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November 29, 2005

Man of the Year 2005

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- It’s nearing that time of the year, when major news networks and organisations select their man of the year, woman of the year, person of the year and any other appropriate title as dictated by political correctness. They roll out the drums and pour out accolades to honour these men and women who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields, also people who have impacted one way or the other the life of their people are considered.

Media organisations usually base their selection on what they claim is the readers’ or audience’s choice, and the final choice is attributed to the results of a poll conducted by the media organisation, who however do not tell their audience that the choice was actually decided over the telephone by the powers that be. For this reason Osama Bin Laden controversially lost out to being selected the Times person of the year in 2001.
Because those at the top felt his own kind of influence was negative, despite the fact that he had clearly led in the polls.

As is the case with such honours, controversies normally trail them, just like the one that trailed Adolf Hitler’s selection in 1938. This is to be expected, because an angel in Bangladesh may be considered a butcher in Togo. That is the beauty of the human race.

I didn’t need to look very far to find my man of the year for 2005. His citation is already obvious to every Nigerian; for keeping many journalists in their job, and many writers busy, by constantly generating news, more than enough to fuel the rumour mills, since his ordeal began, the expression - slow news day vanished from most newsrooms.

His reputation has spread beyond our borders. He is a perfect role model for us all, having distinguished himself in his trade. He is a very wealthy and courageous man, a master of the art of deception. He is a modern day Houdini and the champion of the rights of his people. He has also shown himself to be the Idi Amin of our time, not only because of his weight and size but also because of the way he has taken on the mighty British Empire and beaten them in their game, even in their own backyards.

Not even the combined forces of M16, M15 and the London Metropolitan Police could hold him captive; neither could the tough talking corruption Czar, Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC scare him away from his beloved fatherland.

This man is a true survivor and many serving and future governors have a lot to learn from him, he does not back down from fights, he has the capacity to take on OBJ and his federal might and still come out on top. He has shown that even Aso Rock can not touch people like him. He has exposed power.

He is able to slip in and out of national borders without detection, a great attribute for a modern day warrior and hero. Once inside a private jet, he has the ability of evading radar. He is now back in his island and tuff, where his people need him. Every leader worth the millions in his bank account (local or foreign) knows that he has to be where his people are, the place where he can best put his resources to best use, away from the prying eyes of the neo-colonialists.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, forget about Isaac Adaka Boro, move over Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, please put your hands together and give it up for the mighty Ijaw hero, Governor Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieseghe of Bayelsa State, my man of the year for 2005.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer.

Posted by Administrator at 07:11 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2005

Where is our National Pride: Bill Clinton and Abuja Airport

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- President Bill Clinton I have nothing against William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States of America and the Damansani Ushaffa (title for someone who has distinguished himself intellectually and contributed to the welfare of his people, given to him during his visit to Ushaffa village in Nigeria), if anything; i admire his zest, ageless youth, intelligence and rhetorical abilities.

My perception of him while he was at the White House though, was that of a showman who had lost his way and suddenly found himself at the White House, a lady killer and charmer. It must have been during the short days of John Francis Kennedy that Americans last saw a youthful and an exuberant Commander-In-Chief.

However, beneath the façade, when we peel off the flamboyance, boyish looks and sweet rhymes, what will history and Americans remember him for? Did he leave any tangible legacy behind?

From our small vantage position in Nigeria, we would indeed struggle to point out anything his 8 years at the White House did for Nigeria and Nigerians, but for the entertainment value provided by Billy Boy’s trial for that infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern, and all the media frenzy that surrounded his star performance at the hands of Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor. His trial was the next best thing after the O.J Simpson murder trial, and helped to keep the rumour mills alive, The trial also helped to keep many beer parlours and restaurants in Lagos and in other parts of Nigeria in business, as pundits debated and argued over Billy Boy’s guilt or innocence over bottles of odeku and mortars of isi-ewu (goat head), pepper-soup, nkwobi and other local delicacies.

Bill Clinton’s administration was generally regarded as the one that favoured African-Americans the most since the country’s independence, he appointed many African-Americans into key governmental positions, most notably retaining Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his eventual resignation, and also appointing his son, Michael Powell as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was also during Bill Clinton’s government that Ron Brown served as Secretary of Commerce until his tragic death in a plane crash in 1996.

Bill Clinton will also be remembered as the first American President to make an extended visit to Africa, his millennial visit to Nigeria in 2000 may therefore be the reason why the Nigerian government has named the road leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja Bill Clinton Drive. This ‘eye service’ gesture is typical of past governments in Nigeria irrespective of the tier.

At this stage of our national life, when Sign Announcing  Bill Clinton Drivethe federal government through the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation is attempting to whip up our lost sense of patriotism and national pride, which have sunken so low as a result of our distrust of our governments, its officials and structures due to our past experiences, as their policies seem to work against Nigerians rather than for Nigerians, what better way and time to start this Nigeria Aware sentiments, than now by reclaiming some of our national landmarks which have since been auctioned off to individuals whose contributions to our national development and well being are questionable.

Bill Clinton may have shown his ‘blackness’ by setting up his post-presidential office in Harlem, New York. He may have also done this and that for Americans and African-Americans but my folks in the village in Enugwu-Ukwu don’t seem to have benefited in any way from his government, likewise other Nigerians in the rural areas.

Though his administration sponsored and passed the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) into law, it would be another couple of years before Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and his Commission for Africa team will influence the process of debt cancellation for Africa’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), of which Nigeria is one. So in a way, Nigerians and Africans in general have benefited more from Mr. Blair than from Mr. Clinton but then we haven’t rushed to rename national monuments and landmarks after the British Prime Minister.

If Abuja is Nigeria’s capital and gateway city, what sort of impression does the government think that visitors arriving in Abuja by air would have when they leave the international airport and drive through Bill Clinton drive on their way through Lugbe to the Abuja capital territory?

The road leading to the airport

There is absolutely no reason for hoisting Bill The road leading to Abuja AirportClinton on our national psyche, because roads, avenues, streets and other such city landmarks are usually used to honour heroes and people who have truly distinguished themselves and impacted on the lives of the local people. If the government wants to honour Bill Clinton by naming a road after him, they should choose any other street in Abuja, but not this symbolic road that leads to our national airport.

It would be unimaginable for America or any other western country to name the road leading to their capital and national airport after Olusegun Obasanjo or any other Nigerian leader who may have paid a state visit to the town in the past.

We should have some sense of pride and stop selling our selves so cheap to the outside world. Charity must now begin at home, especially now that we want to re-brand Nigeria.

If the government lacks worthy names to use in replacing Bill Clinton drive, they should go to Ikene in Ogun State, where I am sure the ghost of Tai Solarin may be willing also to suggest the name of Pa Michael Imodu, both national heroes, friends of the poor, the down trodden and Nigerian people in their days.

This matter is really of national importance and should be investigated or looked into by the National Assembly. It is surprising that the honourable members frequently pass through the stretch of road on their way to and from the airport, but have never found it odd, that such a strategic and symbolic gateway is named after Billy boy, a foreigner.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and branding scholar.

Posted by Administrator at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2005

To Professor Akpan with Thanks

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- I still believe that our encounter with Prof. Emmanuel David Akpan was pre-destined, that God had placed him at the University of Uyo to bless us with his wisdom, and to give hope and pride back to us. I remember vividly our first lectures with him, in the Communication Arts studio it must have been.

How he started by running Prof. Emmanuel David Akpanus through his undergraduate days at the San Francisco State University, he wanted to let the class see that he had also been through life’s journey and that we could really achieve whatever we wanted to achieve.

He may not have known it then, but his regular pre-lesson pep talks did help keep our feet on the ground, having journeyed through our teenage years at the mercy of the almighty Joint Admissions & Matriculation Board (JAMB), some of us came to Uyo as frustrated students, because Unilag, OAU (then Unife), UNN, UI and all the other ‘Ivy League’ universities in Nigeria had seemed out of reach.

He made us all to appreciate the Uniuyo (then Unicross) that we had, and encouraged us to work hard and excel, that way we would help to raise the profile of the University. He narrated how he had to leave his lecturing jobs first at UNN, and then Unical to come to ‘obscure’ Unicross to help found the Communication Arts department. Teachers like him don’t come any more in dozens; he was a true communication scholar, alongside the other communication scholars of his generation, the likes of Prof. Frank Okwu Ugboajah, Prof. Onuora Nwuneli, Prof. Solomon Unoh and Prof Ikechukwu Nwosu. If there was ever a Nigerian version of, I am sure that the praises of the many students, whose lives he touched will easily fill the columns.

He was one of the old school teachers; he believed in what he was doing, and had so much joy in helping his students come through, he believed so much in the future, the future of his students. For this reason, all through our 4 year degree programme, he never sold, nor caused to be sold any handouts in his name, a practice that was prevalent at the time.

Though he was a professor, but that didn’t affect his teaching style, he still regarded himself as a teacher, I remember the lecture we had with him on the topic synergy, he couldn’t have explained the concept any better with his pot of soup and ingredients example. I used to marvel at the fluidity of his thoughts, and the simplicity of the examples he used, tapping from everyday things to explain difficult concepts. He did not revel in academic jargons or big grammar, something the academic world is known for.

This was obviously as a result of his simple nature, attired usually in native adire clothes, he was always reachable, we didn’t need any protocols to see him, he didn’t mind our stopping him on the sidewalks and discussing any issues. I remember also how he wouldn’t be dragged into some of the university politics at the time, especially over the deanship of the faculty of arts (a position he eventually occupied) and the ASUU/Babangida/Jubril Aminu crises; one of his expressions then was ‘let me quietly go about my business’.

He couldn’t understand the madness and irrationality of what was going on at the time. Injustice inflicted on man by man.

It was from him that we learnt about and experienced positive marking, he judged the students more on their potentials, he recognised that students sometimes have their bad days, and so may not perform well in tests, quizzes and exams. This was at a time that most lecturers took pride in branding students as failures, never-do-wells, olodos etc. These types of lectures took joy in failing students, they had no issues in awarding a zero out of ten marks for a student’s effort, and then would throw in the icing by drawing in human eyes, and a big smile inside the zero. For these lecturers, such tactics opened opportunities for them to prey on female students or to engage in sorting.

I have carefully preserved this particular test script which he marked in my first year; his comments on my performance couldn’t have come at a better time, he had asked us to explain what we understood by the phrase; man can not, not communicate, having spent half of the time, scratching my head, and looking up to the heavens for help and inspiration, I was surprised at the six marks I scored out of a maximum ten marks, but still more surprised at his encouraging comments; I could see some hope in you, keep it up, he wrote.

Most of our teachers thrive in a culture of condemnation, praise is not anywhere in their dictionaries, not Prof. Akpan. Janet Jackson, the American R & B singer once confessed in an interview that despite her success, she was still hunted by her high school teacher’s comments; the teacher had repeatedly told her that she would never amount to anything in her life. What a difference Professor Akpan’s positive approach made in our lives.

Though it’s now 10 years since he passed on, I want to thank him and to tell him that I enjoyed being his student, he is indeed one of the best teachers that I ever had. His many students scattered all over the world are indeed flying the flag of their Alma matter and proudly carrying the torch lighted by him and the others.

Now that I have also become an academic, I draw lots of inspiration from his style, I assess the students based on what is there, rather than looking for what is not there, this is something several teachers, lecturers or what ever name they prefer to be called these days should seriously consider, especially this one lecturer I once had who seemed to have a penchant for terrorising students, imagine telling me on the first day of his course lectures that no matter how hard I tried, that I wasn’t going to pass the course.

Hopefully, one day all Prof. Akpan’s past students would be able to pay a more befitting tribute to this great teacher.

In memory of the late Professor Emmanuel David Akpan (Etok Emman) 1938 - 1995

Uche Nworah studied Communication Arts at the University of Uyo.

Posted by Administrator at 01:35 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2005

A Life in our Short Days: In loving memory of the Bellview 117 and Mrs. Stella Obasanjo

by Uche Nworah (London, England) ---

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne (1572-1631)

This morning, I woke up as usual and knelt down and prayed. Uche (my wife) was still sleeping and so I made my way to the bathroom, finished my business in there and went into the kitchen. Breakfast as usual, halfway through she met me in there and we discussed our plans for the day.

After we had both jointly prayed our common prayer of agreement, I kissed her goodbye and left for work. My car was still parked in its normal place, inside everything was just as I had left it the previous night and I drove to work. Down the road, I saw a few of the regulars and early risers making their way to the bus stop and tube station, it was a typical October morning in London and the rest of the city slept on.

I could imagine the bus conductors in Lagos at this hour calling on their early morning passengers, Oshodi o! Oshodi o! Oshodi oke o! Oshodi o! enter with your sense (change) o! conductor no get sense o! or Festac-21-last bus stop! For those going in the opposite direction. I wondered what the conversations inside the buses will be at this time, and the different takes of the average Nigerian about the weekend’s events.

Back in London, traffic had already began to build up at the Blackwell tunnel, fathers and mothers, boys and girls going to work, I spotted some school kids at the back of some of the cars. Having mastered the trick of crossing the tunnel in record time, I deftly manoeuvred to the right lane and cruised on slowly. By 8 am I was already at work, no week day routines broken as yet.

I checked my emails and read the newspapers online, still more comments and analysis about Stella and the Bellview 117. I quickly put together my stuffs and waited for the 9 a.m bunch, a teacher’s job is never done, I had prepared that morning’s lectures the previous night and I was ready. At 10.30 a.m, the students went for their 15 minutes break, deserved or not, oblivious of death and the events in Marbella (Spain) and Lisa (Ogun state). By 12.30 noon my first class was finished, it was time to unpack my lunch, the leftover from last night’s rice and chicken stew. After lunch, I called my wife and checked up on her. This was my morning.

Alex, my Kenyan colleague, an avid observer of Nigerian events tried to engage me in banter, but my sullen mood didn’t encourage him. By 2.30 p.m, I was back in class for the last lap, teacher and students tested each other’s temperament and patience for the next two hours, some of them didn’t want to be there, I didn’t ask them to be there but the system has brought us together, we contend and tolerate each other till the end, some had reached the tube station by the time I had finished sharing out the homework, who cares? This was my afternoon.

By the time I got to Room A29, they were already seated, the head of the faculty, and the programme managers, plus the other lecturers, ‘Uche where have you been they asked’? I mumbled a few words and quietly sat down; it was meeting time again. They took turns and droned on but my mind was far, and my mood low. Finally we all trooped out, happy that we had survived yet another day at work. ‘See you all tomorrow’ rented the air as we each grabbed our coats and made a mad rush for the car park to begin another journey home, over the thoughts of home, sweet home.

A friend called me from far away America, a new - breed Nigerian politician, we discussed the weekend’s events, and the futility of life, and of wealth acquisition, deep inside we were afraid. After dinner, I talked some more with my wife and watched some sitcom re-runs on television, as a new Friends convert and fan courtesy of my wife, I found the Joey, Ross and Phoebe characters interesting, Joey is like me, we both love food, Ross is like most men I know, always embroiled with women issues and Phoebe brings out the child in all of us. I would have loved though to be watching football on Sky sports, but everything for love.

Afterwards we watched our other favourites, FBI Files and Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) on the discovery channel and then sleep beckoned. We prayed and thanked God for life, we also remembered the dead.

And that was my day, and yours?

In loving memory of the Bellview 117 and Mrs Stella Obasanjo.

Posted by Administrator at 04:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2005

The 2005 MBNG UK Pageant

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- It was a night of fun, thrills and laughs at Kensington Town Hall, in the swanky South West area of London in early October when 11 Nigerian women took each other to the wire in a bid to become the maiden Most Beautiful Nigerian Girl in the UK.

MBNG-UK, Evening wear ParadeThe event which was in aid of HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Nigeria also featured live performances from budding Nigerians artistes such as Natives, Naturals and Johnnie N’doe amongst others.

The wave making and award – winning comedian Julius Agwu compeered and the London audience were treated to the many hilarious jokes which have made him a household name in Nigeria.

Speaking after the show, the event organiser Lawrence Akhidenor of LD Productions thanked all the contestants and their families, as well as guests and sponsors and promised even a much better outing in 2006. According to him:

these set of contestants are the best I have worked with, I am quite grateful to our numerous sponsors as well as to all the guests, I must say that for an inaugural event we quite exceeded our own expectations, this indeed is a positive sign although we have also learnt a few lessons, which will help our planning for next year.

MBNG-UK, Flanked by Runners up and Ms. Ghana, UKAsked if the MBNG pageant was a break-away from the long running Miss Nigeria UK pageant which he had coordinated in the past with Prince De-Martins Ojie (publisher of Celebration magazine) in honour of Prince De-Martins’ late daughter (Natasha), he replied in the negative. He said that he set up the pageant in aid of HIV/AIDS awareness and also because the Miss Nigeria UK pageant wasn’t really accommodating the interests of all Nigerian women in the UK who had aspirations of becoming beauty queens. According to him,

there are always room for variety in the pageant industry as shown by the Miss world, Miss Universe and Miss Earth pageants.

The interesting aspect of the 2005 MBNG UK pageant is the quality and profile of the contestants, most of whom are currently pursuing undergraduate and graduate level studies at different UK universities, this is against the popular misconception that beauty pageant contestants are usually women with not so impressive backgrounds. According to Amenze (one of the organisers of the Miss Pearl beauty pageant),

The Agbani Darego factor changed all that misconception in Nigeria, especially with all the fame and fortune she attracted to her self and her family, families now encourage their daughters to go for it, beauty and brains now go together.

Liz, her partner couldn’t agree more, according to her

The same way parents now encourage their sons to become professional footballers, following in the footsteps of the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, so also do they encourage their daughters to take up careers in modelling, acting, fashion and so on – mainly as a result of the fame and fortune people like Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola, Oluchi Onweagba and Agbani Darego have earned.

Contestants at this year’s MBNG UK pageant were Rosemary Ijeoma Belonwu (22, medical student at Cambridge University), Gbemisola Animashaun (18, Pharmacy student at the University of Kingston), Omotola Olabowale (20,Business student at the University of Greenwich), Evelyn Omoregie (21, Human Resources Management student at Middlesex University), Adetola Alimi (22, Masters student majoring in Marketing), Adeola Bamigbade-Adele (23, MA Social science student at the University of Brunel), Abiola Adelaye (22, Economics and Management major at Middlesex University), Lara Olubanjo (21, Business systems student at the University of Luton), Annette Onaolapo (21, medical student at Kings College), Nkem Dike (22, has a Masters in International politics from Birmingham University), and Eseoghene Ebihor (23, a financial accountant).

Miss Eseoghene Ebihor: Most Beautiful Nigerian Girl UK 2005The contestants appeared in traditional and evening gowns courtesy of star designer Adebayo Jones, while a previously recorded swimsuit parade was shown on the large screen. They each took turns to answer questions from the event compeer, and also enumerated their plans if they eventually won the contest which attracted a first prize of £1,000 and also modelling contracts with Arista cosmetics and Regal Beauty (sole distributors of Dark & Lovely products in the UK). To their credit, the contestants showed very high level of maturity and poise, and also thrilled the audience with a well orchestrated and choreographed dance routine, evidence of lots of preparation and hard work.

In the end, the judges announced 23 year – old Miss Eseoghene Ebihor as the Most Beautiful Nigerian Girl in the United Kingdom (MBNG UK) 2005, Omotola Olabowale and Lara Olubanjo were judged 1st and 2nd runners-up respectively. Not surprisingly as in most beauty pageants, the judges’ decision attracted jeers and boos from the crowd, who had rooted all night for Cambridge medical student, Miss Rosemary Ijeoma Belonwu.

David Pryde who accompanied Miss Ghana UK (Naana Agyei-Ampadu) to the event said it was a good outing and was worth the £25 he paid for the ticket, ‘I’m already looking forward to next year’s event’, he said.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

Posted by Administrator at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

The King and his Mighty Libido

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- King Mswati III of SwazilandThe story of the mighty libido King Mswati 111 of Swaziland may just be the last evidence we need to show that maybe we are being a bit too harsh on our leaders in Nigeria, you know who they are, the ones that lord it over us, the ones of which we are supposed to say how high your Excellency whenever they say jump!

Our supposed leaders come in different shapes and sizes, they also come with different tastes, expectations and fantasies as regards their choice of women ranging from ikebe, lekpa, American specs, European specs, double- action, sweet sixteen, Big mama etc, some of them though, in all fairness have remained in the ‘past’, staying loyal to their wives and ensuring that their trousers or shokoto remain zipped or roped up always. But for the rest of them, they may have finally found their match in the 37 year old King Mswati 111 who is only still married to 13 wives, not any where near his late father’s 70 wives record.

For some of our profligate Mswati's Women - 1leaders the king may just be their most influential role model yet, and to think that my late grand father Nze Nkaonadi Nworah Okeke who only managed a ‘lowly’ and ‘pitiable’ 3 wives went about town like a warrior and conqueror when his mates were marrying tens of wives, i wonder what he would have said if he was here today to hear the king’s story.

The brother rules over Swaziland, a poor and impoverished land in Southern Africa with a population of about 1.1 million, his people live mostly on huts and survive on just the equivalent of 50 American cents a day but that is the least of his worries. He appears bent on breaking both his father’s and King Solomon’s record of the King with the most concubines and wives. He is surely on his way though. Still in his 30s, he already has 2 fiancées, 13 wives and has ‘only’ managed to father 23 children till date.

Now I understand why majority of Germans were angry with Mswati's Women - 2Americans during the Monica Lewinsky affair, they couldn’t understand the fuss over Monica, cowboy Bill and his famous cigar. Such malfeasance in Germany is actually a way of life and a positive sign of manhood, a man like Bill Clinton in Germany will be applauded and given a loud ovation, a sure sign that men are still alive and that the feminization of man that Rudolf Okonkwo wrote about is yet to show up on their shores.

In Germany Bill would have been considered a saint, especially when you consider that Gerhard Schroeder (their former Chancellor) is currently trialling his fourth marriage with Doris Kopf. To the average German, all that Bill did wrong was to stay married to one woman – Hillary plus that ‘one off’ indulgence with Monica, an act that is not anywhere near the heroics of the true greats.

Anyway, back to the great one of Swaziland. As a man, Just be honest, do you envy him? Would you wish to swap places with him for a day? Especially during the occasion of the annual reed dance when over 20,000 young virgins and maidens strut out half-naked in the village square and expose their goods and wares to the king, pleading, waiting and hoping to be selected as wife number X.

Surely the king is Mswati's Women - 3stretching his customer (or is it suitor?) rights to the limits, inspecting the goods first before buying.

I am still surprised though that in all their foreign travels, none of our leaders have yet been reported to have visited Swaziland. They chose rather to hunt and fish in local and nearby colleges and universities and also in London and America where their several mistresses get paid to look after government treasury on their behalf, although with the recent happenings and plights of the likes of Joshua Dariye of Plateau state, and D.S.P Alamieyeseigha (I hope I got the spelling right), London and America may no longer be ideal for such executive past times. If only King Mswati 111 knew of the affinity he has with some of our leaders, and the passion they share together, I am sure he would be glad to have willing allies in them.

After seeing the photos from the annual kingly wife selection event, it would be interesting to see if any of our leaders would undertake to visit the king as special guests of honour (a privilege our excellencies cherish so much), if tomorrow the king extends any such invitations to them and they indeed accept, at least you know why they have accepted the invitations.

The king apparently is a smart man, already thinking of the chastity of his future wives, just like his late father King Sobhuza 11, he once banned teenage sex in his country, a ban which he broke and eventually revoked when he married a 17 year old school girl and paid a fine of a cow as a result, some people have life easy you may say.

This ban, a protectionist policy and measure Mswati's Women - 4was borne not out of love for his country nor to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS which currently afflict over 40% of his kinsmen and women, but rather to ensure that no other man touches the young girls, as any of them could still potentially be one of his wives in the future.

I still think that Nigerians should be ashamed of themselves for their criticisms of our leaders and their ways, especially with women. We are being unfair to them because they haven’t even gone any where near a third of King Mswati’s bootylicious exploits yet, the king and his country do not have the type of resources that our leaders have at their disposals and see how many women the king controls, this means that our leaders deserve more, they are not yet up there in the rankings, if they were, Jonathan Elendu and Omoyele Sowore would have longed exposed the brand and quantity of condoms they use per week (if any) , as well as the names and addresses of the shops where they are bought. Do we still require any further evidence to show that our leaders are still playing in the minor league?

We should just leave them alone to indulge before they change their minds and go into exile to Swaziland where their soul mate is beckoning, and then we won’t benefit anymore from their great leadership and wisdom. Such a situation will definitely cause great uproar and turmoil in the land, especially amongst the female folks (the beneficiaries of government contracts and other pecks from the largesse of our leaders’ kindness).

We don’t want to put these women out of work and then swell the ranks of the unemployed in our land, do we?

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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October 12, 2005

T-Mobile and The Nigerian Call Barring

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- Should T-Mobile, the leading telecommunications firm continue to ignore the desires of over 2 million current and potential customers, and neglect a long established customer base and relationship?

No one really knows the origin of this relationship, between Nigerians living in the UK and T-Mobile, (the German telecommunication network). But obviously the relationship can be traced back to the 90s when possessing a mobile phone (a newly introduced toy at the time) was generally regarded as a social and status symbol.

During this period, T-Mobile hadn’t yet taken over One 2 One in the £8.4 billion deal, the network which at the time offered different deals to customers including the popular and over-subscribed deal which offered customers unlimited free evening and weekend calls to One 2 One numbers as well as UK land lines.

It wasn’t like Nigerians sat down at a place, had a meeting and agreed to adopt T-Mobile (then One 2 One) as their choice network, the consequent choice and adoption of the network may probably have been as a result of the deals which the network offered at the time, deals which were considered to be value for money, and well worth the low monthly subscription fees, and which were also considered to be better than what the other telephone networks at the time were offering for example O2 (formerly BT Cellnet), Vodafone, Orange and Virgin.

And so most Nigerians living in the UK owned either a T-Mobile pay – as- you- go or contract SIM card. Even those who had other SIM cards and numbers from the other networks still maintained T-Mobile numbers for cheaper and more convenient reach with friends and family within the Nigerian community in the UK.

This relationship continued and thrived for a long time, Nigerians continued to make calls from their T-Mobile phones both to Nigeria and to other parts of the world, until the network felt that the relationship was now tilting more in the favour of the Nigerian customers, and they pulled the plug on Nigerian customers and started barring all calls to Nigeria from T-mobile networks.

What really went wrong?

The story (though unconfirmed by the networks when the customer services department was contacted for clarification) is that Nigerian customers were abusing the credit line offered to contract customers, as they made calls and accumulated huge bills which sometimes ran into thousands of pounds, they also wouldn’t pay the bills, it has also been suggested that some of the Nigerian customers at the time would rent out their phones to family and friends and charge them for trunk calls to Nigeria and other parts of the world, when the bills arrive, they abandon the lines and take up new phone lines and contracts. Allegedly, this practice was sustained because of the ease with which some of the Nigerian customers were able to set up new identities and bank accounts (prerequisites for obtaining the contract lines) using falsified or fake documents.

Over a long period, as this problem became incessant and began to eat deeply into the network’s profits, One 2 One/T-Mobile conducted an internal investigation which revealed Nigeria as the destination country of most of the trunk calls made from telephone lines with questionable usage patterns and unpaid accumulated bills. Obviously the warning and threat letters from the networks to the customers asking them to settle their outstanding bills were returned back to the networks as undeliverable, probably as a result of the inexistence of either such addresses or the customers at the given addresses.

As a result of the huge financial loses of this scam to the network, especially when you consider the fact that the unofficial figures of Nigerians living in the UK is currently estimated at around 2 million, as well as the percentage of this number that may have been involved in the scam, the network then had no other choice than to implement the blanket policy of baring all calls to Nigeria the One 2 One/T-Mobile network, Pakistan is another country in this category of countries with barred calls from T-Mobile’s UK network.

This policy does however seem like an extreme fraud prevention measure, one that penalises millions of other genuine Nigerian T-Mobile customers.

As a result of this policy which is still in place today, Nigerians now feel that the network is singling them out and enforcing a punitive policy against them, this they claim amounts to discrimination against a particular market segment, especially one with huge numbers and potentials. Some Nigerian customers also say that the network has not really exhibited corporate maturity in their approach to dealing with the issue; they believe that the network could have used other measures to curtail the abuse.

Despite the inconvenience which this policy is causing Nigerian customers, they still remain loyal to the network by maintaining their T-mobile numbers, this though may not be borne anymore by their love for the network, other networks including 3 now offer almost similar and sometimes better deals than T-Mobile, which seem to be losing grounds to the competition in the area of product offerings and customer rewards, an area that T-Mobile once dominated and used as a key competitive strategy.

T-Mobile’s decision to bar calls to Nigeria from its network has meant that Nigerians now carry 2 or more handsets, The T-mobile line is still used predominantly in the evenings and weekends when the network’s free unlimited calls offer kick in, other networks which are now popular amongst Nigerians are Vodafone and O2, which are used mainly to send and receive text messages to and from Nigeria.

Despite the barring of calls to Nigeria from the T-Mobile network in the UK, why is T-Mobile still the primary choice network amongst Nigerians?

Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with heavy immigrant populations, it is easy to spread the word to new arrivals on the telephone networks of choice and their various uses, and so new arrivals are easily indoctrinated into the ‘free evening and weekend calls’ philosophy, what that means for them is that if they want friends and family to easily and freely call them, then they would have to get a T-Mobile number, if they don’t then they may as well remain in their own ‘island’ or ‘world’, without much contacts to other Nigerians, and therefore with limited access to information that may help them with jobs and in ‘settling in’.

But considering the rising competition in the UK telecommunication market, as well as the evolving of stricter ways of conducting credit checks, it may be better for T-Mobile to review its Nigerian policy and open their network to Nigerian calls once again.

Agreed, there have been issues in the past but they can not continue to ignore this huge market segment, which their competitors are actively exploiting, especially now that there are new technologies they can deplore to detect and check customer call excesses.

If T-Mobile opens their network to Nigerian calls, they would be fulfilling the desires of their customers, a key factor in strategic customer service which T-Mobile claim that their business and success is hinged and built upon.

Should this call barring continue, Nigerian T-Mobile customers in the UK may consider constituting themselves into a strong consumer advocacy group and take their case to the UK Competition Commission or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to challenge this discriminatory policy from the telecom giant, an early and amicable solution from the network is more desirable to a class action suit situation which may be costly for the network, and may also impact negatively on their brand image and values.

Uche Nworah is a T-Mobile customer and also a branding and advertising lecturer at the London Metropolitan University.

Posted by Administrator at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2005

This Beautiful Land of our Birth

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- This country has birthed us though hope it may not have given us all. As we look around and count each passing day, we sometimes feel that things should indeed be better, that it should be well with us. We can’t but ask why we have to be the way we are, and live the way we do in the midst of abundance, why 45 years after we stopped paying obeisance to the Queen and her people, we are not yet any where near our promised land.

As we search for answers from the depths of our souls, we are confronted rather with more complex questions, but then, it is in such complexity that we thrive as a people, surviving many crises and a war. We are indeed a persistent people. We are also a proud people, though we are cowed at the moment, though our heads are bowed to the side at the moment but we shall not surrender, we will not give up. We march on until we arrive at the elevated platform and count ourselves amongst the world’s great nations, the place that our God want us to be. Only then shall we as a people shout out aloud, in unison to proclaim the greatness in all of us.

As I wait for that one day, I decided to take a tour of our country, along the line I met some of our great men and women but who have since passed on adorning our walls. I was greeted on the way by the smiles of Queen Amina of Zaria hanging on a frame, that warrior who have inspired the modern day Nigeria woman, Funmilayo Ransome – Kuti, and Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji also belong to that elite specie of women.

Nnamdi Azikiwe is also amongst the greats, and so is Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa, the triumvirate’s exploits contributed to the independence we enjoy today.

Though our history is now chequered and tainted by our past, a period of great turmoil and military dictatorship, but then even in the midst of dryness, hope sprang up in Murtala Mohamed and Tunde Idiagbon, short lived were their times and tenure as is all good tidings and things that have come our way, but the memories of their dream and agenda for our nation we still cherish.

And still we trudge on in expectation, mixed with anxiety of what tomorrow may bring, here and now we are but our hope lies there where we ought to be.

Along my journey Rashidi Yekini also smiled at me, and so did Jay-Jay Okocha, I saw Mary Onyali – Omagbemi spring past, fast on her heels were Fatima Yusuf and Chioma Ajunwa, the rest I couldn’t quite see but I was sure that I already knew their names and so do we all, their huge footsteps in the sands of time are visible never to be obliterated by the roaring oceans. I wished I could be like them, Nigeria is lucky to have them, may God bless the fruits of their works. I wondered what it is I could do for my country; John Fitzgerald Kennedy once challenged Americans to rise up and think only for country and not for self. The glory then may lie in the common good, in sacrifice and in self-belief. Oh my generation!

I witnessed the Eyo masquerade festival in Lagos, Aha! Lagos, the town of the strong and brave hearted, I saw multitudes of people waiting at the bus stops for molue and danfo buses which were all over the place, and I marvelled at the skills which Lagosians have perfected as they alight and board the busses; this life, this Lagos, this Nigeria. Fela was right, inside the molue buses, 44 sat and 99 stood, and yet they all had smiles on their faces, hope?

As the sun beat down on me, I considered going to Eko, Ereko, Alpha or Bar beach to cool off, I smiled aloud, mother nature had indeed blessed this land.

I woke up and found myself in Abuja, in my dreams I had passed through Jos and its many hills, but Zuma Rock stood like the rock of Gibraltar and beckoned, welcome to Abuja it seem to be saying, Nigeria’s unity town. Though I wished I could stay longer, but Abuja I had to leave, I wanted to be with my people, I remembered Frank Olize and his common men, with them I wanted to be.

I have heard so much about Argungu in Kebbi and there I decided to visit, I saw many fishermen and their catches, they rejoiced in their fishing festival just like other Nigerians do during their various festivals, the joy and pride of our people.

As I toured Nigeria’s towns and villages, the beautiful vista, green vegetation and vast farmlands consumed me, the sheer generosity of mother nature engulfed me, fortune lies in wait I thought. Kids greeted me along the way; I saw in their faces the future, a new Nigeria just like Obianuju Arinze, Agbani Darego and Oluchi Onweagba have demonstrated.

At Awka, I saw children playing in the village square; they seemed to be acting a play, with perfect improvisation. Their dreams seemed tall, I knew that Nollywood will live forever, when the sun sets on Ejike Asiegbu, Eucharia Anunobi, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Kunle Bamtefa and on Genevieve Nnaji, there would be no cause for alarm, the future is already here, on our streets. Only that I wished that they would receive the type of support that Sophie Okonedo, Sade Adu and Nas received, the world stage would then be theirs.

The next morning, I woke up and read Wole Soyinka’s Trials of Brother Jero once again, searching for clues and answers to our troubled past and present, I made a note to read Jero’s Metamorphosis too. I was trying to establish a connection between a troubled past and a glorious future. I also remembered our heroes past and present, I prayed that their labours may not be in vain: Dele Giwa, Chinua Achebe, Philip Emeagwali, Akeem Olajuwon, Pa Michael Imodu, M.K.O Abiola, Tai Solarin and all the rest of them.

Again sunset, peace and quite surround me, the moon shine brightly and the crickets sing in the dark. I lie down and close my eyes and my dreams carried me away.

And so I woke up and wondered; Nigeria, what is it to me? the country of my birth? the land of limitless opportunities flowing with oil and natural minerals? a land of 419ers, fraudsters and corrupt politicians? a land of sports men and women? a land of the great lakes and rivers? a land of the mighty warriors, kings and queens with age-long traditions? the land of a people with the great smiles and spirits? a land with the great divisions - east, west, north and south? or the land with an economy waiting to be pillaged and plundered? I should find my own answers, you too.

Nigeria my country, buried deep in my soul, dwelling in the heart of Africa, a beautiful land, a hard working people, a virgin country, great and mighty yet she will be.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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September 21, 2005

The Long Cold Winter Again

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- London’s long drawn summer is gradually coming to an end, this eventual transition to the cold winter months will obviously evoke certain feelings amongst folks living in London, most especially Nigerians and other African immigrants who may have grown up in the sunshine continent. These feelings may be those of nostalgia, despair, loneliness and even satisfaction, yes, satisfaction! Especially for those of us that have recently done the 1 +1 = 1 equation, so at least there is a nightly assurance of a second pair of feet to warm one’s cold set under the quilt. This ‘no shaking’ feeling is one that brothers and sisters have long yearned for.

Along the way, they may have adopted several strategies, and consulted many oracles and pastors, but then for many still waiting to exhale, this coming winter will be another cold and bitter reminder of the futility of self endeavour in searching for a life partner, wife or husband. It may lead to the re-awakening in the subconscious of the need for a total surrender to the Almighty and for His will to be done.

The spirit of the cold season has also made me to reflect on my brother, Sabella Abidde’s many writings. In his In search of a wife piece, he narrates the story of the four women in his life (Annabelle, Ebierere, Mikoyanna and Fatima), and the joys (sorrows, any?) they all give him. He appears to have his hands full I would say, and seem content with the juggling act, ride on brother!

But something deep inside tells me that this may be another example of men behaving badly, just like we all did in our days of ‘ignorance’. There are some risks, or danger in ticking women off, as if on a shopping list, we can’t expect to eat our cake and still hope to find it later in the fridge. Sabella after stating the reasons why none of his four women will make the ultimate wife for him throws in the icing on the cake by saying that, ‘The ability to engage in hallucinogenic sex would be a bonus!’ Well, I am sure there will be lots of women out there who will love to hear this, and who may be interested in being Sabella’s wife, so please, if you are reading this and you know anyone, kindly pass on their details to him, but please just don’t forward the names of any of my friends, sisters or cousins.

This is not personal against Sabella, but from the part of Africa where we are from, there are still some levels of decency and morality left, though they may be remnants. Sabella writes that he has been divorced now for eight years, but I am wondering if maybe he is not already brewing for himself another recipe for disaster if we are to go partly by his expectations from a potential wife, I also wonder how great my brother’s libido will be and how flexible his waist will be in the coming years, when the engines which have been working overtime start to slow down, and he can no longer indulge actively, what will be the fate of the woman then? Meanwhile, I would love to know how these four women thanked Brother Sabella for this ‘kiss and tell’ expose. Did they come back begging for more?

I belong to the old school, such that my sojourn abroad hasn’t taken away my taste for Onubu (bitter leaf soup), the type that my mum cooks with ogiri (a native spice) ede (cocoyam), okporoko (stockfish) and ukwu nama (cow leg), argue it anyway you like but I don’t believe that any male cook anywhere, not even those pretenders and regular winners of Maggi national cooking competitions in Nigeria can cook bitter leaf soup better than an Igbo woman, and so I wasn’t ever in doubt where my wife was going to come from. And so when I read my brother Sabella’s other piece titled why do African men go home to marry?, I not only chuckled but also wondered aloud if maybe Brother Sabella is not slowly carving a niche for himself as an authority and avid writer on issues relating to Nigerian wives, husbands and marriages. This assumption is supported by Sabella’s other writings, for example Nigerian men and their foreign wives, The problem with African men and The problem with single African women. I honestly don’t think that my brother, Sabella is doing himself any favours amongst Nigeria’s many singletons; he appears to be seriously on their case; rightly or wrongly.

In response to Sabella’s question of why brothers go back home to marry, well, I can only say that it may be in conformity with their plans for the future, some of us don’t particularly want to retire in Europe and America, if we all do, then who will drink those freshly tapped palm wine in our villages?.

I believe in the law of natural selection, that like attracts like, my friend Precious Osuala would argue that water will always find its level, As I understand it, there are advantages, and disadvantages of marrying a Nigerian wife or an Oyibo wife, but it is just about a question of choosing the lesser ‘evil’ (apologies to the women). Some of us saw the light a long time ago, how our relatives that studied in Europe and America in the 50s and 60s came back to Nigeria with their degrees and foreign wives, most of these women have since gone back to their countries, and the men? Well, the brave ones have since re-married while the rest are still walking about with sullen and sunken faces, plus the broken hearts, this obviously is not the situation that one wants to find himself when the sun sets.

This is not to say that I have got issues with mixed race marriages, for me, it is a
question of who wills, then let him. Just like my younger brother Charles did, but then
wait till you hear about this incident which happened recently.

It was his daughter’s first birthday anniversary, a thing of joy normally in traditional
African families. My brother had planned a small party on behalf of his lovely
daughter and had invited family and friends. I went along as big brother and uncle
with my wife, and also with a few friends I had invited on my own. My sister
Chinyere had laboured all day to prepare pepper soup, fried and jollof rice, plus other
Delicacies for the party. The party was billed for 5 pm but we all got there for 6 pm,
which by our own ‘African time’ standard was still early.

Halfway into the party, just when we were about to pounce on the different
orishirishi on offer, we received a marching order from my brother’s wife to leave the
house, yes, all of us were commanded to leave, else the metropolitan police will be
summoned. Now, I still didn’t know what pained me the most, the insult? Or the food
that I couldn’t eat?. Any way, we took it in our stride and left knowing that we had
visited what had happened upon ourselves, The Igbos have a proverb which says that
the man who gathers ant infested firewood also throws an open invitation for the
lizards to come out and feast.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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September 15, 2005

Katrina and Nigeria’s Image

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- Nigeria is currently in the process of re-branding her image, the Nigerian government has given the Federal Ministry of Information the task of doing that, and have also empowered the ministry with an initial sum of N600 million ($4 million) to execute the project.

In their traditional civil service wisdom, the Ministry have been going about the implementation of the project (formerly the Nigeria Image project, but now renamed the Heart of Africa project) the best way they can. Till date, one can easily count on his or her fingers what the project coordinators have done so far. A professional branding agency (Alder Consulting) has been engaged, although it is not yet clear what brief the consultancy received, what targets were set and how they actually intend to re-brand Nigeria and make it an investor’s paradise.

The branding consultancy recently published what it called 10 Facts about the Heart of Africa project in Nigeria’s major newspapers; it has also produced an informational CD about the project, a logo has also been designed.

Obviously, the advertisement about Nigeria currently showing on CNN is part of the project implementation; it does not seem however that the branding consultancy in question, owned by Leke Adler has anything to do with the advertisement in question. Why do I think so? Well, my experience in the Nigerian advertising industry tells me that Alder Consulting can do much better, unless they have succumbed to a higher authority and have endorsed the scheduling of the embarrassing ads in CNN, if that is the case, then the agency is seriously putting the reputation it has built for itself in danger.

I have read quite a few uncomplimentary things about the CNN advertisements as well; the Nigerian Guardian newspaper editorial of Sunday, September 11, 2005 qualified it as a theatrical portrayal of Nigeria, a gaudy advert and a cacophony of incongruence.

Several other writers and observers have also written about the heartbeat advertisements which are fast turning into a debacle and farce for Nigeria on CNN, Eziuche Ubani in his This Day opinion column of August 18th 2005 asks the question Who did this to Nigeria?, he quotes a presidency source to state that the CNN advertisements are costing Nigeria about N130 million ($1 million). Any surprise? Not really, the only surprise will be if there will be anything left of the N600 million Heart of Africa project budget before the end of the year. The big question remains what Nigeria and Nigerians have gained so far, from the CNN media campaign. Not minding what the Federal Ministry of Information will claim and the figures/statistics they will eventually cook up to justify the money spent so far, Nigeria is not any different from what it is before the campaign started, our image is also not any whiter, cleaner or better from the embarrassing CNN advertisements. We haven’t yet put our house in order, so as to leverage on any mileage we may gain from a well orchestrated international media campaign.

Have the ad minds in Alder Consulting compromised themselves in all these? Well, that will depend on if they had solely written the script which President Olusegun Obasanjo acted out in the CNN advertisements, the gist however is that the agency’s original concept and script was doctored by those ‘gatekeepers’ at Aso Rock, the boot lickers who thought they were doing the president and Nigerians a favour by suggesting that he appeared in the commercials, in the mould of a GQ model to issue a most unwelcome message in his usual tone of voice and thick accent, with the president’s ‘welcome to Nigeria’ testimonial, you now begin to wonder where the Agbani Daregos, Oluchi Onweagbas, Femi Okes, Akeem Olajuwons, Jay-Jay Okochas, Philip Emeagwalis, Shirley Basseys, Sophie Okonedos, Sade Adus and the Emeka Okafors are, all successful Nigerians with strong international and recognisable faces. Has the Federal Ministry of Information and Alder Consulting tried reaching out to these people to enlist them as they originally proposed? We don’t know.

What has Hurricane Katrina got to do with Nigeria’s image? A lot I will say, especially if you consider that economic diplomacy has been the main focus of President Obasanjo’s government. How did they not think of getting in on the donors list right from the beginning? What are the names of poor countries like Latvia, Cuba, Honduras etc doing on the list when that of the self-styled giant and heartbeat of Africa (Nigeria) is not on the list, where are the proceeds from Nigeria’s excess crude oil sales? That obviously would have come in handy here, what were those economic think - tanks, and diplomatic egg-heads doing? Didn’t they know that a token contribution into the Hurricane Katrina fund will gain Nigeria some great mileage, today and forever? That each time donors list are mentioned or read, that Nigeria’s name will be well represented? What is Nigeria doing, when its contemporary – Venezuela is donating 1 million barrels of gasoline, $5 million in cash, water purification plants, canned food and water.

Whatever happened to the phrase, be your bother’s keeper? What if Nigeria was to suffer one major disaster (yes, it is possible), where does it think that help will come from? Or does the government not know that Nigeria is also a risk country? Signs abound all over the country; there is the Lagos bar-beach problem, with the constant overflows and flooding of surrounding Victoria Island areas, also there are the different oil producing communities whose resources are being depleted and their environment polluted, classic examples of ecological disasters waiting to happen, so what if something major and serious happens in Nigeria? Will Nigeria cry out to America for assistance? Will America be condemned by Nigeria if it doesn’t respond?

Nigeria obviously has got a lot to learn from Slovenia, yes, Slovenia. The country which used to be regarded as part of the former Yugoslavia was generally regarded by outsiders as backward; they have however, within a short time turned around their image, uniquely positioning themselves as a sought-after destination for investment in Eastern Europe. How did they do it? They listened to the advice of branding consultants and stopped boasting about their achievements – through advertisements and public relations – and started to pursue policies that would demonstrate their success in a more tangible way, so what else did Slovenia do? They began behaving like a wealthy country by giving aid to other parts of the old Yugoslavia, this attracted for them lots of positive, and free media coverage, thus gaining them lots of image mileage which they would never have been prepared to pay for. In nation branding, paid-for media advertisements are just like throwing money away. Simon Anholt, a man who knows more about this area and one of the world’s leading experts in nation branding advises that countries like Nigeria should pursue ‘policy-based branding’ just like Slovenia, according to him, ‘people have strong prejudices about places, the only way you are going to change that is to prove to them that they are wrong. You have to do stuff’ he concludes. And that (doing stuffs) for sure, Nigeria is not doing with these CNN advertisements when it could easily have gotten in on the bandwagon with the Katrina fund. To quote Gary Silverman of the Financial Times, ‘Good works could be good fun and the rest of the world would be spared another tedious round of governmental bragging, countries, states and regions have been doing that forever’.

Hopefully the new man in charge at the Federal Ministry of Information, Mr. Frank Nweke and the appointed brand consultants, Alder will try and do the right thing.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and branding scholar, he teaches advertising at the London Metropolitan University.

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September 08, 2005

The Rot in Aba: An Eye-Witness Account

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- Eziuche Ubani, the former media adviser to Ghali Umar Na-Abba (former speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives) writes a well read back page column every Friday in This Day newspaper, just like me, Mr Ubani is an ‘Aba brought up’ (ABU), a term people born in Aba, the Enyimba (Elephant) city proudly use to describe themselves.

We take so much pride in the ABU label as compared to, for instance the ‘Ajebota’ (softie) label normally ascribed to people born in Enugu or any other town where life was supposed to be rosy and beautiful. Although my folks are from Anambra state, but having lived all our lives in Aba - Abia state, it is natural for us to also claim Abia as our state. This logic is sustained by the fact that if for instance I had been born in America or in the United Kingdom, I would have claimed their citizenship by birth.

Ordinarily we ABUs take so much pride in our town, perhaps the song ‘I’m a survivor’ by the female R ‘n’ B group, Destiny Child best describes the indefatigable and ‘never say never’ spirit of people ‘born and bred’ in Aba. This obviously may stem from the fact that despite our not- so -‘ajebotaish’ upbringing, we always strive hard to overcome the challenges of our immediate environment and make something out of our lives. Hence, proudly we can name some famous Nigerians who are also ABUs. This also includes the Governor of Abia state, Chief (Dr.) Orji Uzor Kalu, the main subject of this piece.

As an ABU and a concerned one at that, Eziuche Ubani wrote an article on the 22nd of July in his weekly Friday column titled ‘The meltdown in Abia.’ With that article, Mr Ubani confirmed once again the saying that the pen (or is it the keyboard?) may indeed be mightier than the sword. His indictment of the Orji Kalu administration over the ‘meltdown in Abia state’ has indeed left some of the governor’s many special advisers and consultants panting for breath, and licking their wounds like wounded dogs. Since the article was published, I have at least identified 3 individuals who have tried to douse the fire raised by Mr. Ubani’s article in their different capacities as either media adviser, special assistant on media and information to the executive governor, or as secretary of the parastatal responsible for the clearing of the rubbish in Aba, the problem which is at the crux of this whole matter.

The first of the governor’s ‘executive foot soldiers’ to come to the governor’s rescue was Victor Onochie, Abia state Executive Secretary on Environmental Sanitation. Mr Onochie obviously was quite pricked by the truthfulness of Mr Ubani’s article, especially as regards the environmental and sanitary situation in Aba, the job that Mr Onochie was appointed to do but which apparently was not being done, like a man about to be drowned; Victor Onochie quickly wrote a rejoinder titled Abia: The curse of political liliputs & eunuchs. Expectedly, Mr onochie’s ‘white-wash article’ was granted audience in the Sunday Sun, a tabloid which belongs to the governor. In his article, not only did Mr Onochie fail to address the main issues raised by Mr Ubani, which is to explain why Aba, the commercial city and Abia state’s only revenue generating cash cow was being buried in filth and rubbish, and also explain for example why a journey from Alaoji junction, through Port Harcourt road to the Aba main motor park, a journey that in normal circumstances shouldn’t take 20 minutes has now become a journey through hell lasting hours if at all, a most difficult if not impossible journey, as a result of acute traffic caused by gashing pot-holes and mountains of rubbish lining the road.

The gridlock at Crystal Park Avenue/Port Harcourt road junction is routine.

In his poorly executed response, and attempt to discredit Mr Ubani, Mr Onochie decided to toe the line of least resistance, the road widely travelled, he resorted to subtle propaganda and name calling by alleging that Mr Ubani’s beef with Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was as a result of the governor’s refusal to support Eziuche Ubani’s political ambitions during the 2003 general elections. In Victor Onochie’s own words;

What else do you expect of a failed candidate who is not worth more than 100 votes in a general election? Yes, that is all Ubani polled in the 2003 elections when he contested the primaries for house of reps seat in Abia.

However, I submit that Mr Ubani’s article is consistent with what I saw when I visited Aba in July 2005 and took these pictures. I feel sorry for Victor Onochie and sorrier for the governor who appointed him, obviously Mr Onochie is not competent, and he owes the governor a huge explanation as to why he let things get to the level they have gotten in Aba. Maybe someone needs to read his job specifications and descriptions to him once again, the fancy title of his position not withstanding, broken down, Mr Onochie’s job is to ‘carry dirty’ and he is not doing that at the moment as these pictures show.

Mountain of rubbish at Uratta Road/Port Harcourt road.

Is this Port Harcourt road or Rubbish road?

Bonfire of the vanities? Heaps of rubbish along Asa road, opposite C.K.C Aba.

The same old story, view of Asa road from inside a taxi. Rubbish everywhere.

Another of the governor’s many advisers is Onuoha Udeala, the special assistant to the governor on media matters, Mr. Udeala seemed to have arrived late to the party, his response came almost 3 weeks after the damage had been done, and how did he try to justify his position? As usual, he wrote a rejoinder in the Sun newspaper (where else?); this also appeared in their online edition. In his write-up, he started by stating that ‘Governor Orji kalu and the government of Abia state are not averse to criticisms.’ In continuation he said that ‘We encourage constructive criticisms since they enable us bring about a desirable change in policies and programmes.’

Now if the above statement is true, isn’t it what Eziuche Ubani did in his article? Again, just like Victor Onochie before him, Mr Udeala failed to address the issues raised by Mr Ubani; he rather used the opportunity to outline the governor’s numerous ‘achievements’, the way he went on about them, I was quite surprised that Mr Udeala even found enough space in his article to enumerate all of them. Unlike Mr Onochie, he didn’t call Mr Ubani names directly but rather tasked him

To use his column to alert the federal government on the deplorable state of federal roads in Abia state, particularly in Aba… He should use his contact with those in authority to appeal to the federal Government to release to abia N3 billion bond, approved by the Nigeria stock exchange for over three years now.

Port Harcourt road, typical of Aba roads, water-logged and pot holed, sorrows everywhere for Aba residents

Ngwa road by Asa/Port Harcourt road junction is no longer passable; hence ‘Okada’ motorcycles have taken over.

Another of the trio is Iyke Ekeoma, I am sure we have seen him somewhere before, if I am right, it must have been during the Ogbonnaya Onu administration in Abia state or during the administration of one of the military administrators in the state when he performed the same media advisory role. In all these, I haven’t yet read any sequel from Mr Ekeoma although he has made some pronouncements in the state owned Abia Broadcasting Corporation on behalf of the governor, but then thinking about this now, I am wondering if maybe the governor does not have one too many media advisers. But looking at the way both have handled the gathering storm generated by Ubani’s article, one need not be a soothsayer to see that they have really not done a lot for the governor, unless maybe they are short of good counter evidence to present to Abians and the Nigerian people. As the elders say ‘it is difficult to conceal pregnancy’ and reality bites.

As you may know, Governor Orji Uzor kalu wants to be the President of Nigeria in 2007, if you ask me, there is nothing wrong with his having such ambitions, as a matter of fact it is nice to see an ABU having such ambitions but the governor should know better. Didn’t they say that charity begins at home? Well, his hordes of advisers should have told him that the measure Nigerian people will use to judge him will be his achievements in his backyard.

Agreed the Governor started well during his first term, when there were efforts at urbanisation and road construction hence his being called the ‘action governor’ by President Olusegun Obasanjo, this was when the going was good between the two, although I am not so sure if the president would not now be thinking that he may have praised the Governor a bit too soon. 4 or 5 years later, it is difficult to believe that this is the same Aba that witnessed all those ‘road constructions’ by Elite Constructions Company, a company rumoured to also belong to Governor Kalu.

Jinx maker or Jinx breaker? A billboard at Nicholas Avenue/Umungasi junction announces the Governor’s presidential ambition and calling him the manager Nigeria needs.

Who is to blame for the fast rate of ‘wear and tear’ of Aba roads? It is important to remember that prior to Orji Uzor Kalu’s 1999/2000 road construction efforts, almost all the roads enjoyed by Aba residents had been built in the early 80s by the late governor of Imo state, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe (Dee Sam), the roads then were built by Monier Construction Company (MCC) and they really lasted several years until Governor Orji Uzor Kalu’s attempt. That being the case, maybe Elite Constructions Company has some questions to answer to the tax payers over the quality of materials they used in Aba roads.

As ABUs, are we being unfair in our critiscms of one of our own? I don’t think so. We are only complaining because we know that things can be better, especially in Aba, the town that generates the most revenues in the state, a town that is famous even beyond Africa for the level of enterprise of its people, one of whom is the governor himself, whose SLOK empire actually started in Aba. We hate to see Aba, our beloved town underachieving and not realising its potentials.

Let us leave the Federal road/state road dichotomy aside, there are some governors who have taken on the challenge and have gone ahead to rehabilitate federal roads in their state, the same can still be done in Abia. What about the rubbish? What about the Chairmen of Aba’s two Local Government Authorities? (Aba North and Aba South), Whose primary responsibilities also include road rehabilitation and refuse collection? This is another sad tale as well.

Probably as a result of the ‘non-attractiveness’ of the positions of local government chairmen in the government hierarchy, the media in Nigeria may have in the past brushed past them to blame only state and federal governments when things are not working right, but then aren’t LGAs created to bring government closer to the people? They are definitely not doing this, it is indeed a wonder what they do with their monthly allocations, but the state governor can not also escape the blame, because he is the Chief executive of the state, the buck stops right at his desk.

Sadly, Aba people have never been blessed with any reputable and hard working local government chairman, as far back as I can remember, we have always been saddled with journeymen, trespassers who only come into Aba town hall to raid and loot her treasury, at some point there was Chief Ngozi Anyaehie who only came to the office with his buddies to play cards or poker with high money stakes.

Tax payers money in action or dividends of democracy? The freshly painted and glistening Aba Town Hall.

During my 1 day visit to Aba in July 2005 (I couldn’t stay a day longer because of the stench in the air and the difficulty in moving around); the only evidence of government or tax payers money in action that I witnessed was the freshly painted Aba Town Hall. What a joke.

So where do we go from here? Well, someone seems to be listening to Eziuche Ubani’s critiscms after all, according to Onuoha Udeala,

In the interim, the government has set up a task force to rid Aba of filth. There are also mobile sanitation courts set up to try offenders of the state environmental law. In fact, Governor Kalu has voiced his disenchantment with indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents who are mainly traders, and has vouched to make Aba one of the cleanest cities in Nigeria.

Well, well, let us wait and see but if you ask me, it’s all gibberish and a load of rubbish.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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August 31, 2005

The Nigerian Media as Scapegoats?

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- Why do I think that this is the season of profession bashing, or better still media bashing? Even from members and non-members of the media constituency. Have things really degenerated to such alarming proportions to warrant the sweeping comments of concerned observers, most especially Seyi Oduyela in his media bashing article The Media in Nigeria 11?

Mr. Oduyela’s essays reminded me of Reuben Abati’s once sweeping condemnation of the teaching profession in his ‘now, now’ syndrome article, a profession that Mr Abati left for journalism which has this time come under Seyi Oduyela’s heavy hammer. In my rejoinder to Mr. Abati’s article, I had argued that teachers are no angels and so should not be expected to carry the heavy burden of salvaging the rot and decay which now characterises the Nigerian nation, especially when the Nigerian society has refused to enable and empower the teachers to do their work and fulfil these societal expectations.

Mr Oduyela seemed pained by his experiences at, and has therefore not minced words in his tirade. But I think that he may have wielded the big stick too heavily, especially when we learnt from our elders that we should ‘never bite the finger that fed/feeds us’. I am sure that in the course of his x number of years relationship with the owners of, there must have been merry and good times, such memories should have tampered his anger and rage. I would wish to recall here Martha Stewart’s plea to the jury during her trial in America, she had told the jury to also remember the good that she had done for America in the past and not just the crime that she was being tried for.

I submit that media and journalism practice in Nigeria is actually alive and well. I was bowled over during my recent visit to Nigeria by the number of titles at the newsstands, the increasing number of FM and TV stations jostling for licences at Ernest Ndukwe’s NCC offices. Considering the prevailing economic environment in Nigeria which is still harsh and hostile, one can only encourage those media houses that are still managing to keep their heads above the waters. To be able to this, they must be doing something nice to keep the interests of the readers who flock the newsstands daily to purchase the titles, the ability to maintain the interests of the readers, viewers or listeners are of course the only reason why advertisers will patronise the media houses.

Things can not be as bad as Mr Oduyela claims, media owners always know that the moment they lose the interests of their audience, they also lose the interest of advertisers and the next natural occurrence will be the natural demise of such titles, the graveyard of Nigerian media is still littered with lots of newspapers and magazines who couldn’t stay the course, most notable is Lawrence Akapa’s Top News, a classic example of how not to take the audience for granted.

The history of the media in Nigeria has always been characterised by two major forms of ownership, those owned by the government (e.g. NTA, OGTV, ABS, Statesman newspaper etc) and those owned by private individuals (The News, Silverbird Television, AIT, The Sun, This Day, BiafraNigeriaWorld etc). These two forms of media ownership are all driven by separate agendas. The government media houses are used mainly as instruments of propaganda for the government while the private media owners are driven by different motives, which could be profit making, agenda setting, to win influence which can later be translated into political and business gains etc. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu in setting up Champion newspapers must have been motivated by the later, just like the late Bashorun M.K.O Abiola and his Concord group of newspapers. Therefore contrary to Seyi Oduyela’s arguments, there is nothing wrong with James Ibori and Orji Kalu setting up newspaper houses, as long as such enterprises are funded from government treasury. Not only do their newspapers contribute to the enlivening of the socio-political debate and providing alternative view points, they also provide jobs to journalists and all other service providers such as vendors, printers and other sundry staff such as cleaners and security staff etc. As a matter of fact, Orji kalu’s The Sun newspaper is being run by media veterans such as Mike Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe of Weekend Concord fame. The duo and their team which include Amanze Obi, Femi Adesina, Louis Odion etc have successfully and in so short a time positioned the paper to be the best selling soft-sell/tabloid newspaper in Nigeria, modelled after The Sun newspaper in the UK, the paper which operates in a niche market has a specialised readership who normally will prefer soft news and human interest stories, to the hard news including government critiscms, which can be found in The Daily Independent, The Guardian, This day and other such broadsheet papers.

Having said this, it becomes a tall order to expect the editors of such privately owned newspapers to turn around and criticise their owners. The late Dele Giwa tried to pull off such a stunt in his days at Concord newspapers when he published a poll of best dressed Nigerians, in the poll his name appeared before that of his boss (Late Bashorun M.K.O Abiola), Abiola did not find this funny and obviously this must have been one of the reasons for Dele Giwa’s eventual ‘disengagement’ from Concord newspapers.

If anything, the Nigerian media is getting more vibrant by the day, Dele Olojede recently proved that Nigerian trained journalists are not rubbish after all; else the Pulitzer Prize committee wouldn’t have so deservedly rewarded him. Baring the lack of adequate resources as expressed by some journalists in the article How the internet is affecting journalism practice in Nigeria, I am proud to say that Nigerian journalists can hold their ground and compete with the best anywhere in the world.

Unfortunately, poor remuneration has led to a situation where journalists look elsewhere for supplementary incomes, some have resorted to demanding for the famous ‘brown envelope’ or according to Seyi Oduyela ‘jostling for appointments, contracts and advertisements’. In the Nigerian environment, there is really nothing wrong with these, except when a conflict of interest arises. As Mr Oduyela rightly points out, some Nigerian journalists earn on the average about N20, 000 – N30, 000 monthly. One would normally expect the media owners to do better than that but sometimes, there is really not a lot the media owners can do, this is as a result of many factors, according to Dan Akpovwa, the publisher of Abuja Inquirer ‘cover prices alone are not enough to cover costs, the advertisers owe media houses and the advertising agencies drag their foot in settling invoices, we can not chase our staff away, the system somehow has to be kept alive, it is better to carry an advertisement and be owed than not to carry at all, it is indeed a tough call on publishers to match the salaries paid in the banking or telecommunication sectors ’.

During a recent visit to the Abuja offices of the Abuja Inquirer to interview the publisher and also to get a feel of the problems regional newspapers face, I got to see first hand the challenges that both newspaper publishers and their staff confront everyday, I came away with the impression that both the publishers and their hard working staff are nothing but miracle workers, for their ability to roll out fresh copies of newspapers daily despite the difficulties they face ranging from scarce or expensive newsprints, power outages, mounting advertisement debts, rising distribution costs etc.

At the Abuja Inquirer offices in August 2005. L-R Uche Nworah, Dan Akpovwa (publisher), Joseph Inokotong (Editor) in orange shirt.

I also think that it is wrong to condemn Nigerian journalists for their aspirations or job offers in government as government spokes persons. Mr Oduyela mentioned a few journalists most notably Nduka Irabor, who at some point was Chief Press Secretary to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu. One would think that such journalists were committing a mortal sin by such acts or career moves, rather than simply seeking to fulfil a basic human need, one of which is self actualisation according to Abraham Maslow.

In the Nigerian media landscape, the natural career progression route for journalists apart from setting up their own media houses is to wander into corporate affairs departments of private corporations such as banks, telecom companies etc, the other option which Mr Oduyela doesn’t like so much is that of accepting positions in government as press secretaries or media spokespersons of government officials, there is still nothing wrong with journalists accepting job offers, especially ones that may improve their living standards, life is too short, also life is not all about criticising and attacking the government of the day. If one gets offered the opportunity to come and contribute to the process of nation building by working for the government, it should not be regarded as a sign of selling out.

However, some of these journalists who have the opportunity to do brief stints as press secretaries almost always come back to the profession that gave them fame, even if not fortune. There are the likes of Greg Obong- Oshotse, former press secretary to Mrs Miriam Babangida who is now the Europe and North America editor of the independent Newspaper, Tony Momoh former editor of the Daily Times and Babangida’s Minister of Information is now a private media consultant. Ruth Benemaisa – Opia went from NTA 9 O’clock news to serve as a Commissioner in Bayelsa, her home state. She is now back at NTA doing what she knows how to do best. Chris Anyanwu also left NTA 9 O’clock news to serve as Commissioner for Information in Imo state, when she left the job she set up The Sunday magazine (TSM); it was her exploits at the TSM that landed her in jail during the Abacha junta.
There is also Sola Omole, another popular NTA 9 O’clock news caster in the 80s; Mr. Omole now heads the corporate affairs division at Chevron Nigeria. Another member of the pack, John Momoh now runs his own television company, Channels. Dan Akpovwa, erstwhile Quality magazine and This Day reporter and later Press secretary to the Minister of Aviation also did stints as the corporate affairs manager of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) before returning to what he describes as his first choice profession as the publisher of the Abuja Inquirer.

On the lighter mood, there are also others, especially women whose media careers have earned them second careers as wives of the rich, famous and the mighty, most notably Jennifer Iwenjuora, Yes, the Jennifer Abubakar, one of Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s many wives. There is also Ronke Ayuba, the wife of General Tanko Ayuba (Rtd.), former military governor of Kaduna state and minister of communications during the Babangida regime and also Folake Doherty, who is now famously married to Wole Soyinka as wife number 3. Chief Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun state and also former managing director of the Daily Times group rode on the back of his journalism career all the way to the Ogun state government house, and so did Honourable Abike Dabiri, the ex – NTA presenter who is now an honourable member of the federal House of Representatives.

There are others whom space won’t permit me to mention, who have done the migration from a career in journalism to careers in government or in the private sector, people should be allowed to make their individual career choices without having to feel guilty or be made to think that they sold out.

It is a natural expectation and occurrence in every profession to trade favours, of course these journalists build up friendships over the years such that sometimes they are expected to suppress or ‘kill’ certain stories especially if such stories will affect the publisher’s advertisers or their friends in government who indirectly pay the bills, such demands though unfortunate are nothing but a basic reality in life, it is the kind of challenge that face working professionals daily, there is usually no textbook answer or solution to it, it is every man to his own conscience, there have been cases of journalists who will not bulge and have chosen the honourable way out by resigning from their jobs. This phenomena is universal, In the UK, newspapers are known to be either pro labour or pro conservatives, also in America, newspapers and media houses are known to either be sympathetic to the democrats or to the republicans, hence their liberal or conservative classifications. They will therefore tend to publish news stories that will only reinforce their political ideologies or those of their owners and their friends/stakeholders. Again, this is a basic expectation in life, for one to know where one’s bread is buttered.

At journalism school at the University of Uyo, I remember Professor Desmond Wilson recounting all the known media theories to us, and how starry eyed we were hoping to come out and change the world, armed with our knowledge of the theories such as the social responsibility theory, development theory, the agenda setting theory etc. However no one ever bothered teaching us the most realistic and practical media theory ever, the one you learn in the field, which is the ‘He who pays the piper, dictates the tune theory’. This unfortunately seems to be theory that the media houses abide by, likewise it is the theory that govern most professions. You can not be eating a man’s dinner and at the same time be insulting him, like they say; those that can not take the heat are best advised to leave the kitchen

Back to Mr Oduyela’s beef with, who ever they may be, the owners of the website definitely have their own agenda, and if they don’t want to publish the people he mentioned in his article including himself anymore, that is their business and choice. I have always believed that a mutual relationship exists between the owners of some of these websites and their many freelance writers, anytime the relationship begins to tilt more in the favour of one party, then it is the time for the party less favoured to move on. I see it as a no-strings-attached affair, since there was no contract signed, either of the parties could take a walk anytime. Mr Oduyela mentioned in his article that the mentioned writers helped build the website, but he failed to mention the ‘gratifications’ the writers were receiving, gratification doesn’t only have to be financial, it could just be the opportunity or platform for one to showcase his or her writings, I have always likened writers to artists and exhibitionists, what is the point of a work of art if there is no platform to exhibit it? This is a two way street for me, the website owner gains, the writers gains, if the website owner gets advertising support in the process, fine. That should compensate him for his time, and investment in technology and other resources. If further down the line something trickles in for the writers financially, better still.

Personally my articles used to appear on and but at some point, the website owners called in time and stopped publishing my articles, I quietly moved on. I don’t think that anybody suffers by no longer publishing his and the articles of the mentioned writers, these Nigerian oriented websites are not really many, its is easy to carry your ardent readers with you, if they want to read you, google is only a click away, where ever you may have berthed next they will find you. I agree with Mr Oduyela that freelance writers commit time and resources in putting together their stories and articles but then, no one has put a gun to our heads to do that, some of us do it for the love of it, as a hobby or just because we may have been journalists in our past careers but still don’t want to completely lose touch with the profession. Some of us enjoy the freedom and independence to write what we like and publish when we like, there is no newsroom pressure or deadlines to meet, as would have been the case if we were contracted writers.

Alternatively, if one feels so aggrieved, there is always the option of setting up one’s own website or media house, just like many journalists have done in the past, but then with that option comes its own problems. But no matter what happens and the options Mr Oduyela decides to consider, the reality is that the show must go on.

Not surprisingly, Taslim Anibaba was the first to rubber stamp Seyi Oduyela’s essay; this is to be expected because Mr Anibaba himself had in the past called the Nigerian press a disaster in an article. I remember commenting on his article that as a chartered accountant, and fellow of the accounting profession for that matter, he should first take off the log in his profession’s eyes before attempting to take off the speck in the eyes of journalists. He may have his issues with the Nigerian press but I still believe in the saying that ‘monkey no fine but him mama still like am’

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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August 25, 2005

Ndigbo and the Kubwa Land Crises

by Uche Nworah (London, UK)--- The Nigerian Senate’s ad hoc committee on the demolition of structures in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) led by Senator Idris Kuta may have submitted its report to the senate, but the last word has not yet been heard from what is now known in the FCT area as the Kubwa land crises.

The Justice Idris Kuta senate ad-hoc committee

The final outcome of the Kubwa crises is very important, because it will affect what happens in the other surrounding satellite towns such as Nyanya, Apo, Lugbe etc with similar ‘illegal’ structures.

With the demolition of what the FCT and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) referred to as ‘illegal structures and structures not in line with the Abuja Master Plan’, pain, anger, dislocation, homelessness, material and financial loses were also visited upon Nigerians who had called Kubwa home and had therefore invested and built in the once dry lands, they must have believed in the claims of the founding architects of Abuja that the town was going to be a land of unity for all Nigerians.

Today, what stands in place of their homes and hopes are ruins, rubbles and shattered dreams, their sources of livelihood and lifelong savings crushed by what they also refer to as ‘El-Rufai’s bulldozers’. This story is more pathetic because in the Nigerian system, there is no social safety net to protect those going through a rough patch, even temporarily. Although the senate panel has recommended that ‘those with 25 years and limitless tenure with genuine particulars should be compensated as they are helping government by investing their money since the government had shirked its responsibilities’. It is still doubtful how the Obasanjo government will respond to the panels’ subtle indictment and recommendations. Part of the panel’s recommendations was that ‘Government should compensate the victims of demolition who had genuine allocation papers and still had their properties demolished’.

As I sat and listened to the tales of woe by the Kubwa residents during a session of the Senate ad hoc committee hearing in July 2005, images of Maroko in Lagos came flooding in, with our kind of system and government, it was difficult to know who to believe anymore. In as much as it is a good thing to have a Master Plan and stick to it, but then what happened in Maroko pointed more to government’s overbearing mentality of demolishing people’s houses, and reclaiming it for the rich who can only afford the multi-million naira asking prices for the reclaimed lands. Maroko in Lagos State has since become Victoria Island Extension, an island of the super- rich and their billion naira corporations, who will ever remain grateful to Nigeria’s one time Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida working in collaboration with Rtd. Colonel Raji Rasaki, the then military governor of Lagos state.

Nze Sunny Ogbu (Right) & other Kubwa landlords at the Senate hearing

Kubwa residents feel betrayed; they believe that the lands thus repossessed will be re-distributed to government officials and their cronies. ‘The whole story coming out of the FCT and FCDA is quite absurd’ says Nze Sunny Ogbu, the Chairman of the Kubwa Landlords Association. ‘We got our land allocations from FCDA and FCT officials, who signed the documents on behalf of the FCDA and FCT, how can they now turn around to say that the allocations were illegal?’

The point made by Kubwa landlords at the Senate hearing was that in the course of the land transactions, they had dealt with only FCT and FCDA officials, and that the positions of authority of such officials erased any doubts of illegitimacy and foul play from their minds and so they should not now be made to pay for the excesses and recklessness of corrupt government officials, some of whom the Senate panel indicted in their report in these words, ‘All FCDA and FCT officials involved in illegal land deals should be sanctioned. Such sanctions should include dismissal and prosecution’.

There is still not yet a wholesale agreement or solution to the Kubwa land crises, because both the FCT, FCDA, the Senate, Kubwa landlords and the other concerned stakeholders are still not singing from the same tune. Ikenna Ogbudibe, an Abuja based Architect and business owner and one of the early settlers in Abuja however thinks that there is some kind of conspiracy going on in Abuja, according to him ‘it is suspicious the way states of origin now form part of the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) registration numbers being issued by the FCT in their current re-certification exercise’, why do they need to know the state of origin of a land owner? This is not done in other states’.

Uche Nworah (Right) and others at the Hearing

Ikenna’s argument and conspiracy theory is currently gaining grounds among mostly the sojourning Igbos who were among the early settlers in Abuja, at a time when Abuja was still a no-man’s land, but now having persevered and made good and invested in lands in properties, they now think that there is a wider plot to break their foothold in the Abuja property market.

For the displaced Kubwa residents, whose houses have not yet fallen under El-Rufai’s bulldozers, they may find some consolation in the recommendations of the senate panel, that ‘some of the structures not in line with the Land Use Per Master Plan should be integrated into the Abuja master plan, provided that the structures have not bastardized the Abuja master plan’ but for those whose houses have already fallen, any such consolatory promises may have come a little too late.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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August 16, 2005

Carnage On Nigerian Roads: An Eye-witness Account

by Uche Nworah --- (London, UK) If you have ever heard the saying that the death of one person diminishes us, then you will truly appreciate its deep meaning after seeing these shocking images, and imagine that it could have been you, your friend, or family member lying under this 40-feet petrol tanker.

For the families of the 16 people that were crushed to death in this accident, no cries will ever ease their pain and no amount of condolences will bring back to life their loved ones, who lost their lives in a most horrific and horrendous manner.

Mangled bodies trapped beneath the truck

Even as they boarded the Mitsubishi L300 passenger bus with registration number: Akwa Ibom XA 554 KTE on the evening of Thursday, the 14th of July 2005, they must have been filled with a sense of joy, that they were finally going home from their different offices and places of work to their families, after another long hard day. Some of them may have dreamed of sitting out in the moonlight with their families for some late family dinner, others may have been looking forward to a forthcoming family or personal event, a wedding or naming ceremony or even to attending church service the coming Sunday.

Uche Nworah surrounded by angry villagers at the scene of the accident.

But all those dreams died, and with them the dream carriers. Their lives cut short by a combination of factors: human error, poor judgement, government maladministration, infrastructural decay and man’s inhumanity to man. Some of the villagers I spoke to blamed the cause of the accident on the driver of the petrol truck belonging to Total Nigeria PLC, who had mistimed an overtaking manoeuvre, others heaped the blame on the Nigerian government for neglecting the pothole – filled Aba/Owerri Express road, saying that if the road, one of the busiest in the eastern part of Nigeria had been dualised as planned, then there would be less risks of accidents.

According to another villager, the accident occurred between 7-8 pm, he said that the driver of the petrol truck which was travelling from Owerri to Aba had tried to avoid a pothole, and had then suddenly swerved to the left, and on to the path of the on-coming mini-bus, which was then already close by, the driver of the mini-bus had then out of desperation swerved sharply into the nearby bushes to avoid a head-on collision with the truck, but for whatever reasons, the driver of the truck lost control of the truck which then climbed on top of the mini-bus crushing all the passengers to death. There were still unconfirmed reports as to the fate of the driver of the truck by the time we arrived the scene, a few metres from the main gates of the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, in Agballa – Owerri, Imo state.

Villagers look on, bewildered and helpless.

Any hopes of rescuing any survivors must have been lost because of the slow pace of response of the largely under - funded and under-equipped ambulance and emergency services, who are not equipped to handle such tragedies and situations, little surprise then, that as at 10 am on Friday, in the morning of the day after the accident, no form of help or assistance had yet arrived the scene.

This is not an isolated case; there is so much death on Nigerian roads, as a result of a combination of the factors I earlier mentioned. This is again one of the many sad tales and tragedies that confront our people everyday, and another example of wasted opportunities in rural Africa.

This is not an isolated case; there is so much death on our roads, as a result of a combination of the factors I earlier mentioned. This is only one of the many sad tales and tragedies that confront our people everyday, and another example of wasted opportunities in rural Africa.

As for the families of the deceased who may have lost their 'bread winners', we can only pray for them, that is the much we can do for now, knowing that the true causes of the accident may never be officially determined, neither will those responsible be brought to justice, nor will they be made to pay any sort of compensation, but as a good corporate citizen, hopefully Total Nigeria Plc will not sweep this under the carpet. A case then for the many non- governmental organisations (NGOs)in Nigeria to pursue to its final conclusion.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

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July 30, 2005

Home for the Holidays: Uche Nworah gets Hitched

by Uche Nworah --- I try to visit Nigeria at least once every year, and so it was with great excitement that I made my way to Heathrow airport on the Friday afternoon, 2 days after the London bombings to catch my Virgin Atlantic flight to Lagos.

Just as I had expected, Heathrow airport was literally on a roll, there were passengers everywhere, and security officers as well, the long queues at the security screening points stretched over a mile long. You could feel a sense of heightened danger, no thanks to the terrorists but like they say, the music must play on and life must go on. When I finally completed the screening process, I still had time on my hands and so I decided to raid the duty free shops for some last minute bargains. This is how I came to meet Claudio, who turned out to be the best perfume salesman I have ever met. If you ever have to travel through Heathrow terminal 3, I suggest that you check Claudio out, especially if you fancy a laugh. You may be wondering what is so special about him, well, I still find it hard to explain but when you consider that his fellow sales assistants (the women in particular) stand in awe and listen to his antics anytime he is charming a customer, you will get the flow of the type of sales person that he is.

Claudio is Italian, and handsome and speaks English with an accent, he is the type of person that can sell ice to an Eskimo, or even charm the birds off the trees, in the course of our banter, I told him that I was going to Nigeria to get married, he later spoke to my fiancée on the phone and convinced her that the Chic perfume by Carolina Herrera was more sensual than Sexy, which she originally wanted. I could then see why Italian men have such a great reputation, as great studs and lovers hence their Italian stallion image. In addition to the perfumes I bought, I left the duty free shop with a beautiful hand woven Victoria Secrets ladies’ handbag, Claudio’s wedding gift to my fiancée.

I slept all through the flight, I had planned to catch a movie or two on the flight but my body just wouldn’t play ball, probably as a result of the sleepless nights I had had to endure in the days leading to my travel, a period that it seemed as if I was doing a million things at the same time. Thank God for his mercies, our flight was quite uneventful, we arrived Lagos on schedule but a little incident at the airport almost deflated our excitement.

The pilot had taxied down to the gangway for passengers to disembark, only to be told that we couldn’t use that particular gangway as it was broken, this was after we had waited a few minutes, and so the pilot announced that he was waiting for a tow truck to tow the plane to another gangway, this was when the mild drama started, the tow truck took ages in coming and by time the pilot’s voice came on again over the PA system, our nerves were already on edge, the pilot announced that the tow truck was in place alright but then had broken down while already latched unto the aircraft, and that he was waiting for another tow truck to come and tow the tow truck that had come to tow the aircraft.

Trust Nigerians, mobile phones started going on and off, and people were almost screaming, memories of the recent Air France cow incident at the Port Harcourt airport were still very fresh on our minds. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the tow truck was towed away making way for another tow truck to tow us to our final disembarking point. You could see that this incident was not Obasanjo’s fault; somebody had failed to do his or her job properly, all I could do was feel sorry for the president and his economic team, whose economic and social reforms programmes are being easily thwarted and undermined by sloppy and mediocre civil servants who are all over the place. This is no best way to say welcome to Nigeria to potential foreign investors, assuming we were.

I spent a couple of hours in Lagos before flying out to Abuja in the afternoon to put finishing touches to my coming wedding. It was in Abuja that I ‘died’ and ‘resurrected’ many times over, if there was anything such as a heart somersault, I experienced it in great measure. As is now required by most churches, couples are now expected to present a HIV/AIDS status certificate, obtained from their own recommended hospitals before they can be wed at the church.

HIV/AIDS is something I read about or thought happened to other people, I have never had to confront the issue in any kind of capacity, but from the moment I submitted a blood sample at the hospital in Abuja for HIV screening, I knew that my life will never be the same again. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life; I felt I was standing on the threshold of life and death, pain and suffering. Several images of the folly of youth rolled past me; I saw faces and heard voices from the past, finally, the chickens were coming home to roost I thought. I recalled my days of living dangerously, and recounted a million names ranging from Ekaette, Ngozi to Bunmi. God, please spare me, I prayed.

How I managed to conceal my anxiety from my fiancée, who had driven me to the hospital, is still a miracle. I tried to be the man, be courageous under fire. We were asked to come the next day to collect the result, this next day turned out to be the longest day of my life; it was as if time had stood still. Finally it was verdict time. I made sure that we were at the hospital on time, as I stepped into the laboratory offices; I felt so frail; my head was bowed to the side. When I handed over my receipt of payment, and demanded for my result, The lab assistant said that there was a small problem, I almost fainted, beads of sweat gathered all over my face, my fiancée asked me if I was alright, and I said yes but she wondered aloud why I was sweating in the cool rainy weather.

What was the problem, then? I enquired, fully convinced that I had not made it, hence her reluctance not to give me my result. She asked us to wait outside for a few minutes, those few minutes wait were the most agonizing minutes of my entire life. I then saw her whispering to a male colleague who she had drafted in to deal with our situation. Finally she called us in, again and then apologized for asking us to come personally to collect the result, she said that the hospital normally sends the results directly to the church. I pleaded with her and told her that I couldn’t stand the agony of waiting anymore; she must have taken pity on me seeing my distraught state. When she handed over the test result, my fiancée was standing beside me, and we both quickly glanced at the paper, all I could see was the O positive sign, which on careful scrutiny was only an indication of my blood group. As we scanned the piece of document which at that time seemed to be holding my life, we quickly came to the section at the bottom where my HIV status was recorded as negative. Saying that I was relieved will be stating the obvious. I was alive again. I now have my second chance. As I looked at my beautiful bride, I wondered what might have been. Right now, I can only say Thank you Jesus.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London. He is now married to Uche Nworah.

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July 23, 2005

Of ‘Hungry’ Politicians and Protesters

by Uche Nworah --- It is that season in the world again, when one theme makes the rounds, and never leaves people’s lips and consciousness. Except for terrorism, he number one chic and buzz word at the moment is poverty; you have to identify with it or be ‘seen’ with it if you want to improve your image or ratings.

Move over Priests, this is the ultimate confession and soul searching therapy; the best way for the rich (nations and individuals) to exorcise their demons and renew their being, black is now the new white. From George Bush, Bob Geldorf, to Missy Elliot, you name them, all the known celebrities in the planet are already on the bandwagon.


Make Poverty History is now one huge global campaign, the symbolic white colour rubber wrist band is the season’s must-have fashion accessory; all other NGOs and charities have since tagged along and have come up with their own replica versions. I am even planning to buy some of these ‘designer’ wrist-band accessories.


But beyond all the euphoria and music as seen in the global Live 8 events, I wonder if some of the people even understand what the real scores are, what poverty is, I mean the type of poverty described in Marie Corelli’s Sorrows of Satan, or maybe we should find consolation in the words of Jesus Christ, that the poor shall inherit the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:20) and also God’s word in Deuteronomy 15:11 that the poor will always be amongst us.


What amazes me the most in all these, is the apparent lack of understanding by some of the ‘poverty campaigners’ of the real issues at stake, in most cases there seems to be a top-down approach to the issue of poverty reduction and alleviation, without the active involvement and to the neglect of the poor themselves, some of whom have been variously described as the downtrodden or the wretched of the earth.


I also wonder sometimes if the various media companies that churn out poverty -related programmes are not perhaps doing Africa and her poor a disservice, there seems to be much emphasis on the negatives out of Africa, without any emphasis on the positives going on around Africa, such media onslaughts if anything leaves further psychological damage and scar on both the victims (the poor) and other Africans, the one-sided commentaries are not the best PR for Africa in her current quest to attract foreign direct investments, they also don’t support the calls by certain African leaders and commentators for the West to promote and encourage free and fair trade rather than the present inclination towards aid. The rich man / poor man theory which breeds an Oliver Twist mentality is therefore still alive and well.


The elusive investors need to see some positives, they need some assurances that there is a local market for their products and services, that there is ready availability and supply of skilled labour, that there are at least some form of infrastructure to support local operations. Somehow, Africans seem to be playing into the hands of the vile tastes and motives of the western media, but we should at least know when our intentions and purposes are being best served.


We should be entering a new era of positively reporting and projecting what’s also good about us, this is not to say that we should white-wash and cover up our inefficiencies but we should approach and thread cautiously, a balance and a conscience is needed right now so that 10 years from today, poverty in Africa may no longer be a favourite and pitiable topic around dinner tables in the west, as a result of biased and mischievous T.V documentaries.


This brings me to the works of the likes of Sorious Samura and most recently Jerry Rawlings, both fine and distinguished gentlemen in their fields. But for some reasons I feel that they are feasting on the poor, through their various television programmes. Dying and death should be dignifying, and should not be subjects of macabre orgies, even if some western media are willing to pay for their audience to ogle on people’s suffering, in order to increase ratings. It is wickedly to turn Africa’s poverty crises into reality television. This is indeed in bad taste.


About the G8 summit, as expected all known anti - globalisation groups swooped down on Gleneagles in Scotland, during the summit. There were also massive calls and predictions of anarchy from the usual rent-a-mob crew who were bent on disrupting the summit. My question still remains: On whose side were the protesters and the G8 leaders on? What real agenda were they pursuing? What were their motives?


If the G8 leaders are on the side of Africa’s poor, why did they face so much hostility? And if the protesters were on the side of Africa’s poor, was this the best way to put their points across? I am amused when I see some of these anti-globalisation protesters who in the name of ‘equitable wealth distribution’ wreck havoc in host cities, I find some of their antics amusing because you will normally catch the protesters wearing Nike, Adidas or Reebok trainers, and Levi’s jeans, and that is after they have had their fill at McDonalds or KFC, the very same businesses they have grudges against.


Also, some African leaders mouth - off and complain against the aid they receive from the west, they prefer trade instead, fine but I have been waiting to hear about any that will gladly hand back the aid money they receive, reject the debt cancellation deal they have been offered by the West or announce their plans to enable local businesses to compete against companies from the west in a free and fair trade situation; Also some commentators argue that debt forgiveness is well deserved, that it is a reparation of sorts, for Africa’s plundered wealth during the great chicaner and scramble for partition. Well, but the colonialists have since left Africa and we don’t seem to have done much for ourselves ever since, so I think that we should shut up, and collect the aid or grant or whatever it is called. If we don’t want the conditions attached to aid, then we shouldn’t make ourselves vulnerable to being given aid. Full stop.


I conclude by saying that some people out there seem to enjoy playing Russian roulette with poverty, but the real poor whether in Africa, Asia, Europe and America actually need food, clothing and shelter, the very of basics of life. Enough of the politics.


Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London. He is currently on holidays in Nigeria.

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July 01, 2005

The CEO of Nigeria, PLC

by Uche Nworah --- As a result of the failure of previous and current systems and models such as parliamentarianism, militarianism and the presidential systems and models, and the need to re-position Nigeria and effectively harness her human and material resources for sustainable growth and for the benefits of her citizens. The opportunity has arisen in this oil rich West African country for the pioneering role and position of a CEO (chief executive officer).

Nigeria PLC
Reporting directly to the legislative houses of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Nigerian people, the successful candidate must be of Nigerian parenthood although applications from Nigerians in the Diaspora with dual nationalities and citizenships will also be considered.

This position is a high pressure one and not a high pleasure one; the ideal candidate must possess the ability to think on his or her feet, in addition to possessing local knowledge of Nigeria’s many ethnic regions and their peculiar problems. Knowledge of one or more of Nigeria’s many languages will be an added advantage. The candidate must also be a good team player, communicator and strategic planner, capable of influencing international opinion through a well orchestrated programme of economic diplomacy. He or she must have a sound knowledge of the workings of the oil sector, and must be committed to a programme of opening up and creating other revenue streams for the country, especially from the agricultural, steel and other neglected sectors.

The successful candidate must have on top of his or her agenda the provision of basic social amenities for Nigerians, the rebuilding of dilapidated infrastructure, reduction of poverty as well as the improvement of the quality of life of Nigerians. He or she must make it possible for Nigerians to experience the true dividends of democracy.

The minimum educational requirement for this position is a university degree, obtained from a top flight university, although a Masters degree or any other higher qualifications will be an advantage. The degree could be from any discipline but candidates with backgrounds in political science, government, economics, development studies, finance, poverty reduction and globalisation will be preferred.

The personal attributes required of the successful candidate are that he or she must be a friend of the poor and the less privileged, and must also have a passion for humanity irrespective of age, race, gender, religion or political ideology. The ideal candidate should be able to carry all Nigerians along in the formulation and implementation of government policies.

Candidates with previous cases or allegations of corruption against them should not bother applying, likewise candidates who have in one way or the other served as military politicians in the past, this is as a result of the clients’ (Nigerian citizens) desire to break away completely from past oligarchs, whom they believe ran the country’s economy down.and plundered her treasury.

This position is tenable in the first instance for an initial period of 5 years, after which a contract and term extension may be considered at the polls by the electorates based on performance and achievements.

Candidates should be willing to demonstrate a track record of selfless service, either from years of working in the private or public sectors. Candidates with backgrounds in profligacy and dalliance need not apply, as this position requires a morally and ethically upright personality who should also function as a role model to Nigerians.

There are endless opportunities for the ideal candidate in this position; there is the possibility of writing his or her name in the history books as a true statesman or woman, and as someone who rescued an ailing nation in a time of need. The ideal candidate will also have the opportunities and potentials of claiming his or her rightful position amongst the world’s top leaders, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of Nigeria to foreign investors and tourists. The ideal candidate should exhibit leadership potentials and qualities in the mould of Nelson Mandela, exhibiting great courage in difficulties.

The physical location of the job will be in Aso Rock Villa in Abuja, Nigeria, although there are limitless opportunities for travel around Nigeria and also around the world in government jets, during such visits the candidate will be well taken care of and will be allowed a reasonable retinue of aides. Family members and girlfriends or mistresses will not be sponsored during such trips as is the current practice.

The compensation package for this position is very generous, we are currently in the process of reviewing the package upwards to bring it in line with the scale in other similar positions in well resourced developing countries. Gradually we will move into the stage of reviewing the package to reflect that of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, this review is being considered so as to discourage any inclinations towards looting government treasury. There will be other benefits linked to performance as well as the achievement of agreed targets; these targets will be agreed with the successful candidate at the start of his or her tenure.

The compensation package will also include the use of a fleet of government cars and limousines, a generous wardrobe allowance, high quality medical care for the successful candidate and members of his immediate family in the Aso rock clinic and other well – equipped hospitals in Nigeria There will also be opportunity for sponsored overseas medical treatments under strict resident surgeon’s referrals.

As a result of the generous compensation package, this position will therefore demand a high level of commitment, responsibility and accountability from the successful candidate; he or she must be willing to submit to a regime of periodic audits, while also subscribing to a strict code of ethics and charter, of which any breach will lead to a summary dismissal and impeachment by the legislators and the electorates.

Also, the successful candidate will be expected to effectively initiate a process that will lead to the recovery and repatriation of stolen public funds, currently stashed away in local and foreign bank accounts. He or she is also expected to mount a serious campaign for the cancellation of Nigeria’s remaining odious debts, with the active collaboration of major international sympathisers, while also leveraging on the 60% debt forgiveness totalling over $18 Billion recently announced by the Paris Club.

While we would not normally expect the successful candidate to be anti -big businesses, he or she in addition to creating the right enabling environment for competition and free enterprise to thrive, should also stand up to big businesses and influence them to commit to sound business ethics while maintaining a strict corporate governance culture. The candidate must also be willing to carry on with the corruption fight already initiated by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This position is open to males and females, female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply. Nigeria is moving towards being an equal opportunities employer and so candidates from minority ethnic regions are particularly encouraged to apply. Please note that for this position, you will not be expected to have a godfather who will be pushing your case, any attempt at influencing the process or the electorates by any individual or group will lead to the exclusion of the candidate being lobbied for from the consideration list.

Candidates from the age of 30 years and above can apply, while there is no maximum age limit, we would however discourage candidates above 65 years of age from applying, the reason being that we want to give the younger generation of Nigerians a chance, as is obtainable in the developed economies, by this we also hope to discourage the current trend of ‘recycling’ old politicians and also to dismantle the gerontocratic structures currently in place.

Please send your completed application forms in the form of an electoral manifesto to all Nigerians to reach them before the scheduled 2007 elections. Late applications will not be considered.

Short listed candidates will be informed during the period leading to the elections. The final decision on the selection and appointment of the successful candidate rests with the Nigerian electorates who are expected to let their votes count for real this time around. The successful candidate will be sworn in immediately after the elections around May 2007.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London. He can be reached at

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June 19, 2005

Obianuju Arinze: A Promising Igbo Woman

by Uche Nworah --- Call her a woman on a mission, and you won’t be far wrong, still in her 20s,Obianuju’s career track record is already amazing and if she carries on in this manner, it won’t be long before we start seeing her face and name tag in the boardrooms of giant corporations. In the countdown to her Harvard graduation, she agreed to open up her life in this e-interview. An inspirational story for Nigerian and African women from one of their own.

Uche Nworah: Tell us about yourself?

Obianuju Arinze: My name is Obianuju Arinze and I am somewhere in my twenties! I grew up mostly in Nigeria. Growing up in Nigeria was possibly the best thing that happened to me and was fun and enjoyable. I grew up as the youngest of 5 children and definitely was not spoilt at least not by my siblings. My parents from a very young age taught me that I had the ability to achieve anything that I wanted and I just had to keep working on it and praying to God. Growing up as the youngest thought me at a very young age to learn to give as well as I got, to stand up for myself and find ways to make my voice heard. My family environment was a very happy and loving home to grow up and I credit them with helping me become who I am today.

For me, the belief that anything is possible with the grace of God and hard work is very important. As an adult, I often remember this saying that my grandmother used often “chin-chi si umu ya, fa rapusia na ife di oku ga eme si jua oyi” (the bedbug said to her children, don’t worry every hot thing will get cold in the end). This is important because apparently only very hot things can kill a bedbug. As a result, whatever I was doing, I just prayed and kept at it till it worked out if I really wanted it bad enough. If not, I let go and moved on, incorporating the key learnings into my next project.

Uche Nworah: What about your educational background?

Obianuju Arinze: I went to Federal Government Girls College, Potiskum now in Yobe State, Nigeria, and then to the University of North London where I graduated with a 1st class degree in Accounting & Finance. I graduated from the Harvard Business School with an MBA in June 2005.

Uche Nworah: What was it like living in London?

Obianuju Arinze: When I first got to London, living there was quite difficult, all of a sudden all the things I took for granted in Nigeria weren’t there anymore. I was working and going to school and it was difficult. But I am an adaptable person and I quickly adapted and decided to make the best of everything. On the other hand, London wasn’t as difficult as it could have been since I had lived in London as a child before my family moved to Nigeria and had almost all my siblings there and loads and loads of other relatives. Career-wise, I joined Merrill Lynch as an analyst after graduation from the university. I moved to another Investment Bank, also in London about two years later. I definitely have been very blessed in my career to date and gained tremendous experience from these two roles.

Uche Nworah: At what point did you decide to go to Harvard, and what motivated you?

Obianuju Arinze: I enjoyed investment banking but could not see myself doing it for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be when I grew up so to speak. I have a thirst for knowledge and enjoy being in business but I knew that to be the best that I could be in that arena; I needed to increase the tools in my professional tool kit. While there are surely other avenues to further one’s education, after much research and analysis, I decided that an MBA was the best route for me. I applied to Harvard Business School (HBS) because of the following: - a) the 100% case study method of teaching which I believe is the best simulation of real life events that one would face as a business person; b) the Harvard brand which cannot be underestimated c) the collegial atmosphere of the school as about 70% of the student body live in this really beautiful campus.

Harvard Class of 2005

Uche Nworah: Who funded your Harvard studies? And what does it cost to get a Harvard MBA?

Obianuju Arinze: HBS has this policy that if an applicant is accepted, he or she should not be unable to attend just because of money. As a result, the school (like many other business schools) has an arrangement with Citibank to provide all students that apply with a student loan up to the student’s budget as decided by the school. For 2004/2005, I think it was $62,000 a year for a single student and slightly higher for married students and covers basically everything from tuition to living expenses. Irrespective of your nationality and without any American co-signer required (unlike many other business schools), any student is able to borrow from Citibank any amount up to that $62,000 for the year. The Citibank loan like any other loans has to be repaid over a maximum 15 years commencing 6 months after graduation but there are many fellowships and scholarships available that you don’t have to repay, that students can also apply for.

Uche Nworah: Would you say that the Harvard MBA opens doors?

Obianuju Arinze: Yes, I believe the Harvard MBA does open many doors for many reasons including a) the brand which gives the graduates a certain amount of credibility; b) with thousands of alumni around the world, the power of the network is obviously overwhelming; c) most importantly, the knowledge gained from fellow students and professors is unbelievable, that with a Harvard MBA you should be able to perform very well in your chosen career as the brand and network can only do so much and you have to actually perform once you get that job.

Uche Nworah: What was it like at Harvard, In terms of the academic rigours and challenges, did the Harvard myth live up to your expectations?

Obianuju Arinze: The first year especially was very difficult with reading and preparing for three cases a day/5 days a week, being involved in section and club related activities, making new friends and trying to stay in touch with old ones and family. There just seemed to be insufficient hours in any day to complete all your tasks. Also in the first year, most students who were used to be being the best in their class at college or high school are suddenly faced with others who you think are a lot smarter and all the insecurity that comes with that. To make matters worse, we are graded on a forced curve where only a certain number could get a particular grade so unlike other places where if you deserved an “A” grade you got it, here. You only got that grade as long as someone else did not deserve it more by performing better and once the maximum number of people that can get that grade is reached, you automatically go to the next grade.

Second year for most was very different as by then we had learnt how to navigate the complicated intricacies of school life, prioritise our schedules and actually choose the classes you wanted to take unlike in the first year where all the classes are compulsory. First year was likened to a planned economy and second year a perfect capitalist economy

All in all, HBS has far exceeded any expectation I ever had or could have thought of and definitely a lot more difficult than I expected.

Uche Nworah: Where do you see the Nigerian woman today, in terms of their rising career profile?

Obianuju Arinze: I believe every Nigerian woman is unique in her own right but to generalise, I would say that she can be who she wants to be. Although it’s now common and somewhat accepted for her to concentrate on her career over marriage and family, most Nigerian women I know today would prefer to have both the career and the family.

Uche Nworah: Any advice for the millions of Nigerian women who obviously would like to be in your shoes?

Obianuju Arinze: Always be true to yourself and try to do things because it is the right thing for you and not because your friends are doing it. While I am a great believer in people finding what they are passionate about and then pursuing it, be practical – if you, like most of us in this world do not wake up with one thing you are passionate about popping into your head, please my sister, find something you at least like and be doing it till you figure out the passion stuff because I believe that not doing anything because you are looking for your calling is a waste of that great potential.

Dare to dream – believe that you can be anything you want, then have a plan to achieve, do your research, network (you won’t believe the power of networking) and most importantly pray. If you want to be a doctor and you are worried about funding, do your research and you’d be surprised the amount of scholarships out there, talk to people who may have gone through similar things or who may know of such people and they will give you information. If you want to go to Oxford, Harvard etc, find out how all those people got admitted. Honestly, I was thinking of HBS more than 5 years ago and for the life of me, did not know how I would get there. I talked to people (didn’t know many that had gone there), read books and any other research to find out how the people that were admitted got in and then created the package that I believed they were looking for.

Don’t be afraid of failure – You are definitely going to fail in some things and it can be a positive if you feedback the lessons into your life. Everyone fails sometimes, but true failure in my view is when you let that one failure dictate the rest of your life and yes I know it’s often easier said than done but you have to persevere.

Uche Nworah: Would you say that as a woman, in a male dominated world, you always have to work extra hard to prove your self?

Obianuju Arinze: Sure you have to work harder to prove your self and that is also true for a black person in a majority white country. However I believe that since you can’t change the fact that you are a black woman, the only practical thing to do is to ensure that you are very good in what you do, perform well and let the people around you know that you are performing well. Talking about how well we are performing is often the hardest thing to talk to managers and colleagues about for me and many other professional Nigerian women that I know but the sad part is that it is often not enough to be doing well, you also have to be seen to be doing well and in most cases, no one but yourself is going to let others see that.

Uche Nworah: Now that you have the esteemed Harvard MBA, what’s next?

Obianuju Arinze: Ultimately I would like to set up my own businesses but for now I plan on gaining more professional experience and learning more about running a successful company. I will be joining The Boston Consulting Group as a consultant later this year, but first I want to chill out for a couple of weeks, maybe travel around for a while, and refresh my mind for the coming challenges with Boston consulting group.

Uche Nworah: Were there other Nigerians in your Harvard class?

Obianuju Arinze: Yes, there were other Nigerians in my class and we all have gotten to know each other very well over the last 2 years and are now all quite close to each other.

Uche Nworah: Have you ever thought about taking your skills back to Nigeria, to work either for the Nigerian government just like the Finance Minister (Mrs Okonji - Iweala)?

Obianuju Arinze: Sure, I have often thought about it and would seriously consider any interesting offers. But I don’t have any job offers in Nigeria for now and would really not consider moving back to Nigeria without any concrete plans.

Uche Nworah: What would it take to get you to come back to Nigeria to work?

Obianuju Arinze: The right opportunity both from a personal perspective as well as a professional one!!

Uche Nworah: Now, this is personal, Are you married or single? And do you think that men get intimated by career conscious women like you?

Obianuju Arinze: I am single and I believe that the right man for me would not necessarily be intimidated by a professional woman. The woman on the other hand, doesn’t have to flaunt her professional success. As forward looking as I am, I am still a product of my upbringing and believe that women just as men have a role to play and while these roles are dynamic in their definitions, as a woman, you can’t be disrespecting your man just because you are successful and the man too needs to be successful in his own right. I don’t believe that success is all about money so when I say the man has to be successful; it’s not about him being rich and what not, but about him fulfilling his potential in whatever area.

Uche Nworah: What do you do in your free time?

Obianuju Arinze: My friends are very important to be both old and new ones so I try to hang out with them as often as possible. We go out to restaurants, movies or just hang out at home. I love watching movies and recently discovered that one of my cousins has loads of Nigerian movies and so have been watching a lot of those. I love to travel so I try to go somewhere new as often as possible even if it’s just a city close by that I’d never been to before. I love meeting new people and learning new things and currently trying to learn Spanish to add to my English, Igbo, Hausa and formerly passable French (mostly forgotten now). I go to the gym (though it’s definitely not a hobby) and trying to pick up running (who knows I may just run a marathon in 1 million years time). Lastly I read a lot – mostly fiction and read about 5 books a week and if money wasn’t an object would probably read more. The downside is that since I’ve read for a large part of my life, practice did make perfect and I read so fast now that I finish the book faster than I thought that I have to go look for another one. Thank God for libraries and online free books.

Uche Nworah: Please describe your ideal man for us

Obianuju Arinze: A man that knows who he is and what he wants in life and would intellectually challenge me. He has to share my moral values, be God fearing with a strong moral compass and will stand up for what he believes in. A man who understands that our relationship is of utmost importance and would work with me to sustain the relationship. Someone who has ambition and purpose in life and working towards fulfilling his potential in whatever area. I also like a man who is family oriented and would go that extra mile for his family as my family is very important to me. He has to believe that romance is not a foreign language and be willing to show it through words and deeds. Sense of humour and the ability to laugh at oneself is also important as well as the ability to communicate.

Ultimately, my ideal man has to understand the value of compromise while still being strong enough to tell me to “sit down and shut up’ when deserved. He has to understand that he cannot be violent and that dialogue should solve most problems.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and would wish to interview Nigerians who are excelling in their professions either in Nigeria or in the Diaspora, their stories may be an inspiration for us all. Do you know of anybody? Please email their details to

Posted by Administrator at 10:48 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2005

The Internet and the Changing Face of Journalism Practice in Nigeria

by Uche Nworah Times and things have indeed changed, globalisation has since become a buzz word, and has brought with it change and competition, people’s lives have been variously affected either for the better or for the worse, depending on the side of the divide one finds himself or herself, although Africa and the rest of the developing world (sounds better than the clichéd 3rd world designation) may argue that they are hard done by, by the avenging and scavenging onslaught of the multinational corporations through their invasion and incursion into their markets with cheap mass produced goods. Another reverse colonialism then? Maybe.

I have always been fascinated by this unfolding drama, and sometimes feel grateful to God that it is happening in my time. The change has been sudden, quick and rapid; it has caught many people, companies and countries unawares.

In addition to people’s clamour for change, rising income levels as a result of improved education, the efforts of silicon valley techies and their technological strides (the internet, personal computers and laptops, PDAs, e-commerce, m-commerce and such other digital devices and systems), the other factors identified to be driving globalisation forward are changing consumer tastes and fashion, the advent of faster means of travel and communication pioneered by CNN and their breaking news tradition, although we now have other global media such as Al-Jazeera, Fox News, BBC, SKY etc, the increasing integration of countries into regional groups for example the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) etc, and also the rise of super corporations and global giants such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike etc. There is also the greed factor which critics of globalisation have used every now- and -then to advance their argument, the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests readily come to mind.

I am quite interested in the kind of influence globalisation and consequently the internet is having or has had on the professions. The sports profession (industry?) is a good case study, sports and football as we know it today has completely changed from the passionate way it used to be played in the past, this is the day and age of the football mercenaries, and their greedy managers, footballers like David Beckham, Ronaldo and Ronaldhino have since assumed iconic status and command multi-million pound/dollar pay check for their exploits both on- and -of the pitch, a far cry from the pittance nigerian footballers earned in the days of Segun ‘mathematical’ Odegbami and ‘chairman’ Christian Chukwu. Footballers no longer have any issue with taking a short walk across town to sign for a rival clubside, today we have the likes of Sol Campbell signing to play for Arsenal from their north London arch rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs. Also Ronaldo while still contracted to Barcelona didn’t even think twice before selling his speed and feet to Real Madrid.

In this article, I will be focussing on the likely impact of the internet on journalism practice in Nigeria. Although the term journalism has been traditionally used to refer to news practitioners in the print media (journals, newspapers, magazines), it will however be used in this context to also include electronic media (Radio, TV, Film, Web etc) practitioners, my reason for adopting this blanket description is that the term journalism, is now popularly associated with news practitioners in both the print and electronic media.

One does not need to search very far to begin to see some of such impact, to their credit, some Nigerian media organisations have already established a strong presence in cyberspace, amongst the pioneers are The Guardian Newspapers (, The Thisday Newspaper group (, The Independent Newspaper group (, New Age Newspaper ( and so on.

These media houses have continued to be veritable sources of news and information to both Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, the Guardian’s website and chartroom at inception was a rallying point for Nigerians at home and abroad to meet and discuss common issues of national importance. It can be said therefore that the Nigerian media are measuring up with their counterparts in other parts of the world by their maintaining strategic presence on the information super highway. However, any such attempt at ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the western media stops just with the internet sites some Nigerian media organisations have managed to set up, as other facilities and resources are still largely unavailable to Nigerian journalists, for example company sponsored laptop computers with mobile internet access, digital recording devices, open access mobile telephones, plus salaries that take into consideration global trends, market prices and national inflation rates.

At the heart of the issue of the Internet providing the Nigerian media with a wider audience to, is also the problem of reduced cover price revenues and advertisements. The later being closely linked to each other. Nigerians popularised the FAN (free readers association of Nigeria) concept, a term and acronym used to refer to the practice of locals congregating around newspaper vendors’ tables to read newspapers and magazines for free without actually buying any, probably a reflection of the socio-economic circumstances and intellectual awareness of the people that indulge in such activities (the FANatics). It may seem now that such practices have now been elevated and taken to another level with the advent of the internet, since the free readers or punters now only need to log on and then freely read any newspaper or magazine of their choice, this obviously will have a huge impact on revenues as less hard copies will be bought.

The matter is largely compounded by the fact that Nigerian advertisers have not yet started taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet, to advertise their products and services in the websites of some of these media organisations, only a few advertisers are doing this at the moment, it was hoped that such advertisements may actually increase so that the free news now readily available on the internet can be subsidised, and also to make up for the shortfall from the hard copy sales.

While there are no hard figures from any sources in Nigeria I can use to support my assertions, I will however site the global internet advertising revenues, which has grown steadily to over $8billion annually (source: Price Water House annual internet advertising reports 2004). According to Tom Hyland, Partner and Chair, New Media Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers “Single digit, sequential growth demonstrates the industry has left behind the large revenue spikes that characterized the early years. We’re now looking at a maturing, stable industry that inspires further investment by large, traditional marketers,”

It can be argued that in a way, the internet has led to a decrease in the revenue of some of the media organisations in Nigeria, while at the same time increasing their costs, as money would have to be invested into setting up such web sites, and also paying the staff that would constantly maintain them, however if we are to go by global trends which foretell an increase in internet advertising usage and revenues, then any incidental costs will eventually be offset by the expected advertising revenues, hopefully.

Regarding the way that journalists do their (news gathering) work, the internet has made things easier, according to Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a member of the editorial board of the Independent newspaper group, ‘journalists can now file in their reports easily from any part of Nigeria where there is internet access, all they need to do is go to any nearby internet café and at the touch of a button, the news report is at the editor’s desk, ready to be served fresh to the readers’.

Gone are the days of notepads and blue pens, tools of the trade that now belong to the past, although the under - resourced nature of some Nigerian media organisations have meant that some journalists have continued to cling unto such relics of the past, just like the old journalism days and golden years of Iwe Irohin (Nigeria’s first newspaper) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe owned West African Pilot. In the words of Mr Greg Obong-Oshotse, a Nigerian media veteran, and former special assistant to Mrs Maryam Babangida (wife of Nigeria’s former military president), ‘journalism practice in those days was a hands-on vocation, of course with the aid of the good old reporters’ notebook, midgets (tape recorders), and the ball point pen. Journalists are trained to write their stories on the move, inside taxis or buses, the slow process of news gathering then made deadline a dreaded word in most newsrooms’.

Mr. Oshotse, who is now the Europe and North American editor of the Daily Independent newspaper, believes that nigerian journalists to a large extent still grapple with the problems of poor facilities, saying that their professional life is still not as rosy as that of their western counterparts, especially in this technological age.

The internet has also provided Nigerian journalists with international exposure, they no longer have to travel to New York or London to be read or heard, they can file a story from the remotest part of Nigeria and the story posted on the internet, this then exposes both their writing style, journalistic ethics and professionalism to the scrutiny of both national and international audiences. Such benefits obviously comes with challenges, that of advanced journalistic skills which is acquired through practice and a programme of continuos professional development (CPD), it is largely unclear to what extent CPD is part of the journalism profession in Nigeria, especially because of the cost factor. Several media organisations still struggle to pay staff salaries and do not have enough money left to invest in staff training and equipments. There is also a deficiency in the quality of some of the graduates from the mass communication schools in Nigerian universities, colleges and polytechnics. Some of these mass communication departments have no fully operational media suites and student newspapers where students can translate the theories learnt in the classroom into practice. The Daily Times Institute of journalism located in Ogba, Ikeja Lagos used to be a standard bearer in journalism education in Nigeria but the institution has now fallen on hard times, especially because of the financial distress of the parent organisation (The Daily Times media group), which has since been privatised by the Nigerian government and sold to the Fidelis Anosike –led Folio Communications for 1 Billion naira ($650m) under mysterious circumstances.
The new owners (Folio Communications) have been accused of underhand asset stripping tactics, and is currently embroiled legal mitigation with some of the organisation’s key stakeholders, most especially the employee union.

Dr Jideofor Adibe, a media analyst and publisher of the London based journal African Renaissance, however believes that lack of adequate training and upgrading of the skills of Nigerian and other African journalists may continue to hinder their progress and recognition in the world stage, according to him ‘it is sad that some African media organisations are yet to embrace information technology fully in their operations, more so when such technologies can now be easily and cheaply sourced and accessed’. However, his views may be applicable to some reputable and buoyant media organisations but may not ring true for the several others who are still finding it difficult to maintain an operational office, in addition to being able to pay the salaries of key administration staff.

In addition to the international exposure of their news stories and articles, journalists in Nigeria are now able to also sample freely the writings of their counterparts in the established western media such as the Wall street journal, the Chicago tribune, the financial times etc. Doing so will lead to their copying best practices and also motivate and challenge them to work harder in order to become like their western counterparts.

There are also fears that the internet has greatly reduced the worth of news products, because of the wide and cheap availability of such news products, some nigerian newspapers and magazines have been known to freely cull and publish articles and news stories from the websites of other newspapers (mainly from the western countries), without actually paying any royalties, while also denying the writers of such articles and news stories of the rights to their intellectual properties, these kinds of behaviour may seem to be only obtainable in the developing countries, probably as a result of lack of skills or adequate in-house writers to fill the pages of every published edition, also there is lack of political will to enforce both national and international laws on copyrights and propriety. In this regard, it can be said that the internet has made life a bit easier for the Nigeria publishers but increasingly as the whole world converges to a global village with commonly adopted laws and statutes, nigerian newspapers who are used to such ‘easy life’ may soon discover that they won’t get away easily with any such story lifting.

Some people have argued that the internet has to some extent greatly reduced the ‘worth’ and ‘value’ of nigerian journalists, this is because of the wide availability of internet bloggers and pundits who are more than happy to have their articles and views published in the newspapers, these pseudo-journalists would not normally demand any payment and get their fulfilment from their ‘one minute of fame’. They normally would have views on just about anything, and usually written from a professional standpoint, thereby widening the debate for social, economic and political reforms even further.

Therefore, there is no hurry on the part of newspaper publishers to improve the salaries and working conditions of Nigerian journalists, who seem condemned to a life of demanding for ‘brown envelopes’ (goodwill money put in brown envelopes as inducement for publishing news stories and press releases), the monthly salary of an average journalist in nigeria is still around 40,000 naira ($350). General working conditions are still largely poor compared to what obtains in South Africa and in the developed countries.

When asked why he spends valuable time writing for free on the Internet, one of such established Internet pundits Ndubueze Godson 111, a regular on some Nigerian websites, he said that he writes… His views in a way reflect the views of the many Internet pundits, a phenomenon that is steadily on the increase.

Another known Internet pundit and columnist at, Hank Eso on the other hand believes that ‘despite the vast incursion of web pundits and presumed journalists, the field of journalism is (still) well and active’. He does not share the view that the Internet pundits are depriving the traditional and more established journalists of their livelihood, describing journalists who make such claims as being ‘unserious’. On why he spends valuable time writing for free on the Internet, Mr. Eso says that it is to promote dialogue and understanding and also the ultimate way for him to express his freedom of expression. He believes that the Internet offers ‘infinite possibilities in creativity and outreach’. He savours the freedom and accessibility (between the writer and the audience) which the internet gives to writers like him, as they are not under any kind of deadline pressure associated with traditional news rooms, according to him ‘As things are, I am at liberty to decide, when to write, what to write about, how long and with what regularity… I cannot find yesterday’s newspaper in my house but on the web, I can find news from 1945, instantly’.

There is a special group of people who appear to be particularly affected by the growing trend of internet punditry, the so called freelance writers and journalists, these are the people that used to be paid depending on the stories they write and where such stories are published, it appears that their breed is a dying one as it does not seem likely that faced with dwindling fortunes and resources, any nigerian publisher or newspaper editor will be willing to pay for their writings when there are the internet pundits waiting in the wings with their own articles and stories, Jimoh odutola, one of such freelance journalists however warns of the dangers of such practices, according to him there is now a kind of ‘dumbing’ down in the media, where ‘people without any formal journalism training and skills now dominate the pages of most newspapers, with bolts - and - screw type articles’, in reference to the lack of journalistic writings of some of the articles now published in some newspapers. It is either Mr Odutola is right or his, is just a rash reaction of someone whose profession is on the brink of extinction.

Another major trend that has emerged in journalism practice in Nigeria as regards the Internet is the rise of independent media, these Internet sites are now competing with the established newspapers’ websites in the provision of news and information to Nigerians at home and abroad. The websites are usually based and operated from either Europe or America and are already winning in the ratings stakes, as some of them claim daily visits which are quite higher than the figures the established newspaper organisations will even dream of, Adebola Mogaji, the owner of, one of such fledgling websites in a recent statement claimed that his site receives an average hit of 60,000 visitors daily. Philip Adekunle, the administrator of another popular website, does not believe that the independent websites are directly in competition with the established media organisations, according to him…’the independent websites are providing a service to nigerians and the international community, we have now become a first source for information on Nigeria by both Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are attracted by the divergent and varied views expressed in some of these websites’. He also believes that both the independent websites and their more established and traditional counterparts can exist alongside each other, noting that his website, just like some of the other independent websites all provide direct news links to the established newspaper organisations, signifying a partnership of sorts rather that rivalry and competition.

Some of the other popular independent websites include,, BNW: Biafra Nigeria World,,,, etc. while some of these independent websites are national in outlook, there are also many of them that appeal only to particular ethnic audience. A frequent visitor to some of these websites but who wishes to remain anonymous however, thinks that some of these websites have no business existing, as they are not professionally run, he also believes that some of the websites are funded by nigerian politicians, especially those who have no media access in Nigeria or have lost credibility, and have now hired hacks or jobbers do touch up their images and raise their profile using these websites, he also said that eventually especially in 2007, the true motives for setting up the websites will be made known to nigerians when they begin to peddle the views of their masters and promote only their interests in preparation for the elections.

Followers of the political events in Nigeria in the last decade, will remember the ‘dark ages’ experienced by nigerian journalists at the hands of the Abacha - led military junta, a period that saw nigeria’s finest journalists fleeing the country, and several media organisations shut down and proscribed, or their owners thrown into jail, that period also witnessed sheer bravado and heroics by the very few newspapers and magazines that were then operating underground and the journalists that stayed, most worthy of mention are Tell, Tempo and The News magazines, whose running battles with soldiers and Abacha’s goons have now become folk history. It is very unlikely that the Nigerian media and journalists will experience such campaign of destruction and terror ever again, there wouldn’t be any need to ban or proscribe the newspapers, because with the internet, both the independent websites and the established newspapers will be up and running 24/7, more so since some of the websites are domiciled abroad, the internet is therefore a good device, that can be readily deployed under such extreme and harsh media conditions, hopefully Nigerians will not have to relive nor go through such moments again.

To some extent, photojournalists in Nigeria are now able to use Internet facilities such as emails to upload and email their pictures to their newsrooms from distant locations, Vera Odjugo, the London corespondent for Ovation International Magazine, Nigeria’s leading society magazine says that the internet has really made her job easier, according to her ‘I am able to cover an event using my digital camera, and download the pictures onto my computer, after which I will email them immediately to our headquarters in Ghana’. According to her, this is the reason why Nigerians are served fresh photos of events, weddings and parties from around the world on Ovation magazine every month.

In concluding, I want to say that since the internet is still evolving in Nigeria, and is yet to reach the adoption levels already achieved in the western countries, there will still be other unfolding consequences on the practice of journalism in Nigeria, but for sure there will be no going back, in the words of Hank Eso, ‘The web is a way of life, which we can no longer escape’. It is my humble submission that journalists and newspaper organisations should embrace its use fully while at the same time taking full advantages of the opportunities it presents, as can be seen and is already the case in the developed countries.

Uche Nworah is a doctoral candidate at the University of Greenwich, London with research interests in country branding and diasporas. He also teaches business and marketing at Newvic, London.

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April 26, 2005

Life in Nigeria’s 37th State

By Uche Nworah --- As I write this, I so very much desire to read Sam Selvon’s 1956 book aptly titled The Lonely Londoners, a chronicle and account of the lonely and sometimes frustrating life of people of Afro-Caribbean descent living in London.

I will assume that Selvon’s analysis and descriptions also apply to later day immigrants to the United Kingdom, most especially Nigerians. If only Nigerians back home, who had never been ‘privileged’ to visit London before know of the life of toil and labour that their kinsmen in London suffer, then, they wouldn’t waste their time queuing up at the Walter Carrington Crescent offices of the United Kingdom High Commission, nor at the DHL offices for drop-box UK visas.

Also, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Gozney need not have bothered placing a blanket visa ban on 18-30 year old Nigerians, while this disenfranchises genuine UK visitors, it opens up other illegitimate avenues for desperate Nigerians to enter the UK. For me, all they need to do is get some real Nigerians living in London, and pay them an appearance fee for their testimonials, which will be later broadcast or published in the media. I am sure that such testimonials may dissuade lots of Nigerians from coming to London, and will also confirm what the late Fela sang in one of his songs: African man wey dey your country, wetin e get? E no get nothing!

Although Nigerians have now claimed London, as the 37th state of Nigeria, as a result of the population of Nigerians living in London, and also because of the ease with which Nigerians commute from Lagos/Abuja to London, as if they were commuting from Surulere to Ikoyi, it must be however said, that beneath the façade and the false-image of living the London good life which Nigerians living in London portray to their families and friends back home, the reality actually shows the opposite.

The problem starts with coming into London as a visitor or tourist, Nigerians are always in a hurry to ‘check out’ of Nigeria just like Andrew in the famed federal government patriotism TV advertisements, in doing so, they fail to take advantage of other legitimate routes of emigrating to the UK as professionals, Information on such UK migration schemes such as the highly skilled migrant programme and the working holiday maker visas are readily available on the internet but some of us don’t see it because of our mad rush and impatience. Also some have failed to explore other opportunities such as simply applying as health care or educational (teachers/lecturers) professionals, acute shortages of staff in the UK health and educational sectors have opened up this option and nationals from other countries are exploiting the opportunity, but Nigerians have not, preferring rather the short-term route of coming as visitors.

It used to be that in the past, it was a bit easier for Nigerians to ‘do what they had to do’ in London in order to obtain their residence permits, but now the EU expansion, and the influx of eastern Europeans into the UK has meant that residency laws have been toughened, on this front, things are no longer as they used to be. Inability to obtain official residency papers is what condemns Nigerians to the low life they live in London as illegal immigrants, without any state or social entitlements. In the long term, it is not a lifestyle that one would wish on even his enemies; as a result, people are stuck ‘in’, and can’t get ‘out’, as they wouldn’t be able to come back in if they venture out. This has ensured that some Nigerians have not been able to visit their country of birth in a long while, and this adds to their alienation and frustration.

And so once they find themselves in London, they are stuck with the lowly-paid jobs, such as flipping burgers at McDonalds or cleaning other people’s ‘shit’. Life becomes a bore and a drag as they jump from one bus to the other on their way to start the next shift; a sad and hectic life that they must live in order to afford London’s very exorbitant living expenses.

There are always people out to make a fast buck from you in London, the town is almost becoming a soul-less city like Lagos, for those stuck in the poverty cycle and living below the bread line (22% of the UK population live in poverty, 1 out of 5 of the population), this type of living surely can’t be good, from the £70 weekly room rents in shared flats and houses, to the over £5 day travel cards, there is also the utility bills (gas and electricity), which is operated on a pay- as- you -use basis, there is no NEPA or NITEL in London to bribe their officials, if your meter credit runs out, then it is between you and your God to save you from freezing in the cold winter.

It is at this stage that those who abandoned their lives and career back home, for a ‘rosy’ life in London begin to regret their decisions, they have no one to complain to, else they will be considered failures. As calls are made to family and friends back home, the moods are saddened the more by the news of career progressions and promotions of colleagues the person has left behind.

Some Nigerians living in the London always have this false assumption that those they have left behind in Nigeria won’t be climbing the social and economic ladders as well, that they will be waiting for them to come back to Nigeria in their flashy cars, fancy clothes and fake accents to ‘oppress’ them. Sadly this is not the case. By my own estimates, at least 2 out of every 3 Nigerians living in London will gladly swap places for a settled life and career in Nigeria, no wonder the careers in Africa recruitment event and many of such ‘return to Africa’ schemes are proving to be big hits.

It is always the case that most Nigerians immigrating to the UK always come when they are in their late twenties or early thirties, for both the men and women; this is the time that marriage dreams become imperative, but where does one find a potential husband or wife in London? If there was a place like that, then those ‘over-ripe’ brides and grooms before them would have since exhaled and replied with ‘I do’ to the pastor’s ‘Do you take xyz to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband…?’

In a recent conversation with a thirty something year old Nigerian lady, she vented out her frustration in these words ‘Nigerian men in London are dry, and stingy, after using you, they will dump you and go to their village to marry a village mgbeke’, on the other hand, Tochukwu Modebelu, a London based lawyer readily comes to the defence of Nigerian men living in London, according to him ‘Nigerian girls in London are still into their ways of regarding relationships as commercial ventures, also their wahala is too much, so I don’t blame guys who go to Nigeria to look for wives’.

As a result of the scarcity of men, and women or the difficulties in finding the perfect and willing partner, Nigerians have now resorted to having brides and grooms packaged and sent to them from home, but obviously such arrangements come with their own problems, usually revolving around differences in cultural values, unfulfilled expectations, and UK’s gender politics that is largely on the side of women, having brewed a disaster recipe for themselves, it is no surprise when divorce lawyers are called in at a rate faster than that which saw the couple coming together in the first place.

Some Pentecostal churches are happily exploiting this situation, Nigerians haven’t forgotten their ways at all in Nigeria, they seem to have carried the Pentecostal culture with them to London, as there now seems to be one on every other street, in areas of London with large immigrant population. Don’t be surprised to find these churches packed full on any given Sunday with expectant and hopeful worshippers, mostly young women whose main heart desire is for men to rain down from where ever.

However, there are Nigerians living in the London who have made good, and are already living the good life, some of them work as professionals while others have their own businesses, but such success stories do not even reflect the true situation of the real life of an average Nigerian in London, a sad reality, and a reality that bites.

uche nworah is a doctoral student at the university of Greenwich, London and also teaches business and marketing at Newvic, London.

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April 20, 2005

Singing the NYSC Blues

by Uche Nworah --- How could he have forgotten so quickly? Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr. I mean. It is not as if it’s been decades since he ‘passed out’ himself. Well if you don’t know who he is, Mr. Nweke is the youthful Honourable Minister for Inter-governmental Affairs, Special Duties and Youth Development (whatever all that means) in the Obasanjo government. I stumbled on his remarks and proposals for NYSC reforms by accident on this government website

I wouldn’t say that I am disappointed with him because the young man is trying very hard to do what he is paid to do, but I don’t see how the corpers (as in youth corps members) are the causes of the problems in Nigeria. It’s not like Mr. Nweke doesn’t know that the NYSC scheme is the last rights of passage to adulthood for these corpers, before they join the beat to march up and down the streets of Lagos, or whatever town where they would have uncles, aunts and friends willing to host them for as long as their job hunt will last, hopefully not forever.

In the reported article, The Honourable Minister likened the NYSC scheme as presently constituted to a Jamboree, yeah right!

Well, if he thinks that the scheme has deviated from its original format, well, is it not because the economy of Nigeria today is no longer the same economy we had when the scheme was introduced in the 70s? When corpers had companies chasing them even at the orientation camps with mouth watering packages while also dangling the keys to brand new Volkswagen Beetle and Peugeot 504 cars before them.

Times have changed my dear minister. So why not let the poor boys and girls indulge themselves one last time in the ‘jamboree’. It may be their last before that pocket money from parents and relatives dry up, and they start receiving those My dear son, or My dear daughter letters requesting for money to pay school fees for obinna, musa or funmi.

Now the Honourable Minister is proposing to use the one-year NYSC scheme to teach youth corpers entrepreneurial skills, please!

As if they (the corpers) don’t already have enough of those, how else does he think that the students have survived in the universities all these years? Definitely not from the pocket money from parents and relatives, which are hardly ever enough, not even sufficient to fund an average student’s monthly GSM phone bill, not to talk of the other living expenses such as buying hostel accommodation, ‘settling and sorting’ lecturers, buying handouts and of course remaining ‘marketable’ in the dating stakes through maintaining a trendy designer wardrobe, how could I have forgotten the electronic gadgets and personal ‘tokunbo’ car needed to complete the cuppie (campus urban professional) personae.

If the Minister cared so much, why couldn’t the proposed entrepreneurial scheme be introduced as part of the academic curriculum in the colleges, universities and polytechnics? By admitting to lack of jobs for the corpers on completion of their service year, hence the need for the proposed reforms, isn’t that also the same as the government admitting to failure and inability to look after, and take care of it’s most valuable assets (the youths)?

Knowing the academic rigors of Nigeria’s ivory towers, the moment students are signed off, after defending their final year projects and thesis, the last thing they would wish for would be to go into the national service year and then be subjected to another round of academic torture, possibly with the threat of failure if they fail to squeeze out money from their meager ‘allowee’ (NYSC allowance) to buy handouts from the entrepreneurial skills lecturers, whom I am sure will still be drafted from nearby colleges and universities.

There is nothing as exciting as a gap year after graduation. So, the Honourable Minister should see the NYSC scheme as a gap year for Nigerian graduates. In the developed countries, students use such periods to travel far and wide with just their ruck sack tied to their backs and a one way flight ticket to what ever destination that catches their fancy, any where but home, away from nagging family members and peers, and away from anybody or anything that remotely looks like a lecturer or university, at least for a while.

Such experiences have been life changing according to the students’ testimonies. Friendships built along the journeys have lasted a lifetime, and many have been known to remain in these far lands and commit their skills to making a difference in their newfound lands and societies.

(The writer at the Katsina-Ala orientation camp in 1993)

On a personal note, my NYSC year was one of the best times of my life, particularly inside the Katsina-Ala orientation camp in Benue State. I remember sitting on top of an Okada motorcycle as the driver sped and wheezed through the November harmatan breeze, from what you would call the town centre on our way to the Katsina-Ala College of Education, the venue of our month long orientation.

This was at the heart of Tiv land, and my excitement was not dampened in any way by the poor surroundings that enveloped us as we sped along. At the college gates, I met other eager and starry-eyed corpers who just like me, would probably not have ventured to these parts, but for the NYSC scheme. We quickly bonded and cheered each other up, promising to make the most of our time at the camp.

Formalities accomplished, uniforms collected and platoon allocated, it was time to hit the famous mammy market inside the orientation camp, which my friend Sunny Ogbu told me so much about.

The mammy market is your number one hang-out and action center in any NYSC orientation camp; here friendships are quickly struck up, alliances made and one's lifetime quantity of alcohol consumed. Infamous stories of campus exploits and escapades are told, and the follies of youth celebrated even as ‘made men’ (cult and fraternity members) rent the air with different coded whistle sounds in search of their fellow ‘brothers’ from other universities and colleges.

In our days, Guinness stout was the beer of choice and I am sure that the reason why I no longer drink stout is because I am still recovering from the ones I consumed back then, I didn’t help myself in any way by being an ally to Anyiam Anyaehie, who by all standards was about the richest corper in camp then, and who wouldn’t be happy unless everybody around him was drunk and on him.

As Mr. Nweke would have people believe, it wasn’t just jamboree all the way, not with the likes of Corporal Asuquo being in the camp, to make sure that he squeezed out the last drop of alcohol from our system during the early morning drills.

It was at the orientation camp that I thought I had met my love match, I really would have loved to go all the way with her but you don’t marry a man’s daughter on an empty stomach. I also struck beautiful friendships with other people who have remained my friends ever since.

I remember our passing out day, sadness suddenly enveloped the camp, people were shedding tears and were expressing real fears that probably they were not going to see each other again, that sadly was the reality and truth. I didn’t get to see Godlight Ebisi again until I received the news of his sad death (bless his soul).

I was deployed to Leke Grammar School in Konshisha local government area of Benue State to begin my primary assignment as a teacher. This was the first time that reality hit home, on my way to the school, sitting at the back of an open pick-up truck with other villagers and their chickens and goats bound for the local weekly market, I almost felt like weeping. Every passing mud house added to my sorrows and I felt like jumping down and running back.

Thank God for civilization, you wouldn’t want to find yourself in these parts if cannibalism was still in vogue. You would be dead by the time you could say breakfast.

I began to miss Makurdi town, from where I had set out for the journey, after a few days chilling out with my girlfriend, I missed her as well and wished that we had been a bit more discreet in our relationship, maybe the camp commandant wouldn’t have gone to such extents in trying to keep us apart from each other, by posting me to a no man’s land, so that he could perfect his moves.

Leke Grammar School is in a town called Tse-Agbaragba; it’s almost like the last tribe after the Koma people to witness civilization. The school compound comprised only of two small buildings surrounded by trees.

I lived in a plastered mud house and drank from well water; my room then was as austere as you could imagine. It contained a 6-spring bed; kerosene lamp and a cooking stove. There was no electricity and any form of transportation. To go into the village square from the school compound required a trek of about 4 kilometers one way, a journey I didn’t often indulge in. I became a hermit but not by choice. I passed the time after school by learning bird quips and songs, and staring at the ceiling counting my days. Mr. Innocent (a local, neighbour and fellow teacher) never had these issues as he had his acres of farmlands to worry about.

The toilet then was in the middle of the bushes, so I devised an eating habit, which wouldn’t make me a frequent visitor to the ‘white house’, on the occasions that I visited, my eyes and heart beat moved in synchrony as I constantly watched out for snakes and other bush and forest residents.

To some people, this may be adventure but I wasn’t an adventurer, I was a youth corper, serving his fatherland but who didn’t want to lose his life in the process.

I was to later contract the life threatening typhoid virus as a result of the bad water; this led to my going back to Makurdi for treatment and for good. Even as I was leaving Tse-Agbaragba to seek for treatment, I never looked back because I knew that I wasn’t going to come back and I never did. My life was far more precious to me.

While I was getting ready to leave, the Ghanaian principal of the school (Mr. Kofi) insisted that I come back after my treatment and so wouldn’t endorse a rejection letter, years of reading James Hardley Chase novels came to my rescue, I had always wondered what he was doing in such a place and if he was a legal immigrant, I threw a wild card and threatened to report him to the Nigerian Immigrations service in Makurdi, that worked the magic.

Before I became ill, I wasn’t so much concerned about my own situation; I began to feel for the students I was teaching English Literature, Economics, Government and English language. I really wondered at what the future held for them.

During the short period that I was there, I lost a lot of them to the farmlands (what else were the empty lands for? queried the village chief when I went to him to protest), some of the girls who were already bethroted just stopped coming to lessons as baby demands from their suitors were of more importance to classroom chants of A noun is the name of a person, place or thing.

I experienced first hand, the classic saying that youth corpers survive mostly on goodwill, for whatever reason, maybe it was the uniform which we used to proudly wear back then, I found that people went out of their way to be nice and helpful to youth corpers, I don’t know about now and if the attitude of Nigerians towards youth corpers have changed.

A kind gentleman (David) whom I didn’t know paid for my treatment at a private hospital in Makurdi, he saved me from the hands of the Makurdi NYSC staffers who had dumped me at the under- resourced makurdi general hospital probably to die.

As a corper, I can’t recount the numerous free meals I ate at local restaurants and also the countless free rides I enjoyed from both commercial transport owners and private car owners.

While not denying the jamboree aspect of the NYSC scheme, I want to also say that it is not just fun and good times all the way; the Honourable Minister would have to think harder for better reforms for the scheme. His proposals as presently submitted to the government is not any different from all the different government back-to-work schemes, the reality is that there are no jobs and government should really be thinking more along the direction of job provisions.

The danger in trying to convert everybody to be entrepreneurs is that, it reduces our intellectual ambitions and rubbishes our God given talents, it also limits our choices. People’s passions and talents differ, for this reasons they have chosen and studied different courses, there is a flaw in the Minister’s wholesale solution of entrepreneurial skills for all corpers.

Corpers and ex-corpers, this is your call, let the Nigerian government know what you think.


Post your comments and share your NYSC experiences (good and bad) here.

The writer is of the 1993 NYSC set, and now teaches business and Marketing at Newvic London

Posted by Administrator at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2005

Ngige and Uba stole our Mandate – George Moghalu

Interview by Uche Nworah ---- He is one of the few shining stars of his generation. If Nigeria were a country where ideas and ideals ruled and mediocrity was allowed to languish where it belonged, in the trash can, then George Moghalu may well have been granting this interview from the government House Awka, as the executive governor of Anambra state, having contested for the governorship election of the state in 2003 under the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) platform. Prior to diving into the mad house Anambra state gubernatorial elections, Chief Moghalu was the national secretary of Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the ANPP. This reporter caught up with the Nnewi- born father of five recently in London for a brief chat on Anambra state, Obasanjo, and other national issues.

UN: Chief, kedu? (How are you?), you are looking well; you do not look like somebody who has been through Anambra state’s political minefield.

UN: (laughter). By nature, I am a happy person, I am also happy that God is happy with me, that may be the reason for the way I am looking.

UN: Since the 2003 election fiasco, what has been keeping you busy?

UN: My business of course, I am back to doing that which I know how best to do, I am also spending quality time with my wife and kids.

UN: How would you describe your experience from the 2003 election?

UN: I would say terrible, especially when one has good intentions to serve the people, my campaign covered all the 21 local governments of the state and over 177 communities, in fact my campaign was grass roots oriented, and also covered the entire state. Peter Obi of APGA also ran a grass roots oriented campaign.
After all the hard work, it is quite disappointing that a group of people will sit down in their hotel rooms in Abuja and write the results of the elections, against the wishes of Anambra people, using the machinery of government. Their own version of the election results is in total disregard of the people’s wishes, it is also inhuman and wicked to declare such a result and sustain it.

UN: Sorry chief, but can you be a bit more specific, when you say that government machinery was used against you and your closest rival, Peter Obi, what do you mean?

UN: All the security agencies, INEC, the police, the army and others were deployed, it was a total collaboration. You can then appreciate the level of my frustration, for this reason I have often said that what happened in Anambra state is nothing but what can be described as a theatre of the absurd.

UN: how would describe the other candidates, in terms of the kind of campaign they ran.

UN: Well, some of them I know and some I don’t, but in all fairness, any individual who after a personal assessment and due consultation, decides to offer himself to come and serve his people should be considered a great person.

UN: So what is your relationship with governor Chris Ngige?

UN: I have known Chris Ngige for some time now, he is my friend and we will still remain friends, however our disagreement is on principle, I do not recognise his position as the governor of Anambra state because he didn’t win the election. It was a stolen mandate.

UN: Do you feel Ngige has robbed you?

UN: I feel robbed personally, and not only me, Anambra people as well, and the only way to assuage the peoples feelings is to restore back their mandate, by conducting a free and fair elections, if Chris Ngige wins, then I will support him, but if I win, or any other candidate wins, then he should be courageous to surrender and support the person.

UN: So do you feel pity for Chris Ngige considering his travails and difficulties with Chris Uba, his godfather?

UN: To be honest with you, I don’t feel pity for him, rather I sympathise with him and more importantly the Anambra people because what is happening to him is expected, after every robbery, there is always a disagreement at the point of sharing the booty, theirs will not be any different.

UN: How would you assess the social, economic and political climate in Anambra state?

UN: The Anambra people are like a conquered people, the state is like a keg of gun powder, anything can happen, if something happens fine, if nothing happens fine, and we can trace this problem back from 1999 to date. Our people are frustrated and we are looking up to God for intervention, under this circumstances, any thing done by the government no matter how small is considered an achievement especially in a situation where some of the gang are being accused from the inside. There is now a general feeling by our people to accept low standards, even though they are being short changed. In the midst of plenty, our people sure deserve better. Poverty should not be our portion.

UN: Chief we hear that Anambra state is broke, although you are not the governor but can you enlighten us a little, as a key player in the system, what is the current situation with Anambra state treasury?

UN: I don’t have current information as to our monthly allocation from the federation account, to both the state and local governments which is also now being controlled by the state government, not to talk of our internally generated revenue. Let us even assume that we are not getting so much, Anambra people deserve to know how much is coming in and how much is going out, and into what areas?

UN: The governor of Abia state publishes the state’s account monthly, would that be something you would have loved to do as governor, and also would that be something you will encourage governor Chris Ngige to do?

UN: Yes, there is nothing wrong with that as it promotes transparency and accountability, but I would have gone further to run a transparent and accountable government that would be open to public scrutiny

UN: How would you have done that?

UN: There are many ways, declaration of assets, subjecting every contract to due process, and also publishing of the state’s accounts, most importantly allowing the rule of law to prevail by obeying court orders in all circumstances.

UN: So is there hope for Anambra people?

UN: Yes, there is hope; with God there is hope for sure. I for one believe that Anambra state has great human and material resources, but the government must create the enabling environment for the people to thrive and for the state to flourish and occupy its rightful position in the committee of states in Nigeria, if the government does its part, I am sure that Anambra people will do theirs.

UN: How can Anambra people in the diaspora be part of this process?

UN: You must understand that our people look up to Anambra people in the diaspora as role models; some how there is a great expectation that Anambra people in the diaspora can influence the political and socio-economic situation both in the state and in the country. You can also attract foreign investors to the state, but like I said the government must create the enabling environment, for example how quickly can the diasporas secure industrial sites in awka? How safe is the environment for the diasporas, after living in safe countries with minimal crime, they should at least expect a safer state, diasporas can also mobilise themselves and form political groups. They can stand for elections, they can vote and be voted for. So the Anambra diasporas are a big and important part of this process, in fact I am discussing with a group of diasporas at the moment both in London and America concerning the way forward for the future of Anambra state, I am always open to further consultations with our people both in Europe, Asia, America and in other parts of the world. I believe that if we all join hands, we can reclaim our state and restore it to its pristine glory.

UN: Chief, what is your assessment of what is going on in Abuja at the moment, regarding the president’s war on corruption?

UN: The president’s war on corruption is commendable and should be supported by every Nigerian.

UN: Do you subscribe to this school of thought that the war on corruption is being targeted most especially against Ndigbo, as is being claimed in certain quarters?

UN: No, I don’t agree with that school of thought, I have always said that corruption has no tribe, be it Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Ibibio, Itsekeri, Fulani etc. a corrupt man is a corrupt man.

UN: It has been widely reported that you are a friend of the Wabaras, do you feel pity for the ex- senate president.

UN: I feel embarrassed by the whole incident, most especially for my friend Marc Wabara, but my own position is that the ex-senate president (Adolphus Wabara) and all those connected with the scandal should be given a chance of fair hearing to defend themselves, doing that will be part of the democratic reform process.

UN: You seem to live a very quite and simple family life, most people hardly know anything about your family, would you like to tell us a little about your family?

UN: Well, to God be the glory. That’s to be expected of a simple Christian family, I am married to a beautiful woman (nnenna), and we are blessed with five wonderful children, 2 boys and 3 girls. We couldn’t ask for more. My wife has been a great pillar of support.

UN: What does your wife think of your involvement in politics considering that in our own part of the world, it is still considered a dirty game?

UN: She shares my passion for service to the down trodden and to humanity, but at the same time she feels disappointed with the system, but since it is a matter of for- better- for -worse, she will always go with me, and prayerfully too. God has always used her in every situation and I am most grateful to God for her.

UN: Political analysts were quite surprised that you (a young Igbo man) became the national secretary, and in that regard the chief operating officer of the ANPP, a party viewed in the south as a northern party, how were you able to break into the northern circle?

UN: Firstly, contrary to assumptions, ANPP is a national party and not a northern party, with presence in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja, adequately represented in the national assembly, though without governors in the south for reasons Nigerians know. Having said that I have goodwill in the north, I have friends in the north who supported my aspirations when I declared my aspirations to be the national secretary of the ANPP, they worked for it, coupled with the support of our governors and prominent leaders of the party across the country who endorsed my candidature, trusting that I will do a good job, for which I am confident I didn’t let them down during my tenure.

UN: Is it safe to say or to assume that your friendship with the north can also be seen as something positive that will benefit Ndigbo in the future, being that you have become sort of a bridge between Ndigbo and their northern brothers?

UN: Certainly, such relationships matter and are important in politics; we should be able to reach out to people from other parts of Nigeria in the overall interest of the Igbo nation

UN: Do you feel that certain people may misunderstand you, and eventually view your relationship with the north as being too close for comfort, in the light of the several clamours for an Igbo president in 2007?

UN: I don’t mind being misunderstood, but the truth of the matter is that Ndigbo cannot exist in isolation, if we are sincerely desirous of producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2007. I am sure you are aware that both the northerners, the south westerners, the south southerners and the northerners, everybody who is a Nigerian and is qualified to vote will participate in choosing a president for Nigeria in 2007, if we start this early to isolate such people because they are not Igbo, how would you expect them to trust you, and that takes us back to my initial position that we must build bridges across tribes, religion, culture and so on in order to realise our dream.

UN: You set a precedent by being the first Anambra man to be appointed a Director- General in Abia state by the then governor, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, how did that happen and what is your relationship today with Dr. Onu?

UN: In a nutshell, I played an active role in his emergence as governor of Abia state, in the course of which he identified my potentials and defied critics by appointing me as a DG; I believe that I did not disappoint him. Regarding my relationship with him, it has remained very cordial, if anything we are getting closer and closer. I also see myself as a detribalised Nigerian, I am from Anambra state, grew up in Aba (Abia state), schooled in Enugu, I have business interests in Lagos and the north. My appointment as DG in Abia state shows that Nigerians can actually excel anywhere they find themselves in the country if given the opportunity. That initiative by governor Onu has paid off and is now being copied as non-indigenes are now being appointed into key government positions in several states.

UN: Chief, I know that it may still be a bit premature but what role are you going to play in the electoral process of 2007?

UN: You have already answered the question by saying that it is still premature but what I don’t do is play god, however I can assure you that God willing, I will be involved.

UN: Thank you for your time and best wishes.

UN: Thank you too and God bless you.

11th April 2005

Posted by Administrator at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Feminism and the man

Uche Nworah You must have read or heard by now that writers have peculiar styles and are also influenced by political and philosophical thinking and ideologies, hence it is easy to read Edwin Madunagu and identify that he is a Marxist, also Ndaeyo Uko is easily exposed as a satirist in his writings, Ama Ogan in her days at the Guardian was an avowed and unmistakable feminist, and so was the late May Ellen-Ezekiel (Richard Mofe-Damijo’s late wife), based on their writings and views.

I have always struggled with my self in trying to discover who or what influences my writing; I have read some of the different philosophers and thinkers but do not completely agree with all their principles and ideologies. I have therefore chosen not to align myself to any political or philosophical school of thought, at least for now.

But clarke (not his real name) has not. clarke is a fellow doctoral student at the University of Greenwich, ever since Dr. Hall in his Research Methods class advised that as doctoral students, we should read extensively in order to critically support and underpin our thesis in known theories and paradigms, I have watched clarke brand and re-brand himself week after week from being a Marxist, to being a positivist and most recently a pseudo - positivist. Lately he told me that he thinks that he has finally seen the light and that feminist may well and best describe him.

Sometimes I wonder if clarke knows what he is talking about, I doubt if he indeed understands what these critical theories are all about, one thing though is that I have come to like and admire him and his intellectual honesty. He is not your typical know – it - all academic (he teaches nursing and healthcare at the same university). Anytime he attempts to speak in class especially during seminar presentations; his reasoning and argument ensures that we all get a dose of the clarke humour medicine. He is now officially the class clown.

What has clarke got to do with this article? Well, everything. Firstly I have been struggling, just like him to identify a theorist, philosopher or paradigm to underpin and align my thesis with, however an accusatory email I received a while ago after I wrote an article on the rising profile of Igbo women as well as my tendency to play up women issues in some of my writings have made me begin to wonder and aloud too if I am not maybe, a feminist.

I took this issue up with Professor Ainley recently; I wanted to find out from him if men could also be feminists. Thankfully, despite his long academic rhetoric in trying to provide a simple yes or no answer to a simple question, I was able to come away from the discussion with the impression that men could support feminist causes and issues without necessarily being branded feminists. I have since found out however, that men could also be feminists.

So once again, I wish to share with you a thought that has been bothering me lately, this bothers on the issue of sons and daughters. Hopefully, I will not be called names again this time by the gentleman (you know who you are) who felt that my article about Igbo women empowers Igbo women and could therefore stir up trouble in Igbo families and homes. As if the women are not empowered already, wait till you hear my mother’s story. I don’t know if the gentleman in question is afraid that my article will incite the womenfolk to another round of riots, just like they did back in 1929.

Even as I write this article, President Obasanjo has appointed another Igbo woman, Mrs.Irene Nkechi Chigbue as the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE). She takes her place among the Igbo amazons.

Back to my mother’s story, my father is one of those Igbo men, typical if you know what I mean. Growing up, I remember how proud he was that he had four of us (all boys) first before the two girls came. I can still recall how we had to endure his antics of dressing us all up in the same set of clothes and shoes (we used to call them papa’s uniforms) and then ‘matching’ us all to his friends and associates, proudly announcing his handwork (sons) at every house we visited, I used to feel that we were some sort of museum pieces on display during such round trips.

Trust my father and all the other Igbo men of his generation, he really kept my mother busy on the home front and ensured that she was a regular guest at the maternity ward of the Aba General Hospital every other year. To compensate my mum, the Lord of the Manor opened a restaurant for her in front of our family house (where else?). A ploy still used today by Igbo men to ‘tie’ their wives down.

What was funny about this was that, around this time, although the girls (my sisters) had already been born, but still my father went ahead to, wait for this. He brazenly named the restaurant after himself and affixed the phrase and sons after his name on the signboard.

I can still picture the big blue coloured signboard, which for a long time was a regular feature of the nworah residence, until fate and fortune dictated otherwise.

My mother is your typical ‘obey your husband’ kind of housewife, as was obtainable back in the days but when fortune smiled on her, and her business began to blossom, things began to change. By some act of fate, probably heaven’s way of teaching my father and the other Igbo men of his time a lesson, he began to suffer dwindling fortunes in his business to the extent that my mum took over the running of the household financially.

Instinctively, although we were still young, but we knew where the money was now coming from (trust children to wisen up fast) and so we (the Nworah children) switched alliances and allegiances.

I will never forget the look on my father’s face, nor the smirk on my mother’s when my father came home one day to find that his beloved signboard had been knocked down, (picture the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statute in Baghdad) and in its place was now a new shining board announcing amaka restaurant to the world.

We had expected my father to swear thunder and brimstone, or even to send my mum packing for daring to pull down his ‘board’ and by implication for challenging his manhood and authority, without proper and due consultation. But he didn’t, he quietly went inside the house and sulked like the wounded lion that he was. I thank God that my mother did not abuse the power and paradigm shift.

She still managed to remain the devoted and caring mother and wife (I didn’t say housewife), proving that yes, women can do all that and still keep their homes, and remain loyal and submissive.

This trend of male child preference over female children is still largely obtainable in Igbo land and also in some other parts of the world; hence most men still affix and sons to their business names. I have never seen any business with and daughters and I still wonder, why not?

I still don’t know if I am a feminist.

Posted by Administrator at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

An Open Letter to Baroness Lynda Chalker

by Uche Nworah Dear Baroness Chalker

I hope this letter meets you well. How was your recent trip to Nigeria? I believe Uncle Sege (the president) rolled out the red carpet for you as usual as an old ally; you must have been treated to the best of African hospitality of which Nigeria is known for, if so, Glory be to God.

I had wanted to address you as Mrs Chalker instead of Baroness Chalker because in Nigeria, the word Baroness has other negative connotations; it is usually associated with big time drug pushers, knowing your track record in the public and now private sector, I know that your grace will not engage in such trivial pursuits, even so at least not openly.

Also, as a traditional Igbo man, I am inclined to respect your own tradition and if that means addressing you by your preferred title (Baroness) then I will do so gladly.

You probably may be wondering why I am writing you this letter; well it is just to register my displeasure with a statement which was credited to you during your recent visit to Nigeria, in the statement made at the Nigeria Investment forum in February 2005, you were reported to have berated Nigerians for always picking on their government, to quote your exact words:

Many good things have happened in Nigeria in the last 18 months than in any other country in Africa but the outside world needs to know this to be able to take positive investment decisions on the country… “But often all that we see outside Nigeria are the negative things. The media and Nigerians in the Diaspora must take the challenge of telling the world that good things are happening here. Nigeria stands a good chance of attracting foreign investors if they have adequate knowledge of the real situation rather than the perception which is often wrong.

My dear Baroness Chalker, I feel indeed disappointed that a woman of your standing will make such remarks, knowing that the fundamental freedom of speech has been the foundation upon which your country (The United Kingdom) and the other developed countries of the world were built.

It is also as a result of the need to defend this freedom that your government, the American government and their allies invaded Iraq in a war that is still ongoing, with escalating human and material costs.

It has also been widely said that bad men thrive because good men watch and do nothing, remember the 6 million Jews that were killed by Hitler? Remember Sarajevo? Remember Idi Amin’s Uganda? Remember Biafra? Remember Abacha’s Nigeria? Remember Rwanda? Remember, Baroness Remember!

Baroness, have you ever been poor? Have you ever lacked? Have you ever had to look for a job? Have you ever had to dodge armed robbers bullets? Have you ever had to sleep at night with one eye open, and your heart pounding in fear? Have you ever worried about your next meal? Have you ever struggled to pay your children’s school fees? Have you ever lost a dear one to police stray bullets? Have you ever been denied treatment at your local hospital in Wallasey for lack of money? Have you ever had to go months and years without water (yes, water!) and electricity? Have you ever been homeless? I could almost go on with my list of have you evers.

You probably may not have experienced any of the above, but in Nigeria these problems have become our way of life. What would you do if you have to go through any of these problems? Will you simply close your mouth, smile and salute those who should be doing something to alleviate your suffering?

Aha! Now you see why we can not leave our government alone, how could you even think of denying us of this one freedom that we still have? We have variously been told in Nigeria that education is not for the poor, that telephones are not for the poor, that flights are not for the poor. We have even been made to believe that garri (the staple food) and the poor man’s strongest ally is no longer for the poor, so should we now assume based on your remarks that speaking out against our oppressors and complaining about their inaction is now also not for the poor?

Your recent remarks make me want to believe the more, Karl Marx’s statement a long time ago that ‘the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’

I will simply beg to disagree with you Baroness Chalker on this matter. Not a lot has changed since your days as the United Kingdom’s Minister of Overseas Development, during which time you must have visited Nigeria frequently, rather things have gotten worse.

I am beginning to suspect your intentions and motives at this stage in your career. I understand that you are the owner of Africa Matters Ltd (a business and investment consultancy), you also serve as an advisory director at Unilever, a company with huge interests and investments in Nigeria, our president (Olusegun Obasanjo) has also made you the chairman of Nigeria’s International Investment Advisory Council. It is quite clear on whose side you are on and who butters your bread.

With your busy schedule, I do wonder what time you have left to even market Nigeria to potential investors, and if I may ask, how many investors have you brought to Nigeria since your appointment by the president? Would you justify your huge consultancy fees with your performance so far? Or are you carefully building a safe net for yourself to defend your failure by blaming Nigerians?

We can no longer give much credibility to some of your remarks because you have crossed sides; you are no longer on the side of the over 200 million Nigerians who continue to suffer dwindling fortunes.

Dear Baroness Chalker, could it be that you are basing your judgement only on the peaceful and serene Abuja environment, the venue of the Nigeria Investment forum where you made the reported remarks? I want to remind you that Abuja is only a city of a million residents, think about the rest of the citizens and in what conditions they live. I suppose you were taken in by the serene Maitama and Asokoro surroundings, the dream mansions and state- of- the art cars which you probably did not know were funded by stolen public money or from over invoiced contracts. You may also have been quartered at the prestigious 5 star Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel, the venue of the investment forum. To remind you once again, my dear Baroness, these are not the true pictures of Nigeria.

I have attached this picture of a section of Amuwo in Lagos for you to see. Yes, it is Nigerians that you are seeing, in their flooded streets and mud houses, does this picture which was taken in this year of our Lord (2005) not spell poverty for you? it is just to give you an idea of the other side of Nigeria which you and your fellow ‘advisers’ and consultants don’t get to see, now if you were living in this kind of environment, will you close your mouth and not complain? Especially after reading about all the huge oil revenue that Nigeria earns, not to talk about the additional revenues from the Iraq war oil windfall.

While in Abuja, I guess you must have ridden in El-Rufai’s black taxis which were recently imported from London, did you broker that deal as well Baroness? If not, what did you think of that ‘beautiful’ idea? Or were you thinking to yourself that the taxi project was a misplaced priority; could you not have advised them to think long term and build for the masses the underground train system of which your country is famous for?

Somehow I think that you should praise Nigerians at the civility we have displayed so far in our ‘dialogue’ with our leaders, we have not yet resorted to attacking them with pellets nor with eggs, as is done in your country. You will remember that even your Prime Minister (Tony Blair) has suffered such attacks in the past, and so has his deputy, ‘two jags’ John Prescot. The UK House of Parliament has also witnessed different types of abnormal protests but we have refused to go down that road, we have continued to maintain our decorum by only discussing our issues amongst ourselves, in our media and homes, and yet you complain about us.

Now for all these nasty forms of protests to occur in a stable, democratic and developed country like the United Kingdom, does that not indicate that we in Nigeria should chase our so called leaders away with hoes and machetes?

Without doubt, you know very well our battle with corruption in Nigeria, of course you do, afterall you are the Chairman of Transparency International (UK Chapter), you know very well about Nigeria’s ‘eminent’ positions in the past years in the league and table of the most corrupt countries in the world, you must have heard about Tafa Balogun (the ex- police Inspector General) and his stolen billions.

How can we not complain about these issues, Baroness?

I am willing to pardon this slight error and misunderstanding of our situation from you, but I hope that in the future you will make better and more informed judgements and comments about our conditions.

On our parts, we will continue to open our mouths; we will stand on rooftops and even climb the highest mountains to declare the bad works of our leaders, nobody except God can deny us of this our most basic of rights.

Please, when next you visit Nigeria, give my regards to Aremu (the president), I am sure you must have at one point or the other discussed the issue of migration and brain drain with him, please keep on reminding him of the true reasons why his countrymen and women are leaving in droves for better economic opportunities in other countries.

I know this because I live in your country, although I was not born in your country but I have been given opportunities here to prosper and excel, these opportunities were denied me in my country by our corrupt leaders, the same as the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who have left or are planning to leave. It would not be good if you make comments that hedge us (the Diasporas) against our people (Nigerians). It is only because we care, that is why we speak out, because we have been out here and know how great our country Nigeria can be, if our leaders can put their acts together.

I am still an ardent fan of yours and will keep on following your achievements in Nigeria as Aremu’s point man (woman) for foreign investment.

Finally my dear Baroness, please do not misinterpret the true intentions of my letter, it is neither intended to insult nor ridicule, it is just that as a public person, you should know that you are also a gold fish, remember also that those that live in glass houses do not throw stones.

In all your journeys to Nigeria, have any of the elders (Aremu included) ever explained the true meaning of this Igbo proverb to you? That he or she who proudly gathers ant infested firewood (yes, we still use them to cook as millions of us still do not have cooking stoves or gas cookers) also throws an open invitation for lizards to come and feast.

May God continue to guide your every action and may you fulfil the purpose for which He sent you to Nigeria.

Yours sincerely

Uche Nworah

Posted by Administrator at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

Banks, Women, and Corporate Irresponsibility

Uche Nworah: In Nigeria, they are all over the place, in their skimpy and plaid knee length skirt suits, their smiles are whiter and brighter than that of the Macleans’ man, their faces glow from the thick layers of mascara cosmetics which is not enough to conceal their pain and frustration.

You can never mistake them in their branded Dubai Hondas and shiny air-conditioned cars; you will see them usually perched on the owner’s side, with their faces buried in broadsheet newspapers on their way to look for money, or to ‘market’ potential customers. It is the personae the banks want you, the onlooker and potential customer to see; life is good for these bank girls, so do the uninitiated assume but is it?

Not if you have a target of hundreds of millions of Naira to bring in and you fail, your job goes on the line. The code red is for the young women to do whatever is required to meet their targets, if they wriggle out this month with some excuse for not meeting the target, there is the next month to think of as well, it is a heart wrenching job.

The working hours are nightmarish, in an unsafe country like Nigeria with epileptic transport situation, some of the women are known to come back home as late as 11 PM or even later, these women are loosing out on the home front as well, they no longer have the time to care for their children nor for their husbands. Relationships and marriages are breaking down and the banks are smiling, and declaring Billion Naira profits.

The women do not have too many appealing options; it is only the banking sector that offers any real employment hopes. Soludo, the CBN governor should not let this go on for long, his clean sweep of the banking industry should also touch on this issue of fund soliciting. It does not matter in what culture it is practiced, soliciting is morally wrong, the banks can not claim that they do not know that their female employees get into all sorts in other to bring home the goods. This issue is still on going and I will eventually come back to it in the future.

My main grouse at the moment is with the capital market activities of Nigerian banks, I think that the Central bank can not effectively regulate the industry and the entire financial services industry, there are obvious conflicts and inefficiencies. The CBN’s regulatory arm should form a separate entity just like the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the UK. The CBN should only be concerned with fiscal and monetary policy issues, just like the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. The weaknesses in the regulation have given rise to the manipulation of investor funds by some of these banks.

For example, Nigerians heralded the rights issue of Zenith Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank in July 2004, the two banks employed effective marketing strategies to convince potential investors to buy their shares, news reports showed that their campaigns were effective as the shares were oversubscribed.

I was visiting Nigeria at the time of the Zenith Bank and GTB rights issue and had convinced friends and family to invest in the shares, this was also our way of responding to the various calls for Nigerians in Diaspora to come home to invest, Now since we bought the shares of the said banks, only Zenith Bank has fulfilled part of it’s contract, they have issued our certificates and have also posted them to our various addresses abroad.

It is a different matter with GTB, it has been one tale after the other, currently the bank’s shares have been suspended from trading at the Nigerian stock exchange. If there were stricter corporate governance in Nigeria, or if the bank’s Regulation, Compliance and Legal departments had done their homework, investor’s funds would not have been locked away in their vaults this long without yielding any dividends or interests. Such callousness will cost employees their jobs in the developed countries, because of the collateral damages, including loss of image and payment of compensation claims which the financial institutions may suffer.

The official reason for the suspension is GTB’s announcement that it was going to acquire Inland Bank plc, I don’t know the logic behind announcing such deals hastily when the parties concerned have not yet tidied their books, normally where there is strict corporate governance, such announcements that are bound to affect and influence share prices and trading are first cleared with the security and exchange commission before making it public, GTB did not do this, and so the Central Bank or the SEC suspended their shares from trading at the Stock market.

So what happens to the investors? Are we going to be compensated for the period of inactivity of our investments? We really should and the regulatory authorities should consider this aspect as well in the whole process. My argument is that if we had placed the funds in fixed deposit accounts in GTB for these 7 months, the accruing interests would have been huge.

Now my aunt who labours as a nurse in America has been on my case because I had sold the whole share idea to her, she has not been to Nigeria in a long while choosing instead to bury herself in her work. She is particularly angry that she gave me almost all her savings to invest in GTB, I had based my advice on GTB’s web advertisements and boasts of earnings of over 140% by it’s previous investors.

I am still waiting to hear the last word on this matter, both from the CBN, the SEC, the NSE and the GTB, I am sure other Nigerians who had invested in GTB’s shares are waiting as well. I just don’t want to believe that GTB investors should be sitting ducks in this whole mess. This is a classic case for the Nigerian Shareholders Association and the other consumer rights associations to pursue vigorously.

I suggest a class action suit against the bank and the authorities; we deserve some kind of compensation for their error of judgement, recklessness and corporate irresponsibility. They may also consider compensating us using prevailing interest rates for the period our shares have been idle. Any one reading this who wants to take this suggestion further can contact me.

The authorities need to restore confidence in the capital market once again; current investors should be protected if potential ones can be expected to come into the market. There should be no sacred cows at all.

Martha Stewart, the queen of American home living is currently serving a 5 month jail sentence in a West Virginia prison, she is doing time having been convicted of insider trading offences. We need these kinds of resoluteness in the system to restore investor confidence.

High profits and greed drive some of these banks, what else would make a bank like Fountain Trust Bank turn a blind eye to Tafa Balogun’s alleged deposits, did they not know that the funds must have been stolen public funds? I know that there are legal and ethical requirements and compliances which stipulate that banks should report deposits in excess of certain amounts to the authorities but how many of the banks do this?

Also, the current money laundering charges brought by the EFCC against some senior executives of Liberty Bank and the All States Trust Bank at the Kaduna High Court shows that there is indeed a crisis of confidence in the Nigerian banking sector.

Customers of banks and other financial services have always had it rough in Nigeria, starting from the days of Forum Finance in Lagos and Ime Umanah’s Resources Managers in Port Harcourt, both being financial services enterprises that failed and swallowed consumer’s deposits as a result of weak regulation. The trend also continued with the failed bank saga of the 1990s but we can not go on like this.

The GTB situation calls to question the issue of leadership and succession in the Nigerian banking sector, it may seem that since Fola Adeola who founded the bank left to pursue other interests including setting up the Fate Foundation, the current GTB executives may have lost the original vision and concept, or else newer upstarts in the industry would not have overtaken GTB’s pioneering position.

STB, Diamond Bank and Zenith Bank should be wary of going down this route when Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia and Pascal Dozie all call it a day

Posted by Administrator at 07:47 AM | Comments (1)

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