“For the boys who will never be known

And the girls who become numbers”

– Stars without a Name

            If you have been wondering how the recent happenings in the north-eastern part of the country are going to turn out, you might as well stop wondering and pick up Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday to check if it fits into what you thought they would look like. Not only has Elnathan John ventured into the murky waters of insurgency in the North-East, he has tried as best as he can to explain some of the things happening in the North-east so that those who have never been there nor know next to nothing about what operates in the north-eastern part of Nigeria can understand to a certain extent what the Boko Haram insurgency is all about without having to grapple with details. Elnathan brings to bear the situation in this part of the country through an engrossing story told by a young boy, Dantala, whose growth we witness, from boyhood to manhood.

Divided into four parts with 263 pages, is a book that chronicles the coming of age of Dantala from an innocent Almajiri who learns at the feet of Mallam Jinadu, to a street urchin under the tutelage of Banda, to a mosque boy taken in and groomed by Sheikh Jamal and finally a black spirit, resolute even in the face of death.

The book Born on a Tuesday takes its title from the name of the protagonist Dantala which means someone born on a Tuesday (P.33).  It is narrated in the first person point of view which makes it more personal to the reader. It starts in Bayan Layi, in 2003 where we are introduced to the life of street urchins in the northern part of Nigeria as told by Dantala, a young Almajiri who ends up under the Kuka tree because of circumstances beyond his control. Who sends a child off to a Quaranic school under the instructions of a stranger for 12 years without checking on him and expects the child to turn out okay and return as a perfect man in the sight of Allah and his people?

Elnathan John touches on how politics is a tool that fuels the crisis in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. Although according to the book, the crisis between the Shia and Shiites has been in existence as far back as when Islam started, the elections were what opened the door to insurgency. Crisis are fueled by the politicians who give money to religious leaders to gain their supports causing division between ‘brothers’ who are supposed to have each other’s back.

Religion is supposed to bring equality among all but thanks to Born on a Tuesday, we now know that bigotry also exists in the religious circle. Mallam Abdul-Nur’s betrayal was alluded to him being a Yoruba man and according to Sheikh Jamal,

A Yoruba man is a Yoruba man.

No matter how Muslim they become.

They stab you in the back.

That is how they are. Hypocrites. (p.210)

            Elnathan John does not just leave it at politics, religion and insurgency; he delves into issues like homosexuality, masturbation, adultery and prostitution which are usually not talked about whenever religion is discussed. Dantala’s inability to confront Abdulkareem and Bilal about what he sees and the Sheikh’s decision to ignore Dantala’s masturbation to talk about marriage shows the hypocrisy in the religious circle concerning issues like this.

Worthy of note is Dantala’s journal entries which started when Jibril starts to teach him English. These entries though in simple English which sometimes are wrongly made and cancelled reflects Dantala’s inner thoughts. They are deep and although they are sometimes serious, there are times when you can’t keep yourself from smiling at the humour presented in the narrations.

Born on a Tuesday is such a good read and until you have read it, you just might not understand what it really is about when they say ‘every king was once a crying baby’. We are first humans before religion, culture and tribe separates us.

Thanks Elnathan for bringing to mind the Burni Yadi boys who were murdered in their sleep at Federal Government College Burni Yadi, Yobe on the 25th of February 2014 and the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped from their dormitory at Government College Chibok, Borno State on 14th of April same year.



In Nigerian context, there are two categories of youths being
permutated by the phenomenon of the country’s situation. The
circumstantially derailed ones hiding under the facade of western
education, and the inherently disillusioned ones shielding away from
the ugly realities of life. Of course, like any other youths in the
Caribbean, they are born with their central nervous system, well
modeled and intact. Save the several intrinsic tendencies like
genetics that can likely influence a man’s growth mechanism –
environmental factor plays the biggest role. The kind of environment a
man naturally finds himself plays a huge role on his personal
dispositions towards life. Such is the case of a typical Nigerian

An average Nigerian youth can be the best anywhere, given the spate of
material and intellectual resources the country is inherently blessed
with. He can be the next William Shakespeare the world would birth, if
he glory in the domain of literature. Much alike, he may thread
treasurely behind Lionel Messi, if his dribbling skills is well
channeled along the competitive divides. At his creative best, he can
exhibit at peak any extra-ordinary potential quite elusive in the
contemporary world. In what seems mythical and unfathomable, the rarity
of the Nigerian breeds in any worldly calling is a testimony to the
beauty of creation.

However, as innovative and awe-inspiring the Nigerian youths could be,
the bottom line is that, they have refused to grow. They are like the
germinating rice plantation struggling to survive in the swamp. They
have mortgaged their future to those xenophilic individuals, who will
rather invest massively abroad than overhaul the dwindling state of
economy at home. Meanwhile, the average youths at home are managing to
scale the rigorous hurdles of primary to university education, for
which employment is like a gold dust. Basic social infrastructures
expected of any meaningful nation, are grossly inadequate. The
educational system is in comatose, with no anointed ones to resurrect
it within. No day elapses without the scattered news of citizens
protesting power failure, low access to health care, increased
mortality rate, among other social pandemics plaguing the nation. They
all want a magical handiwork that will elevate the status of the
country from a mere geographical expression to a complete formidable
structure. And the question is, where are the youths?

Of course, the Nigerian youths are everywhere, in the nooks and
cranny. They are at the clubs dancing away the nights, with the
assurance that tomorrow will berth a new tune. They become drunk with
euphoria, rocking away the complexity destiny has offered. Desirously,
through being hoodwink into leasing away the future; their stream of
consciousness becomes vague, yearning for a new flow of breath. They
are there, romancing the night alongside its conviviality.

Amidst this conflicting irony of affairs, not only the intellectually
brewed are sacred, this set of youths are cheap commodities within the
four walls of garages, soccer show rooms, “baba ijebu” and slums. They
are the font and “origo”, the supremo limo of those caliber of people,
fate would boastfully tagged failure. They are there, forming assembly
of malnourished minds, sipping cups of fermented wine, while the wave
of time erodes away their ageing prospects. Rhythm of salvation they
would always frown at, as nerves for actions remain missing in their
life anatomy. They will never cease rebuking the gods for their own
portion of destiny, until the lustful moments fade away. Hence, they
unleash vengeance on the innocent ones going about their daily
commitments. They are physically upright, yet paralyzed.

In town, on gown, this same set of youths are outwardly transgeneric,
lobbying their way to the academia. They are the means to all sorts of
rots in our ivory towers. They scale the fence to wealth, covering
with pretense of safeguarding their fellows’ rights. Of course, they
receive the nods and shakes of the kings, vice chancellors, provosts,
among others within the topmost echelons of the academia and society.
It is inherent in them, the will and greed to exercise dominion on
every available instance. They draw in passionately the sympathy of
fellow students, while championing the ruthless course to their greedy
stomach. They are the freedom fighters – the heroic villains of their

While being earnest with the narratives of history, it is high time the
Nigerian youths assumed the resonating waves their contemporaries are
tiding in the ocean of realities. They need to wake up from their
slumbers, and engender a culture of reproductive thinking and actions.
Youth unemployment is the Trojan horse. It is fast consuming the
intellects and
energy of supposed vibrant youths. Hence, the Nigerian youths have to
outgrow this draining spirit of over dependence – the glorified pathway
to hereditary failure. As inspired by a famous philosopher, think not
what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.
What can the Nigerian youths do for the upliftment of the nation? The
question raises a pointer on every young mind, including me and you.
We are the future the history is forecasting. Why not moving an edge?

Scrolling through the cable trying to get through the boring Sunday noon, stumbled upon this show called Africa Straight Up. It’s a mini documentary telling a story and giving an insight to how Africa is the future of the world. Couldn’t help but agree to the notion. With the resources (which are terribly mismanaged due to poor governance) Africa got we are truly the future of this world. Read Tom Burgis’s The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth; some weeks back and couldn’t help but to agree with how he sees Africa – a continent with third of the Earth’s mineral deposits and some of its weakest institutions as being particularly vulnerable to the predations that arise from the combination of mineral wealth and poor governance.

Most captivating part of the documentary was when a final year Harvard student made a comment; “I’m going back home to join force with other young talented people to help develop my country. I got nothing to impact in America or Europe, they got enough brain needed for any form of development they wish to attain” she said.
Her comment gave me the thought of brain drain. Brain drain! Brain drain!! Brain drain!!!

Brain drain refers to the emigration of intelligent, well-educated individuals to somewhere for better pay or condition, causing the place they came from to lose those skilled people, or “brains”. This happens when people perceive that the leadership of a country is unstable or stagnant and thus, unable to keep up with their personal and professional ambition.

Brain drain is actually having it toil on Africa. It has led to loss of human capital, decline in economic development, affected the health sector in Africa. According to a BBC report back in 2001, brain drain cost the African continent over $4 billion (will be triple by now) in the employment of 150,000 expatriate professionals annually with Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya believed to be the most affected.

If we actually have an in-depth look at it, poor governance and lack of adequate utilization of resource are major causes of brain drain. But we shouldn’t just keep mute and let the brains that will help build and shape Africa better continue to drain away or die in the Mediterranean. We should start by standing up for what’s true and right; ensure those we vote for are those with the vision to create an atmosphere that would help talents flourish; let our vote count, supporting and working together with those with good intentions for the development of individual African country. I’m on the side that brain drain indeed has dug a hole in the better development of Africa.

I’m not implying that the brains available aren’t trying their possible best. Don’t know about you but I believe if brain drain can be curbed, our development rate will increase. We need more brain. NO ONE CAN DO IT BUT US.

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