Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Like Obama, Like Oshiomole

It is no longer news how Barrack Obama, like a roller-coaster on wheels ran a presidential campaign which swept across the global political landscape leaving behind him indelible footprints in the sands of time. For whatever it is worth, the emergence of Obama as the first Black-American elected to the exalted position of President of the United States of America has redefined the history of the Black race world over. We cannot forget in a hurry the long tortuous journey of Blacks in America towards socio-political emancipation. Rosa Parks fought gallantly for it. The revered Rev. Jesse Jackson took a bold step in 1984 when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the White House. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr. lived and died for this cause and there is yet a long list of many more heroes and heroines of the struggle. However, a far more interesting aspect of the Obama phenomenon is that away from the racial sentiments attached to his emergence, he ran a campaign visibly rooted in great passion and patriotism and then came to represent a new thinking in an overwhelmingly acceptable manner among Whites and Blacks alike. For this alone, the name ‘Obama’ will remain for a long time to come, a redefining reference point in the psychodynamics of global history and politics.

Barely eight days after the historic victory of Obama at the US presidential polls, somewhere here in the political climes of our country Nigeria – in the ancient city of Benin, former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), a man popularly referred to as ‘the Peoples’ President’, Comrade Adams Oshiomole was sworn in as the Governor-elect of Edo State on Wednesday 12 November, 2008. Earlier the day before, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, Edo State, had declared Oshiomole who was the candidate of the Action Congress (AC), as the rightful winner of the April 2007 gubernatorial election in the state, a landmark ruling which affirmed the judgment of the lower Election Petitions Tribunal in the matter. For the people of Edo North Senatorial district, and by extension the impoverished and oppressed people of Edo State, this represents the desired change, a paradigm shift from the old order of corruption and godfatherism, indeed a new order of things! The emergence of a man like Oshiomole as governor of Edo State is significant in so many ways and draws great inspiration from the Obama experience. How?

Let me take us a little way back in the history of the nation’s Heartbeat State. As it has been since the creation of the state from the old Bendel state, you have the Edo majority tribes of the South, the Esan minority tribes of Edo Central and the Afenmai minority tribes of the North. When it comes to decisive political issues, the latter two put together are no equal match to the formidable force of the southern majority whose nerve centre and political Mecca had been the Benin Kingdom and palace of the Omo N’Oba respectively. Hence, Edo South has over the years taken the largest chunk in the political power sharing process. Edo South has so far produced three governors in persons of Sam Ogbemudia, John Odigie Oyegun, and Lucky Igbinedion who served a two-tenured eight years in office. On its own part, Edo Central has been lucky to produce the late Governor Ambrose Alli. But just like the politically repressed Blacks of America, Edo North (Afenmailand) had over the years been reduced to a second fiddle. For years, it remained the only part of the state that had never been privileged to produce at least one governor! Obviously, this was not because there were no capable or competent persons of Afenmai origin. But the truth is, politics is the name of the game, and the Nigerian factor always had its way.

In 1999, Alhaji Aziz Garuba, an eminent Nigerian from Edo North lost in his gubernatorial bid. What was his offence? He failed to get the blessings of ‘the Southern kingmakers.’Meanwhile, as the 2007 elections drew near, there was a lot of activity among politicians of Edo North extraction. Within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the then ruling party several brilliant minds from Edo North including the then Deputy-Governor Chief Mike Oghiadome emerged. In an interview granted Afenmai Voice (a local newspaper) and published in its December 2004 edition, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, one of Nigeria’s finest politicians and an illustrious son of Edo North in the 2007 gubernatorial race under the PDP had declared: “The people of Edo North have never produced an elected civilian governor for this state and other zones have done so. So, it is only natural that while we have supported other zones to produce the governor, they should support us to produce the governor in 2007.” As political an appeal as this appeared, he had hit the nail on the head. The people of Edo North had been marginalised for years both in infrastructural development and political appointments. 2007 was the time to turn the tables. But it was not to be. The PDP political machine engineered a political process which saw Professor Oseiriehmen Osunbor from Edo Central emerging as governor-elect in an election where it was clear even to the blind that Action Congress (AC) candidate Comrade Adams Oshiomole (a worthy son of Edo North) had a landslide win! Immediately, Oshiomole, reputed for his doggedness as a fighter of tyrannical governments from the hey-days of Abacha to the Obasanjo era proceeded to the Elections Petitions Tribunal in pursuit of justice. After several months of a rigorous judicial exercise, the tribunal declared Oshiomole winner in the April 2007 polls. The PDP party, perhaps anticipating the possibility of a re-run refused to abide by the tribunal’s order. Prof. Osunbor, a distinguished professor of Law filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal in Benin seeking to invalidate the ruling of the tribunal. However, on Tuesday 11 November 2008, in a unanimous order, the Court of Appeal declared Comrade Adams Oshiomole winner in the April 2007 gubernatorial elections in Edo State. He has since been sworn in as Executive Governor of Edo State and the rest has become history.

Today, it is instructive for those who care enough that the long desired change has visited Edo State. Oshiomole, just like Obama represents a change the people of Edo State can believe in and more importantly, he has the right disposition and pedigree required to deliver hope and service to the people. He has shown this commitment and service to humanity right from his days as president of the NLC. When in April 2007, the people of Edo State trooped out to vote him as governor, you could feel the synergy which was activated between him and the masses, from the civil servants, market women, Okada riders, to the farmers. It was genuine and away from the rent-a-crowd syndrome which has beclouded our political space today. And as he delivered his inaugural speech amidst deafening cries of “Obama! Obama!”, the Peoples’ President did not mince words about the new ethical revolution he was bringing to the state. Truly, in the last few years, governance in Edo State has been reduced to the politics of mediocrity, roguery, and acrimony. Thus, the emergence of Oshiomole represents a paradigm shift, not only for Edo State, but for the people of Nigeria.

The Appeal Court ruling which pronounced him governor-elect has shown that amidst the institutional weaknesses of a troubled polity, we can still have faith in a critical arm of government as the judiciary. Oshiomole, recognizing the historical significance of his emergence at an auspicious time as this could not conclude his inaugural speech without alluding to Obama when he noted that we cannot really celebrate Obama in a country where we still hold on to primitive politics. He however declared that such debasement of the political process is not in our genes, observing that we can do better than the Americans. I concur with the Comrade Governor. Yes we can!

The Mission to Ibadan

For nearly five decades, the Nigerian experience has been a potpourri of events orchestrated by the actions and inactions of her citizenry. Within several narratives, the stories have been told from different perspectives, leading to the emergence of a crowd of voices, ideas, and initiatives proclaiming and advocating for the rebirth of a new order. However, in the midst of the mounting consensus for change, the prevailing paradox is a flurry of excitement about the dream of a new Nigeria, an overwhelming zeal without knowledge, activity without productivity, glamour devoid of substance - a mere dissipation of passion without action. The truth is, in this journey towards national greatness, talk is cheap and will never be enough. So much has been said recently about what could be done to properly reward, honour and empower our national flag designer Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi. His story has been told over and over again. Over the years, numerous promises have been made by government, a few corporate bodies and individuals about how the old man and his family can be given a befitting treatment with a lasting impact on his health, welfare and the essence of our national heritage which he and many others who have also added value represent. A few good men and women have kept their promises and this has been helpful to Pa Akinkunmi. But to what extent?

Hence, upon the realisation of the need to match words with action, a team of young Nigerians led by renowned IT expert and social entrepreneur ‘Gbenga Sesan, visited the Ibadan home of Pa Akinkunmi on the eve of the October 1st Independence Day celebration in a bid to set the tone for a constructive agenda that will put an end to the unpleasant tales of indigence currently surrounding the unsung national hero. The meeting with Pa Akinkunmi and his family was hinged on a two-fold agenda:

1. A Nigerian Flag Foundation that will promote patriotic values among Nigerians while ensuring that no national hero (regardless of how minute his/her contribution) is forgotten. The Foundation may also cater for health and other welfare matters affecting Pa Akinkunmi, his family and other “forgotten heroes”.

2. A book on the life and times of the national flag designer, the proceeds of which will go to the Foundation (Trust) managed by a proper Governing Council or Board of Trustees.

Although Pa Akinkunmi was unavoidably absent as he had to leave earlier than planned for Benin City on that day, his eldest son Akin Akinkunmi stood in his place. It was a deeply emotional meeting which revealed how much help the family needed from well-meaning Nigerians who would be willing to assist. Akin, a 33-year old HND graduate of Building Technology is still unemployed and practically stays at home with Baba. He also recanted details of how early this year, his father was invited by the Governor of Oyo state, Otunba Alao Akala, on the premise that though he was an indigene of Ogun state residing in Oyo State, plans were being made to give him a deserving reward and honour soonest. Akin, his eldest son who accompanied him to the meeting was also promised a gainful employment by the governor. That was in February 2008. To date, several efforts by Akin Akinkunmi to reach the governor on behalf of his father have proved abortive.

He also spoke about how resources from a popular TV game show have helped them procure and renovate a property in Ibadan. As the meeting progressed, it became apparent that for any meaningful and sustained repositioning of the Akinkunmi family to occur, the first son of the family would need to be established on the pathway of responsibility and enterprise. Without probing further to get more information about why he hasn’t been able to apply his hands to work in a bid to help his dad and family, we knew it would be impossible to suggest anything constructive about empowering this young man – who can in turn build and sustain his family’s legacy. It was then with great relief and a unanimous bodily expression of ‘eureka!’ that we all jumped up the moment Akin revealed to us his passion. What was it about? He loves machines and would love to build capacity in the repair of generators, and has had plans to resume apprenticeship with a “generator house” but was held back by the need for funds to take care of his family while learning more about generators. We were happy that Akin opened up to us in a way that helped define what next needed to be done. At this point, we had spent about two (2) hours deliberating with him on the purpose of our visit to his family and the need to help him find purpose.

As the meeting drew to a close, the gathering resolved as follows:

1. That the “delegation”, working with others with interest in this cause, will commence work on the book project and, the Nigerian Flag Foundation initiative;

2. To help connect Akin with an employer (and mentor) who will provide him an environment where he can pursue his passion (generators);

3. That one thousand (1,000) letters be written and signed by one thousand (1,000) concerned Nigerians addressed to the Executive Governor of Oyo State, reminding him of his promises to assist Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi and his family. The letters should be sent on or before November 31st, 2008.

The following persons were in attendance at this historic meeting:
1. ‘Gbenga Sesan – Convener
2. Jide Adeyemi
3. Ohimai Godwin Amaize
4. Tayo Opatayo
5. Femi Giwa
6. Ferdinand Adimefe
7. Oreoluwa Ladokun
8. Akin Akinkunmi

Monday, September 8, 2008

As I Take a Bow

Gamaliel O. Onosode, OFR is one distinguished Nigerian I admire and respect a lot! Who does not? Here is a man synonymous with the most desirable essence of greatness, a wonderful mentor, father-figure and role-model extraordinaire. In fact, there is so much to say about Big Daddy Onosode! Little wonder I felt so humbled and honoured when on the afternoon of Sunday 7th September 2008, I received a phone call from this great man. But this was not the first time I would be receiving a call from Big Daddy? So what was ‘so special’ about this call? He was calling from far away United Kingdom to congratulate me in advance on the event of my 24th birthday which was barely forty-eight (48) hours away, and also, the end of my national youth service year. According to him, he would have loved to call on Thursday 11th September, 2008 (9/11) the day of my exit from youth service, but would not be disposed during the period in question. Indeed, it was fulfilling to hear from this icon of integrity how impressed he was with what I considered my ‘little contributions’ to national advancement during the service year. I was deeply touched by this show of admiration for youthful productivity coming from such an esteemed Nigerian of the older generation. I was happy, and it reinforced my conviction in the rebirth of a new order in our march towards national greatness.

Without doubt, my national youth service year was eventful. I was posted to Abuja when as a matter of fact, I was praying for Lagos, and hoping to be posted to a media house where I would have loved to serve and develop my budding potentials in media practice. It was never to be. Destiny had ordained it otherwise and Abuja came calling. I had to respond. But it was not a rosy affair as majority of my readers would probably want to believe. It was as rocky as the rocky terrains of the federal capital territory! First, I found myself at the Yikpata, Kwara State NYSC orientation camp. I was among a number of Abuja-bound corps members who were deployed to the Kwara State camp for reasons of congestion in the Kubwa, Abuja camp. So, after a three-week gruelling experience at the orientation camp, I received a posting letter addressed to The Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)! Alongside about nineteen (19) other corps members, I had just been posted to the EFCC. Now, this was one organisation that was always surrounded by some controversy over its epic performance in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It was intriguing finding myself in such an unusual place of primary assignment. Perhaps I was lucky, I thought. But three (3) weeks later, the enthusiasm began to fade. After three (3) weeks of receiving and submitting our posting letters at the Commission, we were yet to be confirmed or accepted. What was the problem? Rumour had it that the Commission had just initiated a new policy where corps members will no longer be accepted to serve at the Commission. It came as a rude shock, but I remained resolute. I was optimistic something miraculous was going to happen, and it did happen. Finally, nine (9) corps members were accepted and I was one of them. Again, I thought I was lucky!

Having been issued a letter of acceptance, I began to pray about my deployment to a unit. My dream was to be posted to the Media and Publicity unit. I wanted to be in a place where I would be relevant and I thought the Media and Publicity unit of the Commission was the right place for me. But disappointingly, the Human Resources unit thought differently. I, alongside another corps member Ogechi Okoye-Oti, was posted to the Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI) unit and for the first time I was feeling unlucky. I wondered what it was that they did at FNI. Later I learnt it was the crime prevention and public enlightenment unit of the EFCC. It still did not sound interesting enough until I resumed at the unit and my eyes were opened to the great vision behind the initiative. Now, for those who don’t know, Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI) was initiated on the realization that the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies cannot effectively fight and eliminate corruption alone. Thus, FNI was created and positioned as a strategic brand that will enable Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the private sector to become active agents in the fight against corruption as well as seek to build partnership between the Commission and the media, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), public institutions, as well as the business community (including bankers, lawyers, manufacturers association, oil companies, and small and medium enterprises). It was about bringing the Nigerian people into the fight against corruption, and it was structured to engage the Nigerian society through the six (6) activity baskets (components) of Media, Youths/Gender, Professional, Faith based organizations, Labour, and Politics.

I was excited by the fact that there was something about media and youths in the vision of FNI. I discovered that so much had been done in those two (2) areas within the short period of its existence. FNI was launched on 12th October 2006. Under the media basket, anti-corruption media campaigns had been launched. There were TV and radio jingles, celebrity endorsements, capacity building for journalists, and the Wole Soyinka Investigative Reporting Award (WSIRA) among others. Youths were being actively engaged through the NYSC Integrity Clubs which were set across the country. Also, there were several fora such as the 1st National Youth Anti-Corruption Summit, a series of workshops on the dangers of cybercrimes and the enlisting of youth partners through the Cyber Brigades platform. All these and more were happening at the time we (corps members) resumed at FNI, and in no time, we had become actively involved in the whole process. We were given a free hand to work and garner great experience working. There was room for innovation and creativity. Ideas were always welcome and even the seemingly weak ideas were allowed a place of expression and then fine-tuned into brilliant concepts. We were not treated like corps members (except in the salary). We were allowed to travel on official assignments for the Commission, initiate and execute projects that furthered the crime prevention mandate of the EFCC.

Then came the idea of mainstreaming anti-corruption into popular culture. It was simply exciting! The popular culture programme was a total package of the things people see, hear and want to be part of. It encompassed musical concerts, reality TV, radio, fashion, graffiti, comedy, celebrities, sports, the Internet etc. It was a new way of thinking, thinking out of the box! I was assigned to handle this new vista of public enlightenment as Programme Officer, Popular Culture. Within a period of three (3) months, we had set in motion a chain of popular culture strategies one of which was the United Artistes Against Corruption (UNAAC) project. We were also talking with a number of celebrities for endorsement and had gone far with the idea of an anti-corruption reality TV show. How we flooded the Internet (Facebook especially) with this whole idea of the EFCC’s anti-corruption campaign is perhaps the most familiar to my readers who are ‘Facebookers’. There is so much I just cannot talk about here for several strategic reasons. But it was a great experience. You can imagine the feeling of nostalgia. How I miss those days!

There is one great man I cannot fail to acknowledge here for providing a great part of the inspiration that gave room for all these innovation – Dapo Olorunyomi. Uncle D, as we fondly call him was the then Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of EFCC. He was also Director of the Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI). Uncle D is that perfect boss you see only in the movies. He remains one of the brightest minds I have ever met on the face of the earth! He was more than a boss, he was a friend that made you six (6) inches taller the moment you met and interacted with him. Today, Dapo Olorunyomi is no longer at the Commission. He has since resigned his appointment. Today, the Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI) is no more. There is a new thinking under the new leadership of the Commission. And as I reminisce, I wonder, must every good thing always come to an end?

Permit me to devote these next three (3) paragraphs to appreciating the contributions of all those who gave their support to me and to this cause in the last ten (10) months. The list is definitely a long one. But I will attempt a summary and if I missed your name, it wasn’t because I forgot you. You were just too special to be named among mortals! Gbenga Sesan, Fela Durotoye, Funmi Iyanda, Charles O’Tudor. I want you to know that you occupy a special place in my heart. Your support and encouragement cannot be forgotten. You are appreciated. One of the most significant things that happened to me during this service year was becoming a member of GOTNI - Guardians of the Nation International. Linus Okorie (Founder and President of GOTNI), I still remember the first day we met and how Fela Durotoye said to you, “Linus, I am handing over Godwin to you. Take good care of him.” Ever since, you have distinguished yourself as a wonderful brother, teacher and one of the leading lights of the emerging new Nigeria. Thank you so much. Time and space will not permit, I would have devoted an entire piece to Dele Osunmakinde, a great teacher of God’s word and my pastor at the Baptizing Church (TBC). You are just so wonderful sir! Joshua Awesome, Chido Onumah, Nduka Otiono, Obi Asika, Kenny Ogungbe, Yomi Odunuga, Nasir El-Rufai, Prof. Pat Utomi, thank you sirs for constantly exuding the inspiration. You have been great pillars of support. Meanwhile, I have deliberately left out some names for reasons best known to me. I hope and believe they will understand. God willing, my forthcoming autobiography will display the full list. That is a promise!

And thank God for Facebook. I met a few good men, and women too through this platform. Let me start with the RedSTRAT trio. Emilia Asim-Ita…I pause, because words fail me. You are excellent – one in a million! Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams, you were undoubtedly great pillars of support, especially towards the popular culture programme which I handled for the then FNI…thanks a great deal. Tosyn Bucknor, I remember the good old days, I hail and hope you don’t untag yourself from this note this time…lol! Now, there are three (3) gentlemen I met during this service year who have bagged my title of ‘Brother From Another Mother’. I am talking about Ferdinand Adimefe, Usman Imanah, and Uchechukwu Jerry Eze…you guys rock! I will not forget my cousin Chris (always aloof and afar), Oreoluwa Ladokun (Mr. Unusual), Kenny Adebo (he sparked off the Fix Nigeria revolution on Facebook), Lateef Yusuff (always there), Wordsmith Wellsaid, Aninoritse Odeli, Nwabundo Onyeabo, Messan Lanre, Awolanye Banigo, Ibrahim Sanusi, Sunday Ogidigbo, Kayode Ogundamisi, Godwin Odusami, Tolu Ogunlesi (Lagosians for Obama!), Ruonah Godwin-Agbroko, Denrele ‘Wenrele’ Edun, Martin Obono, Cosanna Preston, Anetor Irete, Qudus Onikeku (my partner in crime, you deserve a whole paragraph!), Tele Ogundeko, Chris Ihidero, Ofunneka Molokwu, Charles Alo, Emeka Okereke, Lee Ozwald Bronkoby, Muinat Atunise, Victor Gotevbe. Although I met a good number of you guys towards the end of the service year, I am indebted in thanks for making this whole experience worthwhile. Without you, Facebook would have been such a boring place to be.

I have a league of young friends and supporters who believe in this dream of a new Nigeria. Abimbola Fisher, Aramide Olorunyomi, Kofo Kego, Mustapha Atiku-Abubakar and all others too numerous to mention. I say thank you! To my over 1, 000 friends on Facebook, I say thanks a million! You guys are just so wonderful, though your messages and comments are sometimes flattering and most times humbling. My co-mentees at the Afrigrowth Foundation, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, and Mr. Jimmy Atte. I cannot thank you enough.

As I draw the curtain on this chapter, every time I cast my mind back to how it all began, it appears so distant in the past and so close it’s like yesterday। So much has been accomplished, and so much is left undone. During the service year, great ideas were conceived. Some were realised and some have been deferred. But here lies the prevailing paradox of life. You can’t always have it all done all the time. Sometimes we win, sometimes we let go to win some other time. Indeed, there is nothing to regret. For me, NYSC was a redefining moment of service to humanity. God bless Nigeria.

This is to the glory of God Almighty…to the memory of a friend – Henry Kalu who has been missing since June 17th, 2008, the editorial team at One Magazine...and to all emerging patriots of the new order.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who Can Rescue This Rogue Republic?

Nduka Otiono is currently FS Chia Scholar in the Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Canada, and Fellow, William Joiner Centre for War and Social Consequences, University of Massachusetts Boston.

The Piano Lounge of the Transcorp Hilton hotel, Abuja is perhaps the last place where a soul-stirring discussion about Nigeria and her myriads of challenges is expected to occur. The trappings of affluence, the conjured fantasies, and the recycled vanities on proud display, can almost leave you drowning in the waters of illusion – a false feeling that all is well, when so much is actually unwell.

My first encounter with Mr. Nduka Otiono was during my undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan where he lectured my class as a visiting scholar to the Department of English, and successfully initiated us into the cult of Metaphysical Poetry. Then he was still General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and had carved a niche for himself as one of the leading lights of the literary movement in Nigeria. Mr. Otiono’s stay with us at the department was short. He soon left the University, leaving us to battle with the wits and conceits of the metaphysical poets. That was four years ago, and I had lost touch with him until about two months ago when I located him on Facebook one of the world’s fastest growing online social utility networks. So it was a meeting I eagerly looked forward to when I received a message from him on Friday 25 July, 2008 asking me to meet him the next day at the Transcorp Hilton on a brief visit to Nigeria from Canada where he relocated in the face of the depressing demands of the Nigerian system.

I had anticipated a short meeting. But it was not to be. We spent over five hours sharing thoughts on the travails of the Nigerian nation. Our discussion moved from the poverty and hunger in the land to the Niger Delta crisis and then to the failure in leadership. For the first time in a long while, I was listening to an intellectually insightful dissection of the Nigerian conundrum. At a point, it became so emotional tears began to well up my eyes. We looked at the power sector in Nigeria, attempting a sincere analysis only to end up with an emotional paralysis. We had thought; if only Nigeria could just fix the energy problem, a large part of our problems would be solved. With $16 billion we could have generated 16, 000 megawatts of power, sufficient to help drive the Nigerian economy to unimaginable heights of economic rebirth. But today’s sad reality is a seemingly powerless probe on a power sector bedeviled by inefficiency, corruption and a harvest of scandals. What is the problem with us?

In the course of our discussion, we were soon joined by one Mr. John, a friend of Mr. Otiono who works in one of the banks as a customer relations manager and later my good friend Ferdinand Adimefe, a budding author and youth corper serving at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja. Together, we all continued with this passionate talk about our national misfortunes. A little insight from the banking sector opened another can of worms. It was disturbing to hear how some of these financial houses had become homes to all kinds of immoral transactions. If you were not touched by the financial roguery, you only needed to hear how hundreds of Nigerian female graduates end up becoming sex merchants in some of these banks, many of which appear with attractively bright exteriors but thrive on the dealings of their ‘stinkingly’ rich interiors!

At a point, we were joined by Mr. Toni Kan Onwordi, Head of Corporate Communications, Visafone who exchanged banters with Mr. Otiono and then moved on. I had heard so much about Toni Kan (as he is popularly called), read a few of his write-ups and had come to admire him just like my big brother Tolu Ogunlesi who works in the same outfit. I wondered how the likes of this young man survived the frightful and sleazy conditions of the Nigerian media where you are constantly confronted with the two unpleasant options of starvation or having to embrace the brown envelopes. I saluted his resilience and prayed for some of my friends in the media who are fighting to remain men and women of honour in this untidy rat race of what may be termed for want of better description, a voodoo republic that thrives on the ‘lootocratic’ orgies of a heartless hegemony! I immediately recalled that Mr. Otiono had been in the Nigerian media for over a decade and once sat on the editorial board of the now world-famous Thisday newspapers. I do not intend to write Mr. Otiono’s biography. But I am convinced it was a good thing that happened to him when he experienced a paradigm shift from the Nigerian arena, proceeding overseas in order to retain the sanity of his body and mind.

The statistics are horrifying. I shivered with righteous indignation when UNODC boss Mario Costa mentioned that between 1960 and the present day, Nigerian leaders had stolen over $400 billion! With just $10 billion, the city of Lagos can be transformed to the mega city status it deserves with all basic infrastructures in place. Yet, recent research and development indices have revealed that the city of Lagos is a looming catastrophe. Thus, while cities like Dubai and Hong Kong continue to amaze the world with their advancement prowess, the city of Lagos has been marked as one of the disaster megapolis of the century – waiting to happen! Why should this happen to a nation so richly blessed? Our education sector has not fared any better. When Prof. Niyi Osundare, in his valedictory lecture at the University of Ibadan remarked that the universe has left our Universities, it was a death knell that sounded loud and clear. What is the state of our tertiary education today? What kind of graduates are we producing? Are we producing assets or liabilities to society? What is happening to the infrastructure, the laboratories, the libraries, the lecture rooms and the hostels? Is it not pathetic how much our Ivory Towers have fallen from the heights of social re-engineering to the depths of helplessness, becoming idle towers of subsidized illiteracy?

If that is not enough to jolt you, Nigeria currently has about 10 million school age children out of school; 4.5 million are potential primary schools pupils and the other 5.5 million, young men and women who should be in secondary school. When you combine that with the about 60 million adult illiterates in the country, one can hardly see any light at the end of the tunnel. Maternal mortality rate in the country is put at 1000 to 100, 000 births in our labour rooms. That is equivalent to 10 plane crashes everyday! The Nigerian situation is akin to a grotesque theatre of the absurd whose spectators are a ruthless elite sitting, watching and satiated by this spectacle of blood, tears and sorrow. In the midst of this disillusionment, the mass of the Nigerian people remain resilient. This is still their country, their home and their fatherland. They are deeply troubled and are forced to ask questions. They want to know why poverty reigns in their fatherland. They want to know why those in the positions of responsibility continue to let this great country down. Nigerians are asking questions, but are they receiving and acting on the right answers?

I come to one sad conclusion. The problems of this great country are man-made and if there will be any solutions, it will have to come from Nigerians themselves. But who is ready to bell the Cat? Who can rescue this rogue republic from the hands of these pirates? Here again lies the tragic irony. We have a nation populated by some of the brightest brains on the face of the earth who individually are geniuses in their own rights but have never been able to collectively fix any problem they set out to solve. It is a tragedy that swings the way of pessimism, but history does not prove me wrong. We are confronted by a very strong cabal whose only interest in Nigeria is driven by their devious doctrine of self-preservation at all costs. They are deadly and dangerous. They are few in numbers, yet very powerful. I also understand they have devised an efficient machine programmed to resist the change we desire in this great nation. They can get you sacked from your jobs, and make life unbearable when they think you have become a threat. That is why the efforts we have made so far amounts to little or nothing, because all this talk does little or nothing to them. They hardly even read or hear you talk.

But should we give up? A million times, NO! The change that we seek must prevail. We will not join them because we can beat them. It has not been an easy battle, but we must continue the fight and I see victory over this reign of mediocrity.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

EFCC Partners Musicians..."It is a Good Thing" - 9ice

UNAAC Teaser Poster

Mr. Gbenga Aroyehun with Denrele Edun

L-R: Deinde, Soulsnatcha, Sokleva, Anita Oden, a friend, Mr. Gbenga Aroyehun, Jah Bless and 9ice
Faze is not alone this time: with Cobhams Asuquo

As part of its effort to mainstream the anti-graft crusade into popular culture, a delegation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by Mr. Gbenga Aroyehun had a meeting with some popular Nigerian musical artistes on Saturday 21st June 2008, at the Blue Ribbon Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.

Speaking on behalf of the convener - the EFCC, Mr. Gbenga Aroyehun spoke passionately about the social cost of corruption, noting that corruption affects two people - the beneficiary and the victim. “It affects us all and its social cost could be seen everywhere in Nigeria – bad roads, maternal mortality, etc. So aside from arresting and jailing culprits, the EFCC thinks that engaging all sectors of the Nigerian society through preventative means is one other concrete way through which corruption can be reduced, and a critical sector of the society which is highly appreciated by Nigerians including the Commission, and which the Commission can indeed use to strengthen this fight, is the artistes”, he said. Thus, the Commission intends to work with the selected musicians on a proposed platform - United Artistes against Corruption (UNAAC).

He highlighted the intended areas of work on this platform which he said include:

1. Coming together of the artistes to produce an all-time anti-corruption song or album.

2. EFCC taking the artistes around six (6) campuses in the six (6) geo-political zones of the federation. This is because since Nigerian youths identify greatly with the artistes and imitate their lifestyle, it will be easier to convey the message of anti-corruption to youths through their songs and performances.

In a goodwill message, multi-talented award winning Cobhams Asuquo, arguably Nigeria’s most sought after music producer today, said that he is privileged to be associated with the EFCC as he is someone who has often asked himself what Nigeria will feel like if we had everything in place. He noted that having everything in place will require putting off that one thing that affects Nigeria in every sector and has eaten so deep into the Nigerian society such that it is now a norm - corruption.

Abolore '9ice' Akande who became renowned with his chartbusting Gongo Aso commended the idea of involving artistes in the fight against corruption. ‘It is a good thing’ he remarked and also assured that all Nigerian artistes are ready to go with the idea. On his part, Soulsnatcha of Rooftop MCs agreed that it is a clever idea. Asserting Mr. Cobhams' opinion, he quoted Hitler saying, “Give me the music of the nation’s youth and I will take the nation.” He said people may listen to the rhythm of the music for the fun of it but at some point, they stop to look at the lyrics.

Messrs Ejeh Odeh and Kes Ewere of Tuface Idibia’s Hypertek Entertainment represented the multiple award winning superstar who was unavoidably absent. They equally expressed the willingness of Tuface to collaborate with the Commission’s efforts to fight corruption. Other appearances at the meeting include, Soundcity whizzkid Denrele Edun, Ayeni the Great and popular Showbiz journalist Azuh Amatus of The Sun newspapers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Ten (10) Values of a True Nigerian

Behold the ten (10) values deliberated upon and then endorsed by young Nigerians at the GOTNI Leadership Summit in Abuja. History was made...just as in 1776, young Americans including the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson sat down to create the American Dream!

Friday, June 6, 2008

XENOpho WHAT??? UBELIEVABLE! The Human Carnage in South Africa

A jubilant Xenophobe: How would Thomas Hobbes describe this?

It is an unfortunate incident that South Africans are repaying the world for keeping faith and assisting them against the apartheid regimes until the latter crumbled.

The pictures here are horrifying! These demented folks should realise that life is sacred and should never again do these against fellow human or animal beings.

I honestly think that the South African government should do something about unemployment rate which is put at 40%. History teaches us that when things are hard for nationals they look for scapegoats. The holocaust is a reference. In Ghana, in the 70s, Nigerians were thrown out and in the 80s, Nigeria retaliated but thank God they did not go the extreme way like the one under discussion.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nigeria: Fight for EFCC's Soul

ONCE Mallam Nuhu Ribadu left the headship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for studies at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPSS), Kuru, Jos, there was no doubt that the controversy that trailed the man's tenure would be at the centre of whatever action anyone carried out on the institution.

Things are working out in frenzy. Lawyers of various esteems are claiming and counter claiming about the powers of the President to hire and fire the EFCC chairman at his pleasure. In this quest, the generous provisions of Section 2 (3) the EFCC Act which are clear that the President does not need any reason to fire the Chairman does not seem to matter.

It is rather worrying that these are preludes to appointing a new leadership for the EFCC, the main government agency charged with fighting corruption.

Although Ribadu got more than 100 convictions in court of law against corrupt persons and those who soiled Nigeria's name through Advance Fee Fraud popularly called 419, in addition to getting Nigeria's name struck of FATF notorious list, he sometimes got overzealous.

While it was desirable to have someone like him to give the EFCC bite at the beginning, his egregiousness lent some tainted bent to the fight against corruption.

What is going on at the EFCC may, at the end be some kind of reform. It is also a judgment on the past administration. But in correcting some excesses of the EFCC, care must be taken to ensure that the intention remains revving the fight against corruption.

As the Senate goes through the screening of Mrs. Farida Waziri, the new nominee for the position, it should also be asking itself whether the EFCC Act should not be amended to create more independence for the agency. The EFCC almost marred last year's elections by taking over screening of candidates, without any constitutional backing. This happened because the Executive wanted it.

The recent efforts at localising the importance of the EFCC chairman exhibits the extent of the desperation to whittle the powers of the agency. The Senate should screen the nominee factually, fairly, but firmly

Positions that diminish the importance of the post and the great job that is expected of the Senate in screening the candidate for the job should be disregarded.

The fight for the soul of the EFCC has resumed. The main casualty at the end of the day could be the EFCC which will never be the same again either because those who created it abused it thoroughly and robbed it of credibility or those who are taking over could wreck it because of known prejudices and self interest।

Culled from: The Vanguard newspapers


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Is Hip-hop Really Dead?: Final Chapter

Is Hip-hop Really Dead?: Final Chapter

© My Naija News - Daily News and Information from Nigeria

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Photos courtesy: Mr. Fix Nigeria.

Monday, February 18, 2008

N1 Million for Dinner!

By Ohimai Godwin Amaize

We have a great continent besieged with great problems. It is disturbing that Africa has retained the reputation of a continent replete with colossal absurdities. And our dear country Nigeria is no stranger to the shameful tune of torment and the macabre beats of a continental order still reeling from all the symptoms of a post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Everyday we wake up to the realities of a failed system foisted on us by our sheer ignorance of the psychodynamics of our civilization. We have spent years debating how the West underdeveloped Africa, but no one is talking about the debasing acquiescence of Africans to the superiority of Western concepts. It is true we have managed to overcome decades of colonial disorientation, but it is sad how much we remain entangled in the web of cultural deracination. The painful and yet prevailing paradox is the disappearance of our cultural values into the liminal limbo between the unafrican and the near-western! The result is the frenzy and pointless show of alien values in our media today. What is the problem with us?

I intend to attempt a brief, albeit seemingly digressive nosedive into the collateral manifestations of this growing media disproportion in African societies. The entertainment industry is no doubt a very profitable venture. So much progress has come to Africa through exploits in the arts, with music, theatre, etc. remaining the dominant genres of this sector. But a close look at music in Africa reveals a frightening descent from its critical status as an art form with great potential for social reconstruction, to a massive playground for sex and consumerism which are today considered ‘strategic’ tools for effective communication in Western media. But how did we relapse so fast into such distressing times?

It is shameful that the media in Africa continues in its sheepish admiration and regurgitation of negative portraits in Western media. Rather than getting involved in more public advocacy for greater sex education, our media have unwittingly collaborated with the Western media in its flagrant display of Western societies as sexually liberated, a situation which has created global sexual inequalities between Africa and the West. As a consequence, we have begun to pay the ultimate price for this socio-cultural derailment. The result is today’s disaster metropolis we call Africa – a continent despoiled by untold penury, famine and disease. If it is not bad enough that poverty continues to demobilize an increasing African population, the November 2007 UNAIDS/WHO report on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) world over, which puts Africa on the top of the chart with an estimated 22.5 million adults and children in sub-Saharan Africa alone, calls for sober reflection. This is out of the estimated global total of 33.2 million PLWHAs! Increasingly, sex has been identified as the major means of transmission. How then do we talk about real development with such media irresponsibility to society?

Let me now focus on the situation at the home front. Here again in Nigeria comes another opportunity for media slumber. The Kora Awards, the most popular awards of the recording industry in Africa is coming to Nigeria. Founded by Ernest Adjovi in 1994, the ceremony enjoys great media attention annually and rightly so, because it is patterned after the American Grammy Awards which is the biggest and most renowned music awards for deserving musical artistes in various music genres worldwide. The Kora Awards, being its African prototype has strived since its inception to live up to the standards of the Grammys. Perhaps, in a bid to broaden the scope of the event, the organizers are throwing the carrot to Nigeria. Nigeria, I understand has been granted the hosting rights for the next five editions. This indeed, is a welcome development. It is another milestone in the Nigerian entertainment industry and a good omen too for tourist exploits in Nigeria. I have no problem with the Koras coming to town.

The media launch announcing the awards in Nigeria has been scheduled for 20 December 2007 at the Abuja International Centre. And as is usual with such events, there will be a dinner. I would have been glad to stop here at this point of the event plan and wish the organizers a very happy launch. But my attention was drawn to the outrageous idea of dinner tables of ten (10) seats being available for N1 million! Yes, I mean N1 million for just one seat! But what is wrong with that? Somebody is bound to ask. Really, I do not expect much hue and cry from a nation where scandals involving billions of dollars have become more popular than the names of our national heroes. But the danger in adopting what may be called a trite-matter position on this N1 million per dinner seat, is the seemingly harmless but precarious infiltration of our national psyche by the spirit of corruption. It is critical to call attention to how we think we are building our society. Why do we spend so much on the ethereal at the expense of enterprising social ventures? What do we invest our time and resources in? Through this continued love for pleasure and fanfare, are we not entrenching a feudal order over a fast disappearing middle class? What is happening to our consciousness? Why on earth will a dinner seat for just one night be worth N1 million? Is the food from Mars? Maybe you have the answers, but a quick introspection into the fall of the flamboyant Bourbon monarchy of France is instructive to those who care enough.

My problem with this N1 million per dinner seat should not be misconstrued as an attempt to undermine the idea of the Kora Awards or efforts by the organizers to showcase a world-class event. I am particular about the extraneous trappings of their fund-raising strategy. It is true a lot of money is required to stage an event as the Kora Awards. But there is room for corporate sponsorships and philanthropy. Even the Grammy Awards which is approaching its 50th anniversary depends on corporate sponsorships, and has established the Grammy Foundation since 1989 in its attempt to develop a give-back mechanism to the American society. For whatever it is worth, the Kora Award launch has succeeded in portraying Africans again as bad imitators of foreign concepts. This is happening in Nigeria, a country where poverty is still a major issue. Or is this the new face of philanthropy in fund-raising? It appears the organizers are over-fascinated with the status symbol or VIP syndrome which has heightened the race for money at all costs, especially among our youths today. I strongly believe the organizers could have raised more funds if they had welcomed generous donations from organizations and individuals in the spirit of charity. It is instructive that with the growing civil consensus against corruption (thanks to the anti-corruption agencies) we must eliminate opportunities that promote the laundering of stolen funds.

Indeed, not a few Nigerians can afford the luxury of a dinner seat for N1 million. We had seen even more ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth before the EFCC anti-graft guillotine started taking its toll. But what do we expect from a country with a sickly tax-paying system? Let’s not even talk about Aso Rock where eye glasses and daily refreshments enjoy an obese budget of N1.5 million and N2.3 million respectively!

Building the Nigeria of Our Dreams

Ohimai (Mr. Fix Nigeria) with students of Junior Secondary School (JSS), Jikwoyi, Abuja shortly after delivering an anti-corruption advocacy talk.

By Ohimai Godwin Amaize

Indeed, these are trying times. Apparently, yet paradoxically, these are times when the past presents more hope than the future. For some, it is perceived there is no future at all. The pathway to a new dawn has become a rocky terrain of recurring mirage. The gates have been closed with a hopeless bang, leaving echoes of failure and disappointment. These are times when hopes are continually raised and dashed on the rocks of deceitfulness. And whereas, the unfolding spectacle is a quintessential theatre of the absurd, it is amazing to see how much we continue to nurture an affinity for rot and a fancy for dust. But how did we degenerate so fast? When did we relapse into an awfully dysfunctional state whose landmarks are replete with colonial micro-nationalism, social insecurity, comatose institutions, intellectual peonage, value collapse, a national assembly unable to defrock itself from the garb of crookedness and the spiteful penchant of public officers for public stealing?

One of the biggest challenges confronting the Nigerian state today is the issue of corruption. World over, corruption has become an issue of great concern. While some consider it the bane of constructive efforts towards the building of a virile society, it is for others a necessary tool for accessing and securing personal fortunes. Sadly enough, the Nigerian experience is a careless harbinger of deferred dreams. Efforts geared towards the advance of project Nigeria, have been continuously truncated by the terrifying conditions of a system bedeviled by corruption. In the midst of this deepening crisis and perhaps the quest for a potent way out of the corruption quagmire, the Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI), the civil society interface of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invited youths from the six-geopolitical zones of Nigeria to the 1st National Youth Anti Corruption Summit which was held at Bolingo Hotel and Towers, Abuja on Monday 10 September, 2007.

According to the FNI, the aim of the summit was to bring together youths to deliberate on issues of corruption, integrity, accountability and the crisis of the Niger-Delta. I was one of the youths who attended the summit. At the end of the summit, it became clearer that the task of ridding our nation of the scourge of corruption was more Herculean than often imagined. A novel and imaginative way of problematising this in relation to the idea of building the Nigeria of our dreams, is a brief assessment of the role of the Nigerian media and its impact on the youths who are often considered the foundation of the future. Among the several presentations at the summit, I was particularly touched by the submissions of ace broadcaster Mrs. Eugenia Abu who herself a media practitioner, boldly chastised the Nigerian media for what she described as its promotion of consumerism and sex rather than our cherished moral values. According to her, “Today’s consumerism has ensured that there is so much representation of the power of money. The logic of profit prevents the discharge of the media’s responsibility to society.”

Indeed, the media, it is that safeguards the truths and moral values of society. As the Fourth Estate, as well as guard dog and conscience of society, it is a formidable force and potent tool in nation building. In consequence, its responsibility to society must not be compromised in a way that produces misrepresentations to young persons who are for the most part, observers of its social portraits. Hence the need for the media to embrace a paradigm shift and strive to continually portray cultural processes, whether African or Western, from a standpoint that provides sufficient subtext of the informing essence and context. The reality of our socio-cultural experience must not be allowed to disappear under the red light of reality TVs. Our soap operas must be strategic enough to cleanse the dirt which has permeated the fabric of society. Concerted efforts by the media to empower our youths must be prioritized over musical concerts and parties which only encourage materialism and bad role-modeling. Why do we preach patriotism to the fatherland when the media has forgotten that Taiwo Akinkunmi, the man who designed the Nigerian flag is still alive and has become a sickly beggar in the streets of Ibadan? Do we really expect young Nigerians to be patriotic to Nigeria when those celebrated by the media today are those who have imbibed the ideals of Hollywood while parading themselves as Nigerian versions of Shakira, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and 50 Cents? How many Nigerian movies are centered on contemporary Nigerian or African icons like Dora Akunyili, Nuhu Ribadu, and Nelson Mandela?

Permit me this; I am not advocating an anti-showbiz Nigerian media. I still enjoy good music, movies and soaps, whether Nigerian or foreign. But the prevailing truth is that the media must get its priorities right. What Nigeria needs at this time in her historic journey to national greatness, is a responsible media that understands its powers as a vital tool for social construction. So profound is the strength of the media that it can turn good people into bad people and otherwise. Thus, the media must be able to re-evaluate itself.

While media responsibility to society cannot be overemphasized, it is instructive to those who care enough that the task of building the Nigeria of our dreams is a task for all. So much is required to rescue the Nigerian state out of its current state of pollution. There are many who have expressed uncompromising belief in the dawn of a new Nigeria, but very few have actually taken bold steps towards orchestrating the desired national rebirth. Fela Durotoye is one notable Nigerian of my generation I admire so much for his great passion in the task of rebuilding the Nigerian nation. At 35, he is a retired successful entrepreneur who has undertaken the task of seeing Nigeria become the most desirable nation to live in by December 31, 2025. To this end, practical steps are already being taken to actualize the vision preciously tagged: “Gemstone 2025.” We need more hands like him.

For some, the foregoing represents a trite picture of an idea too lofty. Such critics only bring to mind a foretaste of the ill-naturedness of the human mind and its inherent pessimism. Without doubt, we can attain the Nigeria of our dreams. However, the way out of the Nigerian crisis is a distant journey into the innermost recesses of our minds. What we need is not a revolution of guns and machetes. We desire a revolution of the mind – an arrival at the threshold of the charity that truly begins at home. Every Nigerian must attain that distillation of spirit where service to the fatherland is prioritised over personal interests. From the lawmaker to the clergy, and the aristocrat to the so-called hoi polloi, let there be a sense and sameness of direction. We must not allow the diversity of our cultures to blur the clarity of our glorious future. Patriotism must not be viewed as an alien term that begins and ends in our newspapers when our journalists make references to the systems of the West. Nigerians must arrive at the crossroads in their cultural and socio-political odyssey where historic decisions about their future will be taken without risky hesitations or dangerous compromises.

With literary critic Odia Ofeimun at the 2008 Wole Soyinka Investigative Reporting Award (WSIRA) at the All Seasons Plaza, Ikeja, Lagos.

With Fela Durotoye during the HR guru's visit to the EFCC on 3rd April 2008. GOTNI President, Linus Okorie is first from right.