Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lagos pipeline blast

Once again, people have been killed in an oil pipeline explosion. There's been fuel shortage in Lagos recently, so people did what they always do, steal from a pipeline. And someone probably did something to spark an explosion as always inevitably happens. This incident begs the same two question which always arise: why does the world's sixth largest exporter of oil have fuel shortage? And why do people keep stealing from oil pipelines given the well documented tragedies that always happen?

Africa: Open For Business

In the continued spirit of the season of good cheer, I've put up the documentary, Africa: Open for Business. It was voted fourth most popular documentary on BBC World this year. The stories come from three countries, Ruff 'n' Tumble in Nigeria, HFC Bank in Ghana, 1000 Cups Coffee in Uganda. They're hopeful and inspiring, and point to the entrepreneurial spirit which could wake Africa fom its slumber.

Bloody Google Video won't host the video because of copyright infringement. I'm performing a public service here, who the hell watches BBC World? I'll see what I can do.

Here goes... The revolution will be televised!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho, ho, ho!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Imam & the Pastor

The imam, Muhammad Ashafa (on the right), and the pastor, James Wuye (on the left), have been touring media houses in the UK, giving an account of the story behind their documentary - The Imam & the Pastor. In this period of double festivities, Christmas and Eid ul-Adha, (Eid el-Kabir in Nigeria) which takes place from December 31 to January 2, it is only right that such a film comes out now.

Ashafa and Wuye were once on opposing sides of the religious divide in Kaduna, members of muslim and christian militias respectively. These were men full of religiously induced sectarian spunk, whose very existence was for the destruction of the other. When you think of all the recurring episodes of religious strife in Nigeria, these two would've played their part somehow. Wuye has the scars to show for the defence of his religion, a missing hand.

But many roads lead to Damascus, people in Kaduna can chart their paths on the famous road of conversion if they're willing to yield. They were converted, not from their faiths, but to friendship and mutual existence. It's the kind of spirit Nigeria needs.

Most of us can remember festive periods in our neighbourhoods - the food dishes left the house empty and came back packed with goodies. The Christians supplied the neighbourhood with food during Christmas and Easter, and the Muslims returned the gesture during any Eid festivals. Since this was the kind of harmony we were used to, eruptions of violence always came as a shock.

My worry is that The Imam & the Pastor will tour all the festivals, the great and the good will laud it, but those that need to see it will not. The people in Jos, the people in Ajegunle, the places where bodies litter the streets when religious militias retaliate over a pinprick. Places where "a man steals another man's chicken" becomes "a Christian steals a Muslim's chicken". They won't get to see this film, and that is the tragedy.

It is the season to be merry, however, and the existence of the film is ipso facto commendable. I will get the DVD, and I also urge others to get it. Watch the trailer here.

OBJ sacks Atiku

When Atiku comes back from his Christmas break, I think he'll find his office furniture outside, being beaten by the Nigerian sun. He's to be replaced. It's been a long time coming.

Friday, December 22, 2006

According to the World Bank...

the government didn't steal the stolen money.

Cain and Abel

The above is the picture of three of four Nigerians boys convicted on Tuesday, for the murder of a Sierra Leonian woman last year in Peckham. The murder of Zainab Kalokoh at a christening party last year upset me greatly for several reasons.

I know the area where she was killed very well. I used to hang out with a good friend when they lived on the street where it happened, just down the road from me in New Cross. The brutality of her murder. They shot her as she carried her baby niece, then proceeded to rob the rest of the well-wishers. And also it was where she was killed, in a community hall, the kind in which Nigerians abroad have parties all the time.

I sneer at these parties all the time, after all it's the older non-integrated generation who have parties in these places. Why would a supposedly well conditioned British Nigerian like me not sneer? It's in these places that people keep their ties to home, to the motherland, something Nigerian immigrants are incredibly adept at. It's one of the places where families get away from some grinding nine pms to five ams, to touch home again. It's night cleaners, caterers, labourers put on their Saturday night best, to revel in the great leveller that is London.

The places ar filled with the "if we weren't in London" kind talk - the great leveller London. It's where the legit and the illegit mix, the lawyer, the council worker, the people from Ibadan, Onitsha, and Lokoja entwine with their own once again. It's not the Nigeria of the Lagos metropolitan "I'm the average" Nigerian elite. It's where the parents speak to their children in various Nigerian languages without the child cringing for fear of shredded street cred. The other kids' parents also speak to them in that language. It's where the kids actually tease other kids for butchering their Nigerian names. They're Chigozie and Kunle rather John and James.

For many of these children, it's as close as they've ever gotten to where "my mum's from". It's where their diet doesn't smell or seem strange. It's the burning bush of immigrant communities. It's where the sandals come off. It's sacred ground.

These butchers probably knew all this, and that's why they went there. The one on the right, Jude Odigie, for want of a less courteous word, has a sergeant-major on his face. You don't get more Nigerian than that. The one on the left, Diamond Babamuboni, looks like he'd fit in as an Alabaru at Iddo market. I blame his name. Diamond, what the hell does that mean? The one in the middle is Timy Babumuboni, Diamond's younger brother. The fourth kid can't be named, probably because of a court order on account of his age.

Whenever Nigerians in Britain are convicted of violent crimes in this country, I'm shocked. I don't associate Nigerians with knives and guns. Credit card fraud, possibly drugs, but nothing involving weapons. Yes, I know all these things are tied. I'm naive - just look at Nigeria. Of course there's the argument that these kids aren't even Nigerian.

The pictures appeared in the Daily Telegraph in an article screaming blue murder about Britain's immigration system. Some of the boys should have been removed from the country. But their legal status changes nothing on the severity of the crime.

The Bamuboni's came to Britain in 1994, after their father had been killed in a robbery. In 1990s Nigeria, that was par for the course, lives were scythed down with a much ease as a gardener trims hedges. Families fled. Zainab Kalokoh was escaping the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone - a place where rebels asked potential victims, "short sleeve or long sleeve". Which mean, would you like your arm chopped off at above the elbow, or at the wrist.

Legally or illegally, comfortably or uncomfortably, Britain gave them succour. One set took the path of Cain, the other took that of Abel, a lamb to be slaughtered. Just thought I'd give you some season's cheer...


PDP Vice president, Atiku Abubakar, Action Congress presidential candidate. The tragicomedy that is Nigerian politics continues.

Ferenc Puskas

I've quite often described good music as "music to cry to". The tributes to Ferenc Puskas recounted in today's Daily Telegraph sports pages make me feel that way - very touching accounts. Puskas was before my time, playing from the late forties to early sixties. But thanks to channels like Eurosport, I've been able to see some of the older players work their magic. And Puskas was one of those magicians.

News organisations are sanguine to the point of nonchalance, if someone is going to die, we'll be ready to set certain wheels in motion. On the off-chance that Puskas died, I had a list of people who could contribute to our show to get in touch with. I had plans of my own, though. I'd call up Brian Glanville. And he did die on the morning of November 17, during one of my night shifts.

At about 7.45am, I called Brian Glanville - no answer. I kept trying until after 8, a last throw of the dice since we would be off-air at 8.30am. He picked up, berated me when I admitted that it had been me pestering him at such an early time. I said, "it's about Ferenc Puskas". "He's dead, is he?" I felt like a doctor in a hospital breaking bad news to soon to be distraught relatives, "Yes Mr Glanville, he's dead." A slight pause, "okay, I'll do it."

Glanville seemed like the right choice, a football journo of the old school, who knew Puskas and his game. "It'll only be about three minutes." "Oh I can go on forever about Puskas", he said, his sleepy voice slowly coming alive. And he did try to go on forever. I think we had to drop our last story and let Glanville regale us and the world with his Puskas anecdotes, of which there were many.

I'd like to think it was my charm that persuaded Glanville to talk to us, but I think not. It was "Öcsi". Like I said, the tribute is moving. Read it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dirty Business: E-waste in Nigeria

World Service documentary about electronic waste in Nigeria. Listen and despair.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Carwash for Madam?

Got this in my inbox:

Plus ça change

Yar'Adua, Buhari, Ojukwu. Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose. No, it's not History of Nigeria 101, it's the present. Former military dictator, purveyor of WAI, General Buhari, will run against Yar'Adua. (What happened to the ANPP/AC pact, cos it seems AC will also nominate someone). Yar'Adua, is of course the younger brother of Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Buhari's former military colleague. And just like the last time, Ojukwu tries one more time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why the long faces?

A considerable pall seems to have descended over Nigerians. If you see the number of comments on Donald Duke's most recent post, you can almost touch the despair. Friends of mine have descended into various states of depression over the PDP Affair - I can understand the fact that their optimism has been severely dashed. Naijablog, Funmi Iyanda, and UkNaija are all suitably enraged and despondent.

But being upset at the way Nigeria runs its affairs creates the illusion that there was a reason to be optimistic in the first place. Can someone please tell me anything about Nigeria that has made them feel optimistic, since independence? For the Dukists, he's but one man. Being able to watch 007 at a Western style multiplex doesn't smack to me as progress. Being able to eat dodgy Chinese food isn't exactly progress. Debt relief. Wonderful. How has it changed the proverbial price of crayfish?

When has anything ever genuinely improved? People might say that the Soludo/Iweala/Akunyili structural reforms have made a genuine difference. Perhaps so with NAFDAC, but how has all the restructuring created any tangible change? There are no signs of change in Nigeria. There never have been. And the quicker people wake up to the realities, the quicker they can accept shams like the PDP primaries with the dollops of salt required.

Nigeria gained independence from being one of Elizabeth Regina's dominions in 1960. And that has been the highlight of Nigeria's existence. 46 years ago. Which basically means that the majority of Nigerians have never had a moment of real optimism. Estimates put 42% of Nigerians at below the age of 14. That's the generation that'll be saddled with this sad excuse for an inheritance. It's a good thing the national anthem was changed from Nigeria, We Hail Thee, to Arise, O Compatriots. We all know there's nothing to hail, and Nigeria does need to arise off its arse.

Goodluck Nigeria

Anonymous thanks for the heads up. The news that Goodluck Jonathan (pictured), governor of Bayelsa is Umaru Yar'Adua's running mate, voids my last post. This is evidently to assuage the ill feeling in the Niger Delta. All well and good, except that it perpetuates the unfortunate myth your part of the country can only improve if your region is somehow connected to power. If the Yar'Adua-Jonathan ticket wins, and come four years time there is no progress in the Niger Delta, good luck to Jonathan as MEND wreak havoc.

However, in the unlikely event that matters improve in the region, watch as all the different geopolitical crabs clamour for power at the next elections. This looks to me like a bad, bad idea. More important though, is the test for Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC. Jonathan's wife is being investigated for money laundering. As I see it, the way the case is handled will prove whether the EFCC is just one of OBJ's sticks with which to beat his opponents. It could also be an indicator of the power Yar'Adua already has, or not.

If you're wondering which is his first name, and which is his surname (goodness knows I am), check out his CV.

A word for the Dukists.

It was inevitable that Duke would not win the PDP nomination. First of all, it was all too good to be true. And when it appears to be so, it invariably is. But Dukists need not despair, worse things could have happened - Babangida could have sought the PDP's nomination. This would have given him a head start, except he's now in a less favourable position should he seek another party's ticket. Best of all though, it means I don't have to go into exile!

If rumours that Duke rejected outright an offer of running mate are true, then he has acted rashly and egotistically. There is the saying about the Labour party in the UK, that they don't actually like being in power because it means they have responsiblities. They'd rather carp on righteously from the sidelines and remain in opposition. But, any politician who claims to care about his people knows that one can only do things with power. Making noise without power, just makes you a... erm... journalist.

What Donald Duke needs is to sign a Granita Pact, or at least one that's worth the paper napkin it's not written on. Granita is of course the name of the restaurant where Messieurs Gordon Brown and Tony Blair apparently signed a deal where Brown lets Blair become Labour leader, in return for substantial power. So Blair became the face of the 'Third Way', and Brown wielded the chequebook as Chancellor. Duke should tell Yar'Adua that he can offer him the South's support come election time. The only problem is the warped reality that Odili is possibly the only person who could deliver the South.

There's the worry in the Yar'Adua camp that a bombastic running mate shouldn't be appointed - of the Odili kind. But, given Yar'Adua's natural "taciturn", "dour", demeanour (just some of the words used to decribe him), it seem inevitable that even a shrinking violet would outshine him. Another key point is his dodgy kidney. If Yar'Adua ends up a sick president, his veep would need to be more prominent in being the face of the presidency and the government.

For Duke to still be in the reckoning when the PDP nomination becomes vacant again, he better start horse-trading. Just my not so humble opinion.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I never said it, but...

I told my Dukist friends in private - but never mentioned it in public - that if Donald Duke won the PDP nomination, people would have to start believing in miracles. Crying Madonnas, flying pigs, and that kind of thing. Well, he's pulled out now because the PDP presidential nomination is going north...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Five key facts

We've been getting briefings from the newswires at work in preparation for the Nigerian elections next year. Here's what I got today:

FACTBOX-Five facts about Nigeria
ABUJA, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Nigeria's ruling People's
Democratic Party is to pick a successor to President Olusegun
Obasanjo at primaries starting this weekend.
The following are five key facts about Nigeria.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer of crude oil and the eighth-biggest exporter in the world. The Niger Delta, a vast, impenetrable wetlands in the south accounts for all of the OPEC member country's 2.4 million barrels per day production. The region is plagued by frequent attacks on the oil industry, kidnappings of oil workers, theft and smuggling of crude and politically motivated violence.

Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to independent watchdog Transparency International. Graft flourished under decades of military rule, including Sani Abacha who is believed to have stashed away more than $3 billion in personal offshore accounts during his five years in office.

Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of almost continuous army dictatorship when Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state, was elected president as a civilian. He won a second term in elections in 2003 but the U.S. state department said the polls were marred by widespread rigging and political violence.

Obasanjo's second term, since 2003, has been marked by a series of free market reforms including privatisations, restructuring of the banking sector and tighter controls on public spending. Better fiscal discipline has allowed Nigeria to accumulate more than $43 billion in foreign reserves thanks to high oil prices and gain debt relief from rich creditor nations. There is uncertainty over whether the reforms will continue under the new president who should replace Obasanjo next May.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is home to more than 300 distinct ethnic groups with their own languages. The three biggest are the Hausa in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest and the Ibo in the southeast. The northern half of the country is predominantly Muslim while the southern half is mostly Christian or Animist. Nigeria has been plagued by outbreaks of inter-ethnic or inter-religious fighting, often fomented by politicians seeking to bolster their own power bases or undermine rivals. Human rights groups estimate that more than 15,000 people have died in such violence since 1999.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's getting hot!

OBJ has the cards. What's he holding? Straight flush? Four of a kind? IBB has been forced to resign from the PDP, perhaps to seek nomination with another party. But I doubt if even Babangida is rich or powerful enough to win on a non-PDP platform. The idea that OBJ is going to support a Yar'Adua-Duke ticket might receive more credence after this IBB rebuttal. Plus I'm yet to see any sustainable evidence that OBJ wants to stay on. Apparently, IBB was trying to get through the primaries without screening - which seems preposterous, even by IBB's low standards. My guess is that OBJ refused to support an IBB nomination, an ingredient without which an IBB campaign would be stale. The perceived favourite to win must have the support of their predecessor. Vanguard has a badly written analysis of the screening.

The PDP state primaries have seen some fiery contests, with teargas being used to disperse people eager to partake in Nigeria's nacent democracy. Funso Williams's widow, Hilda, could yet win in Lagos, as she faces a run-off against Musiliu Obanikoro. Results here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Street and The Ball

This touching film highlights five projects around the world where football has had a positive impact on children's lives. From the barrios of South America, to inner city London, with a bit of Kenyan slum thrown in for good measure. To appreciate the power of this film, it's important to understand the social context of the places featured. My only quibble is that the individual places could merit a film on their own, the glimpses are all too fleeting. Football, and sport in general can be a force for good, and this film demonstrates that. It was shown on BBC World as part of the Generation Next series held jointly with the World Service.

Medellin in Colombia, is synonymous with the two unrelated Escobars who died violent deaths; drug baron Pablo, and footballer Andres. Mathare Valley in Kenya is the embodiment of the modern African slum: grossly overcrowded, filthy, hopeless, deathly. The boys in East Jerusalem display the intractable nature of the Israel-Palestine issue, but also its hope. The Palestinian father, Atef Obid, expresses his defection from Fatah to Hamas, a conflict that's currently playing out on the streets of Gaza. But he also make a poignant and all too common remark about Israelis, he realised that Israelis aren't just soldiers but also ordinary people.

The image of young people playing and enjoying football is universal. The pitch may vary between red dust, dried out grass, astroturf, shoes, no shoes, shirts, skins, but the spirit is the same. The best moment for me was the girl player in Kenya. I remember going back to Nigeria one summer, where I spent many a dawn till dusk playing football on this pitch near the Masha end of Adeniran Ogunsanya in Suru-Lere. There was this girl we used to play with, who was so good no boy wanted to play against her. We all wanted to be on her team, so that we could tease the others about being torosed* by a girl. She matched us in every department, skill, speed, and the little she might have lacked in power, she more than compensated with committment. Anything a man can do...

*toros - aka nutmeg, ball through the legs. rather disgraceful.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


The Catholic thinks the Evangelical is a heretic, who thinks the Anglican is a heretic, who thinks the Orthodox is a heretic, who thinks the Baptist is a heretic, who thinks the Anabaptist is a heretic, who thinks the Pentecostal is a heretic, who thinks the Restorationist is a heretic, who think the Shias don't worship the one true God, who thinks the Ismaili is a heretic, who thinks the Wahabbi is a heretic, who thinks the Sunni is a heretic, who thinks the Orthodox Jew isn't worshipping Allah, who thinks the...

I could go on. We're all heretic, somehow.


Uzodinma Iweala has won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize for young writers, for Beasts of No Nation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Even though they didn't say it, this was the section dedicated to Nigerians. Panorama had a passport special, where journalist Shahida Tulaganova, set out on a quest to illegally obtain all 25 EU passports. Four of them came via the trusty hands of Nigerians in Barcelona. The aim of Panorama was to expose the laxity of UK border security, and show how it easy it is to obtain dodgy passports - on these fronts, the programme is an astonishing piece of work. However, I've said before that I don't believe in borders, which for me, automatically voids the righteousness of the programme.

The Nigerians shown were engaged in illegal activity, no doubt, but one almost has to admire their ingenuity. The link man, Collins (once again, why the subtitles?), was an articulate, knowing man, who in another life would have been running his own legitimate business. But as Nigerians say, na condition make crayfish bend, and this particular crayfish has to bend to the ebbs and flows of the Barcelona underworld.

You can watch the programme in full via the Panorama website, but before then, watch and enjoy Nigeria's cameo appearance:


Later... with Jools Holland is consistently the best music show on television. If you want a live music feast, watch Later, and you'll be sure to be fully satisfied. I was contemplating sending an email to the producers to look into a group called Mr Hudson and the Library, after seeing them perform live in September. After a quick search, it turns out that the Later... team are already onto it, and the band will be appearing in this Friday's edition. Pictured, right, Mr Hudson sans Library.

I first came across them when, my friend invited me to an event at a "literary nightclub", called Book Slam, eureka child of Patrick Neate and Ben Watt. Think slam peotry, book reading, music, absinthe, fashion, all rolled into one tight ball of a night. Mr Hudson and the Library. This is has got to be the most inventive name for a band this century. It pays its R.E.S.P.E.C.T to bands of the sixties: Her and the Supremes, She and the Vandellas, Him and the Family Stone; you can hear the influences from that era. But the use of the word "library" is rather apt when it comes to music, the collection of instruments rather than books.

Inevitably, with any new band, comparisons are made to other bands in order to understand their sound. And I won't shirk from doing that just because it's the obvious thing to do. So what do the The Library sound like? Imagine if The Police, Madness, and The Spooks, had a great big love in, and had a sprog. That sprog would be Mr Hudson and the Library. The Police sound is evident, but so is the ska influence and English quirkiness of bands like Madness. The Spooks because, they're the only hip-hop group I can think of with a similar harmonising style.

By sheer coincidence, or by design (it can be difficult to tell) Mr Hudson and the Library are touring, erm, libraries across the country. Have a gander at their myspace, and if you can catch them, do so.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The way...

This is the way it should be... Hopefully, come May next year, many will be marching to Kirikiri.

Weighing in at...

There's a decent round-up of the candidates in next year's elections on the BBC website.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jay-Z: from Brooklyn to the Boardroom

This is a must listen, presented by Alvin Hall, who will be familiar to BBC2 viewers and Radio 4 listeners. Radio 4 meets the man in the suit, rather than the man in the Timberlands. Read Alvin Hall's piece for BBC Business. Reminds me of a Jay-Z line in Kanye West's Diamonds remix, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!"

Friday, December 01, 2006


Not Baby Daddy

I was clearing out my inbox today, and I came across something a friend sent last year. Trash television at its trashiest - the guy's excitement is almost perverse: