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The Royal Baby And The Rest Of Us – Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, many of our citizens missed some of the great lessons to be learnt from the circumstances surrounding the birth of Prince George in London earlier this week. While the whole world was agog with the news, ours was the typical, and so what, fashion. A friend was so infuriated about the reticent Nigerian attitude that an argument soon ensued between us. Let me quickly warn that this guy is practically a white man in Black skin. We have had this running battle for years and all efforts to change his theory that ours is an accursed race have failed.

He returned to his old familiar terrain this week as the news of the Royal birth hit the airwaves like thunderbolt. He had forewarned me early last week, that the Black people lacked passion for such things, as we drove past the Paddington station and saw the way the world media had camped outside the proposed birthplace, some for over two weeks, like they were awaiting the second coming of Christ. My friend had pointed in their direction, and asked me rhetorically: “Please tell me, how many Blacks can you see among those reporters?” I deliberately kept mute so as not to ignite a debate I knew will not end as easily as it started.

“I’ve told you repeatedly that the Blackman can never comprehend how to turn the simple things of life into objects of substance,” he quipped. I knew he was in the mood to propound and possibly expand his usual notion and philosophy of the superiority of one race over another and I wasn’t prepared for his always volatile lecture. But he refused to give up as he fired more salvos from his throat with every ounce of energy in him. “The Black race can’t appreciate good things!” he concluded. At this stage, I could no longer take his tirades. “Our problems are different from that of the Whites,” I said in a Professorial voice. He did not let me finish before he pounced on me again, like a wounded lion:

“What do you mean? All of mankind went through similar problems at different stages of their evolution but they didn’t lament forever without doing something about their terrible condition. See all those journalists working under this heat-wave to await the birth of a child, they are not stupid. The hype around this child is creating employment and job opportunities but you blind people cannot see it. Go and check how much the monarchy is attracting to Great Britain every year. This feverish hype is what keeps it alive. Just imagine all those Americans and how many copies their papers would sell and the viewership on television. They are even paying money to anyone who can describe or get pictures of the Lindo wing at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. They are cleverly clinging to all information available while you guys continue to wallow in your perpetual ignorance…” I stopped him there.

“Would you believe if I tell you I had all my children in that very St. Mary’s Hospital and in the same Lindo’s wing even as a refugee on the run from the military government in Nigeria?” I said matter-of-factly. My friend got even angrier. “Don’t tell me you didn’t take the pictures?” he asked as if my life would ever depend on it. I told him I didn’t. He then lectured me on a subject that is not very popular in Nigeria – History. “That is serious history you have wasted. Just imagine how many news channels would be happy to get those historic pictures from you now. If you were White, you would have taken pictures of the whole place inside out. Now you have to wait for your next life if ever you’re fortunate to go near the place.” He was beginning to sound like an outsider weeping louder than the bereaved. He was furious throughout the rest of our journey home but I wasn’t bothered a bit. When he had calmed down, I narrated the ordeal that made it impossible for me to record my experience for posterity.

We were deeply in the heat of the June 12 crisis when my first child was born. I could not travel at the time. The second was born while we were in exile and on the night I was busy producing the third issue of Ovation and we almost had the baby in a car. At the hospital, I had to stay with the first who was not yet two at the time. By the time we had the third, I had two kids to look after at the hospital. The last baby was particularly difficult as my wife was in labour for over 24 hours and the doctor even told us to prepare for the caesarean section until a Ghanaian midwife appeared miraculously and started speaking in tongues and the baby was delivered. How would I have thought of a camera in the middle of all manner of challenges? The story of my life is a stuff of fiction which must be told in several books for those who think life has been rosy. Even my friend didn’t know this side of me. But he still felt my journalistic instinct should have been sharper despite the odds.

At any rate, I really couldn’t understand what he was fussing about. Nigerians would never pay a kobo extra on those pictures if ever published. Celebrities are still too few and far between in Africa. You can count the authentic ones on your fingertips. We’ve had to create and manage a new class of newsmakers. Unfortunately, most of the so-called high-fliers are usually and almost all those in government circles and power blocks plus their cronies and associates. Most of them are purportedly hated with passion by the ordinary man on the streets who sees every successful man as the source of his misery. The youths who have become substantially frustrated and disillusioned cannot even differentiate or discriminate between the thieving class and members of the privilegentsia. They portray or pretend to resent and begrudge lives of opulence and ostentation while indeed most are searching for their own opportunity to join that elite class they attack with such religious fervour. I was soliloquising…

I knew the discussion won’t end there. The birth of Prince George was bound to take us back, and it did. My friend had promised to return to Twitter, after a long absence, when the baby is born. I had also promised to partake in the celebration of the new-born in the traditional giddiness of Europeans. I returned to Africa while he remained in London. Of course, my friend alerted me as soon as the news broke. He tweeted as he had promised and I followed soon. My friend would later call fuming and vibrating on the phone.

“What did I tell you about the Black people? he started. I asked what the matter was this time. “Haven’t you seen some guys on Twitter saying you were showing off by stating that your children were born in the same St. Mary’s Paddington? When did Nigeria become a country where a writer can’t recount his personal experience as example to others?” he retorted. My response was simple “My job as a journalist is to report reality and chronicle events from my individualknowledge. I’m sure they thought I was showing off some wealth and affluence not knowing I was a common refugee from Nigeria at the time. My family was at the lowest ebb in the name of fighting for democracy and the British Government was graceful enough as to treating us like her own citizens. No African nation would have welcomed us with such warmth and provision.” And the lesson I wanted to draw from it was lost in the cacophony of those who wait to pounce on such opportunities.

In our days at Concord newspapers, Travelogue was one of my favourite columns. I relished the adventures of Michael Awoyinfa and Nnamdi Obasi as they transported us to places we never visited. We prayed to God to give us such dream possibilities in life. Till this day, I savour the exciting reports of CNN’s Richard Quest from one world capital to the other, aboard new jumbo jets, and so on. But in Nigeria of today, you may be accused of blabbing and grandstanding.

I told my friend we must remain trendsetters for others and especially for those willing to lift up themselves from the doldrums of poverty and oppression. We were much poorer in our time and knew the solution was in acting positively than blaming others for our woes. We marched in protest over smaller problems than what we face today. But the times have changed. We can now hide behind our cellular phones and all manner of gadgets to attack real and imaginary enemies. We must learn to tolerate them except where they are downright rude and vulgar. It is normal for people to vent their anger on those they can see. Our leaders are too isolated to be hit directly. They hardly read anything not to talk of going on social media. They live on another planet obviously.

Unfortunately, my friend and I are not on the same page over this matter. He reminded me of the psychology of the African he told me about many years back. It was one of those tantrums I had tried to obliterate from my memory. He had narrated the story of a Shakespearean tragedy staged before a White and a Black audience separately. He said there were scenes in which some members of the White audience actually wept. Now wait for this, when the same scenes were shown to our Black audience, most people actually laughed. The import of this is that the Blackman has the proclivity to treat important matters as a joke.

The gentleman was trying to corroborate and justify the racist comments of a controversial but prolific English author, George Alfred Henty (8 December 1832 – 16 November 1902) whose perception of the Black race was as dastardly as that of his fellow author, Joseph Conrad (3 December – 3 August 1924; originally Polish, JozefTeodorKonradKorzeniowski, but granted British nationality in 1886). Both authors had written at a period of immense prejudice against those they called the Negroes. I think of the two Henty’s book, By sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War was more caustic and acerbic than Conrad’s Heart of Darkness but both explored the theme of civilisation and enlightenment versus savagery and backwardness.

Now read what Henty had to say about us: “They (negroes) are like children… They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond…” My narrator believes not much has changed since then; that in fact Africa remains the heart of darkness; that the leaders and their followers continue to live in fools’ paradise while pretending to be insulated from the rest of the world.

My friend wished Nigerians in particular would see that what makes the British society what it is that their leaders try to give human face to governance: that a Prince would be delivered in Paddington, not a particularly posh neighbourhood; that the leaders owe it a duty to tell the people as much detail as possible on even their private lives; that the Queen walks on the streets with cheering crowds around her; that a Prince William found it necessary to compensate the expectant journalists and face a barrage of cameras; that he drove his wife and new baby to Kensington palace, and so on, are important instructions to a modern society.

 
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Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Thoughts

 

10 signs you’re about to get fired

Firing an employee is something that no one looks forward to and it’s just as awkward for management as it is for you.

It’s May and what that means for me and others in the non-profit struggle, is that the fiscal year end is quickly approaching. Management will review budgets and see who’s worth keeping and who’s just costing them money. I work in a small office so when someone is let go it doesn’t go unnoticed. Once I became familiar with the signs, they were easy to see; like “neon construction sign” easy to see. Co-workers who were let go had seemed unhappy with their jobs and communicated with management less and less. The little conversation they did have wasn’t exactly personal and more and more there was major shade thrown over minor things like who didn’t change the toner. And we can’t forget the team meetings to address problems that everyone knew were actually meant for that one person with a pink slip headed their way.

Sometimes it really is nothing personal and with budget cuts there is nothing you can do to stop the inevitable. But other times you have to be honest with yourself and question if you’ve truly been performing to your full potential and if you’re even happy in the position anymore. It’s understandable that any job is better than no job in an unpredictable job market, but no employer wants someone who is simply showing up and you shouldn’t have to spend 40+ hours a week simply going through the motions.

Your job may be in rough waters, but you don’t have to be left without a paddle. Here are 10 signs that you may want to refresh that résumé:

1. Your position was created for you or labeled a “trial position.”
Beware of positions that never existed before your employment. Smaller companies and non-profits are big fans of employees who can easily transition between departments and know a little bit of everything, but it can become tricky when your responsibilities aren’t complimentary. I once had a co-worker whose job title grew longer and longer because she believed she could make herself stand out by doing a whole lot of everything. Management allowed her to take on a number of responsibilities to see if someone could successfully manage two very different positions at the same time. She took the shovel and quickly buried herself and burned herself out.

There’s a reason why someone is rarely an “Administrative Assistant/Office Manager/Grant Writer/Program Director.” Inevitably deadlines will conflict and instead of doing one job well, you’ll end up doing a lot of jobs incompetently. Trial positions are just that: an experiment. If management sees it’s not working, soon you won’t be either.

2. There is a high turnover in the position that pre-dates your employment.
Do your research on the history of your position and how it came to be vacant in the past. Do people usually get promoted from it, are they often fired or do they resign? If there is a high turnover rate in a position it could be because job duties aren’t designed in a way that makes sense for the company or because they are especially difficult or demanding. Is the position set up in a way that will sabotage even the best employees or is that particular manager difficult to work for? Sometimes it really isn’t your fault. It’s not that you weren’t a right fit for the position, but rather the position isn’t a right fit for the company.

3. You can’t clearly define what it is you do (and why only you can do it).
You’re at a networking event and after revealing with pride your fancy professional title, you’re hit with the obvious follow-up, “So what does a (insert fancy title) do?” If you can’t easily ramble off three major job responsibilities you might be in the danger zone. It’s one thing to do a little bit of everything or get in where you fit in when your workload is light. But if you don’t have major designated responsibilities and find yourself regularly looking for tasks and end up watering plants, color coding the Outlook calendar event or labeling the cabinets in the employee lounge you may not be as vital to the organization as you think.
If you’re not given an important project, create one. When I noticed my agency’s Facebook hadn’t been updated in over a year when I started, I designated myself our agency’s social networking coordinator and began updating it frequently. I set goals to get more followers and web traffic and it didn’t go unnoticed when management noticed how much visibility they gained.

4. Your PTO is approved a little too easily.
Damn, you forgot to request off for your niece’s graduation which unfortunately falls on the day of the annual fundraiser. When you bring your concerns to your supervisor they sign off on your PTO request, no questions asked. That was easy, right? Either your boss in still in her “I just got a man” glow or your absence doesn’t make much of a difference because soon you’ll have a whole lot more days off. Most management will want key employees at special events to at least show their face and represent even if they aren’t assigned any major tasks. If your company allows you to skip major events , it could be because you’re not needed or there’s no point in having someone network who won’t be able to access their work e-mail in a week.

5. You’re given very little responsibility or tasks.
On one hand you have management with major control issues who would rather do all of the work their way instead of delegating. On the other hand they may have lost faith in you to do a decent job. If you find that your boss has been picking up more of the slack and doing tasks that would have otherwise been assigned to you, don’t be afraid to ask why. Firing an employee is something that no one looks forward to and it’s just as awkward for management as it is for you. Sometimes it’s best to get things out in the open so you both can better prepare for you departure instead of awkwardly avoiding the pink elephant in the room.

6. When you’re headed to the team meeting, you’re told, “You can sit this one out.”
Could you imagine if the Heat told Lebron James he could sit the championship game out? Or if Kelly and Michelle told Beyoncé at the Superbowl, “It’s cool, Bey. We got this.” When you are a valued employee, companies take your opinions into consideration. You may not have any hiring power, but you’ll be asked what you thought about the spring interns. Even if you’re not the star player, if you’re making any kind of significant contribution your coach will need you in that huddle. If you’re sitting on the bench it’s because, sadly you’re not needed and well , “they got this.”

7. You notice a lot of conversations are happening behind closed doors.
Consider yourself lucky if you work for supervisors who keep the lines of communication open and update you about any issues within the company, even if they don’t pertain to you. When you have this type of relationship you can rest assured that when conversations start happening behind closed doors, management is discussing you and/or your co-workers. I once had a co-worker who was already on management’s hit list because she revealed way too much about her personal life. When she revealed she was 4 months pregnant by her less than stellar boyfriend (information which she openly revealed to management), more and more meetings were held down the hall as opposed to in the office. Next thing I knew when she went to deliver, an “agreement” was worked out so she could part ways with the company.

Closed doors don’t have to mean they’re working on your severance package, but prepare for some kind of big announcement, because it’s coming.

8. Management is increasingly encouraging job-sharing or instructs you to train someone on your responsibilities.
Raise your hand if you’ve been tricked into training your replacement. Take a note from Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg: They’re not asking you to train the new guy to hold it down because you put in a vacation request, it’s because they’re trying to take you out. I personally think it’s a poor practice and that if you are managing anything you should know how to do tasks that are below your pay grade instead of asking your subordinates to pass on the knowledge that you don’t have yourself. Otherwise, why not train the new hire yourself and allow your employee to leave with some dignity.

9. You do your job a little too well.
It’s no secret that for every great manager there is one who is power-hungry, insecure and doesn’t really want to bring out the best in their employees for fear of creating competition. A supervisor that is confident in his or her abilities is not worried about cultivating a mentee to grow into a skilled professional. If you’re making more of an impression on your colleagues than your supervisor and co-workers are looking to you for guidance, a disgruntled manager may find any minor slip-up to send you packing for “insubordination.”

10. Expenses are cut.
As I mentioned earlier, lay-offs are inevitable and even if your bosses are still faxing and filing while the Titanic sinks, you should keep an eye out for the iceberg. Have your Del Friscos lunches been reduced to Dominos? Does your manager’s blood pressure shoot up whenever you print out anything in color? Cutting expenses doesn’t mean that you’ll show up to see an eviction notice, but it may be a sign that management has money concerns. Before they start skimping on the big things, find little ways to do your part. Try not expensing your parking everyday when you live 10 minutes away and don’t write off the McDonald’s you had while on a conference call as a “corporate lunch.” It may seem like nothing, but those $9.00 value meals add up.

Source: YNaija

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Thoughts, True Life

 

Pres. Jonathan’s State of Emergency: An Opprobrious Political Shenanigan – by Femi Olabisi

President Jonathan’s declaration of State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the troubled North-Eastern Nigeria brought to the fore the myriads of hydra-headed problems and compounding leadership tragedy that have defined our democracy. While it may bring succour to the people of the area, it may also compound their problems. In a normal situation, the people of these states should enjoy a new lease of life and security due to 24-hour protection by the military. But would they actually have that peace? What becomes of this hapless people if the military boys turn around to become their worst nightmare through abuse of power as witnessed in the past?

In a society where it is a common trend for the powerful to lord him/herself over the weak, there is every possibility that the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states would eventually be at the receiving end of military brutality.

Just last week, I witnessed a very sordid, barbaric and inhumane treatments meted out to some young Nigerians at the hand of two young military men. Due to a misunderstanding between a lady (probably a girlfriend to one of the military boys) and the owner of a mobile phone shop, two military boys in army camouflage mercilessly beat up of those in the shop and locked up the shop in broad daylight.

Surprisingly, the shop is located beside a Divisional Police Headquarters; the shop actually belongs to the police. With all the beating, commotions and dare-devilry brigandage of the two military boys the police did not intervene; they exercised a very nauseating ‘I don’t care” attitude while these boys carried-on with their shameless acts.

It was a national discourse a few years ago when a military top brass ordered that a young woman be beating up and strip naked in broad daylight by his men just because the young woman had the audacity to compete with his convoy on the street of Lagos. Nothing happened. Life went on. This is Nigeria.

The incidences above are just a microcosm of the larger society. I have in the last few months being in constant skirmishes with some overzealous military boys. This is due to the proximity of my house and office to them — I have been lucky and spared brutality due to existing camaraderie between some ‘ogas at the top’ and myself. That is what defines Nigeria. It is not new.

I do not think the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states would fare better. Farmers, fishermen, market men and women and other commoners in these states stand no chance.

President Jonathan ought to exhaust every option available to him before declaring a state of emergency. He told the whole nation some months ago that he knew Boko Haram sponsors and they were — and maybe still — in his government. Are these Boko Haram sponsors too big for the security agencies to arrest? Why subjecting the people in the area to additional hardships? Is there a political colouration to Boko Haram insurgency? Who is the President afraid of offending? These and many other pertinent questions require urgent answers. Political shenanigan at the expense of the masses is at best opprobrious.

It is equally germane that the President exercise tactfulness and define clear line of authority in handling the issue of state of emergency and heavy military presence in these states. Licensing the military to ‘do and undo’ as wont by the military without suspending civilian administration may not go down well in a nation where politicians are mini-gods.

Desirous as the state of emergency in Borno, Yola and Adamawa is, it should be devoid of political colouration. Allowing the governors of the three states to stay during the period may not bring the anticipated peace. They have been there for years and Boko Haram menace waxed stronger under their watch. I do not think they can be of any good at this moment. Now is the time to be pragmatic, and now is the time to do all that is necessary to give succour to the people whose lives and livelihood have been shattered.

Posterity would neither forget nor forgive President Jonathan if the peace, joy and unity of Nigeria and Nigerians are sacrificed just for political survival.

The writer is on Twitter: @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Politics, Thoughts

 

WHERE IS NIGERIA HEADED FOR? – by Japheth-Omojuwa

“We the youths in this country don’t know our rights,” said a 55-year-old member of the “Northern Elders Forum” of Nigeria’s National Youth Council. If you noticed any anomaly in the previous statement it is because there is an anomaly. A 55-year-old man, old enough to be a grandfather, was complaining about the rights of Nigerian youths with himself depicted as one of the youths. This anomaly has come to define Nigeria. Elders have refused to grow because of what they will eat, fathers have sold their birthright to people their children’s age. Where you have a President that is supposed to offer leadership, what we have in Nigeria is a President who prefers to stain himself in the mud, without shoes, just like he claimed to be when he was supposed to be growing up. Only Goodluck Jonathan did grow up in terms of age but if his obsession with mud fights is anything to go by, then it will not be out of place to wish him “Happy Children’s Day” because the only difference between Jonathan’s recent actions and those of an average child without parental care is just that the President has an office to decorate his own “childishness”. One must, however, respect the office of the President whatever you think of the current office holder.

The other day, the President’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, tweeted about how Jonathan was not interested in what happened in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. I believed him as much as I believe my grandfather died a virgin. Even if I were still a child obsessed with playing with dirt and mud and with little cerebral development, it’d be taking too much liberty with one’s expertise at telling lies to think that one would believe everything that has defined the shame of the NGF was not the game plan of Aso Rock. 2015 will continue to define Nigeria politically, socially and economically going forward. I should add morally but the major players are without any known morals so that’d be out of place. I understand Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State is an old man. I used to equate old age with wisdom but we learn everyday and I am only glad people like the elderly governor have shown that anyone can be part of a morally devalued gang where power is involved.

Bamanga Tukur is a great man. He finds his greatness in his ability to trade anything for anything. Sadly, people like the PDP boss seem to have no meaning for principles and respect for rule of law. While he battles within the PDP for control, he is also currently foisting a 40-year-old man on the Nigerian National Youth Council. If you think the NGF election has become a disgrace, the election of the youth council has only been less of a disgrace because everything about this organisation has been about the fact that it operates like a secret cult, shrouded in secrecy and lost to the stranglehold of the PDP and post-50-year-old men fleecing an organisation that ordinarily should represent the best of the Nigerian youths. Why would anyone blame these old men when Methuselahs like Tukur are actively involved in the same National Youth Council politics? So you see Tukur is a great man, he cares about Nigerian youths. For him doing everything to suppress the voice of the youth council as 2015 arrives will certainly not rank close to the evil that prevented our amiable President Jonathan from delivering his transformation speech at the African Union. Some people say “give thanks for the evil you do not see” and I bet some of the Africans forgot to be thankful for the missed opportunity.

But then, it takes a blind opposition to say Nigeria has not been transformed. The Jonathan era has been nothing short of transformation. He was reported to have spent N1.3tn to run his 2011 election campaign. This is hard to believe and I wouldn’t believe it if I were you too. What is not hard to deny though is the fact that Nigeria spent at least N1.7tn for fuel subsidy that same year for what used to average just about N400bn per year at periods of rising prices. You cannot claim the money was stolen. If it was stolen, why don’t we have anyone jailed for that despite at least proving that the money was stolen and even getting to finger several government ministries, departments and cronies of the government. The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, oversaw this looting, no, not that she watched as others stole our national wealth. She did not watch. Hard to imagine a clean woman like her being involved in a dirty thing like that. Did she not even say, “There is corruption in Nigeria” on one of the recent editions of CNN’s Richard Quest. Until the much-revered Satan declares “there is evil in the world,” it would be hard for one to believe there is evil let alone imagine Satan himself as the fulcrum of evil.
Every day, people keep asking this question: “Where are we going in Nigeria?” and I am always left to wonder what they mean. Did we not choose the disaster that has befallen us? Did we not prefer Jonathan to the PDP? And now that Jonathan’s PDP has thrown away PDP’s Amaechi, we can begin to understand that we don’t understand anything. The biggest evil that has befallen this nation is that it has become an abandoned child. It has been left in a drainage not to die but to live long enough to provide a certain level of meaning to youths like Tukur, clean people like the petroleum minister and agents of transformation like Jonathan. The baby will not die because the baby’s death will mean many deaths so they will do enough to keep the baby alive. But while these ones are at the helm, the baby will only just be alive.

So, where is Nigeria going? You really want to know? These are the best of times. Our rulers have always danced naked, only now the deregulation of the media has exposed their nakedness to some of us. Most of us remain in the dark. What do you think Nigerians who watch NTA Network News think about Nigeria’s realities? They see transformation, they see a New Nigeria, they see the best President Nigeria has ever had. You really think a lot of Nigerians feel your pain? They can’t. They are not part of Nigeria’s reality. Yes, they are dingily poor but if they see every day their country is being transformed, they can only be certain that the transformation train will get to them before 2015 and you can bet it will. They will get packs of noodles and some naira notes enough to move to the next polling station to repeat the cycle of disaster. So, where are we going in Nigeria? We are not yet going. We never left the shore. There is movement but we are still at mediocrity’s equilibrium.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Politics, Thoughts

 

HEDONISM AND THE WEST (“OLOWO FI OWO RA IKU”) – by Femi Olabisi

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Olowo fi owo ra iku” (the affluent seeks death with his wealth).

The above Yoruba adage came to mind in my search for what defines the Britons, Americans and some other Western citizens.  With daily reports of kidnapping, killing and incarcerations one could not but wondered why they have never relented in their search for trouble in the name of holidaying, sightseeing and other pleasures that have become part and parcel of their lives.

News headlines seem incomplete without the mentioning of skirmishes of Westerners’ abduction in Pakistan or Afghanistan; arrests on real and phantom charges in Iran, North Korea or Venezuela; killing and kidnapping by terrorists in Sudan, Mali, Cameroun, Somalia, Nigeria, etc.  Yet, they seem oblivious to all these dangers and never waver in their search for good life in most odious places.

It is understandable that some of these Westerners go to these ‘volatile’ spots because of the nature of their job (soldiers, humanitarian workers, etc.), but it is unfathomable that some, without reasonable excuse, do endanger their lives by going to places where they are not wanted or where they would become easy target.  It may not be appropriate to say that these people do not have adequate knowledge of where they are going.  On the contrary, they are usually well acquainted with the places they intend to visit.  It is just unthinkable that one should deliberately endanger his/her life because of pleasure. 

It is obvious that these pleasure seekers cannot hide their identity when in hostile environment.  For one, the colour of their skin will make them conspicuous; and second, their lifestyles would negate that of natives – theirs would show opulence in the midst of abject poverty as common in most Third World countries.  One then wonder why they can’t go on vacations where there are relative piece.

If our world is one beset with transnational conspiracy and rivalry, division between powers that be and emerging powers and unrelenting devilish attempts to undo one another, then it becomes imperatives for pleasure seekers to know where they are wanted and where they are not.  I cannot see why an American would go to Iran or North Korea and/or why a Westerner would pack his bag and go to some impossible places where war, kidnapping and killing are rife.

Whether real or phantom, scores of foreigners have been kidnapped, arrested, jailed and/or killed in hostile countries.  On Jan 6, 2011 Haley Talayan was arrested in Iran for spying; three Americans, Shourd, Bauer and Fattal, were similarly arrested on July 31, 2009 by Iranian authorities at Iran/Iraq border where they claimed to be hiking (I don’t know why anybody would be hiking in one of the most dangerous places on earth, except if are actually spies). 

Venezuelan government last week announced the arrest of an American filmmaker Timothy Tracy. He was accused of being a spy and charged with conspiracy to destabilize Venezuela (only God knows what would be his fate).  And few days ago pariah North Korea Republic announced that the American tour operator, Kenneth Bae, arrested on charges that he tried to overthrow the government of Kim Jong-un in December 2012 would not be allowed to appeal if convicted.  He has not been tried in any court till date and would definitely be declared guilty if eventually taken to court.  Same fate has befallen other Westerners who felt the comfort of their countries is not enough. 

Unfortunately, the trend will continue as long as some cannot distinguish between enjoyment and endangerment.  Few other Americans who had fallen victims of similar fate include Laura Ling, Euna Lee, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, Haleh Esfandiary, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, Roxana Saberi, Kian Tajbaksh, among others.  Phantoms charges, kangaroo trials and unbelievably long sentencing have always been the outcome while death sentence is never ruled out.

More worrisome is venturing into danger-prone climes.

The Maghreb and some part of West Africa have lately become haven for terrorists with particular hatred for the Whites.  It is no longer news to hear of Westerners being killed or kidnapped, yet some pleasure seekers cannot think of a better place for holiday.  Just last week a French family of seven was released by their captors (I want to believe huge ransom must have been paid for their release).  They were kidnapped few months ago in Cameroon by the dreaded Nigeria Boko-Haram terrorist group.  This is just one of the few instances where those kidnapped were lucky.  Scores have not been so lucky.  Gruesome death is usually the outcome. 

These countries have arrays of disgruntled elements who have found criminalities as the opium to feed their hatred for the failures of their governments.  Aside from being thorns on the flesh of the people and governments of their home countries, they seem to harbour mutual hatred for anything Western.  Boko Haram, Ansaru – otherwise known as JAMBS (in Nigeria), Al-Shabaab (Somalia), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and others are notorious for targeting Westerners.  One would think foreigner would look for better havens to feed their hedonistic needs but reverse is the case.

Pleasure seeking is not totally wrong, but it is baffling that some Westerners would leave the comfort of their countries and other peaceful climes and venture into hostile nations where deaths, persecutions, real and phantom charges, imprisonments, etc. have always been their lot.

Or is it the Yoruba adage “Olowo fi owo ra iku” (the affluent seeks death with his wealth) that is at play?

 

The writer is on twitter: @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in Thoughts

 

Er… in Lagos, what we call madness is quite different o …

bellanchi

One of the things I love most about Nigeria is its differentness; that peculiar quality that is the reason why everything that is abnormal and unacceptable in every other place in the world is normal and acceptable in Naija, and vice versa. Without doubt, there’s a lot that is quirky about us. Let’s take four completely random examples: traffic, mental illness, potholes and ghost workers.

It’s not every town or city in Nigeria that has traffic congestion as a problem, but what we lack in traffic in the sleepy, rustic towns in the South-West or their far-flung counterparts in the North, is more than compensated for by the sheer monstrosity of Lagos traffic.

There’s no logic or pattern to the traffic in Lagos, for sure. Or else, how do you explain how an accident occurs on the Mainland-Island axis of the Third Mainland Bridge and the holdup is on…

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Comic, Thoughts, True Life

 
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Great Controversy!

 
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Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Thoughts

 

The Problem with HND Certificate – By Femi Olabisi

You cannot give what you don’t have…

Conventional higher education in Nigeria is of three basic categories: University, Polytechnic and College of Education.  The University awards Degree Certificate, Master’s and PhD; the Polytechnic awards Higher National Diploma and Ordinary National Diploma (otherwise known as HND and OND, respectively); College of Education awards Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE).

While there exist a somewhat mutual understanding between the Polytechnic and College of Education that HND certificate is higher than NCE and that NCE is higher than OND, there is always a contention between University degree certificate and Polytechnic HND Certificate.  This rivalry gets played out on the street and in work places.

A common phenomenon among employers of labour is to superimpose university graduates high and above polytechnic graduates, even when the latter could be better and has spent a considerable time/year than the former in the same organisation.  Consequently, a holder of a university certificate is revered; he becomes the boss with higher remuneration and other attendant benefits. It is also a common tendency for a university graduate to miniaturize holders of polytechnic certificate.

The dwindling popularity of HND certificate is also obvious in the number applicants jostling to secure admission to our tertiary institutions through the compulsory Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).  Very few applicants desire to go to the polytechnic (or even college of education), all because of inferiority complex.

I have been attending JAMB Policy and Technical Committee meeting since 2007; the number of applicants to university increases yearly whereas there is a significant reduction in applicants for polytechnic and college of education.  The problem becomes more glaring with the introduction of UTME.  Some universities record as high as 80,000 to 100,000 applicants (though they may not take more than 5,000), whereas some polytechnics and colleges of education do record zero applicant.  This happens yearly.

But why the disparity?

Answer to the above could be found in the calibre of lecturers in our polytechnics. 

Universities are mostly peopled with PhD holders and professors, but one can hardly find lecturers with PhD in our polytechnics.  Of course, there are those without PhD in the university too, but these are few and they know that upgrading their knowledge is a requisite to remain relevant in the system.  Thanks to the conditions stipulated by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

In essence, some of the lecturers in our polytechnics lack the academic and technical wherewithal to baptize their students with the required skill and knowledge.  But the problem goes beyond that! 

It is common knowledge that lecturers in our polytechnics rely heavily on selling of hand-outs to students.  This is not good enough.  It is basically impossible to compare somebody that is compelled to study average of ten textbooks for a course (as is common in the university) with somebody that relies of an 80-page hand-out.  Definitely, a student thus tutored and literatured with many textbooks will be better equipped since these textbooks must have been written by different scholars with variegated views, opinions and assumptions on the same discipline.

Of importance also is the disparity in recognition and remuneration of lecturers in the university and polytechnic.  Few lecturers in the polytechnics that aspire to acquire higher knowledge will eventually leave for better remuneration and recognition in the university system.

The problem with HND certificate is not in the certificate itself.  The perceived inferiority is borne out of the environment in which it is issued.  It is just not possible to relate the calibre of lecturers in our polytechnics to what we have in the universities.  And it is not enough to just conclude that we have brilliant brains in our polytechnics; what matters (as far as Nigeria is concerned) is the certificates/qualifications these lecturers have.  Until this is done, there will always be the superimposition of university degree above polytechnic HND.

Rather than the hyped tussle between university degree and HND certificate, efforts should be on reforming our polytechnics.  National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), the manager our polytechnics, should enforce the acquisition of PhD as a minimum requirement for lecturing.  I am not advocating the termination of appointments of those without PhD.  This could be done be giving them between five to seven years and with the provision of study grant.

While we cannot say that all PhD holders worth their salt, it is evident that a PhD holder must have passed through serious academic rigour and should be far better than somebody that lectures with only HND, First Degree, Master’s, or professional qualifications like MBA which is more common in our polytechnics.

We can make the HND certificate better and more competitive.  But it requires some fine-tuning of the system to achieve this.

There will always be a disparity until our polytechnics employ PhD holders and professors, since the current crop of lecturers cannot give what they don’t have!

 

The writer is an administrator in a Nigerian higher institution

Follow him on twitter @Femiolas

http://www.femiolas.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Thoughts

 

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid While Attending an Interview

You may feel comfortable and confident about your chances throughout the job application process. A well-developed resume will get you an interview, but a successful interview is the key to getting the job. Prior to the interview your research should include what you should do for your interview, but has it ever occurred to you to look for what you should NOT do during your interview? I bet it has not! The Top 10 mistakes you need to be aware of that you should Absolutely NOT do when going into an interview are as followed:

1. Incorrect attire

Dress more conservatively than you would usually dress on an average day. You do not want to show up to the interview in a pair of jeans,t-shirt, and tennis shoes. In order to make the best impression on your interviewers and leave a lasting impression on them you should follow these guidelines:

  • Neatly arranged hairstyle.
  • Brushing teeth and arriving with fresh breath/ good hygiene.
  • Clean and conventional dress shoes.
  • Small amount/not gaudy jewellery.
  • Cleaned and neat fingernails.
  • Appropriate amount of cologne or perfume.
  • Do not have gum, candy, or other matter in your mouth.
  • No obvious and inappropriate body piercings other than single ear piercings for women.
  • No visible tattoos.

Specific items for women include:

  • Tailored skirt or pant suit in matching neutral colours. Length of skirt should be no shorter than the Knee. Underneath suit jacket should be a tailored blouse showing no cleavage.
  • Matching accessories.
  • No clubbing wear.
  • No outrageous makeup.
  • No torn tights or nylons.

Specific items for men include:

  • Matching pant suit in neutral colours. That said, no crazy or wild patterns or colours.
  • Wear a quality silk tie that compliments your suit.
  • Shirt should be long sleeved ALWAYS, in white, light blue, or conservative striped pattern.
  • Facial hair neatly trimmed.
  • Recommended no jewellery what so ever.
  • Shoes and belt must match. Find MUCH MORE right here!

2. Unprepared answers

The most common interview questions are very well known, so make sure you have the answers well prepared. Going into an interview unprepared can be a death wish! Make sure you have accurately prepared and unrehearsed can cause you to lose that great job opportunity. Here is an example of how to be prepared with an impressive answer:

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What are your goals?”

What not to do-

Never imply anything along the lines of ending your employment with the company you are interviewing with or moving on to bigger and better things in the near future.

How to answer-

If asked where you see yourself in certain number of years, tell the interviewer that you have a long-term commitment to the job in which you are applying and that you will grow as the position does.

3. Unprepared questions

As important as it is to have answers to questions prepared, it is equally important to have questions prepared to ask your interviewer because it will make you look more professional and well prepared. Some interview questions you can have in mind to ask are:

  • Is there anything about the company you like to see improved?
  • When do you expect to make your hiring decision?
  • When do you think I can expect to hear back from you? Having these questions in mind can give You the edge against all other interviewees the company will see.

4. Forgetting to do your research

One of the worst things you can do is go into an interview knowing absolutely nothing about the company you are applying with. Prior to the interview, it is vital to know and learn as much as you can possibly lean about the company. Some research you should do includes:

  • Preliminary company information.
  • If the company you are applying with has a parent corporation
  • What the position you are applying for entails Get the inside information to impress your interviewer with all of the knowledge you will know during your interview!

5. Not watching what you say

Everyone makes mistakes, but it is extremely important to avoid every mistake you can! Some things you may say might offend someone and blow your chances at getting that job. Make sure to carefully watch what you say, and think about what you want to say before you say it. Some thing to avoid saying in your interview include:

  • Asking about their pay or how much they make.
  • Questioning their authority
  • Attacking/speaking against personal beliefs

Avoiding these types of statements or questions can save yourself the pain of hearing that you did not get the interview, and keep you in the race for the job!

6. Ringing of cell phones

Probably the worst mistake you can make in an interview and the by far EASIEST one to avoid is having your cell phone ring during your interview! Having your cell phone go off during your interview is a slap in the face to your potential employer, showing them that you care more about your personal calls than their company. If your phone rings during the interview you can pretty much kiss your job good-bye, here are some solution ideas to avoid this incident:

  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Silence your phones as soon as you pull into the parking lot of your interview.
  • Set an alarm so you remember to turn off/silence your phone.

By just following these simple and common sense guidelines to avoid your phone going off can save you tons of embarrassment and better yet your job!

7. Checking the time

Yes, the exact time of the day may be important to you so you can make your next task of the day on time, but to your interviewer it looks like they are wasting your time. If you check the time frequently during your interview, you will be sending a very negative vibe toward your employer and they will not hire you and waste your time.

Avoid this misunderstanding by (1) planning enough time in your day to allow more than enough time for your interview, (2) if you plan anything else during that day be sure whoever is involved in your plans knows you have an important interview to attend, and (3) don’t wear a watch to avoid any temptation to look at the time!

Let your interviewers know exactly how important this job is to you by showing them complete and utter respect during your interview and provide them with your undivided attention toward! Learn how to provide even more respect toward your interviewer

8. Asking about salary too early

We all know that money is very important to keep our lives going especially with this economy, but one of the WORST things you can doing an interview is ask about the salary you will be making. If you ask about your salary you will be showing the interviewer that you only care about the money you will be making and not about the position or the company itself.

You will find out soon enough what your salary will be, all you need to do is show patience and wait for the call that will say that “You’re hired!” and the answer about salary will follow!

9. Telling about other job offers

Getting offered a job or even multiple jobs is very exciting, but what do you do if you have another interview coming up? Well, you do NOT tell that company about your previous offers! You do not want that company to feel like you are disposable. For example, if you express that other companies have offered you a position versus a person who is desperately looking for a job and that company is their only hope, they will choose the other person who really needs the job.

Be smart, do not give the company an easy reason to dismiss you early and possibly lose your chances at a better job, higher pay, and a more successful life where you can advance in the position! Keep those other job opportunities you have received to yourself! To discover the secrets to learning how to watch what you say during an interview!

10. Tardiness

The most embarrassing thing you can possibly do for an interview is be late! Being late on your first day is bad enough, but just imagine being late for your interview, and say good bye to that job opportunity. Yes, it is very easy to get stuck in traffic, by a train, or even an unfortunate accident, but the company will see this as an excuse for your tardiness not a reason! Easy tips to eliminate all chances of being late by:

  • Leaving 15 minutes before you would normally plan to leave (Showing up early looks AWESOME).
  • Plan alternate routes to take in case the unexpected occurs.
  • Set an alarm to make sure you wake up on time and leave when planned.

Another helpful hint is IF you should happen to be running late (which there should be no reason for you to be) make sure you give the company a call, explain the situation briefly, express your empathy and gratitude, and assure them you will be there in a timely fashion!

By knowing these Top 10 mistakes of interviewing and following the guidelines to avoiding them you can assure yourself that you will have a very successful interview, and give yourself the BEST chances possible of getting the job you always have dreamed of having!

Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7018138

@Femiolas

 
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Posted by on Jan 22, 2013 in Thoughts

 

‘Gates of Hell’: Mali Conflict Opens New Front in War on Terror

France has found early success in its fight against Islamist extremists in northern Mali. But Saharan terrorist groups have close ties and are prepared for a prolonged battle. The hostage crisis in Algeria shows that the new front in the war on terror could become a protracted conflict.

Last Monday Daouda Sy, a builder from the central Malian town of Diabaly, was about to become a rich man. His company had just been awarded a lucrative contract to build irrigation systems and roads, and he had already hired some 1,500 workers for the project.

ANZEIGE

Since Tuesday, however, Daouda Sy has been a refugee with nothing but the clothes on his back. “We heard shots at around noon, and we knew right away that they had arrived,” he says. Bearded men wielding Kalashnikovs attacked the company’s building, disabled the brand-new pickup trucks and vandalized the offices. Daouda Sy and his driver hid for a while and then fled.

It took the two men several days to reach safety in the capital Bamako. The builder never thought that the Islamists from northern Mali would come as far as Diabaly — especially now that the French are in the country, with their Rafale jets and Gazelle helicopters firing at Islamist convoys and shelters.

Nine months ago, Islamists with the organization Ansar Dine captured the entire northern half of Mali, where they established a brutal regime based on sharia law. For months, it seemed little more than a regional conflict in the Sahara. Now, though, it has expanded to become the new front in the global war on terror. In recent weeks, jihadists began trying the capture the rest of the country, prompting tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Now the West has intervened. At the request of the Malian government, French troops began striking back on Friday, Jan. 11, with the West African economic community ECOWAS providing support.

‘A Threat to All of West Africa’

“This war is an issue for all neighboring countries,” said ECOWAS Chairman and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on a visit to Berlin last week. “From Mali, the Islamists pose a threat to all of West Africa.” There is concern that Mali could turn into another Afghanistan, a failed state that terrorists could use as a base and safe haven.

Just how justified that fear is — and how imminent the threat — became clear last Wednesday, when Islamists cooperating with Ansar Dine attacked the In Amenas gas plant in the south of neighboring Algeria, taking hundreds of hostages in the process, including many foreigners. They demanded an end to the French intervention in Mali and the release of two extremists from American custody — and threatened further attacks.

The Islamists in the Sahel zone are a serious threat. They are “motivated, well-equipped and well-trained,” said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The French force, ECOWAS troops and Mali’s ramshackle army could face a protracted conflict if the Islamists shift to guerilla tactics. “France has opened the gates of hell,” a spokesman for the Islamists said ominously.

Northern Mali has been cut off from the outside world since the first air strikes. In the northeastern city of Gao, local journalist Moumouni Touré watched as an Islamist leader with wire cutters tampered with mobile phone towers. “They are severing the connection so to prevent the local population from providing information to the French,” says Touré.

In Gao, the first French bombs struck an Islamist camp and a checkpoint the Islamists had set up on the road to the south. Touré felt the earth shake when the bombs detonated. He estimates that the first wave of French attacks killed at least 60 people.

‘Fear Has Changed Sides’

The population cheered and the Islamists became less and less visible in the streets. People came out of their houses again, listening to music and smoking, two activities the Islamists had banned. “Fear has changed sides,” says Touré.

The attack by Mali’s former colonial rulers could hardly have surprised the Islamists, who had been in control of the cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu for nine months by the time the attacks began. During that time, they have destroyed historic monuments and punished their adversaries with public executions, lashings and amputations. But they have also taken precautions. Residents of Gao report that the Islamists have dug large bunkers far out in the desert that are large enough to hide vehicles inside. The bunkers are reportedly filled with food, weapons, ammunition and gasoline, suggesting that the Islamists are far from finished.

According to Philippe Hugon, a Paris-based expert on Mali, it could be possible to drive the Islamists out of major cities within about six months. But years could go by before remote areas along the borders with Algeria and Niger are under control.

The Islamists began their campaign a year ago. On the night of Jan. 16, 2012, jihadists ambushed a Malian army unit near Adjelhoc in northeastern Mali, surprising the soldiers in their sleep. More than 80 people died in the fighting.

The winners of that skirmish are under the command of a man with a colorful personality: Iyad Ag Ghaly, a member of the Tuareg people. For years, he served as a mediator between the government in Bamako and the unruly ethnic group, which has repeatedly taken up arms to fight for its autonomy. He also helped the German government resolve a hostage crisis in 2003. But when Ag Ghaly was politically sidelined within the Tuareg movement, he turned to radical Islam. His group, Ansar Dine, now controls the northern part of the country.

Ag Ghaly has raked in millions through drug and weapons smuggling, as well as kidnappings. He bought large numbers of weapons at rock-bottom prices from the stockpiles of the former Gadhafi regime in neighboring Libya in the wake of the revolution there. Then Ansar Dine joined forces with other jihadists, including branches of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has operated for years in the desert regions of Algeria, Libya, Mauretania and Mali.

Not a Chance

One of Ag Ghaly’s closest allies is Mokhtar Belmokhtar “the One Eyed,” a nickname the Algerian extremist owes to a war injury he suffered as a teenager while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He also has another nickname, “Mr. Marlboro,” because of his involvement in the smuggling of cigarettes and other contraband through the Sahara.

Belmokhtar, held responsible for numerous attacks and kidnappings, has been at the top of Paris’s most-wanted list for some time. His group of jihadists also threatens uranium transport routes in neighboring Niger, where France mines the mineral for its nuclear power plants.

It was Belmokhtar’s fighters, likely a group of about 40 men, who captured the gas plant in In Amenas last Wednesday. The Algerian army responded immediately and with great force. During the attack to free the roughly 600 hostages, dozens lost their lives. Even before the fighting was over, the terrorists warned that they were preparing other attacks on foreigners in Algeria. Belmokhtar’s men allegedly prepared for the attack in northern Mali, where they were under the protection of Ag Ghaly.

The Malian army didn’t stand a chance against Ansar Dine. It is in terrible condition, both technically and in terms of troop morale, despite a long-standing US effort to train the Malian military to fight al-Qaida. Secret cables from US embassies, published on the whistleblower website Wikileaks, indicate the low esteem in which American diplomats have held the Malian army in recent years. The force lacks basic reinforcements, most of its vehicles are broken down, training is miserable and morale has hit rock bottom. Mali has no air force at all.

American specialists did train four crack units, totaling 600 men, to fight the terrorists. But it backfired: Three of the elite units have defected en masse to the rebel Tuareg. Most of the commanders, after all, are Tuaregs.

German Security at Stake

Captain Amadou Sanogo, trained in the United States, was one of the soldiers who didn’t defect. Instead, he inflicted even more damage when, last March, he and a few close supporters overthrew the government in Bamako and ousted the elected president.

Dioncounda Traoré, the interim president serving at Sanogo’s pleasure, continues to have a legitimacy problem. This complicates any international effort to come to Bamako’s aid, given that such an effort would solidify the power of a regime that came into power through a coup.

At least Traoré mustered the courage to ask France for help in the week before last, likely in the face of resistance from parts of the army. Malians, however, gave the former colonial power an enthusiastic reception, cheering its soldiers as saviors. ECOWAS troops from Chad, Nigeria and Ghana began arriving in Mali on Wednesday.

ECOWAS Chairman Alassane Ouattara traveled to Berlin last week to ask for more assistance. He met with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose support for the French effort has so far been limited to providing two transport aircraft. Ouattara remained polite, but sitting in front of his country’s flag in a suite at the Hotel Adlon, he told SPIEGEL: “Germany must become involved, and that includes sending troops.”

Ouattara, of course, sought to dispel German fears that Mali could turn into another Afghanistan, an endless mission with many casualties and little progress, saying: “I see no parallels.” Radical Islam has no support among the population of Mali, he said. “There is only a small number of terrorists in Mali, and most of them are foreigners.”

Ouattara also pointed out that there is no country in the region that secretly supports the fanatics, as in the case of Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. But most of all, Ouattara argued, it would be a disaster if the allies failed to defeat the terrorists. Germany’s security, he noted, is also at stake in the Sahara.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Courtesy: Spiegel Online International

@Femiolas

 
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Posted by on Jan 21, 2013 in Politics, Thoughts

 

Obafemi Awolowo and Chinua Achebe’s Tale of Fantasy – By Femi Fani-Kayode

I am a historian and I have always believed that if we want to talk history we must be dispassionate, objective and factual. We must take the emotion out of it and we must always tell the truth. The worst thing that anyone can do is to try to re-write history and indulge in historical revisionism. This is especially so when the person is a revered figure and a literary icon. Sadly it is in the light of such historical revisionism that I view Professor Chinua Achebe’s assertion (which is reflected in his latest and highly celebrated book titled ”There Was A Country”) that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late and much loved Leader of the Yoruba, was responsible for the genocide that the Igbo suffered during the civil war.

This claim is not only false but is also, frankly speaking, utterly absurd. Not only is Professor Achebe indulging in perfidy, not only is he being utterly dishonest and disingenuous but he is also turning history upside down and indulging in what I would describe as ethnic chauvinism.

I am one of those that has always had tremendous sympathy for the Igbo cause during the civil war. I am also an admirer of Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who stood up for his people when it mattered the most and when they were being slaughtered by rampaging mobs in the northern part of our country. At least 100,000 Igbos were killed in those northern pogroms which took place before the civil war and which indeed led directly to it. This was not only an outrage but it was also a tragedy of monumental proportions.Yet we must not allow our emotion or our sympathy for the suffering of the Igbo at the hands of northern mobs before the war started to becloud our sense of reasoning as regards what actually happened during the prosecution of the war itself. It is important to set the record straight and not to be selective in our application and recollection of the facts when considering what actually led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Igbo women, children and civilians during that war. And, unlike others, I do not deny the fact that hundreds of thousands were starved to death as a consequence of the blockade that was imposed on Biafra by the Nigerian Federal Government. To deny that this actually happened would be a lie. It is a historical fact. Again I do not deny the fact that Awolowo publicly defended the blockade and indeed told the world that it was perfectly legitimate for any government to impose such a blockade on the territory of their enemies in times of war.

Awolowo said it, this is a matter of historical record and he was qouted in a number of British newspapers as having said so at the time.  Yet he spoke nothing but the truth. And  whether anyone likes to hear it or not, he was absolutely right in what he said. Let me give you an example. During the Second World War a blockade was imposed on Germany, Japan and Italy by the Allied Forces and this was very effective. It weakened the Axis powers considerably and this was one of the reasons the war ended at the time that it did. If there had been no blockade, the Second World War would have gone on for a considerably longer time. In the case of the Nigerian civil war though, the story did not stop at the fact that a blockade was imposed by the Federal Government which led to the suffering, starvation, pain, death and hardship of the civilian Igbo population or that Awolowo defended it. That is only half the story.

There was a lot more to it and the fact that Achebe and most of our Igbo brothers and sisters always conveniently forget to mention the other half of the story is something that causes some of us from outside Igboland considerable concern and never ceases to amaze us. The bitter truth is that if anyone is to be blamed for the hundreds of thousands of Igbos that died from starvation during the civil war, it was not Chief Awolowo or even General Yakubu Gowon but rather it was Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu himself. I say this because it is a matter of public record and a historical fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria made a very generous offer to Ojukwu and the Biafrans to open a road corridor for food to be ferried to the Igbos and to lessen the suffering of their civilian population. This was as a consequence of a deal that was brokered by the international community who were concerned about the suffering of the igbo civilian population and the death and hardship that the blockade was causing them. Unfortunately Ojukwu turned this down flatly and instead insisted that the food should be flown into Biafra by air in the dead of the night. This was unacceptable to the Federal Government because it meant that the Biafrans could, and indeed would, have used such night flights to smuggle badly needed arms and ammunition into their country for usage by their soldiers. That was where the problem came from and that was the issue. Quite apart from that Ojukwu found it expedient and convenient to allow his people to starve to death and to broadcast it on television screens all over the world in order to attract sympathy for the Igbo cause and for propaganda purposes. And this worked beautifully for him.

Ambassador Ralph Uweche, who was the Special Envoy to France for the Biafran Government during the civil war and who is the leader of Ohaeneze, the leading igbo political and socio-cultural organisation today, attested to this in his excellent book titled ”Reflections On The Nigerian Civil War”. That book was factual and honest and I would urge people like Achebe to go and read it well. The self-serving role of Ojukwu and many of the Biafran intelligensia and elites and their insensitivity to the suffering of their own people during the course of the war was well enunciated in that book. The fact of the matter is that the starvation and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Igbo men, women and children during the civil war was seen and used as a convenient tool of propaganda by Ojukwu and that is precisely why he rejected the offer of a food corridor by the Nigerian Government. When those that belong to the post civil war generation of the Igbo are wondering who was responsible for the genocide and mass starvation of their forefathers during the war they must firstly look within themselves and point their fingers at their own past leaders and certainly not Awolowo or Gowon. The person that was solely responsible for that suffering, for that starvation and for those slow and painful deaths was none other than Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the leader of Biafra, himself.

I have written many good things about Ojukwu on many occassions in the past and I stand by every word that I have ever said or written about him. In my view he was a man of courage and immense fortitude, he stood against the mass murder of his people in the north and he brought them home and created a safe haven for them in the east. For him, and indeed the whole of Biafra, the war was an attempt to exercise their legitimate right of self-determination and leave Nigeria due to the atrocities that they had been subjected to in the north. I cannot blame him or his people for that and frankly I have always admired his stand. However he was not infallible and he also made some terrible mistakes, just as all great leaders do from time to time. The fact that he rejected the Nigerian Federal Government’s offer of a food corridor was one of those terrible mistakes and this cost him and his people dearly. Professor Chinua Achebe surely ought to have reflected that in his book as well.

When it comes to the Nigerian civil war there were no villains or angels. During that brutal conflict no less than two million Nigerians and Biafrans died and the Yoruba who, unlike others, did not ever discriminate or attack any non-Yoruba that lived in their territory before the civil war or carry out any coups or attempted coups, suffered at every point as well. For example prominent Yoruba sons and daughters were killed on the night of the first Igbo coup of January 1966 and again in the northern ”revenge” coup of July 1966. Many of our people were also killed in the north before the outbreak of the civil war and again in the Mid-west and the east during the course and prosecution of the war itself. It was indeed the predominantly Yoruba Third Marine Commando, under the command of General Benjamin Adekunle (the ”Black Scorpion”) and later General Olusegun Obasanjo, that not only liberated the Mid-west and drove the Biafrans out of there but they also marched into Igboland itself, occupied it, defeated the Biafran Army in battle, captured all their major towns and forced the Igbo to surrender. Third Marine Commando was made up of Yoruba soldiers and I can say without any fear of contradiction that we the Yoruba therefore paid a terrible and heavy price as well during the war because many of our boys were killed on the war front by the Biafrans.

The sacrifice of these proud sons of the South-west that died in the battle to keep Nigeria one must not be belittled, mocked or ignored. Clearly it was not only the Igbo that suffered during the civil war. Neither does it auger well for the unity of our nation for Achebe and the igbo intelligentsia that are hailing his self-serving book to cast aspertions on the character, role and noble intentions of the late and revered Leader of the Yoruba, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, during the civil war.

The man may have made one or two mistakes in the past, like every other great leader. And of course, there was a deep and bitter political division in Yorubaland itself just before the civil war started and throughout the early ’60′s. Yet by no stretch of the imagination can Awolowo be described as an Igbo-hating genocidal maniac and he most certainly did not delight in the starvation of millions of Igbo men, women and children as Achebe has tried to suggest.

My advice to this respected author is that he should leave Chief Awolowo alone and allow him to continue to rest in peace. This subtle attempt to denigrate the Yoruba and their past leaders, to place a question mark on their noble and selfless role in the war and to belittle their efforts and sacrifice to keep Nigeria together as one will always be vigorously resisted by those of us that have the good fortune of still being alive and who are aware of the facts. We will not remain silent and allow anyone, no matter how respected or revered, to re-write history.

Simply put, by writing this book and making some of these baseless and nonsensical assertions, Achebe was simply indulging in the greatest mendacity of Nigerian modern history and his crude distortion of the facts has no basis in reality or rationality. We must not mistake fiction and story telling for historical fact. The two are completely different. The truth is that Professor Chinua Achebe owes the Awolowo family and the Yoruba people a big apology for his tale of pure fantasy.

 

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Chinua Achebe, Africa and the Peril of Monologue (Part 2) By Tunji Ariyomo

In the first part of this essay, I examined how what I called monologue has become a powerful weapon and instrument for conveniently disguising or altering historical narratives and how it has been extensively used in Africa especially by despots and their lieutenants as well as hundreds of African tribes and ethnic nationalities with the goal of altering historical perspective. I also indicated that one of African’s iconic writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, generously employed this in his retelling of the Biafran account in his memoir “There was a country”.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote that “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.”

What Achebe penned partly violently disagrees with what actually happened thus reinforcing the assertion that he was merely deploying the power of monologue as part of a convenient history retell in loyal service to his tribe. Herbert Samuel Macaulay from Isale Eko (part of Western Region of Nigeria) and the grandson of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (originally from Osogun in present Oyo State), it was who crystallized events in his days that fermented into concepts and ideals that later energized other future nationalists that an independent and united Nigerian state was feasible. He actually led the first pan-Nigerian struggles favouring Nigerians being in charge of governance, which later culminated into the struggle for the independence of a united Nigeria. Twice the British jailed him as a direct result of his activities, which placed him in confrontation with the colonial power at that time. Before Macaulay, Nigerians’ aspirations were mostly along ethnic and tribal lines. Macaulay took his initiative beyond mere ideals by forming the first political party in Nigeria in 1923, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), which was recognized by the Clifford Constitution of 1922. By the time Azikiwe was born in Zungeru in 1904, Herbert Macaulay was already 40 years and 2 days old while his legendary exploits against the British was already well established. It can be comfortably said that Macaulay inspired the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe (who would later play very critical role) and other nationalists at that time. This is what agrees with history.

James S. Coleman, in his scholarly work published in 1958 titled “Nigeria: Background to Nationalism” acknowledged the pioneer role of Macaulay and that he was the dominant personality and the bane of the British indirect rule. According to Coleman, Nigerians regarded Macaulay as a great nationalist crusader and the father of Nigerian nationalism at that time. Some of those interviewed by Coleman for his work were Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. If Azikiwe did not dispute the superior and preeminence of this Yoruba man in the nationalistic struggles for Nigeria in his days, how would Achebe’s 2012 A.D narrative, which presented the contrary pass credibility test? Achebe was not born until 7 years after Macaulay had formed the first national political party that laid the foundation for future self-rule. So effective was Macaulay that he was the bête noire of the British’s indirect rule. They disliked him so much for his role that they happened upon him jail convictions to arrest his strides.

By his statement, Achebe overlooked the roles of nationalists like Dr. J. C Vaughan (Yoruba), Ayo Williams (Yoruba) and Ernest Ikoli (Ijaw) who inaugurated the Union of Young Nigerians with the goal of galvanizing the interest of Nigerian youths in national affairs in 1923 and later sought to take the quest beyond Macaulay and Dr. John Ran Randle or the role of people like Dr. C. C. Adeniyi-Jones or that of Ladipo Solanke from Abeokuta who founded what would later be known as the West African Students’ Union (WASU) in 1924 which until 1945 remained the principal social and political centre for galvanizing Nigerian students in the United Kingdom (all identified in Coleman’s work) towards national awakening and a possible Nigerian nationhood.

Having extensively addressed the role of chronology and pre-eminence that showed that other Nigerian regions were involved and could even be said to be ahead in championing the ideals for an independent Nigeria, the role of Nnamdi Azikiwe was equally central, critical and it is not the intention of this writer to play down his significance. Azikiwe was to later join and serve under the aging Macaulay when they formed the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. The explanation provided inter alia was meant to present the facts of history in their undiluted form in order for Nigerians to be able to situate them in context and side by side with the Achebe 2012 narratives.

Other facts of history that will pass credibility test and which would directly dispute Achebe’s claims are the roles of other nationalists like the late Anthony Enahoro (from the then Western region) who successfully moved the historic first motion for the independence of one united Nigeria as part of the Action Group (AG) agenda in parliament in February 1953. The AG leader was another personality from the Western Region named Obafemi Awolowo. After Enahoro succeeded in moving the motion and it was tabled for debate in parliament, Northern delegates in the Federal House of Representatives rejected the 1956 date and moved an amendment that would lead to independence for Nigeria when applicable (i.e., without a date). Thus AG’s motion was defeated by majority vote of northern members (Whiteman, 2011) under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello because they were opposed to self-rule at the time. This bold historic action by a party led by Western Region rising stars was not in vain as it cemented their place in history as frontline leaders of the quest for independence and succeeded, as noted by Whiteman (2011), in pressurizing “the British into political advance, and shook the north into accepting a faster pace towards independence”. It must be quickly added that the NCNC founded by Macaulay which was then under the leadership of Azikiwe, following the former’s death, was wholly involved and actively supported the effort of the Western Region-led quest for independence and joined the Action Group in staging a walk-out in protest of the action of northern delegates. These are facts of history relating to the roles of leaders of the various regions and not a tale.

Another part of Achebe’s memoir where he employed what I have described as monologue is his account of the role of Obafemi Awolowo in the prosecution of the civil war. This is contained on Page 233 of the Achebe’s memoir. Using a combination of carefully constructed suggestio falsi with embellished hearsays, Achebe challenged history and attempted to substitute his opinion as a fact. This is the portion that panders most to ethnic solidarity and that has now cemented Achebe’s place as a champion of the Igbo cause since it resonates with millions of young Igbos. Dwight Eisenhower said that “the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions” ― just hang unto it the entire fault! Of course “excuses changes nothing, it would only but make everyone feel better” – Mason Cooley.

It must be stated that within the context of that time and now, the idea that Awolowo would seek to exterminate the Igbos as a way to secure political advancement is most incongruous. The Northern part of Nigeria had a majority advantage politically. This was still a relevant fact in 1967 and it is still a relevant political fact in 2012. Exterminating the Igbos would only turn the South West into a minority region as the North would then be an absolute majority.

On the direct allegation of starvation, the fact of history shows that as federal commissioner of finance, following the lingering war and the state of finances of the nation, Awolowo visited the warfront only to discover that the food meant for the war-ravaged Eastern region never got to the Igbo people. He saw many starving children and women while it was discovered that Biafran soldiers seized the food meant for the people. As Awolowo re-stated in 1983 in Abeokuta, this led to the decision of the federal government to prevent airlifting of food to Biafran soldiers – opting instead for supplies through land in manners that would enable the Red Cross coordinate delivery of food to civilians while enabling the federal government to be sure that what would be delivered were indeed food and medicine and not arms. Up till that time, Biafran forces, for which Achebe then served as a roving ambassador, orchestrated the most infernal and villainous wartime crime that saw the soldiers diverting aid food supplied by the International Red Cross from the target civilian population to rebel fighters thereby starving to death the civilian population.

This is the account corroborated by active participants on the Biafran side such as Ambassador Ralph Uwechue who facilitated French support for Biafra and Robert S. Goldstein, who served as Public Relations Representative of Biafra in the United States. The discovery of this crime in fact was chiefly responsible for Goldstein’s angry resignation. Earlier, Goldstein was principally responsible for petitioning the US State Department, which resulted in more food, medicine and milk being sent to the “only available ports open for immediate shipment to ‘Biafra’ via land routes through Federal and Biafra territory, under the auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross among others”. His annoyance resulted from Ojukwu’s rejection of these food items and his insistence that food could only be “acceptable until there was a complete ceasefire, and that an airlift was the only solution to feed the starving”. Tagging it an inconceivable act, Goldstein further stated that “It is inconceivable to me that you (Ojukwu) would stop the feeding of thousands of your countrymen (under auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross, World Council of Churches and many more) via a land corridor which is the only practical way to bring in food to help at this time. It is inconceivable to me that men of good faith would try to twist world opinion in such a manner as to deceive people into believing that the starvation and hunger that is consuming ‘Biafra’ is a plot of Britain, Nigeria and others to commit genocide.)” – From Goldstein’s letter of resignation, published in the Morning Post, Lagos, August 17, 1968.

It must be noted that as history clearly recorded the facts of those horrific years, before the invented Awolowo’s anti-Igbo policy as expressed by Achebe in his memoir, Biafran children and women were already starving to death. A non-monologue narrative would acknowledge who was responsible for that. This is the clear difference between the position of Ambassador Ralph Uwechue and Prof. Chinua Achebe. Such questions as raised by Achebe in his memoir which he claimed would be debated for generations on the security reasons behind Ojukwu’s rejection of Nigeria’s federal government’s proposal for a road corridor had been eternally settled by Goldstein. The federal government would not be responsible for the handling of food meant for the Biafran territory. The International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches already took up that responsibility! This erased the possibility of food being poisoned by the federal government. Hence, the real motive for the rejection of the road corridor proposal was because Ojukwu needed the starving children as primary driver of world sympathy as documented by Goldstein in his resignation letter.

On the allegation that Awolowo deliberately devised a diabolical plan to reduce the numbers of his enemies, Achebe was only hammering home a conclusion based upon the shuffled premises he has established.

To further examine the issues in the context of that time, it is good to briefly touch the rivalries that culminated in possible enmity. In terms of political power, the Northern Region under Ahmadu Bello and ably supported by Azikiwe was the dominant obstacle to Awolowo’s legitimate quest for the leadership of Nigeria. Awolowo had brought to the scene a vivacious political energy and unprecedented organizational capacity that was premised upon a philosophy that made proper education of each member of the voting public a prerequisite to nation building and the abiding need for would be leaders to convince the voting masses rather than defaulting to feudalistic hegemony that commanded followership as a matter of hereditary right or social status. Because of his belief in a united Nigeria, he actively made forays into several other regions in search of potential believers in his political ideology. Awolowo even made frantic overtures to Azikiwe so that both could form the first government in 1960. Azikiwe rejected the opportunity and that marked the descent of the new nation into an abyss it has found difficult to recover from. Granted that the NCNC led by Azikiwe at the time ultimately colluded with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to sponsor division in the Western Region, it was first and foremost a schism orchestrated by the NPC. Facts of Nigerian history confirmed that Azikiwe-led NCNC teamed up with the NPC under Ahmadu Bello to undermine Awolowo’s leadership in the Western Region and eventually had Awolowo jailed. That was the first blood.

Interestingly, as Achebe launched his anti-Awolowo attacks, he was full of praise for his kinsman, Nigeria’s first ceremonial President, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, who he described as the father of African independence. “The father of African independence was Nnamdi Azikiwe” (page 41) “There is no question at all about that. Azikiwe, fondly referred to by his admirers as “Zik,” was the preeminent political figure of my youth and a man who was endowed with the political pan-Africanist vision”. This effusive praise was showered by Achebe upon Azikiwe despite the latter being on record as having been part and parcel of the federal government’s apparatus that worked to undermine Achebe’s Biafran dream at the time.

Achebe’s thought on Chief Obafemi Awolowo evident concealed hatred and envy. He was willing to deploy his powerful prose in sidestepping historical facts if only to posthumously indict Awolowo and rubbish his reputation hence his readiness to cast him out of context. Get it right. Achebe is an iconic writer. He like all others who witnessed the horror of the war has the right to express their opinion on the civil war. As an elder statesman however, who has had the opportunity of years behind him to reflect on facts of that era and the various revelations by the dramatis personae as well as the mighty significance of stories to the emergence and progression of human dynamics, neighborliness and unity, his expression of his opinion would be expected to be guided by the facts of that history in order not to lend his powerful voice to the propagation of untruths that could further stoke enmity and prepare ground for future pogroms.

Despite the recast of Awolowo as desiring to cause his Yoruba people to dominate the Igbos, as attempted by Achebe, after the war, Awolowo’s Yoruba people ensured that the properties of the Igbos in the South West region never remained abandoned properties. The policies they put in place in Lagos ensured that even if the government were to seize such properties as a punitive measure against leading members of the rebellion, government would fail. Ojukwu himself later exploited this in claiming his father’s estate in Lagos when the successor government tried to take those properties. Other states like Rivers frustrated the Igbos. Today, the Yoruba Region of Nigeria remains one of the safest places for the Igbos, rivaled only perhaps by the South East Region while it does appear that the Igbos and the Yorubas intermarry more than they do with their brothers and sisters from the Northern part of the country.

It is logical to look back and imagine what the fatality of that war could have been had Awolowo not intervene by ensuring that enemy soldiers were not being fed at the expense of the starving folks of the Eastern Region. It is also important to note that Ojukwu, the supreme figure of the Biafran resistance gave Awolowo that unique epithet after the latter’s death ‘The greatest President Nigeria never had” as well as acknowledging him as “one of the most principled leaders he had ever met”. I postulated as a teenager that the reason Ojukwu did that was his guilt from missing a unique opportunity to partner with a forthright and honest Nigerian – a foe without malice – who if he told you it was one o clock, you would never need to check your watch.

The iconic poet, Odia Ofeimun, in a television interview confirmed one thing my father told me, whenever a man takes Awolowo on, if you conduct an independent research, you are most likely to discover that Awolowo was right and that man in the wrong. If our icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe had put Awolowo’s contribution into context and his memoir devoid of envy and tribal solidarity – the part that deals with the person of Awolowo and the Yoruba people would have read differently. Storytelling or tale bearing is easy because the writer is only limited by the extent of his own imagination. Writing histories is however difficult because of the need to keep within the facts of time.

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Chinua Achebe, Africa and the Peril of Monologue (Part 1) – By Tunji Ariyomo

I grew up taking for granted the veracity of the account of what has been described as the most heinous crime committed against Africans by Europeans. Slavery. Until my father confronted me with hard questions wanting to know whether I had ever read of European invasions of Isikan, Akure, Iwo or Popo in raids for slaves, I never considered the possibility of a different narrative – that our famed slavery story could be slightly at variance with the entire truth of history. As I later discovered – powerful African kings and intolerant leaders of those days raided neighbours’ homes, sacked towns and villages and took fellow Africans as slaves – after which their European business partners involved in slave trade bought those slaves from them. I found out that recalcitrant opposition leaders and conquered enemies in ancient Africa were potential candidates for slavery. Those despotic kings saw slavery as an opportunity to acquire riches as well as permanently get rid of opponents. But the well-known slavery accounts by Africans conveniently overlook or understate this part of the entire business preferring to accentuate the evils of Europeans while conveniently burying in the belly of time the gruesome evils of our forefathers. That is the African version, our monologue which places the entire blame on the ‘doormouth of Oyinbos’.

Monologue is a powerful weapon that can easily lend credence to apostrophic chronicles. It grants its wielder the uncanny ability to act in a way that assumes that he is the only one involved – the only sane person in that exclusive universe of knowledge. Monologue’s use is not restricted to individuals or to just story telling. With monologue in place, a government can – in the language of the streets – do and undo. From the struggle against the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) introduced by General Badamasi Babangida to the arguments advanced in June 2003 by the Nigerian’s federal government for increased fuel prices few days after a general election to the January 2012 removal of fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government and the well funded defences mounted by iconic Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, brilliant Lamido Sanusi and beautiful Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, the same trend run through – Nigerian leaders, like typical Africans, love monologues. With monologue established, whatever others say or think does not matter – they do not know, they are not technically proficient nor ‘do they see what we see from our vantage position as members of government’. When Christiane Amanpour in October 2012 looked President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea in the face and pointedly asked him if he did not think it was high time he abdicated his exalted democratic throne which he inherited in a military coup 33 years ago, he too rearranged himself on his seat, adjusted his voice and pointedly educated Amanpour that Western countries cannot understand African democracy! Catch him – he was using the power of monologue. In Mbasogo’s world, he and only he understood Africans’ understanding of African democracy.

From my primary school in Isikan to Aquinas College Akure, for every Yoruba friend I had on my street, I had two to four Igbo friends. We saw ourselves as people – not as Yoruba or Igbos. That was after the war. I learnt about the horror of the war from them, mostly accounts related to them by their parents, and a little bit more from my Yoruba friends whose parents were victims of the Ore encounter and the rest from my parents. When you combine what I learnt from them with other legendary tales from my father, at a very tender age, I became a moving encyclopedia on the why and why not of the war. From that tender age till we were old enough to ‘get scattered’ all over the world in pursuit of our destinies, there was never a single instance we learnt that the Igbos were being targeted for extermination in any Yoruba town or village in my country. My Igbo friends and I were always unanimous in condemning each incidence of ‘kill the Igbo’ that we heard about mostly from Northern Nigeria years after the civil war. Ambrose, one of the Igbo friends I grew up with in Isikan, once said the North was yet to end the war against the Igbos. My friends and I maintained a common ground because we were involved in a two-way discussion.

In October 2012, a book written by one of African’s legendary writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, titled “There Was a Country” generously employed monologue in his retelling of the pogrom that consumed Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 and for which many Nigerians and many more on the Biafran side lost their lives. It must be stated that the philosophy of the war was wrong. The essence of the war was wrong. The motivation for the war was wrong. The premise of the war against the Igbos was basically that of domination. The motivation was domination. The purpose was domination – to dominate the Igbos and prevent them from exercising their right to self-determination. The question then arises, why despite conceding that the Igbos had the inalienable right to self-determination would this writer suggest that one of Africa’s most famous authors generously employed monologue? This is because while the fact of the heinous and avoidable bloodshed is never in dispute, the retelling of the tale as brilliantly executed by Prof. Chinua Achebe, especially his attempt to locate culpability where he deems appropriate, is patently skewed against historical evidence and did not reflect roles allegedly played by the ‘culprits’ within context – a situation akin to employing convenient tactical amnesia. I will cite the two examples that have been identified.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.” As rightly noted by Monday Ateboh, despite the mighty significance of this weighty and damning assertion, Prof. Achebe did not did give any details regarding how and where the Northern and Yoruba leaders opposed the idea of a united Nigeria.

On Page 233 of the book, Achebe wrote “The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder. It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra war – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation — eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”

Why is it important to address the issues raised in the Achebe’s memoir? Principally because there is a need to place the monologue side by side with alternative narratives for prosperity. Also because of the stupendous power packed in the prose of Achebe that could legitimize his personal opinion and narrative nuances as unimpeachable facts of history. To underscore the significance of this, one only needs to examine the statement of leading British publisher Allen Lane on the Achebe’s memoir “There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid observation and considered research and reflection.” If reputable British outfits are already of the opinion that the memoir is a product of considered research and vivid imagination, then essentially, Prof. Achebe’s opinion is likely to be accorded the status of historical actuality if the rest of the world is unable to test the veracity of each damning or controversial claim.

The final part of this essay shall examine each of the earlier listed claims by this Africa’s iconic writer and situate each within the context of 1967 and 1970 as part of my contribution to knowledge.

 

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Local Government: A Sine Qua Non for National Development – By Femi Olabisi

The universal need for the establishment of the local government system in any polity is not controvertible. It appears to be a general agreement among nations that for grassroots development, the local government institution is the most veritable catalyst. The following are some of the essential justification of the local government system vis a vis its importance in the socio-political and economic development of a nation:

There are many social amenities which the central government alone cannot provide. Local government is needed for local initiatives in the mobilization of human and material resources for the provision of such amenities which they cannot provide for individually. Therefore, local government becomes a viable arena for the collectivity of people by pooling their resources together to provide for such amenities like roads, electricity, water supply, health centres, etc.

In the same vein, the central government is too remote from the local communities. The local communities are more familiar with their problems, thus it is through the local government institution that local initiatives can be galvanized to provide solutions to those problems.

Similarly, there are different people living in different communities with varying cultures, traditions and languages. Local government provides a good platform for the preservation of these cherished customs and traditions. In addition, local government provides the mechanism through which tension is reduced at the centre by spreading authority and power on geographical basis, and thereby disabusing the minds of the local people from the notion of being alienated

Of importance also is that local government provides the opportunity for local people to participate in the act of governance and provide leadership training in the use of power and the consequences in the abuse of power. More importantly, it inculcates in participants democratic culture and practices. The act of representative government derives from the local government. This is because it is usually made up of either elected or selected representatives of the people.

Local government equally provides criteria for measuring development in the society. This is because, in establishing local government, there are certain established standards or functions which are expected to be performed by local government institutions. The argument is that if all the local government units in a country meet up with these standards invariably, the country would have experienced development. Put differently, if all the 774 local government units in Nigeria have affordable and adequately equipped health centres, it translates that the whole of Nigeria is enjoying good health services.

Based on all the aggregates of the immense benefits derivable from the local government system, the institution has become to be regarded as a sine qua non for rural and national development.

Twitter: @ Femiolas

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Posted by on Oct 25, 2012 in Thoughts

 

Facts of Life!

FACTS OF LIFE:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is equal to 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Thus,

H+A+R+D+W+O+R+K = 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%,

K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E = 11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%,

L+O+V+E = 12+15+22+5 = 54%,

L+U+C+K = 12+21+3+11 = 47%

(None of them makes 100%).

Then, what makes 100%? Is it money, power, fame or what?  It is your ATTITUDE!

A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E = 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%.

In the final analysis, your ATTITUDE determines your ALTITUDE and movement to the Zenith of success.

 
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Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Thoughts

 
 
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