Nigeria Reflections

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Excitement and energy fills each retreat of our Leading From Within leadership project.  We have just completed year one of this three year project, and the engagement of the participants continues to deepen as they step into this new territory of integral leadership.  There is profound dialogue, engaged inquiry, open exploration of new topics, and the courage to step in to embody the concepts that we are sharing.  As our relationships with each participant and with the group as a whole expands, I find myself more and more drawn and committed to this collective exploration of a new way of working in social change.  What if social change could be practiced in a new way?  What if Nigerians were empowered to create a Nigeria of their individual and collective visions?  How might leaders from Africa redefine their own development process?  While One Sky is there to share skills, concepts and knowledge, it is the participants and the committed Nigerian staff who provide the foundation for the practice and embodiment.  Ultimately, it is the Nigerians who are inspiring us to show up more fully and to truly experience the depth of human potential.image

A few days before the first time I went to Nigeria, I went for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant here in Vancouver.  We started chatting with the exuberant owner and host, during which I mentioned I was heading to Nigeria soon.  His immediate response was to be careful, to not trust anyone.  He basically wished me luck with a hint of cynicism and told me to have fun.  This is often the response from other Africans regarding Nigerians. Nigeria is the most populated nation of the continent and has the strongest economy, even though levels of corruption are high and the country's development indicators are still as low as other poorer nations - the combination of which has provoked somewhat of an infamous reputation for Nigerians.  And, yet, there is something about Nigeria that we continue to find ourselves there, and continue to find the openings to a new way of working.

The inspiration for a place such as Nigeria lies in its ability to draw you in subtly.  It is not a destination for tourists, a mecca of beautiful beaches, nor simply an easy getaway.  It is hot.  And humid.  There is an edge of explosiveness that seems to lie just below the surface, which could rise up at any moment.  And, sometimes it does, in the case of the famous Nigerian "wahallah", pidgin English for "trouble".  And they do mean trouble.  A wahallah does not leave anything unexpressed.  But then in a moment, the trouble which was so fiercely intense is forgotten, and people move on, not holding in their bodies any unexpressed feelings.

This is felt in our workshops through the incredible participation of everyone present.  It is a full-bodied participation, a full sensory participation, with engaged dialogue, committed practice and the constant reflection of how to bring the learning into practice.  I find myself sitting back sometimes in these retreats, allowing the participants to guide themselves on their quest, trusting the process, and knowing completely that this is a profound group of social change agents with an astonishing capacity for creating real change.  And this is because, in spite of and in connection with who they are as individuals, how they show up as a group, the social and political environment they find themselves in, and even the past which has created the grooves of being in which they are all currently standing.
There is something about being in West Africa that one cannot deny the history of the place: the millions and millions of slaves that originated from this place.  This place.  The slaves were loaded on ships, sent to their grave or to a life of abuse and servitude before finding their graves.  The history of the culpability extends around the globe and envelops even Africa itself, yet it is one of those old stories now.  Though it is a story that molded this place and a story that is embedded in the current global dynamics.  While holding that simple awareness is neither sufficient nor whole in its depth nor breadth, the question is not about the atrocities, and staying in the atrocities, but rather informing ourselves, holding the responsibility for that history in a way that unfolds a most precious expression of Now.  There is a tremendous history of suffering.  And yet, this continent reveals a boundless aptitude for resilience. 

It turns out that Africa isn't a monolithic continent rife with poverty, HIV/AIDS, corruption.  While there are grains of truth to the painting that lies before us in regards to this place, my experience in Nigeria has shattered stereotypes, tugged at my heart, and opened me to the beauty and the suffering that exists.  While I am no expert on Africa, Nigeria, nor even Calabar, the city where the One Sky project is based, what I have developed is a deep appreciation for the commitment to stand tall, so tall, to celebrate - and I mean really celebrate - to look to the joy contained within each nugget of existence, of humanity and of the simple act of existence, while not shying away from the dark side of life.



Posted by: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 #
your write up is indeed very encouraging,very few people talks good about Nigeria but all l know is that one day our leaders would rise up to their responsibility.they would shun corruption,think and see globally not seeing and thinking themselves alone,which leads them to corruption.
l know God is preparing a generation that would lead this great countrY Nigeria and continent Africa.
Posted by: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/01 #
At a time like this, elderstatesmen, religious leaders, traditional rulers and other stakeholders from the embattled state to raise their heads above partisan instincts and work collectively towards restoration of peace, law and order in the state. It is true that the stalemate in the state is injuring the image of Nigeria, but the theatre of the crisis, Ekiti, bears the greatest brunt. Ekiti ronu.
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