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Friday, September 23, 2011

1897 exhibition canvasses the return of artefacts


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Nigeria’s clamour for the return of its artefacts in Western countries will not yield fruit except the country revises extant measures on repatriation of artefacts. Over time, calls for the return of thousands of Nigerian artefacts stolen, looted or acquired under dubious circumstances and held in public and private collections in Europe and the United States have remained unheeded.
But speaking at a colloquium held as part of Peju Layiwola’s travelling exhibition titled ‘Benin 1897.com: Art and the Restitution Question’ at the main auditorium, University of Lagos on Thursday, April 8, speakers underscored why Nigeria needs to take proactive steps in the recovery of its artefacts.
We want our artefacts
Chair of the session, Akin Oyebode held that Nigeria needs to put the return of artefacts “on the middle burner, if not the front burner of our foreign policy.” The professor of Law who referenced a conference on the return of artefacts to their mother country that ended the previous day in Cairo, Egypt, added that restitution is what Africans want, not reparation. “It’s the artefacts that we want, not money,” he stressed.
In a paper titled ‘Towards a Strategy for Curbing Illicit Trafficking and the Return of Cultural Property’, Folarin Shyllon explained that looting of artefacts and antiquities is an ancient practice that grew exponentially in the 20th century. He compared existing Egyptian, Nigerian and Malian laws where theft of artefacts is most rampant in Africa and highlighted the inadequacy of Nigeria’s laws.
The Law teacher however noted that the situation can still be salvaged with a number of steps. These include: commencing negotiations with the United Kingdom and Germany for the return of Benin bronzes looted in 1897; an inventory of all Nigerian cultural objects outside the country, and the replacement of the obsolete National Commission for Museums and Monuments Acts 1979 with a new act, amongst others measures.
Litigation as last resort?
In his paper titled ‘Between Reparation and Repatriation: Legal Issues in the Recovery of Nigeria’s Plundered Cultural Property’, Ademola Popoola, Dean, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, noted that “Africa has lost a major and vital part of its cultural heritage to the increasing demands of the international art market. It goes without saying that this market provides a lucrative business for art traffickers. Numerous archaeological sites, shrines, monuments, palace and museum collections have been systematically attacked and robbed of their cultural contents.”
Popoola also mentioned the looting of Benin bronzes, ivory and other artworks by the 1897 British expedition which sacked the city. He recalled how the Nigerian delegation to the General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) at Grenoble, France, had to beg for donations to furnish the National Museum, Benin City, when it was completed. He disclosed that “not a single response was received from any individual or institution. Consequently, the National Museum in Benin City opened to the public with photographs and replicas of the art objects that have become the pride of other nations and institutions.”
The academic touched on the humiliation of Nigeria when the Queen Idia ivory mask was adopted as symbol of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which the country hosted in 1977. Prior to the festival, Nigeria asked the British Museum to return the mask among the ‘booty’ of 1897 but the Museum refused, saying the mask was too fragile to travel. Consequently, Nigeria had to have a replica made for FESTAC;77. For Popoola, options open to Nigeria to retrieve its artefacts include bilateral agreements, arbitration and mediation. “But where all these fail, recourse to litigation both at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the national courts as a last resort should be pursued,” he added.
No, moral suasion
Victor Odozi, a guest, however noted during the discussion that “moral suasion could be the best option, not litigation.” Art collector, Rasheed Gbadamosi, prefers a sustained campaign. “It is great that the world is realising that forcible seizure of artefacts is criminal. We did it with slave trade; we can also have a crusade now. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.” Some speakers however concurred with the excuse of some Western countries that Nigeria lacks the ability to take care of her artefacts. They cited the Ojukwu Bunker in Umuahia, Onikan Museum and National Theatre as examples of monuments rotting away.
Renowned artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya, said that the colloquium/exhibition is “a reminder to all of us that whether it takes 2000 years, whatever evil that has been committed against a nation, it will be revisited.” He also commended Layiwola, noting that “You become an artist if you are able to bring to fore issues in your environment, you don’t become an artist by going to an art school.”
Extraordinary exhibition
Others also commended the artist during the opening. Director General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, Tunde Babawale noted that “Benin 1897.Com is not an ordinary exhibition; it does not fall within the scope of what in the art parlance is termed ‘art for art sake’; that is, art with utilitarian value, art in the service of humanity.” He added that though artists employ their art to address societal issues, “the focus and weight of this particular exhibition have elevated it beyond being mere artistic expressions, to the realms of politics, diplomacy and advocacy. Beyond the opportunity of allowing us to partake of the beautifully executed art works, this colloquium/exhibition present another medium for initiating a reassessment and renegotiation with the West, the issue of restitution of Nigeria’s stolen artefacts dispersed all over Europe and America.” Babawale believed that, “many questions will arise from Benin1897.Com, one of which is: ‘is it right to steal and deprive a people of what is unquestionably theirs?’ and ‘for how long shall the people remain deprived?”
Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abdallah Usman Yusuff, represented by an official of the organisation also expressed his goodwill.
The curator, Sola Olorunyomi, drew parallels between the despoliation of Timbuktu and the invasion of Benin while explaining the significance of the exhibition. Layiwola, he noted, is reminding people “that we yanked off the teaching of history from our curriculum in high school, and are now wondering why we lost the compass to chart the future.” He added that more than 100 years after the invasion of Benin, “families from the old kingdom still speak of their losses, in human and material terms, yet our world speaks tongue-in-cheek.”
Take pride in your heritage
Layiwola explained that ‘.com’ is an Internet domain name which means commercial in her introduction to the exhibition. The 1897 invasion, she reiterated, was also motivated by economic interests. “Benin 1897.com presents an artist’s impression of the cultural rape of Benin. It is an attempt to utilise art as a means of recalling art. It seeks to bring alive this discourse particularly on the continent and at no better time than now, when Nigeria turns 50,” she said. The lecturer referenced ‘1897’ a rap track by Belgium-based Nigerian singer, Monday Midnite. The music video, which condemns the looting of Benin, was later screened.
Layiwola reiterated that “it is crucial that the Nigerian state lodge a detailed formal request for the Benin artefacts to eradicate the easy excuse from the West that no one has requested for the Benin bronzes” on how to retrieve Nigeria’s artefacts. “Nigerians must be taught to take pride in their heritage and not confuse cultural issues with contemporary religious affiliation. The study of history, which has been thrown out of the primary/secondary school curriculum, should be brought back,” she further recommended.
The accompanying 231-page publication on art-stripping and the restitution question produced as part of the exhibition was presented by Layiwola’s husband, Dele.
‘In Praise of God’, a triptych made of copper and aluminium foil with the names of God in various languages inscribed on it; ‘Oba Ghato Okpere’ (Long live the King), a calabash installation and ‘1897.com’, installation terracotta were among works on display inside the main gallery after the colloquium. Artists Dele Jegede, Sam Ovraiti, Kunle Filani, Kolade Oshinowo and Demola Azeez were at the opening of the exhibition, which is on till May 30.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nigerian politician dies of gunshot wounds as bullet-proof charm fails

Nigerian politician dies of gunshot wounds as bullet-proof charm fails
The late Yisa Anifowose


It was a sad end for Yisa Anifowose, the leader of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) at Shasha, Akowonjo, Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, when his friend, John Taju, shot him dead while testing the efficacy of his newly acquired bullet-proof charm.

The charm could not prevent bullets from penetrating into his body as he reportedly boasted before he was shot. He slumped and died as a result of the injury he sustained during the shooting.

His corpse has been deposited at Igando General Hospital, for autopsy. The late Anifowose was married and had six children.

Anifowose, 54, popularly called Baba Kazeem, was shot in the chest by his friend and member of OPC, Taju, a one-eyed man. The suspect has been arrested.

The incident happened at the OPC tarmac, Zone 5, Orisumbare, Shasha, Lagos, the family home of the deceased.

On returning to Lagos, he was invited by his friends who are members of the OPC, to their base to celebrate his newly acquired power and the purchase of a new car by one of his members.

It was while they were celebrating that Baba Kazeem asked Taju who had a locally-made gun on him to shoot him to test the efficacy of the new charm.

Taju reportedly shot Baba Kazeem and the bullet tore his chest. He died on the spot. His death threw the residents into confusion and his friends fled the scene.

Some residents of the area quickly locked up their houses and shops and relocated from the area to avoid being arrested by the police.

The matter was reported at the Idimu Police Station. But before the police arrived at the scene, Taju had escaped.

Policemen at the station confirmed the story, adding that the suspect was later arrested, interrogated and transferred to the homicide section of the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos. “Investigation is ongoing in the matter,” a source at the station told us.

When we visited the residence of the late Baba Kazeem at 12, Ejigbo Road Orisumbare, Shasha, Lagos, his wife, Hafsat Anifowose and her relations gathered in front of the house to mourn the OPC leader.

She lamented the death of her husband and appealed to the police to investigate the incident and bring the culprit to justice. “I cannot just stay and watch my husband killed like a chicken. The government should intervene and arrest those involved in his death,” she cried.

A brother of the deceased, Adedeji Ajanaku, described the deceased as a courageous man. He called on the government to release his corpse to the family for burial in accordance with Islamic rites.

Dr. Bunmi Omosehindemi, Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board said he has been hearing of the existence of such a charm but quickly added that he has not seen it. “Some people say it exists but I have not seen it. I am a scientist,” he said.

A traditionalist, Chief Samuel Oluwasola Dedeigbo, however, confirmed that a bullet-proof charm indeed exists, adding that it is not easy to come by.

“Bullet-proof charm exists but it is not easy to come by. On the OPC leader that was killed as a result of using the charm, the one they did for him was fake. He should have tested it first on an animal before asking someone to shoot him,” he stated.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NIGERIANS, PLEASE LET'S CHANGE OUR WAYS

Our great and honorable founding fathers like AWOLOWO, AZIKIWE, BALEWA, BELLO, etc, must be cringing up there in heaven at the precarious state of the national unity, national prosperity, national respectability, and the ethnic, tribal, cultural and religious tolerance they laboriously forged and sustained for Nigeria against all odds all throughout their lives. 


We've let these men of valor down immensely in numerous ways, but most recently, in the audaciously  treacherous and divisive tone in which we engage our national discourse, as well as the grossly irresponsible manner we've neglected our core moral values. 


Sorry to say, but most Nigerians of today (leaders and masses alike) are materially-driven ideological cowards capable of selling their souls for filthy lucre at the drop of a hat. 


But it's never too late. I still have FAITH that we can ALL change our ways.....starting with the man/woman in the mirror. Because wherever there's hope, success is never too far away. So let us all make a conscious decision to start changing our ways today. I can do it. You can do it. Let's do it for ourselves, let's do it for our children, let's do it for posterity, let's do it for our country. 


May God bless Nigeria and the rest of the world.


Monday Midnite.

The Curious Death Of Babakura Alhaji Fugu By SaharaReporters- With Exclusive Audio Of His Last Interview


By Saharareporters, New York
The Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as "Boko Haram", has dissociated itself from the killing of Babakura Alhaji Fugu, the brother-in-law to slain Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
In an interview aired on Nigeria’s African Independent Television (AIT) on Sunday, the coordinator of the group’s Gombe, Bauchi and Plateau axis, who was not named, denounced as “wicked” the killing of late Babkura Fugu, while revealing an investigation into the murder which occurred Saturday afternoon (Nigerian time) was ongoing.
“We condemn this wicked act against one of our own. I want to categorically state here that we did not commit this act,” a male voice echoed in Hausa which was translated on the screen in English. “We do not know this very man they killed. We are conducting our own investigation to know the brains behind this killing.”
The group’s open denial comes after a text message to the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) purportedly received from Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for late Fugu’s assassination. The Boko Haram coordinator also commented on the visit of ex-Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo to the Fugu family barely 36 hours before the assassination.
“I want to inform the whole world that former president Obasanjo's visit to Maiduguri is welcomed by us. During his time in office, we witnessed a similar gesture, when he visited Yelwa-Shedam in Plateau State three times during the crisis there. Even the Sultan of Sokoto has not been to Yelwa-Shedam over crisis involving Muslims. Obasanjo visited several times before he declared a state of emergency on the Plateau."
The news report stated a yet-to-be identified gunman who wore a brown Kaftan appeared from a corner and “shot straight” at late Fugu on Saturday at about 1:30pm with an AK 47 assault weapon, while he and some friends were sitting under a tree beside his family house in Maiduguri, Borno State, in the Nigeria’s North-Eastern region.
 Curiously, this was the same time the line cut during a pre-interview telephone conversation with SaharaReporters when late Fugu had accepted to come on live on SaharaTV in an hour’s time for a scheduled 2:30 PM interview by telephone.
During the pre-interview (5 minutes interview that commenced at 1:26 PM) conversation with SaharaReporters, late Fugu had already begun telling the genesis of Boko Haram when Obasanjo was president.

“The antecedent is a very long story because it dates back during the Shari’a implementation that runs across the Northern Nigeria during Obasanjo regime, when most Northern Nigeria have started yearning for Shari’a law. Our own state is not exceptional,” late Fugu had started saying before our producers asked that he send his photo by email for the show.
Late Fugu had however disclosed that during his meeting with Obasanjo on Thursday, he had given Obasanjo documents to present to President Goodluck Jonathan; documents which he said had previously been submitted to the Nigerian government about which no action had been taken.
 “I have never met Obasanjo before. One comrade Shehu Sanni contacted the family first then contacted Obasanjo. He is the one who bridged the gap between the two,” late Fugu said, and mentioned he and the family had complained to Obasanjo about how the government has refused to obey a Borno State High Court ruling of April 13, 2010 awarding the Fugu family N100 million damages for the “detention and subsequent execution” on July 31, 2009 of their father, Alhaji Baba Fugu Mohammed, the father-in-law to the extra-judicially executed Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf; as well as plots of land he said the government had been hassling to take from the family.
“I told him (Obasanjo). He said he has agreed. He said he didn’t hear the true picture of what happened before but now he has the firsthand information. He said he will take everything to Mr. President. He said within two to three weeks, he will either come here again or he will call us in order to solve the issue. I trust him,” he responded when asked if he was not afraid Obasanjo’s promise was a scam.
Members of the Fugu family had also held another meeting with the Borno State deputy governor on Friday, a day after Obasanjo’s visit. Their phones were taken from them and only returned after the meeting.
“We held a meeting with him. The deputy governor said he was given directive to meet our family and to have an appointment to come and negotiate and discuss on how are we going to settle our differences especially with the state. I agreed. We slated Monday so that before then I’ll talk to about three or four of our family members, both women and men too,” he said.
Late Babakura Alhaji Fugu was scheduled to meet Borno state deputy governor again on Monday, September 19, 2011. This was never to be as he was assassinated at the family house in Maiduguri.
Home

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle

Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.

The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where -- exceptionally in scientific publishing -- both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.

Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.
Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.

But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D picture that "unfolds" the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.

This is where Foldit comes in.
Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- using a set of online tools.
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Cracking the enzyme "provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs," says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university's biochemistry lab said in a press release. "The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

One of Foldit's creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed.
"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said.

"Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alcohol DOES give you cancer, say scientists ... bit of a downer for Friday night down the pub

Danger: Scientist found when alcohol is broken down in human cells it results in DNA damage linked to cancer
By CLAIRE BATES




Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer because ethanol is itself a carcinogen on certain parts of the body, scientists have found.
Researchers said they found that when ethanol is broken down by the body, it can cause DNA damage that may lead to dangerous changes to the cells.
The U.S team from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Maryland, used human cells engineered to produce an enzyme that is found in liver and breast tissue.
They exposed the cells to a concentration of alcohol similar to blood alcohol levels attained after having a few drinks on a night out.
The results confirmed that the alcohol (ethanol) was being converted to acetaldehyde, causing DNA damage and switching on the cell's DNA repair genes.
Study author Philip J Brooks, said: 'Although the link between drinking alcohol and certain types of cancers was first established in the 1980s the existence of such a relationship did not prove that alcohol itself caused the cancers.
'More recent evidence, however, has confirmed that alcohol - or more specifically, ethanol - is carcinogenic to humans at several sites in the body.'
Dr Brooks said the carcinogenic role of acetaldehyde came to light after East Asians were found to have an elevated risk of oesophageal cancer.



He said: 'In most people, acetaldehyde is quickly converted to acetate, a relatively harmless substance, by an enzyme called ALDH2.
'However, approximately 30 percent of East Asians are unable to metabolize alcohol to acetate due to a genetic variant in the ALDH2 gene, and have a greatly elevated risk of oesophageal cancer from alcohol drinking.'
He added: 'While our work is consistent with a role for acetaldehyde in alcohol related liver and breast cancer, more studies in animals and humans will be necessary to prove such a role.'
Oliver Childs, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: 'We've known for some time that alcohol is linked to several cancers, and it's likely that it causes different types of cancer in different ways.
'This work takes us a step closer to understanding one of the ways in which alcohol contributes to the development of breast and liver cancers - it will be interesting to see if this lab work translates into studies in people.'
The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nine Brief Points for Nation Building: An Open Paper to All Nigerians--Oliver Mbamara.






No reasonable investor would venture into a territory where he could be kidnapped or robbed at will, and no nation can expect to thrive without significant foreign and private sector investments in the economy. That is the nature of the world we live in and that is why global economic sanctions continue to hurt obstinate administrations in the world. A comfortable state of security (not necessarily a perfect state, for that cannot be obtained on earth) will encourage investors and provide the confidence for them to invest in the country and its economy. That will provide more jobs, good roads, infrastructures, and sustenance. I believe our leaders can comprehend this obvious equation. One has to hope that someday a leader will come who would make the implementation of this equation a reality.   


3. Exemplary Lifestyle and Leadership: In line with the preceding point it is important for leaders not to only say things that the populace should do to turn the country around for good, but the leaders also have to live by what they say and preach. As we say – “not just what I say but what I do.” It is useless to expect the populace to change their regard for the state if the leaders only care for themselves. It is useless to expect the populace to tighten their belts and live through economic austerity measures while the few in power live in squalor and reckless abandon. It is useless for leaders to send their children abroad to foreign schools or the best schools even in Nigeria while the average masses struggle to send their children to local dilapidated poorly equipped schools. It is useless for leaders to go abroad for regular health check-up and treatments while the average masses fight for their lives at poorly equipped hospitals within the country. If leaders avail themselves with the services of the same local school, hospitals, markets, roads, power supply, water and other amenities of life, they will naturally find it reasonable to provide these amenities or make them efficiently affordable to all. As I partly stated in an article in August 2009, titled, "Accountability and Responsibility, the Kind of Rebranding We Need" (Part 2):


4. Honorable and Responsible Voting:  This factor is very helpful in achieving the preceding factor. Voters have to be responsible with their votes so as to elect leaders who would be accountable to the public and not their cohorts. Voters have to realize that their vote remains their power. If they cast their votes without diligence, responsibility, and conscientious reasoning they should not expect to have leaders that will lead with reason, responsibility, and conscience. If the people cast their votes based on monies received from leadership contestants or they vote based on religious discrimination and nothing else, then they would have sold their right and power to effect the change they would prefer.  In a national vote, tribal and regional factors should not be determinant factors as that defeats the principle of nationalism which is in turn a cardinal requirement of nation building. The voters have to account for their votes if they want the leaders to account for leadership. Prudent and honorable use of electoral power through voting would lead to the installation of leaders who will account to the constituencies and not just pamper to select group of friends, relatives, and cohorts.



The other success story is the emerging potency of Individual involvement in sharing and disseminating of truthful news and information. Through the use of easily accessible and affordable channels and devices such as mobile phones, social media outlets like Facebook, Youtube, and blog sites freely managed by individuals, truthful and current news and information is at our finger tips to be shared. People no longer have to wait for censored or doctored news coming from government outlets such as state run television and radio stations. This way anyone could contribute in creating awareness and in exposing negative trends that require correction. The impact of this new trend in information dissemination is actually driving a wave of reorientation and change across the world. The viability cannot be questioned although there is a caveat to this recommendation. Sharing of certain news and information requires caution and management to avoid circumstances where reckless dissemination of such news and information could actually lead to very serious consequences. Example - revealing the residential address of a person accused or criticized could unfortunately lead overzealous people to locate and attack or harm such a person without allowing the full course of the law to take its course.

6. Economic and Administrative Stability: No prudent investor would want to invest his resources in an economy that could easily collapse or be manipulated in a way that would not ensure any returns on investment. It does not matter whether such investor is a Nigerian, an African or other foreigner. Naturally, new administrations come with new policies and as opposed to the days of regular coup de’etat when the military forcefully disrupted the ongoing socio-economic structure and instituted draconian rules that drastically deferred from the status quo. Elected transitions do allow for some transition of at least the good policies of one administration to the other. Investors have to trust that a change in government would not bring about a drastic and arbitrary turn around in policies that affect investments. Change in administration policies that reflect reasonable state of things could be tolerated – in fact that is part of the risk in investment. However, to change policies just to score political, tribal, or personal points when the change is detrimental to the socio-economic subsistence and stability of the state should be discouraged. To change policies or replace executive appointees just to compensate for political loyalty comes with a price of inefficiency when the appointee has little experience necessary for running the office in question except in those rare situations when the appointee is indeed qualified to do the job.

7. Religious and Tribal Tolerance: Nigeria is a country with numerous tribes, cultures, and languages. It will be folly to expect that these varying cultures will always be in harmony. That is not natural. However, tolerance and understanding of these variations would go a long way in maintaining a sort of conducive environment for the nation to thrive. It does not give the country a good image when fellow Nigerians resort to maiming fellow Nigerians and burning down houses, churches, and mosques just because they do not agree with the other’s tenets. Which foreigner, whether a tourist or investor would feel safe to be in an environment where hoodlums can easily take over the streets sometimes at the slightest or no provocation? Which investor would want to set up a business structure today only to see it burnt down the next day by an irate group that feels it has been wronged and that violence is its only way to make its political, ideological or religious points? Acts and threats of violence by an intolerant group whether political, religious or tribal is an impediment to good governance. Recent administrations have been willing to dialogue with dissenting groups which eliminates the need for violence as the only way out. If a group is sincere and honest, it will dialogue with the government or the opposing group.

It is pertinent to point out that the execution of the laws of the land to quell or prevent religious violence and to improve religious tolerance for peaceful co-existence and the practice of one’s religion no matter which fate, has to be fair, impartial, and without fear or favor, but in accordance with the cardinal objective of maintaining respect for life, property, freedom, and human dignity amongst the general populace (regardless of religious affiliation or tribe). To be selective in dealing with religious issues simply to please powerful traditional institutions in some parts of the country is a practice that will never quell or cure the situation. In fact such approach has the tendency of prolonging and even escalating the situation. Those who condone, encourage, or sponsor religious or tribal violence have to realize that religious or tribal violence could be like a burning fire – once ablaze, it could get out of control and eventually consume the same person(s) who set such fire.

8. Conscience: One leading factor on how successful it is to achieve and maintain a tolerant and conducive environment for the economy to thrive and peace to reign is the conscience of community tribal and religious leaders. Nigeria has been and continues to be a country dominated by the culture that requires people to listen to their elders and leaders. It is therefore natural that these elders and leaders have significant impact on how their followers think, reason, and act. An elder or leader with good conscience will impact such goodness and conscience to his followers. He will not rile them up to go and kill and maim innocent people just because those other people share or express a different opinion on issues of life, morals, politics, or religion. A true leader with conscience will not stand by or look the other way while his followers commit mayhem in the name of religion or political affiliation.

The other side of the coin is that even if the leaders lack the conscience to respect human life, property, and fairness, the individual has a responsibility to choose his own decision and do what is right while abstaining from that which his conscience find to be wrong. In the end, the individual will have to account for any atrocities committed. He could be prosecuted and jailed here on earth for his criminal offence or he would face the wrath of the spiritual law of Karma even after life.  However, it must be conceded that to trust on the individual’s ability to make good, moral, or conscientious decisions on his own has its shortcomings. The fact is that sometimes an individual maybe so brainwashed or indoctrinated that he no longer has a reasonable ability to ascertain what is right and what is wrong. He could be an extremist zealot and as cruel and heartless as can be yet “believe” that it is the right thing in the eyes of his God. This is usually the case in those situations where people have been so indoctrinated to believe that they could fight a war for God (as if God is that powerless), and they therefore take the laws into their hands to kill and maim others based on their narrow religious convictions.

9. Reorientation: Whether at home or abroad, whether a leader or the led, Nigerians have to believe in the spirit of the nation, Nigeria. Nigerians have to be proud of being called Nigerians regardless of the taint on the image of Nigeria by a few other Nigerians. Choose leaders based on qualification and merit for the job, not just on tribal, political, or religious sentiments. Think what can be done to make things work not what can be found that is wrong with the nation. What can be done to bring about some positive change no matter how small, not what can be done to exploit the situation to selfish ends. Encourage what could be beneficial to the future generation Nigerians, not just what is immediately good in it at the moment. Be bold to speak out or act (with votes) against the nefarious activities of leaders even when such leaders come from the same village, tribe, political party, or religious affiliation as the Nigerian. Look beyond mere allocation of portfolios and instead consider whether the appointee fits the office. Be constructive and not destructive in the criticism of Nigeria and fellow Nigerians. Dwell also on the achievements of many great Nigerian men and women who continue to excel in many areas of life be it academics, sports, medicine, law, research, engineering, or many others, and not just on the bad egg Nigerians.

Conclusion: Many of these things we know but how willing are we to go forward and make the move. Some of us give up before we even start. The task is huge and sometimes it is hard to know where to start but the simple rule is to start with ourselves. Look in the mirror and honestly address the man in the mirror and then go out and live an exemplary life. Shun bribery, corruption, dichotomy, favoritism, tribalism, and other kinds of discrimination that have negative impact on the progress of the nation. Some little sacrifice here and there. Rearrangement of our priorities, here and there. Sacrificing of our times and resources to do things that would be good for the nation and the people of Nigeria in general. These may seem too numerous or too minor but they add up if we all do just our little bit everyday and everywhere. The true test is in going about executing these principles.

If the man that is blessed with experience gets the opportunity, but fails to use it for improvement, what then has he lived for? If the man that finds himself on the corridors of power and trusted with leadership either by electoral votes or by fate, fails to let his good conscience reign, what then is his value if he lives, acts, and leads like he has no conscience?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver O. Mbamara is an Admin. Judge of New York State. He is also a filmmaker and a published writer, poet, and playwright. For more on Oliver Mbamara, please visit www.OliverMbamara.com

Friday, September 16, 2011

Obasanjo visits late Boko Haram’s leader’s family



By JIDE AJANI, TAYE OBATERU & NDAHI MARAMA
MAIDUGURI— TO  halt the spate of killings by ethnic rivalries and Islamic fundamentalists, especially in Jos and Maiduguri, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, visited the family house of Mohammed Yusuf, the deceased leader of the now dreaded Ahlan Sunnah Lid Da’waati wal Jihad Yaanaa (brothers), popularly known as the Boko Haram sect, Vanguard can reveal.
Obasanjo visited the late Yusuf’s family house in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
The visit was made yesterday morning.  Obasanjo, who arrived  Maiduguri at 11:40 am, was received by the state Deputy Governor, Zanna Umar Mustapha.
The meeting with the family members lasted about 90 minutes.  Obasanjo met Yusuf’s family members at Railway Quarters, the demolished headquarters of the sect.
Obasanjo, at the meeting said: “This is a personal initiative. I urge you to forgive and forget the past. I plead with you, give me the chance to mediate between the family and government.”
In response, Yusuf’s brother-in-law, Babakura Fuggu, whose father was also executed in 2009 said: “Since 2009, this is the first time any high profile figure would be commiserating with the family. We are happy with this visit. About 30 to 40 per cent of our members are scattered in neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroun.”
The former president thereafter departed for the airport.
It will be recalled that Yusuf was killed while in the custody of the Police in Maiduguri after his arrest by men of the Joint Task Force, JTF. Already, some policemen are being tried for the extra-judicial killing of Yusuf.
Earlier on Wednesday, the former president was in Jos,  Plateau State capital, which had been a theatre of ethno-religious killings lately.
Obasanjo in Jos
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo met with some religious and traditional rulers in the Plateau State capital in what was believed to be an attempt to broker peace
The former President who arrived Jos on Wednesday in a Presidential Jet was said to have met with selected representatives of various ethnic and religious persuasions considered key to the peace process in the state.
It was learnt that the invitations went out discreetly to those concerned to attend the meeting at Government Guest House, known as Green House.
None of the top government officials contacted was forthcoming on Obasanjo’s  mission but it was reliably gathered that it might be a personal initiative to intervene in seeking a solution to the unending crises in different parts of the country.
It was, however learnt that some of those invited to the meeting declined because they were contacted in their individual capacities rather than through the leadership of the bodies they represent.
His visit to Jos saw him holding talks with the leadership of Jamatu Nasir Islam, JNI, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, as well as leaders of Plateau State.
In Jos, last week, September 7, marked the 10th year when killings broke out in the once peaceful Plateau State capital. The week witnessed a killing spree which resulted in the deaths of over four dozens of people.
Nakande blames Jang
Meanwhile, former Minister of State for Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, has asked Governor Jonah Jang to take full responsibility for the crisis in the state.
He told Vanguard in a telephone interview, yesterday, that rather than continue to find excuses for the nagging crisis, he should admit his mistakes.
He said: “He should stop the blame-game and accept responsibility for the way things are. The continuous injustice against our people is the cause of this agitation. Otherwise, the ordinary man or woman on the street have no problem with themselves irrespective of tribe or religion.”
3 killed, 2 injured by gunmen in Borno
In a related development, as the spate of killings on the streets of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital continued unabated, unknown gunmen Wednesday evening shot and killed three people and injured two in Bulumkutu ward of the metropolis.
The incident took place at 8: 30 p.m. when some gunmen came unannounced and walked close to where the victims were relaxing on a mat in front of their house after taking their dinner, and opened fire on them.
Those who were killed instantly were Mr. Turumda Malgwi, 56, a Director of Planning and Statistics in Borno State Civil Service Commission; Mr. Yakubu Iliya, 65, a retired staff of Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri, and a 22-year- old boy whose name could not be ascertained as at the time of going to press.
Confirming the incident, Borno State Police Commissioner, Mr. Simeon Midenda, said, about 8: 30p.m. on Wednesday, some yet-to-be identified gunmen ambushed some people who were relaxing in front of their house and killed three people, while two persons sustained injuries as a result of gun shots.
Midenda said it was unfortunate that residents of the area could not immediately alert the police on the development, and that the corpses of those killed had to remain at the scene throughout that night, adding that, “it was just this morning that we were informed of the incident, as most of the residents had to flee from the area for fear of further attacks”, he lamented.
He stressed that security of lives and property is everybody’s business, and therefore called on the general public to cooperate with other security agencies in the state, particularly in giving police information on suspected criminal activities around their domain.
Police assure on safety
Midenda, therefore stated that investigation is ongoing that would lead to the arrest of those who were behind the attack, and enjoined the public to remain calm and go about their normal activities, as police are ever ready to protect the lives of properties of the citizenry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Okonjo-Iweala Gave Brother Chi-Chi-Okonjo N15m Contract Without Due Process" - Former FCT Permanent Secretary Reveals In 2004 Petition





Chi-Chi Okonjo-Iweala 
Are enemies of Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala behind the allegations that while she was Minister of Finance in the government of Olusegun Obasanjo, she used her position to benefit her brother?
  In an article published by journalist Tony Eluemunor, he asserts that in 2004, a former Permanent Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry did sent a petition to former President Olusegun Obasanjo a petition about Minister Nasir El-Rufai over a contract that apparently benefitted Mr. Chi-Chi Okonjo, who is the brother of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.
The petition revealed that Mrs. Okonjo -Iweala approved a contract for the FCT via a letter of approval for a variety of consultants including her brother's firm, Georgetown Consultancy. The later dated March 18, 2004, HMF/FMF/003 was addressed to Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, OFR, Minister of the Federal capital Territory, saying:
“I am in receipt of your letter dated 15th March 2004 requesting an approval for a RUNNING OPEARTIONAL REVIEW ROR) on the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory’s Operations.
In your letter you stated that a consultant would be hired to review the internal organisation processes of the FCT and the day to day finances of the FCT."

This is separate from the $50 million consultancy contracts that a WikiLeaks cable indicated involved both Ministers, to the benefit of one “Jon-Jon” Okonjo.
The petition, which Obasanjo seemed to have conveniently ignored, alleged the “unilateral engagement of contractors without conforming with due process,” that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala and El-Rufai were part of.
In recent days, top members of the Nigerian government have sought to dismiss the corruption allegations contained in the WikiLeaks cable as the work of enemies who do not want them to do their work to save Nigeria.
President Jonathan has called the WikiLeak allegations “beer-parlour gossip.”
And dismissing as “tales by moonlight” the $50 million-consultancy-to-her-brother story, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala bragged that she had earned a name “as a high performing public servant of impeccable integrity,” and that the story was only “another ploy by vested interests who are desperate to stop her from contributing to the realization of an improved Nigeria.”
And she promised: “They will fail again.”
The pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is a friend of both El-Rufai and Okonjo-Iweala, has also disclosed that corruption under President Olusegun Obasanjo was worse than that of late General Sani Abacha whom that administration pursued relentlessly as corruption personified. 

Full Text of the article:
Insight Into Wikileaks Controversy and News Analysis By Tony Eluemunor
Why would Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mr. Nasir El’Rufai so trenchantly deny that no brother of the Finance Minister’s benefitted from a contract that may not have met all requirements of due process? Why would they have done this, especially as a firm owned by Okonjo-Iweala’s brother Mr. Chi-Chi Okonjo, not only got a Federal Capital Territory Ministry contract, but more importantly, the contract became a subject of a petition from somebody of the rank of a Permanent Secretary, in year 2004?
On reading Okonjo-Iweala’s Media Aide, the ever genial and rather polished essayist Mr. Paul Ibe, attempting to tell the world that the accusations against his boss was engineered by enemies, and the second denial from El’Rufai, who attempted to reduce the grave issue to a mere laughing matter, I remembered the challenge a one-time United States of America presidential hopeful threw to the US journalists. It was in year 1988. Mr. Gary Hart, US Senator, author, commentator, lawyer and professor,   was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination when he heard hints that he was having extra-marital affairs. Instead of lying low, he challenged American journalists to prove their allegations.

Well, they gave him the proof; the picture of him and his mistress, Donna Rice, terribly under-clothed, aboard his yacht, appropriately (for the business at hand) named “Monkey Business”. The revelation of that his monkey business cost him a presidency bid as he withdrew immediately – and never resurfaced again! He acquired a PhD from Oxford in 2001, and politics’ loss became a university’s gain as he earned a professorial chair in 2006.

...And the sophistry from both El’Rufai and Okonjo-Iweala were real challenges to Nigerian journalists – to inform the nation, not about the length and breadth and depth of the whisperings from an unnamed informant to a former American Ambassador, Mr. John Campbell, but at least whether there was a basis for such small talk. By the way, going by the recent Wikileaks reports, Campbell, unlike his successor, was not against reporting tales about both sides of the Nigerian political divide – unlike Ms. Robin Sanders who focused on tit bits about the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his supporters only, leaving off Yar’Adua’s opponents to do the finger-pointing and tale-bearing.

Both El-Rufai and Okonjo-Iweala sought to give the impression that no member of Okonjo-Iweala’s immediate family benefitted from any contract whatsoever – and that they never took a compromised or even questionable or eye-brows –raising stance. But a former Permanent Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry sent a petition against El-rufai to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which among other things had this salient complaint, on page two (2) and item five (5):

“Part of what has been causing friction is the unilateral engagement of contractors without conforming with due process.  For example -

5. (i) Georgetown Consulting – owned by Chi-Chi Okonjo, brother of Honourable Minister of Finance for N15m
(ii) Vintage Global Solutions owned by Miss Bimbo Ogunseitan, the minister’s friend for a total of sum of N9.6m. They both had been approved before the normal paperwork which amounted to damage control.



Ordinarily, it would be stupid to blame either El-Rufai or the former and re-appointed  Finance Minister if a company linked to his brother, a Nigerian and an adult would be awarded a contract, any contract, that was duly bid for and cleanly won, and perhaps without a backing, no matter how slight, from her.
This is because her brother deserves a right to earn a living just like any other person. But according to that petition to Obasanjo, with the file number of MFCT/DFA/559, the petitioner drew attention specifically to “RE- RUNNING OPERATIONAL REVIEW: MINISTRY OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY’S OPERATION” and said:
“Please permit me to draw your attention to the approval by the Honourable Minister of Finance at page 1 for the commissioning of a Firm of Consultants to carry out a Running Operational Review (ROR) on the Ministry’s operations.

2. Subsequently, a letter of engagement was served on the Consultants, vide page 4 of the file. Based on the letter of engagement, the consultants have demanded an initial payment of N5, 760, 00.00 (Five million, seven hundred and sixty thousand naira only) vide page 2.
3 The Consultants reported to the Department for the commencement of the Operational Review of the 22nd April 2004. (Reporter’s comment: by this time, Okonjo-Iweala was the Finance Minister). After an in-depth discussions (sic) and at their instance, they opted to commence the exercise this week. Indeed, we have had a joint meeting with the SA II to Mr. Minister on the subject matter.
4. I have assured them of the Departments maximum cooperation.
However, there is a need to put the record straight by...( the rest is no longer necessary, as the quoted part showed that the Consultants resumed work on the terms of the contract.

Now, in what way is Okonjo-Iweala involved? She sent a letter dated March 18, 2004, HMF/FMF/003, addressed to Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, OFR, Minister of the Federal capital Territory, saying:
“I am in receipt of your letter dated 15th March 2004 requesting an approval for a RUNNING OPEARTIONAL REVIEW ROR) on the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory’s Operations.
In your letter you stated that a consultant would be hired to review the internal organisation processes of the FCT and the day to day finances of the FCT.

2. Please accept this letter as an approval for the Running Operational Review on the request indicated above.
3. Do accept the assurances of my continued highest regard.

Yours Sincerely, (Signed) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance.”

The FCTM acknowledgment stamp to denote date of  receipt of this letter bore the 22 March, 2004 date and just two days later El-rufai minuted to his COS (Chief of Staff) and SA I, II
“Please commission the RoR (running operations review) based on the proposal submitted by GC (reporter’s question: Georgetown Consultants?) and one other firm. Negotiate with the firm and brief me”.

Unfortunately, what this suggests is that Georgetown Consultants, owned by Chi-Chi, a brother to Okonjo-Iweala, the very Finance Minister who approved the RoR operations, got the contract before negotiations ever began!

There is a missing aspect of this report: and that is the outcome of the petition. Was the petition taken seriously? Did former President Olusegun Obasanjo ever set up a committee to investigate it? If so, did the report exonerate both the Minister of Finance of and Federal Capital Territory of any untoward acts?

This reporter has been asking such questions since 2004. So far, mum has been the word. By the way, the petition brought up other questions such as FCT Ministry’s security vote of N400m that was overspent by the end of August by N50 million. In fact, the petition raised nine issues against El-Rufai, but only one concerned an Okonjo or an Okonjo-Iweala; that addresses the question about the Finance Minister’s enemies being behind the unresolved controversy.
End.
 Tony Eluemunor, A Fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, on Ford Foundation sponsorship, was Abuja Bureau Chief for Daily Independent in 2004 – when the petition was written.


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