Thursday, May 31, 2007

On CNN's attitudes...

A few months ago, CNN aired this report which was filed by their Africa correspondent at the time, Jeff Koinange. The report was immediately dismissed by the Nigerian government as 'subversive', and the government demanded an apology. Even MEND denied granting Koinange any interview. When CNN refused to apologise, Nigeria cancelled the 'Heart of Africa' advertisements that CNN was meant to air.

CNN however stood by their man, and in the opinion of this writer, did something totally childish, vindictive and irresponsible especially when you consider that CNN as an organisation is (in theory at least) supposed to be on the side of truth. They began to do a lot of reruns of their infamous programme How To Rob A Bank, a programme which not only painted Nigeria (and Nigerians) in bad light, but caused considerable embarrassment to honest Nigerians based in the US.

Even some writers in Nigeria appeared to take the side of CNN in this issue, a stance which is a bit understandable, given our government's record of being economical with the truth.

However, Koinange's dismissal from CNN a few days ago for 'undisclosed reasons' has apparently vindicated the Nigerian government.

The following is an extract from the blog of the lady who has wrought an upheaval in Koinange's world. The blog in general makes interesting reading, and I'd like you to read it and draw your own conclusions. I have extracted one letter, highlighted the part that is of interest to me:

Dear Mr. Walton,

I had sent in August last year to Jeff Koinange the official Press Release of my Book "A Shining Star in Darkness" which talks about the killing of the former Kenyan Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Robert Ouko in 1990. I had been involved in the investigations and cooperated with Scotland Yard and gave last evidence in front of a Parliamentary Committee in Nairobi in November/December 2004.

Jeff replied immediately and proposed to have an interview with CNN in Atlanta and to present the book in Inside-Africa.

Soon after he started to call me and things changed to very private and personal matters. He then sent me by email photos showing him and Mandela (comment: sharing a special moment with a special friend), the photo of the Prix-Bayeux-Ceremony (comment: so now you know about if even before my wife does ...) and also some photos showing his Living-Room with his Art Collection (comment: I want you to know how I am living...) and then the book about his Grandfather (one copy he sent also to my daughter) - comment: This will give you an insight who I really am and where I come from ...

During all this time he kept me also informed about his job, his assignments, either by phone (sometimes 3 - 4 times per day) or by email (here even upto 10 per day) sent from different places like Darfur, Congo, Botswana, Malaway etc. and last from Nigeria - besides the 'normal' ones from Johannesburg.

Especially the Nigerian Report was then also a point of our discussion now in London when he gave me some inside information how he had arranged the encounter with these MEND people (" of course I had to pay certain people to get the story - but everything was done in agreement with CNN and in accordance with their usual standards - but you do not get such a story without bribing - you know how the world and especially in Nigeria functions - you have to have financial resources - but at the end it was worth it - CNN has its story and I have my 'fame' ......)

The rest of our 'encounter' in London can be read in the attached document. It was nasty and now has turned into an open threat on my life since he warned me that he would give the details of my Spanish address and my Swiss one (where also my daughter lives) to Nicolas Biwott (in my book named Nick Boit).

Especially the last sentence 'if I was prepared to 'MOVE' again' has made me decide to go with whole story into the open. I have to protect not only myself but also my daughter.

Here you should know that I am living in fear since 15 years - I had to move more than a dozen times - and John Troon (retired Superintendent from Scotland Yard who at that time was leading the investigations in Kenya and with whom I am in contact since) has just now confirmed to me in London that I am still in danger.

When he heard that I am in contact with Jeff Koinange, he told me in very strict words 'you have made a very big mistake to trust a man like him. He will sell you for a good story and also to Biwott - I am even convinced that he has set you up just for this reason ...."

After what has happened in London I am starting to believe him. But I have decided to fight back. I have never been a coward and Jeff should know this. Just read his last emails where he is begging me not to disclose anything because it would 'destroy' him.

I had given him time until March 10 to come here and clarify things and to assure me of the introduction to CNN - but he has decided to threaten me instead.

I have sent the attached document already to Femi Oke together with some remarks Jeff made about her which are very offensive. It should make her a bit careful when dealing with him in the future since he is not the 'nice guy' as he pretends to be.

As I said before, I had hoped to settle his whole nasty matter amicably in arranging the promised interview with CNN and also with Oprah Winfrey whom he had also mentioned would be interested to present my book on her Show. But he has decided not to accept my offer and has started to issuee serious threats against me.

I am therefore going into the open and will start my blog under the title 'The secret life of Jeff Koinange" ..........
Personally, Chxta never liked Koinange. His reports on Nigeria have always left more than a lot to be desired, and Chxta remembers running into him in the lobby of the Abuja Sheraton Hotel sometime in 2005. It was a Thursday, and he was in town to do a report for Inside Africa (I think on Nigeria's NHS launching). Apparently he was waiting until Friday to take videos and interview people. At the time Chxta put it down to paranoia, but Chxta's thinking was that he wanted to shoot his videos during Friday's Jumat, the one time that Abuja's Central Area really looks messy.

As for CNN and the American media in general, I have dealt with their attitude before, and my opinion of them remains the same. They don't want anything good to come out of Africa, and would stop at nothing to retain the status quo. CNN isn't going to apologise about this scandal. They would probably try to suppress it, and they would find someone else to do their dirty work for them.

Recommended reading: Paul Adujie's take on Koinange's dismissal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

That we may not forget: Biafra

Ababoy has a wonderful post that highlights the humanitarian aspect of the war...

On this day exactly forty years ago, the Eastern region of Nigeria under the leadership of Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu declared itself independent and called the new country the Republic of Biafra. This action led to the Nigerian Civil War (or Biafran War depending on who you are speaking with) a little over a month later. The war eventually ended two and a half years later with the defeat of the secessionists, and the re absorption of the East into Nigeria.

It is impossible to talk about the reasons for secession without looking at the causes of the secession, both immediate and remote.

Like most other non-European countries, Nigeria is a European creation, the borders being roughly defined (in the case of African states) during the Berlin conference of 1884. The area which was placed under the British sphere of influence during that conference was eventually amalgamated 30 years later to form the modern country of Nigeria. Like almost all the newly formed 'nations' of the time, the people within those newly created borders were not consulted in the matter, and as a result people of widely varying beliefs (and more importantly IMHO, loyalties) were lumped together and called (in our case) Nigerians.

One of these groups that was put in this new nation was the Igbo.

Prior to the coming of the British, Igbo political organization was based on communities, devoid of kings or governing chiefs. With the exception of Onitsha and Agbor, which had kings called Obi, Nri and Arochukwu, which had Ezes, and Ahaba (modern day Asaba) which had Asagba, most Igbo village governments were ruled solely by an assembly of the older and/or titled men. These communities to a large extent functioned independently of each other with the notable exception of the Aro who had a kingdom.

The arrival of the British in the latter half of the 19th century led to increased encounters between the Igbo and other future Nigerians, and it led to a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity. The Igbo out of all Nigerian ethnic groups proved remarkably quick and enthusiastic in their embrace of Christianity and Western education. Many Igbo emigrated out of the traditional Igbo homeland in what had become known as South-Eastern Nigeria due to a growing population and decreasing land, and they moved to other parts of the young country, and prospered. However, due to British colonial divide and rule tactics, the diversity within each of Nigeria's major ethnic groups slowly decreased, and distinctions, distrust and bickering between the larger ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) became sharper. You see, Nigeria was only amalgamated in name, but each region was kept distinct, both in administration, and in the rate of development both structural and educational.

These divisions were expressed with violence under the British in 1933 and 1954, both spells had Igbos as the main victims. However, Igbos continued living in their host communities, and prospering.

Nigeria attained independence from the Brits in 1960, and the regional system left by the British remained intact. There were three regions centred around the 'big three' ethnic groups, the Western region in Yorubaland, the Northern region in Hausaland, and the Eastern region in Igboland. It is pertinent to note here that Igbo people west of the River Niger (Agbor to Asaba; Akwukwu to Obiaruku) were placed in the West (and later Midwest in 1964).

According to every attempt ever made at counting the people in Nigeria (1912, 1933, 1946, 1962, 1973, 1991, 2006) the largest ethnic group is the largely Muslim Hausa in the north, and since 1962 the Hausa being more numerous has been a matter of dispute. The figures also say that the Yoruba are the second largest group in number, followed by the Igbo. As at independence a conservative political alliance had been made between the leading Hausa and Igbo political parties, which ruled Nigeria from 1960 to 1966. This alliance excluded the mainstream Yoruba parties under Awolowo. To many outsiders, Igbo people were considered to be the main beneficiaries of this alliance, taking most of the top jobs and leading business opportunities in the Nigerian federation.

Awolowo's Action Group, was more inclined to the left, and was antipathetic to the conservatives in the North. However, there was a conservative group in the West led by S. Akintola which was prepared to deal with the North. This new political alliance would have excluded the East from power, and threatened to roll back the gains of the Igbo elite.

The elections of 1965 saw the Nigerian National Alliance of the Muslim north and the conservative elements in the west, face off against the United Progressive Grand Alliance of the Christian east and the progressive elements among the westerners. The Alliance of North and West won a crushing victory under Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, amid claims of widespread electoral fraud. Many newspapers and election observers reported incidents in which millions of cattle, goats and sheep voted for the Northern candidates

It was in this charged scenario that the military intervened. In 1966, there were two military coups in Nigeria. The first one (January 15), heralded the age of the Nigerian military in politics, and was orchestrated by six Army officers: Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emma Ifeajuna, Chris Anuforo, Wale Ademoyega, Timothy Onwutuegwu, and Donatus Okafor. There is speculation until this day as to the motives of the plotters, while scholars agree that Nzeogwu, Anuforo and Ademoyega were genuine nationalists (in Nigeria's case, this means detribalised men), the motives of Ifeajuna and Okafor are still shrouded in mystery. What is clear however, is that of the six plotters, only one (Ademoyega) was not Igbo, and going through a list of their victims, there was only one Igbo man (Lt. Col. A. Unegbe) killed. The North lost the core of its political elite (Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello), and some of their best military officers (Zakariya Maimalari, Kur Mohammed, Abogo Largema and James Pam), while the West lost its leading politician at the time (Samuel Akintola), and some officers (Sam Ademulegun and Ralph Sodeinde). This list of people killed is by no means exhaustive, but I must point out that four people who were on the list to die that day somehow escaped, and they are Nnamdi Azikiwe (who 'conveniently' left Nigeria two days before), Michael Opara, Dennis Osadebe and J.T. Aguiyi-Ironsi. They were all Igbo.

At this point, I must state that I do not believe that the coup of January 15, 1966 was meant to be an Igbo coup, and there is ample evidence that proves that of all Nigeria's coups it was the most nationalist in outlook, and didn't promote any group's interests over those of any other. Sadly however, it was poorly executed by those who were detailed to execute it in the South, and from that moment on the fates of millions of people was sealed.

Naturally, the North felt that it had been shafted, and began to make plans for revenge, a revenge which they took in more measures than one when the pogroms started in May 1966, and eventually the counter coup of July 29, 1966. Up to 30 000 Igbos were killed during those pogroms which lead to a massive return of people to the East. The majority of Igbo officers in the Army were killed as well, and that list included Aguiyi-Ironsi. Unlike the coup of January, most of the officers killed here were simply shot out of hand because they happened to be Igbo.

This state of ethnic tension persisted for months despite numerous efforts at negotiations. It must be stated here, that in July of 1966, the Northern coup plotters (Murtala Mohammed and Theophilus Danjuma) had intended to take the North out of the Nigerian union upon the successful completion of their coup. They only remained in Nigeria at the behest of the British High Commissioner at the time, David Hunt. Some feel that the British felt that a Nigeria constantly plagued with internal turmoil would be easier to control that separate. 'stronger' nations. However, the fact that the new Head of State of Nigeria, Yakubu Gowon, and Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the Eastern region didn't see eye to eye on a lot of issues, and the fact that Igbos were simply not safe in other parts of Nigeria (especially in the North) at the time, then the discovery of large quantities of oil in the Delta region of the East, placed a lot of pressure on Ojukwu to declare a separate republic. Ojukwu had Federal Government property and funds in the East seized. This and other reports convinced the Federal side of Ojukwu's intention to secede. Gowon then imposed a total blockade of the East. It was realized that more stringent action had to be taken to weaken support for Ojukwu and to forestall his secession bid. Short of military action at that time, creation of States by decree was the only weapon ready to hand. The initial plan was to create States in the Eastern Region only. Such action was considered impolitic and fraught with danger, so 12 States were created throughout the country on 27 May 1967.

The Eastern Region was divided into three states. The reaction from Enugu was sharp and quick: the declaration of Eastern Nigeria as the independent sovereign state of "Biafra" on 30 May 1967. The month of June was used by both sides to prepare for war.

On July 6, war began.

Both sides were totally unprepared for what was to come. This was the foremost lesson at the start of the war. On the Federal side, there was no comprehension of the paranoia which encompassed the Igbo being at the time (and in a lot of cases, since then). Gowon expected a 'police action' whereby the rebellious Biafrans would be surrounded and isolated from the world; then Biafran resistance would quickly fade and Federal victory would be rapid.

Federal troops advanced in two columns into Biafra. The left-hand column made for Gakem, which was captured on July 12, while the right-hand column advanced on Nsukka which fell on July 14, placing the Biafran capital, Enugu under direct threat.

In an attempt to relieve the Enugu sector, the Biafrans launched an offensive of their own. At dawn on August 9, a Biafran brigade moved west into the Midwest state, passing through Benin City to reach Ore in modern day Ondo state by August 21. This attack was a breach of the agreed neutrality of the Midwest as agreed at the Aburi meetings of the year before, and reports of Biafran highhandedness in treating non-Igbo Midwesterners effectively turned all the ethnic groups of what is today Nigeria's South-South against the Igbos. Benin City was retaken by the Federals on September 22, and the first Federal troops arrived at the Igbo speaking parts of the Midwest the next day. By October 7 1967, the Federal troops had captured Asaba, the last Igbo speaking town bordering the Eastern region, and under the command of Francis Aiyisida massacred the male population of the town. The Federal troops didn't cross into Biafra itself from the River Niger until after three attempts. Meanwhile Enugu had fallen to the Federal Government on October 4, 1967. The Biafrans continued to resist in their core Igbo heartlands, which were soon surrounded by Nigerian forces.

From that point on, the war settled down to a period of siege. Biafra was blockaded. 'Proper' military campaigns resumed with amphibious landings by the 3 Marine Commando division of the Nigerian Army in April 1968 which captured the Niger Delta towns of Bonny, Okrika and Port Harcourt by the end of July 1968. The siege of Biafra led to a humanitarian disaster when it emerged that there was widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas. Images of starving Biafran children went around the world. The Biafran government claimed that Nigeria was using hunger and genocide to win the war, and sought aid from the outside world. While there is no doubt that starvation did indeed occurr, it is not clear to what extent it was a result of the Nigerian blockade or the restriction of food to the civilians (to make it available to the military) by the Biafran government, or by Ojukwu's refusal to allow relief agencies bring in food via Northern Nigeria.

Throughout 1968 and into 1969, logistical difficulties kept the Nigerian federal forces from finishing off the war that was effectively in their favour. Some of the Nigerian Army's best officers had been Igbo and were killed during the upheavals of 1966, or early in the war. Despite the foreign aid and the political harm done to Nigeria, the area controlled by the Biafran government grew smaller and smaller. In June 1969, the Biafrans launched a desperate offensive against the Nigerians in their attempts to keep the Nigerians off-balance and prolong life for their separatist nation as long as possible.

The Federal forces launched their final offensive against the Biafrans on December 23, 1969 with a major thrust by the 3 Marine Commando Division which succeeded in splitting the Biafran enclave into two by the end of the year. The final Nigerian offensive was launched on January 7, 1970 with 3 Marine Commando Division attacking, and supported by the 1st Infantry division to the north and the 2nd Infantry division to the south. Owerri fell on January 9, and Uli fell on January 11. The war finally ended with the final surrender of the Biafran forces in the last Biafra-held town of Amichi on January 13, 1970. On January 12, Ojukwu fled into exile in the Ivory Coast, leaving his deputy Philip Effiong to handle the details of the surrender to Olusegun Obasanjo who was at the time the commander of 3 Marine Commando.

To the surprise of many in the outside world, most of the threatened reprisals and massacres proclaimed by Ojukwu and the Biafran and international media did not occur, and genuine attempts were made at reconciliation.

From my point of view, the progression of the war highlights a lot of the failings within the Biafran state, the biggest of which was the failure to carry the other ethnic groups within the area. This high handed attitude on the part of the Igbo alienated the very people who border them on all parts and hastened the eventual collapse of Biafra. The creation of states in May 1967, was a master stroke by the Federal government which effectively gave the 'minorities' something they had been yearning for, and Ojukwu's government in Enugu failed to take this into consideration. They were undermined from the flanks from day one.

One of the muddier aspects of the war remains the massacres of civilian populations: by the Biafrans at Urhonigbe in modern day Edo state, and by the Federal troops at Asaba, Onitsha, Ihiala and Ogba. Some of the perpetrators of those massacres are still alive today, and the Nigerian government has never acknowledged that they happened. The man in command at Asaba was Francis Aiyisida. This one is personal for Chxta because Chxta's mother lost her father and three brothers in that massacre.

The Nigerian civil war as fought on the Biafran side is to me a genuine example of a failure of leadership, which has sadly characterised the Nigerian state until this day. In a lot of Biafran operations, the right people weren't selected for the job, and this despite the fact that at the initial stages of the war, the Biafrans had a larger number of better trained officers. Also I find it difficult to understand how people in Eastern Nigeria till this day see Ojukwu as a hero. Here is a man who undermined Hilary Njoku, a more senior officer. He opened a new front in the Midwest when the Biafran Army hopelessly under trained and under equipped could have no hope of coping. That singular action effectively turned whatever sympathetic elements Igbos had in the rest of Nigeria against us. He sent an excellent officer, Nzeogwu, to defend a hopeless position at Nsukka, which ended (as was obvious) in Nzeogwu's death. He had another excellent officer, Onwutuegwu basically mothballed in the Obudu area. He placed Victor Banjo (a Yoruba) in charge of the invasion of the Midwest, an invasion whose aim was to drive to Lagos. Banjo lost interest in the invasion the moment they got to Yorubaland. He had Banjo, Ifeajuna, Alale and Agbam executed for 'sabotage' because they failed to hold the Midwest, while forgetting that he abandoned Enugu (and all the other Biafran capitals until the end of the war). He refused to allow aid through to Biafra's starving populace even after the Federal government agreed to open an aid corridor in the North. His reason: they would poison the food! Finally, after taking off for exile in order to save his own skin, he made an inflammatory speech, the predictions of genocide in that speech thankfully didn't come to pass.

Both sides have a share of responsibility for the mutual distrust that led to this unfortunate war with its unnecessary waste of human life, but in the end, one of the vehicles that made the war last as long as it did was the lack of communication between both sides, which in its turn led to a breakdown in talks that could have prevented the war in the first place. Igbo arrogance, Hausa bloodlust, Yoruba treachery and minority envy are stereotypes which persist till this day, and their persistence if handled wrongly can bring about another war. That must never happen.

We would be doing a great injustice if we forget the souls on both sides that perished during the Nigerian upheaval on 1966 to 1970, and the people who have perished in all other ethno-religious motivated violence throughout our history as a country.

May such a thing never happen again.

May they all rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Nigerian proclamation







In your face

Just finished my last paper, so I am now back to harass y'all...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Arrividecci DD

The one thing I hate most sincerely is ingratitude.
This morning I woke up to the news that DD had resigned as coach of my beloved Juve. A few hours later, the board denied it and said they hadn't heard such a thing. Now it a few minutes after the 2-0 defeat of Mantova which has crowned us as Serie B champions, DD himself has confirmed that he has indeed resigned. The reason for his resignation is disagreements over transfer policy with some members of the club's hierarchy notably Alessio Secco. For crying out loud, DD was spot on. Why should we exchange Balzaretti and Marchionni for Pasquale? That is about the silliest suggestion I've heard this year in any field of human endeavour!

Personally, I'm so upset by the way that DD has been undermined and disrespected over the last few weeks. This is not what Juventus is about, I'm in shock at his treatment. For crying out loud he is a Juventino through and through and came to our rescue when no other coach wanted to touch us with a long bean pole. Not only that, he did the business despite the handicap, and despite the fact that sometimes we the fans didn't agree with his selection policies. Then what is his reward? Some fucking amateur administrators undermine him and eventually drive him off. I hope Secco burns in hell.

Bon voyage in your next assignment DD. I wish you the best.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Miracle of Dammam

One of the sweetest days of my childhood...

World Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia, quarter finals, Nigeria dead and buried at 4 down, 30 minutes to go...

The Russians were actually a good team coming into this game and also they were favourites to win the game. We struggled in our group matches after the opening match win against Saudi Arabia and it was a struggle from then on. We lost to Portugal in our second match and struggled against the Czech Republic in our last match. By the time the group games were over, We had accumulated three red cards, countless yellows and the team needed some new infusion of things.

All the goals the Russians scored were excellent goals and with great teamwork and precise passing and there was nothing we could do about it. Every mistake we made was turned into a goal... After going down 4-0, The score brought back sad memories of Chile'87 once again when people said this might be the worse team ever. The loss to Brazil was also by the same scoreline and people I was watching game with were already satisfied with a quaterfinal place which was at least better than the Chile'87 squad.

Even when we were making a comeback one by one, people were still looking at the goals as consolation goals because at least weren't disgraced like the Chile'87 squad. It wasn't until it was 4-2 that people felt there was a chance if we could take our chances we were right back in it. When Sam Elijah scored that third goal, cheii we kind of knew we would tie this game up which we did. Remarkable feat something I will always cherish forever. Benin was shaking that day. I've never seen so much people on a beautiful Saturday...

Saudi'89 squad showed a lot of character, team spirit, grit, passion, fire, emotion and all worked well together despite their limitations to go very far in the tournament. Nobody gave them an ounce of chance before they left home after the Chile'87 debacle people back then didn't forget things very easily (Saudi'89 Squad really changed a lot of people minds and turned them around in one game because people never forgave the Chile'87 squad after so much expectations and promise was put on that team only to dissapoint in the end)

Despite losing to Portugal in the final, people still regarded them as champions because of what they did with limited personal, players getting injured and many more...They were our heroes and will always be forever.

The highlight of the tournament for me was watching Ugbade playing with one leg and was still able to score that equalizer that tied the game 4-4 and also had to play through extra time with only one leg because we had used all our subs and there was no way we could take him out and they decided to leave him in the game till we PK's came around. After that he ruled out for the remainder of the tournament. We missed him after that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sending information across

My exams start in exactly two weeks, so this would be my last post for a month...

Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet.

That is a Latin expression which for me is the total expression of the reason that sub-Saharan Africa was left behind large portions of the world in the quest for development. Loosely translated, that statement means, "What you say will die, what you write will live on".

We have a very poor track record when it comes to keeping records. It is foolish to think that African communities lived as human beings for 5000 years without inventing the wheel. It simply isn't possible. However, like the Aborigines in Australia, and the Indians in the Americas, we were caught on the wrong side of history, cut off from the rest of the world by an almost impenetrable barrier (in our own case, the Sahara stopped the advance of Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations), which ensured that while the rest of the world benefited from shared ideas and experiences, we lived in virtual isolation. The effect of this was that we didn't develop our ideas, and we didn't learn new ways of doing things at the pace of the rest. When eventually the rest of the world found us, the superiority they possessed was such that we were too easily subjugated, and till date we haven't quite picked up.

Our major failing in my own opinion remains that the little we had discovered was hardly documented. In ancient times, some African communities actually developed forms of writing, and the nsidibi scripts readily come to mind. However, as far as current archaeological knowledge tells us, most of this writing was used for religious purposes and not much else. Most of our knowledge was passed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter, by word of mouth.

The problem with the oral tradition is this: over time beneficial modifications may not be taken note of properly, and even worse a lot of the content could become corrupted. The result was that over the course of centuries, things remained basically the same in sub-Saharan Africa, as they had been almost since forever.

Sadly we have to a large extent (at least in Nigeria), failed to properly imbibe the culture of record keeping.

Not very far from where I live currently is the Hendon War Memorial. It is basically a large block that was set up in memory of the young men and boys from the Hendon area who went off to die in the Great War. All their names are listed on that block. The United Kingdom is littered with such memorials to their war dead from various wars, and if you make a request at the proper channels, you could get a list of the people who lost their lives as far back as Waterloo! In contrast, we don't even know the names of all the people who lost their lives in the last round of violence that blighted our recent elections. For crying out loud we don't even know how many actually lost their lives. How can someone ever truly consider giving up his life for his country when he knows within himself that the country would forget him as soon as he is gone? On the flip side of the coin why wouldn't one gladly give his life for his country when he knows that his name would be inscribed on monuments for all eternity?

This apathy to record keeping is reflected in our everyday attitudes back home, as reading is generally seen as something that 'wierdos' and 'freaks' partake in. When I say reading here, I don't mean the kind of reading that you have to do in order to pass your examinations, no. Nigerians in general are excellent when it comes to reading up on their own subject areas, and based on what I have seen over the last few months, we generally excel in our chosen fields given the right conditions. However, we (even our best scholars) tend to fall woefully short when it comes to subject matters outside our own fields, and it is my opinion that that lackadaisical attitude to other fields is one of the reasons why true national unity is still a long way off. We don't have an idea of our shared history and/or the histories of other groups that make up the Federation, so we don't appreciate each other. Instead, we look at each other through the myopic perceptions that were handed down to us by our forebears.

Another area where we are loosing out on, and very fast is brought about as a result of our seeming inability to adapt fast enough to changing methods of information dissemination, and that is in the area of mass media and its potential use as a tool for informing and moulding opinions. I remember how we were constantly bombarded under Abacha by the NTA with messages of how great things were and how Nigeria was a great nation. The same has been happening under Obasanjo, but now unlike under Abacha, the vast majority of the middle class has access to DSTv and would rather watch better packaged programming than the woefully vulgar dishes NTA has on offer. I always laughed as successive Ministers of Information made all the token noises about 'local content' in television programming. It is like they failed to realise that a badly packaged product would never attract an audience when placed against a well packaged dish. But it is interesting to note that at least under Abacha, there were people who actually believed that things were great, and that is because they simply didn't have access to an alternative opinion.

In any event, the ultimate form of mass media is where we seem to have lost out, and that is the movies. People generally prefer to sit through a good movie for three hours than to sit thirty minutes through a news bulletin and this presents a great medium for passing messages across. The Germans made excellent use of it during the Second World War, and the Americans followed suit. Two years ago, someone asked me whether there was an ongoing war in Nigeria because he had just watched the movie Tears of the Sun. I once had a nearly violent argument with another person who believes sincerely that the Greek incursion into Troy lasted less than a year, and Achilles died in a last 'heroic' stand inside Troy, and there are actually people who believe that Afghanistan was liberated from the Russkies by an American vet called Rambo!

While Hollywood is shaping opinions, what is Nollywood doing? Informing us how best to snatch your brother in-law's wife's son, or something to that effect.

What informed this rant?

Yesterday, I had a discussion with a Nigerian friend about the movie 300. That is one film that left an extremely bad taste in my mouth. I don't think that the acting in it was excellent. I think it passed a terrible message across in terms of distorted heroism as in my opinion it made Leonidas look like a blood thirsty madman, and didn't do Xerxes true service. However, the movie's ultimate 'accomplishment' is that people who had never heard of Sparta until a few weeks ago (and there are many back home in Naija) actually believe that it was 300 against a million. That is the power of Hollywood. And that is what happens to people who couldn't be arsed to go through records that have been set down from time immemorial.

Dell ships Ubuntu


Well, surprise, surprise! Someone I know in the US just bought a Dell Inspiron laptop with XP NOT Vista, noting that Dell had reported a drop in sales when they offered only Vista on their machines, and had to bring back XP due to demand. Faced with the XP ban coming in next year, has Dell finally decided that rather than sink with Vista, they'll jump ship to Linux instead - just as so many others are saying they'll do?

This is just what the doctor ordered - a major OEM shipping pre-installed Linux. THIS is what will bring Linux into the mainstream, not the fanboys (like me) extolling the virtues of open source, not the geeks pushing their grandparents onto Ubuntu, but support from major OEMs like Dell.

Keep up the good work, Dell. Microsoft will give you loads of stick over this, using their typical anticompetitive dirty tactics. But if you hang in there with this, you can only win.

Juve watch

After the win in Verona on friday, we are at middle of the table club Frosinone this afternoon. Frosinone are coming off of two straights losses, 2-1 at home to Napoli and the last one away to Brescia 1-0, due to a costly error by their keeper. The stadium is going to be packed, good weather, and an intense atmosphere as the home team and fans anticipate the arrival of the most storied club in Italian history to the Stadio Matusa.

Team News- DD has a serious headache this week, the rumours about Lyon, the rumours about being right for the job next year, rumours about Gigi, and now the actually important stuff: trying to field a fit 11 players today. Mid fielders are the issue here, Giannichedda, Zanetti, and Paro are out with injuries, and DD is going to have to experiment with youngsters again, either Marchisio or Venitucci. I love when our youngsters get a shot to shine, DD will most likely field a three man midfield with one of the youngsters flanked by Marchionni and Neddy. Marchisio and Venitucci have been called up fr the game. Chiellini, Trez, and Camo will all get the day off due to fatigue so they can get a chance to rest which is good for the home stretch. Up front should be DP playing right behind Palladino (some want to all him Palagol nowadays) to make for some exciting action hopefully. However, I wonder what DD has against Valerij.

I expect a win. Since we are in Serie A next year, let us now focus on getting the Serie B title. :D