Monday, July 31, 2006

A dancing society

After checking my mail in the shade of the car, I went for a stroll around the Millenium Park yesterday afternoon. I was blasting the excellent Afrique C'est Chic compilation album out of the Ipod. I'm very distracted by sound, so I find listening to music from an Ipod helps me to see things more clearly. It transformed my experience of the park. I noticed something that more observent types would spot immediately: everyone dances here. This being Nigeria, the everyready rhythm latent in the muscles is transformed into a business model: a troupe of musicians work the space, moving from group to group, extracting naira through talking-drummed praise. Its as if I'm watching in slo-mo. A group of elegant hausa women sway gracefully to the rhythm, self-consciously coy at dancing in public. A man in a corduroy outfit and funky shades rolls from side to side as if he's on Soul Train, accessorised by Star. There's something beautiful going on here, amongst these people: celebrating the simple joy of an afternoon in the park.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kibbutz Malkiya

Watching the excessive pounding of Lebanese villages, its hard to sympathise with the odd rocket hit on Northern Israel. Lebanon is winning the media war by default. Sky News can scarcely hide its Jewish-lobby credentials, focussing on interviewing hawkish types like Netanyahu and avoiding any representation of the other side (in fairness, I imagine Al-Jazeerah and the other Arab channels are doing exactly the same in reverse). Its hard to find any humanity in all this. We now know that British airbases and weapons are complicit in the slaughter on the Israeli side. Knowing a little about the UK weapons trade, there are probably British-made weapons flying into Israel as well.

I think back to my Kibbutz Malkiya days in the late 1980's. I met many lovely people there, some of them scarred by earlier conflicts (a soldier in his late twenties who lost six of his friends in the Lebanon, a late middle-aged man who lost all his family to Auschwitz - he never spoke). Malkiya has yet to be hit this time round (it is right on the border with the exclusion-zone), but they have been bombed in the past. How do we retain our humanity in times like these?


Pieces, bits

I've just spent the past hour reading The Guardian and This Day. Its quite an odd experience; after reading mangled English, incorrect grammar and the lowest possible standards of journalism in every sense for a sustained period, one comes out quite disoriented. But you've heard me complain about Nigerian journalism before so what's new? It would be lovely to read a Nigerian paper and learn something new or incisive about the country, but unfortunately, this doesnt seem possible. Instead, one reads a mixture of hagiographic encomiums from sycophants, planted stories and over-long letters from various marginalised souls. One learns more about the country from talking to everyday people, not from getting ink rubbed off on the hands from the papers..

A couple of stories did however leap out at me. The first is that Covenant University, an evangelical institution run by the Winner's Chapel crew headed by Pastor David Oyedepo, has just celebrated their first graduation ceremony. Curiously, all graduands were asked to submit a blood sample before they could go forward to graduate. Quite why the sample was needed was not explained. Perhaps its yet another example of the practice of covert HIV screening that seems to be gaining ground in the country. A case against covert screening needs to be made loud and clear. This being Nigeria, it will probably come out quiet and muddled.

The second story concerns another pastor in Lagos, who has a practice of setting sinners alight, by setting fire to the ground and then getting fallen flock to roll in it. Meanwhile, the papers are all leading on the story that British Police have come over to help the investigation into the Funso Williams assassination. There seems to be some prestige attached to the fact that police from overseas are involved. Perhaps this reflects a genuine determination to find the culprits (after so many unsolved political assassinations). I wonder how easy the job will be if the murder scene was not left intact? The obvious question that no journalist bothers to ask is what does it say about the Nigerian Police force that outside 'experts' have to be brought in?

By the way, this entry comes courtesy of Millenium Park, the only free functioning wifi left in Abuja. Nagode Mr Rufai..


Friday, July 28, 2006


A man running for office is tied up like a Ramadam goat and slaughtered in his Ikoyi bedroom. All the phone networks are on the blink. My malaria drags on. Its almost impossible to get bandwidth - Meridien have gone from free to 1800naira per hour, the Sheraton wifi is down. At least I've found a new internet cafe which is half decent.. All this disrupts my blogging.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The lobby at the end of the world..

Here I am at the Sheraton lobby taking advantage of their wifi. There's some interesting life forms around me. Quite a few laptop consultants checking their email: Germans, Americans, Brits. A clutch of Lufthansa staff waiting for their lift to the airport, including the perhaps inevitable queen (this one has eaten too many bratwursts). Behind me, a noisy group of slavic-speaking men are getting more and more drunk and voluble. Prostitutes wander in in preparation for the night's arrangements. Elegant African women in native saunter past. Business men arrive for meetings. A man behind me talks about something happening at the Presidency this evening. Almost all of Abuja in microcosm...


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The day is not going well..

Bibi has malaria, I have malaria. The symptoms: a sick feeling in the stomach, a headache, fatigue and a bitter taste in the mouth. Damn.

I ran out of MTN credit on my phone so bought a new scratchcard this morning. For the nth time, I managed to scratch the numbers off the card as well as the silver well as dirty my thumbnail in the process.

My MacBook Entourage email client has crashed. So I am using webmail, which is like walking in treacle..

The Meridien hotel has stopped offering free wireless in the lobby. However, they have yet to inform the staff of the change. So no one was around this morning to tell me how much to pay, how to pay it etc. Typical Nigerian dysfunctionality and lack of process or planning. So there's only the Sheraton left for free bandwidth in town. There's no internet access at home or at the office, our phone works every now and again at home and is dead at the office.

What will not kill me will only make me stronger..


Monday, July 24, 2006

Diana Evans tours Nigeria

Click here for details of Diana Evans' tour of Nigeria next month.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


We ran out of credit for our DSTV (the only satellite tv service available in Nigeria) a few days ago and can't be bothered to renew the subscription. This is a good thing - most of their content is utter crap anyway. CNN, BBC World and Sky are the only international news channels so what's the point? I'm trying to keep up with the Lebanon crisis online. Behind all the excessive force of the Israelis, one cannot help but think they have started to realise time is running out for the survival of their tiny country. If we don't see the end of Israel in our lifetime, our children surely will. The more the US becomes a spent force, the more the oil continues to drip dry, the billions of dollars the US gives to Israel from Islam on all sides to defend itself will no longer be a factor. Its all the UK's fault anyway - what a stupid idea it was to obliterate the peaceful Palestine that was..

How odd to be in Abuja, where the average temperature the past few days is around 25 degrees, when the temp in parts of the UK has gone beyond 100 degrees. Is it too early to be a sign that perhaps irreversible climate change has kicked in?


Friday, July 21, 2006

The moonies are coming..

My bandwidth-saviour is the Meridien hotel lobby, where the wifi is pretty quick. I noticed on the way in an hour ago that the Moonies are holding a conference here tomorrow. That sounds like a good move; there's always space for new religions here in Nigeria. Pretty soon we'll have Abiodun Moon and Chibuke Moon in our mental phone books.

It's been very tricking eeking out any time to blog the past week or so. No internet at work, none at home (the NITEL-Transcorp fiasco rumbles mysteriously on), then my EU project is finally cranking into gear after months of waiting for stuff to arrive, keeping me fully occupied, then there's our first Cassava Republic book tour. Bibi has been burning huge amounts of energy to pull it all off. I WILL post all the information on Diana Evans' tour tomorrow.


The new British Council building in Lagos


British Council interior..


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Omoluwabi and management practice

There's an interesting post on Okebadan's blog about retrieving a sense of business ethics from Yoruba mores here. Scroll down to the post dated Wednesday May 3rd. The project is an interesting one: recapturing a traditional value system for the purposes of creating an ethical framework for business interactions. Rather than relying on imported theological concepts to drive a collective sense of ethics, why not conduct an archeology of values to create a more rigorous and adaptive ethical framework?


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Donald Duke for prez?

Donald Duke might be an idea. Calabar is supposed to be lovely - the houses have to have a fresh lick of paint every year, there's Obudu up-country, and Tinapa business resort nearly finished. The man done good. Click here to here the praise singing.


Saturday, July 15, 2006


Habib is a Brooklyn-based rapper (and Bibi's cousin). Listen to his stuff here. He's looking to get signed, so if you know anyone who knows anyone..


Wheaton Aston en temps passe

I've just got hold of some photos from the past 100 years in my village Wheaton Aston. This is a picture of my great-grandad Frank (the 'strongest man in the village') with my grandad Phillip by the old windmill down Mill Lane..


My granddad the postie

My father's father Philip once wrote down all the jobs he'd had in his life - it came to 72 I think. When he was the village postman, he once cycled along the frozen canal in the deep mid-winter - it was the quickest way to pick up the post in the nearby village of Brewood. Unfortunately, he hit a weakpoint in the ice and he fell through. He rushed back home and dried out the post by the fire. No one found out.


Elephant feet?

If like me you have big feet, you might want to check out Elephant Feet in Brixton. Run by a lovely (and enormous) guy called Emeka, Elephant Feet does stylish large sizes - all the way up to a Robert Wadlow-esque size 26. He keeps threatening to open up a Lagos branch - which would be paradise for Oedipal-beings like moi. Meanwhile, the website does a good line in mail order - and if you live in Nigeria, the guys over here in a few weeks so you can put in your order.


Abuja cinema enfin

The Nu Metro cinema opened on Thursday. At last we will join Lagos in being able to watch bubble-gum Hollywood trash in airconditioned surround sound big screen comfort. Meanwhile, the Abuja Silverbird cinema is at foundation stage. So there'll be two places to watch chav trash. Fantastic! One fine day, someone will open an arthouse cinema showing the best of American Independent cinema, European, Japanese etc cinema and we'll never leave. The other good news is that Abuja will at last (if all goes well) have a customer-centric affordable broadband service in the next month or so (more details later).

Meanwhile, we went to the Abuja Literary Society bash last night. There was an impressive turn out of budding young poets, performance and otherwise. Unfortunately, there was also a fair dose of bigmanist sycophancy as well which was utterly tedious. We need to find a way to slice off the macho bravado and nurture the talent..


Friday, July 14, 2006

Modelling malaria

Africa-at-home has launched an initiative called - harnessing the spare capacity of your pc to model and simulate malaria epidemics. Click here to find out how you can help.



I recently bought a Macbook - Apple's new range of laptops. I've never used Mac's before to any extent, but its had a transformative effect on my relationship to computer interfaces. The Mac interface is such a delight to use that going back to PCs is a bit like strolling around a municipal council office in Dudley on a wet Wednesday (pardon non-uk people who don't get the reference), after you've spent a weekend at an hotel designed by Rem Koolhass. There's no going back.


back in the office..

I've been avoiding the office for the past few days: no phone/internet, people having picnics while gossiping about 2007: not really conducive. However, there's a little bit of bandwidth back so its time to start blogging again. Trouble is, the internet works only on one crappy spyware-laden desktop so its not a comfortable experience.

The news is that our first Cassava Republic author tour is about to start (we've been busy). More details in a second..


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