Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Beautiful Nubia in the Buj

PRESS RELEASE:
Beautiful Nubia's songs of cultural celebration, social upliftment and public enlightenment have inspired millions in his land of birth. And now millions more around the world are starting to awaken to this new voice of courage and rare wisdom.

His music has been described by various critics as "folk fusion",
"a relative of afrobeat" and "modern African music with meaning"
but the artist himself recently described it as "reflecting the roots of modern popular music genres". Whatever your music taste, there is something here for you.

In 1997, while pondering how to introduce himself as a musician, Segun Akinlolu, then a young, practising veterinary doctor, decided upon the performance name of Beautiful Nubia to remind every young African of a time when people like them ruled the world and were masters of the ocean, the air and the land. In doing so, perhaps, young Africans would find something positive and inspiring to hold on to from the past which they could employ in projecting to the future. His first album Seven Lifes followed shortly after and he has not looked back.

With an uncanny ability to reach back into the past, re-invent ancient rhythms and mesh them with original melodies to produce soul-churning sound offerings, this singer, songwriter and bandleader has evolved a form of music that continues to defy classification and appeals to a continuously growing market comprising all sections of the populace - the poor and the rich, unlettered market-women and university professors, students and teachers, male and female, young and old.

All elements of the society can be found at a Beautiful Nubia concert and, as he likes to say,
"Everyone is welcome to Beautiful Nubia's party!"

Jangbalajugbu, his 2002 album, has sold in excess of a million copies. Awilele and Fere, which followed, have been praised for their tight arrangements and novel sound. Kilòkilò, his latest album, brings together the diverse elements upon which Beautiful Nubia\'s music has been built throughout his decade of recording, fusing the didactic with the spiritually elevating and the gently grounding.

As usual, he comes with a message of hope and love. Of renewal and growth. Of a place where we can have peace if we learn to share of ourselves so that others may smile.In this album, Beautiful Nubia's ability to fuse ancient tradition and rhythms with contemporary sounds reaches a distinctly new level of achievement. In summary, you will love the music!

Discography:
Kilokilo (2007); Fere (2006); Awilele (2004); Jangbalajugbu (2002);
Fire On The Roof (2001); Voice From Heaven (1999); Seven Lifes (1997)

Date: Thursday, 1st of May, 2008.
Time: 7 p.m
Place: Salamander Cafe, 72 Aminu Kanu Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BA follow-up

The Nigerian Bar Association takes action against BA, via Assizes Law Firm, Lagos. Here is the text of the suit:

IN THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT
IN THE LAGOS JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT LAGOS

Suit No

IN THE MATTER OF APPLICATION BY:
1. AYO OMOTADE
2. OLISA AGBAKOBA SAN
3. NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

FOR LEAVE TO ENFORCE THEIR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND IN THE MATTER OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 1979 MADE BY THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA PURSUANT TO SECTION 42 (3) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA 1979

BETWEEN:
1. AYO OMOTADE
2. OLISA AGBAKOBA SAN
3. NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION Applicants

AND:

BRITISH AIRWAYS Respondent

VERIFYING AFFIDAVIT

I, Isaiah Irabor, male, Christian, Nigerian citizen, legal practitioner of 15 Ogundana Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja Lagos, do hereby make oath and say as follows:

1. I am a legal practitioner in the Law Firm of ASSIZES@LAW.COM (Assizes) of 15 Ogundana Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja Lagos, counsel to the Applicants, and by reason of my schedule of responsibilities at Assizes, I am conversant with the facts deposed to in this affidavit.

2. The 1st Applicant related the following facts, which I verily believe:

a. The 1st Applicant is a Nigerian citizen and an Information Technology (IT) Consultant based in Chatham, Kent, UK.
b. On 27/3/2008, 137 passengers including the 1st Applicant boarded the Respondent’s BA075 from London, UK, to Lagos, Nigeria.
c. Upon boarding, the 1st Applicant went straight to his assigned seat 53C.
d. The 1st Applicant later noticed that a male Nigerian was being deported to Nigeria on the same flight.
e. On getting to his seat, the 1st Applicant heard noises from an individual being forcibly restrained but who was not visible because some police officers and some plain clothes people held him down.
f. The noise continued for more than 20 minutes and the 1st Applicant was concerned because the individual was screaming in agony and shouting in pidgin English “I go die-o!”
g. The 1st Applicant pleaded with the officers not to kill him and his exact words were “please don’t kill him”.
h. The Respondent’s staff said that the officers were doing their jobs and that nothing was going to happen.
i. The 1st Applicant observed that the said deportee was handcuffed, yet was being further restrained and manhandled violently.
j. The 1st Applicant felt concerned about the wellbeing, life and limb of the deportee, who continued wailing in pain.
k. The 1st Applicant gently approached the officers tormenting the deportee, and asked them not to kill him.
l. The noise from the restrained individual became louder and other passengers started getting concerned and were complaining especially about their safety in the circumstances.
m. Eventually, a member of the cabin crew announced that the restrained passenger was going to be removed and the passenger was removed from the plane, and the other passengers all thought that was the end of the situation.
n. 5 minutes later, 2 members of the cabin crew arrived with about 4 police officers and told the 1st Applicant to get off the plane.
o. The 1st Applicant asked what the matter was and they said that he was not going to travel with the airline because the cabin crew believed he had been disruptive by questioning the noise being caused by the deportee that was removed.
p. The 1st Applicant pleaded with the officers that he was going for his brother’s wedding and had all of his brother’s items with him.
q. The 1st Applicant was unceremoniously dragged out of the plane as if he was resisting arrest.
r. As, along with the officers tormenting him, the 1st Applicant got to the corridor that linked the plane with the terminal building, he was slammed against the wall, made to sit on the floor, and handcuffed.
s. The 1st Applicant was still pleading with the officers, telling them that they had completely misunderstood him and that he was only complaining about the situation regarding the disturbances caused by the deportee they were trying to restrain and subdue.
t. The 1st Applicant was on the floor for about 20 to 25 minutes.
u. Another passenger was brought to the corridor as well and he was also pleading with the officers.
v. The 1st Applicant was later put in the back of a police van at about 1:50pm and was locked up there for about 1 hour or more, still handcuffed.
w. The 1st Applicant was formally arrested approximately 2:30pm and his rights were read to him.
x. Before the arrest in the van, the 1st Applicant managed to reach for his pocket and brought out his mobile phone.
y. The 1st Applicant made some phone calls to his wife, sister and a friend while the low battery sign was on because the 1st Applicant was all alone and still handcuffed.
z. The 1st Applicant was later driven to the police station where he was formally checked in.
aa. The 1st Applicant was in police custody for almost 8 hours and later released on bail after the interview with the duty solicitor and the detectives.
bb. The 1st Applicant had on him:-
i. £473.00,
ii. £90.00 sent to his mother in-law from his sister in-law, and
iii. £1,050.00 given to the 1st Applicant by his cousin who is a doctor for the upkeep of his parents in Nigeria.
cc. All the money together was £1,613.00.
dd. The officers told the 1st Applicant that he would appear in a magistrate court to prove the money was not meant for crime or proceeds of crime.
ee. The officers told the 1st Applicant that they would like to see traceability and that the 1st Applicant needed to produce his payslips
and bank account detailing his payments and withdrawals as well as his cousin’s payments and withdrawals.
ff. The 1st Applicant was released but without the money, which was withheld by the officers.
gg. The 1st Applicant made his way to terminal 4 and arrived there at about 12:30 a.m. but the Respondent’s kiosks were closed.
hh. The 1st Applicant was directed to the staff room where he told the staff there that he wanted to rebook his trip to Lagos, Nigeria.
ii. A lady told the 1st Applicant to give her his ticket, which he did, and she stated that the Respondent had banned the 1st Applicant from travelling with them indefinitely and that only the managers could use their discretion because the 1st Applicant was a ‘disruptive passenger’.
jj. The 1st Applicant requested for his 2 piece-luggage and the lady told him that the section would be opened later about 5:30 a.m. and that the 1st Applicant would then be escorted in to collect them.
kk. The 1st Applicant slept on the chair and waited till about 5:30 a.m. and attempted to rebook his ticket but was told that the Respondent refused to take him.
ll. The 1st Applicant decided to go and pick up his items and was told that his luggage was missing.
mm. The 1st Applicant was handed a form with reference number LONBA90924 to complain about his luggage.
nn. At this point, the 1st Applicant became totally stranded because he could not leave without his luggage as it contained his brother’s wedding suit, shirts and accessories.
oo. The 1st Applicant was on the phone with his wife and she wanted to book an alternative flight that would depart at 10:15 a.m. so that the 1st Applicant could attend his brother’s wedding. This was not possible because the Respondent refused to disclose where his luggage was and had not removed his luggage from the flight when they called the police to arrest him.
pp. On Monday 31/3/2008, the 1st Applicant appeared at the magistrate court but was told that a decision had been made about the £1,613.00 that had been seized from him: the police had been granted a further 90 days to hold on to the money pending their investigation. The 1st Applicant was given the relevant officer’s details.
qq. The officer requested 12 months’ bank statements and 6 months’ payslips to prove that the £473.00 belonging to the 1st Applicant did not represent proceeds of crime.
rr. The officer also requested that the £1,050.00 given to the 1st Applicant by his cousin for the cousin’s parents should also be traced to his cousin’s 12 months’ bank statements and 6 months’ payslips.
ss. One DC Webster promised to write the 1st Applicant formally detailing these requests.
tt. Still on Monday 31/3/2008, 4 days after the 1st Applicant was taken off the plane, he made extra efforts to find out the whereabouts of his 2-piece luggage (LONBA90924), since it had not been sent to his address as promised, by calling the lost baggage section at 1:44 p.m. and spoke to a certain Neil.
uu. When the 1st Applicant spoke to Neil, the latter claimed it was difficult for them to trace his bags and that there was a strong possibility that they might be in Lagos. Neil suggested that the 1st Applicant should call back in 24 hours.
vv. Eventually, 1 week and 1 day later, the 1st Applicant’s bags were brought to him at home. One was badly damaged and the other was intact.
ww. The Respondent maliciously and mischievously made sure the 1st Applicant missed his brother’s wedding. After all, if they were kicking the 1st Applicant off their flight, they would have simultaneously removed his bags from the flight. The Respondent’s officers were all there when the police officers made the 1st Applicant to sit on the floor and heard the 1st Applicant pleading to be allowed to travel for his brother's wedding. If his luggage had been let off the Respondent’s plane, the 1st Applicant could have taken either KLM or Virgin Nigeria the following Friday morning.
xx. 135 passengers were asked to leave the flight because they expressed displeasure regarding the disturbances caused by the deportee and the officers trying to restrain him.
yy. The Respondent maliciously and mischievously refused to endorse the 1st Applicant’s ticket to enable him fly with another airline.

3. The 2nd Applicant is a veteran of human rights law and activism, as well as a public interest litigator. The 2nd Applicant is anxious to advance, defend and protect the rights of Nigerians all over the world. The 2nd Applicant is also the President of the 3rd Applicant.

4. The 3rd Applicant is the umbrella association of Nigerian lawyers and a pressure group whose constituency includes all Nigerians within and outside the country.

5. The 2nd Applicant informed me and I verily believe him that in most jurisdictions similar to Nigeria, human rights activists, defenders and lawyers are increasingly being encouraged to launch public interest litigation geared towards the advancement of human rights.

6. The 2nd Applicant also informed me and I equally believe him that increasingly, international human rights norms are being applied in municipal courts without local legislation, at times as customary international law.

7. Unless the reliefs herein sought are granted by this Honourable Court, the Respondent will continue and repeat their course of conduct complained of, against Nigerian passengers on its flights, thus occasioning grave infractions of the Applicants’ municipal and international rights, and causing them irreparable damage, grievous harm and incalculable loss.

8. In light of the foregoing it would be in the interest of justice to grant this application.

9. I depose to this affidavit in good faith, believing the same to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Act.

DEPONENT
SWORN TO AT THE
FEDERAL HIGH COURT REGISTRY
IKOYI LAGOS
THIS …… DAY OF APRIL 2008

BEFORE ME



COMMISSIONER FOR OATHS

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Sisters-in-law


We've just finished watching Sisters-in-law, a documentary set in Cameroon following several cases that pass through the court of a small town. Its a wonderful film full of the minor tragedies and joys of everyday life and the raw feminism of the central characters. It also shows the artificiality of national boundaries in West Africa: most of the film could be Nigeria.

Highly highly recommended.

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The BA imbroglio..

...seems not to be getting much press attention in the UK (except for here, here and even the very venerable Robert Fisk here - big up the Indy for picking up on the story), however its big news over here. Many Nigerians are fed up with what they perceive to be BA's poor attitude to what is one of their most lucrative markets/routes. Deciding to eject everyone from economy on the flight in question (apart from the deportee himself) does seem an extreme measure. From the Indy articles above, it looks like institutional racism at work.

As an example of the kind of outrage that has been voiced, I've pasted below an email I received last week from Chinua Asuzu, from the Assizes Law Firm (written both by Chinua and Pelumi Osundahunsi):

"Globalization has been embraced in all spheres of human endeavour, in theory if not always in practice. From cross-border professional practice to inter-racial marriages, from exchange programmes between business and academic institutions to nearly-free movement of goods and services, the Global Village is the 21st century's keynote. This has given rise to increased tolerance among peoples, cultures, and races across continents.

Antitrust laws and enhanced competition, coupled with the growing emphasis on corporate governance and corporate social responsibility, have combined to constrain business organisations of all sizes to improve their client, human and public relations.

In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher snatched the milk from giant monopolies like British Rail, British Gas, British Telecoms, and British Airways when that great Prime Minister commercialised, liberalised and privatised virtually everything, leading to the great prosperity which the UK continues to enjoy today. Speed and efficiency in the rendering of services and the supply of public utilities gradually became the order of the day. Bureaucratic red tape sagged. Competition at first sauntered, and then matched into the various business and service arenas. Quality in the production of goods and supply of services improved.

British Airways did not like the trend set in by Thatcherism. And when Rebel Billionaire Richard Branson set up Virgin Airways, BA openly and shamelessly prayed for his planes to 'drop out of the sky'. BA never gave Virgin a chance. Virgin came with new ideas and new ways of doing things, friendlier staff, prettier girls, lower fares, Equal Opportunity Employment policies. BA fought Virgin with all the evil weapons in its arsenal.

Virgin, young as it is relative to BA which has been operating the Nigerian route for decades, already employs more Nigerians than BA. Without just cause or excuse, BA hates Nigerians.

It is against this briefly outlined background that we at Assizes, as human rights and immigration lawyers, view the recent maltreatment of Nigerians aboard a BA flight. The facts, briefly, are as follows:-
1. A Nigerian deportee was handcuffed unnecessarily and unlawfully aboard a BA plane late last month.
2. Compatriot Ayo Omotade complained.
3. BA crew threw the concerned Nigerian citizen, who was merely and admirably being his brother's keeper, off the plane and banned him from using their services.
4. Other Nigerian passengers on the same plane voiced their discomfiture at the mistreatment of their fellow citizens.
5. They were all shabbily removed from the plane, which then proceeded to fly the deportee home.

When confronted with the outcry of numerous Nigerians including the Federal Government, BA invoked the defence of statutory authority. They asserted that they had conducted themselves in accordance with the UK Immigration Act of 1971. This excuse is completely misleading and does not avail BA. Perhaps they assumed that Nigerians are not familiar with that statute. Well, at Assizes we have studied the legislation in detail and can find no provision in it that could justify or excuse the conduct of BA crew.

· BA's handcuffing of the deportee is insupportable by statute.
· BA's jettisoning of Ayo Omotade is insupportable by statute.
· BA's disembarking of the other Nigerian passengers is insupportable by statue.

The egregious and extravagantly aggressive and violent conduct of that BA crew was not in compliance with the UK Immigration Act of 1971, nor indeed with any provision in any UK Immigration Act or Rules, nor compatible with any law for the time being in force in any part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. BA showed off that crew of scallywags as a bunch of ineducable racists and savages.

Unfortunately for BA, the March 27 incident is not an isolated one, but merely another turn in the long history of racially-actuated ill-treatment of Nigerians in particular and Africans in general by BA, an organisation stuck in the colonial mould of its founders.

The Day of Judgment against BA in Nigeria has come!

The Assizes Law firm joins other Nigerians in calling for a total boycott of British Airways by Nigerian passengers, even when this would entail travelling by indirect routes. Nigerians can afford to be selective of the airlines we patronize if the airlines can be selective of the nationalities of the passengers deserving their respectful service and treatment.

Assizes in addition demands that the Federal Government should suspend the landing rights of British Airways at Nigerian airports until BA fully and publicly accepts responsibility for its mistreatment of Nigerians, tenders an unreserved apology and pays reasonable compensation to the deportee, to Ayo Omotade the patriotic sympathiser, and to the other Nigerian passengers initially aboard that flight, all of whom were insulted in their personal dignity, racial identity, national pride, and common humanity.

Compensation of the adversely affected Nigerian passengers would accord with Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe of 11 February 2004, which established common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. In legal effect, Ayo Omotade and the rest of the Nigerian passengers suffered at least a constructive denial of boarding and cancellation of their flights.

The despicable treatment of those Nigerian passengers also violated their human rights and passenger rights. It amounted to a blanket, prejudiced assault on their rights as stipulated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Involving as it did a major airline of an allegedly "friendly" nation (UK) and passengers from her partner (Nigeria), the attack also entailed diplomatic implications. It would require a gesture from the British Government towards the Nigerian Government and people. For example, it has created an opportunity for the former colonial mistress to review her harsh and negative visa policy towards Nigerians and her negative immigration attitude to our people generally.

Nigerians in their private capacities contribute billions of pounds to the UK economy, and our government is a major trade partner in a grossly unequal partnership. This diplomatic incident, for it amounts to that, should give the Nigerian state pause regarding her relationship with the UK. Is it not time for us to deal less with the Brits and more with other people who show us some respect?"

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Letter to Yar'Adua

Thanks BA for sending me this:

Dear President Yar'Adua,


Ranka dede sir. Saanu da aiki sir. I hope this letter finds you well.
If so, doxology. I am constrained to write urgently to intimate you
 with the frustrating conditions I've had to contend with since I
 assumed duties as Nigeria's Ambassador to the Republic of South
 Africa.
You will recall, sir, that I had serious misgivings about
 being posted to this place but you reassured me that things would work
 out insha Allah. I must regretfully inform you, sir, that you were
 wrong. This place is hell and I don't know what I am doing here. The
 ways of the South Africans are indeed very strange.
 


The first serious signals of South Africa's backwardness and
 dysfunctionality became apparent when I landed at the airport in
 Johannesburg. I was profoundly shocked to discover that only two
 official vehicles from the Nigerian embassy and three embassy staff
 were on hand to receive me. This was a serious breach of protocol.
 When was the last time I moved in anything less than a motorcade of
 twenty five cars, heralded by AK-47-wielding soldiers and koboko-
 swishing mobile policemen sweeping civilians out of my way? I felt
 naked, empty, and vulnerable.

I felt betrayed by those embassy boys
 who appeared to have forgotten how we handle matters of protocol for
 people of my standing in Nigeria. Obviously, I wasn't going to subject
 myself to the indignity of leaving the airport in a 'motorcade' of two
 miserable embassy vehicles. I sat put and told the boys to organize.
 They finally found a solution by renting five cars from the Avis car
 rental outlet to bring the tally of vehicles to seven.
 


Needless to say your Excellency, I had to 'manage' a convoy of only
 seven cars. Without siren! As if this outrage weren't enough, we had
 barely made it out of the airport when we found ourselves in one of
 Johannesburg' s notorious traffic jams.

Again, our boys from the
 embassy had no idea what to do ? when we post these boys out, we must
 insist they visit Nigeria twice a year your Excellency. They are
 completely out of touch. Just imagine, I had to suggest to them to
 phone the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to
 send troops to come and clear the road for us. Rather than act, they
 sat there looking at me with eyes so wide open they almost popped out
 of their sockets.

Then one obsequious fool explained that 'things
 don't work that way here, sir'. 'How do you know, have you ever
 tried', I asked him.
 
 I did not fare any better on my first day on the job, your Excellency.
 The first thing on my agenda was to present my letters of
 accreditation to President Thabo Mbeki.

Regrettably, I left
 arrangements to our boys in the embassy. Their shoddy handling of the
 airport situation should have taught me a lesson! I had expected them
 to rent a white horse and a crowd of at least one hundred singing and
drumming Nigerians to form a procession. I was going to ride the white
 horse through the streets of Pretoria, all the way to Union Building,
with our people singing and drumming. You know, the way we do things
 back home. What did I get instead? The Ambassador's official car, a
 driver and one miserable aide! At my urging, they had to rent five
 cars from avis! If I hadn't insisted, the boys would have done untold
 harm to Nigeria's image as the giant of Africa by having her
 Ambassador drive to that ceremony in only one car. No policemen. No
 soldiers. No siren!
 


The humiliation continued when we got to Union Building. Only the
 official car with the Nigerian flag was allowed in. They wouldn't
 allow the rental cars in because they were not accredited. I told my
 aide to go and 'see' the appropriate people only to be told by the
 rude boy that they don't 'see' people in South Africa. How do you run
 a country where you don't 'see' people? How do you get things done?


Anyway, the ceremony went well your Excellency. The only disappointing
 thing is the simplicity of the surroundings of President Mbeki. Things
 were so simple you had no idea you were in the Presidency. They are
 not doing Africa proud at all sir. From what I saw, my estimation is
 that the budget that maintains the South African Presidency for a
 whole year is approximately the size of the weekly entertainment
 budget of a Nigerian Minister or Governor.
 


My second day on the job was even more frustrating, Mr. President. I
 was briefed that we had an application for a new plot of land
 languishing at the Pretoria city hall. There is an embassy expansion
 project in the pipeline. Apparently, the application has been at city
 hall for more than two years because the plot we want happens to be in
 a protected green area. My predecessors have had no luck with the
 Mayor.

Pray, your Excellency, why deal with the Mayor when things
 could be accelerated the Nigerian way? So, I phoned the Mayor and
 respectfully and politely asked for the name and phone number of his
 Godfather. My intention was to 'see' his Godfather and promise him an
 oil block allocation in the Niger Delta if he would prevail on his
 political godson to alter the Pretoria Master Plan and give us a plot
 in the green area.

To my surprise, the Mayor told me that he had read
 Mario Puzzo's novel but had never seen the movie! These South Africans
 are unbelievably backward! When I finally got him to understand what I
 meant after almost an hour of explanations he laughed
 condescendingly and said 'we don't do that in South Africa, Mr.
 Ambassador. We cannot alter the city's Master Plan'.
Unbelievable,
 isn't it? Have these people never heard of Abuja? So, what exactly do
 they do here? What is this idea of people getting elected to political
 office without Godfathers? I banged the phone on him. If I had
 continued the conversation, I couldn't put it past him to give me the
 extraordinary yarn that they also organize elections here without
 thugs, guns, and ballot box stuffing.
 
 My nightmare in this country continued last week when I went to the
 University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

One of our very
 useful boys an unemployed graduate of the University of Ibadan who
 helped organize the shipment of arms and recruited cult members to
 help us capture the Oyo state government house for Alhaji Chief Alao
 Akala has decided to quit the political scene in Nigeria and return
 to his studies. He emailed to notify me that he has an application for
 graduate studies at Wits. Could I please look into it? The boy served
 the PDP so diligently and I was inclined to help him.

So I went to
 Wits last week to see the Registrar. She informed me that they did
 indeed receive the boy's application but he did not meet the minimum
 admission requirements for graduate studies at Wits. Duh, as if I
 didn't already know that before asking to meet with her! I asked if we
 could come to an agreement and opened the Ghana-must-go bag I had with
 me. Crisp bales of rand notes smiled from the bag. She screamed and
 sent me out of her office, claiming that she would have had me
 arrested if I didn't enjoy diplomatic immunity.

As I did not want to
 return to Pretoria with the money, I made one last ditch effort. I
 phoned the University's information service and requested to speak
 with the Registrar's Garrison Commander. Predictably, nobody had any
 clue! I gave up on South Africa at this point. I mean, what kind of
 country is this? People get positions and appointments without
 Godfathers and Garrison Commanders. I don't understand.

Your
 Excellency, there is really no place like home. All I would have had
 to do in Nigeria is place one phone call to any Vice Chancellor. The
 boy would end up in the Vice Chancellor's discretionary admission list
 with immediate effect.
 


Your Excellency, these unending insults and indignities are nothing
 compared to the stubbornness with which people address me here as Mr.
 Ambassador. Nonsense. I've insisted that they use the full list of my
 honorifics to no avail. Who would dare leave out anything from this
 list in Nigeria ? Ambassador, Senator, Doctor, Chief Ahmadu Alli.
 Nobody here seems to understand that none of these items can be left
 out when addressing me. Mind you, to make things easy for the South
 Africans, I've even reluctantly left out all the items that would
 compulsorily come after my name in Nigeria MON, OFR, GCFR, etc etc
 etc.

Pray, if they can't get a paltry total of four honorific prefixes
 right, how are they going to contend with the suffixes?
 
Your Excellency, it is clear that I am not going to be able to stay
 here. I can't function. There system is completely upside down. May I
 humbly request to be posted to Cameroon or Benin Republic? They are
 our neighbours. Years of associating with us have rubbed off them.
 They know how things are done. They understand. If the slots in
 Yaoundé and Cotonou are not available, I won't mind the UK. The
 British are far more tolerant of the way we do things. They see no
 evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil in order not to endanger the oil
 flow. London is far more amenable to the Nigerian way than Pretoria. I
 should be able to function there.
 


Yours in service to Nigeria,
 


Ambassador, Senator, Doctor, Chief Ahmadu Alli, MON,
 PSC,NDC,MNI, FSS,DSS,MSS. ZSS.OFR, GCFR, etc etc etc

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A call against arms..

It is of course heartening that An Yue Jiang and its 77 tonnes of military hardware has not been allowed to dock in Southern Africa, thanks to a combination of external pressure from the US and the British governments as well as internal regional pressure piled on Mugabe's regime.

If only Whitehall was as sensitive to the effects of sales of British-made weaponry in volatile regions, we might be getting somewhere. As it is, we have scandal after scandal, with the ongoing BAE fiasco being just the latest iteration. Anyone remember Bliar's visit to India and Pakistan when Kashmir was flaring up a few years ago? Beneath the circumstantial pomp, he was there to sell arms to both sides. Robin Cook's mantra about an 'ethical foreign policy' seems so sepia these days. If there's a state at the risk of becoming fragile or failing, you can almost guarantee that the British Government will grant arms export licences. As the CAAT website tells us, clients of British-made arms includes: Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Israel, Sri Lanka and Uganda. Its not so much a whiff of hypocrisy, more like a stench.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hate crimes on the rise in co.za

As if you needed more bad news today - here's another one:

SOUTH AFRICA – April 18, 2008: While awaiting verdict for Zoliswa Nkonyana’s murder on 21 April next week, a hearing is taking place for an 18-year-old Linda Masondo who became a victim of rape not long ago in Mpumalanga, allegedly for being a lesbian.

Nkonyana , bludgeoned and stoned to death in 2006 in Khayelitsha – Western Cape, was 19 years old while Masondo of Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province is 18 years old.

Masondo’s perpetrator is said to have wanted to show and remind her that she is a woman despite her cross-dressing.

Masondo, who comes from Bugha township, was asleep at home on 23 February this year when she heard people scratching windows about 03am. After not responding, the suspects came to the front door and started shouting her name while kicking the door.

“I recognised the voice of one of them as just one guy I know, and I shouted back asking what he was doing here at that time. I did not open the door but as I was busy calling for my brother on the other room to come help me, the door opened”, she muttered.

Masondo said that one guy ran away and one remained who told her to dress so they could go.

However, she retaliated that she wasn’t going anywhere, but “he pointed me with a knife and dragged me outside. I shouted [calling] for my brother and the guy started stabbing me in the head and arms with the knife saying that I was stubborn.”

Masondo tried to jostle him down but the suspect eventually overpowered her and pulled her towards a nearby river.

“When we got there he told me that he was leaving the area and that he wanted to say goodbye by showing me that I am not a man that I think I am. He then ordered me to undress, and when I refused he ripped my clothes off. He raped me repeatedly, I cried and screamed but no one came to my rescue”, she cried.

Afterwards, the man told Masondo to go with him to his home so he could borrow her some clothes to wear. “I refused and went straight home with the torn clothes”, Masondo explained.

When Masondo got home, her aunts – who were called by Masondo’s brother after realising that there was something wrong with her seeing a broken door – accompanied her to the Kabokweni police station by her aunts.

A rape case was opened and Masondo also went to iThemba Hospital where she received counseling, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and morning after pills.

“This has been a very bad experience in my life, but I still walk the streets and will not give anyone the satisfaction of moping (sic) and hiding, just because they decided to do something bad to me. I will continue to live my life.”

“I was scared to sleep at home after that incidence and I moved to my aunt’s place, who is supporting me at present, but at some point I will have to go back to my place and continue to live my life”, Masondo added.

Speaking for People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Carrie Shelver said that the fact that such violations among lesbian still occur, clearly shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have made an impact but not enough in fighting for their rights.

“It is sad to see that some human rights organisations feel that it is not their responsibility to fight human rights violations faced by lesbian people. More work still needs to be done in order to cancel this exclusion”, Shelver berated.

She advised Masondo to call POWA offices in Gauteng should she need any legal support or the over-phone counseling.

“As part of our frontline services, we offer face to face services to people in Gauteng because our offices are based here. But for those who are outside can receive over the phone services. What we do is [to] question the police and the criminal justice system. We put these issues in the media with a view to show that this is a national problem and to put pressure on authorities to react”, she added.

According to Constable Muzi Ngomane of Kabokweni Police Station, the two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident. He said they face charges of rape and house-breaking with intention to rape, and they will appear in court today 18 April, 2008.

On the other hand, Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) is relieved that Nkonyana’s case is finally going back to court almost two years later after the incident happened.

“We hope that the case will be finalised during this specific date because we believe that the family needs some closure in this issue”, said Keegan Lackay, legal officer of the Western Cape office of CGE.

Melvyn Geldenhhys, who is the investigating officer in Nkonyana’a case, confirmed that the case is returning to court. He revealed that nine men, then between the ages of 18 and 25, had been arrested in connection with the case. They all face charges of murder, while some of them are also charged with attempted murder and assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.

Supporting the development in the case, the Western Cape Alliance of the 07-07-07 Campaign, which together with CGE have been monitoring the case, said that, with almost two years since the incident, hate crimes against black women who love women are on the increase.

“Many of these crimes go unreported or supported due to lack of empathy and urgency by the South African Police Services, where LGBTI people are often exposed to secondary discrimination. Furthermore, the silence of provincial and national leadership on the issue of violence and abuse towards LGBTI people indicates a lack of concern for the rights and welfare of all citizens”, the alliance said in a statement.

Meanwhile there are no new developments in the case of Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, who were murdered in July last year, allegedly because they were lesbians. “The investigation continues and is hotting up”, Captain Wayne Ellapen of Meadowlands Police Station said.

“We sincerely hope that in the coming weeks and months many of the other outstanding cases of hate crimes being investigated throughout the country are also brought to a conclusion with arrests and prosecution. We further hope that the tragic and brutal details of this case will push political, community and religious leaders to publicly speak out against prejudice and violence aimed at the LGBTI community”, the Joint Working Group (JWG) said in a statement.

The JWG stands in solidarity with the Western Cape 070707 alliance, and it is calling on all member organisations, allies within broader social movements and members and friends of the LGBTI community to support actions undertaken by the alliance and to join the movement at the Khayelitsha Regional Court on 21 April when the accused will make their first appearance.

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Blues in Zim...

I received this email, forwarded from Bibi earlier today, accompanied with the pictures here. What the fuck has Mbeki been doing all this while?


Hi guys,

I do not know what needs to happen for the world to stand up against the
bully boy tactics of Mugabe and hiss goons.

People are continuing to be subjected to horrible beatings and deaths. I
have attached pictures of some of the people I filmed yesterday. The footage went out yesterday on ITV News @ 10 in the UK and SKY and we are hoping to
have it on E in South Africa by tonight since we have no direct feed to e.tv
from Harare due to state dirty tactics.

I have attached pictures of a man who was tied down to the ground. The militia had burning plastic dripping to his body. The other pic is of a 73 year old man who had his hands and legs broken and left for dead.

The head in a pic attached is of a man who was hit by an axe and left for dead. The dark picture is an undercover filming we did 2 days ago of ZANU PF militias beating people up in the township of Highfield. The violence has taken a new twist with the military and the militias beating anyone seen outside their houses after six in the townships.

I have also attached a pic of a refuge centre where people are seeking sanctuary from the beatings. How can we hold a free and fair re-run election under these circumstances.

I have also attached a pic of an election official counting votes wearing a VOTE ZANU PF t shirt. That is the life we are living down here.

Thabo Mbeki has put a "Do not disturb" sign on Zimbabwe. We salute President Mwanawasa of Zambia who has broken ranks with his SADC collegues and is now calling a spade a spade, Jacob Zuma and the ANC. Not surprisingly, Mwanawasa, ANC and Zuma have been called sell outs by Mugabe!


Regards,
......

"To try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people are allowed
to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is sabotage."


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Conference announcement: African Intellectuals and Decolonization

This one looks really interesting - blurb immediately below:

This conference is the second in a series of academic conferences at Ohio
University centered on the theme “Perspectives on African Decolonization,”
and focuses on African Intellectuals and Decolonization. In 1958, Guinea,
under Ahmed Sékou Touré, chose political independence over continued
association with France. The All-African Peoples Convention hosted by Kwame
Nkrumah in Ghana in the same year highlighted the links between and among
Africans and peoples of African descent in the Diaspora. 2008 is also the
sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the seminal journal Présence
Africaine by Alioune Diop. Focusing on African intellectuals and
decolonization will allow for an interrogation of all three concepts as well
as an opportunity to examine the roles intellectuals have played and
continue to play in contemporary African efforts at liberation from economic
neo-colonialism. Additionally, this conference will provide an opportunity
to highlight the cutting edge work of contemporary African philosophers, the
heritors of the intellectual traditions established by the generations who
fought for the liberation of Africa. The works of these scholars who are
developing systems of thought rooted in African vernacular concepts will
have significant implications for the Arts and Humanities and
interpretations thereof as well as the (Westernized) Academy more broadly.

Featured speakers include:
* Oyeronke Oyewumi
Department of Sociology
State University of New York at Stony Brook

* Elizabeth Schmidt
Department of History
Loyola College in Baltimore

* Tsenay Serequeberhan
Department of Philosophy
Morgan State University

Conference planners invite the submission of abstracts for papers and panels
from scholars and graduate students in any academic discipline.
Presentations that are interdisciplinary and/or transnational in scope will
be particularly welcome. Abstracts for individual papers should be 250-300
words and accompanied by a brief CV (no more than two pages). Panel
proposals should include abstracts and CVs for each presenter as well as a
250-500 word overview of the panel.

Topics for discussion include but by no means are limited to:
* Who is African?
* Who is an intellectual?
* What do we mean by decolonization?
* Colonialism and decolonization in Africa
* Neocolonialism and (neo)decolonization in Africa
* Women and decolonization in Africa
* Decolonizing the (Westernized) Academy
* African philosophies and decolonization
* African indigenous knowledge systems and decolonization
* The Arts and African decolonization
* African literatures and decolonization
* The Sciences and decolonization in Africa
* Conservation of natural resources in Africa and decolonization

As the conference will be held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of
Guinea’s independence on October 2, 2008 we will particularly welcome panels
and papers concerning Ahmed Sékou Touré, Guinea, and decolonization.

Selected papers will be published in an edited collection of essays to
commemorate these significant moments in African history and to reflect upon
the legacies of fifty years of “independence” in Africa.

Please submit paper and panel proposals to: Acacia Nikoi, nikoi@ohio.edu

The deadline for submission of proposals is May 30, 2008. Limited travel
funding is available for graduate students. Please apply for a travel
stipend on the conference registration page by May 30.

A block of rooms is being held at the Ohio University Inn & Conference
Center, which offers complimentary parking, complimentary hi-speed wireless
internet, 24-hour business and fitness centers, Cutler’s Restaurant, and
Bunch of Grapes Tavern. The OUInn is less than five minutes from the
conference venue at the Baker University Center. The special conference rate
is $99.95 per room, per night plus applicable taxes (currently 12.75%).
Reservations may be made via the conference registration page or by calling
the hotel directly at (740) 593-6661 or accessing the link below.
https://reservations.ihotelier.com/crs/g_reservation.cfm?groupID=75492&hotel
ID=4598

For additional information about The Inn, please visit their website at
www.ouinn.com.

For further information on the conference, please contact Dr. Nicholas
Creary,Department of History, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701,
creary@ohio.edu, 740-593-4334.

Read more...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chimurenga Party in nyc


Chimurenga, purveyors of the happening literary zine on the continent, are hitting New York next month - see the flyer to the left and register your presence at this facebook page.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Verissimo on Cole in today's Guardian

Click to enlarge/read.

Teju's next novel will be published by Random House in Spring 2010

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Hommage to Star


Although it is a tragic waste of a half-decent lager, there is something altogether lovely about a bottle of Star accidentally left in the freezer compartment overnight. The way the frost clings to the bottle and then slowly recedes. The bright green hue of the slushy liquid behind the thawing glass. Above all, the sense of anticipation, frozen to nothing.

I sometimes imagine a Belgiumification of Nigeria, where instead of the paltry triumvirate of available beers, a host of microbreweries emerge, doing interesting things with sorghum, cassava and apples. In the same way, I also imagine an arabica colonisation of the land, with Nigerian Green Mountain (Gangirwal, anyone?) being the talk of coffee houses from Melville to Fort Greene. The soil and the climate here is good: what has Jamaica got that is better?

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The Wire

My days are spent reading Letters to a Young Poet and an early draft of Teju Cole's next book as well as watching series one of The Wire. After reading the hype around the HBO series and listening to friends rave about it, and not having access to it via DSTV in Nigeria, it was time to dig deep and buy the first few series when last in London. It is both fresh and excellent in its attention to detail and avoidance of media cliches and stereotypes. Sometimes, a bit like the commentary to American sports (basketball and American football specifically), it is hard to understand the stream of dialogue, but that is I guess part of the aesthetic and part of the voice-music of Baltimore.

Slowly, we are emerging back to normality after the break-in. The fact that I wasn't at home when it happened insulates me from the visceral pre-reflective association that those that experienced it still have. At times during the last few days, I have been brimful of anger, taking it out on the beaten-up-Honda/Toyota taxi drivers of Abuja who have no knowledge of fast and slow lanes. Then, yesterday, a big man, no doubt a master-thief, overtook me in his Range Rover (the windows were blacked out, of course) and then curved into my path. I had to slow to walking space before he sped off, only for a Peugeot full of police to slow to a park ahead of us and start waving guns and shouting. A lot of money must have been stolen, for the big man to spread the brutality of his power along the streets of Abuja in this way.

By the way, there is a nice write-up by Jumoke Verissimo on Teju Cole on page 44 of today's Guardian, for those in the motherland..

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Telephobia

Does anyone know why the GSM phone networks are so spectacularly bad right now? Its almost impossible to make calls or send texts either to your own network or cross-network. Haba.

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Rainer Maria...

For many years, I have been more than content with just two books from Rainer Maria Rilke - my bodhisattva - on my shelf: the Collected Poems (trans by Stephen Mitchell) and the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. The words and thoughts in these two books are more than enough for a lifetime.

However, a subterranean impulse crept up on me while in Foyles not so long ago: it was time to read Letters to a Young Poet and the Neue Gedichte (New Poems). The latter is utterly spell-bounding. At random, take this poem, and take it slowly:

Buddha

As if he were an ear for silence, space.
We have stopped listening. We no longer hear.
He is a star, and many a giant star
stands all about him though unseen by us.
Oh, he is all things. Is our destiny
only to await his need for us at last?
If we abased ourselves before him he
would stay unmoved, as distant as a beast.

For all the force that drives us to his feet
has worked in him for millions of years.
All that we call experience he can ignore -
experiencing all that shuts us out.

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Hakeem Lassisi


Last night..

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Helon Habila last night...

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Odia Ofeimun at the Things Fall Apart celebration last night..

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The Cyprian Ekwensi Centre...

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Outside the centre

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To the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre..

...to celebrate 50 years of the publication of Things Fall Apart. The event was organised by the Association of Nigerian Authors. A live link up with Professor Achebe had been planned - I had been roped in as technical consultant - only for Starcomms to mess up our video skype to skype plans. The night went well nonetheless, with Helon Habila, Hakeem Lassisi, Odia Ofeimun, Reuben Abati and many others in the house..

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yemi Osunkoya in the Windy City


London-based Yemi Osunkoya will be the featured designer at the upcoming bridal event (see image to the left).

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Nigeria Disco Funk


My buddy Saul bought me this album recently. Its definitely one to check out. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

"Nigeria Disco Funk Special is an amazing collection of heavy dancefloor grooves from urban Lagos in the `70s - hot and driving slices of Funk, Disco and Boogie that show just how vibrant the music scene was in one of West Africa's most populous and culturally diverse cities. In the `70s, it wasn't just James Brown who influenced the musicians playing in the nightspots of Lagos - the loose-structured and elongated jams that he was pioneering in America had been a part of Nigerian music much longer than that. This album is the sound of Cuban-heeled and Micro-minied Lagos youth soaking up the sound of the American discotheque and putting their own inimitable twist on the proceedings."

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Security in Nigeria..

Someone just forwarded me the US Embassy in Nigeria's latest posting to US citizens based in Nigeria. I used to think these warnings were mildly paranoid. Not so now, especially given the first-hand accounts of life in Park View and VGC amongst other places prey to waterborne gangs:

"With the Nigerian Police Force's increased presence on the roadways, criminal gangs are using boats to access their targets and to circumvent the standard checkpoints. Compounds near or on Lagos Lagoon have been targeted, infiltrated and violently attacked by waterborne gangs.

The U.S. Consulate General Lagos experienced this type of attack at one of its residences; a similar attack took place next door to another of its residences. Criminals have used domestic quarters as a route into the main compound by obtaining the domestic's keys and other items/information, facilitating easier access to the residence. In another incident, compound attackers accessed an apartment building via Lagos Lagoon and allegedly used a set of keys to open at least one unit.

Additional reporting in Lagos indicates a trend involving armed attackers, often dressed as police or in business suits, gaining access to compounds by following closely behind the car of a legitimate guest or resident. Once the guards open the gate, the attackers jump out and
subdue, assault, and/or rob the guards and inhabitants of the car before
moving on to individual units.

If you notice a car following closely behind you or suddenly appearing while entering a housing compound, immediately alert the guards if possible that the car is not with you. If you can, drive away until in a safe area and call the authorities for assistance.

Take strong security steps to decrease your vulnerability to a criminal attack by establishing a personalized emergency action plan for your residence. Use the points below to help you:

* Control the keys to your residence! If you give your domestic a
key, limit it to the key for the secondary lock. * *

* Keep all ground floor and balcony windows, doors and grills locked
when not in use, and particularly before retiring for the evening.
Close all drapes.

* Keep doors locked during the day, even if you or your domestic are
inside.

* Discourage children from answering the door or the gate bell. Do
not open the door or gate until you have identified the visitor.
Domestics and dependents should be instructed to do the same and
to report any strange visitor, activity that occurred in your absence.

* If you leave your residence unoccupied during evening hours, turn
on lights to make it appear someone is home. * *

* If you intend to be away for more than 24 hours, have a
friend/neighbor check your residence daily at irregular times.

* Inspect your home periodically to identify any inoperative
security items.

* Brief your household staff on security procedures you wish them to
follow and how you wish them to handle emergencies. Ensure your
household staff is aware when repairmen and visitors are coming to
your residence. Instruct them not to let anyone onto your property
whom you have not previously authorized to be there."

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Home visit

Our world has been thrown upside down. Early on Tuesday morning, we had armed robbers coming on a 'home visit'. The sense of violation and trauma does not go away quickly. Those who came had good intelligence on what was where, which only heightens the sense of fear of who knows what outside the gates of our compound.

Then you start to talk to your friends, and everyone has terrible stories to tell. Luckily, no one was physically harmed in our case, but the pyschological pain will take quite a while to dissipate. For now, it is a matter of turning our house into a fortress to try to make sure this does not happen again. At least we are alive and physically well to tell the tale.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Naija Yes O!

Featuring
Fatai Rolling Dollar
9ice
Tony Tetuila
Dr Saheed Osupa
Remi Aluko
plus DJ John Armstrong

Saturday, 26 April, 10pm till very late
Dex Club, 467-469 Brixton Road, London SW9 8HH (opposite Ritzy Cinema), nearest tube: Brixton, www.dexclub.co.uk / 020 7326 4455
£12 before midnight, £15 after

Bank Holiday Monday, 5 May, 8pm till 1am
Cargo, 83 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3AY, nearest tube: Old Street, www.cargo-london.co.uk / 020 7613 7736
£12 before midnight, £15 after

Fela Kuti's Afrobeat legacy made such an enormous impression on the international Nigerian music-lovers' scene that much subsequent music in this most versatile of all African nations has been overshadowed – or just plain overlooked - outside the home market and the expat Nigerian Diaspora. Afrobeat was amazing – but believing that Nigeria has rested on its musical laurels since the heyday of Fela, Sunny Ade and other 70s and 80s superstars is like claiming that British pop ended with Punk!

This, the first-ever 'overground' UK shows of Naija Beat (contemporary Nigerian popular music), brought to you by well-known promoter and manager Kayode Samuel and DJ John Armstrong as part of their long-running AFRIKLUB concert series, sets out to correct the imbalance with a panorama of contemporary Nigerian stars whose joint talent is matched only by the amazing diversity of their musical roots. A couple of these artists have previously made low-key appearances in the UK before, but this is the first time that all have appeared on the same bill- and in two top London venues, at that.

Hip-hop/ Naija-pop artist Tony Tetuila is recognised as one of the top Nigerian stars of this generation. Albums like 'My Car', 'He Go Better' and his 2006 smash 'First Soldier' and MTV hit video 'Two Women' (with Ghana's hip-life crew VIP) are inescapable on the Lagos airwaves.

Dr Saheed Osupa – aka Vadisco The Genius Fuji Wizard – takes traditional Fuji talking-drum beats places they've never been before on tunes such as 'Gbedu Hip Hop' – the dancefloor pick from his 2008 album 'Endorsement', which garnered a million copies in pre-sales alone when released in January this year – an unheard-of feat for a Fuji album.

Still on the immensely popular Fuji tip – but from a different angle – comes Remi Aluko, who performed to a couple of rammed expat shows in the UK last year (including Afriklub in November 2007). Remi's current tunes 'Omo London' and 'Ibadan Rumour' are favourites for those who prefer their Fuji uncut, hard, rough and political.

Back to the blossoming fields of Naija hip-hop: we're proud to present, for the first time in the UK, the sensation of the Nigerian Hip-Hop World Annual Awards 2008: 9ice. 9ice, aka Da Nigerian Hook Man, aka Abolore Akande, won Vocal Performance of the Year and Revelation of the Year for his massive hit 'Gongo Aso'. Expect a unique blend of hip-hop, Afrobeat and R'n'B.

But every Nigerian show of this kind pays homage to what has gone before, and what is rich enough still to be with us – in this case, the mighty, legendary King of Palmwine blues, Nigerian mambo and adgidibo – the one and only Fatai Rolling Dollar. Fatai was playing Lagos club gigs 7 nights a week when the Stones and Beatles were in short pants, and he is still doing it now, at 82 years of age.

DJ John Armstrong will be supporting with an exclusive set of current recent and unreleased Naija tunes.

Read more...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Private Equity opportunity in SL

Forwarded from an email:

Dear all,

I’m writing to let you know about an opportunity we’re deeply excited about. Rare has just been appointed as sole recruiter for an Analyst role with private equity firm ManoCap, based in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

ManoCap is the biggest private equity investor in Sierra Leone. By the end of the year, its fund will be equivalent to 2% of the country’s GDP. Its backers include Texas Pacific Group, Permira, and Landsdowne Partners. ManoCap’s total funds under management have just increased fivefold and the business plans to roll out in a number of other small emerging economies over the coming years.

Joining ManoCap is a unique opportunity to help some of the poorest countries in the world and to gain blue-chip, private equity experience. The Sierra Leone opportunity is for a year initially but the intention is to find someone who will stay with ManoCap for the long term and who has the potential to become a partner in the fullness of time.

The role requires strong financial modelling skills. The ideal candidate will be patient, flexible, tough, extroverted, excited about doing new things, commercial, independent, poised, confident and passionate about West Africa. He or she is likely to have 1-3 years’ work experience, probably – but not necessarily – in a consulting or banking role.

For full details of the role, please visit our jobsite at www.rarerecruitment.co.uk/jobs. And if you have any questions please give me a ring.

Best wishes
Amina

Amina Duke-Azore
Director, General Recruitment
Rare Recruitment
Suite 14/15
88/90 Hatton Garden
London EC1N 8PN

www.rarerecruitment.co.uk

T: 020 7242 0322
M: 07507 560 596
E: amina.duke-azore@rarerecruitment.co.uk

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The consolations of philosophy

Its hardly vindication, but its good to read pieces such as this from time to time to hear external validation that my ten years hard slog study of philosophy was worthwhile.

The extent to which a society takes critical reflection seriously, institutionalised within active well-funded philosophy departments and as part of popular discourse from pubs and bars to temporary gatherings round the office water cooler, is the extent to which it takes itself seriously.

Perhaps if philosophy were taken more seriously in Nigeria, we wouldn't have to hear the evangelistas spout their arrant BS quite so loudly, and perhaps their grandiose chimeras would be less easily swallowed. Perhaps also the issue of safe forms of contraception would not be part of the debate from Awka to Zamfara, nor would there need to be an argument for made for abortion - it would simply be law. Today, 27 more Nigerian women died from backstreet abortions..

Thanks Big Buddha for the link.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Condom ban in Anambra

LAGOS, 7 April (IRIN) - It is now illegal to encourage the use of condoms in southeast Nigeria's Anambra State. The state government has also banned the advocacy and distribution of other forms of contraceptives including IUDs (intrauterine device) and any other "un-natural" birth control.

"Instead of teaching children how to use condoms to enjoy sex they should be taught total abstinence," the state commissioner for health, Amobi Ilika said when announcing the measures in late March at the state capital, Awka. "The use of condoms has greatly encouraged immorality," he said.

Many sociologists as well as family planning and AIDS support groups disagree. "I don't think it's the right step," public affairs analyst Alphonsus Ofodile said. "Even if you ban the use of condoms, people will still have sex. So why would a responsible government want to discourage safe sex?"

More than 3 million people - 3.9 percent of the adult population - are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The rate is rising by around 300,000 people a year, according to a 2006 estimate by the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Condoms are openly available throughout Nigeria partly because the federal government, in partnership with family health organisations, has programmes to distribute and sell them. The programmes also produce public announcements on local radio and billboards advocating for the use of condoms.

Many religious groups around the country also back condom use, having recognised that messages urging abstinence have failed to yield the desired results.

The population of Anambra State are not known for habouring particularly fundamentalist beliefs but the ban may have been designed to appeal to local evangelical groups.

For Ofodile, the ban is just a way for the state government "to score a cheap political point". Anambra State has a history of political instability and violence and is now making "a desperate attempt to uphold morals", he said.

Abortion

Besides making advocacy for contraception illegal, commissioner Ilika also railed against abortion. "Abortion is the greatest crime," he said. "[All fetuses] must be allowed to live no matter the circumstances that led to the pregnancy, even rape."

He added that medical practitioners in the state will face stiff penalties if they are caught carrying out abortions or any 'anti-life' activities. "The state government will withdraw the license of any medical personnel who flouts this directive and any hospital will be closed down."

The commissioner did not specify how the state would punish shops and pharmacies caught selling condoms, or individuals caught using them.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Fundraiser needed for an excellent cause..

Development in Nigeria is a small but very well respected community forestry NGO in Cross River State - the community action project of the African Research Association. DIN is looking for a fundraiser - someone interested in spending a bit of time for a good cause and earning some money at the same time.

If you are interested, please email the Executive Director, Tracey Draper - tracey.draper@pronatura-nigeria.org

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Research opportunity

Please forward:

The Italian "think tank" called Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale, CeSPI, is currently working on a project on poverty reduction in oil producing countries, and we are looking for a local researcher to work on the country report for Nigeria.

The ideal candidate would be an economist, located in Nigeria.

Do you know someone?
For more info you can contact
Anna Ozorio de Almeida
Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale
Area Studi sullo Sviluppo Internazionale
F: (0039)06-6990630
e-mail: anna.ozorio@ cespi.it

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Professor Volker Sommer on the best way to die..

video

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On being Chris Okotie

Just got sent this:

A NORMAL PERSON: People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Chris Okotie : Individuals who make their abodes in vitreous edifices would be advised to refrain from catapulting perilous projectiles.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : Twinkle, twinkle, little star
Chris Okotie : Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minim.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : All that glitters is not gold.
Chris Okotie : All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous.
************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : Beggars are not choosers
Chris Okotie : Sorting on the part of mendicants must be interdicted.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : Dead men tell no tales
Chris Okotie : Male cadavers are incapable of rendering any testimony.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : Beginner's luck
Chris Okotie : Neophyte's serendipity.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* *******

NORMAL PERSON : A rolling stone gathers no moss
Chris Okotie : A revolving lithic conglomerate accumulates no congeries of small, green, biophytic plant.

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NORMAL PERSON : Birds of a feather flock together
Chris Okotie : Members of an avian species of identical plumage tend to congregate.

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NORMAL PERSON : Beauty is only skin deep
Chris Okotie : Pulchritude possesses solely cutaneous profundity.

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NORMAL PERSON : Cleanliness is godliness
Chris Okotie : Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.

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NORMAL PERSON : There's no use crying over spilt milk
Chris Okotie : It is fruitless to become lachrymose of precipitately departed lactile fluid.

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NORMAL PERSON : You can't try to teach an old dog new tricks
Chris Okotie : It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.

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NORMAL PERSON : Look before you leap
Chris Okotie : Surveillance should precede saltation.

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NORMAL PERSON : He who laughs last, laughs best
Chris Okotie : The person presenting the ultimate cachinnation possesses thereby the optimal cachinnation.

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NORMAL PERSON : All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Chris Okotie : Exclusive dedication to necessitous chores without interludes of hedonistic diversion renders Jack a hebetudinous fellow.

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NORMAL PERSON : Where there's smoke, there's fire!
Chris Okotie : Where there are visible vapours having their provenance in ignited carbonaceous materials, there is conflagration

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No Country

Leaving Lagos this morning, we drove past Silverbird. Gor blimey strike me down they are showing No Country for Old Men as well as the usual Hollyweird-at-its-worst. Then I check Ceddi Plaza back here in Abuja. No such luck - they are showing Jumper, Horton Hears a Who! 10,000BC and P.S I love you - film fodder for morons in other words.

Another thing: early in the morning, have you noticed how many guys run the length of 3rd mainland bridge? So much untapped energy. If only Lagos had an athletics club/track for these guys, rather than running at risk of being mown down.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Arrival

This picture pretty much sums up our physical state on returning to Kwano after seven days of trekking..

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Down by the river Gamgam...


..we sat down, camped, and ate rice, macaroni and beans. The non-vegans also ate fish the guides swiped from the poachers.

From left to right: Diane, Luc, Simon, Jeremy (lying down), Jide.

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Gangirwal landscape


This picture by Simon Gusah nicely captures the colours of the landscape around the Mountain of Death, looking towards Cameroon.

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Kash has a jacuzzi


at Gashaka Gumti (day 3 of the trek)

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Art talk at CCA Lagos tomorrow: 2:45pm

Curator, Bisi Silva in conversation with George Osodi and joined by France based Nigerian photographer and DoF member Emeka Okereke expand on some of the issues in Paradise Lost:Revisiting the Niger Delta. A photographic Exhibition by George Osodi.

In addition Okereke will briefly introduce his current project "Paris-Lagos" a photography workshop programme involving 12 french and 12 Nigerian photographers in Lagos in April 2008.

CCA Lagos
9 McEwen Street
Off Queens Street
Sabo
Lagos

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Butterflies at Gashaka Gumti


Snap by Senor Owen..

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Olly n Kash

I posted this one just to show that Olly looks like a normal human being from time to time...

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The Mountain of Death: no be small o!

As I crouched down to business over the pit latrine in Kwano, surrounded by a curious family of baboons a few feet away, I knew trekking in Gashaka Gumti was going to be an experience. Fortunately, given my somewhat exposed situation, I didn’t yet need be aware of one vital piece of advice to recall when in the presence of monkeys and primates: don’t ever smile (the sign of aggression). One baboon jumped down several branches until he was just a few feet away. He sat staring at me as I attempted to aim and fire. The others looked on with the casual indifference of animals without language. The philosophical question arose: should one feel self-conscious when defecating in front of a bunch of monkeys?

Straddling Taraba and Adamawa States, Gashaka Gumti National Park is the largest and most remote park in Nigeria. At over 6,000 square kilometres, it is a feast of wildlife: civets, lions, hogs, buffalos, bushbucks, duikers, baboons, mona monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, the grey-cheeked mangabey, the tantalus monkey, the patas monkey and as well as some of the 500 species of birds, including a startlingly blue species of kingfisher as well as vultures all make Gashaka Gumti their home. Most significantly, the park has a population of around endangered 2,000 chimpanzees. University College London has a primate project at an abandoned village called Kwano deep inside the forest (run jointly with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation), run by Professor Volker Sommer.

Together with eight other adventurers (three Nigerians and five other oyinbos – Ellie, Kash, Olly, Luc and Diane), we had decided to climb Gangirwal (a.k.a Chappal Wadi, a.k.a the Mountain of Death), Nigeria’s tallest mountain. Gangirwal lies deep inside the park, on the border with Cameroon. Professor Sommer had helped with the arrangements, organising porters from the nearby Gashaka village, as well as two park rangers and a tracker to act as guides. The walking-camping segment of our trip was to last six and a half days.

The idea to be the first tourists to climb Gangirwal in a circular route came thanks to three near-parallel series of events. First of all, there was an argument I had had with an immigration official at Maidugiri airport two years ago. I didn’t realise until too late that foreign travellers flying from within Nigeria have to pass through immigration when landing at the airport in Borno State. I found myself behind a longish line of Lebanese businessmen and diasporic Nigerians without green kpali and a few other oyinbos. Finally, when it was my turn to sit down and show my passport to the portly female official, I was in a bad mood. I asked her what need there was for there to be an immigration process for domestic passengers. She replied that as Borno State has borders with other countries, it is necessary for a passport control. I pointed out that the same geographical circumstance applies to Lagos State and Calabar, yet there are no passport checking procedures for foreigners there. She responded curtly by saying that some people arrive in Maidugiri and quickly flee into Chad or Cameroon. At which point, I decided to retort, ‘well, the way I feel, I’d quite like to go to Cameroon right now. At least they have proper mountains over there.’ She stared at me, her face a mixture of irritation and curiosity. I carried on, ‘please, name me a big mountain in Nigeria.’ Her silent frown turned into a furrow.

This minor episode got me thinking on my return from my trip to the North. Was there a large mountain in Nigeria? If so, where? An hour or so Googling and I came upon Chappal Wadi, the Mountain of Death. Although not a huge mountain at only 2400 metres, its name and its remoteness held a certain allure. I had to climb it.

The second event was meeting Olly Owen, via a mutual friend Esohe. We met last June at an Italian café in Clerkenwell. As I have found out since, Olly has a hyperactive mind and an overactive imagination. He had been living on the mainland in Lagos for a few years, working with the Centre for Democracy and Development amongst other things. I found myself listening to the live feed of his mind as I sipped my espresso. I can’t remember if I mentioned Gangirwal then and there (I don’t think I did), however we soon started to discuss it via email. We goaded each other into it, in the friendliest possible way.

Thirdly, there was Alex. Alex is a UK-based journalist mate (soon to move to Texas). We got to know each other a couple of years ago. He has written a few books on well-known UK musicians (including one tome on Pete Doherty), as well as a series of feature pieces in the quality UK press on death-row prisoners in the US. We toured Yorubaland together with another friend last summer. While travelling round the South-West, he told me he had been researching the story of an American evangelical pastor who believed Gashaka Gumti to be the site of Eden. I told him about Chappal Wadi. We agreed it would make an excellent idea to visit the park and climb the mountain one day.

Olly and I agreed that we really ought to ‘do’ Gashaka Gumti before the rains start in 2008. This meant before April. As it turned out, Alex couldn’t make it. However, thanks to the trip being organised under the umbrella of the Nigerian Field Society, we gathered nine people primed for adventure, including Bibi and Olly’s friends Ellie and Kash. Ellie works for an NGO in the Niger Delta, while Kash is doing a post-doc in biophysics at UCL in London (he knows his Higgs Bosons). Another friend and map-maker extraordinaire, Simon, had prepared a 3-D map of the mountain and brought along a GPS unit to plot our path.

We set off at 5.30 am from Abuja on Friday 21st March – Easter Friday. The trip to Serti, the nearest town to the park, took nearly 12 hours, travelling through Nasarawa State, then on via Benue State to Taraba. Driving east, we passed through bands of Christian and Muslim areas. Village women walked bare breasted, to Senator Ekaette’s hypothetical dismay. Twice, we drove past Easter parades: a man with a long wig bearing a cross, with all the villagers singing and dancing behind. Little did we know, the suffering of Christ was a clue to what lay ahead.

In Serti, we stayed overnight in chalets at the Tourist Camp. That evening, we dined at Prescotts, a new joint just outside town offering the ‘integrated services’ of cybercafe, meeting rooms and a restaurant. As the place closes daily at 6pm, we had to wake the cook up to make our food. We also brought along our own crate of Star. After wolfing down glutinous mounds of spagbol, we were charged a ‘special service’ amount for the grub (double the menu price for being foreign and for having to wake up the cook). Back at the Tourist Camp, we had to pay N6000 to keep the generator on all night. Serti is a hot, dry place at this time of the year, so no generator means no sleep for foreigners. We found out later that Serti town is itself is powered by one big generator, turned on by PHCN for just a few hours each evening. The town has an army base. In the evenings, the central strip is full of sex workers, servicing the base and visitors.

The following day, two pick-ups arrived to take us into the park (the entrance is just beyond the town). After an hour, we stopped by the Mayo Kam and trekked for two hours alongside the water. Thousands of years of erosion have shaped the rocks into startling formations of swirls and dimples, as if fast moving water had been frozen in an instant through some Vesuvian sleight of God’s hand. The water was crystalline clear. Beneath the surface, huge fish swam steadily against the current. Angling would be like shooting into a barrel here. Finally, we reached a large pool where hippos often bathe. There were no animals around, but the air buzzed with brightly coloured dragonflies. Then, we drove up on into the forest, up and down steep undulations of track, crossing small dried-up rivers along wooden planks. The vegetation grew closer the further in we drove. We forded two rivers which must be impassable when the rains arrive, eventually reaching the small village of Gashaka.

Gashaka was once the capital of German Kameroon, at the time when what are now Adamawa and Taraba States (formerly Gongola State) were also part of the German colony. During the First World War, the British fought a ferocious battle to wrest control of the region from the Germans – a little known historical fact. The village today has one shack of a shop and a solitary baobab tree. We drank luke warm bottles of malt, kept vaguely cool by floating in a clay bowl full of brackish water. A billy-goat reared up at me, then seemed to fall instantly in lust with Ellie, gaining an instant erection. As we left the village, the spurned goat started sucking rather forlornly on its penis. As we left the village, we picked up a few park rangers who had been sent to track down poachers.

Finally, three hours’ drive from the entrance to the park, we arrived at Kwano, an abandoned village which is now the base station for the Gashaka Primate Project. Professor Sommer welcomed us with soup, rice and beans and an introduction to our trek, breaking down each day’s walk. He also showed us the solar-array of PV panels that power the station, donated by Julius Berger. Later, after we had rested, he made a short presentation on the Primate Project, which has been running for over nine years in the park. Professor Sommer has the air of an old hippy, with long hair in a ponytail on top, shaven at the sides. He exudes a quizzical eccentricity. This leftfield view of life emerged into the open when he started talking about the ecstatic prospect of being eaten by an old lion that has lost its pride. “What a unique death. Instead of dying in an hospital with tubes sticking out of you, how wonderful it would be to die in a lion’s mouth!” We nicknamed him ‘Professor Death’ from then on. Still, he is clearly passionate about our closest genetic neighbours, and their endangered status (thanks to poaching and loss of habitat) in the park. He also spoke interestingly about their research into chimpanzee use of combining sounds into a syntax – the prototype of language.

That evening, after bathing in the nearby stream, we set up our tents next to the chalets of the station, and quickly fell asleep.

Early the next day, we set off on what turned out to be an over ten-hour trek, ending up at the Gamgam river. Mamouda led the way, our tracker and guide. Along the way, both Olly and Jide stopped numerous times to examine the poo of various animals. I wondered at what point this fecal interest would wane. Just before reaching the river, Mamouda sighted some poachers upriver. The rangers and some of the porters gave chase, emerging a little later with a confiscated net (the poachers had escaped). That evening, we pitched our tents on a sandbank by the river. Olly went fishing, but the fish eluded him. We ate our first campsite meal of rice, macaroni and beans, prepared lovingly by Anthony, our ranger guide and cook. The night was a noisy one: the sounds of the forest were cacophonous, as were the deep reverberations of Simon’s snores.

The following day was much easier – we walked just over five hours to camp by another river – I think it was called the Bam. This river was faster flowing, with a three-metre waterfall nearby. Just before the waterfall, we found a trough of rock into which the river spewed at speed, making the perfect natural Jacuzzi. Life au naturel was on the whole good.

The following day was the second toughest day of the whole trip. We spent hour upon hour walking upwards, alongside the river. What Professor Death had described as a ‘few rocks to climb over’ turned out to be huge boulders that Atlas himself would not powder his fingers to carry. Still, there were wonderful compensations for our efforts. Every so often, we would pass through clouds of small butterflies, or spot huge winged vividly-coloured larger species fluttering about. At one point, we watched in silence as a couple of wild hogs munched on foliage on the other side of the river-bank. Imaginations over-extended themselves as we considered whether they were gay or not; this thought process developing into an idea for a children’s book about a lesbian wild hog couple: Lucy and Mildred live in the Forest or such like. At times, we would hear the half-fox half-dog bark of baboons as we encroached into their territory. We would also walk past the nests of chimpanzees. Fortunately, we didn’t see any green mambas, puff adders or Gabon vipers – three of the world’s most venomous snakes that live in the forest.

At times, walking by the river was impossible, so we would have to climb up steep banks at the side, joining the river yet higher up. Often, climbing these banks involved holding onto tree roots and pulling oneself up a 45%+ slope to higher ground – exhausting work even in the shade of the midday sun. Tempers were frayed by the time we arrived at camp at dusk. What Prof. Death had described as an 8 hour walk took 2 and half hours longer. We pitched our tents a little rancorously, and soon fell asleep.

We woke at 5.30 am the following day, excited and a little anxious that this day was the day of the ascent of Gangirwal. Some were worried that after leaving the river, our next source of water would be the place where we would camp, close to the summit. After a final hour walking up the riverbed, with bottles filled with fresh spring water, we left the river and started the climb. This began with a 20 minute steep bank to scramble up. Diane, Bibi, Ellie and I started out ahead of the others, immediately behind Mamouda. After a difficult ascent, the ground levelled off. The others were nowhere to be seen. Only after waiting for about ten-fifteen minutes did Jide, Olly, Kash and Luc appear. Given that our group already had the reputation as the slower group, I was a bit vexed that we had been left waiting for the faster group to arrive. I shouted something in this vein to Jide, who told me immediately to fuck off. Irked by his Saxon response, I told him to fuck off back. All of a sudden, we were telling each other to fuck off repeatedly and at an ever closer distance, and squaring up for blows. Thankfully, the others intervened and we were separated. However, from this moment on, Jide’s temper had been stirred, as we were to find out later on that day.

What followed was a seemingly endless trek upwards and upwards, with the odd vista of the mountain exposing itself between the leaves. After a few hours, Simon informed us that according to his GPS unit, we were only 1 kilometre from the summit. The problem was, directly ahead of us was a vertical cliff of rock. We therefore had to skirt around to the right. This detour involved several sections with no solid footholds, which could only be traversed by holding onto branches and roots. One mistake (a branch not secured to the ground) would involve falling many meters to almost certain broken bones. This was exhausting and slightly daunting work. We stopped to rest a little further on. At this point, Al-haji Barrister Jide walked over to the porters, who were resting nearby, only for sharp words in Hausa to ensue. An argument brewed up in a flash – it was not clear who had said what to whom. All of a sudden, everyone was involved, trying to calm Jide down, trying to placate the porters, trying to urge onward movement. A good many more fuck-offs between us sprang into the air. The reality was, we were all by now exhausted, and anxious to reach the top, but no one knew exactly how much longer it would actually take.

Eventually, we managed to calm ourselves and carry on upwards. It kept looking as if the edge of the tree line and the open ground of the mountain-top were just ahead, but each turn around a group of trees proved us wrong. In the end, it took us over nine hours to break through out of the tree line. We sat and rested before completing the walk to the camp. This was time for Diane to have a cathartic thank you speech to all of us. Her feet were blistered all over. The ascent had been quite traumatic for her and had taken many litres of courage. Finally, thanks to her emotional words, the bad air that had passed between us on the ascent disappeared for good. However, by now, Simon was reaching complete exhaustion. We were sure that this was related to the fact that he was using the trip to finally give up smoking. His body was rebelling and shutting down at the same time.

That evening, we slept by a small stream in the shadow of the mountain-top. The sunset was majestic – a slow burning of the day’s azure into the purple tain of the night. The sky sprinkled itself with thousands of stars, like a desert night. At nearly 8000 feet up, we slept higher than anyone else in the country that night. The temperature dropped to Lake-District-in-October levels in the early morning. It would have been lovely to spend the whole of the next day on the mountain-top, but we didn’t have the time.

The following morning’s walk was an easy open descent into Cameroon, walking passed an impressive stack of rock where vultures circle. Olly poured a libation of fine single malt for the mad man of the mountain. Simon pondered whether this mythical human was a Muslim or not, and whether he would welcome the wee dram or take offence. We reached the Cameroonian village of Jauro Hamasale by late morning. The villagers prepared Tuo and vegetables for us. We also bought two chickens to eat that evening. Simon was doggone by the time we reached the village. We made arrangements for him to travel back to Serti via okada via a track through the mountains. Luckily, he had his passport with him, so crossing back into Nigeria would not be an issue.

Day six proved to be the toughest day of all. Our legs were ingrained with fatigue by now. Ellie’s knees had swollen. Bibi was walking through her time-of-the-month. We passed by the Nigerian village of Mayo Sabere in the morning – Malts all round at last again. Just before hitting the village, we passed by a homestead where a Fulani woman had collected four or five enormous mushrooms in a bowl. We bought three of them for two-hundred naira. It then took us 9 hours to reach the Mayo Gamgam where we had camped on the first night. I nearly fainted with heat exhaustion at this point. Even after having a bottle of water tipped on my head and munching through two bananas, I felt dizzy with tiredness and uncertain about whether I could continue. It took us three more hours of superhuman effort to reach Yakuba. Dusk was ending as we arrived. I have never felt so utterly utterly knackered in my life as that night. At least, our food included fresh mushrooms that evening. The final day, day 7 of the trek, was a short four-hour walk back to Kwano. Professor Death had a wry smile on his face as we arrived at the station.

That evening in Serti, we dined at Prescotts again. Our van from Abuja had not yet arrived, so we had to travel by okada to the ‘resort’. We met an oyinbo at the restaurant. He turned out to be a Texan oil worker, who’d decided to visit the far East of Nigeria at the end of his contract, instead of following his other idea of the Seychelles. He had a slightly lost air about him, reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton’s Travis at the beginning of Paris, Texas. He said he would decide where he was sleeping after he had finished his meal. Again, we imagined all kinds of circumstances and back-stories for him. As we cracked open the Star, and I ate the world’s worst pizza, a sense of exhausted euphoria swelled between us. We had climbed the Mountain of Death.

Gashaka Gumti National Park really is a national treasure for Nigeria. Whether you want to exhaust yourself climbing the highest mountain in Nigeria as we did, or simply want to visit the base station of the Primate Project and go on an easy monkey/primate safari, you will experience a serene and tranquil side to Nigeria many will never even know about. It is something like the Eden of West Africa, untroubled by tourists, and a universe away from the bustle of Lagos and the cynicism of Abuja. You are guaranteed to have an experience of a lifetime if you go there.

Options for the tourist:

1. Easiest. Drive to Kwano (route: Abuja - Makurdi - Katsina Ala - Takum - Mararaba - Bali – Serti). 2-3 days monkey/chimp safari
2. Medium. Climb Gangirwal. Walk the same way up and down – via Mayo Sabere and Jauro Hamasale. The route is straightforward, with tracks and paths all the way up and down. 6 days total.
3. Difficult. Climb Gangirwal via the circular route. 6 1/2 days for the extremely fit, otherwise 8 1/2 days trekking for the averagely fit

If you’re interested in visiting Gashaka Gumti National Park, the Primate Project, or climbing Gangirwal, contact Professor Volker Sommer: volkersommer@googlemail.com

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