Monday 28 February 2011

Nigeria: Celebrating Honour Amongst Thieves

This blog was first published at Nigerians Talk under the same title.

A wrong comparison

They wore T-shirts proclaiming him the ‘Joseph of our time,' pretty much sums up the occasion to which I will provide a backstory. [News Story [1]]

Joseph was one of the 12 sons of Jacob in the bible who dreamt dreams of him being the leader of his brothers and created such envy amongst them that they sold him into slavery. In Egypt, he was a servant of high official whose wife fancied him and when he rejected her advances he was falsely accused of sexual harassment and dumped in prison.

A whole range of coincidences of fate occurred where he interpreted dreams of inmates and that reputation lead to him doing the same favour for the Pharaoh of Egypt, which culminated in his becoming the Prime Minister of Egypt and his dream coming true when famine in his homeland brought his siblings to Egypt and had them bowing to the authority of his office.

A thief of the lowest order

The said “Joseph of our time” has no such illustrious biography; as the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, he along with many members of the board of directors were found to have grossly mismanaged public funds and were duly charged then justly convicted and jailed for their offences.

However, on release from prison this weekend, he made no speech expressing remorse apologising for his errors of judgement and the criminal acts that landed him in jail but was lauded, praised and feted as one of the wronged, in concert with many of the ruling and breaking bread with the presumed respectable of the country.

They are no role models

Indeed, one is surprised that the tide is changing in Nigeria where now there has been great revulsion at the fanfare that accompanied this event, we have had people who have long since gained respectability though having a provenance of criminality.

Lots of the moneyed who have unaudited sources of wealth, who cannot account for how they have become so rich having only held public office or worked in public service and are the brood of literally pauper parents and possibly poorer relations.

They have never been involved in industry and whatever qualifications and professions they might have could not have provided for the treasure troves they now dip into with reckless abandon, they have no scruples and with impunity they have milked and bilked the Nigerian Treasury, stolen and squandered, swindled and cajoled, creamed and scraped as they worshipped the god of corruption with body, soul, reputation, character and integrity.

The need for polite society

This was the modern-day Joseph that got thronged as he left prison hardly repentant but definitely defiant, beyond rehabilitation and perfected for the next possibility of corrupt enterprise that gives him honour amongst thieves of the same ilk.

Sadly, Nigeria has lost its polite society, the non-egalitarian reserve of snobbery that shunned people who were tainted with gossip of impropriety, talk less of allegation, indictment, conviction and the ultimate social death of imprisonment for crimes committed.

To crown the affront to all that is good and wholesome they congregated at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos – the cathedral of all that was once respectable, commendable, honourable and deserving of fawning obsequiousness by reason of breeding, pedigree, old money and social industry for a thanksgiving service which had in attendance a former president and some governors whose reputations should rank lower than the value you get out of manure.

However, the Nigerian narrative is changing, this event must be the one that opens our eyes to rejecting the celebrity of the criminal, those who find support amongst the powerful and are shielded from due opprobrium just because they have money and clout earned through their abuse of office to avert our gazes from the fact that they are criminals, thieves and are worthy of nothing but disgrace.

Thieves must not find honour in Nigeria anymore.


[1] 234Next | Bode George's triumphant return shocks Nigerians

Sunday 27 February 2011

The UK: Child Sexual Abuse in Nigerian Communities

From Facebook to blog

This blog started from my getting involved in a commenting on a status on Facebook, a news story about an evangelical minister who had been charged with sexual offences [1].

As the story goes, the “man of God” had sexually assaulted a child under 16 and is to appear in court next week.

There are many strands to this story many of which can so easily distract from the core issue; the community is Nigerian, the sexual assault leans towards homosexuality and it is a fundamental Christianity setting.

A distraction from the issue

The first comment had already seized on homosexuality and the all too rampant homophobia prevalent in that community even though it was situated in the England rather than back home in Nigeria.

In what always appears to be the religious race to “I am holier than thou” the virulent had taken front stage to condemn homosexuals with the starkest terms and began to compare them with convicted murders and the comments veered between moderated and extremis without the hope of agreement which called for a basic religious lesion.

A comment that suggested that what seems to pass for Christianity today is more like what Jesus Christ railed against in religious leaders of his time on earth, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and scribes.

The comment when on saying, God had dealt with rather interesting people in the bible as Rahab, Samson, David, the woman at the well with Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the lady caught in adultery, the church in Corinth to name a few.

Surprisingly, it is in the letters to the Corinthians that we are taught about love and spiritual gifts - I think that would do for our Sunday lesson.

Now, this is not written for purposes of biblical instruction but those who are informed would very well understand that context being created of sexual weaknesses not necessarily precluding the actors from interaction with the grace and mercy of God.

Open minds or open heads?

However, when another comment was posted with the postscript, “we all need to keep an open mind and be vigilant and teach our children about being safe”, it was apparently misunderstood and it gave rise to the comment that followed which I have fleshed out for a blog.

Now, this really gets my goat, the comment about keeping an open mind is that way of pussy-footing around a rather serious and dare I say endemic problem in our Nigerian communities.

We had already gotten distracted with the homosexuality bogeyman like hounds after a kill, someone I had fallen for until the reality slap hit straight in the face - Thanks! :)

The fact that a church leader is involved is hardly the issue now, it is that no one wants to broach and attack the issue of child sexual abuse head-on because of the stigma and social issues that accompany the matter.

Societal attitudes to child sexual abuse

We all adopt a hush-hush attitude to it and I can imagine that it would have taken more than a mountain of courage and daring for the child abused to have come forward with the accusation, then for him/her to be believed by anyone who could act on it and then to surmount the blinding stupidity that puts elders or "men of God" beyond error.

Somehow, I would want to believe that the fact that this happened in London might have helped expose the assault, it is very unlikely this would have found any public forum in Nigeria itself, though Nigerian communities abroad can have a tendency to be insular, closed and not very integrated on social or sexuality matters.

Too many times the abused child would face ostracism, condemnation and more abuse as the elders concerned try to “settle” the issue and hope it would go away - the child receiving neither help nor support twice raped by the abusers and the people they are supposed to trust as protectors.

The failings of our traditions

The patriarchal society we come from defers to elders on all issues with the idea that all wisdom and all truth flows downwards and none of what they say can be contradicted. What makes for keeping the peace and structure within the community allows for outrageous abuse to go unquestioned and ignored by many who should know better but are numbed by societal norms.

My comment had gotten so long that I had to exercise a modicum of restraint with my outrage and annoyance by saying, “Don't get me going, I was taught the amazing "joys" of sex from the ripe old age of 7 - yes, I will keep an open mind, if I can crack open the heads of the abusers”.

[How do you hiss and kiss your teeth in words? I have done that a thousand times already.]

We have to come out of the nonsense that we call our tradition; the inability to openly, seriously and honestly challenge and condemn child sexual abuse in our so moral, religious and respectful communities.

As I was writing this blog, a comment was posted that the context of “open mind” referred to believing the children who had been abused; I probably had flown off the handle but the open mind hardly begins to manage the situation and damage to children who have been abused sexually – in my view, it is in the right direction but still one of the weakest of responses to what is more serious than we dare to accept.


[1] Evangelical pastor charged with sex offences - Channel 4 News

African Bloggers' Statement on David Kato and Uganda

"We the undersigned wish to express our deep sadness at the murder of Ugandan human rights defender David Kato on 26th February 2011. David's activism began in the 1980s as an Anti-Apartheid campaigner where he first expressed a strong passion and conviction for freedom and justice which continued throughout his life.

David was a founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda where he first served as Board member and until his death as Litigation and Advocacy Officer and he was also a member of Integrity Uganda, a faith-based advocacy organization.

David was a man of vision and courage. One of his major concerns was the growth of religious fundamentalism in Uganda and across the continent and how this would impact on the rights of ordinary citizens including lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered / Gender Non-Conforming and Intersex [LGBTIQ] persons.

Years later his concerns were justified when the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill backed by religious fundamentalists was outlined in 2009. David was also an extremely brave man who had been imprisoned and beaten severely because of his sexual orientation and for speaking publicly against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Many African political and religious leaders in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Gambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi and Botswana, have publicly maligned LGBTIQ people and in some cases directly incited violence against them whilst labeling sexual minorities as “unAfrican”.

In October 2010, the Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone published the names and photographs of "100 Top homos" including David Kato. David along with two other LGBTIQ activists successfully sued the magazine on the grounds of "invasion of privacy" and most importantly, the judge ruled that the publication would threaten and endanger the lives of LGBTIQ persons.

The court did not only rule that the publication would threaten and endanger the lives of LGBTIQ persons but it issued a permanent injunction against Rolling Stone newspaper never to publish photos of gays in Uganda, and also never to again publish their home addresses.

Justice Kibuuka Musoke ruled that, "Gays are also entitled to their rights. This court has found that there was infringement of some people’s confidential rights. The court hereby issues an injunction restraining Rolling Stone newspaper from future publishing of identifications of homosexuals."

Every human being is protected under the African Charter of Peoples and Human Rights and this includes the rights of LGBTIQ persons. We ask the governments of Uganda and other African countries to stop criminalizing people on the grounds of sexual orientation and afford LGBTIQ people the same protections, freedoms and dignity, as other citizens on the continent."

Akin Akintayo: About things too concerning to ignore
Alix Mukonambi: Molisa Nyakale
Anengiyefa Alagoa: Things I Feel Strongly About
Anthony Hebblethwaite: African Activist
Barbra Jolie: Me I Think
Ben Amunwa: Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa
Bunmi Oloruntoba: Bombastic Element
Chris Ogunlowo: Aloofaa
Eccentric Yoruba: Eccentric Yoruba
Exiled Soul: ExiledSoul
Francisca Bagulho and Marta Lança: Buala
Funmilayo Akinosi: Finding My Path
Funmi Feyide: Nigerian Curiosity
Gay Uganda: Gay Uganda
Glenna Gordon: Scarlett Lion
Godwyns Onwuchekwa: My Person
Jeremy Weate: Naija Blog
Kayode Ogundamisi: Canary Bird
Kadija Patel: Thoughtleader
Keguro Macharia: Gukira
Kenne Mwikya: Kenne’s Blog
Kinsi Abdullah: Kudu Arts
Laura Seay: Texas in Africa
Llanor Alleyne: Llanor Alleyne
Mark Jordahl: Wild Thoughts from Uganda
Matt Temple: Matsuli Music
Mia Nikasimo: MiaScript
Minna Salami: MsAfropolitan
Mshairi: Mshairi
Ndesanjo Macha: Global Voices
Nyokabi Musila: Sci-Cultura.
Nzesylva: Nzesylva’s Blog
Olumide Abimbola: Loomnie
Ory Okolloh: Kenyan Pundit
Pamela Braide: pdbraide
Peter Alegi: Football is Coming Home
Rethabile Masilo: Poefrika
Saratu Abiola: Method to Madness
Sean Jacobs: Africa is a Country
Sokari Ekine: Black Looks
Sonja Uwimana: Africa is a Country
Spectre Speaks: Spectre Speaks
TMS Ruge: Project Diaspora
Toyin Ajao: StandTall
Tosin Otitoju: Lifelib
Val Kalende: Val Kalende
Zackie Achmat:
Writing Rights
Zion Moyo:
Sky, Soil and Everything in Between

Thursday 24 February 2011

Thought Picnic: Fighting Cancer

Seeking to care

Reading a Facebook status just now made me reflect on an aspect of my life that I have somewhat tried to leave behind but find is almost always in the centre of my existence.

She wrote, “All of us have a thousand wishes. To be thinner, have more money, a new phone. A cancer patient only has one wish, to kick cancer's ass. I know that 97% of you won't post this as your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who died, or is FIGHTING cancer, post this for at least one hour.

I can well appreciate that many would chip in with sympathy and empathy with a comment in support of those fighting cancer, it is however hardly the whole story.

Recovery is a lot more than recovery

I find that my recovery period is long, hard and very present from the physical and physiological condition that requires quarterly check-ups through my blood tests and inspection of the scarred areas that bore the cancer lesions to challenges of life in making a living and remaining relevant in the workplace.

It was the reality of this that compelled me to go back to work within 6 weeks of chemotherapy and it was not an easy task at all but with all the bills and the risk of losing my home looming something had to be done because welfare support could only go so far and it had yet to kick in then.

What made me cope with the thrust and pressure of work after literally 11 months of illness and out of the job market was the accommodation that allowed me do a 32-hour week with Wednesdays off, but each day for the first few months was the force of the will and mind over the capabilities of the body – it was patently against medical advice but circumstances can so seriously dictate the decisions you make especially if you are single and dependent on the goodwill of friends who have stuck closer to you in times of adversity.

It dogs you for change

Recently, I had the opportunity to apply for an interesting job but that 11-month gap in my CV needed explaining and much as many are fascinated by the story of a cancer survivor they are not necessarily on the mercy mission to allow someone who had gone through such an ordeal to complicate their work schedules.

I also find that my CV is in need of a radical review where my once very strong technical skills now have to be relegated for soft skills of business analysis, project management, risk profiling and managing change in the enterprise all of which were core areas of expertise that allowed me do what I needed to do for the organisations I have worked for.

This is where a good 23 years of business savvy needs to come to the fore like no other time before and where I should probably seek some help in ensuring my closeness to this matter does not compromise the real message of my abilities.

Winning wars and fighting battles

However, the matter of fighting cancer is that of battles that are won each day against all sorts of prevailing circumstance with wars that endure for long with that hope that you are maintaining the upper-hand.

The pills have their hours, bills have their demands, the tills need to be ringing and the wills remain strong because this fight will never be over but we can find the might to make light of the fright that can readily blight the prospect of a bright future.

Until you have been there, these shoes are not the easiest to walk in on the rocky paths strewn with thorns and the swampy forests that harbour creatures that could so literally take your breath away.

Meanwhile, let’s kick arse, anyhow.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Thought Picnic: Reflections of where life ought to be

Reflections of

There are times the mirror held up reveals things that need closer attention, some inspection, probably an investigation but hopefully not a diagnosis.

Those are things that can be seen, deeper in the person is a bigger mirror that processes the elements of personality that may never been exposed through actions or words but are churned in the industrial workhouse of the thoughts prompted by circumstances, reading, hearing or feeling.

That nuclear core where boldness takes its source of courage and niggling fears are baying for that opening to overwhelm you in a sudden pall of despair.

The place where you comfort yourself continually that things would be right even when there is no clear conviction of evidence to support that hope and aspiration.

Reaching for

You reach out as if you were in a ditch in the hope that someone saw you fall in and is there at your point of need; that wish that if it were in the wilderness your cries for help have rung out to those who can help and help you well.

Tunnels unlit loom with no perception of the length of that journey before the bright light of the day raises expectations that soon the warmth of the sun would be the refreshing end to an ordeal that has not scarred you for the worse.

Cocooned in your own world it is almost impossible to see where others need your hand, you look for strength that assures you that what you see in the mirror is you, it is fine, it is good and there is nothing to fear as you grasp that hand, exit that tunnel and find succour well beyond your buffeted expectations.

Life is such a long story; would we ever find the time to tell it in peace?

Sunday 20 February 2011

Nigeria: Presidency seeks the nth opinion

The captain needs crew

Steering the ship of state called Nigeria can be an arduous task and one should not begrudge a president the availability of human resources and more to concentrate on that job so as to perform to the best of his ability and hopefully for the best of Nigerians the dispatch of this responsibility.

The reference article from might soon be archived and hence, I take the liberty to quote extensively from it for record purposes in this blog to ensure that the context is maintained. Nigeria: Jonathan Appoints Danjuma, Anyaoku Into Policy Committee

Soon after President Goodluck Jonathan took office as Acting President, he appointed a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) [1] which was formed to “provide alternative inputs into policy formation; promote good governance in the areas of power, economy, security, infrastructure, social sector, the electoral process and the fight against corruption … It will evaluate policy implementation and advise Jonathan on areas requiring adjustments.

The council will also advise the Acting President on how to maximize the benefits derivable from government's efforts; advise on such actions and programmes that may improve credibility and performance of the government; and advise on any other matter referred to it.

The PAC packed with expertise

The council was headed by Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd.) and constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze as deputy with the other members being a “former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Alfa Belgore, former Secretary-General of Commonwealth Emeka Anyaoku, former Inspector-General of Police M.D. Yusuf, former Minister of Science and Productivity Bartholomew Nnaji, pioneer Managing Director (MD) of Guaranty Trust Bank Fola Adeola {recently selected as a Presidential Running mate of a rival aspirant}, Mallam Abubakar Gimba, ex-Shell MD Basil Omiyi and Ambassador G. B. Preware.”

Others include Chairman, National Economic Summit Group Sam Ohuabunwa, ex-MD of FSB International Bank, Mallam Muhammed Hayatuddeen, former Deputy Speaker Chibudom Nwuche, former Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation Kanu Agabi and President of Africa Business Roundtable and former Minister of Industry Bamanga Tukur, former Mtel Chairman Hajiya Halita Aliyu, Chairman, Allied Energy Kase Lawal, Alhaji Ismaila Isa, Alhaji Magaji Danbatta, Prof. B. G. Bajoga, Dr. (Mrs) Sally Bolujoko and Mrs. Mariam Uwais are also members of the committee.

The Nigerians called to service to advice the president on this council could not be faulted for their wealth of experience in governance, law, business, academia and international relations; they represented a broad cross-section of advice made available to a neophyte President who could do with all the guidance he could get.

The PAC belittled

The PAC recently produced a report that criticised the size of government and the need to trim down ministries and presidential aides to which an unnamed source within the presidency has responded saying, “that the Danjuma group is made up of people who do not understand the workings of government.”

The source further stressing that, “Danjuma and his people have become infamous because of the report. To them, the group does not understand issues like national character or the constitutional provision for the engagement of assistants.

Having now been in office for over a year, it would be sad to conclude that power is already having a corrupting influence on this accidental president such that hubris is clouding his judgement that he feels that the PAC have no idea of what they are talking about.

The constituents of the PAC seem to be people of greatly independent means and they could easily have been gainfully employed in other activities than to have their counsel belittled because they have refused to play sycophant or genuflect to the Presidency by rubberstamping all actions especially where it appears the National Assembly has abdicated their responsibilities for oversight and moderation of the powers of the executive arm of government.

The Court of Goodluck the First

No limit has been placed on the number of advisers the Presidency can employ but that does not mean that there should be a race to break records for the numbers that can be engaged to prop up the office and offer it a mystique of distance and unapproachability due to courtiers exuding self-importance that comes with closeness to power.

The Presidency now has 133 aides [2] in hierarchies of duplicated functions with that atrocious setup that allows the First Lady to have two protocol officers and the aristocratic luxury of ladies-in-waiting; who being a Dame of dubious provenance has become Nigeria’s equivalent of Marie Antoinette.

Too many advisors hamper decisiveness

It is utterly absurd that there are six physicians to cater for the health of the President, his wife and the vice-President, all of them in their different cadres of seniority might introduce a confusion of diagnosis where normally people might be satisfied with a second opinion; the possibility of an nth opinion in critical matters might stifle decisiveness, thoroughness and agreement leading to complications and poor treatment of assessed situations.

Insult is added to injury with a Senegalese and Malian tailor on hand to make the President’s clothes and other personal assistance with grandiose titles that include special assistants on presidential household matters, domestic affairs, domestic matters, household administration, social events and household matters.

Why matters should differ from affairs escapes me but there must be some reason behind the madness and the semantics that create the differentiation between the roles that allows for the abuse of office that engenders a Presidency that has suddenly come into power and is at risk of intoxication redolent of absolute monarchies of old.

Not needed better heeded

The First Lady does not need her coterie of genuflectors just as the President cannot suggest that the presence of these acquiescent followers at best and entourage of fawning backscratching groupies at worst makes him more effective at being the best President Nigeria ever had.

Their presence risks distracting from the business of government as the elixir of megalomania is fed the President appealing to his vanity through adulation, toadying and mastery of grovelling for attention and self-promotion and selfish interest.

The President might well heed the good advice of the PAC, they have nothing to gain or lose from giving him good counsel; so rather than castigate the PAC, the truth is some excess load needs to be shed allowing for refinement and quality before the making of the Court of Goodluck the First becomes the finest parody out of Nollywood.


[1] Nigeria: Jonathan Appoints Danjuma, Anyaoku Into Policy Committee

[2] | President Jonathan's 133 aides

Nigeria: INEC Voter Registration Review VI

Still a logistical nightmare

This wraps up the long overdue final review of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter registration exercise.

For three weeks in most places people assembled to register in participate in the elections scheduled for April 2011, in the last few days, those who had left it late having been poorly served by the faltering technology of the Digital Data Capture (DDC) computer machines, poor logistics and scanty material suddenly had the reprieve of another 2 day extension in 13 states of the federation.

Many will still be disenfranchised because up till the very last day, INEC was still hiring volunteers to man the registration process and that still did not get all the prospective registrants through, in the end out of the proposed 70 million eligible voters projected an estimated 64 million were captured by all these discrete systems.

Defensive opinions and offensive facts

The Chief Press Secretary of the INEC Chairman attempted what he called a “Contextual Review”[1] of the registration exercise and given that it was a humongous logistical exercise fraught with all sorts of issues that many activist highlight and in ways helped alleviate, his assessment was hardly the kind of independent and objective review one would have expected as the context seemed to rail against the cynics, sceptics and the concerned who picked out the flaws in the whole exercise.

The review was as defensive as anyone could get about what a participant might have involved themselves in whilst pretending to great success that many observers would have qualified closer to a barely passed grade but he is entitled to his opinion but not to his own facts.

Voters’ List review

The week beginning the 14th of February 2011 saw the 5-day review of the voters’ list where corrections, objections and collections were the themes according to INEC guidelines [2].

Despite the biometric acquisition of the data, none of it appeared online and many polling unit centres did not get to display the said lists and very few did get to see any list according to news reports [3] and such displays [Picture of a list displayed a at Polling Unit in Lagos State] did not engender confidence.

What was more alarming about where people found the lists displayed was exemplified in the following Tweets.

StanVito Now this is strange. The #INECRegistration list displayed in in my estate can't be real. My name isn't on the list? Some1 got 2 b shitting me

StanVito This #INECRegistration Voter list shows only those registered in Feb. No one registered in Jan is on this list.

This highlights a number of issues, if the lists displayed are those for their respective Polling Units, where they are if the said lists do have all that registered or those whose registration was considered valid that includes the 10-fingerprint scan and if corrections were made for situations where data might have been lost and no remediation made for lost registrations.

Concerns about lists

One can only wonder about those who had not bothered to take the verification exercise seriously and check that their names were on the lists and that their data was correct before checking for other kinds of errors considering INEC had stated it would not extend [4] the list verification exercise whilst we take into account that this was a working week, apart from the religious holiday on the Tuesday.

Meanwhile, INEC also released the list of candidates for political office to the public but that exercise was hardly decisive [5] with the INEC constantly reviewing its opinions about eligibility and the incessant haranguing from the courts that the risk of the electorate having choices out of a bad lot because of a botched eligibility process presaged a rotten representative democracy.

INEC intends to have compiled a usable voters’ register [6] by the 2nd of March 2011 having eliminated duplicate registrations and other irregularities borne from flawed registrations through to criminality that included the impounding of a DDC machine in the home of member of the House of Representatives long after the registration exercise had ended.

An exorbitant democracy

The cost of this exercise [7] is estimated at $580 million with a unit cost of almost $9 per voter and this does not guarantee a free and fair election, in fact, it does not guarantee a credible voters’ register and INEC is already suggesting that it does not have sufficient funds [8] to conduct the elections.

In the midst of this apparent squander for democracy is the positive news relayed in a video news report [9] by the Al Jazeera English network about an ex-Google executive who single-handed coded the software used for the registration exercise with the use of volunteers.

What Nigeria has tried to do is squeeze into three months what normally takes a year and at one time had Nigeria’s short-term demand for DDC equipment exceed the global supply (PDF file) [10].

Our revolution

The first hurdle of the Register | Select | Vote | Protect process [11] has barely been sterling however one would hope that those who did register would not find to their shock in April that they cannot vote.

However, Nigerians need to begin assessing the people who seek to represent them and make informed decisions about who they will be voting for whilst keeping others around them enthusiastic about the revolution that is before us, the opportunity to have free and fair elections in April 2011 with the promise of good government.


[1] Voter Registration: A Contextual Review by Kayode Idowu

[2] INEC Releases Guidelines for Display of Preliminary Register of Voters

[3] Voter verification lists hard to find in Nigeria - Yahoo! News

[4] » Voter verification: INEC says no extension of deadline - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[5] INEC, courts make ‘fast’ money from candidates’ list

[6] » Voters’ register ready March 2- Jega - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[7] Nigeria's elections: A list a mile long | The Economist

[8] » INEC budget: N45bn not enough – Jega - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[9] YouTube - Millions register for Nigeria vote

[10] INEC Account of Acquisition Process

[11] Good governance and Public accountability : Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE)

Thursday 17 February 2011

Thought Picnic: Where circumcision beats choosing lipstick colours

Where expression is unsafe

I have observed over time that the Nigerian chat and comment space is fraught with imponderables and probably worse.

In fact, the safest place to offer an opinion is probably my blog and the comment advisory that probably creates a high entry level to those who have opinions that are best left unspoken and unwritten.

Twitter is also a good place to offer views, the compelling need to be concise and precise whilst offering a view is a great challenge for many even if they have to use applications that break the Twitter default of 140 characters for succinct expression.

Facebook however brings you in contact with another different crowd, the people that I have chosen to befriend appear to be quite reasonable having learnt well the purpose of comprehension exercises we took in English classes.

The problem is usually with those other friends of friends who you end up engaging with when you express a view on a friend’s status.

The gulf between reading and comprehension

Strangely, much as many of them can read, very few understand what they are reading, much less have comprehension and fewer still can be objective or proffer any logical analysis on the status under review.

Sadly, in the process of trying to contribute, clarify and raise the standard of discourse you get drawn into some exchanges that leave you utterly flustered if not flabbergasted and outraged. Much as one’s English reserve kicks in, the need for a public putdown becomes necessary one of which ended with the praise of a contributor’s talent with hands rather than with his brains.

The beauty of many procedures

In the last week, one instance was with the news story about a young and upcoming female artiste who felt that a butt augmentation procedure would improve her career; she ended up in a hotel in America where the injection of industrial silicone cost her life.

The exchanges went well until someone suggested male circumcision was cosmetic surgery for the purposes of looking good as a manicure, the application of make-up and the shaving of beards. At which point we enquired as to how that line of thought was plausible and as the person went off on a diatribe and a tangent with the licentious use of inclusive plural pronouns we were stumped.

Now, to refer the origin of circumcision to Abrahamic traditions of religious covenant keeping or its recent presumed usefulness in the prevention of the transmission of HIV especially in Africa became an insurmountable task of the attempt to share knowledge – there was nothing else to say.

Attitudes to homosexuality lead to jail

Then there was the case which included the presumed attempt to force a 17-year old Nigerian resident into marriage which on examination of the issues and the reported detail linked punishments, exorcisms and lifestyle to the desperate actions of a mother to convert her seemingly gay son back to heterosexuality.

Under the presumed notion that sending her son back to Nigeria from the UK would separate him Western influences and restore his supposed heterosexuality in an environment hostile to homosexual expression she risked jail.

That was because her son had sought the advice of a gay charity and taken out a protection order against his parents; within 6 days of receiving the order, he was carted off to Nigeria and the parents felt they had escaped the ambit of the Forced Marriages Act that their son had sought the protection of.

The law and sentiment disagree

Now, there are many strands to this situation; those for strict and overarching parental rights over their wards who must be fully obedient and acquiescent to every diktat of their parents because good intentions and possible bad judgement are always in the best interest of the child – one can sympathise.

There is also the fact that the basic letter of the law had been broken; a direct order from the court to produce the child in the UK was ignored and the mother having held the court in contempt was sent to jail for 8 months.

The cross-border influences between Nigeria and the UK on the matter of a Nigerian child who was wise after the possible protections the law provides against his parents’ untrammelled control in the UK as opposed to in Nigeria can excite strong emotions.

The labour of hands and heads

There might be many wrongs but the facts are what they are; a young gay Nigerian resident in the UK against his Nigerian parents caught between Western protections and Nigerian indifference to the rights of minors when pitched against their guardians but could there ever be a balanced view of these stack realities – hardly.

By the time we broke off, each side had been insulted as one who laboured with calloused hands and the other with ideas.

How hard it is to resist the need to help with comprehension first and then the appreciation of basic logic when our schools school too many in rote learning and regurgitation rather than the ability to research and convey ideas in coherent and engaging ways – the refuge of a blog can suddenly offer the best security from the absurd as one admires the beauty of circumcision with confusion of colours for lipstick.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

UK/Nigeria: Looks more like a sexuality crisis


I read this after I had written the blog; the mother has been jailed for 8 months

BBC News - Edirin Onogeta-Idogun mother jailed over 'missing' son

A child with rights

It is now a day after the 14th of February deadline in which the parents of Edirin Onogeta-Idogun a 17-year old Londoner born of Nigerian parents should have returned him to London from Nigeria on a court order or face jail [1].

The elements of the story are sketchy but it broke on the 4th of February and as it goes, the boy portends than he was tricked into returning to Nigeria after claims that he was beaten, forced to undergo exorcisms because his mother disapproved of his lifestyle and his reluctance to get married.

He had in July taken advantage of a legal situation that allowed those forced into marriage to take protection orders out against their families in the UK.

Unusual parental arrangements

It could be quite easy to see this as a traditional discipline problem that has the child unnaturally acting against his African parents and that may well be the case but I feel there might even be unexplored facets of inquiry in this matter.

One side to be explored is the reason why the parents decided to live in separate households from 2004, one in the UK and the other in Nigeria where the father is a special adviser for the governor of Rivers State.

It is quite unusual by Nigerian standards that the mother is referred to by her maiden name Lydia Erhire, the son has a double-barrelled surname and his father is identified as John Idogun.

Parents are not entirely blameless

The idea of being tricked into something we are not keen by our parents is an age-old thing that many of us have not been able to question or challenge because of the sometimes misguided view by ourselves and society that parents are omnipotent with untrammelled control of our lives – well, times are changing and kids are wising up to how the law can and will defend their rights.

Whilst, I am not advocating indiscipline and intrusion or invasion of homes in the meting out of requisite controls and discipline by the state, parents would just have to find ways of working within the system rather than resorting to archaic methods hoping the preponderance of parental sympathy with end up in their favour.

Once the matter had acquired a legal face with the police involved, some of these matters were already outside the control of the parents and it was foolish to think that the hand of the law could not be extended to protect the as it were outrageous rights of a wayward child that dared to take his parents on with the law.

The sum differs from the product

Look at in each case, the things the young man said he suffered could be considered trivial; beatings are things parents do, many have not advanced to a level that could eliminate corporal punishment and still maintain discipline and the confidence of the child in accepting that the decisions made by the parents are right.

Exorcisms are both interesting and of great concern, having seen a number of these conducted in so-called churches in England, the brutality of such ordeals is unspeakable. Nigerians in particular with their unreasonable dread of the supernatural – this is a generalisation – can so easily attribute unusual or things they do not understand to demonic possession requiring the services of exorcists in the unregulated African-Initiated churches that litter London in particular.

The matter of forced marriage at 17 is a bit far-fetched, Nigerian men usually marry a bit later, usually in their late 20s or early 30s after they have completed their education and are able to fend for themselves and raise a family of their own.

Looks like a sexuality crisis

Taken together, an interesting picture emerges and whilst this is speculative, it might be closer to the truth.

A 17-year old has a lifestyle that the mother disapproves of, she beats him but fails to notice any discernable change and decides this is beyond her that she considers exorcism rituals the underlying concern being the child’s reluctance to get married and then she sends him to Nigeria where she hopes this issue would be sorted out.

This can only be a sexuality aversion situation where the young man might well have been exhibiting homosexual tendencies – everything falls into place – the only reason why the consideration of marriage would have arisen would be to probably convert him to heterosexuality, it would explain the beatings and the exorcism too.

Grasping at solutions

Sending him to Nigeria would have been due to the misguided view that homosexuality is a Western concept and being exposed to a rather more homophobic society would force him to adapt and probably cure him; it was the nuclear option and his mother was will be risk breaking the law for this probable solution.

If at 17, he was not looking like a virile eligible young man bringing girlfriends home, I could well understand that the mother might well be concerned; there might well be other indicators, but the truth is somewhere within these unfortunate developments which would require that all parties in this matter be saved from themselves – even if it takes the law to ensure that everyone is able to become whatever they are becoming without unnecessary duress, deception or demonization.


[1] Send boy, 17, back to UK or face jail, family told | News

Nigerian mother faces jail in the UK | Daily Times Nigeria (Beta Site)

Sunday 13 February 2011

Thought Picnic: Stop goading my horses

The warriors for my soul

It is hard to battle with those who are warriors for one’s soul. Their concern becomes so intrusive that it begins to breed contempt and sometimes resentment.

The concept of minding their own business never occurs to them and your life becomes their cause, your decision not to acquiesce to their views or notion of what they think you should be becomes a source of friction.

Abuse is hurled at you as if you have no say in your own matters, you have become their property and they believe it is within their rights to domineer you until you succumb, they will not relent.

They cannot be engaged, talk less of be persuaded of need to back off, you are stalked and terrorised that only your obstinacy keeps you from succumbing.

Yield an inch and you are assimilated though the give was to get a breather from the suffocating pressure brought to bear on you by their views of what you should represent.

So you see, think you know?

Calmly, one had to respond to a message the other day that started with the view that my picture was not the best one to display, not that this person has access to my cache of pictures to make the right selection for me, well, I am happy with how I portray myself and I change that portrayal at my whim and at my will.

It went on to suggest and I quote, “I also think you could channel some of this your energy to …” obviously, that is an opinion unsolicited and rather uncalled for – it just grates.

Obviously, beyond the frailty observed in the picture there is some recognition that one has energy but it is expended in areas the observer does not feel is of the greatest benefit to both me and others.

I do have to take prescriptions for medicine and they are many but to take prescriptions for how my energies should be channelled no matter how good-intentioned is more like asking that I swallow a gob-stopper as a pill.

It is hard enough keeping my wild chariot of life in lane, stop goading my horses to go faster.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Nigeria: At a Presidential Rally Stampedes should not become of humanity

Gauging the situation

I saw this status on Facebook and I felt I had to comment but the longer the comment became it looked like it was best fleshed out on a blog.

“Wow. People died. Yes. But why the gross exaggeration? #fuckingstorytellers”

This was in reaction to a story that appeared on Sahara Reporters which I must say I am not particularly a fan of but there goes.

They published the headline “Blood Bath At Jonathan's Presidential Rally In Port Harcourt: Scores Crushed To Death | Sahara Reporters.”

Any death is already too many

In my humble opinion, if anyone died at what was supposed to be a presidential rally; that is one death too many especially if the death was a result of a number of factors that appeared in the news story.

1. The over-crowding of a stadium.

2. The lack of effective crowd control. This probably created the chaotic situation that made the police shoot in the air.

3. The stampede that resulted from the first two factors.

Stampedes are characteristics of the wild in the animal world, human-beings should not be found in stampedes if we are properly organised.

It is unfortunate that the matter of security and policing in Nigeria is usually slanted towards the protection of dignitaries rather than a broad strategy for the public safety of the populace at large.

Cause, prevention & reaction

That all said, the numbers issue and the exaggeration is neither here nor there - my reading here is the lack of empathy and value for human life on the one hand and tendency to sensationalism on the other hand.

If the official figure is 2 in an accident on Aba Road and 12 at the stadium, that does not amount to scores, however, if you are fitting 250,000 people in a 100,000 capacity stadium and a stampede occurs where the surging crowd is being kept back by bad judgement of shooting in the air even objective assessment would suggest a higher than lower figure would be injured and probably killed - but we have no evidence to that effect.

This might well mean luck kept the number lower than expected but it does not absolve the planners of this event from culpability and we need to be spared the crocodile tears that are now shed in sympathy for the victims of this mishap. [The President has since through his spokesperson expressed regret]

The cynical twist to this debacle is the president would have preferred to see an over-crowded stadium that speaks of his popularity than a half-filled one which would have made this tragedy avoidable, but that would be sentimental.

"Wow! People died. Yes", is an unfortunate comment on a tragic situation that happened because people gathered to hail the president, in the quest to appear objective this comes across sadly as clinical, unfeeling and apathetic – much more was desired of both the reporting and the reaction.

Friday 11 February 2011

Social media is not the message

Getting a context of social media

It is beyond dispute that social media had a great role to play in the revolutions that have swept Tunisian and Egypt within the last few weeks.

However, it would be disingenuous for anyone to suggest that posting a tweet, a blog or starting a group on Facebook is the catalyst for change and the impetus for the gathering of people to a cause.

A microphone is not a message

Analogically, social media is just like another medium; a microphone; putting a microphone in a hands of mute will achieve no purpose, just as putting it to the mouth of a rambler would achieve just as much to be noticed to prepare the listeners to ignore the person.

A microphone to a speaker is only of value if the speaker has a message at first, then a message that resonates, a message that inspires, a message that encourages and a message that galvanises to a cause and purpose.

It takes a message to benefit from social media

In the same vein, that is the lesson we should learn of what social media means to rallying people to a cause; social media in and of itself does nothing of the sort that is attributed to it – it codifies, amplifies and relays what has been given to it.

In other words, it requires people who have their ideas sorted out and their message clearly stated and most of all, it must be a message whose time has come – that way, it will ride the moment to create the situation we hope for and maybe result in the unexpected.

Social media cannot bestow you with talent

So, if you are naturally not a communicator do not be deluded into thinking social media will suddenly make you one just as holding a microphone does not make you a talented singer just because your croaky voice can be amplified to the hearing of others who might heckle you off stage rotten eggs and tomatoes.

With that analogy, I hope we can put social media in context and perspective – it is about the message, the medium is just a facilitator, it cannot become the message, that would be utterly absurd.

Fela! National Theatre Live in Amsterdam

Fela! National Theatre Live

It has been so easy to forget who Fela Anikulapo Kuti [1] was as he is now celebrated in the West as that visionary revolutionary and musical genius.

The much acclaimed Fela! [2] That wowed Broadway [3] and is playing to great reviews in the West End in London did not come to Amsterdam as a live show but a hurriedly arranged screening at a cinema in the South-East as part of a National Theatre [4] Live broadcast which was an encore of the transmission that first went out on the 13th of January 2011.

The lack of a live performance allowing for feedback and response did not take away from the spectacle of the show.

Beats and dance

Many themes were relayed to me as I sipped my Coca-Cola and munched on my sweet popcorn, the wonder of African percussion, the sound of the Afrobeat drums and the way the performers responded to the beats.

The choreography was energetic combining African and contemporary dance, the heads, the arms, the body, the hips, the legs in violent synchronism that made you rock in your seat.

The sense of rhythm and movement, the explosion of colour on stage and variety of dance that could not be qualified with steps or the collage would be denied just praise.

Culture and identity

Fela’s story was compelling covering the discovery of his kind of music to the troubles he suffered in Nigeria which were causative of his mother’s death, his rise as a voice of conscience, a revolutionary and activist.

He renewed African consciousness without being militant, the compelling message being return to your roots, the identity that is part of your culture especially that of names and the need to respect our animist traditions and gods that contribute to enjoying the fullness of African life.

This resonated with me because my given name which came from my Muslim grandfather to his Christian grandson was not defined by religion but by situation and that also became my Christian and baptism name.

The story and the message

The sad narrative is that his mother fought off abuses of colonialism in emancipating the women but freedom did not arrive we found our own people robbing us blind as potentates with untrammelled powers to curtail our liberties, Africans left no better after all.

There were many references to his mother and she featured strongly through the performance, it was like Fela was in a constant grief for losing her.

The music was very familiar but not exactly the same, lyrics were modified in places and melody adapted more to a story-telling with a musical feel.

Being a Yoruba man, there were songs that were far from accent-perfect, the lead playing Fela was from Sierra Leone; he did well enough but for a native Yoruba speaker, it could be a bit jarring to the ear.

Fela in life

I first saw Fela perform in 1983 in Lagos at Yaba College of Technology, we were gate-crashers who found a vantage point to view him, there was always a feeling of ambiguity about him in Nigeria – his message was loud and clear but his lifestyle was shunned as decadent and unworthy of any of the youth that aspired to any success.

Yet today, any of his material played back to our hearing is like he transcends the times, the words fetch true today as they did then; the proverbial prophet without honour in his own land.

Sadly, we lost Fela in 1997 to AIDS presented opportunistically by Karposi’s Sarcoma a type of skin cancer that 12 years on medicine did contain, curtail and treat; the scars of which decorate my soles.

I would love to see the live show in London, it moves to Sadler’s Wells from the 20th of July 2011 to the 28th of August 2011, this is a show [4] that you must see.


[1] Fela Kuti - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Fela! - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] FELA! The Most Original New Musical On Broadway

[4] FELA! London - FELA! at the National Theatre

Thursday 10 February 2011

Please support PACT - Prevent Abuse of Children Today

Please support this cause

In July 2010, I wrote a blog titled On the rise of juvenile witchcraft stigmatisations published simultaneously on where yesterday a comment was posted on the work of PACT (Prevent Abuse of Children Today).

I generally do not promote causes but this is one that must not escape the publicity and activism it requires to save helpless innocent children from societal evils exacerbated by superstition and flawed religious doctrinal practices.

The comment left on my blog is published below and I enjoin you to support the cause. I have visited their websites and can see that the work they are involved in is useful and commendable.

Thank you.

Make a PACT: Prevent Abuse of Children Today in Nigeria

PACT (Prevent Abuse of Children Today) is a global campaign established by the UK-based child rights charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria and their Nigerian partner organisations. The aim of PACT is to bring long-term positive social change to vulnerable children in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, particularly those at risk of witchcraft accusations, abuse and trafficking.

With high levels of malnutrition, poverty, persistent violent conflicts and disease, increasing numbers of children in the Niger Delta are being forced to the streets putting them at risk of abuse, rape and trafficking.

Witchcraft is often seen as the source of problems within Nigerian society with vulnerable children being the group most at risk of witchcraft accusations. Children stigmatised as witches face abandonment by their families and communities, torture, public humiliation, disgrace and even murder.

To help end this terrible abuse we urge you to stand with us to Prevent Abuse of Children Today. There are lots of ways for you to get involved with the campaign, in particular signing our PACT, holding events and writing letters. Visit our website to sign the PACT and help us spread the word.

Together, we are fighting for a time when all children in the Niger Delta are free from physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse and their rights are fully upheld. With your help, we can make this vision a reality.

For more information about the PACT campaign please visit

To find out more about Stepping Stones Nigeria, please visit