid and evoking that it conjures the green pastures of the Western and Central provinces, starkly contrasted by the rugged mountains and plains of the North, the sand and palm swept scenes of the coastline, to the savannah grasslands of the South. The intertwining of diverse cultures, communities, and urbanised areas with nature. I see a myriad of harmonious settings, smiles, eyes looking to the future and hands held together across a strong and peaceful nation. Though my imagination is mangled and distorted by the fears that peer into it, the knowledge of environmental degradation, the political agendas and corruption, the societal failures, it can only be expressed in poetry:

 The ‘Eighth’ deadly sin? Mans foot print:

 I walk along this meandering path,

Marked with a footprint of wrath,

Nestled in, nobody hears, nobody sees, nobody speaks,

Like Gaia’s vein pierced the pain creeps,

To you and I alike a needle to the thumb,

To her a feeling that will never numb,

I walk on mighty and tall.

 Within this jungle, a gloomy haze mirrors a gaze,

The past is catching the present,

This I will not just call a phase,

The sky is vast, but a deformed crescent,

I walk on mighty and tall.

 I shall wonder then in the thieving breeze,

For where I stand, a distance from the shivering trees,

Like a great and wondrous tease,

They sway and wave those dotted leaves,

And like the bird resting pert and who believes…

“You merchants of deadly disease,

I too shall wheeze in this time of despair.”

Life empty now and so bare, I ask myself:

“Oh why did I even dare”?

Goodbye today, goodbye tomorrow,

Stealing from you is not to borrow,

Oh no, it really is not fair,

Gaia’s tree I leave you be,

I set you free.

 Kenya is a beautiful nation with a beautiful future, but to accept and address the fact that we are capable of both bringing peace in all areas of life and also destruction is the most important two facets of humanity. Our imagination can only stretch so far, and the responsibility to reality brings us back again to seek out this utopian image.

 ***

We get to a point where our imagination is better expressed in Poetry. Goodbye today, goodbye tomorrow, stealing from you is not to borrow.