Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I joined APGA, by governorship aspirant

A COMPASS INTERVIEW


Franklin Ogbuewu is a governorship aspirant in Ebonyi State. Recently, he defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to enable him contest the 2011 election. Ogbuewu, a former Minister of Culture and Tourism and ex- Ambassador to Republic of Greece said he decided to dump PDP because it lacks internal democracy. He had earlier contested the governorship election in 1999 and 2007 under ANPP and PDP respectively. JEFF AMECHI AGBODO met him.

WHY do you think Ebonyi people will vote for you?


I believed that Ebonyi people will vote for me because they know who is who in the political arena. I have been tested within the state and outside the state and my goodwill is enormous. I equally believed that I have invested politically and I’m convinced that Ebonyians will vote for me come 2011 governorship election.


Secondly, I stand for a change, I represent the change my people need and they want a change. They want somebody to lead them to that Promised Land and I have offered myself for service.

Could you outline your manifesto?

All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) as a party has a manifesto and I am going to blend my personal manifesto as it affects Ebonyi people with that of APGA. I know that the state lack hospitals, the one available is dead, no general hospitals in Ebonyi, and the teaching hospital is dead. The only health institution in Ebonyi State today is Federal Medical Centre (FMC) but Ebonyi people need hospitals.

Our educational facilities are gone, students are no more attending classes, no more lectures. Medical students are no more having comprehensive studies because of the closure of the teaching hospital; our educational system is almost gone. And, if you have youth and you don’t have plan for the youth, it means you have no plan for tomorrow and without education what do you have for the youth. We have to promote education to be able to give the reasonable capacity building that we need as a state to meet with the rest of the states in Nigeria. We are supposed to be agrarian state but we are not utilizing the fertile land. We need to reintroduce the required mechanized system of farming. We are going to assist the farmers by providing necessary farm implements and inputs like fertilizer for bumper harvest. The uncompleted projects are yearning for help in Ebonyi State

. The first executive governor of the state, Dr. Sam Egwu left some projects uncompleted and I expected the present administration to continue with the projects and complete them because government is a continuous process since no one can complete the projects he started. So, I expected Governor Martin Elechi to conclude all the projects Dr. Egwu left uncompleted because if he doesn’t complete them the money would be tie down. I know that Governor Elechi will leave a lot of uncompleted projects and if I become governor I am not going to abandon the projects he started and start my own project, no I’m going to complete them since government is a continuous process. That doesn’t mean that the important projects that Ebonyi people need would not be done, no I will do it but it is not good to introduce a project for the sake of it.

Then, there is a gap between the rich and the poor in the state. There is no middle class in Ebonyi State. I’m going to reintroduce middle class in Ebonyi State. How do you expect the youth to take over from you if the stage they are can not reach where you are then you are creating a very wide gap that is not necessary in any civilized society? I’m going to reintroduce the middle class and bring the people from the abject poverty level they are to a reasonable height.

Why do you dump PDP for APGA and how do you think APGA will give you victory?


I dumped PDP for APGA because PDP lacks internal democracy that I expected the new chairman, Dr. Okwesilese Nwodo was going to introduce. He made a lot of promises when he came on board I believed in him and expected we are going to have a change. But when that was not coming and I knew that the party executive in the state has made up their mind of whom they are going to give the ticket. And that will deprive the people of Ebonyi State the change they are yearning for. I decided to seek the opportunity in another platform and that is APGA to give the people the opportunity to say no to bad government, to say no to wrong government and to say yes to positive change.

Why APGA? Yes, APGA represents every thing that Igboman needs. I’m not trying to say that APGA is an Igbo party, no all am trying to say is that I found what I need as a man in APGA. It is a party that borders about internal democracy, a party that recognizes that the poor should exist alongside the rich ones. A party that recognizes that youth should be developed and people would be given opportunity to develop themselves according to their different capacities, a party that give to you what you consider that is very necessary in your life, a party that care for the health of the people. A party that care that people should drink pipe borne water, a party that care that people should be educated, a party that recognizes the economy of its state as important and that there should be growth to the economy so, that is why I decided to join APGA.

How would you curb the rigging excesses in 2011?


It is not all about me curbing it all alone but the people of Ebonyi State. The president of this country is saying that he is going to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2011, that every vote will count in the next elections and I believed him and I have no reason to doubt his words. He has assured Nigerians. Recently, he said the same thing to General Assembly of United Nations. I know President Goodluck Jonathan is a man of his word; he is going to keep to his words. I also have confidence in the man at the helm of affairs of the INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega. He is a no nonsense man. The youth are clamouring for a change, the youth are going to vote and defend their votes. You know that the result would be declared in all the polling units, so there would be no opportunity for rigging.

Nigeria is 50 while Ebonyi is 14, how far have they been faring to its citizens?

Nigeria needs the kind of leadership that is proactive, selfless and patriotic that will address the immediate and remote needs of the populace. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to harness the benefits that abound in the natural resources which God had endowed this country with. Ebonyi State was created out of necessity and our desire for qualitative development of our space and people. However, 14 years on, the story has not been that palatable.

We have not gotten our priorities right. The much desired development looks slow in coming and presently, the gains that were recorded in the past are gradually ebbing. Health institutions in the state have turned to mere prescription-receiving centres, if the people to give the prescriptions are on duty. The State University Teaching Hospital which renders specialized health care to the people is under lock and key. The Federal Medical Center is now over stretched to its limit.

Our youths are not catered for as the State Government has not put anything in place to cater for the welfare of the youths, with the attendant unemployment. If measures were put in place, the rate of crimes would have been reduced to the barest minimum as most of the youths would have been gainfully engaged in one meaningful activity or the other.

Our road network has not improved as entry points into the state capital have remained death traps, the rural areas have not fared any better as the hope given them on good roads seem to have evaporated with the emergence of poorly- executed road network.

It is unfortunate that as we are in the twilight of the present administration in the state, it is difficult for us to place a finger on any project, which has direct benefit to the masses, we can say had been initiated and concluded. We are only fed with fairy tales. Every thing has remained a pipe-dream.

It is a known fact that government is a continuum and any succeeding administration continues with the projects of its predecessors in addition to new ones to be initiated by it. Unfortunately, in our state the ideal is not the situation. Many projects initiated by the previous administrations had been abandoned. None completed.

Presently they are talking about sourcing N20billion from the Capital Market with a repayment period that will span over five years, and deductable from Federal Allocations to the state. This means mortgaging the future of the state. They came up with the half-truth that the money will be put into some projects. But, they are not being sincere as it is evident that the money is simply to execute the forthcoming general elections.

What is your take on the recent lockout of prominent Igbo leaders at Owerri Concorde Hotel during their summit?


It is unfortunate that such things should happen in Igboland. I think honour should be given to whom honour is due. Chief Alex Ekweme was Vice President of this country. The men that attended the summit were the eminent Igbo leaders. For this to happen in Igboland it’s unfortunate. People have been holding meetings in different places why shouldn’t Igbos be allowed to hold their own meetings. People should be allowed to express their views and opinion, that is democracy. It is a bad signal because if that happens 2011 is at risk. The action is trying to change my belief in what the president is saying and I believe the president is not going to keep quiet about it because people are going to read different meaning into what happened. I believe that the new Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim wouldn’t have known what happened; I believe that necessary action should be taken about those who disrupted that summit at Imo State. They pre-empted them, they don’t even know what they wanted to say, I don’t believe that there is anything wrong in dialogue or having meeting. I think, the governor of Imo state Chief Ohakim as a chief security officer shouldn’t have allowed that to happen in his own land. Police have denied that they don’t know anything about it. I want to believe that. I don’t want to believe it was planned at all and I don’t want to believe that anybody in authority can allow such thing to happen in Igboland because it is a bad signal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review: The Igbo and Her World…. A Review


Abdulo O. Saba/Vanguard

IGBO PHILOSOPHY BY PROFESSOR T. UZODINMA NWALA

A specter is haunting Africa-the specter of identity-crisis. The sons and daughters of the Mother Continent have over the centuries been brutally severed from their roots through a series of Western-oriented programmes and a history of a systematic agenda of cultural genocide that has plunged the mass of African humanity into a current state of inauthentic existence and the corresponding episode of soul-searching in the hope to once again come to grips with the African self and reality.

This is the spirit behind the on-going vortex for the revitalization of African civilization as demonstrated in the harvest of literature on African humanity and philosophy, and as another acorn to this emergent African cultural oak come the book IGBO PHILOSOPHY: The Philosophy of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria, by Professor T. Uzodinma Nwala.

Described by Chinua Achebe as a path-breaking volume in Igbo intellectual history, the work avails as a product of research spanning over 45 years starting from Nwala’s undergraduate research project in 1966-67 academic year at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Taken from a biographical perspective, Igbo Philosophy can be appreciated as the passionate life-work that over the decades flowed from the pen of one of Africa’s most creative and outstanding philosophers who, as a factor of history; also happens to be the man who initiated the teaching of African Philosophy in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1972, from where it spread globally.

The book first appeared to the academic world in manuscript form in 1973.Its influence can be traced to Rev. Edeh’s work on Igbo Metaphysics and other works. The circulation of the book over the last decade has been mainly in photocopies, and whereas the first edition which has so far been in circulation was just about 280 pages, this present edition appears as a book of over 400 pages in volume following a production process that has been on for the last five years.

approach, Igbo Philosophy demonstrates a movement away from works that tend to explain traditional worldview in terms of religious categories and a people’s worldview as if it descended from heaven above. Rather, the exposition builds upon the actual, realistic, and humanistic elements of the Igbo culture in the portrayal of several sociological, phenomenological, and even in certain respects, scientific and technological patterns along which the spirit of that which could be referred to as Igbo Philosophy found its expression. As for the composition of the book itself, a set of preliminary pages opens the work, and following this the reader is ushered into a cultural, historical, and epistemological treasure trove comprising of three sections and fifteen chapters.

Part A contains the introduction and another chapter dealing with the vexatious issue of the origins of the Igbos. Part B, on the other hand, deals with the Igbo traditional philosophy, with extensively deep treatment of Igbo traditional worldview, cosmological order and social control, thought and language in Igbo traditional society, Igbo traditional religious philosophy, Moral philosophy, Political philosophy, Economic philosophy and traditional philosophy of Art (aesthetics). Part C deals with Igbo contemporary thought patterns, examining such questions as the relation between traditional thought and contemporary thought, Christian thought and Igbo philosophy, Western education/ Science and Igbo philosophy. The conclusion comes after these

Moreover, and aside the author’s intellectual authority that is established upon decades of dedicated research in the area, Nwala’s personal affinity with the terrain of Igbo and African philosophy situates the book in a proper historical context, for it is now over 38 years since Uzodinma Nwala embarked on his intellectual odyssey as a pioneer scholar in the study of African philosophy, an adventure recounted by the author in the preface to the second edition, and an experience which beat through the labyrinths of Igbo philosophy into becoming a paradigm for the enterprise of African philosophy.

Having been provided with initial insight through the preface into the mind of the author and his connections to what became known as The Great Debate on African Philosophy, the introduction beckons, and invites the reader down a path that is replete with history, myths, legends, rituals, folklore, proverbs, idioms, skills, crafts, etc, all steeped in the rich world of the Igbos. In the Introductory chapter, Nwala states that he was writing for both the academic world and the world of the general public. He therefore treats such basic questions as the meaning of philosophy, the Egyptian origins of what is today academic philosophy, but insists that every organized human society possesses fundamental philosophical ideas and principles inherent in their culture.

He also goes on to show the differences between traditional philosophy and what is called critical philosophy, while arguing that traditional philosophy was not totally devoid of critical content. Finally, in this introductory chapter, he addresses the nature of Igbo traditional philosophy, summarizing it in the concept of Omenala Ndigbo (or Ako Ndigbo), what Mazi Mbonu Ojike calls Omenalism.

Chapter two deals with the question of who the Igbos are and on Igbo origins. Theories of Igbo origins as well as theories of Igbo connections to the Jews, Yoruba, Igala, etc, as well as the meaning of the word “Igbo”, ideological identity, and common historical experiences come under adequate analysis within this chapter.

From cover to cover, the book is sure to sound a death knell signaling the final laying to rest of the specter of identity-crisis for any haunted Igbo individual and community across the globe, replacing this with a congenial mood of affirmation and identity. Again, the experience that the book promises to every other reader, especially of African origin, is culturally refreshing, familiar and fluid, for as the ideas segue and the pages flow one into another, the reader feels the ghost of alienation being exorcised, to be possessed instead, by the re-assuring embrace of home-coming. Despite its intimidating size, IGBO PHILOSOPHY: The Philosophy of the Igbo-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria is certainly a must for every bookshelf, public or private: that is to be identified with the African Renaissance movement.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Esiaba Irobi( 1960-2010) … the journey to Cemetery Road


By Prof. Isidore Diala, Vanguard

Last week at the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suit, Lagos, where the Management of Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas, NLNG in collaboration with the National Gallery of Arts, NGA inducted about 21 Nigerians including Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, JP Clark, Ladi Kwale, Fela Ransome Kuti into the National Hall of Fame, late brilliant theatre scholar, poet and playwright, Esiaba Irobi beat LNG laurate, Ahmed Yerima and Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba to win the 2010 LNG literary prize for drama to the tune of $50,000.

His winning entry is an unpublished play titled, Cemetry Road, which according to Prof Isidore Diala, “plays dangerously between the sacred and the profane, the macabre and the hilarious and attempts to appropriate the total resources of the theatre, ancient and modern, African and Western.”

Today, Sunday arts publishes a brilliant tribute written by Diala and culled from NLNG: The Magazine, which captures the soul and theaterical depth of Irobi, who sadly lost the battle to cancer not quite long in a German hospital.

The distinguished Nigerian playwright, poet, stage director, actor,literary theorist and scholar, Esiaba Irobi, decorated as his career was, never got the full recognition that he eminently deserved. He shared not only the unusual gifts and temperament but also the fate of some of the master spirits of the race. Educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds, both in England, lrobi’s specialisation was in Drama, Film and Theatre Studies.

A consummate theatre practitioner and astute scholar, Irobi at various times taught at UNN, the University of Leeds, and the Liverpool J. Moores University in England, New York University, Townson University, and the Ohio University, Athens all in the United States of America. He was on a Fellowship at Freie University, Berlin, Germany, at the time of his death on May 3, 20 I O. lrobi’s life was a restless and audacious search for new horizons.

The sheer magnitude of the lrobi oeuvre is a tribute to a life of industry, devotion and tenacity. His published plays include: The Colour of Rusting Gold (1989), Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (l989),Hangmen Also Die (1989), Nwokedi (1991), The Other Side of the Mask (1999), The Fronded Circle (1999), and Cemetery Road (2009). At the time of his sudden death, he was also working on the final drafts of many other plays, several of which were in fact already in press: Sycorax (initially titled The Shipwreck, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Theater, USA), Foreplay (commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre, London, England), What Songs Do Mosquitoes Sing, I Am the Woodpecker that Terrifies the Trees, Zenzenina, The Harp, John Coltraine in Vienna, among many others. Added to his collections of poetry, Cotyledons (l987).Inflorescence(1989) Why I Don’t Like Philip Larkin (2005), the lrobi canon is undoubtedly prodigious. Remarkably though, mere prolificity was not the ideal lrobi aspired to: there were many completed scripts he never attempted to produce as there were equally many staged plays he denied publication. His deep passion for pre-eminence led him to approach every creative endeavour as a soul-searching quest for ultimately unattainable perfection, a daring for the elusive ultimate laurel. His life was a fable of the steadfast search for distinction and the self-mortifications that quest often entails.

Born on the day of Nigeria’s independence, I October, 1960, Irobi interpreted that striking coincidence in terms of a destiny shared with the Nigerian nation, a destiny of agony and pain. In 1989, he told an interviewer: “The historical rigor mortis and political epilepsy of the country itself has left cracks on the mirror of the mind. Whatever has happened to the country has happened to me … “

lrobi’s diagnosis of the cause of that “political epilepsy” locates it in the corruption of the Nigerian leadership – politicians and soldiers alike. Consequently, his continuing theme has been the frustration and marginalisation of even the most -gifted Nigerian youth; he has been equally fascinated by the psychopathology of dispossession and its violent manifestations. lrobi’s signal insight is that even for the humane and the enlIghtened, material dispossession erodes a balanced personality by destroying personal integrity and self-worth. Contending that material dispossession induces mental possession, Irobi sees terror as a vocation that enhances self-esteem and moreover confronts society with for the literature prize is his style and unique approach to writing drama-making the subject matter a lot relevant to the society. its own violation of the norms it seems to support. He apparently endorses Fanon whose canonical work, The Wretched of the Earth, he refers to in Hangmen Also Die, self-consciously framing a comparison with his postulations.

Yet lrobi’s work is also an interrogation and modification of the Fanonian insight on the attainment of inner unity in violent action. lf Irobi reveals terror as a mask worn by the oppressed to confront a society whose hostility emasculates and demeans them, he equally argues that that mask is invariably the mask of madness. His despair is the power of social dispossession to reduce its victims to mere fury and rage. lrobi’s ideal is the reconciliation of purposeful revolutionary zeal with selfless social commitment.

Like his sustained negotiations of Fanon and Karl Marx, Irobi’s discipleship to Wole Soyinka had a profound impact on his art. In The Colour of Rusting Gold, lrobi is fascinated by Igbo concepts of liminality and divination as well as the dangers to the life of ritualised piety. However, in much of his work since the publication of Nwokedi in 1991, Irobi’s much more politically pronounced theme is explored against the backdrop of a ritual symbolism that evokes the typical atmosphere of Soyinka’s tragic drama. Guided by Soyinka’s example, lrobi seeks in his own Igbo cultural background enabling myths to comprehend life’s abiding mysteries; advancing insights deriving from Soyinka’s formulations rooted in Yoruba theatre, lrobi makes the theatrical basis of his typically challenging corpus the dramaturgy of Igbo ritual performances: propitiatory, divinatory, funerary and regenerative rites. But in transforming the enchanted figures of Igbo myths and legends – Amadioha, the thunder-throwing god of the sky,Agwu, the deity of contradictions, Ala, the Earth goddess or their avatars or proteges-into characters in his elemental drama reminiscent of the Greeks’ and Soyinka’s, lrobi also characteristically points to central human dilemmas beyond explicit political frameworks, integral instead with the timeless vision of tragedy. [n his entire oeuvre, his iconoclastic recuperation of Igbo myths and expansion of ritual to facilitate essentially political projects in contemporary societY do not only foreground a specifically [gbo theatre! tragedy but also set in relief his own audacious innovativeness. His inclination is always to formulate an alternative literary tradition and worldview by transforming Igbo cultural experience into paradigms potentially applicable to a wider humanity.

In Nwokedi (indebted to Soyinka’s The Strong Breed and Death and the King’s Horseman) Irobi appraises the relevance of a traditional festival for communal expiation of guilt, the Ekpe, in the context of contemporary political corruption; exploring Igbo funerary music in The Fronded Circle and meditating on a demonstrably Igbo concept of the relationship between the arts, religion and society in The Other Side of the Mask, Irobi drannatises typical post -colonial themes: oppression, migration and cultural alienation, identity crises, revolutionary violence, a revalidation of indigenous traditions, interrogation of colonial stereotypes; Cemetery Road plays dangerously between the sacred and the profane, the macabre and the hilarious and attempts to appropriate the total resources of the theatre, ancient and modern, African and Western. The forthcoming play, Sycorax, is a provocative ideological adaptation of Shakespeare’s much-travelled play, The Tempest, highlighting undertextualised Africanist and feminist perspectives. Exemplifying post-colonial drama’s interrogation of the representational biases of Western drama as well as its syncretic nature, Sycorax in filling in the gaps in Shakespeare’s narrative is typically iconoclastic, audacious, innovative, controversial, or simply lrobisque. Yet, I believe, the play Irobi would want us to remember him especially for is The Other Side of the Mask.

In a deeply moving tribute read at Irobi’s grave side at Amapu Igbengwo Umuakpara Osisioma Ngwa in Abia State, Nigeria, on 16 July 2010, his friend and colleague, Eni- Jones Umuko, called Irobi the most vociferous voice of his generation in the theatre. He also identified lrobi as “a very consummate actor who acted very passionately with a Stanislavskian emotional intensity that he holds under very tight control with a Brechtian discipline that gives him the persona of a Grotowskian mask, giving his acting a trance like quality:’ Umuko recalled also that Irobi craved for awards for his works and had argued fiercely when his work was denied the Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) Drama Prize in 1985. lrobi’s The Colour of Rusting Gold had won the National Gold Gong Prize in 1982. But he justifiably craved for more. Supremely assured of his talent, Irobi saw laurels nonetheless as emblematic acts of public recognition necessary for an artist’s consolidation of his self-image.

His sculptor protagonist in The Other Side of the Mask, Janlike, is the representative visionary artist seeking a transcendence of the wreckage of history and the seductions of the human herd through his art yet paradoxically condemned to the judgment of society. Jamike’s self-acclamation is absolute: “I am the next (master artist)! The next! The very next! I am a genius! Everything I touch turns into gold. Everything I create is an ultimate masterpiece’: But with the denial of the national prize for sculpture for six years, doubts assail him and undermine his self-esteem. Confronting his work in a moment of murderous despondency, Jamike muses: “Caresses the works I thought there was craft here. I thought there was beauty here. I thought there was ecstasy here. Industry! Energy! Sincerity! Honesty! Truth! Power! Love! And Triumph! I thought there was art here. But they say there is none. (He covers the works) Perhaps, I have nothing to offer the world. Nothing. No message. No talent. No gift. No flint of genius. Nothing:’

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Wordsmith at the Igbo anvil


By PERCY ZVOMUYA, Mail & Guardian

A debut novelist forges dialogue that compares with the best

Percy Zvomuya reviews I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Phoenix)



Anyone with an email address has, at one point or the other, received a mail that promises instant riches -- you know the communication that exclaims: "Congratulations!! We are happy to announce that you have won an email lottery jackpot prize in our international lottery promotion."

Or the email marked "CONFIDENTIAL", which begins, in conspiratorial tones: "I know that this email will be a big surprise to you, but I want you to calm down and read very carefully. I have a business which will be beneficial to both of us … the amount of money involved is US$5.7-million …"

Known as 419, the penal code under which this form of fraud is classified in Nigeria, the scams are given hilarious fictional treatment in Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, I Do Not Come to You by Chance, shortlisted for this year's Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It features Kingsley (affectionately known as Kings), a chemical engineering graduate who, unable to get a job, ends up using his "grammar" -- as Nigerians call good English -- to scam foreigners out of millions of dollars.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance is a humorous work; often I found myself chuckling, sometimes even breaking out into loud laughter. In part Nwaubani has achieved this with her ability to capture the cadences of the speech of her characters. Melding streetwise lingo with original and improvised Igbo idioms, she manages to come up with strange and free-flowing dialogue. The result is startling sentences such as "My taste buds had been hearing the smell of my mother's cooking and my stomach had started talking".

Then there are improvised sentences, lines that appear to have passed through the smithy where they coin Igbo proverbs, for example: "Why are you swallowing Panadol for another person's headache?"

At its best it feels like text co-scripted by the streetwise Kenyan, Charles Mangua, the regal Chinua Achebe and the late Nigerian writers, Ken Saro Wiwa and Amos Tutuola.

I Do Not Come to You By Chance is set in a contemporary Nigeria that compares well with many other African republics -- for instance, the evening news is a "harmless serving of [the] state governor's daily activities", the government still pays out the pensions of people "who left this world more than 20 years ago" and admission to a government hospital is a sure way of dying.

Kingsley's poor, honest and hardworking father (with a degree from a university in the United Kingdom) falls ill, all government hospitals refuse to admit him until he pays a deposit, he eventually does and gets a bed, but his family has to provide everything else he needs for his well-being. The longer his father stays in hospital, the more the family is bled of the meagre pension money on which they depend and the more Kings is driven into the hands of Boniface (aka Cash Daddy), a rich uncle and a 419 scammer, who once stayed with Kings's family.

The first day Kings goes to see his relative is particularly dramatic, a sad indictment of consumerist Nigeria. A few minutes after Kings' arrival, Boniface takes one glance at his feet and remarks: "What's that you are wearing on your legs?" He then shouts at Kings: "Get out of my office." He tells his right-hand man, referred to as the protocol officer, to "take this man away. Make sure he's wearing new shoes before bringing him back. Go!"

Kings comes back a little later wearing new shoes, paving the way for his introduction into the rich world where "businessmen" have nicknames like Kanu Sterling, World Bank and Money Magnet. Remarking on the value of the pound, Cash Daddy says to Kanu Sterling: "Pound Sterling! The only currency with a surname!" The verbally inventive Cash Daddy reminded me of Nwaka, a character in Achebe's Arrow of God, who was such a great orator that he was known to his friends as the "Owner of Words".

I Do Not Come to You By Chance is a fascinating debut, wild and unrestrained, but it also shows the kind of errors that are typical of people with a lot to say and a thousand and one interesting ways to say these things. Like most works of fiction coming out of Africa, there's that perennial problem, sloppy editing. I love shaggy lines but some sentences feel laboured and overwritten and make me wonder how they escaped the machete of the editor.

Take these, for instance. "The air smelt of a mixture of fresh fish and locust beans. Large and small flies buzzed and perched about with alarming sovereignty and audacity. A sweaty, matronly waitress who looked like she knew all the flies by name galumphed to our table. Eating anything in that place would have been like signing a treaty for the invasion of my digestive system." I could go on.

And then there's the prologue, which, given the contemporary setting of this novel and the fact that only a generation has passed between Kings and his father, feels a bit anachronistic. Is it genuinely possible that, no matter how rural, Kings's mother could be so blinded by the aura of his father as to think of him as "an emissary from the spirit world on special assignments to the land of mere mortals"?

Then there's the hackneyed conclusion that one can predict 50 or so pages before the novel comes to a close. What could have been a compact, disciplined work, written in a funny and refreshing voice, in the end feels a tad drawn out, like a joke with a delayed punchline.

This criticism should in no way dilute the fact that Nwaubani is a genuine talent and one whose next novel I am looking forward to reading.

It would be remiss of me, after reading more than 340 pages of scam after scam, to point out that this review is no 419 scam.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani will join local fiction writers Angela Makholwa and Zukiswa Wanner, Namibian librarian Ellen Ndeshi Namhila, Kenyan literary scholar Grace Musila, American author Jayne Cortez, Nigerian author Lola Shoneyin, poet Lebo Mashile, local literary matriarch Miriam Tladi and others in a literary symposium at the Windybrow theatre in Johannesburg on August 25 and 26 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Crises Nd'Igbo Must Address


By Godson Offoaro/Sun News Publishing

The gold-rimmed invitation card said it all. It is the announcement of the traditional marriage taking place somewhere in Isiala-Mbano. It read in part. “The families of Chikezie Okonkwo of Umukalla in Isiala-Mbano LGA Imo State and Chief Olabode Ibironke of Surulere in the Akoko South LGA, Ondo State, cordially invite you to the traditional wedding of their daughter, Chika Magdalene Okonkwo and Adeyinka Ibironke.

It went on and on to supply the names of the RSVPs and other little information a proud holder of such an expensive piece of invitation would need. If you looked closer, you would notice that there were something unique about the invitation. Yes, its uniqueness lay in the tribal differences aplenty in the card. Chika, female is Igbo. Yinka, male is Yoruba. They soon would be getting married. This type of invitation is now common in Igboland. Hardly any weekend passes in Igboland without a segment of its population giving away one daughter or the other's hand to marriage, to usually a “stranger” - a non-Igbo.

Igbo girls are deserting their homelands - in droves. They are going to other parts of Nigeria particularly, the North and the South west in search of better halves. It never used to be so. We are not talking about a millennium gone by. We are talking about say, last year's Xmas period and the following Easter. Keeping it in sharper perspective, Igbo women marrying men from other tribes gained a dramatic upsurge immediately after the Nigerian Civil War. Then desolate and desperate Igbo girls of marriage age, married whomever there was, that was available largely because their Igbo male marriageable counterparts had been decimated - in their hundreds of thousands by the war.

Now, there is a new upsurge. Why are Igbo girls deserting Igbo men of marriageable age in their thousands? The answer is multifaceted. The most obvious, Ngozi told this writer is the shortage of Igbo men of marriageable age. Reader, do not panic yet. Igbo boys have not been decimated in war as was the case between 1967 and 1970. The latest brand of shortage of marriageable Igbo male has a lot to do with economics of numbers.

There are many marriageable men around but not enough to get married to the girls - thus the upsurge in the number of Igbo girls to other lands, in search of husbands. In awe I had asked her to explain. “Uncle”, she began in obvious resigned mood. “The reason is simple. Our men of marriage age have no jobs. The unemployment palaver is hitting the marriage industry hardest in Igbo land. I had a fiancĂ© while I was in school.

We agreed to get married some day. But can you believe that, ten solid years after graduation, he has no job. I am marrying Aminu from Zonkwa, who is a Muslim and 20 years older than me out of desperation. Aminu, you may not believe it, Aminu already has a wife. I am going to be his wife number two. Age is not on my side. At 32, biological time for me is ticking away fast - if you know what I mean. I need to have a life. I need to settle down, bear children and begin to raise them.

There are no Igbo men who are ready to marry me. I would have even married any Igbo man, even as a second, third wife, but most Igbo men who are married are tied down by the dictates of their Christian faith which preaches one man one wife. It is not so in the northern and western parts of the country. That's why I am going up north to find a life partner. It is not the best for me. Desperate situations call for desperate solutions.”

When I spoke with Chika, whom I attended her colorful wedding (to Yinka) at one of the Pentecostal Churches in Owerri, recently she was even blunter. “I'll rather marry anyone other than Igbo, than get into prostitution. I am 34. I have no hope. My childhood boyfriend has left the country to Ghana. He keeps making promises that I should wait for him to make it, no matter how little. But you know a woman's biological clock ticks faster than that of the man. I do not know how long I would wait. I am a born again Christian.

I am not given to wayward type of life. I want to marry and settle down and begin to rear children. Unfortunately, I could not marry myself. So when Yinka showed up, I did not have to think of his tribe. All I needed was a husband. And that's why I am where I am now. I do not know what would have happened if I married any other person, but I am married and I will try to live with it. It is the best I can do for now.”

It was not fashionable to find Igbo girls marrying across the Niger River. If anything, the reverse used to be the case. It was the days gone by when men such as Nze Akanu Ibiam, Emeka Anyaoku, Nze Nwachukwu (Ike Nwachukwu's father) Chief Gideon Atuloma, former Speaker old Imo House of Assembly and other prominent Igbo personalities including this writer, went across the Niger or up north to go get married.

To put this record straight. It was after the Nigerian Civil War that there was a surge in mass marriage of Igbo ladies to men from other parts of the country. It was part of the war booty, the girls having lost everything including their men and pride. It was in fact, then, a favor unto them done, that the surplus Igbo girls of marriageable age who could not be married were taken away by the all conquering members of the Nigerian armed forces. That was when Nigerian gallant soldiers like Olusegun Obasanjo married an Igbo lady and IBB married yet another.
It was not so, on the Nigerian side.

There, what happened was typical. After every war, there usually is a marriage boom, particularly on the side of the victorious. It happened at a lower scale, after World War I but happened more rapidly and very pronounced after World War II when the Allied forces of Europe with the aid of the United States, vanquished Hitler and his collaborators. The marriage boom of the years following the end of World II produced children known in American parlance as the baby boom generation. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and even Obama were products of the baby boom generation 1945 to 1960.

We can say without contradiction then, that Nigeria's baby boom years occurred soon after the civil war. With the no victor and no vanquished stance of General Yakubu Gowon, the defeated Biafra, which largely comprised of the Igbo race, rose to the occasion taking advantage of the three “Rs” of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation, thus a delayed but sure case of baby boom occurred. The Udorji awards of 1974 helped too.
While the American government took a preemptive measure to prepare for the upsurge in the baby boom era, including what to do with their kids, education, employment, their welfare and retirement age, the Nigerian government it seemed never took any steps to address the expected upsurge that always came along with the successful prosecution of a war.

The effect, as events are now turning out, are being felt in the east, particularly, in Igboland, where women of marriageable age stayed at home without husbands and the attendant frustration that inevitably followed. Coupled with the twin evil of unemployment and global economic meltdown which began about a decade ago, the Nigerian marriage sector has also been affected.

Fortunately for other parts of Nigeria, social behaviors tied to cultural values have in one way or the other helped to lessen the burden of the inability of young adults to get married as at when due. It's not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with Igbo girls wedding young men from other tribes of Nigeria. The one thing that is wrong is the alarming growing number of these marriages without a reciprocal equivalent in the number of Igbo men marrying from other tribes. As the girls go so they go with Igbo culture.

As the girls, most of them highly educated leave, so do they drain Igbo brain. As the girls leave in droves so they leave with a big hole in Igbo economy. Ohanaze Ndiigbo should step in. The governors of all the Igbo speaking areas of Nigeria should see this as a crisis and address it accordingly. It is as important as having a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.

What Chris Henry taught us: how an autopsy of the former Cincinnati Bengals' receiver's brain has helped doctors further research...

By Stefanie Loh, The Patriot News/Penn Live

Doctors Bennet Omalu and Julian Bailes are now looking into ways to help further concussion research

Ifeakandu.

That’s Dr. Bennet Omalu’s middle name.

In the Igbo language of his native, Nigeria, it means “life is the greatest gift of all.”

So it’s somewhat ironic that a man who’s named for the miracle of life has dedicated his life to studying the secrets told in death.

The journey began in 2002.

Then a 34-year-old medical examiner in Pittsburgh, Omalu performed a routine autopsy on former Steelers’ offensive lineman Mike Webster.

Pittsburgh’s legendary All-Pro center had died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 50. In the final years of his life, he’d been prone to bouts of memory loss and had gotten increasingly desperate, depressed and violent.

As a forensic neuropathologist by training, Omalu was used to looking at the brains of the dead, and a hunch told him that Webster’s was trying to tell him something. Extensive testing revealed that at the time of Webster's death, he was suffering from a kind of dementia that was likely the result of multiple concussions and blows to the head sustained throughout his football career. His brain had degenerated to the point that it resembled an Alzheimer’s-like dementia.

Omalu diagnosed the very first case of gridiron dementia in a deceased retired football player. He named the disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.

RESEARCH BELIEVABLE

Now 41 and working as a medical examiner in California, Omalu has established himself at the forefront of concussion research. There is irrefutable evidence to prove that concussions sustained in sports can lead to permanent brain damage and degenerative brain disease – particularly in contact sports such as football.

People believe him now – especially after a landmark discovery he announced with his partner, West Virginia University Hospital’s head of neurosurgery Dr. Julian Bailes, earlier this summer.

On June 28, at a press conference in Morgantown, W.Va., Bailes and Omalu revealed that they’d found evidence of CTE in Chris Henry.

Henry was a 26-year-old wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals who died in December 2009 from injuries sustained after falling out the back of a moving pickup truck. When the receiver’s family first asked Omalu and Bailes to examine his brain, the doctors didn’t expect to find any evidence of CTE.

Henry was young and at the time of his death he was still an active NFL player. More importantly, he had no known history of concussion throughout his pro and college career, and was not known as a big-time hitter.

Both doctors were surprised when test samples of Henry’s brain came back dotted with brown splotches known as tau protein, a toxin that is typically a sign of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The discovery of CTE in Henry’s brain pushed the limits of everything the doctors thought they knew about the cause of the disease and reaffirmed that CTE wasn’t just caused by concussions.

Repetitive blows to the head that a football player is likely to sustain on a regular basis throughout his career can potentially result in the same disease.

The announcement kicked the football world into a frightened tizzy, and dozens of well-regarded national columnists fed the frenzy by churning out reams of copy overnight hypothesizing on what this meant for football’s existence.

THE STUDY WON'T END

Submitted photoDoctors Bennet Omalu and Julian Bailes are now looking into ways to help further concussion research.
In the six weeks that have passed since Omalu and Bailes announced their findings, the buzz has faded some.

As the NFL goes through its preseason schedule, and college and high school teams around the country fall back into the comfortable routine of two-a-days under the scorching end-of-summer heat, the media’s initial panic has dulled and morphed into a hum of excitement as America gears up for its favorite form of fall entertainment – football.

But Omalu and Bailes are far from done.

Now that they’ve established the legitimacy of their findings within the medical community, it’s time, the doctors say, to look beyond.

“We are moving the science forward. I’m currently working on a paper on the Omalu-Bailes classification of CTE,” Omalu says over the phone from his home in Lodi, Calif. where at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning, it’s not yet light out.

The paper will outline the different signs of CTE for the benefit of doctors all over the country.

“We’re trying to educate people to recognize CTE and detail the different manifestations of it so that more doctors will be able to identify it,” Omalu says. “When you educate other doctors on how to identify this disease you’re more likely to identify other cases and, in time, identify ways to kill the disease.”

With all the recent advancements in concussion management techniques, doctors such as Omalu and Bailes have shifted their focus from reaction to prevention, and – hopefully -- cure.

Last month, Bailes wrote two papers about a nutritional supplement that could revolutionize the treatment of concussions.

Published in the July 16 edition of the Journal of Neurosurgery, his findings were based on experiments conducted on laboratory rats and showed that an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (most commonly found in infant formula) can help repair torn brain fibers if consumed after a concussion and help to reduce the adverse effects of concussions if taken regularly.

DHA is “technically a nutritional supplement that brains are made of,” Bailes said. “I think it’s a significant finding that should make a significant impact on anyone from athletes to military concussion victims.”

At the moment, there is no known cure for a concussion. According to Bailes, patients are given sleeping pills, pain medication and anti-depressants to help deal with the effects, but there is no medicine to prevent it.

REVEALING TESTS

What also has arisen from their research are the issues of genetic markers and genetic testing. Bailes and Omalu have found that 70 percent of the late athletes whose brains they have studied all shared one common gene – Apolipoprotein E-3, also known as ApoE-3

Genetic testing is still a Pandora’s box rife with ethical dilemmas. Yet, the prevalence of ApoE-3 in such a high percentage of the doctors’ CTE-positive subjects simply begs for more research.

It’s a prime example of how the Chris Henry case has raised as many questions as it’s answered.

“Chris Henry falls within the 70 percent-positive for that gene. So how strongly do our early findings provide a clue as to the risk factors of CTE? We have the world’s largest number of experts, but a relatively small [sample] number,” Bailes said. “Is this number enough?”

Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, the director of athletic medicine at Penn State University, thinks it’s theoretically possible to start screening players for the presence of ApoE-3, but that it will be expensive.

“It’s going to cost some money,” says Sebastianelli, who serves as the team doctor for the Nittany Lions’ football team. “But if you’re paying people $30 million over four years, you might want to get the [genetic] marker test. It might become a factor in the decision.

“If you have someone who has had three concussions, and they have the marker, you may not offer them more than a one-year deal. There’s always going to be somebody more genetically predisposed to concussion.”

To the average football fan, genetic testing for concussion susceptibility might sound a little extreme, but it’s a big part of the brainstorming now going around in medical circles as doctors try to come up with creative ways to keep athletes safe.

The consensus is that football, especially at the professional and collegiate level is getting faster, and the hits are getting harder.

According to Bailes, studies have shown that game speed has increased about 8 percent over the last 40 years, and the modern football player is about 20 percent larger.

“We’ve done a lot of research on the numbers. The game is so fast now that the resulting acceleration and deceleration, and the momentum changes are leading to much high energies,” Bailes said.

SOME RULES JUST WON'T PASS
The doctors aren’t the only ones worried about the ferocity of the modern game.

“The truth of the matter is… somebody is going to die here in the NFL,” Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said in an interview with Sports Illustrated last September.

Bailes and Omalu are big advocates of what they call “taking the head out of the game.”

For instance, Bailes suggests taking linemen out of the three-point stance and having them start in an upright position.

“Linemen get more blows in there because they are doing every play head-to-head,” Bailes said.

Perhaps it’s even time to introduce some new rules.

Sebastianelli proffers a suggestion that he knows will meet with vociferous protests at all levels of the game: introducing a weight limit for each of the different positions.

“Why can’t you put a weight restriction on positions? We do it in wrestling,” Sebastianelli said. “It’ll cut down on doping – if you’ve got to make weight, you can’t play with anabolics.

“But that’s going to be so hotly contested, I’ll never see that happen.”

Another measure could be to limit the area that plays can unfold within.

“You look at some of these formations they are running nowadays, and between the defensive back and the wideout, there may be a 30-yard head start,” Sebastianelli said.

That basically means one guy has more time and space to get a big running start before hurling himself into his opponent at high force.

“You may need to change some of the formations [and mandate] that plays can’t spread out over more than eight to 10 yards instead of 25 yards,” Sebastianelli said.

Players and coaches alike balk at what many consider drastic measures that will forever alter the game.

Many also point to the constantly-evolving helmet technologies as one way to guard against concussions.

But Bailes says people tend to overestimate the helmet’s protective qualities.

“I don’t want to discount the importance of helmets. I think it’s important for athletes and their parents to know that you [should] get the best helmet you can, and the best equipment. But I do think the helmet is obviously limited,” Bailes says. “I think it’s been overlooked and overly optimistic that the helmet is the answer.”

Even though spearing is against the rules and most coaches teach players to not lead with their heads, there are still players who run helmet-first into a tackle. In those instances, the bulky, heavy modern helmets can give the athlete a false sense of security, Omalu says, drawing a contrast between football and rugby players to explain why a helmet can be used as a weapon.

While concussions are also rampant in rugby, “the good thing about [rugby players] is that they don’t wear helmets,” Omalu said. “So if you’re always hitting with your head, it’s going to hurt you.”

FAIR WARNING

+
After the years of opposition he faced when he first tried to publicize CTE, Omalu has firsthand experience with animosity from high-placed people in positions of power.

But he would like the world to know that contrary to what some of his detractors originally believed, he is not out to derail the multi-billion dollar industry that is football and its place in American society.

All he wants is for people to realize that there are serious, potentially life-damaging risks associated with playing the game.

“Like cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health, and it is fully explained to every individual, qualify it that by playing football, you stand the risk of suffering permanent brain damage,” Omalu said. “Don’t hold back that information from the public. Full disclosure.”

This, after all, is the legacy of Mike Webster, Chris Henry and all the other athletes whose brains have helped to advance the study of CTE.

Their deaths have brought answers to light. But even those answers open more questions every day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

OBI NWAKANMA'S VISION OF A RENASCENT ONITSHA CITY


By Okenwa Nwosu, MD, Igbo Forum

“It was the city that drew the great generation of Igbo, and indeed Southern Nigerian modernists. The city of the great Zik, whose statue still adorns an important historical site of the city; the city of Denis Osadebe, Mbonu Ojike, Nwafor Orizu, Ikejiani, Raymond Amanze Njoku, Pius Okigbo, Chike Obi, Sylvanus Cookey, Birabi, Ben Enwonwu, Cyprian Ekwensi, and too many others too numerous to mention.
It was the city, whose centrality in the evolution of modern Nigerian culture has been recorded permanently in Emmanuel Obiechina’s canonical study of the literature now called, “Onitsha Market Literature,” produced in the great forges of its little presses, much like the grub street, which basically disseminated the most significant tradition of city penny literature in that march towards the modern. Onitsha once had a great newspaper too: the Nigerian Spokesman, which gave this city its certain flavor.

The city exhibits the marks of dystopia. Yet it is a city of possibilities, if only the Anambra state government, can think slightly out of the box and commence an ambitious City redevelopment plan, by bringing a number of things to bear: the reconstitution of Onitsha as a Metropolitan district with its own city government, and execution of a plan that would integrate Ogidi, Obosi, Nnewi, Oba, and the surrounding districts, as part of the conurbation of a new Onitsha Metropolitan District.

This metropolitan authority should then think about raising property and other municipal taxes and begin the very clear process of redesigning and rebuilding Onitsha as a modern, 21st century city that should integrate the grandeur of its own history as the first epicenter of Igbo modernity, and promote that history as part of its culture and image, and its new offering.

This is what great cities do. It should also work inexorably towards the development of its valuable water front into a great residential, business and culture district, with splendid private and public residential facilities, fine offices, great restaurants, galleries, theatres, well designed public parks, and such a place that would draw people to its profitable use, and that would enrich the city significantly; and in some ways, connect it to its twin city across the river, Asaba, for the benefit of all.”

Obi Nwakanma


IF you asked most people today to go to Aba or Onitsha to settle and live, the first impulse would be to think that you are placing a curse on them. And I am totally serious. Young men and women, the most productive and active catalysts of city life, do not find any incentives to go to these once thriving cities of the East to settle, and live a full life.

I once asked a friend of mine who grew up in Onitsha, and who now teaches at the University of Denver, Colorado, if he could ever think about living in Onitsha or raising his children in Onitsha, and his response to me was quite frank: “there is nothing for me in Onitsha!” he said.

It was no longer even the city in which he grew up. The decay of a city like Onitsha is so terrifying that an encounter with both the image and reality of the city is nightmarish - a true ghostly miasma that is.

Until you have felt and seen it, it is quite unimaginable. The sludge of human and industrial waste that runs on the public and private spaces; the sense of the brokenness of everything; the disorder in city planning; in code enforcement; in street planning; in the general ordering and layout of the city makes Onitsha today, one of the most polluted and certainly one of the most ungainly sites of human habitation anywhere on God’s earth.

Yet encrusted in that pod of waste is a possible gem; a once well planned city which becomes only clear from the air, which has only been distorted by the barbarous rage of a most philistine generation for whom beauty and civility are alien values.

Onitsha still has some of the finest colonial architecture which are indeed great set pieces and which could just be rehabbed with a little imagination, care, and some respect for heritage. Yet also, Onitsha is dotted with some of the most monstrous forms of architecture, a pretence at the high-rise apartments, which give little room for aesthetics. The buildings are often largely utilitarian.

They are most times constructed with little rhyme or reason, possibly inspired by the competitiveness of the Onitsha landlord who draws the design on the sand, and builds just to prove to everyone else that his “four decking is higher than yours.”

The result in Onitsha, as one drives in, is a sense or an impression of a vast project – those low income, box-like constructions of high-rise apartments that dot the landscape of American urban ghettoes that are infested with drugs, prostitution and poverty. I have nothing, of course, against urban housing, but let it be built with respect for the people, with a sense of spatiality, with some aesthetic purpose.

Onitsha’s image suffers from its certain lack of awareness of its own history or importance. My early vision of Onitsha was shaped by an early encounter with Chinua Achebe’s novella, Chike and the River, a book I read in primary five.

I also associated Onitsha with what one imagined to be the magnificent bridge across the Niger at Onitsha, which even now, remains as powerful as New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, as an authentic symbol of Nigeria’s entry into high technological modernity.

The Brooklyn Bridge has been celebrated in the epic poetry of great American Romantic and modernist poets like Walt Whitman and Hart Crane, but not the bridge across the lordly Niger in Onitsha. Onitsha was for many years the cultural and commercial center of the East – something of the Boston of Southern Nigeria – with its place as the epicentre of Christian missionary movement into the Igbo heartland.

For many years, it was the headquarters of the Church of the Niger. It was the city of Basden and the Archbishop Denis, as well as the Joseph Shanahans. Those icons of the Roman and the Anglican churches, who ironically were also figures of early Igbo modernity of the late 19th century.

Onitsha was the intellectual capital of Southern Nigeria, with its famous parochial schools, like the Christ the Kings College, the Catholic boarding school for boys, or the Denis Memorial Grammar School, the Anglican equivalent, or the Queen of the Rosary School, the Catholic boarding school for girls, or the famous St. Charles Teachers College, and so many pioneer schools that made Onitsha the gathering of the early Igbo towards cultural modernity.

It was the city that drew the great generation of Igbo, and indeed Southern Nigerian modernists. The city of the great Zik, whose statue still adorns an important historical site of the city; the city of Denis Osadebe, Mbonu Ojike, Nwafor Orizu, Ikejiani, Raymond Amanze Njoku, Pius Okigbo, Chike Obi, Sylvanus Cookey, Birabi, Ben Enwonwu, Cyprian Ekwensi, and too many others too numerous to mention.

It was the city, whose centrality in the evolution of modern Nigerian culture has been recorded permanently in Emmanuel Obiechina’s canonical study of the literature now called, “Onitsha Market Literature,” produced in the great forges of its little presses, much like the grub street, which basically disseminated the most significant tradition of city penny literature in that march towards the modern. Onitsha once had a great newspaper too: the Nigerian Spokesman, which gave this city its certain flavor.

I could go on and on, but I hope the picture is clear, that from the time of the Saro and Caribbean middle class of lawyers, doctors, teachers, and so on, who first constituted the society and culture of Onitsha, of the Onitsha Literary Society, funded by a remarkable whiteman whose grave is still marked in one silent corner of the of the Onitsha city cemetery, to today, a city like Onitsha has undergone radical transformation. A cultured middle class seems absent.

The city exhibits the marks of dystopia. Yet it is a city of possibilities, if only the Anambra state government, can think slightly out of the box and commence an ambitious City redevelopment plan, by bringing a number of things to bear: the reconstitution of Onitsha as a Metropolitan district with its own city government, and execution of a plan that would integrate Ogidi, Obosi, Nnewi, Oba, and the surrounding districts, as part of the conurbation of a new Onitsha Metropolitan District.

This metropolitan authority should then think about raising property and other municipal taxes and begin the very clear process of redesigning and rebuilding Onitsha as a modern, 21st century city that should integrate the grandeur of its own history as the first epicenter of Igbo modernity, and promote that history as part of its culture and image, and its new offering.

This is what great cities do. It should also work inexorably towards the development of its valuable water front into a great residential, business and culture district, with splendid private and public residential facilities, fine offices, great restaurants, galleries, theatres, well designed public parks, and such a place that would draw people to its profitable use, and that would enrich the city significantly; and in some ways, connect it to its twin city across the river, Asaba, for the benefit of all.

This is the only way to stimulate growth and economic development on a scale that is purposive and significant. I have used Onitsha clearly as a foil even in my description of the other city, Aba. I have always said that one of the most important reflections of the kind of mindset that have destroyed once well-made cities like Aba, designed by Pius Okigbo as Development Officer in 1947, is in the destruction of the Aba golf course and its parceling off to speculators who quickly turned this once beautiful place into a monstrous space.

Aba and Port-Harcourt are also inevitably bound to shake hands and rejoin themselves at the hip, as it was once conceived, sooner than later.

And so it is important for the authorities in those two cities to begin the process of joint planning and remodeling, including creating joint sewer districts, protected forest areas, river and lake recreation areas, that would link the triad development from Owerri, Aba and Port-Harcourt, starting at the Owerrinta Port, near Okpala.

But as it is, it seems like very little thinking is going on at a grand scale in government. These cities cannot recover their economic powers, if they do not attract the right kind of human energy. It is imperative therefore, to draw people back, with great schools, great city hospitals, great museums and galleries, and generally, great environments to live and nurture families in a healthy and sustainable way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

No Proper Political Parties In Nigeria


Written by Chris Ajaero, Demola Abimboye & Dike Onwuamaeze, Newswatch

Monday, 16 August 2010

Odia Ofeimun, poet, social critic and political activist, speaks to Chris Ajaero, assistant general editor, Demola Abimboye, principal associate editor, and Dike Onwuamaeze, principal staff writer, on the absence of credible opposition parties in Nigeria and what they should do to give the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, a tough battle in the 2011 polls. Excerpts:

Newswatch: We are gradually moving to 2011 which is an election year in Nigeria. Although we have more than 50 registered political parties, virtually all the leading politicians are scrambling for the PDP presidential ticket. Is that good for the political health of the country?

Ofeimun: When you say all the leading politicians, by definition, they are leading because they were the big men either in government or the political parties. You have former vice-president, former heads of state and such people running for the PDP ticket. But there may be other people running who are actually leading but who are not known because their political parties have not built proper platforms that are recognisable and distinct.

A platform is made up of a body of ideas describing the state of the nation and how the problems can be solved. Not one of the political parties has managed to do it well. But in terms of candidacy, you can actually say that although the most visible people we know are running for the PDP ticket, there are other people who are angling to displace them, who ought to be better noticed, but for the fact that the media is over attracted by the had been. If we take a hard look at what is going on, it is not so much of a description of the PDP as a party, it is a description of Nigeria; the way we have been and the way we are.

Frankly, Nigeria lacks a political culture based on respect for the population. It is a political culture that is very leader-centred. Leader-centred to the point where unless a leader moves, the people do not move. Nigerians appear to grant too much idiosyncrasy credence to their leaders, so that leaders no longer feel they owe them anything. A leader can move because he knows the people will follow. The question is, why is our society so? It is largely because whoever comes to power is freed of all constraints, has the power to move resources anywhere he pleases without accountability.

Newswatch: You said that there are leaders from other political parties who are not known. Is it proper that with just a few months to the 2011 election, they are still sitting on the fence?

Ofeimun: How much of Barack Obama did you know until he became a hot candidate? I personally did not give him a chance, but once he was able to beat Hilary Clinton, I knew he had a good chance of winning. So, there may be such people in Nigeria that you do not know.

The problem with the Nigerian party system is that all the political parties amount to one. In other words, they all behave the same way. So, if they behave the same way, the distinction made between them because of the names they give to themselves really amount to very little.

The content that is completely missing in all parties across Nigeria is that the human content of government policy is completely absent. There is no concern for the government worker in Nigeria, there is no concern for the children and their future because a government that says it wants development and has no serious educational policy which covers the whole population is not a serious government.

Newswatch: On Monday, August 9, the Action Congress, AC, held a national convention in Lagos, and resolved to merge with the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, and factions of ANPP, and other parties. Do you think that the merger would work?
Ofeimun: The first question you should ask yourself is around what are they forming this coalition? In those days, when Obafemi Awolowo used to be the leader, anytime you talk about a coalition, he will say coalition is not a bad thing, but come, what are we going to do for the masses? And because Awolowo always asked that question, none of the other political parties ever understood him. They deliberately misunderstood him because they imagined that he was just generally raising stupid questions to slow down things or to make himself look important. But it was a very serious matter.

When the coalition between the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and Nnamdi Azikiwe’s party, the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, in the Second Republic was going on, do you know what they were asking for? That they wanted to make their leader an ambassador plenipotentiary with a private jet attached. All the things they asked for had nothing to do with the very masses they said they were leading. The UPN led by Awolowo never talked about what its leaders would gain. Whenever they discussed coalition, UPN began by saying what shall we give our people after we had formed the coalition. After you have identified those things, then you will begin to talk about who would do what job. But if I remember rightly, the only thing the NPP demanded from the UPN at that time was that an Igbo man should be Secretary to the Government and that was one thing that Awolowo could not grant because at that time, Gray Longe was the Secretary to the Federal Government and Awolowo said if I have to become the president of the country and the man I will remove from office is from an area where they voted for me, I will look like an ingrate, I will not do it.

To be honest, the kind of coalition you are seeing all around are not based on policies. They are based on the ambition of individuals. In Nigeria, we have very ambitious people but none of them has a programme, none of them has a policy that they can sell to Nigerians as a basis for aspiring to lead.

You heard about the mega party talk. The mega party is dead. It was bound to die because it was not based on anything but how individuals can acquire power for their selfish interests.

Newswatch: During the First and Second Republics, we had credible opposition parties like the ones formed by the late Obafemi Awolowo. When did the country start derailing so much so that we no longer have credible opposition parties today?
Ofeimun: Ah! Don’t put it that way. Nigerians have always said that there were no opposition parties. That all the parties looked the same. It was a blackmail imported from outside and pursued by very many Nigerian intellectuals and academics in order to rubbish the only opposition party in existence at that time.

But the truth is that all the parties were not the same. Some parties were not federalist. You must draw a line between those who wanted free education, press freedom, as well as industrialisation and those who did not, who just wanted to be in government to share loot. So, to a certain extent, you can say that there was a time when there was actually a proper political opposition and it was marked by the programmes it wanted to effect.

Newswatch: In the political history of Nigeria, mergers and alliances have always crumbled. How do we get a formidable opposition that will give PDP a tough battle in the 2011 polls?

Ofeimun: The first thing is to make it impossible for a person to actually become a leader unless he has been actually voted for. If aspiring politicians realise that they genuinely need the vote of that fellow in the slum to win an election, they will do something about that slum. But because they know that every election can be rigged, they do nothing about it. Science is there to help Nigeria out of rigging. A biometric system will make it impossible to rig elections in Nigeria.

Newswatch: If by 2011, we still have a behemoth like the PDP and there is no strong opposition party, will that be healthy for the Nigerian polity?

Ofeimun: PDP is not a behemoth, the government is the behemoth. Frankly, the PDP as a party does not exist on ground. It is a gathering of elite thieves in the society. They do it well. If you don’t share in the loot, you are knocked out. Talking about the PDP as a party is a mistake. It is about a system of government that is not accountable to itself.

Newswatch: So, what is the way forward so as to stop the country from drifting into a one party state?

Ofeimun: Form proper political parties. And as I have been saying, a proper political party is one which has a platform. A platform is built on programmes and policies which you are prepared to carry into government. If you don’t have that platform on which to stand, when people vote for you, they are voting for the wind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2011: Support for Jonathan ‘ll Strengthen Nigeria’s Unity

This Day Interview

Chief (Hon.) Gabriel Pidomson, is a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Secretary to the Government of Rivers State (SSG) during the administration of Mr. Celestine Omehia. In this interview with Chuks Okocha, he speaks on zoning and its implications for future generations


What do you make out of the last meeting of Northern governors as regards the zoning controversy?

This question must necessarily be addressed from the Nigerian political perspective in view of Nigeria’s socio-economic position today. This creates imperatives in several ramifications, from a strategic perspective and in view of what is expected from our future as a country and our leaders in particular, the position of the Northern governors is null and void, devoid of any unifying ramification. The reason is that Nigeria has grown beyond Northern, Southern, Eastern, or Western geo-political politics or rather expected to have grown beyond tribal sentiments. Governors should not be talking about tribe or regional dichotomy 50 years after our independence. Tribal and religious sentiments and any of such factors that set us apart should be trashed by the expectations of conventional wisdom.

Multi-cultural countries like Canada, United States, Russia, Mexico and others have over the years found it expedient to sheath ethnic rancour and aggregate efforts toward national development and unity, and have been able to move forward. In this context, the Northern governors’ position on the Presidency, apart from being divisive, lacks both merit and vision. At this stage in our history, governors are not expected to advocate dichotomy. They should focus on developmental strides, their future and the future of their children.

I want to say and stand to be quoted that Northern governors have a date with history. God has placed them at a strategic point in the history of this country. They can constitute themselves into agents of national setback or work in tandem with what God desires of them to do in order to recast the foundation of this country on equity and justice. They can do this by uniting in support of President Goodluck Jonathan come 2011, in order to change Nigeria into a country where citizens, irrespective of tribe or religion are assured of equal opportunities at any time to aspire for any office.

So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the Northern governors to support Goodluck Jonathan; forget the issue of whether somebody is from the North or South because North-South divide is a mere abstract perception of the true configuration of this country. Even in the North, you have North and South. In the South, you have the North and South. Governors should elevate themselves above divisive abstractions that hold little for national unity and the image we hope to present of ourselves to the international community. If we continue to talk about tribe, then it means that the over 300 tribes that make up this country can agitate for a shot at the presidency based on rotation, meaning about 75 tenures and three centuries before it goes round. Thrashing the idea of rotational presidency and zoning of elective offices would create the opportunity for every citizen of Nigeria to at any point in time aspire to any position, based on competence and together, we can build a stronger nation driven to greater heights by unity of followers and transformational leadership. I wish to reiterate that governors from the North should see this as an opportunity, given them at this point in time to support somebody that will usher in the wind of change towards the direction we expect to go in our year of golden jubilee.

What about the argument of the Northern governors that the gentlemen agreement of the PDP on zoning should be respected?

First of all, I want to say unequivocally that such idea should be dropped. I don’t understand what you mean by gentleman agreement? Gentleman agreement that is right or wrong? Is this agreement in tandem with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which they swore to protect and defend? These are critical questions that need to be asked. We should not say that there is a gentlemen agreement and because of that, the foundation and basis of our unity should be violently attacked. I think this is an opportunity for us to right the wrong that had been done by the PDP constitution. Yes, I am a member of PDP, and would remain a member, but even illiterates are aware that any law, guideline, regulation or the constitution of any organization that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is to the extent of that inconsistency null and void.

So, we should not be talking about gentleman agreement. Governors, senators and all our leaders should begin to look at current events in this country from a different, but positive perspectives. The emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan should teach us valuable lessons and drive home to them the message that God is bent on transforming this country. I am very sure that Northern governors and indeed all governors are destined to play strong roles in re-writing the history of Nigeria, the writing of which has already started. They should sheath their swords; forget about North and South dichotomy, for the sake of the stability of our country, for the sake of peace and the direction that our dear country is headed.

But they are not stopping Jonathan from contesting, except that they may not offer him their support?

Why are we talking about support here? The reason Goodluck needs their support is because it is necessary for all of us to come together as one fist. It doesn’t mean that anybody cannot contest; I can also contest that office. Consultation and consensus within and outside the PDP is necessary because it is imperative that this country unite as one in view of the change and new direction that is within the power of our generation to propagate. It is important that national consensus bear on the fact that we are moving forward in right direction and that zoning is a strategy that is apt to exclude the best of our generation based on ethnicity, and it is wrong. Moreso, it is not in tandem with the constitution, violates the fundamental human rights of young and capable people who would love to aspire to positions of responsibility come 2011 and beyond.

On the other hand, consensus is necessary within the PDP so that any person that emerges would enjoy the party’s support. If Goodluck Jonathan, like any other party member emerges, he should be supported and not discriminated against, based on his tribe, current position or environmental dynamics. Note that the position that Goodluck occupies today, it is God Who put him there. The manner of his ascendancy to the position of President is a clear testimony to what God wants to do in this country and so, North, South, East and West and all the over 300 ethnic nationalities in this country need to aggregate their support for change, unity, progress, and a new Nigeria. For now, the only glaring symbol of that change is Goodluck. He should be supported to ensure that change is embedded in the polity of this nation. One way to ensure this is to gather around Goodluck and support him to win a free and fair election.

Apart from Northern governors, are the South-south governors sincerely in support of Goodluck?

That is another question. The same call I am making to the Northern governors is the same call I am making to the South-south, South-east, and South-west governors. Specifically, I am calling on the South-south governors to support Goodluck Jonathan not because he is from the South-South or because he is the President of Nigeria. I am calling on them to support Goodluck Jonathan because of the wind of change he represents. I don’t want to be talking about South- south governors, Eastern governors, the Northern governors or the Southern-western governors. Let me make it clear that South-south governors should not support Jonathan because there is no alternative. They should see him as a son from the South-south ordained by God to turn Nigeria towards a positive path of growth. This, perhaps, is God’s 50th anniversary gift to Nigerians. I think it is myopic and short-sighted to assume anything to the contrary. We should look at the distant tendencies of immediate situations.

I am calling on South-south governors to unite for Goodluck Jonathan since charity begins at home and because their rallying behind Goodluck Jonathan will create the required impetus necessary to strengthen the resolve of Northern governors to also support Goodluck. Such support is bound to reverberate among Eastern and Western governors and by extension, the whole country. Most especially, the PDP need to unite in this purpose so that we can use this party to usher in the wind of change in this country and steer this country towards another direction, a direction that tally with the will of God.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

North and South

By Obi Nwakanma, The Orbit/Vanguard

For most Nigerians from the South, anybody above ridge of the Benue is a “northerner” – Ndi-Hausa – as the Igbo used to say. They were lazy cattle-rearers, and illiterate.

They were generally all religious fanatics. In more recent times, they are the trouble with Nigeria, since “they” have “ruled” Nigeria for much of its postcolonial years. This means, only the northerners have caused Nigeria’s troubles and dragged us all back because of the North’s absolute lack of commitment to Nigeria, and their absolute lack of know-how about how to govern a modern nation.

This is absolutely false. It is as false as the general image in the mind of other Nigerians of the Yoruba – whom I have been told, even by so-called educated and, you might think, sophisticated Nigerians, as “dirty, fun-loving, corrupt and clannish.” This too is absolute nonsense. It is as nonsensical as the image of the Igbo whom many Nigerians see as money-grabbing, greedy, and lawless.

In the past, it was the Igbo who were often described as “clannish.” But that aspect of their national character has been displaced by the Yoruba in the popular Nigerian imagination. It is clear that Nigerians hardly or genuinely know each other.

Every minority from the south is the “Niger delta” – oppressed, and blameless; a victim of Nigeria’s cruel majority ethnic groups. This, of course, is not true. Very key members of the minority groups – north and south – have been complicit in the Nigerian crisis. Minorities have also governed as Heads of the government of Nigeria – Balewa, Gowon and Babangida. Now, Jonathan, is a Southern minority. The image of the southern minorities has been the result of the certain fervour of the Nigerian media which has basically also made the “minorities” question a regional question rather than a situation of human injustice.

There are religious minorities in many places; there are ethnic minorities. For instance, if you have one thousand Yoruba or Efik or Hausa people living in Owerri with an overwhelming Igbo population, they constitute a minority population irrespective of where they come from.

If you have ten Igbo living in Obubra, the Igbo are minority irrespective of their general or putative number in Nigeria. There are other kinds of minorities: paraplegics for instance are minorities. There is a Lebanese-Nigerian minority living in Kano and Ibadan, and such places. These minority populations have questions which ought to be fully addressed with the context of the polity. How we treat the infirm and the weak define the quality of our consciousness.

Those too have rights and ought to be protected by law where the provisions of law are inadequate. But I was talking about this divide – the national divide that makes Nigeria schizophrenic. I have had cause to enter very furious and testy debates on the question of Nigeria with regards to its imbalances. First let me say that the current talk by many southerners that the North, especially through the military ran Nigeria and underdeveloped it is false.

The closer truth is that a very complex alliance of business interests from the North and the South, with their international banking and security links ran Nigeria, and continues to run Nigeria. The ordinary northerner – Hausa or Fulani or Berom or even Tiv – has not benefited in any significant way from the so-called rule of Northerners. Individual northerners and southerners have benefited in immense ways, from their close associations and links with power, and we must pay heed to this fact.

The perplexing level of hatred we promote about each other has made it impossible for Nigerians –North and South – to take ownership of their nation, and to establish a clear reason for taking this country beyond its origin as a contraption of the British. Let me of course say that we have unburied ghosts: the Igbo still feel betrayed by the massive loss of lives from the pogroms and the civil war, and to the various religious riots in which they were targeted.

The image of the North of Nigeria as the hotbed of religious fanaticism and intolerance persists. In the northern mind, the South exists as a greedy, troublesome, cunning, oppressive and inhospitable lot. The South sees the North as a useless drainpipe on Nigeria.

They view the North from the prism that shows us its indolent elite or rulers. There are many truths in the broad canvas of images, but there are also many norths as there are many souths. Nigeria is made of people – complex and varied: kind, cruel, greedy, industrious; the zealot and the one of measured faith.

Nigeria’s diversity is both rich and troubling. There are currently serious separatists movements, North and south, and we all think that each of us keep the other from a certain manifest destiny

There may be truth in all that. But there is also truth in the possibility of what might become Nigeria if it is truly and properly governed. The evolution of modern Nigeria must come with our overcoming these forms of estrangements and a willingness to deal with the question of power – for at the core of the Nigerian crisis is the question of power: who has it and who does what with it. Perhaps we might learn something from Kenyans this week, who went peacefully to the polls to vote for a reduction in the power of the president.

Perhaps Nigerians must place this question of executive power before a ballot. Nigeria must also come to terms with the other issues of political reform: a restructuring of the nation into six regions to reduce both the cost of administering Nigeria, and to create serious institutions, stronger and more competitive than the current postage-stamp sized states that drain the national wealth through unnecessary administrative costs.

Nigeria also needs a new kind of leadership. As analysts follow the current elections, two candidates seem immediately viable: the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, and former military head of state, Mr. Muhamadu Buhari, a retired Major-General of the Nigerian Army. Nigerians must ignore the North-South question in making their choice. Let us examine each of these men by the contents of their character and the quality of their service.

Goodluck Jonathan is highly educated – a research scientist, and also from the Niger Delta – a region which makes a claim for a historical debt owed to it by Nigeria. Buhari comes with a past of stern and disciplined leadership, although there are those who claim that there many chips in his armour. Perhaps many more might emerge for this race. Nigerians owe it to themselves to hold each man who comes to serve to account for their past, and for their vision of the future.

The question of North and South – the inchoate binary that symbolizes our discontent with each other and with this inheritance from the British called Nigeria – must come close a bit. This is the year of our jubilee. Let it be the year of our renewal too. Whoever wins in this election must convene a conference of the nations in search of healing and reconciliation. Otherwise there will be no point wasting our time.

Knife-edge power struggle

By Ocherome Nnanna, Vanguard

THE issue of zoning: to be or not to be, is now being taken away from the discussion or debate level. The two sides to the dispute: the South-South and the conservative section of the Northern political class, are now sabre-rattling. They are mobilising their instruments of intimidation with a view to coercing the nation to succumb to their respective demands.
In the South-South, apart from the unanimous decision of the six states there to support President Goodluck Jonathan’s undeclared bid for the presidency, the ex-commanders of the militant cartels have, after series of meetings, issued a warning that there would be war of Jonathan is frightened out of the presidential race.

On the other hand, following the voting by 10 to seven in favour of zoning by the Northern Governors’ Forum last week, the hawkish Northern conservatives have become more emboldened to raise the stakes and force the nation to make a Northerner the president of Nigeria in 2011.

According to a story published in the Monday issue of Vanguard newspapers, a prominent traditional and religious leader from the North West has been enlisted to, in effect, incite the people of the North by telling them that if Jonathan becomes president next year in spite of their agitation their land, culture and religion would be “jeopardised”.

I hope this is just one of those harmless newspaper speculations. If it is true that this unnamed foremost traditional ruler has allowed himself to be roped into this dangerous regional game that could threaten the future of this nation, then we really have to watch it.

It will be a matter of considerable shock to me if, indeed, the royal father thusly described will allow himself to be enlisted by desperate politicians to meddle directly in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose zoning arrangement is at issue.

It will be surprising because since he ascended to the throne of his ancestors a few years ago, he has been a major bridge builder across the various divides of this beleaguered country. People like us have already started looking up to him to call in the dogs when things begin to get out of hand.

It will be a pity if it is the dogs now calling him to join their regional army where a section of the North will be pitched in a winner-takes-all war of nerves with a section of the South.

When traditional rulers who also represent religious authority become involved in a mundane issue such as the zoning controversy, the danger is that very soon the masses will be called to action, especially in a volatile environment such as Northern Nigeria. More dangerous than that is that the military could become negatively affected by primordial sentiment and intervene in a way that could lead to the Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Liberia, Burundi and Rwanda scenarios.

Our royal fathers and the clergy should keep out of the politics of PDP in their own interest and that of the nation. Let them remember our history and be cautioned by the famous Yoruba adage that says the person who rides the tiger will surely end up in its belly, as tigers are not meant to be ridden like horses. Let them also be warned by another popular Yoruba proverb that says the person who crowns the king is often the first to be destroyed by the king.

The masquerade you dressed up could turn its cane on you first. If it is true that first class traditional rulers are enlisting in the army of the political desperados, let them be reminded that it was these same people who, while in military uniform, deposed and enthroned Sultans of Sokoto at will. They brought down the prestige of that institution and demystified it.

It is only the noble efforts of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III that is gradually restoring the Sultanate.
We should dump this zoning noisemaking and encourage all interested aspirants to elected office to tell us how they intend to repair Nigeria to enable us choose who to vote for. That is what we want to hear. This land belongs to all of us.

We all have religions and cultures we are proud of and will defend if need be. We will not be intimidated by anyone. If zoning is all that politicians have to talk about they should shut up and take a walk.

For Jonathan, food for thought

ONE of my readers sent me this text message which I hereby share you. It says: “Nnanna, I woke up this morning to realise that no journalist has written on the failed attempt to kill President Jonathan! I read in The Punch newspaper few days ago that the President’s plane developed fault in the air. Nagging thoughts have since assailed my mind.

Supposed the plane had gone far and reached highest altitude before the discovery of the fault? Who checked the plane and certified it airworthy in Addis Ababa? Who in Nigeria checked and certified the plane fit for the journey?

When and how did the fault develop? Samora Machel of Mozambique was killed when his plane exploded in the air. General Zia Ul Haq of Pakistan was killed in a similar manner. The deaths of both presidents were planned and clinically executed.

They don’t want Jonathan to run for 2011 election and the man wants to contest. So, Jonathan is being targeted for elimination…”.

Let me translate an exhortation over Radio Biafra rendered in Igbo during the war. Jonathan will do well to heed it: Onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu na-eche ndu ya nche mgbe n’ile. Umu Biafra, onye arahul’ura! “He who is surrounded by enemies guards his life at all times. Biafrans, never fall asleep!”