Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Ashoka

The Ashoka tree is found all over Abuja. There's a lovely long vista of them along Bill Clinton Drive on the way to the airport. They make the FCT landscape look almost Tuscan - the tropical equivalent of the cypress tree beloved of Renaissance landscapes. A friend of mine who grew up in Enugu calls them the masquerade tree - which is most apt. Its interesting to dig a little into the Indian provenance. As you can read here, the Buddha was born under an Ashoka in Lumbini in Northern India, and Lord Mahavira (the founder of Jainism) renounced the world under one. It is also a potent symbol within Hindu mythology.

I wonder when the Ashoka was first brought to Nigeria (it cannot be indigenous). I wonder also, was the neem (dogoyaro) also imported from India, or is it indigenous? The wider point is that if Indian plants grow so well in Nigeria, one could imagine a herbal medicine of the future in which African plants were grown in India and vice-versa.

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Lagos rebirth..

I had heard whispers before but did not believe. “Lagos is dying” they said. Don’t be silly I said. Lagos can never die. She will outlive all of us.

Click here to read Taj Onigbanjo's next article on Lagos Live.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hail Otunba

Today its Otunba (Dr) Mike Adenuga, oga patapata of Globacom's birthday. I know because practically every page of today's This Day has a sycophantic encomium plus pic dedicated to the man.

You have to admire his hutzpah - apparently he is going to invest $700million into India and is going ahead with his London-Lagos fibre link, which should finally put paid to decent bandwidth relying on the SAT-3 cartel. So, happy 53rd birthday Otunba and please finish the cable link quicktime so we can have a rival to DSTV and cheap bb.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Causes and woes

Online health research is addictive. So many diseases and illnesses to choose from; so many bodily bits and pieces that can go wrong, become infected, so many parasites that need to be zapped. Its lovely to know in detail exactly what is giving me sleepless nights and restless days. Entamoebia Histolytica is a bummer.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Moments of genius

It seems to me that moments of genius arise within a culture when societies go through suffering and turbulence and acknowledge it in expressive forms. When a society goes through suffering and turbulence but shies away from it (through fundamentalist escapism, scientific dogma or other means), expressive genius is stifled, but remains potent.

This simple theory would explain St Antonym's point in his comment on my last post. Nigeria has perhaps yet to acknowledge the depths of its own suffering; the open wound of the civil war, the 40 years of rule by an elitist cabal, the brutality and brutalism of everyday experience for the masses. In contrast, the African American experience since slavery has been one of a sustained engagement with the origins of that form of suffering, resulting in musics and literatures which are part of global culture. It would explain the Polish outcrops of genius he mentions.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I had a dream..

last night, after hours of insomnia. I was in Nigeria, in an art-house cinema. I was watching a snazzy film, Nigerian, contemporary, upbeat, gorgeous sound track. Not your usual Sembene stuff, this was more like Lost in Translation-slick naija style. Not the lo-fi Nollywood guff. I was feeling hungry for a flapjack, so went to the cafeteria. As I was buying my coffee, I noticed a bookstand by the till, with all kinds of interesting books - Yoruba songs for children, Contemporary Nigerian fiction etc.

Although Nollywood has its role, just like Hollywood, it irritates me that the dream of an art-house/alternative cinema for Nigeria/Africa is often denounced as African-for-westerners which should remain firmly in its leafy London/New England campus environments. If I was Nigerian, that would really get my back up. Why should Nollywood be valued just because its popular? And why should the value one might give to its popularity drown out the importance of other voices, and other forms of representation? Nollywood (Tunde Kilani and a few other notable exceptions) presents a caricature of Nigerian life, devoid of any subtlety of experience. The dream of alternative Nigerian cinematic realities is worth struggling for.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good pharma

The cocktail of bacteria-zapping drugs created a mental edifice in my head this night. I thought after two nights of no sleep I would be off like a torpedo into the realm of hypnos. Instead, my thoughts returned to the myriad complex subtleties of the world. Its funny how when you are quite ill, the world shuts itself down and you become absorbed with the solitary orb of suffering.

Then, when you are recuperating, there is a wonderful aperture back onto the world that opens up: you remember new stories about to unfold for the ones you love, the sensations of the body that are not pain-based, the technicolour depth of memories and all the spaces that thread themselves across and betwixt in the lifeworld you have created. The lucidity of my thoughts propelled me to get up and start writing about returning to the world again. Western minds had lost a rich concept of the world (die Welt) until Husserl and then Heidegger excavated the site and uncovered rich profundities of experience; as rich as an Italian vine that has been burrowing into the soil since the Romans:

"Celebration ... is self-restraint, is attentiveness, is questioning, is meditating, is awaiting, is the step over into the more wakeful glimpse of the wonder -- the wonder that a world is worlding around us at all, that there are beings rather than nothing, that things are and we ourselves are in their midst, that we ourselves are and yet barely know who we are, and barely know that we do not know this." Martin Heidegger

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Health wealth yadayada

I'm glad I'll soon be well - there is a ton of stuff to do here and Bibi and my plates overfloweth with projects in the next few months. My mantra is: Don't allow yourself to get depressed for more than 5 minutes at a go about Nigeria: there's subterranean positive movements cropping up all over the gaff. The good people are taking over the reins.. (oops - omo ile (house gekko) says hello).

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Jeremy's health: an update

Ok its official: I am the proud owner of an amoeba. Copious tests reveal I also have a slight urinary infection. My good friend and doktor, the superhero Dr B (one of Nigeria's unsung wonderful beings) has given me the necessary pills and instructions. The health insurance people also got me to seek a second opinion who turned out to be a sweet old doctor with a bow-tie and a spritely outcrop of silver hair (who turns out to be OBJ's physician): he confirmed the prognosis. So, although I feel awful, I have some piece of mind. This experience reminds me again of how pathetic I am whenever I am ill compared to Bibi's granite like self-belief and practical positive self-healing attitude. We men are so pathetic about our illnesses most of the time (come on, be honest!) Mr Worst Case Scenario married to Ms Best and Only Case Scenario.

The cause of my malady I think is our new cleaner and vegetable-preparer. She has bad body odour so we are trying to gently instruct her in personal hygene.

The flame trees are aflame on our street. They're really quite beautiful.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

returning to the living

The malaria drugs (paluther + camoquine) knocked the stuffing out of me completely at the weekend. Last night the zombi feeling segued nicely into a high fever. Bibi was up all night wrapping me up to sweat it out, rubbing my feet (the perfect partner). Of course I thought I was dying and kept losing control of my thoughts. For the next few days I'm on fruit only. I don't think I'm going to take western drugs against malaria ever again, they put the body under such a lot of toxic strain.

Anyway, its glad to have just enough strength to start blogging again. My thoughts are with my mate Saul, as he has a major operation on his lower back today in London. Wishing all my readers health and happiness..

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returning to the living

The malaria drugs (paluther + camoquine) knocked the stuffing out of me completely at the weekend. Last night the zombi feeling segued nicely into a high fever. Bibi was up all night wrapping me up to sweat it out, rubbing my feet (the perfect partner). Of course I thought I was dying and kept losing control of my thoughts. For the next few days I'm on fruit only. I don't think I'm going to take western drugs against malaria ever again, they put the body under such a lot of toxic strain.

Anyway, its glad to have just enough strength to start blogging again. My thoughts are with my mate Saul, as he has a major operation on his lower back today in London. Wishing all my readers health and happiness..

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Oneirisms

Today was spent drifting in and out of states. I listened to some Radio 4 podcasts, taking refuge in Melvyn Bragg and Andrew Marr's sonorous enquiries with various high-minded bookish punters. Then I read some more of Mishra's book on the Buddha: the last 150 pages are a huge disappointment, the editor should be at least metaphorically defenestrated for allowing Mishra to ramble on without form. Then I took refuge in our small library of vegan cookbooks, musing on hypothetical futures full of polenta, delicious anti-pasti, delicately nuanced rissotos and home made vegan ice-cream. As a cook, I am yet a failure, lacking patience and any sense of culinary imagination. I continue to dream one day I will possess both in abundance in a new improved version of myself. Reading cookbooks is a bridge between the two realms.

Then I watched the news: events unfolding near the Buddha's homeland in Nepal. Its interesting to see people-power swell and burst out, as we saw in the Ukraine last year. On local tv, a new political party, the ACD (I think Advanced Congress for Democracy) launched in Abuja. Allowing the launch to go ahead without being broken up was a triumph in itself. I caught Tinubu (gov of Lagos State) giving a speech. He is astonishingly inarticulate, lacking any vestige of oratorical prowess. However, at least there are the remnants of a people-centric mission in what was said. His slurred thoughts are indicative of how far divorced the political class have become from the vestiges of an intelligentsia in Nigeria. It is only to be hoped that the next regime help to develop think-tanks and invite diasporic intellectuals back into the fold in some way or other (is this too much to hope for?)

Meanwhile, I studied Bibi making Thai curry just now, hoping that some of her kitchen-wisdom would rub off.

Thanks to the Yoruba readership for all your bawdy encouragements. Truly, the world that resides within the Yoruba language has at least the depth of Shakespeare and the Elizabethans. I am glad I am still with my oko.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

A somewhat compromising position..

I was in my local Maitama pharmacy half an hour ago, my trousers half down with a nurse about to inject Paluther into my backside (the malaria persists), when I heared what I assumed to fireworks. In my malarial half-headedness I thought 'fireworks - how nice, someone is celebrating.' The nurse's body tightened and she turned to the window. It was armed robbers. Dread suffused my being: a half undressed oyinbo - what rich pickings for desperate men - I imagined. Two more shots went off and I suspected the robbers would be coming into the pharmacy in a few seconds. Then we heard a screech of wheels. All in the shop heaved a collective sigh of relief; it was armed robbers finishing a 'job' and making an exit. Apparently Abuja is being seriously hit by armed robbers at the moment.

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FATF

Some excellent news reported in today's Punch: Nigeria is expected to be taken off the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist this June at a meeting in Paris. Nigeria's listing on FATF, the global anti-money laundering body, is one of the key reasons why the recently introduced Nigerian Mastercards are not accepted outside the country. The lifting of Nigeria from the blacklist welcomes the country back into the trusted international fold and should allow Nigerian-issued Mastercards (and the new Visa card soon to take over from ValuCard) to be used abroad. It also is one more step in lifting Nigeria's reputation out of the international doldrums.

The removal from FATF is largely due to the excellent and tireless work of the Financial Intelligence Unit within the EFCC.

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Herbal medicine in Nigeria

Herbal medicine, both native and Chinese, is undergoing something of a renaissance in Nigeria - there are several companies who have expanded in the past few years and are starting to acquire NAFDAC licensing for their products. One widely trusted outfit which focuses on indigenous remedies is Pax Herbal, based out of a Benedictine Monastery on the Benin-Auchi road in Edo State.

Their products are widely available (for instance in Abuja and Lagos) - mostly in Catholic establishments. These people really know their onions (and garlic, and charcoal, and agbo etc etc). They do a very good herbal remedy for resistant malaria, treatments for fibroids etc. They say on the label if their product is NAFDAC approved and if it is not (which is a good sign I reckon). For more information, email paxherbal@yahoo.com

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Zamani Farms, Jos

Once in a while, we buy groceries from Zamani Farms in Jos. They deliver direct to your door in Abuja once a week. Best of all, they send weekly updates via email - emails from Norma at Zamani are a bit like the Archers rolled into Gardener's Question Time (Radio 4 programmes for green-fingers). I love reading their missives at least as much as I enjoy their delicious and lovingly farmed fruit and veg. Here is a snippet of this week's goings on at the farm (email zamani@hisen.org to join their mailing list):

"Hello Customers,

The weather continued very hot throughout last week. We are trying our best to water, but our dams are now dry, and we are having to make do with the several deep wells we have around the farm. It looks like the rain might be coming soon, but of course we don’t know when. We are hoping it holds off at least until the end of this week, as we are in the process of re-roofing our greenhouse, and if it rains our new crop of beef tomatoes are likely to spoil. But we are working as fast as we can to beat the rains. Once we finish, a bit of rain will be very welcome, both to replenish our water supply and also to cool down the temperature. However, the possibility of hail storms is always in our minds, and this is something we certainly don’t look forward to. Gentle rain is fine – too much, or rain with hail, can be disastrous for our delicate vegetables.

Meanwhile, the heat has had a negative effect on some of our items. Collard greens and kale have been adversely affected, as has our arugula crop. We have very little if any of these to supply next week. Broccoli also does not produce nice heads in the heat – they tend to go to flower, or have brown beads, which is a sign of heat burn. So don’t expect much by way of broccoli. Of course cauliflower is also off the list. It doesn’t grow in the hot weather, or in the rainy season, so none will be available until about November, in the next dry season.

Some of the items that we normally source from other local growers, like potatoes and cabbages, are becoming scarce and very expensive. We will continue supplying them as long as we can get good quality. We will let you know when they become unavailable or are priced well out of our range.

On the bright side, most of the items on our farm are still doing well.

We have plenty of courgettes, including some yellow ones and some cousa. Butternut and acorn squash are growing but are not yet ready.

Our new crop of aubergines, in several varieties, are growing well and are now flowering, So very soon we should have enough to meet all of your requests. They flourish in the hot weather.

Lettuces are still good, especially our butter cos (a cross between a cos and butterhead), regular cos both green and red, iceberg, some green and red butterhead, and our leaf lettuces like lollo rossa, prizeleaf, red fire, blackjack, and red and green salad bowl. There is also some Batavia, which is reddish and crunchy. There is some endive frisee, and a bit of radicchio as well.

All herbs are doing well, except for the arugula as I have already mentioned. Basils of all kinds are lovely, and other herbs also develop a very intense flavour as a result of the sun and hot weather.

Items like radishes, leeks, celery, spring onions, cucumbers and beetroot are nice. We have a small quantity of fennel, which doesn’t like the heat.

For greens, we have Swiss chard, spinach and sorrel. Green and red cabbages are available. However, we are between crops for Chinese cabbage and bok choi. The new batch will take another couple of weeks before they are ready to pick.

We have nice French beans, and should have a good supply until the rains really set in. Mangetout (snow peas) and sugar snap peas are on the way and will take another week or so. We will let you know when they are ready.

For the moment, we have only green bell peppers. The Italian corni di toro and coloured bell peppers are growing well (they enjoy the heat), and will be ready in a few weeks.

We have nice plum and cherry tomatoes, and a limited amount of beef. We had been supplementing the supply of beef tomatoes from a nearby farm, but we were not happy with the quality since they were a bit soft and tasteless, so in future we will supply only our own (which we think are much firmer and sweeter), even though we might not have enough for all your needs. As I noted above, we are fixing the roof on the greenhouse to protect the new crop of beef tomatoes which are growing very well and should start producing soon. Then we will have enough to go around.

Oyster mushrooms are available from The Mushroom Factory. No shiitakes for the time being, though.

We still have avocados, and have been supplying quite a lot. The trees ripen at different times, so we should have enough for the foreseeable future.

We also have got a good supply of nice garlic from Kano, and have been supplying that as well. They are better than the dried up heads you tend to find in the market. Our new shallots are growing, but we have none left to supply out of the last crop.

Strawberries continue to produce small fruit and in small quantities. They are very sweet, but tend to get soft quickly in the heat. They are good for desserts and sauces, but not for decorating pastries and such.

We have some cape gooseberries, and we are trying to keep the birds off so that we can harvest more...."

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Naija URLs

One curious phenomenon I've noticed is that increasingly, Nigerian small businesses like to have a website address in their adverts and on the sign boards outside their premises. If you actually go online and tap in the designated URL, oftentimes you will be disappointed. The prestige of having a website address is not often matched with actually having a website. I suppose it is however one baby step in the digital direction...

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Who needs gravity?

When you can move about like this? (Best with broadband).

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The beauty pageant

One of the biggest cons in Nigeria is the beauty pageant. This is a completely unregulated part of society (which part is? I hear you snidely comment) where con-men can make hay while orun blazes down. The formula for abundant success is alarmingly simple:

1. You stick an ad in the papers, or maybe do 60 secs on AIT
2. Your ad has the following elements a) you tell punters that the winner will go forward to some spurious (ie non-existent) international competition as 'Miss x Nigeria'. b) you charge a minimum of N5000 for the girls to pick up the 'form'.
3. You get a miminum of 5000 girls applying (so you've made a cool N25m!)
4. You stage the show - blow about N10m on the event and do it at Eko Hotel (so you're still up N15m) - or do it in PHC to cut costs and make more moolah.
5. You sleep with some of the girls to help advance their chances (how benevolent you are). The prize for the winner is a night with yours truly in a circular bed with a mirror above (at the Royal Suite), washed down with three or four bottles of Cristal or maybe DP if you're feeling fly. Oh and the international competition the poor girl was looking forward to suddenly gets postponed..
6. You move onto the next event..

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On buddhism

I don't like to admit I'm a buddhist, for quite buddhist reasons. "Buddhist" fixes and categorises, whereas the essence of buddhism is embracing process and flux - in one's inner life as much as in the world. Plus the label was only created in the 19th century by European explorers. Given all my lengthy bile about pentecostal evangelism, I am loathe to proselytise; however, Pankaj Mishra's An End to Suffering is an excellent introduction for those curious to know more.

Buddhism is not so much a faith or a religion, and more a practical pyschology and an ethics. As such, I think it is perfectly possible to be a Christian buddhist, a Jewish buddhist etc. At the core of buddhism is a recognition that suffering is caused by the ego's craving, leading to the pains associated with greed, hatred and delusion. Whatever our wealth, we can't take it with us; the realisation of this alone can cause us to suffer.

The "four noble truths" that occurred to Guatama Siddartha as he sat and meditated for days under a fig tree in Bodh Ghaya 2500 years ago and supposedly reached enlightenment (aka nirvana) are simply a method for releasing the ego from its cravings, accepting the impermanence of the world and living a positive life of non-attachment. Easy to say, extremely difficult to put in practice.

Mishra's book pulls all the main themes of Buddhism together and compares with aspects of Western philosophy (Nietzsche, Schopenhaur etc). Its also an interesting travelogue of his own spiritual development as a lad from a relatively modest Brahmin background in Northern India growing up in the 70's and 80's.

The question that I have and have always had about buddhism is whether 'self' and 'ego' should be seen as synonymous. It is relatively easy to accept that desire can never be satisfied and therefore is a form of illusory being (how many who want to be rich could ever define a state when they would be rich enough?) In that respect, the ego is the cause of suffering and forms of non-attachment or weakening of the ego can only be seen as a positive path. However, from an ethical perspective, surely one would want to hold onto a notion of the integrated self? This self need not necessarily be transparent to itself or metaphysically pure in any way, but it would be seen to persist across time as an ethical entity. Put as a question, how could there ever be a foundation to ethics, if not through a recognisable stable ethical character? If one accepts that one's self is illusory and based on flux, and one then goes on to project this belief onto others, how then could one ever expect ethically responsible intentions and actions from the other? Surely a notion of ethical character and an ethically self-identical self have to come back in here?

But I suspect that Buddhism, in all its sophistication, has already addressed this issue and its my understanding that is limited. The fourth of the noble truths is that suffering can be ended by following an eightfold path (which are in essence practical guidelines or ways of living positively in body, speech and mind). For Nietzsche, this eightfold path takes Buddhism 'beyond good and evil' - ie beyond the notions of sinning and the pure good in Christianity - in that it recognises that negative perceptions and emotions inhere within us all. Anyone can become a fascist or a nazi, even if they have renounced 'sinning'. Buddhism becomes a practical method (through meditation and right living) of reducing and ending these negative perceptions, by first of all accepting they are potentially available for anyone.

Kierkegaard's three-stage hierarchy may be helpful here. For K, there are three stages of humanity: aesthetic being (a world immersed in sensous experience and bodily craving, sexual love etc), ethical being (a world where care for the other becomes essential) and spiritual being (I'm not sure what he meant by this however). The point is, if we take a Kierkegaardian approach to buddhism, all that is being said is that we must leave aesthetic (and perhaps ethical) being behind in order to attain a spiritual connection to the world (whatever that might be exactly).

Mishra confirms my committment to buddhisming (if not to buddhism). But my committment comes by way of critical questions and doubts that do not go away easily. But that is precisely what a belief system is for me: a structure of value within which one can articulate one's profoundest doubts about the relationship between self and world.

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V Mobile sold for US$1bn

Celtel's 65% acquisition of V Mobile for US$1bn (announced at the weekend) is a sign of the increasing seriousness with which foreign investors are taking the Nigerian market. It puts into stark relief the 200 and something million dollars that was bid for NITEL late last year by Orascom. The V Mobile deal is also a sign of the relentless pressure of international capital to seek and open up new markets, with the inevitability of any process found in nature.

The parallels with India and China are clear, just as much are the divergencies. Whereas India and China are focusing on building an advanced technology infrastructure and world-class research capabilities in their universities, Nigeria's infrastructure and education system are nowhere near that of either Egypt or South Africa's, let alone competing globally. There has to be a exponentially stronger focus on building capacity into education and infrastructure in the next few years by whoever forms the next administration for Nigeria to dig itself out of being an import economy of passive consumers of goods produced elsewhere in the future. If this were to take place, Nigeria just might stop being a theological import economy to boot.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

The future of Bar Beach

"I guess this innocence was lost or damaged when the Military Government of the day decided that Bar Beach was the perfect place to stage the executions of armed robbers. And so it was that after school instead of hurrying the driver to get us to the beach for ice creams we would urge him along so that we did not miss the executions. Bizarre, I know.

We would arrive to find the suspects all lined up, blindfolded and tied to stakes with a row of Army marksmen in front of them. The command would be given and the marksmen would unleash a salvo of shots."

Read the full article (by Taj Onigbanjo) here.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Yesterday's shopping


pineapple
Originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

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leaves


leaves
Originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

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pawpaw


pawpaw
Originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

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plantain


plantain
Originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

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On oaths

In Nigeria one often has to watch one's language in the face of uptown linguistic prudery. Brought up in a household where words like obstreperous and obnoxious (usually applied to me) sat alongside words like fuck and bollocks, I have a healthy appreciation of the whole gamut of the English language, from hi-fallutin greco-latinisms to hoi polloi saxon.

I agree with those who object to swearing as a fallback in the absence of vocabulary; but what of those who pride themselves on big words and small? There's sometimes nothing better than saying fuck, with all its fleshy directness and resonances of violent desire. And bollocks has a vital role to play in summoning those ugly male appendages to project onto the situation at hand. Swearing is, therefore, a good thing. So long as one knows what words like hypostatise mean as well.

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The God of Small Things

Finally pushed myself to finish Roy's The God of Small Things yesterday. It's actually a rewarding work and worth the effort. It reminds a little of Morrison's Beloved, but also of Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown. Morrison not on account of the difficulty of the read, but because of the sinewy materiality of time in the novel: the narrative lurches forwards and backwards along an event line, like an estuary caught between mountain outflow and saline backwash. Scott in structural terms - a story which could be told in a short paragraph is turned and worked from all angles like a master craftsman working a roccoco table leg on a lathe. Most interesting of all is the way the two central taboos of the story - incest and touchable-untouchable sex - are handled with subtlety and from a interior visceral perspective.

Now onwards to Pankaj Mishra and the eternal beckoning of buddhahood also known as the emotional science of engaging with dukkha (suffering).

You'll be glad to know that in the midst of all this literature, I've managed to have a full-force argument with an evangelist (I had to, it being Easter).

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

West African mathematics

When I was at college at Warwick, I met a few apocalyptic types, some of whom were close to insanity (too many drugs and too much thinking). In any place where sanity and insanity sit close together, there is an air of prescience around. This was true with Nick Land in the philosophy department: in 1993 we were already talking about the consequences of convergence, well over a decade before this became public domain discourse. There's an interesting short piece bringing in advanced Yoruba mathematics on a website run by some of those I studied with. It argues that Yoruba and Fon mathematical systems reveal a metaphysical sophistication that can only lie somewhere off in the future of advanced research in the West.

See this wiki article for more on how ifa divination works.

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Why ppp and privatisation is sometimes good, is often bad

Public private partnerships have no demonstrable record of success in Education, as in many other sectors, in the UK. The classic example being Reg Vardy (whom I mentioned in my last post), who made his fortune selling second hand motors in the North East. Mr Vardy is a creationist - ie he believes the universe is around 4000 years old and that humanity began with Adam and Eve. Quite how he squares this fossils and trees that are that age and still living is another matter. However, the way PPP works under the current administration is ingenious: you the businessman stick in 2 million quid. Then, the UK govt will add another 20 million. For your fractional equity, you get to wade into the curriculum as a key board member, challenging evolutionary theory or whatever else you chose. In other words, for a modest investment, you get your chance to contribute to bringing back the Dark Ages and weakening the UK's scientific research capability.

In fact, private money is not required in education at all; if the UK spent less moolah on follies such as the invasion of Iraq and Tony Blair's personal transport expenses (oh and the Royal Family as well - does Prince Andrew really deserve to use tax payers money to travel 50 miles in an RAF helicopter?) then more funds could be channelled into education. It seems that many people in the UK have become purely technocratic in the way they look at politics. At the core of national politics is the nation's budget. At the core of the nation's budget are a set of values about how the country should be, which when faced with needs-assessments from different sectors, drive budgetary decisions. Should the country maintain its 'special relationship' with the US at the expense of Europe by blowing money on colonial invasions? Should the country continue to place a priority on selling weapons to militaristic regimes in unstable countries? In all the mindnumbing petty bureaucracy of contemporary political debate in the UK media, these more fundamental ethical issues are ellided. Should private money be necessary in a developed, tax-regulated nation? Absolutely not.

Now I'm not such an inveterate lefty as to say privatisation is A BAD THING entirely. My objection is not so much ideological as practical and pragmatic - in other words, competition can be good and can be bad at different times. To privatise or not requires an analysis of the specific industry and context. Deregulation in the telecoms sector 15 years ago was good - it broke up BT's monopoly and encouraged competition. Today, BT expands its global reach and prestige precisely because it was forced to wake up from its slumbers. Allowing council homes to be sold to their occupiers was a BAD THING because it was a cheap political trick. Now, with house prices above what lower incomes can afford in many parts of the country (with Cornwall being a worry because of all the second-homers), there is a housing crisis in the South-East, which is a direct descendant of Thatcher's ploy.

With the trains and with transport in general, privatisation creates a fragmented system when what one needs is integration. Britains' transport network has struggled to keep up with its publicly-owned contintental neighbours precisely because of this.
Separating ownership of track from rolling stock will be seen in history as a crazy decision - which led to quite a few deaths as both sides blamed each other. I only hope the ongoing privatisation of the Tube doesnt lead to similar disasters.

In the African context, the hugely inefficient public sector means the argument against wholescale privatisation is a difficult one to stage. However, the money being ploughed into private faith-based universities will not help ultimately in pushing Nigerian universities up their dismally low world rankings, nor will it create globally competitive students. And should it be the case the access to water is always at a fee? Neo-liberal (or neo-con - aren't they the same?) doxa combined with Western interests is really just using the 'efficiencies of privatisation' argument as a form of neo-colonial takeover in many parts of Africa. One of the things skewed up in many African countries is the lack of decent public services and a widespread trust in the administration; privatisation will not necessarily solve these problems of itself.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Beyond the nuclear option

Its time for some balance and to stress some Nigerian positives and Western negatives. For the latter, need one look further than the UK, where Tony Bliar's neo-labour project becomes enmired in sleaze, via the cash-for-peerages row? The man has to go and the Tories need to try harder to kick the Labour party out of its slumberous complacency. One also hopes this marks the death-knell for ppp in the Education sector (at least). We don't want creationism-as-an-alternative-to-evolution taught in science classes, thanks very much Mr Vardy.. I for one will crack open the bubbly when the Blair project (Thatcherism by proxy) is finally laid to rest.

Meanwhile, on to something I deeply admire about Nigeria:

I've always had a rose-tinted view of extended families. I grew up in a loving nuclear family, with wonderful parents and a big-hearted sister. Some of favourite memories however are when our segment of the family joined forces with other branches.

We used to go to Cornwall every year with a bunch of Aunts, Uncles and cousins, to the same house near Padstow ("Miss Yelland's Bungalow"). I have beautiful warmglow memories of witty banter, food, drink, people gathered round the TV for FA cup finals and cascades of laughter.

In this respect, I think one of the really positive models the West can learn from Nigeria is having a more pragmatic approach to child-rearing, based around the Nigerian/African extended-family model. In a nuclear context, when parents break up, or if a single-parent situation arises in other ways, it is generally viewed as a very difficult and often traumatising event for the child. In Nigeria, if a difficult situation arises with the parents or parent, the child can simply be farmed out to a more accommodating situation.

Instead of ego-trauma as in the West, the fluidity of parenting opportunities in the extended family situation means the child does not experience the shift in a negative fashion. I'm sure many Nigerians can find the extended family testing at times, but there is I think something very much more practical and risk-mitigating about this approach. There was something similar amongst the working class in Britain years ago, but it has more or less died out.

More, there seems to me to be a much healthier approach to parenting and discipline in the Nigerian context than in the UK. The parent-as-friend model has gone way too far in the UK. One only has to watch Supernanny (yes my life has been reduced to watching such things) on BBC - a programme featuring episode after episode of dreadful children being brought to heel by a practical and wise nanny figure - to see how bad things have got. The lack of boundaries in many British families turn the children in little Hitlers. In the Nigerian scenario, those boundaries remain firmly in place and techniques such as supernanny's naughty corner are second nature.

All this reminds me in part of Plato's Republic. Plato's view 2500 years ago was that in the perfect State, children would be brought up by parent-experts - people trained in child-rearing techniques. Biological parents would give up their children to these parent-experts at birth. The children would therefore not know who their biological parents were. Beyond that, Plato trails off into a curious form of meritocracy - whereby people with 'gold' in their soul become warrior-kings, those with 'silver' in their soul get cushy administrative jobs, and those with 'bronze' in their soul dig the ditches. Not sure about the metallurgic metaphor or the meritocracy it tries to support, but the suggestion of universal bastardry is an interesting one. Perhaps the Nigerian extended family is the most practical realisation of this idea. In any event, programmes such as supernanny reveal the worst that can go wrong in a Western nuclear context.

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Just in case you weren't depressed enough

The draconian disregard for human rights, otherwise known as the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, has had its first reading in the Senate. Click here to read a letter signed by many Nigerian and International Organisations detailing the different ways it contravenes various Human Rights Acts (thanks to Black Looks for the link).

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On Nigerian Art

Perhaps I'm not sufficiently aware of what is going on with Nigerian art, but it seems to me that apart from the Junkman (Dilomprizulike), Nigerian art is decorative, polite, bourgeoise, serving the genteel philistine tastes of the elite and therefore entirely uncritical and inoffensive. All one ever sees are market women, fruit and the odd Durba effort, or perhaps a pirogue in the Lagoon mist.

There is nothing that engages with contemporary existence for those that do not live in constant air conditioned luxury - no whore on pavement, dead okada, agbadas congregating at the Hilton, area boys fighting etc etc. Nowhere typifies this polite meaninglessness more than Terra Kulture on Victoria Island. They have exhibition after exhibition of the same old stuff, with the odd ebony sculpture thrown in. Yawn.

Nigeria is probably at the same stage as say mid-19th century France, with all the polite vacuousness of impressionism, pre-Cezanne. In other words, the art scene is ripe to be utterly shaken up out of its complacency, and the standard formalisms smashed into shards a la cubism. Nigerian art at present is yet one more layer of insulation against reality for the elite.

I've staged this argument several times with art-lovers here. They tend to get defensive, and sometimes go on about people imposing Western values onto non-Western subjects. Or they talk about colour being the field of meaning within African art. I don't buy this at all. Trained in my John Berger, I think there's always a class-analysis at work in art. This to an extent reflects material realities. Nigerian artists can make a living only by selling the elite what they want to see. But then artists the world over should never be focused on material success if they want to remain true to their vision. Its time more followed in the wake of the Junkman and trashed this narcissistic hall of mirrors..

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On photo blogs

There are so many excellent photoblogs out there. The digital age has democratised talent: now anyone with internet access can themselves access way more images and image makers than any bookshop could offer. Take a look at this blog (a guy called Nils Jorgensen, snapping daily life in London). He takes an image every few days or so, and each one is pregnant with meaning and returns us to the intricate depths of the mundane.. Trouble is, if you went round taking as many snaps as he did in Nigeria you'd get yourself neck-deep in wahala.

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The defensive reflex

Diane Abbott, a black British MP with an outspoken rep, recently visited Nigeria. I saw her myself with a cute little laptop in the Piano Bar of the Hilton (using the hyper-expensive wifi service they have there, thanks to the British tax payer). Anyway, she's written about her experiences in the Jamaican Observer. Thanks to our new globalised internetted world Nigerians across the world can have access to what she said. In Gamji (see the link to the left), Uche Nworah has written an article, Is Dianne Abbot (MP) A Friend Of Nigeria? which demonstrates just the kind of brittle-defensive-ego syndrome that stops Nigerians from realising how bad things are here, especially in comparison with elsewheres. She writes,

"While Miss Abbott is entitled to her own opinion, it is important also for her to understand that decorum and public etiquette demands that she and her likes learn to make guarded statements, especially when commenting about other countries, especially when her comments (because of her political position) are bound to be either misinterpreted by others, and also if such comments are likely to ignite further the flames of inter-ethnic wrangling, in this case between Nigerians and Jamaicans in the UK, whom if Miss Abbott had bothered to find out do not necessarily enjoy a cordial relationship."

I'm sorry Uche but that is a load of bollocks. Since when does one have to have decorum and public etiquette about writing one's honest opinions about another country. Is it really such a big deal if others deem one's comments offensive? There was nothing in what Abbott said which could be misinterpreted, still less fan the flames of inter-ethnic wrangling. Everything she said is factual, understood as the truth by everyone except the most seriously deluded.

Uche goes on to say, "If she still has any pride and shame left, Miss Abbott owes Nigerians, including the ones living in her constituency an apology for her scathing and hurtful remarks." Come on Uche, get over it. Accept the reality of Nigeria today for what it is, rather than carry on with brittle pride. The country has a looooong way to go, and it is doubtful whether the pace of change is anything other than snail-like, considering the mountainous challenges ahead.

Its time for Nigerians to stop getting so defensive when a foreigner speaks their truth. Its time for a reality check, and to realise that serious reform (economic and political) has yet to really begin.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

HIV testing

OK this is my first (and most probably last) confessional style post:

I had my 4th HIV test today. The results were negative thankfully. I am a victim of medical research on the Internet: you tick off a couple of symptoms and imagine the worst case scenario (I also tested negative for bilharzia - that was someone leaving a comment on my blog after my swim in Usman Dam). I'm worried about my persistent malaria (the Internet also tells of a hypothetical malarial superbug evolving sometime soon, when artemesin combination therapy begins to lose its grip). I think its time to go for a long-term herbal solution and focus on a liver cleansing diet rather than go for yet more drugs. I will be well..

I had my first HIV test in Hull in 1989. I'd spent the summer after my A levels enjoying myself on a kibbutz in Israel (free love amongst the volunteers and with some of the very beautiful Israeli women). Aids was beginning to be a scary illness at that time, with talk of a potential pandemic. Someone had died from AIDS in my village in the mid 1980's, so the consciousness of having unsafe sex was around. I belong to the 'always wear a condom generation'; something a little harder to transfer to for guys in their 40's in my experience. I waited in the corridor for my results, musing on my fate. A nurse came up and said, "Its ok, you haven't got it. You can go now."

Obviously, HIV counselling has come a long way since then. I had my second test nearly two years ago in Abuja at the National Hospital. My immune system had crashed after malaria. I convinced myself that I was HIV positive. The day of collecting the results was hell. When I got the result and it said 'negative' for a few moments I wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. There'd been no rational reason to suspect I should be positive, it was just hyponchondria and paranoia mixed together in a vicious head spinning cocktail. I was so worried and confused about the worst case outcome that I couldnt think straight in the days leading up to the result.

The third test was done as a matter of course at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London last July, together with 10 other tests. Again, my immune system had crashed and I felt like my body was slowly shutting down on me. It turned out to be a cumulative resistance to wheat and gluten that had messed up my gut. As is widely known, one's immune system crashes when either the liver or the gut becomes inflamed or stressed. My immunity picked up after 3 months without bread (I still cannot stomach it). I had the fourth test today because of the malaria again. This time around, I was much more calm about the potentially bad news. I've managed to rationalise such prospects. How?

Well, first, I think its important to test for these things. Knowing means you can do something about it (at least if you are a privileged westerner). If I was a poor Nigerian, I'd probably prefer not to know, because knowing might hardly help - unless I had access to strong immune system boosting herbs (some of them seem to be just as good as ARV's from what people say). But being one of the privileged few, being positive these days doesn't really cut one's potential lifespan. There is solid understanding of how to keep the virus/bacteria resisting t-cells active and the viral load down using the classic combination therapies. Therefore, if there is anyone out there worried about their status, I recommend you steel yourself and go for the test. You can still lead a healthy normal life. Take responsibility for your body and don't be afraid.

The other thing I told myself is that we all are on a death sentence. Being positive is just a different form of sentence. Life is so short and precious. Its now time to address my many failings and see if I can become a better person. Like anyone else, I'm full of bad habits and zones of insensitivity But first, there's still this bloody falciparum to deal with. [confession over and out].

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Communication inadequacies

One of the things that goes wrong time after time with organisations in both the public and private sectors in Nigeria is a failure of the leadership to clearly communicate goals and objectives to the rank and file. In my first job in Nigeria for a local management consultancy, no one knew where the company was going. Since then, I have all too often seen people in leadership positions vacillate and fail to provide clear messages, as well as fail to disseminate whatever message they have come up with adequately down the food chain.

This sense of communicational inadequacy occurs in a context where a tiny fraction of the populace reads the newspapers, and more significantly, where there is no community radio. The lack of community radio reflects the fear of successive administrations about the power of radio as a communication medium in Nigeria. One only has to see how many gate keepers hold their handheld radios as close to their ears as possible to see what a vital medium it is here. There has been a community radio bill before the President, to sign off on 400 community radio licenses, for years, but he has never signed it. Meanwhile, the police regularly confiscate illegal antenna equipment from pirate stations that get set up. Again, both the Voice of America and the BBC's World Service are available on FM in many (most?) countries of the world, but not in Nigeria.

The recent fiasco over the census, where people didnt know whether they could go to work or not, and the more distant air tragedies of last year, are both cases where the administration demonstrated its utter incompetence at communication and information management.

Contrast the situation in Nigeria with Ghana, where there are many community radio stations, and both VOA and the World Service are accessible on FM. Ok, Ghana is much smaller and less ethnically diverse, but it doesn't seem as if community radio is creating instability.

What the administration here needs to realise is that creating a communications infrastructure based around community radio will most probably create more stability than otherwise. It is where there is no information, or unclear information, that the rumour mill cranks into gear, and antipathetic forces take advantage. It would create a healing bridge between the executive and society. Signing the bill would be one of the most positive things Obasanjo would be remembered for. Not signing it, and staying on for a third term, threatens mugabification.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Enforced holiday

A holiday has emerged today out of nowhere - a muslim one (the moon says when). I wonder how many public holidays there are in Nigeria. When there's a muslim festival, everyone bunks off. When there's a christian festival, ditto. On top of seven days off from the census, it all seems a bit excessive.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Interesting article about the UK poet Jackie Kay going 'home'


In the UK Guardian yesterday.

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The best nollywood site/film yet?

thanks to whoever who left the comments on my previous post. Check this nollywood website out. The connection here is too slow to watch the trailer properly, but the production values look quite alright. Instead of that horrible pre-1980's synthesised sax music, this actually sounds ok. It stars the cream of Nollywood talent - Arinze, Nnaji, Silva etc. But why people are you premiering in Maryland and not in Nigeria (or at least have a joint premiere?)

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

More on Big Brother Nigeria

Things have become seriously promiscuous on BBN. One minute Ebuka is smooching with Helen, the next he's on top of Francisca in full view of the others, foxy madam wrapping her legs around him and drawing him in. I can't imagine how outraged Religious Nigeria is at the moral turpitude. Its all a bit depressing: promiscuity is the laziest form of youthful rebellion. It's ok in my book if promiscuity (with a condom) is in the mix with political resistance, intellectual dialogue long into the night, creative experimentation in other spheres; but promiscuity for its own sake sans les autres is as dull as watching porn for an hour. The contestants are vain and empty headed: part of the lost generation who didn't get the chance of a decent education. Meanwhile, the text messages that scroll across the screen are at least as incoherent as the conversation in the house, replete with spelling mistakes and adolescent commentary.

Maybe this comment says more about me: I'm becoming an old fart. Stick a random bunch of twenty somethings from anywhere in the world together in a small house for a few weeks and you are going to watch a lesson in the hypermundane commodified universe we live in unfold (reality tv really is the end-game for passive television). But I can't help but look back to my twenties and remember it was promiscuity plus everything else a confused adventurous student would get into. The trouble brewing for Nigeria is that the youth often seem to be more conservative (albeit a confused, promiscuous kind of conservatism) than the older generations. They have been beaten into submission, when what is needed is a youthful riot of creativity and world-changing optimism. We need Marxist Nigerians, Zen buddhist Nigerians, situationist Nigerians, and new homegrown ideologically driven Nigerians sprouting a thousand new languages of resistance. The desire for all this I'm sure is out there. Somehow the dots needed to be connected with fora and associations for adventurous young minds.

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All quiet but its really quite noisy..

Its been a bit tough blogging the past few days. I haven't had much time to get to the office (meetings meetings). Our home NITEL ISDN connection has been fixed after 3 weeks of zero service. NITEL are now accusing MTN of sabotaging their cables, which has slowed down the 'fixed' ISDN to unusably slow (NITEL are having to use the trunk connection to Lagos to bring in bandwidth apparently). This on top of the fact that the bright new hope for Abujans - local ISP Rosecom's first-access use of SAT-3, seems to have been a complete flop. The local expats email list is full of tales of Rosecom woe - expensive poor service etc etc. So we continue to wait for decent bandwidth..

Meanwhile, a sad/surreal tale of Nollywood proportions has been unfolding to do with work, but I'll tell the tale when its fully resolved. Don't want to be subjudice (is that how you spell it?)

Meanwhile #2, I had another malaria test. After a month of trying different drugs, neem etc etc, I still have malaria, which is a complete bummer. A liver test reveals my poor organ is struggling with those pesky parasites. So now I'm taking a quinine based treatment (for the first time). I hope it zaps it out of my system. We're both drinking mistletoe tea, which is supposed to be amazingly good for you.

In a zonked out state, its time to watch some good films. Bibi and I watched Sunset Boulevard this afternoon which was a treat. Gloria Swanson's swansong. Meanwhile #3, I'm stuck reading The God of Small Things (can't work out why everyone went on about it), while Pankaj Mishra spiritual travelogue on the Buddha sits there looking way more readable. But I hate giving up on books - its always felt like a double betrayal to me - to oneself and to the author.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Radio Abeokuta

There's some interesting/funny stuff on Radio Abeokuta's site, including this Flash animation story in Yoruba. If only I could read it...

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

9ja porn

Hunting for a cd from the hot new naija musicman Jazzman Olofin after work today, I schlepped from cd/nollywood street vendor to street vendor. Jazzman had sold out everywhere.. What I did find however was bucketloads of hardcore porn, most of it discreetly hidden under nollywood vcds. On top of the local dvd rental place having a subtle curtain onto a fleshy world (so subtle I didn't notice the curtain for the first few months), its evident that there is quite some demand for erotica in town. I guess all that religious doxa creates its own repressed desires, which in turn seek their outlets, a bit like the Victorians obsession with opium. Of course, all the porn available is imported (much of it pirated). I wonder whether there's a homegrown nollywood niche out there? Given how lucrative the porn industry is in America (I believe its a bigger industry than Hollywood), its surely only a matter of time..

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Calling all nostaglic fashionistas

My sis-in-law aka Sisi-Oge was so enamoured by the rocking party we went to the other day she wants to explore looks/fashions/hairstyles in Nigeria from bygone times. Take a look at her post, and send her whatever images you have. We'll post the best ones on Lagos Live.

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The sterility of political discourse in Nigeria

Nigeria at this time desperately needs a new political language. Instead of 3rd term, South-South vs North etc, fiscal federalism, percentage deviation blah di blah, its time there was talk of transformation, nation-building, planning for the next ten or twenty years, free education and healthcare for all, job creation strategies, concern for the environment and fostering innovation. Surely the next administration should win on their vision for a united Nigeria with jobs for all, not on the basis of petty tribalism and greed.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Hommage to Ojeikere


Bibi
Originally uploaded by nobodaddy69.

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Branding in Nigeria

Had an interesting conversation with the creative director for the Nigerian office of one of the big global ad agencies on the weekend. He was bemoaning his clients for their lack of imagination, innovation or experimentation. I suggested that Nigeria, being a conservative society, might lead to timidity among his clients. He disagreed. He opined that many of his Nigerian (he's a Brit) friends are highly creative and dynamic outside of work hours, but in the office, the hierarchical organisational culture clamps itself down. This chimes with my experience, where innovation amongst the rank and file is not palated, let alone embraced. Apart from one or two exceptions, oga syndrome rules the roost. We are yet to see horizontalisation of organograms in the services sector. It will surely come.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that the mimetic nature of much culture here, reaching its zenith in Aso-Ebi, where women use the same fabric for a particular social occasion, leads to more emphasis placed on sameness rather than difference. If Company x does red squares in its corporate id and is successful, then so should we. Brand-as-differentiation does not get a look in. This is partly because Nigeria is such a customer gold-mine: the market is so under-penetrated in most consumer sectors that any half-baked brand with some random name and visual identity can make a killing. Again, this will change. What we need in the Nigerian brands of the future is localisation: a use of indigenous iconography, colour palettes, language. What we don't need is the emergence of a bland brandscape that despoils most urban spaces in the West.

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Bibi at the party..

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On abortion

As a progressive vegan, my views on abortion are a little complex. Rather than a simple for or against, I find myself caught between two somewhat irreconcilable views. Sitting in the middle of them is a little paradoxical and inconsistent. On the one hand (the progressive side), I believe strongly in women's rights to reproductive health, part of which includes the right to abort unwanted pregnancies. This view is all the more strongly held when it comes to pregnancy through duress, rape etc. On the other hand (the vegan side), a foetus (however small) is both a life and a potential-person. Killing a foetus is unethical just as much as killing an animal (to eat, for sacrifice etc). Both the foetus and the animal are capable of feeling pain, therefore their killing is wrong (so the argument goes). I therefore object to women using abortion as a means of after-the-fact birth control (we all know this happens).

However, this tension in viewpoints does not equate to an argument in favour of abortion being unlawful, as it is in Nigeria. A story in yesterday's paper (I think it was This Day) indicates precisely why. A pregnant girl last week went to a backstreet clinic in Makoko. The 'doctor' tried to fondle her so she left the room. He eventually persuaded her to return, and quickly drugged and raped her. Sadly, she died while being raped.

While abortion remains legally proscribed (wherever in the world), it opens the door for dangerous practice like this. To give women access to regulated healthcare, it should therefore be legalised (its not clear whether the bill causing all the hoo-ha in the press and National Assembly does fully legalise abortion or not -can someone clarify?). However, this does leave the casual-abortion-on-demand issue open to be addressed. Part of this can be taken care of with mature sex education, the other with proper counselling at abortion clinics. We need to honestly accept the fact that in Nigeria, girls on average tend to start having sex at a relatively early age (the average I believe is around 12 or 13). Unfortunately, religious prudery tends to mean girls do not get the advice they need, which creates yet one more avenue for vulnerability.

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What a party..

Lagos was a gas. We went to our friend T's 40th birthday party at The Guest House, a discreet and well designed joint in deepest Ikoyi. The party (wear what you want from the 60's/70's/80's/90's) had been meticulously planned and themed by her friend Sola. Sola's expertise is in table setting, and it showed. She auditioned dj's in advance - the one she got played constant keep-on-the-dancefloor funk and 70's 80's stuff all night. Before that, Asha sang sweetly, with her rickety slightly out of tune old guitar.. Before that, an excellent band played funky jazz standards then some jujuy stuff.

Everything about the evening was detailed and thought through (basmati rice, veuve cliquot etc), not a trace of idea la need. Our friend T danced till morning song. It was easy to imagine that it was 1963 and everybody was filled with independence fervour. With all the afros and short skirts (sadly, with jeans underneath) I wondered whether such innocent excitement for the times could ever be recovered again and Good Times for all will roll. We are not yet at a point where the forces of optimism and a positive nation-building spirit are stronger than the forces of cynicism. One day it may come.

Toks and friend rocking into the morning.










This corduroy look kinda reminds me of Starsky and Hutch and the Rockford Files..









Mo Abudu avec Afro..








Asha. I haven't seen her play for a year or so. She's a class act these days. Think she could go global.







Winners of the "most funkadelic dress" award of the evening. These two didnt stop dancing till dawn, all the time wearing those hot and sweaty wigs.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Artemisin revolution in Nigeria...

Artemisin in combination with fansidar is the best treatment for resistant strains of malaria such as the falciparum form prevalent in Nigeria. The trouble is, many of the artemisin drugs found in Nigeria are fake. So here is a revolutionary idea (its not new, but its worth re-stating): why not grow the stuff here and produce it locally? It could be taken in either herb form (tea, tincture etc) or fabricated into pill form. Apparently, the best place to grow it would be Jos (for climactic similarity with where it is grown in China and Vietnam).

This would be something the Ministry of Health and perhaps a couple of donors could fund. It would create jobs for agricultural workers, and would dramatically improve the effectiveness of malaria treatment in country.

So, is there anyone out there who could help put this into action?

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a little bilious..

Went to the Ikoyi guest house last night. Bibi was not well so we stayed in. I didnt want to watch CNN and I didnt fancy reading my book (The God of Small Things). Listless, I read two local papers and glanced through some crap new interior home mag. After an hour, I was black with bile at the gross stupidity of what I found in the two rags - from Soludo's N50m bash (each of the remaining 25 banks were charged 2million naira to fund it) to the usual political shenanigans. Its important to develop a well insulated protection mechanism when opening Nigerian newspapers, otherwise one might just go mad or start barking or howling.

Why do people get celebrated here for just doing their job? It creates a vicious circle of downward spiralling mediocrity: something ordinary is done that no one would notice elsewhere, everyone claps and blows ghanamusgo amounts of dosh on an owambe. Then another owambe is expected for half the result. Idea la need. Everything is splashed in the papers - the same tired old faces. Meanwhile, heroes of everday life carry on unsung, and class oppression mounts. As someone said the other day, a project in Nigeria is completed when it appears in the newspapers. Whether anything actually got finished is quite besides the point.

But life for the elite is not one fortress to fortress air-conditioned cruise along a smoothly paved road. For example, the roads of Ikoyi, the zone of oldest money in the city (no money here is that old - 50 years tops) are martian; none of the street lights work. Driving Ikoyi at night is like driving in a village off grid in outer Mongolia - darkness, shadows, dogs and chickens. Everyone drives with their lights on full beam, so one cannot see anything when a car approaches. Meanwhile, behind those high walls, Sheik-esque cash is banked up. As a Nigerian guy said to me a couple of days ago (he's moving back soon), Lagos has not changed in the 15 years he's been coming back on business. Can there be a greater indictment?

Then I consoled myself with the fact that even the best-selling papers sell only 20,000 copies a day - ie the newspapers have nothing to do with 98% of the population. As my good friend K has said all along, the potential of Nigeria lies with engaging with the bottom of the pyramid; the elite will continue to party as Rome burns, so its best to forget about them for the most part and focus on creative engagement.

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