Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Independence Day Nigeria: 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria

For too long, Nigeria and Nigerians have been readily associated with the online scams, financial crime and impersonation - termed ‘419’. However, beyond the unfortunate stereotyping, there are several positive characteristics and cogent intriguing traits of the country, Nigeria and its people, some of which are highlighted below as part of the ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ campaign which enlisted 100 volunteers and bloggers to share reasons why they like Nigeria. These reasons echo the voices of Nigerians, with resonating similar themes. The campaign is being facilitated in partnership with ‘The 419Positive Project’.

The full list of ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here  (
The list of contributors to ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here
If you would like to say something positive about Nigerians and Nigeria, please do so here.

v  I like Nigeria because it is a land of endless opportunities and possibilities. Nigeria is one country I believe the world is yet to experience it true potentials. I believe Nigerians are sharp, brilliant and accommodating people. Giving the right enabling environment the world will marvel at what Nigeria will become.
v  Nigeria is the most populous black nation - and a buying one at that. From a capitalist point of view, this makes for a great investment opportunities.
v  The fact that Nigeria currently lags behind so much - in infrastructure and developmental terms - hints at the size of the potential for innovation and transformation, and at the huge number of vacancies that exist for 'transformers'. What I think this means is that the world will be hearing a lot about Nigeria and high-achieving Nigerians (in the public and private sectors) in the near future.

v  The Nigerian Green and White flag is a notable national symbol. The green color symbolises agriculture, seeing that the country is endowed with masses of arable land, while the white colour signifies unity and peace. Other national symbols include the Nigerian Coat of Arms, which depicts an eagle on a black shield, tri-sected by two wavy silver bands, and supported on either side by two chargers. The national motto underlies the coat-of -arms: "Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress." Her national symbols convey great meaning to its people.
v  The Nigerian accent is currently ranked by CNN Global Experiences as the 5th sexiest accent in the world.
v  Nigeria is home to Nollywood, one of the world's biggest film industries.

v  Something great to like about Nigeria is our cultural diversity. A strong affinity exists, despite our differences. Learning about other ethnic cultures in my country really helped me personally relate to other cultures when abroad.
v  I think the food is tastier in Nigeria than that I have found in other countries.
v  Nigerians live a communal life style.  The extended family is part of the immediate family in a Nigerian home.

v  Nigeria has produced many world class musicians. A notable mention in this regard is Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A Broadway show titled ‘FELA!’ was produced in 2009 depicting the life and times of the Afrobeat musician.
v  Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, is reputedly the 3rd largest film industry after Hollywood and Bollywood, and has grown gradually into a $250 million industry in more than 10 years.
v  Nigerian indigenous musical instruments are unique, soulful and rhythmic. They comprise the popular Talking Drum, producing proverbial and storytelling sounds, the Shaker (shekere), the Udu drum, the Lute, the leg and arm Rattle, the Omele, the Ogene (Gong originating in Eastern Nigeria), the Ekwe drum and the Kakaki (A 4m metal trumpet popular in Northern Nigeria). Many of these instruments have been incorporated in South American music over the years

v  Nigeria is a nation blessed with rich human and natural resources. As the 8th largest exporter of Oil in the world, with the 10th largest proven reserves, our blessings cannot be overemphasised. No earthquakes, no tsunamis, no droughts, an evergreen land. The rest of the world should live here.
v  The beauty of the Nigerian state cannot but leave one in awe. Blessed with captivating physical features and abundant wild life. From the rolling hills to the vast plains in the North Central Nigeria and the forests in the South, the beautiful scenery of the country is more than breathtaking and with the wildlife spread all over the country; Nigeria is surely a beauty to behold and a tourist's delight all year round.
v  Nigeria is blessed with tremendous agricultural resources. Cotton in the North, Cocoa & Oil palm in the south amongst many others. The flag is green for a reason

v  Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa. Approximately 1 out of every 2 West Africans, 1 out of every 4 Africans, and 1 out of every 5 persons of African origin is a Nigerian.
v  Nigeria is the largest contributor of troops to the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and by extension, is the largest force for peace and stability in West Africa.
v  A Nigerian will stand out anywhere you find him/her, from Libya to London, Tokyo to Timbuktu. Well known examples include Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, USA), Olumide Oyedeji (Seattle Sonics), Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Sunday Adelaja (Ukraine), Chris Aire (US), etc.

v  Nigerians are intelligent, brilliant minds who have proven their mettle in various fields - Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the much coveted Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Chinua Achebe’s classic novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ was ranked as number 14 in a list of top 100 books in the world by Newsdesk in 2009. Others include Cyprian Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, Chimamanda Adichie and Helon Habila whose literary works have won both international and local awards at various times.
v  We have budding fashion designers. Yes! It's a line every Bunmi, Amaka and Amina has decided to tow but to disregard the effort and originality of our Fashion Designers would be disrespectful. Tiffany Amber, Lanre Da Silva and Deola Sagoe are building world renowned brands, not to mention the legacy developed by the likes of Abba Folawiyo, Maureen Onigbanjo, Remi Lagos and Zizzi Cardow.
v  Nigerians have excelled in the fields of economics and finance, managing well established global bodies. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the current Minister of Finance, was until recently a Managing Director at The World Bank.  Obiageli Ezekwisili is currently the Vice President for Africa at The World Bank. Mr Adebayo Ogunlesi is a first class graduate of Oxford, and Managing Partner of Global infrastructure Partner (GIP), a concessionaire of London’s Gatwick International Airport.
v  We take technology and expand it in ways those who created it could not have imagined. For instance, take the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) which allows you to send broadcast messages to all addresses on your contacts list; Nigerians recently found a unique way of advertising the different businesses they do. Someone started a message highlighting the fact that many people in Nigeria are entrepreneurs or provide a service and included his BB PIN in the message and sent to all his contacts with the charge that they state the service they provide, include their PIN and send on to all their contacts too. This seemingly small campaign has gone “viral” with whole lists of entrepreneurs and their BB PINs being passed from phone to phone. This is a clear sign of the ingenuity of Nigerians!

v  Nigeria is the 7th most populous nation in the world (over 160 million) and most populous in Africa - a gold mine of energetic, determined and talented people in each and every field. From Lagos to Aba to Kano, the Nigerian business spirit and desire to succeed is visible. It requires just proper harnessing of these human resources before Nigeria becomes the super power she was meant to be.
v  Nigerians are passionate, friendly, welcoming, hospitable, and well cultured people. The average Nigerian reflects a combination of vivacity, intelligence, energy, talent, and resolution.
v  We are a nation of people that can hardly hide their excitement at seeing family and friends. Some misconstrue this thinking we are loud but let's just say we are EXPRESSIVE! If you see us on the streets of New York making a big ruckus and hugging? No sweat. We are just happy to see each other.

v  The Giant of Africa: Not ignoring the current challenges, eventually, when we get our acts right, we will reign supreme on the global scene. We have the potential and as is much touted by the Warri people - "Naija no dey carry last"
v  The 'survivor-mentality' hard-wired into the DNA of Nigeria's people. The fact that against all the odds (and there are many of them), Nigerians continue to live, hustle and seek to triumph. It is not by mistake that Nigeria is regarded as one of the "happiest" countries in the world, despite its challenging economic and social conditions.
v  We are hardy. The average Nigerian does business under circumstances that are unimaginable to people from other parts. In a place where there is no power, no credit, and scant regulation, people do business and do very well for themselves too. If you can make it in Nigeria, you can make it anywhere in the world.

v  Nigeria is an amazing tourist haven and is home to the Obudu Cattle Ranch, located in Calabar. It is only 45 miles from the Cameroon border. The Obudu Plateau is spread over 40 sq. miles and is 5,200 feet above sea level. The Obudu resort features a Gorilla Camp where tourists may observe gorillas in their natural habitat.
v  Nigeria has two UNESCO world heritage sites, the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa. UNESCO world heritage sites are places designated as being of cultural significance.
v  Nigeria has produced great footballers like Teslim “Thunder” Balogun (the first Nigerian to play for an English Club – QPR), Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Stephen Keshi, Rashidi Yekini (who scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup), Nwankwo Kanu, Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, to mention but a few.
v  Nigeria has excelled in athletics over the years, still holding continental records in the 100m men and women, 4x100m men and women, 400m men and women, among others. Over 100 skilled Nigerian professional footballers played in First Division leagues in different countries all over Europe in the 2010/2011 season, 9 in England; 8 each in Finland, Norway; 10 in Ukraine and 7 in Sweden.

v  Nigerians, despite our diversity are a united people who always strive to help one another. With 774 local government areas, multi religious and ethnic affiliations, 36 States, and population of over 160 million, we still stand undeterred to move forward together.
v  Even outside the country, Nigerians remain united. This gives a quiet assurance somewhat that you can get on a plane and go to any country of the world and find a Nigerian there who will not only make you feel welcome but will go out of their way to be of really good help. I have experienced this several times on my travels and each time it amazes me how all I need to be is a Nigerian, not Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa and once I run into another Nigerian, I will immediately feel at home.
v  Our greatest strength lies in our diversity.

The ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ Campaign is in partnership with ‘The 419Positive Project’.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Esiebo’s Alter Gogo goes to Photoquai 2011

Grandmothers playing football 
Nigerian photographer Andrew Esiebo will exhibit his work body of work Alter Gogo, a diptych portrait series featuring grandmothers who play football with the Gogo Getters Football Club in Orange Farm, a large township in South Africa at PHOTOQUAI 2011, in Paris, France. The exhibition starts on September 13 and will end on November 11. Esiebo’s Alter Gogo also offers an alternative image of African women. Quite often in the mainstream imagination, African women are located in the sphere of "tradition". For them, playing the football has become a passport to a better life, giving the women social relevance in their community, as well as better health. Playing football is their solution to many social and physiological problems like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and alcohol addiction.

Esiebo explores life on and off-field for grannies

Created in 2007 by the Musée du quai Branly and dedicated to non-Western photography, the 3rd edition of the PHOTOQUAI biennial exhibition of world images takes place on the quays of the Seine alongside the Musée du quai Branly, extending for the first time into the museum garden. This third edition of PHOTOQUAI presents nearly 400 works by 46 contemporary photographers from 29 countries: South Africa, Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iraq, Belarus, Russia, China, South Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan, Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia, Brazil.

For more photos visit his site

Monday, July 11, 2011

Social media as a tool for social change

Saturday July 9, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young students at the Obafemi Awolowo University who are members of the Young and Emerging Leaders Initiative (YELI) on the need to use social media to positively engage their communities and spheres of influence. In my talk I made reference to the impact of social networks in the events of the Arab Spring and how it helped in the monitoring of Nigeria’s elections in 2011.
I thereafter challenged the group of eager young people to create blogs, Twitter handles and Facebook pages in order to bring attention to social ills in their community and environment. I told them how messages on social media platforms can be used to galvanize public opinion among young people and what they can do to begin making use of the mobile internet platforms that they have, to engage their circle of friends positively.

I’m glad to write that the message was received enthusiastically and with time I hope that these young Nigerians will see themselves as change makers and begin to ask tough questions. I asked them to ask, why? Why do things have to be the way they are, why can’t things be better? I believe the best way to begin change is to ask, why?  It is the questioning mind that gets answers.

I concluded by saying this: “One thing that has to be understood is that social media in itself does not make change. It is the person behind the computer, the lady holding the Blackberry, the young man hooking up to YouTube that makes change happen. It is from your mind that change happens from where it is transferred to your network. It is in your mind first where the yearning for change begins. It is what you feed your mind with that will feed your social network. Let change begin from your mind and let us transform our community and our nation with it. It is the only way we can hold everyone to account for the enormous trust we put in them.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What is the problem with GTBank?

So TELL did an article painting the real picture of the problem with Nigeria's best loved bank the Guaranty Trust Bank, GTBank. And it touched nerves. Why not? It's the truth. The customers of the bank, I am one, are suffering.

There are increasingly long queues at their banking halls and branches all over Lagos. Even their ATMs are always crowded.

When I opened an account with them in 2008, it was like heaven. You entered into the smiling cosy space of any branch and you were properly served with utmost courtesy. Today, all that is no more.

Longer queues make smaller number of staff members weary with work. The smiles have disappeared. The magic is gone. It has become like in the old days when going to the bank was like a deadly chore.

I remember at Ile Ife in 2000 when my friend Akinyele would receive money from home in minutes at the Chartered Bank branch only to go and queue for 30minutes to deposit it in his First Bank account. It was his way of saving for rainy days as the thought of even going to withdraw from the bank was enough to drive one crazy. That was then.

Today's GTBank is now competing with the murderous services we had back in the day. A bank that was synonymous with excellence is now teetering on the brink of incapability.

Many have said it is a result of management problems. Apparently, their hands-on boss Tayo Aderinokun is said to have slumped recently and is in bad health in a hospital outside the country. Aderinokun it was who built the reputation that the bank has today.

But must the corporate image of the company suffer annihilation because of his ill health?

Recently the bank has been trying to reach out to customers through Twitter. Several apologies have been sent through their social network handle in order to assure customers that they're feeling our pains. GTBank needs to make things better otherwise they'll begin to lose customers like refugees fleeing Misurata.

I have stopped using their ATM in Ojodu. These days I prefer to slot in my GTBank card at the old First Bank branch that has no hassles. The customer is king, you say? There are many fishes in the ocean o.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fatherhood - Bill Cosby

So I've been reading Bill Cosby's Fatherhood and I feel like I want kids.

Cosby writes: "Poets have said the reason to have children is to give yourself immortality; and I must admit I did ask God to give me a son because I wanted someone to carry on the family name. Well, God did just that and I now confess that there have been times when I've told my son not to reveal who he is. 'You make up a name, just don't tell anybody who you are.'

Yes, having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act two people in love can commit".
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Social Media- Sowanbe Awards 2011

Think you are social media savvy? Then the Sowanbe Awards might just be for you. Sowambe, the pan-African social media lifestyle brand will recognize and celebrate the best social media adopters, talents, celebs, brands, professionals as well as social web platforms in Nigeria. The Awards has about 25 categories and will allow participants to nominate and vote online for a period of one month for their favourites, based on a clear understanding and good judgment on activities in the social web.

Best Social Media Personality
Best Social Media Celebrity
Best Social Media Blogger
Best Social Media Politician
Best Social Media Site
Best Social Media Activist
Best Social Media Designer
Best Social Media Thinker
Best Use of Twitter
Best Use of Facebook
Best Use of YouTube
Best Social Media Community
Best Social Media On-Air Personality (TV/Radio)
Best Social Media Newspaper
Best Social Media Startup
Best Social Media Jobs Platform
Best Social Networking Site
Best Social Media TV/Radio Station
Best Micro-Blogging Platform
Best Social Aggregation Tool
Best Ad Campaign on YouTube
Best Ad Campaign on Facebook

Timelines: Nomination Period: February 1 to February 10.

Voting Period: February 15 to February 28.

Winners will be announced on March 1.

For interested sponsors and partners, kindly email info (at) or visit

You can follow @sowambe on Twitter.

For more details, please visit


Loy Okezie

Tolu Iroye: The Kid With The Magic Box

Tolu Iroye, 27, dropped out of school after his O’Levels due to his family’s inability to continue paying his fees. The electronic designer did not allow his lack of further schooling to limit his future. He has created what he calls the Magic Box, a device that allows its user to switch off electrical appliances in their home or office from a mobile phone. A video demonstration of this technology at the magazine’s premises recently struck one with awe.
Tolu Iroye receiving his award for best use of technology at The Future Awards

The Magic Box began as an idea to create a non-line of sight remote control that would work for his TV set without him being in the room. “I’m motivated by the need to create solutions to problems,” Iroye said. And so he began work with components that he sourced from the Alaba Electronics Market. It took about one year to complete the Magic Box, an equipment that allows one to switch off any electronic device in the home or office with a phone call from anywhere in the world. The user makes a phone call to a sim card located in the Box which gives a voice prompt that offers options to the caller on how to switch on or off their TV, power generator and light metre through a micro-controller. 

Iroye’s recent victory in The Future Award’s best use of technology category brought out the life story of the brilliant techie which began many years ago. As a child, Iroye’s curiosity got the better of him and the quiet albeit stubborn kid loved to look at pictures in science books. Even though he could not read them, his older siblings took out time to explain the concepts to him. At age six years old, Iroye built his first invention, a cell battery using ground charcoal, a disposed carbon rod, a tin of milk, lime water, grass and herbs all picked from the neighbourhood rubbish mound.

Amused by his resourcefulness and sometimes-destructive streak - Iroye would tear apart the family’s transistor radio looking for the magical voice that came out of it - but his parents left him to explore.  He left many an electronic gadget in their Festac, Lagos apartment in tatters. From out of these he built new stuff. It was the beginning of his inventor’s journey. 

At age 10, he built a battery-powered toy car from his heap of scrap. At 12 Tolu began purchasing scraps from friends with his pocket money. While the other boys at school spent their lunch money on hiring bicycles, he used his to purchase equipment for constructing homemade antennas that neighbours bought  to enable them unscramble signals from the Cabletel satellite channel. “I still don’t know how to ride a bicycle,” Iroye joked.

More was to follow. He created a land telephone network that enabled him to communicate free with friends in their apartment block. An audio transmitter followed and then a voltage stabiliser to help the family adjust the low voltage they were supplied by the power company when they moved to Badagry. This was all before he turned 14.
Iroye's Magic Box
Constrained by an environment that stifles creativity, Iroye has taken to selling his inventions across the border in Cotonou, Benin Republic where he is hoping to gain a foothold soon enough. “This is the least of my inventions,” he says of the Magic Box. “There’s more to come in the future.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Future Awards Journalist of the Year Is Tolu Ogunlesi

Next's Tolu Ogunlesi emerged as the journalist of the year at the Future Awards on Sunday night.
The Future Awards journalist of the year winner Tolu Ogunlesi. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi
It crowned an eventful year for Tolu who has been a shining light for young people in the profession.
For the ten of us who were all nominated in that category, it was a recognition of our efforts. In an industry that doesn't usually celebrate its own, being celebrated by young peers is a really good thing.

Tolu was the winner on the night but journalism was the big winner because the work of all the nominees means that the future of our trade is brighter than what many detractors would admit.

I have known Tolu for more than two years and I've been an admirer of his wit. He has become synonymous with the power of youth, the voice of a new generation, the future of Nigeria.

Our industry shall not die with young men and women like Tolu Ogunlesi, Toyosi Ogunseye, Yinka Ibukun, Lolade Adewuyi, Kemi Ajumobi, Segun Adeoye, Nicholas Ibekwe, Latasha Ngwube, Arukaino Umukoro, Chilee Agunanna etc, young people who are in the forefront of credible and intelligent journalism in Nigeria.

They are the future.
L-r: The Future Awards journalist of the year nominees Arukaino Umukoro, Yinka Ibukun, Lolade Adewuyi, Kemi Ajumobi and Chilee Agunanna at the Nominees Party

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Social Media Revolution

The fall of the Tunisian government is the first in a long list of tyrannical regimes waiting to be toppled by frustrated citizens and social media-inspired activists.

It took the death of an unemployed 26 year-old graduate in Tunisia for the country’s repressed population to stand up to evict old tyrant Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from the country. The frustrated youth of Tunisia were, however, helped in their anger by social media tools as they organised and massed while evading the watchful eye of the regime’s secret police. In those hot times, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube came in handy. The #Sidibouzid hashtag was all that one needed to follow the revolution in Tunis when all the king’s cookies came crumbling down. And like a dog beaten in a fight, Ben Ali took flight. The first successful revolution by social media to topple an Arab regime was solidified.

Apparently taking note, Egyptians, Algerians, Yemenis and other sit tight Arab leaders have begun to receive a bashing from their own citizens who have taken to the streets in protest. In Cairo last week, Egyptians massed on the streets protesting against the three decades old government of President Hosni Mubarak. Protesters chanted and marched as police fired tear gas into their midst. Even as the Egyptian authorities tried in vain to stifle the use of social media tools like the Tunisians did, demonstrators were able to find a way round it to organise groups to meet. The world as we know it is changing and the impact of social media more than ever before will be felt in countries around the world, for good or for bad. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goodluck Jonathan Is PDP Winner But Sarah Jubril The International Star

President Goodluck Jonathan emerged the winner of the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party held in Abuja, Nigeria last night.

He defeated his main opponent former vice president Atiku Abubakar by a whopping 2,736 votes to Atiku’s 805. 

However, it was the lone vote scored by Sarah Jubril that became a hot internet topic projecting the four-time aspirant into fame on Twitter. Since yesterday, Jubril has become a trending topic on the social networking site.

Figure out how tough it is to be a trending topic that is mainly something a few music stars, footballers and celebrity types achieve in their lifetime. 

But the politician who has failed for the umpteenth time in her bid to become president of the world’s largest Black nation has now found success online. Talk about greatness coming out of misfortune, Sarah Jubril has become one of the most famous Nigerians on the net. No longer will people exclaim Sarah who? 

Sarah Jubril has become a celebrity and is the biggest winner on the night not Goodluck Jonathan who has another battle to fight in April. 

Can we get an autograph Sarah?