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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where is Africa Going Wrong?

A matter of Luck?
So Goodluck Jonathan is Yardua's running mate, one doesn’t even have time to digest a piece of information before something else occurs. Goodluck uh? What do l know about Goodluck other than his initial stance to stand by his embattled, embezzling, (where is Alamasiegha) governor during alamsgate and the fact that his name seem to be prophetic (we are culturally wired to believe that). The only other interesting thing l know about him is that l cannot count the number of times l have been told to take a project to Bayelsa under Goodluck. Anything from a nuclear plant to an ijapa and yanribo play. The alleged position is that Goodluck will “free” you some money for it. So a loyal and easily persuaded vice president and an unassuming, unambitious president. I see the puppets, what is the play about?

Question, why in a country that produced the Philip Emeagwali’s of this world are we going to be lumbered with a Goodluck/Yardua government? How do l know they’ll succeed? Well of course, the horse may fly and the king may die but barring any such eventuality what is to stop them? Talking about Emeagwali, a brain drained friend sent me this lecture article by him, excruciatingly true but how will it happen? Read more here
Sunday, December 17, 2006

OUR HUSBANDS HAVE GONE MAD AGAIN (title is a stolen mandate, appropriately so, read on please)

Watching the tragedy that was the PDP presidential primaries on AIT yesterday, l felt a debilitating sense of despair that l haven’t completely recovered from. I am brimming with thoughts and feelings that are so powerful it is difficult to communicate them so pardon me if l am a bit incoherent. The very shabby and incompetent nature of the proceedings, what were those dingy ballot boxes on owambe party tables about? The power/floodlight failure (they were using car headlamps at a point) in a show put up by the “biggest party in Africa” most of whose chieftains wore Rolex watches and designer sunglasses even as the sun set? The incongruity of such shabby and meagre proceedings which may be pardonable in a poor struggling post war country, played out in a setting where the odious smell of non commerce driven wealth is tangible even through a TV screen is only one of the many paradoxes.

After the dust settled, Yardua had won leading his closest contender by over 3,000 votes. A classic case of you “kill me finish you still want to murder me”. I mean where did Yardua come from? Who is he other than a brother to the late general and scion of northern oligarchy? This of course were the reasons general babangida gave for stepping down pledging pious loyalty to his friend and brother general Yardua and the family. If l am fool enough to believe that I’ll believe Santa is bringing me a Pulitzer.. Was Abiola not his bosom buddy, did that stop him annulling the 1993 elections? Babangida’s resignation was of course a powerful early signal of where things were headed and lo and behold, there followed the mass withdrawal of other candidates and endorsement by the governors forum.

I do not care about all the others but et tu Donald Duke? I can understand those who will not blink at losing the fortunes they had been spending on their campaign after all l do not see the enterprise they run other than their states to get the money they had been spending. They have also not shown much inclination to a high moral position so we cannot ask them what happened to the power of their convictions but Haba! Donald Duke what happened really?

There are conspiracy theories all around from the plausible to the near deranged but if there is any truth to the rumour that Duke stepped down to be vice president, l can bet my last dime that it won’t happen, per chance that it does what is the guarantee that he wont be Atikud?

Now l have no personal issues with Yardua who looks suitably docile but with the obvious horse trading that has lead to his emergence. It all looks like an old formula, one that eventually led to the collapse of the second republic. What is it about yardua that reminds me so much of Mallam Shehu Shagari? Almost twenty years later Nigeria is being presented with another seemingly gentle unambitious unobtrusive teacher. With the emergence of Yardua; the powerful PDM faction of PDP is secured, the recent threats of disintegration is checkmated paving the way for a landslide (na only for here a candidate dey get 99% of votes cast) PDP victory at the polls. Meanwhile since Yardua is such an unknown entity, the nay Sayers would have nothing concrete to hold against him such that before we blink he’ll be president. There is talk of an Andy Uba vice presidency and a shiver runs down my spine. Where in all of these is talk of the sort of visionary and informed leadership required to move Nigeria to the next level?

What are Yardua’s ideals, proven abilities and program for Nigeria? They say Obasanjo anointed him because EFCC says gave him a clean bill, no record of corruption in office. I can be persuaded to buy that, applaud him and give him a plague to hang in his toilet but then I proceed to ask, so what exactly did he do for Katsina state? Since we like quoting copiously from the bible, did Jesus not berate the servant who unimaginatively buried his talent?

One of my friends argues that since the post has been zoned to the North, who else should have been chosen to which l answered that she missed the point. First, candidates should have gone forward in a transparent process to pick the best from the region, not stepping behind, down or aside. Secondly why did the South East and South South sell out so easily? Didn’t Duke at least realized that he carried the hopes of a whole new generation and for whatever it was worth he should have fought to the last or was he also afraid of EFCC? Thirdly when will the presidency be zoned to the competent and the efficient?

As l watched the dismal show by mostly tired and dissipated but constipated looking men, l saw Mr. Isaiah my fashion designer friend Remi’s head tailor walk in dejectedly, his police constable brother was one of the 23 people killed during the week in a one day bank robbery spree at Alaba international market and Ikorodu.

I reach out to him in helpless sympathy as l wonder how much longer we will continue to allow these robberies.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I spent the morning going through my old articles written for TEMPO magazine. What quickly became clear is how far l have evolved as a person and how far we have come as a nation. Our problems are myriad and sometimes seemingly intractable but please let no one suggest ever a return to the military era. Thankfully, Babangida withdrew from the presidential race yesterday. His motive? I don’t care. I am willing to let sleeping dogs lie; any dogs that threaten me shall become pepper soul for my Akwa Ibom brothers. Talking about Akwa Ibom brothers l used to be driven (I don’t believe in the concept of servants) by a nutcase called Moses and l wrote this article at the cusp of transition to democracy in 1999 involving Moses. I hope you enjoy it……..

Holy Moses et al
I am surrounded by very interesting people, the real people, people whom one may not necessarily pay much attention to, believing their opinions to be puerile and immaterial. I never ignore anybody, I listen to all, especially these “real” people. Taxi drivers, market women, mechanics, the groundnut seller by the corner, the bus conductor and so on. I find that a lot of times these people express startling, accurate opinions about people, events and issues, they can also be crucial to daily survival.

One of such persons is Olu-Epo, the mechanic-turned black market petrol dealer. His name is Olu but since he found his new vocation, we have modified his name somewhat to Olu-Epo, which is Yoruba for “Lord of fuel”.

Olu was just an ordinary even insignificant mechanic, (in fact, he was an apprentice mechanic) until the beginning of the crisis. Now, Olu is an important member of our office family. He can procure precious fuel out of rock in the height of these perennial, phantom fuel scarcities. In fact, he is a honorary staff with the job description of crisis management/utility officer.

Olu-Epo is normally subservient, almost like a child afflicted with the Downs syndrome, that is, until fuel suddenly disappears from the filling stations, then he becomes surprisingly authoritative. Milking us for every kobo he can, giving false guarantees (fuel has knocked the engines of two vehicles) and holding us to ransom at will. At these times, I just hate Olu-Epo but dare not to tell him off for fear of being stranded. The other day he said something that took me aback. The simplicity of the truth in it was a masterpiece of wisdom. According to Olu, the problems with AD is that, the AD people speak plenty of grammar whilst the PDP people say very little, but work hard in the background, perfecting their strategies for victory, by any means necessary. In short, the supporters of PDP put their money (and wiles) where their mouth is, whilst the AD and its supporters pontificates, very few willing to do whatever was necessary financially and otherwise to succeed. My initial reaction was annoyance, but on second thought, I considered the difficulties someone like Bola Tinubu was said to have initially had with raising funds for his campaign, even with those wealthy ‘friends’ and supporters standing by to see if he would win before hopping on the bandwagon.

My other ‘real’ friend is Bro. Sunday, the taxi driver. He is my standby chauffeur for those times when the car is down (which is often) or when there is no fuel or when I am on espionage missions. Bro Sunday talks non-stop, plays loud fuji music and curses every other person on the road. He never pays police and other such tax collectors a dime, being well-known on his usual routes, the rest he dodges with a unique mixture of bravado and plain fibbing. I love Bro Sunday. He, it was who, informed me that Obasanjo is the best choice of president for Nigeria now. According to him, Obasanjo is so stingy (he claims to have worked for him at his Otta farm) nobody will steal a dime. He said Obasanjo used to deal decisively with anyone who so much as stole an egg in the farm like a capital offender. You no dey see that him khaki’s knickers, the tin no dey tear for at least three years. Na him good jare, everybody go sit up. I wish you could hear him say these things in his funny corrupted Ibadan accent whilst singing along to Pasuma Wonder, Kwam1 or Ayinde Barrister’s music. The last and most interesting of these ‘real’ characters I know is Moses, our mad driver. Everybody calls him Holy Moses because he is so unholy. This guy is certifiable, a taciturn, quick-tempered, suicidal driver. Moses knows all the nooks and crannies of Lagos, respects no one, fears no one, is unmarried, may never marry (who will marry a mad man) and is one of the hardest working people there can be (when he feels like it). He loves Obesere’s music, (he can’t and does not understand Yoruba), he is Fela’s eternal slave, (has most of his old albums) in fact, he truly believes Fela is still alive in another country. He was thoroughly devastated by the transition (for he will not accept death) of the Abami Eda. He does an incredible imitation of the owambe-loving-big buttocked-woman’s dance. Its is impossible to describe Holy Moses accurately, one has to know him to believe him. Funny enough, Holy Moses has deep compassion for children and old people, is very disciplined about money, does not steal and is proud in his own way. Above all, Moses studies every newspaper and has native intelligence. His views are usually extreme, funny and sometimes, surprisingly wise.

I had a recent conversation with him about the elections. Holy Moses is from Akwa-Ibom, so I had accused him and his people of supporting the conservatives yet again. As he began to answer me, I just had to bring out my jotter to take down notes, knowing I had to write about it. Moses talks monologue, so I will try to recreate all he said. Funmi, una no dey know anything. God don tell me say anybody we go be Nigeria president must go to prison. He must be like Mandela, no be say make he go ordinary prison o. he must go for death penalty wey paper go write up and down everybody go shout say wetin dis man do o. The person go dey fear, then angel of God go appear, tell am say no worry, you go be president.

You go see, mark my word for calendar, Diya go be president after Obasanjo, Dat’s why IBB no fit be president. He dey call himself president when he be head of state but God no gree am. Abacha, dat’s why God kill am because he for be president when him no go jail.

If Falae won be president make he go commit offence o, big one wey paper go shout, wey dem go say na die. Then angel go appear to him say make he no worry. Na so Abiola, if to say he no die before he commot prison he for be godd president but na so life be, he go take am like that. See Awolowo, as he do also reach…..at this point, I interrupted him to say Awo did go to jail. He answered, that one was jail? Wey he dey go drink tea, no be for Calabar wey dem even am chieftaincy title, me wey I be pikin of the place dem no give me. I beg that one no be better. What about Gani I asked (knowing how he admires Gani). Gani fit be president, he don go jail so many times, he don reach like penalty so him fit be. Woman no fit be president, dem fit go prison?
I reminded him about Chris Anyanwu. She go death penalty?He asked. I said yes, so grudgingly he says okay she fit.

He continues: As I talk about Awo so, you know say him carry 27 lawyers to court but Shagari carry only one no be him suppose win? But so far say him no go jail.I informed him that Shagari never went to jail and he say: That’s why army fit commot am. See Obasanjo dem no go fit because all na him boys and him don go jail.He continues.

Ekwueme wey don do vice-president before, him wan do president when he no go jail. Instead make he import plenty spare parts make we for get plenty motor, he dey won do president, who send am? He go reach there dey go speak Nwane. My people dey say God dey give bad animal horns make he for no too wicked na so be the case of that one wey dem put for carton for London before, wetin be him name? Umaru Dikko. God no go fit let dat one even if he go prison because he for don sell Nigeria.

Nwobodo, de one wey he cry wen dem put am for prison never do am, he won be president, no be that kin jail I dey talk, he cry, him mama self cry say make dem relase am before she die, the mama never he never die o. him no fit be president. I asked, can I be president if I go to jail. He laughs derisively: You, as I see you so wey no get body, you fit take koboko so? Mustapha and co na crocodile tears dem dey cry, Bible say penalty is death, dem too kill people, see Abiola wife, woman blood, God no go forgive them. But you see Diya, na patient dog go get that bone, him don know suffer now, him don know hungry so he fit be president.

And so on and on Holy Moses went in his element whilst I laughed and contemplated his ramblings, is there a shred of truth? Whatever else I did get an insight into the workings of the mind of ‘real’ people and some of the things that inform their decisions. Next time you will see a slim wiry man in Abacha glasses, driving a Molue-like caravan painted blue and white, trying to run everybody off the road that could be Holy Moses going about his unholy business.

A tear for our angels

>:::Pix:Guess who is mine?
I have been a bit stumped since Sunday. I truly depressing day as l could not get the images from the many obituaries of the children from Loyola Jesuit who died in the Sosoliso crash one year ago out of my head. As a mother, my subconscious recoils at a realistic consideration of such an ill fate befalling me. For the llabos who lost three children all at once, l have no idea how they go on, for us as a nation knowing that the dragon in the aviation sector has not been banished to the abyss, l marvel at our, what is it exactly, denial, resignation or fatalism?

As l sat with other proud parents yesterday watching my little girl perform her angel part with the other primary one pupils in her school l couldn’t help but think of all those 68 angels killed before their time. I shed a tear in pain, a pain, which hides deep anger at a nation that refused to be moved into the kind of real outrage that might force a change. Yes the women matched and where tear-gassed, why did the men not match with them? Why did the youth not join them, why do we do nothing?
Saturday, December 09, 2006

Still Learning

Real apologies are due people for going AWOL this last week. I went to school! Okay maybe not exactly but first l did a cross-country race. I went from Cape Town to Cotonou to Ibadan and then to Abuja in four days.

Just returned from a four day, hectic but life-enhancing seminar in Abuja. I am a member of the second class the African Leadership Initiative run by the ASPEN INSTITUTE in Colorado. There is a South African group, a South American group and an Indian group. The idea is to identify in different parts of the world people below age 45 who have demonstrated leadership potentials and help groom them into informed, effective leaders who can substantially influence their society.

My class is drawn from Nigeria and Ghana and is an eclectic group, which includes Amina Oyagbola at MTN, Aigboje Aig-lmoukuede of ACCESS BANK, Florence Seriki who founded OMATEK computers, and the delightful Mairo Zakari who runs a home school for disadvantaged children in Kano. The Ghana group includes Angela who is truly an angel, her husband Ken (never meet a more in love, humane, spiritual and down to earth couple in my life), the irrepressible Yofi Grant, the wise and knowing Roland who teaches us hilarious native dances for class dynamics.

Our moderators are the exceptional Peter Reiling and Keith Berwick. Peter, senior fellow of Aspen and ED of the Henry Crown Fellowship program is also former president and CEO of TECHNOSERVE and is a true human gem, Keith, a four time Emmy winning broadcaster and author, a true statesman and incredible human being who at 79 had spent the past decade and more grooming people who might grow to solve human problems all over the world. He will spend the foreseeable future writing, getting fit for a marathon and spending time with his family.

We had met earlier in the year in Akosombo Ghana to deliberate on what it takes to be an effective and enlightened leader using examples from as far back as Ceaser Borgia in Rome and recent as Lee Kwan Yu, Mandela and Ghandi. This last meeting was on the concept of a good society.

What l love about this class is that it takes you on a truthful personal journey. It is less about techniques and all about values, which are personal and individual, aimed towards a personal vision of the greater good for the larger number. There is no grandstanding, no exoneration no finger pointing. It is all soul searching, strength building, result oriented and action requiring. The readings are taken from writings as varied as Plato’s REPUBLIC to Simon Bolivar’s writings, Milton Friedman, Hobbs, Drucker as so on. Our next class will include writings from Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and more from Nelson Mandela. I’m researching more writings out of Africa by leaders both good and bad, from philosophers, and minds in thought. I’d appreciate any suggestions you smart leaders might have.

<>My Arrests<>

The highlight of this seminar for me was a performance of ANTIGONE, which we put together in 2 days. I dare say l was a worthy Antigone since l am not just the resident class creative loony but also the obvious hot-headed community driven liberalist. The part where l hang myself and Aigboje tries to kill his father, then kills himself and embraces me in death was a riot to organize and act. We called ourselves ALIwood and I include a little video clip to amuse you.

<>My Story<>

I cannot really communicate the ALI experience and l will not try. What l wish is that many more will be brought to a consciousness of their own potential leadership roles in ensuring a good society such as can be attained. This week l will do an article on my personal concept of the good society as it relates to Nigeria and we can start our own conversation on it. Right now I’m just knackered and am going to sleep.

<>The hanging<>

For more, check out www.aspeninstitute.org/ali
Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And Doris Floored Me

It was a usual Thursday morning, frenzied, bloody minded, not shifting grounds in her desire to grind me to pulp. My brain is fried and I’m assimilating nothing as l mechanically drop my daughter off at school, catch up on the news and read my show research materials whilst going through the usual mind bungling traffic to the studio. Everything that could go wrong did, from lights to cameras and late egotistical guests. I’m exhausted and wondering why l still do this show when the director calls out; cue her! I go into autopilot and begin to do the show. It was a show about the Liberian refugees who are returning home. My first encounter with Liberian refugees was a lady and her nine-year-old daughter whom my father took into our dingy flat in 1987. The Jehovah’s witnesses were supporting other witness refugees so we had to share our meagre resources with them. It was tough going but the little girl was so lovable and would entertain us with eerily realistic sounds of machine guns. As a callow youth myself l never realised the kind of horrors that poor child had witnessed to develop such a skill. My mind absently registers this as l read the show brief which did not include Doris, however l always look for stories that highlight the issue so l concentrated less on the officials and began to talk to Doris.

Slowly an incredible story emerged. As Doris began to talk l was transfixed by her bearing, she was neatly dressed and self contained radiating a humble human dignity that was attractive to me.

In halting tones she told a story of how her entire family including parents, siblings and a daughter was killed during the war, how her husband was killed in their hideout and how she ran with a four-month pregnancy until she was rescued by ECOMOG soldiers who put her on a ship to Nigeria.

In Nigeria, she squatted from place to place and worked as a street sweeper, dishwasher and street hawker finally ending up selling food under a bridge. She spoke about being taken advantage of by men and sleeping out on the street until she got to the stage where she is now sharing a room with another lady and selling pure water (water in little sachets). Through this, she managed to put her daughter born in Nigeria through private school such that the gifted child is in the middle class command secondary school in lbadan.

Through the story, she spoke with stoic assurance underlined with a tinge of sadness and l sat there humbled by this little woman. Then she dropped the clincher! She had in fact left a two-year-old daughter in Liberia in 1989 when she ran. Recently she got news that the daughter was alive in Guinea and she was saving money to go and find her daughter.

My heart broke and so did my tear ducts. I struggled with tears on TV as l promised that l will help her find her daughter, whatever it takes l will. As l hugged her and wrapped that show up, l nodded at the universe for the reminder. This is why l do the show.