Archive for March, 2013

By Wole Soyinka

I had thought to leave this subject strictly to the discretionary powers of the nation’s women’s organisations, as I did not wish to be obliged to counter the convenient accusations that we, the male chauvinist oppressive of womanhood in society, have merely seized upon a legitimate initiative of ‘public spirited’ women elite to frustrate female advocacy.

However, as scandal surmounts scandal, it is more than likely that a mere “chicken feed” like N4 billion will become subsumed in public consciousness, overawed by egregious affronts such as the recent presidential pardons. The national attention span – in the face of corruption especially – suffers from overload, and there are those who know it, manipulate and profit from it!
It is within this tried and tested tradition that I view a recent government “clarification” on the First Ladies Mission Mansion, offered through the agency of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I refer to a reportage on page 63 of THISDAY, March 18, and in other media on March 19. The minister offers the following explanation for the ‘controversial’ budgetary allocation, and I do quote: “The African First Ladies Peace Mission is similar to any other similar regional or international organisation, it is NOT an NGO. (emphasis mine). It is an African Union-led initiative, it does not belong to any individual, it belongs to the African Union.

“The minister recalled that the mission has been in existence since the time of Mrs. Mariam Abacha… He added that the First Ladies in 2008 requested Nigeria to provide a permanent secretariat for the mission after an intense lobby by Libya to host the secretariat and bankroll its activities…”
The minister goes on to paint a very laudable picture of the purpose of the First Ladies Peace Mission, rounding up with the battle-cry: “Nigeria would continue out its international obligations. (Bravo!) When the secretariat is completed in Abuja…..”

With those two last items, I regret to say that the honorable minister lost me. Alarm bells jangled frantically on reading those words: “When the secretariat is completed in Abuja…” Are we dealing here with a fait accompli, which means we are all simply whistling in the wind? Then there is the claim that goes: “African Union-led”. The nation deserves to know the chapter and verse under which the African First Ladies initiative was adopted, much less led, by the African Union.

Next: since when did the private interests of the of rulers’ wives become an “international obligation”? Even if Sanni Abacha’s First Lady presumed to act for Nigeria, how does this commit a democratic government to the presumptuousness of the mere spousal appendage of the head of a member state?

Again: this time, simply as a matter of curiosity, since I have never heard of a Muammar Qaddafi’s First Lady – who did the lobbying on behalf of Libya? Qaddafi’s rubber stamp parliament, the Jamahiriya? Or his permanently invisible counterpart to Nigeria’s then spousal squatter in Aso Rock? May I ask what legality, in national or international law, the whims and caprices of rulers’ wives exercise upon governments?

Finally, I wish to quote the following entry from the Nigerian media. It was entered during the roforofo fight between one immediate past ‘Lady’, the Spousal Abuser of President Umaru Mus Yar’Adua, and her current successor. They came to blows – well, metaphorically speaking – over the luscious slab of real estate on which the current madame had chosen to erect her own monument to Nigeria’s chronic First Ladyism. I invite you to study closely the ‘clarification’ by the then Minister for the Federal Capital Territory.
He does not cite Africa’s Union resolution or any such international obligation.

He does not cite the imperatives of Nigeria’s moral obligations. He does not even mention Nigeria’s dubious leadership – ‘giant of Africa’ – sentiment – to which we are expected to genuflect, no matter how gratuitous the context. No, his intervention narrates most unambiguously the role of sycophantic public servants in the inducement and servicing of spousal egos. Here is the relevant admission, and – do note – revealed as a matter of pride, not of embarrassment or shamefaced, unavoidable disclosure.

“When I became minister, I brought the idea for the building of the secretariat as a legacy the former First Lady would leave behind. I consulted the former president and advised him on the project after she became leader of the African First Ladies Mission. I told him that the NGO – emphasis mine – needed a secretariat to build an edifice just like the Women Centre built by the late Maryam Babangida and the National Hospital built by Maryam Abacha.”
“He (Yar’Adua) agreed and told me to look for a land. When I eventually found the land, I prepared a Certificate of Occupancy and the structural design of the proposed secretariat before I reported back to him. He appreciated the effort and directed me to meet her with the proposal”

“After a discussion, she accepted the idea and set up a committee comprised of the FCT and Foreign Affairs officials, Maryam Abacha, late Murtala Mohammed’s wife and Patience.”

There you have it in a nutshell. Maryam Abacha’s ‘project’ was a hospital. Sadder still, we have it from the horse’s mouth that First Ladies are entitled to set up committees made up of public servants – Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, Foreign Affairs, etc. – heaven knows how many fell over one another to serve on that committee.

The cult of First Ladyism rose to obscene heights under the former maximum ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, yet it was under the watch of that very general that a female permanent secretary, ordered by the then maximum spouse to report to her office for an assignment, told her, quite politely, “Madam, I only take orders from my minister”. She then returned to her office to write out her resignation letter. That was then!

Today, the obverse obtains. The role which even ministers have played in elevating the culture of groveling sycophancy to the status of governance virtue has contributed in no small measure to the abuse of constitutional provisions and irresponsible budgetary attributions. Instead of remaining a dark, embarrassing secret, it is confidently aired on international media such as the Voice of America, turning this nation into a space of ridicule and self-inflicted disdain. It is not all sycophancy however, it is – projects! Projects with minimal overseeing and accounting, gravy trains with adept practitioners at the controls!

It is time we confronted squarely those unctuous, self-righteous attributions such as “the legacy that the First Lady would leave behind”. Who says a First Lady has to leave a legacy behind?” Was she elected by the people? Is she constitutionally a public official? Does she have an obligation to render account of her “stewardship”? I have taken the trouble to study the Federal Territory Act, and not one paragraph, not one sentence specifies that the FCT minister’s functions include saddling First Ladies with the responsibility of “bequeathing a legacy.”

To summarise: here then are two contrasting expositions – that of the Minister of the FCT, and that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The FCT Minister even claimed that this mission is an NGO; the Minster for Foreign Affairs insists that it is not, that it is an “international obligation”! Please, spell it out more clearly. Since when? Under what protocols, resolutions or whatever? And of what international organisation?

President Goodluck Johathan must be stoutly applauded for declaring that he cannot grant amnesty to ghosts. Let me add also that you cannot make budgetary allocations to ghosts. Like ghost workers through whose invisible entrails billions have vanished into Nigerian burial grounds, First Ladies are nothing but constitutional ghosts, and that means that their ‘pet projects’, wherever they lay claims on national budgeting – individually or collectively, and however lofty sounding – are nothing but spectral emanations, already dead on arrival.

Lest I am misunderstood: First Ladies have the same right as all citizens to “leave a legacy behind”. They must however work hard to source their funds where the rest of the world does – in the private domain, not dig their hands into public funds on which crying needs, far too numerous and deserving to mention, have prior and – most important – legitimate and constitutional claims. Too bad, Bill Gates has decided to keep away from Nigeria, owing to the latest incontinence of power – Madame should have tried ‘touching’ Mr. Gates for some small change. Then she would have learnt that hard working millionaires are painfully discriminating about what causes they espouse.



By Fatimah Bakare-Dickson

Light of course is an integral part of telling or creating mood in a film.
Sometimes some films can appear to be poorly lighted at the beginning creating an unhappy or an uncertain mood leaving the viewers with sympathy of what might happen next or how will the characters come out of the situation.

‘Django Unchained’ a film by Quentin Tarantino has an exclusive lighting, good picture quality and a wonderful story. Looking at this film Django, we noticed it started at night and ended at night. The night is achieved by light which creates an uncertain situation in the film.

The film Django started with a slave and the major character named Django at nighttime. He met his ally Dr. Shultz while on slave route with fellow slaves and masters.

The film also ended at night with the uncertainty of what happens after all the killings.

Partial lighting depicts the uncertainty, suffering, human slavery and ancient American times.

Colours is another vital tool in light. Photographers /cinematographers call it gels, whether blue, orange, or red, or diffusers. There is no how a photographer/cinematographer can effectively photograph or cinematograph an object without diffusing the light. Again there are rules in photography/cinematography but no the rules and break them so they say in film.

In the film Django, there is little or no bright light as most of the scenes where taken at nights. This signifies the unhappy nature of the characters or of the then slavery.

As the saying goes,”Darkness may endure for a night but joy will come in the morning”. In the case of Django, his major journey and transactions happened at night or evening, all under dark situations.

Light has been carefully used to creat the mood of the slave Django.
Django had no bright sides but had high hopes and expectations. This is due to what he has gone through in the hands of his masters. He kept the spirit on with high hopes and of course he is optimistic and looking into the future with his wife Broomhilda.

The killings ends at night and he is looking into the future of the morning which may or may not come.

The dim light represents the uncertainty of live weather black or white, rich or poor, authoritarian or democrat. But the good news is that there is hope at the end of the struggle. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Steven another black folk in the movie, due to his association with the whites, he believes in his heart he is equally white. This made him to turn his back against his own black folks. The night Steven needed to act a brother to Django by protecting his interest In Broomhilda, as he (Steven) has noticed, he raised alarm instead by revelling the romance he noticed between the two lovers.

Another night came and Django went back killing the remaining white folks, he did not hesitate in detonating Steven in the house after shooting him in the legs.
This film started with partial lighting and killings, it also ended with the same killings and partial lighting.

Under the same dim light, I think the director is trying to pass an uncommon, phenomenal story, happening to a peculiar race, and finally not punished for numerous killings.

For those that might want to compeer Django to our indigenous films, please conceder the following; Light, colours, location, shoots, camera movements, lines delivery, cast,costume and make up. To mention but few.

The make up in the film Django would have been better if the blood effect was not that much. I do not understand if the ancient whites had more blood than the modern White. Just a gun shoot will bring out almost a paint of blood from Django’s enemy.

Against this back drop, I believe Django is an amazing film for both film lovers and film students alike. Ironically I am of the opinion that this is another African story told by another race. Can we ever tell our own story someday, today, tomorrow sometimes or never.

Fatimah Bakare- Dickson. A Film Art graduate, is a cinematographer, a scriptwriter and critic, a photo/videographer with passion for the documentary genre. She writes from Jos, Plateau Nigeria.



The Wusasa Bishop of the Anglican Church in Northern Nigeria, Rt.Rev Ali Buba Lamido, has blasted the Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor-led Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for alleging that 90 percent of politicians in the north are members of the militant Boko Haram group.

Bishop Buba, who signed a press release sent to SaharaReporters’s New York office by Amos Ibrahim, a warden of the diocese, said that CAN is being used to champion interests that are in no way advancing the core mission of Christianity.

Referring to the press statement credited to Mr. Sunny Oibe, the spokesperson of CAN for the 19 Northern States of Nigeria in the aftermath of the recent bombing in Kano, the Bishop joined in condemning the unnecessary killing of innocent Nigerians, which he described as barbaric and an act of savagery.  

“We have had enough of destruction in the North and we should be looking for ways to get of this quagmire,” he said.  “I agree that the government must change its tactics in order to put a stop to this bestial cruelty in our land.   I pray God to comfort those who lost their loved ones.

Having said that, he dismissed the statements made by Mr. Oibe as not only highly-creative conjecture, but also libelous and capable of whipping up the base and bestial emotions of religious faithful towards premeditated and surreptitious reprisals.

“The manner in which Mr. Sunny spoke to the press does not portray him as a mature Christian leader.  It came to me as a rude shock that a Christian leader could make serious and despicable allegations. His vituperations and invectives are cheap and infra dig. There is no way Christians in the “core north” will paint such apparitions of Armageddon with such words that brook no decorum. I am surprised how CAN, Northern States will come out with such a totally misguiding notion or even allow such representation.”

He wondered how a Christian leader could come up with the conjecture that 90% of the politicians in northern Nigeria are either members or sponsors of Boko Haram, questioning how he arrived at the statistics.

“Are Christian politicians in the North also in Boko Haram? Will he be willing to vouchsafe the names of these Boko Haram members and sponsors to the President who still feels that Boko Haram members are ghosts? I feel some of these statements are reckless.

“Mr. Sunny threw decorum to the wind when he called for the intervention of the International Community to deal with “these animals once and for all”. Some of us who are Christian leaders in the North are embarrassed by this egregious vulgarity displayed by Mr. Sunny Oibe. He conveniently forgot that no enduring edifice can be built on the foundation of rot, artifice and chicanery. He was probably speaking for himself and not for Christians in the north who desire peacefully co-existence with our brothers and sisters.”

Drawing particular attention to Oibe’s claim that the latest attack has exposed the hypocrisy of the people calling for amnesty for Boko Harram members, the Bishop asked, “What does Mr. Sunny understand by Amnesty?  Is he saying that the 90% politicians in the “core north” are really hypocrites? Will Christian politicians and Spiritual leaders in the “Core north” turn against themselves and their region?”

He described the statement as the greatest disservice to logic and common sense, adding that people who do not know the north to be quiet on issues they are not sure of.  “If they cannot proffer positive solutions to our problems, they should stop inciting and causing further injuries to all people.  Mr. Sunny should know that the call for Amnesty was not only by Muslim politicians, but also by mature Christians from the core north,” he pointed out.

“For the records, both Christian and Muslim leaders in the North are unanimous on Amnesty to Boko Haram,” Bishop Lamido said, adding that the position was arrived at with the understanding that it will bring a permanent solution to the insurgency which has almost brought all of the North to a complete stand still.

He said that people in the North are determined to overcome the insurgency and are looking for men and women who are ready to work with them to achieve it.

“It is either you partner with us or allow us do it. Please we could do without people inciting groups to take up arms against one another.  I strongly feel there is need to overhaul CAN to make it achieve its purpose, otherwise it will continue to cause more problems than solutions.”

The Children Are Watching

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Ochereome Nnanna

AN old adage says when the mother goat chews the cud her kids always watch. They know that one day soon they will no longer be fed on mother’s milk.

To survive as goats they will have to forage and chew the cud. Leaders in Nigeria either do not know or care whether they are being watched by us followers. They think we are fools or can be fooled forever.

Even a fool soon gets wise when fooled several times. As Dr. Michael Okpara would say: “First fool no be fool. Na second fool be proper foolish”.

I used to live in a small estate of eighteen apartments. The landlord was old and retired to his hometown, Abeokuta. Majority of the tenants fell into the stupid habit of refusing to pay their monthly maintenance fees.

Because of this, the security guards (mai gad) were always owed their wages. Many of them left without notice. One day, the mai gad of the day boldly walked up to us in one of our monthly compound meetings and started a high-pitched torrent of abuse in Pidgin spiced with Hausa because he was being owed for two months.

He blasted us for owing him his paltry salary while most of us owned two to three cars all parked inside the compound. Then he angrily walked away. I applauded. Needless to say, most of the chronic debtors never attended our meetings.

It is not uncommon to see federal legislators spending hundreds of millions of naira on “giving back” projects in their constituencies, which appears to justify the perception that the “stealing” is still going on. Otherwise, where do they get the money from?

They simply fed off the sacrifices of the few responsible tenants. This mai gad could have been a fearless writer or social critic if he were educated. The following day he left, but not before deflating the tyres of all vehicles belonging to the chronic debtors!

Last week we read the story of one Garba Sani, a mai gad who was not as charitable. He was paid N12,000 a month to guard a car dealership facility in Lagos worth millions of naira. Being of criminal mindset, he invited some accomplices at night and they carted away goods worth N28 million! When he was caught and paraded at the Lagos Police Command headquarters, Ikeja, Garba said the very thing that made me write this piece. A newspaper quoted him as saying:

“I’m not an armed robber. I was on duty and I called them (other suspects) and we took the goods. We did not carry guns. We have a lot of senators looting and we also need money. There are many thieves in Nigeria and most of us are jobless youths, we have nothing. I earn N12, 000 a month which is too small. We are all criminals in Nigeria and we have criminal blood in our body so nobody should pretend.”

A smartypant, eh?

But look at that drivel about all Nigerians being criminals, with senators taking a direct hit. Criminals also watch television and read newspapers, so they are watching the leaders. They have moral alibis to justify their life of crime, but it does not stop the fact that Garba and his accomplices will say goodbye to their freedom for a long time to come, while the “senators” (leaders) he refers to may yet have their own day of reckoning to atone for their sins against society.

Corruption in Nigeria is gradually
assuming the proportions that Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga took it to in former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). According to Martin Meredith in his book: The Fate of Africa, A History of Fifty Years of Independence, “Mobutu himself relied on corruption to hold the system together and to keep himself in power. Moreover, he publicly condoned it. “If you steal do not steal too much at a time, you may be arrested”, he told party delegates. “Yibana mayele – steal cleverly, little by little”.

Even though the brazen corruption in the National Assembly during the Olusegun Obasanjo years (often fuelled by frequent briberies from the Presidency) has apparently dropped, the legislators are still seen as the flagship of bribery and corruption. It is not uncommon to see federal legislators spending hundreds of millions of naira on “giving back” projects in their constituencies, which appears to justify the perception that the “stealing” is still going on. Otherwise, where do they get the money from? At the same time, I believe that there is a lot more corruption in the Executive and the Judiciary than the Legislature, and the awareness of this is responsible for the volatility in society manifesting in terrorism, kidnapping, violent robberies, oil thievery, pipeline vandalism, killings for money rituals and cultism among the youth.

We need someone who will restore confidence in leadership. Singapore legendary leader, Lee Kuan Yew says: “if I have to choose one word to explain why Singapore succeeded, it is CONFIDENCE”. We need someone who will know that the people are watching his every step and listening to everything he says to know whether we should resume investing our hopes in the system and the country at large. Not people who will leave some of us loudly proclaiming that we are all criminals and no one should pretend. We ALL aren’t anything of the sort.

We need leaders who will know that paying a worker a minimum wage of N18,000 per month amounts to encouraging him to steal, since that amount is probably not enough to take him to work and home, let alone paying other necessary bills. Social injustice, whereby the system is built to benefit those at the top while trampling underfoot the weak and helpless only breeds the violent crimes we see everywhere we look.

Why would the system allow some slimy criminals in public offices to dip their dirty fingers into the till where the pension of our policemen and women is kept and steal them in billions? They are now beyond the Mobutu mantra of yibana mayele.

We need to learn from those who have succeeded in transforming their societies. Yew made it clear all you need for a society to be stable for development is fairness. Never offend a society’s sense of fairness. In Nigeria, everybody is complaining about real or imagined marginalisation. When the civil war ended the country levied marginalisation against the Igbo people. Now, everybody else is crying and hurting.

Who will heal this country?


By Prince Charles Dickson

There is no disappearing trick better than the availability of a dense forest to disappear into; there is no sacrifice more efficacious than having many people on one’s side; there is no “The gods have elevated me” that is higher than the back of a horse.

During the week”…Former President Olusegun Obasanjo called on the Federal Government to develop the agricultural sector of the Nigerian economy in order to create job opportunities for the youth.

Delivering a lecture entitled ‘Managing agriculture as a business to unlock Nigeria’s agricultural potential’ at the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin Mr. Obasanjo said going by the number of graduates produced in Nigeria annually, the government must develop new ways of job creation…”

He summed it up saying “Nigeria was sitting on keg of gun powder”. The fact is that whether we like it or not even the devil tells irrefutable truth, the motive is the only thing that can be questioned.

There is a growing ‘unemployment haram’, it is not just about unlocking the agricultural sector, it is about virtually all socio-economic and ethno-political sphere of the nation in terms of youthful productivity.

I hardly take to heart when past leaders talk about matters they had opportunities to have addressed yet failed to solve. The tip of the iceberg however is that if we look at this, we know it is worse……the National Population Commission (NPC) has said the country’s population has risen from the 140,431,790, to 167,912,561 as at October 2011.This represents an annual population growth rate of 5.6 million people.

The Ministry of Youth Development, added that there are 68 million unemployed youths in Nigeria, that’s like some 43% youth population.

And with approximately 300,000 graduates enrolled in the NYSC scheme, excluding the number of graduates that do not make it for various reasons, the real haram is simply building up.

Today we are engrossed in the amnesty for Boko Haram, when the truth remains that a larger Haram is staring at us in the face, and I honestly hope we will be able to provide amnesty.

I need not remind us of the rise in the rate of criminality, vices and bestial acts. However the worrying part is, that 7 out of 10 apprehended criminals ‘have seemingly’ legitimate reasons for their crimes of theft, robbery and kidnap and are graduates of one form or the other.

Our system is not working from South-North, Onitsha-Kano, Kaduna-Abeokuta, it is full of fallacy, and new universities are not in any way the solution, as the established ones keep dropping in standard.

Questions have been asked regarding the curriculum of our schools in relation to job preparedness and entrepreneurial skills teaching. While most schools are now teaching courses in peace studies, conflict negotiation and terrorism, very few are preparing employable products.

After an average of six years for a four year programme of study, a young grad can barely do a resume/curriculum vitae, he simply copies a template. If given a take-off grant she barely knows what to do beyond a Blackberry Smartphone and Brazilian hair.

Permit me to ask, where do you live, have you noticed the flock of young people around–they are defined by the phrase “I am waiting for admission, I am waiting for NYSC, I am hoping I get the job”. They are increasing, from ages 18-35; some still with their parents, no hope, no hopeless, best describes the situation, idle hands waiting the devil’s instruction, with the proliferation of Small Arms; there is a willing population growing and the repercussions are better imagined.

The growing haram of unemployment is not just about the government providing jobs, not at all, it is about an enabling environment that facilitates private enterprise that encourages entrepreneurial spirit without a monopoly.

We have a population that can be our blessing or ultimately our undoing. The government through its spokes-people should stop all the lies and know that there is no disappearing trick better than the availability of a dense forest to disappear into; projections to create 4 million jobs in two years, and significantly grow the economy according to Olusegu Aganga is a fat lie.

Let me end with this insightful story, a man and his friend was in a city, walking through the street. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were blowing their horns, taxis were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the man said to his friend, “I hear a cricket.”

His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!” “No, I’m sure of it,” the man said, “I heard a cricket.”

“That’s crazy,” said the friend.

The man listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!”

“No,” said the man. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

“But that can’t be!” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.”

“Yes, it’s true,” came the reply. “It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you.”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty meters turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

“See what I mean?” asked the man.

“It all depends on what’s important to you.”

As a people for now we are a nation, till otherwise, let us focus our attention and minds on the more important aspects of life, it is not about the likes of ‘liebaran’ Maku, who heard that a total of 195,534 jobs were generated in 2012 by the Federal Government of Nigeria via several contracts awarded by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) or Northern thieving governors, Southern mugu parks, and a vast number of dishonoured legislators that only hear their greed.

Sometimes we hear but do not listen; the haram is closing in on us, the axiom I started with simply implies that practical and realistic moves are more reliable than mysterious expectations. We still can, if we want to, but only time will tell.


Chinua Achebe: Exit of literary giant

By Ochereome Nnanna

Albert Chinualumogu Achebe,Professor of English, one of the greatest novelists of the modern era and often hailed as the Father of African literature, had been ill for a long time before he finally succumbed on Friday, March 22nd 2013.

When he was crippled after a car crash in 1990 on his way from Nsukka to Enugu, he relocated to the USA, where his fame as the author of the magnum opus: Things Fall Apart suddenly broke the bounds and became one of the most celebrated classics of our time, having been translated into over 50 languages and sold nearly 10 million copies.

When Achebe was invited to deliver the Ahiajoku Lecture in Owerri in 2010 by the Imo State Government under the leadership of Sir Ikedi Ohakim, he arrived to the adulation of the mammoth crowd made up mainly of doting academics from all parts of the South East Zone. Most people expected an earth-shattering firework of a lecture. But Achebe did not address the theme.

He merely spoke briefly and generally on the need for Nigerians and Igbo people to rediscover the art of grooming good leaders to put Nigeria right. Many people came out of it with the conclusion that Achebe had actually come to give a “vote of thanks” for the way Nigerians and the world recognised his achievements and gave him a place of pride in history through his many masterly literary works.

Achebe eminently qualified as one of the founding fathers of post-colonial Nigeria. The period in which he was born coincided with the earliest beginnings of the push for the eventual decolonisation of Nigeria. As he grew from his Ogidi hometown in today’s Anambra State and became one of the pioneers of new institutions that would eventually become famous – GovernmentCollege, Umuahia and later, the UniversityCollege, Ibadan, the British colony of Nigeria was rapidly moving towards being packaged and handed over to his generation. They were expected to take it to a level demonstrative of the black man’s ability to stamp his identity on the world stage. His personal story in his last major work: There Was A Country, clearly illustrated that Achebe and his cohorts from the literary world did their best to use their art to guide the African independence. Their political counterparts held sway and bungled the experiment. However, Achebe and his fellow travellers, such as Cyprian Ekwensi, Wole Soyinka, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo, Mabel Segun and a host of others, produced timeless works that were boldly and exclusively celebrated everywhere as truly and organically African.

Achebe, however, stood out in his ability to use the Igbo cosmology to paint a rich portrait of the African world, and no written work was able to transfer the psychedelic infectiousness of it all across the literary divides of the world as Things Fall Apart, written 51 years ago, was able to do. The influence and fad of this book continue to balloon in all directions and different dimensions. In September 2011, American rapper and actor, Curtis James Jackson III , also known as 50 Cent, offered to pay one million dollars if he would be allowed to use the title of this novel to create a documentary. Achebe rejected the offer flatly, saying it was beyond any monetary value. The rapper eventually decided to do his project with the title: All Things Fall Apart.

Beyond being a writer, Achebe also spent a lot of his life time in the classroom, in the office as a government media operator and even in the field briefly as a politician. Quite evidently, his endeavours in those other areas, with all he was able to achieve, did not break the surface as much as his literary talents did. In fact, he could be described as a non-starter politician. In 1993, he became the running mate of the presidential candidate of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) Mallam Aminu Kano. His party came fourth out of five that went into the general and presidential elections. Achebe came out never to try again. However, he also came out of the experience and wrote his enduring, but rather prophetic jeremiad entitled: The Trouble With Nigeria. It is a pamphlet that is small but mighty, as no other book has been able to capture the nation’s ills as evocatively as that little tome.

While living in the US, Achebe firmly distanced himself from the ruling circles of Nigeria. Both the President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan regimes did their utmost to draw him closer through offers of national awards of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). Achebe rejected the Obasanjo offer, on the ground that Obasanjo was behind the brazen destruction of AnambraState by political desperados linked directly to the president. When he rejected the same offer under President Jonathan saying the situation in his state and the country had not changed, the Presidency wrote back, wondering if he was still current with Nigerian affairs since there had been both regime changes and as well as the reversal of Obasanjo’s brigandage in his state.

Achebe’s last testament, There Was A Country, however, did not win him a lot of friends, especially among the Yoruba people. In fact, many of them have been very venomous in their reaction to the passing of the literary behemoth at 82, and some have foolishly gone about it as if they would not die one day. Indeed, while the biography and chronicling of Achebe’s account of his appreciation of the events of the Nigerian civil crises and war is being applauded in some quarters, some describe it as “an anti-climax”, what with the many editorial and sometimes factual errors evident.

The book bought Achebe many enemies among the Yorubas mainly because he made their intellectuals seem like losers in straight, merit-based competitions with their Igbo counterparts just after independence and before the crises. More pointedly, he was very denunciative of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba nation’s political champion’s handling of federal policies which helped in extending the sorrows of the Igbo people during and after the civil war, in particular was the Awoist policy of starvation as a legitimate instrument of war.

Since that book was published late in 2012, it has re-opened the already forgotten though not healed sores of that conflict. The fight between the two sides has been fierce, especially over the Internet and only goodness has prevented it from spilling into the streets. Given the fact that the major antagonists of the civil war – the Hausa-Fulani (North) and the Yoruba federalists massed on one side against the Igbo former Biafrans in a similar fight when Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died late in 2011, it illustrates the fact that on such a sensitive issues, Nigerians can never react the same.

Talented novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, wrote an intervention entitled: We Remember Differently, thus accurately capturing the fact that the crises and civil war and aftermath affected us all differently. We can only remember how it affected us. That is natural. The challenge, which is yet to be addressed, is what can be done to use the lessons learned to build a greater Nigeria, rather than always returning Nigerians to the battleground each time the issues are broached.

Chinua Achebe was a successful man in almost all his endeavours except in politics. However, he lived a life of frustration, and died totally unfulfilled at the desperately poor performances of his nation. He left behind a nation he spent most of his adult life bemoaning what his generation, especially the political class, did to it

It is said that youth is the best time for a person to show the world what he can do. A book Chinua Achebe wrote when he was a swashbuckling 28 years old continued to gather momentum to bring him worldwide adulation at old age more than any African has been privileged to. And the indicators are that Things Fall Apart’s journey to the ultimate destination has just begun. Perhaps years from today, it will sit among the works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and other undying classics as Africa’s most iconic contribution to the literary world.

Ochereome Nnanna


Don’t Change This Nigeria

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

“I am not upset, I am not upset!” Yet a grown man swears angrily six times because of last night’s pounded yam.

Cassandra in Greek legend, I recall, was condemned to know the future but to be disbelieved when she foretold it. Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. So the pain that we know our problems but seem condemned to an existence of being incapable of solving them seems our curse.

Some persons have criticized me of repeating the same story over again, that may be true but certainly I have no apologies because the truth is that if we were what we ought to be then I probably would have resorted to doing something else. We refuse to listen, so I repeat the message, I change the tempo, I change the direction, I vary the stand but the message remains largely the same that we have a problem and we need to solve our problems but we seem impotent at solving it.

So what is wrong in the pardon granted ex-governor, and ex-fugitive Alams, absolutely nothing–especially if ‘our ogas at the top’ believe he has showed remorse. Academically we may sound intelligent but really whether USA, Transparency International and co. It is just, what it is-NOISE! The US of A have pardoned worse persons.

So with plenty solutions flying everywhere one cannot but wonder what is the problem, and what then is the solution…I dare say the solution is, there is no problem.

How can a Nigeria where Nigerians don’t task their leaders, one in which we don’t request accountability from our leaders be changed? It is now a taboo for Federal Permanent Secretary to retire with just a house to his name, when Mainas and Yakubu steal billions and really nothing happens. Don’t change this Nigeria please.

If we change this Nigeria Chris and Andy Uba would be pastors, Ahmadu Ali a University lecturer teaching political morals, Senator Mantu Chairman of EFCC and Bode George media officer in ICPC?

A changed Nigeria would see portable water, good roads network, adequate supply network for food distribution, fantastic health delivery, and quality education at almost free.

However for a nation of knowing fools, to know is not to be wise, so we won’t change.

Many men in Nigerian leadership today know a great deal, and are we not all the greater fools for it? There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. Because too know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom and this is what our leadership lacks, and citizenry are no better in this regard. So we won’t change much.

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit but we have no limits, every single hour we endure a life that is best described as foolish, no fuel, we keep quiet, no food and we keep a deceitful smile, our silence cannot be understood and there is a misunderstanding about the words we utter, we remain at war with ourselves.

So we ask for change but really don’t want change by our actions. We are not upset, yet we swear angrily several times because of last night’s pounded yam.

Like you cannot stop the sea from returning to the shore. How do you change when ‘Court’ frees Elumelu, frees Akingbola! Freed Lucky. Court frees all publicly accused big thieves in Nigeria. When they are not freed, they get a slap on the wrist; aided by weak penal and criminal codes or ala Bode George, Cecilia Ibru, both whom have seamlessly moved back into the system.

Ask Alao Akala, ask Gbenga Daniel, ask the ‘Lonely Londoners’ Dariye and Alams, ask that former mobile police IG that had a big tummy and jeep farm with plenty 4×4 luxury cars littered everywhere.

How about that old fella that was briefly governor in Plateau? Ask Boni Haruna of Adamawa and the state house of assembly that sat in Lagos? Yes, ask Danjume Goje, now a Senator, like Abdullahi Adamu, or Sani Yerime who ‘stole’ directly, ask the reverend Jolly Nyame of Taraba and a few of them now honorable and distinguished by Nigerian standard.

Ask the pension woman that makes almost half a million dollars selling pure water.

They don’t want Nigeria to change and neither have you or myself shown enough reason to demand change.

Do we want to change a Nigeria that gave us the movie ‘White Bank-Ole’…, today, the youngman with fetish love for white clothing is enjoying life like never before.

Who wants to change a nation, where you steal as much as you can; get some dramatic arrests; routinely attend court sessions; and then go home with a clean judgment of no-offence or no case.

Have we forgotten the ex-governor in one of those states with plenty professors and yet he spent the entire state funds on a poultry without birds and nothing has changed, infact I gathered he’s planning a return.

Apart from alleged stealing, how about questionable academic certification by these men and off course women, they all go scot free.

I have left out all the stealing in Ministries, parastatals, agencies, at federal, state and local level, the list is endless. Yet we have EFCC, ICPC, and the various small 419 departments with duplicate functions in the Police.

If one can ‘legitimately’ get away with stealing millions and billions and be celebrated, be given a chieftaincy title and several ‘thieftaincy’ rewards and awards of honorary degrees in any field of my choice and if I fall out with the powers that be, I have enough to get the best lawyers and injunctions when I am chased, then please don’t change this Nigeria.

The camera lights of news stations and front pages of newspapers and early morning radio news will be full of me…

Today the bitter truth is that corruption beget corruption, and we are breeding it. This Nigeria is benefiting a few, and many don’t want it changed, whether it stands or not is not about how much we swear, but real desire matched with action for change, but do we? Only time will tell.


By Prince Charles Dickson

“I don’t suppose you have to believe in ghosts to know that we are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can’t.”― Beth Gutcheon, More Than You Know

“…the ghosts you chase you never catch.”― John Malkovich

I am sure many of my readers had predicted this, on seeing my topic–this must be about Jonathan and his ghosts of Yobe/Borno. The ghosts he won’t negotiate with and the same ghosts being killed by STF, JTF and other Fs.

I am sure many believe my admonition would be asking to know what has happened to the hundreds of ghosts caught by the Department of State Security.

Well in a ghost society like ours, one may not be far with such assumptions, though for now I would leave Jonathan’s ghosts and dwell on the other ghosts amongst us.

Perhaps I should have a working definition of ghosts in this context, a being so often talked about but very few can claim to have seen, these ghosts we never catch…

These ghosts are in low and high places in Nigeria, they have over the years found our clime a conducive working environment–they have been responsible for ‘missing’ files, ships, planes and monies (especially sums in millions and billions). Need I tell us, one of the characters of a ghost or ghosts are their ability to appear and disappear.

So next time you feel exasperated about the Nigerian conundrum, especially corruption i.e stolen funds–take it that the ghosts are it, if not how do you explain how must thieves disappear.

For example it is regular sight to see two policemen for lack of duty follow a man to go arrest a boy who allegedly made his daughter pregnant. But yet an entire police with legislative, executive powers and a warrant cannot get a certain Maina ala pension?

Permit me to tell us the real ghosts’ stories, some years I read an essay on “Ghosts” from the work The Word by H. W. Percival. Published in 1913. Harold Waldwin Percival was a Theosophist and writer, famous for his magnum opus Thinking and Destiny.

In 1904 he began publishing The Word, “A monthly magazine devoted to Philosophy, Science, Religion, Eastern thought, Occultism, Theosophy, and the Brotherhood of Humanity.

I was a fan for academic reasons; in this particular essay he opined “No country is free from the belief in ghosts. In some parts of the world much time is given to ghosts; in other parts, few people think about them. Ghosts have a strong hold on the minds of the people of Europe, Asia, and Africa…”

I substitute Africa for Nigeria, he went on to further say “Ghosts frequent certain localities more than they do others…At certain times the belief in ghosts is wider spread than at others.”

I cannot but agree with him, so let me prove him right-

Gov Jang of Plateau told me in 2011 the state government lost about 800 million naira to ‘ghost workers’ in the state civil service.

That was before a ‘ghost’ commissioner was discovered. Recently with no fewer than 5,000 ghost workers on its payroll, out of the state’s total workforce of 21,000, only about 50 percent, it implies one in every four workers were ghosts.

The Chairman of the Zamfara State workers’ verification committee, Ahmed Abubakar, told same ghost tales that more than 7,000 ghosts were on the government’s payroll.

He lamented that more than 50 per cent of the Government House staff members comprised of mainly “the ghost and redundant” workers.

About 20,000 ghost workers was detected on the payroll of the 25 local government areas in Niger State, according to the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Garba Tagwai.

No fewer than 140 ghost were unmasked by the Kano State Government in the state’s Civil Service during the on-going personnel verification exercise, while in Bayelsa a LGA staff audit committee constituted by the chairman of Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, discovered the existence of 500 ghost and dead workers on the payroll of the council.

And the state itself under former Gov.  Sylva discovered that the state civil service had 11, 132 ghost workers who have been gulping N293.7 million monthly, translating to N3.524 billion annually.

Lagos has its own share, as the Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments in the state said they were able to stop the payment of over N82 million to ghost workers, and deceased pensioners for the years 2010 and 2011. They even arrested some of the ghosts (sic).

Last year, the HoR said a build up of ghost wages that helped swell the 2012 federal payroll, delayed the passage of the national budget. And this year State Minister for Finance Yerima Ngama, announced that 45,000 ghost workers who earned more than N100 billion, had been discovered on the pay roll of the Federal Government after auditing 251 Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs out of 572, these are ‘ghosty discoveries’…

With all the ghost tales told, records kept and books written about ghosts, there seems to be no order as to kinds and varieties of ghosts. No classification of ghosts has been given. No information of a science of ghosts is at hand, that if one sees a ghost he might know what kind of a ghost it is. One may learn to know and be unafraid of ghosts as of his shadows without giving them too much attention or being unduly influenced by them.

So its strange how these ghosts are discovered, how these ghosts serve the living–where are these ghosts locked when caught. In Nigeria it is ghosts everywhere you go. Ghost robbers, ghost kidnappers, ghost rapists, ghost security agents, and ghost governments.

A case of ‘who done it’, not me, not you–then blame it on the ghosts, if your wife misbehaves, it’s her ghost, politicians steal, they have only ‘ghosted’ away with the money, ghosts that move subsidy funds, ghosts schools, ghosts and more ghosts, are we ready to exorcise these ghosts in our national life, only time will tell.

How The New Pope Is Chosen

Posted: March 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


By Haruna Umar

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — The leader of the radical Islamic terrorist network Boko Haram has denied in a video that his group is taking part in any peace talks with Nigeria’s government, as fighters linked to the group attacked a military base Sunday, leaving at least 20 people dead.

The attack, in the village of Monguno, some 125 miles from the city of Maiduguri, punctuated the statement by Abubakar Shekau that said Nigeria will remain under attack by the group until the multiethnic nation is ruled under Islamic law. Mr. Shekau also threatened the man who in recent months claimed to be a leader of Boko Haram and said that the group wanted to agree to a cease-fire with Nigeria’s security forces.

The attack Sunday, coupled with the recent kidnappings of foreigners claimed by Boko Haram and its affiliates, offered fresh doubts about the ability of Nigeria’s weak central government to stop the bloodshed, despite its deployment of more security forces in the region.

“Whoever kills any of our members should await a grave retaliation from us,” Mr. Shekau says in the video in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. “We will continue waging war against them until we succeeded in establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria.”

The attack on Monguno saw fighters arrive in SUVs and kill a local village leader, witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press said. The fighters later attacked a barracks at Monguno with gunfire and explosives, witnesses said.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a military spokesman, said that 20 “Boko Haram terrorists” were killed, without acknowledging that at least one civilian had been killed. Col. Musa also did not say if any soldiers had been wounded or killed in the attack. Nigeria’s military routinely downplays civilian and soldier casualty figures.

Another security official, who requested anonymity as he could not speak to journalists, confirmed the attack occurred but acknowledged that details remained sketchy about the incident. An AP journalist could not immediately reach the village Sunday.

The attack Sunday comes after the release of the new Shekau video. A journalist in northeast Nigeria received the video Friday from men he said he didn’t know. The journalist began sharing the video with colleagues late Saturday. While the AP could not immediately independently verify the authenticity of the video Sunday, the man on the video looked like Mr. Shekau and spoke like the Boko Haram leader.

The video carried no date, but Mr. Shekau directly referenced the activities and claims of a man who has identified himself as Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz, a self-proclaimed second-in-command in Boko Haram. In November, a man with a similar voice as Abdulaziz told journalists in a telephone conference call that Boko Haram was willing to enter into peace talks if they were held in Saudi Arabia and involved former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. However, Mr. Buhari refused to take part, and no such talks took place as attacks continued.

In January, Mr. Abdulaziz told journalists in Maiduguri that a cease-fire would soon emerge that never did.

In the video, Mr. Shekau denies knowing Mr. Abdulaziz. In the past, Nigerian security forces have used so-called Boko Haram members in sting operations and to sow discord in the group.

“I swear by Allah that Abdulaziz or whatever he calls himself did not get any authority from me to represent me in any capacity. I do not know him,” Mr. Shekau says. “And if we per adventure encounter Abdulaziz and his group, I swear by Allah we are going to mete them with the grave judgment that Allah has prescribed for their likes in the holy book.”

In the video, Mr. Shekau also says the group has had difficulty putting its messages online and blamed government interference for having to now rely on couriers to reach the public. The last Shekau video seen was posted to the Internet in late November.

Boko Haram, the name of which means “Western education is sacrilege,” has conducted a guerrilla campaign of bombings and shootings across Nigeria’s north over the past two years. Boko Haram is blamed for at least 792 killings last year alone, according to an AP count. The group’s command-and-control structure remains unclear, though it appears to have sparked several splinter groups.

A group of men claiming to belong to Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven French tourists from northern Cameroon late February — a first for the group. Meanwhile, a Boko Haram splinter group known as Ansaru has claimed the recent kidnappings in north Nigeria of a British citizen, a Greek, an Italian, three Lebanese and one Filipino, all employees of a Lebanese construction company called Setraco.

Despite the deployment of more soldiers and police to northern Nigeria, the nation’s weak central government has been unable to stop the killings. Meanwhile, human rights groups and local residents blame both Boko Haram and security forces for committing violent atrocities against the local civilian population, fueling rage in the region.

• Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this article