Friday, February 29, 2008
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
(CODESRIA) is pleased to announce the 2008 edition of its Annual
Writing Workshop for Scholarly Publishing. Three sessions of the
workshop have been scheduled, one to be held in English, another in
French and the third one in Portuguese. The English language edition
is planned to take place in Kampala, Uganda, on the campus of
Makerere University from 13 – 17 October, 2008. It will bring
together, 30 participants from across Africa who research in the
Scholarly writing and publishing among younger African researchers
have been under considerable strain for some time now. The reasons
for this state of affairs are multifaceted but are uniformly
connected to the prolonged crises which the continent’s higher
education system has been experiencing for the last two decades.
Remedying the problem has become urgent in order to ensure that the
presence of the African voice in the production of knowledge about
the continent and other regions of the world is assured at the
highest level of quality. As an institution with a long track record
in scholarly publishing, and which has a mandate to project African
voices through a variety of programmes, CODESRIA has increasingly
been concerned with the deterioration of the quality of academic
writing among the younger generation of scholars who have borne the
brunt of the crises of the last two decades in African higher
education. The Council has been particularly well-placed to track the
magnitude of the problem through the regular assessment it carries
out of contributions received from across Africa for consideration
for publication in any one of the nine journals in its stable, the
applications that are submitted for consideration for admission into
its various training programmes, the regular feedback it solicits
from sister institutions on the strengths and weaknesses of scholarly
essays which they have occasion regularly to review, and the gaps in
foundational training in the university system that currently affect
capacities to muster a written argument, project an informed point of
view, develop a presentational/analytic style, cite references
correctly, and adequately prepare manuscripts for consideration for
publication in scholarly outlets. It was with a view to remedying
this situation that CODESRIA decided to launch its scholarly writing
programme targeted at younger third and fourth generation African
The workshop will feature presentations and practical demonstrations
by seasoned scholars under whose mentorship, groups of advanced
postgraduate students and younger scholars who are admitted to
participate in the programme will be supported to upgrade the quality
of their writing and publishing. Exercises will be offered to
demonstrate different approaches to scholarly writing and publishing
(a) Scholarly Writing:
i.Presenting participants with the skills and requirements
needed to write effectively taking full cognisance of the
expectations of the scholarly community;
ii. Familiarising participants with how to critically
appraise the theoretical assumptions that underpin the related
research on which they draw to inform their own research and writing;
iii. Demonstrating familiarity with related scholarly
literature and debates;
iv.Determining and critically relating to methodologies
employed in scholarly research and writing:
v.Determining and critically relating to the arguments of
authors on whose work participants draw to make their own arguments; and
vi.Determining the contribution to knowledge of a piece of
(b) Scholarly Publishing:
i. Building a proper understanding of the publishing process
with a view to ensuring that manuscripts are prepared and presented
in a manner that facilitates the publishing process and which, in so
doing, improves their chances for selection in scholarly publishing
outlets. Attention will be drawn to a variety of issues ranging from
adherence to style guidelines to choosing which work is best fitted
to a particular scholarly publishing format, as well as suggestions
on how to revise theses and dissertations into publishable manuscripts;
ii. Presentations on how to document a manuscript for
publication, including especially different methods of referencing,
the use of quotations, and the presentation of source materials used;
iii.Presentations on the interface between the style adopted
for a written scholarly work and the audience that is targeted for
its consumption. Here, attention will also be given to the best
approaches to disseminating and promoting a scientific publication
using both the author’s and publisher’s networks (review outlets,
conferences, symposium and book dissemination forums, teaching
curriculum, electronic and print forums etc.) in order to generate
debate and promote sales.
The workshop will be organised over a period of five working and will
involve a series of lectures and practical work interspersed with
open discussions on the key issues in scholarly publishing. The
programme will be coordinated by a designated director assisted by
invited resource persons with a track record in scholarly publishing.
A post-workshop monitoring exercise will provide participants an
opportunity to have their work reviewed and assessed by identified
resource persons for a predetermined length of time after the workshop.
The following category of younger researchers are encouraged to apply
for participation in the workshop:
• Advanced postgraduates working on their dissertations or
theses in an African university;
• Researchers who completed their postgraduate studies at
any time during the last five years and are presently pursuing a
teaching and/or research career in an African university or research
• Former laureates of CODESRIA institutes and methodological
workshops interested in updating their skills.
The CODESRIA Secretariat will also actively identify potential
participants from among the pool of promising younger scholars who
have recently submitted papers for consideration in CODESRIA journals
but whose articles were not accepted for publication after being peer-
Prospective participants are required to submit an application letter
which should be accompanied by the bio-data of the applicant, their
discipline, the research areas in which they are interested, and
information on any experience they have had in scholarly writing and
publishing, and an attestation by their departmental head, dean or
director of their institutional affiliation. Once selected,
participants will be invited to submit written samples of current
unpublished work before the workshops begin in order to enable the
workshop resources persons to better identify key areas of strength
that should be reinforced and areas of weakness that need to address.
The deadline for the receipt of applications for the workshop is 15
July, 2008. Admission to participate in the workshop will be limited
to 30 persons to allow for an intensive session.
All applications should be addressed to:
2008 Annual Writing Workshop,
Tel.:+221-33 825 98 22/23
Fax: +221-33 824 12 89
Web Site: http:// www.codesria.org
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
There's a repeatable/inter-changeable character type one notices if one stays in Abuja for any length of time. The person has either done something at Oxford or LSE, but more often they've done something at Harvard. Paid a wad of money to get the brand on their cv that is. The first thing you notice when you meet them is not necessarily the accent, whether it is British brogue or occasionally flattened by something in America. No, the first thing you notice is how much their heart bleeds for Nigeria. They've seen the plight of the education system. They decry the corruption in politics, or in the oil business or the transport system or whatever.
They then give you their little paean of change. Donors will flock and shake out their wallets. Politicians will appear to be impressed. Journalists will be incentivised. A project will quickly form, involving study tours and 'training' in Las Vegas. Something, or many things, will be procured. It will probably not work, at least for very long. A few months/years down the line, they will be gone, in a whush of harmattan dust. And on and on. When will they stop coming?
Interesting piece by Dino Mahtani on MEND frontman Henry Okah (now back in Nigerian custody from Angola) here.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
There were police and police horses everywhere on the way to work this morning. I had an email through that the Airport Road had been blocked. Its slightly eery how liquid information can be at times like this, with emails and texts flying around. A journalist friend in the court room kept texting me updates, while a colleague watched the proceedings live on local tv in his office.
The verdict, when it came, was as I had expected. All the same, whatever one's feelings towards Atiku and Buhari, its difficult not to sympathise with the appellants on the simple level that what everyone agrees were highly fraudulent elections were not recognised as such by the Court of Appeal.
No matter now. MYA needs to put his weight behind the Electoral Reform panel to ensure meaningful recommendations are implemented. One simple reform tip is to use proper ballot 'boxes' next time round, not those flimsy transparent easily-re-stuffable ones that INEC procured last time round. Oh and to have ballot papers that are actually numbered. Simple stuff really.
I caught Olu Maintain's Yahoozee video on the telly today - still a popular hit on the radio since its release mid-last year. As well as the ubiquitous song, Yahoozee is also a dance craze here. Olu Maintain has defended the song against the accusation of it promoting 419 culture. His defence seems to be along the lines of 'we all need to kick back with wine, women and song.' Yahoozee is therefore another way of expressing the ideal of living large. What do you all think - does the song promote fraud or not? As for the video, it is an amateurish take on a snoop-style video, complete with the predictable Hummer as backdrop.
The Nigeria Tourist Development Corporation's latest big idea.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Be warned, its grim. No equipment, no books, cultism, widespread sexual harassment of female students, no jobs at the end of it. I met a comp science graduate of a well-known university here who had never touched a computer during their degree. And I recall another chemistry graduate who had not touched a test tube.. Don't click if you are already feeling down on Nigeria.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Just received this thought-piece from the Institute for Global Dialogue in SA:
The African Union and Regional bodies have rejected the establishment of
AFRICOM on the continent and SADC has been especially strong in their
wording about rejecting AFRICOM in the region. Debates are happening at AU
level but they are not being made public.
Bush's 5-country visit is an indication that the US is opting for bilateral
agreements with countries that would accept US aid. Tanzania has just
received a $700million aid package during Bush's visit. This divides the
African continent into individual countries that could be cajoled and
bullied into bilateral relations that could mean access to the US military
in the future. It is my contention that the US government is focussing on
meeting with weak or fragile states who will be in need of foreign aid for
What needs to be done is that the AU should publicise their debates on
AFRICOM. Citizens should know whether there is a unified AU stand on
military access to Africa. The US has said there will be no bases or
increase in military personnel on the continent but if bilateral agreements
are entered into the AU cannot counter the national decision (national
sovereignty is protected at all costs).
A coordinated civil society coalition should demand information on AFRICOM
from their national governments, regional bodies and the AU. Militarisation
of Africa will only be at the cost of the civilians who will have to deal
with less social spending and more militaristic behaviour in society by our
governments and foreign militaries.
The role of the military in Africa should be reviewed. I'm all for a
military that responds to humanitarian crises and whose main aim is to
promote peace and human security at national, regional and continental
levels. I do not want a military that will be implicated in 'leap frog' or
'lily pad' approaches into conflict areas, especially those in which
American military interests are of utmost importance.
Michele Ruiters, PhD
Senior Researcher - IGD
Tel +27+11 315 1299/ Fax +27+11 315 2149
Gra Gra is no longer a la mode. We on the continent now say Grags.
For the non-Nigerians among us: Grags (formerly known as Gra Gra) refers to someone who blows a lot of grammar, makes a lot of noise, poses, postures and pretends, but tends to be low on real content or significance. In a sentence, one would say 'x has too much grags.'
So now you now.
There's some interesting stats on the NOI-Polls site. Their most recent survey produced these results, among others:
2% of Nigerians believe that 'tribe' is the main factor behind economic progress, while only 1% ascribed 'gender' as a factor. Meanwhile, 49% of Nigerians believe that 'hard work' is the main driver behind financial success. There are regional contrasts however: in the South South states of the delta, 35% (the highest percentage) believe that 'connections' is the strongest factor behind achieving wealth.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Abuja is in a strange lull period right now. Some are so sure about the election tribunal nullifying the Presidential election they are already thinking beyond the re-elections. Others are equally convinced that MYA will find a way through the thickets of documentary evidence.
Of course, the justification for a re-election is already obvious. There is much weight to the case against, and given the President's insistence on the importance of the Rule of Law...
However, the practical case against a re-election is stronger. First, given that there has been no electoral reform (indeed, Maurice Iwu is still, somewhat incredibly, still in charge of INEC), it is doubtful that another election would be any less opaque than last year's. Secondly, enough time has been lost already. The 2008 budget has only just been approved by both houses and here we are nearly in March - it will still be a while before money from this budget is made available to govt agencies. A re-election would paralyse this process. Thirdly, MYA has already steadily been laying a good foundation for much more deep-routed reform than the previous administration, with upheaval of the Energy sector (on both the oil & gas side, as well as in terms of power) a key priority. Gas plays a key role here, with a fully-thought through ban on gas-flaring linking up with detailed plans for a pipeline network that feeds all the gas-fired Independent Power Plants under phase 1 of a strategy that beefs total power supply beyond 6000MW.
There's simply too much to be done for another election to waste time. Better to carry on as-is, and ensure that the deep-routed electoral reform team led by Justice Uwais is allowed to run its course...
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Saturday 23rd February 4-5.30 pm
Victor Ekpuk. Artist Talk
From Pencil to Pixels looks at drawing as an independent artform, its plasticity and the practice of adapting and/or digital technology as an alternate media for realising this artform. Ekpuk will show slide images of his work and that of other artists to illustrate the talk. FREE
Victor Ekpuk was born in Nigeria. He has lived and worked in Nigeria, United States. He has just finished an artist-in-residence at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in the Netherlands which he spent exploring drawing as an essence of expression. Ekpuk's art is inspired by graphic and writing systems from ancient cultures and Africa in particular and the results of his residency are large scale works in pastels and graphite, where he continues to employ ancient and invented symbols to express contemporary experiences.
His works have been exhibited in Nigeria and other international venues including: Smithsonian, National Museum for African Art, Washington DC, USA, Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA, Gallerie 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA and Africus, 1st Johanesburg Biennale, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Sabo,
Opp Methodist Church, Herbert Macaulay St, Lagos.
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, aims to build a strong education and public programmes that reaches out to the widest audience possible. We aim to actively encourage debate and critical discourse that engages with topical issues that affect our society specifically and the world in general. We will invite local, African and international guest speakers to talk on a wide ranges of themes and issues concerning contemporary art and culture. We launch our programme this February with an exciting mix of guests.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Orisa Music and Dance:
Discourses of Modernity and Transnationalism
Wolfe University Center Ballroom
Biscayne Bay Campus
Florida International University
9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Registration and Breakfast
Introductory Remarks: Dr. Akin Ogundiran, Director, African-New World Studies
Welcome: Dean Kenneth Furton, College of Arts and Sciences
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Session I
Moderator: Oba Ernesto Pichardo, Honorary Fellow, African-New World Studies
Dr. Diedre Badejo (Professor of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University)
Praising Destiny: The Ori-inu of Yoruba Culture in the African Diaspora
Dr. Katherine Hagedorn (Professor of Music, Pomona College)
Drumming, Singing, and Dancing: Toward a Theology of Performance in Afro-Cuban Regla de Ocha
Dr. Michael Mason (Chief of Exhibit Development, Smithsonian Institution)
Cuban Oricha Songs: Codification, Monologic Discourse and Transnational Power Plays
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Lunch
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Session II
Moderator: Dr. Andrea Seidel, Department of Dance
Dr. Steven Cornelius (Professor of Ethnomusicology, Bowling Green State University)
Shaping the Laws of Musical Performance: From Inchoate Understandings to Living Tradition in New York City's Orisa Communities
Dr. Barbara Browning (Professor of Performance Studies, NYU)
Experimentation, Technique, Instrumentality: Orixá Dance in the Collaborative Work of Rosângela Silvestre and Steve Coleman
Dr. J. Lorand Matory (Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University)
The Many Who Dance in Me: Afro-Atlantic Ontology and the Problem with 'Transnationalism'
4:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Coffee Break
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Keynote Address
Dr. Toyin Falola (University Distinguished Professor & The Frances Higginbothom Nalle Centennial Professor of History, University of Texas-Austin)
Seven Ogun, Seven Offerings: Musing On Orisa Music, Dance and Modernity
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Reception
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Orisa Music and Dance: Live Performance by Los Herederos
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Great country comparator table here. Cross-dressing in Saudi is 'extremely illegal' and results in immediate beheading. At the other end of the tolerance continuum is Papua New Guinea, where the custom to wear only a penis sheath is both common practice and legal.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Here. For some reason, you can't post YouTube videos straight onto blogger anymore, unless I'm being thick. Be warned, its pretty gruesome.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Here. Thanks JG for the link. Anyone seen the WS article yet?
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
If you didn't catch it live yesterday, you can listen again here. Senator Ekaette admitted that it is her view that most women in Nigeria are raped because they wear provocative clothing. It also seems to be her view that nudity in local Nigerian cultures was something that took place in the stone age. The idea that men ought to take responsibility for their desires does not seem to be part of her world view.
I have plenty of pictures of the Abuja carnival which show traditional clothing (for men and women) which would not pass her criteria for decency. Are we now to ban these cultures?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Below is the transcript of Nigeria's answer to Mary Whitehouse, Senator Ekaette's speech to the Senate last week. All spelling and grammatical errors are in the original.
Lead debate on the Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other related offences in Nigeria
By Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, MFR
Restoring Human Dignity
Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, I sincerely express my appreciation for this honour to lead the debate on the general principle of the Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and, Other Related Offences in Nigeria. This bill was read the first time in this Chamber on the 17th October 2007.
Over the years, I have watched helplessly as our society degenerate from a community of people with very high values, morals, self-esteem/respect, dignity of the human person, upright family values/upbringing etc to a state of near-madness, collapse of moral values, tolerance of immorality and all forms of decadence of social ethics which uphold the dignity of the human person. I am happy that now, GOD has given me the golden opportunity to steer the partnership with you, Distinguished Senators, on the project for the RESTORATION OF HUMAN DIGNITY.
As a woman and a mother whom God Almighty has given special privileges, I have tried at every opportunity to emphasize a regeneration of societal moral values which guarantee dignity of manhood and indeed womanhood. Religious organizations day after day have preached and reiterated the need for the obedience to the laws of the Almighty God particularly with respect to public decency. Yet what we see every moment is a total negation of the injunctions as contained in our Holy Books.
Recently, we have received reports of arrest and harassment of females and males on account of indecent dressing by our security agencies. While we cannot condone acts of jungle justice, we appreciate the near state of madness to which public lewdness has attained. Today, even the most disciplined Clergyman could have his/her conscience polluted by acts of indecent dressing or public nudity in every place in our society. The hearts and thoughts of our young men and women are polluted also with images and scenes of public lewdness at everywhere we do turn to, such that at every minute, they are seduced and have to battle with reflections of obscenity in their mind.
If the prevalence of public nudity is allowed to completely annihilate our age-long values of very high morals, we would be forced to all wear iron jeans trousers with padlocked belts to avoid being raped or sexually assaulted. God forbid!
In my desperation to find a redress for these moral decadence, I was forced to examine the laws of various advanced democracies of the world and other highly religious nations. The laws of the United States of America, the Great Britain, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Germany, India, China, etc. It was surprising to note that all these countries have laws prohibiting and punishing public nudity or lewdness. For example, there exist in the law of the various countries status which prohibit lewdness and public nudity viz:
a. Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure Act in Texas, Dallas – the USA;
b. Public Lewdness (Class B) Misdemeanor (State of Florida)
c. Offences against Public Sensibilities (New York City Penal Code 241)
d. Prohibition of Public Lewdness Statute (India)
e. Offences of Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure (England)
The Bill we are considering today, contain clauses directly lifted and blended to suit our peculiarities. I took the pains to examine our laws and penal codes in force, and I could not find a prohibition or punishment for the social crime such as public nudity, public lewdness or nakedness. As the saying goes, where a practice is not prohibited, those who engage in the practice have not erred. Because there is not law against public nudity, public lewdness or public nakedness in Nigeria, people could decide to go naked in the name of fashion. This law is not intended to do any new thing; rather it is intended to arrest the ugly situation of public nakedness that we have all condemn. Let us please pas the law.
I have had to stop and think very soberly on the implication of this Bill on our Constitutionally guaranteed human rights – our right to personal liberty and all other fundamental human rights. However, I discovered very interestingly that we stated unequivocally at the beginning of the preamble of our Constitution 1999 as follows:
WE THE PEOPLE of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:
HAVING firmly and solemnly resolved:
TO LIVE in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation UNDER GOD….
We are a people under God Almighty; we should therefore live under his laws, commandments, injunctions and statues. We – Distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in this Hallowed Chambers, are Christians, Muslims or Traditionalists, all subject to the Almighty God. All of us are on the side of the Almighty God. Let us please pass this Bill to reinculcate the morals in our society, to stop the negation of our family values and restore the dignity of womanhood and indeed the dignity of manhood.
Do I need to debate on the necessity of the sexual intimidation clauses contained in this Bill. We hear on daily basis the cries of our daughters and even our sons who are sexually intimated at the Tertiary Institutions and even at other levels of education and the workplace. We send them to school, labour with sweat to pay their fees, they study hard only to fail because they refuse to make their bodies sex machines to satisfy the lust of some irresponsible lecturers. They suffer to write employment test, pass with flying colours only to be dropped because they refuse to give in sexually. Some of us who were Lectures know how many times we have been sexually seduced by our students and made to rubbish our hard earned reputations.
Many people suffer sexual harassments. It includes all unwanted and offensive behaviours, whether physical or verbal, in which an individual uses sexuality to violate another’s liberty and dignity. It expresses itself through verbal intimidation, embarrassing attention, unwanted physical contact and demands for sexual favours. As a result most men and women have had to leave their jobs with much bitterness, while others have had to lower their standard of morality and indulge in humiliating acts of sexual gratification just to keep their jobs or be promoted.
Should such ugly incidents and practices continue? NO, IT SHOULD INDEED NEVER CONTINUE.
We need this law, our children need this law and the generations yet unborn will be grateful to us all. Thank you, Members of the hallowed Chambers of the Senate.
Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, MFR
Committee on Women Affairs, Social Welfare and Youth Development
Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Monday, February 11, 2008
It's often said that Nigeria has a simple class system based around money. If you have it, you are a big man/woman, and you are given the licence to parade your wealth in the face of the less fortunate. Along these lines, it is also said that in marked contrast to somewhere like Britain, there are no cultural grounds for class difference in Nigeria. Rich or poor, been-to or stayed-here, Nigerians eat pretty much the same food, listen to the same music etc. This is sharp contrast to my country, where everything from breakfast cereals, to tv programmes to flowers and interiors are heavily inflected by class distinction.
However, I'm not sure this simple analysis is entirely true. It seems to me that the main non-economic class vector is whether one has been educated and has worked abroad. This admits of degrees. The lowest rung of the 'haves' ladder would be say, a degree at Buckingham University (I'd never heard of the place until I started hanging round with Nigerians) and a job working the counter at the local Barclays Bank. The highest would be PPE at Oxford or Cambridge and/or something opulent in the City. In between lie all the red-bricks and ex-polys and the gamut of American/European options, and jobs hither-thither - a middle manager at FedEx, or a corporate lawyer or whatever.
No matter the university overseas, as long as the accent is at least neutral/mid-Atlantic, or at best, has an English pukka twang to it, doors on Victoria Island will surely open. It is much the same in the UK still if you went to Oxford or Cambridge. You may not be the brightest in the bunch, but Oxbridge still means you can afford to be a little lazy and the jobs will come to you.
This latent culturally-based class distinction has economic consequences. Nigerian decision makers and employers are perpetually fooled by the oyinbo Nigerian returnee syndrome, preferring to pick 'one of us' over somewhere with less polished, 'local' attributes. The specific locus of distinction is of course accent. No matter how smart the stayed-at-home, a thick Nigerian accent will scupper many a chance of a job. Until decision makers and employers learn to get over their internalised prejudices, they will continue to miss out on hiring talent that would have served them better. One day, I'll be able to tell stories of specific people with myaw-myaw accents and no substance, and what a corporate disaster they turned out to be back home...
I'm not sure how quickly this disruption of culture and class will take place however. Elites always have the tendency to reproduce themselves, quite literally.
Eme Ufot Ekaette will be presenting her 'thoughts' on the proposed nudity bill on the BBC World Service's Africa Have Your Say programme (GMT4pm tomorrow). There will be opposition to her views, I am told. Should be interesting listening.
Nice little photo thing on the BBC's website here. Thanks Indar for the link. Pretty much all the electronic equipment we own has blown up in Nigeria: fridge, stereo, tv, printers, computers, ipod sound dock, juicer, kettle. 4-500 volt surges are not uncommon. These guys are heroes, sweating all day in the Wuse sun to fix the things that get blown up..
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Its hard to understand why Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, stuck his neck above the parapet to suggest that Sharia law is an inevitability in the UK. It is as easy, in equal measure, to pick apart the argument of the supposedly intelligent holy man. I find myself somewhat alarmed (yet again) that one of the more incisive pieces I've read on the matter was written in the Telegraph by a writer for The Spectator. Perhaps it's not so strange however; Williams' brand of liberalism is utterly confused and tantamount to an appeasement strategy on one level, as if to say: let British Muslims use the moderate aspects of Sharia they want, just so the Islamists/Jihadists are kept at bay.
The principle of political philosophy that he gets muddled about is really pretty simple to understand: if equality before the law is the highest value in a liberal society, then that law has to be universal. If, then, polygamy is considered illegal by the British legal system, this law should apply to all, regardless of religion, and so on. In other words, Sharia (however moderate the specific code) should only apply where it doesn't contravene or conflict with the higher force of British law. In which case, what exactly is its point, as a form of law? Better that Sharia in the UK becomes adopted as a customary practice (as in Jewish or Catholic ritual), rather than a rival form of customary law. But where it contravenes the British legal system (as in the polygamy issue), exceptions can't be made without bringing the whole edifice of equality-before-the-law down with a bang.
However, rather than aligning myself wholeheartedly with Boris' brigade of monoglottal little Englanders via my link to the Spectator chappies piece, the principle of equality before the law does end up as a vital pillar of multiculturalism and pluralism in society. It is precisely the equality-before-the-law principle that provides the social ballast (and balance) for difference to proliferate - within the bounds of the legal system. Just as perplexing as Williams' argument in defence of a role for Sharia within the British legal system, is the right-wing argument that multiculturalism is a myth/is impossible/a liberal fantasy etc. Anyone with a smidgeon of knowledge of British history will acknowledge what a mongrel race we are, without a single element of purity running through our veins. It is arguably that almost paradoxical combination of hybrid origins yoked to strong institutions and legal structures that has been the UK's strength, at least until recently.
The weekend is for Lagos. The sky is a Mexican smog of particulates blending with the harmattan dust. All lungs beware.
From my vantage point on Marina: a building softly collapses under fire across the way. A helicopter carries huge buckets of lagoon slop, dropping its load ineffectually onto the flexing and crumbling concrete. Yet another collapsed building to add to Eko's sculptures of woe. In the UK, we would become quickly bored by empty minutes of flame (a la Camden) on the rolling news. Here, whatever lives and livelihoods were lost lie unrecorded. The news is yet to roll.
Meanwhile, the widening of Ozumba Mbadiwe in VI continues to make life impossible for anyone having to go near the Island in the day time. The poor rich people of Lekki... I wonder if anyone has ever considered the British experience of the 1980s - all those widening/bypass schemes that simply increased the volume of traffic on the roads. In a future decade, perhaps there might be an alternative to the roads (water, rail...)
In the evening, after dinner at Lagos' answer to the Sopranos, Il Sorriso restaurant (a slice of Naples in West Africa, complete with a grumpy looking Godfather-owner), we venture forth to the latest Lagos hotspot, Jay Jay Okocha's retirement plan on Saka Tinubu. Downstairs is an all-too-predictable Prem footballer's idea of style: a Don Perignon boutique, selling a bottle of liquid for well over the average annual wage. Wayne Rooney is probably planning something similar for Alderley Edge. Upstairs is the 10 bar. Sons and daughters of the Lagos elite jostle against each other. I savour my off-menu mojito. My drinking partner challenges me to distinguish the 'normal girls' from the recharge girls. It isn't so difficult, although there is a small overlap zone of high-end product on the verge of legit. The low-lit place could do with a fishtank I thought - but does Nigeria do fishtanks?
Afterwards, outside, the usual array of impossibly muscular bodyguards, against the backdrop of telecoms masts.
Then, the next day a woman sitting next to me in the departure lounge on the way back demands 1500 naira credit from her toaster on the other end. Minutes later, on the bus to the plane, I give up my seat for a young woman. Two friends behind me flash looks at a guy standing next to me in quick eye-response. He protests, 'look if you get up and let me sit there, then I will get up and give you my seat too!' 'Tsch', one of the girls answers back. 'Nigerian men!' I smile at the scene. The praise feels unearned. Most often I'm just another slightly rude person fighting for space on trains and planes - its not easy being big and compressed by the world. Perhaps I'll try and be polite every time from now on.
Interview with Achebe in The Chronicle here (thanks JG for the link).
I find it hard to believe he doesn't live in Nigeria because of fear of the consequences of his criticism of previous administrations. In the article linked above, we find the following passage, 'his protests against government corruption in Nigeria have made him unwelcome there. After years of dignified but forthright objections to Nigeria's often-tyrannical rulers, in 2004 he declined the high Nigerian honor of Commander of the Federal Republic. "That has changed everything for me," he says. "I can't simply get on a plane and return home."'
There are plenty of people living and breathing in Nigeria who have been and are still equally critical of the political status-quo. Is he using this explanation as a foil for a latent reluctance to leave the leafy comforts of Bard College and live in Nigeria, or is it really the case that he would be given a hard time if he moved back?
What about this for an idea: he moves back to UNN to take up a post as Professor of Literature, as the centrepiece of a new creative writing programme that would be set up there. A new generation of upcoming Nigerian writers would benefit from his insights and wisdom into African fiction and creative writing, rather than the overprivileged of Bard. Your thoughts please.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
In a recent publication, a member of the Nigerian Senate and Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, admitted that she has presented to the National Assembly for discussion and eventual ratification into law a Bill against indecent dressing in the country.
She spoke to the press recently noting that indecent dressing amongst Nigerians has continued to promote all manner of vices in the society. She claims that the Bill she is proposing will address issues of indecency and immorality and that she aims for the preservation of cultural norms and values. According to her, we are seeing a lot of moral decadence in the society today. See the Sun, editorial page, January 25th, 2008.
For the record, the Nigerian Feminists Forum is rather concerned that the Chairperson of such an important Committee in the Senate is trivialising women’s concerns and issues by laying emphasis on dress code while ignoring critical and life threatening issues affecting women which needs urgent and immediate attention.
Nigeria has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world with infant mortality rate; at a total of 95.52 deaths/1,000 live births. With a breakdown of male: 102.44 deaths/1,000 live births and female: 88.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
According to the National HIV/Syphilis sero-prevalence survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Futures Group Aim Model, there are 3,906,752 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and 27,243 new cases every day.
Nigeria has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths out of 100,000 births annually. With limited and unaffordable medical facilities and maternal care services, women are at the receiving end due to the poor attention given to maternal and reproductive health concerns. The rampant issues on rape of infants and the aged women as well as other issues of sexual harassment of girls in primary, secondary and university environment, issues of female genital mutilation, violence against women in all it’s ramifications, girl-child marriages, child trafficking and its attendant problems, amongst others.This calls for a critical reflection from the highest legislature on the plight of women in Nigeria. What substantial and commendable efforts has the Committee shown in protecting the rights of women vis a vis these vices? What collaborative effort has the Committee initiated in working with stakeholders in these areas?
What is the Committee doing to ensure the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seeing that Nigeria is far from achieving these goals? A concerted effort by all including the Senate Committee on Women and Youth is required to develop clear and strategic responses to these critical and life threatening issues.
The Nigerian Feminists Forum is of the view that a Bill on indecent dressing with an attendant jail term of six months for a female offender (bearing in mind that there is a high violence record against female prisoners in our current prisons) is a gross violation on the fundamental human rights of citizens and is not the most effective way to curb moral decadence in the society. This is not the most urgent and critical social problem that confront women and young persons in Nigeria today. It is a ‘non- issue’ taking cognisance of the fact that women and young persons are worst affected by poverty and lack of sustainable development: a major threat to the right to life and a sustainable livelihood.
The Nigerian Feminists Forum calls on the Committee to engage itself with more concrete issues such as budgetary allocation advocacy to provide services and information for girls and women and their families to ensure quality health as defined by the World Health Organisation; repealing discriminatory laws against women, amend the legal provision on rape, ensure women’s access to safe reproductive health and the whole debate around women’s “choices”; access to economic credit to alleviate poverty; access to safe medical care; access to decision making positions on issues that directly affect their lives in their communities; research to provide the data much of which is already available, to understand what the most challenges of Nigerian girls’ and women are so that the committee can address these fatal challenges that women face and the list is endless. .
The Nigerian Feminists Forum as a strategic partner, advocating for the liberation of women from gender based oppression will not hesitate in providing useful focal areas to be considered by the Committee in the interest of women when called upon to do so.
We hereby call on all stakeholders and partners to begin the campaign to kick against such a Bill and its attendant jail term. Whose young women are we going to jail, are we speaking of our daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins. Whose CHILD do we want to jail? What happens to female prisoners in jail? The Government has questions to answer.
Contact: Nigeria Feminist Forum (NFF) co-hosted by Alliances for Africa and BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Senators discussed the possibility of imposing a 6 month jail term for public nudity in the Upper House yesterday. It would be interesting to see a copy of the Bill to see how nudity/dress is defined. Would wearing of spaghetti tops warrant 6 months in the clink? How about the partial showing of knee or shoulder? There's very little sentient analysis of the discussion, so start here but don't expect any enlightenment.
Bibi has a book of Yoruba proverbs which are concerned with women. Some of them are graphic, to say the least. Some examples (please excuse the lack of accents):
A ki i ti oko bo obo tan ki a tun maa beru pe iho re jin, ibi ti o ba wu obo ki o maa gbe oko lo.
One does not insert a penis into a vagina and then begin to fear that its hole is deep. Let the vagina carry the penis wherever it likes.
A fun o lobo do, o ni ko mu oko tan.
We give you a vagina to fuck, and you are complaining that it does not take the whole length of your penis.
Bi obinrin ko do oko meji ki i mo eyi to dun ju.
If a woman does not fuck two penises, she won't know which one is sweeter.
Why are Nigerian banks taking so long to get their act together? My own bank continually frustrates: a cheque I sent has just bounced even though there is enough money in my account. I think there must be a limit on the amount I can send (even though I don't know what it is and no one has thought to tell me). My account manager's phone is dead - I'm not really sure how to rectify the situation - where to go, who to call... No matter how many times I send cheques, there is no mechanism for building trust with customers (unless you are the million dollar variety).
My small-scale woes reflect the bigger picture. Unless you're a large corporate customer, Nigerian banks are simply not really interested in your business. Forget about an overdraft facility or a loan (unless you love double digit interest payments), let alone business advice. Many banks' internal financial management systems are woeful, and would fail the most basic adequacy test in terms of their internal financial systems and controls. We are still a long way from e-commerce or being able to do anything substantial online. Many banking halls are little more than cattle markets, with customers pressing up against each other, jostling to get to the front of the queue, in each other's business. Computer systems continually break down, putting ATM and basic operations out across the bank's network. Its all still quite a mess. There needs to be much more stringent regulation and guidance. There's too much big money swilling around for the banks here to care about ordinary folks.
God's Own Country site, launching on the 26th of this month, here.
I finally saw a couple of episodes of the BBC World Service Trust's drama series Wetin Dey - filmed in Abuja - screenshot to the left. NTA keeps chopping and changing the show times so its hard to keep track. The production values are excellent - reminiscent of HBO (or indeed, the BBC at its best) the acting subtle and tight, lighting and post-production almost faultless.
Watching Wetin Dey makes me conclude yet again that most Nollywood films are for the most part talentless worthless pulp. Wetin Dey shows one way forward, with the young directors involved destined to go on to bigger and better projects in future - once the distribution issue is solved!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
A crusty old man walks into the local pentecostal church and says to the secretary, "I would like to join this damn church."
The astonished woman replies, "I beg your pardon, sir. I must have misunderstood you. What did you say?"
"Listen up, damn it. I said I want to join this damn church!"
"I'm very sorry sir, but that kind of language is not tolerated in this church."
The secretary leaves her desk and goes into the pastor's study to inform him of her situation. The pastor agrees that the secretary does not have to listen to that foul language.
They both return to her office and the pastor asks the old man, "Sir, what seems to be the problem here?"
"There is no damn problem," the man says. "I just won N20 million in the damn lottery and I want to join this damn church to get rid of some of this damn money."
"I see," said the pastor. "And is this bitch giving you a hard time?"
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Natty little site with the backstory behind shooting last year's Area Boys film. Here. But when is the film going to be out?
Four friends, who hadn't seen each other in 30 years, reunited at a party. After several drinks, one of the men had to use the toilet. Those who remained talked about their kids.
The first guy said, "My son is my pride and joy. He started working at a successful company at the bottom of the barrel. He studied Economics and Business Administration and soon began to climb the corporate ladder and now he's the President of the company. He became so rich that he gave his best friend a top of the line Mercedes for his birthday."
The second guy said, "Darn, that's terrific! My son is also my pride and Joy. He started working for a big airline, and then went to Flight School to become a pilot. Eventually he became a partner in the company, where he owns the majority of its assets. He's so rich that he gave his best friend a brand new jet for his birthday."
The third man said: "Well, that's terrific! My son studied in the best Universities and became an engineer. Then he started his own Construction Company and is now a multimillionaire. He also gave away something very nice and expensive to his best friend for his birthday: A 30,000 square foot mansion."
The three friends congratulated each other just as the fourth returned from the toilet and asked: "What are all the congratulations for?"
One of the three said: "We were talking about the pride we feel for the successes of our sons. What about your son?" The fourth man replied: "My son is gay and makes a living dancing as a stripper at a nightclub."
The three friends said: "What a shame...what a disappointment.” The fourth man replied: "No, I'm not ashamed. He's my son and I love him. And he hasn't done too badly either. His birthday was two weeks ago, and he received a beautiful 30,000 square foot mansion, a brand new jet and a top of the line Mercedes from his three boyfriends. They fainted.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Someone should really sit down and do an analysis of this phenomenon.
Who needs theatre when everyday life is such drama?