NIGERIA DISCUSSION SERIES

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A discussion series was initiated by Nilla and is being continued by other Nigerians in Blogland. NIGERIAN CURIOSITY will be hosting the series on FEBRUARY 9TH, 2007. It will be a great opportunity for all concerned individuals to participate and share their knowledge on a topic of relevance to Nigeria. As of now, the series schedule is as follows,

  1. JANUARY 26TH - CHXTA'S WORLD (NIGERIA: TO RETURN OR NOT TO RETURN)
  2. FEBRUARY 2ND - LASPAPI (NIGERIA- A LOST CAUSE? (THE POLITICS...THE POLITICIANS))
  3. FEBRUARY 9TH - NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
  4. FEBRUARY 16TH - NIGERIAN POLITRICKS
  5. FEBRUARY 23RD - GBEBORUN OF LAGOS

Please stop by in the near future for constant updates or simply click on the featured host's name for additional information.

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EMPTY BREADBASKET....

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For a recent article on the Delta please see Blood Oil. I think the article is fair and surprisingly not condescending or demeaning.

There are also pictures of a photojournalist's recent trip to the Delta available. The slideshow is called Nigeria, Guns & Oil.

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WHY IS THE BREADBASKET ALWAYS EMPTY?

The Delta region of Nigeria is the breadbasket of the country. Unfortunately, as is the case in most African breadbaskets, the people of that area have not benefited from the wealth their lands hold. Instead, the water is poisoned and there is no fish to eat. Their land is poisoned as well, so farmers cannot grow crops to feed their families or sell at market. They cannot even depend on the rain, as it is also poisoned and is considered acid rain. There aren't enough schools, hospitals, clean water sources. Basically anything and everything people need, at a minimum, to live healthy productive lives is lacking in that region.

So, considering that this is the plight of the people that live in Nigeria's breadbasket, can anyone blame them for resorting to violence as a means of gaining attention on a national and global scale? I know I can't. I think enough is enough. It is time for us to all talk frankly and respectfully to one another. Groups like Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND) must stop resorting to violence. The Federal Government of Nigeria must bring all Delta authorities to justice for stealing monies that should have been used for the benefit of their constituents. Huge oil corporations like Shell must be forced to invest their earnings in the communities they destroy. They, in conjunction with the government, must build schools, hospitals and provide other resources. Nigerians must demand that our government require huge companies to invest directly in the country, maybe outside government channels for that matter, as we know what happens when money reaches government coffers, if it even gets that far.

Anyway, this breadbasket wahala is not unique to Nigeria, see Sierra Leone, for instance, as was recently discussed in a podcast on Current TV called Diamond Diggers. But with regard to Nigeria, I wonder who will gain if oil production comes to a complete standstill as is threatened by MEND. Well, I guess we shall see.

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NIGERIA IS UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I have spent the last few nights unable to sleep wondering if there is some conspiracy to completely destroy the reputation of Nigeria as a country and Nigerians as a people. I will admit upfront that I blame Nigeria and Nigerians for the bad press we constantly receive (and will explain why later in the post). However, I believe that a small minority of criminals cannot and should not be considered representative of an entire nation. After all, one cannot look at the likes of Rush Limbaugh and/or Michael Richards and assume that all Americans are just like them.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post (ABC's "Investigative Report" on 419 Scams), when Nigeria is mentioned in the news, I tend to brace for impact. Well, I did a whole lot of bracing Saturday evening because I was exposed to more Nigeria bashing! CNN aired a repeat of its program "How to Rob a Bank" which originally aired in May 2006 (transcript available here). The program discussed the impact of stolen identities on American victims and American banks. It featured at least 6 scam artists operating in the United States. Four of these men were Nigerian.

Now, I don't want to waste precious time and space giving you a summary of this program, particularly as the transcript is available for free, online. Let it be said that I do not condone the acts of criminals regardless of whether they are Nigerian or not. Despite this, the program suggested that Nigerians are the kings of identity theft in this country and scamming in general. Of course, we all know that cannot be the case because criminals come in all shapes, sizes and nationalities. Yet, I fear that Billy Bob in Ozark, Alabama, who knows no Nigerians, will watch the program and assume that every Nigerian, and maybe African, is a criminal.

So, why is Nigeria getting such negative press? I can't come up with a specific and definitive response. Like everything in life, there is no straightforward, black or white answer. The reasons for our situation are various, but of clear significance is the Nigerian. By this, I mean the individual and the collective. We as Nigerians know that some of our people are corrupt and participate in criminal enterprise. Yet, we honor them with chieftancy titles and we encourage them with special treatment and sometimes reverence. I know not everyone does this and I know that such behavior is not unique to Nigerian society, but I must highlight it as being part of our problem. When we exalt people who have gained their wealth unscrupulously, we sanction their behavior to our detriment and allow those who know nothing about us as a people to characterize our culture as one that appreciates and encourages corruption. This is therefore a clear example of how we are destroying ourselves from within.

Another source of our 'bad press' predicament is that as a people we do not control our image. A country with a significant amount of human and natural resources like Nigeria should be able, to some extent, to manipulate and control how the rest of the world sees us. Nigeria is a country of nobel laureates, incredible doctors and physicians, world renowned artists, musicians and actors and of course, wonderful people. Nonetheless, that is never the portrayal of Nigeria that the world receives. Our government has to get it's act together and hire some good P.R. I said it in ABC's "Investigative Report" on 419 Scams, and I'll say it again - If we don't have a P.R. agent, I hereby volunteer to take on the task for a minimal fee. There is a lot of work to be done, and I hope that our new government will consider this issue a challenge worth addressing directly.

I will concede that many Nigerians are working hard to find ways, outside government channels, to remedy the situation discussed above. I congratulate these people and encourage them to keep up the good work. But, it remains clear to me that my country is under attack. This attack is from within and without. I can't help but feel sometimes that we are fighting a lost battle.

Mark my words, if we don't get a handle on it now, it will be too late to do effective and efficient damage control in the future.

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MUSIC: NIGERIA VS. THE AFRICAN CONTINENT PT. II

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just discovered that this video exists in Youtube land and had to spotlight the artists. Thanks Naijavixen, I would have forgotten about this song had I not visited your blog for my daily dose of distraction and entertainment. Please enjoy one of my favorite songs and feel free to check out my playlist on Youtube by visiting the PLAYLIST link and searching for 'MUSIQUE AFRICAIN' or simply click here.

P-Square "Say Your Love"



Would never have discovered this group had my mother not sent me their latest album. Good looking out mom, or rather, thanks much!
Further Reading:

-Nigeria vs. The African Continent II - P-Square "Say your Love"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent III - Infinity's "Olori Oko"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent IV - Tuface
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent V - Ty Bello's "Greenland"

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RESPONSE TO NILLA

Monday, January 22, 2007

After reading Nilla's Spin and the many comments elicited by her question, I have put to 'paper' my thoughts on how all Nigerians can contribute to making our motherland a better place for all Nigerians. Nilla noted,

"For every time another Nigerian becomes a citizen of
another country, we loose something[.] We empower those countries that we take refuge in…..we partly develop those countries. And our own????"

What follows are my thoughts on the issues raised in her blog.
EVERY ONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY -
Whether you live in Nigeria or are an expatriate abroad, each Nigerian has a unique and significant role in changing Nigeria for the better. It is obvious how Nigerians at home can make our country a better place and thus, I won't go into an extended discussion on that topic.
For expatriates, there are various ways that we can help effect change. For instance, Nigerians abroad can use their access to foreign currency to build or support institutions of education and health. The mere act of sending remittances home to parents and other family members has increasingly been recognized as a significant aspect of global economic growth. Nigeria is no different. Expatriates can also put their money behind political and economic leaders who have a proven record of non-corruption and who work hard to assist their constituents or customers.

WE NEED TO BE SUCCESSFULLY INDEPENDENT OF THE STATUS QUO -
We must acknowledge that no matter how much we love Nigeria, there is an entrenched status quo that works to the detriment of the masses and the benefit of a select and corrupt few. Those who benefit from this equation have an interest in ensuring that nothing changes, even if that spells disaster and death for our children now and in the future.

A wise man recently made me understand that it will therefore be important to circumvent the status quo and establish structure, be it political, economic, cultural, or social, outside the realms of those who only care about themselves. Nigerians who crave change must separate themselves from those who benefit from and maintain the status quo. We must individually and collectively achieve success in whatever fields we chose to follow and become pinnacles in our fields. This success, regardless of whether you live in Nigeria or abroad, must not involve those who currently fleece Nigeria, its people and its resources.

By being independent of the status quo, we will not have to succumb to it in order to make the changes that we seek for Nigeria.


POSITIVE NIGERIANS MUST COMMUNICATE ABOUT WHAT THEY WANT NIGERIA TO BE -
Nigerians, especially young Nigerians, must think very carefully about what sort of Nigeria they wish to be a part of. We can all do a lot of talking but if we cannot agree on what the future must look like, we will be bound to make the mistakes that have been made by those before us. We must acknowledge that there are basic things that MUST happen and then proceed from there. We must agree to disagree and obviously agree to agree. We cannot allow others to tell us our future. By others, I mean Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are solely interested in how green their bank accounts will be. Our generation must recognize that there will always be forces bent on dividing positive, like minded people and we must strive to succeed despite the negative influences.

Fixing Nigeria is akin to fighting cancer. There is no one medicine to heal the illness. A cocktail of treatments is necessary to attack cancer in many cases - toxic chemotherapy, medication, a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on the outcome. Consequently, I know that the suggestions above are not the superpill that will make Nigeria better, but I do believe that they are a fundamental part of the cure. It will take a cocktail of steps to help that country. Although there will be days when we don't think that we can continue with the harsh and toxic doses of our treatment, we must always remember that the Nigeria we want in the future is worth the 'sufferhead' we endure today. We will have to work extremely hard to find the pieces that will change our country. Once we've found them we will then have to put them together. That will take the hard work of each and every Nigerian, irregardless of where you lay your head.

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"I'M NOT REALLY ATTRACTED TO NIGERIAN WOMEN."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I was recently scouring the Internet for interesting blogs and websites related to Nigeria and Nigerians and happened upon a blog I liked. The author was writing about his recent trip to Nigeria and expressing his thoughts on the experience. Personally, I liked practically everything he had to say. He was straightforward and candid about Nigeria and its people without being condescending. That, to me, is always refreshing.

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MUSIC: NIGERIA VS. THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I tend to consider myself a die-hard Nigerian. Yes, I know the country has serious problems, but not once have I ever been ashamed to declare my nationality even in some of the most dire circumstances.

However, there is an issue that recently has placed a chink in the armor that is my sense of 'Nijaness'. It has to do with Nigerian music. I am beginning to doubt that current Nigerian artists can truly hold their ground in the arena that is African music.

Don't get me wrong, I can list a slew of venerable Nigerian musicians. For instance, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Majek Fashek, Onyeka Onwenu and the list goes on. These were the artists of my childhood. I remember hearing their music at parties that I was only able to see standing behind a door in my pajamas because I was supposed to be in bed. I do remember my 5th or 6th (or was it my 10th?) birthday party when almost every guest brought their personal cassette copy of Shina Peters' album. Do you remember that song? "Shina peters o ni afrojuju. Afro juju o, the difference is clear o." (Insert wicked riff here). No one brought any American or European musicians. It was Afrojuju that a whole bunch of private school going, skinny little kids wanted to dance to.

When I think of the Nigerian musicians today, they have good music, but I am yet to hear anything that can hold a candle to artists like Salif Keita in terms of originality, Cesaria Evora in terms of sensuality, or even Awilo Longomba or Djouna Mumbafu in terms of good old booty shaking music that bumps so hard it makes you want to move every inch of your body.

To me, there is something missing from current Nigerian music. It lacks identity. It lacks a Nigerian identity. A lot of the newer artists have good vocals, lyrics and even videos. I do not mean to be disrespectful but, I can't help but think that they are simply MTV wannabes. I crave music that is wholeheartedly Nigerian but modern. I crave music that tells me a Nigerian story. I continue to be moved by Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Lagbaja and others who continue to make Nigerian music that implements the best of musical techniques from around the world without losing that sense of Nijaness. Have you heard Osuofia's "I Go Chop Your Dollar"? Just thinking about the song makes me laugh and brings happy tears to my eyes. It might never win a Grammy award, but there is nothing like listening to Nigerian music that is intrinsically Nigerian, no matter what it's subject is. It reminds me of home. Makes me reminisce for the days when the kids from the neighborhood would hang out with eachother and talk about absolute nonesense while watching a soccer match played barefoot.

What new genre of music is Nigerian? Yes, we have afrobeat and afrojuju but when you listen to mapouka, you know which part of Africa it is from. When you hear coupe decale, you know that a bunch of Ivorians are trying to get you to shake your behind. Zouk, Soukouss, Makosa and various other forms of African music continue to be reinvented without losing their soul. What about Nigerian music? Someone please enlighten me, because I am desperately seeking original Nigerian music that will never lose sight of that very important factor - Nijaness.

For a taste of Shina Peters please click on the video below (ignore the first 90 seconds).


Here is a favorite song of mine, "Olufunmi" by Styl Plus.


And of course, "I Go Chop Your Dollar" by Osuofia, the comedic actor and musician.

Further Reading:

-Nigeria vs. The African Continent II - P-Square "Say your Love"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent III - Infinity's "Olori Oko"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent IV - Tuface
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent V - Ty Bello's "Greenland"

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HOW MANY PEOPLE? (RECENT NIGERIAN CENSUS)

Like everything in Nigeria, the recent census is causing people to scratch their heads, argue with each other and simply pissing some people off. As far as I am concerned, I am just happy that the census took place. After all there have been delays in getting the census under way and all sensible and intelligent people can agree that a census is necessary to adequately plan for the development of any country.

Typically, a census happens every 10 years. In Nigeria, however, it took 15 years. In order for the census to happen, many compromises were reached. Sensitive, yet crucial information such as ethnicity and religion were not monitored. Violence broke out in various parts of the country and census enumerators were attacked by hoodlums. It also took a week to complete the census. My mother had a 10 day vacation, sitting at home. At least she got to read a good book.

Well, despite the complicated issues, I am glad it happened. The results of the census determine political representation, the amount of federal government funding given to states and how money will be spent to better the lives of all Nigerians (hopefully).

The last national headcount in 1991 determined that there were 88.9 million Nigerians, almost equally divided between females and males. In 2007, there are now 140,003,542 million Nigerians. (Please visit http://www.nigeria.gov.ng/speeches_2006censusfigures.aspx for President Obasanjo's speech to the Nigerian people about the census results). That is a lot of people and all these people need Nigeria to develop quickly. I wonder how such development will be achieved considering the multi-pronged problems facing Nigeria. The country faces continued corruption, HIV/AIDS, a paralyzed public educational system, disruption of oil production due to violence, a failed health system and the list could go on forever.

Considering all the "wahala" that preceded the census, I am concerned about whether we can take care of Nigeria and its people. What really troubles me is the belief that those who can and are willing to help improve the country will never have the opportunity. It is common knowledge that change is dangerous and the desire to change the status quo gets people killed. Despite this, it will be necessary for many changes to be made in order to address the needs of Nigeria's 140 million people and prepare for the many millions that are yet to come. I pray that we as a people, regardless of our personal interests and issues, will have the courage and strength to take the required actions to address the important issues and situate ourselves to be a success story in the near and immediate future.

Unregulated population growth causes development problems. Just ask the Chinese. That's why they instituted their one child per family program so as to slow down the population increase to a more manageable rate. Hopefully, the realization of how populous Nigeria is will force our leaders into action. I must note that I am curious as to how many Nigerians live abroad. Who are they, what do they do and where doe they live? Won't those be fascinating statistics? Maybe someday.

ADDITION ON 01/21/2007: Please visit DEMOGRAPHY MATTERS for additional discussion on population growth in Nigeria. Feel free to also scan the comments, they are informative. http://demographymatters.blogspot.com/2006/12/nigeria-population-census-results.html

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CONSTITUTIONAL DILLEMA: PRESIDENT VS. VICE-PRESIDENT

What's going on in Nigeria? The President declared that the Vice-President must lose his position because he switched parties? Well, regardless of what the drama is, I am happy it's happening for one very good reason - the development of Constitutional Law in Nigeria.

Here's the backstory:

According to a BBC article, please see link below, V.P. Atiku chose to become the presidential nominee for another party. President Obasanjo then declared that by changing parties, Atiku had violated the constitution because apparently, the constitution required that both President and Vice-President be members of the same party. The relevant laws upon which the President based his decision were section 36 (1) of 1999 constitution and Article 16 of the PDP's constitution.

An appeals court in Abuja recently decided that Atiku did not violate the constitution and therefore was to be returned to his position. As noted above, all this political wrangling makes me excited. As long as it stays in the courts and no one gets killed, I foresee the continued development of the rule of law in a nation that is known for chaos in all areas - political, economical, social e.t.c.

I take no sides on this matter. As a lawyer who has always seen the legal system as a means to the achievement of stability, I am only interested in the legal consequences. I believe that more cases like this are necessary to reinforce the importance of the rule of law and hopefully create a system upon which all can depend, regardless of religion, tribe or political affiliation.

BBC story on Obasanjo vs. Atiku - NIGERIA COURT RESTORES VP PERKS (01/12/2007)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6256141.stm>

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ABC'S "INVESTIGATIVE REPORT" ON 419 SCAMS

Nigeria was recently in the news again. As is always the case, when I hear 'Nigeria' come out of the mouth of most U.S. journalists, I again braced myself for impact. I recorded the ABC piece on 419 but chose not to watch it until after enjoying my Christmas and New Year. Thank God, I made that decision because I was livid after viewing the program.

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