Friday, August 27, 2010

Pass this on

Feel free to share this on your Facebook wall, blog, website or newsletter. Copy and paste it into emails and blast it out to all your chummy paddies who you’ve been sending all those silly, annoying forwarded messages to.

By January 08, 2011, there will be approximately 35 million Nigerians between the ages of 18-35. We will embody the hopes of another generation, a generation neither touched by the civil war nor old enough to have enjoyed the brief period of prosperity that followed the oil boom.

We will represent a generation that cannot remember any cross country journey we undertook without encountering craters in the middle of the road. A generation that inherited broken down schools, discouraged teachers and a confused education system. A generation, forced to compete in a world they were not adequately prepared for.

We, 35 million of us, are an advance guard for a generation of Nigerians who grew up drinking from boreholes, streams and ponds, who lit their way at night, and in the early mornings with lanterns, candles or torches. To whom luxury meant to sleep in your own bed with the, ironically, comforting noise of a personal generator providing the assurance that your home appliances will be useful, for a little longer.

Our generation has been unfortunate to emerge in a time when the HIV/AIDS pandemic is at its peak. Gripping fatally at the lives of our contemporaries, cutting them down at their prime. To make matters worse, we have the added misfortune of being born in a place where the healthcare and social welfare systems either do not exist or are incapable of protecting us from the fate imposed by this or any other ill of its nature.

We remember the police for bribery, politicians for corruption and the public utilities for ineptitude. We will insist that we have survived so far in spite of, not because of, the contributions of these people or institutions.

For our generation, a great Nigeria is a dream or a collection of stories and doctrines handed down by our fathers, read in textbooks or chorused out in the National Anthem. It has never been our experience. We have experienced no greatness from which we can weave stories to inspire our children or grandchildren. Our memories will be of malnourishment in boarding schools; violence debauchery and strikes in University; robbery, rape and death at home and in our neighborhoods.

We have never voted in an election considered to be free, fair or credible. We have never controlled our fate.

But we can rewrite our own story.

We can respond to our challenges together, like the great Nigerians we so desperately want to be. We can shake off complacency and embrace collective action. We can become the heroes of the great stories we will tell our children.

We are doctors, lawyers, engineers, planners, musicians, actors, models, handymen, builders, cleaners and students. We are the minds that will imagine a new dawn. We are the hands that will make it happen. 35 million of us. We can tell a better story than our fathers told. Our children can inherit a greater Nigeria than we were born into.

Yes we can!

And we must!

For none of our individual brilliance, or industry will amount to anything if the collective wellbeing continues to be at peril. For even if we attain our individual dreams, our marble palaces will be surrounded by slum, and stagnant gutters. Our walls and shadows will be hounded by robbers, and hoodlums who – having been denied existence by society – will seek to prey on our success. For survival is a basic natural instinct, and when it is not guaranteed, it expresses itself in vice.

Our standing in the world will continue to plummet. We will continue to be treated as lepers - the butt of cheap jokes and scathing satire. And we will not have a better story to tell, to balance any of these.

Unless we say Enough is Enough!

So come October, 2010, just as our nation celebrates 50 year of little or nothing after independence, we will come together as the most numerous political force in its history. We will take the opportunity of this unique anniversary to start a quiet revolution that will spin this country on its head.

We will find the nearest INEC registration center, gather our friends, colleagues and family and go Register. Then we will spend the next few weeks (after registration) scrutinizing the field to Select credible candidates who speak to our issues. During the elections in January, we will come out (with our friends, colleagues and family) – in the rain, sun or sandstorm – and Vote for those whom we have selected. Beyond casting our votes, we will stand firm and together to Protect our vote. Ensuring that it counts for whom we have cast it for.

This RSVP will be the start of our quiet revolution.

For when we have shown our numbers at the polls, we can now collectively demand that our issues be addressed. We would have shown that our generation cannot be ignored. We would have started a journey to take back Nigeria from the mischievous minority that has held her hostage.

And if we succeed, we would be the ones who our children will be singing about in the 5th line of the national anthem: “…the labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.

So if you agree with me that “yes we can”, you must forward/share this message to 100 more people within the next 24 hrs. (LOL)

If you are interested in leading the RSVP effort in your neighborhood or vicinity, you can register here:

http://www.enoughisenoughnigeria.com/register/

If you want to find out where your INEC registration center might be, check here:

http://www.inecnigeria.org/election/find_polling_station.php (polling stations are used for registration too)

Start expressing your opinion by partaking in this poll: “What attributes would determine your choice of a President?”

http://twtpoll.com/r/z8gsg2

To learn more about the campaign focused on one of the major issues going into the 2011 elections (electricity) visit:

http://www.lightupnigeria.org/

Yours Sincerely

Amara Nwankpa

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The devil's alternative

Regardless of who is running in the elections in the coming months, all Nigerians who are of age have a moral duty to go out there, vote, and make sure that their votes count. There is no other way for us to take the moral high-ground in future and try to hold whoever is our president come May 2011 to account if we refuse to do our own duty in the first place.

However, we are in a dilemma. We lack credible candidates, and the people who have declared their interest in the position actually present us with bad choices. But what other alternatives do we have?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jega's minefield

"Soja come, soja go, barracks remain." ---Naija proverb

Given the stakes in the 2011 elections, it is only reasonable to expect that all hands must be on deck to make sure that the elections are a success. However, will the problems of the electoral body just go away by throwing money at it?

The main concern at this stage is the issue of what Prof. Jega has met on the ground at INEC and whether those people would not run around to sabotage whatever good intentions he may have. Already there are fears that the N72 billion which the INEC chairman himself said is needed for the voter's registration exercise is far more than what is actually needed. Indeed there are allegations that the figure was not prepared by Prof. Jega himself, but months before his arrival at INEC, by some bureaucrats whose intentions are definitely not the production of a credible voters' register.

Read the rest of the article at 234NEXT.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who is Herbert Macaulay?

A few years ago, I listened with a bit of disbelief as a friend of mine told me that she had no idea of who Herbert Macaulay was. What was shocking to me then was that she was a first class degree holder from a Nigerian university, and had grown up in my generation. However at that point in time, I did not find her lack of knowledge horrifying.

Move the clock forward a few years, and I'm now older and wiser. Thus it was that I listened in horror this Saturday past when a young lady who just finished from secondary school and is awaiting her school leaving results told me the same thing. As a matter of fact, this young lady has no idea of who the following people are: Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Mazi Alvan Ikoku, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. To be fair and honest, she recognises their names from the Naira notes that she wields each day, but that is all. She has no idea of what Biafra really was, but at least knows that Emeka Ojukwu was involved in the Biafra story. What his role was, she had no idea.

In shock, I attempted to guide her mind towards contemporary Nigerian politics, and asked her who her state governor was. She replied, "Nnamdi Ohakim". At least she got the surname right. When pressed about who is predecessor was, her response, "Goodluck Jonathan!"

I did what I considered to be the humane thing and give her a crash course on our nation's history. What I found most frustrating was her almost absolute lack of interest in what I was saying!

What I find again most frustrating is the question of who or what to channel my anger at.

The young lady (whom I must point out is exceedingly respectful) is a stunning example of the rot in our country. And nowhere is this rot exemplified more than in our educational system.

The importance of History as a course can NEVER be understated, and in the opinion of this writer, it should be made compulsory through primary, secondary and at least the first year of tertiary education.

It is knowledge of what our forebears did, especially with an emphasis on what they got right, that could well and truly give us a sense of national pride.

So just who was Herbert Macaulay?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Let down by the story: A review of Ije

After a marketing blitz, it was with a lot of anticipation that I went to watch the much hyped Ijé, featuring Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Ulrich Que.

A brief summary of the story can be found in NEXT, but if you want to watch it, maybe you should just wait...

An assessment

The acting in Ijé was excellent. There was not a misplaced delivery in the entire movie, and the emotions were real. There was also no shortage of the occasional pun, which showed the oft seen stupidity of life as a foreigner in Western lands. I found the scene with the Immigrations officer at the beginning to be a classic, something that Nigerians who have been through Schipol Airport, especially, should be quite familiar with. Good directing.

However, the story was way too predictable, and that I found to be the low point of the movie. Unfortunately, that sort of low point is all movie long, and one that I could not quite get over. For example, from the moment that Chioma met Jalen, you could see that they were going to end up in bed. There was no subtlety about that fact at all, and this was a recurring theme throughout Ijé. I frequently found myself predicting what would happen in the next scene with increasing accuracy. Not good at all.

What for me was the most criminal thing that the storytellers did was the dropped themes. There were at least two themes that could have been explored in greater depth in Ijé, and all of them were given only a cursory examination. From the first few scenes, the plot could have developed into a greater examination of the problems that people from third world countries face when they travel to the developed world. The discrimination, deprivations and denials, cue the immigrations officer, the hotel owner, the police and the reporter.

The second theme that dropped was an exploration of rape in Nigeria. For me, this was the most important theme. This movie could have, and should have been a great opportunity to explore the culture of silence in Nigeria that greets incidents such as female exploitation, and the fact that many Nigerian immigrants take such attitudes with them to their new countries, hence Anya's refusal to tell all of her story at the beginning. How many girls in Nigeria have been raped and pretended that nothing happened afterwards because of the stigma that our society attaches to rape victims?

Despite the evidently talented actors on display, Ijé failed to come out of the trap that a lot of Nigerian films fall into, namely: dwelling for too long on certain pointless scenes, and as a result running out of the time required to tell a proper story. After the very excellent ‘The Figurine' from last year, Ijé was a disappointing step backwards.

Ratings

Standout performance: Diana Yekinni, though she had a very minor role in the movie. She played the part of a typical African American who has been processed through the system enough times not to care anymore, with aplomb.

Nollywood cast: Both Nnaji and Jalade-Ekeinde acquitted themselves very well in this movie. They fit their roles to perfection and never put a foot wrong. They are a credit to Nollywood, and I for one would be proud if all our actors can aspire to lofty performances like these. Aki and Paw-Paw take note.

American cast: After ‘Through the Glass' by Stephanie Okereke, I came to the conclusion that Nigerian movies made in America went to acting schools out there and picked the bottom of the class. Ije proved me wrong. The players were all into their roles. For someone who did not do much in the movie, the performance by the silent jailor was good. I just loved the way she would interject, "five minutes".

Naija scenes: Seriously, how stereotypical can you get? This is not to say that there are no beyond-poor people in Nigeria, but must we always do that to ourselves? And given that the girls were supposed to be in their middle 20s to early 30s, you have to wonder when this supposed pogrom took place. Again, I am tired of African villages always being typecast as idyllic to Western eyes. Then there is the permanently recurring violence. Even in the absence of reliable statistics, I would still beat my chest and say that more people are violently murdered in Compton, Los Angeles, than in Mushin, Lagos, each day.

Directing: Chineze Anyaene gives a decent quality movie, especially if you are into going to the movies just for the popcorn.

Story: unfortunately this was a serious letdown. This was way too dull and predictable for me.

Overall: This movie promised so much, but delivered so little. I will not watch it a second time, unlike The Figurine, which I am still looking to download (sorry, buy).

Be very afraid

Has any of you noticed that the nomadic herdsmen that used to come down south once in a year are now more permanent fixtures? The truth is that their coming down south is the only real option that they have because their traditional rainy season grazing grounds are giving way to desertification.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of conflict with people that they meet in the south because of competition for scarce resources. Also, the people in the south do not feel a kinship with these herdsmen. You see, while they are from the same country (Nigeria), they do not see themselves as countrymen. The indigene-settler dichotomy that is killing us in this country.

Now, consider that we don't have in place a proper policy to check this problem of desertification. This means that while Katsina and Maiduguri have almost been overtaken by the Sahara desert, in another decade or two, Kano and Kaduna would meet the same fate. This means that more people would move south in the search for resources. This means more conflict. And our population is expanding.

Read more at 234NEXT.com...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

#lightupnigeria

Light Up Nigeria published a series of facts about power in Nigeria this morning. Jeremy compiled them, and I'm piggy backing on his work.

Credit goes to Amara Nwankpa for collating these facts.

*1881: year Electricity was first generated in England. 15 yrs before Nigeria

*1896 The year electricity was first generated in Nigeria. Place was Ijora, in Lagos.

*60KW - Nigeria's generation capacity in 1896. :)

*Kainji Dam: The oldest, still functional power plant in Nigeria, is about 40 years old.

*48% - percentage of Nigerians who have NO source of power, 114 years after we first generated power in Nigeria....

*40%: percentage of the population served by the National grid

*60%: The average percentage of time when the 40% served by the grid don't have power.

*Kainji Dam: What it was designed produce 760MW, What it is producing now: 400MW. Why? Faulty parts

*3: Number of Hydro Plants in Nigeria. 1939: Amount of power in MW, they are supposed to generate. 1000: What they generate

*11: Number of Thermal Plants in NG. 5976: Amount of power in MW, they are supposed to generate. 2589: What they generate

*There are 16 ongoing power generation projects designed to generate 12,500MW for the national grid

*If the projects were completed today, Nigeria would have 20,000MW capacity in generation. BUT....

*BUT... The National transmission grid is only designed to carry 4,800MW. So 75% of that capacity will useless...

*But it also gets WORSE. Some of the electricity generated is "lost" in transmission. (Transmission Loss)

*Transmission losses usually should not exceed 7%. This means that if 100MW is generated, at least 93MW should get to u!

*The Transmission losses on the Nigerian grid is 35%!!!!! So if 100MW is generated only 65MW gets to you!!

*Please find a diagram of the NG transmission system attached. Notice the TX losses?? http://yfrog.com/114n5g

*Transmission losses in Nigeria are the highest in the world. more than 3 times what is normal.

*Even if we generate 2000GW, our grid will only be able to carry 4800 MW and 1,600MW of that will be WASTED

*So why does the Nigerian transmission grid have such a high loss?? Sabotage! Illegal Connections, Poor Equipment

*There were 12 cases of sabotage of the transmission grid in Nigeria in 2008 alone. (TCN)

*N1m. The amount in Naira paid to Ajibode Community as reward 4 assistance in apprehension of two powerline vandals in 08.

*30 years: The average age of the equipment on the National grid. Older than most of you!!

*To illustrate the capacity issues on the National grid consider the following example:

*River State spends $161m to generate 275MW. Capacity of Grid into Rivers 100MW. 175MW: what RSG paid 4 they don't get

*Rivers State is only getting 40% benefit of their own investment because of grid limitations. :)

*Over 90 transmission projects are ongoing, to add an additional 9,000MW to the capacity of the grid

*Even if all 90 transmission projects are completed, There will still be a shortfall of 10,000MW in capacity. God dey.

*But even if we complete all these projects... the biggest question is HOW WILL THEY BE MAINTAINED?

*For more information on the status of power generation projects: http://bit.ly/cs056D Jan 2010, but still current.

*EFCC survey (published 2010), PHCN ranked least performing & least honest, less than political parties or the police!

*According to the same survey, 82% of the businesses surveyed admit they have bribed PHCN for "better treatment"

*If we are bribing PHCN, will they not be corrupt?

*N7/KWh - How much we buy power in Nigeria. N18/KWh - About how much it costs to generate

*N11/KWh - About how much of your electricity bill Govt. pays for you (subsidy). (shrug)

*How much of our PHCN bills do we really pay? Lets do a small check. :)

*950m - how much in naira Consumers in the Diobu Business Unit in PH Rivers State alone owed PHCN as at March 2010

*98bn - Amount in naira owed to PHCN by FGN MDA as at April 2009.

*70bn - Amount owed in debt to PHCN due to unsettled bills as march 2010 - Minister of State for power.

*So if the customers and the govt. are owing PHCN, how do the staff get paid?

*If you are not getting paid or paid well, are you more likely to collect bribes from saboteurs?

*Now lets talk about gas. Gas is the source of fuel for 40% of all power generated in Nigeria.

*Nigeria produces 4.2bcfd of gas every year. 55% of that is flared (burnt up)

*The amount of gas flared in Nigeria creates about 70 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. BIG pollution

*Imagine stacking up $2.5bn in $100 notes and burning them up in a huge inferno? That’s what we do when we flare gas!

*The amount of gas we flare can provide electricity for ALL OF Sub-Saharan Africa

*But that is not all. The amount of gas we flare is equivalent to $2.5 BILLION every year!!

*The state of Florida has 55,460MW generating capacity. About 10 times that of Nigeria

*Texas can generate 104,966MW of electricity - beat that with a stick. :D