Shaking Tables – Poverty Coding And Feminism On Steroids

November 19, 2018by Tope Fasua0

I have been getting invitations to vote for a young Nigerian lady who is being nominated by no less than CNN as a world hero. I am happy for her and the strides she has achieved, teaching young girls from poor families – precisely from Makoko (one of Nigeria’s many slums) – how to code. This is however not the first I would hear about poor children learning how to code.


The Punch reported on May 13, 2017, in a story titled ‘Amazing Stories of Ajegunle Girls who Design Computer Programs’, where a group of girls were trained to code from the slums of Ajegunle as well, based on the work of Anu Adelakun and Jerry Odili who were sponsored by the US Consulate (Carrington Youth Leadership Initiative). A google search also reveals this happens in Ghana, Kenya, India among other countries. The African bit is usually financed by US based companies or government organizations.  It’s however hard to trace how well these girls have succeeded in their chosen ventures after the training.


These reports however throws up two issues. The first is the keen focus on the girl child and an apparently increasing neglect of boys, most of whom are now abandoned to drugs, cultism and crime – especially from the same poor areas.  The second is whether higher level, sophisticated knowledge such as coding is what we need in these parts. In other words, is the teaching of coding to poor children the best that can be made of limited resources? Even though the resources being used this time are private, the publicity behind the news is prime time. We are talking of a country with at least 13.2million children out of school – the highest of any country in the world. That figure could be much higher.


Let’s stay on the issue of coding.   John Perkins wrote a book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” (a book that should be the Bible of all patriots in developing countries, but deliberately ignored as we fool ourselves all over the place), in which he narrated how the Americans captured Saudi Arabia’s crude oil. He said he was once at the Saudi Ministry of Agric and looked out of the window to see goats feeding from a large pile of refuse right outside the office gate. Of course Saudi was then littered with refuse. He asked his Saudi friends why this is so and was given an honest reply that no self-respecting Saudi person will be caught dead packing refuse. The Americans then struck a deal to build Saudi’s infrastructure and help tidy the country, in exchange for a permanent stake in Saudi crude oil. This arrangement continues till today. Add the huge Saudi patronage of American arms and ammunition and you will see why the USA cannot do anything about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.


But Nigeria is not as lucky, though we may be almost as lazy as the Saudis were given the state of our environment. We don’t really like the hard grind. Since our leaders naturally come from among us, they carry into leadership a general blindness to the state of our environment. It’s just as well that they are afforded bullet proof and tinted heavy vehicles that seals their ignorance of their society and environment. I recently engaged some Nigerians on the recent (much belated) pronouncement by President Buhari, that Nigeria was the second worst country in the world in terms of open defecation. A number of them wondered why a president should care. They couldn’t just see how fundamental that matter is to human dignity, and how, without human dignity, a people can never attain real, sustainable development.


Nigeria is therefore a country of people who want to make the sudden leap into socio-economic development, without the messy part. We want to leave all that needs to be done; hygiene issues, industrialization of any kind, the long, hard process of owning our technology and innovating that which we need and use, and become a nation of coders. When we aren’t doing that, we rush into banking, telecoms, cryptocurrency, cybermarketing, network marketing, pyramid schemes, betting, anything but the hard, painstaking, thought-demanding, slow-building, sustainability-demanding stuff. Anything where we won’t have to break sweat. That is us. And this will never take us anywhere.


And so I will encourage the lady to keep training the poor children but I will also encourage Nigerian government to get serious and focus on real development, just as I will encourage CNN to help us focus on things that can assure real progress for us, not fleeting fancies that leave us right where we are after the euphoria is over. For even if any of these children escape abroad and becomes a Zuckerberg, their abodes in Ajegunle and Makoko may likely remain as terrible as they are today. We must cease to be defined by those environments. The larger Nigerian society is also likely to frustrate their efforts if they reman here after that training. So what really is the point at the end of the day? I recall learning about something called POVERTY TOURISM in one of my PhD classes.


Some people in the world get their kicks seeing such documentaries of despicable African countries and people living worse than beasts, layered on some token assistance such as training people to ‘code’, when they can barely feed. It makes some feel really superior. We need to be changing our spaces radically, banning the terrible slum life our people are living in, getting them to live with dignity. We can. We have the resources. We can organize ourselves better. We must not preserve these spaces for voyeuristic adventures of those who associate us with filth under any guise. Our priority, in my view, should not be about teaching children there how to code, but helping them live in much better environments. If we can, we should pilot the two projects together.


As regards the overdrive of feminism, I was recently at an event when a very popular lady whipped up emotions against the male species so much that I became afraid; not for myself but for our growing sons. The lady rightly charted the trajectory of how men had oppressed and cheated women over time and how women were now getting their own back. She predicted a day when women will dominate and revenge, and I wondered why we cannot all just try and achieve an intricate balance. Must one gender dominate and oppress another? Are we not all equal before God and humanity? What I did at that occasion was to apologize on behalf of all men for the past deeds of our forefathers and also appeal against the rage of the female gender.


William Congreve (1697) wrote that “Hell knoweth no fury than a woman scorn’d”.  The problem we have now is that even un-scorned women are made to feel scorned by the negative emotions moving around in the uber-feminist world. Also I will want to appeal that the boy child needs attention too. We must never neglect and abandon them in favor of the girl child. Take the  unfortunate phenomenon called Boko Haram and Chibok/Dapchi girls.  Tens of thousands of boys are kidnapped, brainwashed, drafted into war, used as cannon fodder, drugged out and killed in these war zones, but nobody cares.


There are no NGOs anywhere trying to solve this problem with vulnerable boys. It’s as if they are mere numbers. And from the boy child being mere numbers, they become adult villains (as we are now being painted by the world). In some quarters one will almost feel awkward as a man. I have been invited to some meetings where feminists gather and the daggers in their eyes would kill Julius Caesar all over again. And there seems to be a certain global agenda against men for whatever reason – sometimes powered by men themselves. I am not sure that is healthy.


I wonder if we could not all live in a world of shared, balanced responsibilities. Look at the world of sexual irresponsibilities. Men get all the blames. But there is already a great imbalance. This evening I saw on facebook, a clip of an American woman who lives with her husband and boyfriend. They sleep on the same bed. Children are in the house. This kind of behavior suddenly seems normal for a woman. She is seen as slightly confused. But if it was a man, he will be called names; dirty, stupid, greedy, uncontrollable and so on. What is going on with the world really? If we are all equal, we should share responsibility. The burden should not be on one gender alone. For example, how did fashion among ladies become equated with nakedness and an obsession with makeups – which is essentially presenting to the world a thoroughly enhanced and unreal image of oneself?  And men are supposed to deal with all the open displays and enticement. It’s simply a tough life for our sons growing up as life will get more slippery for them. How many men have been convicted of rape and are in jail simply because a woman got terribly cross with them?  This is not to say there aren’t many miscreants among more who get involved in all sorts of felonies.


However the institution of marriage is becoming more and more unpopular, brief and shaky for these reasons. Abroad where we imported these ideas from, people don’t even get married anymore.  They now have ‘partners’, ‘live in lover’ and of course what is now popular among those ‘heroes’ our children worship and whom our government respects, ‘baby mamas’.  Like it obtains in the world of economics and technology, we are importing stuff we cannot create and that we do not understand. And we have no abilities, nor readiness, to analyze and document the full effect of these new imports on our lives and societies.


I also watched a clip made by a Nigerian lady on facebook. It was meant to be some sort of motivational talk. But she started out encouraging women whose husbands are not contributing to the upkeep of their children. I wondered for a moment of that was her own major challenge. Then I also wondered why men were more likely to abandon responsibility in this manner. Is it our short attention span? Is it that we are just irresponsible? What exactly? My best analysis is that men are buckling under the weight of societal burdens which have been thrust on them, and which they have also reached out to carry over time.


The times have changed and those burdens can no longer be sustained by most men. Men get laid off from work quicker than women. These days they even find it harder to find a job than women.


We find ourselves in dead end professions and careers faster than women. We are the ones who often want to do something bigger, to assert ourselves and to step up to increasing responsibilities as we age. Society wants us to be big. Dependents crowd around men than they do women. Men also book dependents within their families and elsewhere, often in the hope of making it big to be relevant. It is men, because they don’t get pregnant and have children that are likely to philander more and sire children all over the place. It’s no wonder we often burnout and crash unlike most women. But rather than this growing antagonism, I think we should push for more understanding. Where are the masculinist groups? Oops, the names sounds unacceptable already lol.


Anyhow, men need help!  We are the specie that dies in silence. We go around foolishly feeling like King Kong, believing we can conquer all. We take unnecessary and un-calculated risks. We often die as unsung heroes, totally demystified and defamed even in the eyes of our children. Think about this., especially for our sons coming behind. I worry about this for one major reason; in my little sojourn on earth, and as I learn lessons all by myself, I have found, that women are simply the stronger sex. Any man who holds on to the primitive idea that muscles equals strength, is a fool. Anyone who deploys that muscle to assault women is worst than a beast.  In almost every other area, women are stronger, smarter, more coordinated, more intelligent, more determined, better kitted for the long haul. Men are often frail. Life comes with those paradoxes.  If the world would become a better place, ask the women.

by Tope Fasua

Tope Kolade Fasua is a Nigerian ex-banker, entrepreneur, economist and writer with 28 years of work, business and policy analysis experience. He is the founder and CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Limited, an international consulting firm with its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, and footprints in the United Kingdom, USA and United Arab Emirates. Fasua has authored numerous columns on newspapers and six books. He currently keeps regular columns on policy analysis issues with Premium Times and Daily Trust newspapers.

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