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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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Symposium Africa to launch its Second Edition in Nigeria

Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa; fashion designer Folake Folarin-Coker of Tiffany Amber; Mo Abudu, CEO of Ebony Life TV; Bola Adesola, CEO of Standard Chartered and television star Julie Gichuru will co-host the second annual Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Africa, it has been announced. This is the second time that the WIE Symposium will be venturing into Africa following its successful launch in Cape Town last year. The symposium will break new ground in Nigeria by bringing together the continent’s stars and emerging young female leaders to empower and inspire the next generation. WIE Africa will be held on 3rd May at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria.

Tiwa Savage, the celebrated Nigerian singer-song writer is one of the many soon to be announced headline speakers. Host, Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, gave an inspiring talk at last year's event and is elated to see WIE Africa come to her country. She said: “Following the immense success of the inaugural WIE Africa in Capetown, South Africa, I am delighted to welcome WIE Africa to Nigeria — my wonderful home country and Africa’s most populous nation. Women play a great role in today’s global economy; and in order to make an impact in her sphere of influence, profession, vocation and passion, a woman must first be empowered to be health-seeking and achievement-driven. It is therefore truly wonderful to know that WIE Africa - Nigeria will be a further step to fulfilling the potential of the African continent and empowering women in leadership all over the world.”

Folorunsho Alakija, the self-made founder of Famfa Oil, and Nigeria’s first female billionaire, will speak in a spotlight session, sharing her learnings on leadership with the ambitious and aspirational crowd that WIE attracts. At the time of confirming her attendance Alakija added: “I am absolutely delighted to be attending the Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Africa event this year as I am extremely passionate about the empowerment and success of our women in their own rights.  I look forward to both contributing and listening to other successful female entrepreneurs as we share experiences of what I am sure will be an
informative event, motivating and inspiring the next generation.”

WIE (Women: Inspiration & Enterprise), founded in 2010 is a global annual conference and community designed to empower the next generation of women leaders. WIE Africa is timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum Africa and will showcase the women taking a central role in shaping the Africa of tomorrow. WIE Africa aims to contribute to changing any negative perceptions of Africa as a whole by showcasing successful African women and innovation.

Dee Poku, Co-Founder and CEO of WIE said: “In this truly exciting second edition of WIE Africa, our mission is to get to the core of how Africa’s talent can both drive development within the continent and have global impact. I’m so thrilled about the incredible caliber of people we’ve managed to attract to the event.”

The day will be packed full of panels and workshops featuring speakers from the worlds of politics, business, philanthropy, media, fashion, entertainment and the arts.  Topics for discussion include: “Retail Ready: Developing African Labels Into Viable Businesses”; “The Power of Publishing: Women’s Role in Shaping Africa’s Media Industry”; “Our Future: What It Means to Empower African Women”; “Afropolitans – The
Return Home” and “What can Africapitalism mean for Africa”.

Previous WIE Symposiums in London, New York and Cape Town have boasted some of the most recognisable thought-leaders from around the world including Graca Machel, Nancy Pelosi, Iman, Sarah Brown, Donna Karan, Ariana Huffington, Cherie Blair, Jill Biden, Diane von Furstenberg, Baroness Valerie Amos, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ted Turner, Dambisa Moyo, Tamara Mellon, Tyra Banks, Christy Turlington, Nick Clegg, Geena Davis and Aerin Lauder to name a few.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Soyinka, Ajumogobia, Ekweremadu, Debate “Will Nigeria be Better Served by a Parliamentary System Government?”

St. John’s Forum, a group of public spirited Nigerians with deep interest in promoting the common good, good governance, national development, peace and stability, has announced the inaugural edition of its Public Service Debates.

The maiden debate will hold on Wednesday March 26 2014 at 11.00am at the Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, with the motion: “Will Nigeria be better served by a parliamentary system of government?”

The debate is part of a Public Service Debate series designed to bring to the fore, critical issues that affects the Nigerian society. The Forum’s aim is to promote and enhance public awareness, dialogue, and encourage participatory thought on matters of social and national importance.

The speaking panel at this maiden edition comprises some of Nigeria’s noblest minds, including Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; former External Affairs Minister, Mr Odein Ajumogobia (SAN); Senate Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; renowned Oxford University scholar, Dr. Abdu Raufu Mustapha. The former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku will moderate the debate.

The St. John’s Forum is an apolitical platform committed to advancing dialogues that promote the common good in all aspects of Nigerian life. Its activities cuts across all segments of the community – industry, commerce, the intelligentsia, the press, politicians, decision makers, and indeed ordinary Nigerians. The Forum believes that the coming together of such a diverse body of people with widely differing backgrounds and aspirations to debate a singular issue, must ultimately promote good.

The debate is open to the general public, and all are welcome to engage the key speakers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nigeria is a Corrupt Country...US Country Reports

US Secretary of State John Kerry

United States has classified Nigeria as a corrupt country with a poor governance record. US Secretary of State, John Kerry made the corruption allegations when he presented the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” which he presented at the Press Briefing Room of the State Department in Washington.

Kerry warned that the US was not acting out of arrogance but to plug the pitfalls arising from its experiment at home and help the human race against making avoidable mistakes.

“Even as we come together today to issue a report on other nations, we hold ourselves to a high standard and we expect accountability here at home too. And we know that we’re not perfect. We don’t speak with any arrogance whatsoever, but with a concern for the human condition,” the Secretary of State said.

This year’s report, he stressed, “is especially timely coming on the heels of one of the most momentous years in the struggle for greater rights and freedoms in modern history.”

The report took a huge swipe at the Nigerian anti-corruption agencies – the EFCC, ICPC and the Police. The report which ranked the EFCC’s commitment to the anti-corruption war higher than that of the ICPC said Ibrahim Lamorde’s efforts at prosecuting offenders were frustrated along the way.

“The anti-corruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and EFCC remained largely ineffectual. The ICPC holds broad authorities to prosecute all forms of corruption, whereas the EFCC is tasked with handling only financial crimes. Despite this wider mandate, the ICPC had achieved only 68 convictions since its inauguration in 2000.

Lamorde, according to the report, seemed to have been constrained “by the fact he is being teleguided by those that put him in office, on who to arrest and prosecute while his efforts at trying 12 prominent public officials met a brick wall with several frustrating setbacks during the year.”

The report continued: “Despite the arrest of several high-ranking officials by the EFCC, including Dimeji Bankole and Hassan Lawal, who have been left off the hook, allegations continued that agency investigations targeted individuals who had fallen out of favour with the government, while those who were in favour continued their activities with impunity.”

In conclusion, Kerry summarised once more the reason for his country report exercise: “This is about accountability. It’s about ending impunity. And it’s about a fight that has gone on for centuries, as long as human beings have been able to think and write and speak and act on their own.

“And so, the United States of America will continue to speak out, without a hint of arrogance or apology, on behalf of people who stand up for their universal rights. And we will stand up in many cases for those who are deprived of the opportunity to be able to stand up for themselves,” the report said.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Slum to School Africa Project

Every second that ticks, millions of children across Africa and the world may never have that opportunity to get primary education. Many could be due to the lack of proper orientation and access to schools, others could be due to social constraints such as conflicts, early marriages, disabilities while the majority say its poverty. UNESCO estimates 57 million children globally are not in school; over 10 million of these are Nigerian children, the highest National rate in the world.

As part of efforts at combating this trend, the Slum To School Africa Project took its education enrolment campaign to the Makoko Area of Lagos. About 360 school age children who were hitherto not in school were enrolled in school, most from the fishing community, on the river side of Makoko, Yaba, Lagos.

About 500 primary school pupils from various parts of Makoko were there to welcome the newly enrolled pupils. Headteachers, teachers and politicians from the area notable among whom were Honourable Francis Samson, community leader and representative from the Yaba Area Council, Alase Francis Agotan, Head of Baale, Baale Daniel Hungbeji, Victor Barnabas Balogun and Iyalode Mary Gbetohomen.

Most of the newly enrolled pupils had been out of school according to Mr Otto Orondaam, head of the NGO, due to poverty, ignorance and apathy on the part of the parents of the children. Mr Otto also mentioned that "this is the third edition of the programme". Two had taken place earlier in Epe and Bariga areas of the state. Otto also seized the opportunity to thank his stakeholders who donated school items like bags, books, tables, chairs and other educational needs.

Most of the parents expressed joy that their children were going back to school. Iyalode Mary Gbetohomen enthused that, the initiative that Slum to School Africa has brought to Makoko is very laudable. The Makoko edition of the Slum to School Africa programme also featured music, dance and cultural display in Egun, Yoruba and English.

As a volunteer driven organization, Slum2School Africa over the last year has attracted over 1000 volunteers from over 15 countries who have given in their time to ensure that they bring hope to vulnerable children in remote communities and slums across Nigeria and Africa.

Reporting by Biyi Akinsola, Editing by Ayodeji Jeremiah