Monday, August 17, 2015

Meeting Roger Milla

I was working on a night flight and I ran into the father of African football, Roger Milla, one of the super stars of the 1990 World Cup. His success story is very captivating. He first retired from international football in 1987 with some success, after winning the 1976 African footballer of the year award and gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon (scoring in both finals). In 1987, he moved to the French owned island of Reunion to play there after a fairly succesful club career in France. In 1990, he received a phone call from the president, Paul Biya who pleaded with him to come out of retirement and join the national team. He travelled with the Indomitable Lions to Italy and scored four goals at the 1990 World Cup, at the old age of 38 (the age where most strikers have retired) which helped Cameroon qualify for the Quarter finals, the first African team to achieve the feat. Cameroon was eliminated controversially by England, after two dubious penalties. His 1990 World Cup perfomance earned him global superstardom and the African footballer of the year award that year. He was also a pioneer for unconventional goal celebrations for his iconic hip shaking at the corner flank after scoring each goal. Cameroon's exploits influenced FIFA to increase the African participation at the World Cup from three to five countries. Four years later, Milla was back at the World Cup in USA and made history by scoring another goal at the super veteran age of 42, becoming the oldest player to score at the FIFA World Cup, a record which I don’t think will ever be beaten. He was also the highest African scorer at the World Cup, a record which was later broken in 2014 by Ghanaian striker, Asamoah Gyan. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

The gods of Greek mythology

Ngomna is like Greek mythology. Nkunkuma is Zeus. You know what that means? Right, in a certain language it means chief -chief god of the Greeks. Lady with the mane is Aphrodite. Zeus’ son is Hercules, not a god yet but err, a demigod nevertheless. The god of Finance is Poseidon, the god of Communication is Hermes, the god of Agriculture is Demeter, the god of Defense is Apollo, the god of the Senate is Hades, the god of Culture is Athena, the god of mines and power is Dionysus. Not forgetting the plenipotentiary god of medium scale, small scale and microscopic scale businesses affiliated to the traders of the Kwasa Kwasa Union of inconsequential proportions. Did I equally mention the god of myopic and phenotypic impunity? Sorry I almost forgot that one. These gods too plenty self. And it’s good.

The gods worship Zeus oh! It always makes me wonder why gods treat another god like that. And chief god bosses them all with his quintessential lightning bolt that strikes and divides and rules in typical Machiavellian fashion, trickling down to all the local Greeks. The gods are however right up there, living it up in Club Essingang. But if Zeus gets involved in a clash of the titans with any of them, he usually flings that one away. He doesn’t send the god down to the local Greek towns oh. He just tosses them into that J.K Rawlingish prison called Azkaban -that kind of place where innocent Sirius Black was bundled to. There are many, many, many gods in Zeus’ Azkaban. Let me not even get started on naming them. You just need to add that ICC incarcerated tailor from Liberia called Charles Taylor to Zeus’ Azkaban and baam! You’ll have a whole new ngomna of a whole new nation fighting for the independence of a whole new celestial Republic of gods. Yeah! And it’s good.

But why are the gods usually bundled and dumped there? Good question. When they do the right thing, they get into trouble. When they do the wrong thing, they get into even bigger trouble. Where I’m from the traditional police is called “Troh”. They wear sack cloth during traditional events and maintain order, grunting and speaking in their nostrils. Sometimes they stick their wooden poles into the earth and grunt in jest to the person in front of it, “If you walk pass my gun you are guilty. If you don’t walk pass my gun you are still guilty.” The person will be compelled to always give Troh kola. Maybe Zeus sometimes uses this weird Troh philosophy in Club Essingang. I don’t know.

Zeus! He dodders on in Orwellian elegance, looking uninspired and uninspiring. It’s like young Greeks don’t live there. People do not dream there. Myriads of progressive attempts have ended in futility. So stories like Barack Obama’s are not even probable. No matter how much big book they’ve read, no matter how qualified they are, forget it, they can never make it as much as the gods of Club Essingang. It is not a matter of what you know but who you know. And who you know paves your way to You-know-who in Club Essingang. In fact, there is a certain rule, “if you can’t beat us, then join us.” So in order to eat the juicy Essingang apples, just follow these simple guidelines, largely stemming from the Igbo proverbial book of wisdom. “The wind has blown and the anus of the fowl has been exposed.” Do some Bluetooth connections with a god in Club Essingang. That is no easy task. But if you succeed, then it is good.

Visit and tell him your aim. He will tell you he wants to place his fan on your back, so that good wind can blow on you and drench your sweat. Wait for the strongest wind to blow and expose your anus like that fowl in the proverb. The wind entering the anus process always hurts because the wind intensity is usually very high. When it’s over, the god will wipe your tears, tell you it’s good and give you a certain batch. You will wear it on your chest and start attending rallies. You will have access to infinite amounts of numerous, juicy Essingang apples. You will gulp 33 glasses of 33 Export and even finer liquor. But take note that the beer colour will be red. Your scrawny giraffe neck will quickly transform to a full fat neck. Your flat tummy will become an Alubassa pot belly and you will not even be able to see your small python hanging below it. And Greece will keep plunging into economic recession because of you and the other Alubassa pot bellies, which is good. Your conscience will flicker out like a candle light. Anything Greeks do whether good or bad, you will just be non-committal, gulp your wine and say “Laissez, laissez, impossible n’est pas Grecque, laissez tous.”

If anybody confronts you, “Tu est Essingang!” Just respond, “Je suis Essingang et puis koi? Uh?” like Jovi. Then do that Jay-Z dirt off your shoulder shrug off to anyone who has your macabo and switch on that legendary song, “Essingang” by Les Tetes Brulés. Rock to the infectious guitar rhythms of Zanzibar’s stylish multicolour band. You will continue to give and take kola that will ensure your eating of juicy Essingang apples. The local Greeks will perform Herculean labours everyday, yet eat tiny apples or no apples at all. If you are a local Greek, don’t complain about your Herculean labour, many don’t even have microscopic labours and are living with their parents. Many others live in pessimism and have lost all faith in the Greek gods, so they just board the big birds flying in the sky and travel abroad. Okay but what about the others who can't ? Okay, make sure you catch that disease called Concours-gitis or matricule number syndrome. Thousands of Greeks catch it each year. Yet, only few can consult a doctor and get good treatment. Most of the times, the doctors are affiliated to Club Essingang and you need to pay some very high consultation fee. But after all the wahala, you will be lucky to receive your “gros lots” medication. When that happens, go to a beer parlour or Matango bar and order one round. Dionysus will be very happy. Then down it all in one gulp while watching the UEFA champions league and delve into that heated "Eto'o know ball pass Drogba debate" or "Eto'o get money pass Drogba" argument. Finally, ask the DJ to switch the music to Maalox, “La bière c’est combien ici? 500, 600, 700. Augmenter les prix, mouf, on va toujour boire!”

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Kuwait Debate

I was watching the recent CNN Freedom project series about human trafficking in the US by Jada Pinkett Smith and I was shocked. My mind instantly went to a new exodus –hundreds of young Cameroonian girls, mostly graduates travelling to Kuwait to work as housemaids. There is no Kuwait embassy in Yaoundé neither is there a high commission. So how does it happen? Middle men known as agents, most of them Cameroonians who live in Kuwait. Obtaining a Kuwait travel document is super easy. You just need to scan your passport’s biometric page, email it to an agent there who applies and obtains your travel doc from immigration and sends to you. There are almost zero rejections. Girls travel there via the aforementioned process generally on a one way ticket and little or no money. Upon arrival, Immigration grants you an entry stamp, no visa. Easy peasy. (But take note, the agent has made lots of money off you and trapped you.) You cannot fly back because you don’t have a return ticket or money to buy one even. And sometimes they may even confiscate your passport.

It is a high way to hell on earth for many of the girls who go there to work as housemaids. I hear many gory stories from Kuwait returnees at the airport’s arrival hall. Even Lebanon. A few of my colleagues have even recorded their experiences on their phones. You can listen to the horrible stories on soundcloud and read on blogs. They tell us that when they arrive there, they are sold and bought in a slave market and they go ‘home’ and work for incredibly long hours with little pay, some up to 21 hours a day even. Most of them get insulted, beaten, raped and locked up in tiny filthy rooms without them bathing. One explained how she had to babysit a dog and was instructed never to put it on the ground. She doesn't know if she's caught rabbies already. One narrated a story how her friend got pushed off a sky scraper and she fell to her death. Some see their friends get killed through torture. And they cannot return home because they don’t have a return ticket and can’t buy one. It is in fact, modern day slavery. Yet, the airlines still board girls traveling to Kuwait every day.
So why are girls still flocking to Kuwait?

1. Unemployment. Most of the girls blame the economic situation of the country. They narrate tales of graduating from university and living with their parents for years with no job. So they just want to travel the hell out, anywhere where they can find work. And since traveling to Kuwait is super easy, you know the rest.
2. Deceit by the agents. The middle men there tell all sorts of lies to these naïve girls about how they will earn lots of money just by being a maid. Some even say they will get the girls an American Visa after just a couple of months in Kuwait. They paint a very good Kuwait picture masking all the harsh realities, to the point that even some of the girls’ relatives are convinced by their sweet tongue. This can be summarized by a question asked by one of the girls’ uncles (a colonel for that matter) to my colleague when they met at the airport for her flight, “so when is my niece getting her American Visa in Kuwait after her housemaid work?” “Which American visa, colonel?” “Her agent told us after doing her maid work for a couple of months, he will get her an American visa just like he obtained her Kuwait travel papers. That an American visa is easy to obtain over there.” Oops, my colleague was stunned. (There is no such thing as an easy American visa after the housemaid work.)

3. Stubbornness. Some of these girls are very stubborn or should I say naïve? They listen to the horrible Kuwait stories on the media, they are told those stories by airport staff the day they are travelling and even by some battered girls who just landed from Kuwait. Yet, they don’t listen. They just want to board the plane and get away. They do a “what happens to others will not happen to me?” sort of shrug off and board. Some are intentionally traveling to do prostitution. When a beautiful girl was told that she may become a sex slave in Kuwait, she just replied, “Is it your vagina that is going to be used? It’s mine.”
4. The government has not put in place any action whatsoever to stop the Kuwait exodus which has even sparked a “Bring back our girls from Kuwait” campaign in the North West region.
So what can be done? I don’t think the government should place a ban on the Kuwait route like some Cameroonians advocate for, like it did on flights to Ebola stricken countries during the Ebola peak or CAR during the rebel takeover in Bangui. Those were high risk zones. Kuwait is not. We cannot change diplomatic policies between two countries because of the unfortunate adventures of a few hundred girls. Furthermore, I think there are fruitful ventures stemming from travel between the two countries that surpass the girls’ demise -diplomatic wise, investment wise, education wise etc.

Also, modern slavery and human trafficking happens everywhere -Philippinos in Saudi Arabia, xenophobic attacks of other Africans in parts of South Africa, Latinos in the US, even African Americans in their own country like Jada Pinkett recently portrayed. So if there is a government ban, multiple flight routes have to be banned too. I cannot propose all the solutions, but I think our government can tackle the problems beginning like this. Inform all the airlines to stop all the girls travelling to Kuwait to work as “housemaids”. Anyone travelling there should show justifiable evidence, whether for school, business transaction, diplomatic mission etc. (The airport commissioner has ordered that all Kuwait travellers must now carry a thousand dollars and possess a two way ticket). So in case things get rough, they can use the return ticket to fly back.

Create employment opportunities for the youth. I know the government cannot create jobs for every unemployed person but it can also encourage the private sector and especially medium and small scale enterprises, funding innovative projects by creative youth and giving them loans, encourage self-employment too. (I’ve lost count of my school mates and friends I’ve seen off into airplanes. Many of them are unwilling to return.) The government should also use the media and collaborate with NGO’s to educate the masses about the truth behind the Kuwait route and other countries like that. Most importantly, it should also embark on a campaign to arrest and bring to justice these fake agents who mislead the youth. Finally, young people, investigate well wherever you are flying to from reliable sources before you embark on that journey because emigration can make you as well as break you.