Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vacancy! 21st Century Leaders required.

All over the world everything Obama is now celebrated and interesting. I vaguely remember being laughed off many dinner parties and drinking arguments amongst Nigerians in at least two continents or four different countries on account of my belief that the then Senator Obama will become President. I remember the derision that met with my pronouncements starting with a post here as far back as 2004/2005. The cynicism with which the possibility of an Obama Presidency was viewed in the sitting rooms of the Lagos Cognisenti was quite painful and dismissive. If however you have been a Nigerian idealistic Nationalist as I have been all my life you live with derision and disdain as a matter of course. Now they shamelessly shout hosanna Obama.

The point of that little tirade is to bring this back to some core set of issues for us in Nigeria about what the President Elect actually represent. Many locate victory and possibility in his ethnicity, his Charisma, his vision and organisation and all of this is part of the truth but very few recognise that he is the first of his generation to rise to this exalted office. A President unburden from the cultural battles of the 1960s, fashioned in the pragmatic 70s, evolved to majority in the Reaganomics of the 80s, inspired by the dotcom of the 90s and now in full service to shape the 21st century. A timely fruition of a Pragmatic radical whose commitment is unwavering but not hobbled by any ideology, a true commitment to by any means necessary.

In Nigeria where I live we have had many leaders who are in the mainstream of the Neo-colonial awakening that has had us in thrall since independence. At the core is are the following assumption that:

- formal education is the only credible problem solving tool and passing exams certifies true learning.
- westernisation is modernization
- development especially through infrastructure as well as industrialization is the main indicator of progress
- to achieve all of the above leaders through government can and if effective will orchestrate transformation leading to all of the above.
-all these will happen with the right leader who will ensure that this is all done within a few months of being elected.

These assumptions are what has led to or have been excuses for coup detat in the country. The orthodoxy of these assumptions is only tempered by the fact that there are two camps; the afromarxists who believe in all of the above but want it done through a centrally managed process and ; the arrangees who use the pursuit of the above to maintain the tradition of patronage and rent seeking. To my mind neither is better but a read of Adegoke Adelabu's Afica in Ebullition is quite insightful and still accurate on these people

We truly lack 21st century thinking not even the 22nd century one that we will truly need for transformation. The job description for what we lack are the following :

We need leaders with the following characteristics:

Curiosity: A true interest in our history and anthropology especially pre-colonial history as we seem to have the pattern of repeating them.

An Idealist sorrounded by competent managers

Complexity and Systems thinking: A basic understanding that we are and reside in a place where things are emerging and interlinked often requires the humility to see clearly what is emerging rather than confuse activity with progress.

Identifying the key questions: The humility to recognise that the challenge is not to find answers but to discover the real questions that we need to collectively answer as a nation.

Help us to discover our priorities

Free the people to do work that matters for the next generation

Execute at moments of clarity like a ruthless warrior

Recognise that we need to jump the stages to a new Africanness that is totally unprecendented

Build the links for the people so that they can interact and cooperate of their own volition

Inspire Nigerians to be Nationalistic not necessarily Patriotic

Elevate our women from the oppression of pre-set roles

Put the pursuit of ideas at the core of National discourse

Define excellence in terms of productivity

Recognise there is no Justice , there is Just us.

At the core of all of this is a core and respect for who we are , who we are from and who we can become.

If you are out there somewhere then it is time to set forth. We cannot afford not to take steps even baby ones. I remember that in 2004 while jogging to Barack Obama's DNC speech my heart told me that this was the future President of the United States how I wish I have the same view of any Nigerian in Public life. To be fair Governor Fashola represents a bridge to this role but I suspect we will not know fully till his second term. He has been bold and resolute, disciplined and focussed which is a rarity amongst our public office holders. He deserves quite a lot of support but we need more than one person and we need a movement. The median age of Nigerians is 17 we need a generation of leaders imbued by the spirit and competencies of this time. They need not be saints but must be obsessed by the need to transform our society in a sustainable way. Nothing less will do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here is a truly interesting Nigerian

Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Yola, Nigeria


* Do you want a Nigeria that works for you?
* Do you know the leader in you?
* Do you wish you knew what you could do?
Well then, come to the NIGERIA RALLY.
DATE: Friday, December 26th, 2008.
VENUE: Bays Garden Hotel, Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria. 
TIME: 10.00 am-4.00 pm [Plenary session]; 4.00 -6.00 pm [Planning session]
For a Nigeria that works for us all


1. that over N6.5 trillion was spent to pay salaries and allowances of Nigeria's 18,000 [s]elected and public officials between 1999 and 2008 while Nigerian workers receive peanuts as salaries?
2. that about half of Nigeria's annual revenue is spent to maintain the lifestyle of Nigeria's 18,000 [s]elected and public officials while national minimum wage remains at N7, 500?
3. that the 150 million Nigerians, of whom you are an important family member, are expected by the fortunate 18,000 officials to do nothing about this?
4. that our public schools will continue to deteriorate if you do nothing?
5. that the children of the 18,000 officials don't attend the public schools you or your children attend?
6. that the children of the 18,000 officials shall come back to rule over your less and under educated children if you do nothing?
7. that graduates of public schools stand little chance of getting good jobs in Nigeria compared to those of better funded private schools both within and outside Nigeria which neither you nor your children can afford except family members of the 18,000 officials?
8. that Nigeria's bad roads, poor electricity, collapsed health system, neglected agriculture and industrial sectors like her public education will not improve if you do nothing?
9. that "vision 2020" shall go the way of "vision 2000" and "vision 2010" if you do nothing?
10. that those [s]elected and public officials who may have employed you as a thug send their children to expensive private schools both within and outside Nigeria, and your children shall become thugs to their children in the future should you do nothing?
11. that the option of doing nothing is too costly and not a good option for you to even consider?

The desired change we seek can only happen through organized revolutionary action. But for long, Nigeria's rulers have urged them to "pray" while they prey on the hapless masses. Yes, we believe in divine intervention; but faith without works is dead. God has always worked with and through men and women who match their faith with necessary action. God will pull down our walls of Jericho, but He MUST have us walk round it 13 times. Are we ready for the WALK-LONG WALK TO FREEDOM?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Corruption 'The Nigerian excuse for failure'

Give any so called Nigerian thinker a few minutes they will complain to you about corruption in their country as if they have a monopoly over this human condition. At the same time they will locate this problem in others almost ignoring the fact that sometime in the past few days they have got an advantage over others through relationship, gifts or sheer bribery. As I watch the Governor of Illinois being arrested for amongst other conducts trying to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President elect Obama I am amazed even further. What are Nigerians try to get away with? This arrest is not unusual in the politics of the United States, Rep Jefferson of money in the freezer, Senator Stevens of Alaska amongst many others in the past year. In fact all the above are neither repentant nor did they go quietly out of public life. My point is that these things happen in a society that plainly delivers to its citizens and produces economic as well as social excellence in which many institutions work for the greater good. Across the world there are examples of how deep corruption operates as symbiotic within the national fabric of most countries. In Japan pretty much across the board, in Great Britain watch what happened with Al Yammamah, in South Africa well the whole Zuma saga is yet to play itself out, in India, Thailand you can name it this is a human condition. This is not a carte blanche for corruption but neither should it be an excuse for failure. It is a symptom that has to be managed, parasite that lives in the body politic that can only destroy the host if it is not managed because it can only survive if its host survives as well.

In Nigeria, yes there is a matter of scale but that has a lot to do with a failure of having any organising principle that truly balance the host / parasite basis for the symbiosis that seems to lead to a more productive results in other jurisdictions. For example the perpetual probe and hysteria that has paralysed the House f Representatives in Abuja from doing any of the peoples business. It will be certainly interesting to know how many laws are on the statute book in this current session of the House. I venture that there are no serious policy or statutory improvement on the other hand we have had one speaker after the other under microscope and the absolute obsession with acts of the Obasanjo regime. The same is true of the Executive branch caught in its own paralysis by constant policy reversal of its predecessor without any real strategic progress. All the excuses to destroy Nuhu Ribadu another anti-corruption fundamentalist who even though got the host / parasite balance thing out of kilter still worked in a Government with momentum and purpose that at least gave context to his role.

We must stop this Nigerian exceptionalism and stop finding excuses for failure especially when we blame all others than ourselves. Corruption will not go away what we need is a process that can deliver the dynamic equilibrium necessary for the growth and evolution of our society. In my own view we can achieve this by taking the following steps:

- Establish the key indicators for excellence for Nigerian society call it 2020 vision or anything else so long that it captures the imagination of the multitudes of Nigerians rather than the 'jones' of a few eggheads.
- Evolve operating principles and standards that are based on context as well as understanding of the different cultures that make up Nigeria into the foundation of how we will organise our society into the future. Once again this cannot be top down process.
- Start a national campaign of productivity and meritocracy to put equality of opportunity at the core of the Nigerian experience.
- Prioritise transparency with banks and other institutions rather than just criminal punishment especially using the tax code as the mechanism for reward and sanction.
- Criminalise unexplained and unproductive wealth.

There are of course many other ways in which this can be done however we cannot continue to celebrate consumption especially extravagance and yet wonder why the obsession with personal amassing of wealth at any cost or means. We have put wealthiness as the greatest aspiration in our society, promoted in Churches and Mosques every day and relegated service, innovation as well as productive excellence out of sight. Enough excuses I am sure there is corruption in Calabar but it is a clean city and it is Nigerian so how come my beloved Ibadan is so filthy? In Calabar the Okada's wear helmet for themselves and passengers. Come on guys no more excuses.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

President Elect of US a culmination of the Legacy of Malcolm X ?

There is palpable change in the air as you come into the United States. I swear the immigration officers at Mcmarran Airport in Las Vegas were almost welcoming. The one thing that the Bush Administration and it Fear Factor presidency has achieved is to turn this great nation into an insecure and fearful place. In any case the new President is on nearly all newsstands, the media using every opportunity to exploit his photogenic qualities and his hopeful disposition to fill the gaps in their post election circulation fatigue.

Everyone claims Obama including a Bedioun clan who recognise his smile (yes smile) in their lineage. The one name that is rarely ever mentioned in the Obama connection is that of El Hajj Malik Shabazz or Malcolm X aside from the psychic halitosis by Al Qaeda second in command Al Zhawairi . It is shocking even in that case that none in the media bothered to claim Barack as a culmination of Malcolm even then. As for me I have hesitated because there has always been a gross over-simplification of who Malcolm was or became especially at the time of his death. There is a tendency to caricature him as a darker spirit of the African American fight for Equal Opportunities and Civil rights. To many he was nothing other than a radical militant , to others an angry black man exemplified. The truth is that Malcolm was that and more, President elect Barack Obama has more in common with Malcolm than any other Black leader in the United States past or present. People better deal with it.

It is true that the then Senator Obama's post partisan, post racial message on the face of it is the realisation of the Marin Luther King message. It is also true that the media can embrace his meritocratic electoral success as finally judging by the content of character rather than colour of skin. On the other side of the equation President elect Obama represents things phenomenally in line with Malcolm X including the almost uncanny similarity in characteristics, ideology especially a truly African American world view. Lets examine these things.

The similarity in characteristic starts with a fierce intellect which engages and asserts the primacy of human dignity that emerged from an adventurous youth full of experimentation and self discovery. An almost uncanny physical similarity both being tall and lanky on the edge of being skinny. Their approach to speaking are extremely similar with an appeal to reason whilst Malcolm was a lot more eloquent and far more quick witted , the cadence and accent are quite similar if not identical.

Then there is the worldview which was manifested in different ways even though both are made from the same ingredients, the pragmatic radicalism captured by Malcolm's by 'any means necessary'. This is often reduced by the misunderstanding of others as a call to violent revolution only, in fact it meant any means that effectively delivered transformation. They were both community organizers, Malcolm in the Nation of Islam especially his work in the Mosque and neighbourhood of Harlem, NY and Barack in the South Side of Chicago. Unlike the rest of the civil rights leaders Malcolm was the first literal African american leader whose travels and interaction was not only inclusive but engaged the continent of Africa directly in his evolution quite like Senator Obama and his engagement of his father's continent. Both defined themselves with an authenticity on the issue of Race that is captured by Malcolm's 'I am the man you think you are' and updated in Obama's response to the Pastor Wright controversy. They both exude an authentic warmth and assertiveness that rarely needs to escalate to prove manhood. Both share an exposure too and understanding of Islam to prove a common humanity and engagement. Unlike most American leaders black or white they where both open enough to redefine themselves and their environment in eclectic ways including living and uprooting into new places and communities in which they developed deep and meaningful roots. In short they share an adaptive leadership.

This is a cursory exposition of an aspect of the Obama persona that most are blinded too and the mistake of the Al Qaeda second in command is similar to the blindness of his enemies on the American side the tendency not to see from many perspective or accommodate nuances. Maybe if both sides actually followed the true Jihad which is the internal battle for evolution and growth that both Malcolm and Barack seem to have embraced they would entertain possibilities that exemplify life and abundance rather that death as well as scarcity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The burial

My friend and muse Lelethu 'Leza' Lumkwana was sent to the home of homes last saturday. Here is what our connection was about this was one of my last Instant messages to her. This the result of what we both called walethu our creative force and connection.

"We live to die we need not fear just walk our path. So live like there is no tomorrow. Love dies and becomes peace, peace sleeps and become simplicity and she comes back as passion. Circles and cycles. the night is the father to the morning light and rain is the child from the womb of the sea. The powers that make life come forth is the belly of our choices as well as the sigh of finality. As I move on I invoke the night to be your friend so that you awake to the powers of your tomorrows without the concern of what you might eat because the fish opens its mouth so the master can pay his taxes. You will never want for that which will nourish your boy or grow your soul. Gnight" Wale 11.00am July2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

If only you knew Leeza


Yesterday a star stopped lighting up the sky, She was 24. Even at such an early stage she had branded the hearts of all she met as if in haste to lay a map of her trajectory. Lelethu Lumkwana at 24 was a courageous and loving mother to Zenande who is 3 years old. Lelethu is the only child of Ma Lumkwana.

She had such an hunger for life that she became the Editor of True Love Babe, South Africa at an age when many would be exploring their options. She wrote as she lived as if to capture every minute of her presence here. I hope many remember her evoking prose about her visit to Lagos that was posted on these pages. She was my friend , my protege, my running mate. Infuriating, exquisite, exasperating, exciting, she fully understood that complexity is not complication. She was complex and quite driven to express it.

Lelethu, God has been forgiving, life exciting and love fully expressed. Sleep well lovely Zim. You are now part of the wind that travels the world, the blazing rays of the sun, the gentleness of the morning dew, the depth of the late night. You my friend are now beyond the mundane, the pedestrian, the daily grind of averageness. You my friend are now part of the great oneness that is GOD.

Sun re!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What if Obama loses? The Genius of the groundgame.

I write this with my heart in my mouth. I have just watched my team Arsenal lose twice this week. Once losing a seeming impressive lead to our failing neighbours and now to lowly Stoke City. I worry this is an omen for Tuesday because there are many similarity such as talent, eloquence and capacity which have not delivered close to any expected results. Granted Arsenal is b no means the favoured team in the Premiership neither are they quite as organised as the Obama campaign has been. If on Tuesday Senator Obama loses unlike most I will not put it down to racism or any such like thing but say that in spite of the odds he came so far and completely rewrote the rules of organising a political enterprise or to be precise ' a start up political machine. He has literarily created a political machine that has vanquished most challenges before him in a little under two years. lets review:

1) The Challenges

These were forever a moving feast such as during the primaries, he was not black enough so African Americans would not vote for him; he was not capable of passing Super Tuesday since Iowa was a fluke and North Carolina was too black; he could not succeed in primaries like he did in caucuses; he could not overcome competition between African Americans and Hispanics; he could not win over blue collar white voters; He will not win white women's vote. In all cases he met and exceeded the challenges and the press moved on to the next set of hurdles for the National elections, he cannot heal the wounds from the primaries or win over the Clinton supporters; we should all watch out for the Bradley effect; Small town voters will never warm to him not after the 'bitter' remark; Reverend Wright will undo him; he can never close the deal. The focus, discipline and dignity with which the Senator met each challenge is a testament for those who say 'it is all small stuff, don't sweat it.

2) The Funding

Much has been said about his record breaking fundraising of over $640 million . The phenom is over 3 million contributors that form a large and significant part of the overall purse. It is quite a transformational process full of possibilities for the future. It started with Governor Dean but it is perfected by the good Senator redefining the capacity of the small contributor to empower candidates and reduce dependency on a few powerful individuals.

3) The Volunteers

Another record breaking model which uses the enthusiasm and networks of the multitudes to deliver a personalised marketing strategy ably supported by a phenomenal database of people and their interest in the Campaign. From all over national and international and not unlike the freedom riders people young and old are working to the mantra of 'Change we can believe in' . It is their movement but yet they do it with the discipline and focus that is unreal when one considers how tough it is to get a 15 people on message. There are 20,000 team leaders in the Obama machine overseeing 5.1 million volunteers ( that has to be a record).

4) The net- relations itself is mindboggling on Facebook alone there are over 2 million directly signed off 'friends'

5) The ground game includes another set of records which are 700 offices across 50 states with 13.3 million solid contacts and registering 1.9 million new voters. For the first time a Democratic candidate competes with his own evangelical team and volunteers. The same is true with Native Americans.

6) The Mediums there is a lot said about the 30 minute informercial but advertising on digital games is itself quite an innovation.

Senator Obama has confirmed an abiding mantra for those whose journey over adversity has been aborted by the expectation of fairness and justice. Simply the only answer to vilification, racism, sexism, unfair competition et al is excellence. There is no space for sentiment but time for the extraordinary. Whatever happens no one can take that away from Senator Barack Hussein Obama. He has answered all the doubters with extraordinary genius of his organisation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wassuup 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New African trading bloc

Three regional African blocs merge for a trade free zone from Cape to Darfur with 26 countries this might at last be the basis of a surge in Intra-Africa trade. here is the link :

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the pages of the Sowetan to Gods ears

Why breakaway party has appeal

22 October 2008
Zoleka Ndayi
The ANC being dominated by leftists will not sit well with foreign investors and the international community at large

The “anger”, “dented egos” and “selfish political ambitions” of the “disgruntled” versus the “arrogance” and “limited intellectual capacities” of the new ANC leadership and the PAC split from the ANC could not be used as the only points of reference in testing the viability of a breakaway party in the current scenario.
The policy and principle informing the split as well as the era during which the breakaway occurs are equally if not more important than the widely publicised personality elements.
Domestically, white conservative nationalism that informed the National Party and the resultant intensification of discrimination, segregation and repression led to the split of the ANC. The split was a response to white conservatism or dominance.
The radical elements within the ANC were to respond by espousing black conservative nationalism in the form of the PAC on the one hand, while the ANC, on the other hand, took a soft approach and embraced multiculturalism, hence the Freedom Charter with emphasis on equality.
But the current breakaway from the ANC is informed not by policy but principle. It is wildly held that the ANC under former president Thabo Mbeki excluded those who had alternative views. The centralisation of power meant the marginalisation of the lower party structures.
In a bid to change the status quo the Polokwane conference saw the excluded and marginalised becoming the centre of power.
But the new centre now tries to maintain the status quo by excluding and marginalising the former centre through “purging” them from the party and government structures.
In response, the former centre breaks away from the mainstream party by openly calling for the observation and restoration of the principles of the Freedom Charter, some of which the former centre itself did not respect during its tenure.
In tackling this challenge, the new leadership hides behind the “ANC culture”, the “ANC traditions” of internal debate, forgetting that political stability is a question of national interest and not necessarily party interest.
This stance was clearly demonstrated by ANC president Jacob Zuma on national TV when he objected to Mbeki’s challenge to a public debate about the reasons for his sacking from the highest job in the country.
This objection has the potential to strengthen the support of the breakaway party not only from within the ANC but among the citizens at large.
From an international perspective, the era of globalisation means that any political and economic agenda that seeks to attract the attention of the international community should embrace liberal principles. It seems then the breakaway party could be more appealing than the ANC.
The current leadership of the party includes such leftists as the South African Communist Party’s Blade Nzimande.
Though Zuma constantly assures the business and international community that there will be no policy changes under his government, it remains to be seen how the left will lead or live with neo-liberal ideologies.
This doubt is further supported by the feeling that the party is “dominated” by the SACP. On the other hand, the pioneers of the breakaway group are members of the middle class that espouses neo-liberalism, the principles of which dwell well with foreign investors and the international community at large.
Three main actors in the transition period, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Allan Boesak and Mosiuoa Lekota, played an influential role in attaining a democratic South Africa.
In the eyes of the international community and South African citizens this could add a score on the credibility of this trio’s venture outside the ANC.
This means those who hold on to the ANC through sentimental attachments, despite their lack of trust on the capabilities of the new ANC leadership, and those who are skeptical about its arrogance, might soon follow the three aforementioned leaders.
Mbhazima Shilowa on his own is an asset to this “outside-the-ANC” venture. Besides his struggle credentials and having been part of the mass democratic movement, he has a wider network in business domestically and internationally. He has a good track record of delivery during his tenure as Gauteng premier.
In addition to being appealing to the middle class, all these factors are in line with the interests of foreign investors, and add weight to the credibility of the breakaway party.
lThe writer is a lecturer in the department of international relations at Wits.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The House Thabo built

Something to make you think about how truly we never have proper standards to judge good leaders. Our love for populists in Africa and our addiction to instant gratification makes us very vulnerable to demagogues. Black Diamonds well Mbeki shaped the market and nurtured them with his policies here is their success so far. The desire for all or nothing makes Good the enemy of better and Better hate best. To Thabo Mbeki a true son of Africa and a true hero of every true African thinker.

Black diamonds sparkle on
Article By: Marcia Klein
Mon, 13 Oct 2008 12:36
SA's new middle class is still growing despite economic slowdown, writes Marcia Klein.

For the first time, the spending power of the three-million people that make up South Africa's black middle class has matched the spending power of the country's white population.
The latest Black Diamonds research by UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing and TNS Research Surveys shows that the black middle class has grown by 15 percent to three-million people over the past year, while their annual spending power has mushroomed nearly 40 percent to a massive R250-billion.
Black Diamonds are still growing in number, despite the economic woes that surround them.
Resilient to rates

A surprising finding of the research is that the black middle class has remained fairly resilient to the interest rate and inflation hikes that have put pressure on many South Africans.

Professor John Simpson, director of the UCT Unilever Institute, said that despite predictions of the black middle class reeling under debt pressure, the opposite is true.
"The most astounding evidence of their financial resilience can be seen in a 39 percent increase in spending power — from R180-billion in 2007 to R250-billion this year."
Rudo Maponga, Black Diamond research manager at TNS Research Surveys, said that, despite perceptions, the black middle class is not highly indebted. Almost half of them have a debt to income ratio of less than 50 percent.
Maponga said if economic conditions had been more favourable Black Diamonds numbers would have seen greater growth. The sector grew 15 percent in the year, but by 30 percent the year before.
She said growth had also slowed because the base was getting bigger, "which means growth will inevitably slow in percentage terms. What's also significant is that, despite the downturn, their spending power continues to grow, which suggests that this segment is also becoming wealthier."
Simpson said interest rate and inflation hikes had affected Black Diamonds, as they had everyone, but the effect had been patchy.
"But one thing is clear: they are less indebted than people thought they were."
Black Diamonds are managing their finances better and are far more financially astute than they once were, Simpson said.
The fact that the number of people has not increased as much as their spending power has suggests that people established in the middle class are getting better jobs, and that companies are attracting people of colour.
The study showed appreciation within the sector of the difference between good debt (like a home and investments) and bad debt (buying chocolates with a credit card), Simpson said.
Less than 10 percent of Black Diamonds have had anything repossessed.
"Life stages"

Paul Egan, managing consultant to UCT/Unilever, said the Black Diamond group is not homogenous, and includes people at different "life stages" — those with children who have been working for longer and are fairly established, and those who are still playing catch up, using income and, perhaps credit, to acquire assets.

He said the 2007 study had shown a huge migration from townships to suburbs, averaging about 1200 families, or 60 000 people, a month.
This slowed in 2008. This could be partly because of the increasing cost of housing and the high cost of borrowing, but could also be due to the densification of townships and investment within them, such as the construction of shopping malls.
Egan noted that there is a high percentage of black middle-class families with two earners, and a significant percentage with more than that.
The change to democracy and enabling legislation have enabled black women to move swiftly into the middle class.
Black Diamond women

Black Diamond women represent more than 40 percent of the R120-billion in female consumer spending.

"Many women respondents revealed that their earning power had a significant impact on decision-making when it comes to making purchases — not only for grocery shopping, but with regard to larger purchases such as household appliances, investments and cars," Simpson said.
Maponga said almost half of the women interviewed said they earned more than 50 percent of the household income and more than 80 percent said they were the main household decision-maker.
She said women's aspirations are higher than their mothers and grandmothers, and women are far more ambitious since 1994.
Sunday Times

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Obasanjo Legacy ignored

As the world goes through the death throes of the debt purge many people will forget who the authority was that strengthened Nigerian Macro-economic fundamentals to the extent that there is such negligible impact so far from the credit crunch, bank failures and the falling oil prices all within the context of drastic erosion in production. Here are some things to chew on:

- World bank confirms that Nigeria will only be minimally affected by this global turbulence because of the limited role of foriegn investment in the banking system about 5% compared to the 40% in many other developing economies.

- The same consolidation that was attacked as overreach by Obasanjo administration has also shored up the independence and institutional fortitude of the Banks against this turbulence.

- Less than 1 % dependence on International aid is quite an helpful factor

- The $60 billion in foreign reserve surplus as against the the sea of National deficits is a bonus

- An economy that grew from 5.5% circa to 6.9% in the last quarter mostly from non-oil sector especially banking is exquisite

The naysayers cannot see any of these they are addicted to a sense and notion of failure. The other usual pains are there for them to celebrate , roads, power , education amongst all. The economy is alive and growing and that rocks

Lagos boat markets

Lagos Islands

The first set of pictures are Lagos from the Atlantic Ocean side, industrialised, turbulent and urban on the other set his agos from the lagoon and how I imagine Lekki was not too long ago, tranquil, rural and green. There are many aspects to Lagos that is unexplored and even unrecognisable from the caricature of chaos and urban decay. The recent article in Time magazine and the hatchet job that is regularly done in CNN always tallies with the cynicism of elite Nigerians. I celebrate this great city and its possibilities. There is a lot more photographs to share enjoy.

More Lagos Islands

Lagos from the Sea eye

Comments from Mzansi

Here is a truly refreshing article in the Times in South Africa it captures more eloquently the spirit and rationale for the split in the ANC.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Now Mzansi, It is time.

Talk of a split in the broad church that is the ANC is long overdue. This is not a Zuma versus Mbeki discuss but a allowing the two forces that underpin the future direction of South Africa's black majority to emerge. One force I identify with Mbeki and my younger brother Siphiwe Mpye is quite an open Africanisation that seeks dignity and a common humanity grounded in intellectual curiosity. They see South Africa as one of the forces for an African Renaissance as well as challenging western hegemony. They identify that there is a nuanced evolution required for change and they are willing to adapt their positions so long as the vision is not lost. They do not necessarily seek popular acclamation and do not suffer fools gladly. They recognise that not everyone will move at the same speed. On the other hand there is the Jacob Zuma exemplified and reflected in my brother Pious Kasolo who express an African stereotype of populist and traditional expression of power in which authority is by position not ideas and have an Mzansi exceptionalism couched in superior infrastructure and fear of mass migration or swamping. They project an activism of the lowest common denominator seeing the Anti-apartheid struggle as an insular battle won by the good over the bad. Their lessons from that is that Mzansi is got theirs and the rest of Africa well they should get on their bikes. They fight a class war that suggest that the poor are entitled to a good life rather than they should be given the opportunity to work for a good living.

For the sake of Mzansi and those who love it the ANC must split there has to be the competitive and co-operative dynamic equilibrium that is the basis of evolution. It is time for new possibilities and this is not only true in Mzansi but the same is true of the Power Dinosaur that is the PDP in Nigeria. It seems now the purpose of this massive parties is just the accumulation of power rather than the generation of a framework of ideas and ideals. Lets have a new dawn in Africa lets have truly competitive parties in fact we need a space where people with ideas can run as independents. We need to open this stuff up especially the ANC.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Intra Africa trade

Apparently the figure for Intra Africa trade as percentage of exports for 2007/2008 is 8 %. I wrote an academic analysis of this in 1999 and then it was 9 %. This is a very scary figure it means self loathing trumps the drive for economic growth. I have included a link to the bulletin below

Greatly loved but often misunderstood.

Paul Coehlo published a book called the Valkyries to explore why we kill what we love. So it is with Nigeria and Nigerians. We argue and discuss it till blue in the face, most of us cynical at its prospects but secretly rooting for its success but quite unwilling to sacrifice our comfort for its success. Yesterday night was not different and as usual or discuss was ably lubricated by the best of Cognacs, beers and wines. Happy birthday old lady we all truly wish you well at 48 for many you are on the way to hell in a bread basket but don't sweat it. Let me remind you of the words of one of your true lovers wrote this in 1952 in the hope that you would be set free in 1956 , he never saw either but he said

" It is here in West Africa, the black man's paradise, here in Nigeria, the heaven of the negro race, here in Western region, the chosen land for a modern Shongay, here in big, lucky, vigorous Ibadan, that apartheid, the moral enemy of our race , must be grabbed, must be fought, must be vanquished and annihilated; so that our descendants may live in peace, prosperity and freedom. Nigeria must be free, completely free, independent, independent without any reservations before or in the year of our Lord, one thousand, nine hundred and fifty six."

Honourable Adegoke Adelabu , Africa in Ebullition

The greatest gift for your birthday is to rekindle the spirit, thoughts and letters of this Great Lover of your possibilities what he lost in his prediction was more than provided for in his ideas and eloquent pursuit of the realisation of a great Nation nicely cradled between the gushing Niger and the sedate Benue. Happy Birthday Old girl.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Buying the Bridge to nowhere

Watching the American Investment Banks fall like a pack of dominoes it brings back memories of the Saving and Loans fiasco of the past two decades or so. There is this tendency for the US to sell everyone a pig in the poke and for the Brits as their greatest cheerleaders to ensure it resonates across the world.

Mwalimu Nyerere is reputed as saying that there should be universal principles with local standards unfortunately the US sells its aspirations as universal standards. With the help of its 'objective' media and the support of its 'rational allies' who are all committed to the good things whilst any deviation is an insistence on a lifestyle of debauchery. How else can you explain how so called objective media oversaw the invasion of Iraq building consensus for the fantasy of WMDs or even the perversion that is Guantanamo detention without trial or Abu Graib or even the somewhat callous use of open bribery to get the Northern League to fight the Taliban I suppose everyone thinks that this is just in the field of International politics surely it does not extend to any other field or does it ? Think about it the working assumption is that free markets or Market Capitalism is the universal standard that the entire world should live by. The same was said for Democracy until 2000 when it was convenient for the US supreme court not to count votes and to support an openly rigged election. It is the same kind of selective application of standards that is at work in this financial mess.

The people who brought us free unfettered markets forgot to tell us that when their backs are to the wall well to hell with the standards to which they held all of us. It is those who ask others to open their markets to any type of investors that shut their ports to the Dubai Investment company or even prevent the Chinese from taking specific slices of their economy. For years the there has been aggregation and leveraging of debt. It is repackage and sold to consumers whose need for instant gratification far outweighs the capacity to pay has been the engine room for growth in the US as well as the UK. The shouted this notion of consumer led economy whereby the media made a lot of advert revenue by selling everything as a must have. Every sale was a bargain, every gadget was editorialised like a cure for cancer. For all this greed there was credit on offer whether you could handle it or not. This dangerously designed and poorly executed attempt to lazily maintain growth was accompanied with the freedom to roam and gorge without regulation given directly to financial institution. Capital crossed borders in search of fresh kills with very little concern for its underpinning.

As it falls apart spare a thoughts for Nigerian Banks whose unintelligent mimicking of this failed policy is now starting to take root. Banks here give credit to business in ways that will make Shylock blush but offer the middle classes all kinds of credit to easily purchase Plasma TVs , cars even home furnishings. The cheap takings from funding consumption rather than production as become the business model. In spite of less than 20% of the population having bank accounts the same banks put pressure on their staff to seek additional accounts from the same middle classes who already have accounts. Their requirements are so onerous for the Woman in Oja Oba or Epe Fish market that it is only the very same 20% that now have four or five accounts from different banks.

Believe we already bought the bridge and surely whether there is credit crunch or not we cannot sustain the journey. This group think has to stop.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Race Election 2008 (AP copy)

Here is one explanation for the Palin factor and the closeness of the opinion polls so far. It is not he only one though. It is worth a complete read.

Poll: Racial misgivings of whites an Obama issue

Sep 20 07:57 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON (AP) - Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks—many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004—about 2.5 percentage points.
Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can't win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.
Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution.
"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots," said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush's unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The findings suggest that Obama's problem is close to home—among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
The survey also focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.
Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president—white, black or brown.
Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.
On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows, though that probably wouldn't be enough to counter the negative effect of some whites' views.
Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.
Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.
Still, the effects of whites' racial views are apparent in the polling.
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
But in an election without precedent, it's hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.
The AP-Yahoo poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.
Other techniques used in the poll included recording people's responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks' troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.
"We still don't like black people," said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.
Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible." When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.
Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.
The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."
Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn't.
Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."
Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."
The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.
Researchers used mathematical modeling to sort out the relative impact of a huge swath of variables that might have an impact on people's votes—including race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's backers.
Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton's white backers plan to vote for McCain.
Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries—particularly whites with high school education or less—were motivated in part by racial attitudes.
The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Julie Carr Smyth, Philip Elliot, Julie Pace and Sonya Ross contributed to this report. 
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Malice and Self Loathing in Mzansi

Finally the forces of anti intellectual , xenophobic and kraal blockade have won in South Africa. As i watched the Mbeki resignation on television it seemed the final plan to reduce South Africa to its lowest common denominator has been achieved. The 'Activocracy' that runs the country has always hidden behind populist posturing to cover its ethnic loathing of the dominance of the Xhosa in political and intellectual life. This is quite simply a Zulu coup but this is Mzansi the prejudice never speaks its name it only shapes policy. Funny it is the same root cause that led this ungrateful and self denigrating bunch to kill their African cousins that also leads them to take out a man who is more instrumental to their liberty from Apartheid than the sainted ' Madiba'.

It was Thabo who helped turn the ANC into a global radical chic . You remember the concerts in London and boycotts cross the world. It was the same Mbeki who helped to shape the Nigerian interaction that drove the UN Anti -Apartheid committee which was by far the most critical international institution Maintaining the support for the Sanctions regime in the UN and pressure that led to the unravelling of the now vilified system. It was this same man who negotiated with the white businesses that led to final talks and arguably this approach was the child of his genius without which Mandela would not have been released. He more than anyone has his fingerprints on the transformation of the country from a blood bath waiting to happen to effectively an African powerhouse within the sisterhood of nations on this continent.

Maybe it is time for Mbeki to leave but a country which rewards years of service in fact a life of sacrifice with indignity and disdain is a country that deserves no less than the same. For me this beautiful country has fallen so far down my esteem and respect that I wish it the direction it seems to have chosen a descent into gradual irrelevance and insignificance on the continent.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

For the Love of God ( Resonance by Olu Alake)

Now this is an email i got this morning and has the provocative capacity to open further thoughts and reflection from Olu.

With absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever - God bless you for that piece! I spent a good part of yesterday debunking notions that otherwise intelligent people insist on regurgitating ad nauseum because some under-informed, self-styled 'man of God' (emi nko o? - man of Satan?) said so. Some of them made the mistake of trying to engage me in a debate about tithing as a Christian obligation...oh boy, did that get me started! I am perpetually amazed by how in this day of a wealth of information readily available at literally a push of a button, some people wilfully refuse to engage in any intellectual discourse or research of their own about something that is of such vital importance as their own spiritual welfare. I wouldn't trust my car to a mechanic of dubious expertise, so why would I my soul to a pastor who refuses to make the reasoned arguments?

I find so much of contemporary 'Christian' teachings so un-Christ-like that it fills me with such an inner rage. And you are right - by all measures of real Christian teaching, Nigeria is actually one of the most unGodly places on earth! (No charitable collective soul, no brothers being each other's keepers, unheavenly worship and appreciation of money and instant gratification especially in church (pastors measuring their success not by how many souls they save but by whether and how quickly their church can buy them a BMW, no sense of public service or sacrifice, lack of humility,... I could go on.).

There is a reason why churches have been Nigeria's biggest internal economic growth industry for the past 20 years - because the owners/leaders have cynically exploited the morass of political and economic misfeasance that successive corrupt hegemonies have left behind to peddle that most essential of commodities - hope. It is no wonder as well that the prosperity gospel, that despicable emphasis on material riches being an earthly manifestation of heavenly treasures and divine reward, found such fertile ground in Nigeria especially and across Africa in general. It appeals to the base nature of self-aggrandisement and individualism that has been festering away in our collective psyche as a result of our mass sodomisation by evil military-civilian and civilian-military regimes. It is obviously not in anyone's interests to observe that by the measures of this dodgy doctrine, Jesus Christ Himself would have been held as not an example of what is right but a manifestation of all that is wrong in the world. Or that it is unbiblical, ungodly and counterintuitive to believe in a beneficent God that especially provides a spectacularly return on material investment with a direct linear relationship between material input and output rather than the elevation of our higher purpose and selves, and then 'all other things coming unto us' as the good book itself promised.

What is really sad is that rather than engage in any critical thinking on these issues, the very considered opinions of the likes of you and I are now going to be dismissed as the devil-inspired rantings of the unGodly heathen. I love my country, I no go lie...

Monday, September 08, 2008

For the Love of God

Now the nature and disposition of God is the most abused cover for scoundrels I have ever experienced. As a Nigerian living here in Gidi it has developed into the basis of the most corrosive exploitation of the National psyche. The uncritical nature of the 'It is well' crowd is quite in line with their American cousins who gave us 8 years of a US Government whose policies has rained more munitions on the earth surface than any other in recent memories and caused the most deaths of non-combatant civilians in any war in the 21st century. They have achieved this through the direct use of the 'happy clappy' crowds and platforms to ensure an uncritical support for their policies. The loyalty of the believers who are enthralled into waiting and wanting for prosperity, saddled in polite bigotry and wallowing in unconscious incompetence is never in doubt. Their guilt and fears regularly topped up ever Sunday will ensure that any critical thinking is aborted before they are fully formed.

Let me first set forth that until recently i would have qualified as a believer in the mode of those I criticise. I shared the sanctified, tongue speaking, natty dressed , Sunday morning, social engagements. Quite a few times it was an uplifting experience, generally it was passively mind numbing and sometimes it was decidedly an insult on any intelligent mind. For many months my brain was in full conflict with my guilt and worry about my relationship with God. This in spite of the total lack of credibility of many of my co-religionist to my world view. Imagine the same people who brought us George W Bush now offer us Governor Sarah Palin. I feel sick to my stomach for my own collusion. I have watched as the large body of Nigerians finally capitulate to the Cultural assault launched by the fringe Scripture Union when I was in University and ably supported by our own culture of consumption rather than production into this adulteration that masquerade as commitment to God. How come we do not associate God with critical, challenging and direct thinking. I know there exceptions to the positions I am articulating but it does not serve the purpose of disrupting this wider pattern to focus on those. on the contrary it promotes complacency. In the same token it is easy to blame the Pastors but this is mostly about the laziness and total foolishness of the congregations.

I was born into the Islamic tradition and even though I am not a Muslim I have a healthy respect for the discipline and way of the faith. I have watched it however in its attempt to match the enthusiasm of the Pentecostals go into the new Fatwa narrative . I now know that Nigerian Muslim's issue Fatwa's over those that do not conform to their interpretation of proper Islamic practice like the man with 86 wives. The government watched from the sidelines as a Nigerian citizen was threatened with death and banishment by a dubious body without constitutional authority but with the name of God firmly in tow. There were very few voices to be heard to challenge this Fascist decree. The man was never before any authority nor asked to put any case. How did we get here?

For most of my life I have been very coy about the nature of my spiritual interests and even though i am adventurous in all other aspects of my life and openly challenge convention, i have been by my own standards quite conservative in my spiritual evolution. Yes , Khahil Gibran is a saint to me and his book the Prophet never leaves my thoughts, mind and daily crosses my lips, true I have read all Paulo Coehlo's books from page to page but I have been quite restraint in my dialogue about God in my life. That is until i started thinking for myself in this area. On my way to Lagos being driven to the airport, my colleague and friend Simon Mcintyre (now Simon Smethurst- Mcintyre, after he got married) challenged me on God. Being a committed Atheist he had an intellectual freedom and openness that was quite refreshing. I was forced to articulate for myself without any authority who God is to me. Here goes.

God is the embodiment of human connection and co-operation when it is bonded in love and driven by something greater than just self interest, elevated to create and humbled by emergence. God is the magic of the multitudes in the process of greater creativity and production for beneficial service without thought of recompense. God is the fullness of the complexity of all things in interaction, which completely surpasses the sum of the parts at a level and scale that the individuals cannot observe. God is innate purpose pursued, self interest submerged and love unbridled. God is possibilities untamed by the need for subsistence. God is our humanity unfettered, unsimplified, unintimidated in the pursuit of the pain and joy of a life committed to love.

Ok, enough . But there is method to this ranting. You see I love Nigeria with my heart and passion. As I now reflect it is a place that exhibits the least love of God in my understanding. You see where God is present then the sum total is more than the aggregation of the parts. Here in Nigeria with the level of individual excellence, the sum total is less than the aggregation of the parts. Yet we are listed as being in the top 10 in the world who believe in God. Go figure!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Whatever you do read his speech entirely

AP has put a corrupt analysis of Senator Obama's speech out there. Part of the danger is that it is what will circulate. Read for yourself and engage a vision that is quite exquisitely crafted to truly elevate a people and a nation. Brings me to something close to rapture. Here is the next President of the United States in his own words.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
"The American Promise"
Democratic National Convention
August 28, 2008
Denver, Colorado
As prepared for deliver
To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;
With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.
Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.
To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia - I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.
Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.
It is that promise that has always set this country apart - that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.
That's why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.
We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.
Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.
These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.
America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.
This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.
This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.
We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.
Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land - enough! This moment - this election - is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."
Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.
But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives - on health care and education and the economy - Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors - the man who wrote his economic plan - was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."
A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?
It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.
For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.
Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.
You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.
We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.
We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work.
The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.
Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.
In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.
When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.
And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.
I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.
What is that promise?
It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.
It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.
Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.
Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.
That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.
That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.
Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.
I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.
Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.
Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.
As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.
America, now is not the time for small plans.
Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.
Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.
Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.
And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.
Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.
Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise.
And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.
For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.
And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.
That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.
You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice - but it is not the change we need.
We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans - have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.
But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.
The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.
America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.
I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.
You make a big election about small things.
And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.
I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.
But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.
For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.
America, this is one of those moments.
I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.
And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.
This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.
Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.
That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.
And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.
The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.
But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.
"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."
America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.
Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

Quick Shots

Back in Gidi and on the way to Osogbo for the festival and some additional research on my yet to be completed novel. Just some quick thoughts on recent developments:

- My Friend Dr Fayemi lost his Tribunal challenge to the last election for Governor of Ekiti state but I believe he will win the war. The discipline and professionalism of his campaign as well as hamdling of his case is quite unusual in the Nigerian political terrain. He is a truly thoughtful, caring and committed leader who deserves a truly impartial panel. All those who have the onerous duty of adjudicating the election tribunals have my initial respect unless something else comes to light that challenges their impartiality. In the end either through appeal or otherwise the country needs more of Kayode Fayemi not less.

- Another Obama Foreign Policy astuteness is being ignored by the press in general and the US media in particular. His position on the dispensability of General Musharraff as an ally and his concern about the policy that ties the US to his regime rather than allying with the broader aspirations of people of Pakistan is emerging as the wiser counsel as well as position. On the other hand McCain's position is that anything that undermines Musharraff puts US interest at risk. Well Musharraf is gone. Also the press in general applaud McCain's tough stance in support of Georgia never mind his total lack of credibility or impartiality as a paid supporter of the policy position of the current President of that country. I suspect many people in the West including the present occupiers of No 10 Downing street have not scaled up enough to see what is emerging. I suspect Senator Obama might have a clue with his more nuanced position. Russia is not Zimbabwe and China is not the Sudan both countries have a world view independent of reactions to the west that is backed by social, economic and increasing military power. How long will it take before they realise if they align more closely they can redefine leadership in many parts of the world away from the US and the West . The West's assumption of superiority sounds increasingly hollow as their economies wane, their military is held down by irregular and largely untrained forces, their principles are compromised in the face of insecurity and fears, their people are polarised in bitter cultural wars. Why should China whose successful Olympics was in spite of all attempts to derail it in the West or Russia which has regained its footing in spite of efforts to surround it with NATO lackeys feel any obligation or interest to listen to the West?

- The Nigerian Stockmarket is on a downer right now and it is not helped by the fact that we have a reactionary Federal government who is hell bent on structural intervention without spending anytime understanding the dynamics or even mapping the processes. If the newspapers are anything to go by the new idea is a government panel on the stock exchange. Not sure that the total sum of the vision that is Law and Order amounts to more than a piece of Akara from Osu. We will see soon but the incompetence of the Government might itself be a God send because it leaves room for the private sector to step up its game. The problem is that the Nigerian private sector is almost entirely transaction driven rather than transformation oriented. Watch this space.

Any way in all white and off to the Osun festival. Expect some pictures and lest i forget a big shout out to Tari who had a A* and A in his early GCSE's thank God you got your mothers brains not mine!