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Sunday, 19 February 2012

On Giving and Charity

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"I would rather pay my tithes by giving it to people who need them instead of paying it to fund a pastors luxurious lifestyle". These were the transcribed words of one of many people who have phoned to either encourage me, donate a book(s) or keen to become part of the 'Give a book, save our future' campaign since last Tuesday when I made a live TV appearance on BenTv to promote it. I will talk about that particular media appearance in due course.

Now this post is not about tithing or pastors but the more I recollected those words the more I began to do some soul searching about our attitudes to giving and charitable work. Let me first put things into perspective of some sort. In the UK, there are over 160,000 charities according to the Charity Commission, that gives about 1 charity serving about 372 people. The list is growing all the time as charities of all sorts spring up all the time to cater for vast range of needs in their society. In Nigeria there is no record from a simple Google search about the number of charities in Nigeria, not even from the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission, the official government body responsible for registering them. I know there are some International charities in Nigeria like the Red Cross, Steppingstones, Save the children etc. However, I don't know of too many charities by Nigerians for Nigerians, maybe somebody reading this post might point me to the direction of many I do not know of. It doesn't help when official figures are difficult to come by which leaves us to dig up the ones we know or seek the help of our friend Google. A few that springs to mind are the Kanu heart foundation and the usual Motherless babies home and orphanages.

I'm not in the business of comparing the UK and Nigeria but what I do know is that a lot of people in privileged positions, even ordinary citizens and corporate bodies do a lot to support charities in the UK. Then there is The Children in Needs day, RedNose Day and other nationwide events that raise millions of pounds for many good causes. I'm sure there are many people who do a lot to support charity in Nigeria but can more still be done? Of course there is an awful lot more that can be done to make it a national obsession.

The charity that I'm advocating for is not just about helping family members and friends. Yes charity needs to begin at home but it doesn't need to end there. Charity and giving for me is more to do with the ability of the human spirit to show love beyond the boundaries of family and friends. It's about the common good.

We do often criticise bad governance in Nigeria (that includes me) and in most cases rightly so but I believe we all have a moral responsibility to act by way of charitable work to help make a difference in the lives of those in desperate and varying needs. Please let me make it clear that I'm not trying to patronise anyone or make people feel bad about themselves, far from it. This post is about highlighting an issue that doesn't get a lot of press and publicity. I'm very lucky that I had an upbringing that sowed the seeds of giving and charity in me from an early age. It helped me to play an active role as director of Community services in my university days at Rotaract club. That role was an eye opener as it gave me an opportunity together with my colleagues at the time to do lots of charity work visiting and donating food items/money to motherless babies' homes, disabled peoples' homes and orphanages. The smiles on the faces of those children lit up my world and has stayed with me ever since then. I am pleased we had an opportunity to make a small difference in their lives.

If you're reading this post and you feel the need to get involved in charitable work, then you can either find one whose work interests you or even set up one yourself in an area you feel passionate about.  Charities can be local, they don't necessarily have to be big. It doesn't always involve lots of money, sometimes it can be as simple as volunteering or even mentoring young people who need some direction in their lives. We can never have too many charities because ours is a country that for over 50 years has failed its citizens but we certainly cannot fail ourselves. Even if the Nigerian state eventually wakes up from its slumber and begins to function and operate as we expect it to, there'll always be those who will remain on the bottom spectrum of society and in my conviction, we as citizens have a moral responsibility to intervene in their life chances.

The more our people begin to engage in charitable ventures, I believe we'll reap the rewards in a gradual change in attitudes. The problems of Nigeria in my view are not just about corruption and bad governance. We desperately need a paradigm shift in attitudes and selflessness to begin to think more about what we can do to benefit others and not necessarily looking for what's in it to be gained. If there's anything to be gained then it should be taking huge satisfaction from doing good.

Let me make a distinction that the charity I've been harping on about is not some of the numerous NGOs we have of questionable motives being mindful not to generalise or the First lady this and First lady that 'pet projects'. I joined an NGO shortly before I left Nigeria whose aim was to promote youth involvement in good governance, democracy and raise political consciousness among young people. However, it later turned into an opportunity for some individuals to cosy up to the political aspirations of the then senate president. It soon became clear that either I towed the line or make way, I felt betrayed and misled and I had no choice but to say au revoir.

There's also a need for the values of charity and giving to be promoted in our schools. Only recently me and a few of my students organised a charity cancer appeal for a cancer charity and in just one day we raised a reasonable amount. What struck me the most was the passion and enthusiasm of young people to engage in charitable work. Something I'm very keen we replicate in Nigerian schools. If we are to raise leaders for the future, who we expect to become selfless in their actions and think more about the greater good and less of personal and financial rewards, then we have to invest in moulding and shaping their attitudes. Giving and charitable attitudes is not all that they need but is certainly something that we cannot allow to elude them.

Please do something for charity, don't leave it till tomorrow, you can start today, right now. God bless.

NB: The 'Give a Book, Save our Future' campaign had a successful media outing (more on that soon) and support is growing steadily and gradually all the time. What are you waiting for? Please join the campaign and make a difference. The campaign will be moving to its own independent platform soon, watch this space!!!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Update on Give a Book campaign

Hello everyone and lots of love to you all on Valentine's day. As we share our love to our other halfs, friends and families, please spare a thought to those who suffer deprivation in different forms.

I just wanted to update you all that the Give a book, save our future campaign is very much alive. For those of you reading about it for the first time, its aim is to collect book donations from kind hearted people and donate same to some schools in Nigeria. This we believe will help to support the educational and future life chances of young people who desperately need them.

If you are new to this blog, you can go to the Give a book post and read up to find more details about the campaign.

I'll be making a live appearance on BenTv tonight (Tuesday Feb 14) at 7pm (UK time) to create more awareness and publicity. Thank you to Tunde Alabi at BenTv and all the crew there for giving this campaign an opportunity at no cost, very much appreciated.

Thank you to all bloggers who have already published a post about this campaign on their blogs: Myne Whitman, The Relentless Builder, A-9JA-Greatayabaodusote, and Nollywood Rave. I also remember Naijalines, for your positive comments and also promise to donate. Thanks too to Toyin Ibrahim who has agreed to become a co-facilitator and to Ginger, @ilola, Stelzz, Muse Origins for your kind words. And to anyone that I unintentinally missed out, my sincere apologies but be rest assured your contribution is greatly appreciated. Special thanks too to my lovely wife for your unrelenting support and the Almighty God, on whose strength I constantly rely on.

NB: Please if you promised to donate, let me know when you intend to send your book donations and I'll provide you with the address where it needs to be sent.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Love, Marriage and Science

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A couple of days ago I woke up at about 4am, two and a half hours earlier than normal. This time not by the usual cry of our 10-month old baby but just one of those days where the human brain decides to operate differently.

As I laid awake, different thoughts criss-crossed my mind, from the politics at work the previous day, to family and friends in general. One particular thought refused to fade away regarding the phone conversation I had with a distant female relative a couple of days earlier. I will just refer to her as Di. We talked about family, kids, work etc. Her husband was away from the house at the time so she talked openly about how she enjoyed her marriage despite occasional hiccups you would expect from any marriage. Reading between the lines, I could tell she wasn't just making it up. The enthusiasm and spark in her voice did not betray her happiness.

Back then in our teenage years, I could recollect she was very adamant she wasn't going to marry a politician or a man with a relatively big age gap. Just after graduation, her first suitor came calling. A tall, young, handsome medical practitioner based in the States. This was her dream man. But as it panned out she seemed keen than the man did. After a year of occasional phone calls, she read the hand writing on the wall and reluctantly considered him as the one that got away.

But 'luckily 'she didn't have to wait too long as another suitor came calling months later. This time a local politician, but let's face it you and I know politicians at any level in Nigeria are fully loaded (with cash of course). Di was undecided, her family liked the bloke and were keen. She didn't mind him either but from talking to her she also didn't think he ticked all the right boxes for her ideal husband especially as regards to age and the sort of job he did. Let me say at this juncture, I and Di got on well when we were growing up. She could confide and talk to me literally about anything. Partly because she felt I was open minded and not quick to judge people, well at least as she believed.

In the weeks after her latest suitor came asking for her hand in marriage, Di talked to me on different occasions to gauge my feelings about what my thoughts were about him. My honest opinion was that it didn't really matter what I felt or thought. I put it to her it that what she felt was what really mattered as she was the one that would be in the marriage not me or any other person. I told her it was her decision and in life we have to live and die by our decisions.

So far by her account and what we hear from other sources, she seem happy in her marriage, blessed with two beautiful kids and a caring husband. However I wonder if that would have been the case if things had worked out with her first suitor who had or seem to have all she wanted in a 'dream' husband. Perhaps it could been successful or may be not. The truth is that we may never know.

Love and marriage are highly emotive subjects that divides opinion. It seems to me the more we try to treat them as variables that can be quantified and measured, the more we portray them as science. In my view love and marriage aren't sciences that rely on testable theories and hypotheses. If it were I'm sure other people could easily replicate the experience of successful marriages. There aren't any harm in observing and sharing personal experiences but that's all they are - experience and observations.

Societal values have changed and so does attitudes towards marriage. The reason it seems to me there is a perception that marriages have become more challenging are plenty and varied. We may spend a life-time trying to understand them but my guess is that the answers may elude us. The uniqueness of every marriage makes it even more difficult hence why it may be a good idea if we find what works best for us and stick with it instead of looking for a magic wand to put things right for us.

Perhaps we could do more to encourage our children and young people to develop the right attitude for future healthy relationships and marriages. Something I attempted to address in a previous post.

God bless our marriages, both present and future ones.

Still counting on your support on 'Give a book, save a future' campaign. Update to follow soon. Many thanks to all bloggers that have thrown their wait behind it, God bless you ten fold.


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