Monday, 24 August 2015

Jonathan’s State of Emergency in North East only hurt innocent citizens, says Sen. Tinubu


By Anote Ajeluorou



Senator Oluremi Tinubu, representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, has called to question the usefulness of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s State of Emergency in three states of the North East and declared that it only served to hurt innocent population who could not reach out for help while the Boko Haram sect rampaged in the region killing and maiming civilians and destroying property.
  She made this declaration at an interactive session with The Lagos Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Family, an arm of Women for Peace and Justice in Nigeria, which paid her a courtesy call in her Senatorial office in Yaba, Lagos. The group was led by Yemisi Ransom-Kuti, Niyi Onabanjo, Olalekan Babasola and Yemi Adamulekun among others, including Alhaji Mohammed Zana of Mairamri town, just a few kilometres from Chibok, who lent his voice to the plight of the embattled region. Zana now lives in Takwa Bay Island, Lagos.
  According to Tinubu, “The State of Emergency only helped to expose innocent civilians who couldn’t ask for help. Telephone in the areas was shut down and those being attacked could not reach out for help. It was so bad. I can tell you that nothing happened all through the State of Emergency period to alleviate the plight of the people”.
  She stressed that as a mother, who had lost a child, she knew what the families were going through and regretted that the set was bent on denying girls education. As she put it, “As a mother, I can tell you it’s a hard place for a mother. The problems plaguing Nigeria are numerous. I lost a child once. It’s a hard and difficult place to be. But as a Christian we believe all is well. As diverse people, this issue will keep us close. It will bring Nigerians close the way we have not known before.
  “I always say that let our girls be educated otherwise our nation is doomed. Women have stamina and education only makes them stronger. We pray that in three months promised the girls will be brought back. In a situation where you are helpless, you keep praying”.
  She also said as lawmakers, they were constrained how much they could do to help, and placed the responsibility squarely at the doorsteps of the executive arm of government, saying, “As lawmakers we are a bit restricted”.
  She however, said President Mohammadu Buhari would do what was necessary to bring the insurgency to an end.
  “Nigeria voted for change with All Progressives party leading the way; it came together from various parties, the shortfall is what we have seen. At the inauguration of the Senate, some of us were not there and some very shady characters hijacked the process. We pray that Buhari’s efforts yield results. It’s the executive that you have to hold accountable for the enforcement of programmes and policies”.
  Tunubu also stated that she was doing all she could to help alleviate the plights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Lagos, but that she was also limited to Lagos Central Senatorial District, as she was no longer the First Lady of Lagos State.
  Earlier, Adamulekun had outlined some of their demands from the Senator Tinubu just as they had done to Mr. Buhari a month ago. Women for Peace and Justice in Nigeria demanded that the National Assembly should convene a public hearing on the state of insecurity in the country, convene a public hearing on the security budget and spending and provide monthly reports on the National Assembly website on efforts to by the frontline agencies – National Security Adviser, National Emergency Management Agency, Safe School Initiatives among others.
  The body further charged Tinubu to use her good offices to speed up action in these directions, saying, “As concerned citizens of this country, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group has highlighted the plight of these innocent girls even at a global level and engaged the government and other agencies in a constructive manner to secure the rescue of the girls. Recently, we made our case to Mr. President”.
  Zana, who fled his Mairamri town in Konduga Local Government Area and now lives in Takwa Bay, was also on hand to lend impetus to the campaign. He relived some of his experiences in a tear-laden voice, saying, “It’s our hope that the girls will be brought back safe. Our prayer is that one day all our people who have been running helter-skelter will return home to rebuild their homes. We want to hear results that the girls are brought home. Tinubu is our hope through her work”.
  Zana also recounted the losses that has befallen his family and said his uncle lost 16 members of his family, with four girls and three boys being kidnapped when Bama fell and that they were still not back. Also, his sister’s husband, an Islamic cleric, was murdered because he refused to join the dreaded sect. His sister, he said, is one of the IDP camps in Maidugiri and lamented the horrendous suffering of his people under the insurgency.


Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 unites the Diaspora with the motherland


By Anote Ajeluorou



When Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 on International Symposium on Toussaint L’ouverture (Fran├žois Dominique Toussaint Breda) opened last Saturday at Administrative Staff College, Topo, Badagry, it was a euphoric reunion between some Diaspora members and Nigerians. It was also a moment to re-ignite the need to forge closer ties between them for the development of the motherland. The call became urgent in view of myriads of problems plaguing the motherland, with Africa’s young professionals forcibly migrating to the west through perilous routes for economic reasons that are reminiscent of the cruel Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago.
  The festival also coincided with the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1988. Organised by Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku-led African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 had guests from Haiti, Benin Republic and Nigeria as resource persons who articulated the fundamentals of synergy between Africa Diaspora and the motherland. It was chaired by Prof. Olusola Ojo of MacPherson University, Ogun State.
  Dr. Amos O. Abisoye of Department of Social Sciences of Crawford University, Ogun State, best captured the economic travails of the continent in his paper, ‘African Political Leadership and Development: The Diaspora Connection’. He’d argued, “A thin line differentiates the forced migration of the slave trade era from the rampant incidence of brain drain which is now the order of the day in Africa. The west has continued to pull out the best of Africa’s population today just as it was during the slave trade era.
  “Knowledge of the quantity and quality of African professionals in the Diaspora can only lead to lamentation for our motherland. The current pain and hardships faced by Africans leave no one in doubt that if a slave ship would anchor on the Atlantic shore today, many Africans would volunteer to jump in it only to be taken to the west”.
  Earlier, Olaide-Mesewaku categorised the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as genocide against African people when he said, “The annual Badagry Diaspora Festival exemplifies the creative power of history: reconstructing the tragic contextual features of the past history of a people for celebration of freedom and emancipation. The history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is a monumental genocidal crime committed against the continent of Africa from which Great Britain, Portugal, France, Spain, Holland and the United State (in the case of Badagry in particular) were the major beneficiaries of the spoils of this crime”.
  A Pan-African cultural activist, Jacques Nicolas, who flew in from Haiti, traced the history of Haitian revolution of 1891, led by L’ouverture, that saw to the independence of Haiti in 1804 that sparked off the gale of agitation for colonised people in Africa.
  He sued for the arts of the continent to be strong, adding, “And if the arts and the culture are both the card and the standard of a nation, we understand why the true African Renaissance will be through its culture, its arts and its traditions, as well as when all states on the continent will unite, not only among themselves but also with their diaspora to form a fishbowl world of this wonderful bundle of brotherhood and solidarity that will be the spearhead of a new Africa, the Africa of our dreams, and to which I am already so flattered and proud to belong, through me, the entire African diaspora, a new Africa that will no longer be the maligned, disinherited and overused continent, but a continent that will finally play its role in global governance”.

A Haitian lady who has since returned and settled in Benin Republic, Madame Mere Jah Evejah, extoled the virtues of women in the Haitian struggle for independence, and tasked the United Nations, since declaring 2015 -2024 International Decade of People of Diaspora to ask France to return “the ransom of freedom that was extorted and stolen from the Haitian people to be given back to them so that Haitian men and women’s creative genius can shine once more”.
  For daring to gain their freedom, France and the U.S. forced Haiti, she said, “to pay the heavy price of 90 million gold francs to Charles X regime in France in exchange for recognition of its sovereignty and for lifting its blockage. Haiti also had to accept discounted rates for exporting sugar to France”.
  It took Haiti 122 years, from 1825 – 1947, to pay off the huge debt, and accounted for Haiti’s inability to develop, Evejah said.
  Also suing for a pan-African solidarity, with Nigeria leading the way was Mr. Oluwafemi Kochoni from Benin Republic, who said Africa needed a reeducation to unclog its mind of mental slavery and rethink the continent’s age-old and time honoured values for its regeneration. He said, “After re-education of Africans to their roots, then come Pan-Africanism, then political power to be able to take decisions. We need games of alliances in African to forge ahead and to better defend ourselves. It’s time for Nigeria to be the home of Pan-Africanism. African countries are watching Nigeria. We depend on you for the struggle of Pan-Africanism to stabilize Africa”.
  Founder, PanAfrican Strategic and Policy Research Group, Gen. Ola Ishola Williams (rtd), spoke on ‘African Traditional Religious System as the Foundation for Global Africa’, where he projected Africa’s religions, as the basis for the emergence of a new Africa capable of taking care of its needs, as all the scientific and technological innovations the continent needs are enshrined in its indigenous religious practices. He sued for a jettisoning of foreign religions on the continent.
  Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Yusuf Usman, represented by Mrs. Edith Ekunke, spoke on ‘Slave Trade Monuments in Nigeria as Tourism Products’. Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode, represented by Mr. Tunde Anan, promised to energise efforts to develop Badagry into a tourism hub.


Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015… Atonement, Restoration of Dislocated African Diaspora


By Anote Ajeluorou



THE coincidence appears to be deliberate. When Badagry Festival 2015 opens proper on August 22, it would be during the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1988.   
  Significantly, one of the highlights of the festival is a symposium titled Toussaint L’ouverture: The Catalyst for the Global Struggle of the Black Race, dedicated to the memory of the iconic Haitian revolutionary L’ouverture.
  His was the first successful revolution wagged by an enslaved people who created the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere on August 23, 1791.
  For the people of Badagry, founder of African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO) Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku and the festival committee, Badagry Festival should be an important marker for Lagos and Nigeria’s heritage and its march to the future. After the symposium, there will be ‘Dark-Era Reminiscence Procession’ round Badagry township aimed at reenacting the ordeals slaves went through as they were dragged from the various hinterlands to Badagry for onward transition to the coast and into slave ships to onward journeys to strange land and hardships.
  On August 23 proper, ‘Door of Return’ ceremony will be held as opposed to ‘Point of Return’ that ushered out millions of Africans into slave ships. For Olaide-Mesewaku, the key aim of the festival is “to draw diaspora Africans back to their roots; the festival targets those dislodged from their ancestral homes to the diaspora, as Badagry played a decisive role in their dislocation.
  “The festival is designed to create a global platform for the gradual reintegration of the diaspora and to celebrate the history of the African diaspora, especially those that contributed to the emancipation of blacks from slavery and to promote the tangible and intangible heritage of Africa and Badagry, as melting points. Badagry used to be a transit point for taking away our ancestors”.
  Also evident as focus of the festival is the feeling of guilt and the need for its atonement by Badagry descendants of those whose ancestors played a crucial part in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade when Badagry town served as transit point for Africans sold for fripperies. For the atonement, three sets of prayers will be held in Badagry (traditional, Islamic and Christian) to bring the spirits of the aggrieved dead to rest and find peace as a result of the violent manner they died during the tragic slave trade era.
  “So many atrocities were committed in in this town (Badagry),” according to Olaide-Mesewaku. “That is why there is atonement during the festival, to atone for the dead during the slave trade dealings in Badagry”.
  Traditional atonement prayers will be held during ‘Vothun Festival of Catharsis’ on Wednesday, August 26 in Ajara Community. Vothun is the Ogu (language spoken in Badagry, its environs and part of Benin Republic) deity and religion that the slaves took with them, and which has grown in popularity and followership, now known in the Americas as Voodoo! The Vothun priest, Aloji of Possi shrine, Chief Z.O. Awhanvoyetho will lead traditional prayers alongside His Majesty, De Wheno Aholu-Menu Toyi I, Akran of Badagry and his Council of Chiefs.

DESIGNED also to project the Ogu cultural heritage and history, Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 will pay homage to L’ouverture, as a slave who became a revolutionary that led to the founding of Haiti. The festival started paying homage to important personalities in 2012, the first being late broadcaster Emmanuel Ahisu Agosu of Ajido. In 2013 Dr. Marcus Garvey was honoured for his attempt to bring back freed slaves in in the diaspora to their original homeland. Although L’ouverture was to be honoured last year, the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in parts of West Africa halted the plan as the festival was merely marked to necessitate him being celebrated big in this year’s festival.
  “L’ouverture was captured in Benin Republic, an Ogu,” AREFO founder said. “He led the Haitian revolution in 1791 against the French. It served as catalyst for the emancipation of slaves; it triggered the quest for emancipation even in the U.S., marked the beginning for freedom and inspired UNESCO to declare it the day of emancipation of the slave trade. You can see that the Blackman is a blessed man, but for the advent of history, the bad thing slave trade represents.
  “The festival will honour a man who left his imprint in the sand of time, especially the struggle for emancipation of Africans. It’s a sort of remembrance and honour of the role L’ouverture played in bringing about freedom to many”.
  Also, this year’s festival is in partnership with Haitian Embassy in Benin Republic, which will send a delegation, with another from Haiti, comprising government officials and performing artistes that will thrill audiences from far and near. There will be guest speakers from Haiti, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria at the colloquium. It will be anchored by Prof. (Mrs.) Alaba Simpson of Department of Sociology, Crawford University, Ogun State. Also, L’ouverture’s great grandson, lawyer and former member of Haitian Parliament Mr. Ernst Vilsaint will be part of the Haitian delegation coming to Badagry for the festival.
  A musical showpiece with Haitian Eveillard Nikerson leading the way among other acts will be staged on Friday, August 28.

THE issue of neglect of Badagry by successive governments in Lagos State has become legendary; it came up for discussion at the organising committee meeting held two Saturdays ago at the Badagry Heritage Museum. With its rich history, even if of the dark era slave trade, its slave trade monuments, Badagry is still a backwater in the historical evolution of Nigeria and Lagos State. Although a coastal territory with aquatic splendour like the entire Lagos, long stretch of beaches that ought to make it a tourism haven, Badagry is a mere dot on the map. Its rich tourism resources are yet to be tapped. Its slave history counterpart towns like Goree in Senegal, Bonny in Nigeria (location of liquefied gas plant), Elmina in Ghana and Ouidah in Benin Republic, Badagry lags behind the other towns and its tourism potentials continue to waste away.
  This prompted Olaide-Mesewaku to argue that the case with Badagry is unfortunate. He said although the state’s former governor Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola had a plan for the town, there were persons in his government that scuttled it for reasons he couldn’t quite understand.
  According to him, “Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) was first inspired by the history of Badagry, which ought to be a platform for African descent in the diaspora; it was built around the history of Badagry. For whatever reason, the festival was taken out of Badagry and it lost its focus. The venue shifted to other places, and could not attract its target audience”.
  Olaide-Mesewaku appealed to the current governor Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to have a rethink about tourism and take Badagry as its centrepiece. As he put it, “The festival was first named Badagry-Lagos Black Heritage Festival, but you can’t find Badagry in it again. Now, we have read Mr. Ambode’s address and we know his agenda and tourism is a great part of it. What can develop tourism is development through local festivals that bring in tourists for local benefits. Government should develop local festivals; it’s not only Eyo Festival that Lagos has. Other festivals can be exported to attract tourists to Lagos”.
  AREFO listed some of Fashola’s tourism projects that were later abandoned to the grief of Badagry people who are perennially left out of Lagos’ development quotient. As he recalled, “Fashola had very good intentions for Badagry, as a viable tourism destination, but he didn’t have to do it alone. The projects stagnated because be was misrepresented. He was frustrated and couldn’t achieve as much as he wanted. The Marine Beach Golf Course, Vlekete Slave Market and Gao Slave Tunnel were some of Fashola’s uncompleted tourism projects in the ancient town of Badagry. The Gao Slave Tunnel project was cancelled by the Ministry of Tourism and Inter-Governmental Affairs. Fashola wanted to brand Badagry as Slave Historical City. He saw the need for Badagry to be designated Tourism Destination for Lagos and Nigeria, but it didn’t happen. Mr. Ambode can surpass what Fashola tried to do in Badagry”.
  A member of the festival organising committee Mr. Hundeyin Seyido Mautin singled out former Commissioner for Tourism Mr. Disu Holloway, as the man to be held responsible for Fashola not realising his vision for Badagry as tourism destination. According to Mautin, “Holloway was not helpful at all. He was here (Badagry) and saw things for himself. What he saw, if not for hatred, was enough for him to act in our favour. Holloway always treated our budget with disdain. For him Lagos did not stretch beyond Lagos Island. Nothing came to Badagry in the last year.
  “But Ambode worked with Badagry at some point in his early career. If they can spend N400 million on LBHF, why not give us part of that? Ambode should look at Badagry as Osun Osogbo in Osun State in the interest of tourism in Lagos State”.
  The festival will come to a close on Saturday, August 29 at Badagry Grammar School playground, with cultural extravaganza.
  Other chiefs in attendance at the meeting were Baba Oja Ajokenu and Otun Baba Oja Chief Babatunde Ogunlola.


‘Why Home-Grown Affirmation for Literary, Cultural Enterprise Is Difficult’



By Anote Ajeluorou



ALTHOUGH Nigerian men and women of letters and culture have won and been awarded some of the best prizes and honours on offer both at home and globally, critical affirmation for cultural production at home is still a mirage. It still needs validation and affirmation from outside (Europe and America) to make it acceptable at home. For instance, while Nigeria and black Africa’s first Nobel Prize for Literature was won by Wole Soyinka, largely for his dramatic output, the state of theatre production in the country is still poor, as it is still struggling to find a footing almost 30 years since Soyinka’s literary feat.
  For award-winning journalist and latter-day writer Mr. Sam Omatseye, this situation has hampered the development of a virile literary culture, as it was still tied to the apron strings of the colonial masters, who continue to dictate the pace. Omatseye had the Honorary Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) conferred on him recently at University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. It was at the 17th edition of the eminent body’s yearly lecture and investiture, which had Omatseye and two other academics.
  With three DAME and three National Media Award (NMA) awards in his journalistic kitty, Omatseye has since turned his attention to creative writing, with The Crocodile Girl (novel), Lion Wind and Other Poems, Dear Baby Ramatu, Mandela’s Bones and Other Poems (all poetry), The Siege (drama) and In Touch: Journalism as National Narrative, as his titles.
  According to him, “To do well in literature, you have to first go back to our colonialists to be affirmed first by them, which isn’t a good thing. The literary establishment is still tethered to colonial loins. The winner of the Nobel Prize 2014, Mr. Jean Patrick Madiano, a French man, is hardly known outside France. In Nigeria, affirmation is difficult because you need the media to play up literature, which isn’t happening much in our media. It’s all about politics; that is what editors understand, which is sad. There’s more to life than politics. The school system is not helping out much by not feasting on our writers; the Ministry of Education - both state and federal - are too far from our writers. They need to work with the literary establishment, which is not even coherent.
  “Our only Nobel Prize came from drama, but drama is patchy. There’s no special government funding to generate interest in literature; no book division in the Ministry of Education and libraries have become outdated things in our clime”.
   The editorial chairman of The Nation newspaper also said prize organisers ought to generate a lot more media buzz for Nigerians to patronise the works being honoured. He also blamed the snail speed of literary development on the attitude of the elite, whom he accused of philistinism and a lack of interest and respect for an important cultural production like literature.
  He noted, “If Nigeria’s elite showed enough interest in literature, we will all value our own”.
  The continuing brain drain for greener pastures abroad that ensues Nigeria’s best intellectuals flocked to Europe and America is also a factor Omatseye blames for the poor valuation of literary output in the country. He, therefore, called for advocacy amongst the elites so they could actively promote, participate and openly identify and consume all forms of cultural productions. Omatseye said his last trip to London showed him how culture was being consumed voraciously by British citizens, as he could not get a ticket to buy as most of the theatres were sold out days before the shows, a far cry from what obtains in Nigeria.
  Omatseye, whose literary side just began to emerge a few years ago, said he was only just beginning to pay serious attention to his writing career, noting, “Every writer needs a great mentor. It’s just a part of my life that’s beginning to take off; it has come off tangentially”.

ON his Honorary Fellow from Nigerian Academy of Letter, which was earned largely because of his journalistic career, Omatseye expressed how dazed he was at being so honoured. As he put it, “It was a real honour; I didn’t see it coming. It makes me feel self-conscious how I present myself as a professional. They (NAL folks, all university professors of distinction in the humanities) are people older than me; they are like my father. People like Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the Oba of Benin are among past recipients. So, it’s humbling for me.
  “I was dazed by the citation about my feat in journalism; during the military, as a writer, we took on the establishment. I won three DAME and three Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA) in a space of about nine years. My columns have generated a lot of attention, sometimes bordering on sacrilege and heresy. I’ve never missed a week or repeated a column. I was so right about former President Goodluck Jonathan towards the last election on his economic mismanagement. But everybody was so into Jonathan it was as if I was writing heresy”.
  Omatseye said Nigerian journalists were still grappling with how to conduct their journalistic business in a democracy, as they had not prepared themselves well enough for the transition from military rule.
  According to him, “There is a lot to said in turning this country into a democracy. At that time it was hectic, especially for political journalists. I had to go abroad on a fellowship. I couldn’t come back. In democracy, journalism is trying to find out the role it should play. Journalists have almost become part of it; its role should be that of being corrective without being a part of it. We tend to look elsewhere when wrong is being done. But with President Muhammadu Buhari, it becomes problematic. Our role is yet defined; it is still trying to find its foot and direction”.
  He added that Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria (NPA), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) ought to organise a meeting point to properly spell out the role of journalists in a democracy. He, however, noted that with some media owners not being able to pay salaries, the media seem unprepared for the task ahead. The demand of new technology was also a challenge, Omatseye argued, which the media was still trying to come to terms with.