Monday, February 26, 2007

Ghana must go no more...

Ghana must go? Louis Vuitton appear to have other ideas. Pictures from CoolDigest.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chatham House rules

Chatham House has just published a guide to the elections. And it also has a transcript of Atiku's speech on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Plaut and Hearing

The World Service Africa editor, Martin Plaut, interviewed Atiku for the World Today, and Roger Hearing interviewed him on Newshour.



No matter...

Atiku's interview on Focus on Africa. I'll put up a World Today interview by morning hopefully.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

In defence of English

What seems to have emerged from people's reaction to the Kalu interview is a disdain for English, or the ability to express one's self in English. English isn't Kalu's first language, so he should be allowed to butcher it the way he did - or so goes the thinking. I had two problems with the interview. First, he couldn't express himself, and second, even if he could, he had nothing to express. It wasn't about accent, because if it was, 99% of Nigerians would fall short of whatever glorious standard people imagine I've set.

OBJ speaks English with a thick okra-consistency Yoruba accent, yet he is very capable of expressing himself. OBJ is a surprisingly competent public speaker. Charles Soludo has an Igbo accent almost as strong as the akpu he probably eats, yet he makes sense when he speaks. Umaru Yar'Adua has a strong accent, Babangida has a strong accent, most Nigerians have strong accents - it's a reality. The case of Kalu was not one of accent, but one of a dearth of ideas. Chxta's analysis is on point.

A politician who cannot tell us what we, as an electorate, get for our vote should move to the backroom. We don't all have to be governor, or president, or senator, we can be advisers. As matter of fact, a leader is only as good as his closest advisers. If he can tell some apparatchik in Igbo, or Hausa, what his ideas for the state are, then fine. If Kalu wants to help Abia state, fine. But don't put his mug on the BBC, and then insult me by telling me this is the face of Abia state.

People in Nigeria forget that English is not just a colonial imposition, but is the egg that binds Nigeria together. I cannot think of anything else Nigerians have in common. The arbitrary colonial borders do not bring Nigeria together, as there are still vastly varying customs, languages, landscapes, an inexhaustible list of differences. This is Nigeria: a vast piece of land, around which Lord Lugard and his people drew a line, and then asked all the people within that line to speak English. It's the story of Africa, and now we have to deal with it.

The Rainbow Nation, South Africa, has 11 official languages, and eight non-official languages. But South Africa has 47 million people, while Nigeria has 140 million. India has 23 different official languages, and its own unique way of giving those languages some usage in system of government communication. The reality is that English and Hindi trump all in the usage stakes. Believe it or not, but even God's own country, the United States, does not have an official language at federal level. It is, however, the de facto language of communication. So wherefore Nigeria?

In Nigeria, nobody is formally educated in any local languages. Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba are part of the curriculum, taught as foreign languages; rather than science, history, or maths taught in any of those langauges. People fail, or worse, don't do Nigerian languages for O'levels. It's Nigeria's loss. But everything is done in English, yet we are supposed to forgive politicians that cannot interact with us in the only way in which we should all collectively be able.

For those that say, "English is not his first language". I say that is no excuse. In essence, if someone has grown up in Sokoto, and goes to live in Abia state, they will in effect be disenfranchised. They may be within the same country, but they're not being communicated with because Orji Uzo Kalu, the state governor who should have the interests of all residents of his state, regardless of background, has failed to express himself to one of his citizens - as is his duty.

This is not a tirade against indigenous languages, or a declaration of love for Elizabeth Regina's English. I kick myself all the time for not being able to speak Igbo, and I pat myself on the back for the little Yoruba I can speak. The Yoruba that I speak was not as a result of living in Lagos, but came from slugging it out in a boarding school in Ondo state where the language was second nature to everyone. I have never been ashamed of my Nigerian heritage. This is about dealing with the reality of Nigeria as it stands today.

So those who want to forgive our politicians for not speaking English, good luck to you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gogo Ett

So, Orji Uzo Kalu has access to the internet, and knows what Google Earth is, except he calls it "Gogo Ett". Where does Nigeria get these people from? How did he sign his name on his gubernatorial candidacy form, let alone win an election? What in tarnation makes him think that he should be president of Nigeria? These are just a few of the questions I've been wrestling with since I saw Kalu on Hardtalk.

I kept cringing and wanting to change the channel, but these things are like car crashes, gruesome but compelling. What upset me more than anything was Kalu's lack of even a feather - no substance. He had neither character nor charisma, like a brown paper bag. It is forgiveable for politicians to have ideas, but be rubbish as expressing them. It happens all the time. In fact, more often than not, politicians are adept at expressing non-ideas brilliantly. But lacking both ideas and powers of expression should be punishable by guillotine. And firing squad. And electric chair. And hanging. All at once.

If you compare Kalu to George W Bush, that other great mangler of the English language, Bush is an eminently more electable person. For despite the fact that Bush butchers his syntax all the time, he is still an eminently good speaker. Hear him at press conferences and interviews, and journos always have a solid soundbite to run on 24 hour news. Not the stolid sub-platitudes spewing forth from Kalu's mouth.

On another level, Kalu has no beer factor. Were you a drinking man, who will you rather have a bear with? I'm willing to bet that nobody would pick Kalu, unless they were kneecaped, and had their teeth taken. No redeeming features. Nada. Nothing.

As Walter Mondale said to Gary Hart in the 1980 presidential elections, "Where's the beef". Kalu stands for nothing but himself. I like to hang on to the romantism that most politicians are in it for the good. Quite often, they might traverse many good intentioned roads, but eventually end up in hell. Kalu has no such. He is just Orji Uzo Kalu, with nothing to offer the Abia state, Nigeria, or the world.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

As promised

The Beeb have now put the interview on the HARDtalk website, but below's mine:


I'v spent all morning trying to get the damn Kalu HARDtalk interview into an editable format so that I can edit, and then upload. So far, so bad. Interestingly, it hasn't been put on the HARDtalk website, and I can think of several reasons why. For starters, interpreting and subtitling Kalu's heavy abuse of syntax would task even the greatest Egyptologists, and two, the Beeb isn't used to broadcasting what could be seen as "bare faced lying". I will have the interview from a more reliable source tonight, and barring Google video censoring me for fear of being wrapped over the knuckles over copyright issues, it will be on here by midnight GMT.

In the meantime, you can regale yourselves with altogether more eloquent Nigerians. Femi Kuti was on Radio 4's Midweek (listen) - he's starting his UK tour this week. And the Guardian profiles Peter Akinola (or Peter Aky-nola, as the Brits pronounce it), and asks if he's the most powerul man in the Anglican communion. The backdrop is the Communion's chinwag being held in Tanzania this week.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First impressions

Just caught the last few minutes of HARDTalk with Orji Uzo Kalu. I'll watch the repeat at 0230, and try and upload the whole thing by the morning. When he wanted to make a point, and Allan Little interrupted him, he kept saying, "I'm coming, I'm coming"...

Monday, February 12, 2007


Nuhu Ribadu, was supposed to have addressed Chatham House today at 1pm. But his assistant was sent instead. Why? Apparently Atiku served him with a writ. Also, OBJ's bĂȘte noire and presidential candidate, Orji Uzo Kalu, was interviewed by the Beeb today, and the interview will be broadcast on Hardtalk tomorrow.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Habila in the Indy

There's a Helon Habila interview in today's Indy.

Ghana must go!

I went to the Ghana v Nigeria game at Griffin Park on Tuesday. I went, of course as a journo, so I was that rare bird, the neutral observer. So, Nigeria's 4-1 loss didn't hurt me one bit... When Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup last year, everyone said that was a wake-up call. And on Tuesday at Griffin Park, the loss to Ghana was also, wait for it, a wake-up call. But I quite like the spirit of the some of the organisers who were there. They're quite keen for Nigeria not to lose faith, and to restore some morale to the team. "We need to organise another friendly soon. You know who we always beat, don't you?" Jamaica, I replied. "Exactly!"

The Guardian blog has what has to be the best match report. Ever.

This article really should be written by The Guy from Ghanaian Radio (TGGR). Because last night he was awesome. Never did catch his name, but only because breaking his commentary to ask him would have been a crime against passion. "Fifteen years! Fifteen years! Ladies and gentlemen it has been 15 painful years since Ghana beat Nigeria!" he hollered in a tone that made it clear he considered this to be a national scandal. "I'm telling you, tonight must be different." And it was. Read on...

Thursday, February 08, 2007


CNN has been running a piece by its man in Africa, Jeff Koinange, where he visits the MEND rebels in the Niger Delta. After the piece had run, Sebastian Junger, who wrote the Vanity Fair piece, appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 to talk about his experiences. I've just come off a night shift and haven't got the energy to comment on the story. There were one or two red flags, so I actually called CNN in Atlanta to put them straight. Still, read and watch.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Once again

We have yet another incident of police brutality making headlines in the US. This isn't explicitly brutal in that the usual police brutality tactics of pummelling someone into the ground, or battering people with batons, but this is negligence at its worst. In November, it was the shooting of the UCLA student with a taser gun, and the killing of a black guy in New York on his bachelor's eve do. So what do we have this time.

We have a woman, Sofia Salva, whose car is stopped by Kansas City police officers, Melody Spencer and Kevin Schnell. She's wanted on a variety of minor charges. When the police start questioning her, she tells them she's bleeding and she's on her way to the hospital. Basically, she's three months pregnant, and she thinks she's about to have a miscarriage. So do the boys in blue call an ambulance? No siree, they take her into custody. The next day, she has a miscarriage.

It's not just the fact that a woman who desperately needed medical attention was locked up, but the disdain with which she was treated. Sofia Salva did not matter to these officers. The woman was just another statistic to be locked up, another notch to be added to the department's belt. The whole thing was recorded on the squad car camera, and Kansas City Star got a copy of the tape under freedom of information laws, and have a harrowing transcript of the encounter. It's distressing to watch. To serve and to protect?