Friday, March 30, 2007

A peculiar outrage

The treatment of Faye Turney is wrong - but not in the same league as British and US abuses

You've got to love the objectivity of the writers at the Guardian (which by the way is my favourite British paper). The article is posted below:

It's right that the government and media should be concerned about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in Iran. Faye Turney's letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning. But the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.

Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab", as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.

They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly "rendered" to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.

As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being "worked hard", the euphemism coined by one senior British army officer for the abuse of prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know all 15 are alive and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a court martial and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa's murder. So we can only assume that his death - by beating - was self-inflicted; yet another instance of "asymmetrical warfare", the description given by US authorities to the deaths of the Guantánamo detainees who hanged themselves last year.

And while the families of the captured marines and sailors must be in agonies of uncertainty, they have the comfort of knowing that the very highest in the land are doing everything they can to end their "unjustified detention". They can count themselves especially lucky, for the very same highest of the land have rather different views on what justifies detention where foreign-born Muslims in Britain are concerned. In the case, for example, of the Belmarsh detainees, suspicion justified arrest; statements extracted under torture from third parties justified accusation; and secret hearings justified imprisonment.

With disregard for the rights of prisoners now entrenched at the very top of government, it comes as no surprise that abuses committed by rank and file soldiers go virtually unremarked. No one in politics or the media dares censure the military, surely today the only institution still immune from any sort of criticism, even when soldiers are brutal and murderous towards captives. Instead of frankly facing up to the wrongs soldiers have perpetrated, officers and ministers speak of difficult work done in testing conditions, deliberate provocations, and propaganda by the enemy.

We all know in our bones that soldiers and civilians in revolt don't mix. Ask any historian. Ask them about what British soldiers did in Kenya, French soldiers did in Algeria, and Americans in Vietnam. While you're at it, ask them what the RAF did in Iraq under British rule in the 1920s (gassed Kurds, in case you've forgotten).

We must all hope that Faye Turney and her comrades are returned to their families safely and soon. Then perhaps we can compare their accounts of their treatment with what Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three have to say about Guantánamo, what Prisoner B has to say about Belmarsh, and what the men arrested with Baha Mousa can tell us of his screams on the night he died.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iran goes on the offensive

Iran get liva sha make we no lie. Kai!

They just announced that they will at the very least delay the release of Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only woman in the group that was captured because according to some Iranian blazer, 'Britain's attitude is wrong'. While in broad terms I am not really interested in this case, there is no way it can escape one's attention as the media here are having orgasms over the issue. For me the main highlight of this issue is how low Britain has fallen nowadays. Imagine trying this under Iron Meg...

On Friday a detachment (or is it flotilla since it is a naval case) of Iranian vessels boarded a British vessel somewhere in between Iranian and Iraqi waters, and took the sailors and marines captive. The people taken captive include one woman (I wonder what she was doing there in the first place, that is a man's job).

The Brits say that they were in Iraqi waters, and have released 'proof' complete with fancy graphics to justify their position. The Iranians say that they were in Iranian waters, and have released their own 'proof'. The media here (of course) is sympathetic to the Brit position. For me, I am as usual looking at different sources, and as is usual, what you get is different depending on who you get it from. Notice that the language coming from the Western media is biased towards calling the fifteen 'hostages' as against Al Jazeera who calls them 'captives'.

Meanwhile the UN has passed a draft resolution that supports the British position. Nothing new there, who would that puppet organisation support in the first place?

The question now is, who do we believe? Normally, one should believe the 'democratic' Western nation, but there is probably more to it than meets the eye, and besides, one cannot help but remember a little incident some four years back now when a man called Saddam was accused by the 'democratic' West of possessing certain assorted substances. He claimed that he didn't have such substances, the West (as has been the case now) came up with all sorts of fancy presentations and dazzling graphics as evidence to support their position, then attacked the guy. The UN tacitly supported the West (qui tacet consentit). Four years down the line, and well, it turns out that the Saddam guy was telling the truth afterall...


On the few occasions I have ever had contact with the man called Koro (one physical, all others through a medium such as the television), he has always come across as something less than desirable. While I didn't like the late Funso Williams (it is funny how so many people suddenly began to claim he was an angel after he was murdered), I felt that he was a far more desirable element than Musiliu. Today I stumbled across a website that seems to be (on the surface at least) a confirmation of my misgivings about the fellow. Don't get me wrong, there is always the chance that the man may have seen the light and repented of his past 'misdeeds', but in this case, I seriously doubt it. In any event, it is imperative that he come out to defend this and other allegations that are creeping up about his past. Dodging gubernatorial debates doesn't do any good. Once again, qui tacet consentit.

Last week meanwhile, there was another major outbreak of violence in Ajah. I believe I have written about the background to the issue before. This problem, and other problems of mob action in Nigeria such as the case of poor Toyin Olusase won't go away until someone big, and I mean really big sits in the dock for these crimes, and then dangles at the end of a rope. For crying out loud, these things aren't just as a result of poverty. The main fuel is grinding ignorance which is exploited by the elite.

Speaking of ignorance (and greed), another set of people died in a petrol related explosion some days ago. May they rest in peace.

Juve watch

Fiat and the old lady tied a three year sponsorship deal today. Deal will net us in excess of £69 million. Not nearly as much as the £160 million over five years that we lost when Tamoil decided to leave us in the lurch, but then a beggar has no choice. The display on our shirts from next season will be New Holland, which is a Fiat subsidiary. I had better start getting ready to buy the new shirt when it hits the store.

I generally hate being sentimental in most issues, but football is a different case, far different. Fiat was the company that started Juve, and it is wonderful that they've come to bail us out in our hour of need. If I were on the board of the club, we will never sign a deal with another company as long as I remain on that board.

Forza Fiat.
Forza Juve!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Thanks Kt. For some reason this stuff seems accurate. Is it POS or what? Meanwhile I have an assignment that needs to be completed, and for some reason after doing all the research and putting it together in hand writing, I can't seem to will myself to type the damned thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This slavery talk

A few days ago, the news flashed around the world about Toyin Olusase, a young teacher was lynched by a mob of her students during an exam. It is so depressing that such incidents still happen till this day. Despite the fact that 12 people have been arrested for the murder, the real cause of this behaviour will not be tackled, and that is religion.

"Religion by its very nature makes people intolerant: if I believe my religion is the true religion, it means that yours must be a false one, and you do not deserve the good things my religion promises me."

The above quote appeared in yesterday's Punch (thanks Idemudia), and it rings very true. Religion while potentially responsible for a lot of good, and indeed has been responsible for a lot of good, has also been responsible for a lot of evil. Sometimes one is tempted to agree with Karl Marx, the Bolsheviks and Elton John. Maybe religion should indeed be banned.

May Toyin rest in peace.

The walk against slavery

When Chxta was returning home from church on Sunday, Chxta happened to be walking behind two old dears. The weather was a little chilly, and there was a slight breeze. Unfortunately, the foot path was protected by a barricade, and both little old ladies walking side by side took up the entire space in front of Chxta. Being a well brought up Naija lad, Chxta took a step or two back and reduced his pace so as not to disturb both of them. You see, Chxta didn't want to put them through the minor inconvenience of having to squeeze his belly past them (I have to do something about that pot, cut down on the beer perhaps?). Anyway, as we got to the end of the barricade, the cloud cover disappeared, and the Sun came out, but we remained in the shade since we were against a wall. Then one of the old ladies said to the other, "There is sun on the other side of the road, let's cross over and get some of it." (It seems that these people photosynthesise, the way they jump at any little sun).

Being a well brought up Naija lad, Chxta felt duty bound to help the old dears across the road lest they be run over by the incredibly rude British youth ;). In any case, both of them were very pleased, both with Chxta (old people here are always so pleasantly surprised when you greet them), and with the Sun. Chxta was pleased with the Sun as well. It is funny to note that back home, we tend to avoid the Sun, while out here people crave for it. Talk about having it in reckless abundance and as a result not appreciating it on the one hand, and being deprived of it, and thus appreciating what little you get on the other hand. Sometimes Chxta wonders why we can't make use of solar power as a viable alternative to fossil fuels for power generation. Methinks that that large stretch of sun burnt nothingness between Kafanchan and Kaduna would be a good place to start the experiment of great big solar farms, but then I digress...

Being that the weather has improved, a lot of people are beginning to come out, Chxta for example has not seen the inside of the London Underground for some weeks now (and I think I'll continue to avoid that dreadful hole). Chxta would rather use the bus as there is a lot to be seen, as was seen on Saturday when Chxta was passing through Kennington on Chxta's way to Chxta's uncle's at Norbury. People in all sorts of fancy costumes came out to 'march against slavery'. From what Chxta saw on a Sky News report later on, they were demanding a better apology than the half hearted one that Tony Blair gave not a few months ago. They were also demanding reparations...

Yesterday morning on Nick Ferrari's show on the LBC, some anti slavery (is that it?) campaigner lost his cool (and made an ass of himself in the process) when Ferrari pointed out to him that the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended 200 years ago. Slavery (at least the non-covert form) ended in 1865, and I don't think that there is anyone walking the planet now who was around back then, so Chxta doesn't understand this call for an apology, the call for reparations, and more recently, this idea of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

What is this mad demand for an apology? And how do events that ended well before any of us walking around now have a direct bearing on what we do today?

Now before you get me wrong, let us look at a little background...

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was started by the Portuguese way back in the 15th century when European nations began to expand into the Americas. Initially they had tried to make the resident Indians their slaves (important to note here that people had been buying and selling other people for aeons), but the Indians proved not too useful when it came to the kind of rigorous labour that was needed to tame the wild landscape that was the Americas at the time. Somewhere along the line, a Catholic bishop (I forget his name) suggested that Africans would make better slaves because according to him, 'they were stronger, and less stubborn than the Indians', so off some people went to the Dark continent to get them some slaves, and of course they saw some Delta youths that were willing to sell them a consignment.

Time passed, and other European countries began to get involved in the Americas and as a result face the same issues the Portuguese faced, and take the solution that the Portuguese took, African slaves. And they always found ready sellers. If you watch the movie Roots, Kunta Kinte was not kidnapped by white guys, he was kidnapped by niggers.

Being that they were the Masters of the Universe at the time, it was only natural that the Brits came to dominate the slave trade for the next 300 years or thereabouts, much of the blame for the growth of the industry is attributed to John Hawkins who 'modernised' the rabble that was started by the Portuguese, cleaned it up, and made it a 'respectable' business. He started the triangular trade, where ships would sail from Portsmouth (or wherever else) laden with cargo of guns, spirits, mirrors and other things that they knew that the local chieftains (reminds one of the events in the Niger Delta today) in Africa would fancy. The ships would anchor off the area which became known as the Slave Coast (today's Niger Delta coincidentally), and the crew would row ashore with their cargo. At the shore they would be met by the natives who would dispossess them of the cargo, and in return furnish them with slaves who had been captured in one raid or the other, or one war or the other, or in a few pathetic cases were the local efulefu who had been deemed useless to the community. The traders would then take this unfortunate cargo on a truly memorable (and terrible) journey across the Atlantic to the Americas, where they'd be exchanged for money and the other goodies that the New World had to offer. Over time this became truly lucrative, and it is unarguable that a lot of modern Britain's wealth was built on that trade.

Skip forward some 200 years plus, Britain was still Master of the Universe, and a young parliamentarian named Wilberforce led an anti slave trade movement successfully. It is instructive to note that while the British legislated to ban the end of the trade on the Atlantic, their main competitors at the time France were unhappy about that (as would any Frenchman hearing Chxta referring to Britain as Master of the Universe would be), and the Americans or Spaniards weren't thrilled with the idea later. Despite the Royal Navy doing its best to enforce British law (which back then was global law kind of like American law today), the slave trade continued underground as was highlighted by the case of La Amistad between 1839 and 1841. A lot of people would remember the 1997 movie Amistad which was based on that event.

Slavery in itself is quite different from the slave trade, and ended in America in 1865, while it continued in Africa until well into the second decade of the 20th century. It continues in modified forms in different parts of the world until this day!

Anyway, the main object of this write up is to voice Chxta's opinion that all the calls for reparations, for apologies and the attempt to link the failings of African nations (and African American peoples) today to slavery is utter bollocks, and an exercise in something worse than colonial mentality, slave mentality.

Chxta is yet to fully understand how Kunta Kinte being made to accept Toby as his name at the back end of a lash is responsible for Snoop Dogg claiming to be a gansta. Chxta doesn't understand how the fact that their great great great great great great grandmother was the bed wench of some plantation owner
in Nashville is responsible for the moral laxity we see among African American youths (and their cousins of Caribbean descent on this side of the pond). Chxta doesn't understand how slavery prevents today's African American youth from going to school, instead preferring to rap and do sports in the name of 'keeping it real'. Chxta doesn't understand how payment of reparations would help African economies to get on their feet when there is almost definitely a cabal in one corner of the room waiting to pocket the reparation money and tell boys that 'dem no give us shinshin'.

Personally, Chxta believes that Britain paid its reparation all those centuries ago when their navy, against the wishes of the French, Americans, Spanish, Dutch and whoever else cared, put themselves at risk to prevent more slaves from being exported.

If there is anyone who should apologise, it is those of us that come from Africa now. We should apologise to those that can't trace their roots, and have no 'true sense' of identity, afterall we sold them. Personally, Chxta can trace his roots at least 400 years to the little village of Nteje in today's Anambra State of Nigeria. Prior to that, the trail is a little cold, and that is simply because unlike the Europeans, we didn't keep records, but then again how many people in Europe can trace their roots, what with all the wars and migration that occurred in the previous centuries. In any event, there is no African American that can trace his roots beyond 1865. Alex Haley (the writer of Roots) for example, was accused of falsifying his story, but even if it were true, he still hasn't traced his roots via paternal lines. More importantly however, how many people care about their roots?

It is important true to know where you come from, but it is more important not to be drawn back by history. Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Caribs and all others who are using slavery as an excuse to try and explain away their lack of progress are doing no one any favours. They are wasting everyone's time. Slavery and the slave trade is a part of history, and we have to live with it and learn to move forward. All this nonsense about apologies and reparations have to stop. Not one person walking the earth now participated in the slave trade, so why should they apologise for what they didn't do? What next? Are we going to ask the Israelis and the Italians to apologise for crucifying Jesus?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dangers of the Net

The Internet is indeed a dangerous playground. A father-of-two hanged himself live over the internet in Britain's first 'cyber suicide'.

Kevin Whitrick, 42, took his life after being goaded by dozens of chatroom users from across the world who initially believed he was play acting.

But as they watched in horror, Mr Whitrick climbed onto a chair, smashed through a ceiling and then hanged himself with a piece of rope...

Best blue screen ever

Blue screen of death with a nice twist...

I know a lot of guys would love the position of the restart button.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In defence of Shell

The post below is inspired by a comment made by Adaure in her blog some nine days back. She visited the Niger Delta probably for the first time and like more than enough people was shocked by what she saw. Like most people, she lays the blame squarely at the feet of the multi-nationals operating in the region. Hear her:

"..the reason I stopped buying gas from Shell stations and the intrigue about the whole Ogoni Saga. It all makes a 'ship-load' of sense. What I saw brought tears to my eyes..."

The above is the impression that a lot of people have of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, especially given their not so clean record in Nigeria. You see, Shell is far and away the biggest oil operation in Nigeria, so they are the most obvious. Reminds me of the way people like myself always pick on Micro$oft...

Shell began operations in Nigeria in 1938, but had to wait twenty years before they finally started shipping. The breakthrough had come two years earlier with the first successful well drilled in Oloibiri in what is now Bayelsa State. As time has passed, Nigeria has gone through various upheavals from independence to civil war to the three Rs, from 'oil boom' to 'oil gloom', from civilian rule to military rule back to civilian rule, the company has remained in Nigeria, doing their business and feeding fat.

Shell is blamed almost entirely for the degradation, and about two months back, a report appeared in National Geographic's website which while trying to be objective, ended up like everyone else in placing the blame mostly at the doorstep of the oil companies.

It is my opinion that most people who comment on this issue couldn't be further form the truth.

I believe that while the oil majors such as Shell do have a significant share in the blame for the apparent destruction of the environment in the Niger Delta, they do not have a majority of the blame. As is usual, I'd rather look at myself (and my people) for faults before looking outwards.

One thing I find interesting however is that despite that record, Shell is probably the first choice company to work with for the average Nigerian graduate given that they pay very well by Nigerian standards. Nigerians dominate the workforce of the company and right now the MD (Basil Omiyi) is a Nigerian from the Niger Delta. Again, I wouldn't mind working for Micro$oft despite the fact that I slate them often, but then again, that is unlikely, I am not a programmer...

It is my opinion that Shell and the other oil companies do what they do in Nigeria because of the complicity of the government and people of Nigeria at all levels, Federal, State and Local. Anyone who has ever tried to do some work in the Delta would know about the brigandage of the youths who always make silly demands and generally make life difficult for all workers. There is no law enforcement in this situation, people do what they like, and that includes the oil companies. To be honest, were I in their position, I'd do the same.

Now let us look at some facts: Shell runs a business in Nigeria where they own only 35% of same. The Nigerian government through the NNPC owns 55% of the business. All Shell budgets have to be approved by the NNPC. Shell's community development budgets and sustainable development initiatives also have to be approved by the NNPC. Over the last 8 years these budgets have consistently been cut by the NNPC in order to divert the funds saved to the NDDC.

Shell's Port Harcourt office alone pays a minimum monthly PAYE tax of N300million to the Rivers State Government. This does not include other taxes both legal and those taken by coercion usually by youths doing the bidding of community chiefs and/or local officials. Shell pays production related taxes to the Federal Government and contributes 5% of its profit to the NDDC.

Shell cannot take money straight to the communities for project without the approval of the government through the NNPC. Same applies to the other oil firms in the region, although I must admit, NLNG has done a better job of sharing money to the community. I guess that is the reason that of all the oil firms, NLNG probably has the best relationship with its host community.

Granted there is pollution in the Niger Delta, and while the gas flaring is the fault of the oil companies, let's be frank, there is some (though it is half-hearted at the moment) effort to reduce it, and hopefully stop it in the near future. Most of the pollution in the Niger Delta in recent times unarguably comes from vandalism by the people of the region, and in a terribly twist of irony, these same people make concerted efforts to prevent the companies from cleaning up the damage that they caused. Many times when Shell staff go to communities to clean oil spillages, the community elders and youths prevent them. The reasoning behind this is to allow the spillage(s) to cause more damage to the soil and wait for claims later on.

Funny thing is that most times when such claims are paid, the money goes into the pockets of a few individuals. There was an incident where the traditional ruler of Evwreni, Delta State was beheaded by his own people after refusing to share the money that Shell gave to him. This was about seven years back. Did you hear of Afiesere clash where an entire family was almost wiped out after their father 'ate' the money given to the community by Shell? On a personal note, in late 2004, Chxta was involved in an installation project in Saigbama, Bayelsa State where a community leader at the time (his name is Ebisu), refused to give his permission for the installation of communications infrastructure that would have benefited his community. We were told that we had to come up with five million Naira in cash or get out. We got out. Look at the recent spate of kidnappings, look at the most recent kidnap, the guys taken hostage are involved in a road construction project that would benefit the entire region. There are so many of such stories, and it is disgusting.

Our government pays a lot of lip service to the plight of the Delta, and the world blames Shell. Is it Shell's responsibility to build roads, provide water, build hospitals, schools, and provide electricity while Odili et al buy jets?

Another terrible occurrence in the Niger Delta is the phenomenon of the community nominated contractor. As a result of this, 'indigenes' of the Delta have the first call when it comes to receiving Shell contracts. Do you know how many of such 'community nominated contractors' have collected money and abandoned their projects? According to a friend of mine, as at December 2006 Shell Eastern Division alone had over a hundred of such projects abandoned by community nominated contractors. Yet the communities would not allow any other contractor to go and complete these 'community assistance projects' except once again the 'community nominated contractors'.

At the end of the day, it is my opinion that we need to get our heads out of our arses. Shell and the other oil majors came to Nigeria to make money, and are not a fucking charity. If we want them to behave the way they behave in the Western world, then we need to get our own act together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tales out of school

My days of being a loner are at a partial end. You see, in my class, there are 29 students. Of the 29 of us, only 16 turn up regularly in class, the rest (as far as I know) have one job or the other that occupies their time, and as a result makes them too busy for school. Of the 16 regulars, there is Chxta from Naija, F from Kenya, T from Nepal, Y from Turkey, and K from Spain. The rest of the regulars are 2 Chinese guys then 9 Indians. The Chinese guys never mix with anyone. I daresay that the only time I ever heard one of them speak English was when he had to give a seminar in the first semester. The second guy somehow managed to dodge his own presentation, and was duly penalised. I guess that won't happen again. He is up for another seminar just after the Easter break. B, the Englishman from Ghana shows up once in a wee-little while, then there is O, another Naijaman who like me is a UNIBEN product. As a matter of fact, we were both in 500 LT back in the day 10 years ago. I was an Engineering freshman, he was a Computer Science freshman. Back then we only knew each other facially, but during our orientation here back in September, it was only natural that we strike up a friendship, afterall, we are not only from the same country, but were classmates at a point.

During that orientation, O had informed me that he had gotten a job, and had asked that I once in a while help fill his name in in the attendance registers during classes as he may be coming late. I said no sweat, afterall, it was something that we all did regularly in UNIBEN. Problem was that there was no way I'd have known that unlike in UNIBEN (when I was there at least), that the lecturers here would take a headcount after class. By the time this happened twice (I made another attempt just incase the first was initial gra-gra), I stopped. Afterall, it wouldn't take a dunce to figure out that it was yours sincerely signing in for someone else. O never turned up in class until early in December when he showed up to attack me for not signing for him. Apparently, some lecturer had sent him an email to ask if he was still a student. I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn't pay his fees, and he left with a mighty sulk. Maybe it is safe to assume that he's dropped out, as he didn't turn up for the exams in January either...

Before the detour, I was talking about F, Y, K and T with whom I have struck a friendship. Our new found love is more a case of necessity than any other reason, see the courses we are facing this semester are wider in scope than what we faced in the first, so there was a need to read. Seeing that the Chinese boys keep to themselves, and that the Indians have this annoying habit of cutting you out of conversations with their teeter in Urdu, or Hindi, or whatever else of the 589 Indian languages that catches their fancy at the point, it was only natural that the five of us begin to read together. We meet in the library for four hours every lecture free day to compare notes, and I must say it has been a rewarding alliance.

After yesterday's meet, on my way out of the library, I ran into N...

School Vote

Okay, so the elections I talked about earlier are over, and my people lost. As far as I know, all the Nigerians that participated in the polls for the Student Union shege were given the proverbial kick in the teeth. However, it is not because the student body was pissed off with the last exco, which as I pointed out before was Nigerian dominated, God knows that I have never in my life seen such apathy to an election, but as a result of the fact that there were simply too many Nigerians running for position. Consider for example that of three candidates who were going for the position of president, two are Nigerian. Effect: they split the votes of their supporters, and handed the position to the Brit on a platter of gold. Lesson to take back home, when (and if) they decide to return, a house divided against itself...

In the meantime, there is an interesting development back home concerning both Baba Iyabo and Turakin Adamawa as both were today indicted by the Senate for corruption. Coming in this close to the election, I think this is rather significant...

Speaking of corruption (and a lot of other things), it is rather interesting that India is being held up as a model country, while Naija is not. Talking with a lot of the Indians in my class on the occasions that they decided to come down to my level and speak English, I have come to realise that their country faces exactly the same problems as Naija, and sometimes on an even larger scale...

Population growth rate is a problem...
Corruption is a problem...
Lack of infrastructure is a problem...
Power (NEPA in Naija speak) is a major problem...
Cost of doing business is about the highest in their region...
Rich versus poor divide is a problem...
Ethnic tensions are a problem...

What else is a problem in Nigeria? Dem get am, and dem get am boku...

Maybe you should read Vittal's story where he says he wants to bitch about his country.

However, talking to these Indians, and talking with a Nigerian yesterday in the presence of some non-Nigerians, I finally began to realise the one key difference between the Indians and us: attitude.

Yesterday, myself, K, another Nigerian, and two non-Nigerians were talking about the problems of our respective countries, and our world in general. I was shocked to hear K basically giving Naija the finger, and a very large finger for that matter. Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't wash our dirty linen in public, because sometimes that may be what is required to galvanise people to action, but I think that when you start spewing shit such as, "I can never go back to that jungle", "if I have a chance I will remove my family from that bush place", "that country is God forsaken" and "that country is cursed, it can never make progress", "it needs a violent war and then division", then you really have lost the plot.

For crying out loud, for you to hate your country so much means that you hate the people, which means in turn that you hate yourself. I have never for one moment heard any Indian talk about India in such negative terms as I heard yesterday. My first impulse was to fight the man so that we would both be deported instantly. That way he would still end up back in the place he hates so much.

I could go on and on, but is there a point really? The truth is that there are so many Nigerians out there like K, who openly bring down the country both in word and action, and herein lies the difference: not one of them has ever bothered to ask why Naija is so bad.

The truth is this: Naija is bad because we are bad. Take it or leave it, but for Chxta it is gospel truth.

A great Indian man once made a statement, "You must be the change that you wish to see in the world."

Until Nigerians are willing to accept their own daily faults and then make the required changes to themselves, Nigeria will not change, and then we will keep complaining to the whole world, while the whole world would keep wondering what the fuck our problem is, because that was the look I saw on the faces of K's audience yesterday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Almost all of the regular participants in the Technology Forum of Juventuz are Linux people, and we have carried on with the little wars in the Linux world within our own Juventus world as well. Jacques and Martin for example are hooked on Gentoo, Nawaf, Gray and Chxta are Ubuntu addicts, Lawnchair Bes, Rami and Vlatko are all eye candy junkies and would go with whatever distro gives them that pleasure.

Any person who is really into computers will confirm that it is always a pleasure to have the latest software installed on your system so that you can impress fellow geeks. It is also a lot of fun to always have the latest hardware, but unlike software, having hardware is a little cost intensive, so sometimes that isn't practical. It's even more fun when the fellow geeks are all Juventini, and you guys have your own private lounge in the forum. One of the nice things about it is that you learn a lot because a lot of the boys are into cutting edge stuff, and they make no bones about it.

Chxta has a habit of getting to the latest software before anyone else as much as is possible, but that zest cost Chxta a lot yesterday. See, the latest version of Ubuntu Linux is due for release on April 19, and like all other Ubuntu addicts, Chxta has been following the progress of the build. We've downloaded the distro in its alpha form on a number of occasions for the purpose of testing, and as is standard practice, done such tests in a virtual environment. Then we've duly done our bit and reported back on possible areas of improvement. However, yesterday, my anticipation got the better of me, and I upgraded my entire machine to Ubuntu 7.04.

Now make no bones about it, Feisty Fawn as it is code named is still very much in the alpha stage of development, and as a result is still unstable. Installing an a piece of software that isn't even in beta testing is wrong, and when I wanted to perform the upgrade, I was asked to select my experience level. Five options given: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Master of the known universe.

In my arrogance, I selected the Master of the known Universe option, and upgraded.

Now I must say that that OS has the kind of visual effects that would make both Vista and OS X run to their mothers' bosoms, and after the installation everything seemed all right. I wowed some of the guys in the lab, had them drooling with envy and want before I shut down.

When I got home, the system refused to boot. Some of the drivers aren't compatible yet. For Okoro's sake, it didn't even get to a point where I could at least use the terminal to roll back the rubbish I had done. Nominally, I can open my computer, bring out the hard drive and slave it to another computer to get to the data. Unfortunately, I still have 7 months left on my warranty, and I wasn't about to void that. I was left with only one option, so I tearfully formatted 100Gb worth of data.

All songs that I've been collecting for 5 years now...
All my documents since 2001...
All my papers...
All my movies (which includes some of the greatest films ever made)...
All my pictures (a lot of which I can never get the hard copies again)...
All my games...
All my projects...

Gone. I'm so sad and I feel like crying.

Juve watch

We have a new hero in Juventus, his name is Raffaele Palladino. The young man got a hat trick yesterday as Triestina came to pay homage to us. Valerij got one, and Camo got the other. The game had started with the visitors scoring a fluke goal.

Most fans, Chxta included gave DD a lot of stick for benching Valerij in favour of Pala, but to be sincere, we don't see what he sees in training each day, and truth be told. Pala has scored goals in almost every game he has played this season...

One more thing, if you believe that Chxta was foolish enough to format his hard drive without having backup, you will believe anything...:D

Monday, March 19, 2007

I ain't bovvered

Love him or not (mine is the later), you have to hand it to Tony Blair. Will we ever live to see a Naija leader do this sketch?

Updating your business model

Back in the day in UNIBEN, Chxta had a reputation of being a superb pirate. You wanted anything software or audio or video related, Chxta would supply it to you. For a fee of course. There was a small clique of us who were into the business, I still remember the sweet late hours spent in UBITECH with myself, Texazz, and Akachi furiously working to meet 'deadlines'. There was a rival group as well, and the three of us prided ourselves on our ability to deliver the truly good stuff on time. We made a relatively modest living, well, quite a good living by student standards. Somewhere in my final year, I noticed that there was an ebb in the profit flow. This was because our secret was out, and people began to learn where to get the stuff for themselves.

Of course being that we (especially Texazz) were Masters of the game, we perfected methods to get the even better stuff (thank God Kazaa became full of viruses) which still kept us ahead. But it was obvious that Pandora's box had been opened, and until we left UNIBEN, we were never fully able to recapture our previous market. We had to move on to other things...

I read an article this morning that tells me that this experience was repeated elsewhere...

Tony was a former physical data pirate, who sold his wares and made buckets of money in the 1990s. By the end of the last decade, his money flow was drying up, and he places the blame squarely on the shoulders of P2P file sharing.

He is very clear about why his rags to riches story has gone back to rags again, "File-sharing, P2P - call it what you like. When you asked a customer why he wasn't buying anything, 9 times out of 10 it was BitTorrent this, LimeWire that ..."

P2P is a very powerful machine and although Tony could see that his operation was feeling its effects, he admits that he sat back and did nothing about it and consequently, his business has paid the ultimate price.

Other businesses affected by P2P (and change in general) should take note: Don't be a Tony. Learn to observe and respond to changes in your environment, and if necessary, overhaul your business model.

Juve watch

Saturday it was Neddy, yesterday it was DD; it is good to see that the hunger for improvement is there. The French manager followed the line of the Czech player to present the postponement of the game against Triestina to today. "I'm expecting a more lively squad, against Brescia and Treviso I saw a not so brilliant Juve even though we won. The defensive attitude of our rivals did not help us, but I want more. After the others' results, our aim is to strengthen the position in the table. The formation? I'll communicate it to the boys at the very last, I want to keep everybody under pressure, but what is important is that everybody is fine and ready. "

This will be the first match after the board meeting on Wednesdaywhich was definitely a confidence boost for the whole Juve planet. So, we expect a win today.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A disqualification so unfair

So the world's worst kept secret has become public knowledge, and INEC has gone ahead despite a court ruling telling them not to, to disqualify Mr, Atiku Abubakar from the presidential race in Nigeria.

I think it is a decision that is full of shit. There's no other way I can think of to put it in the English language. There is an article on INEC's website which says, "Atiku Abubakar, will be allowed to contest the April polls only if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is ordered by a competent court to do so."

The question then becomes, "Since a Federal High Court had earlier ruled that INEC has no power to disqualify a contestant, does this mean that the Federal High Court is not competent? What then is a competent court in Nigeria?"

Now, Chxta personally does not want Mr. Abubakar to be our next president, as Chxta maintains that Mr. Abubakar is part of the system which has been in place the last eight years, and it is Chxta's belief that all the elected officials in that system should please leave...

However, Chxta is just one out of 140 million, and if the remaining 139 999 996 (Chxta excluded Iwu, Obasanjo and Yar'Adua) want Mr. Abubakar in that office, then by all means he should have the office. The unfairness of the disqualification is more than damning given the reason that INEC gave for it. They claim to have disqualified Mr. Abubakar because he was indicted by the EFCC.

Question: Why was Mr. Orji Kalu who was indicted by same EFCC cleared?

Double standards I say.

It is rather unsettling that there is a seeming desperate bid to prevent a man from exercising a right which (on paper at least) has been guaranteed by the Constitution, and it is rather unsettling to see that our courts are too powerless (thus far) to do anything about it, or are they?

A flawed judgement

Suddenly, the legal system which until now appeared to be Mr. Abubakar's main ally in his quest to fulfill his ambition seems to have turned against him. On Friday, an Abuja High Court bluntly refused the AC's request to summon Prof. Iwu to appear before it and explain why he had allowed Mr. Abubakar to be disqualified. Is this the beginning of a shift in the balance of play?

Concerning the earlier judgement which had apparently given Atiku the right to contest, the devil was, as it usually is, in the detail. Early last week, Justice Babs Kuewunmi of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had apparently delivered the judgement which most Atiku followers felt had given their candidate his right to contest in the polls. However, a closer examination of the text of the judgement shows the loophole which INEC exploited in their quest to go ahead and disqualify the man.

I chose to use Atiku's unofficial mouthpiece, The Times of Nigeria as my source for this one...

Justice Babs Kuewunmi of the Federal High court, Abuja this morning declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has no power to disqualify any candidate under the 1999 Constitution. Delivering judgement in a matter instituted by Action Congress (AC) and Vice President Atiku Abubakar against INEC, Justice Kuewunmi cited Section 32 (5) of the 2006 Electoral Act which vested the power to disqualify a candidate on the court. According to him, INEC’s function is limited to conducting elections for the 2007 polls.

Prior to this ruling, INEC had claimed that it had power to verify documents submitted by candidates for the purpose of standing for election. The court agreed that the electoral body had a vital role in the fourth schedule of the constitution as regards the conduct of elections. The judge, however, posited that Section 132 (6) of the Electoral Act 2006, also makes it a crime for a party to sponsor any candidate not fit to stand for election and stipulate a fine of N500,000 against the party. The court, however, failed to grant an order as requested by the vice president, saying that the verification exercise had been concluded by INEC.

According to Justice Kuewunmi, “the court would not grant an order over a concluded act. An injunction is not a remedy for a concluded action.” No cost was awarded in this matter.

It is Chxta's opinion that in this matter, the court acted like the complete rooster, and sat on the fence. Since when has it become so difficult to make a complete pronouncement? Either they have the power to disqualify the man, or not. Simple. Given that the court failed in its duty to grant a complete order, INEC is actually within its right to disqualify Mr. Atiku Abubakar, at least until a higher court tells them otherwise.

Another Atiku goof

Last week, we all heard about how the other candidate buggered off to Germany to treat a 'slight' case of catarrh. We all know how that that trip spawned a story that spread around Nigeria that the man had kicked the bucket.

A similar incident happened to Mr. Abubakar not a few days later. He was working on a treadmill at his official residence, slipped and damaged his knee ligaments. Solution: surgery. Destination: London. Not Osakpa London in Lagos, Nigeria, but London, United Kingdom. The president Federal Republic of Nigeria, Rtd. Gen. Obasanjo gleefully provided Mr. Abubakar the presidential jet to convey him for treatment. Until that moment, the bird had been off limits for Mr. Abubakar, but our president in his magnanimity saw an opportunity to prove to the world that indeed there is no problem between himself, and his vice. He won some brownie points with that gesture, and people rejoiced. The two men are trying to bury the hatchet...


Mr. President, being ex-military, saw a golden chance to get a tactical advantage over his apparent nemesis, and grabbed it with both hands and both feet.

Just earlier in the week, Mr. Yar'Adua had been vilified by large sections of the Nigerian media (and populace) for not making use of our medical system to treat something as 'common' as a spell of dizziness. This was the opportunity to prove to everyone that Mr. Abubakar wears the same shoes, and Obasanjo did it to perfection. Personally, I am tripped.

Juve watch

Napoli lost at Crotone yesterday, and remain 3 points behind us given that we don't play until Monday. Chance to stretch the gap even further...

The board during the past week voted unanimously to expand the transfer kitty for next season to $71.6 million. Now that is great news. They also confirmed DD as manager, and the Agnellis are going to increase their stake in the club following Tamoil's betrayal.

Can we say that the good times are back again?


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What if...?

What if Al-Jazeera ran a special program on all the sex scandals by Catholic priests and tries to paint the whole Christian community as sexual deviants? What if they show a few more things like increasing number in single moms, number of babies out of wedlock, sexual activities among teens, exploding porn industry and gay marriages to ‘prove’ that the Christian world is truly a bunch of sexual perverts?

I know how you feel now. No need to explain.

That’s how I feel when I watch one of those Fox News programs on ‘Islamic Terrorism’ or right-wing talk show hosts who cherry-pick stories from Islamic world and paint a very scary, different world to us. For the record, I am not a Muslim.

Sometimes it's scary to see what a polarized world we are living in today. We are so blinded by ideology and our own beliefs; we simply don’t see the other side. If you don’t look, dress, speak like me and if you have a different god – you are bad. If you don’t agree with me, you are bad for the society!

Is it something natural to human beings? ‘We’ are always right, ‘others’ are wrong? Where are the roots of this mindset? Ohhh – no easy answers here either!

Got this from Vittal...

Juve watch

We got back to winning ways today. Valerij didn't get the goal, but he made all the difference. Hope DD is watching...

Who would you vote(2)?

As a follow up to yesterday's post which favoured Atiku Abubakar, this is another person's opinion:

"Otito Koro"

This yoruba saying is very appropriate to the current Nigerian situation.
I have just been reading generally about the main candidates in the presidential elections and what i have discovered is very interesting.

Mr Musa Yar Adua (PDP):

An interview with him always makes interesting reading. His is a calm assured view . He also is a good campaign general preferring to concentrate on meeting the important communities and shunning unimportant battles. He has i think learnt from the problems the current presidential administration has faced in the battle to reform and modernise Nigeria. He has forced the issue in terms of having a clear agenda and the areas he wishes to tackle. The other candidates have had to react to his plans on education and power generation.

Muhamadu Buhari (ANPP) :
Rarely do you read an interview or quote from this gentleman without a pledge to probe someone especially the current President.. He also comes across as being haughty and rigid. A lot of times he does not exhibit the niceties and prefers to attack personalities and also make threats to do this and that. Like Pat Utomi he believes the PDP has failed Nigeria . I personally think that anyone who doesn't recognise any of the good the current government has done is a bitter individual who doesn't look at the whole picture.

Atiku Abubakar (AC):
He should be renamed Mr scaremonger for the amount of times he tries to get votes through scary tactics.
If the President is not giving the Army billions to fight the people of the Niger Delta , the Ndigbo have no place in Nigeria under the PDP, the current administration of which he has been a part is a curse on Nigeria,...
This is a campaign based on intimidation, scares and personal vendetta.
He reminds me of the Neo Cons currently in Washington. He has not mentioned his constituency the Nigerian customs and Immigration service which by all accounts is still very corrupt.

In 1999 none of the parties was defined by principle or a vision for Nigeria.As a tribal element had been brought in during the Abiola/Abacha situation a lot of people were calling for the disintegration of the country.
Anyway a situation must have arisen where it was obvious that the country needed someone to stabilize it and at least take a few forward steps. Enter the current president who is not a politician. That has proved to be a blessing to the country. Like Russia stability is what we need . like Russia it has come at a cost. But believe me the other side is worse.

Yet all and sundry have resorted to Obasanjo bashing. This has it's roots in the perceived injustice of 1979 when the UPN of Chief Awolowo (he formed it and was de facto leader ) was defeated in the federal elections by the NPN (a collection of inflential Nigerian Politicians ) which had Shehu Shagari as it's candidate . We have since then had politicians like Mr Ebenezer Babatope claim that what Obasanjo has is "native intelligence". I wonder what that means if not an insult.

That is where the opposition in Nigeria have failed. Instead of building bridges with the people and being seen to be fair they demonise their opponents. If an administraion that has paid off most of our heavy debt load, cut corruption and made strides in telecomunications is a curse , i wonder what a blessing is?

Juve watch

We are playing Treviso this evening. In the meantime, Like I keep saying, everyone in Italy is against us. What kind of rubbish did the Gazetta think they were writing after we lost to Brescia. Just because of one loss (only our second in the season), DD is on the edge and wants to resign?

Now I am sure I've seen a set of journos that are worse than those back home in Naija...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who would you vote?

I asked someone (who I can't name) a question about a week back. Now, this person is someone who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. His responses are always well thought out, and he is very incisive.

He supports Pat Utomi for president, so my question was this: In the absence of Utomi, which of the candidates would you pick?

His response went:

Dear Chxta,
I started answering your question last week, but stopped because I had to think through.
Yours was a very good question in deed.
Now the answer.
As it were, we are faced with three choices - not the best of course, but one of these characters will emerge as president
1. PDP's Umaru Yar Adua
This man is very sick. He is not prepared to be president and nothing shows he is trying to. He presided over the affairs of a small state, and the only thing he did was save plenty of money. Katsina State remains one of the most backwards in Nigeria today. Yes people claim he is not corrupt, but he keeps the company of very corrupt people. For me he is a definite No No as he lacks both the energy and the vision to rule a country like ours. He scores 15%
Lest I forget, in more civilised countries, PDP will not even attempt to present a presidential candidate. The latest goof was flying Yar Adua to Germany for medical treatment. This speaks volumes. After 8 years of ruling the country, no hosipital in Nigeria (not any of our Teaching Hosipitals nor Military Hosipitals) was considered good enough to attend to our presidential candidate in an emergency. It was better for him to die abroad if need be.
2. ANPP's Buhari
The only thing going for this candidate is that everybody sees him as a disciplinarian from 22 years ago. What he intends to do is not very clear. The question is, is this the kind of leader we need in modern day Nigeria? He totally lacks charisma and has not bothered in any way to improve himself. He scores 20%
3. AC's Abubakar Atiku
This fellow is considered a protege of the legendary Musa Yar Adua. His organisational prowess is not in question. He has spent a long time preparing to be president. He has been VP for eight years forget about the fact that 2 or 3 of the last years was very turbulent for him. So he comes along with him alot of experience. The thing going for him is that he wants the job and he has prepared for it. That is something with Nigeria. We always stop somebody who is prepared and try to install another who never thought about it. (Remember Awo and Shagari? Shonekan and Abiola?). I know you will say that the man is corrupt. In Nigeria, who is not? I score this fellow 51%. If I need to, I will vote for him.
Our country I believe is the easiest to rule in the whole world. Give us electricity for 6 hours a day, and they will clap for you and say you have tried.
Tar a 100 km of roads in 4 years - you have tried.
Build 250 units of housing and name it after yourself - you have tried.
Buy one X ray machine for one teaching hospital - you have tried. And the beat goes on.
Atiku will try.

Food for thought?

Juve watch

The FIGC is still very much on a vendetta against us. Trez was just slapped with a 3 match ban for an elbow that the ref didn't see in the game against Brescia. The verdict was rushed through because according to some sill FIGC suit, the season is winding down. He was convicted based on video evidence. God in heaven!

On a more sombre note though, I can't say I'm exactly sad to see Trez get the ban. I think he needs some time to recharge his batteries. He has been playing crap in the last few weeks, and for some reason, DD has been sticking with him and leaving Valerij on the bench. Time for the young man to show us what he's made off...

In the meantime, Alex Ferguson made a statement just after Inter wrapped up their first scudetto in donkey years, hear him: "Inter Milan have run away with their league but it's difficult to judge in Italy. Without Juventus and Milan's poor start to season, it was difficult to see where the opposition was going to come from. Maybe Inter are there by default. Maybe it's not the real Italian league without Juventus."

Right on the money Fergie, right on the money...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

...and lead us not into temptation

Jesus definitely knew what he was talking about when he made that statement during the Sermon on the mount. A lot of sins are committed not necessarily because the sinner wants to do it, but because conditions made him do it. I almost committed a major sin Friday night because temptation was placed in my path...

There is this undergraduate girl in my school, East African, and very pretty. A lot of guys would look at her and begin to salivate, but for some reason she seems to have the hots for me. Let us call her N. It all started back in September, I was in the library that day and herself and another friend were in the seat beside me talking and making noise. Finally I couldn't take it anymore, so I turned to them and asked them to bottle it. The other girl pouted at me and looked to resume the conversation, but N kept quiet, and seemed suitably chastened. When I left the library, she came after me to apologise, an apology which I accepted.

About two weeks later, in the library as well, she came to ask for my help in an assignment. It so happens that the course she's studying is related to mine, and considering that she's in her second year, I helped her. After that, she became a regular fixture in or around my preferred location in the library. As time went on, we began to talk, nothing serious (I thought), just talk made by two people who sometimes read together. I told her about U (besides, U's picture's the wallpaper on my phone) and she told me about her own boyfriend, some guy from her country, who like her came over to the UK when he was little. All was well, until they broke up in January. She was devastated, and I think she was lucky that the break up happened just after the exams, or else it would be a different story.

Unfortunately, she seemed to have zeroed in on me as a candidate to fix her broken heart. She began to call me at odd times, and became a bit more than just 'affectionate'. I warned her off on Valentine's Day when she suggested that we go and make out (her exact words). I told her point blank: 'I have a girl back home whom I am going to marry. Let's not start what would lead to trouble'. She seemed to take it in her stride, and offered her apologies, and things cooled a little. I was relieved.

On Wednesday just passed, she met me in the library and informed me that there was a dinner happening on Friday, then asked if I'd accompany her. She then made it clear that she'd already paid for both of us, so I accepted. Come Friday, and we went for dinner. Firstly, it wasn't dinner, it was a pub. She bought drinks, we began to talk, and she began to tell me of how much she loves me and all that. I tried to make her back off, then tried to let her know that having just come out of a relationship which she put her all into, that it is more than likely that I am just an avenue for her to mend a broken heart. I let her know that I would know since I'm a lot more experienced than she is in such matters (I'm eight years older than she is)...

At that point, she seemed to accept, then asked for a dance. Foolishly, I accepted. On the dance floor, things began to happen. She would use her hands to rub on my nether regions, and in the same way, take mine to hers, and my resolve began to ebb away very fast. She then suggested that after the 'date' we go to her place for a nightcap.

In all honesty, I was about to say yes, then my phone rang. It was in my front pocket, so we both felt the vibration. Considering that the pub was noisy, I had no choice but to go outside and take the call. That move outside brought me back to my senses, because I finished with the call, returned to the pub and told a lie. I told N, that my flatmate had locked herself outside, and needed me to come open the door, then I ran off. She's called me at least thrice since then, and I haven't picked the phone. I am not going anywhere near the library this week. I feel ashamed that I almost broke my vow of fidelity to U, and was saved by a phone call. There is no justification, and on reflection, I know that the only way to avoid breaking that vow is simply by avoiding the occasions that would tempt me. All I can say is this: God help me.

Juve watch

We were bashed 3-1 by Brescia yesterday. One of their guys got a hattrick. I didn't watch the game, so I will comment on it only when (if ever) I see the highlights.

Luckily, Napoli drew, so we remain top of the league.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Look at all these rumours!

In 1989, a story spread like wildfire around Nigeria. The gist was that the wife of the then Head of State, Mrs. Maryam Babangida had deposited large sums of money in some banks in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The effects of the story were both immediate, and understandable given that at that point in time the country was in the throes of a major recession that was caused by the IMF recommended Structural Adjustment Programme. At that point in time, the Naira was in free fall. The standard of living was plummeting, maybe even faster than the Naira. Nigerians who in the 1970s and the early 1980s had been used to living like kings suddenly found themselves paupers, and saving for the future was looked upon at the time as an exercise in stupidity.

Overnight on the campuses of the nation's universities, students met and decided to protest. Cult leaders who even back then were feuding, embraced each other, dropped their weapons, and swore an oath of brotherhood. The cry was 'Babangida must go.' I remember that period very well as my dad banned us from even leaving the house. The riots were nationwide, and became known as the anti-SAP riots. People who didn't fly green leaves in solidarity with the rioters were attacked, shops were looted. In Benin, Oko Prison was attacked and prisoners, amongst them some really hardened criminals, were set free, some never to be recaptured. The riots festered intermittently for about two months (May and June) before the government of the day reacted with the decisiveness, violence and brutality that only a military government is capable of. Soldiers were deployed to put down the disturbances, and people got shot.

Officially, about 500 people died, but being Naija, the number was probably a lot more. For me, that is academic. The evils of a military regime are too well known, so I find it impossible to believe when I hear that calls are beginning to emerge for the military to return to the political stage. Do we have such short memories?

Two lessons that can be drawn from the events of 1989 are as follows: first, the riots were terribly misdirected, the rioters didn't attack the government, but their fellow citizens. As is usual with a lot of Nigerian protests, there was a general lack of direction, and after the initial gra-gra, the whole thing lost focus. Second, the riots were caused by a story that no one bothered to authenticate. Granted that the Babangida government looted the Nigerian treasury on a scale never before, or never since seen. Up until today, most of those monies can't be traced. But at the end of the day, those rumours were just that, rumours. People died because of the rumours.

Fast forward five years to July 6, 1994. This is one that has stuck in my memory because I was involved. The day before, Italy had beaten Nigeria in the second round of the USA 94 World Cup. That day (6/7), a rumour spread like wild fire around Benin. The story was that seven of the Italian players had tested positive for drugs, and that FIFA had disqualified Italy from the tournament, Nigeria was to play on. A lot of people took to the streets to celebrate without bothering once again, to verify the story. Of course when the truth emerged, we were left in a worse state of depression than we had been when Nigeria was actually knocked out. That incident made me promise myself that as much as possible, I would try and verify a story before giving in to reactions.

This resolve was put to the test eleven years later, on October 8, 2005. The event was another football match, this time Nigeria versus Zimbabwe at the National Stadium in Abuja. As we all know, Nigeria needed to win, with Angola failing to win as well in Kigali, Rwanda. Any other combination would result in our being eliminated from the World Cup race. In the middle of the second half, with the Eagles fulfilling our part of the bargain and pummelling the hapless Zimbabweans, celebrations began in the stadium as word spread that Rwanda had taken the lead against Angola, a story which if true meant that Nigeria would be in the World Cup. With my sense of caution, and above the din, I made two calls. The first was to my father, and the second was to Oria, both in Benin, both who had opted to watch the Angola match because both felt that it had more of a bearing to our qualification. Both told me that it was still goalless, and I told some of the guys around me. These guys actually got angry and threatened me with bodily harm for bringing bad news to them, so when Oria called a few minutes later to tell me that Angola had scored, and that Nigeria was out of the World Cup, I quietly made my way out. The other people were still 'celebrating' our qualification as at when I reached the outside of the main bowl, but then the real story gradually began making its way through, and euphoria gave way to anguish. My people had once again been the victims of failure to verify information before acting on it.

Earlier today, news spread like wildfire that Mr. Umar Yar'Adua, presidential candidate Peoples Democratic Party had died. What saddened me was that one of the more reputable media outlets Business Day, jumped on the bandwagon. Some of the less reputable 'sources' of home news (Elendu Reports and Times of Nigeria) quoted unnamed, 'reliable' sources. And some people began to celebrate (CyberEagles and NaijaRyders). Lo and behold, those of us who chose to take the story with the proverbial pinch of salt given that the 'sources' left a lot to be desired, were rewarded for our patience when the BBC interviewed the 'dead' man.

For me, there are so many things that are deeply depressing about this incident, but the most important thing is the apparent willingness of even supposedly enlightened and educated Nigerians to become tools in the hands of selfish interests. How else can one explain comments such as, 'My God is one. He told me in a dream that Yar'Adua will never be president. Thank God he is dead.'

What kind of prayer is that? What kind of God is that character serving? The person who made that statement is a Nigerian who has been based in the United States for a while now. I wonder what kind of behaviour he displays for the good people of 'God's own country'. It is scary. This whole incident tells me that a serious conflict can be sparked off in Naija by a whim!

At the end of it all, my sympathy is with Umaru Yar'Adua. This is a man who is to all intents and purposes a good man surrounded by wolves. Here is someone whose hope for the next eight years of his life was to retire back to his classroom and enlighten younger minds. He has now been thrust, rather unwillingly, onto the larger scale politics of Nigeria where what you have at the best of times is a war of attrition. Can he survive the next eight years? Listening to him talking to his interviewer on the BBC Hausa service, then on the VOA in English, I get the feeling that the man is a determined character who has finally realised the enormity of what he is facing. He will either not make it to election day alive, or he will end up giving all his detractors a huge finger. Anyway you look at it, Yar'Adua isn't finished just yet.

He's alive

The BBC Hausa service spoke with Umar Yar'Adua at 1403 GMT. Thanks for the heads up Nkem, I guess the professional mourners have to wait for another time to bury this one...

On Yar'Adua

I just got a message from U. Short and terse, it simply went: "Yar'Adua is dead."

News from Naija itself? Zilch. I have checked my RSS reader, and the only media outlet that has reported him to be dead is Times Of Nigeria, which is based in the US anyway.

More as it becomes available.

Goodbye Wikipedia?

Like a lot of you probably have, I have used Wikipedia as a source of information (even for academic work). It has been a blessing for almost all and sundry, and has taken a lot of the 'pain' out of acada. I wish I had had access to this resource during my undergraduate days.

However, the online encyclopaedia's usefulness as a resource for genuine academic research has been under attack for quite a while now as illustrated in Chippla's article on Wikiality. The concept of Wikiality is rather simple: something is taken as truth if all parties agree to it, thus “if Chxta didn’t kill Texazz in reality, but Maestro and Don Vik agree that Chxta killed Texazz, and can somehow convince the world that Chxta did indeed kill Texazz, then Chxta must have killed Texazz”.

Cute concept in my humble opinion, and of some usefulness when debating issues such as whether a saucer is white or black, but rather useless when debating issues such as whether the world is flat or round.

In Chxta’s humble, but sometimes inaccurate opinion, Wikiality, which is the bedrock on which Wikipedia is built is all well and good if the people who reach the agreement possess impeccable credentials on said topic. In such a situation, Linus Thorvalds, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for example can agree that all their Operating Systems have Unix as a basis, and the whole world can’t argue because they are among the most qualified individuals to comment on such subjects. In that case then, if they are members of the editorial board of an organisation such as Wikipedia, then we can agree that the information on that topic is indeed accurate.

However, what if the reverse is the case? I’ll give an example: Chxta is a member of Wikipedia, and has edited more than just a few articles on the website which Chxta felt were lacking in one thing or the other, or embellished one thing or the other which in turn favoured or misrepresented the subject under discussion. One thing that has always impressed Chxta is that when Chxta comes back to the article, some form of cleanup has been carried out, and such cleanup must have been carried out by someone with the appropriate know how (qualification) on the issue that Chxta had edited. But then again, Chxta is not a repository of all knowledge, so Chxta could decide to read up on Enrico Fermi for example, and will have no choice but to take what Wikipedia gives Chxta. The question then becomes: what if both people who were involved in the Fermi article, that is both the writer, and the person who double checked it, are wrong?

Worse still, what if the person who is double checking an article for correctness has faked his qualifications? That is the situation we are currently in. A prominent Wikipedia editor had all along been masquerading as what he was, complete with a fake PhD.

The Essjay controversy

The Wikipedia article on this controversy itself makes for interesting reading. You should also note that the management of Wikipedia is considering the article for deletion in line with their ‘deletion policy’. True that this scandal is extremely embarrassing for the site, but I think deleting the entry would be a wrong step in the wrong direction, and the beginning of a slide into an era of the truth being what we want it to be, and not what it actually is.

There are three points that are in danger of being overlooked:

Firstly, there's the issue of “deception”. Make no mistake, Jordan's rise within the Wikipedia structure was not due to his 16,000+ edits, or his natural charisma. It was simply because his sales pitch claimed that he was a Professor of Theology with four degrees.

Secondly, there's the very bull in the china shop that people have been talking about: Wikiality. It reminds me of the Nikolai Yezhov case with Iosef Stalin. Brief summary is that when the man fell out of favour with Stalin, he was shot, then all references to him that ever existed were blotted out. That is the ‘big lie’ at its best.

Scary isn't it?

Thirdly, there's the question of what Wikipedia's place in the world really is. I've recently limited my usage of Wikipedia (and Google) as a sole source because I've found out one thing:
Google's results have been on the downward slide for a while now. Try ignoring the Wikipedia entries you see from a Google search (they usually rank in the top because of search engine optimization), and see how much better the quality of what you are working on improves. The better results are now more likely found in the second or third pages of a Google search.

The sad truth is that based on this concept of Wikiality, Wikipedia may have indeed stopped being an encyclopaedia and instead become a tool in the hands of the powers that be. It is said that information is power. That means that whoever controls the flow of information has power. Has Wikipedia become a tool for control?