Of Government Spokesmen, Media Aides and Public Analysis

Gimba Kakanda's Blog

I was part of a discourse instigated by a satire on President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent blunders and seeming indecisions these past days. The author, Malam Jaafar Jaafar, a former media aide to Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, employed as a subject of his commentary the President’s mispronouncing of German Chancellor’s name as Michelle instead of Merkel, misattribution of the designation “President” instead of “Chancellor” to her, and then reference to her territory as “West Germany” instead of Germany.
The essence of Jaafar’s method, quite simply, was to draw attention to the oversights of presidential aides in having the principal prepared for diplomatic engagements at which knowledge of, or reminders about, global current affairs are necessary, and the necessity of the President’s many travels. But, instead of a robust defence of the man’s travels and Freudian slips, Jaafar was not only pilloried, but his background as former media aide was cited by…

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Nigeria’s Present Rectangle of Tragedy

Gimba Kakanda's Blog


Since the past six years, no people have been so cruelly, and almost unanimously, ridiculed like members of the Nigerian armed forces. They’ve become the butt of our jokes, and scapegoat of every security lapse, and our anger, though understandable, is often misplaced, directed at the wrong party.

Ever since I learnt, or trained my mind to see, the difference between the Defence Headquarters and the Nigerian troops, I developed a certain compassion for the latter; the former, however, is only there for management of the defence organizations’ public relations, and the “small guys” in the terrorist infested fields don’t even know what those millionaire bureaucrats and rubber-stamp combatants say of their failings and victories, and how they’re being employed for political advantages by both the ruling and the opposition parties.

We’re presently entangled in a rectangle of tragedy: the paranoia of the armed forces, unaccountability of the executive, the…

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Spaces of freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran

jake threadgould

Tour Guide


I was sat on a large wicker chair in the rooftop café at my hotel in Shiraz where, in keeping with the Shirazi tradition, a group of guys next to me were reciting poetry. The scented smoke of a bubbling qaylan pipe twisted and turned on the blue tarpaulin above. Downstairs, in the courtyard restaurant, the voices of men and women competed with a cross-legged Kurdish chap in the corner, playing a sitar. Tourists and local men alike pulled chairs up to the tables of young women to chat, safely hidden from the gaze of the authorities outside. Spaces such as that hotel provide an environment of freedom in Iran. In here a woman’s headscarf can teeter tantalisingly close to sliding down the nape of her neck. In here each drag of her cigarette flies in the face of that deeply held taboo. In here large, brown eyes wandered…

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An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter

Black Space

IMG_5465 Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014. photo by Darryl Quinton Evans

We are Black professors.

We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.

We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you.

We know the stories of dolls hanging by nooses, nigger written on dry erase boards and walls, stories of nigger said casually at parties by White students too drunk to know their own names but who know their place well enough to know nothing will happen if they call you out your name, stories of nigger said stone sober, stories of them calling you nigger using every other word except what they really mean to call you, stories of you having to explain your experience in classrooms—your language, your dress, your hair, your music, your skin—yourself, of you having to fight for all…

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I’ll Ride With You

Finding My Sunshine

You know, every time I hear that some idiot has gotten hold of a gun and committed unspeakable crimes I brace myself for the almost inevitable revelation that he or she was “mentally ill.”

Then, in that moment, in addition to the horror of violence, the destruction of lives, and the grieving of loved ones and communities, stigma is resurrected. All the work we all do to reduce stigma, to educate others, to prove to society that the mentally ill are not dangerous and should not be feared or discriminated against becomes moot. These unspeakable acts offer proof to society that the mentally ill ARE dangerous. That we should be feared. And we, as advocates of mental health, need to work that little bit harder once more.

The same can be said for Muslim communities. Except, unlike mental illness which is largely invisible, Muslim individuals cannot hide their faith. And, quite…

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The Cost


Rilla Askew | 2014 | 21 minutes (5,065 words)

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When my godson Trey was a toddler growing up in Brooklyn, every white woman who saw him fell in love with him. He was a beautiful child, sweet natured, affectionate, with cocoa-colored skin and a thousand-watt smile. I remember sitting with him and his mom in a pizzeria one day, watching as he played peekaboo with two white ladies at a nearby booth. “What a little doll!” the ladies cooed. “Isn’t he adorable?”

I told Marilyn I dreaded the day he would run up against some white person’s prejudice. “His feelings are going to be hurt,” I said. “He won’t know it’s about this country’s race history, he’ll think it’s about him. Because so far in his young life every white person he’s ever met has adored him.” Marilyn nodded, but her closed expression seemed…

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Two writers, two talks, two beautifully-expressed arguments about the writer and his or her responsibilities, to the reader, to the craft, to the world. The first is a talk that Philip Pullman gave at the World Humanist Congress in Oxford this summer. I was lucky enough to be in the Sheldonian Theatre to listen to it, a talk that was, as so few are, thoughtful, provocative, illuminating and inspiring all at the same time. It has been republished in the latest issue of New Humanist. When I listened to Pullman, there was a section on the relationship between the writer and the reader that particularly struck me. Re-reading it in New Humanist, it still does; so I am republishing that section here. The whole talk is worth reading, though, so do get the latest issue of New Humanist, for Philip Pullman, and much else.

The second talk was…

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