Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Selling what was stolen

On the 17th February 2011, Sotheby's London will be selling an ivory pendant mask stolen from Benin by Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lionel Galway.  Details of the sale are here.  It is anticipated to be sold for between 3.5-4.5 million pounds
The polite violence of the language on the sales page is sickening. As a euphemism for 'stolen', the writer uses the word 'collected.'
The good news is that this sale of a stolen good is being resisted.  Please contact Kayode Ogundamisi if you can offer legal help, or want to register you support to the campaign.  [email protected].
One would hope that the Edo State Government and relevant traditional leaders are alerted to the attempt to double a wrong.
I would imagine that a formal public request for the stolen artefact should be made, and arrangements for its safe-keeping (and public display) in Benin now considered.

Click here to go to the petition page and here for the Facebook campaign page.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lola Shoneyin at the Life House tonight

6.30pm, 33 Sinari Daranijo, off Ligali Ayorinde.  If you are in Lagos and you don't go, culture will not be your portion in 2011.  You have been warned.  My juju is from the West Midlands and very very powerful.


Medium Net Worth

There's been a tornado in a teacup since Kayode Fayemi's declaration of assets a couple of days ago, including many a comment to Kayode Ogundamisi's Facebook note:

"When he became governor, Fayemi said he had in his local and foreign accounts N27million, with buildings and undeveloped property he owns with his wife in and outside Nigeria valued at N474 million.

They include a compound of three buildings in Ibadan valued at N73 million, a compound of eight buildings at Isan-Ekiti valued at N120 million, a three-bedroom duplex in London valued at 280,000 pound sterling and a four-bedroom detached duplex at Atlanta, Georgia, USA, worth US$250,000.

Others are a six-bedroom detached house at East Legon, Ghana, valued at US$650,000, an undeveloped plot of land at Guzape District in Abuja valued at N30 million, an undeveloped plot of land at Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos valued at N25 million and an undeveloped plot of land at Ambassadorial Enclave, Legon, Ghana valued at US$250,000.

There are nine vehicles valued at N73 million. Fayemi’s business, Amandla Consulting, is valued at N50 million and his household items such as generating sets, electronics, furniture, equipment and others, are valued at N80 million."

Let's ust pause to reflect on what an asset base of £3m amounts to in the case of the Ekiti State Governor:

1. A £280,000 property in London is a very modest affair. The average price of a home in London is over £400,000. Our poky flat in untrendy New Cross Gate is worth £260,000.
2. Again, a US$250,000 house in the US is hardly a palace

3. A c
onsulting company valued at 50 million is at the bottom end of what would be classified as a 'small' business - in fact it sits between the category of micro and small. There are hundreds if not thousands of larger consulting companies in Nigeria

4. The land in Lekki, Abuja and Ghana are again investments similar to those many thousands of people have made. 

As others have pointed out, some or most of the properties may have mortgages, which means there are liabilities associated with the assets.  We should not forget in all this that his wife Bisi has held high ranking positions throughout.

I could go on but I hope you get the picture. Having a net worth of £3m/N750m is hardly unusual in Nigeria and most likely puts Kayode Fayemi straight in at the bottom in a ranking of net worth of his fellow governors. There are tens of thousands of wealthier Nigerians than Kayode Fayemi. Given that we now know Reps and Senators make millions of dollars each year and also know that there is no formal accountability mechanism attached to the billions of dollars of Excess Crude dividends paid to State Governors in the past few years, we should direct our outrage where it is better spent.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Zim farmers in Nigeria - an update

A useful interview with one of the Zim farmers who set up in Kwara State here.  Access to finance and corruption are still the main inhibiting factors to the growth of commercial farming in Nigeria.  Irrigation and electricity supply are close on the heels.  If Ekiti State wants to attract commercial farmers, it would do well to make a case study of what has worked and what has not in Kwara.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ekiti magic

The palm wine was scooped out into large calabashes, which were then given to those with sufficient thirst to outweigh any embarrassment one might feel at tilting a large bowl of alcohol facewards in public view.  I took mine in libation to the Gods of the Middle Belt, for surely; Abuja is neither of the North, nor of the South. Insects panicked their way away from the liquid, drunk and hopeless in their plight.  Nearby, the band members were dressed in medieval Naijaware, as if a jousting tournament for Henry VIII were being put on half a millennium after the fact in West Africa.  The music was quirky; milliki music in English and Spanish and then Yoruba and Igbo, with references to Commandante Che as a Cuban rhythm kicked in.  There was brass and dundun and a synthesiser: good Nollywood meets juju for an enlightened consciousness.

We were waiting for Kayode Fayemi, the new Governor of Ekiti State and his wife Bisi.  In the house, or rather, the garden, of the Yar’Adua Centre in the lee of the Sheraton, were many of the activists who had helped support Fayemi through the dark days of the past three years, when all seemed lost to thuggery, darkness and primeval do-or-die politics.  

First to speak was Jibrin Ibrahim, of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja, which functions as a finishing school for young ‘uns who go on to play leading roles in civil society organisations in Nigeria.  He alluded with delightful sarcasm to a ‘grand theoretician’ of electoral practice, one Olusegun Obasanjo, and his unique concept of the ‘community vote’, which, strangely enough, does not appear in the theoretical literature.  He then discussed the moral fraud of first-past-the-post, as evidenced in the UK – as a signpost for future reform in Nigeria, when counting becomes a little more scientific.  Pausing for a moment, he delved into the caverns of his memory to describe what happened in the Ondo State elections in 1983 as the first instance of a ‘digital election’ – when the archaic analogue practice of counting is put aside in favour of pure fabrication.  Jibo then segued seamlessly to a discussion on the sociology of electoral behaviour in the context of a post unity-party return to ethnic-based voting (Dora to the East, Buhari to the North etc.).  It was a compelling disquisition.

There followed a talk by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) – I didn’t catch his name – who was closely involved in the Ekiti Appeal which led to the former governor Segun Oni being removed just two months ago.  The learned SAN talked about the critical role courage and determination played in the pursuit of electoral justice in Ekiti State.  The 41-month legal battle had indeed been epic and dramatic.  The full story has yet to be recounted; when it does, it may involve as much gore as triumph, narrating an extraordinary pursuit of electoral justice in the face of extreme pressure, financial and otherwise.  If ever there is a film, it would make Cory Booker’s redemption song in Newark look like a kindergarten at Christmas. 

The story of Ekiti in 2010 shows that the moment Nigerians are prepared to go all the way for their political beliefs, electoral justice has a fighting chance. It’s a Hegelian story of the dialectic in a sense, as told in those few pages the German philosopher wrote on Lordship and Bondage in the Phenomenology of Spirit.  The slave who no longer fears death can conquer his master, who depends on the slave and does not want to die. Class consciousness becomes a dynamic in society; social change becomes likely, if not necessary.  There is a sense in which many States are in a similar situation to Ekiti. The elections in 2011 should be interesting!

Finally, just before ten, the entourage arrived, hours late thanks to Arik, an airline that will not be rushed in its task of delivering passengers from one place to another.  There was the usual swarming buzz of excitement as the group arrived, although the movement was gentler and more fluid than the circus scrum we have come to know through the PDP; the locust lure of cubic metres of money at hand was absent. Egghead, Naija’s twitter supremo, was in the pack, lolloping at the back, phone in hand, thumbs atwitching.  A few more introductory remarks were made, including some words by the ever-graceful Amina Salihu, followed by an emotional Odia Ofeimun, speaking as if through the lens of a lifetime of disappointed dreams.

One sensed a slight awkwardness among many at referring to Kayode as “Your Excellency” and the like; for those gathered, this is a man with whom they have eaten and drank and known as “Kay” for all their lives.  The awkwardness had been offset spatially from the outset; there was no ‘high-table’ at this gathering.  The compere had referred at the beginning to an avoidance of hierarchies in the designation of a ‘middle table’.  Around this place there was a ceremony with kola nuts, which were held in a bowl as Odia intoned, and then handed around.  Kayode seemed unsure how the ritual was supposed to work.  The need to articulate the solemn joy of the moment became adrift in a post-colonial indeterminacy and the cultures either side of the Niger.

In these moments, it’s possible to note the expectations that foster and constitute the paraphernalia of power in Nigeria.  There must be a swarm; there must be a ceremony; there must be grandeur; there must be ritual.  Bring on the garlands and the yards of cloth. And yet, among people who have spent their lives struggling for justice, these things become diluted to the point of meaninglessness. Perhaps this is what the verge of modern politics always looks like.  Apparently President Jonathan has expressed frustration over the size of the convoys and the redundant need to freeze cities into gridlock during his visits.  The juggernaut of sycophancy takes a while to hit the brakes, no matter where it rides and who is holding the wheel.  Those in power can hardly be blamed when the pressures of expectation in favour of a monarchic pomposity intensify yet again in the grounds of the temple.

Finally, we heard the couple speak.  Bisi Fayemi took the microphone first.  She spoke with crystalline clarity of the need to never give in to either fear or lassitude, and the urgency of occupying and contesting the space of politics.  Activism should never be contented with a ringside seat, she declared.  Her voice had tuned in to the frequency of courage. Feminism vibrated in the air as she closed with an aluta continua and a dedication to serve those in Ekiti.

One of his friends, Dr Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, provided the final introduction to Kayode, mentioning the need to ‘hold his feet to the fire’.  This brought the purpose of the gathering to its nub: we will celebrate you and we will support you and we will remind you of your purpose at every step.  And we will not let you forget, and you will not walk alone.  And then Kayode spoke.  He began by talking about the time he decided to go into politics and challenge for the governorship of Ekiti.  People had asked him at the time how he could possibly win without money.  He hinted at the immensity of the struggle since that time and the need to see politics as a form of activism (in an echo of his wife).  Again, we await the book and perhaps the film.  

Moving on to business, Kayode outlined his two legislative priorities: Freedom of Information and Fiscal Responsibility.  As he spoke, I could not imagine a better starting programme of legal change. After a passing reference to the need for judicial reform, he spoke of the need to end the backbreaking suffering of subsistence farming, the livelihood of most of the people in his state (and indeed, the country).  He outlined his plans to develop commercial farming, to feed the nearby Lagos metropolis, a market he estimated at three billion naira per day.  He also assured the audience that the horrible roads into the State would be fixed within six months. It sounds like a feasible and achievable platform to supersede Fashola as the most popular Governor in Nigeria, providing service and accountable leadership to the people.

The first avowedly feminist governor in Nigeria is now looking ahead to the next four years, and of building what he refers to a “model state” in Ekiti.  In his work, he is certain to get support from across the world.  Already, the World Bank and DFID have declared an interest.  The purpose will be to move away from dependency on oil revenues from Abuja, to build a state that thrives on its own steam.

After the national anthem, the entourage slowly melted away.  Kayode and Bisi made a beeline for Bibi and I, and the four of us held each other for a brief moment for a photograph.  It was a shock and a surprise to find out he reads my blog. It felt like being a part of a new history for Nigeria.  Good people, good times ahead. 


Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Economist on Nollywood

Strange to hear Jean Rouch described as "a champion of indigenous art in Niger", Helen Ukpabio described merely as a "successful preacher" and Lagos described as having "just three working cinemas".  I suppose one should never turn to the Economist for analyses of culture.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Buka, Brooklyn

Clip originally appeared on the ever fabulous Africa is a Country blog.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lola Shoneyin at the French Cultural Centre tomorrow

Lola Shoneyin reads from her brilliant debut novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives tomorrow at the French Cultural Centre in Abuja tomorrow.  The event will also feature some excellent up and coming artistes.  Here's the programme:

Opening: 6.30pm
Musical Interlude: 6.45pm
Reading and discussion:  7.00pm
Musical Interlude: 7.15pm
Reading and discussion: 7.30pm
Book signing: 7.45pm
Vote of thanks: 8pm

Featured Artistes
Adanna C. Tojue (musician)
Tyna Adebowale (painter)
Rita St. John (photographer)
Lami Nafisatu Abubakar (ceramic jeweller)
Swat (Musician)
Pat Adidu (Card artist)
Millicent Osumo (painter)

The event is FREE.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Julian Assange in Nigeria

Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go
Them go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans
Fela Kuti, International Thief Thief

As I write, Julian Assange is in a secure wing of Wandsworth prison, secluded from his fellow inmates in a part of the complex usually reserved for sex offenders.  The irony is almost too much to bear.  It’s hard to see the extradition pressure from Sweden as anything other than a conduit for a pressure that originated elsewhere – perhaps a valve inside Joe Lieberman’s head.  Everything else was merely a concoction in between.  Or are we really to believe that Assange, the meticulous planner and anticipator, would throw a career’s caution to the wind when confronted by Scandinavian totty?

There’s a powerful political theory at work behind Wikileaks, which Assange has alluded to in various comments in the past few days.  The theory goes something like this: freedom of speech no longer has political traction in the west, in contrast to other parts of the world.  It doesn’t really matter what is said in America in the press or elsewhere; it has little consequence for a system that is buried from view, circulating via diplomatic cables and a (mostly) secure corporate communications infrastructure.  In contrast, freedom of speech remains a matter of life and death for hundreds of millions of other people, where the communications infrastructure is less sophisticated and inconvenient truths are harder to hide. 

The trick is to realise that the two versions of freedom of speech are intimately related: what cannot be said in one part of the world is often conditioned by the interests at work in another.  The raison d’etre of Wikileaks is to bring this occluded connection to light.  In the process, we are made to realise that the freedoms of speech we thought we had were scratches on the surface of a set of material interests that carry on regardless.  On one level we act surprised – that so much manipulation is at work in the world between powers via their corporate proxies – and another level we realise we knew it all before. What the Wikileaks diplomatic cables reveal is in fact an old secret: the military-industrial complex determining that a nation state’s interests count for everything. The beast must be fed and the beast must be protected. In the process, the cables remind us that no matter what we might know, we are apparently powerless to stop it.  The odd thing is: in the act of us realising this, everything now changes. A weakening and a dilution of power is now at work.  For the first time, we see formations of resistance that emerge from within the information system itself: Anonymous DDOS as a cancer upon the corporation’s circulation system.

From a Nigerian perspective, we find little we didn’t already know, save for details that add some fiscal spice to the talk in the beer parlour: the actual amounts a smuggler-thug kingpin charges for allowing uninterrupted passage of a container from Niger into Katsina; the price of a former (now disgraced) Attorney General’s ink.  The bigger picture remains unchanged and is known to all.  The history of post-independence Nigeria is intimately connected with Shell.  Nigeria and Shell are twins someone forgot to separate at birth.  No one is at all shocked to hear of the former head of Sub-Saharan operations Ann Pickard’s boast that the company has infiltrated government to the core.  There’s little point Shell trying to deny it at this stage. It might be better to go legit and create a Ministry of Shell Affairs. All other multinationals are at least one tier below Shell in terms of their complicity with official misappropriation: Julius Berger, Pfizer, Halliburton, Siemens and so on.  Again, the diplomatic cables do little more than reassure and refine our cynicism.  Quite how Berger has escaped the diplo-gossip relatively unblemished so far is a minor miracle.  Perhaps in the next few days of releases another national laptop recall will be circulated.

The lesson for those looking in at Wikileaks from a Nigeria perspective is clear.  Those that dismiss Nigeria as the home of 419 and the submarine vent of originary corruption with a tired flick of the hand fail to see the enduring handiwork of the transational corporation, attacking a fragile state like an opportunistic virus against a weakened immune system.  The dismissive ones have yet to listen to Fela and allow his words to make sense in their heads.  As it was in the 1960s and 1970s, so it is today, it seems.

But there is a crucial difference: the genie is out of the bottle.  It no longer matters what happens to Assange.  Westerners can no longer believe in the seductive entitlement of the First Amendment (now that we know how easily compromised it can be), at the very time when information has never been so disaggregated and available.  The way the tension between the two (the limits of the freedom of speech vs the unlimited power of disaggregated information) plays out will have consequences for the global order we cannot yet anticipate.  No matter what newly produced official secrets may stay secret from now on, the West’s handmaiden in corruption, the transnational corporation, will itself be under surveillance.  Anonymous is here to stay.


A cesspit in the Niger Delta

Good piece in Spiegel online today on the mess in the Delta - with more detail than the usual Niger Delta type article.  Here.


40 Best Blogs for African Studies Students

Good set of blogs listed here.  I think the selection of number 36 was a rare act of perceptiveness and insight on their part.


When Nnoo means yes..


Dambe at Deidei from Jeremy Weate on Vimeo.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Maigatari market

Nigeria's northern frontier from Chris Morgan on Vimeo.


Three of the wikileaks Nigeria cables



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Shell tells the US that it knows everything in Nigeria

At last, the Wikileaks cables reveal what Shell tells the US about Nigeria. Here.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Nigerians Behind the Lens launch party this Friday

Inden request the pleasure of your company at the Launch Party of Nigerians Behind the Lens.

Nigerians Behind the Lens is a limited edition fine-art photobook with a mandate for showcasing contemporary photography from Nigeria. This maiden edition features 9 iconic contemporary Nigerian photographers - Adolphus Opara, Amaize Ojeikere, Andrew Esiebo, Emeka Okereke, George Osodi, Jide Alakija, Ty Bello, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko.

6.00pm, Thursday 9th December 2010
The Terrace, Four Points by Sheraton.
Victoria Island, Lagos.
A truly unique opportunity for serious collectors and photo enthusiasts alike. Kindly RSVP all names to be included on the guest list. 

Here for more.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Click here for the Facebook event page and to register for the event.


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