Friday, August 29, 2008

T.B Joshua

I was delighted to see T.B. Joshua on local TV this evening. I was preparing for some old fashioned entertainment from the pastor's pastor.

You might have seen the Channel 4 doc from a few years ago, where Dr Robert Beckford met with Pastor Joshua and was just a little disturbed by the encounter. Beckford, a brainy Christian theologian, was not persuaded that what he saw had any relationship to Christianity.

T.B. Joshua claims to be able to cure anything - including death (start from 5.30 in). Go to YouTube, type in his name, sit back and marvel at his spiritual powers. His church has people from all over the world in attendance. They can't all be wrong can they?

Despite his mangled English, I must say he made a lot more sense than the other local televangelists - Pastor Chris, Matthew Ashimolowo- at least for the while I was watching. The theme was giving. Various oyinbos from 'Emmanuel TV' would visit old people in their communities, give them a bag of rice and what looked like 2000 naira. They'd also give them a hug and stay to chat. Triffic. Then the show would switch back to Pastor Joshua in sermon, talking about the grace of age and how often old people suffered from loneliness. All definitely recognisably Christian behaviour and heart-warming stuff.

My only quibble was the age of some of the people they gave the gifts too - one woman claimed to be 130, and another couple of toothless oldies claimed to be 110. In a country where life expectancy is in the low 40s, that's a trifle hard to believe.

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Spot the Nigerian flag


Photo of Obama just before his speech in Berlin recently. Thanks Lolade for the headzup.

Click to enlarge as per usual.

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Alhaji 86 wives is directed..

In Nigeria, where stories can disappear without trace from the Media (I wonder why...), its nice to see a bit of follow-up every now and then:

By Aideloje Ojo, Minna

The Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar has given the man with 86 wives a two-day ultimatum: Retain four and divorce the rest or leave Nupe land.

Under Islamic law, a muslim is allowed to marry not more than four wives but Muhammed Bello Abubakar Masaba Bida has over the years gone ahead to accumulate a harem of 86 spouses.

The Jama'atu Nasurul Islam, an umbrella organisation of emirs and top muslim clerics weekend wrote the Etsu Nupe and chairman Niger State Council of Chiefs to summon Bello and explain the law to him.

The Etsu Nupe did exactly that at a meeting with Bello which was also attended by Muslim leaders. He said the safety of the man could not be guaranteed if he failed to abide by the instructions.

The meeting where the fate of Bello was decided started around 12noon at the Etsu Nupe's palace in Bida, with the Acting Chief Imam of Bida, Mallam Adamu Yakatu, reading out the relevant part of the scripture and other stipulations regarding marriage to the 84 years old man.

Yakatu, who made references to Bello 's interview as contained in the press both electronic and prints, said his offence included having 86 wives which he said is against Islamic tenets. He quoted several verses from the Quran to buttress the point, but Bello in his response said he had stopped reading the Quran and that he could recall any potion in the Holy Book that says one should not marry more than four wives, adding that he had read the Quran several times before he stopped.

He claimed 1972 was hit by a strange wind and as a result he became unconscious. He also said 20 years ago after meeting Allah he stopped reading the Holy Quran.

He denied ever saying he was a prophet but claimed that he had seen Prophet Muhammad. But when the Imam reminded him that the Holy Quran stated that no one can see Allah, he insisted that he had seen Allah.

After much argument, the Etsu Nupe made his pronouncement saying that "From the facts available to us, you are not a true Muslim and you are hereby given two days to divorce 82 wives from your 86 wives and if you fail to do so, we cannot guarantee your safety in Bida and the entire Nupe kingdom and as such you should pack your load and leave."

The Etsu Nupe said he was convinced Bello has mental problem and advised that he should see a psychiatric. Bello, in his response sought for two weeks against two days pronouncement by the emir for him to ponder over the ultimatum.

According to him, "to reduce the number of wives needed a lot of negotiations and one had to think of the children and what becomes of them".

The Etsu Nupe in his response said the Sharia Commission in the state would take care of the 82 women divorced while the social welfare department would take care of the children.

Etsu Nupe declined Bello's request for two weeks. He also said he did not agree the man hailed from Bida, adding that every available evidence to the emirate council reflected that the man came from Lokoja not Bida.

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Excellent blog on Nigerian military history

Max Siollun's blog is brilliant - the man is an expert on Nigerian military history. Here.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dragon's Den Nigeria

Not having watched much British telly in the past few years, I didn't realise that the Dragon's Den reality tv show currently on Nigerian TV (AIT) is modelled on a British original. Neither did I realise that Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae Sauce was backed by the Dragons.

The Nigerian version is a mild diversion, except for the fact that - on the basis of only watching one episode admittedly - the entrepreneurs' ideas were uniformly unimaginative and not thought through. One guy came up with the idea of doctors available over the phone via call centre (to discuss your problems with mind you - not to visit). Another team wanted to put electricians in uniforms on 24 hour standby with some spare kit in a van. Yet another guy wanted to sell 'Pure Water' in plastic cups (rather than the plastic sachets), tripling the price in the process. All of them poorly conceived ideas. No wonder the Dragons were not interested in backing a single one of them.

Its hard not to associate the lack of creative entrepreneurship in Nigeria with the lack of connections back to a creative historical culture and to the current standards of education available to the masses of young Nigerians - and the lack of a culture of reading fiction and inspiring young minds while at school..

The philistines have taken over the asylum.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Good governance in Ghana

It's going to be interesting to see if Ghana handles oil better than its big brother neighbour to the East. The country has a reputation for better governance than Nigeria, and its politicians are already talking the talk. But can it avoid the dreaded Dutch disease?

Ghana seeks to convert price spikes to profit


By Matthew Green in Accra

Published in today's FT.

Nana Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate for Ghana's ruling party, has pledged to invest part of the country's future oil income in agriculture, hoping to turn the pain caused by the global spike in fuel and food prices into profit.

Ghana, widely regarded as an example of successful economic and political reform in Africa, aims to start pumping 120,000 b/d of crude from an offshore field operated by the UK's Tullow Oil in 2010.

The prospect of controlling what could amount to billions of dollars of oil revenue has raised the stakes ahead of December's presidential elections, where a close race could pose the biggest test yet of the stability of Ghana's 16-year-old democracy.

Neither the ruling New Patriotic Party nor its main challenger, the National Democratic Congress, have presented a detailed plan for managing income to avoid the kind of corruption and collapse in farming and other industries that a rapid influx of oil wealth has caused in much bigger African producers such as Nigeria and Angola.

Mr Akufo-Addo, however, said part of Ghana's oil earnings - which he projects at $15bn in the first five years - would be used to open land for cultivation in the relatively undeveloped north should his NPP extended its eight-year run in power.

"We have large chunks of the northern part of our country, which could assure us food security in Ghana, if we also go about the planning of the agricultural development there properly," Mr Akufo-Addo told the Financial Times in an interview in Accra, the capital.

Ghana's quest to boost food production reflects a wider trend among African governments seeking ways to lure investment into agriculture to defuse the kind of unrest that surging prices for imported staples caused in countries such as Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Senegal this year.

Mr Akufo-Addo, who served outgoing president John Kufuor as justice minister and attorney-general, also pledged to promote the manufacturing sector in Ghana, targetting West Africa's Ecowas trade zone, as part of a strategy to promote job-creating industries processing agricultural and other produce.

John Atta Mills, who is making his third attempt at the presidency as the flagbearer of the opposition NDC, has also pledged to ensure the transparent management of oil revenues to stimulate faster economic growth.

The NPP government has enjoyed some success in boosting Ghana's cocoa exports and cassava production in recent years, but rice and grain output still lags far behind domestic demand due in part to a lack of irrigation.

Mr Akufo-Addo's pledge to boost development in the north also reflects the party's desire to broaden its appeal in a traditional stronghold for the NDC.

The NPP can point to several years of strong economic growth under Mr Kufuor, who is stepping down after two terms in power, but rising inflation -- which hit a four-year high of 18.4 per cent year on year in June – has .fuelled support for the opposition.

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A Thousand Memories: Paris

Dreaming of Sandrine, my thoughts float around Paris, and one of my Thousand Memories:

Zoe and I take the train from Liege to Paris. It is 1991. Four hours from Brussels, across eastern Normandy and into the flatlands of northern France. We’d heard you could stay for free at The Shakespeare Bookshop on the Rive Gauche as long as you did some shelf-stacking. All it took was an interview with the American running the shop. We made our way there and explained that we’d like to stay. The American turned out to be in his seventies, skinny, noisy and an appetite which involved two roasted chickens each evening. His name was George Whitman.

In the evening, after everyone has left, we roll out our sleeping bags and try to sleep amidst all the books. It is too cold and the floor is too hard for us to sleep. I drink whisky and shiver. Nearby, a few feet of Derrida make me feel excited to be alive and in one of Europe's intellectual centres.

Early on the Sunday morning, I’m woken by the sound of someone rattling on the door window. It’s a South American looking guy – maybe Argentinian? I struggle bleary eyed with the latches and open up the shop.

He explains that he’s come all the way from Brazil to visit the bookshop. The Shakespeare Bookshop has a history – Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, James Baldwin and Richard Wright have all been visitors, while Sylvie Beach was the proprietor. Each square foot has some trace of literary presence and the dust of a past thought. I run upstairs to wake George..

Later that day, Ted Joans, a minor beat-poet comes to perform upstairs. We all sit huddled around as he waxes out his best known works. George works greedily at his chicken carcass in the corner. As Joans speaks in his baritone drawl, a pearl-coloured bead of snot slowly oozes out of his nostril. He leaves it be: a study in gravity. Towards the end, Joans mentions his profound admiration for Margaret Thatcher. At this point, I lose all faith in the solidity of his being. I can only think of the snot.

The following day, we are wandering round Pigalle, the porn and prostitution district. I walk upstairs at a peep-show joint. I am instantly offered a job as a performing stud. The speed at which employment has been suggested is somewhat shocking.

Every time I've been to Paris, I've witnessed public masturbation: on the Metro, dans la rue, by the pissoirs etc. I guess that’s Paris for you. Sexy and graceful and just a little seedy all at once.

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Springwise

A big recommend to check out if you are a budding entrepreneur or trend spotter is Springwise - an excellent excellent website (and weekly e-newsletter) on fresh new business ideas and innovations. Here. It truly is an inspiration.

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The importance of a reading culture

A great short piece by Binyavanga Wainaina here on Storymoja.

A reading culture is not one where almost everyone who is reading is reading motivational/self-help guff, management books or religious texts (guess where I'm thinking of?).

A reading culture is one where people are engaging with fiction and quality non-fiction, not feel-good soma that tranquilises the mind into inaction. I'm sorry to say, but if all you read is seven-habits/who ate my cheese yada yada, management/leadership guff or religion, there's little chance that things will change in your life, or that you will be part of any change in the world.

And if you don't know where the 'soma' reference comes from, you're also part of the problem.

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Annkio Briggs on Hard Talk

Niger Delta activist Annkio Briggs was on Hard Talk this evening. If you missed it, click here.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Interesting short documentary on fattening houses and FGM in Cross River

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Pandamonium

A hilarious short story in today's Guardian written by my old college pal Hari Kunzru.

Plop.

What was that?

[the sound a name makes when its dropped]

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Brown acid 419

Thanks to you-know-who-you-are for this one. If you're too young to get the brown acid reference, click here.

ZENITH BANK COMPENSATION UNIT, IN AFFILIATION WITH THE UNITED NATION.

ATTN:Sir/Madam,
How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family?,You may not understand why this mail came to you.

We have been having a meeting for the passed 7 months which ended 2 days ago with the former secretary to the UNITED NATIONS.

This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS have agreed to compensate them with the sum of US$ 500,000,00 This includes every foriegn contractors that may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to Government problems etc.

We found your name in our list and that is why we are contacting you, this have been agreed upon and have been signed.

Therefore, we are happy to inform you that an arrangement has perfectly been concluded to effect your payment as soon as possible in our bid to be transparent.

However, it is our pleasure to inform you that your ATM Card Number; 5490 9957 6302 4525 has been approved and upgraded in your favor.

Meanwhile, your Secret Pin Number will be available as soon as you confirm to us the receipt of your ATM CARD.

The ATM Card Value is $500,000 USD Only. You are advised that a maximum withdrawal value of US$10,000.00 is permitted daily.

And we are duly inter-switched and you can make withdrawal in any location of the ATM Center of your choice/nearest to you any where in the world.
We have also concluded delivery arrangement with our accredited courier service Company to oversee the delivery of the ATM Card to you without any further delay.

So you are hereby advice to forward to this office Director ATM SWIFT CARD Department Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your correct mailing address where you want him to send the ATM to you.

Conatct Mr. Jim Ovia immediately for your ATM SWIFT CARD:

Person to Contact Mr. Jim Ovia
Email: zenithsbanksofficialsatmscards@gmail.com

Thanks and God bless you and your family. Hoping to hear from you as soon as you receive your ATM.

Making the world a better place

Regards,
Mr. Kofi Annan
Former Secretary (UNITED NATIONS).

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The craft in our lives..

I'm reading The Craftsman by Richard Sennett, my favourite social theorist/historian and the London-based intellectual I'd most like to share a glass of Vouvrais with. Its perhaps not his best book, however it has flashes of Sennett at his most absorbing in The Fall of Public Man and Flesh and Stone - books which re-organised the way I thought during my PhD years. There are similar original insights nestled within The Craftsman's pages.

The deepest insight which I think the book tries to articulate is about the relationship between work and what might constitute a meaningful life. Sennett critiques the idea that the optimum organisation rewards individuals (most often financially) based on their merit within a competitive framework (i.e. corporate capitalism). He also finds fault with the planned economy approach where work is framed around the social good or made to align with the nation's goals (most obviously the organised socialism of the pre-1990s Eastern bloc). He recalls a trip to bleak jerrybuilt estates around Moscow..

In both models, neither the quality of work nor the quality of the working experience is guaranteed. In the case of the NHS (a favoured example of Sennett's), we find perhaps the worst possible combination of both. The NHS has its origins in what was more or less a planned economy approach - the largest employer in the country being run by the Ministry of Health in Whitehall based on the provision of universal standards of care. Against this model, in the 1980s, the NHS was slowly forced into a late-Fordist version of corporate capitalism - witness partial de-centralisation through the formation of Health Service 'Trusts', endless target-setting based around reduction in patient waiting lists and, as a result, thousands of disgruntled hospital staff, with senior management all but forced to manipulate figures to make ends meet.

Rather than the vacuous 'middle way' of Giddens and Blairism (still not quite sure what it meant), Sennett returns to historical example as a way out of the stultifying impasse of work in the age of Facebook. As an illustration, he provides a detailed portrait of the medieval workshop in the time of the Guilds and the craft that produced unreplicable objects such as the Stradivarus Davidoff violin.

I have plenty yet to read in the book, however, it has already fertilised my mind with intellectual manure. Its not a book which should be used to formulate policy or programmes of activity. Rather, it works at a more fundamental level, helping to address structural-existential questions such as: how should we work, and how should we organise our work? How should we relate to technology? Is there a way of relating to technology as a form of craft? These questions will, I dare say, become increasingly significant as we move beyond the hydrocarbon period..

More practically, there are some fascinating pages on the need for architects to draw and sketch, rather than rely on increasingly sophisticated CAD applications. Sketching returns the designer to the sensuous world, to the site, to scale and proportion, to movement and to the tangible opportunity to enhance the way we work and dwell. Not just architects, we are all in danger of our lives being reduced or even lost in gigabytes and upgrades, when what we need is a fresh perspective on ways of working that use machines appropriately, rather than technology consuming life. He also refers back to that essay on the 'bazaar' of open-source programming (versus the 'cathedral' of proprietary software), as a possible model for re-thinking what craftsmanship might mean as the 21st century rolls forward. Here, he's perhaps a little out of date given the new ideas of edge-competence (moving beyond the corporation) and wiki-nomics, but not that much..

Again, his analysis of organisational culture points to the hugely undervalued significance of tacit knowledge: all that makes an organisation tick that is not written down or even codifiable. It was the medieval workshop that best tapped into the unsaid that supports craftsmanship at its best: the best way to hold a tool, to apply glue or varnish, to work the object is by showing rather than telling. Sennett's yoking of the American pragmatic tradition with phenomenologically-influenced European social theory is impressive. Like good art, it reminds us of what we are in imminent danger of losing, if we reduce our lives to the rhythm of our machines.

The Craftsman is the work of a fine cook (I didn't realise that Sennett writes a culinary column for the Spectator) and a musician with a fine pair of hands. I expect, at the end of it, to look at my own hands again, and see them as the mark of being human.

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THE AUDACITY OF CHOICE: 10 THINGS OKEREKE-ONYIUKE CAN DO WITH HER OBAMA MONEY

by Tolu Ogunlesi

RELOCATE THE OBAMAS

Relocate Obama’s peasant family from Kenya to Lagos / Abuja / Calabar:

In the past Nigeria has had to endure the gross indignity of playing host to war criminals: Charles Taylor, Yormie Johnson, even Osama was said to have made Kano home at some point in the ‘90s. (Why do we always have to attract unsavory elements to our country?)

A while ago, CNN took its viewers to Kenya to see Obama’s peasant African family, complete with thatched huts and pregnant goats as backdrop. (Forget the fact that this would never have happened had Obama been Nigerian – we would have relocated the entire Obama clan, plus livestock to Asokoro or Banana Island the moment their son declared intention to run for President of the world).

This will finally be Nigeria's chance kill two birds with one stone: host a Hero’s family for once, as atonement for our traditional hospitality to fugitives, and two, revive our Big Brother role by taking the burden of caring for the Obama lineage from a less-endowed Kenya. (Country Social Responsibility?)


PROMO

"There is not one Nigerian who doesn't have a relative or friend in America. Our aim was to encourage those people to tell their family who have the right to vote in America to vote for Obama." – Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, D.G, Nigerian Stock Exchange

Fund a Promo that will see Nigerians winning mouth-watering prizes from the telecom companies by calling their based-in-America relatives to instruct them to vote for Obama.


AFRICANS FOR OBAMA “CALL & WIN” PROMO.

1st Prize: A return ticket to the Democratic Convention, a front-row seat at the Presidential Inauguration in January 2009 and a mention in the Acknowledgements Page of Obama’s next book.

PS. For those of you who think MTN’s best days (in terms of out-of-this-world profits) are behind them, wait until Nigerians start 'harassing' their relatives in the US.


BALLOT PAPERS

Donate Made-in-Nigeria ballot cards for use in the US Elections. The conceited Americans say they don’t need our money. But surely they can do with our (already thumb-printed) ballot papers. After all, if Mike Tyson voted for the PDP in Ondo State last year, why can’t Bash Ali vote for Obama come November?


BAIL MONEY

Set it aside to serve as Bail Money (for Aunt Ndi) in case she’s (re-)arrested by the EFCC. But then, Nigeria’s big men and women always get off lightly when it comes to bail money prescriptions. What this means is that there’ll be more than enough money to bail the entire Africans for Obama organization in case they’re arrested en masse, as well as to pay lawyers to secure a renewable eternal order restraining the EFCC, ICPC, SSS and Police from harassing her; and the Press from mentioning her name in any of their articles.


BOOK EAGLE SQUARE

Invite Obama to come and draw pop concert-sized crowds in Nigeria on October 1: He did it in Germany; he can do it again at the Eagle Square. He will preach a message of hope, and lay hands on our dear President Yar’Adua and all the 36 State Governors to transfer some of his anointing to them. Michelle will commission beauty parlors in all the 36 state capitals of Nigeria and launch the Turai range of affordable hair care products (under the auspices of the Beautiful Life for Rural Women pet project).


DONATE IT

Donate it to the Electoral Law Reform Commission and INEC: They’ll need it for sensitization workshops and seminars, and for trips to America to learn how Democracy works and how free-and-fair elections are conducted.


REALITY TV

Create a TV Reality Show:

The Next Obama! Sell forms @ 5,000 each. Contestants will be drawn from all over Africa. The show will be shot in Kenya, Nigeria and America. Contestants will be judged on charisma, speaking skills, spiritual affiliations, blackberry-savvy, fashion sense and fund-raising skills. You’ve heard of Pop Idols, this will be a show for Pol Idols.


‘MOCK ELECTIONS’

On November 4, conduct Mock US Presidential Elections in the headquarters of all 774 Local Governments of Nigeria: Obama vs. McCain: Nigeria Decides! Then annul the results without releasing them (it might be illegal to announce them, that’s why).


BOOK PROJECT

Use it to Publish the potential bestseller “HOW TO RAISE FUNDS FOR PROJECTS THAT ARE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS: Tips from the Obasanjo and Obamafrica Projects.” [Alternative title: “HOW TO RAISE LEGAL FUNDS FOR ILLEGAL PROJECTS: The story of an Amazon’s Midas Touch”]


ENDOWMENT

Set up the Lamidi Adedibu Institute for Studies in Electoral Integrity

The biggest tribute to the name of the Garrison Commander will be to institute a foundation in his name. If there’s money leftover, a Leadership Prize might not be a bad idea: The Ariyibi Mugabe Prize for Amiability, Elongated Leadership and Political Sagacity.

There’s one last Choice (apologies, my 10 things always manage to become 11….)


RECRUIT

Hire one or two (more) chartered accountants, to speed up the counting of the money (Aunt Ndi claimed in an interview days ago that the ‘Africans for Obama’ accountant had not finished counting the money). Hire more bloody accountants I say!


Epilogue:

It just occurred to me that it’d be a good idea for Dr. Mrs. Okereke-Onyiuke to take ‘Africans for Obama’ public. Offer for Sale, one billion shares of Africans for Obama Nig. Ltd, at a price of X dollars per share. If it worked for Transcorp, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for Africans4ObamaCorp.

Tolu Ogunlesi (c) August 2008


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A MISGOVERNED GOVERNOR - by Wole Soyinka

What a pity that some individuals, especially in leadership positions, have never learnt to leave well alone! Oyinlola, embattled governor of Osun State on multiple fronts, raced to Sydney, Australia, to seek audience with Ulli Beier, seeking a way out of the unsavory dilemma into which he had been thrust by his former military boss to whom his allegiance remains fixated over and above the claims of truth, culture, decency, and the people of Osun state over whom he was presumably ‘elected’; to preside. His mission: to seek a face-saving formula from the Beiers.

Ever his gracious, Yoruba acculturated self, Ulli Beier consented to receive him but – alone, without his entourage. There – and I do not speculate – he was duly scolded like the errant scion of a royal house he is, called to order, reminded by his elderly host of a long cultural collaboration with his late father. Oyinlola emerged duly chastened, knowing that he had no choice but to revert to the path of honour. However, does he leave well alone? No, he had to present the nation with his own version of that closed-door session, laying the seeds of further distractions and/or new ways to pursue a tenacious agenda. It is not by accident that the FESTAC collection has been mentioned in documents connected to this saga of acquisitive obsession. We had better start screaming right now, even before ‘facts’ become facts, and a national acquisition ends in the bowels of presidential Laundromats.

Now, what are these ‘facts’ that Oyinlola advises his betters to verify before exercising their ‘elder statesman’ interventionist compulsion? It is a demeaning exercise, but I must try public patience with a reiteration of some already stated facts – facts as in factual, without the inverted commas. The following are excerpts from a letter of 4 July 2007 to Mr. Koichiro Matsura, Director-General of UNESCO, by Ambassador Michael Omolewa, the Nigerian Permanent Delegate to UNESCO:

“Permit me to present to you formally my Government’s proposal: the Government of Nigeria has decided that the Institute shall be established on the premises of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State……”

Now, turn to page 3 of that letter, under “Explanatory Note” and see the guaranteed contents of this Institute. I quote:

“Ulli and Georgina Beier have signed an agreement with the Government in which they agreed to transfer their archive and collection of some 10,000 items of books, articles, photographs, negatives and albums, films, videos, audio cassettes, record CDs, ephemera about concerts and exhibitions and other cultural items and material pertaining to Nigerian and in particular Yoruba culture…..”

Will Prince Oyinlola kindly tell the nation to which Institute, according to Omolewa’s letter, this collection was to be transferred?

In the immediately preceding paragraph, Ambassador Omolewa actually assures the Director-General that sub-branches of the Obasanjo Library based Institute will be created, the first of which shall be the ‘ULLI AND GEORGINA BEIER CENTRE FOR BLACK CULTURE AND INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING” This was the picture presented to Ulli Beier, only for this laudable recognition to be appropriated by the Olusegun Obasanjo Library, on behalf of which the UNESCO Category II accreditation was to be sought.

It is a tedious, ignoble affair, and I have already laid out the heart of the matter in my earlier article that alerted UNESCO to the danger of it being turned into a Laundromat for Failed Rulers. So let me cut straight though the brambles of deceit, manipulation and confusionist tactics at ambassadorial level. Here is the title of the actual petition that went before the Executive Board - Document 177 Ex/69) of 17 September 2007- for presentation to the General Assembly:

“PROPOSAL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN CULTURE AND INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING AT THE OLUSEGUN OBASANJO LIBRARY IN ABEOKUTA, OGUN STATE NIGERIA, AS A CATEGORY 2 CENTRE UNDER THE AUSPICES OF UNESCO”

Lo and behold, the ULLI AND GEORGINA BEIER CENTRE FOR BLACK CULTURE AND INTERENATIONAL UNDERSTANDING, on the basis of which the archives were bought, presented to the Director-General for endorsement in July 2007 by the Nigerian Government through her Ambassador Omolewa, has become, by September of the same year, the OLUSEGUN OBASANJO INSTITUTE. Based on what credentials? The ability to swallow, intact, the Ulli and Georgina collection, salted and spiced by public funds. This was the Grand Larceny that would have become a fait accompli in April this year, but for the naturally resented intervention of those who are now advised to get their ‘facts’ straight. The shameless posturing of Oyinlola takes one’s breath away.

More facts? In the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Babaloola Borishade, Minister of Culture, on behalf of the Nigerian Government,and dated 10th May, 2007, the honourable Minister provides the genesis of the conspiracy to appropriate the Beier archives in paragraph 5 (Background). In the Minister’s words:

‘Subsequently President Olusegun Obasanjo requested Professor Borisade, Professor Omolewa, and Hans d’Orville to explore and negotiate with Mr. and Mrs. Beier the terms and arrangements of a transfer of the archive from Sydney in a newly to be created centre in Oshogbo, as part of a new Institute for Black Culture and International Understanding being established under UNESCO s auspices at the Olusegun Obasanjo Library”

Put all those ‘facts’ together, and all they form is a crooked line. As it happens however, a substantive issue has been raised that must be confronted by UNESCO. Now that Oyinlola’s authoritative voice has been raised to assure the nation, and the people of Osun state, that the archives will now go where they were originally designated, what does that make of the earlier aspirant, now thwarted custodian, the Obasanjo Library? In cultural terms, a koroo isana. An empty matchbox, and I consider it my duty to pass on this development, and its implications, formally to UNESCO in my capacity as Goodwill Ambassador, among other hats I occasionally put on my head.

My prolonged collaboration with that institution indicates quite plainly that it endorses actualities, be they of Nature or man’s intelligence – Angkor Wat, Osun Grove, Sintra, Abu Simbel, the Alhambra, active programmes with records to show for their existence, specialised institutions etc. etc. I have yet to learn that ‘yet-to-be-created’ notions, expectations and intentions, even when backed by five-star hotels and promissory notes and government subsidies qualify for UNESCO designations. Functioning is the ultimate criteria, not simply a building, or complex. Those who want to pursue illusions are free to do so. It is when attempts are made to stuff such illusions with the palpable life labour of others as credentials that we are forced to bring the House of Cards crashing down on their heads.

Facts, Prince Oyinlola? There are plenty more, but we’ll reserve them for the effective time and place. My advice to you is that you stick to the guardianship and preservation of those archives when they arrive in Oshogbo – at least, while you’re still governor. For the unfinished part of this tawdry business, the dateline is October/November, UNESCO, Paris. We’ll see you there, with your entourage – or whoever is governor. In the meantime, let the appropriate Ministry – and public - take stock of all the bits and pieces the nation has managed to salvage from FESTAC.

A Press conference, foreign architects in attendance, has already bragged of building a museum in the Library complex. New functions for a Presidential Library are being touted that were not canvassed during the extortionist exercise that launched the five-star hotel and yet-to-be-created Institutes. Experts, scholars and diplomats are already under recruitment. Tracks are being laid to ease the passage of FESTAC archives into the baskets of the Presidential Laundromat, upon whose porous containers the UNESCO recognition as a cultural estate will now be based. Mischief is yet afoot, let no one be deceived.

There are some guests , when they leave the house, you have to count the forks and knives.

Wole SOYINKA
(published with kind permission from the author)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Africans for Obama trouble..

A row in the local papers has been sizzling in the past few days since a lavish Africans-for-Obama event recently in Lagos led by the Chair of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The BBC takes up the story here.

The question is, what are they going to do with the profit from the 420 thousand pounds they raised? Obama's people have said they would not accept any money - it would be illegal for them to accept donations from campaign groups outside the US.

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Virgin Nigeria to lose its virginity?

There have been rumours that Branson has wanted to pull out of Virgin Nigeria for a while. The enforced move to MMAII last week may have been the last straw. Prima facie, the VN position makes a lot of sense: that being based at MMAI is the platform for expanding Lagos as a hub with VN playing the role of de facto national carrier.

However, I've never understood why there could not be a free flight-side bus link between the terminals - facilitating movement and connecting flights etc. This is pretty standard stuff at international airports (as a developing country example: Mumbai airport has exactly this system in place). Rather than having one airline playing the hub-building role of quasi national carrier (leaving other airlines to feel out of favour), this would have the added advantage of allowing several airlines to help build the 'hub' together. Bellview, Arik etc. could all then offer a smooth interconnecting service to their passengers.

Is this yet another idea that's so simple it could never work in Nigeria?

Here is the article by Matthew Green in today's FT that prompted the post:

Virgin Atlantic is in talks to sell its 49 per cent stake in Virgin Nigeria, which it set up in 2005, following an increasingly acrimonious dispute with the Nigerian government over the location of the loss-making west African carrier's domestic operations.

Sir Richard Branson, president of the UK longhaul carrier, on Tuesday accused the authorities of using "Mafioso-style" tactics to force Virgin Nigeria to move services from the international terminal in Lagos, the commercial capital.

"It is regrettable that events have caused us to review our shareholding and whether it is appropriate that the Virgin brand should remain linked to Virgin Nigeria," Sir Richard said.

Virgin Nigeria was hailed as a symbol of investor confidence in Nigeria when it was set up by Virgin Atlantic and Nigerian institutional investors, in part to meet demand for a reliable carrier given the country's poor record for air safety.

Virgin Atlantic claims that the government reneged on a deal signed under Olusegun Obasanjo, the previous president, that let it use the international terminal for all services.

The administration of Umaru Yar'Adua, who took power in May last year, says Virgin Nigeria's claim is not legally valid.

Virgin Atlantic's criticism echoes accusations by companies including Royal Dutch Shell and Mittal Group, which accuse the government of tearing up contracts signed under its predecessor.

Mr Yar'Adua's officials say his administration is only reversing deals in which foreign companies tried to exploit the country and is committed to promoting investment.

Sir Richard claimed thugs were sent to smash up Virgin Nigeria's domestic lounge this year. "The behaviour of the authorities was similar to the way the Mafioso behaved in the US in the 1930s and not what I would have expected from the authorities in Nigeria," he said.

"If Virgin Nigeria can be treated in this way, can any company in the world seriously consider investing in Nigeria in the future?"

Aviation authorities forced Virgin Nigeria to relocated domestic flights from the international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed airport in the past week.

The airline says a court appeal against the decision is pending. Virgin Atlantic said it had been in talks with potential purchasers for its stake in Virgin Nigeria for several weeks.

Virgin Nigeria says it needs to operate both international and regional services from the same terminal to ensure smooth services for transit passengers.

When Virgin Nigeria was created in 2005, it was seen by the Virgin group as a potential model for its aviation interests in developing countries.

The group has airline interests in the UK, Australia, the US, Belgium and Malaysia.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The first gold for Nigeria..

Ahead of the Super Eagles' Gold (who knows?), Christine Ohuruogu won the women's 400M just now. Just think how well Nigeria would do if sport was taken seriously in the motherland.

There's probably a few sub 9.6 guys wandering around without a sports track in sight, just as there's probably a few guys who could be in the NBA if there was a hoop or two in town.

As it is, there's a woman of Nigerian heritage in the UK who's just beat the world's best..

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Mugu don Sharpen Up Oh!!!

Good example of scamming the scammer. Thanks Ms Sanusi for the link!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coventry Cathedral and MEND

Mr Gbomo's latest email (sent out on Thursday this week) must have left a few people scratching their heads about what exactly "the Coventry Cathedral" has been doing in the background:

At 16.00 Hrs on Thursday, August 14, 2008, an elite commando unit from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) concluded a successful rescue of the two German hostages and staff of Julius Berger PLC, Mr Jurgen Vetten (43) and Mr Bernd Mechlen (60) from inside the heavily fortified hideout of the group that kidnapped them when it became apparent that the older of the men risked loosing his life from the injuries sustained during the initial attack if further delayed.

The rescue was more of cunning as it gave the kidnappers the impression we were on the same page and had a grudge against Julius Berger.

Our ultimate prizes were rescued without any shots being fired and no loss of life even though the commando unit were on standby to intervene if necessary for this symbolic rescue, code named OPAS ( Operation Paul and Silas).

Weeks of intense intelligence gathering, planning and training, culminated in this tactical victory for which we salute everyone involved including the Coventry Cathedral.

The decision to carry out this audacious mission was reached on humanitarian grounds even though the Nigerian government has not shown good faith in Henry Okah's case such as follows:

1. Henry Okah was brought into Nigeria without the government following the due international process for extradition.

2. He is being held hostage in northern Nigeria under inhuman prisoner of war type confinement.

3. His family has been denied access to see him, while his legal team has limited access to their client to prepare his defense.

4. He is being tried under a flawed kangaroo judicial process that does not guarantee justice.

5. It is apparent that the insincere Nigerian government prefers to negotiate and offer amnesty only to those that have evaded capture as against those in it's custody.

By this action, we are only proofing that MEND is not on the same pedestal as the criminals inside the government of Nigeria who preferred to use the situation in lining their pockets without realising our threats to Julius Berger were part of a plan to put the abductors off guard.

The hostages will be delivered tonight at a location to be arranged and the over zealous men of the JTF must keep away from the rivers leading into Port Harcourt as the hostages will be escorted to the drop off area by heavily armed fighters. An air ambulance should be made available in Port Harcourt as the older of the hostages suffered spinal injuries in the initial abduction and may require advanced life support.

Jomo Gbomo

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Kudos to Soyinka

For challenging the transfer (and privatisation) of the Beier archive (against the Beier's wishes) to Abeokuta. Here.

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Dreaming of Sao Tome..

Our fab friend Ellie came round this evening to join us for a dinner party. She came armed with her snaps from a recent trip to Sao Tome as well as Sao Tomean chocolate-coated coffee beans from Claudio Corallo. Yummy. Its a good website and an interesting story by the way..

Click to see the large size versions, as always.

If you're thinking of going to ST & P, go now before Ryanair or some other cheapo airline decides to mess it up. The deep equatorial hues of sea and sky set against the dark volcanic rocks are quite something, no be so?

The first Oceanic Bank branch was opened there last week - the newspapers here were full of pix of MD Cecilia Ibru sporting a dashing pair of sunglasses sitting next to el Presidente. A sign of Nigeria's increasing spread into neighbouring countries as the petro-nairas flow in...

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Damn - Juju is expensive these days..

Despite the hideous 'instalmentally' Henglish, this is well worth reading. Stories like this make your realise that Nollywood is oftentimes a diluted version of super-saturated technicolour Nigerian reality. O se o remi for the link.

NEWSWATCH

A Deal Gone Sour

By Chris Ajaero
Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sam Edem, former diplomat and chairman of the Niger DeltaDevelopment Commission, NDDC, trades accussations with Perekabowei Ogah, a sorcerer, he allegedly hired and paid N800 million to kill for him.

These are not the best of times for Sam Edem, chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Edem is currently in the eye of the storm over his alleged attempt to use diabolical means to eliminate Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Timi Alaibe, managing director of NDDC.

Investigations by Newswatch revealed that the embattled NDDC chairman squandered one billion Naira on a juju priest who promised to perpetrate the act through fetish practices. Both Edem and Perekabowei Ogah alias Mathew Sonoma, the 34-year-old native doctor from Bomadi, Delta State whom he hired to execute the dastardly act have made confessional statements to the police. In their confessional statements obtained exclusively by Newswatch, both confirmed their involvement in the alleged murder plot.

Ogah in his statement dated June 11, 2008, said his relationship with Edem started in 2007 when the latter realised that he was to be relieved of his appointment as NDDC chairman and sought for spiritual powers that could stop it. Kakas Amgbari, who works with Edem had introduced Ogah to Edem as a native doctor who was capable of helping his case.

Ogah, however, told the NDDC chairman that it would cost him N15 million and he agreed to pay. "On that note, I listed the items required for the sacrifice to cost the sum of N15 million naira which he subsequently paid into my executive savings account which I have with the Oceanic Bank, Ughelli," Ogah said. The native doctor claimed that after he had performed the necessary rituals, Edem was retained as NDDC chairman and his client was happy with him.

Consequently, the NDDC chairman who was now convinced about the efficacy of Ogah's powers decided to give him three new assignments. The first one was that he should work on Governor Akpabio through his fetish powers so that he would always do his bidding, especially by awarding contracts to him. The second assignment was for him to either eliminate Alaibe or inflict him with stroke using diabolical means.

Edem's reason for seeking to eliminate or incapacitate Alaibe was because he saw him as a stumbling block to him in NDDC as Edem claimed he does not give him breathing space to operate as the commission's chairman. The third assignment Edem had for the native doctor was that he should "work on the Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan so that he can always obey him and always support him if there is any plan to remove him from office."

Based on the seriousness of the assignments, particularly the one that involved the elimination of Alaibe, the native doctor gave him a bill of N570 million which Edem also paid instalmentally. He initially paid N220 million and followed it up with N50 million and then N40million, which brought the total to N310 million, leaving a balance of N260million. The native doctor immediately went to work. Ogah claimed that before he was given the assignment, Edem's relationship with Governor Akpabio was not quite cordial. He, therefore, prepared a charm which he gave to Edem and instructed him to meet with Akpabio.

During the meeting, he should touch the charm on Akpabio's drink and, thereafter, touch it on the ground. Edem did as the native doctor directed and after the meeting, the governor allegedly awarded him a road contract worth seven billion Naira.

However, in the process of using the charm as Ogah instructed, Edem forgot to touch it on the ground. The native doctor claimed that as a result of this mistake by Edem, the charm affected the governor's health and he was flown abroad for medical attention. Edem who did not
want Akpabio to die in the process, because his contract would be at risk, went to the native doctor and confessed that he forgot to touch the charm on the ground as he directed. Ogah then told Edem that in order to save the governor's life, he should pay an additional sum of
N50 million. He complied and Ogah appeased the gods, hence Akpabio did not die from the effect of charm.

But the assignment that the native doctor should eliminate Alaibe through diabolical means proved difficult for him. The native doctor said after the expiration of the period he promised Edem that Alaibe would die and the NDDC managing director was still alive, he (Edem) came to him. "I told him that his spirit is too strong. On that note he (Edem) grew annoyed and asked me to refund the money, he paid for Timi's work," Ogah said. It was at this juncture that Edem requested Ogah to refund the money he had so far paid him but he refused, insisting that the NDDC chairman should rather pay him the remaining N260 million. This marked the beginning of the disagreement between Edem and Ogah. Edem, therefore, petitioned the police alleging that Ogah was a fraudster and had defrauded him of millions of Naira.

This was why Ogah was arrested and detained at the Zone 5 Police Headquarters, Benin City. It was after his arrest that he made startling revelations on his sordid affair with Edem.

But the native doctor claimed that before the burble burst, Edem had burnt the sum of N270 million while naked in a cemetery in Port Harcourt as part of the ritual. The ashes from the burnt Naira notes were rubbed on Edem's body by the native doctor in a bid to fortify him.

In his own statement to the police, dated June 18, 2008, Edem neither denied nor admitted his alleged plot to eliminate Alaibe and Akpabio. He, however, said that Ogah was introduced to him as a pastor by Amgbari in November, 2007. After some prayer sessions in his house, Ogah started extorting money from him with death threats to him, family members and staff. "I later discovered that this man is a hardened criminal with fetish practices and diabolical powers. The truth is that I was hypnotised by this man into believing anything he said. He employed dangerous threats as a weapon to continuously extort huge amounts of money from me while putting me under his spell," Edem stated.

The NDDC chairman said that the extortion of money from him by Ogah started in November, 2007 and lasted till April, this year when God rescued him from his spell. "By the time God rescued me from his spell, this criminal and his cohorts had drained me financially, emotionally, and psychologically, " Edem told the police. According to him, the total amount collected from him by the native doctor under alleged hypnotic spell is about N800 million. He said he usually paid the money with bank drafts into Ogah's Oceanic Bank International
Plc account number 0231701700330. The NDDC chairman alleged that the native doctor used part of the money collected from him to acquire a hotel complex in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at the cost of more than N100 million and a fleet of new cars of different brands and models.

When the police monitoring team from Zone 5, Benin City searched Ogah's residence in Bomadi recently, many cars were recovered from him. But Ogah denied the allegation by Edem that the money he used to acquire cars and other properties were proceeds from his dealings with him. "The money I used in buying my cars and other properties were strictly mine as I do work for politicians who pay me handsomely," he said.

Other items recovered from Ogah's residence are Government House, Yenagoa staff identity card and a Bayelsa Government House plate number: BYGH 43. The native doctor claimed that the Government House identity card was issued to him by Diepreye Alamieyeseigha when he
was in office as the Bayelsa State governor. He further claimed that he still had free access to Government House, Yenagoa, when Goodluck Jonathan, vice-president, became the governor because he was the spiritual godfather to both leaders. "The Government House, Yenagoa staff identity card recovered from my house by the police was issued to me by Ex-Governor Alamieyeseigha when I was his spiritual godfather during his tenure and that of Ex-Governor Goodluck Jonathan," Ogah stated.

With regard to the Bayelsa Government House plate number, he claimed it was meant for a Peugeot 504 car assigned to one Bobo 2Pac, who he said is a younger brother to Alamieyeseigha. Ogah recalled that in 2000, he had an accident with the car along Mbiama road and, thereafter, the vehicle was taken to Government House, Yenagoa. He however, added that he mistakenly kept the plate number in his house.

Efforts by Newswatch to get the reaction of the vice-president through Ima Niboro, his senior special assistant, media, failed as he could not be reached on phone last week. But another official in the vice-president's office who craved anonymity said that Jonathan is a staunch Anglican and so would not be associated with anything fetish.

At press time last week, Alamieyeseigha could also not be reached on phone for his reaction to Ogah's allegation that he was his spiritual godfather when he was in office as governor.

But John Araka, media consultant to Edem while reacting to the alleged attempt by the NDDC chairman to use the native doctor to eliminate Alaibe and Akpabio denied Ogah's claims. "It is unthinkable that Edem would want to kill Alaibe. What for? So that he can succeed him as managing director? It's all blackmail," Araka told Newswatch.

On the allegation that Edem paid the native doctor to eliminate Governor Akpabio, Araka said the NDDC chairman was one of those instrumental to his emergence as Akwa Ibom State governor. "They had a good relationship. So, he would not want to destroy the house he
helped to build," Araka said.

Newswatch, however, learnt that the startling revelations by Ogah has strained the relationship between Edem and Alaibe. It was gathered that although the two NDDC top officials were handling the matter maturedly, a cold war is raging in the commission owing to this turn
of events.

There were also indications last week that Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State was still dumbfounded that Edem, his kinsman, could be linked with a plot to eliminate him. Usoro Usoro, chief press secretary to the governor told Newswatch that a few days before the revelations became public knowledge, Edem had visited Akpabio at Akwa Ibom Governor's Lodge in Abuja. "Before these revelations, the governor had no problem with Edem. That was why the revelations are shocking to him," Usoro said. He said the governor has informed
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua officially about this development.

Usoro explained that his boss was confident that the police would get to the root of the matter. The governor's image maker also said he was not aware that his boss awarded a road contract to the tune of seven billion Naira as alleged by Ogah.

On the claim by Ogah that the charm he gave to Edem affected Governor Akpobio's health and made him to be flown abroad for medical treatment, Usoro said no such thing happened. He said the governor could have travelled for treatment abroad but it certainly has nothing to do with the alleged charm by the native doctor. "Governor Akpabio firmly believes in God. So, nobody can harm him," Usoro said.

Newswatch further gathered that Edem was deeply pained by the revelations of his sordid affair with the native doctor. In a bid to re-establish his ties with the governor, he recently approached Camillus Etukudo, the Catholic bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese, and pleaded with him to help him beg Akpabio for forgiveness, saying that he fell into the hands of satanic agents. He decided to seek the bishop's intervention because the governor is an ardent Catholic and is very close to the respected clergyman.

The greatest source of worry for Edem now is not the huge amount he lost in the business but how to defend the source of the money he squandered. This is because some Nigerians have already started calling on the federal government to investigate the source of the money Edem gave out to the native doctor and his collaborators. Consequently, Edem has taken certain steps to douse public criticisms of his action through some groups who have been defending him.

One of such groups is the Ibom Youth For Peace Movement, IYPM. In a statement signed by David Friday Ibanga, president of IYPM, the group frowned at what it termed organised blackmail and campaign of calumny against a respectable and patriotic son of Akwa Ibom State. It wondered why sycophants and charlatans were spreading rumour about assassination plot when the suspects who were arrested and released have already apologised to the NDDC chairman. "We have watched with dismay, the way and manner desperate political fortune seekers have capitalised on the ongoing false rumours to score a cheap political point without recourse to proper reasoning or making any effort to unravel the truth concerning the assassination bid story, thereby assassinating and battering another man's well earned character and image," IYPM stated.

The group also said that it was not possible for Edem to attempt to kill Akpabio or Alaibe. "What does Ambassador Sam Edem stand to gain by killing Governor Akpabio that he supported or does he want to become governor or the managing director of NDDC? Ambassador Sam Edem is a decent, patriotic son of the South-South, he has never been involved in any shady deal or anything inimical to the peace and development of the Niger Delta region," IYPM said.

Another group that has risen in defence of the NDDC chairman is the Niger Delta Law Students Association. Uko Ekpenyong, national coordinator of the association said his members were shocked that the Nigerian public have become so gullible to believe the alleged murder scandal. To him, the entire assassination story is "a hoax and some powerful politicians must be behind this devilish act."

When Newswatch contacted Udo Ekpoudom, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, in charge of Zone 5, Benin City, last week, he confirmed that both Edem and Ogah had made statements to the police investigative team. He said Ogah was initially detained but later released on bail. "We are still investigating the case and I am confident that we will get to the root of the matter," Ekpoudom told Newswatch.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Calling out to the wisdom of the crowd: do you know a Benin Bronze expert?

It seems to be Benin culture month. If you are/know someone who is a Benin Bronze expert, please read the email below (which was forwarded to me just now) and reply. Pasted below that is an email from the producer of the Radio 4 programme which gives some background on the series. Reply to Sheila Ruiz.


Dear all,

I was contacted by a senior producer at BBC Radio 4 with a request to find a Nigerian contemporary voice to talk about the Benin Bronzes in an upcoming series of the ‘History of the World’ told through 100 objects.

Please read below for more information and do let me know if you know/ think of anyone suitable for the project. As I am told, they would like a Nigerian person, who has a very strong take on the subject and who is influential and high profile.

All the best,
Sheila

Sheila Ruiz
Communications Consultant

Business of Culture (Acting on behalf of the Africa Centre)
6 Paddington Street
London W1U 5QG

T 020 7224 5680
F 020 7224 5681
www.businessofculture.com
sheila@businessofculture.com


Here is the background blurb from the BBC Radio 4 Producer
The history of the World in 100 objects is a landmark narrative history project for BBC Radio 4 that will be aired throughout 2010.

The series - each programme is 15 minutes long - will be presented by Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum from where these one hundred objects are chosen. This is going to be a history of the world, from the earliest time (a 2.2 million year old stone tool) to the present day (a credit card) with the object itself being used to tell the story of the age. The basic structure of the series is that of an illustrated talk - punctuated by readings, music, location atmosphere and one or two expert (and high profile) contributions to help explain some of the objects and describe their historical context.

By Week 16 (which we are recording first - now!) we have arrived at the 16th Century and the emergence of unified global networks as different parts of the world start trading.

One of the most striking (and controversial) objects that week is one of the great Benin bronzes in the BM's collection. Neil MacGregor will begin this piece with an account of the British sacking of Benin and the story of how these sculptures ended up in London.

I think its really important that we hear a Nigerian voice on what these pieces mean in contemporary Nigeria - How do they resonate today and what does their existence contribute to a modern sense of Nigerian identity? Something along those lines - but I would prompt with questions and obviously I would discuss this with the contributor in advance.

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Goodbye Bakassi

Nigeria hands over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsular to Cameroun tomorrow. Click here to read Jonathan Power's view and comparison with ongoing events in Georgia. Many thanks Dade for the link.

Also see here, Andrew Walker's moving piece on the plight of those evicted and the reality of New Bakassi.

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Lagos: the new Moscow


An article along those lines by the New York Times' man in Lagos, Will Connors, here and here (NVS version).

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Design/advertising/branding in Naija


Its high time that advertising, branding and design in Nigeria are critiqued for what they are at present: extremely low in quality, with no demonstrable creativity at work.

Take this example, that appeared in yesterday's Punch. We might wonder

1. Why the heading, 'with modernity comes convenience' has been positioned above an old pot. Clearly, this pot is neither modern nor convenient. So, either the copy should better match the image, or the image should change. Or something.

Of course, as all good copywriters (and newspaper headline writers know), the headline copy does not have to repeat/replicate the meaning of the image - in fact, most great ads do the opposite. Headline copy should ask questions of the image, in a way that opens up the opportunity to sell whatever product or service is on offer.

In the case of this advert, if we had to stick with the same (badly positioned) image of the old pot, we might want to get the copy to probe the image in a way that metaphorically supports the suggestion of the target customer moving towards Supercard. Examples (rough and ready admittedly) of alternative headline copy might be:

Every age has its modern conveniences
What do you do when tradition is no longer convenient?

etc. You get the drift - use the oldness of the pot to make a point about a better alternative being available..

2. How effective the body copy below the image is. At present, we have 'With innovations from SuperCard, a more comfortable life is now attainable. With us, you can manage identities better, study entirely from home, or where ever, buy fuel and pay transport fare with cards. It's the future and we're already here for you.'

Lets pass over two obvious problems with this - that the logo at the bottom of the page is 'Supercard', but the body copy refers to 'SuperCard'. And also, let's pass over the all-too-common Nigerian confusion of singular and plural (it should have been transport 'fares' not 'fare'). The more serious issue is that this body copy is the only opportunity to convey the benefits to the target market. Do we get a clear sense of what these benefits are from this clunky, clumsy copy? What does it mean to 'manage identities better'? How does this card allow you to study 'entirely' from home?

A much better approach would have been:
a) An intro sentence that reworks the line about a more comfortable life now being attainable. This opening sentence should ideally also refer back to the headline copy and main image. Something along the lines of, 'We know that always having to carry cash can be a hassle, and a security risk...' might do the trick.

b) Then there should be a bulleted list of the four or five key benefits of Supercard, written in the most explicit, self-explanatory English. For example, one benefit could be written:

Buy fuel from all leading forecourts*
(the * would have a note at the bottom listing the petrol suppliers in small print). We might have to think about what word to use as an alternative to forecourts in the local context - filling stations, gas stations, retailers etc. This might need to be backed up by a focus group or two.

3. Why the only follow-up opportunity to find out more is the website. Many Nigerians struggle to get internet access, and would prefer a telephone number, or an address to visit, rather than simply a website. Not listing either of these lends credence to the suspicion that this company does not have much ballast and may not even have a business address. Or, it might be that the company has a business address (in somewhere reputable like Ikoyi or VI) but has omitted to make good use of this prestige value.

All of the above are basic issues which a few seconds of thought would have resolved. Hiring a decent art director and copywriter would have made a huge difference, and provided much better value for money in terms of customer interest and customer acquisition.

I plan to conduct a few more critiques of Nigerian adverts in the next week or so. Maybe the lazy and uncreative ad agencies will wake up and realise they are living in the wrong century, and their clients will start to demand a better service. As it is, Nigerian adverts on the whole assume that their readers are stupid, one rung of consciousness above cows grazing in a field looking for the next patch of grass to munch...

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Reverse brain drain in Nigeria

Interesting piece on the reverse brain drain process currently reaching tipping point in Nigeria from the Washington Post last week. Thanks Sean for the link.

Nothing that you didn't know already, apart from: sushi, in Lagos? Where (apart from the hideously expensive Bonsai on VI)? Having graced the 'restaurant' at the top of the UBA building on many occasions, I can assure the Reuters chappie that, on this evidence alone, most Nigerian bankers JJRs (Johnny-Just-Returned) or otherwise are more at home with pounded yam and stew than any Japanese seaweed muck.

The other (much more serious) question is whether Nigeria's economic boom is sustainable, given its built entirely on the chimera of oil prices? The economy is already starting to overheat as it is...

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Things Fall Apart in Abuja this Oct

Forwarded email:

Dear all,
An update on the Jos Reperory Theatre's forthcoming stage adaptation
of Chinua Achebe's remarkable novel THINGS FALL APART coming up in
Abuja at the MERIT HOUSE AUDITORIUM, MAITAMA, ABUJA.

DATES: FRIDAY,3RD OCTOBER (7.00PM - ONE PERFORMANCE)
SATURDAY 4TH OCTOBER (2.00PM & 7.00PM - TWO PERFORMANCES)

GATE: N 2,000 (TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE GATE FROM 10.00AM ON
PERFORMANCE DAYS AND AT OTHER DESIGNATED VENUES)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CALL PATRICK-JUDE - 0803 700 0496, 0805
953 5215 OR DENJA ABDULLAHI ON 0802 301 7406

USEFUL LINKS:
http://allafrica.com/stories/200808070205.html
http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/features/arts/2008/jun/04/arts-04-06-2008-002.htm

(Kindly note that if you will require a private performance of the
play, Sunday 5th October is available on our itinerary)

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E-commerce in Nigeria

E-commerce development has been painfully slow in Nigeria, given the lack of epayments infrastructure. ReLoadNG is already proving popular - you can use your local bank Interswitch card to buy PHCN and phone credit. Given there is no real-time reconciliation with the telcos apparently available, the system works by the company having sufficient scratch cards in stock. Its a clever work around. If they introduced a Visa or Mastercard Merchant alternative, relatives overseas could pay for credit, top up on electricity tokens etc.

Wishstop is another promising looking online shopping site.

With increasing numbers of people using Interswitch to buy their local air tickets online, e-commerce is gradually growing. A lot more could be done by the banks to speed things up however - such as rolling out wireless point of sale terminals among their commercial retail clients.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sir Victor Uwaifo and the mermaid..

Nice radio slot on the Highlife legend here. He tells a lovely story from 4 and a half minutes in about the origin of his big hit Guitar Boy. He was on Bar Beach back in the day when he saw Mami Wata, the mermaid, out in the ocean. The rest is history:

If you see Mami Wata o, never never you run away...

Kazey always sings this song at Blakes Excellency resort every Friday.

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Naipaul on/in Nigeria

The Trinidadian writer is gracing our shores. Here. O se my favourite Brooklynite for the word.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Benin - Kings and Rituals at the Art Institute of Chicago

Re-published (with kind permission) from Lost at the Other End of the World's blog:

I finally went to see the Benin Art exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute. Below is a sketch of some of my scattered impressions:

As I viewed the last piece of the exhibition, I realized, for the first time, that the artistic acumen that fed the artistic life of the Benin Empire was highly unstable, hybrid, and fluid.

I was happy that the loud buzz among the numerous spectators filing through chambers afer chambers of artifacts was being created by art from my hometown. I was humbled when I realized how little I knew about the empire and the cultural life that moved it. But, I was sad about the lost stories of people, of lives, of an ancient universe forever trapped within narrow glass boxes on display.

Picture an artistic consciousness that defined the artist’s political and personal identity, physical space of existence and connection with royalty, divinity, and the occult. Combine this with an avid openness to multi-cultural influences and love for innovation and experimentation. This, in a nutshell, is how the exhibit represented Benin art life.

The collection spans, roughly, 15th to 21st century. The most striking aspect of the exhibition is the way it narrates Benin, its art, and history. Pre-19th century Benin was presented as a powerful, vibrant, advanced, and dynamic society that appropriated cultural and artistic influences from surrounding and faraway places. Take for instance the Iwoki Guild or royal cannoneers, who were responsible for maintaining Oba Esigie’s Portuguese cannon. More interestingly, they also served as his astrologers and meteorologists and got their astral knowledge from having been slaves in merchant ships.

Benin artists took inspiration and appropriated techniques from nearby Ife to faraway Nupe in the north and beyond the seas in Portugal.

From delicate bronze hairpins finely decorated with coral and agate to Islamic-influenced leopard aquamaniles, the exhibit told a story of Benin I had never head or even dreamed of. It was then that I understood that the reason why we do not understand pre-colonial Africa is because of the lack of stories. What the average one among us knows about our pre-colonial past are impoverished fragments in social studies textbooks.

For the most part, pre-colonial Nigeria is an opaque, dense, formless, and monolithic mass of history that lies somewhere between a stygian impenetrability and fragmentary chaos. Pre-colonial Nigeria is the point of cultural remembering where everything fades to black. We don’t feel connected to that period no matter how we pretend to. Don’t get me wrong, conceptions of pre-colonial Nigeria are political objects of culture and identity, but beyond their political function, they are unfamiliar, incomprehensible, and sometimes embarrassing, especially to the young. In the absence of powerful legends, living myths, and dynamic scholarship that invent and reinvent ideas and ideals about our pre-colonial past, we are left with textbooks and antiquated scholarly treatises that articulate our past as tradition.

If I got nothing else from the exhibit, at least, I now have the strong conviction that tradition is a name we use for things we banish, most times inadvertently, into the musty backrooms of culture or into sealed glass cases where they never appear to change. Tradition is a real illusion we create in our attempts at positioning our present in relation to our past. Ancient Benin art is not traditional. It is 21st century Benin art that is.

When I got to the closing section of the exhibition where recent works by contemporary artists where displayed, I became less intrigued, less surprised, and a little sad because I could see that the new artists had lost the fire of innovation, experimentation and cultural hybridity that actuated their forebears. What we have today appears to be a bad case of atavism, a rigid and lifeless mimicry of the vibrant and eclectic pre-19th century Benin art?

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Re-imagine Nigeria at CCA Lagos

Date Saturday 16th August 2008 2pm - 4.30pm

The session will start with a presentation titled:"Re-Imagine Nigeria" – which focuses on the possibilities of young artists getting involved with helping shape a more positive external view of Nigeria via artists exchange programs that encourage cultural diplomacy. Artists Ndubuisi Nduwhite Ahanonu and Harrison Ikibah will present a review of their visit to the cultural diplomacy symposium in Berlin and share with us their experiences and findings.

Margie Johnson Reese is the Program Officer for Media, Arts and Culture for the Ford Foundation's Office for West Africa based in Lagos, Nigeria. Margie is most noted for her ability to initiate partnerships among unlikely collaborators and her passion for global culture exchange has led her to focus her expertise on developing programs that lead to sustainable cultural institutions. She devotes her spare time to mentoring young arts managers and to helping position arts and cultural programs as a mechanism for influencing diplomatic relationships and foreign policy development.

Margie Reese is a seasoned arts management professional with over 30 years experience in cultural planning, cultural facility development and arts education advocacy. She has worked in Chief Executive positions for the city of Dallas, Texas and the city of Los Angeles, California, where she is noted for launching the city's International Cultural Exchange Program and the successful city-wide music education program, Music L.A.! She has consulted in numerous states in the US and served as advisor in all areas of cultural management and policy development.

Venue

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Off Queen Street, Sabo,
Opp Methodist Church, Herbert Macaulay St, Lagos.

Telephone 0702 8367106

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A simple power solution for Nigeria...

Here's an ingenious idea, to answer this question: how can the power situation be radically improved in Nigeria, without a single new power station being built (or not built, as the case may be)? The supplementary question is: and how can the situation be improved and create jobs/businesses in the process?

The potential solution is so ingeniously simple, it would probably never work. Here goes:

Fact 1: Nigeria's grid currently powers around 1-2,000MW of power per day - via PHCN (formerly known as NEPA).

Fact 2: Meanwhile, the sum total of independently-generated power is somewhere between 40-50,000MW (at least twenty times as much as the grid produces). The large bulk of this power comes from small and medium size generators - there are estimated to be 500,000 of them in the country.

Fact 3: The trouble is, the lion's share of this independently-generated power is not efficiently used. Take our compound as a classic example. While we use a 2.3KVA pure sine wave inverter, which works brilliantly and gives us 24/7 guaranteed power with no fuel charges, Alhaji downstairs has a 40kva generator (ie quite big machine), that slurps diesel like the hungry beast it is. At most with all his ACs on, Alhaji needs 10-15kva power, meaning that his genset is permanently under-used. As all engineers know, under-utilisation of big machines is usually a no-no. The engine wears out more quickly, and its hardly an efficient use of diesel. Worse still, the carbon footprint is unnecessarily widened.

Solution: So, and here's the brilliant bit: what if generator sets like Alhajis were put to better use by distributing the power generated in the immediate neighbourhood? The business opportunity is to turn the tens of thousands of similarly under-utilised gensets into microgrid systems. The owners of the gensets would make money out of their own power back-up system, in effect obtaining subsidised back-up power.

That's the idea in a nutshell. The details could easily be worked out. For example, a subsidiary of PHCN, or perhaps better, NERC, could be set up to regulate this SME market. There would be a licence system required, and specifically authorised metering equipment that is regularly checked (perhaps with remote monitoring by an sms device built into the meter - not exactly hi-tech these days). The microgrid would only 'kick-in' when NEPA fails (just as an inverter does) so it would not actually be competing with the national grid, merely complementing it. The costs of regulation could even be generated (at least in part) by the regulator taking a percentage of the metering bill.

In the case of our Alhaji, he has in effect 25KW to 'sell' to the neighbouring houses. As we get by fine on 2.5KW back up, that's theoretically enough for up to ten houses (so long as the microgrid does not involve ACs).

The beauty of it is that the total power generation figure of 40-50,000MW becomes theoretically available for more efficient distribution, creating real business opportunities in the process, with no capital outlay of any significance to the govt.

Is this idea far too simple and ingenious or what?

If the idea was piloted in a few places, who knows?

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On the EFCC

Critical piece in the FT today. The EFCC need some big cases to come through to convince an increasingly sceptical public...

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Coda on that football match


Check Will Connors' blog here.

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