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Olaboludele Simoyan is a Nigerian graduate of Lagos University. She is an architect, salesperson, motivational speaker, teacher, nation builder and Nigerian patriot. I recently watched an interview of Ms. Simoyan by Dr. Bayo of the Nigerian Television Authority in which she talked about her new book. I was struck by her passion and pride for her country, and recommend this book to anyone who would like to see Nigeria change for the better.
Ms. Simoyan's enthusiasm was too much to contain in one book and actually spilled over into a second, with an interesting layout. You can download the two books separately, but if you get the print version the books are back to back in one volume. The back cover of the first book is the front of the second. The two books are "The Eighth Wonder of the World, Made in Nigeria," and "The Eighth Wonder of the World, Made in Naiga."
Did you ever watch someone handle a misbehaving or unruly child by finding their strengths, seeing the good in them and building up that behaviour? Ms. Simoyan taught a class of seven year olds for fifteen years, and found that she was able to get great results from looking for the positives, recognizing good things and praising them. Ms. Simoyan does the same for her country and her fellow countrymen.
Ms. Simoyan is passionately in love with Nigeria and the danger, corruption and hardships of every day life are making her tired and angry. She is not just complaining though. She pledges to do what she can to make life better and she asks the same pledge of her readers. She lays out specific, concrete steps that Nigerians can take to begin to change their lives and their country.
Did you see the movie "Catch Me If You Can" starring Leonardo DiCaprio? It was about the life of con artist Frank Williams Abagnale, Jr. By the time he was twenty one Abagnale had posed as a French teacher, flown over two million miles as an imposter co-pilot on Pan Am, and posed as a chief resident doctor of pediatrics and as assistant attorney general for Louisiana. These remarkable talents eventually landed him in prison, but when he was released he began to put them to better use by assisting the FBI in catching world class check forgers and counterfeiters. Ms. Simoyan tells this story in detail to make a point that incredibly gifted people can use their talents to harm society, or they can turn around and put them to good use.
Ms. Simoyan says: "Nigerians are a resourceful set of people who easily find loopholes in any system. It is said that if you have a system you believe is foolproof, get a Nigerian to test it. If the Nigerian can't find a loophole, then you know for sure that it is indeed foolproof."
Wouldn't it be fantastic if that talent and resourcefulness was channelled into activities that would benefit society and move the country forward?
Many Nigerians and people from other countries have a bad perception of Nigeria. Even Nigerians themselves talk about their country in a derogatory way. This is one behaviour that Ms. Simoyan aims to change. She reminds us of all that is good about Nigeria - the natural beauty, the game reserves and tourist attractions, the intelligence and resourcefulness of the citizens, the rich natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas, mineral deposits, and food products. In fact this book has a very long list of accomplishments by Nigeria and Nigerians, many of which are new to me and probably will be to you as well.
In the second book Ms. Simoyan goes a bit further, and explores the idea of a total re-naming and re-branding of the country. This is Naiga-Wondas, a fabulous place that in a few short years will become the eighth wonder of the world and the envy of all other nations. Ms. Simoyan looks at some of the accomplishments and public images of other countries and says "Why can't Nigeria do the same thing?" Ms. Simoyan will convince you that Nigeria is a land of wonders, and that Nigerians themselves are incredible people.
This book is about creating a new identity, and bringing Nigerians together in a unity that will go beyond ethnic differences. Past governments have tried different programs that were meant to create unity, but these have been mostly unsuccessful as is evidenced by the amount of ethnic violence in the country today.
These books are crafted to be a very easy and entertaining read. There is a large cartoon style sketch showing a visual of the concept in each chapter, and there are many-many African proverbs through-out, as well as quotes by famous people, Africans and otherwise.
For every abstract and idealistic thought that Ms. Simoyan throws out there, she backs it up with a practical and detailed plan of action. There are pledges you can fill out and sign, and spaces to write your own ideas and opinions. There are lengthy lists of personal actions you can take to improve YOUR society, from "learn to overlook insults," to "stop spitting anyhow." (One of my favorites.)
Nigerians, if you are also tired of the problems and corruption of everyday life, if you want to get fired up for your country, if you are wondering what YOU can do to start the change, this is the book for you.
Ms. Simoyan's book can be downloaded from her web site, naijamania.com (free for a limited time), and you can also purchase it from bookstores listed on her site.
Shola and Funlayo Alabi discovered the healing properties of shea butter back in 2005. Today they are the faces behind Shea Radiance, natural hair and body care products made with shea butter. As they became familiar with their suppliers in Nigeria they found that many of the women who gather the shea nuts are kept in a cycle of poverty without access to education and health care. One of the goals of their business is to help these women with a sustainable source of income.
Shea Radiance has trained and worked closely with women in eight collectives in Northern Nigeria, teaching them to use local technology to produce the best quality shea butter and so create a sustainable economy. They recently ran workshops at the The Global Shea Alliance “Global Perspectives” conference, held in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Hausa people live in West Africa, just below the Sahara desert. Today they are mostly concentrated in Northern Nigeria, but Hausa is also spoken in Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Before West Africa was carved up by the colonial powers, there were seven Hausa city-states which were Daura, Katsina, Zazzau, Gobir, Kano, Rano, and Biram. According to legend these seven cities were founded by descendants of Bayajida, who was the son of the King of Baghdad. The King of Baghdad quarreled with Bayajida and so Bayajida left home and set off across the Sahara with an entourage of Arabs, to seek his fortune.
When the Arabs reached the kingdom of Bornu, near Lake Chad, Bayajida married the daughter of the King of Bornu, named Magira. The King of Bornu didn't appreciate this marriage. He considered Bayajida to be a threat to his kingdom, and tried to kill him. When Bayajida and Magira discovered the plot they fled westward into today's northern Nigeria. Majira was pregnant and they stopped at Biram where she gave birth to a son.
Bayajida traveled on to Daura where he stopped, hot and thirsty, and asked an old woman to get him a drink from a nearby well. The woman replied that the well was guarded by a snake, Sarki, who would only allow them to draw water on Fridays. Perhaps Bayajida did not believe the woman, or perhaps he was just too thirsty to care. He went to the well and began to draw the water himself.
Sarki rose up out of the water, a dreadful serpent with the scaled body of a snake and the head of a horse! For hours, Bayajida and Sarki struggled and fought for their lives. At daybreak, Bayajida killed Sarki and cut off his head.
The Queen of Daura soon heard that Bayajida had liberated the town from the serpent who had been controlling their water supply, a most precious possession in that desert climate. The Queen offered Bayajida anything that he desired. He asked for the Queen's hand in marriage. Yes, he still had a wife and son in Biram, but it was commonly accepted for a man to have more than one wife and many children.You can still visit the well at Daura and see a plaque which tells the story of Bayajida.
The plaque reads "This is the well at which according to ancient legend Bayajida, the son of the King of Baghdad, slew the fetish snake known as Sarki and afterwards married the reigning Queen of Daura. Their son, Bawo, begat the first rulers of the seven Hausa states, who were the origins of the Hausa race."
I have also heard it told that Bayajidas son by the first wife, Majira, was the ruler of Biram, which is one of the seven city-states. Several of these cities go by different names today. Zazzau is now Zaria, and Biram is known as Hadejia. Although some cities such as Kano and Katsina have grown very large and modern, you can still find remnants of the ancient walls that once surrounded the old cities.
The old walls and one of the city gates of Kano are pictured below on the left. On the right is one of the old Katsina city gates. All photos in this story were taken by Thadd Jackson in the 1960s.
We know of Ghana as a modern day country, but 500 years ago there was an ancient kingdom called Ghana that grew up on the trade route which connected the worlds above and below the Sahara desert. The beginning of the 13th century saw the last days of the Ghana empire, when it was falling prey to Berber raids from the desert and beginning to break up. On the outskirts of Ghana was a small Malinke splinter kingdom called Kangaba. The ruler of Kangaba was Maghan Kon Fatta,and he had many sons. Maghan Kon Fatta had acquired a wife named Sogolon, who was a hunchbacked, ugly woman said to be the human double of a buffalo. It had been foretold to the king that this woman would bear him a son who would become a powerful ruler. She did bear the king a son named Sundiata, but he was crippled and weak. At the age of seven Sundiata was still crawling around on the ground, unable to walk.
When the King died his eldest son, Dankaran Touman, came to power. One day the taunts of Touman's mother drove Sundiata to get an iron rod and pull himself up onto his feet. He began to walk and grow stronger. Dankaran Touman, who had never treated Sundiata well, began to see him as a threat. Sundiata's mother took her son into exile to keep him safe. In exile Sundiata grew stronger and never forgot his home.
The ferocious Sosso people gained power in this area, led by Sumanguru, who was said to be a powerful sorceror. He moved through the kingdoms and eventually reached Kangaba and overthrew Dankaran Touman, who fled into exile. Far away in another land Sundiata heard stories of the overthrow of Kangaba. He began to raise an army and work towards the goal of coming back to claim his kingdom. As he traveled towards Kangaba Sundiata's army grew, and when he reached the Sosso kingdom he began defeating their armies in small battles.
Sumanguru had powerful magic and when Sundiata met him in battle he was unable to defeat him. Sumanguru was invincible, and able to disappear from a battlefield and reappear on a distant hill. Sundiata knew he had to use the power of magic against his enemy. He was able to learn that Sumanguru's animal protector was the white cock. He made a special wooden arrow with a white cock's spur at the tip.
In 1235 the two warriors met at the Battle of Kirina, just outside of Kangaba. When Sundiata shot Sumanguru with the tipped arrow, the sorceror's power drained from him. He turned and fled into the hills, leaving Sundiata the victor and King over the Sosso lands. This was the end of the empire of Old Ghana. Sundiata established the empire of Mali, uniting the lands from the coast of present day Senegal well into the desert beyond the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. Sundiata's reign was peaceful and prosperous.