WTF Friday, 9/12/2014

Here are some things that apparently happened this week while I was buried in research statements and cover letters. (The academic job market is super fun, you guys.*)

  • Supporters of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election debuted a new campaign slogan: #BringBackGoodluck2015. Because nothing makes people more likely to vote for an incumbent than a reminder of his failure to take seriously the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls.
  • The Pentagon announced a plan to build a spiffy new field hospital in Liberia to treat healthcare workers responding to the ebola epidemic, then clarified that they only meant * foreign * healthcare workers. USAID has since tweeted that the hospital will in fact treat “health workers of all nationalities”. Here’s hoping everyone’s now on the same page about that.

*No it isn’t.

WTF Friday, 4/25/2014

On April 16, more than 200 teenage girls preparing to sit their final exams were abducted from their government-run boarding school in Chibok in northern Nigeria and taken deep into nearby Sambisa forest. The kidnappers are members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, who strongly object to secular education, particularly of girls.

Two days after the abduction, the Nigerian military announced that the girls had been freed in an “on-going search and rescue exercise”. They hadn’t.

In fact, some of the girls managed to escape on their own, but the rest remain unaccounted for and there have been no ransom demands. As Jina Moore documents, the families of the missing students have grown increasingly frustrated with the government’s lack of action. Several days ago, they mounted a private search operation, heading into the forest themselves. They had to turn back empty-handed, lacking the firepower to confront the terrorists directly. But as one father later told a Nigerian newspaper: “If soldiers had accompanied us to the forest, we were optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued.”

BBC reports that at a meeting on national security yesterday, the national government “vowed to do all it can” to rescue the hostages. But for many Nigerians, the delay in action reflects a devastating indifference to the fate of these young women, which, as Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reminds us, may be bleak.

#BringBackOurGirls is now trending on Twitter, castigating not only the Nigerian state, but the international press for its disinterest in this tragedy. These girls have been missing for over a week; the least we can do is pay attention.

Mysteries Abound

I love the internet (bringer of light and knowledge), but sometimes I don’t understand it.

For instance, why has this year old story of a Nigerian businessman, who died after allegedly being raped by 5 of his 6 wives, jealous over his preference for the sixth, suddenly gone viral this week?

Does it capture the zeitgeist in some manner I can’t quite follow? Is it a metaphor for our trying times? For Syria, maybe? Like, the businessman is Art. 2(4) and the first five wives are prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons and targeting of civilians. And the sixth wife is… Sergei Lavrov? No?

Somebody please enlighten me. And in the meantime, someone get cracking on a follow-up story clarifying whether the wives were charged or convicted. Inquiring minds want to know.

WTF Friday, 7/5/13

This zebra is not in Nigeria.

This week’s WTF Friday comes courtesy of young Abubakar Souleiman, a 15 year old Nigerian immigrant living in Boston with a creative sense of humor.

Apparently, Souleiman decided to have some fun with Yvonne Abraham, the Boston Globe columnist who interviewed him about his achievements in U.S. schools. He told her that his track and field skills were the result of a youth spent “hunting zebras with spears and trying to avoid antagonizing cheetahs.”

Abraham took his story at face value. Why, of course Souleiman would have spent his childhood dodging cheetahs and chucking spears at herds of zebra, because Africa.

Except, as blogger Bob Blewett points out:

“There are no zebra in the wild in Nigeria. (There are zebra on Nigerian postage stamps but that is about selling stamps to collectors, not zebra habitat.) While it is possible for a cheetah to exist in the savannas of northern Nigeria, this is extremely rare. Humans would frighten, not antagonize, any wild cheetah there. Besides, hunting is about accuracy; javelin is about distance”

Yesterday, Abraham issued a correction.

(Photo of zebra by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, made available under a GNU Free Documentation License.)

WTF Friday 1/13/11

I must have been asleep for the past few weeks because Angelina Jolie’s movie that I thought was about a woman falling in love with the man who raped her but seems to have a slightly different (though still pretty disconcerting) angle has come out to mixed reviews. Spoiler alert: “In the film, a Bosnian Muslim woman and a Serbian Christian man find their carefree date interrupted by the outbreak of the war. Cut to: a Serbian prison camp where Muslim women are held in sexual bondage. He is the jailor and she the captive. A relationship develops — ‘consensual’ is not the right word since Danijel’s offer to make Ajla ‘his’ mistress saves her from the systematic rape of his comrades…Ajla’s physical survival is connected to her ability to sexually please Danijel…His emotional survival is linked to Ajla’s perceived redeeming love for him.” Not exactly what I expected but still feeling pretty weird about it.

Yo are you forreal with this article? It’s not all bad but I’m definitely gonna need some bullet points for this one:

  • “Haiti: Miserable, but it photographs well”
  • “The West’s eternal basket case…”
  • “The Haitians outdid the stereotypical Israeli in pushing, shoving and trampling.”
  • “A few of them wanted very much to help me with my suitcase but when I aimed the camera at them, two of them pulled a finger across their throats in a gesture that seemed to need no translation.”
  • “Photographers say that the suffering and misery in these areas photographs wonderfully.”
  • “Poverty, ignorance, disease are rampant.”
  • “Life has a different value here.”
  • “The entire country looks like one big slum”
  • “It is impossible to leave this beautiful, sad country without attending a voodoo ceremony.”
  • “…a few young men and many old black women wearing colorful dresses and red ribbons in their hair, who looked as though they had been taken from a slavery history museum…”

On a brighter note, hat tip to the FT for the pun of the week. Congrats. I’m sure it means a lot to you guys.

Convert Her? I Hardly Know Her!

Two Lucky Charms four-leaf clover marshmallows to alert reader Julissa Milligan for this gem from Nigeria:

“Two men of God were over the weekend allegedly lured to patronise harlots at a popular brothel at Cable Point, Asaba, the Delta State capital, when they went there to preach to the ladies of easy virtue. 

Leadership learnt that the pastors from a very popular church along Ibusa Road in the state had visited the area to convert and win over the sex workers to their church, but they were themselves seduced by the prostitutes who had sex with them and later burnt their Bibles and clothes.”

The poor defenseless clergymen were apparently focused on their proselytizing mission when they were “disoriented by the sudden display of breasts and other revealing body parts.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really looking forward to the day when “I swear, I was just trying to convert them” becomes the default defense to a solicitation charge…

(And yes, I’m ignoring the headline. Yeesh.)

WTF Friday, 2/4/2011

Missed pun opportunity of the week: Demockracy. Am I the only one in journalism (erm…) trying anymore?

A U.S. appeals court has upheld the landmark September ruling that companies cannot be tried in U.S. courts for violations of international human rights laws. The suit, brought against Shell by families of seven Nigerians who were executed by a former military government for protesting oil exploration in the 1990s, may make its way to the Supreme Court. This is definitely one to pay attention to.

Are Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez trying to tell Evo Morales something? You knee one guy in the groin and all of a sudden it’s an international intervention…

PS, there’s also some other stuff going on.

WTF Friday, 7/2/10

  • President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the Nigerian national team for two years due to their poor performance in the World Cup. You don’t have to be a soccer fan to see the outrageous fallacy in this logic. FIFA is not happy about this interference.
  • Three convicted rapists have been freed from a Vietnam prison after an acupuncturist claimed to have identified them as virgins due to red spots on the back of their ears. Damn this lady would have really ruined like 65 percent of CSI episodes. (Hat tip to Lisa!).
  • In facial hair news, here’s something I missed from last week. Somali insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, has ordered men to grow their beards and trim their mustaches, NOT the other way around. Finally someone is clamping down on this kind of tomfoolery.
  • Lastly, in what is considered a very important trial in South Africa, former police chief, Jackie Selebi, has been convicted of corruption for providing favors to drug dealers in exchange for cash and designer clothing, including the unnecessarily specific “Hugo Boss knitwear.” Barry Bearak, fashion buff posing as a “serious journalist.”

WTF Friday, 6/25/10

  • A female Nigerian student was tortured and beaten into a coma by four policemen in the Ekiti State of Nigeria for “having the effrontery to challenge them when conducting a stop and search.” Sounds like a bit of an overreaction.

  • From Slate: “Aimé was different when I returned to Goma for a new job with another aid agency after two months away…I now trusted Aimé more than I had before; he didn’t act like a callow youth, but like a responsible young man. The sad beanie hat was gone, and his shirts were always tucked in.” I think we finally found Africa’s panacea. And wtf is a “sad beanie hat?”

  • In a follow up to a post from a couple weeks ago, Saudi women are turning the tables on the fatwa that makes men their son if they feed them their breast milk. They are demanding the right to drive, and if they do not receive that right, they are threatening to breast feed their foreign drivers, thus allowing them to be alone with them under Islamic law and move freely in automobiles. No word on how the drivers feel about this. Also imagine hearing this quote out of context: “We will either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners.”

Nigeria’s Queen Hajiya: A Curse On Men Puts One Fierce Lady On the Throne

Melinda sent me this interesting story:

“The palace, under a rusted corrugated roof, looks mostly like a shed. Only one delicate pair of feet in its single room is shod, and they are in black rubber flip-flops.

This is the genteel court of Queen Hajiya Haidzatu Ahmed.”

According to the article, Queen Hajiya is a traditional chief in Kumbwada Kingdom, in Northern Nigeria. (Google searching suggests that it’s more often spelled Kumbada.) It’s unusual for women to ascend to power in that conservative Muslim region. The queen’s secret weapon?

“Here, an ancient curse keeps males off the throne, according to locals. Male pretenders who dare to try will be buried within a week.”

That sound you hear is Hillary Clinton smacking her forehead and saying “a curse! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”

In all seriousness, though, it turns out that being a woman in a region where men are cursed off of the throne has some excellent fringe benefits:

[I]n the community Hajiya has ruled for 12 years, women get a sympathetic hearing in cases of wife beating or divorce.

“When domestic issues come to me, the way I treat them will be quite different to other traditional chiefs,” she says. “I’m a woman and I’m a mother and I have so much concern and experience when it comes to the issue of marriage and what it means for the maintenance of the home and what it means for two people to live together.” [...]

Most traditional African rulers reflexively side with the male head of the household in a family dispute. So a girl resisting marriage to a much older man she doesn’t love is likely to be ordered to obey her father. A woman who complains she is being beaten is likely to be told to obey her husband.

Hajiya had one wife-beating case early in her reign.

“I told him if he ever beat his wife again, I’d dissolve the marriage and put him in prison,” she remembers. “Marriage is not a joke, and women are not slaves.”

Since that case, she has made a point of campaigning against domestic violence whenever she holds court in local communities. She says she’s never had another beating case. People know where she stands.

Not to mention that she’s a firm supporter of Take Your Daughters to Work Day:

“She keeps her grown daughter, Idris, by her side whenever she holds court, grooming her to be queen.”