Wednesday, November 29, 2006

92 wraps

I've only just heard about Hassanat Taiwo Akinwande's drugs bust. I must admit, I've never heard of her, but the story is astonishing. Read on.

Dreams

Last night, I dreamt that Ngozi Okonji-Iweala won the elections in Nigeria, Except, she's not running. My friend has advised me to stop taking hallucinogens before going to bed...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nigeria's finest

What do Nigerian police do when they're not killing innocent people, taking bribes, and doing nothing? They rape Nigerian women. An Amnesty International report is doing the rounds.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apology for Slavery

Today (Monday 27th) British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will express "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the slave trade. Kofi Mawuli Klu, from Rendezvous of Victory and Philosophy professor, AC Grayling (read Grayling's article which made me contact him) discuss whether this is enough or if he should make a full apology. Listen here.

I'm pleased to say I set up the discussion for yesterday's Newshour, after reading the Observer's front page, and Tristram Hunt's opinion piece. Both speakers were very convincing: AC Grayling with typically British sang froideur, and Kofi Mawuli Klu with African effusion. You can read the "expression of deep sorrow" at the New Nation website, a story which will probably be their biggest scoop in yonks. I'm not exactly sure where I stand on the whole slavery apology thing.

What exactly does an apology mean? How does an apology for centuries-old wrongs affect us today? There was Andrew Hawkins who went to the Gambia to apologise for one of his antecedents, a notorious slave trader. What did it achieve? Either way, I'm yet to be convinced that it matters whether black people receive apologies, official or unofficial.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rap impressionist

This is one of the most convincing rap impressions you're ever likely to see. Watch and enjoy, as Aries Spears does LL Cool J, Snoop, DMX, and Jay-Z:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nigerian Xmas

Got this from a website for expats in Nigeria, Oyibos Online:

Nigerian Santa visits a local school in PH (Port Harcourt) and says "Hello children, what do you have for me?"

Disgusted of London

Got the email below in my inbox yesterday. You can read the offending LA Times November 11 piece here.

Ooohhooo....

I'm getting tired of alarmist news. (remember the conversation we had about CNN re. their alarmist 'civil war cry' post Abacha's death on Sunday?)

Of course Obasanjo is going to step down! Clearly, there are concerns in the run up to April, but I am of the opinion that this article is quite misleading, especially in the way it implies that Obasanjo's moves indicate that he still wants to be there post April. That is certainly not the case! We all know Obasanjo is going. We just don't know who will replace him.

What kind of statement is this?!: 'He also should beef up the elections agency. If he doesn't, and voids the elections to maintain power, a bloody civil war is almost certain to follow'.

What tosh!
1) lazy reporting - can't be bothered to find out the name of 'the elections agency' when it was ok to state in full what the EFCC was. Perhaps if they said what INEC stood for as opposed to saying 'the elections agency', ignorant Americans would at least be aware that there are (supposed to be) independent bodies in our democratic system and Obasanjo does not wield as much 'despotic power' as this article insinuates.

2) 'a bloody civil war' is likely to follow - call me an optimist but puleeze - classic Americanism -Africans are 'the other - uncivilised and always fighting'. If anyone has any iota of grace to rescue this article, please feel free not to share it with me. There are a lot of better places to gain more thoughtful analysis of the challenges which face our nation in the coming months. Newspapers need to be more informed, ah beg!

Nkem (my journalist friend) please read.

Hope that was not too vitriolic. Sorry, this kind of 4th rate reporting is not good for me at this time of day.

Bye :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Al Jazeera passes first test.

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, sad news though it is, has been proven that Al Jazeera can tango with the best of the West. I was down to do the bulletin at 1500hrs, and everything was going swimmingly. But this is live news, where bombs are always going off, planes are always crashing, and treaties are always being signed. It was about 1420hrs, so I figured I had enough time. Ordinarily, I'd have put in a story saying "some news just in", followed by a couple of lines. With forty minutes to go, there'd definitely be a proper story ready to go in.

As is always the way with live news, stories were being written as we were going on air. The idea is for everything to mimic a swan: gliding gracefully above water, paddling furiously underneath. The last time I remember having an incredible breaking story was when North Korea tested its nuclear device. That was about 0350hrs in the morning, ten minutes before my bulletin. Again, graceful swan. Enough about my silly bulletin. Al Jazeera.

In the first hour after the story broke, of all the 24hr news channels, only Al Jazeera had a correspondent on the ground. Rula Amin (poached from CNN) was there with a camera, uplink and all. BBC News24 had Fergal Keane in the studio, giving context as someone who knows Beirut and Lebanese politics. He was probably there as a day reporter, as he'd done a piece on Kagame being charged with bringing down Habyarimana's plane (the spark for the Rwandan genocide). BBC World (we have both at work) went to Ian Pannell, Middle East analyst, in Jerusalem. Sky brought up Dominic Waghorn in Jerusalem as well. CNN had a Fouad Siniora (Lebanese PM) adviser on the phone, and then went to Jim Clancy, the former Beirut bureau chief, who was in Sao Paulo.

For some reason, Kim Ghattas, who has done a sterling job in Beirut was in Damascus, covering the Syria-Iraq relations restoration. She was probably covering for David Loyn, who's normally in Syria, but is in Iraq, probably giving Hugh Sykes a break. I don't know whether the Beeb provided official cover for Kim Ghattas, but Newsnight's Tim Whewell turned up in Beirut less than two hours later.

Al Jazeera was also the only channel that had any archive footage of Gemayel, all the others ran pictures, and videos of the holey windows of Mr Gemayel's car. The man who appeared to be supplying all the news organisations with on the ground news though, was the Indy's Middle East reporting giant, Robert Fisk. A call went out from our newsroom to Mr Fisk, who was actually in Beirut. Newshour had him live, and I think one of the BBC's news channels also had him. Meanwhile at the UN, the moustachioed John Bolton was giving an impassioned and impromptu press conference. Mark Seddon was reporting for Al Jazeera, Laura Trevelyan for the BBC, and the Beeb also had Jonathan Beale at the State Department.

Why does it matter how Al Jazeera did this story? Because the Middle East is still the cauldron of the world, a cauldron that draws the world's foremost power (the US) into its eye. Whenever a Middle East story breaks, Al Jazeera will become the channel of choice. The developing world, is where they want to report, the "global south". Incidentally, the Director General of Al Jazeera is on Hardtalk today, watch here. The murder of Pierre Gemayel may well precipitate a civil war in Lebanon, something the region, let alone the country cannot afford after last year's Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Precisely the premise for Friday's Unreported World. Depressingly prescient?
The Chelsea syndrome might be beginning to show - while CNN, Sky, and believe it or not, the BBC, have to tighten their belts on expenditure, Al Jazeera presumably has a bottomless pocket of oil money. Add to the mix, Mourinhoesque good management, et voila...

Monday, November 20, 2006

LA bloody PD

If you haven't seen the LAPD taser video, it isn't for the faint hearted. It's the second time in the space of a few weeks that LAPD have been in the news for brutalising Angelenos. Basically, a UCLA student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, is shot with a taser gun repeatedly, including when he was handcuffed. When I saw the video, I didn't know what he did, nor did I care after seeing it. I'm not interested in excuses, because that's all they'll be. Even caged animals wouldn't be treated with such disregard. Simply put, the guy was tortured. Of course America doesn't practise torture, apart from waterboarding which VP Dick Cheney thinks is a no-brainer.

A taser gun is a cattle prod for human beings, so imagine how it must feel being electrocuted repeatedly. The Observer did a piece on it a few years ago, and a US journo got a taste of it for a news report. The way things stand, LAPD chief, Will Bratton hasn't made any silly statements like the last time when one of his officers punched William Cardenas in the face as if he was trying to knock him out. According to Bratton, "as to whether the actions of the officers were appropriate in light of what they were experiencing and the totality of the circumstances is what the investigation will determine." That's a cop out, if you'll excuse the pun.

Watch the videos and squirm in disgust:





If you're interested in his "crime", he refused to show the campus police his ID.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

So...

So, I've just walked into the lobby at Bush House, shivering slightly from the November cold, carrying a plastic bag from Tesco (I'm tightening my belt, even though the stuff cost me just over four quid). I go through the rotating security doors, and I see a familiar face. Dimunitive as ever, it's BEN's Jide Iyaniwura, but as I stretch out to shake his hand, I see the man beside him is none other than Frank Nweke Jnr (Minister of Information, the man I call OBJ's rottweiler-in-chief).

Mr Nweke Jnr, (or should that be Jnr Nweke), isn't baring his fangs this time, he's smiling. I tell him that I'll be undertaking a tour of Nigeria around election time, and that hopefully, we'll meet. I'd like to ask him some tough questions, I say. He chuckles, charm itself, then hands me a card, before he's whisked off to be interviewed by the Africa's widest reaching news programme, Focus on Africa. I reckon he's in town to woo diaspora donors for the PDP, try and get some Goldmann Sachs and PWC Queen's heads to strengthen the PDP's war chest.

The games have begun.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Football update

After the World Cup in Germany finished, I was going to post a blog titled "The Death of Nigerian football". I didn't. I refrained from sounding the death knell of my favourite football team. The performance of people like Osaze in the French league, and Kanu in the premiership, made me think there was some hope. Now I'm not so sure anymore.

The initial plan was to outline how there were no players of the Finidi, Jay-jay, Amunike calibre any longer, playing for top European clubs. But I stupidly forgot about the management. A case in point is the cancellation of last night's match against Senegal, due to be held in France. Every African country that matters, and those that didn't, played last night (Tuesday), or tonight. I went to Ghana v Oz at QPR, Egypt played South Africa at Brentford, Cameroon played Indonesia, Ivory Coast played Sweden. Morocco, Tunisia, Togo, even Zimbabwe played over the last couple of days. And where was the so-called giant of Africa?

Friendly matches are not hard to organise. There are numerous sports consultancies that organise international matches. The FAs only have to do sweet FA. Pay some money to the company and call up your players. Calling up your players involves sending a fax to them and their clubs, and sending them a ticket to gather. It's not rocket science.

I spoke to Amos Adamu during the World Cup, and he said a similar non-qualification disaster wouldn't happen for South Africa 2010. I'm now disinclined to believe him. The new board has just started, so I suppose it might be pushing it to expect any action so early. But Eguavoen is still manager, and they haven't been able to organise a friendly.

If NFA doesn't get its act together...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Unreported World

Unreported World just aired. I haven't got very much to say except, Nigeria is probably doomed. Stark poverty which makes a family want to give their child away, pollution which turns beautiful creeks in rivers of crude oil, the arrogance of a governor (Odili) who drinks a $200 bottle Cristal with a journalist without a hint of irony, and an articulate, dynamic, unfortunate people bearing the brunt of it. I'll see if I can put a copy of it online in the next few days. In the meantime, listen to the podcast.

Helicopter crash

Catastrophes are like buses... Helicopter crash near Warri.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A tale of two Donalds

So as one Donald (Rumsfeld) leaves office, another Donald (Duke) seeks high office. One garbles his words, the other appears to have a mastery of language. One leaves with his legacy in tatters, as bodybags sellers do a brisk business in Baghdad and the Pentagon. The other, begins with an almost suspiciously untarnished reputation: a teacher's pet among Nigerian governors.

Donald Rumsfeld (pictured, right) has become a major scalp of the hiding the Republicans received in the US midterm elections. (Imagine the state of affairs when winning the Senate by one is seen as a landslide - thanks to I'll miss Rummy, but not for Abu Ghraib, Iraqi reconstruction, or extraordinary rendition, but for his way with words. His "known knowns" speech is singularly the greatest ever piece of political obfuscation, intended or otherwise:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
Journalists love this kind of politician, someone who brings light to their lives outside the drudgery of policy reports and select committee meetings. Which is another reason Bush and Prescott are so loved. Since we'll no longer hear Rumsfeldian wisdom from the Pentagon, I'll be visiting several websites to have my fill of, "The Wise Words of Donald Rumsfeld". Broadcasting House has a juicy archive built up over several shows, or I might even buy what is essentially "Donald Rumsfeld: the Opera", a collection of songs based on the "poetry of Rummy".

As for Donald Duke (pictured, right), he has blog (thanks to Jeremy and Chxta). I sense a Howard Dean style inspired diaspora intelligentsia support for him. Internet donations, the man to change the status quo, the how-can-he-lose candidate. This is Nigeria, of course he can lose. Firstly, he needs the support of the PDP gangsters to secure their nomination, an almost impossible task if he wishes to remain untainted. The PDP nomination will be an indication of where we are as a nation. Are we progressives, or retrogressives? Nominating General Babangida is a no-no, and I'll keep my exile promise if he becomes President.

People have already started to ask hard questions on his blog, most crucially - specifics. Politicians are emperors of the vague, seeking to govern on a solid platform of emptiness. It's solid, but there's nothing in it. Sometimes, along comes a politician with an idea, halleluyah. So let's hear about what Mr Duke has in store for Nigeria. I'm already excited about next year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fire in the Delta

Set your VCRs, Sky Pluses, Tivos, etc to record Unreported World: Fire in the Delta, this Friday 10th on Channel 4 at 7.35pm. I've wanted to preview this for a while, but kept forgetting. Basically, Unreported World films what I'm sure even people in Nigeria haven't seen. Matthew McAllester, rides with the Niger Delta rebels, and sups bubbly with the governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili (pictured) - he of Panama hat fame. The Niger Delta is fast becoming one of Nigeria's many elephants in the room. Sure enough it is always in the news, but very few see it as an intractable problem set to continue for years. Most consider it to be just "those crazy people again". It's much worse than "those crazy people again", and more like "millions of those crazy people who will remain crazy, and by virtue of their craziness, disrupt Nigeria's oil supply, and destabilising an already decrepit single fuel economy that relies solely on oil".

Matthew McAllester, who was also in Turkey in the last series, wrote a piece about his trip in Sunday's Observer, while the Times, and Radio Times have it as recommended viewing. The Nigerian government wasn't too pleased with Channel 4 sniffing around the Niger Delta, and might have run out of patience with the channel. Don't expect C4 back in Nigeria anytime soon, which makes this a must-see.

Apparatii

According to Bisi Olatilo (sycophant par excellence), "government apparatii were in attendance" at the wedding of Bola Tinubu's daughter. The Bisi Olatilo Show is crass car crash tv, so I watch it. The man is a great pretence in grandiloquence, butchering the English language willy-nilly. Of course he thinks him and his programme are the bee knees, when he is in essence a glorified autograph hunter for television รก la Dele Momodu.

Anyone who can constantly applaud Bola Tinubu for his "leadership", "vision", and all the other claptrap adjectives he comes up with, should be avoided like the plague. Or even given the plague. The plural of apparatus is of course apparatus, even though apparatuses is acceptable. But Mr Olatilo chooses to basque in his obviously supreme knowledge, not bothering to check the numerous dictionaries (or is that dictionarii) he probably owns.

I'll stop now, because I'm tempted to get verbally medieval... Apparently his offices were destroyed by a fire, so I should be nice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Stigma of HIV in Nigeria

Below is an incredible documentary shown on BBC World on Friday. It is about a young Nigerian woman and her struggle against HIV and the how Nigerian society stigmatises those with the virus. It is such people that make me proud to be Nigerian, whatever that means. She shows an indomitable spirit in dealing with her ailment, and by extension shows the inner resolve most Nigerians need to survive such harsh terrain. Her epiphany for deciding that HIV needn't be the death of her is tragicomically Nigerian. The voiceover, though, is needless, and takes some getting used to. I make no apologies, but I can only presume that Rockhopper and BBC World didn't think their audiences would be able to cope with both a strong accent and speaking fast.

I might be persuaded that Nollywood can work in some weird twisted way. The acting featured in the drama is no less melodramatic than your standard Nollywood fare, but looked oddly tolerable. Perhaps all Nollywood needs is some better production values. Time will tell. It would be a shame if not much more than the three or four people who watch BBC World will get to see it, so I've put it up for your benefit.

The blurb:
Survivor's Guide to Growing Up: The stigma of HIV in Nigeria
An extensive survey reveals there has been widespread violation of the rights of people living with HIV.This episode will focus on a 19 year old HIV-positive individual. This programme will explore how serious stigmatisation has become. Produced by Rockhopper for BBC World.


Friday, November 03, 2006

It's the black woman what done it

One of Britain's two black newspapers, the Voice, has kicked up a relative fuss over comments made by the founder of Kid's Company, Camila Batmanghelidjh (pictured, with little rascals in tow), to a House of Commons Select Committee. She said (and I'm paraphrasing), that black women were to blame for the decline of the black family unit. My understanding is that black men pregnant (to use a Nigerian verb) their black women, often more than one, and then abandon them to a solitary life of pram-pushing and nappy-tying. But according to Batmanghelidjh, black women are partly responsible because they reject black men - first as mothers, and then as lovers. There starts the dysfunctionality. Kenya London News covered the original Commons appearance.

For those of you who don't know Camila Batmanghelidjh, she's hugged more hoodies than you've had hot dinners, and was crowned one of the UK's Women of the Year. She's also just released a book called Shattered Lives, which was the basis for a very good Woman's Hour interview in May. I also listened to her Desert Island Discs a couple of weeks ago, which had some interesting choices.

When one door shuts...

One could be forgiven for thinking NOI has been given a contract with the Auntie. She appears on Hardtalk last week, writes a piece for BBC Business online on the Sino-African Beijing tryst, and if anybody was listening to World Business Report on World Service radio yesterday (Thursday), delivers her "Africa Letter". Apparently, she's been doing weekly dispatches for the World Service.

Thanks, but no thanks

The Chinese appear to have pulled out all stops to welcome the African leadership. Beijing is draped with images from pre-colonial Europe - a dark continental backwater, best left for fishing, hunting, and anything else to do with wildlife. The people are too savage and black to warrant wasting any kodak film, simply a backdrop to the wild idyll painted by the likes John Henry Patterson in Man-eaters of Tsavo (on which the 1996 film, the Ghost and Darkness, was based). I insist that most Africans aren't that familiar with wild animals, unless you count lizards in urban Nigeria, cows in the middle of traffic, or chickens at the market. But of course the Chinese use the Safari stereotypes to promote their relationship with Africa, they don't know any better.

Kick a man...

The evangelicals will say that I'm kicking a man when he's down - it's the same argument whenever a man of God falls. But Ted Haggard, advisor to the Bushes, has stepped down as head of the National Association of Evangelicals amidst allegations that he paid top (Creflo) dollar for sex with a man. Apparently, he's going to seek spiritual advice and guidance. I'm sure God will tell him something along the lines of, "thou shouldst not have buggered the young man, let alone use my tithe money to pay for your sexual deviance. Thou shalt perish in hell, as Sodomites do. Burn Ted, burn."

Disclaimer: the above in no way represents the thinking of God, it wasn't a vision, neither was it an hallucination. It's just artistic licence.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New Sultan

A new Sultan has been appointed to replace Maccido - Colonel Sada Abubakar. I don't understand Nigeria's constant proclivity for military types, and Col Abubakar isn't even retired, he's still serving. Let's hope he doesn't rain jihad upon our heads...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sultan of Sokoto

The Indy and Guardian have printed fairly well researched obituaries of the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Maccido Abubakar, who died in Sunday's plane crash. The Indy's seems slightly fuller than the Guardian's, with a testimony from Professor Murray Last (who got his PhD at UI).

Sino-African love-in

Today's Indy has an analysis of China's influence in Africa. Beijing is hosting a forum where more than 40 African heads of state will be selling their souls in return for yen for their economies. It won't be long before you hear of African leaders sunning themselves in holiday villas in Guangdong, or going on shopping sprees to Shanghai. Sunday's Observer also had a piece on the same topic.

The pact between these two is rather simple: Africa gives Beijing its vast mineral resources (especially oil), and Beijing gives Africa money, in raw cash, loans, assistance. The Lagos to Kano railway line is a typical example. Nigeria gets a $1bn loan from China, and a Chinese firm CCECC (which is actually based in Hong Kong - not sure how much the distinction matters these days) builds the line.

Railway in Nigeria is going to be one of the keys to reviving the economy. And there are no better technicians to use than the Chinese. Chinese engineers and architects are leapfrogging stages in conventional progression. The Shanghai Maglev train is a prime example, and they're hoping to extend the line to Hangzhou by 2010. I suppose it is pie in the sky to hope for the Lagos-Kano line to use maglev, but we can at least expect cutting edge technology.

One of the arguments against China's investment in Africa is the hands-off approach to domestic affairs. Hence, China will say nothing of genocide being committed in Darfur. So long as the nation can still guzzle it Sudanese gas, it doesn't care. China is in Africa to do business, not to preach.

The irony of China's involvement in Africa is the aspirations of both parties. If Africa is going to compete in the next century, it needs to start adding value to natural resources. It needs to cut its diamonds, refine its oil, make stuff. And that is where China trumps all at the moment. China makes stuff for cheaper than any other country in the world. It has an army of workers just willing to sew footballs, stitch shirts, assemble electronics, the hallmarks of an industrialised nation. If Africa wants to compete, it will have to compete with China. Africa could obviously shun this method of development and follow the yellow brick road developing nations are treading - the ideas or knowledge economy.

Take the iPod. The man who led the design team for the iPod is Jonathan Ive (who also led the team behind the iMac), a Brit. He works for an American company, Apple Computer. However, the iPod is made in China. Nothing has been made by Britain or America, but their economies (or at least America) have much to gain from the invention and manufacture of the iPod.

If Africa isn't going to make stuff, it should be thinking of stuff to make. The problem with a knowledge economy is levels of education. Literacy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are at just over 60%. Compare that to 85% for China or even 99% for Western Europe. Africa has a long way to go if it's going to be doing competing with China rather than just selling raw materials.

Defender of NOI

For those of you who've moved onto a different argument, there was another response to the Okonji-Iweala appearance on hard talk. Nick Norbrook, managing editor of the Africa Report, puts up a staunch defence of of the headtie madam. For those of you who don't know how publications work, the managing editor of a magazine is the person everyone loves to hate. For it is he who hires and fires, but tends not to have any discernible writing talent. Is any of this relevant to his posting on the African Shirts blog? No. But it's early morning, and I need to do a little sniping to wake me up.