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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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Monday, May 26, 2008

Open letter to my generation

This was originally an email to my Tutu Fellows around Africa but I have edited to fit an open letter mode as I feel the issues are deeper and more complex than my last emotive post would suggest. The challenge of a situation such as this is not only to SA or her leadership but the entire continent.

Dear brothers and sisters,
I wrote this almost a week ago but was unable to send it as we have had total black out in several parts of Lagos as well as attendant problems with telecommunications and Internet connections. This coupled with a stalled economy, complete lack of political direction, militancy, inflation, unemployment, rising crime, rising food and diesel price (which powers generators which we all live on, my older friend has invested over N60m in her business in the past 3 weeks 60% on power, her brand new super industrial generator exploded yesterday). I sing you this little dirge, which is just the story of our unique questionable resilience as Nigerians and perhaps one of the reasons Nigerians are seemingly so aggressive and abrasive to others. It is also the reason for economic migration and the celebrated inexcusable scam artistry and crimes (performed by a small but loud percentage of Nigerians). This state of affairs is the real reason for continued religious, ethic and class intolerance and polarization in Nigeria. The result are flash points of conflict some in the past, as graphic as what we see happening in SA (of course Nigeria does not get as intense an international media scrutiny as SA and perhaps the world's media has disaster fatigue towards Nigeria).

The point I make in usual long torturous manner is that the underbelly of xenophobia, prejudice and exacerbated crime is huge economic disparity, the inability to provide a level ground for all to pursue happiness, injustice (past and present), political brigandry, corruption and graft. This of course is long code for bad leadership although I will continue to be fascinated by the idea of bad and/or complacent or complicit follower ship. This is a global issue but Africa continues to take the cake and make the damn cake in this regard. No country is immune, I have studied Nigeria's slide from a rich, promising, functioning civil nation to this state of suspended anarchy and near total dysfunctionality (no matter what the briefcase economics analysts say with meaningless bars, charts and fancy presentations having dodged bullets and pot holes to make same presentations in a generator powered office without running water). I saw Zimbabwe in her fragile (I had noticed the huge discrepancies of class, resource, color and reality) beauty in 1995 at the All Africa Games and now this, barely a decade later. Ditto Kenya, It may sound alarmist now but no matter how glorious SA may seem now in her promise, she can quickly descend the way of others before her. This will not be a result of single incidences like the current situation but underlying issues of representative economy policies, innovative, enforceable all inclusive education, mass education and orientation on tolerance, (race, religion and nationality), economy dynamism and zero tolerance towards corruption and bad leadership as well as an educated and vigilant follower ship. This underscores the reason for an initiative like AfLI and the need to understand the depth of our unique generational challenge. I am often dismayed by the inability of gifted young people to see the errors of the past, the urgency of the present and the dangers that await us in future.

I am impressed by the debate of the past week and wish we had the kind of powerful African media platform to have raised these issues, that said I do agree that a position paper often comes across as impotent but I disagree about quiet diplomacy, in true African tradition, most of our political leaders should be taken to the village square, read a condemnation from the gods and banished from the empire:-). Yes there are well-meaning leaders but when the house is burning you must not whisper in alarm but shout. The people from whom they borrowed quiet diplomacy are known to loudly abandon it when it becomes expedient for their national or continental interest. The EU is a bastion of diplomacy and point-to-point negotiation built on lessons learnt from centuries of conflicts, agitations and wars. We cannot paper over our problems, they will become gangrenous. True bravery and ensuring progress lies in honest self examination and will to chart a better course based on the wisdom that comes from a real understanding of the non symptomatic issues. Yes I agree that the SA AfLI fellows should practically help on with aid and materials, it appears small but every life counts, beyond that what could also help is sort of like an armchair virtual advocacy which can surprisingly work to effect not only some immediate action but huge awareness and education of those reached. This must be in conjunction with organized and focused on ground country to country advocacy on areas and issues that directly affect development, sort of an ideological revolution.

Also important is the need to identify simple but far reaching policy changes, which can be championed. Finally we must continued to become enlightened and expand the circle of enlightenment perhaps one day some of us will be in the unique position to make those changes and will thus be fully prepared to be these great leaders who builds the good society. However like all muscles, leadership must be practiced at all times or it will atrophy or wear out and certainly be unusable when the race starts.

My prayers for and deepest regards to you all.
Monday, May 19, 2008

On Hate

Why do they hate us I asked him? The answer was long winded and convoluted but there was no denial. My South African host on my last visit had struggled to make sense of the many incidences of unjustifiable rudeness, aggression and verbal attacks I had received from many South Africans in shops, restaurants, spas, hotels and even in polite company. Most was from black South Africans. In fact I quickly got used to the scowls, frowns and baleful glowering at simple enquires; my Nigerian friend tells me I fit the profile, prosperous looking black foreigner from (impale them all now) Nigeria!

I am of course too studied on the issue of xenophobia and prejudice to accept such simplistic explanations nor am I unknowing enough to think this to be a uniquely South African problem but I have always felt a little less safe, a little less welcome in South Africa. Perhaps the problem is my expectation and the unravelling of such.

Here are my friend Pamela's thoughts on the issue. If South Africa is to host the world at the FIFA world cup in 2 years, she must begin to seriously address this issue.
Friday, May 16, 2008

Once again, they die

In a hotel room outside my country I am watching International media reports on the Chinese earth quake disaster and those on the pipeline explosion in Lagos. I had contacted my office to get reports and more.

Years ago during the "bomb" explosion I had been doing New Dawn as a live daily morning show I was able to do daily reports, alerts and mobilization for aid. The letter of appreciation from the Lagos government still sits in my office. I say this because as a journalist I am not only frustrated by the awareness that we haven't got powerful and professionally well run media platforms to effectively report these occurences (they are many) and interprete them. We also don't have enabling law to feret information which might help public accountability. It will change I hope but note this; The Chinese quake is a natural disaster but it has been identified that one of the destroyed buildings had been built without following required standard required-earthquake safety standards. The people involved will be proscuted and executed.

The Lagos explosion is said to be an accident caused by a caterpillar at a road construction site in Ijegun.

Will there be an investigation into the possibilities of negligence on all parties involved, will they be prosecuted, what is the penalty?
Before the next pipeline explosion or collapsed building and other disaster we seem to have become resigned to should be not answer the question.
What should be the penalty for murdering hundreds of people due to negligence, criminal refusal to follow safety standards and corruption?
Whilst on the point, will we have reports that takes the human tragedy beyond mere numbers (often contested) to the ripple effect of families, society and its structure.
Think I'll tune to sports now or continue reading Gore vidal's point to point negotiation.
Thursday, May 15, 2008


Just got 2 emails pop up on the ole crackberry, one from a friend who is now an ambassador informing me he had just presented his papers in the host country. The other is a viral mail from another friend bringing me stress relieving mirth as I sit in the usual traffic, you probably have seen it. It helps if you have followed the Ali and ambassadorial post saga. Here it is....

Dear President Yar'Adua,

Ranka dede sir. Saanu da aiki sir. I hope this letter finds you well. If so, doxology. I am constrained to write urgently to intimate you with the frustrating conditions I've had to contend with since I assumed duties as Nigeria 's Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa . You will recall, sir that I had serious misgivings about being posted to this place but you reassured me that things would work out insha Allah. I must regretfully inform you, sir, that you were wrong. This place is hell and I don't know what I am doing here. The ways of the South Africans are indeed very strange.

The first serious signals of South Africa 's backwardness and dysfunctionality became apparent when I landed at the airport in Johannesburg . I was profoundly shocked to discover that only two official vehicles from the Nigerian embassy and three embassy staff were on hand to receive me. This was a serious breach of protocol. When was the last time I moved in anything less than a motorcade of twenty five cars, heralded by AK-47-wielding soldiers and koboko- swishing mobile policemen sweeping civilians out of my way? I felt naked, empty, and vulnerable. I felt betrayed by those embassy boys who appeared to have forgotten how we handle matters of protocol for people of my standing in Nigeria. Obviously, I wasn't going to subject myself to the indignity of leaving the airport in a 'motorcade' of two miserable embassy vehicles. I sat put and told the boys to organize. They finally found a solution by renting five cars from the Avis car rental outlet to bring the tally of vehicles to seven.

Needless to say your Excellency, I had to 'manage' a convoy of only seven cars. Without siren! As if this outrage weren't enough, we had barely made it out of the airport when we found ourselves in one of Johannesburg' s notorious traffic jams. Again, our boys from the embassy had no idea what to do? When we post these boys out, we must insist they visit Nigeria twice a year your Excellency. They are completely out of touch. Just imagine, I had to suggest to them to phone the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to send troops to come and clear the road for us. Rather than act, they sat there looking at me with eyes so wide open they almost popped out of their sockets. Then one obsequious fool explained that 'things don't work that way here, sir'. 'How do you know, have you ever tried', I asked him.

I did not fare any better on my first day on the job, your Excellency. The first thing on my agenda was to present my letters of accreditation to President Thabo Mbeki. Regrettably, I left arrangements to our boys in the embassy. Their shoddy handling of the airport situation should have taught me a lesson! I had expected them to rent a white horse and a crowd of at least one hundred singing and drumming Nigerians to form a procession. I was going to ride the white horse through the streets of Pretoria, all the way to Union Building, with our people singing and drumming. You know, the way we do things back home. What did I get instead? The Ambassador's official car, a driver and one miserable aide! At my urging, they had to rent five cars from avis! If I hadn't insisted, the boys would have done untold harm to Nigeria's image as the giant of Africa by having her Ambassador drive to that ceremony in only one car. No policemen. No soldiers. No siren!

The humiliation continued when we got to Union Building. Only the official car with the Nigerian flag was allowed in. They wouldn't allow the rental cars in because they were not accredited. I told my aide to go and 'see' the appropriate people only to be told by the rude boy that they don't 'see' people in South Africa. How do you run a country where you don't 'see' people? How do you get things done? Anyway, the ceremony went well your Excellency. The only disappointing thing is the simplicity of the surroundings of President Mbeki. Things were so simple you had no idea you were in the Presidency. They are not doing Africa proud at all sir. From what I saw, my estimation is that the budget that maintains the South African Presidency for a whole year is approximately the size of the weekly entertainment budget of a Nigerian Minister or Governor.

My second day on the job was even more frustrating, Mr. President. I was briefed that we had an application for a new plot of land languishing at the Pretoria city hall. There is an embassy expansion project in the pipeline. Apparently, the application has been at city hall for more than two years because the plot we want happens to be in a protected green area. My predecessors have had no luck with the Mayor. Pray, your Excellency, why deal with the Mayor when things could be accelerated the Nigerian way? So, I phoned the Mayor and respectfully and politely asked for the name and phone number of his Godfather. My intention was to 'see' his Godfather and promise him an oil block allocation in the Niger Delta if he would prevail on his political godson to alter the Pretoria Master Plan and give us a plot in the green area. To my surprise, the Mayor told me that he had read Mario Puzzo's novel but had never seen the movie! These South Africans are unbelievably backward! When I finally got him to understand what I meant? After almost an hour of explanations? he laughed condescendingly and said 'we don't do that in South Africa , Mr. Ambassador. We cannot alter the city's Master Plan'. Unbelievable, isn't it? Have these people never heard of Abuja? So, what exactly do hey do here? What is this idea of people getting elected to political office without Godfathers? I banged the phone on him. If I had continued the conversation, I couldn't put it past him to give me the extraordinary yarn that they also organize elections here without thugs, guns, and ballot box stuffing.

My nightmare in this country continued last week when I went to the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg . One of our very useful boys? an unemployed graduate of the University of Ibadan who helped organize the shipment of arms and recruited cult members to help us capture the Oyo state government house for Alhaji Chief Alao Akala ? has decided to quit the political scene in Nigeria and return to his studies. He emailed to notify me that he has an application for graduate studies at Wits. Could I please look into it? The boy served the PDP so diligently and I was inclined to help him. So I went to Wits last week to see the Registrar. She informed me that they did indeed receive the boy's application but he did not meet the minimum admission requirements for graduate studies at Wits. Duh, as if I didn't already know that before asking to meet with her! I asked if we could come to an agreement and opened the Ghana-must-go bag I had with me. Crisp bales of rand notes smiled from the bag. She screamed and sent me out of her office, claiming that she would have had me arrested if I didn't enjoy diplomatic immunity. As I did not want to return to Pretoria with the money, I made one last ditch effort. I phoned the University's information service and requested to speak with the Registrar's Garrison Commander. Predictably, nobody had any clue! I gave up on South Africa at this point. I mean, what kind of country is this? People get positions and appointments without Godfathers and Garrison Commanders. I don't understand. Your Excellency, there is really no place like home. All I would have had to do in Nigeria is place one phone call to any Vice Chancellor. The boy would end up in the Vice Chancellor's discretionary admission list with immediate effect.

Your Excellency, these unending insults and indignities are nothing compared to the stubbornness with which people address me here as Mr. Ambassador. Nonsense. I've insisted that they use the full list of my honorifics to no avail. Who would dare leave out anything from this list in Nigeria ? Ambassador, Senator, Doctor, Chief Ahmadu Alli.
Nobody here seems to understand that none of these items can be left out when addressing me. Mind you, to make things easy for the South Africans, I've even reluctantly left out all the items that would compulsorily come after my name in Nigeria ? MON, OFR, GCFR, etc etc etc. Pray, if they can't get a paltry total of four honorific prefixes right, how are they going to contend with the suffixes?

Your Excellency, it is clear that I am not going to be able to stay here. I can't function. There system is completely upside down. May I humbly request to be posted to Cameroon or Benin Republic? They are our neighbours. Years of associating with us have rubbed off them. They know how things are done. They understand. If the slots in Yaoundé and Cotonou are not available, I won't mind the UK. The British are far more tolerant of the way we do things. They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil in order not to endanger the oil flow. London is far more amenable to the Nigerian way than Pretoria. I should be able to function there.

Yours in service to Nigeria,

Ambassador, Senator, Doctor, Chief Ahmadu Alli, MON,
PSC, NDC, MNI, FSS, DSS, MSS. ZSS.OFR, GCFR, etc etc etc.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The longest two weeks

The storm was awful, through it I shook, I screamed, I shouted and I wept. At the end I felt drained, achy, confused and depressed. As I lay back on my bed unable to control the tears, one of the survivors peeped through the door, she is 7 and her almond eyes looked at me in reproach.

We had a conversation.
How does it feel when I beat you? Painful
How does it make you feel inside? Like someone is angry with me
How else? Sad
And? Unhappy and my heart feels like there is ice block in it
Do you think you deserve it? No it is not fair, it is not fair because it is painful and makes me very sad
But it was supposed to be painful. It is not fair, I just made a mistake, I forgot.
So what should I do when you are naughty? You should punish me.
How? Hmmm, maybe make me do what the aunties do.
But you won’t do it well and you won’t feel it, how do I know you will feel it? Well you can just try it. Think about it mummy. And don’t shout at the aunties, I feel sorry for them because sometimes they just make mistakes.
Okay darling I am sorry I beat you when I was angry and shouted at the aunties I won’t do it again.

But I might. She did not deserve it as she had only misplaced her ruler. They are inefficient but then they always are so why scream and shout when it clearly is irrational and ineffective? Well because, every month for 10 to 12 days the clouds gather until it crescendos in a storm which destroys everything in its path. I have severe PMS and all my psychological and mental will power cannot stop the monster, which is of course part of the problem, too many of us see PMS as a sign of weakness to be conquered. Too many people do not understand or acknowledge it. Gods knows how many PMSing, pre menopausal and menopausal women have been stoned to death as witches in our communities.

I have started to find solutions and as soon as I find solutions that work for me, I will share them with both the women who suffer, as well as their confused or angry partners, family and friends.

Having a supportive BFF who is an exceptional gynaecologist and academic who also happens to suffer from PMS helps. Here is a really good piece she wrote about 6 years ago.

The longest two weeks

For a change, I’m in a place and time where I am thinking of writing or in a writing frame of mind and my laptop is right next to me (albeit shut down so I started off with paper (quelle horeur-modern writer you see), and I also have the time to do so, but I digress.
I want to write about depression. I was about to start explaining why I wanted to add to the mountains of material that has been devoted to this issue but then stopped, as I owe no one any explanation; I want to write about a brief low point and I shall.

I am not about to pretend that I have been to the very bottom of the pot as far as depression is concerned. At best I have only skimmed the surface as it where. For one I had insight into my problem and two, I could still function relatively well i.e. go through my daily routine with only my look and (I like to think) uncharacteristically irritable behaviour giving me away. It was at a time when I had everything to be happy about. I had just been promoted at work; I was looking forward to earning almost twice my previous salary. I was two weeks away from travelling for a conference in Sydney, Australia, and I was presenting a paper for which I was being sponsored to go. I was also going for an 18-day workshop in medical education in Philadelphia, a few days after the conference, also sponsored. I had just been given another prize for a postgraduate medical exam I passed a year ago. My work was going well, I had my husband and an adorable and –as well-behaved-as-she-can-possibly-be two and a half year old daughter.

So life was great yet I was waking up in the morning not wanting to face it, crying or being close to tears if someone so much as looked at me disapprovingly. A few problems I had such as some financial debts, the thought of leaving my family yet again after just coming back from travelling just two months before and I can’t even think what else suddenly seemed insurmountable, even though I could see that I could make good by just trying to save a bit more than I normally would and my family would survive without me for 5 weeks!

It was awful. I had a presentation to finish preparing (for my conference), a major lecture to prepare, my postgraduate student’s case book to correct and so much else to do. As an academician i.e. a lecturer, as well as being a clinician (in my case a gynaecologist) I am an extremely busy person. Part of the reason for this is because I guess I am someone who strives high to excel. Although I’ve never really seen myself as being over-ambitious, I suppose there are many who would think I was and innately-lazy-always-looking-for-an-excuse-for-their-own-inadequacies people would probably say I was aggressively so.

Anyway the stress of all the preparation probably aggravated my problem, which was quite simply ‘Pre-menstrual syndrome’ (PMS) or more specifically ‘Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder’ (PMDD). And it’s a mother-fucking monster. I have had a close friend who is also medical describe depression to me before and I got to fully understand what she was talking about.

I was tense, had perpetual symptoms of body aches and pains, stomach upsets, was moody, snapped at people, got emotional at things I would normally ignore. I managed to be normal with my patients but it took a great deal of will power to do that. I was running on reserve though and I knew something had to give at some point. It did. My period came and my mood started to lighten. Wild eh. It’s for real oh. And we say it happens to less than 10% of women. Can’t move, don’t want to get out and face the world-certainly not the Lagos traffic world, can’t laugh, don’t find anything funny, shut out the people who care about you the most, crave certain foods yet feel bloated or get stomach upsets after eating them, can’t speak about it much ‘cos it’s so difficult to explain without seeming ‘precious’. Oh I’ve got PMS you say after you’ve just bitten someone’s head off and Oh, get a life at the same time they think. It’s not an ephemeral ‘onyibo’ type thing for people who think too much either and ‘have no real problems but are trying to create some for themselves). It’s for real. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

I suppose it’s quite easy to brandish it around as an excuse for poor behaviour. Manipulative people would see it as a tool against their spouses, their colleagues and the like. But I am not a manipulative person and I suspect that most of the people who suffer from this cruel mood and physical disorder are not either. Something was wrong, luckily for me because of my profession, I knew what it was, yet even I could not help myself in time to prevent it going the whole hog. Like all ‘mind’ illnesses, it is quite difficult to treat or prevent. But it is not impossible and I promised myself that it was not going to get that bad again.

To prevent it, I’ll just keep making sure I keep the stress away-get a driver, try to convince myself that I can’t make everyone happy and so stop worrying about things I can’t change (part of what causes the stress), drop the work and do other things that make me relax. This must include doing so during the week as opposed to just weekends, and forgetting about the deadlines. During this last episode, as busy as I was, I was still trying to fit in an application for a reproductive rights fellowship whose deadline coincided with that of the presentation I was trying to finish. I gave it up albeit reluctantly. Some things should be allowed to go; they are not worth the consequences.

After prevention, there is treatment, some drugs have been found to work and it is just a matter of finding which one suits one the most. So if anyone reading this finds they have similar symptoms (they need to go out and describe it to a professional first) I hope it is at least a comfort to know that they are not going mad, it’s their hormones that are. PMS usually happens during the last two weeks of one’s menstrual period and gets relieved when the periods commence. The symptoms vary from person to person, ranging from the physical (bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, stomach upsets) to the non-physical (moodiness, irritability, weepiness). It is worsened during periods of stress but can be prevented to an extent. Treatment also helps reduce the symptoms.
Monday, May 12, 2008

My British Airways two pence

Watching British Airway's reaction to the ongoing fiasco brings to mind Marie Antoinette's famed let them eat cake comment on being told that her citizens were starving, getting desperate and restive. Very much in line with my own perception of the airline's Nigeria, nay general operations: Archaic, out of touch, Neanderthal, disconnected, shabby, discourteous, unjustifiably superior and a real dinosaur.
I have waited in vain to see the airline wake up and manage the public relations disaster in a proactive way but the sluggish, rather strained "gba ma pa mi" (morsel throwing) sulky reaction is not only painful to watch, it is galling and indicative of complete lack of interest in our market or perhaps an assurance of untouchability.

I have had so some bad experiences with British Airways thus I avoid them like a plague usually taking convoluted routes to destinations not properly serviced by other airlines. Last year I was forced to fly BA as I couldn't get a seat on any other airline for an impromptu, time bound trip to Washington. As I had not flown with them in a while, I forgot how bad they could be. I flew 1st class but the experience was like being kicked in the teeth with a padded boot. Now I like to think I am one of those people who have learned to talk to non Nigerians in a way they will find non threatening (yes Nigerians can be irritatingly abrasive but it is also true that the world prefers its Negroid of gene, either foolishly smiley or liver curdling subservient in manner) but I still found the response of cabin crew curt and unhelpful, rude (I don't need them to be friendly, I have my own friends) and unprofessional. The planes, even the ones to and from DC were shabby, the sleeper facilities like an old weary pseudo grandee hotel, and the food was unimaginative and tasted suspiciously like braised plastic. There were no undue extras like adequate supplies of fruits for 1st class passengers so l ask what do people in the economy get, oh yes they get throw off the plane for talking back to cabin crew. The lounge staffs at Heathrow were unhelpful and barely courteous and one of the lounges is like a trounced up diner anyways. At the end, it took 4 days to get my luggage in Lagos after I threatened fire and brimstone.

What I noticed was that majority of the people in that 1st class cabin with me were Nigerian old money" (e ma tan ra yin je, fool yourselves), government officials and an unquestionable number of insufferably mealy brained (you should have heard their conversations, my dad this, my dad that from grown up young men, one of whom actually said to me "you are in the media, you must know my dad" to which l replied, "no I do not know your dad, what important thing has he done lately and you, what do you do"? His father is currently indicted in one of the ongoing energy probes) children of such in laughably misinterpreted designer togs returning from expensive schools. It occurred to me then and there that British airways is perhaps sustained by a class that is used to treating people badly and is thus blind to being treated just as badly as long as it remains convinced it is of a better class. You see them living in multi million dollar homes without running water in over priced neighbourhoods that require a canoe to access.

It is perhaps this same class and its cohorts that is unaware (or uncaring) that the world is looking for new emerging markets beside China and India and that we can thus attract stiffer, better competition to airlines like British Airways and certain others (SAA is on this list) into our market, the same that does not realize that freeing people frees you. That social and political reforms alongside economic reforms and effective educational reengineering builds better societies which creates wealth across board and will happily make you even bigger and bloated and hence blissfully superior and oblivious to your own ridiculousness (translate that to bourgeois nirvana) but allows the rest of us get on with the business of living and working well.

British Airways and any other airways or entity will continue to treat us badly as long as we permit it. What will the Nigerian government do (not say but DO) about the Nigerian people's outrage at the treatment of Nigerians on that flight and many others? That is the koko.

Goodnight Professor

I met professor Akande as an indigent 19-year-old JAMBed (3 As, 6credits out of a tin roof, no teacher, Jakande school and a Jamb score well within cut off for the course I wanted but caught in the indigene trap) university hopeful. I wanted to study law; she was the Vice Chancellor at LASU. I wielded a letter from a person who knew a person, who knew a person who knew her. Nevertheless, she ushered me into her office without undue drama, a small, smiley but severe lady. Watching her attend to the endless stream of visitors as well as talk to me was like watching an octupoid table tennis pro. She patiently explained my lack of options and advised I re sit the exams applying to LASU 1st and 2nd choice (I have repeated that advise to many other students). I of course went on to the university of Ibadan instead to study geography as I would be damned if I worked another six months teaching kids from house to house to raise the JAMB fee.

13 years later she sat opposite me on NEW DAWN and I told her the story, after which we developed a mutual admiration society. Prof Akande was a true leader of people, women and causes. She was always available, always helpful, always concise and no nonsense but eternally committed to the projects that sought to improve humanity and deliver a better society for all especially women. We will miss her but we are also challenged to carry on her baton.

Here is the last time she was on NEW DAWN.

free video hosting
Friday, May 09, 2008

On our watch

On the comments page from the last post, Omohemi Benson asked a very important question, WHAT IS AFRICA GOING TO DO ABOUT MUGABE?

Beyond the yeepa (head/chest grabbing recoil) factor, I am hoping that a new generation of people who are from and live on the African continent (the discourse on what the word African means is one for another day, read Chris Abani's piece in the current edition of Farafina magazine edited by Chimamanda Adichie) might have an answer.The politicization of the issue of land reform to legitimize this sort of mass thievery and sheer inhumanity is a crime and we must not just stand by and watch. The tacit support and lukewarm resistance of certain African leaders is unacceptable and their people should soundly chastise them. Part of the resolution from the Southern African leaders' summit in Zambia should be a collective decision on the continued brutalization of the mandate and people of Zimbabwe.

Here is a call to action in an open letter from the 2007 Tutu Fellows that is worth signing up to.

On a pleasant note, Hopewell has been nominated for a CNN/Multichoice journalist of the year award. Excellent, mai broda! Charlie, (pronounced chaley) when you come to Accra we West Africans will show you real hospitality.

Lost for words

Sometimes I don't always have the words, especially as I sometimes oscillate between anger and despair so deep I cant be coherent, this is not always productive so the wise thing is to let some else do the talking, Reuben does it succinctly on this issue.

Here comes the bride

The Bride, Abby
And our untiring, practical, loyal, effective Abby is now Mrs. Okolo. Congratulations.

Everybody calls him Timaya

I have my eye on this new artist, he has got his own unique flavour and I like the fact that he has immortalized the 1999 Obasanjo government sanctioned Odi massacre and mass rape in song
Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Harare reports

You cannot help but like Hopewell, standing some 6 foot 3 inches or so with a penchant for shiny, stripy, flowy shirts and trousers atop ankle boots, he looks like an upcoming rap music producer without the bad attitude. Everyone at Mont Fleur loved Hopewell. Mont Fleur is the truly divine mountainside conference resort in Stellenbosh where we had our fellowship program. Hopewell Chin'ono is the award winning Zimbabwean journalist in my fellowship group with the infectious laughter, the mischievous glint in the eye and the fondness for the happy hour. He is also this gifted documentary maker with the unique ability to stand aside and simply let the story be unflinchingly told no matter how grotesque, how harrowing. People instinctively trust Hopewell so they let him have their stories. His award-winning documentary eliminates drama, politics and grandstanding to follow two AIDS victims till the on camera death of the victim with the young child whose cries and vacant eyes still haunt me.

Because of Hopewell I was forced to confront over and again the madness of the situation in Zimbabwe and the crime that the effort to steal the people's mandate is. I would like to humbly share (with his permission) some parts of the emails and pictures Hopewell sends to us from Harare. Please read as I have arranged them, from the slightly incredulous first emails and pictures to the dejected one I received only yesterday from him. I don't know how much longer he and other brave Zimbabwean journalists will be able to continue sending these reports but our job is to kindle a wildfire of resistance against yet another African despot.


I am sure you are following the drama unfolding in my country as we
prepare to go and chose our political leaders on the 29th of March.

I have been banned from working during election time, read:

My client media organisations, ITN and South Africa's e.tv have also
been banned from covering the election. I hope i can see through to
the 30th of March without being hurt or arrested as I have been warned
by the country's dreaded intelligence services that I am under

I will keep you updated of any new developments.

Best regards,

Hi Guys,

I hope I find you well. I do not know whether to say I am fine or not because through my work I am seeing the brutal face of my government. I guess that is why I was very passionate about the fact that the Nigerian scenarios should have emphasized or accentuated the role of the media in cultural transformation.

Those who watched ITV News @ Ten in the UK would have been shocked by the visuals I shot 2 days ago of houses burnt and granaries with maize razed to the ground. Those of you in SA will see that Friday night on e.tv's enews.

I have attached pictures of visuals I shot today of victims of violence that were beaten up last night for being MDC supporters.
Now the government wants a Re-Run of the election not a Run Off. They are telling people in rural areas to declare that they can't read and write at the polling stations so that they can be assisted by "polling officers" who will put an X for them on the "RIGHT" party presidential candidates.

If you are in London you can watch ITV News @ 10 for the full story of the violence against opposition supporters or on E in SA tomorrow evening.

Best regards,


From: Hopewell Chin'ono
Date: Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 8:40 AM
Subject: suffer continue

Hi guys,

I do not know what needs to happen for the world to stand up against this. People are continuing to be subjected to horrible beatings and deaths. I have attached pictures of some of the people I filmed yesterday. The footage went out yesterday on ITV News @ 10 in the UK and SKY and we are hoping to have it on E in South Africa by tonight since we have no direct feed to e.tv from Harare due to state dirty tactics.

I have attached pictures of a man who was tied down to the ground. The militia had burning plastic dripping to his body. The other pic is of a 73 year old man who had his hands and legs broken and left for dead.

The head in a pic attached is of a man who was hit by an axe and left for dead. The dark picture is an undercover filming we did 2 days ago of ZANU PF militias beating people up in the township of Highfield. The violence has taken a new twist with the military and the militias beating anyone seen outside their houses after six in the townships.
I have also attached a pic of a refuge centre where people are seeking sanctuary from the beatings. How can we hold a free and fair re-run election under these circumstances.

I have also attached a pic of an election official counting votes wearing a VOTE ZANU PF t-shirt. That is the life we are living down here.

"To try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people are allowed
to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is sabotage."

From: Hopewell Chin'ono
Date: Sun, May 4, 2008 at 9:01 PM
Subject: Re: Also Jo'burg bound

Hi all,

I wish I had good news to tell you all. But I don't.
I have absolutely nothing but bad news and I am getting low in spirit because of what I keep seeing day in day out.
I find what my government is doing as the worst sadistic act any government can do to its people. Its heart breaking. I have just come from filming and the man in the film below was beaten so bad that he can't talk.
He was left naked and picked up in the middle of the night by a family that was traveling to Harare. The government militias and the state security services are now telling their victims not to seek medical attention threatening them with more beatings if the do. This is to mask what they are doing.

The young kid in the film is the youngest victim of the violence, he is 1 year old and those of you in the UK you probably watched our Friday report on ITV News which included the kid.

I have included stills of more kids I filmed today who are being beaten up in the villages.

We have been warned by sympathetic state security details that this week they coming after us (media) so I am taking a break. I am down and out, I have no mental strength but I have to keep doing it for the sake of the victims, if I can help save one life it would be worth it.

Best regards,
Friday, May 02, 2008

Great Experience

In the spirit of worker's day, FI has agreed to let me post my colleague Seki's gushing account of her experience in Minna during Aishat Babangida's wedding. Clearly Seki was bowled over, on our part we are excitedly preparing for our first new dawner's wedding tomorrow. This will also be my last post at this time and end to my 15 days of fame as FI returns to the driver's seat on Monday.
Have a great weekend.

The first time I heard her voice, I was shocked, it was like a soothing balm, and she was actually inviting FI (my boss) and my pint sized self to her second wedding, I actually wanted to invite her on the show but condition was coming for her wedding first, which we agreed with, and she kept going on about FI coming, (she loves and respect FI to the T.) but unfortunately FI couldn't make it, she went to South Africa for her Desmond Tutu Fellowship Award .
So it fell on my tiny shoulder to attend, and off I went to Minna, Boarded an aero contractor flight and nearly met my maker that day and with so many dignitaries on board, and I started praying like the devil was pursuing me, virtually every one on the plane was praying too, with cries of Jesus, Allahu Akbar renting the air, my life didn't flash before me like people would say. I was just thinking of how my body will be dismembered, and without proper burial. But thank God the 33 thousand feet above sea level altitude, let go of the 31 thousand feet above sea level altitude so explained the pilot.

Got to Abuja in one piece, then Minna in another one piece, but I noticed that all the way from the airport to the villa the road was tarred, I mean no portholes, unlike the road to Ota, I mean the man left power about 15 years, the road is not new, but it was well built.
Saying the villa is awesome is an understatement albeit outdated now, just that you can go everywhere with the camera, due to overzealous security officials. We were ushered into a big family living room with Pictures of the Babangidas pasted everywhere. Then I met Aisha, she saw me and Exclaimed "You are Sakeenah" in that northern but sophisticated way. She embraced me, asked after FI.
What really baffled me is her humble and friendly nature. She welcomed everybody one by one, with her IBB smile (gap toothed smile) then her lady Hajara took over, taking us to the hotel to freshen up for the first event, Mother's Day, which all the mothers in the north in attendance, including the at large Iyabo Obasanjo.

Mother's Night
We were taken from the hotel to the venue of the event, it's the compound of her mothers school, Al- Amin International school, Ai, as she is called by her siblings and close friends, was stunning in her iro and buba green lace, her mother looked heavenly in her skirt and blouse made of green lace and chiffon.
There were so many dignitaries, white, black, brown, mullato. And then the Nigerian celebrities were not left out. There were different cultural displays from Minna and also Zamfara states.
Then come the advices from the mothers, Hajia titi Atiku, Hajia Fati Abubakar, (I love her advice) most, then The Overall Iyale Of the Shinkafis, who was so happy to have Aisha as her younger mate, she prayed and then cursed detractors. All in all I enjoyed the night and we got back to the hotel chauffer driven.

The wedding Fathia Proper
There was segregation, I mean the men were sitting outside while the women sat inside but we were able to hear the wedding proceeding with the aid of the microphone, Aisha's wedding skirt and blouse was simple but mind blowing, not as awesome as her first wedding gown, which is still talked about till now. Dr Mariam Babangida wore a white gown that made her look angelic and IBB wore white brocade Agbada with his smile on his face. The proceedings were mostly in Hausa Language. But the women were making necessary sounds from time to time, all of a sudden gave a nasal scream that hausa thing (hudawa) which means Aisha has become a wife. And the shout of Amaria rented the air, I almost jumped out of my skin.

Then the wedding reception couldn't take place immediately because the Men had to go for Jumat service. So we waited.
The reception was a bit like the mothers night, with cultural displays only this time IBB was present briefly, the Husband wasn't.

The Depature the following day.
Over a hundred women went with Aisha to Gusau, in Zamfara State, Aunties, sister, cousins, and friends. They filled up 2 planes. To be received by the senior wives of the Governor.
Yeah Aisha left for Gusau to start a new life and I came back to Lagos, to continue my journalistic life.