Friday, December 30, 2005

on leadership

It is a commonplace to blame the problems of Africa on poor leadership. While there is some truth that poor leadership perpetuates problems of corruption, non-transparency and all the rest, it has always struck me as a somewhat simplistic analysis. Good leadership cannot thrive without good followership, that is, people who will pressurise, critique, encourage, reject and so on as appropriate. In Nigeria as elsewhere, a history of poor leadership has its corrolary in a history of poor followership. The elite have been happy to hang on to whatever spoils of oil that have come their way, whereas the poor have been too downtrodden to act or react to the follies of the powerful. The situation hasn't changed in twenty or more years in Nigeria. Even the grief and anger following the recent air tragedies has now dissipated.

As well as pressure to improve governance, a solution to this problem of weak followership also needs to be developed. The problem is that in Nigeria, wisdom and respect is automatically conferred upon the old (or the older), regardless of word or deed. This deferential structure needs to be challenged, for it is clear that the elders have failed miserably (as leaders and as followers) in Nigeria. Most of all, young people need to be shown about the importance of their right to vote, in the run up to 2007.


In blighty`

We've been in the frost of the UK since Wednesday morning. The flight from Lagos was terrible - to Bibi's left the smelliest woman in Nigeria (her armpits redolent of rotting onions), to my right, a couple with a baby that loved to shit and scream. Why would anyone want to have children?

We did some chores in London on Wednesday afternoon, then ended up meeting friends at Patara, an excellent Thai restaurant on Greek Street in Soho. Was lovely to be in the intelligent and witty company of M and M, architectural magi residing in Hommerschmidt.

Then up to Staffordshire and the parental bosom on Thursday morning. On the train, luminous landscapes of ice, frost giving the trees a skeletal brilliance, landscape merging into sky. And then home: christmas tree, food piling on food, laughter, mulled wine. Christmas and Saturnalia baked into a pie.

I'm basking in 2meg broadband, bouncing round the blogosphere. Just discovered Google maps which is a site I've long dreamed of existing. What will Google be in 10 years time?

Closer to home is 2006 in Nigeria, 3000 miles south. Its going to be a huge year, with a battle royale for the soul of the country in advance of the 2007 elections. So many things will happen next year, most of them for the good.


Here's to 2006


Tuesday, December 20, 2005


There is a piece on Nollywood on WorldChanging today, following up on something on Black Looks' site. Its refreshing to hear some critical voices. For all that Nollywood is touted as the third biggest film industry in the world, I've always maintained that on present form, Nollywood does more harm than good. For one, it perpetuates the kind of pre-modern medieval superstitious juju claptrap that swirls around in many people's heads. Dodgy aviation industry plus 419 emails plus Nollywood equals BAD reputation.

But the problem of Nollywood is not one of a lack of creativity or technical know-how; it is rather than it is currently run on the wrong business model. The for-video market distribution system means that the budget often dictates that the film is made in four or five days. With the new multiplex cinemas opening up this year and next, and the classification board enforcing a degree of local content, AND the merged banks looking to offer returns on shareholder investment, the time is ripe for much bigger budget films.


Christmas in Nigeria

Thanks for all the interesting posts and different views on Christmas. I think we all can yearn for memories of festivities of our childhood. And of course, Christmas is always localised to whatever climate. As one commentor noted, the irritating thing about Christmas in the West nowadays is that it is just a highpoint on the retail sales calendar and can be a cue for intense loneliness for those left out of the action in such an alienated society.

I think I just had an allergic reaction to so many blinging fake christmas trees. When I was growing up, people with fake trees were considered tacky tasteless beings confined to a life of ITV and tinned food (nice bit of class snobbery going on there). So I cannot help looking at plastic trees here and think that we're a long way from Norway or Germany. But perhaps this is just a middle-class/elite phenomenon as someone else noted.

But the larger point is that like all public events, Christmas is highly contested and has multiple meanings around christendom and beyond it. In parts of Europe, the festival of St Nicholas (where "Santa Claus" comes from) is more important than Christmas. What is happening in Europe as christianity's influence continues to wane is that christmas is becoming a secular gathering festival as it was before - the Jesus narrative slowly dropping out in favour of gift-giving and communality. In multi-faith and post-faith societies, what we need I think are more secular rituals that bring us together across our differences. Although as a veggie I dont like the meat aspect, the US Thanksgiving ritual is one such example.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Aviation in Nigeria - its gets worse

Just heard that Bellview crashlanded in Ghana today. This follows an emergency landing in Kaduna late last week (not sure which airline that involved). Farce follows tragedy follows farce...


Submission doctrine

In an obituary to the late Pastor Bimbo in the past few days, the author referred to her stand against homosexuality and her campaign for women to be submissive to their man. Anywhere else in the world (for instance, Belfast, celebrating the first gay marriage today) and this would be interpreted as irony or sarcasm. Things are a little different in the topsy turvy world of Ng.

Just as insidious and counter-productive as prosperity doctrine (which ever more christians in Nigeria are turning against thankfully) is submission doctrine. As many know, it comes from this particularly nasty piece of Greek-style patriarchy in Ephesians:

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:22-27

I suspect there are many women in Nigeria who are torn between fidelity to this text (as part of a broader faith in the word of The Book) and wanting to resist the licence it gives to their man to lord it over them in their relationship. If we are to use the language of submission, in any healthy relationship, submission should surely work both ways - at times the man submitting to the woman as much as the woman submitting to the man. Any theological attempt to endorse the above citation as The Truth will always end up as patriarchy pure and simple: man considered superior (and therefore accorded more power) than woman.

Christians must recognise that 2000 years after the event, much of the world has come to challenge patriarchy - even in places like Iran and India. Over one hundred years of feminist struggle in the West has given women the vote and a huge amount of autonomy (financial and otherwise) from men - although sadly, many Western womenseem not to have heard of Mary Wollstencroft or the Suffragettes. Any stance apart from the progressive deconstruction of patriarchy must surely be seen as an argument in favour of turning back the clock of history. Christianity is compatible with a much more egalitarian approach to relationships.

In an organisational context, subscribing to this passage from Ephesians is at the same time acquiescing to oga-syndrome or bigmanism. Returning to the quote, surely Christ should submit to the Church as much as the Church submits to him? Any other position would involve a deficit of accountability. In business-speak, the MD must submit to the Board, as the Board must submit to the Shareholders. No one has absolute authority over anyone else in an enlightened organisational/institutional context. In the Catholic Church, if priests were never held accountable (submitting to the enquiries of the laiity), how many more children would suffer child abuse to this day?

The more general point is that no text, no matter how sacred, should be taken to be literally true, for literal truth is impossible with the passage of time. The accretions of history meant that something always gets lost in translation (as other things are found in translation) - as we know that the idea that Christ was born in a 'stable' is the result of a mistranslation from the Aramaic (other accounts point Jesus to being born in a house or a cave). A healthy historicism (a la Nietzsche's classic essay "The Uses and Abuses of History for Life") takes texts and uses them for the progressive purposes of the present, discarding what is no longer needed. Submission doctrine should go the way of prosperity doctrine for the sake of the empowerment of Christian women everywhere: to the dustbin of history.

There are some interesting rebuttals of the foundation story of Christianity here. Whether one subscribes to all that is written there, it certainly points to a lot of confusion between differing accounts of the life of Christ in the Gospels.


I'm dreaming of a cold Christmas..

Christmas is upon us, and I can’t help feeling that it just doesn’t work in the tropics. A Christian takeover of a pagan festival shrouded in history, Christmas is a festival for Northern Europe and Northern Europeans above everywhere else. It is a celebration of light amidst the darkness of winter, and of communion despite the cold. It should involve drinking litres of mulled wine and copious mince pies, as well as the odd trifle, all to the sound of a crackling fire. But here, Christmas is bleached of its meaning by the blinding light of the year. How many Nigerians have a clue about the origin of associating Christmas trees with this festival, or an inkling of where Father Christmas/Santa Claus came in? Instead of the ancestral smell of pine invading the house, Nigerians make do with pathetically tacky plastic trees. Ones that make plinky plonky electronic noises that approximate to “Jingle Bells” and go out of tune seem to be favoured above all else. My advice: drop Christmas and invent a festival that is conducive to the climate – a festival of water in the dry season perhaps? Christmas is about as at home in West Africa (or anywhere else hot in December for that matter) as palm trees in Newcastle.


Mary near Ushafa. She sold us some beautiful honey..


Bwarri is home to the Abuja Law School, so its the place to buy all your law books..


Churches aplenty in Bwarri..


Woman working at Ushafa Pottery Centre.


Bibi and Yetunde, reflected in Y's sunglasses, Usman Dam.


Usman Dam, just 20 minutes drive from Abuja.


Abuja tourism

We spent the weekend with Y, a guy I met through this blog. It was his first time back in Nigeria for some years and his first time in Abuja. His sensitive reflective ways and aesthetic attunement to the world made me consider what an aggressive brute I’ve become; Nigeria turns you this way simply in order to get through the days without being too scarred by the stupid inefficiencies and inefficient stupidities that confront one every day here. I felt like a reptile sick of my scaly skin. My life as an iguanadon. Time to go on retreat, meditate, love the smell of jasmine and wood smoke and all the things between once again.

We had fun talking into the night about Nigeria, the evangelical virus, the philosophical underpinnings of veganism and what it is to be human etc. It was a breath of balmy fresh air to have another intellect ventilating its energies through the house. A new friend perceptively commented recently that Nigeria always extracts energy, without giving anything in return. One has very little to learn from most of the people one meets, their heads being empty or full of superstitious vacuity (the young receiving no valid education these days). Y is interesting because he is an ex-evangelical; he therefore knows the Bible better than most and has thought his way outside of the brainwashed gobbledygook by questioning the very foundation of a literalist interpretation of the Bible: the Bible itself. He did this by studying the historical conditions in which the Bible itself was constructed (the various councils where what was Apocryphal and what not was decided). His analysis of the difference between the Gospels and the Pauline interpretation (the internalised “spirit within” of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the externalised “Christ the Saviour” message that follows was particularly interesting. Of course, like myself or I imagine any other ex-Christian (I left the Christianity when I was 10), he has not completely renounced the faith; only the crass Manichean victory/money-obsessed perversion. The marginalised liberal interpretation (the Bible as a repository of useful/poetic narratives) awaits, to those who understand that faith is a journey to the urge within.

We also discovered Usman Dam, which is just 20 mins drive from Abuja. A glittering expanse of water complete with volcanic islands, anywhere else in the world this place would have been exploited for its huge tourist potential; sailing boats, speed boats, water and jet skiers would be zipping around, while more relaxed types would be sipping cocktails from a Niemeyer-esque balcony. Instead, there is silence and the sun shining down. Perhaps this is no bad thing; who wants a Costa del Abuja or a West African Windermere? But some modest development could surely take place here beyond the small, unused looking Julius Berger sailing club? We sat by the lakeside and enjoyed the glistening coolwarm water on our feet and the sound of stones plonking beneath the surface. Then we drove along the lane at the top of the dam, a kite keeping us company soaring the thermals above us, and clambered up rocks. Cigarette butts told us that this place was known by at least some. A skinny lad came walking after us down the track, descending the rocky slope to a tethered wooden canoe. He offered Y and I a trip; we clambered aboard and set out onto the crystalline water for a few minutes. Then we drove back, Y and I sitting on the bonnet, feeling like 10 years olds again. The landscape around the lake could have been Italy (minus the cypress trees). How soothing to be in a landscape, however briefly, after the low-grade concrete ugliness of Abuja.

We then drove to Bwari to the two pottery places in that area, buying some lovely glazed pieces. The spirit of master potter Ladi Kwali lives on in these places. On the road back, we filled the boot with grapefruit, oranges, paw-paw, melons, and bought some lovely local honey (Nigerian honey has a flavour all its own) from some jovial women at the crossroads near Ushafa. Finally, on the way back into town, we stopped off at the Crafts village place on Jabi road and Y bought some masks and battic hangings. I spotted a lovely four foot high Yoruba-style sculpture which Bibi’s sister helped to negotiate down to a decent price.

All of which proves the hugely underdeveloped tourist potential of Federal Capital Territory. Rather than blow all that money on a pointless carnival, the Tourist Ministry should look at places like Usman Dam and Guara Falls and create some eco-tourist projects. But then where are the kick-backs in modest adjustments like these?

On Sunday, I watched The Consequences of Love, the Italian contemporary masterpiece of cinema that came out earlier this year. I was reminded of the powerful message of the film: of love as a sacrifice without return, and of the essence of humanity lying in being able to recognise the humanity of others. If ever you get the chance, watch this film; its stylish, arresting and enigmatic all at once.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

The soliso protest march - more

Click here to read a report of the tear gas episode yesterday.


Friday, December 16, 2005

The March today...

A friend went along to the mother's march against the aviation industry (mentioned in my last post) this morning. Apparently the police were ready in waiting. Mothers from the elite didnt have time to gather before tear gas was being sprayed. Democracy and freedom of association remains a distant mirage in this country..


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Details on the March tomorrow..

We concerned Mothers of Nigeria have had enough of air crashes
In which we lose our children. The sosoliso crash news blackout
And governments apathy is unacceptable! We need reforms NOW.
Join us on Friday 16th Dec at 9am at Opic plaza, Ikeja near Sheraton in a protest march
To1 say Never Again.
Please wear black tops.

Send text 08066501955 to register your support now.
Please forward this message to everyone you know
Olamide Balogun


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Basket Mouth

In Lagos yesterday, I saw a billboard at the end of Adeola Odeku which is brilliant - I wish I'd had my camera.

Beside a grinning picture of popular comedian Basket Mouth was the headline "Basket Mouth for President 2007". The name of BM's party: the CICDP (Chop I chop Democratic Party). Underneath, with an injunction to contact BM on his GSM was the strapline, "Enough ghana-must-go for everbody"

It confirms my belief that comedy is the most radically contestive space in Nigeria at the moment. We must look to Basket Mouth & co to drive reform.

Another thing: there is to be a demo/march in Ikeja on Friday demanding change in the Aviation sector - led by some Loyola Jesuit parents (will post more info tomorrow). Let the people rise up!


Images from Dubai last week..

Detail from the back of a Emirates' woman in Mall of the Emirates. The design on the back of the black gowns is exquisite..


A street close to the heart of many a Nigerian: a huge collection of the most lurid, fakest flowers. Would look lovely next to chintzy curtains and metal chairs done out in gold near the glass table from Argos.


Street scene near the Gold souq in Dubai..


David Beckham (cue whiny/nasal Estuary Inglish accent) just launched his perfume range Instinct - here is the display in the Mall of the Emirates (reputedly the largest mall in the world).


Dubai changed my perception of standard female islamic attire. The black gowns are finely detailed on the back. Accessorised by Dior or Gucci, they are quite fetching.


Barber's shop near the Gold souq in Dubai


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reforming the spirit

I had a moment of insight yesterday while dwelling (yet again) on the Church in Nigeria. It must be painful for those genuinely committed to a Christian path of love and care for the other to see how those who grab the limelight with delusional Creflo Dollar-esque prosperity doctrine soil the message, while quiet good work is done a thousand times a day by Nigerian Christians in a thousand places. The solution to redeem the spoiled image of evangelical christianity is that crooked pastors must be identified and banished via internal mechanisms, checks and balances. Church books must be open to external auditing, questions must be capable of being asked to those in authority. Then a genuine reformation can take place which could only be very powerful and positive for Nigeria.

I guess my moment of insight was more simply that perversions of christianity (such as TB Joshua's alleged cure for Aids, breast cancer etc etc) are symptoms of a collective survival mode - where thousands of people en masse are pushed every day to the limits of their being - with a nourishing meal perhaps once a week, living in dreadful conditions. Rather than continually ranting on about these symptoms, solutions need to be found to the causes. Being led into a community of love and care (such as the Church) after years of hardship and abuse can be a hugely positive framework for transformation. I would not want to deny this.

Whether its Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, Guru Nanak or Rilke, there are a myriad of spiritual avatars who have come amongst us in history, offering pathways of spiritual development ahead of us. In each case, institutions can form around these heavenly beings which mess up the message. Mechanisms for reform are always needed within religious organisations, for the founding being's profundity to be kept intact. In this respect, Christianity is no different from any other organised religion: human beings can fall, as do the institutions they create.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sosoliso sadness

We're all drunk with sadness at the story of all those children perishing near Port Harcourt. The aviation minister is away in Canada - at some kind of air safety conference. What bitter irony. With Bellview, then Kaduna and now Sosoliso all within just over a month, there must be a wall of pressure from the public mounted to ask why and roar for change.

It is time that the corruption in the air transport industry is blown away: runways must be maintained, aircraft must be checked thoroughly before every flight, electric storms must always be avoided, old planes must not be allowed to fly. From what I read, the last DC-9 was made in 1982, which means that the Sosoliso plane was at least 23 years old. In a country with no maintenance culture, old planes + cost cutting in vital areas is a recipe for tragedy. The world watches Nigeria and waits for the country to get its act together, instead of continually embarrasing itself with the multiple forms of its own inadequacy.

Loyola Jesuit in Abuja is one of the best schools in the country, with bright young minds nurtured in an atmosphere of Jesuit discipline and moral principles. We hear that a mother and a father yesterday lost all three of their children from this place: a future wiped from the face of the planet. What can be said to console them, after such a senseless death? Who will be brought to account as a gesture to nudge them in the direction of atonement (a ten thousand mile journey)?

The bitter pill to swallow is that since Bellview, nothing seems to have changed: no one lost their job or was held to account (Bellview didnt stop flying). No enquiry was made, no black box was found (apparently). Instead, those lives have sunk into the thick mud of history. African lives have no value; faces become contours in the mud and then are trodden over.


Nigerian graphic design

The standard of graphic design and creative copywriting in Nigerian advertising is woefully poor - with MTN leading the way with straplines such as "Go where you want to go" and "Life is beautiful". As with Nigerian newspapers, one can easily get depressed.

An island of creativity in a sea of mediocrity is young Lanre Lawal who won a design award from the British Council recently. Check out his graphic design work for Jazzhole, Urban Living etc here (unfortunately its a heavy site so not so easy to browse from your average naija cybercafe). Let's hope the acclaim doesnt go to his head and he keeps on developing his talent.


Thursday, December 08, 2005


On the road to Internet City from Deira, you pass this wall of pomo buildings, like out of a sci-fi set. Even with 7-lane freeways, the traffic can build up. With no mass transit system (no rail, no subway, no DLR) there may be congestion issues in the future, when all those bought-off-plan high-rises are occupied).


Dubai is a fantasy of future capitalism, with what must be one of the biggest building booms going on. In this area, I counted over 20 skyscrapers being built within a mile square.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

end of the day..

its been a looong day, but successful. Even though 9 or 10 of our party didnt manage to get out of the airport after 9 or 10 hours of waiting, we decided to start at 5pm. Professor Olofin of the Centre for Econometric and Allied Research gave a 3 hour presentation on the importance of interagency forecast modelling and how it can create a rational macro-economic policy framework which was quite inspiring. Instead of economic adjustments made by whim, the technology platform we are creating (funded by the EU) will enable forecast data to be shared amongst the core Federal Govt agencies. And now that Prof has been brought onto the new Board of the CBN (he was Soludo's teacher), it really looks like things are locking into place for next year. It feels great to be part of a process whereby at the most senior level, competent technocrats are starting to take control of the Nigerian economy.



Our group landed this morning - via two flights - Emirates and Ethiopia. The problems continued when we found out that not everyone had visas approved. Nigerians are on the problem list for UAE officials (along with Somalis and Iraqis). The travel agent people told us that Nigerians came and did a bank robbery a few years ago. This was the first time this had happened in the country. In the past couple of years, travel agents are only allowed to process four Nigerian passports at a time. This made getting all the passports done in one go somewhat problematic. Tempers are rising. Some of the party are in the hotel (a Russian-themed joint with rococco gilded fittings), some are still in the airport, tired and fed up. We will get there.

I'm going to take a rest now. Its nice having broadband internet access again after the crawling and extortionate speeds of Nigeria..


Monday, December 05, 2005


We are taking 30+ civil servants to Dubai for strategy workshops today - the last big thing we do for this year. Some are already there but havent got their visas sorted out and are stuck in immigration (we're frantically burning credit trying to sort this out). Some have to be at Lagos airport by 1pm today to fly Ethiopia - but we are not sure if all are there. Meanwhile, the bulk of people are flying Emirates - but not all the visa are yet sorted out. A complete daymare. But it will all be ok in the end sha.

Meanwhile we had a lovely night out at Terra Kulture with friends and new friends last night - the conversation flowed and was full of wit and laughter. A piano concert was held in the concert space - they played pieces by Ayo Bankole (he wrote the Nigerian national anthem). He died aged 41 and a lot of his compositions went up in smoke. Our friend's piano teacher knew some by heart fortunately and so some of the missing pieces have been transcribed. It was lovely to be beguiled by langorous pianomusik once again.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Book clubs in Lagos

A reading culture IS coming back to Nigeria, thanks to the valliant efforts of a few. There are clusters of book clubs emerging. Check this one - which has both adult and childrens groups.


On satire and language

I've loved some of the comments to some of my recent posts - especially Afrofunkycool's short history lesson on alternative sexualities in Nigeria and the wonderful satire on a Levitican theme: whoever wrote that should develop it into an essay or something. It confirms my belief that the best way to shut evangelical bigots up is to quote the Bible back at them. For all the prosperity-doctrine delusionists who pray only for business success and wealth, one can simply quote Matthew 19:24 on camels and needles to swat at their crass materialistic perversion of spirituality. The same can be done for Christian carnivores..

At a friends house recently I was flicking through a glossy brochure for a Camp (religious gathering) they had attended - one of those Ibadan expressway mass gatherings. The Church involved is one of the largest and oldest of the mushroom churches. The brochure's theme was 'breakthrough' (this means success after struggle I think). Not once during the brochure was there any mention of compassion towards others, love of neighbour, tending to the sick or the poor or anything remotely resembling the Christian values I absorbed through my quasi-Methodist upbringing. All there was was memememe and how memememe is going to breakthrough. The brochure could have been written by a computer, randomising a set of the following words: Jesus, breakthrough, faith, success, evil spirits, Holy Ghost, prayerful - with filler words such as and, the etc. I'm never failed to be shocked by the utter lack of meaning and the sheer material superficiality of Evangelical christian discourse in Nigeria.

In a conversation with Bibi a couple of days ago, we were discussing how although irony and satire seems dead and buried in English conversation, Yoruba is replete with double meaning, puns, subtle mockery etc. on a Shakesperean scale.

The question is, why has Nigerian English (particularly as it appears in popular media such as journalism) become so unruly and staid? A journalist friend yesterday suggested that the problem of poor writing is a fundamental one that ordinary writing courses cannot rectify. For Bibi, the problem began when parents and teachers stopped teaching their children first of all in whatever native language: Yoruba/Igbo/Hausa and began with English. To young minds grappling with a second language, it is vital that one is fully grounded in the first. The result of this switch was a confusion between local languages and English, undermining children's ability to distinguish between different grammatical systems. There would seem to be some truth in this, in that many grammatical mistakes in the paper's do seem to be motivated by another language (for instance, confusing him and her for Yoruba speakers - where Yoruba does not have gender difference coded into the language). It will take a lot of time and effort to build up the quality of written English here, and a concerted effort to separate the learning of local language from acquiring linguistic competence in English.


Friday, December 02, 2005

HIV and nutrition

Watching Sorious Samura’s gut-wrenching documentary on Aids in Africa last night, it struck me that apart from access to very cheap or free ARV’s, and apart from prevention issues around the relation to alcohol (the virus is transferred so often by drunk men) and the nihilistic death-wish of those with HIV-AIDS sleeping with others to infect them, and of the evangelical church’s mystification against the effectiveness of condom use in favour of protection from Jesus or by preaching abstinence (funded by our friends in the Whiter than White House) – aside from all these well known contributory factors to the prevalence of the virus – what is less appreciated (perhaps I am wrong – what do I know?) is the importance of nutrition and diet. The reason why poverty threatens the lives of those who are positive in Africa more than elsewhere is surely because the African diet is often poor in the nutrients that will boost the immune system. So many Africans do not eat enough fruit and vegetables (even though they may be surrounded by them), resulting in nutritional intake weak in iron, B12, essential fatty acids and other vital nutrients.

A campaign for a more balanced diet amongst the poor in Aids-stricken areas such as Zambia, Nigeria or Swaziland would mean living with the virus would be less life-threatening. This may not be as daft an idea as it might sound: in most places in the world, there is an abundance of plants and herbs that are immuno-boosters – whether sources of iron, anti-oxidants or otherwise. Here in Nigeria, the variety of spinach called ugwu is a miraculous way to boost the blood level (we drink the juice, which is a bit like wheatgrass). Anti-Retro-Virals are undoubtedly a key part of the fight against the virus (as are the microbicide gel-based vaccines coming onto the market in the next few years), but campaigns for a better diet based on locally-available produce must surely play a role too.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

More on gay life in Nigeria

The Victorian hypocrisy of attitudes towards homosexuality in Nigeria is epic in its tragicomic proportions. From what I have seen and heard, the categories of straight/bi/gay just dont fit the fluidities of Nigerian sexual experience - just as they dont fit many other cultures and times in history (such as pre-Victorian England). Of course, evangelical christianity and stern interpretations of Islam clamp down on this experience being verbalised or part of everyday discourse. It's good with events such as the link below, the lid is being lifted on superabundant reality, and the yawning Nigerian reality-illusion gap is one inch nearer towards being closed.

The reality-illusion gap has a very particular sexual dimension here. I am reminded of going to various Lagos clubs, and seeing people who are (with a Westernised gaydar) obviously queer. And yet, the Nigerians we go with assume that a woman delicately pinching another woman's nipple is them 'just being friends'. Which raises an interesting topic: in an overtly homophobic culture like Nigeria, being gay is so taboo that one can be gay (hold hands, fondle) and no one will notice or bat an eyelid. Of course, many gay men in Nigeria (much more gay than bi, if we have to use the western categories) are married with kids, wife will never know etc. Perhaps the same goes for Nigerian lesbians. As with all struggles against prejudice, challenging homophobia in Nigeria is going to take time, especially with so much bigotry circulating in the mushroom churches.


The largest gathering of gay people in Nigeria ever..

Wonderful. Two fingers to Peter Akinola. Read here.


An HIV Story

On World Aids Day (there's a big conference on here in Abuja), here's an interesting story on Black Looks' blog. Its worth reading to the end, as it speaks of the relations between drugs, health, Africa, personal pressures and pharma companies.


Max Stafford-Clark's diary of his trip to Nigeria..

"Our flight for Lagos has been cancelled. The international runway at Lagos is out of action, so KLM have been landing on the domestic runway, but one of their planes was damaged by scrunching over loose tarmac. The Nigerians responded by limiting the weight of incoming aircraft. This means KLM have to refuel elsewhere or carry fewer passengers. They have suspended flights. Oh, the joys of touring..." More


Almost impossible to work today..

The power in the Ministry keeps tripping on and off every 5 minutes, in this sequence:

a) NEPA goes down
b) Gap of 5 minutes
c) Generator goes on
d) Gap of 5 minutes
e) Nepa comes on
f) Nepa goes down

As our network UPS is dying (we get about 2 seconds back-up power), everything closes down and has to be brought back on again.

We plod on.


Interesting event in SA tomorrow..


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