By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Friday, October 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
In theory, this is a memoir, but the real subject is Nigeria, with Achebe as a bit player in a catastrophe. Students of Things Fall Apart, Achebe’s first and most famous novel about a village being dragged into modernity by colonialism and missionaries, will be interested in his reflections on a bifurcated childhood. He was a devout and studious Christian who earned the nickname “dictionary”—for his command of English, the language of the colonizer. But when his parents weren’t watching, Achebe would sneak off at night to receive an “alternative education” about his native Igbo culture. Still, Achebe had enough blind faith in Britain and its institutions to send the only manuscript of his first book by post to a London publisher, where it nearly got lost. He became one of Africa’s most celebrated writers, but it wasn’t long before he was drawn into a war.
Achebe devotes most of his memoir to the brutal secessionist conflict in Biafra between 1967 and 1970. He fled ethnic cleansing in Nigeria’s capital for his Biafran homeland and soon became an international envoy for the beleaguered cause. He leveraged his status as a cultural icon to gather support for the breakaway state. Discussing his novels with world leaders, he would slip them letters about the deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe in Biafra, where millions, mostly children, would eventually die. The war comes literally to Achebe’s doorstep, with the Biafran army setting up artillery positions on the hilltop of his ancestral home.
Achebe laments much else in Nigeria. He is disillusioned enough about post-independence history to commend the British for governing “their colony . . . with considerable care.” Never mind, as he notes, that Brits rigged Nigeria’s first elections and sold the warplanes that bombed Biafrans. Achebe, ever the engaged intellectual, concludes with an appeal for political and electoral reforms. He would write Nigeria’s future if he could.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
News broke yesterday about a Nigerian refugee claimant named Francis Ojo Ogunrinde, who happens to be gay. Or so he claims.
Last summer a senior Canadian immigration officer rejected the 40-year-old Nigerian’s refugee application, acknowledging that even though conditions for LGBT people are not “favourable” in Nigeria (where being gay is illegal and in 12 states punishable by death) she simply wasn’t “convinced” he was a homosexual. It turns out Ogunrinde’s letters from and photos of his alleged boyfriend weren’t steamy or provocative enough to activate the immigration officer’s gaydar. And being from Nigeria and all, he probably didn’t know a single lyric from Rent. Case closed.
Or maybe not.
Last month, a federal judge named James Russell ordered that the officer reopen the case and give Ogunrinde’s allegedly dubious sexuality closer consideration. According to Postmedia News, the judge ruled that the officer “erred by failing to consider the ‘complete picture before her,’ and ordered that Ogunrinde’s claim get a second look in a case that raises questions about the extent to which immigration officers should be probing the bedroom activities of claimants.” Makes sense to me.
If only he had stopped there.
“At the same time,” Russell wrote, “the acts and behaviours which establish a claimant’s homosexuality are inherently private.” “When evaluating claims based on sexual orientation, officers must be mindful of the inherent difficulties in proving that a claimant has engaged in any particular sexual activities.”
The problem here isn’t a lack of mindfulness in proving someone’s sexuality: it’s in the belief that a person’s sexuality is something you need to prove in the first place. Yes, of course gay people have gay sex, but having gay sex—or any sex at all—is not a prerequisite to gayness (unless of course Judge Russell doesn’t believe in gay virgins, or virgins of any kind). And it isn’t necessarily proof either.
What is? Two words: “I’m gay.”
Not “I’m gay and last night I watched Glee and sodomized somebody. Here’s a photograph.” Just “I’m gay.”
Straight people do not, and should not, have to prove they are straight. Neither should homosexuals.
But what if saying “I’m gay” isn’t good enough? What if our borders are suddenly flooded with self-proclaimed homosexual refugees from homophobic countries? Well then hopefully like Ogunrinde, those claimants will have photographs of and letters from their respective same sex partners or testimonies of friends and gay organizations confirming their sexuality. That, you’d think, would be enough.
Unfortunately–at least in Ogunrinde’s case–it wasn’t. Why? Because a sizable portion of our society still believes that a person’s sexuality can be “established” (to use Judge Russell’s words) not by his identity or his relationships, but by the “particular sexual activities” in which he engages.
In the end, I’m not suggesting our immigration officers blindly approve refugee applications, and throw all investigation to the wind. But it would be nice if their reservations about letting people cross our borders were just as strong when it came to peering into their bedrooms.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 6:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. From the far southwest corner of the room, Conservative MP Wai Young wondered aloud whether New Democrat MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre had children.
“Do you have children?” she asked, loudly, of Ms. Doré Lefebvre, who stood in her spot in the opposite corner.
“Do you have children?” Ms. Young repeated.
“You don’t have children!” she concluded.
Ms. Doré Lefebvre was, at the time, attempting to challenge the Heritage Minister on his opposition to an exhibit about sex at the local science museum. Apparently Ms. Young objected to Ms. Doré Lefebvre’s criticism. Apparently Ms. Young considered the question of whether or not Ms. Doré Lefebvre was currently raising children to be somehow relevant to this discussion.
Afterwards, Nathan Cullen rose and suggested that perhaps Ms. Young’s comments were inappropriate and an apology thus in order. Eventually, and shortly after first declining to do so, Ms. Young did apologize. The House then moved on to a discussion of when and how a member might properly use the adjectives “stupid” and “ignorant.”
By Michael Petrou - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Boko Haram rejects Western education, as well as democracy
An upstart Islamist militia is causing havoc in Nigeria, killing more than 250 people this year alone, and almost 1,000 since its insurgency began 2½ years ago. Its attacks have emptied schools in the north of the country, stoked sectarian tensions between Christians and Muslims, and threatened the stability of a state that is a key Western ally and a potential economic powerhouse in Africa.
Boko Haram is the name locals in the north of Nigeria have given to the extreme Salafist group that calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad.” Its nickname, which roughly translates as “Western education is sinful,” isn’t inaccurate. The group rejects Western education, as well as democracy and Nigeria’s constitution. Its founder, Mohammad Yusuf, once explained to the BBC that Western education was sacrilegious because, among other things, it teaches that the Earth isn’t flat.
Boko Haram began about a decade ago under Yusuf’s spiritual leadership. In July 2009, it launched attacks on police stations across northeast Nigeria. Hundreds died in clashes, as well as in the resulting crackdown when security forces murdered suspected Boko Haram members in cold blood.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
Bomber drove car through two gates before detonating explosives
At least 16 people have been killed in a brazen car bombing at a United Nations building in the capital of Nigeria. A suicide bomber reportedly drove a sedan laden with explosives through two separate gates before detonating near the centre of the complex. “I saw scattered bodies,” said Michael Ofilaje, a UNICEF worker speaking with the Associated Press. “Many people are dead.” The UN building houses offices for the UN Development Program, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund. There are about 400 employees who work there. It is the latest incident in a series of recent violent episodes in Africa’s most populous country, as tensions rise between the largely Christian south and the Muslim north. Boko Haram, a radical Islamist militant group from northeastern Nigeria, has conducted several attacks and assassinations in recent months. Another militant sect has sprung up in the Niger Delta to the south. It has also carried out bombings and attacks in Ajuba, the capital city. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing of the UN Building.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM - 188 Comments
The Environment Minister observed yesterday (around the 12-minute mark of that interview) that Canada is a supplier of ethical oil—a phrase recently employed by Ezra Levant—because the revenues derived from that oil are not used to “fund terrorism or the destabilization of other governments.” This may or may not beg questions about the origins of our own oil imports.
The latest release of Statistics Canada’s Energy Statistics Handbook lists our sources of crude oil and equivalents going back to 1989. Our noted individual sources in 2010 (through September) were, in order: Algeria, the United Kingdom, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia and the United States.
By Michael Friscolanti - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
His gay claim didn’t work, so Oahiminre got married
To quote the judge, “the circumstances of this case are quite unusual.” In 2005, a Nigerian named Isaiah Oahiminre landed in Toronto and filed a refugee application, claiming his life was in danger back home because of his sexual orientation. He is gay. Or at least he was gay.
At first, Oahiminre told the Immigration and Refugee Board that gay men in Nigeria are considered “abominations,” and that he had no choice but to flee to Canada after his lover was “lynched by an angry mob.” But when the board rejected his claim, and a series of appeals didn’t pan out, Oahiminre tried a new strategy: he went straight.