Archive for September, 2012

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Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe, often called the father of modern African literature, released his first major work in years on Thursday with a long-awaited memoir centred on the war that nearly destroyed his nation.

“There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra” chronicles Achebe’s experiences during Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war, which saw his native eastern region, dominated by the Igbo ethnic group, secede as the Republic of Biafra.

The split came largely in response to massacres of Igbos in Nigeria’s north and saw Achebe, author of the revered novel “Things Fall Apart,” speak out forcefully in support of the move.

His memoir was released in Britain on Thursday and will be available in Nigeria shortly after, said publishers Allen Lane, a division of Penguin. Its release in the United States is set for October 11.

The tensions that ignited the Biafran conflict, which left around one million people dead, including many from starvation, are largely settled. Today, sporadic calls for greater Igbo autonomy have limited impact in Nigerian politics.

Experts, however, say a Biafra memoir from the 81-year-old Achebe is urgently needed in a country that remains deeply fractured on other levels, despie the book’s focus on events that happened more than four decades ago.

“Achebe is sustaining the debate on integration, on unity and on oneness,” said Dapo Thomas, a history professor at Lagos State University.

“Until there is a sovereign agreement from the peasants to the elite that we want to remain as one, we must continue that debate. A nation cannot remain comatose while these issues are unresolved.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 160 million people, groups around 250 ethnic groups and is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

Though speculation persists over whether the country will eventually break up, many say such predictions are overblown.

Yet fault lines remain, notably between the north and south, a division that has had immeasurable impact on Nigeria since independence in 1960.

Religiously and ethnically divided communities in the so-called “Middle Belt” in the country’s centre have seen waves of clashes that have killed thousands in recent years.

Beyond that, Islamist group Boko Haram is blamed for killing more than 1,400 people since 2010 in an insurgency which it says is aimed at restoring an Islamic state in the north and stripping power from the secular government.

During the Biafra war, “what we are finding is a new nation going through the pangs of nationhood,” said the writer and literature professor A. E. Eruvbetine.

“The truth is, in Nigeria here we are still going through the trauma of trying to forge a nation.”

Achebe strongly backed his native Biafra in the civil war and even toured to speak on its behalf. Echoes of the conflict emerge in his writing, including his collection “Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems.”

The octogenarian remains a towering figure in Nigerian and African literature, though he has been based in the United States in recent years where he has been a professor at Brown University in Rhode Island. He travels infrequently due to a 1990 car accident that left him in a wheelchair.

Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart”, about the collision between British colonial rule and Igbo society, remains a landmark work 54 years after its release.

“Just as we read Shakespeare, it’s not possible for any student in this department to graduate without reading the works of Chinua Achebe,” said the head of the English department at the University of Lagos, Adeyemi Daramola.

Earlier in his career, Achebe fiercely criticised Nigerian leaders, notably in his widely read 1983 essay “The Trouble With Nigeria”, whose first sentence is still often cited here.

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” it reads.

Achebe has limited such commentary in recent years, unlike his great Nigerian literary rival Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel prize for literature, who has stayed on the political front line throughout his career.

However, during January protests over a fuel price hike, Achebe issued “A Statement of Solidarity with the Nigerian People” that gained attention back home.

His legacy is secure in Nigeria but his absence has been felt, said Daramola.

“For Achebe to have been away for so long, we have indeed missed him.”

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Jonathan Unfruitful Foreign Trips

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Punch Editorial

Since he assumed the nation’s top political office, President Goodluck Jonathan has been rather enthusiastic about strutting on the world stage. And well he should. In an interdependent world, it is necessary for countries to engage one another through many channels, including diplomatic visits. As the world’s largest black nation, a major oil producer and sub-regional power, Nigeria’s voice should carry some weight in international affairs.

Presidential foreign trips should however be carefully synchronised with national economic and political aspirations. Foreign trips must have a purpose and be geared towards extracting the best possible advantages for the country. There is little evidence to show however that our president’s trips are carefully planned to promote our economy or advance our political interests. Within the past few months, Jonathan has jetted to Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, the United States, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi and Niger Republic. Earlier in the year, he had been to Brazil and Belgium, among other places.

There is nothing to be achieved by the President hopping on a jet to attend low-key celebrations in lightweight nations just because he has one of the largest presidential air fleets in the world. That is why we have a Foreign Affairs Minister and a large diplomatic bureaucracy. The major work of forging good relations with other countries is done by diplomats under a competent minister, who often is the face of the country abroad. That is why President Barack Obama of the United States need not frequently junket around the world but leaves the globetrotting to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, despite that country’s extensive strategic, economic and political interests around the world.

China’s President Hu Jintao visits countries to advance the economic and security interests of the world’s second largest economy. His visits have made it the most significant trading partner for many African countries today and secured lucrative business deals for Chinese firms in many countries, including Nigeria where multi-billion dollar contracts have been signed for railways, oil and gas and airports. Even tiny Benin Republic, whose President, Boni Yayi, often describes his country as Nigeria’s 37th state to underscore its economic dependence on Nigeria, regularly but wisely nips in to Abuja to fraternise with his big neighbour just to safeguard his country’s commerce.

Many experts have questioned the propriety of Jonathan’s frequent trips, citing the grave economic, security and political problems confronting the nation at this time. Or is the President only trying to follow the footsteps of his predecessors, especially Olusegun Obasanjo, who once made about 53 foreign trips in less than one year, according to records kept by the late civil rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi? The hollowness of making trips to seek foreign investors has been proved by the failure of Obasanjo’s numerous trips to yield such dividend. What will attract foreign direct investment, according to a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, are improvements in our infrastructure, economic liberalisation and drastic reduction in the corruption that has killed all efforts to revive the agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors.

The doubtful value of the trips is underscored by the poor judgment in the choice of places to visit, timing and the utterances of the President. It was in poor taste, for instance, to have attended the inauguration of Yoweri Museveni for a record fourth presidential term even after he had manipulated Uganda’s constitution to abrogate term limits, spent 26 years in office and had been accused of electoral abuse, provoking mass protests. Jonathan would have saved himself the discomfort of being caught in Museveni’s convoy when it was pelted with stones by irate Ugandan voters in Kampala. The timing of the President’s trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Earth Summit in June was insensitive. Terrorists had just struck in Kaduna, Kano and Yobe states in a weekend orgy of bloodletting that left over 70 dead. But as Nigerians mourned, their President travelled for a summit that the environment minister could well have handled. The President’s entourage is also excessive and wasteful.

The President will also need to rein in his penchant for making embarrassing promises to his hosts. His promise to Malawi’s president to import rice from that country is bizarre when we have a plan to reduce the $3 billion we spend yearly importing rice and return to self-sufficiency in the staple. He was equally unguarded when he promised to ensure direct air links between Nigeria and Trinindad and Tobago at a time our aviation sector is in such dire straits that last week when Arik Air planes were grounded for a few days, we had only three domestic airlines, with limited capacity to cope with air travel demands, airborne.

Jonathan should spend more time at home. China did not engage the world until it first put its economy in order. Since 1979, China’s economy has been developing at an unprecedented rate, and that momentum has been held steady into the 21st century. Brazil is also steadily climbing the economic ladder. But Brazil’s leader is not everywhere as our President is. His intervention will be appreciated if only his trips will help secure the repatriation of billions of dollars of public funds stolen by officials and their collaborators, seal lucrative business deals for our entrepreneurs or secure better treatment for Nigerians in foreign lands. Otherwise, he should leave shuttle diplomacy to the Foreign Minister and the diplomats.

Jonathan is needed at home to confront corruption head-on; re-start the flagging economy; prosecute the privatisation of the power, and oil and gas downstream and railway sectors with single-minded resolve and transparency. He also needs all the time he can spend at home to rein in the odious terrorism that has become a potent threat to our national cohesion.

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A President’s UN Address

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Jaafar Jaafar

It’s my honour to address this august gathering of the United Nations. I am equally delighted to attend the first-ever High-Level Plenary Session of the United Nations on the Rule of Law, the spirit of which was bequeathed to me by my late boss, who passed away on the 5th of May 2010. May his gentle soul Rest in Peace, Amen.

Honourable Sec. Gen., first I must commend you for coordinating the affairs of the United Nations with more than 190 members. Managing affairs of this secretariat is not an easy task. But compared to my country – which is just a like a forest – United Nations is like a test tube. That is why it is difficult to easily measure achievement in a forest. Nonetheless, I will highlight some of the achievements of my administration.

Despite my commitment to rule of law and equity, it may interest the assembly to know that I am the most criticised president our country ever had. We have evolved a number of policies with long-term benefits, which people will benefit in the future. But despite this barrage of criticism, I remain steadfast, doing what I know is good for the country.

We are very close to reaching a milestone, a point where petroleum subsidy will be completely withdrawn. Petroleum subsidy removal is good for the economy of our country, just as cassava bread is good for our health. That is the reason these two issues become the thrust of my agenda.

Our country is currently submerging under flood waters. While ordering Julius Burger to clear the flood waters from the roads, I also told my ministers that the best way to address the issue is for people to learn swimming and diving. We will make this compulsory for all Nigerians in order to reduce the perennial flood deaths. I have already directed the Federal Road Accident Corps to immediately start issuing diver’s license to Nigerians who are certified fit to swim and dive. Those outside the creek, now have opportunity to learn diving and get license.

As I once said in one of my great speeches, “The dream that any Nigerian child from Kaura-Nomoda to Duke village; from Potiscum to Nsuka; from Isale-Iko to Gbocko town will be able to realize his God-given potentials, unhindered by tribe or religion and unrestricted by improvised political inhibitions.” Honourable Sec. Gen., I still hold on to this belief.

The challenge of Boco Haram crisis is coming to an end. I’ve already decided to award Shekarau and Abu Qaka a multi-million dollar contract for the security of churches, telecom masts and schools in the North Delta region. The same thing I did to my Naija Delta militants. Currently, there’s no oil bunkering or pipeline vandalism in the region. This is a good example of rule of law. Alhaji Asara and Mr Tampico have all benefitted. Militant is not ahead of terrorist or insurgent. We are treating them the same in the spirit of Rule of Law.

Mr Sec. Gen., this august assembly should note that I am the most impartial president my country ever had. When I decorated a business mogul Alhaji Alinco with GGCON honor, Nigerians hailed me because of his contribution to the provision of employment opportunities. That boy Alinco, who Fordes magazines declared the richest black African, is one of the pillars that hold the collapsing real sector of our economy. It’s surprising that some people criticise me for being biased in order rubbish our effort. This year again, in the spirit of equity, I also conferred another business man, Mr Mic Adenooga.

The National honours award was established by National Dishonour Act No 5 of 1964. The act empowers the president to honour deserving citizens. Since 1963, a total of 4,426 merit awards have been conferred on Nigerians. I contributed 979 to this number. This really is no mean achievement even on the international scale.

My dear colleagues, the world may notice that I recently showered N5 million to each of our gold medalist paralympians, just as I directed my defence chief to give N200,000 to the families of soldiers killed by Boco Haram sect. I do this in the spirit of equity.

Mr Sec. Gen., my fellow heads of government, assembly men and women, our country has four major tribes today. We had three major tribes before, but my government increased the number to four. We now have, in alphabetical order, Ausa, Ejaw, Ibo and Yoroba. This has never been achieved by any government before my administration. Hardly anyone can tell which tribe between Ejaw and Ausa is the majority, or between Ibo and Yoroba and vice versa.

On the planned introduction of N5,000 note by the Central Bank, many people were not even aware that I even proposed a denomination much higher than 5,000. My plan was to introduce different notes for different individuals. For example, I proposed 620,000 notes for Members of the House of Refs, while the 5,000 can be used by the general public. The logic behind my proposition, which idle social media critics vehemently rejected, is to check corruption.

Our electoral commission under Professor Dahiru Jaga-Jaga has conducted the freest and fairest election ever in the history of our nation. Having won the election with a landslide, the commission deservedly declared me winner. We gave them more than N80 billion for the election and we are willing to give them more money to provide permanent voter’s card. It will interest this august assembly to know that currently, Sierra Leone is trained by Jaga-Jaga on how to conduct election.

The securities and exchange department under unassuming amazon in person of Ms Rigima Oteh is doing great job. The market is appreciating by the day as she rids the department of corruption. She is embodiment of transparency and rule of law.

As one of the future economies of the world, I am glad to inform you that our country is on the path of economic growth. My coordinating minister of the Economy Dr. Ojoro Wahala is also doing great job.

While reiterating my government’s commitment to Rule of Law, I will however end my address with a pertinent request from this august assembly to consider our country for a permanent seat at the Security Council of United Corrupt Nations.

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Religion Against Humanity

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Wole Soyinka

Intervention by Wole Soyinka, Member of UNESCO’s International High Panel, at the 2012 Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, United Nations Hdqrs, New York, Sept. 21 2012

To such a degree has Religion fueled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator, and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us however steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopt a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against humanity.

While it should be mandatory that states justify their place as members of a world community by educating their citizens on the entitlement of religion to a place within society, and the obligations of mutual acceptance and respect, it should be deemed unacceptable that the world is held to ransom for the uneducated conduct of a few, and placed in a condition of fear, apprehension, leading to a culture of appeasement. There are critical issues of human well-being and survival that deserve the undivided attention of leaders all over the world. Let us recall that it is not anti-islamists who have lately desecrated and destroyed – and with such fiendish self-righteousness – the tombs of Moslem saints in Timbuktoo, most notoriously the mausoleum of the Imam Moussa al-Khadin, declared a world heritage under the protection of UNESCO and accorded pride of place in African patrimony . The orientation – backed by declarations – of these violators leaves us with a foreboding that the invaluable library treasures of Timbuktoo may be next.

The truth, alas, is that the science fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s Double-0-7 credentials – Licensed to Kill. The sooner national leaders and genuine religious leaders understand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. These cited clerics and their ilk are descendants of the ancient line of iconoclasts of Islamic, christian and other religious moulds who have destroyed the antecedent spirituality and divine emblems of the African peoples over centuries. Adherents of those African religions, who remain passionately attached to their beliefs, all the way across the Atlantic – in Brazil and across other parts of Latin America – have not taken to wreaking vengeance on their presumed violators in far off lands.

These emulators are still at work on the continent, most devastatingly in Somalia, with my own nation Nigeria catching up with mind-boggling rapidity and intensity. Places of worship are primary targets, followed by institutes of education. Innocent humanity, eking out their miserable livelihood, are being blown to pieces, presumably to relieve them of their misery. Schools and school pupils are assailed in religion fueled orgies, measured, deliberate and deadly. The hands of the clock of progress and social development have been arrested, then reversed in widening swathes of the Nigerian landscape. As if the resources of the nation were not already stretched to breaking point, they must now also be diverted to anticipating the consequences – as in numerous nations around the world – that would predictably follow the cinematic obscenities of a new entrant into the ranks of religious denigrators, who turns out – irony of ironies – to have originated from the African continent.

In sensible families, while every possible effort is made to smooth the passage of children through life, children are taught to understand that life is not a seamless robe of many splendours, but prone to the possibility of being besmirched by the unexpected, and unpredictable. A solid core of confidence in one’s moral and spiritual choices is thus sufficient to withstand external assaults from sudden and hostile forces. That principle of personality development is every bit as essential as the education that inculcates respect for the belief systems and practices of others. The most intense ethical education, including severe social sanctions, has not eradicated material corruption, exploitation, child defilement and murders in society, not even deterrents such as capital punishment. How then can anyone presume that there shall be no violations of the ideal state of religious tolerance to which we all aspire, or demand that the world stand still, cover its head in sackcloth and ashes, grovel in self-abasement or else prepare itself for earthly pestilence for failure to anticipate the occasional penetration of their self ascribed carapace of inviolability.

It is time to demand a sense of proportion, and realism. Communication advance has made it possible for both good and evil to transcend boundaries virtually at the speed of light, and for the spores of hatred to travel just as fast, and as widely as the seeds of harmony. The world should not continue to acquiesce in the brutal culture of extremism that demands the impossible – control of the conduct of millions in their individual spheres, under different laws, usages, cultures and indeed – degrees of sanity.

What gives hope is the very special capacity of man for dialogue, and that arbiter is foreclosed, or endures interminable postponements as long as one side arrogates to itself the right to respond to a pebble thrown by an infantile hand in Papua New Guinea with attempts to demolish the Rock of Gibraltar. I use the word `infantile’ deliberately, because these alleged insults to religion are no different from the infantile scribble we encounter in public toilets, the product of infantilism and retarded development. We have learnt to ignore, and walk away from them. They should not be answered by equally infantile responses that are however incendiary and homicidal in dimension, and largely directed against the innocent, since the originating hand is usually, in any case, beyond reach. With the remorseless march of technology, we shall all be caught in a spiral of reprisals, tailored to wound, to draw virtual blood. The other side responds with real blood and gore, also clotting up the path to rational discourse. What we are witnesses to in recent times is that such proceeding is being accorded legitimacy on the grounds of religious sensibility. It is pathetic to demand what cannot be guaranteed. It is futile to attempt to rein in technology: the solution is to use that very technology to correct noxious conceptions in the minds of the perpetrators of abuse, and educate the ignorant.

I speak as one from a nation whose normal diet of economic disparity, corruption, marginalization, ethnic and political cleavages has been further compounded by the ascendancy of religious jingoism. It is a lamentable retrogression from the nearly forgotten state of harmonious coexistence that I lived and enjoyed as a child. One takes consolation in the fact that some of us did not wait to sound warnings until the plague of religious extremism entered our borders. Our concerns began and were articulated as a concern for others, still at remote distances. Now that the largest black habitation on the globe has joined the club of religious terror under the portentous name, Boko Haram – which means `The Book is Taboo’ – we can morally demand help from others, but we only find them drowning in the rhetoric and rites of anger and/or contrition. Today it is the heritage and humanity of Timbuktoo. And tomorrow? The African continent must take back Mali – not later but – right now. The cost of further delay will be incalculable, and devastating.

The spiral of reprisals now appears to have been launched, what with the recent news that a French editor has also entered the lists with a fresh album of offensive cartoons. To break that spiral, there must be dialogue of frank, mature minds. Instant, comprehensive solutions do not exist, only the arduous, painstaking path of dialogue, whose multi-textured demands are not beyond the innovative, as opposed to the emotive capacity, of cultured societies. So let that moving feast of regional dialogues – which was inaugurated by former President Khatami of Iran in these very chambers – be reinforced, emboldened, and even-handed. The destination should be a moratorium, but for this to be strong and enduring, it must be voluntary, based on a will to understanding and mental re-orientation, not on menace, self-righteous indictments and destructive emotionalism. Perhaps we may yet rescue Religion from its ultimate indictment: conscription into the ranks of provable enemies of Humanity.

Wole Soyinka
Sept. 21, 2012, United Nations Hdqrs, New York.

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Tears from Maiduguri

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Ahmad Salkida

Growing up as a child in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State left me with vivid memories. There are clear memories of affinity, of love, of trust, of sharing and good neighbourliness. By the way, I was born a Christian, and raised as one. But I also had among my very closest friends, Muslims; and in no way was any sense of difference amongst us highlighted. The adopted official lingo of “home of peace” seemed very fitting.

Today, that epitaph mocks at the state, its people and government. On a recent duty tour to Maiduguri, what I saw showed how easy it is for society, indeed, for civilizations to die. Maiduguri, indeed what was known of Borno, the Kanuri civilization, has died a painful, shameful death; with no loved ones at the funeral. If you live in Abuja as I do, and pick the official lines from the media you will go with the impression that “the economic life of Borno State” is in comatose but that with the gallant efforts of the security forces, things were returning to normalcy.

To associate Borno State with any form of economic or social life today is to engage in an ugly, nauseating joke. The soul and personality of the Borno under which I grew up died unsung. Among my friends, when Borno lived, we played together. The Muslims were friendly, generous and accommodating to non – Muslims. We lived together, shared each other’s clothes. What determined who wears the best shirt and jeans amongst our group of Muslim and Christian friends is not the ownership of these clothes but rather, who has the most important date that day.

I remember with nostalgia how I used to hold a container of water and pour it for my Muslim friends to perform their ablution and the same set of friends will always wait for me by the gate of the local church that I attended with my parents when it was closing time so that we could embark in our desired exploits. This became such a line of routine that sometime in 1997 I found myself converting to Islam. No one gave an ultimatum that if I or anyone for that matter did not convert the heavens was going to collapse. One thing was evident then, my conversion neither unsettled any Christian families that I know, nor did it affect my relationship with my friends.

As fate would have it, I am now a Muslim; and one of my good friends, who grew up a Muslim, met an enterprising Idoma lady who converted him to Christianity. They are married and live happily with their children in Abuja. Maiduguri was very peaceful until February 2006 when the first major crisis broke out; then again, in July 2009 when the Islamist insurgents declared war on secular institutions. Now death and its fear dominate the space all across Borno. As Chinua Achebe’s legendary character noted in the celebrated novel, “Things Fall Apart” ‘they have put a knife in the thing that bound us together …”

While it was obvious that the 2006 crisis in Maiduguri was mainly an attack on Christians and their institutions by rampaging Muslim mobs, the 2009 uprising led by late Mohammed Yusuf had a slightly different motivation. Today, there are many faces of the calamity in Maiduguri. There is the ugly face among Muslims, there is the pathetic face of the calamity among the hapless Christian community, and there is a troubling, complicated face created and stoked by government forces.

Maiduguri is flattened and ridden with chaos, grief and fear. People are afraid to talk about anything not only to strangers but even to their neighbours because some have pitted against one another or served as informants to either sides of the conflict. Security agents that should be responsible for safeguarding lives and property are apparently turning against the people they are paid and trained to protect.

The ‘operation restore order’ in Maiduguri, by the Joint Task Force, seems to be producing more terrorists than it eliminates. When children witness the brutal killings of their parents, with little or no consolations, they grow up to become spiteful of every representation of civil obedience; and vend violence.

According to Sadiq Abba, a teenager, seen with a bullet wound on his leg in Maiduguri, his only crime when soldiers shot at him was that he falls within the age group of the insurgents.

In Maiduguri, if you are close to a scene of violence, two things happen: it is either you get blown by the bomb or bullets of the insurgents; or when the arrive the scene, you assume the status of an enemy even if you are not one. If you are saved from any of these two evils then pray to be far from another scene of an attack.

On a seemingly normal day, when there is no attack at a given time in the city, the fear and trauma of people wondering whether the car next to them at a traffic light or security check point would explode; or whether they would be caught between cross fires, can be devastating.

According to a Pediatrician at the University of Maiduguri, most Maiduguri residents, especially children in the most violent areas, are likely suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or prolong grief; yet there is no consolation for them. And nobody is interested in these problems especially when the bombs and assassinations are still going on. Instead, how to eat and survive the day is everybody’s preoccupation.

A nine year old boy that goes by the name Ahmed (surname withheld) told me how his father was beaten for throwing a sachet of water from his car window on the floor, close to a check point.

“My father was asked to roll on the ground while me and my younger sister watched how the soldiers flogged him,” he said.

Children, whether of suspected insurgents or not, have been killed or have seen their parents killed before their eyes. The insurgents, in revenge apparently, are killing women and children of government officials, as if these children are at fault.

Another teacher got people scampering for safety when the tyre of his rickety car burst close to a military check point. Sadly, he was beaten to coma by the soldiers. Some say, he is lucky to be alive. Where is the rule of law in this city?

More complicated is when Christian places of worship are bombed, and Christians, especially Igbos, are slaughtered like animals. Their only crime being that they are Christians, even as the Muslims that condemn these killings are not spared either. For many Muslims, a sealed lip is the only guarantee of staying alive, while the average Christian views the silence as cold complicity.

Most security agents, civil servants, and politicians, serving and retired in the state, that have fallen by the bullets of the insurgents are Muslims; that is why it is difficult to convince most Muslims that this war is being fought on their behalf.

In Maiduguri, apparently, the only people the security excuse most of the times are Christians just like the way the insurgents have also spared some Muslims at the very instance of an attack. These have further increased suspicion and animosity between adherents of the two religions. One religion is seen as having the sympathy of the JTF and the other as having the sympathy of the insurgents.

Apart from the people, the once serene and beautiful environment of Maiduguri that welcomes you with the sweet fragrance of Churai or turarai wuta, locally made perfumes, now bears painful memories of loved ones that have died and continue to suffer. The infrastructure are in ruins, many schools are destroyed, businesses are grounded, and many residences are deserted. Many Christians now bury their deaths like the Muslims because there is hardly any space in the mortuaries.

Where are the memorable traditional eateries in the city, like the Gudum local restaurant in Abaganaram, where we use to feast with tasty Kanuri dishes such as Ndalai, brabusko, Karasu, and miyan kuka with a lot of traditional spices?

Can I ever go back to Dikwa to eat burtutu, aquatic frog? Can I ever move freely in Hausari to buy danwake in the morning? I miss the way the people don’t play with wedding festivities, such as the wushai wushai in the nights.

Alas! Where is ‘Ba masaha’, the late Shehu of Borno, Dr. Mustpha Umar Ibn El-Kanemi of blessed memory? When he died, the Igbos did not only mourn him but closed their shops for three days voluntarily. Most of these Igbos have now fled the state.

The majalissa, a common feature in Maiduguri, in which men of all ages seat under trees in groups, has disappeared. It is also practically impossible for people to sleep outside during the scourging heat even when there is no electricity. Even the viewing centres that show English Premiership League matches, one of the few things youth in the region strangely find as a bond or unifying force, are gone.

No one can move freely any longer, at any time of the day or night.

Once the hub of Islamic scholarship in West Africa, that teaches tolerance and hospitality like its welcoming neem trees, where there are abundant opportunities for youth to be pious or go astray, Maiduguri turn to a ghost town.

The reception one will get in Maiduguri in the 80′s and 90′s could best be described in the Islamic principles that admonished Muslims to show an open invitation by their lifestyles, through which people can see the beauty of Islam and find it an interesting code of ethics and teachings for others to follow. This has been bedeviled by the actions of the insurgents.

I would like to see the Maiduguri, where Islamic scholarship is booming, where everyone prays the five daily prayers in congregation. I will like to see the Maiduguri where my Christian parents can go to church every Sunday without the fear of being bombed.

I would like to see a Maiduguri that does not produce orphans, widows and the dead by the hour; causing people to lose count of the dead. I would like to see a Maiduguri where the insurgents will rest their fist, smile, and be smiled at.

I will like to see a Maiduguri where my only brother, an evangelist based in Oshogbo, can come home and feel at home. I will like to see the Maiduguri where my two nieces and nephews, whose father is from Abakaliki, in the South-East of Nigeria, come to stay and enjoy the sweet smell of Churai or the healthy bitter taste of garden eggs.

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By Prince Charles Dickson

A ki gbele gba ofa lailo ogun–meaning, one does not sit at home, not go to war and yet be shot with an arrow.

As usual there’s been little to cheer within the last week. I was sure that my admonition was going to be on the groundnut and popcorn called National awards, especially with the closure of parts of Abuja on that day of the awards to very few deserving and plenty dishonorables.

Meanwhile, a friend had reminded me of the deteriorating GSM services.

So I threw it to a beloved friend “which would make a good read and was a national issue, the National awards or GSM palavar?”

She answered initially “none of the them”. Implying that really nothing is of interest in these climes. That actually was the nod I needed to go for the jugular of our ‘heartless’ network operators.

Week in and out, from just good, manageable, we have gravitated from bad, worse and titling to dangerously worse than usually worse.

Its the GSM palavar, the small magic toy that came to us in Nigeria 11years ago. Infact, it was 11years last August. With the terrible services, many would be forgiven for having forgotten.

The GSM phone, it is one gadget that has really changed our way of life both ways. Some 6years ago I was privileged to submit to the Dept. Of Psychology, University of Jos, a Thesis on the Psycho-Social Implication of GSM in Nigeria.

With data in public domain stating we have over 81 Million GSM & CDMA mobile phone subscribers. At even one kobo per minute, it is a billion naira industry and bound to affect our way of life.

Whether it is a case of controversial Nigerians, arguing whether it was Abacha who laid the groundwork or it was Obj that moved the work from the ground, GSM’s advent has also improved the quality of living of Nigerians. It has provided quality jobs and enhanced certain areas of business.

Quickly, kudos, GSM freed us from the bondage of ‘David Mark and phone is not for the poor’ cabal.

A visit to any NITEL office these days brings reality home, the once-upon-a-time powerful communication terrorist, in the yore days of your line has been tossed, now totally embarrassed, humiliated and redundant.

From little things like mobile TV, POS (electronic payment), affordable internet services, mobile tracking services, cheaper international calls, internet banking, and mobile banking.

Millions of Nigerians now access the internet via their GSM phones or a GSM enabled device. Our mails, Facebook, twitter, news and more. Its the era of Ipad, Iphones, berries, andriods, hand and hearthelds, right from the days of the almighty ‘no-dey’ break Nokia 3310.

Legitimate businesses are done online today, despite all the yahoo-yahoo boys, for these and more, we are so very much grateful to the mobile operators.

From the days of N22, 000 to N6, 000 and finally N1 per sim card or when one could not make a call for more than a minute ’cause it cost a fortune, to these days of free calls and era of maiguardi alee (night watchmen) all in the name of free night calls.

From being treated with technical terms like “over capacity”, “high operational cost”, “high demand” and it has become dangerously worse, from the number is not on the MTN network or the number does not exist from glo, and some may tell you the subscriber has no phone.

Nigeria has one of the most expensive tariffs in the world and one which services are not commensurate with cost, one wonders, the place of the Communications Commission, the Consumer Protection Council as Nigerians are milked non-stop for promises not delivered.

We are victims of jungle capitalism, added is, the win areoplane and daily millions of Naira promo, run by MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Visa and co.

We play these pool, Kaalu-Kaalu and chaacha, sending text to short codes to win aircraft, aircar, airgenerator and what not, terrible services, our small change deducted and GSM networks smile to the bank and repatriate others home, with a hypocritical social responsibility dance. No commensurate improvement of any form.

…Dropped calls, cross connections, network congestion, network timeout, disappearing call credits, nightmares with customer care people, and all round poor quality of service has become the order of the day.

One appreciates the operating environment, getting alternate power, diesel, theft and destruction, and the latest, attacks on their installations by BH in parts of the country.

But still doesn’t co-relate with all the recent thrash called GSM services, you dial a number, it rolls to another line. Subscribers to Blackberry and all berry services are treated to rotten berries.

No one offers sound consoling customer-friendly apology. Nigerians don’t deserve apologies, especially when the act is on intent, our leaders do it, from public officer holders, traditional stools to religious leaders. The public be damned ’cause no one gives a damn.

No on cares how GSM customers are faring. The only difference is that we have a choice. We can choose lesser of the criminals called operators. So, we are forced to do the dual sim phones or carry phones like a phone seller or call operator.

While I dare say it remains an allegation, the rumoured fact that our legislators have their palms greased to look the other tells you the ‘go to hell’ situation subscribers find themselves.

Let me end this way. A young girl on her way to Lagos from Abuja, every other one hour would call her numerous boyfriends to say she was on her way, to X, she was close to Benin, to Y, she was now in Lafia, to another they just passed Bauchi, to one she was lying down feeling feverish…an elderly woman unable to take it, had to ask the driver “pls my son shebi na Lagos we dey go, tell this girl to shut up before…?”

The bitter pill is the as with all things Nigeria and Nigerians, the current service we get is a metaphor for all that could be good in Nigeria and also, the very worst. To glo, mtn, etisalat, airtel, visa, multilinks, starcoms and co time will tell.

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Even Mark knows!

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Vanguard Editorial

Senate President, Bonaventure Alechenu David Mark has pedigree in Nigeria’s political landscape. His critics are many and they are wont to treat any Mark position with the uttermost scepticism.

When he makes an important point, he is dismissed as just playing to the gallery.

Mark has been around enough that he is seen as part of the challenges Nigeria faces. His concerns about the economy are important, but they cannot replace the fact that the National Assembly over which he presides can do better than expressing worries about the state of Nigeria.

“Those who manage the national economy cannot afford to chase shadows while the economy is in the doldrums. What Nigerians expect, and deserve, is the introduction of fiscal and monetary policies that will create jobs, fix healthcare and infrastructure, and stimulate the economy,” Mark said.

According to him:
“Corruption, sloppiness and tardiness in preparations, mismanagement, degradation and lack of maintenance and vandalisation of national assets, absence of rigour and thoroughness in planning — these, and more, are the reasons for the rot.”

Where are these ills found more than in governments that dot the land, overwhelmingly under the control of the Peoples Democratic Party?

Nigerians have mostly given up on governments. In 13 years of civil rule, during which Mark has been in the Senate, until his presidency that is in its sixth year, the PDP dominates the executives and legislatures throughout Nigeria.

What is the PDP’s position on the welfare of Nigerians? Has Mark taken his worries to the PDP where he is a chieftain?

What will the Senate do to ensure Nigerians are freed from the shackles of oppressive government policies? Will it be enough for Mark to join complaining Nigerians, who have no alternative than to complain?

Mark’s suggestion that
“those disenchanted with the Nigerian condition should join the ongoing national discourse that will lead to the amendment of the Constitution,” is off the mark.

What sections of the Constitution, that benefit the people, did the Senate implement since 1999? Do their elected officials, including Mark, represent them?

The articulacy of the speech was not in doubt, but it is no alternative to action.

More from Mark: “If the campaign of terror is the thunder by which a tiny fraction seeks to drown the voice of the nation, or to curtail the basic freedoms and civil liberties that we all have worked so hard to entrench, that attempt will fail. The Senate will work to protect all liberties except one — the liberty to do away with other liberties.”

Nigerians wonder why they remain in dire straits if the likes of Mark are concerned about them. Speeches cannot address these concerns.

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