Unhealthy Environment: Pointers and Solutions

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A concern for the environment has now taken the front burner in today’s political and social discourse. Concern over the environment is no longer viewed as alarmist. Increasing evidence about the effects of pollution on the environment and the human population and the emergency over the increasingly depleting natural resources of our earth has compelled all countries of the world whether rich or poor, to now become acutely conscious of our environment and the need to keep it healthy.

The destruction of the earth’s composition is as a result of myriad causes chief of which are the activities of man caused largely by massive industrialization and over-population of the human species. Consequently, the degraded environment becomes unhealthy both for human beings and the sustainability of the entire ecosystem. An unhealthy environment therefore, is an environment which has undergone changes to its natural state that instead of been able to uphold the flourishing of flora and fauna becomes dangerous to such. However in this essay we will define an unhealthy environment as one that cannot sustain and as such becomes dangerous to the safety of human existence. Unfortunately unhealthy environments have been proliferating at an alarming rate as human activities in our villages, towns, cities, and countries continue to degrade the ecosystem.

 It is not very difficult to isolate unhealthy environments. Science and knowledge has progressed so much that unwholesome areas of living can be identified with ease. Some of the indicators of unhealthy environments are polluted air and water bodies, erosion of land surfaces, illicit disposal of waste materials (including household, sewage and toxic elements). Others are over population, scorch earth farming practices like overgrazing and uncontrolled deforestation to make way for farmland.

A community in which the water bodies have become polluted is an unhealthy one because this raises the risk and incidence of water borne diseases like cholera and river blindness. This scenario is played out in numerous villages and cities around the country and the world at large. Water bodies which are used for drinking and have served as such for very many years are polluted with effluent, solid waste and in Nigeria, frequently by refuse dumps.

During the farming season communities are seen to relentlessly persist with the practice of bush burning to clear farmlands. This activity is unhealthy for the environment because burning releases great amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, kills soil micro and macro organisms and devastates the land in such a manner that it usually takes many years for the land to recover. This practice also alters the habitat by fostering the growth of hardy fire-resistant flora some of which are not natural to a particular ecosystem but flourish when its natural inhibitors are removed permanently. Unhealthy environments caused by air pollution have been increasing as people become richer and can afford cars. Vehicular transportation has been credited with causing a great percentage of air pollution. The health hazards attributed to unhealthy air quality is estimated to run into trillions of dollars globally. Some of the ailments associated with this distortion in the atmosphere are lung and respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis which scientists acclaim has been on the rise. Air pollution arising from vehicular emissions and heavy industrialization which send huge quantities of carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere have been squarely blamed for the green house effect and as a result the heating up of the globe which is melting the polar ice caps, has increased sea levels and forced the shift towards more environmentally friendly means of powering vehicles like hydrogen fuels and hybrid electric cell batteries. Air pollution as a leading cause of unhealthy environments have raised so much concern that environmental scientists believe it can have so much negative impact on the globe affecting even civilization itself.

Another ready pointer to identifying unhealthy environments cum communities is the negative effect or fallouts of industrialization. In our country today, we are not new to stories about the devastation of communities and the environment by oil spills from petroleum pipelines, dumping of non-biodegradable chemicals and waste materials, smog from industrial furnaces and engines. Such practices (sometimes caused by accidents) destroy aquatic life and food sources, deoxidize water bodies and deplete nutrients from them, while aiding the proliferation of dangerous aquatic plants and acidify the soil. These conditions make farmlands infertile and in many cases the minerals are taken up by the plants and pass on to the body when the plants are eaten.

From the foregoing it is clear that no matter whether it is land, water or air that becomes polluted and as such unhealthy, the end result is that the health of man is compromised and the quality of life reduced because our happy existence is tied to that of the environment. Scientists claim that of the many ailments that bother people more than a few are triggered by living in unhealthy environments. Yet it is irreconcilable that Man refuses to heed these warnings and goes ahead to further jeopardize the already fragile ecosystem when it is our species (Man) that will lose the most from any environmental disaster. These notwithstanding there are solutions to environmental problems in our communities.

The first and foremost solution to unhealthy environments/communities is a change in attitude.  People must become reoriented to develop a sense of responsibility and respect for the environment. Clearly, while in the quest of exploiting the natural resources to raise standards of living, care must be taken not to damage the environment and when it inadvertently becomes damaged consideration must be taken to control the environmental degradation. Social scientists now talk about environmental communication as a potent means to solve the problems of unhealthy attitude and practices towards environmental issues.

Environmental communication here is an information effort from governments and non-governmental organizations and the media to enlighten the citizens on how best to live in harmony with the environment. Such an endeavour has taken root in the developed world and citizens of such countries are now environmentally conscious and understand issues like recycling, renewable energy resources, carbon miles and footprints.

Another solution is legislation to protect the environment. Environmental laws that control man made pollution and that seek to protect the natural resources from misuse. Currently there are such existing laws but the greater need is for better enforcement and greater consistency and integration with other laws that address environmental concerns.

Non-governmental agencies, United Nations organizations, environmentalists, Green parties and politicians and celebrities should support and stand for environmental causes in public, lobby for environmental protection and be examples to facilitate the general public imbibe healthy environmental ethics.

As we grapple with increasingly unhealthy communities and environments we must understand that our planet Earth is the only one known to sustain life in the solar system and so we must protect it from the ravages of carbon emissions, acid depositions, ozone layer destruction, loss of wild lands, soil erosion, water pollution, illicit disposal of refuse waste and other toxic substances.

British Council Nigeria/Save our Environment 2007 National  Winning Essay for World Environment Day Celebrations.

Twitter: @sirwebs

Ekiti Tour: My Take

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Disclaimer: I was not in Ekiti, have never been to Ikogosi and am not interested in going to Ekiti soon. But I might love to see the Osun grove.

The first thing you learn in Communication school is that “brown envelop” is a no go area. It is unethical, unprofessional and gives the media a bad image drone the lecturers. The first thing you learn in the real world is that Communication 101 is balderdash and that the “brown envelop syndrome” is deeply rooted in the system and the psyche of media practitioners in Nigeria; that it is seen as per diem, logistics, allowances, “PR”…… anything but what it is, which is plain old bribery.

The advent of social media with the rise of the citizen journalist shook up mass media systems. The blogger, Facebook celebrity, Twitter overload etc became a source of news even trumping some traditional news sources in believability, speed and audience traffic. But the “brown envelop” system seems to have arrived web 2.0 as evidenced by the debacle in Ekiti State.

Who pays the blogger, the twitter activist, the ardent YouTube auteur? Where does the loyalty of the social media personnel lie? and can it be bought? The questions are many. Back to Communication school, and the course on advocacy and development communication. For change to usually happen, change agents routinely collaborate with opinion leaders (read bloggers, Twitter overloads, Facebook celebs etc) using the two-step flow model, to persuade their followers. Neglect opinion leaders like traditional rulers, village heads, respected elders, women leaders, youth leaders, clergy, respected government workers etc and attitudinal and behavior change will be near impossible.

It is obvious that governments, political leaders and the powers that be are uncomfortable with the political conversation on-going on social media. Both the ruling party and the opposition have struggled to gain a bit of traction with users, especially on the more cerebral platform of Twitter, with its lightening speed, 140 character ease and power to make a picture, article, statement etc go viral in no time.

Social media is an enigma. As a still evolving platform, rules, etiquette and principles are still in a flux. Yet, as a spin-off of a profession which has been in existence since Gutenberg invented movable type, the old rules and ethics still suffice and apply. In fact it is obvious that nothing is new on the earth and actually the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Back to Ekiti, the state rumoured to have the highest number of professors (rumoured, yes, Anambra thinks otherwise), and we are in an ethical morass. Like a man caught in a pit of quick sand, the more you struggle the more you’re in trouble. Selected bloggers were taken on a tour of the state, hosted to a forum with the State Governor and before being sent on their way allegedly paid fifty thousand naira each (I wasn’t there. That is the gist on social media). The opprobium is that they were paid before they wrote a single word

Wikipedia describes Ekiti thus The State is mainly an upland zone, rising over 250 meters above sea level. It lies on an area underlain by metamorphic rock. It is generally undulating country with a characteristic landscape that consists of old plains broken by step-sided out-crops that may occur singularly or in groups or ridges.”

The name Ekiti is derived from Obiti referring to hills which the original settlers encountered when they arrived the area. However, a cursory read of the Ekiti State Wikipedia page gives one the idea of a politically feisty zone. Barely anything is written on culture and tradition, there are no pictures and justice is only done in the history portion that details the migration of Olofin, Oduduwa’s son and the father of the Ekiti. I think the Ekiti State government should start their social media crusade from the Wikipedia page where the second paragraph starts thus: “Following a prolonged political crisis, President Olusegun Obasanjo imposed a military administrator (General Tunji Olurin) on Ekiti State in October 2006.”

I think the uproar generated by the fifty thousand is unfortunate. Even though some experts says no publicity is bad publicity, public relations is reputation building and infamous is a polite insult.  Maybe next time the Governor would rather host social media journos via a Google + hangout and post pictures of infrastructural development on Instagram. That way he saves on the spend on “logistics” and “perdiem” and save all of us the expending of “hot air.”

@sirwebs

Yours Sincerely: Not a Letter

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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  – MLK II Letter from Birmingham Jail

And we thought letter writing was dead. In the recent past with the advent of internet, email, mobile telephony and social media, the art of letter writing was driven to the background and NIPOST, Nigeria’s flagship postal agency, almost turned into a parcel shipping service. That is until the presidential missives started flying back and forth.

Growing up as boys we were told that Abraham Lincoln once wrote a letter to his son. And we strived to live up to the ideals expressed in the heartfelt correspondence from America’s iconic President to his son’s teacher. The letter admonished the boy’s teacher to instill in the young lad virtues like courage and patience, and one can see that Lincoln poured as much emotion and time in it as in the Gettysburg address.

 Respected Teacher,

My son will have to learn I know that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend…..

Another emotion laden letter that came into prominence was the lovely letters Mr. Mandela wrote to his then wife Winnie while incarcerated on Robben Island. Full of pain and love and poetry, Madiba poured out his soul and frustrations in the letters telling Winnie how he missed her, the love of his life, and their children. The letters are now iconic because even after divorce, not a word of ill did Nelson speak against her.

                        My Dearest Winnie,

I have been fairly successful in putting on a mask behind which I have pined for the family, alone, never rushing for the post when it comes until somebody calls out my name…………Letters from you and the family are like the arrival of summer rains and spring that liven my life and make it enjoyable….

Half the New Testament is composed of letters – epistles – from Apostles to other believers. Whether it is one of Paul’s correspondences to the churches in Asia Minor, or to specific disciples of his, the content always points to “edification.”

May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment. But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus. 2 Tim 1: 16-18 (NEV)

In school, letter writing was an important part of the studies. One had to learn the science of the informal letter, the  art of the formal letter, and the one in-between; of salutation and conclusion; and the need to be clear, concise and polite. In the senior school examinations at the end of secondary school an inability to write a letter is costly and can make one lose a place in the university. So it is with glee and surprise that letter writing – that lost art – is back in the front burner.

Many leaders and politicians have achieved more with letter writing than with tanks and guns. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword. However letters can be acerbic too. In the war sodden fantasy novel, The Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister writes ominous letters (via Raven) that culminate in the Red Wedding. It ends the war and violates the laws of hospitality (guest right). But Tywin was a man without scruples who said it was more humane to kill a dozen noblemen around the dinner table than a thousand men on the battle field.

In this digital age of the email and instant messaging and the 140 word limits. And in a society of instant replies and instant gratification where we have lost the patience to wait, it will be cheeky to remind people that the Pony Express was once thought of as lightening fast.

Yours Sincerely,

@sirwebs

Image of the year: That Obama Selfie

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In November, 2013 the Oxford Dictionary announced the word ‘selfie’ as the word of the year and included it in the dictionary. This December, President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and Ms Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, have conspired to make their selfie, taken at the Memorial for Nelson Mandela, image of the year.

Acting like excited teenagers on a day out these world leaders got caught up in the moment and couldn’t resist taking a self-portrait of themselves. Journalists have reported that everybody else was taking pictures too, especially of the dignitaries sitting in the VIP section. Everybody, that is, except Michelle Obama whose stern look betrayed her disapproval.

In diplomatic circles, planning is essential. Itineraries are scrutinized and synchronized and the uncommon and potentially ambiguous eliminated. But sometimes ‘unplanned’ moments like President Obama shaking the hands of Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba, occur, amidst discomfort and gritted teeth. While the White House has dismissed any thawing of relations because of the handshake, Havana is gleefully playing it up as a sign of positive development. So the question for the diplomats would be was the presidential selfie with the European Prime-Ministers on the schedule?

When the initial images of the selfie surfaced, commentators described the Lady Prime Minister as unidentified until she was properly recognized as the Danish Statsminister. Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democratic party is the first female Prime Minister of Denmark and has been Prime Minister since 2005, and while she is a good looking woman she is also a handful and politically savvy, as in a single stroke of diplomatic finesse she enraptured the two leaders of the ‘free world,’ the leadership of the Anglo-American axis that arguably rule the world. Not even Thor with his divine hammer can knock up such a favorable coalition for the Danes.

But Madam Prime Minister couldn’t charm Michele who with a cold look, reminiscent of Loki, froze the ‘summit’ and broke up the coalition. The consequences of her actions could be dire. I fear that the price of Danish Cookies may soon hit the roof.

 

WOLF HAUNTS

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It’s four months and counting, the university lecturers are still on strike, young people are more interested in Skelewu than in science and the appalling reading culture of the youths is still in the news. Being an 80’s kid who grew up when reading was a fun past time, I’ve been reading Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize winning novel worthy of a prominent position on any mantelpiece. Reading Mantel’s fictionalized epic of the shenanigans immanent in Henry VIII’s court as he navigated a divorce from his Queen and from Rome, with its array of intrigue and lies and spies, dovetailed seamlessly with the shenanigans of the NSA and the USA and its allies over electronic eavesdropping.

Studying the impact of Google on new media via Coursera, I learnt that the array of gadgets and gizmos available in our post modern world has produced a highly distracted citizenry. Long form reading, like proper writing, is going out of fashion as ‘netizens’ prefer to flit from one attraction to another. The consequences are the lack of proper in-depth thinking which has been the pillar of civilizations, and on a lesser note, the wrong spellings that teachers now face in essays.

Even though the internet is a good thing and has facilitated learning worldwide by instituting free and massive flow of information, Edward Snowden and co have continually drawn attention to the ills and dangers; and words like data mining and ‘filter bubble,’ originally tech buzzwords now connote danger and evil akin to wire-tapping and hacking, and Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ now sounds hollow and sinister.

In 2013, while America the dominant nation in the world deploys high-tech methods to ‘bug’ the communications of enemies and allies, Cardinal Wolsey, the enigmatic, infamous ‘churchman’ of the 1520’s – when France was battling the Spanish for ‘world’ dominance – would have simply sent a spy (preferably a coy, stupid looking servant) to eavesdrop on any person that affects his interest. This shows that even though we have 500 years distance from Henry VIII’s England, nations still suspect each other and the word allies is at best sentimental. Methods may have evolved but humans are still the same.

So from Angela Merkel to Cardinal Bergoglio to Joe the average (where the heck is he?), the spying drama continues to echo and confound. And all of a sudden my Google search bar looks ominous; as ominous as Anne Boleyn’s disapproving looks. 

@sirwebs

Blackberry: Is the fruit rotting?

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I took a blogging ‘summer holiday.’ But hopefully I am back at just the right time. As I type these words, gunmen are still holed up in a Nairobi Mall in Kenya exchanging fire with the Kenyan Defence Force and confirmed and unconfirmed reports filter in from the North-East of Nigeria as Boko Haram militants continue their, now attritious war, with the Nigerian Army.

But for many young people across these climes, especially the social media savvy type, the biggest news of the week is how to download the iOS 7 and the BBM for Android and iOS. Blackberry, taking a huge hit in the Smartphone market and suffering a slow death, has made its flagship chatting application ‘cross platform.’  Cross platform here does not include Nokia’s Window’s Mobile, meaning that Blackberry thinks Nokia should go back to making bicycles for Finns.

Though the stats continuously indicate that Blackberry is no more a ‘cool’ device to have in the rest of the world, the Canadian firm, formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM), has still got plenty of momentum in Africa, especially Nigeria, where BB, as they are affectionately termed, still sells bucket loads. New ones and huge amount of used ones too as all the abandoned Blackberries from Europe make their way here. A combination of cheap internet via the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) and its use a a fashionable accessory has driven this, obviously ‘against the market trend,’ and at the height of the ‘Blackberry madness,’ lynching of Blackberry thieves and a Nollywood film titled Blackberry Babes were the hallmarks.

Still popular and entrenched in Nigerian Pop Culture, social scientists, media watchers and tech geeks are all watching to see, if, and when, the Blackberry will change from uber-cool to unwanted now that the mother company is adrift and the BBM (ubiquitous, must-have, social media tool) is available on Android and iOS. The Blackberry has driven the social media interaction in Nigeria helping tens of millions of young people become active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and communicate with each other, affect the outcome of a presidential election, sound the death knell for print media in the country, lead a successful ‘occupy’ protest against fuel subsidies and of course spread innumerable rumours and misinformation.

Blackberry activists are geared up again, ready to use the platform to mobilize and engage citizens for protests against the national assembly this September. In the wake of celebrations marking fifty years of the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights brass of the day, it is a remarkable indicator of progress in technological development that, while King and his people wrote letters and trudged from door-to-door, today letters are typed on keypads and thousands respond.

So while my heart goes out to the carnage in Kenya and Borno and of man’s inhumanity to man worldwide, and while you search for a link to download BBM for Google’s Android, cast a thought for Google’s motto: Do no Evil.

@sirwebs.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream for Nigeria

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This is an adaptation of MLK II famous speech ‘I have a dream’ to fit the Nigerian situation.

I am not happy as I pen these words on the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s historic speech for freedom, as our nation Nigeria struggles to reach its potentials.

Five score years ago, a British colonist, in a symbolic show of political sagacity amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates creating the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria. This momentous decree was seen as a great beacon of light and hope to millions of Nigerians who had hitherto been a scattering of ethnicities.

But one hundred years later, the Nigerian is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Nigerian is still crippled by the manacles of nepotism and the chains of economic discrimination. One hundred years later, the Nigerian lives on a crowded island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity brought by the flow of black gold. One hundred years later, the common man is still languishing in the corners of the Nigerian society and finds himself a beggar in his own land. So I have come today to dramatize a shameful condition.

When the architects of our republic wrote the words of the constitution and Fani-Kayode moved for independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every Nigerian was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba as well as others, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that Nigeria has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as the common man is concerned. Instead of honouring the sacred obligation, Nigeria has given the common man a bad cheque, a cheque which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this cheque – a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of prosperity and the security of justice. We have to remind Nigeria of the fierce urgency of the now. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of poverty to the sunlit path of social justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the sand of nepotism to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

But there is something I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we will always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those asking, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Nigerian is a victim of insecurity. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Nigerian’s basic mobility is from the village to the ‘face me I face you.’ We can never be satisfied as long as our graduates are left floundering in the unemployment market for years. We cannot be satisfied as long as our votes are stolen in rigged elections. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Go back to Makurdi, go back to Aba, go back to Sapele, go back to Gusau, go back to Lokoja, go back to the savannas of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Nigerian spirit.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”

I have a dream that one day on the Islands of Lagos, the sons of indigenes and the sons of non-indigenes will be able to sit down together on the table of true brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Borno, a state sweltering with the heat of insurgency, sweltering with the heat of terrorism, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their tribe but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, up in Abuja, with its many politicians, with its myriad politicking and manipulation; one day right there in Abuja the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Efiks and others will join hands with Igalis, Ijaws, Urhobos, Tivs, Idomas and others as brothers and sisters.

I have a dream today.

 Twitter: @sirwebs

The Best Rejoinder to FFK

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“….the domination of Nigeria and Africa by the Igbo is only a matter of time.’’ – Charles D. Onyeama

 

In Chief Femi-Fani Kayode’s (otherwise more popularly known as FFK) asinine and bigoted rant at the Igbos he narrated so many things. As an Igbo, I want to place my rejoinder.

FFK seems to be know a lot of history but he doesn’t know this story, told severally across the River Niger about the confrontation between mammy water and Nnamdi Azikiwe. For the uninformed, Zik of Africa (FFK should note the Africa) and mammy water took out a bet on who will last longest when stuffed in a bottle. Zik took the first turn and went into the bottle. After a little while he signaled to the mermaid that he couldn’t hold his breath again and she opened the bottle. Smiling in anticipation of her impending victory she got ready to enter the bottle and gave Zik the keys to River Niger to hold. Once she ‘downsized’ into the bottle – not unlike a genie in a bottle –  Zik corked it tight, threw it into the Niger and walked away with the keys, the keys to the River Niger. The keys with which he could have used to open the floodgates to drown the Federal troops but for his magnanimity.

Chief FFK did not hear about the momentous trip of pre-independence Nigerian leaders to see Her Majesty in London. When Awo saw the golden cutlery used in the service, he pinched one when no one was looking and put it in his pocket. Only Zik saw the maneuver. So during the vote of thanks, Zik of Africa told the British delegation that he would perform a bit of African abracadabra for their delight. He will take a golden spoon and put in his own pocket and it will appear in Awo’s own. The Oyinbos were skeptical, but lo and behold when Zik put a golden spoon in his pocket and asked one of the hosts (not the Queen obviously) to check Awo’s pocket…….

FFK’s history teacher told him about Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams and Dr. Nathaniel King but conveniently forgot to tell him that Oluadah Equiano was Igbo and had written an autobiography in the 18th century. Stolen off the coast of Onitsha, the little Igbo boy showed classic Igbo enterprise and graft and became the first African author.

As I write this FFK has apologized for dropping the names of Bianca Ojukwu and the other delectable ladies in his diatribe. I want to say that Igbo men have for decades wondered how and why Bianca, the most beautiful girl in Nigeria, ignored all the young men and married someone old enough to be her father. She was reported to have no patience for young men. Now we know the source of her impatience with men nearer her age.

For you to successfully date an Igbo girl, you have to be smart, enterprising, confident and not stingy. For you to date three and flop, it is certain you are a ‘juu man’ as kids from my generation will say. Or as the whizkid generation will term it, “you have no swagger.”

 The Igbo live everywhere in Nigeria, build homesteads and businesses and like the Jews face hostility from indigenes because of their enterprise and prosperity. While some Igbos have gone as far as to try and prove common ancestry with the Jews, it is common knowledge that wherever you go in Nigeria and don’t see an Igbo man, you are best advised to flee. This includes FFK’s village.

The above piece is a journalistic  satire written in the tradition of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

 @sirwebs

 

 

The Spy who loved Me

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In John Le Carre’s spy novels he illustrates the lives of spies as they grapple with the physical dangers and the moral qualms and ambiguities of espionage. Mostly set during the Cold War, Le Carre’s psychological thrillers are different from the swashbuckling, adrenaline-pumping, all action Bond ones, even though Le Carre’s spies and 007 are all engaged in Her Majesty’s Service.

The travails of Edward Snowden draw parallels with Le Carre’s characters and situations, and even though we live in a post Cold War era, countries still spy on each other and agents and double agents are still faced with the moral ambiguities that come with taking decisions or partaking in actions that hug the ethical borderlines and fly in the face of everything one knows. Like Ygritte was always wont to say, “You know nothing, John Snow.”

As Edward Snowden revealed, Big Brother is watching and listening and we might as well all be living in a matrix. In The Matrix by the former Wachowski ‘brothers’ (one has recently had a sex change) the government of the day (alien machines infact) are so plugged in that just expressing fear or surprise could set off alarm bells and alert the authorities. In today’s matrix, the NSA and Prism and GCHQ, and all the other acronyms are so plugged in they can flip on the microphone in your android phone, let alone mine meta-data. In Le Carre’s The Spy who came in from the Cold, the line between good and evil is blurred and agents cross back and forth over the ethical and moral divide all in a good day’s job.

So I ask the question, which character does Snowden think he is playing? Neo, the ‘one?’ – the anomaly if you’re agent Smith – or George Smiley, or Hans-Dieter Mundt, or the many spies that Le Carre has spawned and written off? Spies who come in from the cold are an enigma. One never knows whether to pity them or to rail against them. Spies who end up consorting with lawyers and foreign governments are supposed to be turn-coats and double agents. Yet another part screams, what the hell are these Western Powers doing, remotely controlling my latest android gizmo?

I don’t know what they teach in spy school, but I do know that Edward Snowden realizes that Russia is not Zion. Russia and the Kremlin are more like the Oracle in The Matrix, another form of control. Control, however, in John Le Carre’s sagas is a hard nut realist who plays the game ruthlessly, without qualms and emotions. He understands that no matter whose ox is gored, no matter the consequences, what matters is that his home government (London) win.

Le Carre, a real life spy whose cover was blown by a double agent in the 1960’s, paints this unrelenting portrait of spies: “What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors, too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play Cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London, balancing the rights and wrongs? I’d have killed Mundt if I could, I hate his guts; but not now. It so happens that they need him. They need him so that the great moronic mass you admire can sleep soundly in their beds at night. They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me.”

Somebody find Snowden a copy of The Spy who came in from the Cold. He might need it to get past the cold Russian nights looming in the horizon. And flip off that shiny, mobile gadget. One never knows who could be listening in, old sport.

@sirwebs

 

THE ROYAL SON

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This past week has been dominated by news stories that swing back to ancient times. A sort of back to the future game, the headlines cast by Senator Yerima of Nigeria and the Royal Baby wait contain stories that reprise centuries old tradition and customs. For Senator Yerima, a former Governor of Zamfara state of Nigeria, husband to a teenage wife (he married her at thirteen), his legislative duties brought him opprobrium when he pushed through amendments that effectively lowered the age of marriage to below 18, effectively threatening to legalize medieval practices. For Prince William and the British Monarchy, the birth of a son has further strengthened the royal house of Windsor, effectively securing for the next two generations a bloodline that is over a thousand years old – stretching unbroken to William the Conqueror.

The wait and eventual delivery of the royal son engulfed the whole world in euphoria and unadulterated glee. The event, ultimately a political story, played out like entertainment, eclipsing all that Hollywood can offer. True glitz and star dust, the paparazzi and the proletariat were engaged with the royal circus so much that when the Prince of Cambridge arrived the news was heralded on ticker tape in Times Square and in Sydney and in Jamaica, where he will be King one day, and in scores of countries across the globe.

William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (France) and a descendant of Vikings, was crowned King of England in 1066 in London. Since then all Sovereigns of England have been able to trace their lineage to the French Duke, who, although he was King, did not live in England, but ruled from Normandy and ceded England to his second son at his death as his eldest had to inherit the Duchy of Normandy which was a more prestigious title back then. The British Monarchy thus is the oldest and most prestigious in the world today with the current House of Windsor led by Queen Elizabeth II highly revered and respected. The thousand year monarchy has managed to modernise while maintaining age long traditions and the birth of the royal baby was unique as the baby was destined to be sovereign no matter the gender.

British royal family news is keenly followed by monarchists and anti-monarchists. Be it births, deaths, weddings, divorces or Prince Harry parting naked in a Las Vegas hotel room, the unadulterated, unscripted, real life drama from Buckingham Palace is incomparable to the best reality show ever anywhere. It shows up the best and not-so-best parts of the human being. At the end of the day, the royals are people: people living in a ‘giant fish bowl.’

The yet to be named heir, styled Prince of Cambridge, is third in succession having displaced his uncle Harry. Expected to have a long name (his father is William Arthur Phillip Louis), he is behind his father to the thrones of sixteen independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Since his father is still only 30, and Grandpa Charles, the Prince of Wales, has still got to be King, added to the healthy longevity genes of the royals (Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth II), he will certainly accede to the throne when most of you reading this blog are dead and gone. But whether we are here or not, and whether the royal baby will be King of a big Commonwealth or just England only as some have predicted, at least the town crier will still be proclaiming, announcing the heralds of William the Conqueror’s descendants.

@sirwebs