Friday, February 26, 2010

Heat wave

Living in Nigeria has its ups. Sometimes though, one has to wonder whether there are more downs than ups. Take for instance, the current heat wave. Now, anyone who has lived all of his life (or most of his life in my case) in Nigeria knows that the heat is something that gets really bad at about this time of year. We have had a few months of dry weather, so simply put there is no real 'freshness' from the atmosphere for us to fall back on. In a few weeks when the first rains come, things would change.

Unfortunately, the little things that could make the three or four months of intense heat bearable do not seem to exist around these parts. There is little or no power, and neighbours all over the place leave their generating sets on all night to provide themselves comfort. Unfortunately, these generators add to the heat, and the noise from them makes things even worse. Witness that I for example have not had a decent night's rest for a while except on a few occasions when I have for the sake of my own sanity decided to say something like 'fuck all y'all' then head to a cheap hotel to get some sleep under the comforting chills of an air conditioner.

But what of the other things that can be done to ameliorate the effects of this heat wave?

This is where the failure of our educational system comes into a very sharp focus. In this case, our architects are simply not thinking. Have you ever been on the inside of a mud hut? No matter the weather outside, the temperature inside is cool, and very comfortable to the human body. Our ancestors got that right.

Part of the problem with places like Lagos is the senseless way residential (and commercial) buildings are constructed. Concrete block walls are the favoured way of construction in Nigeria, a habit imported wholesale from the United Kingdom. We do not even make use of as much wood as the British do. Unfortunately, concrete walls and ceilings retain heat from the hot, sunny day and radiate that heat into the house at night. This is great in cold climates, but a major discomfort in hot, tropical climate. Every architect should know that. . .

Homes in Nigeria are designed along European lines and this retains all of the heat. It is even worse when you construct the ceiling as poured concrete reinforced by steel. If you live on the second floor, all the heat retained by the concrete ceiling will be radiated into your living space. If you do not have an air conditioner, you will practically cook in your house.

The 1982 novel A Time For Adventure describes a scenario where in the future Africans return to their traditional materials for building. Maybe a return to using mud will not fly, but there is no rule against making use of fire-baked clay as is done in the Middle East. To be sincere, concrete, mud, and fire-baked clay are all the same material if we come down to first principles, so these two can be reinforced with metal rods like concrete is. Nigerian architects need to learn to incorporate earth and vegetation into their designs.

A well-designed tropical home that makes use of the right materials and construction methods can go a long way toward making your living space comfortable and also save on electricity use by your air conditioning. What do they teach in architecture schools in Nigeria, anyway?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A call to arms

My day is about to end. It will end with me collapsing into bed. I have been up for more than 24 hours and a bit irritable. A good part of my irritation earlier in the day was because of the fiasco playing out in Abuja as regards who the real leader of Nigeria is.

From all indications, Yar'Adua's wife, Turai has usurped the office of the president and has effectively sidelined the Acting President. I was, and still am angry about the lack of spine shown by Goodluck Jonathan in this whole event. I mean, as C-in-C, even in an acting capacity, someone filed a flight plan of such magnitude and you did not know about it until the planes (not plane) were about to land? What is even worse is that these people were able to deploy the Guards Brigade into Abuja streets and the man who was on watch had no clue as to what was happening? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!

What makes me even angrier is the sudden and clear realignment that is happening amongst the people who are supposed to check the excesses of the Executive arm of government. 'Our' legislators have made it quite clear in the past that they are all about the money, and obviously, the new 'president' has a large war chest to play with.

Another cause of my anger is the Nigerian people. Too many of the comments I saw on NEXT's website today were appealing to God for help. I can guarantee that God has given up on us. It is an accepted maxim that heaven helps those who help themselves, but obviously, my people do not want to help themselves.

Make no mistakes, this fight which has to be fought is not Lucky Jo's fight to fight. It is a fight for the Nigerian people. And if we prove so spineless as to let some twits hold the entire nation to ransom, then what we get, we deserve.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Metaphors

Consider this scenario. For the past few years, the company that you work for has been moving without direction. Profits are not encouraging. A new CEO is appointed after a power struggle. Unfortunately, the outgoing CEO had someone penciled down for the position. He throws a lot of weight about, and his candidate succeeds him.

During the course of the new administration, it turns out that the new CEO is a complete lackey. He does nothing on time, he is hardly ever at meetings, and even when he is there, he appears not to be there. Then he suddenly stops coming to work. Now, there are provisions in the company's charter for this kind of scenario, and his deputy should take over. But a powerful interest group within the board prevents this from happening. Instead, they call on you and the other employees to pray for the company, and keep telling you that all is well. The CEO himself does not bother to make any appearance at meetings.


Motion after motion for his removal is met with resistance from this interest group, and the company begins to drift even worse than it ever has. Yet, three months after, Mr. CEO is still in place, and not more than a few employees believe the illusion that all is well, while majority of the remaining employees are doing nothing about the quagmire...


Now consider an alternative scenario. You apply for a job in the same company. An interview is scheduled, and you attend. Then your phone rings. It is the prospective employer calling to offer you the job. You go for a meet with this employer, the negotiations are fruitful. Your employer gives his terms and conditions. Targets are set, and you agree to those targets. Then he offers you the job. Of course there are certain things that you expect while you are working for your employer. You expect to be properly remunerated, but what is more important, you expect to have a decent and hospitable work environment.


During the course of work, you find that amongst your peers, you are the least remunerated. What is more, your employer has this penchant of criticising your every move, this despite the fact that the tools you have to work with are in no way the sharpest in the shed. Despite these obvious handicaps, your employer, and all of the people behind him keep screaming for your head, almost from day one. This despite the fact that EVERY TARGET set before you has been met, and met without resorting to cheating. Finally, you are fired, and names of people whom you have bested at the same job are touted as replacing you. Eventually you are fired.


Now tell me, is this not madness?


Some people, most of them Nigerians may think it not. But when even Peter Taylor opts for the job of managing Bradford City Football Club as opposed to taking the Green Eagles to the World Cup, then it should tell us something of what the rest of the world thinks about our collective stupidity.


For the sake of clarity, my stance has always been clear. I have never said that Amodu Shuaibu was ever the best coach of the Eagles. I still do not think that he is the best. His brand of footie is unappealing to my Nigerian eyes. But in footie, it is results, not the play, that matter. Hence, Arsenal (yes, that over-flogged analogy) have been playing sweet footie for yonks and have won nothing, while Inter Milan have been playing it ugly, and have won every Serie A title since calciopoli. Amodu was given targets, and given a poisonous environment to work in. Yet he met all of his targets. That says something. The only thing that we ought to do now as a people is get down on our collective knee and give Amodu's phallus some oral therapy.


Again, for our psyche as a people, this incident says a lot. Imagine, the first World Cup on African soil, and the largest African nation, which was qualified for the event by an African, sacked that African, and is looking for a European to take them to the event. Curses on us.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

News analysis: Anambra Elections

Anambra State has a history of electoral fraud and today's gubernatorial election was no different as it recorded significant irregularities.

Observers had anticipated the exercise would have many flaws. There were indications of failings before the polls. Two days ago, Justice Liman Mohammed of the Federal High Court at Ikoyi in Lagos ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission lacks the merit to conduct elections in the country because its board lacks the quorum required to conduct elections. There are currently four Federal Electoral Commissioners out of the 13 that make the board.

Following the ruling, there were concerns the Anambra election would not hold. However, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, , Josiah Uwazuruonye, claimed that the commission was yet to receive the ruling, and that the election would hold as scheduled.

Yesterday, the preparations for the elections were taken up a notch by the various candidates. The parties chartered buses to escort election materials to various polling centres and expressed satisfaction at the preparedness of INEC to conduct a free and fair election.

However, signs of trouble began to unravel in the night when some violence was reported. It was alleged that some thugs beat up Olufemi Aduwo, a member of INEC's monitoring committee. This was after he, allegedly, discovered a list of INEC officials that were meant to be bribed.

Read the rest here...

On the Anambra elections

Email I just received...

February 6, 2010: 8.00 AM: Voters begin to line up at polling stations across Anambra State. Old men and women, young boys and girls all loiter about, waiting.

An ireporter files his first report out of Awka.

9.00AM: Few police officers show up at polling stations.

Roman Catholic men and women in rural areas come out in groups to vote for Peter Obi.

12.00 Noon: No election material is seen at polling stations. In some places, INEC officials have not even shown up. Voters get tired of telling stories.

An ireporter files an identical and frustrating report from Nnewi.

Dr. Chris Ngige heads for his stronghold, Idemili North and South Local Government Areas.

Most voters make the decision to go home and eat lunch. They keep an ear open to know when voting begins.

Governor Peter Obi tells a press group traveling with him that the election is not taking place anywhere.

3:00 PM: News filters in that some polling materials have arrived at some polling stations. Few voters still determined to vote step out. They find out that one-third of the polling stations are still not open. No INEC officials. In some stations INEC is there but there are no voting materials. Where voting is taking place, the line is long.

An ireporter in Onitsha files a depressing report about the conduct of elections.

Andy Uba is holed up in his home. He is on the phone with Maurice Iwu. The champagne bottle in his hand is half-empty.

Dr. Chris Ngige calls a press conference. He complains that his name is not on some ballot papers he has seen.

Mrs. Uche Ekwunife’s convoy is runoff the road by gangs carrying voting materials to Awka.

Police intercepts a car stuffed with ballots.

7.00pm: Polling booths close in Anambra state.

Andy Uba declares the election a success.
Chukwuma Soludo sings praises to democracy.

Reporters file reports saying there is tension across the state. Voters head to beer parlors to drink palm wine and lament about how nothing has changed since the last election. “It is even worse than the last one,” one of them says.

Sunday, February 7, 2010: INEC announces the winner. It is Dr. Chief Chukwuma Soludo of the PDP. He won 60% of the votes cast. INEC lauds the Anambra voters for coming out in large numbers to participate in the most sacred act of democracy. According to the NTA news monitored in Abuja, 89% of registered voters did cast their votes. The Daily Independent newspaper reports that despite a few polling stations that experienced delays in receiving materials, the exercise was a resounding success.

“Once again,” Maurice Iwu says in a press conference carried live by AIT, “we have shown Africa how a model election is organized. I hope electoral authorities in America, Ghana and Britain are watching and learning.”

Andy Uba misses the press conference. He is in Okija collecting his refund.

Dr. Ngige misses the press conference. He is in Alor looking for his passport to see when his American visa will expire.

Mrs. Uche Ekwunife misses the press conference. She is in a first class flight with Orji Uzor Kalu heading to Abuja.

Peter Obi misses the press conference. He is receiving Holy Communion from his Bishop.

Anambra voters miss the press conference. They are in church praying for the Second Coming of Christ.

The Appeal Court Judges in Enugu watch the press conference. They salivate over the Ghana-must-go bags heading their way.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Nation vs Tribe

A lot of Lagos landlords are adamant that they do not want to rent their houses to Igbo tenants. I have heard stories about that sort of discrimination before, but I never took those stories seriously. Not until I was at the receiving end of that discrimination.

I am not going to go into why there is apparently so much (take your pick from apathy, disdain, hatred and mistrust) for Igbo people. Personally I think that any man who would judge another solely based on where that person's ancestors first came down from trees is a genuine idiot.

However, the whole conversation with the agent got me thinking about the issue of nationality versus ethnicity.

This question of nation versus tribe is one of the thorny issues that we face in Nigeria. Far too many people have failed to take the leap from identifying themselves as members of their ethnic groups to seeing themselves as Nigerians.

The common argument you hear is that Nigeria is an artificial creation and if it disintegrates tomorrow, the tribes would still be there. I think that view is a historical anachronism.

My reasons are given here.