Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poetry Slam Contest manana


By Jerry Adesewo

The trendy Abuja Poetry Slam continues this quarter with a competition set for Friday 1st May 2009 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel at 7p.m. the winning prize is Thirty Thousand Naira, the highest so far in the five-year history of the event in Nigeria.

According to the Slam Master, Ken Ike Okere, the slam is planned for the May Day holiday to enable people have plenty of time and be relaxed for the usually fun-filled spoken word contest.

The Abuja Poetry Slam is an Abuja Literary Society initiative aimed at promoting the art and power of the spoken word otherwise known as performance poetry. The quarterly slam is usually rounded up with a Grand Slam in December of each year where all the Slam Champions slug it out poetically. Ekene Atusiuba, popularly known as Poet for Life, and the Storyteller are currently the two Grand Champions of the Poetry Slam. The Storyteller has built on his early potentials and visibility gained at the ALS to become a rising star in the spoken word and musical circuits.

In the competition, poets must perform their own works, without props or costume, to an audience who score them; the champion emerges after three or four rounds of scintillating performances. The audience-judges score the poets based on content and performance.

Started in 2004, by the slam master, the Abuja poetry slam has been won by several talented and popular up-coming poets such as Dekmankind, Halima Ali and Toby Nduekwelu, the current slam champion. Ken Ike, the Slam Master, told this reporter that the Slam has helped to promote and inspire creative expression in Abuja as well as reward popular poetry performed excellently. Performance poetry, he said, helps to move modern poetry away from obscure, dry academic chambers back to the people for whom it had been a part of their traditional

The slam is part of the bouquet of offerings by which the Abuja Literary Society which set for itself the task of generating and sustaining a literary culture, and the creation of an alternative literary-based entertainment in Nigeria’s nascent and formerly art-starved Federal Capital City. Founded in 1999, the ALS quickly attracted the corps of resident and visiting writers and literary
enthusiasts in the FCT.

Today, it is the foremost literary NGO in the city, and has led to the burgeoning of literary groups in the city. Now in Abuja, there are literary readings, guest writer fora, arts and writing competitions, and open mike readings several times a month in various venues around the city. In recognition and commendation of the slam master, Ken Ike Okere, as a change maker and social entrepreneur, the Washington DC based Ashoka Foundation awarded him the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scenes from today's naked protest in Ekiti...


Stepping Stones - press release

The Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ film -Saving Africa’s Witch Children – that featured the work of the UK registered charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria has won the prestigious BAFTA* award at this year’s ceremony in London, which was held at the Royal Festival Hall on 26th April.

The film featured graphic coverage of children being horrifically abused due to the belief that they are ‘witches’ in Akwa Ibom State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. It’s broadcast caused widespread international outrage and lead to the Akwa Ibom State Government enacting the Child Right’s Act, outlawing the stigmatisation of children as ‘witches’ and arresting a number of pastors known to be profiting from falsely stigmatising children as ‘witches’.

Speaking after the award ceremony, the Stepping Stones Nigeria Programme Director, Gary Foxcroft, expressed his view that the people who deserved the award most were in fact the members of the organisations – the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) and Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation (SSNCEF) – that work tirelessly to provide support and hope to children stigmatised as ‘witches’ in Nigeria.

“Inspiring individuals such as Sam Ikpe-Itauma, Lucky Imoh Inyang and their staff are the real heroes and the ones who truly deserve the award. The Akwa Ibom State Government also deserve credit for the positive interventions that they have made since the film was broadcast”, said Gary. “However, the fact remains that the vast majority of people in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole believe that children can be ‘witches’ and until this changes then abuse of children’s rights due to this belief are always likely to take place”, he further stated.

Despite the success of the film and the impact that it has made a significant number of people still wish to discredit it and question its authenticity. Stepping Stones Nigeria believes that these accusations further highlight the depth of the belief in witchcraft that still exists, not only in Nigeria but also in the UK, and calls for a widespread public awareness campaign to be initiated in order to counter such superstitious beliefs.**

*See -,108,GAL.html
** Stepping Stones Nigeria and Mboho Akwa Ibom State (UK & Ireland) will be holding the Child First Conference: Preventing Abuse of the Nigerian Child Today at the Brunei Gallery in London on 30th May. See for more details
For more details please contact Gary Foxcroft, Programme Director, Stepping Stones Nigeria at – [email protected]


Policing in Nigeria

There's a really good series of pieces on the BBC website on policing in Nigeria,

On patrol with Nigeria's police
Nigeria's vigilante groups
On the penal system
On the Apo 6


Moyo Okediji's universe..

Beautiful Yoruba-inspired art, on Moyo Okediji's blog.


Amos Tutuola and Pac-Man

Interesting art event next month (starts May 17th) at The Kitchen in Manhattan. Taken from Leo Africanus' blog.


Ekiti videos from NEXT


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nigerian Feminists Forum Press Release on Ekiti

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) has watched with alarm as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ekiti state Chief Mrs Olusola Ayoka Adebayo a 74 widow has been unable to declare the results of the just concluded election re-run for 64 wards in ten local governments in Ekiti state.

We call on the Federal Government to guarantee the safety and personal security of the REC for Ekiti state to enable her to announce the results in which the actions of the state government have made this very difficult for her to do.

In the course of her executing her duties, Chief Mrs Olusola Ayoka Adebayo has in the last few days faced, intimidation, threat to life, bullying and public humiliation. This show of organised and systematic collusion with security agencies and others does not bode well for organisations working to encourage women into senior decision making and governance positions especially as we prepare for the elections in 2011.

The NFF joins other concerned Nigerians including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in reminding INEC of its legal responsibility to the people of Nigeria. At the same time, we draw attention to the call this evening by the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mike Mbamali Okiro in declaring the REC Chief Mrs Olusola Ayoka Adebayo wanted suggesting that she “must make herself available to the Nigerian Police within 24 hours”....

Due to overwhelming pressure, the REC, Chief Mrs Olusola Ayoka Adebayo first went into hiding, been declared too ill to continue with the task at hand by the INEC Chairman, Professor Iwu and then later this afternoon had tendered her resignation in a letter dated April 28th written to the President. Her letter of resignation expresses that her conscience would not allow her to change the natural course of the elections results in Ekiti state as requested by powerful forces.

As a senior female public servant in which women constitute roughly 70% of the workforce it is imperative that Chief Mrs Olusola Ayoka Adebayo is given all the support she needs in attempting to do what is right and not what the “god fathers” want her to declare.
Women working in the public sector need to know that there is security of the person, freedom of expression and threat to life would be taken very seriously by the necessary agencies whilst working in such sensitive positions.


Helen Ukpabio update

It seems there are two versions of End of the Wicked and Ukpabio denies the nasty version. Of course, she had nothing to do with this horrible child-witch thing at all, did she?


Job advert: ED, TY Danjuma Foundation

The T. Y. Danjuma Foundation (TYDF) seeks to hire an outstanding individual to serve as its first Executive Director based Abuja, Nigeria. The Foundation is a new, independent foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people of Nigeria. The trustees seek a dynamic and creative leader with impeccable integrity to further establish the foundation, and develop and implement strategic grantmaking programs.

Candidates must be deeply committed to TYDF’s purpose and values. They should bring demonstrated interests, and optimally, professional experience, in the foundation’s two key program areas of health and education, and have a record of accomplishment. They must be interested in working with and answering to an active board that has high standards and also values its participation in policymaking.

TYDF will award grants to select educational and health non-governmental organizations. Each grant is intended to advance the recipient institution’s pursuit of excellence and enhance the educational and health infrastructure of the nation.


In executing these responsibilities, the Executive Director must be able to engage trustees effectively and provide them with concise and rigorous information to make sound decisions.

The Executive Director will report to the Board of Directors and work closely with the Board chair. The Executive Director will:

1. Assume leadership for the creation, vision and implementation of an operational plan, covering administration and grantmaking, and including the setting of both short and long-term goals and objectives;
2. Review and analyze proposals and grant applications, develop requests for proposals, assess and evaluate programs and make grant recommendations to the board.
3. Develop and implement grantmaking and programmatic strategies that strengthen educational and health care opportunities for Nigerians.
4. Oversee grant payments and the review of grantee narrative and financial reports; the preparation of grant award letters, agreements, and related correspondence; and the determination of payment schedules and monitoring of grant balances;
5. Create a staff organizational chart and be responsible for day-to-day operations;
6. Ensure effective management and guidance of all employees, including recruitment, orientation, hiring, and ongoing supervision, and the development of a personnel manual;
7. Establish and maintain grantmaking policies, procedures and tracking systems;
8. Monitor and assess the impact of all programs, projects and activities;
9. Develop the Foundation’s capacity to evaluate the results of its work and help decide how best to use that information to inform its practices.
10. Promote and publicize the Foundation's work; develop and implement a dynamic communications plan targeting diverse communities and stakeholders in Nigeria;
11. Serve as the Foundation’s spokesperson and develop key relationships with external stakeholders, including the NGO community, other donor institutions, local government officials and policy makers, grantees, international development, education and health care organizations, partner organizations, and the media;
12. Develop and oversee administrative and grant budgets in consultation with the board finance committee.


This is an excellent opportunity for a seasoned leader and manager to design new strategies that will generate positive educational and health opportunities for the people of Nigeria. The chosen candidate must demonstrate maturity, leadership, a passion and commitment to the foundation’s mission, and a deep commitment to the welfare of Nigeria’s people. The successful candidate will be hardworking, energetic, outgoing, and enthusiastic.

While no one person will embody all of the qualities enumerated below, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional abilities, attributes, and experiences:

The ideal candidate will possess:

➢ At least ten years of progressively responsible management experience in a (preferably) grant-making environment or implementing and managing innovative, successful educational or health care or philanthropic initiatives in Africa—with increasing leadership responsibilities;
➢ Proven experience in developing, managing and implementing grantmaking programs;
➢ A minimum of a Masters-level degree in education, health care, social sciences, international development or a related field;
➢ Experience working with and empowering diverse low-income communities, and building the capacity of local non-governmental organizations;
➢ Substantial experience working in Sub-Saharan Africa;
➢ A record of working with an engaged board of directors;
➢ High personal and professional standards and an impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity;
➢ Strong oral and written communication skills;
➢ Excellent analytic skills, intellectual curiosity, and sound judgment;
➢ A superb ability to chart strategic directions that result in clear operational goals.

Competitive salary that is commensurate with experience. Benefits include housing, car/driver, relocation and health care benefits.

TO APPLY: Qualified candidates are invited to send a substantive cover letter describing interest in the position and qualifications, resume/cv, salary history, and one writing sample to: [email protected] by May 18, 2009.

The Danjuma Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and
welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search. It was established in 2008 through the generosity of Lieutenant General T.Y. Danjuma to serve as a perpetual resource for the nation of Nigeria.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Saving Africa's Witch Children bags a BAFTA!

Saving Africa's Witch Children, produced by Red Rebel Films, won a BAFTA last night for best Current Affairs. This is a fantastic award, beating another Dispatches doc as well as a Panorama programme and something by Ross Kemp. Congrats to Gary, Stepping Stones and Red Rebel Films for putting this terrible issue out there for global awareness.


Ekiti tweets and sites..

Bolaji Aluko's twitter feed.
NEXT's twitter feed - plenty of tweets coming from Ekiti since the weekend.

Also, check Kayode Fayemi's website. Segun Oni's website appears to be down.


Friends of Yankari Conservation Initiative

Nice website, here.


PBS radio segment on corruption in Nigeria

Click here to listen.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Eyo Festival, Lagos, 25th April 2009

Click here to see the slide show. Read an article on NEXT.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria

Annual Report 2009 - Nigeria: Testing Times and Second Chances. (Pdf download).


The cheetah generation

Vijay Mahajan's take on the exciting potential of Africa from a marketing perspective - focusing on the cheetah generation.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Penguin African Writers Series

Chinua Achebe to advise on the new Penguin African Writers series. See this article in the Guardian today.

See this page on Penguin's site for more info on their new prize for African writers.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PhD fellowships notice

2009 African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship Call

The African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are pleased to announce the second Call of the ADDRF awards. The fellowship program awards dissertation fellowships to African doctoral students enrolled in sub-Saharan Africa universities who are conducting health-systems or sexuality related research.

By providing financial and research support, the program aims at encouraging doctoral students to pursue their training in the region, and thus contribute to the quality of university education in sub-Saharan Africa.

Specifically, this project aims to:

Shorten the amount of time it takes to complete doctoral studies
Strengthen the quality of these dissertations and the candidates
Retain a new generation of highly skilled and locally trained African scholars in research, policy and academic positions within the region

The African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowships are awarded to advanced doctoral students who are within two years of completing their doctoral thesis at an African university. The fellowships target individuals whose research show great promise of making substantive contribution to strengthening health systems or show great promise of enhancing the understanding of governance, equity, health or population-related issues in Africa. The program primarily supports doctoral research (including data collection). Coursework is not considered for support.

2009 Call for Applications
This year, the program is offering 15 fellowships to doctoral students in sub-Saharan African Universities. Students from Francophone countries can now download both the 2009 Call and application form in French and may submit their applications in French as well.

The Call and application forms are available below. The deadline for submission of applications is the 30th of April.

The English and French versions of both the Call and application form are attached.

Potential applicants are welcome to send queries and applications to the following email address: [email protected]

We appreciate your assistance in distributing the attached call for fellowship applications to your colleagues and networks.



ADDRF Manager

Sven Ouzman

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
University of Pretoria, Tshwane, 0002, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)12 420 2497 Fax: +27 (0)086 546 2489. E-mail: [email protected]


Monday, April 20, 2009

The General's Bulldozers

While on the topic of Generals, Victor Ehikhamenor has a short story in the Winter 2009 edition of The Literary Review (the first link is a pdf download of the story).


Researching Nigeria: mid-May workshop coming up

forwarded message:

Workshop Announcement: Researching Nigeria

This email is to announce a small workshop for researchers on Nigeria which will hold in mid-May in London. This one-day event will provide the opportunity for junior scholars to share ideas, approaches and practical advice about working on (and in) Nigeria.

For those who do not work on Nigeria or are not in the UK, please circulate this announcement to those who might be interested.

Below, we introduce the workshop and ask for some information from interested individuals.

We are inviting researchers who focus on contemporary Nigeria and/or those who do field work in Nigeria. All disciplines are welcome, and we expect participation from politics, anthropology, sociology, international relations, security studies, and development studies.

This workshop targets PhD students and recently completed PhDs. Others are certainly welcome to attend, but will not receive reimbursement for their travel.

The workshop seeks to provide the opportunity for researchers to discuss ideas and exchange information. We will organize a few panels to structure the time a bit, while leaving plenty of time for group discussion and informal interactions.

We’re still working on the program, and its contents will reflect the interests of those who decide to participate. We will likely have panels on some broadly defined substantive issues, methodological challenges, and practical field work strategies. Several participants will be asked to speak on the panels—presentations will be short and should require little formal preparation.

We have a small budget. We will try to reimburse PhD students and junior post-doctoral researchers located outside London for their train travel. Lunch will be provided.

The workshop will be held on May 14 or 15 at King’s College London. We will start mid-morning and finish around 5pm.

Information we need
Please reply to this message (to Thomas and me, not everyone) as soon as possible if you would like to attend.

1. Name

2. University and department

3. Status, year, etc. (eg. 2nd yr PhD)

4. Topic of your research

5. Length, location and brief description of any past or intended field work in Nigeria

6. What you would like to discuss or see covered in the workshop

7. Cost of travel to London (if you need reimbursement)

8. May 14 or May 15, or no preference

Please forward on this message to other researchers working on Nigeria who might be interested in attending. We have only a very partial list.

We look forward to seeing you all in London!

Alexandra Gillies Thomas Hansen

Cambridge University King’s College London


The generals and the lift...

From today's This Day:

Nigerian Generals Trapped in New York Lift
From Constance Ikokwu in Washington, D.C., 04.20.2009

What could have amounted to an international embarrassment for Nigeria in New York last Friday night was averted when Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau, some officials in the delegation of the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Salamatu Suleiman, and other generals were trapped in the elevator at the Nigeria House.

They were attending a reception in their honour after a meeting held earlier in the day at the United Nations by the military top brass. The Nigerian officials, who were trapped for more than 30 minutes, took the lift from the 21st floor, but it jammed halfway causing panic among embassy staff.

Engineers were called in to rescue them. While they mulled over their fate inside the lift, the party continued upstairs as some were unaware of the situation.

Others, including this reporter, escaped through the stairs. At the ground floor, a man in his late fifties was complaining of pain after climbing down from the 21st floor.

After what seemed like eternity, engineers succeeded in landing the elevator on the third floor. Everyone, including the dignitaries departed unhurt. In the event that there was death or serious injury, Nigeria stood the risk of being sued by the families of any of the visitors, particularly foreigners.

The building also risks being sealed off by authorities of the city of New York if this continues.
THISDAY gathered that lift shutdown at the Nigeria House built between 1992 and 1993 by the Federal Government is a constant occurrence due to its deplorable condition. The building houses the Nigerian Embassy and staff of the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the UN.
Located in the heart of Manhattan, an upscale business district, Nigeria House is meant to generate funds through the rent of properties to private companies. However, only one organisation is currently a tenant. Other companies, THISDAY learnt, moved out due to poor services provided by Nigeria.

At different times, visitors including those from the UN, have been caught in the same situation. Sources say it could prevent guests from stepping foot in the building for fear of their lives.
Only recently, one of the country’s drivers was thoroughly bounced like a ball inside the lift. He was lucky to get out alive.

Almost $6,500 is paid monthly on lift maintenance. But several parts are moribund. An elevator company, Otis, has presented a quote for a new lift but no decision has been taken yet on the issue.

Not much has been said on why it is pending but sources say this is a national emergency given that the country is continuously embarrassed by this incident. The New York Fire Police Depart-ment is frequently called in to release people caught in the elevator.

The reception room on the 21st floor, where the event took place was not in use until recently, because the roof was leaking. It was repaired following orders from Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Joy Ogwu.

Before she took office in May last year, visitors were hosted at five-star hotels such as Waldorf Astoria at exorbitant prices. The situation presented a loophole for corruption under the pretext of hosting guests.

Ogwu, THISDAY learnt, was determined to manage funds wisely hence her determination to fix the reception hall. The problem was that the lift and the 21st floor were not the only nightmares to deal with.

Another disaster was averted last week when the basement was flooded following the collapse of the sump pump. An expert told THISDAY that this is a dangerous situation because frequent flooding affects the foundation of the house.

The fire alarm, camera and the metal detector at the entrance are out of use. The machine room is full of obsolete equipment and the cooling system has broken down.

It is a symptom of a larger problem. For instance, Ogwu’s official residence at Tarry Town is in bad shape. Consequently, she did not move into the 17.5 acre run-down residence upon her arrival. Instead, she lives in a rented apartment, located in the middle of nowhere and devoid of any kind of security.

Over the years, lack of funding has made it impossible to fix the house. When THISDAY visited the official residence Saturday morning, the breathtaking magnificent edifice, located on top of a hill overlooking the Hudson River, was a shadow of opulence.

Previously owned by the prominent Rockefeller family, the building is unrecognizable, according to sources. In its glory days, it was the desire of any wealthy and influential property owner. Neighbours have lodged complaint. It has fallen on deaf ears.

The sewage flows into the lawns. One of the rooms has a death trap. A big hole that can swallow an unsuspecting visitor was covered with a piece of wood. The tiles on some parts of the kitchen floor are gone. The roof and walls are leaking. The carpets are stained and worn out. Several rooms have developed mould.. The swimming pool has not seen water for years.

When approached for comments, Ogwu simply stated that she would “rather discuss the challenges before Nigeria at the UN and avoid comments on the state of the mission or state of Nigeria’s property and leave that for the bureaucracy


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Africala - Africa's first online film festival

Africala is Africa's first online film festival. Found out about it from Sci-Cultura's ever more fabulous blog. Click on any of the trailers on the right hand side to watch, then cast your vote.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Posing in Barca


Lud's Church

One of my favourite places in the world...


The academic's drawer


Enrique and Paul

Barcelona, 2005


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Swords into ploughshares

A couple of inspiringly practical projects on African Loft right now:

Cows to Kilowatts - a Nigerian entrepreneur converts animal waste into cooking gas.
Pavestones from plastic - a business in Mali creates bricks made from plastic waste and sand in Mopti.

Meanwhile, a question: I'm not sure why people are blaming the 'credit crunch' on all kinds of situations in Nigeria. There was never any credit available in Nigeria, so how can it now have been crunched?


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FGM again

The Nigerian ambassador to Ireland is in denial about the prevalence of FGM back home. I've mentioned this before on this blog: the government's own statistics shows just how wrong Kemafo Chikwe is. To save you the bother of clicking on the link to the National Bureau of Statistics' 2006 survey findings, here they are again:

Total: 32.6%
Rural: 29%
Rural poor: 27.8%
Urban: 40%
Urban poor: 43.7%

Regional breakdown:

North-East: 1.7%
North-West: 2.0%
North-Central: 14.5%
South-East: 58.3%
South-West: 65.0%
South-South: 46.7%

Note: the margin error is set at 0.6%


Zumthor's water rooms...

After a day of self-defeating, crabs-in-a-barrel dysfunctionality at work, I came home to our living room flooded with water, with a fountain sprinkling down from the light bulb socket.

I have momentarily forgotten why we are living in Nigeria when we have the choice to live elsewhere. I wonder what percentage of Nigerians would choose to stay here if they had the option to emigrate. Any takers?

Anyway, positive thoughts of rooms filled with water put me in mind of Europe's finest living architect, Peter Zumthor, and his bagging of the prestigious Pritzker prize earlier this week. The picture is that of the Thermal Baths at Vals. As my archi-friend Le Mec says, "He is in a class by himself. The baths at Vals are an amazing place to become human again."

Is there any better way to appraise the work of an architect than by their propensity to make us human again?

Zumthor explains the design concept for Vals thus: "Mountain, stone, water - building in the stone, building with stone, into the mountain, building out of the mountain, being inside the mountain - how can the implications and the sensuality in the association of these words be interpreted, architecturally? The whole concept was designed by following up these questions; so that it all took form step by step."

Can you imagine an architecture in Nigeria that began with thoughts such as these? Can you imagine a city built out of thoughts such as these? In troubling times, there is always the realm of the imagination..


RIP Peggy Harper

All the Africanists who felt and contributed to the vibe in 1960s Nigeria are dying. I just received a note from my friend Doig Simmonds:

"Peggy Harper died on Sunday 5th April after a long illness. Funeral today in Cambridge. Will try to get you an obit from Mark - her son. Peggy worked in Theatre Arts in Ibadan during the 60's and 70's. with Wole Soyinka and others. Peter Badejo was one of her best known proteg├ęs. This is a photo I took of her while working on JP Clarke's
film "Tides of the Delta" (1969 at Toluoruwa, Delta State)."


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nkem marries Chikodili

Slide-show of the Igba-Nkwu yesterday in Oba, Anambra State.


Eyo goes Digital

There is an Eyo festival coming up, on the 25th April, at TBS (Eko). For more info, go to the facebook page.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Lindsey and Ryan go to Calabar..

Calabar has everything the tourist in Nigeria could wish to see - white elephants, mangrove forests, logging galore and the chance to become a star at Nollywood Studios..

For Ryan's hilarious encounter with a pandrillus monkey on Afi Mountain (in upstate Cross River), see Part 2 of their holiday (the meeting of minds begins at 2.20 in).


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Trials of Brother Jero, coming soon in Abuja

Directed by Austin Efe Okonkwo



FRIDAY MAY 1ST - 2.00P.M. & 7.00P.M
SATURDAY MAY 2ND - 2.00P.M & 7.00P.M



CALL PATRICK-JUDE 0803 700 0496, 0805 953 5215 & GRACE 0803 701 8172 FOR TICKET RESERVATIONS & ENQUIRIES

The outreach theatre activities of Jos Repertory Theatre is supported by the Ford Foundation.


1897: Nigeria gets its name

Flora Shaw invented the name Nigeria, in the period after her work for the Manchester Guardian, and before she became Colonial Editor for the Times. Shaw, whose life would make a fascinating biopic, was once Sir George Taubman Goldie's lover (the founder of the United Africa Company, later to become the Royal Niger Company), and later, in 1902, she became Lord Frederick Lugard's wife. Shaw suggested the name "Nigeria" in a letter to The Times of London, in January 8th 1897. Here is what she wrote:

“… Nearly two months have elapsed since the dispatch of additional British officers and war-like stores to the territories of the Royal Niger Company prepared the public mind for probable military operations in those districts.

Sir George Goldie, the governor of the company, left England on December 4, and reached Lokoja, the military capital of the Company, on New Year's Day. It is to be expected that his arrival will be shortly followed by a decision as to any active policy which it may be thought desirable to pursue, and in countries where the fighting season is short action follows swift upon decision. Therefore, if fighting is to take place, it is probably that news of it will be not long delayed.

A force of from 800 to 1.000 trained Hausas well provided with military equipment and well led by British officers constitutes an instrument for war which, though small in comparison with the vast crowds in arms commanded by local chiefs of the native Niger States, is still sufficiently important to arouse considerable interest in its proceedings.

Various rumours have been current as to the object against which the force is to be directed. The fact that its military base will be at Lokoja combines with, what is known from other sources to give assurance that the operations will be confined wholly to the internal affairs of the territories over which the charter of the Company extends. Border difficulties may be dismissed from consideration. While we wait for definite information it may, therefore, be worthwhile to consider briefly what is known about the general situation in the Royal Niger Company's

In the first place, as the title "Royal Niger Company's Territories" is not only inconvenient to use but to some extent also misleading, it may, be permissible to coin a shorter title for the operation of pagan and Mahomedan States which have been brought by the exertions of the Royal Niger Company within the confines of a British Protectorate and thus need for, the first time in their history to be described as an entity by some general name.

To speak of them as the Central Sudan, which is the title accorded by some geographers and travelers, has the disadvantage of ignoring political frontier-lines, while the word ‘Sudan’ is too apt to connect itself in the public mind with the French Hinterland of Algeria, or the vexed questions of the Nile basin.

The name "Nigeria" applying to no other portion of Africa may, without offence to any neighbours, be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the British colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.

Nigeria, thus understood, covers, as is well known, a thickly peopled area of about half-a million square miles, extending inland from the sea to Lake Chad and the northern limits of the empire of Soot, bounded on the east by the German frontier and on the west by a line drawn; southwards from Say to the French frontier of Dlahomey.

The frontier lines have for 10 years been the subject of discussion with our European neighbours on either side. The northern limit was definitely settled by the Anglo-French treaty of 1891; the eastern boundary was determined by the Anglo-German treaty of 1893; and certain vexed questions on the western frontier were for practical purposes brought to a close last year, when the Royal Niger Company completed in the neighbourhood of Bajibo the erection of forts which it judged necessary for the legitimate maintenance of its authority.

Within these limits Nigeria contains many widely differing characteristics of climate, country, and inhabitants. Its history is ancient and is not wanting in dramatic elements of interest and romance. The country has been vaguely thought of as a country of swamps and forests, inhabited by pagan natives of low type who, as was lately demonstrated after the outbreak at Brass, had not finally risen above the cannibal stage. This is true of the immediate neighbourhood of the coast, where the Niger runs to the sea through mangrove swamps and a population demoralized by the use of bad European spirits display their barbarous vices to European observation.

Nothing could be more misleading than such an impression of the general character of the distinct hill question. As the country slopes inland it rises in successive waves. The first drops to a valley three or four hundred miles inland through which run in opposite directions the two great rivers of the district. The Benue, lowing west by south from the German frontier, and the Middle Niger, flowing east by south from the French Sudan, meet at Lokoja, and the double
flood, turning at that point at a right angle, forms the waterway of the Lower Niger
to the coast. This is the entrance passage of the Company's territories.

Everything desiring to enter Nigeria from the sea must pass this way, and it is therefore not surprising that this is the most generally known portion of the territory. The most important territories of Nigeria lie beyond the boundary of the two rivers. North of the valley, traced in an irregular semi-circle from east to north-west by the basins through which they run, the ground rises again in another and more considerable wave, reaching a height of 2,000 feet and maintaining a plateau level of from 1,700 feet to 2,000 feet which does not appear seriously to decline until the northern boundaries of Sokoto are reached.

On the further side of two great rivers the ground rises so rapidly as to overhang the flood in some places with hills of which the summits are forest-crowned, while in other parts beautiful views are offered of open and diversified landscape. At this time of the year portions of the riverbanks are covered with masses of flowering creepers, which hang to the water's edge. Scarlet, yellow, pink, and mauve tints prevail. Rare lilies and orchids also abound, and the European travellers who have seen it to rank with the picturesque beauties of the world
have held the scenery on some points of the river.

The country of the northern plateau appears to be generally open, and in its natural condition to consist in many parts, like a large portion of the bush country of Australia, of roughgrass lightly timbered. It is well watered, abounds in natural products, and offers evident facilities for cultivation. In the northern parts of the territory connecting the towns of Kuku, Kano, Wurnu, Sokoto, Landu, & co, where, by proximity to the principal seats of native authority, the maximum amount of order and security may perhaps be looked for, the country has been described by a recent traveller as resembling, wherever it is. Not subject to devastation by marauders, a continuous garden. The methods of agriculture are simple, but the fertility of the soil appears to supply the place of more scientific treatment.

Hedges of castor oil plant, which grows luxuriantly, divide, the cultivated, land. The principal crops raised are Guinea corn, Indian corn, wheat, and other cereals, cassava, rice, onions, cotton, indigo, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, and kitchen vegetables, and the Hausa native of the interior attributes the great superiority in strength which he possesses over the native of the coast to the superior food on which ho lives. The pagan coast native lives chiefly on cassava and bananas, to which gin may perhaps now unfortunately be added. The Hausa of the interior lives chiefly on Guinea corn, and uses neither tea, coffee, nor habitually any stimulant, except the kola nut, which he chews, and which, notwithstanding its disagreeable taste to Europeans, is immensely valued as a native luxury.

The Royal Niger Company, unable to prevent the consumption and importation of alcoholic liquor in the territories of the coast, took the precaution in the early days of their administration of absolutely prohibiting the introduction of European alcohol in any form into the territorys of the interior. Throughout the central region economic trees abound. Conspicuous amongst thorn are India-rubber, shea-butter, tamarinds, date and other palms, besides bread fruit, kuka, and many of which the nameless are less familiar to English ears. The banana and the papaw are among the native fruits, and wherever the pomegranate flourishes the climate is said to be suitable for white habitation. Tobacco grows wild through-the whole region.

Towards its eastern boundaries the plateau of Nigeria rises into mountainous. Regions, where amid rocky fastnesses and fertile valleys the aboriginal pagan inhabitants of the country defend their liberties as they can from the advancing slave-raider. The mountainous districts alternate with forestland still the home of the elephant, and with regions of extraordinary fertility where cultivated crops flourish. Wild fruits land flowers are plentiful, and extensive tracts are described as being covered with rich sweet herbage full of violets in various parts of Nigeria; iron is found and has been worked for centuries. Silver is known to exist in considerable quantities, and the waters of the Benue are reputed by the natives to wash down gold.

The whole plateau is diversified by occasional mountain ridges. Towards the west, where it fattens into a region of extensive cotton fields, it stretches across the valley of the Niger to the comparatively little known but interesting kingdom of which the name is variously given as Barbar, Boussa, and Borgu. Near Blajibo, on the boundary of this State, the flood of the Niger is broken by rapids which impede the course of navigation from the sea and have been the scene of the death of more than one distinguished traveller. Borgu has successfully withstood the advance of Mahomedan power, and is one of the few large States which is wholly independent of Sokoto.

It is usually counted among the pagan States, but the inhabitants repudiate the description of themselves as pagans and claim to be of the religion of "Issa, the Jew who died for men." A sort of spurious Christianity, largely mixed with pagan superstitions and rites, is held by some travellers to be the religion of the people of Borgu, who are also believed to have some racial affinity with the Berbers of Northern Africa. The populations of Nigeria are, like the country which they inhabit, widely diversified. Tribes distinguished by most interesting and remarkable peculiarities occur.

The body of the population may, however, fairly be classed in three main divisions. These are pagans, Hausas, and Foulahs. The Pagans are the indigenous inhabitants now driven by successive tides of foreign conquest to take refuge in the mountains or in the countries of the Lower Niger and the coast, where they have sought the protection of European Powers. They are still very numerous, and they represent the lowest civilization of the country.

The Hausas, who are generally regarded as forming the most interesting of the races which inhabit the country, are believed to number as many as 15 millions. At the beginning of this century they were conquered by the Mahomedan Foulahs, who for about two hundred years had been gradually establishing their domination in the Sudan. The Hausas at that time were pagans, but their civilization claims to be quite as old as that of the Foulahs themselves, and they also came originally into Nigeria from the north, travelling, according to their own traditions, across Africa from Asia. In Nigeria they either drove out or enslaved the original pagan inhabitants and founded several States known geographically as Hausaland.

Their principal town of Kano, which is now the commercial capital of Sokoto, has flourished as a centre of government, commerce, and art for nearly 1,000 years. It was founded at about the period when William the Conqueror was engaged in building the Tower of London. Its marketplace is said to be the largest in the world. Kano-made cloth is sought by the Arab populations throughout the north of Africa, and Kano workers in leather and iron have maintained the fame of their district for centuries.

The pure-bred Hausa is perfectly black, but is, of course, of a far higher type than the ordinary negro, and differs from him especially in the fact that he is naturally active, persistent, and industrious. He is essentially a man of peace as the Foulah is a man of war. The Hausa of today is Mahomedan, having in the matter of religion yielded to the superior enthusiasm of his conquerors. The Hausa language has, however, conquered the language of the Foulah, and is the Court language of Sokoto. The Foulah is a Mahomedan Arab, relatively light coloured, of the well-known type. The Foulah domination over various Hausa States in Nigeria was established in the first instance rather by military than by religious superiority, and gradually rulers of the Foulah race began to take the Place of the Hausa Kings.

But in the year 1802, a religious war was proclaimed against the Hausa populations, and resulted in the establishment of a certain Sheikh Othman as Sultan of Sokoto, then, as now, the dominant State. Within a few years all the petty Kings of the Hausa States were replaced by Foulah Emirs, and the Foulah race was definitely established in the position which it holds today as the dominating race of the entire district. On the death of Othman one of his sons inherited the sovereignty of Sokoto, and one the sovereignty of Gandu.

Gandu has, however, always recognized in some degree the supremacy of Sokoto, and Sokoto has remained the supreme native power of Nigeria. All other Hausa States within the borders of this district pay tribute to it, the so-called pagan State of Borga forming a notable exception. The principal fact in regard to the payment of this tribute with which the administration of the Royal Niger Company is likely to be concerned is that it is largely paid in slaves.

The Emir of Adamawa, whose territory lies towards the eastern boundary of the Company, is said to contribute no less a number than 10,000 annually. Nupe, Muri, Bautshi, Zaria, and other States contribute in their degree. Slaves are raided for not only among the pagan populations of the mountains, but by every Foulah King amongst his own Hausa subjects.

Slaves are the currency of the country for all large sums as well as for Imperial tribute, and whenever a petty ruler is pressed for money he raids on whom he dares. So numerous is the Hausa population, and so general is the practice of slave-raiding amongst the Mahomedan Foulahs, that it has been calculated that of the whole population of the world one in every 10 is a Hausa-speaking slave. To proclaim a general war against the practice of slave-raiding over an immense-district through- out which slaves constitute so important a source of wealth would inevitably rouse all the Foulah States to arms, and would be a task far beyond the strength of the government of the Royal Niger Company. The Company has endeavoured to pursue its work in the territories under its influence with the friendly co-operation of the constituted authorities. No Foulah administration has more constantly oppressed its subject populations in this respect than that of Nupe, whose territory stretches along the northern bank of the Middle Niger from the neighbourhood of Lokoja to the frontier of the western province of Borgu, and whose Emir claims to extend his rights southward over the pagan States upon the other bank.

Nupe was one of the latest of the Hausa States tofall under the Foulah yoke. It was conquered about 1818, and the Hausa populations within its borders, who were among tho most civilized of the country, have more than once since then risen against their oppressors. On the latest occasion of such a revolt, when the Hausa populations of the kingdom of Nupe rose in 1882 against the then reigning emir, the help of the Company was given to the Mahomedan domination. But help has always been given with conditions.

It has been the practice of the Company to endeavour to protect certain peaceful pagan populations. To the south of the two rivers who have appealed to them for assistance. In a personal interview between the Governor of the Company and the late Emir of Nupe, held at Bida so lately as January of 1892, it was clearly laid down that Nupe should not raid for slaves across either the Niger or the Benue in countries which are under British protection.

The Emir of Nupe was definitely warned that slave-raiding south of the river would constitute a casus beli with the Company. The warning has been disregarded, not only by the Emir Maloke, who died last year, but by his successor, the present Emir Abu Bokhari. A force of Nupe soldiers numbering about 1,000 cavalry and 10,000 infantry have been for some months concentrated to. the south of the river in the neighbourhood of Kabba waiting only for the season to permit of the beginning of slave-raiding operations.

The latest news which has been received from the territories is to the effect that this force has been further strengthened by the presence of the Emir himself with the remainder of the Nape army, bringing the whole to an approximate strength of 2,000 cavalry and 18,000 to 20,000 infantry. If the Company should judge it necessary in vindication of their authority to enter into armed conflict with this body of troops, the operation will be more considerable than any which has yet been attempted by them, and, whether success or failure attend their arms, the consequences cannot fail to be proportionately far-reaching.”



The Trouble with Nigeria..

Achebe's short essay, The Trouble with Nigeria, is a text that anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary Nigeria must read. In case you find the central assertion - that the trouble in question is the issue of poor leadership - a touch too simplistic, you might consider page 11, where Azikiwe is quoted thus:

"henceforth I shall utilize my earned income to secure my enjoyment of a high standard of living and also to give a helping hand to the needy."

and Awolowo thus:

"I was going to make myself formidable intellectually, morally invulnerable, to make all the money that is possible for a man with my brains and brawn to make in Nigeria."

The chap from whom Achebe gets the quotes is still alive and teaching at my first alma mater, Hull. Achebe summises, "Thoughts such as these are more likely to produce aggressive millionaires than selfless leaders of their people."

With leaders as avaricious and short-sided as this, who needed enemies?

Many of the sections of the book are true, if not truer, today than they were twenty five years ago when the book was published - the sections on the "False image of ourselves", "Indiscipline" and "Corruption" have not dated at all. Achebe was astute in ending on a positive note however, with a celebration of Aminu Kano's life and values.


Text from Aristotle Nite Club, Abuja

Thank u v much 4 ur Loyalty. U shocked us a u stood by us during our 4 hr power outage yestday. May Lord b with/prsper u& urs. EasterGROOVE continues 4rm 2nite-Mon.



Bisi Silva's star is rising

Bisi Silva and the CCA curate a show at the Sakshi Gallery in Bombay. Click to enlarge


Brazilian spaces

There's a lovely slide show of the highlights of Brazilian modernism on flickr. Of course, Oscar Niemeyer (now 102!) is a towering figure, especially when it comes to the architecture of the capital city, Brasilia.

Above all, the concrete angularity of modernist Brazil shows an openness to public life: agoras, piazzas, public buildings that welcome the citizen and the stranger alike. Compare and contrast with Abuja, a city almost entirely lacking in good quality architecture, and devoid of public buildings (no national library, art gallery, concert hall etc.) If one wants to wander in Abuja, one quickly finds oneself stumbling across roads and intersections, and at a loss as to where the actual centre of the city is (lacking as it does a central public space). Finally, after a tired day, the wanderer finds themself at the Transcorp Hilton, and realises that this is the city centre...

More interesting a prospect is Onikan in Lagos. This potentially could be the most delightful urban quarter in the whole country, with a bit of love and attention. Its mix of Brazilian-style houses and modernist towers is a treasure waiting to pulled out of the rubble. You read it here first..


Timbuktu, from Google Earth...


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Slavery's legacy in West Africa: mistrust

Intriguing article in the LA Times on some recent research on slavery in West Africa being at the root of contemporary mistrust within society. The article is a gloss on a paper by Nathan Nunn of the Harvard School of Economics and Leonard Wantchekon of NYU (link is a PDF download).

I can't help thinking that this research on the effects of the collective trauma of slavery may shed light on the weakness of contemporary institutions in Nigeria, and perhaps provide the deep historical backdrop that has led to Nigeria being in general a low-trust society.


Yet another cable..

The West African Cable System, linking South Africa to Europe via West Africa, has now formed into a consortium, with MTN one of the partners. The 14,000km cable should be completed in the next two years. Click on this Reuters page for more info. With the SAT3 cable continually being sabotaged in Nigeria, and Glo1 seemingly a distant mirage, the time for a serious submarine cable player in West Africa is long overdue. Two years is a long time to wait..


Oloshi oloriburuku

I finally worked out how to spell/pronounce oloshi oloriburuku (to non-Yoruba speakers, this is a choice curse word - please leave your translation in the comments). On typing it in to Oogle, I came across Nasarawa State government's enconium to Sani Abacha. The curse word is in the comments.

Why does almost everyone spell Nasarawa "Nassarawa" by the way? Perhaps the State Government should put an advert out in the newspapers:

"Look you lot, its one S not two SS's. Signed, Management, State Government of Nasarawa."


Invitiation to a poetry reading on the 19th April

The Aart of Life Foundation invites you to a poetry performance and launch of Abioye Aronke Taiwo's book of poems "Fear abides with me constantly".

Date 19th April 2009
Time 4pm
Venue: Ten A Services, 10A Ikoya Avenue , Ikoyi Lagos.
RSVP: 01 879 3773


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Toni Kan reads at Terra Kulture

Saturday, 18 April, 2pm, Terra Kulture. More information via the facebook event page. Be there or feel left out.


Chiefs Glover and Whitaker

Danny Glover and Forest Whitaker were both made Igbo Chiefs on their recent trip to Nigeria. See the I-Report video and Whitaker's biog which refers to his Akan/Igbo heritage in the Personal Life section.

This event does make me wonder: can any foreign celeb turn up and be made a chief in Nigeria, and does being a chief have any real significance if this is true? Or is a chieftancy better understood as merely an honorary title, a bit like being awarded an honorary doctorate in the West? Or, are there all kinds of chieftancies, some meaningful and requiring community duties, and others purely symbolic/honorary? It does seem to be a southern (igbo/yoruba) phenomenon. Were chieftancies more community-oriented in the past (pre-colonialism) and have they become distorted away from this in recent times?


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bonhams African art sale today

Includes some Enwonwus. The Bonhams list page is worth having a look. I would have uploaded this earlier but I was not in bandwidth..


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On the Osu 2

Another story on the Osu, this time on the BBC website today. Click here for an earlier post (and very interesting comments) on the topic. It is I think clear that a) there are many more 'descendants of Osu' communities than is generally recognised among the Igbo, that b) the Osu were simply the guardians of the temples/shrines in pre-colonial times and c) that with the advent of the missionaries, the Osu were turned into outcasts, and became confused with Oru. Ancient spiritualised forms of authority and divine mediation were destroyed in the process, leading to a identity-disorientation that lasts until today.

The time is ripe for being Osu or a descendant of Osu to become a badge of pride, and for there to be a re-thinking of what it might be to be a follower of Idemili and the other Igbo deities, especially from an eco-poetic perspective, just as paganism has been re-worked in the West to be a celebration of the elementality of nature..


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Shell vs Saro-Wiwa - court case coming up in NY shortly...

in the Saturday FT, here and the Sunday Observer, here.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

African Vibes magazine



Lagos State to train 250 commercial sex workers..

When I see headlines like this, the imagination goes wild. I can see a progressive functionary nestled somewhere in a file-strewn room in Alausa, imploring Fashola: "look, we can't stop them being prostitutes, so we might as well make them really good prostitutes while we are at it." My mind then cuts to images of working girls being trained en masse at unrolling condoms onto wooden dildos, and perhaps geisha girls being flown in to demonstrate the perfect pre-coital tea ceremony. Definitely an innovative form of capacity building..

Ok I should stop. Can someone tell me how Nigeria ended up with "Women Affairs" instead of "Women's Affairs"? Come to think of it, when is a woman's affair not also a man's affair? Perhaps they should change it to the Ministry of Gender Relations. More seriously, I like the twang of "Ministry for the Empowerment of Women", known as MEW for short.


Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership programme call-out

Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa is pleased to announce its call for applications for the 2009/2010 Moremi Leadership Empowerment and Development (MILEAD) Fellows Programme.

The MILEAD Fellows Programme is a one-year leadership development program designed to identify, develop and promote emerging young African Women leaders to attain and succeed in leadership in their community. The one-year program targets dynamic young women interested in developing transformational leadership skills that help them tackle issues affecting women in their communities. Applications are welcome from young women living in Africa and the Diaspora.

MILEAD fellowship awards will be made to as many as 25 young women between the ages of 19 and 25, with exceptional qualities who have exhibited leadership potential in their community, organization, and/or profession. To be eligible for the one-year program, an applicant must be African, living on the continent or in the Diaspora; agree to participate in all required activities related to MILEAD including a three-week residential Summer Institute in August; and, commit to a community leadership service project and internship. Specific requirements of the program and related dates are outlined in the application.

Application package is available here.

The deadline for completed MILEAD Fellows applications to be submitted for review is April 30, 2009.

For more applications or information, please contact:
MILEAD Programme Coordinator
P.O. Box CT 5604
Accra, Ghana
Email: [email protected]

Tel: +233 21 770 736 Ghana )
+1 404 502 1006 ( USA )


Kano, that's where its at

Northern Nigerian couture on show, Friday 17th in Kano..

Cliquez l'image pour enlarger...


Friday, April 03, 2009

On the nakedness of Africans

Thought-provoking piece written by an academic mzungu (ex Tanz, now Cali) here. I can't help thinking however that Africa is over-generalised in his text. Roosevelt was, after all, writing mainly about Kenya. Has anyone come across a book/PhD which looks at the topic of the Kenyan safari as African archetype? Even the most considered academic (white or black) can quickly fall into that one..


Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The images from the pre-G20 take me back to all the protests of the 1990s - Reclaim the Streets, June 18th.

Never has the movement against corporate greed and the search for a new way of planetary living been so necessary.


The ION Film Festival, Lagos, 12:09

For more info, click here.


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