Sunday, December 23, 2007

Welcome to the Liminal state

Back from Gidi always with a humility about both the possibilities and challenges of life in Nigeria. it is difficult not to notice that unlike the cocoon or the matrix that we live in the Western world back in Nigeria everything seems constructed to test and demand the fullness of your essence both in the best as well as the worst way. A lot more on that much later. The picture I have scanned in is from BusinessDay newspaper of the 20th of December and captures the nature of the Liminal sate of not just Nigeria but also of the broader world in which we are living.

A Liminal State has been described as ' A realm of pure possibility where novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise'. Here 10 things for the new year that should give the wise inspiration for this emergent age.

1) China rising, is a trite fact but disturbing for the west. The Olympics will be a success and rebranding of China will be complete. Many in the West will continue to warn and their acolytes in Africa will criticize. China is not a friend or enemy of Africa but an ally whose interest will determine how it behaves. It is just business and it is time Africa gets beyond aid and friends to just doing business.

2) EU diminishing, is a fact that the recent Lisbon talks reveals but there are still enough African ass kissers who do not realise the power of competitiveness. It is time for a mature relationship based on requirements rather than handouts. Time to move beyond commodities to production of added value. Lets rock Divine chocolates y´all.

3) Growth polars are the new salvation. Yesterday the talk was of BRIC(Brazil, Russia, India, China). 2008 is the year of SANE , South Africa, Algeria,Nigeria, Egypt. Look out for the stock markets as well as phenomenal growth level. The African renaissance is about pure economics in 2008 and they will deliver.

4) Nuclear realignment is here. Forget the fight against proliferation, knowledge is now diffused and many will build plants and create their own capacity. Beyond Iran look again at Brazil, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

5)The dying dollar will become real. Bretton Wood fudge that has protected the greenback will not survive the year. South korea and China to be the first to break ranks then OPEC to follow or is it the other way round. Never mind buy other currencies dump the dollar.

6) Gulf of Guinea becomes the new Middle East back to its primacy in the 1800s no longer slave coast or palm oil now crude oil the new finds in Ghana to increase both volumes and competition. The days of 100 dollars and above a barrel is here.

7) Stock market is the new democracy in Africa with everyone rushing to buy into the returns of expanding shareholding. Check Kenya in spite of turmiol, Nigeria, Egypt to recapture eminence. 40% average returns too good to pass on compared to 4% and 7% in London and New York for 2007. Put your money where it feeds your future with profit.

8) The Al Jazeera jazz becomes the new wave as Africans now tell their stories to the world not just the amatuerish NTA news. Here comes the new wave fashioned by emerging confidence in the fact the stories interest the world and increasingly funded by a hungry Diaspora. The Africa Channel will rock.

9) Celtel roaming network will become zone for organising a new level of digitisation increasing pssibility of real trade between East and West coast in real volumes for the first time. Look out for Nigerians taking Sallah holidays in Zanzibar.

10) The backlash against Pentecostal churches start in 2008 in earnset. Only the truly committed will survive credibly . The days of Las Vegas churches touting tithes for earthly returns will be checkmate by increased prosperity through hard work and larger middle classes.

Never mind if any of these disturbs you . My track record on predictions are all on this blog. You can go back to last year and check how much came true. As for now the rum takes the edge of the impending recession in the UK. I plan my assault on Gidi (the sequel) with the best of my ideas and the burning passion for posterity. 2008 is the year for standing up for our children no more excuses, no more edging our bets let our children know they matter as we fight to build a legacy. My moment of 2007 is when my youngest Ami a year after visiting Nigeria for the first time asked me , Daddy I know you say we are descended from royalty but are you still a king? Why i asked. He goes, the way we were treated when we went to Nigeria is like everyone knew you and loved you. People looked after us all the time. I laugh and say of course we are royalty. Then he said why are we giving that up for England? For that there is no answer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

For Sister Shiela

Flags and Tomorrow

Our Fluttering Flag
Eyes mesmerised upwards
Doused in weeping rain
Drowned and limp in half-mast
Imprisoned by weight of burden past

Our Almond eyes
Shining in bronzed flourish
Nostril cast in flared pride
Scars etched like wrinkled smile
No outlets to release the bile

Deep sky painting
Captured in heavenly canvas
Horizon’s galore
Stains of rain erased
Showcasing rainbows palette
Going to work with tomorrow’s machete

Ile Ya

Picture by Rosanna Durruthy

I am on my way to Gidi. In fact today and as usual there is a lot to explore but too little time. As i usually say I come from a Islamic tradition and my family ie my wife and children are from the Christian tradition. Even though we are all now practising Christians but traditions and rituals have a strong hold on our psyche. Rituals are the vehicles that our ancestors use to remind us of the wisdom that they discovered. Depending on the ritual their always the journey, the pain , the triumph and then reflection. For many they are going through the Xmas ritual as a representation of the birth of Christ even though it is factually and historically incorrect. This year it coincides with the period of the Hajj to Mecca and Medina. This year is kind of special because my younger brother made Hajj . I imagine my parents will be truly proud of this. I wish him well.

I will be in Ibadan myself running a retreat for A3&O a telecoms content provider company in which I have a small interest. I will be there for the Ile Ya festivities that follow the Hajj. The ram, roasted, grilled and cooked. I have many stories to tell you much later. Especially recent trips with the Gliteratti and Cogniscenti, from St James Palace as one of the readers of the Queens Anniversary Award to innovative ; brief tea at the House of Lords and the piece de resistance launch of the new Aston Martin Design centre with my brother Oyedokun Lawson Oyekan as the artist in residence with his unique ceramics crowning this gorgeous cars. I will be back soon.

Ire O!

Monday, December 10, 2007

IQ Madness

Now Professor Watson of the Nobel Prized Eugenicist published his DNA recently and guess what? The man who views Africans with concern about their 'inferiority' apparently has 16% of his DNA from an African Great Grandfather. The most telling issue however is not the existence of a more recent African Ancestry but the addiction to the idea of measured intelligence as embodied in IQ test. Below is a brilliant article by Malcolm Gladwell who increasingly is the kind of public intellectual black or white that every nation needs. It is a must read for anyone who wants an informed position on this debate. For me the real point is that the only true response to racism is a life in pursuit of excellence and character evolution.

Ire O

Sunday, December 09, 2007

What is a Lyrical Terrorist?

The young lady above is Samina Malik whose poems supporting the so called Mujadhein warriors and writing about decapitations just got sentenced to probation and community work for this and downloading an alleged terrorist manual from the internet. For me this is a very scary development when you get punished by the state for what you think and write about. It is a world bent out of shape by fear and insecurity. It has blinded people to the possibility that the constant hysterical interplay always leads to escalation and dehumanising. Take the Teddy bear issue, when a group of school kids named a toy 'Mohammed' of course someone lodged a complaint very likely a person offended that this British woman had come to the Sudan to 'lord it over them' . If the British media had any sense they would have played it cool but this was too much of a chance to play the 'mad mullah' card that they went at it with the subtleness of the Sirocco in a deserted Sicilian village. As if by remote control the usual crowd of unemployed and underproductive turn out for their standard flag burning carnival. All stereotypes confirmed the Teacher gets back to UK is front page news for a few days and maybe longer if she can conjure up a 'toy boy' preferably from an ' exotic' location maybe Zanzibar. Then all players take their pills and go back to the dark room or in the case of the press a coffin in a cellar somewhere in Canary Wharf until the next opportunity to dust off the film of mildew that spans their intolerance.

Poor Samina how else can she rebel , dressed like a forlorn widow with many passions buried inside looking for legitimate outlet. Nothing in her profile suggests that what she expresses in her poetry is not something she would forget in a proper hormonal release. The problem is that she is a Muslim for how else does the Nihilistic lyrics and considerations of Goths, Dweebs and the many metal related obsessive who have visions of murder and mayhem as well as downloading more serious stuff gets ignored. I think the world is losing all sense of porportion.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


There are few times I have agreed with Dele Momodu the celebrated publisher of Ovation Magazine and an old friend from university. His success with Ovation magazine is very astute especially in using the Nigerian obsession for lavish consumption and showing off. He is also a very good serious journalist when he bothers to express that side of himself. I just finished reading his latest column in This Day newspaper on Ibadan and I agree entirely with his analysis and call to action. Ibadan as many have heard said is the Intellectual hub of Nigeria and should be its Research and Development Capital. Its proximity to Lagos and its tradition for churning out the best minds are only secondary to the fact that it has scores of Higher Education Colleges and nearly ten universities within 100km radius. Ibadan should be like Cambridge/ Boston axis in the United States.

I am an Ibadan man, I sweat Oluyole. My family goes back to before the Efunsetan that Dele Momodu talks about. My dream day starts with Alapa seeping palm oil or Ekuru with drops of salt as well , I would follow with a lunch of Amala supported with abula with Oro fruit as dessert. I perpetually search the web to add to my stock pile of Epo-Akara and Barrister CDs . I know my Itu taba from Foko. Ibadan is at the heart of what i represent. Oke Ibadan is the brand for the views I express. I have never fully addressed the role of Alhaji Adedibu, the strong man of Ibadan politics even though apparently my family has a long history with him. Without being bogged down in history recent events are also instructive which include my brother Saheed running against his Son for Senate in Ibadan. His Son was brought back belatedly to Nigeria a day before the primaries and 'pushed up the line' in an arranged exercise of democratic success. As a result I should not be a fan and i am not. However Alhaji Adedibu's so called Amala politics is actually a modern Robin Hood operation without the romance. Whilst the elite, modern politicians in the State do not want to 'dirty' their hands with the great unwashed of Bere, Molete, Agugu et al but would rather sup in Bodija with their Middle class supporters, they seek to use Alhaji as a bridge to the working classes. He demands his price with little scruples which he proceeds to share with many whose needs blind them to the longer term consequences of their actions. Ibadan has become his playground unfortunately without any checks and balances. It reminds me of the stories about the behaviour of Bashorun Ogunmola of old whose only restraint was my Great Great Great Grandfather Balogun Ibikunle. As such there is nothing new about an 'erratic' Ibadan 'Strongman '. Adedibu is not the problem but a symptom of broader old disease present in all of Ibadan. It is manifested by an exceptional acceptance of nuances, a studied ambivalence towards conflict, a romantic indulgence for rascals and a pragmatic amorality. It is a double edged sword that allows deviant geniuses to thrive but also cultivates despotic eccentrics. The latter is essentially true when inspirational leadership is totally absent as a true north for the people. This is the root of present predicament for in the absence of vision the people are perishing.

Many now accept the conventional wisdom, that Ibadan is in terminal decline. His young (yes he is male or how else would you describe the home of warriors) desert in droves for the accepting anonymity of Lagos. They run for dear life from the slow death offered by an older generation trapped in gossip, personal conflict and unproductive traditional rituals. They run from the early evening shut downs and the lazy hand of routine. Who can blame them?

I however hate to disappoint the lazy common sense that is now the song and dance of the nattering punditry in the Country as well as wider Diaspora. It is too early to sing the demise of Ibadan and its rusty roofs. It will be a costly thing not just for the city, the state, the country but for the whole of West Africa. Recently the Economist in a piece of inspired commentary raised the vexing issue of the death of the publishing industry in Nigeria and the attendant difficulties for the New breed publishers like Farafina and Cassava. It missed a critical point, the backbone of the entire Nigerian publishing industry which in turn is the centre for West Africa is on one street in Ibadan. As you drive from Sabo to Jehrico crossing over the railway lines you can see them on the left side in their varying states of decay and disuse former giants that carried the entire African Writers series which are classics in the same manner as any in the world. Shadows of a once great industry the churned out Achebe, Ngugi, Camara Laye, Soyinka amongst many others. This is a metaphor for Ibadan , a harbinger for Nigeria , an omen for West Africa and a tragedy for the continent South of the Sahara. If nothing is done it will be a true loss for the rest of the World. It is time for all and sundry who care for the power of ideas, the role of innovation and the genius of the African mind to participate in restoring Ibadan to its intellectual best. The alternative is the mourn another 'Timbuktu' this time watching it happen in real time.

Dele Momodu's article is linked below.