Sunday, December 23, 2007
It's the 23rd/24th, so the airport is like a market place. Expats leaving to join their families in far flung corners of the globe, Arabs perhaps seeking cooler climes. I might amuse myself by buying some alcohol, not because I'm an alchy, but because of the free mini wheelie suitcase that comes with it. I've always wanted one of them, but since I'm generally averse to hand luggage, I never plan adequately for it. I also started reading Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss while in Kathmandu, so I'll continue it. The start of the book set in the Himalayas chimed perfectly with my stay in Nepal - neither Doha nor London quite cut it.
Friday, December 14, 2007
A bus picks you up from the foot of the aircraft and transports you a mere 50m to the terminal. Heaven forfend an Aussie tourist should graze their knee on the hazardous 50m trek to the terminal! The terminal is a room, with a few counters. I didn’t get my visa in London, because I discovered it’d be cheaper if I got at the airport. I walk to the booth to take passport pictures for the entry visa, which is about $20.
In my previous post, I mentioned that it suffered from a bit of developing worlditis. In the duty free alcohol shop, smaller than the size of your average London offie, I saw one the most equitable examples of division of labour. There was a man to carry the alcohol to the check-out after it had been bought. A man to make photocopies of the passport. A woman to take the cash from the customer. A man to take the cash from the woman and get change from the till. A man to hand the purchased alcohol to the customer. And I’m sure there was someone else doing something else I couldn’t quite figure out. Who says Bolshevism is dead? Or perhaps it’s as a result of the Maoist inspired unrest in the country.
The route to the house had all the hallmarks of Lagos, yet it was remarkably different. I do not recall one single pothole on the roads. Not one. Even my posh New Cross has potholes (big ones). Not very Lagos, I know. But the roads were congested, and you’d see the drivers plough at hair raising speeds against traffic to get past jams. Quite Lagos. But it was the smell of exhaust fumes, and the realisation that when I got home, I’d be smelling of eau de Toyota engines, circa 1982. Very Lagos. The motorbike is the saviour of the developing world’s transport system. Without them, life would be unbearable for commuters, and Kathmandu is no different. The streets buzz with sounds of motorcycle horns, plus the primary riders all have helmets. I even spotted a woman rider, and thoughts of women’s liberation began permeating my thoughts.
At the house, I was again reminded of the importance of consumerism in my westernised psyche. I buy, therefore I am. In New York a few weeks ago, I bought, and bought, and then I judged its habitableness by whether I could buy Ribena or Copella there. Whenever one travels, one compares what is available at the destination with what is available back at home. My thing for liveability is internet. But I spotted some other curious things: blue Dettol soap, yes, blue; Colgate toothpaste with “mint crystals”, which tasted just like Close-up. Those were available thanks to the manufacturing giants, China and India.
Showers are one of life’s glories. A good shower can awaken and soothe both at once. A shower that makes you think of the source of the hot water is even sexier. The water in the house is heated with solar power. It’s not complicated, it’s just some panels on the roof! Nigeria, are you listening? So I had a sexy shower, had lunch, slept, woke up, had dinner, slept, woke up, slept. Woke up, wrote this. Life is good. All the interspersed sleeping is as a result of jetlag. Kathmandu is 5hours, 45minutes ahead of GMT – making it 15minutes ahead of New Delhi. So I'm watching BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, and the headlines are at quarter to the hour. Weird, I know.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
On Friday, as the great and the good of Africa and Europe were gathering, the BBC World Service programme, The World Today brought together some Nigerians to tell the EU what they want from them, how they see the partnership panning out. Listen below:
Also, see the response of some of Africa's newspapers to the summit.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
I see no religious or cultural justification for treating children - who cannot defend themselves - in such a manner. It displays some of the basest and most abhorrent (an overused word) behaviour of humankind.
Stories like this are reported often enough, taking place in Britain, and in Africa. But I know how easy it is to brush it aside as some kind of filicidal fringe. It isn't. I remember my days at a boarding school in Nigeria, one of the Federal Government Colleges. One of the boys in my dorm was cursed enough to be branded a witch, along with his siblings. Nobody would eat with him. If you've been to boarding school, you'll know how important sharing food is to the collective experience and the strong bonding that goes with it. For nobody to touch your food, is for you not to exist. Nobody would be seen hanging around him, or any of his family. The kid was probably only about 11 years-old, and he already knew what it meant to be ostracised. I've written about this before.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller is one of my favourite plays of all time. Like I've said before, when Arthur Miller wrote it, he used the Salem witch trials as an allegory for Senator Joseph McCarthy's hounding of suspected communists. He probably didn't write it with Nigerian snake oil salesmen and helpless African children in mind.
Hosea 4:6 says, "my people perish for lack of knowledge." Have I taken it out of context, and twisted it for the purposes of this post. Maybe. But people are perishing because of their ignorance, and I think it's apt to use a Bible passage to illustrate this point.
Watch the video. Read the piece. Get angry.
Monday, December 03, 2007
While visiting my uncle (real uncle, not "uncle" in the African sense) in Maryland, he asked about work, how I was doing, etc - as uncles are wont to do. "I love the BBC", he said. "But". But what, uncle? "But why do all the stories about Africa involve animals and doom and gloom?" This is a tough one to defend, especially because often I work on the Africa desk. Also because I don't like the Dark-Continent-as-one-huge-Safari pre-colonial view of the continent. Still, please don't send me any complaints about misspellings, pronunciations, or anything else to do with the BBC.
People want to hear good news about Africa when the truth is that good news isn't reported about anywhere else. The nature of news is such that it's about what's happening now. "Man scoops dog's poo from pavement" isn't as newsy as "man bites dog." For all the sins attributed to the BBC, it does do is fair share of "good news" stories. It's just that it does them in the context of current affair documentaries. I've just seen one on BBC World: Survivor's Guide - The Nurse Next Door. Set in northern Nigeria, it displays the kind of community healthcare needed to sustain and enhance the wellbeing of Africa. Rural areas are too often marginalised in planning in Africa, and the documentary shows there are solutions. There's something of the Cuban healthcare system about it, a touch of Fidel. Watch below (hopefully):
Sunday, December 02, 2007
African Shirts has returned to blogville. There should be some kind of oath of dedication to blogging, which all would-be bloggers would sign. The punishment for breaking the oath would be simple - a Yubitsume (pictured).
Since the last time I blogged regularly, life has been plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Work has been the same, but it's also changed. As most of you have no doubt heard, the BBC is facing some "restructuring". Will I lose my job? I doubt it. But I went to an event at Channel 4 around the time of the annoucements, and there was a feeling among people attending that Auntie's employees needed to suck it up. Leave the Beeb and look for work in the independent sector. Don't rely on traditional media for jobs. Digital cable and the internet have almost exponentially increased the avenues for people interested in media see, hear, speak, and read evil till the devil's dried out and emaciated.
As for my "personal life", whatever on this fine planet that means... Well. Let's just say, all is fair in love and war and sex. Or is it?
My last post before this was a threat to write about my trip to Jerusalem via Istanbul. the threat never quite materialised, snuffed out like a house spider under a feather duster. But spiders are like Heinz products, they come in 57 different varieties (or more), from the weak to the resilient. And this house spider refused to be snuffed out, and shall in due course, crawl out from under the feather duster, and scurry to freedom.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The almighty Starbucks.
Klodfarer Street, where I stayed. Marseille anyone?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Atatürk International Airport is clean, if not particularly inspiring. Airports always tread the line between being sanitised to prevent an MRSA outbreak among travellers on the one hand, and being cathedrals to consumerism on the other hand. If the watchmen had their way, airports would strictly be the former. The problem with airports is that people only pass through them, they're not like bus or train terminals, where people gather and meet. It might be they're that way by virtue of being out of town, or by convention.
My flight was due to leave at 7.50 in the morning, which left me with about 9hours to kill in Istanbul. 8hours is plenty of time. I've had "affairs" that lasted less than that. I had contemplated sleeping in the airport, waking, and leaving first thing in the morning. But my street cred would suffer badly. I'd never be able to really say that I'd been to Turkey, it'd just be a sly crossed fingers addition to my list of visited countries. Istanbul is famed for its East meets West culture, a city that straddles the border between Europe and Asia, a seamless bridge where here and there become one, become (t)here.
When one travels, one tends to meet three kinds of people: shysters, kind strangers, and a third kind of person, who is a combination of the two. People who sell tourism tend to be one part shyster, one part Good Samaritan. And I guess those are the people I encountered at the airport. They sold me a hotel for my few hours in the heart of Istanbul, and transport to and from the airport. It might be 1am, but I’ll walk around, take pictures, and go back to bed. Whistle-stop trip to Istanbul.
As the car races between Atatürk International Airport and Sultanahmet, one can only ask what objection Europe has to Turkey's prospective EU membership. In fact, the chief opponent of Turkey’s EU membership - fiercely secular France - probably has more in common with religiously secular Turkey, than it does with openly Catholic Poland.
The route is lined with trees, driving is slightly erratic, a cool breeze sweeps across the Bosporus, a wonderfully symbolic body of water. On the way back to the airport in the morning, the sea is dotted with anchored ships, their lights glistening in the distance. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque as it’s popularly known in the West, almost hovers over Istanbul. It’s on a higher plane to most the city, and because of the trees around the city, you can only see its full glory up close. From a distance, all one can see is a giant hovering Islamic spaceship, waiting to abduct all comers and lift off into the foreign galaxies.
Hali Hotel is on Klodfarer street, a mere two minutes walk from the Blue Mosque. It’s 1am. I do what any battle hardened traveller would, I take stroll to the mosque, eyeing the McDonald’s “restaurant” on the right side of the road. On the opposite side is a Starbucks. Further down are tram stops. Mercedes E-class cars cruise by with musica Americana blaring through rolled down windows. I might as well be in Frankfurt, or Brussels.
Couples sit among many rows of benches under the gaze of the mosque, killing time. Some wear headscarves, some don’t. Some have wedding bands, some don’t. I try to imagine couples sitting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. I can’t. In one corner is a vendor, selling roast corn. There’s always been a competition to find the European nationals most similar to Nigerians. Italians always make it because they gesticulate a lot. Greeks are always there or thereabouts. With roast corn on the side of the road, Turkey has got to be Nigeria. And with a corn cob in my mouth, I walked back to Hali Hotel, slept, and got ready for Jerusalem.
I'll put pictures up when I can.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
But in these days of heightened security fears, one has to allow for time to sit down, take off one's footwear to allay the Man's fears that one isn't a shoe bomber. And when the Man asks why the Florida alligator skin shoes weigh so much, you can reply, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" At which point the Man will not be responsible for his actions. The Picadilly Line to Heathrow feels like the most generous tube line in the world. It stops everywhere, and picks up everyone. So, I opted for the Heathrow Express, that beloved bastion of executive cool. No cattle car for me, sir.
The train pulled in less than an hour after my departure from New Cross Gate. So I waltzes to the Turkish Airlines counter, give my spiel - I packed it myself, it didn't leave my sight, no the laptop hasn't got porn on it, but what's that to you, sir... I check in less than 5 minutes. The fastest ever check in time. I say to all Nigeria bound flights to put that up their pipes and smoke it. What look like early bird Nigerians are milling around the Virgin Atlantics desks, hoping not to be trampled by the horde who'll arrive this evening. So what do I do for two hours while I wait to get on the plane?
Ponti's cafe. I believe they have quite a few of them around London. This is no time for exotic food, so I plump for an all-day breakfast. You can't go wrong with those. Nothing like a traditional morning fry up for lunch. I then practically stroll through immigration, no hostility whatsoever. Quite boring, really. Where's the drama? I must find a Lonely Planets guide or something similar. But Smithy's don't have one, and neither do Borders. It's like there's a booksellers apartheid style boycott. The books go from India straight to Istanbul, with nothing in between. Must get one when I reach.
What else do I need? Ah, digital camera. Thank God for multinationals, the immoral so-and-sos, Dixons comes to the rescue, tax free as well... What else? I forgot my shekels, bugger. Well, £40 worth isn't too bad. And then there's was the elderly black woman. South African looking. I hear the snipping, but wasn't sure what it was. And as Sods Law states in Chapter 6, Article V, "thy lap shalt be the recipient of an elderly black woman's fingernails as she clips them nonchalantly in an aiport lounge." Yep, it landed on me as I sat down, contemplating how to next amuse myself.
Tonight, Istanbul (not Constantinople), and tomorrow, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Actually, by the time I pushed the "enter" button twice for this paragraph, it's dawned on me. Aderonke used the exact same word I was going to use to describe her demeanour during the course of the interview - coquettish - which has come up time and again in people's comments. Her coquettishness and her pretiness are intertwined, which explains why her looks have been so apparently apparent. Her coquettish might be less plausible if she wasn't so pretty.
That said, another word also came to mind. Ingenue. But it's probably unfair to use either ingenue or coquette to describe her, as she is evidently a writer who talks and knows about serious issues. When she talks about Africa being the White Man's Burden, she does it as seriously as one would hope. It's the timing of all the other characteristics of a coquette that make us sit up - a smile, a giggle, a flutter of the eyes, a raising of the eyebrows, a tilt of the head.
My first impressions were that she's such a flirt. But on second viewing, I'm not so sure. HardTalk Extra isn't the kind of interview where you'd expect fierce exchanges between interviewer and subject. I suppose there's an argument for celebs-with-a-view to be challenged more rigourously by the media. When politicians take a stand, we say they're being partisan, or political. With celebs, we ascribe "fights for causes" to their names. It's also understandable, since celebrities are not accountable to us in the same way elected politicians are.
Aderonke called it anti-Western guff. It's a recurrent theme in her interviews, she resents the portrayal of Africa as Conrad's Dark Continent, or the Kiplingesque, White Man's Burden. During the course of the interview, she once again champions the African middle class, and reminds the world that like life still goes on for all those poor Nigerians and Africans the West is trying to save. I've always taken issue with this point of view, the middle/upper class Nigerian view that they are the average Nigerian. They are the ones returning to work in Nigeria, and imploring their friends to go back, because "Naija has improved, oh!", or "mehn, life in Naija is sweet". Improved? Sweet? Who for? Not the properly average man, woman, and child on the street. They don't have connections to government, or the financial institutions so beloved of our people, or the telecommunications industry which is the one and only beacon of anything improved in Nigeria.
Middle class Nigerian arrive in the country, and get into a chauffeur driven air-conditioned car. They see Nigeria through the prism of their car window. There's nothing average about this experience. In the same vein, it's these same middle class people who watch cable and don't recognise the West's portrayal of their continent. She says that watching coverage of Africa might lead one to think that Africans are stupid. Well, Chimamanda, quite often, Africans are stupid. I'm a journalist, and I don't think (the BBC's) coverage of Africa is biased, lacking context, or lacking balance. News organisations only report newsworthy items, we don't make up the news. If we see African children slaughtering each other in brutal civil wars, or sitting around with flies on their faces and protruding kwashiorkor bellies, then we will report it. The same way we will report brutal civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, or Shia death squads and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Chimamanda is asking us to treat Africa more leniently.
We did an item at work once, to see if we could compare the difference between Africa's coverage of itself and the West's coverage of Africa. It was just after the Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, said the West should stop banging on about Africa's exclusive marriage to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and instead talk about good African news. Guess what. Africa knows it's backyard is filthy, and reports accordingly. If I can dig up the item, I will do so and post it up.
It's unfortunate that all people will think about Chimamanda as interview subject is her being a flirt. A friend of mine did say, though, that even she would flirt with Gavin Esler if he was interviewing her. I don't think she means any harm, and I don't think it's intentional. And for those reasons, "allow her".
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I don't remember how I danced, or if I danced. I moved my limbs, yes, but dance? I was, simply put, a crap dancer, consistenly winning zilch at "Aunty gimme cake" parties. (Many would argue that I still can't dance...) For those few minutes in the newsroom, I relived part of my childhood. We were great consumers of West African music in our household. My mum would fly back from the far corners of the subregion, and return with tapes of makossa, soukous, highlife music. There was no outward manifestation of rhythm in my bones or a groove in my step. But the music was in my soul, and boy, did I move. Relive my childhood here.
The full list.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
I went to see Lauryn Hill last night (Sunday) at the Hammersmith Apollo. I went with E Double, a good friend. When she went to the Ladies' at the Apollo, this is what she heard, "it's that Marley husband of hers, Rohan, he's made her lose her identity. Some men are domineering you know, women lose themselves in some relationships. That's what's driving her mad, and making her put on such a shambolic show."
"She's been overtaken some marijuana'd dreadlocked poltergeist. 'What have you done with the real Lauryn Hill? Out with her, you beast', out with her!", screamed one of the women, slapping her friend across the face - her poor friend had for that moment vicariously become Lauryn Hill.
Okay, I confess, I made up the last bit. Watching the show was the aural equivalent of having your toenails pulled out in a torture chamber in the Villa Grimaldi, not exactly sweetness and light. There were some high points, mainly Fugees stuff. But the highs paled in comparison to the depths to which she plumbed. The concert is already doing the rounds on the net. London Big Girl, Omolasky Olafrisky was there, and this is what she put in a facebook note today.
"Lauryn is doing a concert this Sunday". Those are the words that have been "strumming my brain" all week. I heard about it on the radio, saw stuff on the internet and my friends were going and talking about it. I LOVE LAURYN HILL. From way back when, I HAVE LOVED LAURYN HILL. I have all her albums and every song she's done in between. However I am super broke so i figured "It's cool - I'll sacrifice seeing her this time. There will be others. I'll listen to her discography all day as penance".
So imagine my shock when come Sunday evening at about 7pm a phone call comes through to Frances on our way to dinner . It's from Alero and Trey, basically saying - we cant go - have our LAURYN HILL tickets. I almost crashed in excitement. Such was my joy, I turned to Vickii and Lola behind me and said, "Ok you heifers, I'm sorry but we shall have to jabo your asses, cos WE ARE GOING TO THE LAURYN HILL CONCERT!!! muahahahahahhahahaha"
A quick placatory takeaway and rides home, we were on our way! Bless you Trey and Alero, sorry you couldn't go for whatever reason but WE ARE ON OUR WAY!!!!!!!!!! My heart was racing. I broke every speeding rule, nearly ran over several pedestrians and cursed my way through slow drivers, till we finally got there. Despite having eaten nothing all day (seriously, nothing at all, I was saving space for some pounded yam and efo at dinner), I sprinted past the food and drink stands as I was too impatient. Who cares about food or drinks when in the presence of Ms LAURYN HILL?
We got to our seats just as the band came on, to immense screams and cheers. I whooped along thinking - "YES!! WE MADE IT!!! PERFECT TIMING!!!!" The band started with this amazing instrumental beat and all I could think was"fantastic, Lauryn is coming. Lauryn is coming".
She finally came on with that husky laugh of hers. Crazy, but my heart nearly exploded. It was LAURYN, IN THE FLESH!!! She looked fabulous. Her hair was in a HUGE AFRO which looked almost orange in the light. She was wearing a long cream trench Mac, a brown turtle neck silky top, a bright pink scarf and several gold chains, with wide leg black trousers. I remembered how back in the day she hardly used to wear skirts and thought ok she's still keeping to her style. I thought she might be abit hot on stage with that coat especially with the lights but figured she would take it off.
She started off with a kick ass gospel song - or at least I think it was, cos all I could hear was "Jesus Christ, Holy Ghost" . Very high energy, loud, big band styled. GREAT - way to get the people pumped! I clapped and whooped along. And boy, the woman had energy - just jumping and prancing around the stage. Too too mad. (So much so i couldn't get a clear picture of her - the best being what I uploaded). The song ended and she asked "WHAT'S UP LONDON????" We all whooped, clapped, screamed in unison - MISS HILL WAS IN THE HOUSE AND FINALLY ON STAGE!!!!!!!!
Next thing, I'm hearing
"It's funny how money change a situation
Miscommunication leads to complication"
LOST ONES!!!! She's started! But wait, that isn't the tune for it ... but ok, she's doing that remix thing artists sometimes do , not bad. At least she's trying to mix things up a little. She was a little loud and screechy but ok that's cos the band is quite loud as well. It will get better.
I was to say that to myself, several times through the night. She basically spent the whole time singing her classics off-tune (I'm sorry, remix or not, she was off-key), in a loud screechy voice, sometimes screaming to be heard. A few times, the band would be quiet and you'd hear the beauty of her voice but bare moments later they would be back. I can't even tell you the order of the songs cos I couldn't make out what songs she was singing. I know the lyrics to almost every song she's done (BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY I AM A FAN!) but she was screeching soo much, and had changed the tunes, the only times i knew what song she was singing was when i heard a few words and managed to twig which song it was.
30 mins later, Frances and I are looking at each other but neither of us wants to be the first to say it. Then the opening strings for Ex-factor came on. That is still my most favourite song of hers. I was soo excited and soo happy (any of you that heard me moan about how Robin Thicke didn't sing "I Need Love" would understand how much I hate it when Artists dont perform the songs I love the most). I started singing along at the top of my voice but she was OFF KEY!! At first I was confused as it seemed like she was rapping the verses and i thought maybe she was singing a different chorus cos all i heard was one long indecipherable screech. The song ended and my head was pounding. I turned to Frances and I couldn't hide how upset I was any more. We both had headaches and it was a relief to know I wasn't the only one hating it. People around us were complaining and she pointed out that some others were walking out. For me it was just a mash of noise; a cacophony of clanging sounds. I started to grow bored waiting for her to actually start singing. I figured she would have to chill with the noise for a bit and then sing some of the songs like she should. WRONG!
2 more "SONGS" and then the band took a break. When she asked how we were all doing, people started to boo. BOOING AT A LAURYN HILL CONCERT??? BLASPHEMY!!! I think someone must have spoken to her and told her that she actually had to sing, so she did some acappella rendition. Her voice, haunting as it was (a la MTV unplugged album) couldn't quite hit the high notes or hold them for very long. When she started making excuses for the state of her voice and how she wouldn't normally sing a slow song in this state, I just started thinking "if you knew your voice wasn't in a fit state, why on earth would you come and sing live??" (dollar dollar bills y'all). It was also at this point that my heart started to sink in the realisation she may not actually divert from the noise she'd been making earlier.
I wasn't ready to give up just yet so i decided to sit back and chill. I had however become soo bored and disappointed, I started texting people. Lawunmi who quite possibly loves Lauryn as much (ok maybe a bit more) than I do, replied with this text - "she's giving me the hangover all the alcohol from last night couldn't give me" and he left cos according to him, there was no point in staying.
True to word she didn't get better. Ms Hill screeched, yelled out verses and screamed her way through some undecipherable songs and then started on the Fugees backlog. I made out Fu-Gee-La (the beat is unmissable and I guess she couldn't quite change the tune - thank the lord!) You know how some rappers can't rap live and basically just shout their way through songs? Yeah Ms Hill was doing that. All I could make out was "UH LA LA LA". "Ready or not" - I recognised and had to point out to Frances ,who by this time was just rubbing her head in dismay. We noticed that despite the fact that she was soo hot, she had sweated through her Mac (you could almost see the rivulets of sweat running down her back and arms), she didn't take it off!
To say I was DISAPPOINTED is an understatement. If I had paid for those tickets, I WOULD HAVE BEEN PISSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think we actually did Alero & Trey the favour by going in their place. An hour and a half or so into it - Frances and I had matching SPLITTING HEADACHES and couldn't take it anymore. I'm sorry Ms Hill but 3 years ago, you made excuses for your voice on MTV unplugged and I forgave you cos the songs were mellow and you still sounded beautiful and haunting. By this time you should have sorted out your shit and got your act together. There was no excuse for this. Even her new song - Lose Myself, sounded shit live. I mean ...
The highlight of the night? As we were pulling the car out, Aleesha Dixon (girl from Misteeq that was in Pharell's - "she wants to move" video) was walking to her car and doing some funny dance steps. THAT should tell you something.
I didn't even know Omolasky was there... The video above is of the finale, That Thing, which would have been impossible even for her in her current state to cock up. She didn't, but it just was too little to late.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Today marks the 100th day since the BBC Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, was abducted. I was at work on Monday, March 12 when the news flashed on the wires on our desktops, URGENT: BBC REPORTER KIDNAPPED IN GAZA. Oh my goodness, I thought, this is every journalist's worst nightmare. But despite tragic situation Alan was in, we all looked to past experience of kidnapping in the Palestinian territories. Olaf Wiig and Steve Centanni of Fox News were held for nearly two weeks last year before being released, a long time by Palestinian standards. And this wasn't 1980s Beirut where Terry Waite was held for four years. We were sure he'd be out soon.
It seemed ironic that he was three weeks from finishing his posting to Gaza, but it was a FOOC he'd written last year which was also a source of mirth for us. He observed that the main fear of being abducted in Gaza was being fed to death. One week became two, and two became three. And now in week 15, at 100 days. At the start, the most difficult thing to deal with was not hearing anything from those who were holding him. Not knowing is worse than knowing, even if it's the worst that we do know.
Then on Sunday, April 15, a random group, previously unheard of, said they'd killed him. But how could we verify this? After all, this is the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Someone should know something. But Gaza is also one of the most nebulous places on earth, there is no homogenous Gaza. Powerful family clans compete with criminal gangs, who compete with militia loyal to one of various political factions. Clarity in Gaza is as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel.
A few days after, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said he was alive. This is perhaps one authority that should be credible. But it all came to a head on Wednesday, May 9, when someone finally said they had him, and gave some form of proof - his BBC ID card. We all have these cards, the electronic beeper things that let us into BBC buildings. Al-Jazeera Arabic received a tape showing a picture of his ID, and demands by Jaish al-Islam to release the jihadi envoy Abu Qatada.
But this was still not enough to prove he was alive. We wanted "proof of life", a term used by hostage negotiators, especially common in Latin America. On Friday, June 1, we got what we wanted. A video. It wasn't obvious when it was filmed, but his hair had grown a bit. Somehow though, all I could think of was why kidnapped people are often given the worst fashion (think British sailors in Iran), the red jumper was sooo declassé. Still, there was a good chance he was still alive.
Who exactly are the Jaish al-Islam group holding him? They didn't seem to be one of the known groups, but what we did know is that they are affiliated to the Dagmoush clan, apparently referred to as the "Sopranos of Gaza". The clan also claimed to havebeen involved in the kidnapping of the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit last year. Hezbollah captured Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev a few weeks later, two kidnappings too far for Israel. Then came the summer exchange of Katyushas and airstrikes between Israel and Hezbollah.
The Dagmoush appear to have some kind of beef with Hamas, and Alan Johnston may be a pawn in their game of not so much wits as bludgeoning. To show how complicated the situation is, consider Hamas's recent take-over of Gaza. Despite Gaza being a de facto Hamas state, Hamas still doesn't control every inch of the territory and cannot decree that Alan Johnston be released by any clan, much less one as powerful as the Dagmoush. There in lies our troubles.
My mama has been very concerned about Alan Johnston. She asks me about the progress on his release; that could be her son, she tells me. And when Hamas threatened the group holding him, she thought, wisely, that going in by force was a bad idea. Why should telling the world what's happening in any given place be a hazardous job, she asks. The face on the ID card shown on Al-Jazeera could have been mine, or any of my colleagues'. We're not soldiers, or hard as it might be to believe, people with an "agenda"; we're mostly ordinary citizens of the world, like you, trying to make sense of the world we live in. We just so happen to have the pens and pads...
It's easy to praise someone when they're dead, or when they've been kidnapped. Because we don't want to speak ill of the dead, or someone being held in unfortunate circumstances. He's a man we all admire at work, because of the sterling job he does. An explanation of his journalism shows why. If you tell the human story, you tell the story. Good journalism takes care to remember the people caught up in extraordinary situations, mostly of someone else's making. I've dealt with Alan a few times while working on Israel-Palestine stories. He was always willing to help, displaying humility and good cheer. I stress this because I've also worked with some correspondents with prima donna tendencies, but not Alan.
In Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film, Spartacus, there's a scene where the slaves are asked to reveal who is Spartacus in exchange for leniency. Instead, they all show solidarity with Spartacus, proclaiming, "I'm Spartacus". If Spartacus will die, they shall all die with him, for each of them has now become Spartacus.
At 1415BST, I will be we with my colleagues in spirit, thinking of Alan.
I'm Alan Johnston.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
God be with you till we meet again,
By his counsels guide, uphold you,
With his sheep securely fold you:
God be with you till we meet again.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Sometime last year or the year before, I went into the Spar (which incidentally doesn't sell plantain), only for the shopkeeper to greet me like a long lost brother. They must love my custom, I thought. How about a free bottle of Copella, I almost said. "Do you still work at Victoria?", he asked. I've worked all over London in my time, it was plausible that he'd seen me work in Victoria. "No, I haven't worked in Victoria in a while", I replied, "I work all over the place."
For some reason, I felt I should know him, which is why the questions didn't seem so weird. It may have been one of my sight issues. Once upon a time, I jumped on the bus 63, when I should have been getting the 53. The bus turned off Old Kent Road, which made me ask the driver what bus I was on. 63. Not 53. My not knowing this man may have been as a result of my sometimes dodgy eyesight. So I played along.
And then he asked me about Paneel. Paneel? Oh, Paneel! No I haven't seen him for a while. The truth is, I didn't have a clue who Paneel was. At this point, it should have tweaked that I didn't know this guy, because I always worked alone, and would never work with someone else. Let alone Paneel. But this was a shopkeeper who worked for Spar, he was here today, but he'd be gone tomorrow. Till today, I ask myself what possessed me to pretend that I knew Paneel. Of course he was there that day, but he hasn't been gone since. He pops up ocassionaly every few weeks, when Paneel is out of my mind. I walk in for a pint of milk, and bam! I end up having a conversation about Paneel, with someone who may as well be described as Paneel's keeper. I'm sure Paneel is doing well. Have you seen him lately? Is he still working at Victoria.
All I ever want is some milk, and a 1l bottle of Copella. But I end up talking about someone I don't know, never seen, had previously never heard of. So, who exactly is Paneel?
The key difference is that there is no "Maurice Iwu" type character telling the world that the electoral commission should be patting itself on the back. Everyone has said what a disgraceful state events are in. There is also no deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters, as occured in Nigeria.
And one of the main issues I had with the Nigerian elections was the scale. Too many things being contested at once for it to be a manageable affair. Britain has a far smaller electorate, yet elections for different offices take place every year. In every four year period of the electoral cycle there are general elections, municipal elections, local council elections, mayoral elections, assembly elections, European elections. This allows for every election to be on a manageable scale, and much more easily monitored. You'd be hard pressed to find another country as big as Nigeria which elects everyone at the same time. It's just a bit much.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
A new blog by a black teacher in inner-city London. Apparently, black kids can't be seen to be working - not good for their "rep".
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Right now, behind me, the votes are being counted. It's rather a jovial
atmosphere, with the returning officer holding up the ballots so that the small crowd that's gathered can count them. It's really a rather sad reminder that if things do stay calm, and they're reasonably well-organised, democracy is quite a nice thing to see in action."
But I cracked up today when I saw BBC monitoring's review of African newspapers' coverage of the elections. How can't this not make you laugh?
"I want to appeal to Nigerians not to lose faith in democracy... The fact that President Olusegun Obasanjo has made a complete mess of our democracy and turned Nigeria into his chicken farm doesn't mean democracy is bad.
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - President-elect Umaru Yar'Adua said Monday after winning Nigeria's flawed presidential elections that he was humbled by his new mandate and expressed his gratitude to God for the win. When he was asked on state television if he had expected to win the vote derided by the opposition as heavily rigged, Yar'Adua's entourage broke into raucous laughter. But Yar'Adua, a Muslim with a generally somber mien, allowed only a tight smile and said: "I did because my party is strong. We enjoy the goodwill of Nigerians."
The U.S. government on Monday called Nigeria's presidential elections flawed. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that he hoped the political parties involved would resolve any differences in the election through peaceful, constitutional means. He praised the role of the Nigerian courts in trying to maintain a fair election.
The Senate president, Ken Nnamani, who has a stake in the PDP winning also said the elections were a sham.
Criticism from observers has been scathing to say the least. The Transition Monitoring Group was the first of the observers to say the election was flawed and should be rerun. Innocent Chukwuma who's been speaking on behalf of the group, which had 50,000 observers across the country, "from all the reports we are getting from the field, these were not credible elections, so it tends to the direction that we will reject the results and ask for new elections to be held" An observer from ECOWAS said the elections were "not free and fair". The observer team of the Commonwealth said the elections had "significant shortcomings".
The US-based International Republican Institute said the elections, "fall below the standard set by previous Nigerian elections and international standards witnessed by IRI around the globe."
And in the last hour or so, the EU has been delivering its verdict. "These elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible," said Max van den Berg, chief EU observer, in a statement. It also said 200 people had been killed over the two Saturdays of polling.
So what happens next? In my opinion, this is where the courts come in. If the opposition parties push hard enough, there might be too much pressure on the government - pressure which might force it to hold the elections again. Ordinarily, the oppposition are cowed and retreat, tacitly accepting the results. Popular protest would have been one way of forcing a rerun, but there's no way of preventing it descending into a typically Nigerian bloodbath.
The courts are the key.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Akwa Ibom goes to PDP, and Lagos, goes to AC.
Atiku on AFP news agency:
"I have already rejected the elections," Vice President Atiku
Abubakar told journalists in the capital, Abuja, a day ahead of the
publication of the first results from Saturday's presidential and
"They have no alternative other than to cancel them
Buhari, Reuters copy:
The main opposition candidate in Nigeria's presidential election said on Sunday he
would not accept the result and called for President Olusegun
Obasanjo to be impeached.
"We will not accept it. Clearly there was no election in
more than half of the states," former military ruler Muhammadu
Buhari told Reuters at his home in the northern state of
Saturday's polls, like state governorship elections a week
earlier, were marked by ballot stuffing, violence and
intimidation, polling stations which never opened and a shortage
of voting slips at those which did.
Independent and international monitors both said on Sunday
the election was a failure.
Buhari, who lost elections in 2003 to Obasanjo, said he
would meet other opposition leaders in the capital Abuja on
Monday to agree a common front against the ruling People's
Democratic Party (PDP).
He called for the election to be held again before May 29
when Obasanjo must stand down after serving two terms.
"There is a constitutional way out. The National Assembly,
which has been recalled by the president of the Senate, should
organise the impeachment of the president," he said.
Buhari accused sections of the military and the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) of colluding with the PDP
to fraudulently ensure the victory of its candidate, Umaru
Yar'Adua, Obasanjo's chosen successor.
"The PDP has no right to claim victory. If the PDP orders
INEC to declare them the winners, then we will ask our
supporters to stage peaceful protests at the convenient time,"
"It is likely to be a fatal blow to Nigerian democracy."
Buhari, the candidate for the All Nigeria People's Party
(ANPP), said that if the situation was not resolved by the time
Obasanjo is due to step down on May 29 then the country's chief
justice should take over as interim president and organise new
Nigeria's National Assembly is due to sit on Tuesday to
discuss the elections.
Only a few hundred metres from Buhari's home, ANPP
supporters clashed with soldiers on Saturday after they rioted
to protest a shortage of presidential ballot papers.
The latest results from INEC. I have no specifics about the states yet, but when I get them I'll put them up:
House of Reps: PDP 52, ANPP 7, AC 25.
Senate: PDP 24, ANPP 2, AC 1.
Oloruninbe Mamora of the AC won Lagos East senatorial district (the other two seats were not contested yesterday - will be rerun on April 26), and AC won all the House of Reps seats. PDP won all three Senate seats in Akwa Ibom.
Updates to follow.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The trouble with Nigeria... is that people have lost all sense of incredulity. There's an army of militants in the Niger Delta, trying to make Nigeria bleed in all manner of ways. There are parts of the east where the Biafran pound is being used as legal tender. Biafran flags fly brazenly in streets, youths affiliated with MASSOB "agitate" for a Biafran state. Isn't much of this called treason? In northern states, Sharia law is used where there's already federal or state law. Saudi sponsored conservative Wahhabi Islam is becoming incredibly influential in an area that's traditionally mainstream Sunni. People calling themselves the Taliban make forays into cities and kill policemen. After 40 years of independence we can't even organise a hitch free election. Armed robbers run the highways. When was the last time a Nigerian called for an ambulance and it came? Those who are paid to serve and protect are too busy waiting to be "settled". Planes landing at airports run the risk of crashing into cows. Power is almost non-existent. What are the state functions that work? Where? Someone show them to me.
This isn't about being Nigerian. It's about looking at the facts on the ground. Nigeria has all the hallmarks of a failed state. What needs to happen for people to admit that things are at their lowest? Another military coup? Another civil war? When will people say, enough is enough? Our incredulity lasts but for a second, and then it's on to, "that's Nigeria for you". The "na so we see am" mentality.
We need to wake up and smell the gunpowder...
ps Listen to the World Today podcast, there's a special part on the Nigerian elections.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero has banned all political rallies in the run up to Saturday's elections. It figures.
As Kush pointed out, PPA's Theodore Orji (who won Abia) is in prison in Lagos on corruption charges. And, if you look ath the EFCC's original list of candidates, the PPA ticket for Abia has the word "indicted" besides it, and is shaded red and blue. This actually happened before Saturday's elections, and there was a lot of speculation at least a week before the elections that he wouldn't be allowed to stand.
The Supreme Court ruled that INEC has no right to bar candidates, whatever their legal status, from running. The person who this obviously affects most is Atiku Abubakar. But the people who should be responding to the ruling - INEC - are saying absolutely nothing. Until INEC responds, probably later today, we can't be sure of any elections this Saturday. Nigeria, we hail thee...
Graphics from BBC newsonline. ANPP has since taken Kano.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
You will always think and hope and pray that she will come back.
But she never will.
It is as true now, as it was then.
In the past I'd hear Christians say that God doesn't break his own rules of physics,
miracles are merely a bending of God's rules.
If she comes back, it's like that - a bending of the rules.
She will never really return.
It was as true then, as it is now.
Manboy (for we're still learning)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The last ten minutes of the documentary is as poignant a piece of radio as you will ever hear. A class of pupils in South London watched the first two episodes of Roots, and gave their reaction afterwards. At the risk of patronising them, the eloquence with which they express their horror and disgust made me shift uneasily as I listened. One white student said the treatment of the slaves brought shame on white people. Most evocative of all seemed to be the beating Kunta Kinte endured as he was forced to change his name. There's nothing as intertwined as one's name and one's identity. Being removed from one's land is criminal, and being stripped of one's name is just evil.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Accounts of the trial, torture and execution of a man called Jesus over two thousand years ago form part of one of the most powerful and enduring stories ever told. For Christians of course, these chronicles have a particular historical and spiritual significance. The events tell of a necessary and divinely-ordained path to resurrection, which Christians celebrate at Easter, the most important day in the holy calendar.
People of other faiths and none are sometimes wary of dwelling too long on this part of Jesus' story. This is hardly surprising in the light of the way it has sometimes been used and abused to promote anti-Semitism; a somewhat ironic outcome given the repeated message of the central character.
It would also be foolish to try to appropriate the story for broader social or political objectives, however well-meaning. All the same, this story is so pervasive, so embedded in our wider culture, that it's difficult not to respond to it on a practical human level.
As a human rights advocate in 2007, I find many contemporary resonances in the passion story. We can choose whether or not to believe that Jesus was the Son of God - but he was definitely the son of a woman and the vulnerability of the individual human being in the face of oppression, is essential to his story.
In a time of genuine fear of crime and terrorism, societies and governments are faced with all sorts of dilemmas and obvious temptations to sidestep the most basic notions of justice in defence of stability and the greater good. More...