Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Omawumi: Wonder woman?

The intro for Omawumi’s debut album ‘Wonder woman’ was supposed to show off Omawumi’s humorous side but it did not really work; as the humour is not immediately obvious.

‘Ma fi mi shere’ feat Eldee is the first song. The vibrancy of Omawumi’s voice is comes through in this track. But, both beats and lyrics are a little too high tempoed. The song flitters by before it can be assimilated (yes, even after several replays). Eldee delivers his lines too fast, as if chasing the quick beat and his short verse is not enough to convey his usual dexterity.

Whatever misgivings the previous track might have caused were cured by ‘today na today’. This is definitely Omawumi at her very best. The beat is again high tempo, with a techno feel, but unlike in the previous track it works here, the lyrics really get to you. Heads are definitely going to bob to this one.

‘Love nwantinti’ may not appeal to teenagers, but the older generation will have a blast rocking to the highlife flavour. Omawumi’s vocals in this track sounds one somewhat like that of Nigeria’s old school Diva, the Late Nelly Uchendu, yes, she has that kind of voice.

‘Love it’ featuring Shank does not quit cut it, the tempo, fast and unfocused, drowns out Omawumi’s voice most times. Shank, known more for his hit dancehall single ‘julie’, did not bring the captivating flow he is popular for into this track. In all Omawumi’s strong voice is the only redeeming feature of this track, once again she showed she can sing very well, even in an average song.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nigerian girls should be mad!

In the last decade, since the Plantation Boys and Remedies before them began a revival of Nigerian music’s fortunes, Naija music has eclipsed Africa and is presently showing the world that Africa has got some groove. With YouTube views in the millions, brands such as P square, D’banj and Flavour have become household names and veritable representatives of Nigerian popular culture.

If music is the expression of a nation’s popular culture, whether adopted or not, one would expect the visuals that go with it to reflect that culture as well as the people that embody it, however, in Nigeria, this expectation doesn’t hold.

Close your eyes and call to mind popular Nigerian music videos of the moment. If you were true to yourself, you’d admit that these videos are very unfair to the Nigerian woman. Video after video, American copycat artiste name after another, all we see is the depiction of women as playthings, playthings that come with the money, the cars, the dope houses and the choice wines—a property that success acquires.
This disrespect of women jars the nerves and grates like mad. More so because most of the so called Nigerian feminists, ever ready to cuss a Nigerian man out on social media, pretend not to notice this constant demeaning of the sex they purport to represent—I don’t want to believe they are okay with this.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A good year to be a writer!

This is ending as a very good year for me as a writer.
First off, I finally got a publisher to take interest in my collection of short stories. The collection “Footsteps on the Hallway” will be published Jan-Feb 2013 by Melrose books Nigeria.
I was also able to attend the Farafina Trust Writers workshop on the third attempt and learnt so much from superb teachers.
Then there are two of my short stories appearing in two PAN-African anthologies, African Roar and AfroSF in Dec 2012.
I sure have come a long way and perhaps should start feeling like a writer. We’re moving on. J

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Aluu 4 and the state of our mind

I want to be numb, but my soul cries too loud for me to ignore. I am supposed to have grown accustomed to pain, but things happen that remind me that I am a man and that in the heart of man, pain has an abode, try as much as you can, you can never escape its grip.

As I type this, the voice of two promising young men cut down in their prime by the kind of unmitigated blood-lust that our country have come to identify with, booms out from my laptop speakers. Like voices from the grave, the young men cry out that there “ain’t no love in the heart of the city”. It is eerie, like prophesies of that kind are, especially when one considers that the boys had pleaded for their lives to flesh and blood men that refused to show them a little love, people that refused to spare their lives.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Achebe and the Igbo narrative: not a single story


“Shege Inyamirin, arne kawai!” the man screamed at me as I sprawled on the red earth, my 20 litre water container, which a few moments ago was balanced on my head as I hurried across the railway track, was not too far away. I looked from the container,  which jerked as it expelled the water I had just fetched from Isa Kaita’s Dutse Close home, to the snarling man that had just pushed me, wondering why my being Igbo merited that much callousness. I looked towards my father’s chemist shop a few metres away, more worried about what he would do if the container was broken than going back to the long queue of people waiting their turn at the tap Alhaji Isa Kaita (CBE) had graciously provided for the public inside His expansive compound. Yes, the man had pushed me, and beyond his expletives that can only be summarised as "Igbo infidel", he offered no explanation and people around did not ask. Surely, why he pushed me, hampered as I was by my large container, was a question that should have been asked, especially as I had not impeded him, or brushed against him. My crime was having tribal marking beside my eyes that identified me to be Igbo, an ethnic group that everyone not Igbo seemed to hate—at least that was what my young mind felt then.

The event above happened about two decades ago in Angwa Shanu, a town in Kaduna North LGA, Kaduna state. It was one of several instances where my siblings and me were singled out and abused because we are Igbo. I recall it here to buttress the point that the Igbo have not had it easy in post war Nigeria and that the hate for the Igbo runs deeper than many care to admit. However, we do not need anyone to admit anything, that we know this fact is what is important, to us that is.

Growing up, I can’t recall my father telling us to be cautious, or to deny our Igboness, but we knew the ability to survive in a society hostile to our kind is our only defence. So, we learnt Hausa, learnt to recite the more common Islamic creeds and learnt to deny our Igboness. To avoid the Igbo stigma, we became Southern Kaduna, Benue, Cross River, Bendel or any other grouping, but never Igbo if we could help it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Farafina Creative Writing Workshop Experience

It was my third application. I paused a while before I typed the address into my mailbox. Twice before, 2010 and 2011, I had answered the call for entries for the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop. On both occasions, I got an email informing me that though I made the long list of thirty five, I unfortunately didn’t make into the final list of fifteen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What you don’t know about me

My earliest memories were of landscapes, or put in a better perspective, hillscapes: beautiful scenery of hills and valleys; the freshest green foliage infused with flowers of diverse make amongst the tallest palm trees imaginable, all swaying gently or violently, as the elements will have it, in a land that could rival any ever seen by man.

Both my maternal home and my father’s hometown are situated in the hills of Anike. While my ancestral home sits atop a windswept plateau, my maternal home was situated in a valley—my use of the word ‘was’ is acceptable here because as a result of the tragic influence of modernity, the people of my maternal homeland have moved en masse to a barren hill a few miles from the land that was their ancestors abode. Their new abode’s only importance is the fact that an asphalt road dissects its white soiled length.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The North burns: can we talk about us?

Once again, like uncountable times in the past, the north is in the throes of ethno-religious crisis. As usual, the security agencies are caught napping and aside from accusations of complicity in the crisis, seem to be all thumbs, with little or no idea of how to handle the situation – besides their age-old ‘shoot on sight’ solution that is.

In a previous article, written some years ago, I dwelled on the nature of the north and after examining the numerous crises I witnessed and luckily escaped while living in the north, concluded that ethno-religious crisis and the north of Nigeria are Siamese twins that may forever remain conjoined, unless the drastic is done.

I warned then that the north would blow up again way before the Boko Haram clash and the first Jos affair. My forecast was not based on any form of prescience, but as a result of a brief study of ethno-religious clashes in the north.

In the north of Nigeria, from Jos and beyond, the truth about Ethno-religious crisis is not if it would occur, but when it will occur, again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Of Heroes, Villains, and dollar baits (1)

Superman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I grew up with comic books. I discovered comics in primary two or three. I can’t quite recall, but I think Voltron, Super Ted and other TV cartoon shows played a large part. Anyway, I discovered comics and life was never the same again. While my friends outgrew the habit I kept at it and still find it difficult to turn down the chance to read a comic book today.

Anyone who have ever held a comic book , especially the variety that made DC and Marvel household names, the sort that gifted us Superman, Batman, Spiderman and all the others whatever-mans, would be conversant with one thing: comic books are about the battle of evil and good. There are good guys, bad guys and some who appear to saddle the line between both worlds. In the world of comic books, called universe, the good guys are called Super Heroes and the bad guys are called Super Villains. The Heroes usually do not associate with the Villains and even when they do, it’s usually for the greater good.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Holding a Nation to Ransom

As has become customary, the murderous Islamist group, Boko Haram, attacked three churches in Kaduna state on Sunday, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Also, in what is becoming a saddening routine, youth affiliated to the Christian faith carried out reprisal attacks on nearby mosques and many innocent Muslims got caught up in the ensuing violence.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Death And A Mourning Nation

Before that Dana plane crashed into a tenement building in Iju-Ishaga suburb of Lagos, Nigerians died in the hundreds every day. They died on the road, victims of bad roads or the highwayman’s bullet. They died in their homes, bodies riddled with bullets fired by armed robbers. They died in churches and mosques, victims of those who say evil deeds can be used to achieve godliness. They died across Nigeria, untimely and unpleasant deaths, victims of a government’s insistence on continuing paying lip service to progressive social development.
While some of these untimely taken belong to the class people have come to believe are elites, the larger percent are masses, the new age commoners, without renown beyond their immediate environment, these ones are not mourned by the nation. No media adverts extol their qualities, no social media buzz is generated around their pictures, no websites are created to tell about their lives and the deep pain their passing wrought on those they left behind. Nothing is heard of them other than the wailing of relatives and friends, and that too is soon muted as the world winds on. While the government habitually gives last warnings to those who kill the masses and promise to fix the roads that mangle their flesh and suck their blood, the dead are buried, sometimes in mass graves, their deaths in vain still, unknown in life, silent in death.
However, these are the nameless dead, the ones without keys to the fabled rainbow’s end. Their fate is not for those who could zip around in airplanes. For these ones, the passing is loud, with a nationwide call to tears.
It is common street knowledge that planes are not for the poor, even those who eat three solid meals with meat to spare have nothing to do with it. For many of us, it is a privilege to travel from Lagos to Abuja on a plane. Why not, the cost of a one-way ticket is more than the national minimum wage. So it is a testament to the privilege and position of the victims of the Dana Air crash, at least those on the plane proper, that the buzz generated by their fate remains at giddying heights, or how else would fellow elites and wannabes mourn the passing of their peers?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Democracy: An African burden

English: The King of Swaziland Mswati III at t...
English: The King of Swaziland Mswati III at the reed dance festival 2006 where he will choose his next wife.. Deutsch: Der König von Swasiland Mswati III bei dem Reed Dance Festival 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uneasy, they say, lies the head that wears the crown. That adage, apt for a time when kings were a law unto themselves, when they had the power over life and death, still finds strong expression in this age.

These days, kings, except they are of Middle Eastern or Asian stock (let’s add Swaziland to the number), are largely without the powers to decide the fate of a nation. The powers that made them all-powerful in the past now reside with the commoners; or so it would seem.

Nations, having shed that feudal system that perpetuates the lordship of one family over the whole generation after generation, have now generally embraced the one that allows people to have a say on who rules over them. People now have the liberty to put their views to vote and the purview to remove a leader that is not working up to par—in an ideal scenario.  Democracy, the system of having a say in the selection of one’s leaders, in its ideal sense, is one that cannot be faulted.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A black Sunday in a Nation already in darkness

The first news of a suicide bomber attacking a church during Sunday service was not strange or overly surprising, not in a nation already used to bomb blasts and the attendant casualty rate.  The second news, of a plane ramming into a Lagos suburb, was more alarming and elicited more than the resigned “not again” that greeted the first. With social media abuzz, two things struck me: The plane crashed in Iju Agege and the proximity of my house from the scene.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The General, GEJ Voltrons and Hyperboles

I used to admire General Mohamadu Buhari a lot. In him, I saw an Incorruptible Nigerian, whom given the chance, could rid our country of its greatest challenge—corruption in high places.

My view of Buhari’s incorruptibility remains unchanged, but in view of his actions and inactions in the wake of the crisis that followed the April 2011 elections, I do not consider him qualified to air ideas about Nigeria’s snail paced crawl towards political and economic emancipation from the brigands that now hold her captive.

Buhari, I have said before, lost all rights to talk when elder statesmen are called upon, just as he has lost the goodwill that has ensured he returned time and time again to compete for that exalted but oft raped position of this nation’s president. While I still say that Buhari did not ask his supporters to take to the streets and slake their rage on innocent Nigerians, doing nothing to call them to order painted him in colours that are not so different from those he was seeking to oust.

Anyway, this post is not really about what the man did, or didn’t do, after the elections last year. This post is about what the man is doing now and what he intends to do come 2015. Buhari as he is wont, warmed his way back into national consciousness by declaring in no small words that come 2015, naija masses will revolt if INEC does not allow for free and fair elections. we go again, was my reaction when I saw reference to the statement on twitter, knowing the dams would soon burst and all hibernating GEJ Voltrons, as tweeps call them, would awake and be up in arms. My, my, was I right? Reno Omokiri, a young man most armchair activists like myself have come to expect the most uncouth behaviour possible in the course of defending his government pay cheque did not disappoint—kind of reminds one of pre-activist FFK’s brashness. Reno attacks on Buhari’s audacity to attack the hallowed PDP machine signalled other hibernating voltrons into action and the battle to ‘call Buhari to order’ was on in earnest.

While I think the PDP, and GEJ’s camp, are right to defend themselves if someone wrongly accuses them of wrong doing, in this instance they are absolutely wrong.

Why? Simple.

First: Because Buhari, though he might have accused them of rigging elections in the past, was only warning of the fall out of any attempt to rig the 2015 ballot. Second: Other, both highly and lowly placed, Nigerians have issued similar warnings in the past, and no one bothered to send out the verbal attack dogs.

I think GEJ is still missing the whole point of being president. He has to understand that as president he is number one and therefore the first target when things go wrong, and also the first when praises for things being done right are dished out.

Also, most of the technocrats drafted into government to help this unassuming man navigate foggy landscape of government-citizen relation are still dozing in the zombie days of military dictatorships, where any and every ‘his/her Excellency’ is sacred. Gaddem! This is a democracy, no matter how flawed, and people should be allowed to have opinions. I think it would serve GEJ and those who purport to speak for him to stick to the substance of opinions, not insinuations and hyperboles.

For PDP and its supporters: you may have ruled naija for the past 12 years, but you are not Nigeria and do not represent the masses. It is not given unto you to react to every statement from perceived political opponents as if you are Nigeria.

For Buhari: you lost your chance when it was clearly there for the taking. Go home, rest and advise younger protégées on how to take political opportunities. Also, talk smart, you are no longer in the army.

For the naija people: it is coming again, and we are losing ourselves once again to that sectional divide. When did Boko Haram stop being a PDP invention abeg? We need to wake up and smell the beans before it burns once again.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Roads; Our Death and a Nation Where Life is Cheap

It is almost impossible for anyone travelling between towns in Nigeria not to pass a recent road carnage. These carnages, usually auto accidents with fatalities, are becoming more commonplace in Nigeria and are exacerbated by the extremely low road maintenance culture that is synonymous with every government since the Gowon years. If you are in a mass transit bus; as you pass by the twisted chunks of metal and mangled body parts, you hear gasps of sorrow and shouts of ‘Jesus’, as fellow travellers call on higher powers to ensure they do  not meet the same fate.

We do not really understand what is at stake when one talks about death on and by our national highways. To make it clearer and perhaps bring it home, I will dwell on my own personal experience. This year is yet half way through but I have lost three people close to me to auto accidents in the three geographical zones of Nigeria. The first was my cousin, Eddy Oha, whose journey to Lagos from Akure where he resides with his wife and children was truncated at Ijebu Ode when the commercial bus he was travelling somersaulted severally. He died later that evening at the University of Ibadan teaching hospital—where little was done to save his life.

A few weeks ago, I learnt of the death of Adolphus, a cousin’s husband, in an auto accident as he was returning to his base in Malunfashi from a business trip to Kano. Another shock came on 28 April when the news of Kenechuckwu Igbo’s death via an Okada accident in Enugu reached me.

The above mentioned people represent numbers in the statistics for those lost to all manners of auto accidents. They are numbers on a sheet of paper to the government employee that will type them out by this year’s end, they are numbers to the head of the FRSC that will read them out to show whether safety on our roads have increased or decreased when 2012 is reviewed. To people who study the charts for thesis and whatnot, they are numbers on a page. Whether those who write them down or those who quote them remember that these numbers represent individuals, represent dreams untimely broken, represent tears and sorrow, is a guess that I do not think of dwelling on at this time.

Millions of Nigerians are travelling along our highways as you read this. Chances are that many, passing wreckages not yet removed or recent carnages, will have tales of near misses or other gory scenes witnessed in times past. They will wail and gnash teeth at the thought of lives lost, but soon minds are forced to less depressing thoughts, after all, the death of a stranger is not much of an incident—or so the old Igbo adage infers. However, chances are, in passing vehicle, or even the unfortunate ones, there is someone heading to the funeral of someone who died in an auto accident. To people like the fore mentioned, the scene just witnessed poses deeper meanings, for them the statistics represent loved ones, untimely taken, for them it is more than just a number.

For me, the statistics stopped being a number about three years ago when I lost my best friend to an auto accident in Kaduna. My friend, Chimezie Okieyi, survived an earlier accident in 2003, which kept him at in a ward at the orthopaedic hospital in Enugu for a year and maimed his left foot, but the second one took his life—here again the hospital were helpless.

Our hospitals, our death

Of the people we have buried in my ancestral village this year, the vast majority died as a result of accidents, deaths I feel could have been prevented in more ways than one.

To give a perspective, I will dwell a bit about my cousin’s death. Eddy Oha was involved in the auto accident at about 9 am on Tuesday the 31st of January 2012. As is the Nigerian experience, good Samaritans rushed him to a hospital, where nothing was done to save his life. It took calls on his phone for his friends to find out about his situation. His friends rushed from Akure to the hospital in Ijebu Ode to meet him lying on the floor with only a drip on him, still the hospital charged N25000 for that drip, a tranquiliser and the floor space he had occupied for about five hours before his friends got there and they were allowed to move him to another hospital. The debate of whether to take him to LUTH or University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital was quickly solved on account of Lagos’s perpetual traffic jam. All the hope of prompt attention expected for accident victims disappeared on getting to Ibadan where the hospital officials appeared more interested in documentation and payments than diving in an attempting to save a life. Eddy Oha, with broken legs but no external injuries, died at about five PM, two hours after arriving at the teaching hospital. In the two hours, he was there, only a drip was administered to him, while we ran around, queuing up to pay for this and that. I still believe that had instant medical attention being provided for him, my cousin would be alive today.

A few years ago, I witnessed an instance similar to the one that played out with my cousin when a fence collapsed on a woman in my then neighbourhood. We had rushed the woman to Ikeja General Hospital, thinking they would be better equipped to attempt saving her life. The woman was conscious, talking all through the episode, but it was obvious to all that she was in deep pain. We go to the hospital anxious and keyed for the type of haste we see in western movies in emergencies, only to be disappointed by the lackadaisical attitude of the hospital staff. We had to beg and plead before an attendant made the move to take the woman from the danfo bus we came in into the emergency ward. From there it was downhill. We were asked to go and register, pay for x-ray and whatnot. By the time we raised the money required (it was about 12 midnight) and the woman was wheeled into the x-ray room, she gave up the ghost, like my cousin, a victim of the careless attitude of our hospitals, from internal bleeding.
Our Commercial vehicle, moving coffins

How safe are our commercial vehicles? How sane are our drivers? How greedy are owners and operator of transport companies? How concerned is the government and it agencies?

These questions are very important if we ever hope to save lives on our highways. If we can find answers to why the people who are empowered by government to oversee the cars that ply our highways, fail to see dangers of improvised seats in commercial vehicles, then we are well on our way to abating premature deaths on our highways.

If no law exists to prohibit nonstandard seats in commercial vehicles in Nigeria, perhaps it is time to legislate on one. We all know how much research goes into designing cars, and how disastrous any alteration that goes against the design can be. People in other climes have claimed billions of dollars in damages from car companies because of defective parts. Here, we knowingly distort the design to create space for more passengers and make more money.

While the greed of the owners of commercial vehicles knows no bounds, the acquiescence of the security agents, who do little to secure the lives they are mandated to, should not be forgotten.

Why do we insist on having these little Toyota buses and van transport our people? We all know the bigger buses are safer and better. Is it not time we make them the transport vehicles of choice.

Our cars are death traps, our roads are death traps, our hospitals are no help, and the government looks on, mute to our spilled blood. Death, it appears, is our lot in our travels everyday—unless we have the means to fly.

That is our dilemma, our circles of inefficiencies kill our people, and no one cares enough to make a change.
I am all about change. We have to make a difference; we have to save lives, to force government to make the effort and accept that every Nigerian has the right for a chance at life. We have to question why almost everyone with internal bleeding, but without the means to go to a well-stocked private hospital, stands little chance of surviving at any government hospital. 

To do this, I say we put a name to the statistics as I have done above. If you have ever lost someone dear to an accident on a Nigerian road, please comment on this post and put a name to the number. We can change the attitude.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Before you 'kill' Zimmerman

There is no doubt of George Zimmerman’s guilt in the shooting that led to the death of Trayvon Martin, there however remains doubt as to whether the killing was in cold blood or an act of self defence. The trial that is ongoing is primarily expected to answer that question, at least beyond reasonable doubt.

Of the killing, Zimmerman says it was an act of desperate self-defence, against a boy he thought just a few years younger, an admission that many contest on grounds that he had a gun, and was more physically imposing that the unarmed youth he say he was fighting off. There is also that commonly held belief, within black America and elsewhere, that there is a racist undertone to Zimmerman’s action and the reaction of the police to the case afterwards. That Zimmerman insisted on going after the boy after the officer answering his 911 call indicated that he not do so, is a clear sign he racially profiled the boy and marked him as guilty of something, many contend.

Though Zimmerman and his backers say this is not the case, he couldn’t have profiled the kid that way, his background would not allow him do that—discriminate on grounds of colour—the doubt still rests heavily on his shoulders.

The whole argument on racial profiling seriously begs the question: what is racial profiling and how could that have led to the death of a boy that harmless and young?

Racial/tribal profiling exists in different forms in different places. Some are negative, other not so much so. In Nigeria, the belief that people from Warri have a high sense of humour, that the average Hausa man is honest to a fault, that the Igbo can do anything for money, that the Yoruba are cowards are some of the milder forms of racial profiling. The extra security that a green Nigerian passport or a Semitic appearance triggers in airports in the west is a more unsavoury form, at least for those on the receiving end.

For blacks in America, ethnic profiling of the negative kind is a reality and has existed for centuries in various forms. I read somewhere that the whites perceive the average black American as lazy. For a community that effectively raised America to its present status on the strength of their toil on the cotton fields, tobacco fields and countless other slave labour engagements, laziness should be the last thing that mention of them evokes. Nevertheless, there is that other one, the one that sees blacks as having a lower IQ than whites, one so well expressed by John Derbyshire is his viral article. Other unsavoury profiles, for both blacks and whites, do exist in the American society and they have for centuries and may well continue to for a long time to come.

No one can readily say when or how these negative profiling started or what their purposes are, but it is not farfetched to see in them the inherent mistrust man have for anything that looks or feels different. Perhaps, wanting to live apart from those of other races/tribes worked well in the past, but the world today is a global community. It is just not possible to be exclusive.

That said; one would not shy from arguing that the black American community have not exactly done much to dispel the negative profiles that have hung around it for decades, if not centuries. Unlike the white American community that tries hard to show it is a community of contrasts where you have the good and the bad, there seem to be an unconscious move by the blacks to cultivate the aggressive image, perhaps as a kind of defence mechanism after years of oppressive living under the whites. I really don’t know, just grasping at straws here, but the stereotype of the black American that is commonplace is that of highly strung individuals with ill repressed anger that is always threatening to blow up, with disastrous consequences.

While this description would in reality describe only a minute amount of people in the black community, the others chose to wear it as a garb, a kind of communal identity that only spells doom. I have heard mention of the nature of the American system and how it predisposes black to drop out of school and fail, how that is the cause of a higher percentage of them than whites in America’s prison system, how it makes it harder for them to find work. However, coming from where I am coming from, I say they, and only they, can make good no matter the situation. Well, that is my take, I know the debate of whether the system set black up to fail is still on and will continue for much longer.

Getting back to Zimmerman, if we are to agree with those insisting he racially profiled Trayvon Martin, then, we are agreeing that the common racial profiling of black Americans is negative. That being the case, Zimmerman, A neighbourhood watch volunteer (I think they operate in much the same way neighbourhood watches operate in Nigeria, with police as the authority and the volunteers referring cases to them), saw a black youth in a hoodie walking by a thought “crime”. He gave case, pulled his gun at some point and shot the youth dead, only it turned out the suspect was just an innocent boy out for some snacks.

Trayvon Martin is dead; nothing that happens now can change that fact. We have to keep in mind that black youths have been breaking into houses in that neighbourhood for some time before this incident, and that this might justify Zimmerman’s profiling, but does that change much? The boy is dead. In his death and in the death of thousands of people world over, we see further evidence of man’s inability to live with man without conflict, in his death lies the shame of our age.

In his death lie lessons for his community and everyone else. While incidents of history like this one may make it seem expedient to glorify the thug life, to see offense as a form of defense, we have to be wary that times have changed. The celebration of the criminal life, something sagging pants and a hoodie pulled over the eyes to hide the face at night tends to glorify, is not the way to go.

The world needs to take another look at the music stars that encourage the gangland lifestyle, who rap and talk about killing one another in glowing terms. Black America need to adopt more positive role models for their kids, they need to show them the many positive examples being set by the children of immigrant family, of which their president is one, who have taken the opportunities available and made good. They need to tell people like 50 Cents and Lil Wayne to stop being bad influences on their kids by mouthing negative lyrics, they need to learn to stay married and raise kids in decent homes. Most importantly, they need to stop complaining of white America’s ill treatment and take the immense opportunities their society offers.

For the zimmerman’s of this world, whatever reason caused him to kill the youth, the right to take a life is not yours, and “standing your ground” does not make it right when the person you are confronting is unarmed.
For the people angry and gunning for revenge, think about how many blacks were killed in black on black violence in America this week before you kill Zimmerman in your head.

Justice is from above.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Beyond the Outcry

Everyone that pays attention to the media, especially international media from the west, must have at this point in time heard about Trayvon Martin. If by chance you happen to have crawled under a rock in Mars for the last one month and thus missed the whole commotion, Trayvon Martin is the 17-year-old boy shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer.

If you don’t know about the details of the case, as many still don’t, you might not think much of a headline that says “boy killed by guard”. But why should you think different, News headlines are replete with such news stories anyway. 

However, the Trayvon Martin case is unique in more ways than one. Not only is the late Trayvon Martin a minor, he was unarmed and not partaking in anything illegal at the time he was fatally shot by Zimmerman. Sad, you might say, another young boy at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Yes, Trayvon Martin was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong time and place for a black youth to be in 21st century America. Wrong place to be, but right sort of place to get a bullet in the chest. A bullet fired by a white adult male who clearly outweighs him.

For those who have had the time in this dreary economic climate to follow the ruckus that emanated after the news sipped out that Mr. George Zimmerman, the killer of that innocent boy, was allowed to walk free after the fact, two truths ring clear: Zimmerman pulled the trigger of the gun that took the young boys life, the victim was armed with skittles and a cup of ice tea at the time of the shooting and was not doing anything untoward—except we follow George Zimmerman’s contention that the boy was walking aimlessly around the neighbourhood and agree with him that that constitutes a crime.

I feel profound sympathy for the family of the late Trayvon Martin and can only hope they find the strength to bear the loss, but the issue at hand is deeper than the death of a boy that made his parents proud.
I also feel sympathy for black Americans, who have had to contend with similar killings by high-handed and often times racially motivated white gunmen. I watch the news story and share the rage and confusion of those who ask that the boy’s killer face justice, not because I am of the same race with a majority of those I see carrying placards calling for justice, but because I never ever believed in extra-judicial killing by anyone.

As a Nigerian who has not personally experienced the blind racism that many allude to in the west, that one reads about, sees in movies and TV debates, I cannot claim to fully understand what it feels like to be discriminated against because of one’s colour. I know many say tribalism is similar, but I think it is only superficially so as one’s tribe cannot easily be decoded at first glance--one’s race is usually as clear as day.

However, as justified as my anger and that of millions around the world itching for justice is, I also know that getting justice for Trayvon Martin should not be the end of it. It is easy to march on the street and call for the arrest of one man, but forgetting that the arrest and possible imprisonment of one man does not change the situation on the ground that made his alleged crime possible. There is now greater need for people the world over to look at how we relate to ourselves. Should we continue hating because we don’t understand, or seek knowledge to make us better understand?

Across the world, people continue to hate more than they love, to kill more than they save and the destroy more than they build. Life, particularly human life is considered most sacred by religions world over. Yet, in this earth, man continues to see killing as a means of settling real and perceived disputes.

Trayvon Martin is just another notch on the pole that marks the billion untimely taken as a result of man’s resolve to take rather than give life to his kind and George Zimmerman, whether he pleads self-defence or not, broke the law of nature, he killed Trayvon Martin.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards 2012 launched to celebrate top business journalism on Africa

Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks business, today launched its annual Africa Business Reporting Awards for 2012.  The Awards, initiated by Diageo in 2004, recognise journalists and editors who provide high quality coverage of the business environment in Africa. Diageo believes that better and more accurate reporting plays a critical role in framing Africa’s economic prospects and challenges. It encourages greater interest in doing good business, which in turns creates the right environment for sustained prosperity on the continent.

Nick Blazquez, President, Diageo Africa, outlined the importance of the Awards:

“Business interest in Africa has clearly accelerated as the world focuses on the continent’s impressive growth prospects. As a company that operates right across Africa, we at Diageo understand the increasingly important role business journalism has in creating the right environment to operate successfully and to attract long-term investment. As I look back over the development of these Awards, I recognise a sizeable shift in the standards of business journalism and the increased efforts of the media both inside and outside of Africa to promote trade and enterprise on the continent. I take great pride that Diageo can celebrate these achievements and look forward to another year of outstanding contribution.”  

As the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards approach their tenth anniversary, Diageo is continually thinking about ways to evolve the Awards’ relevance, impact and reach. Diageo hopes to build on the success of previous years, welcoming entries from all media platforms and from all over Africa and beyond. This year, the New Media category has been removed as a separate category to reflect the ubiquity of multimedia use in modern news-telling. Submissions of pieces using new media are now encouraged across the board: all media, including blogs and other online material are eligible in every category.

The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, 28 June 2012 in central London. The closing date for entry is Friday, 23 March, 2012. Entries can be submitted online at: There is no entry fee.

The Categories

1.       Best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of the ICT sector in a thoughtful and engaging way.

2.       Best Finance feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of the finance/banking sector in a thoughtful and engaging way.

3.       Best Infrastructure feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of infrastructure (physical or otherwise) in a thoughtful and engaging way. Features addressing issues of energy and transport can enter this category.

4.       Best Agribusiness / Environment feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of agribusiness or environmental issues in a thoughtful and engaging way.

5.       Best Tourism feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of the tourism industry in a thoughtful and engaging way.

6.       Best Business News story
A news story or series of related stories delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that:
·            Addresses a breaking news story from the time period of the awards
·            Answers all basic questions in a clear and balanced fashion
·            Demonstrates journalistic flair – a style that is engaging, thought-provoking and   
         accessible to its audience
7.       Best Business feature
A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that:
·         Examines business or the economy in an African context
·         Provides useful and relevant background material for readers
·         Provides the bigger picture and importance to Africa, as well as specific issues it might be addressing
·         Brings the business and economy to life through examples and use of language, while answering the serious questions

8.       Best Newcomer
A portfolio of three features (can be across different platforms) by a journalist who has been working as a reporter for less than five years. Proof of first date of accreditation will be required.

9.       Media of the Year
A print publication, broadcast programme/channel, website or blog that is a comprehensive resource for its audience providing sustained coverage of Africa’s business and economic news, issues and analysis (sector-specific or otherwise).

10.   Journalist of the Year
A portfolio of three features (on any one or a mixture of media platforms) of no more than 5,000 words or 1 hour each. Submitted pieces can cover different topics, industries or people, or be part of a series of reportage.  Judges will be looking for features that reflect journalistic integrity and ethics and a true commitment to reporting that does not sensationalise stories or individuals.

For more information, visit or contact:

Alexandra Reza, Awards Secretary,, +44 (0) 207 087 3788

Ciara O’Keeffe, Corporate Relations, Diageo Africa,, +44 208 978 2876

About Diageo plc and Diageo Africa

Diageo is the world's leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, wines, and beer categories. Diageo is a global company, trading in more than 180 countries around the world. The company is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (DGE).

Diageo Africa is primarily a beer and spirits company whose brands are sold in more than 40 countries in Africa. Diageo has a long established presence in Africa with the first recorded exports of Guinness to Sierra Leone in 1827. Guinness is a truly pan-regional premium beer brand brewed in over 20 countries throughout the continent and is exported to many others. Diageo’s businesses also produce and sell a range of local beer brands including Tusker, Senator Keg, Premium Serengeti Lager, Meta, Harp and Bell. Diageo is also the leading premium spirits company in Africa, and its great brands include Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Baileys and Gilbeys gin.

Diageo Africa employs over 5,000 people accounting for one in four of Diageo’s workforce worldwide. In some key markets it has built its own in-market businesses with distribution access to trade channels, some of which have listings on local stock exchanges. In other markets, it will look to partner with a local business, through licensing brands or through third party distribution.  All of these companies have active community investment programmes, covering initiatives in water, farming and rural value chains, health, education and other areas of value to the communities in which they operate across Africa.

Diageo has recently published its report on its business approach in Africa. You can download it at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Nigerian Police and ineptitude

What comes to mind when you think about the Nigerian Police? Surely not smartly dressed law keepers, making sure the society’s wheels are oiled – well enough to see to the smooth running of things – and the protection of you and yours.

I will not be far from the truth if I state that the image that comes to the average Nigerian’s mind, following questions of this nature, is that of an AK47 toting, ill-fittingly-dressed bugger whose major objective is to collect illegal tolls from commercial drivers.

I will also not be incorrect if I go further to add that what comes to mind when you behold them during crisis is not a feeling of relief, but mind numbing fear that compels you to take off faster than the guilty party, or risk becoming a victim. Little wonder witnesses who would have been instrumental to solving cases seldom turn up when called to do so. Even when they do turn up, or are compelled to do so, accompanying tales of sordid experiences in police cells make it difficult for would be witnesses to toe their path.

These and other more horrifying images have for years remained the general perception of the police, and despite cosmetic attempts by the government and police authorities to change this, it has so far remained thus.

How did the police, an institution that in other climes exude perfection and is many a nation’s pride, get to the sorry state where it is being viewed with the same consternation one does a terrorist organisation? The answer, and consequently, the truth, is the fact that the police in Nigeria has never been a people-centric institution. From its early days as a colonial enforcer, the police have acted as an enemy of the people and a friend to the subjugating authorities.

The Nigerian Police has for years, whether institutionalised or not is a question for another day, maintained the image of brutality that have become synonymous with them by implementing very little attitudinal changes – beyond pasting the slogan “the police is your friend” on the walls of their offices, and cars.
They are more likely to shoot suspects in cold blood, than thoroughly investigate crimes – the present Boko Haram crisis is traceable to this heinous penchant. Even when they arrest suspects, they are apt to dump them in the nation’s equally pathetic prisons, where they add to the number of awaiting trial inmates whose cases stalls for months on account of missing or non-filed case files.

The rot in the Nigerian Police Force touches all strata of the institution. I am personally yet to meet a police officer who would not take a proffered bribe or demand for such. However, this is not to say that they do not exist, it only shows that they are very rare and the practice is in effect, a culture. Furthermore, the professionalism that one would expect is largely absent. Records are still being kept in old style file cabinets – in this age of info technology when seamless coordination is at the beck and call of even secondary school students.

However, the most visible evidence of the state the Nigerian Police Force, as well as the mindset of its leadership and rank and file, is exemplified by the state of their vehicles, which, after a few months of use, look nothing less than moving scraps. A situation that portrays a dearth of maintenance culture, especially when similar vehicles belonging to other security agencies, bought or donated at the same period, remain in prime condition.

The lack of entrenched professionalism in all cadres, unwillingness to adjust to present realities by the police authorities, and the consistent resort to the force attached to their name while dealing with the man on the street, makes the Nigerian Police ill equipped to deal with the realities of the day.

However, like in most problems that afflict the world we live in, there are solutions.

For starters, modernising the Nigerian Police Force; this can be achieved by connecting all police stations in Nigeria to the Internet and providing basic IT knowledge to the men.  This will go a long way in addressing the lack of coordination that result from the widespread use of archaic filing methods, which make it impossible to share information between stations at the click of a button.

Another thing that needs urgent and serious checking is the penchant for plain-clothes policemen to be indistinguishable from armed robbers, or how else would one describe men in shoddy tee-shirts and jeans, toting AK47’s?

That brings us to another salient point, manning the police with intelligent, dedicate officers. There are thousands of intelligent, dedicated and resourceful graduates currently walking the streets of Nigeria looking for any job to do; harnessing this ready manpower would go a long way in addressing many of the issues relating to image and intelligence.

I doubt, however, that the police, as presently constituted, is geared for change. If that hunch is infallible, then Nigerians have no option but continue existing in a society where their avowed protectors are already incapacitated by ineptitude.

Wrote this article last year for but thought to re-post here after the event described by the picture below culled from Sahara Reporters