Monthly Archives: December 2010
Ahh… finally we come to the end of the year; the end of 2010; the last day of the last week of the last month of the first decade of the first century of the new millenium. Congratulations all.
Tomorrow’s date will read 1-1-11. Interesting isn’t it? Just seemed like not too long ago that people were so apprehensive about the whole Y2K bug. Hard to believe that was 10 years ago already.
From the US side of things, a lot has happened in 2010:
Tea Party rallies, Banks going broke, Increasing unemployment rate despite the economic stimulus and all that spending, Health care reform passing, BP oil spill crisis, Bailouts for Greece, Mosques near Ground Zero, Finance reform, Justices elected to the Supreme Court, The end of the war in Iraq, The drubbing that Democrats took in the Midterm elections, The FIFA World Cup, Tension in the Korean Peninsula, Mountains of Debt, etc.
Let’s end the year on a high note. Please enjoy this funny jibjab clip. It is supposed to be a comical take on the events that transpired in the year.
Goodbye 2010. I am wishing you a very prosperous New Year.
The orgy of violence has continued in Jos. If you can remember, on Christmas Eve, an Islamic fundamentalist group called Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad detonated some bombs in Jos the capital city of Plateau state. This horrific act of violence claimed 80 innocent lives and injured about 120 people. The report making the rounds is that there are also smaller scale and continuing acts of terrorism by this terrorist group. This spate of Islamic extremism has lately become an intermittent fixture in Jos even as one notes its resonance in other parts of the Muslim-dominated Northern Nigeria.
According to this report, here is how the leader of this terrorist outfit justified their actions:
If you don’t know us, we are Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad which was falsely labelled Boko Haram, and we did this because our Creator has ordered us to wage war on everyone who does not embrace the religion of Islam after preaching to them. And (another) one of the reasons why we are doing this in this country is because of the way we are being killed in this country. Through evil machinations, plans are orchestrated to achieve desired goals (against us) and we are continuously being killed, just as the Arabs say ‘what the eye sees is better than a story that is told’. Everyone knows how our Muslim brothers and sisters were massacred in different towns in this country; Lagos State has witnessed it, so has Ibadan, the town called Zangon Kataf in Kaduna has also witnessed it, Bauchi has witnessed it and so has the town Suldaniyya known as Plateau or Jos, where we have carried out our attack being a witness to the killings of our Muslim brothers and even the abduction of our Muslim sisters and children whose locations are not known until now. It has also happened in Kano State at Sabon gari area. These happenings including what we have not even witnessed or heard of, only God knows their magnitude (and) God shall judge (in these matters) on the Day of Judgment. These are some of the reasons why we are waging this war because God has ordered us to go to war when our brothers and sisters are killed, and now we are even denied our rights to practice our religion. God knows best.
This is the message I want to pass to people, and finally I want to tell the Muslims in this country and the whole world that they need to know this is a war between Muslims and non-Muslims. So wherever you are, you should be weary; this is not a tribal war, nor is it similar to the wars of the pre-Islamic era, it is not a war for financial gains, it is solely a religious war. We did not start this war so it would end in one week, or one month or one year. Only when we are completely annihilated and nobody chooses to continue with our struggle, maybe that could be the end. Or (we establish a system where) religion has the final say or religion determines everything, that will be the end of this war. And definitely, this war will not end just because we are visibly present anywhere. This is a war between Muslims and non-Muslims. We are ready for anyone willing to face us, whether it’s a group of people or even the government because we know who supports us, God the Creator of the universe, praise be to God. Therefore, we are warning every Muslim who believes in the religion of Islam that he should never help a non-Muslim in this war. If he helps any non-Muslim and in so doing, a fellow Muslim suffers due to that, he should know that he is a dead person.”
After reading that, I had a few observations:
A) The leader of this terrorist group claims that the loss of Muslim life in other parts of the country was the motivating factor for the Jos violence which was primarily directed at Christians. As far as I can tell, religiously-inspired clashes are not the norm in the southern part of the country. Skirmishes in the south are either politically-motivated or based on ethnicity; they are not primarily religiously-inspired. So the claim that Muslims were being victimized in Lagos and Ibadan doesn’t hold much water. If there were clashes in Lagos and Ibadan, it would rather be a clash or confrontation between the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani. That means that the nature of that conflict was ethnocentric and not necessarily religious. It is only coincidental that the majority of the injured or killed Hausa-Fulani in such a clash are Muslims. There is no way for this terror kingpin to verify the diabolical insinuation that there was some sort of Christian plot to kill Muslims. That is arrant hogwash.
B) It is also useful to remember that there is a sizeable Yoruba Muslim population in the Southwestern states. So if there is anyone or group that ought to be incensed over the loss of innocent Muslim lives in the Yoruba South-West, it would indeed be the Yoruba –amongst which would be the Yoruba Christian relatives of such persons. So it is rather ludicrous to read about some terrorist group in faraway Jos, some of whom never had any affiliation with Lagos and Ibadan, use the possible loss of lives in those places as justification for their religiously-inspired violence against the Christians in Jos.
C) The rest of the places that the terrorist mastermind spoke of were places in the North with a Muslim majority. It is rather odd to hear these places cited as a reason for the attack. Who exactly, if not the Muslim radicals in these Northern enclaves, are responsible for the sporadic orgies of religious violence? The fact is that time and time again, the Christian minority in the Northern states have had to fend off, nay endure unprovoked attacks at the hands of a super-radicalized Islamic majority. To then use the scant, disproportionately smaller reprisal attacks against the Muslim perpetrators of violence in the Middle Belt and Core Northern states as justification for unprovoked orgies of violence against innocent Christians in other parts of the North smacks of revolting duplicity.
D) Now that I have debunked the vacuous and fictitious reasons adduced for this horrific attack, it is useful to reach out to sensible and peaceful men and women everywhere regardless of what faith or creed they hold to. If indeed there are concerns for the wanton loss of innocent lives, would it not have been better if concerned citizens pressured their respective local or state governments for concrete actions to arrest chaos? Would it not have been better for citizens to demand for more arrests and more trials, convictions and incarcerations? In what way can anyone justify the senseless slaughter of the innocent who were never in support of any religiously-mandated war?
E) Some analysts may conclude yet again, that this was just one isolated fringe group acting out their own twisted agenda. They may suggest that people should simply sweep this under the rug and continue living their lives like nothing happened. Some analysts may manage to twist and bend the harsh reality of religious violence staring us in the face and somehow exhume some buried or hidden political agenda. I will caution that people should not swallow such shoddy analyses wholesale. The ugly truth staring everyone in the face, and which has been spoken of in no lesser terms by the perpetrators of this mindless bloodbath, is that Nigeria should quit pretending that there is any sort of unity or cord that binds all together. It is high time people stopped drinking the “One Nigeria” coolaid because from the actions of the people tied together in that giant cage, there is very little that unites the people in the country. The animals that committed these heinous acts are telling anyone who cares to listen that they are waging a religious war targeting anyone who does not subscribe to the faith. It is rather idiotic to spin something tame and political from clearly worded warnings of impending religious carnage.
F) Perhaps it is time to stop rationalizing away this menace and start addressing the real issues here. It appears to me, that something has to be done about this volatile and extremely radicalized version of Islam that is currently being practiced in Nigeria and in other parts of the world. I am not going to make the silly assumption that all Muslims condone this senseless slaughter, nor am I even going to insinuate that Muslims (no matter how moderate) are secretly comfortable with such barbarity perpetrated in their names. But frankly, why does it seem like in many parts of the world, wherever there are incidences of barbaric communal, regional or localized violence and terrorism, in most cases, it always appears to involve Muslims and others? What can be done about this propensity for religiously-motivated bloodshed that is increasingly morphing into an Islamic narrative? Isn’t it time that people actually admitted to themselves the obvious truth about this global menace? When will political correctness allow people to correctly address the monster of Islamic fundamentalism especially that breed ravaging Northern Nigeria and many parts of Africa?
G) Finally, I am going to make a cynical prediction. This unprovoked attack on the Christians in Jos will engender an outcry from the Christian communities in these places and in parts of the South. It will attract a few headlines in the dailies or some commentary on radio or television. It will propel some despondent self-professing Christians to engage in a milder version of some retaliatory attacks which will also be unequivocally condemned. There will be assurances given from state and national-level law enforcement promising to arrest the chaos and to prosecute the masterminds of this assault. Christians in the north will be begged by seemingly peace-seeking politicians to return back to their daily lives with promises of swift and decisive action. Then, this unfortunate Christmas eve butchery will be swept under the rug. That is until, the next round of religious violence flares up again and engulfs some city in the North.
H) This is a vicious cycle. If I seem very cynical of placid reassurances from state-level actors or of hypocritical demands for restraint on the part of the victims without commensurate strong words of condemnation for the perpetrators, it is only because this is a familiar recurrent decimal in Nigeria’s theatre of horrors. Yes, this seasonal mass murder of Christians in the North, followed by vain promises of arrests and detentions, followed by a season of calm before the next religious storm erupts has been going on in Nigeria for as far back as 1953. Go figure. One thing is certain—there is absolutely no honesty in denying that Nigeria is without question a hotbed of Islamic extremism. If left unchecked, it may be the catalyst for a sustained war which would mark the end of that geographical namespace as we currently know it.
- Muslim Group Claims Attacks on Two Nigerian Cities (businessweek.com)
- Nigeria vows to hunt bomb suspects – Aljazeera.net (news.google.com)
- Nigeria pledges to hunt bombers (bbc.co.uk)
- Violence continues after deadly weekend blasts in Nigeria (ctv.ca)
My eyes opened lazily and I stared around my bedroom. I glanced at the clock. It was 9:30 AM. With a cry, I quickly jumped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom. I was supposed to be in court before 10:30 AM. How will I ever get there on time? What if I am barred from entering the court on account of my lateness? What will happen if my case got postponed for my failure to appear in court on time? Why, oh why did I not stop watching episodes of Prison Break to go to bed on time last night? A thousand questions chased themselves around in my mind.
I brushed my teeth as hastily as I could then quickly jumped into the shower. I turned the shower on full blast and jumped back immediately when the icy cold water hit my body. It is winter here now, and I usually have to take some time to turn the Hot and Cold knobs on the shower to get the right temperature for my shower. Too hot, and you’d burn your skin; too cold and you’ll feel like you are drowning in icy water. I jumped back, fumbled with the knobs, got the right setting and started showering. Time was really of the essence now.
Close to two months ago, I woke up one morning and discovered that I was already late for work. Usually, when I am running late to work, I’d call in to let my colleagues know about my situation. That would enable me to take my time, get everything in order and drive safely to work. On this very day however, this protocol totally skipped my mind. All I could remember was that I dressed up quickly, jumped into the car and was driving furiously to work.
Not too long after I turned the ignition and started driving, I came to one stop sign in my residential neighborhood. By law, you are required to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, before proceeding. I came to the stop sign, slowed down a bit, and then drove on without coming to a complete halt. I was in a hurry to get to work, besides this was a quiet residential area and it was not like there was any danger I could run into some approaching vehicle. If you know about some quiet suburban residential areas, you would know that at 9 o’clock in the morning, there was a remote chance that a driver in a vehicle would even see some pedestrians not to talk of other cars.
As the case may be, there was a cop patrolling the neighborhood at precisely that time. As if this cop knew what was going to happen, he was concealed in a corner, beside some trees, and sat waiting as it were, to see if anyone would fail to stop at the stop sign. I did not notice the cop as I slowed down at the stop sign, made a turn and continued driving quickly to work.
Suddenly, I heard the police siren. Flashing lights, the cop’s headlights trained on me. Oh dear, not again. I pulled over to the side of the road, and rolled down the windows of the vehicle. I produced my driver’s license and began to fumble in the glove compartment for my registration. The policeman sat behind in his vehicle running my tags and watching my general demeanor. I was not flustered because this was not the first time that I have been pulled over for one minor traffic issue. For example, last year, I was actually pulled over by an overzealous cop and given a ticket because unknown to me, the bulb of my left headlamp had gone out and I was driving with only one headlamp.
“But where in the world is my registration?” I murmured to myself.
I usually kept documents like this in my glove box. Then it hit me. And suddenly I began to sweat profusely. I did not have my registration document in the car at all! I knew that when the policeman walked up to me, with his hand placed menacingly on his gun, the first thing he would ask was for my license and registration. Failure to produce a registration document would heighten the policeman’s suspicion seeing how I failed to stop at a stop sign. He might begin to think that I stole the car or that something fishy was up. After all, I need not explain to anyone the consequences of driving while black.
The reason why I did not have my registration papers with me in the vehicle was that the last time I renewed my registration, I chose to do so electronically. Rather than go to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, sit there for goodness-knows-how-long, in order to pay for and collect new registration documents, I opted to pay the fees electronically. The instructions were to print a copy of the receipt which I could place in my car. I did so, but forgot to take the paper from my study back to the car. So the proof of my registration was lying somewhere on my desk at home and here I was on the road stranded.
After what seemed like an eternity, the cop walked over and brusquely demanded to see my license and registration. I handed over the license and politely explained why I did not have the registration at hand. He explained that not only did I not stop at the stop sign, but that I was actually speeding through a residential area. Speeding? What, a few miles above some inconspicuously posted speed limit? Are you serious? However, the truth was that I was indeed guilty. I politely explained the urgency of the situation as I was running late to work already. He told me to wait and then went back to his vehicle.
I am not in the police department, so I don’t know what protocols are often in play when they pull over a driver. But I do know that I have often noticed that if a black, male driver is pulled over, there usually are two cops on the scene. If the cop that pulled the car over does not have a partner, he or she usually radioed in for backup before approaching the vehicle. As I sat down there, I wondered what sort of terrible fines he would hit me with. Is he going to detain me for longer because I did not have my registration in the car? Is he going to call for backup? Is he going to hit me with the double whammy of a ticket for speeding and for failure to stop at a stop sign? Is he going to write a ticket that also required that I remove my car windows’ tint—a tint level below the official limit? What if he decides to search the entire vehicle—even though there was nothing he could find? I remember that I couldn’t open the trunk if asked to because I needed to work on my car’s remote-controlled trunk-operating system.
Apparently, the cop had a way of verifying with his database that I was licensed to drive, that I had a valid registration, that I also had vehicle insurance and above all, a relatively good driving record. And if I daresay, I was professional and polite in addressing him. There was no need to call a backup. Finally, he came forward, handed back my license and a ticket explaining that if I so chose, I could avoid paying the ticket so that I could have my date in court. I thanked him and drove away.
And today is the court date.
No sooner had I finished showering and putting on my clothes than I was out driving furiously to court.
As it turns out, I got there just on time. I walked into the courtroom which was almost already full with people in my predicament, waiting for the judge to decide our cases. It turns out, I could have taken my time getting ready and driving to court, because at 10:30 when the judge was supposed to be ushered into court, he was not ready yet.
I sat in the audience and began to search the courtroom to see if the officer on my case was in court. I didn’t have to look for long. At the corner of the courtroom reserved for police officers, I saw about 6-7 cops already seated. My heart sank to my stomach. I assumed that the officer associated with my case was there.
Here’s how it usually works: When the judge is ushered into the court, everyone rises to greet him or her. Then after the judge takes his seat, he explains a few things. He explains that if you are called, and the officer responsible for your citation is not present in court, you can plead “Not Guilty” and he will find you not guilty; whereupon the points on your license will be dropped as well as the charges you were supposed to pay. He also explains that if the officer in your case is present, you could plead “Guilty with an explanation”. He would listen to your explanation and if he deems it sufficient, you can expect to pay reduced charges or fees rather the original amount that was written. In addition, you could have the points dropped as well. If the cop i there and you plead “Not Guilty”, then your case will be moved to the back of the pile. Afterwards, the judge would listen to the officer make his case, then listen to you and make a determination. Usually, when that is the case, one needs to have strong evidence showing one’s innocence or even a lawyer speak for one, otherwise one is liable to receive the full points on the license in addition to fees reaching as high as $500.
By 11 am promptly, the Judge was ushered into the court and we all rose up to greet him. When the formalities were out of the way, he began to hand down his judgment for the traffic violations on his desk. A number of people came with their own lawyers, but that didn’t seem to get them off the hook. They were simply told to take a seat and wait at the end for further deliberations by the judge. The atmosphere in that room was very tense; besides, I did not have any legal representation.
I sat waiting for my name to be called.
There was a Spanish speaking immigrant in court who appeared to be in court for the first time. A Spanish-speaking court-appointed interpreter was given to him to help him understand what was being said. The Judge asked him how he pled –whether “Not Guilty”, or “Guilty With An Explanation” etc. The Judge reminded him that the policeman in his case was not around, but to my astonishment, the man pled “Guilty”. The Judge had no option than to find him guilty and he asked that he pay his fines. Another Mexican immigrant chose to plead “Guilty with an Explanation”—his explanation being that he didn’t see the stop sign on the school bus. The Judge reminded him that there was no witness to the case (that is, that the policeman that wrote the ticket was not in court and that he could change his plea). He kept on stating that he didn’t see the stop sign on the school bus over and over again and so he was found guilty and required to pay the full fines. I began to feel uncomfortable. What was wrong with these people? All they had to do, when the policeman was not in court, was to plead “Not Guilty” and all charges would have been dropped. Was the court-appointed interpreter doing a terrible job? It seemed to me that she could have used a few more sentences to explain to these Spanish-speakers what they could have pled! Or maybe, by law, all she was required to do was to translate only the things that the Judge spoke to the plaintiff.
There was also an unfortunate Mr Olusola in court today. He did not need a Spanish interpreter, but he also seemed to be having a hard time understanding what the judge said in his preliminary statements. When he was called to the stand and asked how he pled, he kept mumbling “Your Honor, I am sorry”. The Judge asked him several times how he pled. He also reminded Mr Olusola that his witness was also not in court. All Mr Olusola was required to answer when the Judge asks “How do you plead?” was “Not Guilty”. C’est finis, finito, gaskiya, simple and short. Poor Mr Olusola kept saying “Your Honor I am sorry, Your Honor I am sorry”. And so the judge sharply pushed his case to the back of the pile and ordered him to go and sit at the back of the courtroom. There were a lot of cases for the judge to attend to this morning, and anyone can tell he clearly didn’t like the idea of people wasting the court’s time. Maybe at the end of the exercise, he’ll try once again to see if Mr Olusola understands HOW to plead. I really felt like walking over to him and explaining things better, but I was not sure that sort of thing would have been permitted.
Finally my name was called. I answered “Present, your honor” as I started walking from my place in the audience to the front table. The Judge noted that my witness was not around and asked how I pled while I was still walking up to the stand. I answered confidently “Not Guilty”. He told me that he also found me not guilty and that I should have a great day as I was free to leave. I shot back a hasty “Thanks your Honor”. And so even before reaching the table to stand before the judge, I turned around, and walked out of the courtroom with the points on my license dropped and with the $100 fine automatically dropped as well.
I daresay, I am having a good day indeed.
As if the crumbling state of Nigeria’s educational sector isn’t disheartening enough, one learns this:
Only 20.04 per cent of 310,077 candidates who sat for the Nov/Dec 2010 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) obtained five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects, therefore qualifying for admission into universities and polytechnics.
By implication, the results mean that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) recorded yet another mass failure. In Nov/Dec 2008 WASSCE, out of 372,600 candidates, only 23.54 per cent obtained five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects while in the same exam in 2009, out of 342,443 candidates, only 31 per cent (106,413) made five credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects.
It wasn’t too long ago, in a discussion with a proud alumnus of one of Nigeria’s ‘popular’ universities, that I reflected on the painful deterioration in the educational standards of Nigerian schools and universities. Of course, that provoked great ire, and I was roundly castigated for my rather uncharitable assessment. I was accused of being too cynical and melodramatic; my interlocutor also wondered why I would dare to compare the educational standards in Nigeria with that obtainable in other parts of the world granted that Nigeria, and by extension, many other African countries, had as he claimed, their own unique set of challenges. He then proceeded to lecture me on the quality of Nigerian Education, and how it supposedly compares favorably with and in some cases, outstrips that obtainable at the primary and secondary schools in the United States for example.
Without intending to offend my friend, I pointed out a few things, but as I didn’t have the relevant stats or figures to corroborate my claims, our discussion ended in a stalemate. In presenting these findings (as reported in this news article), I am merely seeking to draw attention to a shameful issue that demands urgent attention. Many Nigerians know this as well, even if it may be very unpalatable.
Firstly, Nigeria once used to have a great tertiary educational system. Degrees from Nigerian universities compared favorably with those from other parts of the world. Sadly that is no longer the case now. Crumbling infrastructure, unavailability of the necessary learning materials, and a shortage of thoroughly qualified and motivated professors play a role here. It is alarming, but there are an awful lot of Nigerian graduates in sensitive engineering and health sector jobs that are completely clueless as to what their profession demands.
Secondly, Corruption is so rife in the educational sector that even if one were to grant that the professors and lecturers in Nigerian universities are worth their onions, there are still numerous cases of incompetence involving lecturers; numerous incidences where lecturers have allowed themselves to be bribed for grades or they may subtly demanded bribes to pass a failing student; numerous incidences where lecturers themselves have subtly coerced or requested for sexual favors in exchange for grades or threatened to fail students if certain demands were not met.
Furthermore, it is also regrettable to note that the local and state governments cannot even provide adequately funded and working primary and secondary public schools. This has generated throngs of tiny, self-funded and sometimes self-contained money-making contraptions called Private schools. It used to be that children whose parents were wealthy enough could afford to yank them out of the public school system and then send them to special private schools were they were given an ostensibly more rigorous and more complete education. That is hardly the case now especially in the Southeastern corner of the country where there is a babel of private schools given the complete collapse of the public educational system. These so called private schools, springing forth in ramshackle apartments, or makeshift sheds and warehouses are not offering anything that is substantially more rounded or in-depth educationally.
It is therefore hardly surprising to note that of all the people who took the WAEC exams nationally, only 20% passed. Yes, only 20% qualified for direct admission into the universities around.
What is considered a successful result?
There are usually 8 or 9 subjects that one is required to take in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). This is a national examination taken after completing SS3 or 12th grade to move on to higher studies in the university. The fact is that the better you do on all the subjects you sat down for in this exam, the better your prospects are in gaining an admission into one of the universities in the country. But even without passing all the 8 or 9 subjects, one is still deemed to have done well, and to have qualified for admission into a higher institution if one were to pass just 5 of these subjects (including Mathematics and English Language) with at least a C6 credit grade or higher. Results of the WASSCE exams are classified thus:
A3—A2—A1 (where A1 is highest distinction in the subject)
C6—C5—C4 (where C4 is the highest credit level but below the A’s)
P7—P8 (this is just a bare passing grade; for some majors, a minimum passing grade may not be sufficient to gain admission)
F9 (this is a failing grade)
So, to underscore the point, only 20% of all students got results good enough to qualify for university education. Does that imply that universities all around the country are then going to sit back contented with only 20% of potential registrations? Not in a million years! And so, as you would expect, there will be several thousands of unqualified or under-qualified students who will be walking the halls of the university campuses in Nigeria next year to fill up the required quota. Universities have a budget to work with you know, and they don’t like budget shortfalls!
Is it any wonder that the overall educational standard of the country keeps slipping? Pretty soon, all you’ll need to gain an admission or to enter into a prestigious Medicine or Engineering field in Nigerian universities will only be a pen, a piece of paper, and a wad of naira notes to grease the palms of the ‘right’ people!
Some will say that is the case already.
In recent news, one discovers that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi, the Dikedioramma and Eze Gburugburu of Igboland, has fallen so gravely ill that there are now fears for his life. He is 77 years old. He was recently rushed to the University of Enugu Teaching Hospital where he received treatment for Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke). This is not the first time that he has suffered from this debilitating ailment, but this time around, it seems to be more severe than was previously thought. He is literally in a coma, or supposedly recovering from one at the moment.
It seems that the situation has gotten more critical because as at this time, he has been flown to the UK in a special air ambulance for further treatment.
There are fears that he may not survive his treatment; in any case, God’s will be done. Let us remember him in our prayers.
Don’t know who Ojukwu is? Well, click here to read a Wikipedia entry on him.
Ok.. let me just come out and say it: No Human can dance better than this bird. Enuff said. You doubt me? Just go and watch Willow Smith’s “Whip Your Hair Back and Forth” song, watch the videos on youtube popping up to do the dance in the original song, and then compare that with what you have here.
This parrot or cockatoo beats them all hands down:)
(runs off to wipe the tears on his face from laughing too much)
Politics, we have often been cynically reminded, is a dirty game. It is a game that participants have to employ whatever means necessary to win; sometimes politicians have to do incredible somersaults or reverse their principles for short term electoral gains. However, politics can also be an interesting game. When one dispassionately analyzes the actions taken by the key figures especially towards an election, one can’t help but smile at the intricate maneuverings going on. Yes, I am talking about the backroom deals; the bonds forged in secret places; a ‘convenient’ marriage of self-interests by sometimes radically different people for the purpose of securing a victory at the polls. Such scheming, wheeling and dealing is certainly familiar to Nigerian politicians—at least one expects such rather than the all-too-familiar bloodletting that happens whenever there are elections in Nigeria.
It is that time again in Nigeria: 2011 is a presidential election year.
For the uninitiated, elections are a particularly difficult enterprise in this 150 million-strong nation of disparate faiths, political views and ethnic nationalities. Routinely marred by violence and gross electoral misconduct, many Nigerians have gradually grown cynical and distrustful of the whole process. And they are not to blame—several times, the clear mandate and choice of the people are scuttled by dirty and compromised election officials, choosing instead to impose on the people a pre-selected favorite of the hegemon in Aso Rock.
There is also the issue of the superabundance of political party platforms, each one seemingly regional in design. For the country to make any meaningful progress past the familiar tribal or ethnic politics which has retarded the country’s expected exponential development, it is necessary to have stable political institutions and parties which are not only national in scope but truly perceived to be so. That has not been the case in Nigeria. Thus, what one observes is a hodgepodge of small and unviable political arrangements, usually on a regional or geographical scale, vying to win local elections, but at the same time pretending to have the capacity to compete on a national scale. On the national scale it would appear, there is only one party that truly exists and that is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Having no credible or evenly matched opposition, the PDP has evolved into a vicious monster with ever-increasing taste for unchecked power. This, unsurprisingly, came with disastrous consequences.
After 16 years of military rule, President Obasanjo was sworn into power in 1999. When he left in 2007, he masterminded the ascension to office of one Alhaji Umaru Yaradua, then governor of Katsina state. I do not want to bother you at this point with the intricate political maneuverings that occurred when Obasanjo decided that he wanted to amend the constitution to allow him to run for the third time. He almost won that exercise were it not for principled opposition. Ironically, his own vice-president was counted amongst the ranks of a massive public outcry against Obasanjo’s self-succession plans. I suppose that ‘betrayal’ was never forgiven by Obasanjo; we can see from his actions that he swore that since his own VP was bold enough to kick against his political machinations, he would also go out of his way to prevent erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar from ever becoming the president of Nigeria.
Fast forward to 2010…
It is already the 20th of December. It won’t be long now before this year will be over; the first decade of this new century will be gone—gone forever. In the remaining time you have, try to find something to cheer about. Try to find a way to get into a Christmas holiday mood. Try and find a way to be humbler, friendlier, more empathetic, and more resourceful. Do the right thing by your wife or girlfriend; do something memorable for your husband or boyfriend. Don’t forget your children. Say a kind word to a stranger. Remember your good friends who were there for you in times of great need. Spread a little cheer if you can.
Why? Times are hard. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you are currently in—times are really hard. There is much want and deprivation all over and people are really struggling to stay afloat. This calls for a little understanding. A kind word to a stranger or even a friend can go a long way in these times of distress.
In the US, for example, despite being the number one economy in the world, unemployment stands at 9.8% nationally. In some states the unemployment rate is already up to 12%. People are losing their mortgages and thus their homes. There are roughly 5 people for every job out there. Thousands of manufacturing jobs have already been shipped overseas. Some people have already lost their pension and life savings. Despite what you may have been told, there are still millions without access to proper health care. Small businesses are closing shop either because they cannot secure health coverage for their workers or because they don’t even have the capital for the operational costs of staying in business. And let’s not forget, the banks aren’t lending like they should even though they were bailed out specifically to make this happen. Insurance premiums are rising daily, but this is not met by increasing wages. To summarize: the economic depression continues to exert its heavy toll on Americans.
But once there is life there is hope, or so they say. It may be hard to provide for your loved ones like you really want to, but take heart. Above all, remember that this is the season that Christians remember the birth of a savior. Forget the over commercialized Christmas celebrations; it is not really about the gifting. A world steeped in spiritual darkness and without hope of being reconciled to the maker has finally been transformed by the birth, in remote and lowly places of one who will save the people from the natural consequences of their sins. Let that very thought keep you warm in these cold winter months as you expect a bright tomorrow.
I am wishing you a merry Christ-filled Christmas now; I am not going to wait till the 25th to say it. And if my well-wishes and friendly salutation rubs you the wrong way because you are not a Christian, or because you are an atheist, please don’t be cross. Just disregard my sincere well-wishes. And no, I am not going to dabble into another one of those silly debates that pop up around this time. Let me concede to you early that Christ may not have been born on December 25 to begin with. Even if the December 25 day was arbitrarily chosen, what anyone should bear in mind is that it is the remembrance of the birth that is significant. He could have been born on the Ides of March—that will not rob the day of its special meaning.
Like I said earlier: spread a little cheer.
Sometimes, you cannot help the feeling, if you are a Nigerian or a Ghanaian, that there is some unspoken but serious rivalry between the two nations. In previous decades, Nigeria had the upper hand in issues that concern the West African region: this makes sense considering that the country has the largest population in the region and in the continent as a whole. Also, when you consider Nigeria’s comparatively larger economy and her oil wealth, you may begin to understand some of the reasons behind the superiority complex that Nigerians manifest when speaking to or about other West Africans.
In recent times however, Ghana has improved her image and standing on all fronts; indeed so clear and focused has Ghana’s ascent up the West African totem pole been that citizens of both countries and interested third parties have often found themselves comparing the two nations. And if the truth be told, despite having six and a half times the population of Ghana, and nine times the size of Ghana’s GDP, Nigeria cannot by any means boast of being so much better. Not even twice better by any serious metric of comparison. This is not to disparage the citizens of any country—it is just an attempt to show that at the moment, neither of these two countries is a clear winner or a clear favorite by an extended analytical comparison of socio-economic indices. I am sure that some partisans may disagree with me at this point, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees.
Be that as it may, one area of comparison between these two regional powerhouses is emerging, nay has already emerged—the indigenous or national movie industry. One only need say a few things about the movie industry of both countries to generate a supercharged furor. Sometimes, a discussion on this subject matter is marked by unadulterated Ad-hominems, but I guess that’s sometimes the mode of argument when the topic becomes sufficiently infused with primitive passions or provincial loyalties.
Let’s cut to the chase here: What do you think of the Nigerian movie industry or Nollywood, as it is popularly called? What are your thoughts on Ghollywood—presumably, Ghana’s movie industry? Would you say that one was better than the other—if yes, what are your reasons? What about their local movie super stars?
Okay, I get it—you absolutely love these African movies. Yes, it is hard to deny but in recent years, the quality of African movies in general has been improving—albeit, I’ll contend that it is not improving fast enough. It is difficult to look at movies from 15 to 20 years ago and not notice how much has improved. I think kudos is in order for the hard-working men and women who have persistently striven to elevate and refine their craft. Who knows how long it might be from now when some African movies might begin to command global interest and even be forced onto the American movie scene? Alas, I digress.
Coming back to African movies, I am left scratching my head at some of the movies that are making the rounds in Ghana these days. I am talking about movies like Hot Fork, Heart of Men, 4play, Kiss Me If You Can, Shakira, Sex Game, etc. Many Africans who have seen these movie trailers and/or bothered to see the entire movie have marveled at how unoriginal, unconvincing, and vapid the movie plots have been DESPITE the exaggerated use of sexually explicit scenes. Indeed, some of these movies, seem to be little more than poorly-produced soft porn—teasing the audience with all manner of sexually provocative imagery.
What exactly is going on in the Ghana movie industry? I realize that in this present day and age, sex sells, but surely, this is not the best that Ghana’s movie producers can offer is it? Questions will arise because for good or ill, it seems that Ghana has uniquely captured the erotic, smarmy, carnal, and prurient corner of the African movie market. And it seems that this is going to be here for a while because it is hugely profitable. Yes, let’s not kid ourselves: there is a huge demand for these movies by active and passionate lovers of African movies.
Let no one be tempted to wax too puritanical about general decency in African societies. The truth is that even if people might criticize these movies in respectable or religious settings, a great number of them still watch it in private or relaxed circles, I suspect, if for nothing else, to see what jaw-dropping sexual stunts African movie stars now have the confidence to show on the silver screen.
Now, this would not have been so awful for many if the plots of these movies weren’t somewhat stale; or the characters’ lines weren’t so predictable; or their acting lacking certain finesse; or the sex scenes weren’t so tastelessly shot or depicted. Is it really the case that these tasteless nude scenes enhance the story? Is it really necessary to show in near graphic detail some of these sex scenes—surely, some can be left to the imagination yes? If these movies are not to be misconstrued as Grade B Pornography, is it such a huge deal to ask for acting that advances a solid narrative or plot instead of the random and pointless caressing, groping, kissing, stiff and clumsy foreplay and awkward sexual intercourse that one sometimes gets?
Notice that in these objections, I have intentionally avoided the hot rod of morality which seems to be the default weapon that Africans employ in denouncing some of these movies. Personally, I could care less what sorts of movies become the norm on the African movie scene. For one, I am thoroughly fed up of the ritual-money theme prevalent in Nigerian movies. Secondly, I am far more interested in African music than I am in African movies. Lastly, I think I’ll be the last person to intentionally support a stifling of creativity and imagination in the African movie industry. If that creativity and imagination takes expression in movies that are generally deemed by Africans to be overly sexually explicit, then hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. My objection is based solely on the quality of content of these semi-trashy pieces of adolescent lasciviousness.
I am surprised that so far though, Nollywood has not yet caught the bug. But I am not such a doe-eyed optimist. I am willing to bet that as these “smutty” films continue to rake in huge profits for Ghana’s movie producers, it will not be long before Nollywood joins the game. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby! Perhaps, at that time, many critics of the Ghanaian movie industry would drop the annoying pretensions to a moral higher ground.
Give us better movies or market these movies for what they truly are: porn with obnoxiously loud histrionics!