Friday 31 October 2008

Nigeria: Free Jonathan Elendu Now!

Freedom still matters

I do not know if this campaign is still apt but there is still a clamour for freedom.

I have just read Jonathan Elendu’s report [1] of his ordeal at the hands of the state apparatus for unwarranted inconvenience where he was detained in solitary confinement for 7 days and eventually for 12 days in all.

He has been released and he has received medical attention and hopes to eventually get to see his medical doctor in the States.

All his property is still in the hands of the State Security Service such that he wrote his report from a borrowed computer.

A completely free man

He has not indicated whether his passport has been returned or not, though he is not in possession of his green card, but I am hopeful that that his situation would improve to the extent that he would become a completely free man, free of duress, free of menace, free to go about his activities and free to collect his property without suffering any further loss and free to return to his home base in the United States.

Most of all, Mr. Elendu believes he has a renewed calling to embark even more fervently on his journalistic career whilst expressing gratitude for the support that welled up for his release.

Freedom from undue harassment

His release is not complete and his freedom is not fully assured till he receives an undertaking not to be unduly harassed by the authorities, till they clearly explain why they were interested in him, and until they either charge him with an offence or offer a completely unreserved public apology for the ordeal he was put through.

The case for restitution and compensation can be made and should be pursued, if no charge is made; that power can be abused like this is unfortunate, atrocious and unconscionably repugnant, but I would not hold my breath for heads to roll or punishments to be meted out.

It remains a most fervent desire and cry - FREE JONATHAN ELENDU NOW!


[1] Elendu Reports - Thank You

Thursday 30 October 2008

Nigeria: Shamed back into hosting the Under-17 World Cup

Hosting it again

If I am to be impressed by the fact that Nigeria has now decided to host the Under-17 World Cup [1] next year, I am not by any stretch of the imagination.

Unfortunately, this is becoming reminiscent of what the Nigerian government now represents; the inability to recognise our responsibilities in a global context, the inability to persuade and align people for a common cause and the propensity to make rash decisions without considering the consequences.

As the Economist notes this week, the pace of government is so slow [2], it is no more a case of deliberate contemplation but inertia and one where it would appear the whole polity is completely bereft of ideas.

Out of sorts

It is becoming typical of people who are in power to abuse it rather than be in government to bring worthwhile change to the great country of Nigeria.

The more we review events in the country, we get to the point where it must have been a stern rebuke from the international community that lead to the U-turn – this body of people in rulership is seemingly out of sorts and out of its depth, it is terrifying.

I was taken aback when I spoke to one of my mentors in the weekend about this issue of the disgrace of shirking our responsibilities [3] of hosting the Under-17 World Cup – he opined that the decision was first of all short-sighted in the extreme and then offered that if the president had been a Southerner there would have been a better appreciation of how the reputation of Nigeria could have been damaged before announcing the pull out.

Collective sigh of disgust

Supposedly, we are all to breathe a collective sigh of relief that we are going to do our duty; but it does not take away from the avoidable and unnecessary shame that has already been visited upon us.

I also find it strange that at the point of cancellation the proposed cost was $30 million as reported then, but now it would be raised to $76 million though in the confusion surrounding the budget for hosting the games, the original cost would have been $314 million.

I find myself utterly cynical about this, not so much for the cost but that ever-present fact that a good deal of it would be absorbed in kick-backs, mobilisation fees and corrupt aggrandisement as bidding contractors have to grease palms to be offered contracts.

This huge budget would have many vested interests and shameless mendicant leeches already suffering the chronic effects of red-eyed dollar-sign conjunctivitis; it presents another opportunity to fleece Nigeria for personal gain.

Shame on you, Mr. President

This budget would be handled by the office of the Vice-President, as if the Minister of Sports does not know his brief {the buffoon has lost his job in a ministerial reshuffle} – it all appears the President is being tough, responsible, prudent and reasonable – I would be the first to suggest that nothing could be further from the truth.

I am appalled by their handling of this matter and hope that we do get to host these games eventually with some of our pride intact – meanwhile, the President and his team of cohorts should hold their heads in utter shame.


[1] BBC SPORT | Football | African | Nigeria in U-17 World Cup U-turn

[2] Nigeria's slow-moving president | Please hurry up | The Economist

[3] Nigeria: No money to host the Under-17 World Cup 2009 []

Nigeria: Jonathan Elendu Released


Our claims to responsible government [1] took a great hit this month when in the month that Nigeria celebrated her 48th independence anniversary a man on a visit to Nigeria to see his family got picked up at the airport [2] on arrival by the State Security Service and became a pawn of unjust harassment amongst state apparatchiks.

I have not been able to corroborate the news from other sources, but SolomonSydelle at Nigerian Curiosity has asserted that she has been in contact with Jonathan Elendu’s family and after being held in detention for 11 days without charge or arraignment, the man is now free [3].

For this I am glad, but not pleased at all about this saga.

The abuse of power

I think it is sickening and outrageous that anyone who suffers at the macabre hands of the rotten abuse of power in Nigeria should seek immediate medical treatment after release from custody and there are many who do for all sorts of reasons, the least of which is most definitely reprehensible.

We do not know if his freedom allows him to pursue his own activities or he is under caution and would be unable to return to his base in the United States.

We would not however relent in our pursuit of fairness and justice whilst seeking that those who have used the state apparatus as a tool of unwarranted menace be brought to book – the country cannot be run by buccaneering malevolents who are accountable to no one and answerable only to megalomaniacal urges.

Meanwhile, the campaign continues – Justice for Jonathan Elendu.


[1] Nigeria: Our claims to responsible government at independence 48 []

[2] Nigerian Curiosity: Nigerian Blogger Arrested!!!!

[3] Nigerian Curiosity: Exclusive: Blogger Jonathan Elendu Is Free!!!:

Monday 27 October 2008

A road runs through it

A birthday song

I called my father yesterday morning to wish him a happy 69th birthday and regretted the fact that I had not followed a musical career whereby I would have been able to sing a birthday song.

He humoured me by asking me to sing anyhow; whilst I do remember being a chorister many years ago and do have a baritone kind of singing voice, having never developed or practised the art, it could well be frogs croaking down the phone.

He was just getting prepared for church as it was harvest Sunday and he happened to be one of the convenors of the harvest.

At our adopted hometown, my father’s status derives from his selfless community work going back over 40 years rather than the ephemeral and gaudy show of wealth – time and again, he has been honoured for his service and I am greatly proud of him.

The road through

Talk then got to the matter of the building of a dual-carriage way which is to run through the centre of the village, this plan has been in the books for decades, it now appears it is coming to fruition.

I wondered about how a major road might affect the dynamic of our village, the paternal part of my family hails from the north of the road, the maternal part from the south, the cemetery and market are on the north, I would suppose the king’s palace is in the south.

One thing they did to reduce pedestrian traffic crossing what would be a busy road was to sink another borehole in the northern part of the village but I was not satisfied with that arrangement.

Bridges of safety

I felt that planning should have included at least one pedestrian bridge but my father said after speaking to the contractor what I considered a critical safety feature was not in the planning nor was it budgeted for.

I suppose that leeway accounting for safety had been consumed in the kickbacks that smoothed the allocation of the project to the winner of the contract.

I then recounted to my dad one occasion where I could not be bothered to do a 1.5-kilometre walk when it could be done by crossing an expressway and save me 1.1 kilometres under the Isolo Bridge on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

I heard a lot of shouting and warning sounds none of which I thought pertained to my crossing, I was blind-sided and oblivious to the fact that a car doing about 120 kilometres an hour was about to whiz past me and I was inches away from being splattered across the road like minced meat.

You could hear my father sigh and whisper a prayer, it brought home the point I was trying to make without going down the extreme of how if a burial were to take place in the north of the village from residents in the south.

The safety deficit in development

As I pressed home that point of the criticality of safety, especially when the road was still being built, my father interjected with the comment that it would not been considered and finished with the comment – Omo Oyinbo – (meaning white boy.)

It was not so much a derogatory statement as an acknowledgement of the difference of thinking we have always had for a long time, when many years ago he opined that I have always thought like a Westerner and more recently that I was never good at sport by a very good conversationalist.

On a more serious note it highlighted the trade-offs people were willing to make for development in developing countries; the implementation of grand projects without the considerations for adaptation, integration and safety for the persons the projects are to serve.

A big road would eventually run through my village, splitting it in half and maybe we should be the first to put speed bumps or traffic calming devices on a dual carriageway to slow drivers down for the sake of keeping the village folk from unnecessary sorrow.

Nigeria: Jonathan Elendu - Confusing Western naïveté for great danger

America does not translate elsewhere

Western naïveté and I use those two words with caution but despair, seems to becloud the ability of people to see the dangers when they leave the comforts of their Western existence to ply their liberality in other countries they might call home – I review two very similar cases.

A young woman who is writing her Master’s thesis on women’s rights is no big deal if you are in the United States, when the American-born lady has Iranian ancestry, it becomes interesting and her lecturers might even support her need to research these issues about the country of her ancestry.

It is however looking down the gaping mouth of the lion when she decides to conduct her research in Iran – this appears to be the fate of Esha Momeni [1], an Iranian-American who was arrested on the 15th of October for what was seemingly a traffic violation but is now in the notorious Evin Prison which houses Iranian dissidents and political prisoners.

Evidence we ignore

Esha Momeni would not have been oblivious of the incidents of the suspect incarceration of four Iranian-American citizens [2] for months last year who were in Iran for activities that should not have caused any issues in America but became an undue inconvenience that threatened their liberty and lives.

She might have been inspired by the work of Shirin Ebadi [3], the Nobel Peace Laureate 2003 whose high profile is probably the shield she has against harassment and the menace of the state security apparatus.

From afar or at risk

Ms. Momeni could easily have conducted her research by studying the works of the laureate from the United States and liaising with her to obtain more authoritative sources in Iran as part of a rigorous academic exercise but she had been schooled in the credibility complex that requires you be present with your sources of information or be considered less capable – In America, I would agree, but back in Iran, I think not.

A campaign is now being launched to free Esha Momeni as her friends clamour for justice in a way that they would not have had to gather if she were to have committed the traffic violation in America and the police had found recordings of her work in her car such that they would then go on to raid her home as they did in Iran. The billowing clouds of Western naïveté do sometimes becloud the realities of coming home.

Jonathan Elendu

Another fledgling campaign seems to be gathering moss for the release of Jonathan Elendu [4], an American resident and veritable source of information about corruption and the abuse of office in Nigeria through his Elendu Reports [5] website.

Some say he might even be a sponsor [6] of the more sensational SaharaReporters [7] website which publishes reports of egregious abuse and megalomania in Nigeria, some rather big toes [8] have been trampled upon and the offended are likely to be both cellophane-skinned and menacingly ready to claw out in retribution and revenge.

Remittances or money laundering

In America, Jonathan Elendu plies his trade without let or hindrance and he does have a somewhat high profile amongst Nigerians in Diaspora, he has name recognition and though I sometimes view Elendu Reports, SaharaReporters is a bit much for my sensibilities.

As a resident of the United States, Mr. Elendu probably sends remittances home to family as many other Nigerians abroad do and sometimes pines to see his relations by visiting Nigeria to fellowship with them as any social being would do especially in America.

However, Mr. Elendu is no faceless visitor to Nigeria and as he arrived in Nigeria on the 18th of October 2008 he was taken into custody by the State Security Service [9] for talks that lead to questioning and possibly interrogation, the possibility of facing sedition charges did rear its head – he appears not to have been able to meet his legal representation.

As SaharaReporters [10] reports, Mr. Elendu was handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the charges of money laundering – criminalising benign remittances – might well be a convenient charge to frustrate the man till they emasculate him and make him recant the sterling body of work he has promoted for years.

Drastic measures for release

He has embarked on a hunger strike and one does sympathise because he is not Professor Wole Soyinka [11], the Nobel Literature Laureate 1986 whose writings and profile probably shield him from the menace of harassment and the menace of the state security apparatus and those who have the law enforcement establishment at their beck and call.

Mr. Elendu could have resisted the need to go to Nigeria and he sure must have been aware of the developing and worrying restrictions on press freedom and the episode that lead to the withdrawal of Channels TV’s licence [12] when a rogue message, purportedly from the News Agency of Nigeria linked questions about the President’s health to his imminent resignation.

Between sacrifice and being sacrificed

Individuals like many us blogging from abroad need to be aware of the fact that our quest for the truth and the incisive analysis of unpalatable events in Nigeria might not endear us to those in power – they might not be able to parcel us as diplomatic baggage [13] but once we are in Nigeria we are in the lion’s den except if we know the tamer and owner of the circus.

This is not to say that we should temper our work in seeking a better service of government in Nigeria through advocacy, blogging and exposure of reprehensible conduct in power, but these come with sacrifices as tempering our nostalgic tendencies, preventing relations at home from being associated with our activities from abroad and being smart about the use of sensitive information.

Else, there is a danger that we allow Western naïveté abroad to becloud the possibility of encountering great danger at home, the campaign for the release of Ms. Momeni seems to have a greater sophistication, I would hope there are others who know Mr. Elendu well enough to spearhead a campaign for his release that I would surely support.

Free Esha Momeni! Campaign

Free Jonathan Elendu!


[1] U.S. student arrested in Tehran while working on thesis project -

[2] Freed Iranian-American scholar recounts ordeal in Iran - International Herald Tribune

[3] Shirin Ebadi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] BBC NEWS | Africa | News blogger detained in Nigeria

[5] Elendu Reports - Home

[6] Global Voices Online » Nigerian Blogger Arrested For Sponsoring a ‘Guerilla News Agency’

[7] Sahara Reporters : : News, Interviews, Articles, Reports, Photos, Events and Happenings in Nigeria

[8] Chxta's World: Weep

[9] State Security Service - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[10] [SSS plans to re-arrest Jonathan Elendu from the EFCC as he embarks on hunger strike ] Sahara Reporters News

[11] Wole Soyinka - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[12] Nigeria: FG Withdraws Channels TV Licence

[13] Umaru Dikko - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friday 24 October 2008

Nigeria: No money to host the Under-17 World Cup 2009

Doubts about 2009 and questions about 2010

The fears that South Africa might not be able to host the World Cup in 2010 might not be unfounded and hence the talk about looking for alternative venues that continues to dog the hosts of the event.

The fears of this becoming a crisis can only now have been compounded by the fact that the winners of the Under-17 World Cup [1], Nigeria has intimated FIFA [2] that she cannot host the event in November 2009 [3].

This event is only going to cost $30 million and the excuse of the current financial crisis is being used to shirk our responsibilities as a great football playing nation.

I am amazed that the government cannot have found and persuaded persons and organisations to bankroll this project before making a public show of our incompetence.

The shame of it all

The great country of Nigeria that once hosted the Second African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977 cannot host a football jamboree for kids from 24 nations for reasons yet unknown, as far as I am concerned.

I cannot begin to fathom the shame and embarrassment enveloping all Nigerians at the crass irresponsibility of our government and the sports officials they have appointed to represent us.

This is not helped by the fact that President Yar’Adua does not believe [4] that hosting the tournament in 2009 would develop sports in Nigeria, the matter of pride and honour does not seem to feature in matters that pertain to the global image of Nigeria in Africa and the world at large.

Would anyone honestly believe that oil-rich Nigeria cannot find $30 million to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2009?

We visit but cannot host

Like miserly friends that we know and love to hate, we have been lavished with hospitality by others but when it has come to our turn we have decided to cop out and in the process saddle other nations with a responsibility that should have been ours.

One can only hope this is a ruse to take the focus of the news away from the fact that freedom of expression is dead in Nigeria – but I worry that when Nigerians are ready to and determined to disgrace Nigeria, they usually do get to do it with such expertise and ability; it takes your breath away.

If anything, it is time to rescue our honour and dignity before we find our winning on football pitches around but get booed for being despicable cads, every time we open our mouths to talk football we would be slapped down with the mockery that oil-rich Nigeria could not host the games – can anyone organise anything in that country at all?

I wonder.


[1] - Eaglets rejoice in hat trick

[2] - Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

[3] BBC SPORT | Football | African | Nigeria gives up under-17 event

[4] AFP: Nigeria struggle to finance world under-17 championships