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Encounter With Uboho Bassey (3)



Moses Oko: Jailed Without Trial?


Sam Akpe

Looking back, this was supposed to be a mere interaction. My initial mission was to simply chat up the poet; and be informed about who I was reading. But before we could go far, an instinct prompted me to make sense of her responses—a revealing friendly chat.

From the very deep questions already discussed, I asked her what should have been the initial question: when did you start to write; when did the interest in writing emerge? She looks at me straight in the eyes, lifts her face up and within a split second seems to have suddenly recalled .

Her response: “From youth, quite early in life, I found myself fascinated with words. My parents instilled and nurtured in me the need to read—guided teaching.

Encounter With Uboho Bassey

Uboho Bassey

“I loved reading the newspapers in my father’s office. I loved the excitement of waiting for the crossword puzzle on the back page of the Vanguard newspaper. I lived in pleasant expectation for the weekend visits to the library.”

It was another way of saying that the passion for writing came along with her interest in reading. She was always scribbling. She had papers littered around her space: the little bedside table, stuck in between pages of her textbooks, and inside her school uniform pockets.

In her words, “In High School, I did what most teenagers did—I wrote love notes, expressed self, poured out emotions. I could look at an object, a piece of clothing, a structure, and weave a storyline about it.

“I wrote about anything and everything. I lived in a world of imagination. I had good teachers. I wanted to learn.”

As was the fashion in those days, Uboho loved novels—Mills and Boons, James Hardley Chase, Agatha Christie, The Pacesetters, John Grisham, etc. Intrigued by words and phonetics, she ventured into encyclopedias and dictionaries. The poet in her was being nurtured.

Here is the secret: “I attempted to write my own stories after reading novels. This jolted my thinking that I could one day venture to write a book. I had two exercise books transformed into my idea of poems—books that remained under my pillow no matter what.

“As with all things in life, this phase faded out of my mind when I entered the university. Writing had become only a hobby. I had no thought that it could take me anywhere in the life I had mapped out for myself.

“Of all the admired professions, no one would have listed “A Writer” amongst the first five. Everyone wanted to be a doctor, an engineer, a pilot, an architect, or a scientist. I wasn’t in any way different from the other children.”

As disclosed in the earlier parts of this discourse, she found herself drawn effortlessly into the literary world. What she has become today did not come without challenges.

With excellent weave of hair-raising metaphors and complicated imageries, Uboho is walking me through the short corridors of her life. She speaks as a poet—hiding a lot behind choice words. I refuse to pursue further because she is making it sound like there is a privacy that must not be advertised.

Her words: “My journey of discovery that I could put down words has helped me in life. It became magnified after I was trapped in silence for years in a relationship that made me question my existence—who I was.

“Writing was a buried gift I unearthed, long interred under the vicissitudes and challenges of becoming a wife and a mother. It was most difficult, at the time to believe in myself, my abilities, or my worth.”

“Writing forced me to put myself under scrutiny. Sharing my writings seemed to me as if a microscope was trained on my life like a specimen in the laboratory. Would people want to debate my motives? Would they judge and find me wanting, lacking in excellence?

“Writing came out of the void of enforced silence. It was like a fountain that burst forth from rusty, creaky pipes after decades of abandonment. The flow was not confident. It came in spurts and wheezes, meandering through rattling pipes, shuddering, and stuttering in its feeble attempt at expression.

“The years had done its best. The challenges were quite peculiar to my circumstances. Now, all I had was the relentless urge to pour out my pain on paper.

“Writing was the vent opened to me from the dungeon of gross darkness. It was the beacon that called me back to harbour like a ship lost at sea. I welcomed the joy and tears that came with the remembrance. I did not think it was a pretty sight.

“All my vulnerabilities, I wrote them down. This was me—writing what I was too scared to say. No cloaks to hide beneath. No masks to hide behind. No fake smile to disguise my pain.”

I am deliberately in silence as she talks. Then I find myself asking, before what look like tears start to fall: advise someone on how to overcome fears—using yourself as an example. I’m seeing a smile, as she opened up again:

“You come to terms that you have lost it all, everything that matters, except this gift of writing. That’s all you have left. It is your one chance of redemption—to make something out of yourself. You say to yourself: “If I perish, I perish.”

“And so, I comforted myself with the logic that we can only hear the stories when it is told, and when it is read. I told myself, ‘Uboho, be courageous enough to say, I can begin again. Be bold enough to say, I will never give up.

“This second opportunity that life bestows makes me deaf to doubts, and blind to fears. It is this attitude that enables me respond to criticism from people who do not connect with my writings in a healthy way.

“I absolve them of all responsibility and burden, just as I am open to constructive criticisms and feedbacks. They do not have to applaud or understand my story.”

READ ALSO: Encounter With Uboho Bassey (1)

So, like a plant brought out from the shade under the brightness of light, she started to bloom. People read what she wrote and were impressed. She even wrote birthday poems for her friends. They got excited.

But then, “The damage to my psyche had taken a huge chunk out of my confidence. It is hard to believe when you have been repeatedly told you have no substance in your brain.

“It is difficult to find hope when it has been crushed for so long. It is even more traumatic when you think you have missed out on all the opportunities life could have given you to become someone.

“There I was, having been told that I couldn’t be anything other than a common housewife. There I was, age not on my side, watching young people accomplish great things, set up businesses, and make money of their own.

“These people, my small audience on social media, helped restore my self-esteem and worth with their edifying words. I was no longer under the perpetual influence of someone who diminished and reduced me to nothingness.

“My writing—I have come to realize, and accept that it is not really for everyone. It is for me—first of all. It is a passion flowing from my heart. It may wash over some people, by igniting a chord.

“It may flow over others—striking a rhythm. It may just glide by others, with no impact. But the most important aspect is that writing healed me. It may heal another hurting soul, somewhere, I hope.

“I have overcome my fears because I found a way to prevail. I have overcome my hesitations in thinking about who my story might hurt or call to question their actions. I have overcome, knowing that if I had given up, I would have had no story to tell today.

“I have overcome, seeing how it resonates with some people. I love the occasional compliment. I love knowing that I can serve people with this gift. Most importantly, I am mindful that it is all for God’s glory—as I serve humanity.”

READ ALSO: Encounter With Uboho Bassey (2)

Enough of the tear-generating recount. How does it feel to be a poet? She did not disappoint. Her response rhymes with my belief. Here she goes again!

“I count myself really blessed to be one of the people who can think, be able to express their thoughts and feelings in words. Perhaps my empathetic nature calls me to deeply connect, intuitively to people and situations around my environment.

“The poet attempts to accomplish through the words of verse what the painter intends with color in a work of art, or a fashion designer through a piece of fabric.

“Poets are wordsmiths, always trying to pack in as much meaning as possible with every word they use in a poem. Being a poet is like being placed on the path of the rising sun.

“It sheds light on the vulnerabilities we are so desperate to keep hidden, out of view of a society who we imagine not so kind or lenient with our failures, our delays, our mistakes, and the things that limit us.

“I feel energies, I feel rhythms, I feel nuances. Sometimes, the depth of feeling makes me shed tears, or propels me into awe and wonder. Poetry pulls me into the very vortex of emotions. It enables me to express myself better and deeper in compelling urgency.

“Words excite me. A simple word or phrase can conjure up several images in my mind. My imagination is actively connected, attuned, and synced to the play of words: to nature, to people, to feelings and emotions. I do not only see injustices, but I also feel them. I am immersed in the rushing flow of life.

“Being a poet means I have a voice and I cannot be silenced. It means I can speak my truth and own my story. It means I can speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

“Being a poet confers on me the strength and power to rewrite my past and recreate new chapters for my future. Being a poet is what makes me want to lift people higher than they could lift themselves.

“Being a poet makes me want to make people see better, have a loftier view of issues, have the veil removed. It makes me want to uncover the darkness that weighs heavily on the psyche of the hopeless and the voiceless.

“Poetry empowers me to look at the failed social services in our nation and see them for what they are—an assault on our collective conscience as citizens.

“Being a poet has taught me that perseverance is not just a choice, it is a way of life—that one day, soon, I will tell my story about how I overcame what I went through and it will become someone else’s survival guide.

“Being a poet keeps me humbled. There is so much excellence in published works of great poets that I find myself falling short of such brilliance. I stay teachable, humble.” This conversation ends tomorrow.


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Nigeria’s Forthcoming Presidential Drama



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku

    Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s political strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s democratic strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s law and legal strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s capitalist development strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s economic strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s media strategists? These questions consisting of verbal repetition which emphasizes what President Tinubu and the masses of our people are up against are ones that cannot be swept under the carpet and must not be swept under the carpet. 

    Our new president is barely less than a few days in office yet he and his strategists have conspicuously made conspicuously avoidable mistakes – which indicate to me that sooner than later the president and his strategists will distrust themselves.

    Let us take the president’s “subsidy is gone” issue – which I referred to last week. Hell! His first outing has caused us a disastrous disaster. He and his strategists are behaving as our conquerors right from the day the first of their presidency which is our new presidency. They want us to sink it in our consciousness that their concrete actions any time and at all times will and must achieve particular outcomes which will and must prosper them. The people don’t matter. Or the people will only matter if and when they want them to matter. What this means is that our new helmspersons have no eye to history. The people and the masses are forever to be cheated and treated unjustly. Their thinking is absurd but there is no absurdity in their consciousness. This explains why the president, encouraged by his strategists in every department, could terminate fuel subsidy in one wicked and malicious phrase and simultaneously could similarly allow a litre of petrol to be sold for above five hundred naira. As many people have rightly said, no thought of the masses of Nigerians came out of the hearts of President Tinubu and his cohorts of flatterers. If the president and his cohorts were comrades we would have discovered and discerned order and discipline and justice in their first undertaking which has foreshadowed what is to come from this regime. They behaved as if the people and the Nigerian Labour Congress did not exist. 

    Now when the Nigerian Labour Congress and its affiliate leadership bodies and organisations were ready for a strike and un-strategically gave sufficient notice to that effect, what did President Tinubu on the advice or prodding of his strategically conscious lieutenants do? Rather than admit his strategic error and apologise to the people and the NLC for taking the clearly wrong action, President Tinubu put on a bold face to tell us that he is another ugboju (strong eye/strong face) president of your country my country our country. We expected a drama that never came as expected. But the drama will still come.  Next time NLC and the people will no notice give this regime as President Tinubu did not give them any notice before he did to us what he did to us.

    As the last horrible regime did to ASUU, this new regime hopped to an Industrial Court in Abuja to halt the NLC’s well but strategically advertised strike, as I have said above. The new regime’s strategists wanted all of us to know that they are like the strategists of the former regime who were in total control of our courts and judges and justices. The judiciary’s fear of the executive is still very much alive. And the judiciary has no soldier it seems again to stand up for the judiciary. There is no judge or justice in the land who justly can stand up for the rule of law, it seems. The masses and people and labour unions will always be worsted by the executive in our courts of law regardless of what the law is or says. The image of the law yesterday is still the image of the law today before our very eyes. Is it not absurd that the rule of law only favours the executive in all sensitive cases? Must every sensitive case be in favour of the federal government and its mighty might that readily is no might that is might at the end of the day? But every court in the land is more or less a riddle which only our presidential strategists and democrats who in fact are not democrats have numerous keys to. But the whole thing is a joke. Our sanctuary or temple of justice is a stage for the theatre of the absurd. Here I remember the words of William L. Howarth, a more than worthy international literary scholar and critic – “when absurdity meets absurdity, the result is perfect sense.” Phew! 

    So far I have learnt nothing from the case the PDP and LP presidential candidates and their parties have taken to the presidential election tribunal. I know nothing of the happenings there so far. But the drama there will soon hit us. And those who have been following events there closely and reporting them in our newspapers will soon inform us of a visual riddle and its peculiar image being observed there. The lines of the presidential lawyers and those of the opposing lawyers will sooner or later be openly on display on our screens via home video. All notions will be dramatized even though the masses of our people have been barred through the presidential election tribunal preliminary ruling from enjoying live television broadcasts, transmissions and reports of the exciting expository that would and will be revealed at the tribunal. The authority of the court that has prevented our people from exercising their rightful large and tranquil eyes is the undemocratic authority against the doctrine and principle of protecting the weak against the strong – who more often than not are always in the wrong. For how long will the doctrinal barriers placed between our common people and their right to equity and justice continue? Let the people keep on experiencing the hardship they are experiencing. Let the people keep on being oppressed. Let the people keep on being graceful and melancholic in their pains and travails. And let, too, the president and his strategists and cohorts continue to go to our televisions stations and tell lies and lies. Let the president and his strategists and cohorts through their power of dogmatic religions and of their practicing or public oratory, keep on doing in so short a time what their predecessors did – everything will turn out to be what they never saw in their havens and ovens of rituals. And the drama in the court will be the drama of dramas. All of us reading this will in the end be exciting exciters. The judges and justices will  realize, before they know it, that the courts have their limits no matter the conditions of tyranny and despotism they work under. Let us all expect the expected and the unexpected at the same time. 

    The strategy of the people is the strategy of the people. We wait for the drama through the manipulative power of the people that no witch-doctor can cow. Unless President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is on the side of the people and he becomes their president rather than that of the enemies of their progress, there is nothing his strategists can do in the end to bail him out of the drama that is to come. All the master rhetoricians thoroughly versed in the arts and magic of persuasion or argument and capable of logical manoeuvres that serve his and their purposes, will inevitably become non-persons in their own drama of greatness. Let us expect the expected and the unexpected. This columnist who loves this country your country his country our country more than you do has spoken. Ignore him at your peril. Thunder! Yes. But it is not yet. But its time is its time. 

Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.

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African Marginal Identities And The Tyranny Of The Majority



Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Nothing is far worse than the tyranny of the majority, and if one hides under the primacy of the majority, it will not always be a representation of the truth, reality, and the right perception. The majority can always be wrong. Many of the greatest atrocities in human history are committed by the general subscriptions of the majority and justification thereof. The domination of one group over the others creates a margin in society, casting some into the quest of finding their strength and re-understanding their identities. Africa has more than 1.4 billion people, but with a high rate of diversities, understanding, culture, and conviction. Also, the propensity of general similarities of societal attitudes has exerted similar problems across the continent.

The fate of marginal identities has much to question and a lot to discuss, despite the easy exits Africans take from advancing such discussions and ignoring the obvious. Those with marginal identities are evidence of realities and their discriminations, oppression, and subjugation are disguised issues the continent enjoys suffocating luxuries from and care less about giving the marginals breathing space, which will be discussed in this part. Diversity ought to foster unity and strengthen the development of the continent because of the availability of creative variety, making it a model to all. Unfortunately, ethnic hegemony, fundamentalism, gender domination and subjections, extreme cultural conservativeness, and prejudicial convictions have created more gaps among the people. While these are unsurprising, the deafening silence, oblivion, and discussion-apathy that those who matter in the continent have shown towards the subject put one in fear of what is yet to come.

Millions of Africans die year in and year out from the hegemony of the majority, which drives many into psychological and physical damage. One then tends to ask what the fate of minorities would be in years to come. The LGBTQI+ persons are victims of entire citizenries and systems, including rural dwellers who make up about 52.13 percent of Africans and are destructively cut off from the mainstream supply lines; refugees, displaced and stateless individuals subjected to inhuman treatments, constant persecution, and wasting away at borders and camps despite the supposed celebrated African unity mentality; slaves and pawns that society have drawn out their wills to the hands of some wicked individuals; disabled people with lesser societal attentions, with the few given to them objectized; marginalized ethnic groups; politically disadvantaged women and youth; secluded women; and people living with albinism. Many of these are common marginal identities with daily unfavorable encounters with others. 

The level of diversity in Africa has necessitated the rise in marginal identities and their marginalization rate. While it is desirable to keep the tenets of culture intact at all times, one fundamental characteristic of culture is its susceptibility to change and its ability to accommodate those changes, expand, and adapt them with contemporariness subjected to the details of the people. Societies change, and Africa has seen several developments in ethical values in recent times as many of our convictions are questioned and their continuous viabilities are in doubt. The influx of globalization and modern cultural advancements that have diffused into Africa has allowed people to gain and regain consciousness about their identity and re-construe the perspective understanding of who they are.

Society is ideologically expanding on all fronts and there is nothing anyone can do about it, no matter how long parts of society hold back. Do not get me wrong; I do not state that African cultural values should change or that the novel perspectives about values should displace the traditional preconceptions that would be a step towards attracting identity loss and defeating all the aims of Pan-Africanism and Africanism endeavors made in the past and striving in the presence. The position is that the culture must adjust to accommodate people who are inhumanly subjected to identical massacre, personality conflict and oppression. It is to say that the culture should shell off dangerously prejudicial values. For instance, the killing of twins was part of the etymological conviction of the Efik people in Nigeria, who believed the children were a bad omen. Such trials by ordeal and other similar cultures have given way because of their negative impacts on society, despite the resistance of some people. This is the same spirit of logic I draw this disposition from and it compounds the need for cultural adjustment.

Issues around LGBTQI+ persons in Africa are one of the most controversial subjects of discussion to raise in Africa, even among scholars. This stems from Africans’ understanding of the subject as there is a general disposition about it because of its strong contradiction of several African cultural values and ethics. Gender and sexuality are core to African institutions, defining all activities and behavioral spaces in which people operate. As a result, one will understand the disposition of the continent to non-conformist sexualities and societal reactions to them. In several quarters, they are perceived to be an abomination to society, which may attract spiritual repercussions because of their capacity to degrade social contracts and fibers. Therefore, one cannot claim that the boasts of Africa in the spirit and existence of diversity spread to tolerance towards the LGBTQI+ community. This explains the disposition of the African governments and the jamborees of anti-gay or anti-sodomy legislations and policies that limit the constitutional rights of people with different sexualities.

Harsh societal reactions, vulnerability, and marginalization towards the LGBTQI+ community is a global phenomenon, as has been asserted by the Human Right Watch report in 2015, but Africa takes a strong position in antagonistic dispositions. Aside from cultural disposition, a strong angle to understanding the people’s reactions towards the community is the level of understanding an average African has about members of the community. Africa sees the identity as an emerging and novel culture inherited from Eurocentric domination and American influence rather than biological or instinctive orientations. Furthermore, Africans discuss it in lieu of spiritual conditioning that points against the emotional states of the African minds. Hence, they are subject to public criticism, embarrassed on the streets, sometimes stripped naked to “shame the devil,” and killed in the most inhuman manners on very bad days. But LGBTQI+ persons are human first, and many of them get their sexual orientations beyond their will and control. Would “what is” be considered non-existent? No matter how biased society might be, it is important to protect the people who identify as such, first as a human, before considering sexuality.

Another identity worth contemplating is women who continuously fall victim to societal bias against the role of women and the understanding of women. Africa has a special hierarchical approach to social structure, and after the advent of colonialism, the response to the status of women has worsened from the level and rate of patriarchal prejudice that existed before. However, one must state that the continent has been moving positively towards gender inclusion and reconstructing the role of women. Politics, social roles, sexualities, and identification are problems women face in African society. There is large political marginalization in terms of contesting or participating in roles and elections. Although the political spaces in Africa have been opening up to women, the continent has seen female presidents and leaders like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Slyvie Kiningi, Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, Rose Francine Rogombe, Joyce Hilda Banda, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Sahle-Work Zewde, Samia Suluhu Hassan, and other influential female African leaders. In the Nigerian 2023 general elections, there was a considerable increase in the number of female voters–52.5% were male voters, and a close 47.5% were female. However, females still face social discrimination in the continent as several believe that the only place they can function is the home.

In addition, millions of African women still live in seclusions in one form or the other, including Purdah systems, widowhood, and different religio-cultural conditionings. Some of them are cut off from the rest of society, incapacitating them and reducing their role in the developmental process of the continent. This results from beliefs, as several of the secluded women are not victims but have done so intentionally. Hence, addressing marginalization in this context must be done within the confines of culture and tradition. Women’s sexuality is taken very seriously in an average African society. It is the reason for many conservative cultures and opinions about women and a driving factor behind the evils of female genital mutilation and rigid sexual rules around women. The sacred African angles to women’s sexuality have brought about spiritual constructions that have attracted nebulous assaults and ritualism towards women because of the conception that they are especially spiritually different.

Also, ethnic differences and conflicts result from marginalization, creating compulsory but strong marginal identities. The diverse characteristics of the continent have brought about the existence of small minority groups shocked by the hegemonies of the majority. Crisis in Ethiopia, rivalries in Zimbabwe, agitations in Nigeria, unrests in Rwanda and Burundi, Kenyan wars, and other unrest in Mali and others are largely traceable to ethnic marginalization and domination. This has claimed millions of lives on the continent and has rendered many helpless. Ethnicity is the test of African unity and the continent is failing woefully in this regard.

    In 2021, it was stated that Africa has about 52.13% of its population dwelling in rural areas. This shows that sometimes majority and minority factors are not often based on the number in comparison but influence in comparison. Burundi alone has about 85.94% of its population living in rural areas. According to the World Bank, there are no less than 687,081,738 Africans in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. Individuals are the majority but have minority voices and influence, except in certain situations. Interestingly, the food-producing populations are rural dwellers, yet development often passes over them. This continuous marginalization of these people is as dangerous to the continent as taking slow and gradual poisons. On a larger scale, this goes to the root of refugees, stateless, and displaced persons who are not considered key to societal constructions.

    People living with disabilities are another identity that society has not been able to open its arms towards, and when such sympathy is done, it is often done in the most embarrassing forms. Africans have generally stereotyped people with disability with some level of condemnation. It does not matter what one does; as far as one is living with a disability, you are considered poor and discriminated against because society does not expect any level of mental or physical ability from people with disabilities. It is more pitiful that a spiritual status is attached to these persons, making them vulnerable to abuse, violence, ritual killing, and objectification. More particularly, people with albinism, hunchbacks, twins, and others with special forms of birth are subjected to consistent violations, abuse, and ritualism. Countries like Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria, and others have reported cases of grievous assaults and killings of people with albinos. They are often seen as ritual objects and materials for power.

    Notably, the first step towards achieving reasonable solutions is to allow society to become more tolerant through awareness and collaborative approaches. There is a need for orientation change across Africa and the development of enforceability measures. Without a doubt, solutions to several of these discriminatory social convictions are not in aggressive movements, as many international and non-profit organizations have taken gradual steps that incorporate cultural and traditional peculiarities.

(Prt 1 of the Extract of the 2023 Audrey Richards Distinguished Public Lecture, University of Cambridge, June 7, 2023).


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Think Aloud: Beyond Literacy and Numeracy In Schools



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

Think Aloud is an initiative by the Critical Thinking Social Empowerment Foundation to foster critical thinking culture in schools, and in the society at large. The goal is to realize a sociocultural change and substitute a culture of suppression of questions with a habit of expression of doubts and critical viewpoints. The poor state of education and schooling is often rooted in limited focus and appreciation of these mental skills. Educational authorities put much emphasis on literacy, that is, the ability to read, write and effectively communicate. And numeracy, the ability to understand and work with numbers. No doubt, these skills are foundational to education and learning. But they are not enough. For instance, in an attempt to improve the quality of education, the government launched a program, Read Aloud. This initiative encourages children to read out loud, to improve their proficiency in reading, comprehension and communication. This program aims to create and stimulate interests of children in reading books and other forms of literature. It is a part of the effort to improve the reading culture in schools and society at large. To this end, the Lagos state government has been promoting “Read Aloud Lagos”. It urges parents and families to read aloud every day for 20 minutes so that children can develop and become lifetime readers. According to the Read Aloud Lagos web site, the program “builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about”.


Indeed, reading is the bedrock of learning and comprehension. It helps in nourishing the mind. Without a robust reading culture, children cannot effectively communicate or express themselves. Their ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding is impaired. While it is important to teach children to read, and get them to improve their use and knowledge of words, it is equally pertinent to get them to think about what they read, and communicate. Children are by nature curious and inquisitive. It is necessary to encourage them to fully exercise their curiosity and inquisitiveness, to question and interrogate the texts that they read. In many cases what children read or are made to read are not true or are partially so. Many texts contain gaps in reasoning and construction, incorrect ideas and mistaken opinions. They misrepresent issues, and portray one-sided views and representations.


So, while it is important to encourage children to read aloud, it is imperative to equip them with questioning skills and complement their reading program with an initiative that emphasizes critical thinking, reflection and interrogation. It is necessary to give children and families the tools and facilities that can enable them to ponder and contemplate, think aloud, yes critically reason aloud.


As a part of this program, participants, in this case, children, are made to generate questions without inhibitions. They are nudged to give free rein to their curious and inquisitive minds. They are encouraged to ask any questions that occur to them; questions that go through their minds while performing particular tasks, and while carrying out everyday duties and assignments. The program is predicated on the notion that humans have and habor questions from childhood to adulthood, from the cradle to the grave. Human beings are questioning beings, Homo interrogans. They entertain doubts and objections in all areas of human endeavour. Interrogation of issues is a part of the human makeup, mental operations and intellectual chemistry. Questions occur or pop up in the minds of people while performing various tasks. Many people refrain from asking questions due to the heavy price and penalty on interrogation of issues and authorities. Questions are part and parcel of everyday experiences. Questions draw attention, and enlighten. Questions try to foreground sides, aspects and forms too often ignored or overlooked. Questions accentuate human sense of taste, and appetite for knowledge, the hunger for wisdom and the quest for truth and understanding. Questions form a key part of the human learning process. They drive human curiosity, exploration, investigation and sense of inquiry. Incidentally, many questions largely go unexpressed or suppressed due to a lack of space, program or opportunity to openly and publicly ask them. Many questions do not see the light of the day due to dogmatic and authoritarian vested interests, due to a culture that rewards and makes a virtue out of blind faith and unquestionability, rote learning, memorization and regurgitation of whatever has been taught or preached. The program, Think aloud, is an effort and initiative to change this culture of learning and foster curiosity and inquisitiveness in children. It aims to transform the educational sector by encouraging free interrogation of ideas, texts, issues and experiences in schools.

Education authorities should embrace this initiative, and seize the opportunity to improve the quality of learning in schools. Children should be taught to read and numerate. But more importantly, children should be taught to question what they read and numerate.

Dr. Igwe directs Critical Thinking Social Empowerment Foundation

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