Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How the Nigerian church is plotting to hijack 2011 from politicians

Half a million voices raised in supplication at The Experience 2010

The Experience concert was all it was billed to be. It was the largest Gospel music concert in the World. Over 500,000 people gathered at the Tafawa Balewa Square on the night of December 3 to praise and pray for Nigeria. Artist bands came from as far as the United States and Jamaica to usher the huge gathering into the spiritual presence of the Most High. Sweet music was rendered by popular Christian acts like Don Moen, Ron Kenoly, Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton, Phil Driscoll, Mary Mary, Chevele Franklyn, Sammie Okposo and Mike Aremu.

The arena was packed to the rafters and many like myself (attending for only the second time) had to endure a nine-hour vigil on our feet. What this fifth edition of The Experience showed is that the Nigerian church is finally waking up to its political strength. For it was clear that night that this was more than a concert, it was turning into a political movement as church leaders, one after the other, led prayers for the nation. Guest preachers prayed for the Niger Delta, constant power supply, better roads, better leaders, peace in the religious troubled North, and above all credible elections in 2011. (See my 2006 article How the church got her groove back)

But instead of just prescribing more prayers like they are wont to do, the clergy went further by encouraging all Christians to register to vote when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, commences its voter registration in January. Through a video slide, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, headed by the irrepressible Ayo Oritsejafor urged Christians to become more involved in the choice of who leads them next year.

"The church has the responsibility to make Nigeria one. We are one and we will remain one. The troublers of Nigeria will be troubled," Oritsejafor told the crowd who echoed a big amen in the open night air that echoed all around the Lagos Island and environs. "Go and register, you will vote, there are right people to vote for. Nigeria will not break," he concluded.

And it wasn't just a night for the men of cloth. President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the gathering via a recorded video message where he praised the ingenuity of the organizers House on The Rock church led by Paul Adefarasin. Jonathan said it is a great achievement in the life of Nigeria that the world's biggest Gospel music concert is being held in Lagos in the country's fiftieth anniversary year.

As part of the high political profile given the event, Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola as the crowd to begin creating a change in their own domains.
"If we leave here tonight with the mindset to become a part of the solution and not part of the problem I'm sure we will begin to have 24 hour electricity in our nation," said Fashola. And in reference to the various industrial disputes he's been locked into with labour groups in the state he said, "We need the value of sacrifice to put an end to any form of strikes so as to enjoy the best years of our nation".

Above all, it was a show of political force by the Nigerian Christian community which had been content to stay on the sidelines on political issues in the past. Christians had always believed that politics was a dirty game that believers ought not get entangled with. However, cases in other countries have shown how revolutions have been led from the pulpit onto the streets. Churches led by Martin Luther King, Jr among many other clergy championed the Civil Rights movement in America. Even in Nigeria Pastor Tunde Bakare has become a leading voice in constitutional rule through the Save Nigeria Group.

Is the church finally rising up to its potential after all these years of sitting on the fence with arms folded as political jobbers took the country for a ride?
Adefarasin offered an answer that will make 2011 a very interesting period in Nigeria's political experiment with its over sixty million members. "The sleeping giant, the church, is about to wake up and take its rightful place in the nation," said Adefarasin.

Friday, December 3, 2010

We Need Peace In Ivory Coast - A Personal Account

I saw on CNN this morning images of looming chaos in Ivory Coast. The army has shut all land, air and sea borders and the citizens are all scampering for safety. No one really knows what havoc is happening in the country that fought a civil war not long ago.

You may think that it is a far away country but it's not when you realise that it is human beings like you and I that inhabit that country.

After posting a prayer for peace in the country on Facebook this morning, and pondering on what next to do, I got into a chat with a friend who expressed shock at the events in Abidjan.

That conversation with Tony brought to fore the urgent need to create awareness about the looming crisis that is an outcome of the presidential elections.

In our chat, Tony, a Nigerian photojournalist who has lived and worked in Abidjan and whose wife hails from that country told me a few things that I have reproduced here by permission.

"Ha, when I thought peace will come back to Cote d`Ivoire. My pastor still lives there and I have been trying to reach him on phone" Tony said.

"Is the phone working" I asked.

"No," he responded. "God please intervene."

"It's serious," I said.

"I have not gotten through," said Tony. "I am still trying. My brother in law is there too. My wife has refused to eat".

"Ol boy you have people there o, I feel ur pains bro".

After a long pause.

"His phone is not going. All the phone calls I am making no one is to be going through. That`s my second home Lolade. I'm confused may God help me", he said.

And so this is the dilemma we face in an increasingly shrinking world.

You may think that Abidjan is far from you and do not care about what may be going on but remember that every human being is family and we need to care about the fate of the world.

For my friends reggae singer Ayouba Karamoko and journalists Kingsley Kobo and Rhokia Kone who live in Abidjan, my prayers are with you and I hope that your country will find peace.

Please sign up for a petition here .

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Jonathan must not run

A president that lifts the ban on the importation of 15 year old cars.

A president that has lifted the ban on the importation of toothpicks.

A president that has lifted the ban on import of textiles when his country's textile manufacturing companies are suffering.

A president that has no spine but will acquiesce to all demands in order to make political gains.

A president who shuts down Lagos Island because his wife is in town.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has no reason to contest in 2011.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Music, unlike politics, is what's uniting Africa's young people

Is music uniting Africa's young people? Music is like no other weapon for reaching out to the human mind. It crosses boundaries seamlessly. It breaks barriers set up by race, class, borders, education, etc.

Never has the African youth been more involved in the music movement than at this point in history. There's African hip hop everywhere one turns to these days. The African hip hop revolution is led by Nigerian MCs whose music has taken the continent by storm.

While taking the continent hostage they've begun to create a synergy with other young Africans through collaborations that will surely break down the artificial barriers foisted on us by colonialism.

Just watching MTVBase on a late night will bring home this truth. Female MC Sasha dueting with Mozambique's Dama do Bling, South Africa's HHP featuring Naeto C, Wande Coal and Ghana's R2Bees or J Martins dancing soukous with DR Congo's Fally Ipupa. Never in the history of African music have musicians been able to collaborate across boundaries like they're doing at the moment.

And before you're quick to say it's all because of MTVBase, Channel O, Sound City, etc, I would like to say that it is the strength and the hunger of the African young person that has ensured this. If young people had not taken it upon themselves to create the music they are making now, the music channels would have no business being in business.

It is the African youth who through all the trouble of every day hustling and finding a meaning to existence who have carved an enviable niche for themselves. This in the face of government neglect.

The schools are hardly teaching knowledge that is necessary to exist in modern Africa. The politicians are busy running down the economies leaving nothing for the future. Yet the music industry has risen up out of nothing and keeps creating jobs for thousands of young Africans.

While the politicians talk at round tables about creating an African Union for their self importance, it's today's music stars who are actually creating a borderless continent.

While the politicians are stuck with their colonial mindset where they cannot create a visa-free continent, today's young singers are showing that with their collaborations they can cross borders and speak to the minds of other young people on the streets of Mombasa, Bangui, Dakar, Kampala, Alexandria, Akure and Dansoman that they can be as great as their dreams. That they can aspire to success like their idols. Wonder why many of today's kids would aspire to be singers, actors, footballers but not politicians?

And the message this should send to the politicians holding back the progress of Africa's youth is that we do not need you to make a life for ourselves. In the ancient times, a people could kill an evil god by starving it of worship. We need to send the message to the politicians that we are capable of starving them of their authority if they insist on holding us back.

We have the power of music, the power of youth and we will not hesitate to starve you if you continue to stop us from traveling around our own continent with spurious visa controls. We will starve you of attention if you continue denying us of proper schools and a good education. We will no longer come to you if you keep pretending as if you don't owe us anything.

We urge you to pull down the artificial borders that keep us from relating with other African youth. The internet has done so much for us. Now you have to remove the remaining barriers. You have to create better schools and access to healthcare facilities. You have to, you owe us the best.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dwindling fortunes for Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook

At a time President Goodluck Jonathan's Facebook posts used to gross an average 100,000 comments and likes. That was then. Perhaps it signified his popularity at the height of the clamour for sanity in the nation's topsy turvy political waters.

These days the once popular Facebook president averages less than 200 comments and likes per status update.

Is the President losing friends? Or are the people just tired of reading vague exposition while government gets richer by the day?

Like a friend sarcastically said, perhaps the President's followers are now learning to face their jobs, the ones he has created?
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Running tummy and Mama Cass' sausage

Just ate a Mama Cass sausage that I got from the meeting attended earlier this morning at R&A Hotel, off Allen Avenue. But I've been having stomach problems since. Hello 911 this is a health scare!

Already visited the toilet once. The sausage was warm and good to taste but I'm sure there was something wrong somewhere in the production line.

I hope somebody at Mama Cass checks their quality control.

The Punch and a wrong Eucharia photo

A case of misplaced identities. So the online editors at The Punch do not know the difference between football coach Eucharia Uche and actress Eucharia Anunobi? Check out the angry "idiot" comment by one of the readers. LOL!
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

General Pype's World Champion on SuperSport

Isn't it nice listening to General Pype's hit single World Champions as one of the main theme songs on SuperSport, the self-styled channel of champions on DSTV?

I recently discovered this and I often catch myself humming along every time the clip is played. Never was a fan of the song until recently.

Pype's song is now among the classics employed by the channel over the years to promote the spirit of competition in sports. I remember the track Stand Up for the Champions that was really popular about five years ago on the same channel.

Well done Pype for representing the aspirations of all African youth to become world champions in all fields of endeavour.
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So much for Teju

I saw the Teju Babyface show last night with Nasir El Rufai as guest. Nasir took a hit at the EFCC calling the body now brainless and unschooled, unlettered, etc. Harsh words you'd say but considering that the head of the now inane anti-corruption body is Farida Waziri makes that statement close to the truth.

Since Farida's ascension the EFCC has become inept and he was right in chastising it for being hauled in front of a court for a case whose law no longer exists.

However, as cool as I thought Nasir was last night, Teju had to conspire to spoil it by dishing out gifts of Loya milk cartons at the end to Nasir departing from his norm of dancing to KSA's Ojiji. The gifts were needless on screen. I know he's pandering to advertisers but it took a shine off the show that we've grown to love.

Please stop this aberration Teju otherwise you'll lose intelligent viewers.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Singularity University Alumnus Emem Andrew Dreams African Technology Revolution

*Emem Andrew at a NASA lab in California. She says that young Africans need to begin embracing technology in order to safe guard their future.

Emem Andrew stormed the TELL newsroom on a Friday afternoon recently armed with nothing but a laptop bag and a cheerful smile. The 37 year-old former engineer at Shell Oil had just returned from a wonderful Graduate Studies Programme at the world renowned Singularity University at the Silicon Valley, California, United States. At SU she was elected the class speaker on graduation day to give a vote of thanks on behalf of the 80 students who had been selected from all over the world to be part of the ground breaking programme that is meant to raise world leaders in the field of technology.

It was no mean feat for Andrew who was one of only six Africans that were selected to attend the school that was created by Google and NASA among many other high technology-based companies. Its motto essentially is to "assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges." Futurists, in science speak.

“[SU] helped me to shape my purpose and frame it in a way that I can articulate how to achieve it. I knew all along that my purpose was to affect lives but I didn’t know how best to achieve it but at SU I was able to find my path” Andrew said. Realising that one should not be limited by their minds, circumstances of birth, gender or ethnicity, Andrew found a big secret that would change the way Africans and indeed the world will live in years to come.

“Technology is the future,” said Andrew who left her job at Shell in search of a greater purpose in life. “We are moving to a time when everything will be free. Technology is going to usher in a life of abundance and Africa should become partners in ushering in that life and not be a charity case.” She cited the fact that crude oil will lose its relevance in the scheme of things in the next 20 years, not because it will run out but because technology will overtake it. Instead, the role of oil in the scheme of things will be taken over by solar energy which is readily abundant in Africa. Hence, Africans need to start thinking of ways to develop their immense opportunity in solar power to sell to Europe.

Part of the aim of Singularity University is to affect positively the lives of one billion people through its fellows. Andrew already has plans to begin making technology more appealing to young people in the country as part of her life’s goal. “I want to make young people love technology just like they love rock stars” she said. “Let us create a technology revolution in our country so that our young people have somewhere, something to do with which they can change the world and impact people. It’s our environment that breeds what we are, technology is the future”.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still Grazing: Masekela’s Half Century Jazz Affair

Hugh Masekela and the author in Accra, Ghana 2007

South African jazz trumpeter and composer Hugh Masekela weaves a tale of intense passion for music, women and drugs in his life story which spans many continents amidst the upheaval of the apartheid era.


One man stood out among the prominent African musicians that performed during the opening ceremony of the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa. At 71, Hugh Masekela, the doyen of African jazz, blew the trumpet with so much vigour compared with the energy of a sixteen year-old as the world’s biggest sporting event opened in Africa in early June. In his performance with Nigeria’s Femi Kuti who reprised his world famous hit “Bang, bang, bang”, Masekela continued a tradition of collaboration which had begun with the older Fela Kuti in Lagos in 1973 when he made a musical pilgrimage across West Africa. In Lagos he discovered the eclectic musical combination called the Afrobeat by its author Fela who helped him find his feet in West African highlife and dance rhythm which greatly impacted on his sound. He called

However, Masekela’s sojourn into music had begun earlier in his country back in the 1950s at the height of the racially debasing apartheid regime. In his book Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, the trumpeter tells of his upbringing in the Alexandra Township of Johannesburg; his discovery of his musical talents at the St Peter’s School where he got his first trumpet as a gift from jazz great Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong; the explosion of the mbhaqanga township music which saw him tour South Africa as a teenager amidst the racial turmoil of the apartheid era; his eventual escape from the tightening racial segregation laws of his country to the United States via London to study music and the many hits and near misses of his career spanning more than fifty years.

Music for Masekela and his compatriots was a liberating experience from the day to day harshness of life in the townships that they were forced to live in away from the whites. “The government despised our. They couldn’t figure out how Africans could still find any pleasure under such harsh social conditions” Masekela writes. “They were particularly annoyed when Africans jammed with white, Indian, and coloured entertainers. Race mingling of any kind was resented by the apartheid government”. As much as the blacks were restricted from mixing with other races, they were also prevented from mixing with other Africans from outside the country, an act which according to Masekela is responsible for today’s xenophobia in South Africa.

In Still Grazing, Masekela and his co-author African-American professor D. Michael Cheers explore the themes of love, life, music, drug addiction, racial oppression, activism, and AIDS. Masekela does not hide his various dalliances with the women in his life beginning with the most famous of them all Miriam Makeba, his first wife who even though older than him took him through life, musically and emotionally. The book tells about their romance from when they met singing on the local circuit in Alexandra and began a whirlwind romance that will take them across oceans till when they married while in exile and their eventual divorce which Masekela put down to irreconcilable differences, something that deeply hurt Makeba for many years as he walked out on their marriage. His marriage to Chris, Cab Calloway’s daughter which ushered him into the black elite circles of America and his eventual divorce from her due to drug problems highlight the crazy times that 1960s America was.

In Masekela’s journey one gets to meet all the big time jazz greats and famous entertainment personalities who made the bebop era what it is. He was on a first name basis with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Coltrane, Don King, Herb Alpert, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Bill Cosby, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix among so many others. In his lifetime, Masekela has dined and wined with many African leaders while also getting caught up in some of the most terrible political pogroms that happened on the continent in the years after independence. He was a guest of Sekou Toure in Guinea when Cape Verdean leader Amilcar Cabral was murdered in 1972; while he was granted honorary Liberian citizenship, his benefactor President William Tolbert was massacred alongside his cabinet members by Samuel Doe in 1980; he was in Lagos as Fela’s guest when Murtala Muhammed was assassinated and had to stay put until the state of emergency curfews were lifted several weeks later; and he escaped with his life in Botswana when the South African apartheid regime’s death squads bombed many exiled activists in that country in a bid to keep opposition figures quiet.

From his own eyes, we see how his addiction to sex, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol ruined many of his business and personal relationships and almost took his life but for a rehabilitation programme in London that made him clean after almost 40 years of abuse. Still Grazing chronicles his many hits from his greatest album Grazing in the Grass to the flops and misses that characterize every artiste’s career. In his own words one comes to a realization of the pains of living in exile for more than thirty years due to the evil perpetrated on his home by the Afrikaner government which in turn drove him to explore mind numbing substances to send away the pain of losing his mother in violent means. At the turn of every page, Masekela’s humanity cries out to the reader and while not begging to be accepted and understood, he remains thankful for the forces that have made him live a rewarding life that has impacted his country through his musical journey.

On returning to South Africa at the end of apartheid in 1991, Masekela discovered that not much has changed because the white establishment still controlled the civil service and the black African communities were now fighting themselves over political territories. Instead of giving up on his country, he decides to find other ways of helping out with the reforms process even though he is disillusioned by the reconciliation process which does not punish perpetrators of the evils against his people. With the HIV/AIDS pandemic that swept through the country came another attack on his peoples’ way of life. Losing his sister to the disease made the denial strategy of the government a sad process. Masekela went to press five years later stating that his sister had died of AIDS thereby shedding light on the pandemic and causing many more people to take up the fight against the disease.

These days, Masekela lives with his Ghanaian wife Elinam on their farm called Polinam, a combination of his mother’s name Polina and his wife’s, a hundred kilometres west of Johannesburg. He still makes music and encourages young people to take to the art. In many of his concerts he can still be heard playing a cover of Fela’s hit “Lady” to the admiration of audiences. While acknowledging the vanity of life he tells whoever cares to listen, “I am truly lucky to be around. Let the music play.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Independence Nigeria!!!

I am lucky to be a Nigerian as my country clocked 50 today. I look back on the life I have lived and bless the Lord for the opportunities that have come my way.

Nigeria is a very important country in the world and Nigerians have made an appreciable impact on all spheres of life.

We love life. We love to work. We love to help people. However, we sometimes get carried away with the perquisites of office to forget to lend a helping hand and work for the improvement of our country.

The journey to the next 50 years has already begun. I make my vow to help improve, in every way I can, the fortunes of my country.

It is interesting that I am typing this post in Accra, the same city, where I wrote the first post on this blog three years ago during Ghana's 50th anniversary.

The issues which both countries face are different. We must all keep striving to the best we can and hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

I love you Nigeria. I am proud to be African in the 21st century.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

World Cup 2010: Africa Arise!!!

It is time for Africa to take her place in world football as the World Cup kicks off.

It is with great joy that I write as the World Cup kicks off in South Africa next week. We have waited for more than six years in anticipation of our turn to host the world’s most important sporting event.

Every fours years the stars of football come out to shine at the World Cup and this time we have the opportunity to host them on our land with our impressive cultural heritage.

Africa welcomes the world to this great continent of beauty, hopes and dreams. We open our arms wide and we say welcome, Akwaaba, Ekaabo, Sanu da zuwa, and Sawubona to everyone that will be visiting our continent during this period.

Football is more than a sport, it is our life blood in Africa. When our national teams play we forget all of our differences and gather round with one goal in mind, victory.

We follow with every breath and every blinking of the eye as our stars kick the ball all over the field. We forget our ethnicity, our religions, our prejudices and hug each other on the streets whenever our teams score.

Football has been a force for good in our continent. It has brought an end to wars. Ask Didier Drogba how he was able to bring peace to his former troubled Ivory Coast. See how the great Pele made the warring factions in Nigeria declare a ceasefire just to see him play during the Biafran War.

Football is more than a sport, it is a passion. The World Cup is the biggest shrine of football and it is where many of us dreamed of being as kids. To see our heroes play means more than a thousand treasures.

As the World Cup begins in our Africa this week, I will be supporting my team the Super Eagles to victory. No matter what happens during the tournament, I will be the number one fan of the Super Eagles. And if the Eagles fail to make it further, I will support football.

For football is much more than nationality, it is a lifestyle, it is a religion, it is a calling and a gift to mankind. Football is a force for good for us so let us embrace this beautiful gift that has been given to Africa and rise up to celebrate it.

It is our time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Goodluck Jonathan is no messiah

Goodluck Jonathan says he will set up a facebook account to meet with his constituents online. Do they have electricity to log on to facebook?

I say do not expect much from a man who has gotten everything in politics without lifting an arm.

He is not a spectacular person and we should stop hailing him like a messiah.

The only thing has going for him is that after a long time under the slow Yar Adua, we now have a president who is healthy and can walk without stumbling, can talk without sneezing and can clap without needing to have drips passed into his veins to regain energy afterwards.

What did he achieve as governor in Bayelsa? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves.

We should begin asking him to deliver on electoral reforms so that at least we have credible elections next year.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Do I come to you by chance? No I don't.

Just left a reading by Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. She's the author of the award winning I Do Not Come To You By Chance (Commonwealth prize for first book Africa region).

Nwaubani has got a lot of humour in her. Her book is a fine read with a lot of street sense. It is a world where the people who speak the grandest of grammars and possess the most polished certificates end up surviving on paltry pensions while the ones without any pretence to civility live large and even quote the Bible to support their ill gotten wealth.

She makes the reader laugh and told the audience that she grew up on reading comedies hence her seamless dive into writing serious issues in a funny way instead of the usual African writers’ seriousness.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dakar: Meet Senghor’s Enchanting Woman

Me standing with a guard in front of Senegal's presidential castle

Naked woman, black woman

Clothed with your colour which is life,

with your form which is beauty!

In your shadow I have grown up; the

gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.

And now, high up on the sun-baked

pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon,

I come upon you, my Promised Land,

And your beauty strikes me to the heart

like the flash of an eagle. - Leopold Sedar Senghor, “Black Woman”.

The flight into Dakar was smooth. The Virgin Nigeria cabin crew was as helpful as they could be considering the low temperature in the cabin. Their warm laughter made one forget the cold. However, nothing prepared us for the biting weather that welcomed us into the Dakar night sky for it was too chilly for an African country bordering the equator. Temperatures outside the plane were put at 21degrees when many other West African countries are generally at the 30degree mark.

That was our first pleasant surprise as we arrived at Senghor country for a training course organized by FIFA/AFP Foundation to help build up the capacity of African reporters for the World Cup in June. Three TELL staff, Arukaino Umukoro, Tony Onwuemene and I had been selected to represent Nigeria in the training scheme. Senegal bears a lot of tribute to its founding president, the poet-leader, Leopold Sedar Senghor. The international airport bears his name as well as the big wide boulevard in central Dakar where the Palais Presidentiel, the presidential castle, is located. Senegal owes much of its philosophy to Senghor who was the progenitor of Negritude, a cultural movement that celebrated the idea of blackness in the face of racism in colonial France. Till date, the legacy of Senghor is prevalent in the way that arts and culture are celebrated in the country.

Dakar itself is a beautiful woman whom a first time visitor easily falls in love with. The streets are generally clean with impressive architecture that relies on its French heritage and I dare say that if one were to be blindfolded and dropped in the centre of town, one may be forgiven for thinking that it was a European city. In many places the roads are not big but they are effectively monitored to ensure that there is no traffic build up. And the high rise buildings are constructed with very good use of space so that there need not be fences taking over valuable space.

The people I came across were generally friendly. Being a French speaking country, it could be hard to get your message across but with my basic knowledge of the language gotten from spending several months at the Alliance Francaise in Accra, I did not have to suffer too much before getting my opinions across to waiters, taxi drivers, traders and policemen. After just returning from Lome where I had gone to report the Togolese presidential elections, a trip to Dakar was just what I needed to keep my new found opportunity to constantly practice my French. For every one who has ever learnt a language knows that the best way to go about it is to speak constantly for when there is nobody to speak with one readily forgets. So I did parler a lot to the consternation of many of the other Anglophone journos on the course.

One of the most memorable events that I will remember from my Dakar sojourn is that of visiting the Palais Presidentiel alongside colleagues from Nigeria, the Gambia and Liberia in the midnight. Being such an easy going people, the presidential castle is a tourist centre of sorts, one can take pictures in front of it during the day. Nevertheless, our first visit to the castle was at night and we were stopped by guards who demanded to know what our mission was. Our Gambian colleagues who share the Wolof tongue with the officials bailed us out. We were told to come back during the day if we wanted to get pictures of the beautiful white building. Entreaties from our Gambian friends fell on deaf ears. “Can you go to the house of Yayah Jammeh like this” asked the guard to which Musa Lammeh responded in the negative. They were very civil in turning us away. At that moment I thought about the fortress which our Aso Rock is at home and wondered if one could ever cross its many gates without an invitation.

So two days later we finally visit the palace again at the end of our interesting training programme that had been conducted by Barnaby Chesterman, a Rome-based reporter with the Agence France Presse, AFP. This time there was a guard who cut a solitary figure in his red and blue uniform, a gun strapped across his chest with a cavalier red top hat in front of the imposing almost 15 foot high metal gate that enclosed a palm tree lined path which led to the castle. He never smiled throughout as we took permission to take pictures with him. His sense of duty was so important that all he did was nod for us to go ahead. And we shot away, clicking our cameras like wide eyed tourists. It was a beautiful moment in time.

Perhaps most enchanting were the women of Dakar, dressed in their usual kaba, they looked splendid. It was of their enchanting beauty Senghor sang in his many poems in remembrance of his homeland.

Dakar is brimful of beautiful women for it is beauty personified. Walking down its streets sometimes felt like running a hand through the newly braided cornrows on a woman’s head. It was a journey of discovery. Contrary to Conrad’s description of Africa as being the "heart of darkness", Dakar and so many other cities on the continent do actually possess beauty that we all can be proud of.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Togo's presidential elections - Africa's 50 years

+Togolese women waiting to vote yesterday at Lycee Be-Kpota: Photo by Ololade Adewuyi

Togolese went to the polls yesterday to vote for candidates into the presidential palace. Incumbent Faure Gnassingbe and opposition's Jean Pierre Fabre are favourites for the office that has become a dynasty for the Gnassingbe family.

Faure's father Eyadema was president for 38 years, Africa's longest serving head of state, and Faure himself has already served one term of five years since taking over after his father's passing in 2005.

I am at the lobby of the Palm Beach Hotel in Lome overlooking the beautiful Atlantic ocean thinking how important it is for Togo to get this poll process right in the year that it turns 50. A total of 17 countries in Africa will clock five decades this year and Togo's success at the polls will mean that it should bode a good year for all.

Already we have seen how a coup d'etat has dislodged the government in Niger last month. Niger is among one of the 50 year olds but the coup has set it backwards now.

African leaders need to know historical timing and that the world is watching them in this very important year. The success of Togo's polls will go a long way to telling the world that Africa can indeed take care of its affairs properly.

Bon chance Togo. Viva Afrique!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An AbdulMutallab Year!

*Photo: Young men walking on the streets of Funtua,
AbdulMutallab's home town. Many are turning to religion
as a means of getting away from the hardships that mar daily living.
Photo by Ololade Adewuyi.

The year 2009 ended on a low for Nigeria with the attempted airline bombing by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab. Sad to say anyway but I think we should look more closely at the incident to see that young Nigerians are increasingly turning to religion as an elixir for the failings of their leaders.

Even though it's been proved that the boy got radicalised in London where he schooled, many of our universities are becoming playgrounds for radicals theses days.

I attended the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and know how well Islamist extremism is going on in that campus. I remember when Sharia law was introduced in the north in 1999 and how many Muslim groups began to call for the introduction of Sharia on our campus and how it could have degenerated into something bad if the Christian groups had reacted otherwise.

I remember all the Jihad weeks on the campus and how at the car park bordering Angola, Awo Annex and Mozambique halls mullahs would scream into loud speakers denouncing Jesus' claim as the son of God.

There was a time in my final year when a religious broil almost broke out among the younger students during the Ramadan when a Christian student complained of the noise making that ensured in the early hours of the morning because it was also exam time. It's sad that our university is fast becoming a breeding ground for extremists, Christians and Muslims alike.

Fanaticism came to its head when some Christian students sometime ago decided to go into the forest to await the coming of Christ!

When shall this all end?