Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nigeria will cease exporting oil in just over 30 years

According to a Chatham House paper here. It makes sobering reading. The historically weak governance structures of countries such as Nigeria do not place it in good stead to manage the transition beyond a hydrocarbon-based economy.

The intro blurb is pasted below, and here is the web page where the pdf link is found.
Since 2003, countries whose economies depend on the export of oil and gas have enjoyed a surge of revenue driven by rising oil prices and, in some countries, rising export volumes. The press has captured petroleum-fuelled prosperity in images of futuristic construction plans and the rocketing assets of sovereign wealth funds. However, this obscures important differences among oil and gas exporters in terms of reserves size and social development challenges.

Based on a major study of twelve hydrocarbon-exporting countries, this report shows that the boom does not guarantee economic sustainability for these countries, most of which face hard policy choices over domestic consumption, development spending and rates of economic growth. The report estimates the timeframes these countries have in which to make the necessary changes and examine their prospects for success given the existing human, institutional and technical capacity, competitive advantages, infrastructure and access to capital.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Smart moves

Like you my readers, I'm a big fan of smart moves. David Miliband seems to be making them right now, first by putting out a well thought-through piece challenging any sense of inevitable Cameron/Tory ascendancy, and secondly, by refusing to rule himself out of a leadership contest. Its a kind of knight's gambit. At once, he has done nothing to dent the sense that he is behind Gordon Brown, and at the same time, he has done everything to put himself forward as the future of the Labour party. Clever Trevor. I'm sure there will be energy and commitment forming around him right now. Who the hell wants boring Jack Straw to step in - Blackburn's equivalent of John Major fifteen years ago?

Miliband vs Cameron is a far more even contest, especially if James Purnell comes in as Miliband's number 2 figure. Its funny to see my generation take up leadership positions at the top of British politics - Purnell is a friend of a friend, as is Miliband. Miliband I think has the greater political acumen and the higher spectrum brain. The Foreign Office has been an excellent place to cut his teeth, and he has increasingly acquired a statesmanly air. Cameron on the other hand has proved himself a good performer in PMQs, even if he's not so hot on locking his bike up properly. Behind the political theatre, the reality is there is little clear space between both parties these days. What Labour has going for it is a deeper historical commitment to social justice. I'm not so biased as to deny that some of the young 'uns in the Tory party don't have something to offer.

On the whole, the convergence around the centre ground has been a good thing for British politics. We no longer have to contemplate people like Norman Tebbit and their ilk. The one drawback from a centre-left perspective has been the void created by a partial abandonment of working-class values in Labour, which has increasingly been filled by the BNP. Miliband's recent courting of the unions is a sure sign that he is sensitive to this outflanking of the left turning into an outflanking by the extreme right.

I doubt now that the next elections are a foregone conclusion at all - so long as Brown is allowed to make a dignified exit either shortly before, during or just after conference season.

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Ron Eglash on African fractals

Here. (TED talk)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

He ventured forth to bring light to the world

From todays The Times - satire at its best (ta Bayo for the link):

The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant.

For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more. From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.
On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Gerard Baker

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Power

I dipped into a conference on power generation at the Sheraton earlier today, organised by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). The presentations were of a good standard - they seem to have some competent people there. I learned the answer to a question I've had in my head for quite a while now: how much electricity is actually generated in Nigeria?

We know that in terms of NEPA/PHCN grid-based generation, the figure was over 3000Megawatts, but has now dipped to somewhere between two and three thousand (Ghana, with a fraction of the population, generates around 1500MW). But what about all the thousands of generators slurping away on diesel and petrol? Apparently, the total figure for generated power in Nigeria is around 40,000MW. In other words, self-generated power is over ten times that of government (PHCN) generated power.

[As an aside, another statistic that I've yet to be able to throw into the mix: Nigeria flares off the equivalent of 30% of total annual consumption of gas in the US. That's 30% of total American usage, burnt off into the atmosphere (and into people's lungs) in the Delta...]

Back to power. The government's strategy seems to be to rely on 40% of energy (that's national grid energy, not self-generated) coming via coal. That does not seem like that smart an idea, given the poor health of the planet, and given the fact that Nigeria has around 180 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. I would have thought that prioritising gas would be the way to go, until a truly clean way of generating power from coal is found. Sure, there is an issue with gas distribution, but then there are ways of ensuring pipelines are not hot-tapped these days...

Still, renewables were mentioned by several speakers, which is encouraging. That said, there was quite some mention of nuclear too. I just can't imagine the G8 or other international bodies letting that one through... (I'm sure people will like to comment on this point!)

Whether or not targets are met (15,000MW by 2010 - ie in two years time - up to 130,000MW projected by 2030), I get a sense that if the government let the private sector do what needs to be done in a well regulated environment, huge strides could indeed be made in the next fifteen to twenty years.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Man U vs Portsmouth

Two Prem clubs played each other in Abuja this evening, not that anyone noticed. There was zero publicity - no newspaper ads, nothing on telly, and of course nothing online. The Abuja expats were left scrabbling round cobbling information together - how much, where to pay etc? I glanced at a TV in a bar this evening that was showing the match. The ground (capacity 60,000) looked like there was just a few thousand in, with acres of empty seats. There are probably at least 60,000 Man U fans (and a few die-hard Portsmouth-don't-minds) in FCT. At least half-filling the ground wouldn't have been that difficult. A 7.45pm kick-off was an exceptionally silly idea as well.

Null points for the company/people that organised the whole thing.

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African/Nigerian theatre coming up in London

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Gehry in Brittania

I'm looking forward to seeing the Gehry summer pavilion at the Serpentine in a few week's time. The jury is out for a long lunch on whether the Canadian starchitect is one of the greats, eventually to take his place in the pantheon alongside Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. There's a good piece on the pavilion and the man by Stephen Bayley here.

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The Black Italian Vogue

Update on the all-black edition of Vogue Italy.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nigerian university African-wide rankings

Obafemi Awolowo University is the highest ranked Nigerian university in Africa - at 68th on the list. Stark evidence of how low Nigeria's tertiary sector has sunk, and how far it has to go to compete even only in continental terms.

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LET THERE BE LIGHT

LET THERE BE LIGHT:
PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN A STRUGGLING DEMOCRACY

Delivered by Dele Olojede at the 4th Annual Aelex Lecture, Muson Centre, Lagos, July 24, 2008


An Area of Darkness
On this Equatorial belt, where our ancestors chose to settle so long ago, we are bathed in the light of the sun for more than 12 hours on most days. And because we value the sunlight, we are uncomfortable with the dark. In all our languages, and with the stranglehold of superstition on our culture, we have come to associate the dark with all manner of terrible and malignant things.

And so we have usually preferred to conduct our affairs in the open, in broad daylight. Every significant marker of our existence—births, weddings, deaths—all unfold with extravagant openness, leaving only those which are meant to frighten, or which are forbidden, for the dark.

Except of course, in our modern politics.

Here, we exist almost entirely in an area of darkness, where any demand to share information is treated with great suspicion, and our political class regards itself largely as unaccountable to the public.

The conduct of our affairs, in the political sphere, can most usefully be likened to a feeding frenzy, where all tiers of government have effectively fallen under the sway of unrestrained men [and the occasional woman.]

The public business goes on largely behind closed doors, and the sharing of the most elementary information is viewed with horror. Even the president’s health is seen as government secret, leading to wild rumours and dark prophesies about the fate of the leader of the country. The specific ailments of a man supposedly hired by 140 million people to help run their affairs is deemed to be none of their business.

It is in this atmosphere that we must of necessity consider the reluctance to pass into law the Freedom of Information Act. The Act aims to bring a number of existing laws, notably the crudely colonial and militaristic Official Secrets Act, into conformity with our current constitution.

In its essence, the Freedom of Information Act seeks to let the people in on how the sausage of government is made. Every citizen will have the right to access public records, such as contracts, budget provisions, legislative votes, rules and regulations, and other government decisions.

As currently envisaged, and also in its previous incarnations, the draft law carefully balances the public’s right to know with the exigencies of governance. It exempts, for example, information that has a direct bearing on national security. The law would not guarantee me a right to ask the military, for instance, to disclose to me any plans for invading Niger or Cameroon. It would also preclude disclosure of certain law enforcement information, and aspects of the conduct of foreign affairs whose premature disclosure may injure the nation’s interests. It also protects individual privacy—for example, a private citizen’s tax information, except as specified by law.

But as in all societies that aspire to greatness, the proposed law presumes that an informed citizenry is a necessary condition for social progress. It presumes that the people should, quite logically, have the right to know how their business is being conducted, and how their employees, otherwise known as public officials, are performing their duties.

It starts from the premise that information should be readily available, and if there is a dispute over grey areas, then the courts can step in to resolve them.

Information is the oxygen upon which a democracy depends. It helps a society confront its true condition with sober senses, and helps dissipate the darkness of atavistic loyalties, rumour and superstition.

And of course, bringing the public business into the sunlight helps restrain the wilder impulses and the rapaciousness that we all know exist in overabundance in our political leaders. A law such as this is needed in recognition of the reality that, to paraphrase Rousseau, men are “as they are, and the law as they might be.”

It is not an accident that the Americans, who run a system that is more open that most, went even further by enacting into law a Freedom of Information Act more than 40 years ago. And it is not mere happenstance that the law took effect on their symbolically important Independence Day, the 4th of July.

On our own continent we are not even attempting to break any new ground. The South Africans, who have one of the more enlightened constitutions, already have a similar Act, as do the Angolans and the Ugandans, among others. Any minute now, Liberia will join the ranks of the enlightened.

The Language of Politics
Earlier this month the House of Representatives, which by the day resembles a bazaar, maneuvered to kill off, for now, the proposed Freedom of Information Act. The noisiest of the legislators denounced the draft law as an instrument of the media and a kind of noxious piece of legislation sure to bring the country to ruin. By which, as all sober-minded citizens surely know, they mean that the law will introduce a new and unaccustomed level of scrutiny and accountability, which is liable to get in the way of the feeding frenzy that now occurs without shame in the corridors of congress.

For its part, the Senate had seemed a tad more receptive to the idea of the Act. And the president’s spokesmen announced that the leader of our country supports passage of the law, though he does not appear to have exerted himself too mightily to ensure its passage.

We are not always so blind.

As with most Nigerian problems, everyone knows the solution, but few are willing to work for it.

An exception to our culture of secrecy was the former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took a simple step of publishing, every month, how much each tier of government was allocated from the federation account. As a result, it was possible, theoretically and over time, for citizens to begin to engage their leaders on the specifics of how the commonwealth was being managed.

If this basic step had been extended and deepened, it would have been possible for residents of, say, Kotangora, to know exactly how much had been allocated to their local school, and whether the resources were going to the purposes for which they had been advertised. The same would have been true for the good people of Birni-Kebbi, or of Modakeke, who would be able to determine, if they took the trouble, whatever happened to the money meant for the local firehouse, the local dispensary, and the local police station.

This is how functioning communities have been built elsewhere, and no magical solutions, or fruitless invocations of divine intervention, are needed to build ours.

Alas, the current minister of finance apparently sees no merit in this arrangement, which has the advantage of doing a lot of good without any obvious legitimate downside. We are unprepared, it appears, to harvest even the low-hanging fruit.

In our dysfunctional politics, language has been deployed as a weapon by bleeding it of all meaning.

Supporters and opponents of transparency alike use the same words and phrases. I make it my business to regularly interact with our political leaders, and I have yet to meet one who is against accountability, transparency, ethics, or due process. It was the same way I never met a single white South African, in the years following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, who ever, ever supported apartheid. In fact, everyone in our political firmament proclaims, often loudly, that they are for all these good things, including the current fad and my personal favourite, “the rule of law.”

In reality, the fervency of the proclamation of the “rule of law” has proved inversely proportional to actual law enforcement, as anyone who lives in our beloved land can attest through everyday experience. One needs only drive around, or visit a police station, or engage in any kind of exchange with another citizen, to understand that the rule of law, no matter how repeated with great affection, is the farthest thing from the reality of life on these shores.

And yet, language does have the power to inspire the dispirited, to free the oppressed, and to rally a nation, as we have seen throughout history. Lincoln gave one of the shortest and most powerful speeches ever given by a human, at Gettysburg, when he rallied his troops around the idea that their sacrifice was for nothing less than to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the face of the earth.” Nkrumah stood before his people at independence to proclaim, “Africa is free forever!”—thus inspiring a shackled continent to believe that freedom was indeed around the corner. Churchill gave courage to a small island at its darkest hour by vowing, “We shall never surrender.” Mandela, facing a death sentence in a Pretoria courtroom not that long ago, declared solemnly that racial justice was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” King related his dream in front of the multitudes, a powerful imagery of hope for the disillusioned. And standing in the dock in 1953, his band of revolutionaries in tatters, Castro defiantly kept hope alive be declaring, “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

So yes, language can be a potent tool in the service of social transformation. No one ever felt the stirring of the heart while listening to a leader say, “on the one hand; on the other hand.”

But when language is drained of meaning, its effect can be disastrous.

Both houses of the national assembly, you may recall, already had passed the Freedom of Information Act, in 2006. At least in the public explanations offered, the act was allowed to wither and die over the meaning of words.

The Man Who Knew Everything
The former president, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, now fitfully retired to his beloved farm, reportedly stated that he refused to sign the law in part because he was unhappy with its name! Apparently the man did not want information to be free, hence his stated aversion to the “Freedom of Information Act.”

For thoughtful citizens, this was one of the more damaging decisions taken throughout Obasanjo’s presidency, precisely because the Freedom of Information Act is one of those foundational things that help set a country on a long journey towards the light. It is more damaging because it goes to the heart of what quality of citizen a society ultimately produces—and thus the progress, in a very real sense, of that society itself. Without it—without, it must be said, an informed population-- almost no tangible and lasting advances are possible.

That Obasanjo, who had the unusual good fortune of a second chance, chose to fritter away much of it in the end points to his enduring paradox.

His opposition to the Freedom of Information Act actually had less to do with the inappropriateness of the bill’s title, and more to do with the former president’s visceral hatred of the media. In his mind, the law was really about granting license to reporters to rummage around politicians’ closets. He did not see it at all as conferring certain inalienable rights upon the citizen, for whom he had expressed contempt on more than one occasion.

The tragedy of Olusegun Obasanjo was that he was equal parts patriot and scoundrel; visionary and utterly blind; reformer and destroyer. He had large ambitions for his country but suffered from the Napoleonic complex—l’etat ces’t moi: I am the state. He was the man who knew everything and, therefore, knew nothing. He was not beyond pettiness and casual cruelty, and remained old school to the end, unable to help us move beyond the era of the Big Man.

The dishonesty of his stated reason for letting the Freedom of Information Act die from neglect is the same dishonesty that envelops the current explanations from opponents of the Act in the National Assembly.

The Mimic Men
Our current crop of political leaders, particularly in the national legislature, is, if anything, even more willfully avaricious than the previous bunch. To be fair, though, they are not that materially distinguishable from the rest of the political elite, deeply embedded at the state and local government levels, which conducts itself in the manner of those described by V.S. Naipaul as the “mimic men.”

In every measurable way, our ruling elite sees itself as the successor class to the colonial authorities, the main difference being the current leaders are incapable of running anything.

Members of this exalted group see the citizen as a bother and an irritant, to be abused daily and spat upon, and certainly not deserving of any information, save as doled out in whatever version by the rulers, and often bearing little semblance to reality. The basic functions of the state have long been abandoned, and all the paraphernalia of governance has been redeployed in the personal service of the political elite and the most privileged citizens.

If we must speak frankly, are the police not now merely used as private security in the service of the powerful? A young in-law of mine, recently returned home from America to work for a private equity firm, was shocked the other day to find himself, complete with his own police escort dutifully arranged by his employer, driven to the airport so he can travel out safely and undisturbed by Lagos traffic. The police exist solely to protect the influential, including unsuspecting 30-year-olds. The ordinary citizen is on her own, except when someone makes a fuss over the length of her skirt. And certainly, no powerful man or thieving politician is yet convicted of violating the sharia, a law that in practice is meant by our politicians only for self-perpetuation and for the oppression of the poor.

I have digressed a bit to take you, ladies and gentlemen, on a guided tour of our political landscape, because it goes to the very heart of why the Freedom of Information Act is urgently required, if we are to create the long term conditions necessary for our country’s revival.

The Matter of Goats and Pigs
The deliberate design to keep the citizen in the dark—exemplified by the incoherent and illogical opposition to the Act—continues our aversion to the nurturing of memory.

With no paper trail, no record of our affairs that anyone has the legal right to obtain, and with no clear restraint on the ability of officials to destroy whatever does exist, we are succeeding rather well in the erasure of memory.

As far as we are concerned, the past does not exist. The past is not even past, to paraphrase William Faulkner. Only recently we witnessed the appalling spectacle of three former military leaders—Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari, and Abdulsalami Abubakar—making the quite extraordinary claim that the dearly departed Sani Abacha had been unfairly maligned, that he was in fact an innocent man unjustly put upon. He was not a thief. He never did any of those terrible things attributed to him.

And just like that, poof! The hundreds of millions of dollars from the estimated $3 billion of Abacha loot returned by the Swiss to the Nigerian government was a mere figment of our imagination. Alex Ibru was not shot in the eye nor was Kudirat Abiola murdered. Obasanjo was not jailed on trumped up charges at all, and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, brother of the current president, did not even die in Abacha’s prison.

Ladies and gentlemen, Abacha did nothing wrong, and we have it on the authority of these three gentlemen in question, at least two of whom still have designs on returning to power, to do us the favour of ruling over us. On Tuesday in Minna, the endlessly self-regarding Babangida reportedly said to a visiting team studying electoral reforms, and with a straight face and without a trace of irony, that he had organised the cleanest elections in Nigeria! “Aside,” he added, “from the cancellation of the result.” The Jews call this chutzpah. The Yoruba might refer to Babangida as an ogboju. The city of Ibadan, which sprang up around a war camp as the Yoruba empire collapsed in internecine warfare 150 years ago, is saluted tongue-in-cheek as a place where the thief legally triumphs over his victim. Mr. Babangida should feel right at home in that city.

Presumably, these three gentlemen’s public exoneration of Abacha is not seen as insulting our intelligence at all, since we as citizens have no intelligence left to insult. Can there be any further proof of the eternal vigilance required of us, in our role as citizens, and the central importance of the Freedom of Information Act to lighten the burden of citizenship?

As it is, we Nigerians have not exactly covered ourselves in glory, particularly those more fortunate members of our species. As many of you have doubtless noticed, goats do roam in Ikoyi, in front of the luxury homes of our captains of industry. And so, too, are pigs reared in the medians of our avenues in the country’s most expensive neighbourhood. It is all part of what a friend calls the “ruralisation” of our urban landscape, and our elite seems incapable of guaranteeing even minimal standards in its own quarter.

How can such an elite be trusted to run a country?

Let There Be Light
The fight for the open society, and for clean and accountable government, is likely a long, if not a life-long, one. But the time is now—to stand up for it, to fight for it, and to make it worth the fighting for.

Let us stop living alongside the goats and pigs, both literally and figuratively. It is time to step again into the sunlight, to start the hard task of gradually dispelling the darkness, and to make whole again a traumatised land.

In that long struggle, the Freedom of Information Act can serve as an effective weapon.

Long ago, as a youngster in first grade in Mrs. Fatunwashe’s class, the formidable old lady would promise to reward any kid who could recite large chunks of the Bible off head. The reward often was a bowl of fried and salted caterpillars, which I much coveted. And so it has been a lifelong habit of mine, even as a lapsed Christian, to suddenly recite complete verses of the Bible.

As I prepared this speech, the opening bars of the Book of Genesis bubbled into view:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…

“And God said, Let there be light.”

I say amen to that.

Thank you for your patience and attention.

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On the DPR probe

The DPR probe which started last week in the House of Reps is definitely one to keep tabs on. OBJ's dirty laundry is being hung out to dry. We learn here that as unofficial Minister of Petroleum (its unconstitutional for a sitting President to also be a Minister), OBJ doled out oil blocks willy-nilly. Expect much more muck-spreading next week...

Meanwhile, its not looking good in the Niger Delta at all at all. There has been three separate kidnappings in the past 24 hours. The British Government's offer of military assistance was a golden gift to Mend, who have regained popular support among the populace. Port Harcourt is on lock-down..

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Lobola

This is well worth a read - on the custom of 'lobola' in Zimbabwe. Echoes of bride wealth traditions elsewhere on the continent, and the perennial question of tradition vs modernity.

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Sony PS2 and Coltan

Several people sent me this today - the story of Sony's demand for Coltan and how it intensified conflict in the DRC and Rwanda.

As usual in these cases, the Nigeria component remains hidden. There's loads and loads of coltan in Nigeria (as there is gold and gemstones, including diamonds I am told). There's probably a thriving and hidden trade in Nigerian coltan in operation. Where are the intrepid journalists when you need them?

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Couple of good World Service progs

One which has a segment on 9ice and another looking at 50 years of Things Fall Apart. Thanks Wana for the links..

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Africa rising

There's been the mother of all battles between Lagos State Government and This Day newspaper in the past few days. This story sheds some light.

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UNILAG HOSTS WORKSHOP ON THE LEGENDS OF WEST AFRICAN HIGH LIFE

The Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, in collaboration with the African Music Archive, Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz/Germany holds a workshop on Composition, Creativity and Memory in Modern Popular Music in Ghana and Nigeria (Highlife) from July 28 to 31 at the University of Lagos.

The artists’ workshop is planned to be accompanied by lectures/seminars on subjects related to it: history of Highlife and the recording industry, Highlife and the West African Diaspora, popular culture/music and memory, composition and arrangement in popular music.

Speakers include Dr. W. Bender, Dr. Markus Coester, Prof. Duro Oni, Benson Idonije and others.

The workshop is part of the German Research Council funded project on Highlife in the 1950s and 1960s in Ghana, Nigeria and the UK, and in particular on its transnational dimension. The Goethe Institute, Lagos is also a co-sponsor of the Workshop.

Date: Monday 28th – Thursday 31st July, 2008
Venue: University of Lagos, Faculty of Arts Board Room (Rm401)
Time: 10:00am each day
Final Performance: Thursday 31st July, 2008 Unilag Auditorium @ 6:00pm
N.B Six key artistes of the genre four from Nigeria, Victor Olaiya; Orlando Julius; Peter king and Chris Ajillo; two from Ghana, Ebow Taylor and Stan Plange are expected to participate.

Prof. Duro Oni,
Head, Department of Creative Arts
University of Lagos

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Startling revelations...

...coming from the House Committee on Finance investigation into the non-remittance of revenue by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), here. We learned yesterday, for instance, that NNPC pays Niger Delta militants US$6m monthly in protection fees, as well as that nearly half of all revenue gathered by the MDAs has gone for a long walk...

The Federal Government is in a bind about its increasingly huge fuel subsidy: either the subsidy is reduced, allowing prices at the pump to rise and incentivising the refining and marketing of local product, but causing social unrest at the same time as well as adding inflationary pressure on the economy, or the status quo continues. The status quo is becoming increasingly expensive however, and unwittingly supports the underdevelopment of the local content value chain by incentivising crude exports. Which to choose from?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sancerre thinkery

After a tough and somewhat demoralising day at work, I came home and cracked open a nice Sancerre Rose bought from the lavish yet vast Terminal 5. Events proceeded downhill from there. First, I ended up watching TBN, a televangical tv station on DSTV. Benny Hinn was on. There was some woman about to be healed from a years long painful affliction, side by side with her concerned-yet-hopeful spouse. We were trying to work out Hinn's nationality. He had me a little flummoxed for a while, and I pride myself on being to decrypt accents. For anyone who wants to know, you can go here, but let me save your clicking: he's Israeli with a Greek dad and Armenian mom. I took another sip or three of the suave plonk, and thoughts turned quickly to another Nigerian favourite, pastor Reinhard Bonnke. In the mighty caverns of my ignorance, I hadn't quite sussed that he was to blame for such mayhem in Kano, nor that he claims to have brought a man from Onitsa back from 42 hours of being amongst the dead. Triffic.

By now, Benny Hinn had segued into some random Illinoisan televangelist, Bill Winston. Bill was talking about the importance of having priests amongst the kings, getting quite worked up about it in the process. Here's something on Bill if you have read this far (let me not always use wikipedia as my own breviary).

Listening to Bill and trying to make sense of the glorious self-justification for his role in life, my thoughts drifted yet again. I noticed the perspex pulpit, the plastic flowers, the raised ramp instead of an altar - all components of the low church Nigerian model seen all the way from RCCG to House on the Rock. Thoughts segued to Pat Robertson and all the other American evangelical crooks , and inevitably onto Oral Roberts' technicolour progeny, Creflo Dollar. You couldn't make this stuff up.

By now, I was engrossed, but yet still in learning mode. I had not realised the relationship between that totem for weaker minds, The Secret, and prosperity doctrine. Fabulous.

All in all, its strangely pleasurable to know that the Nigerian pastor-blingers are not originators, and that they are simply simulacra for what was once a peculiarly American phenomenon.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Omar Bongo, king of bling...

Article on Omar Bongo in the Sunday Times yesterday here and pasted below. I can only echo the comments of the guy who sent the link:

"The article below appeared in today's UK Sunday Times - a profile of
President Bongo of Gabon. Can we expect someone like him to disapprove in
the AU of President Mugabe's activities in Zimbabwe? Why do Africans
tolerate leaders like Bongo, who has ruled for 40 years? Is it only some top
political leaders who display these characteristics, or do we see it on a
lesser scale in different spheres of activity as we go down the hierarchy?"

Bongo, the des res despot
President of Gabon uses treasury cash to fund luxury lifestyle

A mansion worth £15m in one of Paris’s most elegant districts has become the
latest of 33 luxury properties bought in France by President Omar Bongo
Ondimba of Gabon, the world’s longest-serving leader, and his family, it was
alleged last week.

According to files seen by The Sunday Times, a French judicial investigation
has discovered that Bongo, 72, and his relatives also bought a fleet of
limousines, including a £308,823 Maybach for his wife, Edith, 44. Payment
for some of the cars was taken directly from the treasury of Gabon, a
country rich in oil.

Bongo, who started his career as a postal worker, has ruled for 40 years and
has become one of wealthiest leaders in the world while 30% of his people
eke out a living on less than 50p a day.

The Paris mansion is in the Rue de la Baume, near the Elysée Palace, the
home of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who greeted Bongo there last week. The
21,528 sq ft home was bought in June last year by a property company based
in Luxembourg. The firm’s partners are two of Bongo’s children, Omar, 13,
and Yacine, 16, his wife Edith and one of her nephews. Bongo is reported to
have more than 30 children.

The residence is the most expensive in his portfolio, which includes nine
other properties in Paris, four of which are on the exclusive Avenue Foch,
near the Arc de Triomphe. He also rents a nine-room apartment in the same
street.

Bongo has a further seven properties in Nice, including four villas, one of
which has a swimming pool. Edith has two flats near the Eiffel Tower and
another property in Nice.

Investigators identified the properties through tax records. Checks at Bongo
’s houses in turn allowed them to find details of his fleet of cars. Edith
used a cheque, drawn on an account in the name of “Paierie du Gabon en
France” (part of the Gabon treasury), to buy the Maybach, painted Cote d’
Azur blue, in February 2004.

Bongo’s daughter Pascaline, 52, used a cheque from the same account for a
part-payment of £29,497 towards a £60,000 Mercedes two years later. Bongo
bought himself a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti F1 in October 2004 for £153,000,
while his son Ali acquired a Ferrari 456 M GT in June 2001 for £156,000.

Bongo’s fortune has repeatedly come under the spotlight. According to a 1997
US Senate report, his family spends £55m a year.

In a separate French investigation into corruption at the former oil giant
Elf Aquitaine, an executive testified that it paid £40m a year to Bongo via
Swiss bank accounts in exchange for permission to exploit his country’s
reserves. Bongo has denied this.

The latest inquiry, by the French antifraud agency OCRGDF, followed a
lawsuit that accused Bongo and two other African leaders of plundering
public funds to finance their purchases.

“Whatever the merits and qualifications of these leaders, no one can
seriously believe that these assets were paid for out of their salaries,”
alleges the lawsuit brought by the Sherpa association of jurists, which
promotes corporate social responsibility.

Jean Merckaert, of the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and For Development
in Paris, who first drew up an inventory of Bongo’s properties last year,
said: “France sees itself as a world leader in fighting corruption and yet
now it is not only refusing to lift a finger against Bongo and other
dictators, but is greeting their money with open arms.”

- Born Albert-Bernard Bongo in 1935, he changed his name to El Hadj Omar
Bongo when he converted to Islam in 1973.
- He has been in power since 1967 and became the world’s longest-serving
ruler after Fidel Castro stepped down as Cuba’s president in February.
- He is married to Edith, the daughter of the Congolese president, Denis
Sassou-Nguesso.
- He has more than 30 children - though not all of them by his wife.
- His home town, formerly Lewai, has been renamed Bongoville.

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Adesiji: Press Release

After a migratory existence; living in Baltimore, Lagos, London, New York and more recently San Francisco, British born Singer, songwriter and producer, Siji has emerged bearded and now based back in New York, and in contrast to his newly acquired American permanent residency, with his most African inspired record to date.

The album, 'ADESIJI', which features collaborations with noted DJ/Producer(s) King Britt and Rich Medina, is currently scheduled for release in September 2008. The experience of recording his sophomore album puts Siji on a more mature plane in terms of sound, with layers like a full rhythm and horn section recorded in Chicago and what Siji refers to as “more attention to the‘African’.” The overall sound of the record is still a mesmerizing 'fusion of soul,jazz, highlife, gospel and traditional African folk rhythms'. But, this album ventures deeper into the classical African, 6/8, polyrhythmic groove. This is what defines the album and makes it stand apart.

The other character in this story is Gritty 'ol Charm City (or Harm City, as it is more affectionately known), Baltimore, which formed the backdrop for most of the album’s recording and gave Siji a 'proper glimpse into inner-city American life'. Locked away for months on end, Siji was able to tap into something only glimpsed on Television shows like ‘The Wire’. Completing the album and needing to change his environment, Siji sought the warmth of San Francisco and after a brief respite returned to the East Coast.

“My self-titled sophomore album 'ADESIJI', is a full portrayal of where I currently stand as an artist and human being and the experiences that have come to shape my character. A few of the songs are about the current war, the environment, my yearning to take a closer peek at my ancestral homeland (Nigeria), where I grew up in as well as the spiritual” side of his roots, said Siji.

The new digital release will be available on Itunes and sijimusic.com

Track Samples;
FANTASY
HOME
IRINAJO

Video/Documentary;
Youtube
Vimeo (High Resolution)


Label, press DJ’s Label enquiries;
Jose Gonzzales
outercirclegroup
Media Marketing and Public Relations
208 W 29th Street, #613A
New York
NY 10001
jose@outercirclegroup.com / 212.695.0281

Licensing & Bookings;
email@sijimusic.com

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chaos on Bonny Island

Peter Beaumont on the intensification of the complex conflict in the Delta, here.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Senator Ekaette does Nigeria proud

Not. Proof positive that Nigerian politicians live in a parallel estacode-funded universe.

Thanks Olly/Victor for the link.

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Solar power in Lagos

Interesting looking solar/inverter power outfit, based in Festac. Here.

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Bandwidth update

Just got the following from Balancing Act - finally competition to SAT 3 is on its way. As Russell Southwood says towards the end, there is still no serious appreciation of the need to improve bandwidth across West Africa at the most senior levels of government, with politicians eyeing up licence fees rather than looking at the bigger picture of the benefits to the economy. This is one area where ECOWAS could play a much stronger role in terms of ICT regional cooperation:

Race to build a West Coast fibre promises to push international bandwidth prices to new lows
Four international fibre projects are racing to complete ahead of each other on the west coast of Africa to give some much needed additional capacity and price competition to SAT3. The drop in bandwidth prices could be spectacular. Russell Southwood looks at the runners in the race and asks whether West Africa is ready for the potentially market-changing impact of cheap international bandwidth.

At last week’s US Trade and Development Agency organised event (West Africa ICT Road Map to Opportunities Conference), Funke Opeke of Mainstreet Technologies, the project to build the Main One cable down the west side of the continent promised that an E1 would cost US$400. It might have been my imagination but I’m sure I heard something like an audible intake of breath.

There are four international cable projects racing to complete new routes that will connect that side of the continent to Europe and the USA. They are:

- Globacom’s Glo One: The Glo One cable has been built from the UK to Dakar but has not yet been landed in Dakar. Despite an announcement that it would connect most West African countries between Dakar and Lagos, it has not yet been completed. Various cynics say that it has run out of money but this is a company that has just rolled out in Benin and plans to do the same again in Ghana. More credible rumours reaching us are that the countries where it was to have landed are asking too higher licence price, hence the delay.

- Mainstreet’s Main One: Previously aired versions of this show a routing that pretty much matches SAT3. You would expect this company to focus its efforts on the growing Nigerian market. If Nitel is anything like sorted by then, a great deal of expansion may come from that direction. Last week CEO Opeke was sounding very bullish about the prospects of completing.

- IWTGC’s Infinity cable: Again routing along the same course as the SAT3 cable, IWTGC looks close to signing its financing deal with European investors and a West African financial institution. The latter will put up US$300 million and the former will offer together with that amount a package that will be able to go up to US$1.5 billion. Last week it signed a protocol with Gran Canaria to put “back office” functions there.

Infraco/DTI’s Africa West Coast Cable: This South African Government project signed a contract with the company that is going to build it two weeks ago but has not yet completely finalised its financing. Its final list of shareholders will reportedly include both telecoms companies, such as Telkom, Neotel, Equator Telecom Nigeria, and British Telecom, as well as Tenet, Tata Communications, Multichoice, Vox Telecom, Internet Solutions and Gateway Communications. It was touted as being ready for the World Cup in 2010 but looks unlikely to make that deadline.

At least two of these cables look set to be built and a third is more than likely. This will push prices for international bandwidth down to the levels likely to be achieved on the East coast: somewhere between US$500-1,000.

But it is clear that unlike on the East coast and in South Africa, there is not the same focused attention on getting the cables done at the political level. The situation is made more complicated by the cultural differences at many levels between Anglophones, Francophones and Lusophones. No-one seems to be prepared to crack heads at a political level to get regulators to line up (metaphorically speaking) on the beaches of their respective countries as welcoming committees. Without this kind of political determination, the cables will take much longer to be built. Forget the high licence fees and lie back and think about what cheap bandwidth will do for the economy.

Also at present only 4 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal) have connections to 2 or more or their neighbours and only 4 (Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo) have a connection to one neighbour. And unlike South Africa, Nigeria as powerhouse economy of the sub-region is not connected to all of its neighbours.

Inevitably cheaper international bandwidth will begin to push down the price of national bandwidth. If it is cheaper to go from the capital city of a country to Europe than from the capital city to another city in the same country, something is badly out of shape. And when the new cables arrive, then that will be as true for West Africa as it will be for East Africa.

At the same event in Accra last week, somebody asked who were the most expensive countries on the SAT3 route at present in terms of international bandwidth . The answer? Gabon (Gabon Telecom), Cameroon (Camtel) and Angola (Angola Telecom).

Read more...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dele Coles' Delta strategy

Here. What do you all think?

The article is pasted below in case there are log-in issues:

The Cole plan: Why choke the goose?

By Dele Cole

Published: June 24 2008 03:00 | Last updated: June 24 2008 03:00

It is said in the Nigerian military that you will never find a poor admiral. It is easy to see why. Nigeria loses between $4bn and $18bn worth of oil a year to illegal bunkering, depending on the estimates you use. This theft began at about 20,000 b/d. In 2001, it reached 200,000 b/d and it may now intermittently reach 500,000. On a bad day, 25 per cent of Nigeria's oil exports are illegal. If the trend continues, new exploration will become impossible. Nigeria cannot afford to choke the goose that lays its golden egg.

The Niger Delta crisis started as a legitimate struggle by ethnic Ijaw groups with strong cause for discontent with the oil companies operating in the region as well as with the government. Then, in 1998, came the return of political parties which began to recruit militants to fight for them during elections. They sent these militants for training in other parts of Africa, Latin America and in Nigeria itself. They are experienced commandos trained and armed in many cases at the behest of state government officials.

These groups began the oil bunkering industry. It started small and expanded rapidly. Nowadays, smaller ships ferry back and forth to fill up tankers on high seas. The tankers often come with guns, exchanged as part payment for oil. The oil is then transported to third parties, often to refineries in Central Asia and eastern Europe, which buy at a discount to market price, refine the oil and sell it on the world market. Imagine. This is a global "business" run from mosquito-infested swamps, turning over $20m a day.

The military has been trying to halt the insurrection since 2000 without success. The bigger the incentive (spiralling oil prices) the more remote the possibility the military will win. The more oil sold through the bunkering network, the greater the number of Nigerians with an interest in keeping it going. We know where it is going. We know who is stealing it, and we know the beneficiaries.

So what can we do? Despite the severity of the crisis, there is a solution and it must be implemented with conviction. Remember, the vast majority of people in the Niger Delta have not benefited from oil. They have no power, no water, no services and no jobs.

There are three stages we must go through. First, we have to put in place a tracking system. This is not a new idea. In 2003, Shell proposed the certification of oil exports based on chemical fingerprinting to prevent stolen oil being sold on the open market. Companies operating in Nigeria have the technology to trace oil to individual flow stations. So, if a ship is stopped and contains oil that does not appear to have a legitimate source, a sample can be taken. If there is no record of a sale from the source to the operator of the vessel, then the government could confiscate the oil or require those purchasing it, such as refineries, to verify its provenance. In this way it should be possible to create a paper trail at least as effective as the Kimberley Process, established to curb the trade in conflict diamonds from Africa's war zones. Even if this cannot stop bunkering altogether, it should at least mean that stolen oil is sold at greater discount, thus undercutting profits from the illegal trade.

Second, we need to bring in well-trained and equipped private security operatives to guard the oil from extraction to export. They could be paid a commission based on the amount of oil they save. Some of the militants themselves could be incorporated into this effort, which would need reinforcement from a robust international monitoring body with boots on the ground. The turmoil in the delta contributes greatly to volatility in world oil prices. The world therefore has an interest in seeing it stop.

Third, the government has to demonstrate political will to gain the support of the local population. They built our modern capital Abuja using 1 per cent of the federation account. The cities of Port Harcourt, Warri, Eket, Yenagoa and Asaba should look more like Abuja. Look at how Aberdeen grew from North Sea oil, at how the Gulf cities of Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have developed. Get world-class services and infrastructure. Build airports and hotels. Move the offices of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to the region. Once you change their surroundings, local people will see you are serious and the justification for the insurrection will disappear.

This cannot be done using existing structures. The Niger Delta Development Commission is a small palliative. It is made up of state government appointees and every single managing director and chairman of the NDDC has attempted to become the governor of his state. Organisations for regional development need independence, authority and the expertise to act. It doesn't matter where this comes from. You could put a Welshman or a Dutchman in charge of operations.

How to pay for it? If we recover only 25 per cent of the oil that is bunkered and allocate a portion of that for development of the region we will already have billions. Provided the system is transparent, there will be gains not just for the delta but for all 36 states whose budgets are diminished by this theft. We will need to identify accurately the countries buying stolen oil and secure co-operation from their governments. We will need to prosecute those people buying the oil. The tracking system gives us the evidence trail. We will need support from the international community to do this. But it can be done. There is enough money to transform the Niger Delta. It would be criminal of us not to try.

Dele Cole is a businessman and politician from Rivers State. He was a founding member of the ruling PDP party and a special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2001.

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A nice way to start the morning...

Perhaps, like me, you are a little tired of receiving emails from people you know, whose weaker minds drive them to get excited about some 'inspirational' powerpoint, or who exhort you to complete a simple three question test that will reveal the inner sanctum of your being, finally. Your inbox doth clutter with the flotsam that floats in off the seas of irrationality.

In which case, save-as the image to the left and send it to these people. Revenge served up cold, if you like.

Click to enlarge and read...

Thanks Amma for a great start to the morning!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open letter to the Governor of Niger State and the Minister for Culture and Tourism

Honourable Mr. Minister,

Last Sunday, 13 July, 2008, my friends and we decided to take a picnic trip to Gurara Falls. When we arrived at the gate, we were told that Niger State had increased the entrance fee from N200 per person to N500 per person – and were shown the ticket booklet as proof. Much earlier this year, the fee had been increased from N100 to N200 per person.

We found, upon turning off the main road onto the park entrance drive, that the drive has more pot holes in it than ever – so many, in fact, that it is impossible to drive on the remaining bits of tarmac and one must drive off-road. Once we parked, we asked the caretaker and he confirmed that the entrance fee had been raised, but his salary had not. Once we parked, as we walked along and then down the trail, and along the river below the falls, we found that the entire area was littered with various forms of rubbish.

Honourable Governor, Honourable Minister, we wonder just where the proceeds from the increased fee are going. Certainly they are not going to the cleanup, maintenance, or salary of the park and its caretaker. We have decided that we are not interested in lining the pockets of the members of the government of Niger State by visiting this park again.

Although we certainly would prefer that the area be left as natural as possible – if the tarmac were removed and a more natural car path were installed, it would be a great improvement. Beyond that, we are not looking for any further “improvements” other than in the condition of the area and that of the caretaker; and in the reduction of the entrance fee.


Sincerely yours,

Roman Szlam

Expatriate US resident of Abuja

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The assassination of Obama


A provocative storm in a tea cup earlier today as Yazmany Arboleda opens a temporary gallery with 'the assassination of Hilary Clinton, the assassination of Barack Obama' on the street-level window - here.

The artist's defence of this inflammatory text - that it concerns character assassination - is futile and irrelevant. The chord the text strikes is the fear that should Obama win the Presidential election, he is in real danger of being killed. And the fear behind this fear is that America is not yet ready for a Black President, and that the dying days of MLK, Malcolm X and the Kennedys are just a flying bullet away.

Equally misguided however is the notion that the work is inherently racist. From the photos from the inside (on the left), it seems that rather Arboleda is exploring the knife edge between liberal progressivism (the Kennedy family baton now in Obama's hands) and the hicksville racist underbelly of America. Its uncomfortable viewing, as any representation of uncomfortable reality can only be, but that doesn't make it racist. Still less does it make it an exhibition that should be closed down.

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Nigerian football coaching scams

The BBC sent an undercover team to Nigeria recently to investigate the fake talent spotter scam. Here.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Dog Consultants

Taken near Magodo, Lagos, at the weekend.

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Henna art


My colleague came in to work today with the most beautifully henna'd hands and feet. Really, they are lovely designs. Apparently there are design styles that come and go like any other kind of fashion. I prefer henna work on hands and feet than make-up to the face - it is so erotic.

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Banksy's ID revealed

I guess it had to happen one day:

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This Thursday at Jazzhole:

WHAT A COUNTRY! : An Interactive Discussion featuring Odia Ofeimun, Reuben Abati, Toyin Akinosho and Kunle Ajibade.

Kunle Ajibade’s new book, ‘What a Country! goes beyond the narrative aesthetics of his prison memoir, Jailed for Life: A reporter’s Prison Notes, published in February 2003, to grapple with questions of justice, popular welfare, human rights and good governance. It is eloquent and poignant. Its vision is broad, both powerfully anchored in local knowledge and robustly cosmopolitan. Its passion for the betterment of Nigeria – indeed, what a country! – is evident and infectious. Kunle Ajibade, never lets go the respect for human value, the shared space that the creativity of writers, human rights activists and pro-democracy workers – especially the leading lights, avatars and exemplars of the cause – have defended across the world at great risks to their own lives.

Author’s Bio
Kunle Ajibade attended the University of Ife, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A in Literature-in-English. Before he became a co-founder/publisher of The News and P.M. News, he had worked in Grant advertising as a copy writer, in Chief Abiola’s African Concord as a senior correspondent and in African Guardian as an assistant editor. In 1995 he was jailed for life because of a story published in The News magazine and was only released in 1998 when his jailer, General Sani Abacha, died. Ajibade won the 1998/1999 Feuchtwanger Fellowship to write his prison memoir, Jailed for Life: A Reporter’s Prison Notes, which was published in February 2003 by Heinemann Educational Books. The book won the first Victor Nwankwo Book of the Year Award instituted by the Nigerian Book Fair Trust.

DATE: 17TH JULY
TIME: 4:00PM
VENUE: THE JAZZHOLE, 168 AWOLOWO ROAD,IKOYI, LAGOS

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The new last king of Scotland?

Jomo Gbomo is offered a kilt to wear, here. Mend need to learn a bit of history and also realise that the vast majority of Scottish people actually don't want independence from the UK. A 'militant group in Scotland'. Pah, what a joke!

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The War of Jenkins' Ear

by Chinua Asuzu, Assizes

I have named section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution the "Jenkins Clause" of the Nigerian Constitution. I have borrowed this name from the remarkable story of Robert Jenkins, whose ear, no doubt the most famous ear in world history, sparked off a war between Great Britain and Spain in the third decade of the 18th century.

In the early 1700s Spain was pining under the rule of French King Philip V. In those days Spain dominated maritime commerce in the New World. But Spain's subjection to a French ruler afforded France an enviable lead in the hugely profitable Spanish West Indies commerce. Britain did envy France its pre-eminent position in this market. Britain was allowed only a limited participation. Britain's constrained trade rights were as specified in the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, which had brought to an end the War of the Spanish Succession. Understandably Spain had no special fondness for the French, but the Spaniards also hated the Treaty concession to the British.

The concession in question was contained in the asiento provision, a clause in the Treaty of Utrecht. It granted a monopoly to the British South Sea Company for the supply of some 4,800 slaves per annum to the Spanish American colonies, for 30 years. Asiento also allowed one British ship to trade generally in the Spanish Americas once a year.

To enforce asiento, in other words to make sure the British did not trade beyond the specified restrictions, Spain maintained a coast guard in their American waters to monitor British vessels.

On April 9th, 1731, the San Antonio, a Spanish coast guard vessel under the command of Captain Juan de Leon Fandino, intercepted the Rebecca, a British merchant ship sailing from Jamaica to London. Finding the logs and cargo at odds, the Spanish accused the Rebecca of breaching the Treaty of Utrecht. Captain Robert Jenkins of the Rebecca apparently insulted Spanish captain Juan de Leon Fandino. Fandino retaliated by cutting off one of Jenkins' ears with his sword.

Sea captain Robert Jenkins carefully preserved his severed ear. He took it home to England and reported the Rebecca incident to the House of Commons. In his report to the Commons, Jenkins averred that his ear was "cut off in April 1731 in the West Indies by Spanish coast guards who had boarded his ship, pillaged it and then set it adrift." The House received Jenkins' report with patriotic indignation, and empanelled a committee to deal with the matter. At the public hearing, Jenkins exhibited his severed ear. It was not a pretty sight. That was in 1738.

Sir Robert Walpole was Prime Minister. Because of the loss of one citizen's ear, Great Britain under Walpole declared war on Spain in October 1739. The attitude of the English people was that the Spaniards had to be taught a lesson: nobody could get away with slashing off precious English ears!

Nigerian government should treat every Nigerian at home or abroad as our own Robert Jenkins, and should loudly and frequently let it be known that Nigeria will not tolerate any undue or unlawful interference with the life, limb, ear or other organ or body part, rights, dignity, or integrity of any Nigerian. The Jenkins Clause of the Nigerian Constitution, section 14(2)(b), declares that "the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government". This fundamental objective and directive principle of the Nigerian state imposes on the Nigerian government, at all levels and in all branches, a duty of care towards Nigerians all over the world. Over the past several decades Nigerian government has woefully failed to perform or exercise this duty. In some instances (Abacha, Babangida, Obasanjo), the government actually behaved in the opposite direction, by actively assaulting "the security and welfare of the people". For example, in 1999 Obasanjo attacked Odi community, a group of people to whom his government owed the outlined duty of care.

Nigerian government has frequently ignored or neglected its purpose of taking care of the people's welfare and security. Nigeria did little or nothing when the following Nigerian Jenkins suffered as indicated below:


· In August 1994, German police bound, gagged, heavily sedated and tortured Nigerian citizen Kola Bankole, all in the course of deporting him. Bankole died at Frankfurt Airport from heart failure.

· In September 1998, Belgian police asphyxiated 20-year-old Semira Adamu, a Nigerian woman they were deporting.

· In May 1999, Austrian police taped 25-year-old Nigerian Marcus Omofuma "like a parcel" and suffocated him to death in an attempt to deport him.

· In May, 2001, Swiss police officers, in the process of deportation, asphyxiated 27-year-old Samson Chukwu, a Nigerian.

· In June 2007, Spanish immigration killed 23-year-old Nigerian citizen Osamuyia Aikpitanhi under the guise of deportation.

· On 27 March 2008, barbaric and savage UK Immigration officials brutalized, suffocated and tortured a Nigerian, Augustine Eme, being deported on board a British Airways flight. Then British police, immigration and British Airways officials combined to maltreat and jettison over 100 Nigerian passengers for daring to complain about the torture of Eme. Ayo Omotade has been singled out for special mistreatment by the British authorities for standing up to plead for Eme's life. Omotade has been arrested, detained, handcuffed, prevented from attending his brother's wedding, had his personal items unlawfully seized, and had his integrity undeservedly questioned. Omotade is now facing a malicious prosecution in England. Nigeria has done little more than make a few feeble statements. Yar'Adua is visiting and cozying up to the British the same week Omotade's trumped-up charges are being read in court.

I often hear the complaint that Nigerians are not patriotic. It is alleged that we are not law-abiding. It is said for example that we do not pay tax. But over the course of several decades, Nigerian governments have so abused, brutalized, cheated, disenfranchised, and insulted Nigerians that many of us lost faith in the state. Yet most of us have remained patriotic and law-abiding, contrary to the allegations. In any case, governments in Nigeria now have a duty to elicit patriotism and law-compliance from the citizens. Lagos is already doing this with its obvious concern for "the security and welfare of the people". If Fashola continues and improves the positive direction he has chosen, you will see a steady rise in patriotic fervour and lawful conduct among Lagosians.

The best way for governments anywhere in the world to attract patriotism from citizens is by exhibiting proactive concern for their security and welfare. Government must defend and protect citizens, no matter who or what they are. Whether they are prostitutes in Italy or drug dealers in Thailand, Nigerian government, while respecting the legal systems of the host countries, must aggressively defend its citizens abroad.

The Nigerian government through its embassy in London should despatch a Nigerian lawyer to appear for Nigeria as amicus curiae (friend of the court), or on watching brief for Nigeria, in the Omotade prosecution. The circumstances warrant this. Omotade is clearly being persecuted for his patriotic audacity in behalf of fellow Nigerian Augustine Eme. Nigerian government should stand up in support and defence of Eme and Omotade, as well as all the Nigerian passengers on that eventful BA flight. Nigeria's Foreign Affairs officials here at home, and embassy officers in London, should take up the matter with relevant UK authorities.

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China gobbles up Africa..

Interesting case study of China's relationship to Africa, in this case, DRC, here. Thanks Indar for the link.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drip drip dry

The lorry drivers that carry petrol around the country are on strike. Lagos has almost dried up. In Abuja, there are hundreds of boys selling black market fuel out of jerry cans. The cost per litre has rocketed from N70 to N250. The roads are eerily quiet. How perverse in a country drenched in hydrocarbons! When will this country get its act together? Surely just one or two of the billions of dollars in the Federal reserve can be used to build a new refinery to serve the local market..

Of course, its not as simple as it seems, because a functioning refinery eats into the huge racket that is the petrol import business. Until the vested interests behind this cartel system are challenged, building refineries will achieve nothing. Its the same with the power sector: until those that make vast sums selling generators and diesel are challenged, Nigeria's measly peasly 900MW output will continue to shrink. Compare and contrast with Ghana, with a fraction of the population, producing nearly double the daily output, let alone South Africa, with around 50 times the power production of the sleeping giant of Africa.

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All praise Nduka

The New York Times pays homage to Nigeria's most glamorous media baron - here. I'll leave you lot to comment as I'm speechless.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Niamey online

Wow someone visited this blog from Niamey in Niger - that's a first. You are welcome whoever you are..

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Late notice - good free stuff in London this w/e

Thanks Paul for the email:

DIASPORA LONDON MUSIC VILLAGE

FREE

FESTIVAL WEEKEND

HYDE PARK
Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 July 2008
1-9pm each day

“It doesn’t get much better than this on God’s earth: magic moments in abundance”

Among the many outstanding musicians taking part in this year’s Music Village festival are five outstanding London bands of African origin

CHEB NACIM (Algeria)
AFRICA JAMBO (Congo)
JIDE CHORD and the NATIVES ABROAD (Nigeria)
GNAWA TAROUDANT (Morocco)
HARARE (Zimbabwe)
(see below for band details)

The 2008 festival is the 24th Music Village since 1983 and presents over 80 top-class performers of African, Caribbean, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Mediterranean and Eastern European origin in a FREE OPEN-AIR WEEKEND in London’s Hyde Park.

Festival Director, Prakash Daswani, sets the scene:
All the performers in this year’s global line-up are London-based, though the origins of most lie way beyond these shores. Some are emerging superstars – or long-hidden gems – within the city’s broad sweep of diaspora communities. Others have already attained mainstream popular acclaim, both within the capital and far further afield.
Together they represent the fruits of decades of cross-cultural mingling among host and incoming populations that has so dramatically transformed the character of this historic capital.
The 2008 festival presents an easy and direct way for Londoners of all national origins and faith persuasions – or none – and all backgrounds and ages, to come together and experience a vibrant expression of London’s rapid transformation into the 21st century’s leading World City: a thriving, cosmopolitan, creative - and, above all, outward-looking – enterprise of which they themselves are an indispensable part.
And what better place for ordinary people to enjoy this profusion of artistic talent than in this year’s superb festival setting: a gladed natural amphitheatre nestling by the Serpentine in Hyde Park, central London’s most popular green space. Come and enjoy!
PRESS ENQUIRIES, PHOTOS & FESTIVAL CD Jenny Coyne 020 7264 0005
PUBLIC ENQUIRIES info@culturalco-operation.org
ARTISTS LINE-UP & VENUE INFO: www.culturalco-operation.org or 020 7264 0005
The Diaspora London Music Village festival is organized by Cultural Co-operation, an independent London-based arts charity that promotes cross-cultural contact, dialogue and understanding.

Supported by Arts Council England, London Councils, Royal Parks Agency, Baring Foundation, City Parochial Foundation, Westminster Arts, BBC London 94.9 FM DJ Ritu’s ‘A World in ondon’. Official Festival Caterer: SEEWOO Oriental Food Specialists


BAND DETAILS

CHEB NACIM
Cheb Nacim merges modern Rai with a traditional music base. His original voice and modern style - in which he is assisted by his brother, Sofiane,a keyboard player - is characterized by a rhythmic musical structure. Upon their arrival in France in 1992 Cheb and Sofiane formed a Rai band to play their own original compositions. Their first big concerts took place around the suburbs of Nantes in 1993, venues such as "Quai de la Fosse" with Khaled and Cheb Mami.

Soon after, they came to England. where they decided to take their already rich repertoire to another level by adding a mix of Flamenco, Salsa and Rumba. Many concerts later, Cheb Nacim's reputation grew bigger and saw him open concerts for "L'Orchestre National de Barbes" in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and "Faudel" at the Hammersmith Palais.
Cheb Nacim is scheduled on stage Saturday 12th July 2008 @ approx 4pm

AFRICA JAMBO
This stunning ensemble of professional sub-Saharan musicians blends popular musical styles from the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi to create a heady mix of rhumba, ndombolo and soukous. Led by Kawele Mutimwanwa, Africa Jambo’s band members are now all London-based, with each performer adding a unique element to the whole. They’ve been bringing their infectious sound to a steadily increasing audience ever since 1995 and now perform in all kinds of settings, from pubs and clubs and concert halls to weddings and other community celebrations across the city.
Africa Jambo are scheduled to appear on stage at 8pm approx on Saturday 12th July.

JIDE CHORD AND THE NATIVES ABROAD
Jide specialises in Nigerian Juju music, a mélange of traditional African rhythms and western styles. Juju originates from southern Nigeria where it was pioneered in the 1980’s by King Sunny Ade and others and rapidly made a huge worldwide impact. Jide has pushed this long-popular genre to new limits by blending catchy Yoruba lyrics, pulsating drums and sweet guitar licks to create his own unique, life-affirming, sound. As an accomplished songwriter, Jide draws from a deep well of Yoruba folklore and infuses this with afro beat, highlife, soukous, pop, reggae, jazz and rock music.
Jide is scheduled to appear on stage at 4pm approx on Sunday 13th July.

GNAWA TAROUDANT
Trance-inducing healing music of Morocco has become a regular fixture in the London music scene thanks to Gnawa Taroudant, the recently formed Moroccan Gnawa. Gnawa music, song and dance rituals or lilas are esoteric forms of Afro-Islamic music therapy, the earliest forms of which were brought into the North African markets of Marrakesh and Essaouira by former slaves from Guinea hundreds of years ago. Lilas owe their gripping power to the mesmerizing combination of gimbri (bass guitar),garagab (iron castanets), rhythmic hand clapping and spiritually infused call and response chants. Gnawa UK’s brightly coloured costumes, cowrie shell ornaments and flailing dreadlocks complete a visually and aurally compelling spectacle in this year’s festival.
Gnawa Taroudant are set to appear at 6pm approx on Sunday 13th July.

HARARE
Harare’s medley of Zimbabwean musical styles ranges from rootsy urban Jit Jive to the mellow hypnotic rhythms of the mbira, or traditional thumb piano. The band’s music is heavily influenced by Chimurenga, the genre developed by Zimbabwean music legend, Thomas Mapfumo. Two of the band’s members, Kudaushe Matimba (marimba, keys and vocals) and drummer Kenny Chitsvatsva were part of the groundbreaking Bhundu Boys, one of the most famous groups to come out of Africa. www.hararemusic.com
Harare is scheduled to appear on stage at 7pm approx on Sunday 13th July.

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Media racism: another controversial piece

Thanks Bayo for sending this (not sure where the article comes from). You can listen to the original Thought for the Day piece here.

The BBC has been accused of racism after a claim on Radio 4's Today programme that Africans suffer from an 'endemic moral deficit'.

Author Clifford Longley was repeating a conversation he had with a Nigerian theologian when he appeared on the show's Thought for the Day slot.

He claimed the other man told him that 'African culture has always lacked a developed sense of common humanity'.

Afterwards the BBC's Black and Asian Forum complained to the corporation's director of news Helen Boaden and Today editor Ceri Thomas. Forum chairman Winston Phillips also wrote an angry letter to the corporation's house magazine Ariel which was published this week.

He said there were concerns that the comments were 'offensive' and 'racist'.

Mr Phillips said: 'While sensitive to the need for an exchange of wide-ranging views on important topics, the BBC should ensure it does not present racist or xenophobic views in an unqualified way.

'The fact that this broadcast went out unchallenged points to a wider problem in the BBC, and the media generally - the failure to advance (black and Asian) people to senior positions.'

In the broadcast on June 30, Longley said: 'A Nigerian moral theologian I met recently was quite frank about it: African culture has always lacked a developed sense of common humanity, of the solidarity that extends beyond village and family and which entails a commitment to the common good.

'This "us and them" mentality was not just tribal. The moral deficit explained, he said, how African tribal chiefs had felt no moral qualms about capturing slaves from neighbouring districts and selling them to white slave traders; and later, doing land deals with white settlers.

'Hence also Africa's propensity to turn to massacre and genocide such as we saw in Rwanda and Congo, and narrowly avoided seeing again very recently in Kenya.'

The row comes weeks after BBC non-executive director Samir Shah was critical of the corporation's failure to employ black and Asian people in senior management roles.

The BBC confirmed it had received a complaint and was looking into the issue.

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Controversial piece on Ethiopia

In the Irish Indpendent here. Thanks Olly for the link.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The reality behind sub-prime and the credit crunch

A few days ago I read about a book that has the thesis that there is more to the credit crunch and its originating cause in the sub-prime market in the US than meets the eye. The idea goes like this: that the sub-prime bubble was created as a final salvaging mechanism for a US economy in a current-account deficit nose-dive. People were offered a mortgage who could never realistically continue to pay for it should property prices dip by a few points. This was part and parcel of the myth of an exponential increase in home ownership in the US - a tacit Bill of Rights amendment. This tactic has a precedent: Margaret Thatcher exploited a similar feel-good factor with the sale of council houses to their tenants in the 1980s.

The larger historical narrative at play is of course the shift of all large-scale commercial activity to Asia, spelling the death rattle of the US car market and agribusiness, followed by high-end outsourcing to India and China (even local American newspapers are now being produced in India). Sub-prime was simply a feel-good patch to cover over this inevitable shift. The credit crunch, under this analysis, is not the usual bust part of a boom-bust cycle, nor is it simply the inevitable bear market correction of over-inflated asset values, nor is it simply a financial services sector losing out after under-regulation. Rather, the credit crunch marks the end of the global hegemony of Western/Northern economies.

An interesting thesis. What do you all think?

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A couple of good blogs

Written by Lolade Adwuyi: here and here. The former is more or less a Lagos photoblog. There's a good piece on the amateur boxing scene in Accra currently at the top of the latter.

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T5

So on my way back to the Motherland, I had a proper chance to check out T5 in all its glory. Here are my thoughts:

First, I like the approach ramp when you arrive by car. It has a glorious sweep to it and elevates you to quite an eye-catching level. Better still, there were loads of trolleys right by the offloading bay - something which never happened at crappily-run Terminal 4. Thumbs up.

Enter the building and you are ravished by a sense of space and proportion. Also, unlike the other Heathrow terminals, there is a sense of calm. The huge space means that people are not cheek by jowl jostling around. Thumbs up.

The checking-in process has been technologised. You have to print out your own boarding pass, by swiping your passport or entering your ticket reference at a kiosk near the check-in desks. I had a brief moment of panic as I didn't have a printed out e-ticket so didn't know my number. In the end, swiping my passport did the trick. Thumbs in the middle for now -its a learning process.

Once I'd checked in my luggage - there was no queue as there are limitless desks stretching to the horizon - 3 times 32kg, big up for Nigeria's continued special treatment! - the route through security was astonishingly quick. I was through to the other side in 5 minutes.

In the departure 'lounge' (more like hangar) I was again sub-consciously confused. Everything is ten times the scale you are used to in an airport terminal. First, I had to claim VAT back on some electronics items. This involved a ten minute trek to one end of the terminal, followed by a trip downstairs to the Travelex bureau. All in all, the whole process took 20-30 minutes. Then, I wanted to leave my bags in the Business Lounge so I could explore unencumbered. There are two business lounge areas at either end. To get to the nearest lounge was another 10 minute walk, followed by two escalators and walking. Half-way into the lounge there is a super moving sculpture - a twenty foot kidney-shaped lozenge with dinosaur-size sequins that flicker and change side in pattern waves from time to time. A clever gesture to the former version of information boards at airports and railway stations that used to flutter into action as they renewed their information every few minutes. It is as you are on your way up to the business lounge that you realise you have in fact only been accorded middle class (not even upper-middle class) status. There is a First Class lounge that is verboten unless you have a First Class ticket or have an 'Emerald' One World card. Emerald? Then there is an Elemis Spa near the entrance to the First Class/Emerald lounge. It exudes a sort of Bond Street exclusivity which I'm sure puts off 90% of passengers lucky enough to have front-of-plane status from even bothering.

Finally, when you get to the Croydon-status business lounge it is worth the effort. There is space enough to disappear into a corner. They have two coffee bar areas. The toilets are lovely. One minor grumble: there is no secure left-luggage area (completely defeating the point of me schlepping up there).

Back down in the main area, it is a little bit like Selfridges with elbow room. Gordon Ramsey's joint again bristles with don't-even-fucking-try-it mate class. The elephant-size Duty Free has every conceivable type of perfume ever invented. It also has staff that are radiantly happy to see you at last. Either that or they have each been given bespoke bulge-proof unisex vibrators with the switch permanently set to 'on'. One minor grumble: they don't sell After Eights. No After Eights in Duty Free? What next?

All in all, T5 is lux, calme et volupte. The anxiety of too many people going too many places has been replaced by the altogether more sedate anxiety of being-at-one-with-the-cavernous.

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This Day celebrates African culture

Nigeria's premier newspaper This Day is hosting a series of celebrations of African culture, starting in Abuja this Friday. Jay-Z and Naomi Campbell will be here, as will Usher and Youssou N'Dour and a host of other glamourpusses. Tickets for the Abuja and Lagos events are on sale for N60,000 - just under 260 pounds or 520 dollars for a night's entertainment - a real bargain considering the stars who will be gracing the country with their presence. The world's attention will inevitably pass from Japan and the G8 to Nigeria for a few shimmering days. The foreign investments are sure to start flowing in immediately the festival finishes. It's all good.

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Traffic

Returning to the roads in Abuja is a shock to the system: one forgets how rude and discourteous people are when they drive in FCT. People cut you up, barge in front, veer into your lane and then veer out again, without a moment of awareness or self-doubt.

By the same token, I was surprised how docile and tame British drivers have become in the UK last week. Its partly because there are speed cameras everywhere these days, including those horrible 'average speed' ones that time the distance between two cameras across a distance of a few miles that mean that you can't just speed up when you're past the camera. Bastardos.

Still, I felt myself to be comparatively a raw and aggressive driver on the M6. Its partly because people driving on British motorways don't seem to know the rules anymore. You have people stuck in the fast lane or the middle lane, refusing to understand that if there is space in the slow lane, you should move into it. So I ended up overtaking on the left constantly, weaving in and out. The annoying thing was, the drivers I overtook on the wrong side frequently got annoyed. One big looking guy in a Hilux got very pissed off and ended up chasing me, pulling next to me and showing his fists and pointing to the hard shoulder, as if we should park and sort out the matter with some fisticuffs. It was time to get off at the next service station and let him cruise away into the distance. The police should fine people stuck in the fast or middle lanes. Or maybe use their average speed cameras to concoct another form of fine...

Meanwhile, today, while shopping, someone biffed into my car and gave it a good scratchy dent. Bad karma. Fortunately, the geez stuck around to apologise and make amends. I was almost completely disarmed by his honesty. It turns out he works for the Navy. Now lets see if he coughs up when I get the quote for the panel beating and respray.

So there you have it, I am too rough to drive in the UK without incident, and too oyinbo to not be discomfited by Abuja drivers. What to do?

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