Thursday 30 June 2011

Nigeria: Facing down the impunity of domestic violence

The story on Twitter

When this news filtered through the Nigerian Twitter folk yesterday I was not curious enough to determine what they were talking about. Somehow, my curiosity is not as piqued if certain news stories seem to derive from a rumour mill without credible sources but one must say that certain bits of news might well debut on Twitter long before the news organs pick it up.

What was a bit disconcerting about it was the tweets reported a very heinous and grievous crime that should have had the police all over it and addressing the matter but the neither the police nor the newspapers appeared to be moved to cover the issue.

Today however, one newspaper picked up the story which was full of uncorroborated sources, anonymous comments and disinterested parties along with an indolent comatose police force in bureaucratic inertia. [The news piece.]

Circumstance to tragedy

The substance of the news story is that a somewhat lovely marriage had run into serious difficulty with the husband having lost his job and his wife now the sole breadwinner, it had developed the staple of generally accepted domestic violence which culminated in the man stabbing his wife to death on his 30th birthday and turning fugitive since then.

This subject is still very raw and emotive but it needs to be addressed in some ways that begins to question our so-called sentimental and traditional values about marriage, roles and perceptions about decisions that society still moralises on but never appears to help ameliorate.

Reading through the news story, one can understand that difficulty of a man in the Nigerian setting being unable to provide for his family, but it is not the end of the world, however, because the notion of love is predicated in the concept of material provision the inability to provide is psychologically presumed to be the emasculation of the man.

The impunity of domestic violence

The tendency which seemed to read like the usual Nigerian template was for the man to try to assert a form of authority within the household to ensure that the wife does not in his thinking get big beyond her boots, despite her selfless, longsuffering and patient work of trying to keep the family unit going as smooth as possible.

The man resorted to serious domestic violence as the news story avers that neighbours have before heard screams as a result of their altercation. Sadly, domestic violence is condoned, accepted, tolerated and allowed to flourish with impunity; there are very few cases where such acts of actual or grievous bodily harm to the spouse get to the point where it is criminalised.

This situation is unacceptable, it is unconscionable and deplorable, when a relationship gets physical it is probably irretrievable regardless of the hopes and aspirations for that relationship, if the so-called love is expressed in terror and violence it has become torment and regardless of the good intentions of counsellors, religious adherence or traditional constraints; it is time for the vulnerable to extricate themselves from a developing disaster that could as this case shows, end up in murder.

A developing crisis

A spouse does not just murder their partner on the spur of the moment, it most definitely started from some very basic disagreement that escalated into intemperate verbal abuse and on to the first hit that lead to the beatings, the brutalisation of the partner and it was just a matter of time before it resulted the murder.

It then begs the question if we have so condoned the domestic violence with placation and entreaty, persuasion and useless scriptural coercion why we should now be shocked with the husband’s murder of his wife.

It is an unforgiveable excuse to suggest that we never expected it to get that bad; the news story suggests the lady was reaching out and even if not as explicit, she was crying out for help but constrained by atrocious traditional values that condemn people to loveless, violent marriages for the sake of the children.

The sake of the children

We forget that the children are individuals; they probably would prefer to live in peaceful environments of single-parenthood than in the turmoil and “stable” environment a marriage breaking down with all the physical violence and the absence of love they observe amongst their parents.

Children are not idiots and there is very little they can be shielded from, my memory of disputes between my parents is keen; the voices, the images, the terror, the fear and I know there are many who as children experienced so much in their homes and now try to blank out those memories knowing full well that if that cycle is repeating itself, they are kicking against the goads subjecting their children to the same torments they once suffered.

For the sake of the children, they deserve better, the sentiment should change from that which this unfortunate victim expressed; if the home has no love, the child whose views are never taken into loving consideration needs to be where love is assured even if the parents have to part ways – no marriage is made in heaven, it has to work on earth and if it is not working, it really is NOT working.

Break up and move on

If all and any of the traditional or professional methods of conflict resolution fail to make the home a refuge of love, safety and peace for all concerned, the pragmatic solution is for the people to go their separate ways and find ways of rebuilding their shattered lives than remain in such a setting that creates this tragedy of finality.

That is not to say that certain disputes have not found reconciliation but at what cost, over how much time and for to what end?

Just as the Levitical sacrifices of old have become irrelevant, we cannot continue to sacrifice ourselves on the altars of tradition, custom, creed, law, norms, diktat or marriage – all these structures were made for man and not the other way round – as the Great Teacher did say, for all the significance the religious people placed on the Sabbath; Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath – it applies to a lot of unnecessary situations we allow ourselves to be subject to.

The aftermath is saddening

The need for justice crying from the highest towers must not be stifled, the apparently supine and indolent police need to be on this case questioning all the interested and acquainted parties to this sad situation and one can only wonder how much worse it would be for the toddler who would eventually learn that her father killed her mother in a domestic dispute just because the sentiments of tradition dictated that a child should be brought up in a place where the father and mother live together even though their cohabitation was at best untenable.

We need to speak up about domestic violence the moment it starts and condemn it before it gets extreme, stem it before it escalates and really, if they cannot live together without beating themselves up we should not be clueless and dumb; the love has long departed and whatever they have is being held together by the bizarre marriage of sadism and masochism, if there were a better way of describing the matter.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Nigeria: A year of Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook

The coming of the Facebook President

Today, the 28th of June 2011, marks a year since President Goodluck Jonathan expanded his media engagement profile by joining Facebook.

Just about 2 weeks into his new-found catharsis that swept aside the mystique of untouchability that the coterie and entourage of helpers usually enshroud important Nigerians with, I wrote a review of this interesting and exciting development for NigeriansTalk titled Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook

In 11 days he had garnered 100,335 Facebook likes generating thousands of likes per status and just as many comments too.

Staggering numbers

In a year of Facebook social networking President Jonathan has published many Facebook statuses and Facebook notes, acknowledging contributions in his speeches, announcing personal and policy decisions using this as a platform that he apparently controls outside the strictures of officialdom and stifling protocol.

In the numbers game, Goodluck Jonathan has posted 317 actionable statuses, notes or posts up to the 24th of June 2011, his fans have commented on 255 of the posts and accumulated 576,535 in all, the highest number of comments being posted on the 25th of November 2010 where he expressed his loyalty thus:

I was loyal to my leader, the late great President Umaru Yar'adua. I am loyal to Nigeria, I don't claim to represent North, South or a Committee-I represent Nigeria. I am loyal to Nigeria's economy, I don't have accounts or property abroad, ALL my children live and school in Nigeria. I am loyal to my wife and friends. Can those who accuse me say the same? GEJ - 25 November 2010 at 17:06

10,206 people like this and view all 10,386 comments.

That was a very embracing statement that called for the unity of purpose in the entity called Nigeria and the identity Nigerian, it was a point quite well made and should be the gauntlet thrown down to those who snipe and carp at his every move.

It also defined him as a unique public figure Nigerian worthy of the emulation in the virtue of loyalty and pride in being Nigerian.

Getting engaged

One can see how Facebook has become part of the engagement strategy of the president when he said on 03 July 2010 at 08:11 I want to assure you that your feedback and comments on this page are important.

There was a stab at one of the Nigerian infrastructure problems – roads with this on 15 July 2010 at 09:06 “I've read your comments about the state of our roads particularly the Lagos-Benin, Abuja-Kaduna, Onitsha-Enugwu and Yola-Maiduguri roads. I've directed the Minister of Works to speed up repair works and report progress to me. I will not be satisfied with rhetorics (sic) and I will travel on Federal roads myself to see that Progress has been made. Loss of lives and man hours on our roads is just unacceptable and there must be progress. Under my leadership governmental activity must lead to practical results for the people not just on paper.” GEJ

From the AU Summit on 26 July 2010 at 08:23, he said of Nigeria’s role in Africa – “I am at the AU summit and from my meetings with African leaders at the political, business and social levels; it is reaffirmed to me that so many in Africa look up to Nigeria for leadership. And we must provide this leadership. We've no choice. Team Nigeria, of which we all belong, serves as a beacon that lights the way for our African brothers. The only way the rest of Africa will listen to Nigeria when she promotes African unity and brotherhood is if we lead by example.”

Elections, women and the youth

On 06 August 2010 at 06:58 as he forwarded a Supplementary Budget Bill to the National Assembly to cater for the funds requested by The INEC through its Chairman for the body to perform its duties, he suggested that “If on June 12 1993, Nigeria could conduct credible elections, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot conduct an even better election 18 years after.

As to engaging more women in politics, he said, “To demonstrate my belief that women are equal stakeholders in Nigeria as men, I recently appointed Prof Precious Kassey Garba as the first female Chief Economic Adviser to the President in Nigerian history. I hope this appointment as well as the performance of the Falconets at the recently concluded Female U-20 World Cup in Germany would spur women to enter the political arena and run for elective offices in 2011.” GEJ on 23 August 2010 at 08:07.

Soon afterwards, he had a message to the youth too, which he relayed on 25 August 2010 at 07:55, saying, “When we say that the youths are leaders of tomorrow we are really in fact limiting them and fail to do them justice. The human being is in his/her prime physically and mentally during the period of life we all love to describe as youth. And so rather than say the youths are leaders of tomorrow, I am more comfortable in saying that they are leaders of today and tomorrow.”

He went on to give examples of past leaders in their 30s who had lead Nigeria through tumultuous times.

Observations and intentions

With the security lapses and problems we have had recently, there are many who would seek the real action behind these words, “My fellow Nigerians, as I have said on this page and in public several times, the life of every Nigerian is the greatest of value to me. Your security is of utmost importance. The oath I swore to on the day I took office as President compels me to do what is proper in the interest of our country and citizens, therefore, I will use every constitutional power I have to protect the well-being of Nigerians and the Nigerian nation.10 September 2010 at 16:34

On the 15 September 2010 at 11:00 He posted the “Declaration of Intent For The 2011 Presidential Race.” On the 50th Anniversary of Nigeria’s independence he addressed the nation in a speech titled Building on the Foundations of Unity and Progress posted 01 October 2010 at 15:15 then touched on the matter of the Abuja bombings on 04 October 2010 at 11:00.

The pervasive world of the reality television genre did not escape the notice of the president as he sent congratulations on 18 October 2010 at 21:00 to Nigerian, Uti Nwachukwu who had won the 2010 edition of Big Brother Africa All Stars in South Africa.

Technology and polls

Advancements in technology usage as Total Radar Coverage of the Nigerian Airspace Project (TRACON) reported on 22 October 2010 at 16:57 made for hearty news about Nigeria not being left behind.

Typical of people who have engaged in the social networking space, the president launched a poll on 23 November 2010 at 23:55 to identify issues of concern to Nigerians, listing the following topics and off the 5,277 votes the distribution was.

1.: North/South dichotomy – 2%

2.: Corruption – 41%

3.: Power – 38%

4.: Insecurity – 7%

5.: Over dependence on oil – 5%

6.: Ethnic/Religious tensions/Indigene/Settler dichotomy – 4%

7.: Some other problem – 4%

Many of these issues had appeared in exchanges with the president over his Facebook engagement.

A commitment to educational development came on 22 December 2010 at 08:43 with a budget allocation to education three times that of defence.

When he was nominated as the presidential flag-bearer for the ruling party on 14 January at 18:19 he gave an address accepting the honour.

Knowing his Facebook onions

Into the New Year, the president was fully engaged in the electioneering process, the voter registrations, the campaign trail in which encountered tragedies, the elections, the signing of crucial bills and the Freedom of Information Act, his inauguration and the addressing of contemporary issues at home and abroad.

The President cannot be said to be digitally naïve, rather, either through his direct activities or those of his staff working in his stead, he seems to have a finger on the pulse of the nation and so it begs the question as what actions he is taking to address the matters that concern Nigerians all as we all expect him to perform well with the responsibility bestowed on him.

President Goodluck Jonathan does appear to have a really large and engaged following, far of the frivolities of the celebrity and deep in the seriousness of government and that can change Nigeria for the better.

Looking ahead

With the volume of data that he receives none of which I have attempted to review for the simple reason that Nigerians have not mastered the art of brevity, concision and the precise in getting to the point, I would suppose there are other eyes filtering the content and bringing the useful insights, ideas and inspiration to the President who occasionally mentions by name the contributors and commends the usefulness of their ideas.

As another year is tagged onto this Presidential Facebook odyssey, I doubt the volume of traffic will reduce, but for the many of us already overwhelmed with traffic from those we do know and engage with, this Facebook profile might just have the cursory glance and maybe subscribe via the RSS feed and that is just about enough.

One can however safely say, President Goodluck Jonathan is your quintessential Facebook savvy politician, very few others carry the kind of profile he has and maybe that is a good thing for representative and accountable government in Nigeria starting with the man at the helm.

This assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Facebook activities is published on NigeriansTalk and my blog

Saturday 25 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Homing in on relocation turmoil

An apparent suddenness of circumstances

As the day nears the seriousness of the situation gets even more acute, not even two weeks ago would I have considered I would be making this momentous and life-changing decision.

In some cases, I doubt I am ready for it at all, it is looking like a classic case of being guided or even forced by circumstances rather than creating the circumstances in which you want to control all the events and issues around you – it is a very unfamiliar place.

However, in the last two years I have been in the most unfamiliar places of vulnerability, disease, lack and apparent lack of direction. It would appear there is an agenda only that it is scheduling the chaos that swirls around me without my having the control of the matters it presents.

Questions to ask

The countdown now is 11 days to my new job in England and I have to ask myself if I am asking the right questions and thereby getting answers to the things that should be managed, under control and sorted out.

There is no doubt that any move is stressful and disrupting, some friends have seen it as a new beginning too; I seem to have the 180 degree gaze of the extremes of the best and worst of the situation because I am in the centre of it all.

That question is how do you package a 20 year existence into a kind of storage whilst you find your feet, find your level and find your grounding in a new environment?

As I attempt to distance myself from the rut of it all to hopefully have an unbiased view of the matter, I recognise that the job opportunities seemed to be showing up more in the UK that in the Netherlands and I was pitching for those offers as they came.

A foreigner of sorts

The fact is, though I am a UK citizen with all the eligibility of working back at “home”, my home for the last 11 and more years has been in the Netherlands and essentially I am being employed by a global company to take up a permanent role away from my current domicile.

I suppose, the question I have not asked is, do they have a relocation package that includes, advice, help, assistance and reintegration programmes for returnees because if I am to be the most productive in my new role the last thing I want and they will want on my mind is the turmoil of settling down enough to settle properly in the job and make a good fist at it.

Somehow, I feel a bit relieved about having thought it through to this and it will be my first email out on Monday, the situation with them will now be if it matters that much to them to help – I should spend the weekend reading the contracts and terms as I hope to find some resolution to this interesting dilemma.

The fact is sometimes; your answers are framed by the questions you ask. As a friend shared, these trials are not beyond the realm of resolution.

Fela! In Amsterdam

Fela! In Amsterdam
Just over four months ago, we had a taster, maybe a preview in Amsterdam; Fela! National Theatre Live was shown at a cinema in the South-East of Amsterdam and in my review of that showing [1] I had thought I would have to visit London to watch the musical live at Sadlers Wells in July.
Then a few months ago as I rode home on my bicycle I caught the glimpse of the poster indicating Fela! [2] The much acclaimed Broadway hit and blockbuster was coming to Amsterdam during the Holland Festival season.
It was at the back of my mind and it came to the fore when I visited friends of mine and we thought we might consider attending a weekend matinee but that fell through.
Opportunity seized
With the last day of the show dawning, I decided there was opportunity and providence to watch this amazing extravaganza that had been brought to my doorstep and so I logged on the Theatre Carré website and found a lone seat in what looked like a sold-out show – it was booked.
I arrived in time at the theatre and picked up my ticket, there was an introduction in Dutch to the show which took place in the foyer 45 minutes to the curtain but I did not think I needed to told about Fela Anikulapo Kuti [3] and I had done some research about the show itself, long before.
The set
Taking my seat, the set had all the colour of West African splendour, alive, lively and anticipatory of excitement, it was supposed to be a replica of the Shrine which was the name and location of Fela’s performing venue in Lagos.
Newspaper cuttings of contemporaneous events in the late 1970s were on the sideboards, in fact, those events crept well into the early 1980s considering the setting was supposed to be the summer of 1978, just six months after Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Fela’s mother died.
The cuttings included news of the President earning NGN 70,000 in 1979, that was a lot of money then with the Nigerian Naira slightly short of parity with the British Pound Sterling, though what our politicians earn today puts that in the shade; the expulsion of BP with the nationalisation of a whole swathe of international firms during Obasanjo’s tenure as the military head of State with his programmes for self-reliance, stability and the rampant looting of the Nigerian treasury as their tenure came to a close.
Reminiscing Fela
Long before the curtain, the horns of Fela’s kind of music were beginning to mesmerise almost to the point of delirium. The show was supposed to start at 8:00 PM prompt but we seemed to gain an African time component, many seats were not yet taken.
Dancers danced in the aisles, African dance is amazingly dexterous; waving arms, pounding feet, rocking hips – all movements in fluidity no other race on the globe can rival.
It was choreographed by Bill T. Jones and there were signs of classical and contemporary dance but nothing moved us as much as the raw African expression that continually drew raucous applause as the show began at 8:20 PM.
The back screen had subtitles to most of the songs that were in English and Pidgin English, none of the Yoruba songs or Arabic recitations were subtitled though there was one song “Water No Get Enemy” where the Yoruba was interpreted in song to English.
A busy plot
We were continually engaged in the show that was interactive and participatory first with the calling back and then the clock dance that would have loosened a good few hips in gyrations that interesting as they were bordering on adult obscene.
The plot took us through Fela’s childhood, his appreciation of our indigenous culture, his sojourn in England and America, his discovery of black consciousness and the development of his brand of music; Afrobeat [4] - it was like the making of Fela before he began to get recognition in Nigeria.
It would not have been unfamiliar to see a huge joint lit in Amsterdam but the conversation that ensued with the audience was funny when someone asked that he pass the joint with the magic phrase of Puff, Puff, Pass – the humour of the script carried well and the audience was never lost as to when to laugh or when to clap.
Fela, the life
Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Fela was seriously persecuted in Nigeria for his activism part of which was the defenestration of his mother from a second floor window resulting in her untimely death.
The last performance in the show was “Coffin for Head of State” in which his mother’s coffin and another 30 or so smaller coffins were erected in a pile each with some interesting social point of focus and for the Netherlands it was Zwarte Piet [5] depicting Racism, one had Fukushima; a reference to the nuclear disaster in Japan, Stephen Lawrence [6]; a teenage victim of race-hate murder in London, Ai WeiWei; the Chinese dissident along with the usual names like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and issues like censorship.
As the cast bowed out, Femi Kuti [7] was invited on stage where he showed deep appreciation of the whole cast and regaled us with some dancing; I wondered how you could encore a show like this.
The music never really stopped as the cast invited the audience on stage and the lead sang, then he offered us more that Femi Kuti took the microphone and sang too, basically, this went on for about 20 minutes – suffice it to say, I have never been to a musical that was as engaging as this, it is one show that given the opportunity you must never ever miss.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Thank you, Holland


Just over an hour ago I receive three telephone calls, one to determine if I am in still interested in the offer with a last ditch effort to still negotiate the expected salary – I was not going to budge any more, though for a permanent job it looks like a good deal having been self-employed for 13 of the last 15 years; it is a radical pay-cut – the times determine certain circumstances.

Other candidates were going for about 12% lower but there comes a time when knowing that you are good value for money is where you stick to your guns and let them decide.

Soon after, I received the second telephone call that a bit of juggling had been done and what had been agreed had been accepted, I have the offer.

The third telephone call came from the agency handling the recruitment process congratulating me on successfully securing the job that was a great booster for my morale and confidence, my track record, experience and expertise had secured me a job despite the swirling turmoil that I was in, I am still capable of going for it and getting it.

Strangely Dutch

With that decision comes a whole range of things to be done, I have two weeks to prepare and after 11 years and 2 months in the Netherlands, I will be returning to work in the United Kingdom because basically that is where the work is now.

Most of the open opportunities I have seen in the last six months in the Netherlands have included the language filter, the requirement to speak Dutch – I do have a good grasp of Dutch but have rarely used it for business, the convenience of being European has meant there was no compelling reason to be proficient and even when I worked for distinctively Dutch companies the systems, documentation and communications have mostly been in English.

It then became interesting that suddenly these companies adopted an ultra-nationalistic slant but I guess it was to weed down market eligibility and crowd out the presumably non-natives.


So, a chapter is closing and a new one is about to be opened though unexpected in that I honestly would have preferred to stay in the Netherlands or move east to Berlin than return to England, but those are decisions we now need to make.

There is so much to do culminating in my medical and therapy sessions here before I resume duties in just two weeks.

I suppose this is the beginning of the many thanks I will giving to the Netherlands for 11 amazing, tumultuous, beautiful, crazy, happy and wonderful years.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Exploring Therapy

One only alone

Single people can so easily get isolated from the kind of setting and community structure that allows for them to get help with ease and communicate issues before they become complicated.

The benefits of independence when able are quickly dispensed of when one is vulnerable, there are times when the presence of someone to chat to after the social hours is necessary to help unravel and probably sort things out.

In my circumstances, I have found that the openness I am able to express in writing is not that characteristic of my personality, I am somewhat reserved, secretive and private; my mind simply churns like a heavy industrial plant all the issues as I play protagonist and dissenter in my head trying to think through the circumstances.

Reaching beyond yourself

I have found many good solutions and amazing inspiration but there has always been something so amazing about sharing some of those issues with others and their perspectives just seem to ease the burden and show new insight that your self-assessment has never considered and if it has usually not with any persuasion.

Today, I rode out to see a therapist, whilst I am not sure of what I will gain from it, there is need to unburden myself on a number of situations as surviving cancer, the effects of long-term illness, returning to a standard and quality of life that one once knew and the way one projects oneself after having been through all those situations.

The analysis of self

I have just had the feeling that a lot of this I have in some ways brought on myself and then with some stoicism tried to manage myself but you wonder if you still have the strength to keep on keeping on despite the odds and latching on to the great hopes that give you the assurance that your better days are ahead and not in your past.

Would I lay in a couch? Do I have a bit part in Analyse This!? I do not know, but it is not madness to seek the company of professional strangers to think things through, I must divest myself of the cultural reluctance to seek therapy, I hear, it could be very helpful.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Nigeria: Definitely time to give June 12 a decent burial

Making history history

On June 12 2011, I wrote a piece titled Nigeria: Time to give June 12 a decent burial [1] for a number of reasons which already appear in that piece.

Basically, June 12 1993 is an important date in Nigerian history, it presented the opportunity for democratic self-determination but the military junta of that time made the promise unrealisable by annulling those elections.

In essence, the simple analogy that applies is the case of a medical student who came tops in every year of the course but failed for graduate – for all the knowledge that student might have acquired and demonstrated throughout that course that person is NOT a doctor.

Take the lessons but don’t live there

In the same vein, whilst June 12 was a watershed, a standard for what we all agree until the very recent past were the freest, fairest and most credible elections ever conducted in Nigeria, the fact that the results did not result in the winner of the election taking office because of the annulment makes it an unfulfilled exercise in democracy.

There is no doubt that there are lessons of history to be taken from June 12 and it probably sowed some seeds of national consciousness in Nigerians but 18 years have passed and Nigeria is in a different place.

In discussions that followed that write-up the opinions I expressed were termed revisionist and sometimes false. However, none of the assertions I made were without attribution and sources, the standard of my writing is such that corroboration and references are paramount.

A sloppy rebuttal

It is grating that the rebuttal to my piece Guest Post – June 12: Why Bury the Living Among The Dead? [2]fails to meet that standard none of the figures used are referenced, neither are the opinions corroborated and it is for all the intents of the writer more argumentum ad hominem than one that rises to the level of basic scholarly discourse albeit an ordinary opinion piece lacking the support of source material.

I owe no particular allegiance to either June 12 1993 or April 16 2011, the principal beneficiary of the 1993 election is long dead and buried with a memory approaching hagiographic proportions in the minds of certain Nigerians – I am not that persuaded.

In my view, the events and context of June 12 1993 should be taught as part of Nigerian history, it does not need to be hallowed and the needs for reparation or justice in relation to that time are matters of conjecture that honestly bear no relevance to Nigeria of today because a lot has changed since then.

Between 1993 and now

The Nigerian population in 1991 [3] was 88,992,220 the 2010 estimate [4] is put at 158,259,000, in 1993 an estimated 39,000,000 voters registered [5] compared to 73, 528,040 in 2011 [6].

In my original piece I referred to some data in an interview conducted with Professor Okon Uya who averred that the voter turnout was 13% [7] taking the spectre of credibility from the 1993 elections. I extrapolated that view to assert that even the lowest turnout in Ogun State of 28% in 2011 made the 1993 elections suspect.

On examination of new data, Professor Okon Uya was wrong about the voter turnout being 13% in 1993, the data suggests that the voter turnout [5] was 36.65%; however, the voter turnout for the 2011 elections according to INEC figures was 53.67%.

The context still remains valid

In my opinion, based on these new facts we find that the main thrust of my original argument is not lost, only made less extreme in its significance. Apart from the standards of freeness and fairness, voter turnout is also an attribute of election credibility and by that; we can safely state that the 2011 elections have eclipsed the 1993 elections.

The 2011 elections were not perfect, everyone will admit to that and some of the results are in dispute but the declared winners of the said elections have assumed office and will work in that capacity drawing their requisite emoluments until such a time that those election results are reaffirmed, overturned or declared invalid.

Nigeria is not waiting for that to happen even as justice takes its course, the lay of the land in Nigeria today is for the advancement of its people and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other visionary plans the people who hold the reins of power have espoused.

Nigeria has moved on

June 12, 1993 has its significance to the many who give it some hagiographic importance but Nigeria has a median age [8] of 19 years meaning the core majority of Nigerians will have no particular connection with 1993 apart from them gaining a historical perspective of that event.

As things stand, we are in 2011, the best elections with a result we have ever conducted in all of the history of Nigeria taking note of the medical student analogy I used at the beginning of this piece was the election conducted on the 16th of April, 2011, regardless of who won and despite the fact that the greater animosity to that election is one redolent of sore losers than other objective assessment.

My views of June 12 are hardly revisionist rather they aim to put two different times in context whilst appreciating how Nigeria has changed 18 years on, my refusal to idolise, eulogise or be sentimentally incapacitated with the subjective discourse making for some sense of greater patriotic persuasion is clear – 1993 is now history.

It is time to give June 12 a decent burial and get on with making Nigeria a country fit to take its rightful place in the 21st Century.


[1] Nigeria: Time to give June 12 a decent burial

[2] Guest Post – June 12: Why Bury the Living Among The Dead?

[3] Table 1.3.2 - Numeric and percentage Distribution of the 1991 Census Figures

[4] Nigerian Population estimate for 2010

[5] African Elections Database – Elections in Nigeria

[6] April 16 2011 Presidential Election Results Analysis

[7] The Sun News On-line | Every election since 1922 has been manipulated –Okon Uya, ex-NECON boss

[8] Demographics of Nigeria – Wikipedia

Monday 20 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Seconds from rag-doll demise

Longing for short bridges

It could be a busy road and I rarely go jay-walking if I can help it. I would most likely walk up to the traffic lights or seek a zebra-crossing.

Even if I know I have right-of-way I would probably wait to see the whites of the eyes of approaching drivers of vehicles with an acknowledgement of my intent before I cross.

I still remember vividly crossing under the bridge of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos under the Isolo overpass where the pedestrian crossing added almost a kilometre to what was just a 150 metre perilous dash. All the builders of that bridge had to do was attach two staircases on either side of the expressway, but that kind of thinking would have been too radical. See A road runs through it.

Seconds from ragdoll demise

A few days before the War Against Indiscipline Corps instituted by the Buhari regime had caught me crossing “illegally” and I had to do a 20-minute frog-jump punishment amongst other culprits.

So, this morning, seeing I was in a rush and the corps members are not around, I made for the usual dash across a road that allows speeds well over 100 kilometres an hour, I heard shouts and screams, maybe warnings but was oblivious of the fact that they were meant for me as a vehicle whizzed past the front of me seconds before I became a ragdoll of an accident causality leading to a preventable fatality before I saw my twentieth year.

I do not think I realised my close shave with death until days or maybe weeks afterwards when the whole episode played back like a movie in slow-motion but a sixth sense, premonition or foreboding had taken hold that I never ever made that dash ever again.

Sight and right

One other handicap I did not realise I had was a lazy eye coupled with astigmatism which could have been corrected in childhood which meant I could not reasonably judge distance and approaching speed, it made me crap at tennis because I just never could judge where the ball would be, that knowledge now is an active determinant in how I cross roads.

So, as I got to this crossing a tall police van with all lights flashing but no sirens blaring drove up the wrong way and parked just in front of the traffic lights that pedestrians need to determine when to cross the road. Those lights even serve a greater importance to those who cannot make it across the road in a timely fashion in a city with the most impatient of drivers.

I waved and remonstrated to the policeman driver who wondered what my problem was, so I shouted out to him, “You are blocking the lights and the way for pedestrians to cross the road.” At first, he wanted to ignore my protest but I waved even more frantically to the lights on my side, the fact I wanted to cross and well my cane had a statement of its own too.

Insistence and persistence pays

He eventually got my message and moved his vehicle out of the illegally parked section he was in to another place where he would have also complied with parking laws. The police are there to facilitate upholding the law not break them with impunity, in my humble opinion.

Thanking him, I crossed the road thinking I had rediscovered that latent spark of that Akin I once knew would insist on things being just the way they were supposed to be. Maybe there is a chance that this rediscovery will permeate other parts of my expression that seem to be suffering from a loss of confidence, esteem and status – I really do need to find myself again.

Meanwhile, a letter arrived for my first appointment for therapy which I should have had from the moment I was diagnosed with cancer some 21 months ago – I have crazy ideas I still want to execute in whatever is left of my sometimes quite exciting life of experiences and somewhat bizarre tales.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Thought Picnic: Some mean streets in Europe

Hardly a chase

A snatch and a chase by three of one who could really dodge and run and so he did between vehicles round the corner and down a stretch of road long before those in pursuit came into view.

By the time they found their bearings as to where he had absconded to, he was a good 150m away standing as if to dare them to make that distance and catch him in an instant.

They stood forlorn, they had been had, the one most affected lingered but did not cuss or curse, nor did he swear under his breath, it all looked like the survival of the fittest and this one got away.

It is possible they will meet soon again, a melee will break out, probably some fists fly, an altercation as it ever was strange amongst them and evening of scores and the one-upmanship is reset for another occasion.

They were brothers, one of the ethnic minorities that brought to might that most poignant saying in Yoruba about the regret and sadness of broken relationships – be not betrayal for the betrayal of friends for brothers get away with a lot more.

Not a lady by half

The altercations are many, ladies who have lost the grace of be addressed as such by their public show of jealous rage, the man helpless and embarrassed as each attempt at pacifying her only seems to escalate the matter.

By the time he manhandles her as if the shake the devil off the screeching and shrill charade, the men in blue have arrived to book them for breaching the peace.

The neighbours know no peace neither do the shopkeepers whose late hours only leave them open to the waifs and strays whose apparently friendly but wary exchanges quickly turn into situations well out of hand needing the law.

The speed at which they arrive and almost cuff the culprits for a chat at the precinct will rival science fiction transportation systems.

It is a typical Saturday night dawning into Sunday many of those involved have not slept from the night before and the menace they are to themselves defines the mean streets of this city.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Nigeria: Politics, Prophecy and Perceptions of Tunde Bakare

Perceptions or propaganda
The Nigerian public space sometimes affords the opportunity to postulate, proselytise, propagate, preach, prophesy, pronounce, predict, pander or pillory.
That list is hardly exhaustive as people who believe they have a voice find easy platforms, lecterns, pulpits, organs and media to make their strong views known.
There is the truth out there and there are shades of the truth, people can subscribe to speak the truth but the whole truth in a society as diverse and multifarious as Nigeria cannot be in the exclusive possession of singular persons, communities, regions, states or particular interests no matter how altruistic, honest and laudable their aims might be.
We must however grant everyone the opportunity to relay and convey their version of the truth and those who hear must exercise the greatest and utmost meticulous means to assess, challenge, verify, discuss and ascertain with all objective resource the sum and product of all these versions to arrive at the truth, debunk the fallacies, contemn the lies and in all expressions of disagreement strive to avoid disagreeableness.
As we stand in Nigeria
This afternoon, I came upon a sermon delivered by Pastor Tunde Bakare who recently was the presidential running mate of Retired General Mohammadu Buhari of the CPC, which in the Presidential elections of April the 16th literally swept the majority in the North but hardly made an impact in the South.
I am of the conviction that the CPC was never a party that had the requisite national representative cachet to take the spoils from both their poor showings in all the elections apart from the presidential one, which meant even if they did pull the miracle of winning the race to head the executive arm of government, it would have been impossible for them to implement their agenda with a minuscule number of representatives in the legislature.
In fact, I would have expected the Machiavellian nature of Nigerian politics to have inspired the legislature to make the impeachment of the CPC stalwarts their one and only aim until they put a ruling party stooge in charge, but that is speculation.
The backstories are many
Now, Pastor Bakare is a passionate man, he is most probably a very religious man and as a preacher he can put together a very compelling case that would rank with the legal prowess of Perry Mason or some other amazing legal luminary however in a court the case is heard for both the appellant and the defendant with sometimes the use of expert witnesses, the moderation of a judge and the attentiveness of a jury before a decision is arrived at.
I will contend that despite the many facts, truths, analogies, allegories, inferences, proverbs and riddles, we have only heard a side of a bigger story which appears on deeper scrutiny to be a proxy feud between families intent on laying claim to some crown of leadership of a community.
There are many backstories to the claims being made and it is important that beyond the sensationalist headlines that newspapers will gravitate to in the quest for grandiose speculation and vile vituperations it behoves all that are fair and just to listen to the good 1:45 hours of this message.
To enter the discourse
It is probably best reviewed in Internet Explorer where you can adjust the slider, in Google Chrome, you are forced to listen to the whole lot and using Mozilla Firefox you will need to have the Apple Quicktime plugin installed.
An open mind is required and you probably want to take notes, the last thing you want to do is jump to conclusions or make assertions that were not volubly and directly made by the speaker.
The admissible evidence
It started from Feyi Fawehinmi’s status on Facebook where over a 100 comments and exchanges have clashed with passion. Depending on his security settings you might be able to view the exchanges, have to login in to Facebook or become his friend on Facebook.
Bakare: A bastard can’t be Yoruba leader: The National Compass Newspaper scores a tabloid style news scoop courting controversy with some excerpts of the sermon.
The sermon – It’s time to speak – Tunde Bakare, best reviewed in Internet Explorer or through Mozilla Firefox on systems where Apple QuickTime is installed.

Friday 17 June 2011

Thought Picnic: The genius of Facebook

Facing the past happily

I was chatting to a friend I last saw over two decades ago, he was one of my best friends when we were in secondary school.

The fact is for all the keenness of my memory about so many events of my past one aspect gives me concern, that of names. I have had too many instances where I have mismatched surnames and cannot for all the familiarity I had with the same people remember that essential piece of information.

Obviously, when the name showed up as a Facebook invitation, there was instant recognition with the mental slap on the head as how I could ever forgotten ever.

Everyone is a friend or a fan

However, for all the negative uses of Facebook, when I got chatting to my friend he highlighted something about the Facebook service that should have us in gratitude to whoever thought us the idea and implemented it.

Now, I have many friends on Facebook because the basic concept of interaction is Friendship and that is between people, when dealing with an organisation, institution or some personality as a public figure their profiles offer a different mode of interaction which allows you to click on the Like button.

In essence, you befriend people you know or seek to establish some relationship with and like things, objects or people you are fans of.

This is the air travel of interaction

Before Facebook there were few services that offered the means for re-establishing contact with long lost friends, you wondered where they were, what they did, how they have changed and so on; they were memories – sometimes keen, sometimes faint but we were in terms helpless and just let time run its course.

I am on many networks and have registered on alumni management sites but none have come close to the kind of social interaction that Facebook offers to rediscover and reacquaint yourself with your past; memorably nice or downright rotten.

You do have to filter your reconnections; I refuse to allow my curiosity to know to drive me back into the arms of the dreadful nightmares of the past, they are best left latent maybe even forgotten and never rekindled, no, not for a second.

Facing a broader spectrum of your history

So, as I have written before, Facebook has brought me in contact with family and relations, some so extended and the first time I met then was on Facebook. In my 40s I am making new contact with people I went to school with in the 70s and early 80s, it is surreal.

Such opportunities never existed except at alumni reunions but with the world being an ever smaller place and people travelling even further afield than before the opportunities for live meetings are more diminished.

You make a friend on Facebook and literally all the gaps get filled at an instant depending on the information shared and people share as much information to what is primarily their circle of current and close circle of friends which gets cascaded out to others who are acquaintances and long lost contacts who have become Facebook friends.

So, what Facebook has done for the rekindling of relationships is phenomenal despite the misgivings of many, it brings you back into the broad spectrum of all the people, issues and circumstances that have defined your experiences and history; crowding them into your present and forging and future that would be interesting to control, if you can.

Facebook is no joke

Looking beyond the technology and vehicle of social networking there is something greater at play; what you choose to do with those re-established relationships is left to you and how you handle those you have never had but now have to opportunity to tend, grow and foster might well define who you might become.

For all the figures, ratings and daily interactions that range from trivia to downright serious, Facebook in its concept is a work of genius and its ultimate uses have probably not yet been imagined by those who started this amazing experiment.

If there is anything you can take from this realisation, it is that Facebook is no joke, you constantly have to ask yourself about what you share, what is private, who you are willing to meet, what you are ready to relive, if you should curb your enthusiasm and whether you really can handle what Facebook brings back to you.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Editorial: Sexuality pervading discussions about judges

Judging judges

Sometimes I wonder why people are so quick to judge on the matter of sexuality and its expression. It is a topic I have written about extensively and most notably is the one I wrote in 2006 titled, Somehow, strange sexualities excite Africans [1] which has been one of my most read blogs as well as the most referenced from search engines when sexuality and Africa appear in the search phrase.

The matter of judging, judges, judgment and justice and sexuality becomes even more interesting in a number of recent events.

Last year, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled Proposition 8 against gay marriage unconstitutional and one reviewer of the judgment [2 PDF file] felt that it was factual, well-reasoned and powerful [3].

It showed you could not underestimate the abilities and genius of a sound legal mind but the supporters of Proposition 8 were unhappy that this ruling was put in abeyance as it was being contested in a higher court.

Avoiding pernicious precedent

There was the minor issue that that Judge Walker is homosexual but they felt he should have recused himself because he was in a long-term same-sex relationship with the possibility of it culminating in gay marriage and thereby presenting a veneer of conflict of interest.

A judge in a higher court had Tuesday ruled that he had no legal obligation to exclude himself [4] from adjudicating the case with a rather staunch defence of the judge’s impartiality and integrity by saying, “It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings.”

In terms of Judge Walker not revealing his presumed vested interest, he goes on to say, If Walker had disclosed "intimate but irrelevant details of his personal life," he could have "set a pernicious precedent" for other judges by promoting disclosure of highly personal information, before being able to adjudicate on matters of life and society of which they are as citizens and human-beings are part of.

Defending the integrity of judges

In essence apart from defending the integrity of Judge Walker, it was a staunch defence of judges in general from vexatious and outrageous attacks on their impartiality and professionalism just because they might be affiliated to situations or causes that their decisions might impact even if their legal commentary is sound and unimpeachable.

Back on African soil, the spotlight is on Kenya where decisions are to made regarding the nominations of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.

Dr. Willy Mutunga is being considered for the top job; he has never been on the bench but is a distinguished academic and a respected activist in the promotion of law and justice in Kenya.

An opinion piece [5] appearing in the Business Daily Africa lauds his credentials suggesting that he meets and exceeds the requirements for the job and avers that his “experience spans significant milestones in Kenya’s democratisation” going on to list examples of his work.

Courting controversy

It would amount to tautology to stress his qualifications; his eligibility is unimpeachable however appearing for vetting [6] at a committee of the Kenyan parliament, the members of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) seem to have been distracted and engaged in the subjective, sentimental, speculative and sensational.

Obviously, it is a matter of interest in Africa if a man wears an earring stud and especially a man of Dr. Mutunga’s standing which should not detract from his professional ability but can excite insinuations that associate such fashion with homosexual even though it has never been conclusively proven to be of that progeny.

He proves an enigmatic figure having been baptised a protestant, confirmed a catholic and then now a convert to Islam creating all the avenues for courting controversy and more.

Misreading human rights activism

At which point, one would wonder how the vetting for the two top offices of justice got embroiled in the fascination with the sexuality of the nominated principals whose jurisprudence credentials were primarily the reasons why they were put forward.

Ms. Nancy Baraza who ideally should be addressed as Dr. Nancy Baraza is known for her work in the defunct Constitution of Kenya Review Commission and the Kenya Law Review Commission. Besides she has fought for seemingly unpopular causes in Africa as adequate healthcare provision for gays and lesbians in Kenya.

However, those laudable human rights accolades lead to a bizarre set of exchanges that resulted in her saying, “I'm not a lesbian. If I were a lesbian, there are some very good friends of mine in this room (and) I would have dated them.

No-nonsense justice

Not sparing the blushes of the inquisitively voyeuristic committee, Dr. Mutunga also has a line that might have sent the prude scurrying back into their forsakenly atrocious holes, “My community, the Kamba, have a saying that 'When you go for circumcision, you go naked so I'm okay. I'm happy to answer these personal questions,’ I'm aware that we are in an era where leaders are being held accountable. I'm cool with that.

With these people Kenyan might well be ushering in a period of straight-talking, upright, confident and principled justices who are not going to apologise for their opinions, lifestyles, causes or activism – this probably is the kind of judiciary every African country needs, no not blind-sided by titillation and unprofitable distractions but given to entirely without reservation to the principles and cause of trusted and impartial justice based on sound application of the law and its credible precedents.


[1] Somehow, strange sexualities excite Africans

[2] Judge Walker’s Proposition 8 decision. [PDF file]

[3] Judge Walker's decision to overturn Prop 8 is factual, well-reasoned, and powerful. - By Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine

[4] Gay jurist in Proposition 8 case had no legal obligation to remove himself, judge rules [Updated] -

[5] Business Daily Africa | Kenya needs Mutunga as Chief Justice

[6] | Kenya: Private Lives of CJ, Deputy Nominees Queried