Friday, November 30, 2007

Jeremy moans about Nigerian airlines again

Ok so its all my fault. Flying from Abuja to Lagos on a Friday is an insane idea. It was however close to unavoidable - I had a 2pm meeting so getting an early afternoon flight (your only chance of avoiding pyschological scars on the way to the commercial capital) was a no no. And there was something I was supposed to be at tomorrow 9.30 in the city of sin/house of wisdom.

And I was feeling so fly. I had my sunglasses on, my nice white lace Nigerian thing on, with Wayne Shorter's classic "Introducing" album on the Ipod, booming through my Sennheiser cans. The music pushed me out into the antediluvian landscape that was flashing by, describing the molars and mounds in cool-jazz arpeggios and stutters. Mehn, I was feeling tutu.

I commandeer a trolley for my luggage, swatting away the suya-sellers with their brown envelopes of barbecued cow. I'm still feeling like Miles somewhere between Kind of Blue and In a Silent Way. Husky but not too husky voice, aviator specs, pre-shell-suit-back-to-the-crowd-jheri-curls-sunglasses-swallowing-the-face.

And then I roll up to the Bellview desk, with a good hour to get my flight. The desk has a sign saying Closed. Uh-oh - that's weird. I ask the lady behind the counter what's up...

This was the point when Newtonian reality fell rapidly away, to be replaced by something closer to a cocktail of Heisenberg and Schrodinger.

Me: What is happening madam? I have a ticket for the evening flight.
She: Pause. We don't know.
Me: What do you mean you don't know? Is the 18:25 flight cancelled or not?
She: We don't know.
Me: How can you not know whether the flight is cancelled or not? Surely, you must know one way or the other?
She: [silent shrug]

Jeremy takes a mental step back. The normal rules of the game have stopped applying. It is not a question of an 'either/or' [either the plane comes from Lagos, or it is cancelled], but rather a 'both/and' [the plane will come from Lagos. And it will not leave. Version two: the plane may come from Lagos. And we don't know anything else]..

A sick philosophical side to my personality loves these weird out-of-body unreality experiences that Nigeria specialises in. How to get back to a language game that makes some sort of rational sense? Surely you can work that one out onyeocha? C'mon, show us your conceptual hustle...

Me: Madam. How is that you do not know whether the plane will leave or not? Surely you must be in touch with Lagos, and they can give you an update? Why don't you call them up and find out?
She: They don't want to tell us in Lagos. No one wants to be implicated. We are fed up too..

Aaaah - that's the shape of the rational penny that droppeth from the sky:

The Bellview plane must have been delayed in Lagos (probably a FAAN check - some of their planes are looking a bit Flash-Gordon-era - you can almost see the strings holding them to the sky). It will therefore get to the Buj late. By which time, most of the passengers will have disappeared onto other airlines or buggered off home. Therefore, the woman behind the counter is giving people refunds now, rather than face a wall of abuse later on from stranded passengers, or the prospect of an empty plane back to MMA. Its game theory. She doesn't know what Lagos is thinking, therefore she is imagining the worst (the plane doesnt even get off the ground), to cover her derriere.

I get a refund. Another Bellview operative tries to wheedle me on to the Chanchangi and the Aero (the Aero queue for the 7pm is by now a cross between a bare-knuckle boxing crowd without a ring and a cattle market on the outskirts of Borno. Must it always be so, I ask myself. This airline has been going since the 1950's hasn't it?). The only thing is for me to pay 20,000 to a tout for fake-business class. No way buster.

So, it ain't happening at the cattle shed that is the local airport. I am now feeling like Miles with purple shell suit at some ghastly European jazz festival in the 1980s.

Aminu the driver re-appears and we schlep to the International airport. No one at the Arik desk knows what's happening (betraying an all too typical yet always baffling Nigerian disconnect between someone working at a company and their utter ignorance of what is happening). Eventually I find out from someone in the inner office that all the flights are booked. I go to Virgin Nigeria (in desperation, you know what I think about 'em) - all flights are booked, including all tomorrow morning's flights. One of the Virgin Nigeria staff makes a flattering remark about my baffs. I am not in the mood, oremi.

I listen to The The's classic album Soul Mining on the way home in the Baby Blue. It is dark outside. My mind and body trawls back nearly 20 years to those endless afternoons in bed with Corinne, a pile of pistachios in a bowl nearby, watching ourselves undulate in a mirror as Matt Johnson melodes through the speakers. Outside its Israel.

So: Abuja it is. Fate rests me in this dusty city for the weekend.


The slow death of the dollar

Its been a long time coming, but the writing is on the wall for the dollar as the main global currency - from hip-hop artistes flashing 500 Euro notes and super models demanding payment in Euros to this. Thanks to JB for the link.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Soyinka on lorry art

In the New Statesman recently. I've had this idea in the back of my mind for a while now - the danfo as canvas. Upcoming artists could use the danfo as a space for radical expression. Or, do a Tracey Emin, and put a decorated danfo in an art gallery - a danfo plastered with nudes, or a trompe l'oeuil danfo etc.


Black Africans in Africa

Ewan McGregor and his mate Charley Boorman rode by motorbike from the top of Scotland to Cape Town - the series is just finishing on BBC2. That means it will be shown on BBC World here in Nigeria in about 3-4 years time (so many of the programmes are from years ago for some reason or other). I enjoyed watching bits and bobs of their trip East (an earlier series) from the UK to the US, mainly because of McGregor's infectiously optimistic attitude. Even when stuck in a bog in the vastness of the Mongolian tundra, he would be stoic, if not his usual chirpy and philosophical self.

In this piece in today's Guardian, we find this quote from McGregor:
"The further south we travelled, we found that black Africans became less accessible somehow. In places like Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, they had been everywhere, but in the south they were cleaning tables at restaurants, which seemed odd. We both preferred being in the middle, in the backwoods. So, after we finished the trip in Cape Town, we met up with our families and went straight back to Kenya."

Its quite an intriguing snippet. On the one hand, there is a cosy familiarity and sense of authenticity, expressed in the desire to be back in Kenya, amongst black Africans. On the other hand, there is a strange distancing - 'black Africans' becoming 'less accessible' whereas before 'they had been everywhere'. Its almost as if McGregor is making a comment on the prevalence of wildebeest.

Its also interesting that whenever someone wants to construct a journey from the UK down through Africa, either figuratively or literally, they always bypass West Africa. Perhaps its because then there would just be far too many black Africans to deal with.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Thinking of relocating back to the motherland? Read this first. Big shout out to a man like Olly and all the Oxford massive for the link [said in a London pirate radio dj accent].


Proud husband syndrome



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Northern wreck part 2

Great cartoon in today's Guardian, taken from here. Who needs words when you can capture a story like this?


Researches wanted to participate in a film project on youth in African cities

Click to enlarge/read.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Interesting show

My mate Luiz Santos is showing. Get yourself down there if you can.

Just imagine if you were having a piss and cor blimey, there's Richard Gere right next to you at the end of his jimmy riddle..


Death by spiritual causes

My sister-in-law is very upset today. Her best friend's dad died today. I go home at lunch time and she is eating yam and stew with a disconsolate air. I ask her politely how he died.

Uncle Jeremy you wouldn't understand. He died of spiritual causes.

How do you mean, spiritual causes?

Uncle Jeremy leave that thing.

I left that thing. However, I wish people would stop believing in juju mumbo jumbo here though. When someone dies in these circumstances, its always poison. If only they'd do an autopsy they'd find out. What was Okija if not poison?

It reminds me of the scare a few years ago that if you answered a certain phone number, you'd die suddenly with blood coming out of your nose and ears. I found out at the time that the viral scare had started in Alaba market in Lagos. Someone had a brain haemorrhage while answering the phone. After he died, someone checked the last number dialled and put 3 and 9 together to make 13.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Those cds

I'm sure like other Brits with a technology streak to their career, I take the story of the two cds with 25million records of almost half the population of the UK that went missing last week as almost a personal slur. With all civil service agencies having broadband internet, why on earth would they want to send just over 1GB of data by cd anyway? In Nigeria, you are often constrained to use flash drives and cds just because of inadequate bandwidth, but in the UK, which has one of the most competitive ISP markets in the world? Haba.

If, for some silly antiquated bureaucratic reason, they have to send the data by physical means, why did they not at least encrypt it before burning onto the cd? Surely someone must have thought of the scenario of missing cd's? And surely, they do encrypt personal data in the public sector, don't they? The fact that you can buy someone's UK bank details online for US$75 from dodgy Russian syndicates shows how easy identity theft has become, without this generous helping hand from the UK's Customs office. As the home of one of the best project management methodologies going (PRINCE2), its shocking that the civil service in the UK clearly has such a hazy relationship to risk analysis and mitigation.

This story confirms the general impression that the British civil service has fallen way behind the pack on contemporary e-government best practice.

Worse still for Gordon Brown, it only helps to convey the impression that he has lost control - of the economy (witness the Northern Wreck assets scandal of earlier last week), and of the nation's data. With an inexperienced kitchen cabinet (Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Alasdair Darling), he is looking ferociously exposed all of a sudden..


Abuja Carnival

Driving through central Abuja just now, my journey was arrested by the 36 floats of the Abuja carnival, lined up from just after the Hilton all the way to the Federal Secretariat and up to Eagles Square. One lorry had morphed into a huge horse, another had transformed into gigantic tortoise. As I snaked past, many of Nigeria's cultures were pressed into the roadside - huge Ekpe masquerades danced on the curb; the skittering rhythm of fuji mixed with northern pipe music.

Despite all the culture on display, there is no one around to watch it. As with the past two years, advertising the event and attracting visitors seems to have been a low priority for the organisers. No one was really sure of the date. The only people present are those who have been bussed in from the various states to participate. Nigeria's multitude of cultures are among the richest and most fascinatingly diverse in the world, yet no one really pays them much attention (least of all perhaps Nigerians). A bit like the Abuja carnival really.


History, comedy and tragedy..

Major Nzeogwu's Speech announcing Nigeria's first coup (circa noon, January 15, 1966, Radio Kaduna) - thanks to Mr Y for the email and the comments in bold:

In the name of the Supreme Council of the Revolution of the Nigerian Armed Forces, I [who, and upon what authority?] declare martial law over the Northern Provinces of Nigeria.

The Constitution is suspended and the regional government and elected assemblies are hereby dissolved. All political, cultural, tribal and trade union activities, together with all demonstrations and unauthorized gatherings, excluding religious worship, are banned until further notice.

The aim of the Revolutionary Council is to establish a strong united and prosperous nation, free from corruption and internal strife [and don’t forget culture]. Our method of achieving this is strictly military but we have no doubt that every Nigerian will give us maximum cooperation by assisting the regime and not disturbing the peace during the slight (!) changes that are taking place.

I am to assure all foreigners living and working in this part of Nigeria that their rights will continue to be respected [by whom?]. All treaty obligations previously entered into with any foreign nation will be respected and we hope that such nations will respect our country's territorial integrity and will avoid taking sides with enemies of the revolution and enemies of the people.

My dear countrymen, you will hear, and probably see [and certainly feel] a lot being done by certain bodies charged by the Supreme Council with the duties of national integration, supreme justice, general security and property recovery. As a interim measure all permanent secretaries, corporation chairmen and senior heads of departments are allowed to make decisions until the new organs are functioning, so long as such decisions are not contrary to the aims and wishes of the Supreme Council. No Minister or Parliamentary Secretary possesses administrative or other forms of control over any Ministry, even if they are not considered too dangerous to be arrested.

This is not a time for long speech-making [or winning hearts and minds] and so let me acquaint you with ten proclamations [commandments] in the Extraordinary Orders of the Day which the Supreme Council has promulgated. These will be modified as the situation improves.

You are hereby warned that looting, arson, homosexuality, rape, embezzlement, bribery or corruption, obstruction of the revolution, sabotage, subversion, false alarms and assistance to foreign invaders, are all offences punishable by death sentence.

Demonstrations and unauthorized assembly, non-cooperation with revolutionary troops are punishable in grave manner up to death.

Refusal or neglect to perform normal duties or any task that may of necessity be ordered by local military commanders in support of the change will be punishable by a sentence imposed by the local military commander.

Spying, harmful or injurious publications, and broadcasts of troop movements or actions, will be punished by any suitable sentence deemed fit by the local military commander.

Shouting of slogans, loitering and rowdy behavior will be rectified by any sentence of incarceration, or any more severe punishment deemed fit by the local military commander.

Doubtful loyalty will be penalized by imprisonment or any more severe sentence.

Illegal possession or carrying of firearms, smuggling or trying to escape with documents, valuables, including money or other assets vital to the running of any establishment will be punished by death sentence.

Wavering or sitting on the fence and failing to declare open loyalty with the revolution will be regarded as an act of hostility punishable by any sentence deemed suitable by the local military commander.

Tearing down an order of the day or proclamation or other authorized notices will be penalized by death.

This is the end of the Extraordinary Order of the Day which you will soon begin to see displayed in public.

My dear countrymen, no citizen should have anything to fear, so long as that citizen is law abiding and if that citizen has religiously obeyed the native laws of the country and those set down in every heart and conscience since 1st October, 1960. Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent [but 90% is ok]; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds. Like good soldiers we are not promising anything miraculous or spectacular. But what we do promise every law abiding citizen is freedom from fear and all forms of oppression, freedom from general inefficiency and freedom to live and strive in every field of human endeavour, both nationally and internationally. We promise that you will no more be ashamed to say that you are a Nigerian.

I leave you with a message of good wishes and ask for your support at all times, so that our land, watered by the Niger and Benue, between the sandy wastes and gulf of guinea, washed in salt by the mighty Atlantic, shall not detract Nigeria from gaining sway in any great aspect of international endeavour.

My dear countrymen, this is the end of this speech. I wish you all goodluck [Jonathan] and I hope you will cooperate to the fullest in this job which we have set for ourselves of establishing a prosperous nation and achieving solidarity.

Thank you very much and goodbye for now. [Exit Stage left. Audience laughs.]


Friday, November 23, 2007

Congrats to Molara Wood

For winning a Highly Commended story award in the Commonwealth Short Story competition with her piece Trial by Water. Here.


Nigeria Leadership Initiative - National Identity Project

What does being Nigerian mean to you?

What makes you proud to be Nigerian?
The Nigeria Leadership Initiative(NLI) would like to invite you to contribute your views on Nigerian Identity through completing the questionnaire below. Exceptional responses will be shortlisted for a prize.
Your views may be selected for a national report for Nigerians by Nigerians, identifying and celebrating Nigerian Identity. A public document available to all Nigerians.
1.) List five characteristics of an average Nigerian.
2.) List five things that make you proud to be Nigerian.
2.) List five places you think should be celebrated as icons and symbols of Nigeria, and why?
3.) Name any Nigerians you feel have distinguished themselves as being proudly Nigerian, or who you are proud of as a Nigerian?
4.) What can be done across the country to make people proud to be Nigerian? (200 words maximum)
5.) What can you do in your every life to show you are proudly Nigerian? (200 words maximum)
6.) Imagine Nigeria in 2020, what do you think Nigerians will be most proud of at this stage? (200 words maximum)
Please send your responses to the NLI by December 31st 2007:
post- P.O. Box 51599, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos


Africa Remix: Ghost World

DJ Spooky's take on the sounds of contemporary Africa. Click here and listen.


Nigerian publishing in The Economist

Article in this week's Economist is here.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Pan African Literary Forum

With Chimamanda Adichie, Caryl Phillips, Doreen Baingana, Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes and Binavanga Wainaina amongst others in attendance, the 2008 PALF in Accra is looking very juicy.

Find out about the 2008 PALF forum here.


Salamander event on NTA tonight

A full-length interview of Helon Habila with Eugenia Abu is on nationwide NTA tonight at 9pm. The piece will also be shown on NTA International at 1am Nigerian time, for all those stateside who subscribe. There will also be highlights of the Salamander event last night, including an interview with yours truly (if they keep it in the edit).


Denja Abdullahi

General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), at last night's reading.


Sal from Salamander

Sal Gbaja, the proprietor of Salamander Cafe, at the reading last night.


Our books...

Helon was asked (by Jide Bello) which of our books he liked the most. He first mentioned Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief which he said captures everyday life in Lagos brilliantly. Then he mentioned Diana Evans - he knew Diana from his time on the faculty of the creative writing programme at UEA (she was doing an MA there at the time).

Its nice finally to start to have a reasonable range of books on offer. This time next year, we'll have many more cracking reads available as far under N1000 as possible.


Hon. Wale Okediran and HH

Hon. Wale Okediran, President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and Helon.


Jeremiah Gyang

.. in full flight. His new album is coming out soon.


Ken Wiwa

At last night's event.



Syntychi sang so sweetly at last night's event. Yet another highly talented artiste from Jos (there must be something in the water there)...


Helon Habila in Abuja

Helon with Jeremiah Gyang and Ola Soyinka, at last night's reading at Salamander..


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A tipping point against multi-national corrupt practices in Nigeria?

The Siemens-gate scandal (which alleges that former Minister of Communications Cornelius Adebayo accepted a 500,000 euro bribe from Siemens, amongst others in the frame), hot on the heels of the Willbros trial, is starting to make me think there is a tipping point at work against multi-national corrupt practices in Nigeria. Sorry to use an over-used phrase (tipping point), but it does have meaning in this case. See an article in Business Day from yesterday for more on the various other cases ongoing. The steady work of the EFCC, the ICPC, NFIU, NEITI etc is slowly gathering - to use another cliche - critical mass. It must fast be dawning on multi-nationals wishing to bag contracts that bribes and kick-backs can no longer be the way to go in Nigeria - and that they must behave in Nigeria as they would behave in their home country. Look out for more dodgy stuff to come out of the woodwork shortly...


Academic Job: Associate Professor, Professor, or Distinguished Professor - History

Associate Professor, Professor, or Distinguished Professor - History
of the African Diaspora in the Americas

Location/Department: Ph.D. Program in History
Position Detail: Faculty
FLSA Status: Exempt
Compensation: Commensurate with qualifications and experience
Web Site:
Notice Number: FY14211
Closing Date: Open until filled; the review of resumes begin 1/22/2008

The Ph.D. Program in History at The Graduate Center, The City
University of New York, invites applications for an associate or full
professorship in the history of the African Diaspora in the Americas.
A distinguished candidate of exceptional merit, accomplishment and
scholarly reputation may be nominated as a Distinguished Professor,
with an annual salary supplement. Applications are welcome from
historians of all aspects of the experience of people of African
descent in the Americas, with a preference for scholars of the era of
slavery and/or the Americas outside the United States. In addition to
teaching doctoral courses and dissertation advisement, the position
will entail contributing to the work and leadership of the Institute
for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean
(IRADAC), a CUNY-wide research institute, based at the Graduate

A Ph.D. and substantial record of publications and teaching are
required. Candidates should be experienced scholars possessing
qualifications appropriate to appointment as an Associate Professor,
Professor, or Distinguished Professor. Rank will depend on the level
of qualifications. A distinguished candidate of exceptional merit,
accomplishment and scholarly reputation may be nominated as a
Distinguished Professor, with an annual salary supplement.

Please send detailed letter of application, C.V. and the names of
three references to:


African Diaspora Search Committee
Ph.D. Program in History
The Graduate Center
The City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309 <>


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Helon Habila tour

Helon Habila in conversation with Toni Kan - NuMetro Media Store, Lagos, yesterday evening. Thanks to the 80 or so who turned up - it was a memorable encounter..

The tour moves on to Abuja this week, then on to Jos and to Habila's home state of Gombe.


The audience


Friday, November 16, 2007

Power in Nigeria

Jeremy Rifkin, the futurist adviser to the EU who wrote the hydrogen economy book, was interesting on Hard Talk last night. However, it seems to me, as a complete amateur on power issues, that his wholescale bias towards hydrogen cells as the basis of the storage component is overplayed. There are many alternatives to hydrogen-based storage that are much cheaper and ready to use now - especially as battery technology optimises. Nonetheless, he may well be right that a shift to a hydrogen economy in the next 100 years is all but inevitable as the hydrocarbon age fades away - as an alternative to a nuclear platform.

More interesting right now, especially for a country like Nigeria which does not have a reliable electricity grid, is the idea of using a smart grid. As Rifkin says, in the age of facebook, blogger, wikipedia, myspace etc we are used to creating content others will consume across the network. The smart grid concept works in exactly the same way: small scale energy production which is distributed across the network - in contrast to centralised power distribution (the equivalent of centralised media systems such as the BBC, CNN etc). Click here for a basic primer on the smart-grid concept. Rather than planning huge carbon-based power stations to solve the country's power needs, a smart system that makes much more plentiful use of small-scale systems (solar, wave, wind etc.) and powerful computing power to switch energy to where demand is located in real time. The other sense of a smart-grid - with broadband over power lines (BPL) could also be part of this system, to once and for all solve Nigeria's internal communications infrastructure deficit and hook everyone up to web 2.0.

So how about this proposal: Nigerians and others with expertise in smart-grid technology group together and write a concept note, which can be presented to the Energy Ministry. Nigeria could lead the world in new ways of power generation and distribution, and at the same time put the foundation stones in place for a low-carbon future. What about that for a vision for the current administration?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drum roll.... for Teju Cole

Remember that blog? Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief is now on sale in Nigeria.

Funmi Iyanda had this to say, "I read everyday without pausing for breath and emerged satiated that someone has written a book that accurately reflects the tragedy and triumphs of Lagos, a mean task if you know how complex this city is.'

The book is now on sale (N700) at the two NuMetros in Lagos (Galleria and the Palms), NuMetro (Ceddi Plaza), Quintessence (Falomo Shopping Centre), BKL bookshop (Abuja, Keffi, Gombe), Laterna Ventures (VI), Mafix (Alagomeji Yaba), B&B Bookshop (Adeniyi Jones Ave, Ikeja) and Booksellers (Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan). Please email [email protected] if you are having difficulty getting hold of your copy.


Gas flaring bullshit from the energy companies

The Oil & Gas giants reveal their true colours yet again on gas flaring - they want an extension to 2010 (as against the Federal Government's target of all flaring ending by 2008). There should be international pressure put on Shell, ExxonMobil etc. Not only is the flaring poisoning the Delta region, it is also wasting gas that could be used for power stations etc. Click here for more.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

RIP Cyprian Ekwensi

There's been suprisingly little coverage of Cyprian Ekwensi's death earlier this month. One has to turn to the blogosphere to find out more. See here, here, here and here for more. As with other African Writer's Series classic authors, it is a tragedy his books (such as his great Biafra chronicle Divided We Stand) are not widely available in Nigeria any more...


Habitus in Nigeria

Driving myself to work today, past the typical array of crash scenes (there must be at least ten mild to serious car crashes in Abuja every day which are completely down to driver error), the word habitus came to mind to explain/clarify the problems of Nigeria.

Most analyses of Nigeria's problems reduce the issue to one of poor leadership (for instance, Chinua Achebe's classic text). This is too simple I fear. Even the extended binary idea that good leadership requires good followership is just a little trite. The problem is more intractable and fuzzy/chiaroscuro than these approaches.

As I dodged the crushed glass and swerved past cars doing the wrong speed in the wrong lane and generally doing the wrong thing without any meaningful use of mirrors, the word 'habitus' sprang to mind as a better way in. The concept of habitus was generated by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Its quite a complex suite of concepts in reality, but without reducing it too much, it refers to the habits, expectations, bodily anticipations and perspectival frames of reference of a specific society or culture, accrued and developed across time. It is a society's way of seeing, feeling and understanding, prior to explicitly understood terms of reference. It is the set of informal rules (most often not stated) by which a society organises itself from within. Perhaps most importantly, it is a set of responses that takes decades, if not centuries, to develop and transform.

Although referring to an intangible nexus, habitus, as the pattern-logic of the social body, can be seen at once to have strong empirical explanatory power. How else do we understand the militant relationship to strikes among French workers, if not in terms of a habitus built up across decades and centuries? Or how might we begin to explain a small island's undue influence from the 16th to the 20th century, if not in terms of the intense effects of an alienating Protestant ethic worked out in terms of habitus, in the case of the UK (of course I am thinking of Weber's classic text here).

In the same way, to understand in any depth the layers of social dysfunction in Nigeria, perhaps we need to analyse its own specific forms of habitus. We need to understand the expectations that create the need for the Big Man in any organisation beyond simple ethnography; the historical patterns that have generated an all-encompassing master-slave power relationship, such that any marginal economic advantage generates the production of master and slave identities, and such that paying a house-help 4000 naira per month is deemed perfectly acceptable by many; and to use habitus to shed light on the enduring agrarian episteme that mitigates against driving in a straight line in Abuja, or to understand the social positioning of say the police.

Habitus would also enable us to look more profoundly at the continuing adverse effects of colonialism (the creation of fake tribal rulers/kings, the historical bias towards the North etc) at the level of a collective unconscious that pre-determines different forms of response from different communities, as well as to examine the open wounds of military dictatorship and the civil war from a deep-level phenomenological perspective, rather than from the perspective of explicit texts or statements.

In terms of any form of path to a solution, a study of the Nigerian habitus would enable us to formulate explicit responses to the informal patterns of understanding and ways of being and doing that lead to the incessant reproduction of dysfunctional realities across the country, leading to much more powerful self-correcting/authochthonic measures, one might hope. It would definitely lead us away from the over-simplistic idea that if only we could find decent leaders to put in positions of power, everything would change..


Monday, November 12, 2007

Helon Habila in Nigeria from this Saturday

Click to enlarge or click here to go to the Cassava Republic website.


2008 proposed budget

The Ministry of Finance releases its proposed budget breakdown - click here - an unprecedented act of information transparency. Key stats from the budget speech are:

• N444.6 billion for Security and the Niger Delta, which is 20% of the total Federal Government Budget, up 6.5% from 2007 allocation;
• N210 billion for Education or 13% of the total MDA spending;
• N139.78 billion for the Energy sector, excluding National Integrated Power Projects which will be implemented through alternative funding; and
• N121.1 billion, that is 7% of total budget, for Agriculture and Water Resources.

13% for Education is an improvement, but nowhere near the 20%+ that is required to stop the meltdown.


Virgin Nigeria migraine

Its becoming more than the odd balls up with Virgin Nigeria. A couple of weeks ago, I had a ticket for the last flight back to Abuja at 7pm. The flight left just after 9.30pm – I was out of the airport in Abuja by 10.45pm – not the best time to travelling on the airport road... Then, this Friday, my 5.15pm flight to Lagos left Abuja airport at 8pm – I was out of the airport by 9.30pm – with only the weakest of apologies on board the flight. Then again, my flight back to Abuja at 2pm yesterday was cancelled, as had been all the earlier flights. There was no chance to get on a later flight as all seats had already been sold (presumably to those whose earlier flights had been cancelled) – the Virgin Nigeria desk at the airport being predictably chaotic. Apparently the flights had been cancelled because of the harmattan weather. I called a friend up in Abuja to confirm and he told me the sky was clear and blue. Meanwhile, all the other airlines were flying as usual..

Friends I’ve called to moan in the past few days of bad experiences are surprised I am so behind the times. One friend says, ‘helllloooo – Virgin Nigeria is now the new Nigeria Airways – didn’t you know?” Nigeria Airways faced a long slow death by dysfunction, for those that don’t know. This won't happen to Virgin Nigeria however - supply for local flights cannot meet demand, especially on the Lagos-Abuja route.

It’s a shame that an airline that started out with the promise of being different and offering a quality service has become so quickly Nigerianised – consistently and unapologetically poor service and all the signs of further degradation ahead. It makes the hop from Abuja to Lagos a difficult decision: do you fly Virgin Nigeria, and know you are going to be 3 hours late but at least the planes are relatively new? Do you fly Arik, and again know the plane will be at least 3 hours late (if it comes) and buying a ticket is a nightmare? Or do you fly Aero, where the planes tend to be more or less on time – but the queueing system at Abuja airport is a Darwinian rugby scrum? Or do you fly Chanchangi, IRS and the rest, and just pray you get there in one piece?

The local airline sector in Nigeria seems to worsen by the day, to the point where advertised flying times are becoming practically meaningless, as the airlines revert to the danfo model of transport they seem to know best: when the plane is full, then we will take off. The next step downwards will be stewards hanging out the door of the plane shouting abujaabujaabujaabuja while people jostle to climb up the stairs..

Anyone else have any stories to tell about Virgin Nigeria? Why is their service so awful these days? Its such a pity..


Friday, November 09, 2007

Glasgow bag the Commonwealth

Red Road didn't figure at all in my pointless attempt to influence the vote (re: yesterday's post). It was Glasgow wot won it. Thanks to Nkem/Mr-African-Shirts-don't-write-his-blog-no-more for being the bearer of bad tidings.


Dora in today's Guardian

Here. Is it me or is she more celebrated outside Nigeria than in?


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Red Road

Bibi is away so I'm treating myself to all the films I can't persuade her to watch from our DVD collection. First up: Red Road from 2006. Not exactly an advert for the Glasgow Tourist Board, if there is such a thing: think Easterhouse meets the Gorbals on a misty November night after too many cans of Tennents Extra. The genius of the film is the way the urban dystopia contrasts with the emotional pull of the narrative as it works its way towards something just short of redemption. Above all, the two main characters are fantastically well drawn. As with London-Brighton, Red Road was the result of a prior character study, which really shows, both in the words and out of the words that both are made to speak.


A Thousand Memories: mistaken identities and dopplegangers

The Nehru Centre, Mayfair, 2003. Bibi and I had been invited to an Indo-Nigerian cultural event. As we waited for the performance to start amidst the name-dropping pukkarati, a distinguished-looking late middle-aged man approached me. He had silvery hair and dignified eyebrows. Fixing me with a studied air, in an expensively educated baritone, he asked, “Excuse me, aren’t you the director?” Flattery's warm flush spread beneath my skin: to be mistaken for a brahmin film director was shirodhara for the ego. For a nanosecond I considered a parallel existence, but alas, it was not to be..

When I was 18 or 19, I found myself in Liverpool (city of my maternal grandparents) on the steps of a grand building in the city centre. A scouser spotted me and made a bee-line. In purest Toxteth-ese, he told me arr ey wor a fantastic geg dah was last nayte mete... and how sure he was we were going to be famous. Again, it was with mild regret that I had to dent into his verve and turn down a slightly more glamorous double-life as a muso. A few years later at uni, someone told me I was a dead ringer for the lead singer of the Brilliant Corners, an also-ran Indie band. I hunted down the album with the picture of the group on the back. And there I was, staring back at myself with a serious mien, incarnated within another life.

Perhaps all of us have at least one or two dopplegangers in a somewhere elsewhere on the planet. They are the closest we get to ghosts of ourselves - spectres of alternative destinies. Some of us wander the earth, and never get to meet our other versions. Others, like myself, see them on the back of books or albums, or sideways through conversations. How strange that our very shape might be in more than one place at once..


Upbeat analysis on the Nigerian economy

Published in The Economist yesterday. Gracias senor K for the link.


Music for Change

This looks like an interesting/worthy cause. Click to enlarge the image on the left.


Dan Etete tried in absentia

and gets 3 years. The question is: will the British govt now extradite him?


Kupolokun dragged into the Willbros mire



Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Expressions tour of Nigeria


Lagos comics and cartoons festival

Click to enlarge as usual. Thanks Sewedo for the email..


Monday, November 05, 2007

Gold Rush in Kebbi

Just got sent this:

Kebbi State government has discovered a gold mine in Gari-Awal, in Fakai Local Government area of the state. The gold field, which covers several hectares, was discovered two months ago. About 3,000 illegal miners from all over the country have already besieged the village, mining gold. The state Governor, Saidu Dakingari, along with the Emir of Zuru, Alhaji Sani Sami and top government officials who visited the site, said the discovery was an act of God and a blessing to the state. Dakingari said he was grateful to God that the discovery was during his time, which will definitely boost revenue.

"I was elated, because the economy of Kebbi State would be buoyant. The discovery of gold is an act of God and a blessing," he said, adding that the federal ministry of mines will be adequately informed, so that it will take over the site and standardise its operation.

"What we are looking for is to legalise it. We will tell the Federal Ministry of Mines of the danger of illegal mining. And the danger of people digging up to 30 meters down and so on," he said.Alhaji Dakingari promised his government will provide necessary facilities that will enhance exploitation of the mineral resources an for the miners such as road, water and clinic at the village, adding that with the provision of amenities will improve the welfare of the people.

The Emir of Zuru Alhaji Sami appealed to those in the area especially those involve in gold mine to allow peace to reign.

He advised them to follow due process and abide by the state and local government laws.

The chairman of the local government Alhaji Musa Diko Kalgo said the local government had deployed security agency to the gold site the keep peace and also monitor the activity of the miners.

Alhaji Kalgo appealed to state government to allow the local government construct and access road and clinic in the area. One of the illegal miners Abdullahi Maiturare told this day that the mining activities in the area had empowered him economically, saying he had been getting between N15,000 and N20,000 naira weekly.


Friday, November 02, 2007

BBA scandal

The reality-tv format has run of steam and is now relying on stoking up regular controversy (anyone remember Jade vs. Shilpa?) to survive. Big Brother Africa gets housemates drunk and seeing what happens, leading to the almost inevitable sexual predation. We see in microcosm how alcohol abuse fuels STD's in Africa, as with the 'after tears' funeral parties in SA.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ettehgate and the women's movement


The leadership of the House of Representative, headed by Mrs. Patricia Etteh, has in the last few weeks been engulfed in a public scandal and this has continued to undermine the work of policy making in the lower house in Nigeria. The said scandal of about N628million, has attracted public debate and condemnation and no doubt threatens to consume the speaker and some key leaders.

This imbroglio has created opportunities for some male chauvinists and cynics to equate the face of corruption to that of the “women” or to say, that Etteh’s mistake and failure justifies the fact that women are not worthy of nor matured enough to take leadership and decision making positions in Nigeria. Thus the canvass for enlarging the space for women in Nigeria be suspended, since ETTEH represents the quality of women that we have in Nigeria .

We must say categorically here, that the women’s movement in this country condemns corruption in all its ramifications. And that the Etteh-Saga, though unfortunate does not represent the face and intentions of women in politics, neither can the conduct or act of one person justify the need to abort our call for affirmative actions which is a global call with evidence of successes recorded in countries around the world.

Corruption in Nigeria is endemic and the history of the National Assembly in the past years has shown that Etteh Saga is not the first and may probably not be the last if we do not as Nigerian citizens insist on a credible party system, which encourages transparency and accountability as opposed to fraud and avarice. Nigeria party politics, a product of years of military misrule, has come of age, and particularly in the last eight years embarrasses the Nigerian public at home and abroad, and has been driven by certain interest, which has refused to yield to the yearning of democratic rule and good governance as recognized globally.

We then believe that Etteh was imposed on the Nigerians by the corrupt system, she has allowed herself to be used by same that produced her and brought her into office. Etteh is no doubt a sacrificial lamb, and this is not ‘the women’s business! Etteh does not then represent the women’s aspirations in Nigeria .

The Women’s groups below therefore re-state the following in a clear and strong terms that:
· ETTEH GATE Cannot be a justification for the exclusion of women in decision making since history is littered with great women who had excelled in leadership positions around the world and in particular in Nigeria among this great women of our time are Prof. Dora Akunyili (NAFDAC), Prof Jadesola Akande, Esther Nneadi, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala former finance minister now MD World Bank and Obi Ezekwezili.

· Women have played pivotal roles in socio economic development of the society; their roles have evolved over the years from primary caregiver to taking additional roles which were hitherto seen as traditional male roles. They have permeated all sectors of the economy particularly informal sector, where unfortunately little has been done to better their lot economically.

· Women have played vital roles in the establishment and growth of political parties which dominated Nigeria politics from pre independence till present Yar’Adua regime, however only very few women are allowed in the leadership position of the party and elective positions. This exclusion is partly responsible for the male-faced degenerate politics that we are faced therewith.

· According to reports, women represent 49.8%[1] and this has not translated to corresponding political power, thus as it is now the power relations reflects inequalities between men and women and have persisted and the leadership of this nation need to begin to put structures in place to remedy the long historical injustices that has been and has continued to be meted against women at all levels.

In conclusion, we call for more inclusion of women in the Nigerian political space and we insist that the present Yar’Adua Government at one time or the other committed himself to gender equity, we therefore demand that he should follow his heart and make Nigeria more gender friendly. INCLUSION OF WOMEN IN POLITICS IN NIGERIA IS BOUND TO AID DEVELOPMENT THAN RETARD IT, ETTEH SITUATION IS A REFLECTION OF THE MALE HEGEMONY, SO CANNOT BE SAID TO REPRESENT THE WOMEN’S ASPIRATIONS! WE DEMAND 30% AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AS A MATTER OF RIGHTS AND NOT PRIVILEGE!

Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, National Coordinator, WORNACO.
Oby Nwakwo, National Coordinator, NCAA.
Lydia Umar, Zonal Coordinator, GECORN.


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