Sunday, December 23, 2007

Au retour

It's 1927hrs in Doha, and I'm sitting in transit. My flight to Gatwick doesn't leave till 0210hrs, and right now that feels like the other side of the moon. Ordinarily, I'd have gone on a whistlestop tour of Doha (à la Istanbul), and come back for my flight - but I'm bushed. My body clock's been playing tricks on me for the past few nights, and running off into the desert sand won't help. Plus, my watchword while in Kathmandu was "chilling", and I know I did a heck of a lot of that. The end of the holiday isn't the time to break my mantra. I also feel that Doha is a place I'll be coming to again; I'll get another chance, I'm sure.

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

Soaps and toothpaste

Over time, I seem to have developed a system of comparing countries I visit to the countries I know best. If I visit a developing country (waiting for the right time to switch to calling them “neo-colonial states”), I inevitably compare it to Nigeria; and if I visit a country in the “West”, I compare it Britain. They’re both countries where I spent many of my formative years, and much of my adult life. So when I landed in Kathmandu, all the comparisons were with Nigeria. The airport runway was strewn with hulks of rusted airplanes, and for some reason I thought of the Biafran War of Independence (let’s debate names of conflicts another time). I thought of how grounded bombed out aircraft must have looked in the red sand of eastern Nigeria. The loose parallel is that Nepal has had its own civil war, and I say loose because those planes were obviously not there as a result of war, but neglect.

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

Foothill of the gods

Landed this morning in Kathmandu. The city is surrounded by mountains - the Himalayas. They look like gods looming over a pious population, gazing up adoringly. Kathmandu, which means the Wooden Temple, is at the foothill of the gods. As we approached the runway, I could imagine a James Bond stunt director plotting how to make the plane suddenly disappear amid all the nooks and crannies of the mountains. Then you'd hear a boom, some rising smoke and fire, culminating in a medium shot of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in his wheelchair, stroking an albino Mongolian tiger, or some other equally bizzare genetic anomaly. Mwahaha. But Bond always survives, like I did. I'm here now. Bond also always gets the girls - that, I'm still working on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Doha International

As I type this, I'm sitting in one of the waiting areas at Doha International Airport, en route for Kathmandu, Nepal. The connection is dial-up slow, but there's just enough bandwidth to post this without biting my toenails in frustration. Plus it's free! None of that BT-wifi-Cloudzone payment in blood extortionism of Heathrow... The duty free (pictured) is quite the thing, not on the scale of Dubai, of which much is always said in praise. But I've just spotted my Christmas treat for myself - a Nokia phone I had my eye on is being sold for about $400 here, yet I was planning on forking out 300 of Her Majesty's finest gold coins (I know it's an alloy, but Her Majesty's finest copper, zinc, and nickel alloy coins isn't as romantic, does it?) Plus there are few other treats. Fiddy's first unreleased album was called, "Power of the dollar", it's time for a reissue, methinks.

At Heathrow, I felt a pang of anger towards Richard Reid, he of shoe bomber fame. Because of him we all have to strip in public, or at least take our shoes off, grrrr. And I wasn't wearing my finest "made in Israel" Marksy and Sparksy sock, but some ordinary, frayed pieces of cloth and elastic masquerading as socks. My foot fashion credibility has been pegged down a notch or two.

I should be landing in the Himalayan kingdom at about midday local time. For the first time in my travels, I'm do not know what to expect. I can only think Gurkhas, Sherpas, and Prachanda. But the world is immense, and if there's anything I know, it's that I know nothing. The plan is to know less of nothing. Go on, hound me for not making sense. If you dare.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Africa-EU love-in (or not)

Africa and the European Union finished their "parlay" (Nigerian hack mode...) on Sunday. The most dramatic event didn't even take place in Portugal, where they were meeting, but in London. John Sentamu diced his dog collar live on Andrew Marr's show, saying he wouldn't wear it again until Bob Mugabe relinquishes power in Zimbabwe. It was an incredibly symbolic gesture for the Anglican Union's number two to make, and so immensely media savvy. We live in a visual age - it was one of those jaw-dropping televisual moments.

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:

video

Also, see the response of some of Africa's newspapers to the summit.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hosea 4:6

Today's Observer has a harrowing piece on child witches in parts of Nigeria. The children are beaten and bound - treated like animals. It always infuriates me to read or hear about stuff like this. Not because it's about Africa, and it reflects badly on me (my ego isn't so easily bruised), but it taps into my righteous indignance as a human being. There are some things which should be seen as universally evil, about which there cannot be any debate, and this is one of them.

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

Something of the Fidel

I was in the US just last week, trying but failing to just chill out, and visiting la famiglia (both in crime and blood). It had been eight years since I went, but it was still easy as pie to slot in and feel at home. I also did the "Chinese bus" trip from New York to DC, which made me turgid with middle-class guilt about labour, unions, safety. All because I didn't pay top dollar on the Greyhound instead.

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):

video

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Johnny was a bad boy (like Don King)

I've been an absolutely naughty boy. The blog gods will not rest until I show penitence for the disdain with which I've treated the sacred act of blogging. Until I atone for my blog sins, I shall have to invent a shield to ward of the curse-filled bolts of lightning being fired in my direction. "I apologise, and I shall not do it again," he says with a droopy face cloaked in Catholic guilt.

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

Back in blighty + pictures

I'm now back home in London, and still haven't posted anything about Jerusalem. My time there was packed with activity, and I'll recount all the details soon. In the meantime here are some pictures from my few hours in Istanbul:

The Shysters/Good Samaritans who made sure I saw Istanbul.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque at night.

Roast corn, with Sultan Ahmet in the background.


McDonald's. Front yard being cleaned, could be a Saturday night in any Western European city.



The almighty Starbucks.


Klodfarer Street, where I stayed. Marseille anyone?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Byzantium

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

Terminal 3

The flight is taking off at 1630hrs. I left New Cross Gate station at 1318hrs. I did what I always do, and left relatively late. My normal routine is to get to the airport just as checking in is coming to an end. That way I don't have to queue, and I don't have spend hours inanely walking through duty free shops, thinking, "bloody hell, if it costs this much tax free, imagine how it must cost in the real world." My routine almost means that there's a relatively straight path from my doorway to my seat on the plane.

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

Michael Hill

Some of you may have heard, and others may not have heard. Michael Hill, the father of the little girl, Margaret, who was kidnapped in July, has died of a heart attack. I'm sure you don't need to read the news story to have your own opinions on what might have triggered his heart attack...

Charlie does it again

Charlie Brooker is possibly the funniest writer in British newspaperdom. The first two paragraphs of his column this week are just glorious. I defy anyone to read it and not laugh out loud. If you succeed in not laughing out loud, my bank manager will give you five pounds. And, as someone who's pin has in the past magically vanished from his head, I understand Charlie, I really do. For more Charlie Brooker gems, read his account of trying to quit smoking.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

As they say in Nigeria...

This one is too much!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Banging on

No pun intended. It seems as if I've developed an obsession with all things homosexual - 2 posts in one week? Anyway, 18 men arrested for acts of sodomy. Speaking of which the BBC World Service has just broadcast a 2-part documentary on homosexuality laws in different countries. The first part is set in Jamaica, where the act of "buggery" is illegal, and the second is set in South Africa, where homosexuals are allowed to marry. Homosexuality is still a huge issue, as can be seen from the US Democratic candidates so called gay debate.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Transatlantic Drugs Trade

Assignment on the BBC World Service delves into the world of the West African drugs mule.

link fixed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Social Welfare comes to Africa.

The Ugandan government is to give $10 a month to "chronically poor". Should be an interesting experiment to watch.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ibori's assets frozen

James Ibori's assets have been frozen in London.

Heart on CNN

I thought the Nigerian government was pulling its Heart of Africa adverts from CNN. How come I just saw one on the channel?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

As I said I would

I did say that I would try and find a discussion on media coverage of Africa. This discussion was between the Nigerian Guardian's Reuben Abati, and BBC World Service programme, The World Today presenter, Max Pearson. Broadcast February 16. Before you get het up about the abrupt end, there were time constraints. Five and a half minutes on an item is a lot, believe me.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fancy Pele?

Apparently, nobody who watched Pele and other footballers in the 1970s would ever consider having a gay football icon. A Brazilian jusdge has sparked a debate. Homosexuality in football is always a livewire issue. Remember the fuss over Nigerian footballers and their hairstyles apparently promoting homosxuality?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Nollywood

Biyi Bandele article on Nollywood in the Guardian/Observer.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Manchester United's new boy

No doubt some of you might have heard the news about a 9 year-old kid Man U has signed this season. But have you seen videos of Rhain Davies? White boys like this only come along once every generation:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

BA fined for price fixing

Where are the London - Nigeria routes in all of this?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Toiling in the dark

New York Times analysis of sub-Saharan Africa's lecky crisis.

Document

On tonight's Document on Radio 4, Mike Thompson will be looking at Harold Smith's allegations that the Brits rigged Nigeria's independence elections. Today broadcast a preview.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The verdict

Why do her looks elicit such gushing remarks from people who've seen the interview? It reminds me of a story my aunt once told me and my cousins. She was invigilating an ACCA exam, when a woman was caught cheating. My aunt said to me, "it was such a shame - she was such a fine girl". So I ask, what do her looks have to do with anything?

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

Chimamanda on HardTalk Extra

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been on HardTalk Extra with Gavin Esler. I'll reserve my judgement for later. In the meantime, enjoy. Item starts at 2minutes in:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Must Calculate

I was sitting in newsroom, listening to The Beat. I should have been preparing the next bulletin, and then it struck me. One of the songs playing in the car of the lecturer in Cameroon was You Must Calculer, a legendary makossa tune fom the late 80s. A tear almost fell from my eye, the hairs on the back of my neck stood upright, my breathing raced to a dangerous pace. This is what hyperventilation must feel like. The vessels in my brain flooded with memories, moving my body on the balcony in our house in Three Stations, music blaring out of our antediluvian but resilient 70s Marantz speakers.

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.

First Bank - truly the first.

First Bank is making inroads into the British financial services market. A welcome addition, if you ask me. They're governed by the rules and regulations of the FSA, and as such, we shouldn't see any "money doubling" going on.

New cabinet - finally

His Slowness, Umaru Yar'Adua, has finally named a cabinet. I can understand Ojo Maduekwe as Foreign Minister. He has the kind of compelling demagogic oratory one associates with snake-oil sellers; he'll sell well abroad. See the list.

Update:
The full list.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Youtube election

The run-up to next year's US presidential elections is proving to be ridiculously entertaining. There's been talk of this being the "Youtube election", with CNN and Youtube teaming up for a presidential debate. Personally, I'm in love with the spoof music videos, Obama Girl, Obama Girl vs Giuliani Girl, McCain Mama, and Hott4Hill. Obama Girl was the original, and the others followed suit. Barely Political are the genius outfit behind some of the videos.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sectarianism comes to Nigeria

The battle between Sunni and Shia isn't restricted to Iraq, it's come to Nigeria...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Loosening of the noose

The British media has been agog with news of a blog post by Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman, where he sounds the death knell for the tie. "Is it time for Newsnight men to stop wearing ties? It has always been an utterly useless part of the male wardrobe," he says. Too bloody right. Such a statement from such a prominent news figure is music to my ears. In fact it almost sounds like a marriage proposal from Paxo, and I'm tempted to shout "Yes, Jeremy, yes. I will marry you!"

The reaction has been quite mixed, with most still in an inexplicable love-in with the corporate noose. The FT (quelle surprise) thinks the tie will continue to strangle us. Nick Foulkes in the Telegraph is another man in favour of the tie. Philip Norman in the Daily Mail, yes, you guessed it, wants us to keep wearing them. Charlie Porter, an associate editor of GQ, is more ambiguous, but seems to be another tie-tan. And, the Indy, does what it always does by doing the opposite to everyone else, and choosing to not give an opinion this time, but print a Q&A. Jon Snow of Channel 4 news supports Paxo, and this isn't the first time they've had to deal with the issue of the dreaded neckwear.

I detest ties. I think I have 4, or perhaps 3. I've worn a tie only once in the last couple of years. And that was because I was appearing on television, and I felt compelled for some ridiculous reason, to look presentable. I don't wear ties to interviews, and haven't worn a tie to an interview since 2003. I cut my hair, wore a suit, polished my nails, bleached my teeth, plucked my nose hairs, and didn't get the job. Since then, I've had much more success attending interviews looking like the Ghost of Christmas Past. More often these days, I wear an African shirt.

One of the main reasons I wear what I wear to interviews and work, is because I can get away with it. In my early days as freelance journalist, I remember being dressed to the nines for a meeting with Channel 4 executives. I looked dapper in a suit, black shirt, and polished shoes, but didn't wear a tie. Neglecting my tie was my way of being an eccentric media type. I walked into the office, and I was the only person wearing a suit. The others wore slacks, jeans, t-shirt, nothing remotely formal. And that was the start of me attending meetings sans cravate.

Ties, for me, represent the noose of the corporate world. And I refuse to spend my life going to work in a noose. The symbolism is too strong to ignore. The tie feeds into the stereotype that people in 9-to-5s are doing dead-end jobs which are stifling. One hops on the tube every morning to make money for the Man, and then have the Man metaphorically choking you with his filthy blood, sweat, and tears drenched hands - in the form of a tie. Why would I want to put myself through that?

The idea that people who wear ties these days exude an air of gravitas is an old school mindset. Andrew Neil, wears a tie when presenting This Week on BBC1 on Thursday evenings, but wears a tie when presenting the Daily Politics in the daytime. The tone of the programmes are different - DP is more gladiatorial, combative fare, while TW is a jovial nudge nudge, wink wink, sofa politics programme. However, Andrew Neil is no less authoritave for not wearing a tie on TW. There are people who think that drafting in Jeremy Vine to present Panaroma is a typical example of the BBC chasing ratings, and attempting to sex up its current affairs programming. But Jeremy Vine used to present on Newsnight, and has long been a "serious" journalist. The open neck shirts he wears on on the programme should be, and are no barrier to serious news and current affairs.

Why do I wear African shirts to work? Why not? In West Africa, the last time I checked, people wore African shirts. It is our attire. When the colonists came to Africa, I don't remember them converting and wearing boubous or kaftans. Instead, they enforced (I can think of no milder word), suits, and the worst sin of all, khaki. Of all the fabrics available to the cotton growing colonists, they made Africans wear khaki... I'd prefer they apologised for that even before apologising for the Empire. When the Brits were in Rome i.e. Africa, they didn't do as the Romans did. And as such, convention alone is too weak a reason to compel me to wear non-African attire to work as a rule. Of course I don't wear African shirts all the time, and that is just a matter of categorising formal and informal wear, appropriateness for the time of the day etc.

Another important nub of the argument is that I work in radio. So in keeping with the saying, "a face for radio", perhaps I have a wardrobe for radio. What would I do if I had to appear on television regularly, a la Paxo? Interestingly, I have thought about this before, thus, the African Shirt would still reign supreme. But, it would have to prove its versatility. African shirts might not be suitable for television, because the patterns aren't good for video cameras and create a sort of hallucinatory Magic Eye-type autostereogram (which I've never been able to see). The problem, therefore, is practicality. I would wear simpler and well defined patterns which wouldn't require a strobe warning before I went on air.

If all else fails, I'd be willing to make a deal with the Man. Which brings us back to ties. So, if I did have to wear ties, then I'll be donning Jon Snow style expressive (read flamboyant) ties. I'd simply wear aso oke and kente cloth ties. Except that the flamboyance of the ties (by British standards) could detract from what I'm actually saying, hence, sapping all my so called gravitas. Ah, well. You pays your money, and you wears your shirt.

Don't even ask what I'd do with the hair...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Achebe in the Guardian

Chinua Achebe made an appearance in yesterday's Guardian.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Caine Prize

For some bizarre reason my titles aren't working. Anyhoo, this year's Caine Prize has gone to Uganda writer, Monica Arac de Nyeko. The real news though, is the subject matter - a lesbian affair. It'll be interesting to see what African media say about the award.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Ladies' at the Apollo

Whenever commentators want to gauge the pulse of Arab opinion, they talk about the "Arab Street", in the same way that Volvo-driving "Soccer Moms" are thought to represent Middle America. British Conservative party politicians ask themselves how an idea will play in the "Home Counties", while Labour talk about "Northern Heartlands". Well, A&Rs in every record company should talk about the women's bog at the Hammersmith Apollo, euphemistically known as the "Ladies' at the Apollo". That is where the pulse can be felt about how badly or how well your artist is doing.

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.

Margaret returns home

Margaret Hill has been returned to her parents. Was a ransom paid? Who knows.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Why?

3 year-old girl kidnapped for ransom in Port-Harcourt.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alan is free!


I woke up this morning to hear that Alan Johnston has been released. Champagne corks have been popping in the newsroom this afternoon. We're all genuinely elated. Excuse me while I kiss this guy, kiss the sky...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm Alan Johnston


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

A bit of dust...

My fellow Bloggers, another blogger bites the dust. Well, only a little dust. I've decided to take a sabbatical from blogging, as "inspiration" and motivation have been lacking recently. It's for the best that I take time off and clear my head, and hopefully come back revamped. I don't know when I'll be back, but I will be. Until then, let the words of Jeremiah Rankin soothe...
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.

Life and Music

I watch this video, and it makes me almost want to cry. If life is like a music score, the point is not to get to the end of the piece as quickly as possible, but to sing and/or dance as the music plays. Quite simple really. It's done touchingly...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Who is Paneel?

The Spar on New Cross road is one of my regular haunts. Whether it's picking up a newspaper after work, buying emergency plum tomatoes for one of my oh-so-lovely stews, and now, a seemingly interminable sale of 1l bottles of Copella apple juice for £1.49. Scholars of the 1l bottle of Copella will understand what I mean, it's value for money which makes you want to slap your bottom Asda-style. The shopkeepers in the area know my face. In fact, sometimes when I buy plantain (which some of you may or may not know is a personal obsession), I get offered an extra one - which is basically 5 for the price of 4, or 5 for £1. When you go through as many plantains as I do, one extra plantain can be difference between rice and plantain, and rice with a hint of plantain.

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?

Elections hit by problems!

Nope, not the Nigerian elections, but the Scottish elections. I had to lay this on thick for all the Nigerians who insisted that election malpractice and incompetence was not a strictly Nigerian disease. Delays in counting because a helicopter couldn't make it to the counting centre, computers not able to count some ballot papers.

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

Super Mario - blind

It may not seem like the most difficult thing in the world, but it's still fascinating. This fella can play the first two levels of Super Mario Bros with his eyes closed. There are also internet rumours that he can do the same thing up to level four.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MDGs

A meeting is taking place in Brussels today to discuss the Millenium Development Goals, mainly universal primary education. In yesterday's Guardian, Polly Curtis went to Nigeria to see what progress is being made on primary education.

Monday, April 30, 2007

I worry...

I have in the past been convinced by South Africa's rhetoric about being able to host the World Cup in 2010. I hope my faith isn't misplaced.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Elections on Newshour

If you can, listen to the BBC World Service Newshour special on Nigeria's recent elections. Runs in the second half of the programme at 1330BST, and again at 2130BST. You should be able to listen again online.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Should be interesting...

Don't worry Akin, I am alive. The dreaded blue screen has been plaguing my laptop for a few days, but we shall overcome!

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

Green Revolution?

From the same sentiments that brought you the Rose Revolution, and the Orange Revolution, they now bring you the Green Revolution? Personally, I think Nigerians can't be bothered.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Light relief

Despite all the doom and gloom that's greeted Nigeria's elections, there've been some moments of genuine mirth and pathos. One was when a BBC World Service correspondent in Abuja, Will Ross, described the counting of votes at a polling station:

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.

Goodwill of Nigerians

From the Associated Press agency:

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.

About 1420hrs

Yar'Adua declared winner. 24 million votes for him, compared 6 million for Buhari.

The deal

The results coming in indicate that Yar'Adua will win. AC won in Lagos, with ANPP winning in Kano and Abuja. Yesterday, both Atiku and Buhari said they wouldn't accept the results of the elections. Atiku said, "This is the worst election ever in Nigeria... They have no alternative than to cancel the election altogether." Buhari said, "We will not accept it. Clearly there was no election in more than half of the states. 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." I'm not exactly sure how impeaching an outgoing president will help matters. That comment feels like unnecessary blustering.

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

First results and reactions

Umaru Yar'Adua of the People's Democratic Party won 1,841,956 votes, followed by the All Nigeria People's Party with 55,429 and Action Congress with 53,322, the electoral commission said in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

Source: Reuters

1626hrs:

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
legislative elections.
"They have no alternative other than to cancel them
altogether."

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
Katsina.
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,"
he said.
"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
elections.
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.

2020hrs
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.

No improvement

The general feeling among observers is that there were no improvements on the state elections. The TMG is asking that the polls are rerun. Also, voter apathy appears to have been fairly prevalent among many people I spoke to.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shootings.

There are now reports that soldiers have shot dead three people during protests against vote-rigging.

Policemen killed in Nassarawa

Some news just in: Policemen have been killed in Nassarawa State as they escorted INEC officials. Also, there are issues about the ballot papers in Lagos where the printers missed out the insignia of some parties for the National Assembly ballot papers. This election will now be held at a later date.

Log

The BBC has a very good log of the goings-on.

Main story.

The main stories on election day: the attempt to blow up INEC headquarters in Abuja, and delayed opening of polling stations.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The future's Orange

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been nominated for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction - the world's most prestigious award for English language women authors. To vote, Naijablog has instructions.

What more do we need?

Yesterday I called my mama and said, "I'm just calling to find out how you guys are doing, seeing as the country is imploding on itself." But you know Nigerian mothers, resilient as ever, "It's not imploding, anything. We're still here!" She went on to entertain me with a story about Abia state's PDP entourage getting into a fracas with INEC officials over "letting" Orji Uzo Kalu's PPA win the governorship. "What will I tell them in my village?", said the PDP man, before one of his people slapped Mr INEC...

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

And then..

There's the issue of the militants. Guess what? The Nigerian army has moved in against them. Some people say the country is finally imploding on itself. I've said that for years...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just in

INEC had said it respects the court's decision, and that it had made provision for this eventuality. Elections will go ahead as planned - with Atiku Abubakar's name on the ballot paper. The opposition are also meeting today, to try and come up with a concensus candidate to run against Yar'Adua and the PDP juggernaut. This will be a straight fight between Atiku and Buhari. How much clout does Atiku actually have? We're about to find out.

Chaos.



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

Two more...

Edo, Kwara, Ondo, and Kaduna all gone to PDP. Someone is asking me, will these elections stand? Only Kano and Taraba to come.
PDP: Anambra, Adamawa, Benue, Cross River, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Nassarawa, Niger, Sokoto.

ANPP: Bauchi, Yobe, and Zamfara.

Enugu to be rerun.

Six more states to come, including Kano...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Link

Reuters is updating regularly.

AC retains Lagos

Fashola and AC still run Lagos.

Even more...

PDP retains Bayelsa, Gombe, and Katsina.

More results

PDP retains Oyo and Akwa Ibom. Imo state voided, fresh elections on April 28.

Early results...

Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Rivers stick with PDP - doesn't bode well for AC in the south-west. Borno also sticks with ANPP. Abia surprisingly goes to Orji Ahamefule of the little known PPA party. Will update as and when.

All in a day's vote...

Stolen ballot boxes, violence, incompetence - life as a Nigerian voter.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Great gleaming malls

One of the most knowledgeable people about Africa, Richard Dowden (director of the Royal African Society), writes from Lagos in today's Indy.

If you're in Nigeria today...

GO AND VOTE! Voting is taking place for gubernatorial and state legislative elections. These are the candidates and their parties for the governorship of all the states. For state assemblies, go here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Return of the Jedi

The force is strong with this one - or at least I hope it is. I appreciate the many comments of concern, but most endearing were the threats of legal action. Nothing like the fear of legal fees to kickstart lazy backsides into action. Over the past few weeks Bharath from Dell became one of my most trusted companions, sharing several moments of silent interaction as the laptop whirred away. Should I ask him about his family, about Bangalore being India's Silicon Valley? Should I ask him why he hadn't used some bastardised Americanised version of his name, like Bart? Perhaps Dell is more sensitive to the differences of the globalised world in which it operates (read Thomas L Friedman's The World is Flat). Should I have asked him why he left Chennai to pursue silicon dreams in Bangalore, or Bengaluru as it's soon to be rechristened? Silence was quite often golden.

Whenever I saw the call sign, I'd pipe up, "Hello Bharath, I'm just trying to brush my teeth, could you call back in ten minutes?". "Hello Bharath, the blasted thing still isn't working (but in not so colourful language)". These weren't foreign, heavily accented, annoying call centre automatons so despised by the British public. They were always professional, courteous, extremely knowledgeable and competent. When my LAN worked, but my wireless received no waves, I watched as the Bharath poltergeist took over my laptop from a faraway latitude and longitude.

The service was very good, but there were delays. The delays were caused by two things - 1) I had to get the data off my hard drive before reformatting (some major coaxing using linux) and, 2) the reformatting cds took a circuitous route to get to my place.

So. I am back in full blog mode. April 11 edition of City People (the rag of ill repute, and therefore my rag of choice), with an interview which has incredible quotes about a supposedly great man.

"If he was alive, a lot of people would have turned up. Nobody would have cried. But they cried because they loved him and they also benefitted from him in many ways. He was one person who believed in people and would never despise their guts. He was loved by all and appreciated for his humane gestures."

I hate to inform you that it is none of the millions of benevolent Nigerian names we're all itching to trot out. It is of course, the man responsible for some of Nigeria's literal and figurative darkest days - General Sani Abacha. His wife Maryam is asked about life at 60, and she spews all the goodness of her husband, a man who would "never despise their guts". Frankly, if you feel a need to say that despising someone's guts isn't on your agenda for human relations, then something is not quite right. She goes on to describe him as a loving father, a man who did the dishes while she cooked. Doing the dishes? Seriously, roll out the red carpet!

There is something irresponsible about any newspaper selling Abacha wholesale as a family man. I don't doubt that he gave his kids his thumb to suck, but I'm not so sure what the Saro-Wiwa family will make of this perfectly painted picture. It's almost as if the we're talking about the nation's favourite cuddly tv chef, and nothing more. Balanced pictures of people's lives must include their relationships and interactions, but it shouldn't detract from what brought the person to prominence. In Abacha's case, there are too many, too notorious to mention.

Whoever the journalist is (no byline), he/she was cowed. Which is a shame, because it's people like Maryam Abacha who should be answering hard questions about Nigeria, and not be celebrated as some grand dame of the nation.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Fear not...

...for I am with you. My laptop's almost mended, and Lawd willin' I'll be back in blogsville tomorrow evening.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cafe Royal, no cheese

My laptop's on the blink, so I'm in an internet cafe. It sucks. I'd forgotten how much I detested these places. So Dell better fix up and look sharp, pretty soon. Blog anon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Letter to a young(er) romantic...

Dear Boy,

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.

Sleep well,
Manboy (for we're still learning)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Stalinist in our midst

Am I the only one who's slightly uneasy with the langauge people have revelled in using with Gordon Brown this week. Brown's former permanent secretary described him as operating with "Stalinist ruthlessness". During the budget debate, opposition leader, David Cameron, was prepared to make jokes about Brown sending other possible Labour leadership candidates to the gulag. Cameron read PPE at Brasenose, and surely he studied Stalinist Russia, and might have heard about the 20million people reportedly killed by Stalin. Would anyone ever make jokes about sending people to World War II concentration camps? There was a real stink when the former Italian prime minister and lord of all things politically incorrect, Silvio Berlusconi, compared a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp guard. For some reason educated people feel that Stalin's murderousness was somehow okay, and we can crack jokes and compare Gordon Brown to him without furrowing so much as a brow. Whatever the joke is, I don't get it.