Monday, November 26, 2007

Cry My Beloved Country I

Gentle bobo ni mi, Emi ki se fighter, keni keni ma ti mi lo sibija (Queen Salawa Abeni).
I am a Gentle guy and not a fighter, I don't want to be pushed into a fight.

In case you didn't notice, I haven't blogged in the last 2 weeks. This has not been due to writer's block. It has also not been due to a lack of inspiration. The problem has been due to the multiplicity of ideas in my head. I've been so mad at so many things in the last 2 weeks that I've been trying to conjure up an article that could address all the issues at once. The moment I decide to write about one issue, another one comes up with a deafening sound. At first I started thinking about writing about my experiences in Lagos Large Capacity Buses (Molue). This was to serve as a parallel to my Airplane experiences. Somewhere along the way, the issue of Nigeria's failed bid to host the Commonwealth game came up. Nigeria eventually lost the hosting rights for the Commonwealth games to the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Before I could put up a post about this, another political issue caught my attention. The Sun Newspaper carried an article detailing how much Nigeria lost from import waivers granted to Obasanjo's cronies during the Obasanjo era (1999-2007). Some of those that benefitted from the Import-waiver largesse include Dangote Holdings, Cosharis e.t.c The shocking part was that a major Pentecostal church in Nigeria was included in the list. This church was said to have imported a vast amount of building materials for the purpose of building a University. The church was able to import these materials at no cost because of its close connections with the Presidency. Nigeria lost millions of Naira because a Church decided partake in this ignoble deed. I was lost for words. As usual, the mainstream media did not make a meal of this News story. It was relegated to the background. Before I could pick up my Pen (rather my keyboard), News filtered into my ears that Richard had won Big Brother Africa. Ofunneka - the Nigerian representative had come in second. Tatiana had taken third postion. Nothing baffled me much more than the fact that a rapist and an adulterer was voted for by "all of Africa". I know some would say I have no right to judge. After all, we all are thieves. Okay, I am a thief, the day you catch me I will "have no mouth to talk". But, till then, i will continue to talk. I have decided to attack all these issues one after the other. I have chosen to put them under the umbrella of "Cry, My beloved Country". This is taken from "Cry the Beloved Country" written by a South African Author named Alan Paton

Big Brother Africa is a reality TV Show that features housemates living together in a house under stringent conditions for a period of time. The theme "Big Brother" was taken from George Orwell's book - 1984. The first Big Brother show was held in Holland in September 1999 and it was produced by Endemol Productions. The Big Brother show has been exported into at least 70 countries. The success of the show has been due to the fact that it has been adapted to fit in with realities in various countries in which it is being produced. In the UK, it is known as Celebrity Big Brother. Big Brother UK features celebrities alongside with wannabe celebrities.
The first Big Brother on the continent of Africa was held in 2002 . The first Big Brother was plagued by some many problems. Some of these problems included lack of sponsorship and poor viewership. The Big Brother house even suffered a break in. Some members of the public decided to see for themselves what was going on in the Big Brother house In 2003, the first Big Brother Africa was held in the month of May. It was a bold move by Endemol South Africa and Mnet Productions. 12 housemates from different African countries were camped together in a house. Bayo Okon flew Nigeria's flag in the first edition of Big Brother Africa. He went in with a lot of hope. He came out of the house with a lot of promise. He had his 15 minutess of fame. The rest, as they say , is history. Bayo Okon is right now as popular as he was before he ventured into the Big brother house. For various reasons, Mnet decided to invest in Project Fame as its reality show in 2004. It was a programme which was supposed to launch an African music star into limelight. Dare Art Alade flew Nigeria's flag in the Project Fame show. He came out in third position. He was given a record contract as compensation. I will not even bother to name the lady who won the show because I assume if she had received what she was promised by the Organisers, she would need no introduction. Dare was promised a recording contract with Sony music. Maybe they meant, they would give him a Sony Music deck. The rest as they say is history. Dare is now a contractor in the city of Abuja.

In 2005, Mnet and Endemol in conjunction with Storm Vision produced Big Brother Nigeria. The show was hyped as being the one that would put Nigeria on the map of the world. After all, we had all sworn that such a show could not possibly be held in Nigeria due to Nigeria's lack of adequate infrastructure. Against all odds, they pulled off the show. By Nigerian standards, it was a huge success. But shortly after the show, a lot of facts began to unravel. Allegations started flying around that Endemol and Mnet had packed away all the money they made from Sponsorship and text messages to South Africa. A small pittance was given to Storm Vision as compensation. Storm Vision had a backup plan in case Endemol/ Mnet were going to pull such stunts. They brought in Katung whose father worked in the Presidency alongside the mother of the MD of Storm records. Katung also happened to be a Presenter in Cool FM Abuja. Olisa Adibua (Cool FM Lagos), stakeholder in Storm Records was a presenter on the show. The rest as they say is history. Katung, their friend took home the $100,000 in prize money. The last place Katung was seen was on a Billboard advertising Harp Lager Beer.

Endemol and Mnet Productions were not done with the Big Brother Africa phenomenon. They decided to host Big Brother Africa II in South Africa. Ofunneka was chosen as Nigeria's representative on the show. Richard was chosen as Tanzania's representative. During the course of the show, Richard was able to prove that marriage is no barrier to having fun. Tatiana and Richard kept themselves from the evil effects of loneliness. A task was given by Big Brother which involved lots of Alcohol. There was uncontrolled downing of spirits. The spirits then sprung into life. Richard jumped into action and sexually assaulted Ofunneka. I would not bore you with the details. You can find such details at these sites.

For those of you, that need me to spell it out, Richard fingered Ofunneka relentlessly. This led to a volcano of reactions all across Africa. Some viewers insisted that what Richard did constituted an act of Rape. Mnet and Endemol had to do damage control by yanking off all discussions that had to do with this on the Big Brother Africa discussion board. Text messages pertaining to the rape incident were not allowed to reach the screen. Due to the Outcry, Mnet decided to invite a couple of South African NGOs to view the footage of the show. Mnet's official line was that "whatever happened between Ofunneka and Richard was consensual". After viewing the tapes, the South African groups agreed with Mnet that Ofunneka was a willing participant in the sexual assault. The rest as they say is history. Richard won the second edition of Big Brother Africa.
I have tried to look at these incidents dispassionately but I have failed in this task. My blood boils when I think of the fact that my fellow Nigerian was raped on prime time TV and some media goons are trying to hoodwink me. Some have insinuated, "She asked for it, Why did she take so much alcohol and lose control of her senses"? My answer to that is this - Everyone has a right to do whatever (s)he wants to do with him/herself. Ofunneka's lack of sobriety was not an open invitation for a sexual predator like Richard to take advantage of. According to regular viewers of the BBA show, Ofunneka had never shown any affinity towards Richard. The question which needs an answer is - Why would she suddenly fall in love with Richard to the extent that she would allow him to touch her in the nether regions (Ó Funmi Iyanda) . Some other questions need to be asked - Who are the South African NGOs that were allowed to view the tape? What did they see? Where are the Nigerian NGOs? So many self-seeking, undercover frauds parade themselves across the Nigerian landscape as NGOs. Their favorite song line is the eradication of HIV/AIDS. Foreign Funds have been sought and received under the guise of this impossible task. The Nigerian NGOs that would show up in large proportions whenever an International conference is to be held in Nigeria are nowhere to be found. Ofunneka has no one to defend her cause.
My mind goes back to the Project fame incident of 2004. Dare was asked a question by one of the participants on the show. He was asked "What would you get my 10 year old cousin who is having her birthday soon"? Dare jokingly replied - I will get her pregnant. All hell was let loose. Sponsors threatened to pull out of the show. South African Women rights groups called for the show to be cancelled. Dare was put on eviction for the first time in the duration of the programme. He had to tender an open apology to the whole of Africa for making a statement. South Africa was very sensitive about the issue of rape , therefore they took Dare's statement seriously. So what has changed in 2007? A Nigerian made a statement in 2004 and all hell broke loose while a Nigerian was raped on TV in 2007 and it was termed 'consensual'. After the show, Richard was asked about the incident and he replied "Well,This is Africa". I want him to know that this is not the Africa that Foday Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Obafemi Awolowo fought for. Your Africa is not my Africa. The last straw that broke the camel's back for me was when the House of Reps Committe on Media invited the Nigerian Broadcast Commission to explain the actions they took to sanction Multichoice for violating its broadcast provisions. NBC officials told the House of reps committee that they had warned Multichoice twice during the duration of the programme, but Multichoice did not heed their warnings. You can imagine the Inspector General of Police being asked to explain the high crime rate in the country and he replies - I have warned these robbers but they have refused to listen. The House of Reps thus banned the showing of any clips of the BBA programme in Nigeria. However I tuned in to Galaxy television on Saturday and saw highlights of the show being run on air.
Meanwhile, Mnet/ Endemol have kept Ofunneka in South Africa. They are still thinking of how they'll arrange a hero's welcome for her in Nigeria. No matter how long she stays in South Africa, she cannot hide from the truth. A regular viewer of the BBA programme informed me of how she broke down in tears when she recounted the horrible experience that she had with her former boyfriend. She had moved in with him and given her all to the relationship but that was not enough to keep the guy. If she could break down in tears on Primetime TV because of this, I wonder what would happen when she comes home to confront the truth of what happened to her in South Africa.
But then, do I blame the South African companies who are only interested in making profit? Maybe if the House of Reps had not been engulfed with the Etteh scandal, they could have nipped the BBA scourge in the bud. Maybe if Nigeria had good leadership, we would be able to lay down the law with respect to foreign media. Maybe, Just maybe . I am so mad, right now, I can't type further

N.B: This article was written before Ofunneka was welcomed into the country

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I will have to confess that this scene was not witnessed by me. A friend who claimed to have been there when it happened recounted it to me. A certain Baba Dauda got to the airport with his son - Dauda who was on his way abroad for further studies. Baba Dauda was a man of many parts - A husband of 3 wives, a landlord and the Chairman of the Neighborhood association. He was a man with many enemies –real and imagined.
As some of us may know, the departure lounge of the MMIA has a motion sensitive door. This is a sliding glass door that moves on sensing motion around it. So, here goes Baba Dauda who sees a closed glass door in front of him. As he approaches the door, he looks around wondering how everybody got inside. As he steps further, the door suddenly opens. Baba Dauda jumps back in amazement, pulling his son Dauda with him. The door closes again. Both of them gently tiptoe towards the shut door. On getting near the door, it slides open again. Immediately, Baba Dauda shouts aloud " Kamoru, Kamoru, Mo ti rise owo e, Ona ti o fe gba yo si mi leleyii abi, Iro lo pa, O ri wipe omo mi fe sosire, o wa gbelekun awon aye siwaju mi, o n ti on pade bo se wu e, Iro lo pa, Mo ma wonue bi awon agba sen wole awo". (Kamoru, I have seen your work. So, this is how you want to attack me, You have placed an evil door that you close and open at will in front of me. Your plans have failed. I will enter this door like we enter into the coven)
Suddenly, Baba Dauda motioned to his son to be silent. He turned his back to the door. He began backtracking towards the door in a form similar to Michael Jackson's moonwalker dance step. He entered the airport in reverse.
At that point in time, Nepa struck and electricity was cut off. The door stayed ajar. He then called out to Dauda, "Mo ti ba ogun wo je , Wole wa, ile baba re lo wa"(I have destroyed their plans, Enter into your father’s house). Thus, Dauda and his father made their way into the airport

The other incident is one I witnessed in May 2007. I was at the Benin airport preparing to come back to Lagos. The weather was not so favorable so there was a 3hour delay on flights. I'm not known to be one who gives in easily to emotions. However, I saw a sight that could make a grown man cry. A family walked into the airport - A father, mother and 3 children. What made them the cynosure of all eyes was the condition of the children. They had 3 kids who were aged about 5,6 and 8. One of the kids was on a wheel chair, the other was on crutches while the third was being carried on the shoulder of the mother. If my memory serves me well, they were 2 boys and 1 girl. This was not a family on a mission to receive alms. This was rather a middle class family taking a flight to Lagos. For a moment, there was pin-drop silence in the airport. Everyone watched with bated breath as they sauntered to a vacant seat. Observing the scene before me, my analytical mind kicked into action. What led to this? My mind told me, the kids were most likely involved in a car accident. It could have been anywhere. My mind went to the Benin-Lagos road. Back then, the Benin-Lagos expressway was in such a condition that it took up to 9 hours to complete a journey from Benin to Lagos. It could also have been a drunk driver somewhere who ran into their car. Whatever it was, these kids had been put into a situation which was not of their own making. As I was ruminating, some passengers in the airport stood up to go and meet the family. Some hugged the kids, others just held them and talked to them. Maybe, in a way, they thought of the Nigerian condition and how uneasy the future looked for these kids.
They say there are 2 things you can't change about you - The family into which you are born and the Country into which you are born. I'm sure that if those kids had been allowed to choose , they would not have chosen Nigeria as a country of birth