Friday, October 31, 2008

The World Has Gone Mad

"Humanity is getting more stupid. Think about it this way, the more intelligent and more successful people are having less kids while the more stupid and less successful people are having more kids. Net result, the human race is the only species on the planet that is actually regressing."
---Nick Abbot

The world has gone mad. Modibbo Umar weeps while handing over the reigns of the FCT to the interim minister, the Head of Japan's Air Force claims that his country wasn't an aggressor in World War II, David Miliband is trying to do his own version of peace in our times while there is a fire close to home, the British parliament wants to debate a comedic error, and Goldman Sachs is set to continue the tradition of hefty payouts to people who are not deserving of it while those of us whose tax went into bailing them out loose our jobs!

I totally agree with Nick Abbot when he said that the human race has reached the maximum level of its evolutionary development and it is going to be downhill from here.

How do you explain to me the rubbish that is Keynesian theory that Gordon Brown wants to put into practice during these hard times? Look at it this way: Chxta goes on a spending spree and gets himself heavily into debt. Then as a solution to the heavy debt that he has incurred, Chxta simply goes out on another borrowing, and spending spree. Can someone with a degree in Economics please help me get my head around this one? It is this same attitude of excessive borrowing (which I talked about here) that got the world into the current mess in the first place, and the hard reality, which no one seems to want to admit to, is that more borrowing would only postpone the evil day. A situation where not just us, but our children would have to pay for the mistakes of a few gluttonous people is palpably real here. And don't get me started on the politicians. They are all in bed with the bankers. I mean, how can someone take a perfectly healthy 158 year old company, bankrupt it, make $45 million in the process, and still maintain his position (and thus standing) in society? Is something not terribly wrong somewhere..?

In a perfect world, the US elections would have been over a long time ago and Mr. Obama would have been waiting rather impatiently to collect his crown. Unfortunately the world we live in is not only less than perfect, but rapidly in decline, and thus it is that Mr. McCain still has more than just a battling chance to win next week's poll. As a matter of fact I can't shake off the feeling that McCain, not Obama would be sworn in come January 20 2009. That prospect is so scary seeing that dear Mr. McCain (whom I like as a person) is only a heartbeat away from croaking and then we would be saddled with the prospect of the dumbest bimbo in global politics sitting in control of the football! Even God won't be able to help us then...

So democracy has finally taken a back seat in my beloved homeland and the claws have come out of the gloves. People getting arrested for speaking their minds. Then later we would expect to make progress when public debate is being stifled. Not that I would do better myself if I'm on office in Naija, you see having looked well at the example being given by my fathers, I think the Nigerian psyche needs an extremely iron hand. The planlessness in our country is simply appalling. And my fear that it has crept into my own generation is exemplified by the numbers of my contemporaries who are currently pursuing their further education in one sector. No prizes for correctly guessing what sector that is.

Thirteen days ago I counted 6 hybrid cars out of a total of 29 during the short walk from the Metro Center to the White House. 6 out of 29! That is 21%. If one out of every five cars in the capital of the world's largest oil guzzler is moving towards greener technology, then you can't help but ask for how much longer we can continue to rely on our 'oil wealth' in Naija, a wealth which isn't even being put to any reasonable use.

Abeg let me not talk too much about Naija and our wahala. I don't want to get angry this evening. We are all going to hell in a handcart my dear readers, and y'all have front row seats.

Desktop Linux

Don't know, or care what the rest of y'all have to say, but the latest Ubuntu version Intrepid Ibex has finally matured desktop Linux. For the first time ever I was able to install every single
piece of software that I wanted to without having to open the terminal once. Even my wireless card (Broadcom cards have a bad reputation remember?) worked right from the get go. Now that's what we are talking about.

I'll post a full review later on.
FREE JONATHAN ELENDU NOW!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Weep


The above picture appeared in Sahara Reporters a few days ago. As someone who knows Abuja reasonably well, I can confirm that it was taken in or around the vicinity of the Aguiyi Ironsi Barracks. The picture is said to be of the son of our president, and this picture is shameful.

I understand the curiosity of young men about guns, hell I was curious about them as well. But the sheer lunacy that allowed this to happen speaks volumes about the lack of concern for the plight of Nigerians who live in a society where gun crime is on the rise and the police are powerless to do anything about it.

What is worse however is the fact that the person who broke the news was arrested on arrival in Nigeria! Added to the closure of Channels TV a few weeks ago, this confirms the hypocrisy of the Yar'Adua government in its noise making about the rule of law. They believe it not.

Below is the complete text of the message I received concerning this atrocity...

Dear All,
Thanks to the citizens platform Saharareporters.com we now can see the mentality of Mr President Umoru Musa Yaradua and His goons in Aso Rock and how reckless those in power let kids run amock in the presidency.
The pics you are about to see bellow's been published on SR. I am bringing them to you on Face Book with permission from the peoples platform S.R to send a message to the Nigerian government that the clampdown on bloggers at home and in the diaspora by the Yaradua Government and the SSS will never stop us from standing on the side of the people.
The arrest of Elendu on the suspicion of working for Sahara reporters is an indication that the dictator in Yaradua is coming home to roost!
Kayode Ogundamisi.
NB Bellow Pictures that will shock you.

MUSA YARADUA The ASO Rock GUNNER, Shows his Father's Wild Side
Image taken from "The Wild Little Ones"
Umaru Yar'adua's Son, Musa borne by Hajia is the real Wild Yar'adua.


News blogger detained in Nigeria


A US-based Nigerian news blogger is being held without charge by Nigeria's secret service.

Jonathan Elendu was taken into custody on Saturday when he arrived in the capital, Abuja, on a family visit.

The State Security Service (SSS) has refused to allow his lawyers access to him and denied him a medical visit.

Elendureports.com is one of a number of diaspora-run "citizen reporting" websites about Nigeria and is known for publishing controversial stories.

According to Nigerian law anyone arrested must be charged in court within 48 hours, but correspondents say the rule is frequently broken.

The SSS told Mr Elendu's lawyer that Mr Elendu had not been "arrested", but "invited" for talks at their headquarters.


There haven't been many really controversial stories about the president on Elendureports.com in the last few months
Lawyer Ugo Muoma

An SSS spokesman said he was being investigated for "acts of sedition", but refused to give details.

Spokesman Kene Chukwu also told the BBC that Mr Elendu's detention had followed legal rules.

"I am telling you all the legal rules were followed, and you have to accept it," Mr Chukwu said.

Mr Elendu's lawyer says he has not spoken to his client since his arrest.

"They have not pressed any charges and have not allowed anyone to see him," said Ugo Muoma.

He said he was filing papers in court to force the SSS to charge or release Mr Elendu.

Elendureports.com operates from Lansing in Michigan and publishes often controversial stories about Nigerian politicians, accusing some of them of corruption and other crimes.

Their stories are often based on anonymous sources.

President's son

Another US-based Nigerian news website, Saharareporters.com, quotes anonymous sources as saying Mr Elendu may have been arrested because of photographs it published a few months ago showing President Umaru Yar'Adua's son.


The Saharareporters.com pictures, which caused a stir in the local media at the time, showed 13-year-old Musa Yar'Adua waving wads of money around and holding a policeman's gun.

But Saharareporters.com says Mr Elendu is not a member of their staff and has nothing to do with the photographs.
Unmm Dis Aso Fyne no be small

International media rights groups Reporters Without Borders has called for Mr Elendu's release.

"There haven't been many really controversial stories about the president on Elendureports.com in the last few months," said Mr Muoma.
As the roads in Kubwa dey bad a big "Okada" is not a Bad Idea for a Yaraua

During the election campaign in 2007, Elendureports.com claimed that Mr Yar'Adua had died during a medical trip to Germany.

Two foreign journalists have been detained and deported by the SSS for reporting in the politically sensitive oil-rich Niger Delta region over the last few months.

In September, six local reporters and media executives were detained and questioned after a television channel reported, after receiving a hoax e-mail, that the president planned to resign.





SaharaReporters React to the The Arrest of Jonathan Elendu By The Nigerian Government.



The cowardly act of harassing and arresting citizens for exercising their fundamental freedoms is totally condemnable and we hope that Nigerians at home and abroad will condemn the violation of the rights of Mr. Jonathan Elendu by the illegitimate Yar'Adua regime. He was arrested yesterday on suspicion of being a SaharaReporters reporter.

"Credit Crunch"? Not in the Naira House of the Yaradua's


We should state that Mr. Elendu is not connected with SaharaReporters in any shape or form. As far as we know, he publishes an independent blog (Elendureports) that is separate from, and predates SaharaReporters. Nevertheless, arresting, detaining and harassing an innocent Nigerian even if he works for SaharaReporters is not only illegal, but also fruitless, since no amount of such callous acts will deter or restrict the publication of hard -hitting evidence-based reports from our ever-reliable team members.
Dis na Aso Rock its 3 am in the morning, the phone rings and the message is Musa Jnr is frolicking around the presidency in the middle of the Night

We encourage anyone who objects to any of our reports to challenge it in writing or go to court. Our pages are always open and we have never refused to publish a rejoinder.
Humble Begining for a Docile President

We also encourage Nigerians, whether they are journalists or not, to defend the sanctity of facts and of our law. If we refuse to do this, we grant full license to those who wield power to arrest anyone and everyone. It is just a matter of time.

Special Thanks to www.saharareporters.com

--------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NIGERIA DEMOCRATIC LIBERTY FORUM

PRESS RELEASE:

RELEASE JONATHAN ELENDU NOW.




New York, NY. October 23rd 2008: On behalf of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF) hereby call for the immediate release of Mr. Jonathan Elendu, a US based Nigerian journalist by the Nigeria State Security Service (SSS). The arrest of a law abiding Nigerian who is engaged in keeping government honest and holding those whose stock in trade is the perpetual ruins of our country accountable is reminiscent of the lawlessness and dictatorship of military junta in the dark days of our history.

The Yar'Adua administration beyond the facade of professing respect for the rule of law would do itself good with its battered image at home and abroad by releasing Mr. Jonathan Elendu immediately or charge him to court if the government has any criminal allegations against him. The government should be reminded that it cannot stifle dissent amidst the grand scale effort to protect those who have and continue to engage in massive corruption against Nigeria.

We are worried by the government's aversion, intolerance and gross disrespect for the rule of law by taking the laws into its hands as demonstrated by the recent closure of a news media outfit (Channels Television) and now Mr. Elendu. The government should be informed that Nigerians would not tolerate a rein of terror in our land after our hard fought democracy in which Nigerians made tremendous sacrifices. Those who today are in political offices should jettison the hangover of the military mindset of the abuse and reckless use of power.

If the Federal government does not release Mr. Jonathan Elendu or charge him to court the NDLF would contact the US, British and the International community and Human Rights Organizations on his behalf and call attention to the disrespect and disregard for his fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and International protocols. We would also organize protests here in the US and at the United Nations for his release. The government should be warned of the severe consequences of the continuous detention of Mr. Jonathan Elendu.


Signed

Bukola Oreofe
Executive Director

Moving on...

...sitting at my new desk, now working R&D for Aleutia, a very small startup company. My brief: speed up Linux for their low power computers.

I'm going to enjoy this...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

...and so it hits home.

Thus it happened that during the time of the recession Chxta got himself laid off. Severance pay and a slap on the wrist. 'Sorry chum, if you were good enough we'd have held on to you.'

I enjoyed my time with my now former employer, and no bitterness at all. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Letter to my unborn child

My son, you do not know me yet. But there is time for that to change after you are born. My name is Chxta, I am your father. I am writing this down as my testament to you, a few words of advice to dispense, just in case I forget to do it whenever the time comes. That I may forget to do it serves as my first lesson to you. Yes son, I am fallible. Just like any other human out there. I will make mistakes over time, you will be disappointed in me once in a while. But like you are going to be, I am only human, and making mistakes is the most fundamental human right there is out there. What really matters is the person's acceptance of his mistake, and more importantly, his determination not to repeat that mistake. So, whenever I make those mistakes or do things that are not in line with what I have to say now, bear in mind that I want you to do as I say, not as I do.

Over the years I have quietly observed a lot about people, and the world we live in. And I have come to the conclusion that life is indeed worth living. The only problem with it however is that you only have one, one that will be full of mistakes and thus regrets, but one that will also be full of achievement and thus joy. Try to live so you have more of the latter.

Make every effort to enjoy your youth, so that you won't grow up with regrets. The best time in your father's life so far were his undergraduate years. Those should be yours as well, so you have some time to wait yet. However be careful to avoid excesses, and above all take your studies seriously. A good education is the only safety net you will ever have. Be mindful to have a complete education though, a complete education encompasses everything you learn, not just the school curriculum. Always remember that whatever certificate you might receive in life would read that you were found worthy in 'character and learning'. Note that the character always comes before the learning...

Always plan ahead. But whenever you plan keep two things in mind, firstly always try and make alternative plans. As religious people say, 'man proposes and God disposes'. Again always keep in mind lessons learned from previous successes and failures. There are bound to be failures in life as there are bound to be successes. But remember that you can never know where you are headed if you don't know where you are coming from. And then again, there is no point living life if you don't have a solid idea of where you are headed. In making plans never underestimate the value of intelligence. There aren't many truer sayings than 'to be forewarned is to be forearmed'. The real value of knowing all there is to know about a potential foe or situation is that when things go wrong as some surely will, you will not so much as not be shocked, but you would be in a better position to absorb the shock.

Sometimes I will not follow you, your siblings and your mother to church. This is not because I don't believe in God, I believe He is there alright. Rather it is because my Bible starts and stops at Matthew 7:12. The ethic of reciprocity. You must always bear in mind that you are what you are because of all the other people around you and nothing else. If they were any less, you would be less, and if their circumstances improve, so would yours. Keep that in mind and always be good to the people around you. Your father is no masochist, so he would never go out of his way to cause pain to anyone around him lest the person turn around and hurt your father as well. Those are lessons that I learned quite a while ago. Be nice to people, always offer to help in any way you can. Don't offer to help when you can't do what is needed, don't offer to help when it would spite you. Whenever you help, do not forget that you helped such a person. If the person turns around someday and spurns you, know then that you are a better person, but never entertain thoughts of vengeance. Nothing wears down a man more. Always be grateful, and never hesitate to express your gratitude. Remember, as simple as it sounds, the words 'thank you', go a very long way in making someone repeat a feat of assistance to you. More importantly though, your actions in expressing that gratitude go even longer. Never demand assistance. If it comes, don't spurn it. If it doesn't shrug your shoulders and life goes on.

Make new friends, but keep the old ones. One is silver, and the other is gold. Never forget that. Be loyal to your friends. True friendship is more important than all the gold in Fort Knox, and let the friendship flow from you. You don't have to wait for the next person to always make the first move. Ensure that your friends' problems are your problems. That way when you have problems they would be their problems. Try not to keep enemies, but sometimes that can't be avoided. Make sure that your enemies are also the enemies of your friends. Always be truthful to your friends. However, try and have the wisdom to know when to be economical with the truth. It may be better on some occasions to be economical with the truth as that would help the situation a lot more than the blatant truth. Never tell a barefaced lie. That only complicates matters more. Hang on desperately to the friends who improve you as a person. Those who don't improve you, keep at arm's length. Even though I asked you to strive as much as you can to keep your friends, some would prove themselves not worth having as your friends. Give such people as long a rope as you possibly can, and when the rope has grown too long, cut it, but never look back in anger.

Make sure you learn a language other than that which we will speak at home. Make sure you learn as much as you can in that language. Also make sure that you learn the basics of as many languages as you possibly can. There is no telling if the day would come when a simple knowledge of the question, 'quo vadis?' would be all that stands between you and a lynching. Learn Igbo. It is the language of your father, his father before him, his father before him, his own father before him, und so weiter...

Love completely and like a fool. You will meet girls as you grow up, you will be infatuated with some, but you will fall out of it. This thing called love is a placebo, and when you are on the other side of it, it hurts terribly. Never forget that. Always keep in mind however that the really tangible things in a relationship are respect and care. Any other physical yearning will diminish given time and lack of proper care. As a man however, when you are in love, give your all completely. Don't hold back, don't expect anything in return. If you fall victim of unrequited love, hang on for as long as you can, then like in all other relationships, walk away without looking back. Nothing destroys a person's confidence more than unrequited love. If you are lucky to find someone who loves you back, walk in the air and return her love completely. There is no greater feeling than when you are with a girl and you know that she belongs to you completely. I know that because your mother loves me completely. Do not under any circumstances think that 'complete' love cannot die. Like a plant that is denied of nourishment, it would die. If fed, it would flourish. This is a topic I won't dwell on however because it is full of contradictions. Two things you must take away from it however are these, first true love between a man and a woman comes only when you have learned about the baggage which she carries, and are able to accept that she has that baggage, and put up with it. The second thing you must understand is that there with one exception, there is no such thing as unconditional love. The one exception is the love a mother feels for her child at the moment of birth, the one she will feel for you on that day in the not too distant future when you are born. Even the love of God which the religious people will tell you about has strings attached; if you mess it up, He will burn you in hell for eternity.

NEVER keep secrets. There aren't too many more correct statements than that of Tigran Petrosian, 'there is more deception in chess than in poker, but while in poker you hide your hand, in chess everything is out in the open'. Live in such a way that no one can use some dark secret against you in future. However even with all that openness, learn what is most valuable, and keep that close to your chest. Always speak your mind. That way you will have a clear conscience and you will sleep better at night. People will ridicule you for it, some will make statements such as 'you talk carelessly', but as your father can tell from his own experiences in life, when the chips are down they will seek your counsel. There is something in the human being that appreciates brutal honesty.

Keep at the back of your mind that he who must have peace must be ready for war. With that in mind, never back down in the face of provocation. However, always be mindful that YOU, not your adversary should be the one to select the time and place for the fight.

Eat healthy. My body has felt a lot better since I began to cut down on the junk, so would yours.

The next one is one that I'm only beginning to come to terms with, image is everything. Be mindful of your appearance. The way you are dressed will be the way that you are addressed. Always be neat and well manicured. It will open doors.

Never be afraid to show off your knowledge. If people around you do not like the fact that you are more knowledgeable than they are, direct them to the nearest toilet with the appropriate instructions on how to insert their heads inside the bowl.

The last I can think of now my son, and extremely important: don't watch football. That game has an evil spirit, and your father is possessed. I don't wish that on you my son, my IfeChukwude. I love you son.

How the Stock Market works

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each. The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50. However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each."

The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works!

Thanks Usman...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back from vacation

Back from my vacation, feeling refreshed, and above all very happy. Have to thank the people who made the vacation fun for me: Chychy, Jide, Blessing, Tolu, Arit, Jared, Omuwa, Christian, Lambert, Tessy, Anita, Chris and Kulutempa. Whenever I have a chance my dear people, I will revenge.

Now it's back to the daily grind. I have 84 unread emails in my personal email box. Wonder what it would be like when I get to the office. Meanwhile my newsreader has 574 unread items, and this is after I've filtered out the nonessentials such as sports and IT. Where do I begin?

*Edit: 204 emails in my box at the office. Today is going to be long and hard...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chxta @ d White House



My sense of destiny finds it rather significant that it was on the day that Chxta chose to go on tour of the White House area that Laura Bush decided to open the grounds of the house. I mean, it normally takes most people forever to get into the White House grounds, yet Chxta got in easy pizzy. To the fallen blogger who accompanied me on tour, those are the perks of hanging out with Chxta.

Enjoy the video of the US Army Band playing a short symphony, and forget the light Igbo accent that asked that fly to stay still for a shot...

Friday, October 10, 2008

False literacy

My brother make you no follow book, look am and go your way
---Fela Anikulapo Kuti

In 2001 Chxta walked into a friend's room and borrowed a book, Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad. Reading that book took the rest of Chxta's UNIBEN life on a spin, a spin of which the effects are still being felt today by Chxta. At the risk shifting the blame for Chxta's own laziness, that book dispensed some advice to Chxta which Chxta took too literally, and which turned a once promising student into one who barely made it out of UNIBEN with a teddy bear*. The main effect of the book on Chxta's life was that it totally ruined Chxta's priorities for the next three years of his life. Chxta's one focus during that period of life was money; the pursuit of money, the acquisition of money, and the ability to go to the bank and look at Chxta's bank balance, then compare it with those of Chxta's mates and feel good with Chxta's self. It never occurred to Chxta in all that time, that the amounts Chxta was gloating over were peanuts compared to what obtains outside the student world. What mattered to Chxta was that within Chxta's own circle which was mostly made up of students, Chxta appeared (one of) the wealthiest. In all that relentless pursuit of the cheddar, Chxta made few friends and more enemies, some of whom still hold grudges against Chxta till this day. That unfortunate period of Chxta's life was largely influenced by the lure given by motivational or self help books. 

Whilst on the one hand Chxta reads anything (or almost anything) that comes Chxta's way, over the years Chxta has come to realise that some literature are (for want of a better word) pure crap, and generally tend to appeal to people who are insecure about themselves. Rich Dad Poor Dad as an example has not produced any millionaire except the authors. And this is coming from someone who applied the rules set out in the book diligently. 

Chxta finds it rather sad that these kind of books (why is it that 99 odd per cent of the authors of those books are American?) are becoming way too popular among Chxta's contemporaries in Nigeria. What are the real lessons to be learned from those books? None says Chxta. 

Another motivational book which Chxta devoured during the period in which Chxta's life went off the rails was Steve Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Chxta read that one towards the tail end of June 2004 on the recommendation of a friend, and Chxta thinks that that is the moment that the scales began to fall from Chxta's eyes. In this book (which like most motivational books except Kiyosaki's is a long arse, boring read), Covey summarises the seven habits as follows: Be Proactive, Start something with the end in mind, Put first things first, Think to win, Seek first to understand before you are understood, Work with people, Partake in recreational activities! 

Whilst Chxta is loathe to criticise a book which has sold 15 million copies worldwide, Chxta feels duty bound to point out that Mr. Covey didn't need 358 pages to expand those seven pointers above. They are all common sense which you can get for free anywhere. To butress Chxta's point about the motivations of the writers of such books, each motivational writer out there writes spin offs (Kiyosaki's book has at least four sequeals) and they make loads of money not from royalties per se, but from public appearances dispensing 'advice'. No thank you, Chxta would rather take advice from Mike Bloomberg.

The advice given in Kiyosaki's book, whilst is appealed to an uncultured mind like Chxta's back in 2001, is dangerous because it doesn't take reality into account. Kiyosaki encourages people to all be entrepreneurs while forgetting that someone has to be the employee. He encourages people to focus on one investment while forgetting that every successful economy is multi-facetted. Worst of all, he downplays the importance of a proper education while forgetting that an incomplete education is far worse than no education at all. This last advice, which Chxta swallowed hook, line, sinker and fisherman's hand is the one that threw Chxta off the rails back then, and the one that Chxta hasn't quite forgiven the man for...

On the other hand, you have authors who are into their craft for the love of literature. Chxta finds it sad that not so many Nigerians Chxta has spoken with have read Half of a Yellow Sun! Positively disgraceful. That book presents a lot in an entertaining fashion, and most importantly, you drop the book with a better knowledge of the human angle of the Nigerian Civil War. For y'all who don't like digging your heads in history books, it is a lot better than reading Alex Madiebo's The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafran War**. One of the best books to have ever come out of Nigeria is Cyprian Ekwensi's The Passport of Mallam Ilia. Not only do you learn a great deal about life in what was to become Northern Nigeria at the turn of 20th century shortly before the Brits established their hold over the region, but you have a very good read as well. Yet some people would say that it is a children's book! Chxta felt positively insulted when a dear friend described Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart as a kid's novel. Chxta lent her Chxta's copy, and thankfully Chxta believes that notion has been put to sleep for good. Oh the stuff you learn about our country from reading those books. Ekwensi's Jagua Nana lets you know that a lot of the 'moral' issues we are facing today in Nigeria are in no way new.

Let us not restrict ourselves to Nigerian novels. A read of Michael Crichton's Next, a thoroughly researched novel provides you with a fascinating insight into the billion dollar world of genetic research. You drop that book having assimilated enough to stimulate your interest in that area. There are many more examples that Chxta can provide off the top of Chxta's head, but that is not the point. The point my Nigerian brothers and sisters is that we should not put too much stock in books which undermine true literacy to the detriment of real national treasures.

*Teddy bear in UNIBEN parlace means Third Class degree.
**General Madu in Adichie's novel is based on General Madiebo in real life. The train journey that Madu endured happened to Madiebo shortly after Lt. Col Okoro was shot in Kaduna during the coup of July 29 1966.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thanks Linus!

It is 17 years today since Linux was first posted as an OS. All I can say is, "Thanks Linus!"

Source

Free minix-like kernel sources for 386-AT, was the subject of Linus Benedict Torvalds post to comp.os.minix on October 5, 1991 -- seventeen years ago today. it began,

Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? Are you without a nice project and just dying to cut your teeth on a OS you can try to modify for your needs? Are you finding it frustrating when everything works on minix? No more all-nighters to get a nifty program working? Then this post might be just for you :-)

As I mentioned a month(?) ago, I'm working on a free version of a minix-lookalike for AT-386 computers. It has finally reached the stage where it's even usable (though may not be depending on what you want), and I am willing to put out the sources for wider distribution. It is just version 0.02 (+1 (very small) patch already), but I've successfully run bash/gcc/gnu-make/gnu-sed/compress etc under it.

Linus didn't know what he was unleashing with "an OS you can try to modify to your needs" -- yet. But what started as a fun vetting of one *nix became the largest barn-raising in the history of computing. (By the way, i remembered this date while on another hunt for information, in Encyclopedia Brittanica, where today Linux' birthday is the Home Page story. Oddly, it fails to get a mention in today's Wikipedia cover page.)Today that barn is vast world still being terraformed. Why did Linux succeed where others did not, or did to lesser extents?

I think Neal Stephenson nails it best in his landmark book, In the Beginning Was The Command Line, the whole text of which you can read here. Written in the late 1990s, it still rings true today. A core sample:

Windows 95 and MacOS are products, contrived by engineers in the service of specific companies. Unix, by contrast, is not so much a product as it is a painstakingly compiled oral history of the hacker subculture. It is our Gilgamesh epic.

What made old epics like Gilgamesh so powerful and so long-lived was that they were living bodies of narrative that many people knew by heart, and told over and over again--making their own personal embellishments whenever it struck their fancy. The bad embellishments were shouted down, the good ones picked up by others, polished, improved, and, over time, incorporated into the story. Likewise, Unix is known, loved, and understood by so many hackers that it can be re-created from scratch whenever someone needs it. This is very difficult to understand for people who are accustomed to thinking of OSes as things that absolutely have to be bought.

Many hackers have launched more or less successful re-implementations of the Unix ideal. Each one brings in new embellishments. Some of them die out quickly, some are merged with similar, parallel innovations created by different hackers attacking the same problem, others still are embraced, and adopted into the epic. Thus Unix has slowly accreted around a simple kernel and acquired a kind of complexity and asymmetry about it that is organic, like the roots of a tree, or the branchings of a coronary artery. Understanding it is more like anatomy than physics.

For at least a year, prior to my adoption of Linux, I had been hearing about it. Credible, well-informed people kept telling me that a bunch of hackers had got together an implentation of Unix that could be downloaded, free of charge, from the Internet. For a long time I could not bring myself to take the notion seriously. It was like hearing rumors that a group of model rocket enthusiasts had created a completely functional Saturn V by exchanging blueprints on the Net and mailing valves and flanges to each other.

But it's true. Credit for Linux generally goes to its human namesake, one Linus Torvalds, a Finn who got the whole thing rolling in 1991 when he used some of the GNU tools to write the beginnings of a Unix kernel that could run on PC-compatible hardware. And indeed Torvalds deserves all the credit he has ever gotten, and a whole lot more. But he could not have made it happen by himself, any more than Richard Stallman could have. To write code at all, Torvalds had to have cheap but powerful development tools, and these he got from Stallman's GNU project.

Yet for all of the successes of LInux and the Net, of half a million open source projects, of immeasurable progress by companies taking advantage of sturdy building material grown in the wilds of hacker culture, businesses still remain, as Walt Whitman so perfectly put it, "demented with the mania of owning things". Nine years have passed since Jeremie Miller introduced XMPP (then still Jabber), and Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL still maintain closed instant messaging systems. Mobile phone companies and equipment providers still make devices and platforms that are purposely incompatible with those of competitors. Companies still look for ways to use software hardware/software combinations to "lock in" their customers, as if slavery were something any sane customer would want.

There are signs of progress, as there always will be, until World Domination (a term that showed up more than a decade ago) is complete. Until Google introduced the Linux-based Android, Linux-based mobile phones were nearly (or just as) closed as those from Symbian and Windows Mobile. But Nokia bought Linux developer Trolltech in January and Symbian in July -- and then announced its intent to open-source the latter.

Nokia knows that a free customer is better than a captive one. And that the same goes for developers.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

I hate Linux!!!


Just stumbled in after a rather hectic Friday night. My head is all fuzzy from one drink mixture too many, so it is time to tell the truth. I hate Linux.

Over the years I have built up a repertoire of skills that have seen me become the main man when it comes to system clean ups. Yes sir, I can tune up a computer so tight that it would be almost as good as the day it rolled off the assembly line. I've brought back computers that have been in the wilds of the internet, and had a lot of fun along the way. All this was due to the fact that there were so many exotic beasts out there that could easily take advantage of the defects that exist in the Windows environment. A lot of those people who's systems have gone through my hands in recent years can testify to the fact that I can secure them as tight as all the gold in Fort Knox. Then I met Linux...

Initially, and as a matter of habit I continued with the tight security practices I'd learned whilst still trapped in the gloom of Windows, I made sure I had an anti-virus installed (it is still there), and on occasion I used to scan my computer. But never once have I caught a nasty on the server in my home, a system which has an uptime now of almost one year! The same applies to my laptop, and one of the effects of this is that I'm becoming lax about computer security. I just noticed that I haven't updated my KlamAV in the six months since I upgraded from Gutsy to Hardy! The paranoia that was so much fun has gone, and that is worrisome to say the least.

I am not even making much of an effort to correct this failing, and from what I see in forums, far too many modern Linux users have also become lax about security. One author recently discussed this topic in his discussion about common virus ethics for Linux users. Now while his opinion is the opposite of what should be proper security practice for Linux users (he believes that anyone that gets infected by a virus passed on by a Linux user is not his problem, but the person who was dumb enough to get infected by it), it still brings up a good point that we still need to be vigilant about our security, even if we are currently 'immune' to viruses, spyware, and other common threats suffered by Windows users.

One reason for this is a simple fact of life: As Linux becomes more popular, more exotic stuff is going to be targeted towards the OS. While at the moment Linux is definitely the most secure OS out there, it is not completely bullet proof, and we need to start tightening up our own personal security practices to ensure that our own laziness doesn't bring down the strong fortifications of a great OS.

For me however, a lot of what used to be fun simply no longer happens. My computer has been damned too stable for a long time, and I find that I don't like it.

P.S: The picture was taken in a cab earlier today, we can't dodge Windows crashes can we?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nigeria at 48: The need for an icon

The Abuja master plan must not enslave us
---Aliyu Modibo Umar

I have trawled various Nigerian online communities, and while on the one hand people are indeed talking about our independence day, I am rather disappointed to find that 'more enlightened' Nigerians are more interested in whether Obama farted twice last night than in the latest happenings in our fatherland. Maybe it is time to exonerate the fat lady on the matter of that dinner. We are all guilty of the same offence in our own little way.

Whilst on the one hand I didn't always agree with Nasir El-Rufai's methods of enforcing the Abuja master plan, I always felt that he was on the right track. The current FCT minister in this interview published a few weeks ago in The Vanguard doesn't agree. He feels that we shouldn't necessarily stick with the plan, but should 'accommodate the concerns' of every human being who comes to Abuja and learn to live with their individual shenanigans. I saved the link all these weeks precisely for this occasion. The man is an idiot. And that is not my not-so-humble opinion speaking, that is a statement of fact!

Where in the world is a master plan discarded in favour of following the whims and caprices of anyone who just happens to have his arse in office at that point in time t? This interview is an example of why Abuja (and Nigeria) keeps stumbling from bad to worse by the day. You see, every country has its own fair share of idiots, but while in other countries they at the very least attempt to hide their idiots (sometimes it isn't always possible as GWB proves), in Nigeria we seem to project our own idiots, and therein lies one of our biggest problems as a nation, the quality of not only our leadership, but the followership as well.

Anyone who has been reading my stuff these past couple of years knows that I am of the belief that the people deserve the kind of leaders that they have. However, I understand as well that sometimes the leaders saddle themselves on the people to the extent that the people begin to look up to the leaders and copy them.

Earlier in the year when I visited Naija, I was opportuned to see an example of this in action. On the morning of Sunday 4 May, at Moore Road in Yaba, Lagos a convoy belonging to the Imo State Government House sped past myself and my friend Dre in a traffic hold up, sirens blaring. At the junction of Moore Road and Herbert Macaulay way, just behind St. Dominic's Catholic Church, they ran into a bottleneck, and what was their solution? Their escorts disembarked and began to push people out of the way. To what purpose you may ask. There was no place that these geezers could possibly have been hurrying to on a Sunday morning, and even if there was an event, two questions arise, first, why didn't they wake up on time? next, what would causing even further chaos possibly achieve? Is it then a surprise that the average Joe Public in Nigeria on seeing the animals in office take advantage of their position in ways like this not respond in similar fashion? Anyone who has been caught up in Lagos's notorious traffic jams has definitely seen the danfo drivers promptly join a siren blaring convoy the moment the opportunity presents itself, and it is on only a very few occasions that the escorts attempt to stop the new members of the convoy. Within their minds, they know that they've lost the moral right to discipline the errant bus drivers.

Again this theory was played out in Abuja over the lifespan of the El-Rufai leadership. Suddenly people became conscious of their environment, and (at the very least on the surface) a part of Nigeria became sane. That was because the leadership was doing what it had to do, when it had to do it, and naturally the followership responded. It is rather significant that for all the attempts that have been made to dirty El-Rufai's name since the new set of clowns took over, not one of them has been bold enough to make a direct accusation. Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark...

The kind of leadership Nigeria needs to make some real progress is a morally upright and strong leadership. There is no human being without the odd skeleton in his closet, so let us not waste time asking for the impossible, when I say morally upright, I mean someone who is prepared to lead by example, a good example. At the moment the man at the top doesn't have too many skeletons in his closet, but he isn't strong. We need both.

There has been the argument that we might actually need a dictator after all as this democracy thing is proving much too costly and quite the unmanageable monster. A friend of mine believes this misquoted history (he was actually quoting from the movie The Dark Knight): 'when the enemy was at the gate the Romans suspended democracy and appointed a strong man to lead them through the time of crisis'. People tend to forget recent history so easily, so let me tell you a quick story...

In their news bulletin of 0400 hours on the morning of 8 June 1998, the BBC World Service announced that a man had died. By 1000 hours on that same day, millions of Nigerians had heard that announcement, but went about their daily chores like nothing had happened. Then in their 1600 news bulletin, Radio Nigeria confirmed what the BBC had announced 12 hours earlier, and when we all knew it to be true, the entire country (save the man's family and his acolytes) broke out in spontaneous jubilation. I was a wide eyed first year university student then, and I remember all the details of the impromptu party that was thrown in the Hall 1 car park, the speeches made by student leaders, the run from Hall 1, round Ekosodin and on to the UNIBEN Main Gate where another party occurred. People tend to miss the significance of the 12 hour gap between the first announcement of the death, and the outpouring of emotion. Abacha's grip on Nigeria was so total that no one dared to celebrate publicly lest he suddenly woke up from the dead and arrested them all. Is that what we want to go back to?

In ancient Rome, the people didn't suspend their democracy when there was crisis. No, they voted tribunes and/or consuls to lead them through the crises, and those men were expected to step down as soon as the crisis was over. Julius Caesar to all intents and purposes seized power when he crossed the Rubicon, and the final effect of it all was that Roman democracy died for the next 1500 years. Nigeria doesn't need a dictator.

According to the dictionary, an icon can be defined as:
1. a picture, image, or other representation.
2. Eastern Church. a representation of some sacred personage, as Christ or a saint or angel, painted usually on a wood surface and venerated itself as sacred.
3. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
4. Computers. a picture or symbol that appears on a monitor and is used to represent a command, as a file drawer to represent filing.
5. Semiotics. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.

The third meaning is significant as far as I am concerned because that is what Nigeria needs. We need someone that the entire country can look up to, a man (not woman sorry) who is above all moral reproach within our context of false morality. A man who is focused and has a very strong idea of where he is headed to, and more importantly, how to get there. A man who would not back down in the face of the numerous forces that are at play in the Nigerian political space. A man who knows that you don't shove a plan up people's arses in order to accommodate their whims, but rather make people bend to accommodate the plan. A man who knows that he is Nigerian before he is Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. What Nigeria needs is an icon.

Happy birthday Nigeria.