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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Have a Pure Heart, Be Fair to All and Fear God

By Ituah Ighodalo



One of the challenges of Nigeria is that there is too much evil. Too many wicked people. We are always thinking of who to deal with and how to get back our own. People are not bothered if other people’s lives are damaged as long as they succeed. A lot of us have terrible hearts, deceitful hearts, untruthful, extremely unforgiving. We wish evil on other people. We never forget what others have done to us.

The heart is desperately wicked; the Bible tells us that. You cannot tell what is going on in a person's heart. Some people will eat and sleep with you, then behind you will backstab you. Jesus himself said, ‘my friend, my very friend, the one whom I eat with and I trust has lifted up his finger against me.’ There was a man in Burkina Faso called Thomas Sankara. A brilliant dashing young officer who did a coup and he had a good friend called Blaise Compaoré. He was head of state and Compaoré was his vice. When Compaoré started plotting against Sanakar and they Sankara that "Campari is looking for you, Campari is going to kill you"; Sankara said it was not possible. He said “if Compaoré is lifting up his hands against me, then I am dead" and within one month, he was dead. Today, Compaoré is still the president of Burkina Faso and Sankara is dead.

A lot of people cannot be great not because they are not intelligent, not because they are not strong and powerful, not because they are not wealthy, not because they are not outstanding or blessed but simply because they do not have a clean heart. Their hearts are not clean.

One of the challenges of Nigeria today is that a lot of our leaders don't fear God. The Bible says that because judgement is not quick to come does not mean that God is asleep. A lot of our leaders don't fear God and therefore they think that they can do anything they like and get away with it. God gives you a long rope to do whatever you want and at the end of it, He will just cut that rope and that will be the end of that. If people fear God, they would respect man. If you don't fear God, if you are not afraid of this God, if the fear of God does not constrain your behaviour and your attitude, you cannot think right.

What makes a man? A man is made up of what he thinks because what he thinks determines what he does or what he says and what he says determines how he behaves, and how he behaves determines who he is.

Also, you must be fair to all. Think more of the common good and be ready to admit your wrong. A lot of us find it difficult to admit when we are wrong. We find it difficult to admit when we've done something bad. We find it difficult to admit when we are at fault or when we have stumbled. We want to wish it away and play as though it's not our fault. When something happens, we quickly rise to our defence saying “it’s not my fault." You are very quick to blame other people for things you know you didn't quite do right.

Another major challenge of Nigeria is that we are selfish and self-centred. You must have a feeling of fairness and a desire for the common good. Most of us, as long as our interest is protected, it's alright but when it's in the interest of the common good, we don't care. We are not interested because what we want to do is in our own interest. That's why you are driving down the road, the taxi driver will park in the middle of the road, be taking and offloading passengers. That's why you are moving down the street, somebody else will stop and disrupt the traffic. That's why somebody will say something this way and do something the opposite way because it's all about self-interest, nobody is ready to sacrifice for the common good. Nobody is ready to take the pain so that everybody will gain. Nobody is ready to lose a little so that others can benefit, all we want is what we want for ourselves.


If we can all have pure, clean hearts, be fair to others, think more of the common good and be less self-centred, God will begin to work wonders in our lives and Nigeria will be the better for it.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CSR-in-Action hosts "3rd Sustainability in the Extractive Industries" Conference

Bekeme Masade is the Executive Director of CSR-in-Action

Plans are in top gear for a successful hosting of the third Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) conference at the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos with endorsements and confirmation of attendance by keynote speakers, industry captains and heads of relevant government agencies, ministries and parastatals.

Top on the list of endorsements and confirmed attendants is the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Ernest Nwapa, whose agency - which regulates local content participation and polices in Nigeria - has offered its full support and endorsement for the conference.

Others include Raymond Wilcox, General Manager, Nigerian Content Development; Lara Banjoko, Chief Executive Officer, Zone 4 Energy; Niyi Yusuf, Managing Director, Accenture Nigeria; Christine K, Director, Heinrich Boell Foundation Nigeria; Jeffrey Corey, COO, Seven Energy; Fidel Pepple, Immediate Past General Manager, NAPIMS; Taofiq Tijani, Hon. Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Lagos State; Owanari Duke, Country Director, Empretech Foundation; Innocent Lagi, Attorney General, Nasarawa State, among other dignitaries from relevant government parastatals, community advocators and companies in the mining and oil and gas sectors.

The theme for the SITEI conference, which is the third in the series, is "Local Content Participation, Accountability and Transparency." The highly anticipated event will address the challenges of local entrepreneurs, job seekers, policies and critical issues surrounding the implementation of quality local content participation in the Extractive Industries and proffer practical solutions towards improving entrance, accountability and transparency in the sector. The conference holds on Friday, October 24, 2014.

The theme of this year's event is a natural sequel to the successful 2nd SITEI conference, which had as keynote speaker, the former World Bank Vice President for Africa Region, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. The second edition discussed the need for more transparency in the sector and produced a convergence of important opinions and contributions on the topic from different stakeholders cutting across private sectors, government representatives and community leaders.

The SITEI event this year is, therefore, expected to address nagging issues that have threatened to stagnate the local content drive like quality of local content players - vendors, contractors and business men - to play more active and dominant roles in the extractive industries. The conference will feature workshop sessions with stimulating topics for discussion, with a potpourri of sustainable solutions expected to be provided to enforce the message and spirit of the conference, which is geared toward greater local content participation in the extractive industries.

To drive youth participation in entrepreneurship, skills development and in the activities within the Extractive Industries, CSR-in-Action brings a new twist to this year's SITEI Conference with the introduction of an Essay and Logo Design competition. This competition with the theme "Quality Local Content Participation in the Extractive Industries: Opportunities, Challenges and Solutions" is an opportunity for interested members of the public who have a burning desire to see increased local content in the extractive industries to provide a precise overview of the sector and proffer lasting panacea for all stakeholders. To participate and for more details visit http://csrinaction.org

To address any health fears with regard to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) currently ravaging some West Africa countries, Executive Director, Bekeme Masade assures conference participants that appropriate measures have been taken to ensure simple and necessary health practices are adhered to at the event to guarantee a hitch-free conference following a partnership with PathCare Nigeria.

The "3rd Sustainability in the Extractive Industries" Conference is expected to provide a strategic approach to resolve some of the key issues in the industries through stimulating debates, and garnering of opinions of a wide spectrum of stakeholders.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mai Atafo designs bespoke winners blazer for Johnnie Walker Blue Label Challenge



Celebrated Nigerian designer and “fashion artist”, Mai Atafo, has created a bespoke blue blazer as the official trophy that will be presented to the winner of the inaugural Johnnie Walker Blue Label Golf Challenge, which will culminate at Lagos’s prestigious Lakowe Golf Estate, Saturday, 6th September 2014.
 
In earning status as West Africa’s foremost amateur golfer, the winner will also don this coveted garment at Perthshire’s esteemed Gleneagles Golf Course as a personal guest of Johnnie Walker at Scotland’s historic biannual Ryder Cup – a prestigious European and PGA tour competition between America’s and Europe’s golfing elite – admitting Nigeria to an exclusive club of leading international golfing countries.
 
“The blue blazer designed by Mai Atafo is the perfect fit for a competition of this calibre. An inspired, bespoke sports jacket, it reflects the accomplishment of the winner and the prestige of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Challenge as well as the excellence in sartorial craftsmanship associated with the MAI brand,” says Joe Nazzal, Head of Reserve Nigeria.
 
Having shown in numerous international fashion shows including the J Spring Fashion Show (Paris), Arise Magazine Fashion Week (Lagos), Glitz African Fashion Week (Ghana), and Lagos Fashion Week, Mai Atafo Inspired (MAI) is a lifestyle label with various specializations but primarily known for its well-crafted, Savile Row-inspired, bespoke tailored suits.
 
“It is an honour for me, both as a designer and as a Nigerian, to have been commissioned to design the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Challenge winner’s blazer and I look forward to seeing it worn on the world’s greatest golfing stage,” says Mai Atafo.
 
The fourth and final leg of the iconic Johnnie Walker Blue Label Golf Challenge Lagos will tee off on Lakowe Golf Estate’s emerald fairways on September 6, just prior to the start of the Ryder Cup.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Politics in Nigeria – Between good governance, populism and instant gratification

By Ayodeji Jeremiah


In the aftermath of the Ekiti state governorship elections and the ouster of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the jury has gone to town to determine why he lost and what exactly happened. Prior to the elections, polls had shown a close run but it was largely expected that the incumbent governor would win. When the results came out, which were largely determined to have been free and fair by most election observers, questions arose.

Ekiti state was a stronghold of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and it was a foregone conclusion that an incumbent such as Kayode Fayemi with his reforms and performance would be rewarded by the voters come Election Day. It was a big win for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the party that rules Nigeria at the federal level, which hitherto controlled none of Nigeria’s six south-western states and has been struggling with internal divisions; several PDP governors have defected to the opposition. By gaining a gubernatorial foothold in Ekiti the PDP’s chance of victory in next year’s presidential election looks brighter.

In the aftermath, several new terminologies have been invented to explain the win by Ayo Fayose, a former governor of the state who was once impeached following charges, albeit unproven, of embezzling public money. The Lagos state Governor, another reform minded governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola in an article on the elections called it “stomachstructure”; others have referred to it as “grassroots politics”. Another commentator called it “Danfo Driver politics” (with reference to the unruly behaviour of Lagos public bus drivers and their need for instant gratification). The Economist magazine of London called it “politics of the belly”.

The Economist of London in its editorial said, “In dismissing a forward-thinker, the voters sent out a loud message. After coming to power in 2010, Mr Fayemi laid new roads, improved the university system, presented a plan to get more young people into jobs, created a social-security scheme for the elderly, and cut corrupt wage payments to government workers. But such reforms upset people with a vested interest in the old political system. Indeed, the election was a clash between appeals to good governance on the one hand and the lure of old-school clientelism and populism on the other. Despite Ekiti having a relatively well-educated electorate, the old ways prevailed. This does not bode well for political reform across the country.”



The statement that Ekiti state having a well educated electorate was expected to have re-elected Dr. Fayemi has been re-echoed in several quarters. The Ekiti governorship poll results highlight public resistance to political reform. The people are clearly saying they prefer the old “egunje politics”, which keeps them comfortably on the state payroll and hands out cash in return for their votes. It highlights just how much enlightenment the electorate needs.

The results of the Ekiti polls also highlight the lack of a political culture and the need to build one. In his article in the Daily Independent of Nigeria, ‘Madness of politics: Is political culture possible in Nigeria?’, Dr. Chuks Osuji commented that “in all Western democracies, political culture has been developed, and this moves the wheel of democracy. However, when it comes to Africa, particularly in Nigeria, one of the problems today is lack of political culture. Many scholars opine that our own political culture must evolve after all the seeming trials and errors, wobbling and fumbling period of political experiments. Others disagree, saying that given the complexities of our heterogeneous population with different social outlooks, tribal diversities and sometimes numerous ethnic incompatibilities may make it difficult, if not impossible, for the emergence of a political culture in this country to which all and sundry could subscribe. The root of the disconnect in our political system is the type of constitution imposed on the country by the military. The constitutional provisions are seriously flawed in many respects; hence it has remained difficult even for the Parliament to do something positive and meaningful, because they are seeing everything from the perspectives of quantum of selfishness and myopic tendencies.” This has trickled down from the leadership to the followership and the electorate.

While Nigerians have always appreciated the importance of good governance, long years of military rule slowed development of democratic values and a culture of transparency and accountability in governance. Consequently, corruption pervaded all spheres of public and private life with serious implications for service delivery. Among those who track corruption, Nigeria is a poster child for the “resource curse.” According to the World Bank, some 80 percent of oil monies are accrued by 1 percent of the population. Under international and domestic pressure, the federal government has made efforts to combat corruption: In 2006, the federal government began publishing the monthly amounts it distributed to states and local government areas, and it has also established several anticorruption government agencies. But the ruling party conducts most of its anticorruption work behind closed doors. The most egregious graft happens at the state level. Governors “run their states like personal fiefs,” writes the Economist. These “big men” are not accountable to the general population because they receive most of their money from the central government, and when they run for office, they rely on “godfathers,” or ethnic and political elites who sponsor candidates with the understanding that they will reap the financial benefits once the candidate takes office. Pervasive corruption at every level of government has fostered similar sentiments in the populace. For the Nigerian people, “democracy has become a kind of blackmail. They will take anything they can get.”



Surveys conducted by IFES (International Foundation for Electoral System) reveals that a majority of Nigerians think it is wrong for an ordinary person to sell a vote in return for goods or money. However, more than a third of the sampled population thinks it is understandable to do so. Furthermore, “most think it is wrong for political parties to offer money to people in return for their vote, but a third think it is understandable for them to do so. A quarter of Nigerian adults admit someone tried to offer them a reward or gift to vote for certain candidates in the election.” Today in Nigeria, money politics, vote buying, godfatherism and “share the money” are regular household phrases and slogans portraying moral decadence of politicians. These usages adequately describe rent-seeking behaviour of politicians, political parties and voters.

In Nigeria, among political gladiators, spectators and bystanders, politics is an entrepreneurial venture from which one can become rich overnight. That is why people have not stopped registering political parties when few others are merging; people struggling to become governors no matter what happens; all manner of people gearing up for political activities in 2015 which they see as the best opportunity to liberate themselves from the seeming enclave of impoverishment, hardship as well as social and economic deprivation.

Adding to these is the absence of any ideological train of thought amongst the various political parties present in the polity. A look at the various parties shows an array of dysfunctional actors coming together and riding on public sentiments of disapproval of the current leadership. Cross carpeting (defection as it is called) from one party to the next is the order of the day all based on what each person can gain from the party.

A blogger Mark Amaza in his post, ‘We Are Not Ready For Intellectual Politics’ opined that political debates are virtually absent in our politics. “Our politicians and political parties prefer to, at worst, engage in banal, empty statements that either criticize each other without providing alternatives or in vituperation. At best, they make promises without providing an action plan for achieving the promises. Less than nine months to the general elections, I am yet to hear any person intending to unseat the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan offer his or her alternative ideas to solving our current issues, such as the insurgency waged by the Boko Haram terrorist sect, or how to create jobs for our millions of unemployed young people. It is the same thing at the state levels and for the legislative races. One would have expected that robust debates would be ongoing on these issues so that Nigerians can compare and contrast and choose to back the candidate they feel offers the ideas.”

Giving reasons as to why this is so, illiteracy and poverty top the list. 70% of Nigerians still live on less than $4 per day i.e. N650 on the average. Illiteracy rate still stands at a very high 30%. Of the literate 70%, more than half are educated only to primary and secondary school levels and only 51.1% of those eligible to vote can read and write. Intellectual debates and badly needed public sector reforms do not really count in winning votes. It does not really matter whether you propose the best ideas to solving problems because the impact of this factor in your winning elections is quite small. This will come especially as a rude shock to young Nigerians, particularly the ones that populate social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and analyze politicians and candidates based on their smarts – they are a very small percentage of the entire voting population. Outside of cities like Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja, Nigeria is still a country largely driven by government jobs and civil service contracts. The economy of most states is influenced by the amount of money spent by the state government and most state governments are the largest employers of labour in their various states. Most governments therefore rather than take on the gargantuan task of putting money into much needed infrastructure development and civil service reforms (that will free up recurrent expenditure needed for capital expenditure) and transform the civil service bureaucracy needed to get things moving will rather stick with the status quo, which in the process enables them to pilfer as much as possible while portraying them as ‘givers’ and being ‘sensitive’. It was widely said that Dr. Fayemi (and his Lagos state counterpart Mr. Fashola who has transformed Lagos) are ‘intellectuals, selfish, elitists who don’t know how to spend money and speak too much English’. Spending money in this sense means distributing the so called largesse of the national cake and government funds into the hands of the average Nigerian through trickles of gifts and cash donations. After all, ‘it’s not their money; it’s our money’ so the sayings go.       



Less than a month after the Ekiti state elections, the Edo state governor Adams Oshiomole (An ACN governor) recalled teachers who had been laid off for not having the necessary qualifications and who had been unable to pass the competency tests given them. We join the Punch editorial team in believing that this action was a direct response to the results of the polls in Ekiti. Unqualified teachers who have been told to take tests as part of Mr Fayemi’s education reforms probably voted against him. So did civil servants upset by his more meritocratic hiring practices. Such ‘educated’ teachers and civil servants therefore become very willing tools in the hands of so called populist politicians (who promise the status quo) in spreading such messages as in the above paragraph.     

Olutosin Ogunmola in his treatise, ‘The Challenges Of Democracy In Nigeria’ notes that the failure of democracy and economic development in Africa is due in large part to the scramble for wealth by predator elites who have dominated politics since independence and see the state as a source of personal wealth accumulation. “We have continued to have a ruling class that is grossly disinclined to ideas and the life of serious reflection. Military intervention in governance has further added more woes to the plight of democratic governance in Nigeria. Not only did it adversely affect the legislative component of government, it also brought the people, the electorate, down to a revoltingly unacceptable level of acquiescence to the undemocratic actions of their rulers. That’s why even now, some of the electorates would carry placards and demonstrate in favour of rulers who, apparently, are doing nothing for their good. Also, the lack of sophistication and independence by the press is not helping matters. There can be no meaningful representation to elevate the fundamental principles of checks and balances when we have a passive civil society and a weak press. This democracy has no plan other than one to serve the interest of the select few who want to continue to have their way at the expense of the collective will and interest of the people; with so much power concentrated in the executive, there are no strong institutions to curtail excesses.”

In our May 2014 cover feature, we stated that developing the middle class and lifting those at the bottom of the economic pyramid into lower middle class remains one of the solutions to sustaining and building democratic ideals and structures. The middle class in most African countries do not have the means (including votes and clout) to empower progressive groups into governance; most economic policies continue to favour the establishment and foreign interests except radical changes occur. A report says a third of Africans are now middle class. Their interests coincide with the interests of the poor and should help to bring about change. Think about the middle classes who voted with the poor for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president in Brazil, or the vibrant civil society of India that brings together the poor and middle-class activists (or possibly even the middle classes who are the protesters in the Middle East).

The Civil Society and Press in Nigeria clearly have their work cut out for them. While we wait and hope for the economic emancipation of the average Nigerian, enlightenment is also needed as to what constitutes good governance. The fight against corruption must be stepped up as Nigerians generally believe now that if our elected profiteers can gain away with anything, the only option is to try and take as much as they are being offered from them.

Our political system needs to be one of several coherent systems infused with a central value to it. This central value, i.e. shared orientations towards action, would define the type of role relationships, which can arise and allow the individual to develop stable expectations about the behaviour of others.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wole Soyinka At 80

By Akinbiyi Akinsola


Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, also known as Wole Soyinka, was born in Isara, Ijebu Remo division of present day Ogun State, on the 13th of July 1934. His father was Samuel Ayodele Soyinka popularly called S.A. by his friends and colleagues. He was the headmaster of St. Peters School in Abeokuta where he enrolled Wole as a pupil. He was also a minister in the church. Wole’s mother was Grace Eniola Soyinka (nee Ransome Kuti). She was a trader who had a shop in the market. She was also a political activist in Abeokuta with her sister, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the mother of Fela Kuti and Beko Ransome Kuti. That Wole Soyinka later became a political activist is not strange. He imbibed it from his mother’s milk. He witnessed the activities of Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti and how she and other women fought oppression and injustice unleashed on the Egba women through excessive imposition of taxes by the colonial administration and local chiefs.

The Soyinkas were practicing Christians and they brought up Wole and his siblings in the Christian and Yoruba traditions. Wole even sang in the choir from an early age. In 1944 he gained admission into Abeokuta Grammar School where he began to develop his love for writing. He won several prizes in essay writing in the school before he proceeded to Government College, Ibadan in 1946. From 1952 to 1954 Wole studied English Literature, Greek and Western History at the University College Ibadan, now known as the University of Ibadan. In the year 1953–54, his second and last at University College, Ibadan, Soyinka began work on "Keffi's Birthday Treat", a short radio play for Nigerian Broadcasting Service that was broadcast in July 1954. It was also at the university that Soyinka and six others founded the Pyrates Confraternity, in 1952, an anti-corruption and justice-seeking student organisation, the first confraternity in Nigeria. Confraternities in Nigerian Universities later got involved in violence; deviating from the founding fathers’ vision. Wole says, “I  have no regrets founding the confraternity. The violence associated with confraternity these days are a reflection of the violence and corruption prevalent in the society. The society does not want to confront their own responsibility bringing out the cults. At the time the genuine organization was formed it was praised. If you know a lot of things the Pyrates Confraternity has done you will definitely dispute this allegation.”

Wole graduated from the University of Ibadan with a second class degree and not a third class as was being speculated for many years before the erroneous impression was corrected. After Ibadan, Soyinka relocated to England, where he continued his studies in English literature, under the supervision of his mentor Wilson Knight at the University of Leeds (1954–57). He met numerous young, gifted British writers. Before defending his B.A., Soyinka began publishing and worked as an editor for the satirical magazine The Eagle. He wrote a column on academic life, often criticising his university peers.

After graduating, he remained in Leeds with the intention of earning an M.A. Soyinka intended to write new work combining European theatrical traditions with those of his Yorùbá cultural heritage. His first major play, The Swamp Dwellers (1958), was followed a year later by The Lion and the Jewel, a comedy that attracted interest from several members of London's Royal Court Theatre. Encouraged, Soyinka moved to London, where he worked as a play reader for the Royal Court Theatre. During the same period, both of his plays were performed in Ibadan. They dealt with the uneasy relationship between progress and tradition in Nigeria.

In 1957, his play The Invention was the first of his works to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre. At that time his only published works were poems such as "The Immigrant" and "My Next Door Neighbour", which were published in the Nigerian magazine Black Orpheus. This was founded in 1957 by the German scholar Ulli Beier, who had been teaching at the University of Ibadan since 1950.

Soyinka received a Rockefeller Research Fellowship from University College in Ibadan, his alma mater, for research on African theatre, and he returned to Nigeria. With the Rockefeller grant, Soyinka bought a Land Rover, and he began travelling throughout the country as a researcher with the Department of English Language of the University College in Ibadan.

He produced his new satire, The Trials of Brother Jero. His work A Dance of The Forest (1960), a biting criticism of Nigeria's political elites, won a contest that year as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day. On 1 October 1960, it premiered in Lagos as Nigeria celebrated its sovereignty. The play satirizes the fledgling nation by showing that the present is no more a golden age than was the past. Also in 1960, Soyinka established the "1960 Mask", an ensemble to which he devoted considerable time over the next few years. Those who played active roles in the 1960 Mask included Mrs. Fracesca Yetunde Pereira who later became Mrs. Yetunde Emmanuel, Yemi Lijadu, Christopher Kolade and the late Ralph Okpara. Others were Tunji Oyelana and Jimi Solanke. The 1960 Mask gave birth to the Orisun Theatre.


Soyinka wrote the first full-length play produced on Nigerian television. Entitled My Father’s Burden and directed by Segun Olusola, the play was featured on the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) on 6 August 1960. Later Soyinka published works satirising the "Emergency" in the Western Region of Nigeria, as his Yorùbá homeland was increasingly occupied and controlled by the federal government. The political tensions arising from post-colonial independence eventually led to a military coup and civil war (1967–70).

In an essay of the time, he criticised Leopold Senghor's Négritude movement as a nostalgic and indiscriminate glorification of the black African past that ignores the potential benefits of modernisation. "A tiger does not shout its tigritude," he declared, "it acts." In Death and the King Horsemen he states: "The elephant trails no tethering-rope; that king is not yet crowned who will peg an elephant."

In December 1962, Soyinka's essay "Towards a True Theater" was published. He began teaching with the Department of English Language at the University of Ife. He discussed current affairs with "négrophiles," and on several occasions openly condemned government censorship. At the end of 1963, his first feature-length movie, Culture in Transition, was released. In April 1964 The Interpreters, "a complex but also vividly documentary novel", was published in London.

In December of the same year, together with scientists and men of theatre, Soyinka founded the Drama Association of Nigeria. In 1964 he also resigned his university post, as a protest against imposed pro-government behaviour by authorities. A few months later, he was arrested for the first time, accused of underlying tapes during reproduction of recorded speech of the “winner” of Nigerian elections. He was released after a few months of confinement, as a result of protests by the international community of writers. This same year he wrote two more dramatic pieces: Before the Blackout and the comedy Kongi’s Harvest. He also wrote The Detainee, a radio play for the BBC in London. His play The Road premiered in London at the Commonwealth Arts Festival, opening on 14 September 1965 at the Theatre Royal. At the end of the year, he was promoted to senior lecturer in the Department of English Language at the University of Lagos.

Soyinka's political speeches at that time criticised the cult of personality and government corruption in African dictatorships. In April 1966 his play Kongi’s Harvest was produced in revival at the World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. The Road was awarded the Grand Prix. In June 1965, he produced his play The Lion and The Jewel for Hampstead Theatre Club in London.

Soyinka became more politically active. Following the military coup of January 1966, he secretly and unofficially met with the military governor Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the Southeastern town of Enugu (August 1967), to try to avert civil war. As a result, he had to go into hiding. He was imprisoned for 22 months as civil war ensued between the federal government and the Biafrans. Though refused materials such as books, pens, and paper, he still wrote a significant body of poems and notes criticising the Nigerian government.

In spite of his imprisonment, in September 1967, his play The Lion and The Jewel was produced in Accra. In November The Trials of Brother Jero and The Strong Breed were produced in the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York. He also published a collection of his poetry, Idanre and Other Poems. It was inspired by Soyinka’s visit to the sanctuary of the Yorùbá deity Ogun, whom he regards as his "companion" deity, kindred spirit, and protector.

In 1968, the Negro Ensemble Company in New York produced Kongi’s Harvest. While still in prison, Soyinka translated from Yoruba a novel by his compatriot D. O. Fagunwa, entitled The Forest of a Thousand Demons: A Hunter's Saga.


In 1970 he produced the play Kongi’s Harvest, while simultaneously adapting it as a film of the same title. In June 1970, he finished another play, called Madman and Specialists. Together with the group of fifteen actors of Ibadan University Theatre Art Company, he went on a trip to the United States, to the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut, where his latest play premiered. It gave them all experience with theatrical production in another English-speaking country.

In 1971, his poetry collection A Shuttle in the Crypt was published. Madmen and Specialists was produced in Ibadan that year. Soyinka travelled to Paris to take the lead role as Patrice Lumumba, the murdered first Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, in the production of his Murderous Angels. His powerful autobiographical work The Man Died (1971), a collection of notes from prison, was also published. This book was later banned by a Nigerian court from circulation. He went on self exile to parts of Europe and briefly to Ghana for some time. His novel Season of Anomy (1972) and his Collected Plays (1972) were both published by Oxford University Press. In 1973 the National Theatre, London, commissioned and premiered the play The Bacchae of Euripides. In 1973 his plays Camwood on the Leaves and Jero's Metamorphosis were first published.

During the years 1975–84, Soyinka was also more politically active. When General Gowon reneged on his promise to hand over power to the civilians in 1976, Soyinka and other intelligentsia kicked against that decision of Gowon to hang on to power. In series of rallies, lectures and protests, they got the political system heated up and eventually Gowon was toppled by a government that made good its promise to hand over power to the civilians.

At the University of Ife, his administrative duties included the security of public roads. He was first made the Chairman of Oyo State Road Safety Corp from 1980 to 1983. In January 1988 he was appointed Chairman of Federal Road Safety Corp. He recalled about his days at the Road Safety Corp, “There was no remuneration, no allowances; I never used any government office, absolutely nothing. The Road Safety Corp made soldiers to sit up. For once they found that there was a civic arm, which they were compelled to obey.”

During Nigeria’s second Republic, he criticized the corruption in the government of the democratically elected President Shehu Shagari. He also criticized the agricultural programme of the regime tagged Green Revolution. He queried, “Green Revo Wetin?” He described the programme as, “neither green nor revolutionary.” In July 1983, one of Soyinka's musical projects, the Unlimited Liability Company, issued a long-playing record entitled I Love My Country, on which several prominent Nigerian musicians played songs composed by Soyinka.

When General Ibrahim Babangida annulled Nigeria’s freest presidential election, the June 12, 1993 election and Chief M.K.O. Abiola was denied the opportunity of claiming his mandate, Wole Soyinka and other political activists and people of goodwill marched through the streets of Lagos in protest. Soyinka was one of those who urged Abiola to claim his mandate. For speaking out loud against this injustice, he incurred the wrought of the military government. In November 1994, Soyinka fled from Nigeria through the border with Benin and then to Europe and later the United States. Living abroad, mainly in the United States, he was a professor first at Cornell University and then at Emory University in Atlanta, where in 1996 he was appointed Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts. In 1996 his book The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis was first published while he was in exile. He also became the second president of the International Parliament of Writers (IPW) which was established in 1993 to provide support for writers victimized by persecution. He served as the organisation’s president from 1997 to the year 2000. At home, the military government of Sani Abacha proclaimed a death sentence against him "in absentia". He only returned from exile in 1999 when the military had gone back to their barrack.


On his return from exile, Kongi kept himself busy by writing, and delivering public lectures. He also takes time to comment on some public issues. His play King Baabu premiered in Lagos in 2001, a political satire on the theme of African dictatorship. In 2002 a collection of his poems, Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known, was published by Methuen. In April 2006, his memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn was published by Random House. In 2006 he cancelled his keynote speech for the annual S.E.A. Write Awards Ceremony in Bangkok to protest the Thai military's successful coup against the government.

In April 2007 Soyinka called for the cancellation of the Nigerian presidential elections held two weeks earlier, beset by widespread fraud and violence. Before his death in 2010 President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was honest enough to admit that the election that brought him into power was greatly flawed.

In the wake of the Christmas Day (2009) bombing attempt on a flight to the US by a Nigerian student who had become radicalised in Britain, Soyinka questioned the United Kingdom's social logic that allows every religion to openly proselytise their faith, asserting that it is being abused by religious fundamentalists thereby turning England into a cesspit for the breeding of extremism. He supported freedom of worship but warned against the consequence of the illogic of allowing religions to preach apocalyptic violence.

Recently, the literary icon pleaded with the Nigerian media to put the Chibok schoolgirls story on the front burner. “It would be a huge shame to allow the girls to be forgotten.” On amnesty for members of Boko Haram, the professor said “the process must be approached with caution.” He did not agree with “any blanket approach that precluded restitution first on the part of the murderous gang.”

For his hard work and dedication to duty, the Professor has been variously honoured all around the globe. The greatest honour bestowed upon him is perhaps the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the first African to win the much coveted prize. His awards include the following: Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International, John Within award by the British Arts Council in 1968, Jock Campbell – New Statesman Literary  award in 1969, Agip Prize for Humanity in 1986.  In October 1986 he was awarded Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (C.F.R.).  However, Soyinka threw away the national honour in protest against the annulment of the June 12th 1993 presidential election. Soyinka has been conferred honorary degrees in various institutions around the world. His honorary degrees include: Doctor of Letters Hon. D. Litt.), in 1973, by the University of Leeds, England. Yale University, Yale, USA also conferred a similar honorary degree on him. At home in July 2011, the Lagos State University, Ojo, in Lagos followed suit among other universities.

In addition, the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife named Soyinka Emeritus professor in January 2004. Other Emeritus professors at the time were Prof. I. A. Akinjogbin of the Department of History, Prof. Adesanya Ige Grillo of the Faculty of Medicine, and Prof. David Ijalaye who was  a former Deputy Vice Chancellor.

There is also the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in his honour, a biennial prize which showcases the best in literary works produced by an African. The first edition was won by Seffi Attah with her book Everything Good Will Come. The second edition was also won by a Nigerian Nnedi Okoroafor with her book Zara the Wind Seeker. A Nigerian and a South African jointly won the third edition. Wale Okediran with his book The Tenants of the House and Kopalno Matwo’ with Coconut emerged winners. The 2014 edition is focused on drama. It is meant to give playwrights an equal opportunity to win. The organizers of the prize are Lamina Foundation founded by Dr. Ogochukwu Promise. Mrs. Fracesca Yetunde Emmanuel is the Chairman Board of Trustees of the Foundation. The event is sponsored by telecommunications giant, Globacom.



In the words of Prof. Biodun Jeyifo, “Prof. Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka has etched himself into global literary consciousness. He has risen above the norm of his professional calling and reached for heights unexplored by the rest of the world in literature and dramatic arts.” Jeyifo further emphasisied that, “After William Shakespeare and Christopher Mallowe, nothing significant happened in the world of drama until Soyinka came on board.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Obiageli Ezekwesili: Time For Real Action in Education

Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Federal Minister, former Vice President of the World Bank's Africa division and co-founder of Transparency International was the guest speaker at a forum organized by Apostles in the Market Place, which took place at the Lagos City Hall recently. The theme of discussion was Education: Time for Real Action. Akinbiyi Akinsola was at the forum. Here are excerpts from her speech and pictures from the event:  



“Nigeria is a nation in the making. The process may be taking long but it will surely come to pass. There is an assault on education in Nigeria. If you want to know whether a society has a future, look at its education. Advanced nations today are those nations that invested so much in education. World War 2 decimated Japan and gave them a sense that they had to rebuild. So they focused on human development to recreate a modern society. Human capital was emphasized by Japan. A great investment in education was what Japan used to climb back to relevance and development. You will observe that majority of the top league nations have no minerals but they invested a lot in human development. It is not strategic to depend on natural resources. Natural resources should be translated into developing human capital. It is the human beings that organise all other factors. So human development is key. In the light of this, education and health of the individual are important. Through emphasis on human development, the Chinese have lifted about 600 million of their one billion population out of poverty. Singapore is another example. They were colonized by Great Britain like Nigeria. They developed their human capability. That country went from a small country to global relevance in global economy. In the 1960s there was competition among the regions to give some education to the people but things changed with the oil boom in the 1970s. Easy money came and our elites dropped the most important strategy of development. Everybody is drowned by the oil which has left us with devastation. In 1996 Nigeria had 60% pass in the GCE, in 2006 it came down to 35%. Education funding was increasing but performance was declining because the fundamental reasons for dysfunction were not corrected.





As at 2013 the decline in performance has gone down to 24%. We need to stem the tide of decline. The future of this country does not depend on oil and mineral resources but in human capital development. The business elite to which some of us belong is too complacent. There is contempt for education in this land. Corporate bodies should think about philanthropy in the area of education. It is on record that about 85% of the people are in public schools. Education needs a strong constituency if Nigeria will ever make a detour from this entrapment. No group can stay disconnected from this. Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of adult illiterates in the world today. We have a huge population, which has not been translated into human capital.” Like in Singapore, the former minster said that they came up with the idea of establishing vocational institutions that are private sector driven. “We discovered that certain courses trapped people perpetually. This explains partly why we have huge unemployment rate in Nigeria.” “Everybody has to get involved in education. Real action is to adopt a public school and contribute to the education of the children. In these children lies the golden nugget of our economic development.”




Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Next?




By Pastor Ituah Ighodalo

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to come speak to a couple of young people who had just graduated from the university and sometimes in January, we held a job fair for young unemployed people. From my interactions on these occasions, it was obvious that there is a lot of pent up frustration on the part of our young people especially if they had not been properly mentored on what to look out for and what to expect. I want to use this avenue to encourage our young people on life after school.

Now that you have finished school, what next? The allowances and pocket money will stop coming in or reduce drastically. You will be expected to find a job or start doing something – making yourself useful. Even if you are to proceed for a postgraduate degree or a professional qualification, the level of support from parents, guardians or family will not be like when you were still in school.

The first question is what resources are available to you to proceed for the next line of action. Do you or your parents have the resources to finance a postgraduate or professional qualification programme without you working? Can your first degree guarantee you a job as some degrees are more easily employable than others? Do you have any added skills, vocation or experience that can aid your employment search? If you are interested in starting our own business or trade, do you have the requisite skills set and finance or would it better for you to undergo some apprenticeship training?  

Before you embark on any line of action, do a reality check so as not to be solely disappointed. Talk to mentors, attend job or employment seminars and be reasonable about your expectations, which most times can be far from reality.

Your Expectations
-                     Thinking you can get a great job by just having a degree. Some of the most valuable lessons are learned outside the classroom. Employers are looking for students who did more than just sit through four years of classes. What about your soft skills? This includes such abilities as effective communication, creativity, analytical thinking, diplomacy, flexibility, change-readiness, and problem solving, leadership, team building, and listening skills.

-                     Thinking your first job defines your career. College graduates often buy into the “perfect first job” myth. They think they need to be in the right place at the right time right after graduation. That isn’t true. Skills and lessons are transferable, especially the ones you learn during your first job out of college. Those lessons will get you all kinds of places— including your dream job.

-                      Thinking you’ll be in a better financial place than your parents—immediately. Many college graduates are incredibly sheltered. Some don’t even know what their parents do; they think the money just shows up. When you begin your career, you’ll have to work hard. You’ll have to put in time and pay your dues. Don’t expect to live the same lifestyle that took your parents 20 years to achieve.

The Reality
Due to the dire economic situation, the days of having a car, a house and many other added material benefits being offered you right after graduation are long gone. Job security is also unlike the days of our parents when you looked forward to pensions and gratuity after working for 20, 30 or 40 years for the same organisation. Demand and supply also do not match in the job market as there are now far more qualified people than vacancies. Employers now look for something extra – special skills, soft skills, working experience (internship) while in school, etc. Considering also that many job vacancies nowadays are more open to graduates from various disciplines and not just those from that particular sector, the competition is more intense. The selection criteria have been raised a step higher, cutting off most graduates since they require post-NYSC experience. The jobs that do not require experience have too many people trying to occupy few available positions.   

BusinessWeek reported, "More than 200 million people globally are out of work, a record high, as almost two-thirds of advanced economies and half of developing countries are experiencing a slowdown in employment growth.’ According to The Federal Bureau of Statistic, ‘over 40 million Nigerian youths are unemployed’.

Aligning Your Hope/Expectations With Reality
-                  Start small and grow big in whatever you find yourself and wherever you find yourself. Don’t be in a rush to make it big.
-     Rather than waiting for that elusive million naira job, start with one that can enable you gain experience and learn fast. Be open minded about opportunities that come your way.
-     Be focused on your chosen path rather than being a jack of all trades
-   Find your natural habitat – that thing or area that excites you the most even if it does not offer immediate monetary rewards. Develop and deploy your talent.
-   Don't think you’ll succeed only because you went to the right college or studied the right course. Success comes from all walks of life. It might require some work, but you can succeed in all different kinds of environments.
-   Make a decision to be an asset rather than a liability  
-   Find and follow your passion. So many people are struggling on a job they are ill suited for. One of the greatest of all success secrets is for you to decide what you enjoy doing and find a way to make a good living doing it.
-    Improve yourself continuously, gain mastery of whatever your field is and know your onions
-    View work as a chance to grow by creating opportunities to demonstrate your skills.
-   Work at your highest potential every day to move toward the position or goal you are striving for. This will give you a sustainable competitive advantage in the future