Originally posted on Ikhide:

Chigozie Obioma’s debut work of fiction, The Fishermen, is a work of muscular industry and prodigy, and it is also an incredibly frustrating book, more on that later.  Obioma is one powerful storyteller. In this book, things fall apart in the worst possible way, over and over again for a Nigerian family of eight, with the first four sons the chief protagonists in this story from hell. This unusual book documents the family’s free fall into one grim tragedy after the other. This family is a country song, a sad country song.  The Fishermen is a powerful and tragic coming of age book and Obioma writes as if he is looking through hell’s windows. As an aside, Obioma is incredibly well-read, his vocabulary is intimidating; that alone is enough reason to buy the book, your SAT scores will soar.

The book is a tightly woven six-pack abs of stories…

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GMBOga Landlord,

You had a second take on your official portrait. Good for you. Rest assured however that now that you have sworn to bear true allegiance to the needs, opinions and expectations of over 160 million of us tenants, there is no room for second takes. You either get it right the first time or watch as the hosanna choruses you hear today metamorphose into “hang him, hang the yeye man” tomorrow.

Your best imagination I assure you cannot capture the height and depth of expectations our people have. You see, for many, you are the long sought after messiah that has come to free the people from captivity, straight into the Promised Land. And this messiahship starts right away, not after 100 days, not after three years. In fact it started since yesterday. If you don’t know it, a great number of our people believe that the night your body makes contact with the mattress in your new apartment in the Rock, the life expectancy of their problems will drop by half and as soon as you speak the word, the dollar will begin to exchange for one naira. That is how serious the situation is.

It does not help matters that while you and your gang traversed our large compound to sweet tongue us into thumbing the broom, you promised and promised and over promised. We watched and cheered, adrenaline gushed into veins. Inked thumbs landed like motifs on Mallam Attahiru’s papers.  It is those promises, the hope they evoked, that helped the broom take the wind out of the umbrella and catapulted you onto this portrait that will stare down at us for the next 4 years as a ranka dede with a hula …for the second time.

It is said that of the many landlords we have had, you are the only one that has prepared body and soul to carry this cross, so our people expect that the blue print must have been polished and polished into near perfection all these years. Hence we do not expect a settling down period or studying the situation excuse. Our people certainly do not expect and will not accept any tweaking of the promises, or late in the day changing of mouth. That will amount to OBT…obtaining by trickery, which is punishable by among other things, a renaming ceremony on twitter during which one of the many synonyms for clueless, will become your alias.

Be it also known to you that we can see through the propaganda. You see, the picture of you drinking akamu with N50 sachet milo can get your praise singers having orgasms but the total work done by that activity is zero as far as the stomach of that tenant who is not sure of the next meal is concerned. Have your pictures taken by all means, we are the instagram generation, we gush over such things, but remember the campaigns ended a long time ago. If the miracles take longer than expected in manifesting, those pictures will become meme your well-oiled media machinery will have nightmares about.

So what exactly do the tenants of this compound want from you oga landlord? The answer to this question can fill up a dictionary sized notebook if I am  to write it. But it will be wicked of me to belabor your busy self with the arduous task of reading through all such sad stories especially as you are still in celebration mood. So instead, I will summarize it all for you in one simple sentence that I hope is easily understood and which does not require the services of any ‘estate agent’ with beautifully designed power-point slides, to help you appreciate.

The biggest complaint of all the ordinary tenants who see you as messiah is simply food on the table.

That is it,  sir. Our people are hungry. All the beautiful statistics and economic jargon make no sense to us. All the political gimmicks and pretense in the newspapers are now jarring to our ears. Calls for probes and audits do not change the price of garri. Enough of the talk. What we need, to make us happy and mind our business while your rich friends do their business is food on the table;  full stop. It is our first, second, and third complaint.  Forget anything you hear anywhere else. All our issues, no matter their colouration, or composition boils down to this very same matter. Food.

I believe with this revelation sir, your job has been made a lot easier. No need troubling your presidential head any longer listening to the sorry stories of all these tenants who like to grumble a lot or reading through endless memos of how other landlords are turning their compounds around. Just focus on how to get food on our tables and you would have sealed your messiahship in our hearts forever. How you get this done oga landlord, is entirely your cup of kunu.

As you can see, there is no opposition anymore, we your tenants are the new opposition and believe me, we can cook up a storm. We are watching and time is ticking.

I congratulate you once more on your victory and wish you a successful time in our public kitchen.

First published on SabiNewsNaija

WomenIn the last few weeks, since the much maligned Nigeria Army invaded the dreaded stronghold of Boko Haram, Sambisa Forest, the news has been awash with stories (albeit in a painful way because it never should have happened) of girls and women rescued from the terrorists.

But I’m somewhat disappointed to find that for most people, these rescues do not seem to count for anything. For the most part, they pale out of significance simply because they are not the celebrated Chibok girls. Such is our collective fixation, fueled by international media hype, on the Chibok girls that for many, they are the only girls whose rescue will be worth cheering.

Once the news breaks of girls being freed, the first thing everyone, international media and beer parlour analysts alike wants to know is if they are the girls from Chibok.  It is as though they are the only ones that were taken and the only ones we are expecting home. Anyone else freed does not matter. It is nauseating to hear that postscript at the end of the news on tv saying something along the lines of however the rescued girls are not the missing girls from Chibok or it has not been confirmed if the rescued girls are the missing girls from Chibok, as if warning you not to celebrate because it is really not worth celebrating.

In fact, I have seen shocking online posts with accompanying long thread of empty talk, some expressing shock that some other women have been in captivity. I’ve seen some that suggest news of rescues are fraud and military propaganda insofar as the Chibok group is not involved.  Some others make like the war on terror equals Chibok girls and once the girls are found the war is over. Folks hiding behind online profiles in far flung places, away from the devastation that has been the Boko Haram crisis, people who care very little for even the Chibok girls and who would not have mentioned them but for the need to exploit the media hype about them for various personal ends, spew such ignorance that one is forced to wonder if they actually understand the real situation.

For such folks I offer this reminder. There has been a war going on mostly in the North East of this country for close to ten years now. Because the details have not been readily available on your CNN like the ISIS insurgency or the developing crisis in Yemen, does not make it less of a war. Many small towns and villages, some too tiny to be located on a map have been overrun by the terrorists and like in every war since human beings discovered hate, women and children have been the biggest victims. Scores have been killed and many forcefully taken hostage. This has been happening long before Chibok made it to a hashtag held up by Michelle Obama and much more has happened since then.

I need not describe what the experience of these women and children in captivity must have been like. The tales of those so far rescued should paint a good picture. In one case it was reported that all of those rescued were pregnant. They have gone through perhaps the most depressing and degrading experience any human being can have.

Hence, the rescue, even of just a single girl, is news worth cheering and should not be any less celebrated. Because she is not from Chibok has not made her suffering – physical and psychological – any less painful. That the news of her capture in the first place and the name of her village never made it onto social media does not mean her story is less legitimate. While I pray and hope the women and girls that will still be freed as the military operations continue will include the girls from Chibok, I believe it is important that we do not deemphasize the gains we have made in recent times in the fight against Boko Haram as belated as it is. We should also not reduce by our statements and reactions, the joy of the women rescued. They are human beings too. They are our girls too. They also matter. What we owe them now as a government and as a people is to do what is necessary to heal their wounds and give them another chance at life. We cannot afford to fail them a second time.

First published here

Picture credit: BBC

techpoint-750x400A little over a decade ago, a young Nigerian spending time in a cyber café’s was presumed to be a “yahoo boy”, an internet scam artist. Indeed, there was a joke then of how if you were yet to receive a scam e-mail from Nigeria, you may not own an email account at all. Today, however, the situation is markedly different. Every young Nigerian you see with a laptop, most likely with an internet modem dangling from it, is easily a startup, a potential billion dollar business.

And this is the story all across Africa, a continent that was as recently as ten years ago described by The Economist as hopeless but which today, is experiencing a revolution led by her youths who are maximizing the power of the internet and mobile phones to inspire a new kind of hope, creating new streams of income that is pulling millions out of poverty and announcing clearly to the world that Africans can also do it.

The transformation has been phenomenal. Today, over 600 million Africans have mobile phones. From almost nonexistent broadband capacity, the continent today has in excess of 40 terabytes of capacity delivered by undersea cables berthed on her shores. These twin services, mobile phones and broadband Internet have caused a rapid transformation, positioning the continent as the fastest growing region on earth for the telecoms industry. With this, has come recognition among African governments and people that an opportunity exists to leap the development gap through the implementation of technological solutions to some of the challenges facing the continent.

Young African techies have seized on this opportunity and are daily churning out new apps and launching new startups that are changing how the rest of the world views the continent. The excitement is palpable. Codeathons, hackathons, portathons, developer booth camps which were strange words a few years ago are now normal parlance, presenting platforms for the expression of creativity and innovation across African cities, from Lagos to Nairobi to Johannesburg,

In June of 2014, Nigerian developer Editi Effiong and his team at Anakle created a buzz that reverberated across the globe, a lot of it pure hilarity, through their Brideprice app. This web app which the developer in an interview said was a joke perhaps in reaction to some groups who were critical of the apps portrayal of the African woman, used popular jokes and stereotypes common among various Nigerian cultures in calculating the bride price of users. The idea according to Effiong was to create a wildly engaging app and generate viral conversation to show it can be done.

And indeed we are doing it. The bride price app, the ingenuity and creativity of it, tells the story of what is APPening in the African technology and startup space. And it is by no means a joking matter. Not with the amount of venture capitalist funding chasing after these efforts. Worthy examples are the likes of Jobberman.com a leading job website on the continent, recognized by Forbes as “West Africa’s most popular job search engine and aggregator.” The company is backed by a NY based venture capital firm and has grown rapidly to over 9 million monthly unique users, with more than 50 Million monthly page views.

In 2007 following post-election violence in Kenya a group of young techies in Nairobi created Ushahidi, a data-mapping platform to collate and locate reports of unrest sent in by the public via text message, e mail and social media. Ushahidi which means testimony in Swahili has become the world’s default platform for mapping crises, disasters and political upheaval. As at May of 2011, Ushahidi, which is free to download, had been used 14,000 times in 128 countries to map everything from the earthquake in Haiti to the 2012 tsunami in Japan and the Arab Spring.

A discussion on how Africa is shaping technology globally will not be complete without mentioning its marked influence in mobile banking. Kenyan operator Safaricom became the first-ever telecom company to create a mass mobile-banking service, setting industry standards now being replicated across the globe with its M Pesa service.

To develop these apps however the developers require creative spaces and incubation hubs. Nigeria for example has seen the rise of such spaces in recent years. Popular among them is the Co-Creation Hub, a multi-functional and multipurpose incubation space for tech enthusiasts, social entrepreneurs, and hackers to co-create new solutions to social problems. The center has among its partners such companies as Google, Microsoft, MTN, and Samsung and has successfully incubated viable and thriving Start-ups as BudgIT, and Efiko, among others.

Also in Lagos is the recently launched Leadpath Nigeria $1.5 million accelerator fund and startup workspace focused on startups doing business in software applications, mobile applications, electronic payments and big data. It had three startups, Simer, Afriqbuy and Enreach in its portfolio at launch in February.

Perhaps most inspiring is the interest by Government to support such initiatives. The Nigerian Government has for example, announced a $15million dollars venture fund dedicated to high potential ICT businesses which will be sourced from the National Information Development Agency (NITDA) and the private sector. NITDA has also since set up the iDEA Hub in Lagos, to accelerate the development of the software industry in Nigeria by nurturing and helping Nigerian software businesses. The intention of the Government is that the Hub will assist ‘techpreneurs’ build software skills, solutions and businesses critical to their success thereby creating wealth and employment opportunities for Nigerians.

These developments have not been without challenges. For example, power remains a problem. More so, the lack of relevant skill sets and entrepreneurial competence which is not a usual feature in the formal school curriculum impacts on the speed with which these startups scale and become profitable. These challenges notwithstanding, it can be said without doubt that it will not be long before the rest of the world will look to Africa for solutions of the future.

This piece was originally written in 2014 for an online Magazine

Photo credit: Techpoint.ng

IMG_20150304_170846You hit me and you ran off. You approached from behind, like someone chased by a monster and bumped into me…a rude shock, like an unexpected punch to the face. By the time I was done obeying Newton’s law of motion, I had spurn some 180 degrees, struck the side of the bridge and was now facing South, the direction I had been coming from. The screeching had hardly come to an end, when you zoomed off, the cry of your engine as you furiously stepped on the accelerator my first assurance of being alive. I only caught a glimpse of your tail light and the frame of your car as you ran off into the darkness…into the prison of your conscience.

It was about 8.30pm. I remember because I had just switched to Nigeria Info fm, for the sports crew, Femi and the Gang to lead me home with their commentary on that night’s mid-week EPL matches. Graciously, traffic was light because of the fuel scarcity and I looked forward to the welcoming smile of my wife and our daughter Kamsiyonna when I got home. She, Kamsi will giggle, wiggle her legs in the air as I lift her up and smack me across the face as if saying where have you been all day.

In a second, you attempted to take all that away from me…from them.

You hit me and you ran off. The scene of your cowardice was Falomo Bridge, Ikoyi. In the days that followed, I will wonder what could make any one scamper away like you did from a scene they created. Maybe you panicked…thought you had killed someone or perhaps it was the cost you would be made to bear for the damages that made you run away. Perhaps still, you were simply exhibiting the death to the humanity in all of us…a total lack of conscience in both high and low places that the world seems to be cloaked in these days.

The impact, the screeching and the final halt could not have lasted for longer than a minute. But it seemed like ages. Every now and again, I get flashes of it like I am hallucinating and it makes me shudder. So this is how people die? Chest slammed against the steering, head against the windscreen and my obituary would have been all over social media by now. But I was pinned down by my seat belt. That was my saving grace. And as an added proof that it was not yet time, no car was approaching on the lane you had dumped me. It is not hard to imagine what could have happened if there was one.

I will imagine later what kind of person you are…where you might have been running to that night? I would wonder if you were going home to a wife and a child and how you can find peaceful sleep knowing the mess you left on the way. Perhaps still, you ended up in a beer parlour somewhere with torrents of high-fives from drunken friends congratulating you for escaping in 007 style. I have imagined you being someone I knew, one of my facebook friends or readers of my blog and I played around with thoughts of what your reaction would be to news of my death in an accident. Once, on a lighter note, I even imagined what your politics is like, who you were rooting for in the coming elections, what kind of holier than thou opinions you express in your space on social media…but I digress.

You hit me and you ran. Much has been said by sympathizers since that night…how it will not be well with you, of how you will never find peace; of how God will…Personally, I have not been able to conceive my own wishes for you, good or bad. Instead, I have focused on what you gave me; a whole new appreciation of life and the ones I love. For what you took from me, can be fixed with time and money but what you gave me, only come from such scary encounters that herald a new beginning. For when I finally got home that night, shaken as I was, to my wife’s reassuring hug and my baby’s smile oblivious of what had happened, I knew for a fact that I lost nothing at all.

So I say to you wherever you are, I forgive you and I hope you finally escape from whatever it is that is chasing you in life.

And to all who read this remember: your next second is a promise no one has made you. So make the most of each moment and please, use your seat belts.

ka udo di. ka ndu di.

A piece I wrote for the year book of the 2012/2013 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Graduating class of the University of Nigeria.

Congratulations! That is one word you will hear in excess today and in the next couple of days or even months. It is an acknowledgement of the feat you have achieved, for successfully passing through and graduating from Vet School. You deserve it, and all the high fives and shoulder slaps that come with it. It is no mean feat. I know, because I have been there and on this day of your Oath Taking, I join your teachers, friends and family in saying “Congratulations.”

When the cameras have stopped clicking away, when the last bottle of beer has been drained, when the party to celebrate you and your achievement today has long ended and all is quiet again, I implore you to carry out this brief exercise which in many ways will determine how the rest of your life pans out.

Take a second to grab hold of your future and begin to realize it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself ten years down the road. Imagine every aspect of your own life. Your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends. Don’t simply imagine the future towards which you are heading, but rather the future which you consider ideal. Forget the expectations which your parents, friends, teachers and relatives have for you, as well as the one’s you have for yourself. Ignore, for just a second, all those expectations and concentrate on what you want. Now visualize the road that will take you there. That is your path.

A couple of years ago a mentor of mine shared with me seven questions the answers to which will help you in the exercise above. I strongly suggest that you take a pad of paper and write out your responses remembering  that anything that isn’t written “hasn’t been said!” or as in this case thought or desired….”

Question Number One:

What are your five most important values in life?

This question is intended to help you clarify what is really important to you, and by extension, what is less important, or unimportant. Once you have identified the five most important values in life for you, organize them in order of priority, from number one, the most important, through number five. Not three or seven but five!

Question Number Two:

What are your three most important goals in life, right now?

This is called the “quick list” method. When you only have thirty seconds to write down your three most important goals, your subconscious mind sorts out your many goals quickly automatically prioritising them based on your previous thoughts and actions. Your top three will just pop into your conscious mind. Even with only thirty seconds, you will be as accurate as if you had thirty minutes.

Question Number Three:

What would you do and how would you spend your time, if you learned today that you only had six months left to live?

This is another value question to help you clarify what is really important to you. When your time is limited, even if only in your imagination, you become aware of who and what you really care about in life.

Question Number Four:

What would you do if you won ten million dollars cash, tax free, in a lottery tomorrow?

How would you change your life? What would you buy? What would you start doing, or stop doing? This is really a question to help you decide what you’d do if you had all the time and money you need, and if you had virtually no fear of failure at all.

Question Number Five:

What have you always wanted to do, but been afraid to try doing?

Answering this question honestly will help you see more clearly where your fears could be blocking you from doing what you really want to do.

Question Number Six:

What do you most enjoy doing? What gives you your greatest feeling of self-esteem and personal satisfaction?

This is another values question that will help indicate where you should explore to find your “heart’s desire.” You will always be most happy doing what you most love to do, and what you most love to do is invariably the activity that makes you feel the most alive and fulfilled. The most successful men and women in the world are invariably doing what they really enjoy, most of the time.

Question Number Seven:

What one great thing would you dare to dream of doing if you knew you could not fail?

Imagine that a genie appears and grants you just one wish. The genie guarantees that you will be absolutely, completely successful in any one thing that you attempt to do, big or small, short or long-term. If you were absolutely guaranteed success in just one thing, what would be that one exciting goal that you’d set for yourself?

Next Steps:

Study the pad of paper that you used to answer these questions. This paper represents your future goals. Look at what you wrote every day and shape your life the way you see it on that paper. You’ll be amazed at how far you get towards them in very little time.

Let me add here that you are of a special mettle having trained as Vets but that fact alone does not secure for you that life you’ve always dreamed of. Indeed the practice of our profession in this clime as you must have been reminded over and again by your tutors presents some additional unique challenges. There is the pressure from society on you to perform on the one hand and also the impediments presented by the same society which doesn’t seem to have come to the realisation that it needs your expertise. Through all these, you must show yourself worthy by digging deep and making informed decisions along the lines of both your education and the path outlined in notepad exercise above.

Good luck, fellow doctors, as you cross the line between the safety of Vet School and the brutal reality that is life. Make your life a conscious decision. Don’t confuse fun with happiness. And remember that in the real world, it is your hard work, resilience, and creativity more than what your certificate reads that makes you fulfilled.

Dalu nu!

Dr Sylva Nze Ifedigbo DVM Nigeria (2007)

@nzesylva on twitter.

This guest post by Dagogo Karibi-Whyte is dedicated to celebrating the life and achievements of successful businessman and accomplished politician, Senator Dan Etete as he clocks 70. 

Dan Etete

Dan Etete

The headmaster was once a school boy. True. Sometimes we really don’t want to remember. Probably because of some memories we want to let go. Don’t forget that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (please be informed that it might leave you with a scar too). We most times remember through the eyes and lips of our elders for things that pre-exist us.

I therefore remember the birth of a baby boy on the 10th of January, 1945 into a humble background and his name is ……………..Growing up, he had it good and he had it rough, life’s mixed fruity.

We remember that he has the Bishop Dimieri Grammar School, Yenagoa as his Alma Mater. He was also a staff of the Federal Civil Service. The civil war came and went leaving behind a stronger man determined to make a difference in his country, considering the opportunity for national rebirth. He voluntarily resigned from national service and delved into commerce in a bid to emancipate his people from hardship, by creating opportunities. His only godfather was God and his kits were brute determination and hard work. By this, he became one of the first generation of entrepreneurs in Nigeria after the civil war. The man began to prosper, and continued to prosper until he became very prosperous. His business interests spanned from Shipping to Agriculture (he had farms and ranches) with presence in Brazil, parts of Europe and Africa.

We also remember that as at 1979, the net asset of his business empire (Tarri Int’l Group of Companies) was well over N 500,000,000 (Five hundred million naira) at a time when the naira had more value than the US Dollar. A powerhouse in the maritime industry with ships hoisting the Nigerian flag. Warehouses littered around the country contributing to the national GDP. An employer and colleague to thousands.

Many of us still remember his people begging him to represent their interests nationally and lift them out of their desolation. Hence he was voted as a Senator representing the Rivers West Senatorial district during the second republic. At the National Assembly, he was the Chairman, senate committee on Petroleum. I believe you remember how this sojourn was abruptly terminated.

We still choose to remember his achievements in the political league despite the efforts of many to give it a room in oblivion. The 13% derivation formula for resource control that is currently in existence is a product of a struggle he solidly participated in. How can we forget his role in the constitutional conference of 1994/95 which was aimed at promoting national unity, and development. I bet you have seen the recommendations. A true believer in federalism and was instrumental in the creation of several states including Bayelsa State, his home state; all in a bid to bring the Government closer to the people.

Today, the country is littered with indigenous Oil and Gas companies harvesting the fruits of her natural national heritage. This is why we remember that day in 1996 in Globestar Yard, Warri where he made the pronouncement   “From today, foreign suppliers will have to bid and supply through a local subsidiary” because of the Marginal Field Decree 23 of 1996 which he made a reality to benefit the Nigerian Middle Class and create job opportunities for the Nigerian Youth.

We remember the detribalized Nigerian called Senator Dan Dauzigha Loya Etete who is a graduate of St. Andrews University, Australia. A Fellow of the Petroleum Institute, Warri and the list goes on. He has proven that the superior man is indeed modest in speech but exceeding in action. We remember.

Article by Dagogo Karibi-Whyte


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