Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Two Sides of Nigeria

Click here for the TIME Photo Story

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Nigerian Proclamation








This has been put up as part of Solomonsydelle's movement to show that Nigerian and other interested bloggers are unified in our disappointment with recent and ongoing political events. By using the same document with the same title on May 29th, we hope to attract some attention by making The Nigerian Proclamation 'rise' to attention on Google and various other search engines when anyone uses 'Nigeria' as a search term. Let the world know that Nigeria's people too are far from impressed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who needs an education?

Although New York Times article doesn't focus specifically on the Nigerian higher education system, the similarities across African countries in this regard are striking...overpopulated classrooms, decrepit facilities, underpaid staff, jaded students, and so on. We know the scale of the problem but what can we start to do about it? What should we be demanding of our governors in order to revamp state universities? Is the way forward simply pumping $$ into private universities and maybe establishing systems of subsidizing tuition for those who can't afford it? What about soliciting foreign funding? What role can alumni of these universities play? Let's get talking people....

Intro from my African Studies Professor:

Of interest is a report on higher education in Africa...While the comparison with the past is somewhat misplaced (yes, a system designed to enable a very small African elite to reach higher education could allocate more resources per student, but that is not relevant to the current situation) and the critique of the World Bank and IMF is understated (they not only had other priorities but actively sought to reduce allocations to higher education), the overall presentation is informative. The consequences of the deterioration of higher education institutions in most African countries are likely to burden Africa for many years.


Africa's Storied Colleges, Jammed and Crumbling - Lydia Polgreen

DAKAR, Senegal, May 19 Thiany Dior usually rises before dawn, tiptoeing carefully among thin foam mats laid out on the floor as she leaves the cramped dormitory room she shares with half a dozen other women. It was built for two.

In the vast auditorium at the law school at Cheikh Anta Diop University, she secures a seat two rows from the front, two hours before class. If she sat too far back, she would not hear the professors lecture over the two tinny speakers, and would be more likely to join the 70 percent who fail their first- or second-year exams at the university.

Those who arrive later perch on cinderblocks in the aisles, or strain to hear from the gallery above. By the time class starts, 2,000 young bodies crowd the room in a muffled din of shuffling paper, throat clearing and jostling. Outside, dozens of students, early arrivals for the next class, mill about noisily.

I cannot say really we are all learning, but we are trying,said Ms. Dior. We are too many students.

Africas best universities, the grand institutions that educated a revolutionary generation of nation builders and statesmen, doctors and engineers, writers and intellectuals, are collapsing. It is partly a self-inflicted crisis of mismanagement and neglect, but it is also a result of international development policies that for decades have favored basic education over higher learning even as a population explosion propels more young people than ever toward the already strained institutions.

The decrepitude is forcing the best and brightest from countries across Africa to seek their education and fortunes abroad and depriving dozens of nations of the homegrown expertise that could lift millions out of poverty.

The Commission for Africa, said in a 2005 report that African universities were in a state of crisis and were failing to produce the professionals desperately needed to develop the poorest continent. Far from being a tool of social mobility, the repository of a nation's hopes for the future, Africa's universities have instead become warehouses for a generation of young people for whom society has little use and who can expect to be just as poor as their uneducated parents.

As a result, universities across Africa have become hotbeds of discontent, occupying a dangerous place at the intersection of politics and crime. In Ivory Coast, student union leaders played a large role in stirring up xenophobia that led to civil war. In Nigeria, elite schools have been overrun by violent criminal gangs. Those gangs have hired themselves out to politicians, contributing to the deterioration of the electoral process there.

In the early days, postcolonial Africa had few institutions as venerable and fully developed as its universities. The University of Ibadan in southwest Nigeria, the intellectual home of the Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka, was regarded in 1960 as one of the best universities in the British Commonwealth. Makerere University in Uganda was considered the Harvard of Africa, and it trained a whole generation of postcolonial leaders, including Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

The disarray of Africas universities did not happen by chance. In the 1960s, universities were seen as the incubator of the vanguard that would drive development in the young nations of newly liberated Africa, and postcolonial governments spent lavishly on campuses, research facilities, scholarships and salaries for academics.

But corruption and mismanagement led to the economic collapses that swept much of Africa in the 1970s, and universities were among the first institutions to suffer. As idealistic postcolonial governments gave way to more cynical and authoritarian ones, universities, with their academic freedoms, democratic tendencies and elitist airs, became a nuisance.

When the World Bank and International Monetary Fund came to bail out African governments with their economic reforms a bitter cocktail that included currency devaluation, opening of markets and privatization higher education was usually low on the list of priorities. Fighting poverty required basic skills and literacy, not doctoral students. In the mid-1980s nearly a fifth of World Banks education spending worldwide went to higher education. A decade later, it had dwindled to just 7 percent.

Meanwhile, welcome money flooded into primary and secondary education. But it set up a time bomb: as more young people got a basic education, more wanted to go to college. In 1984, just half of Senegal's children went to primary school, but 20 years later more than 90 percent do.

And more of those children have gone on to high school: Africa has the world's highest growth rate of high school attendance...

Even those lucky enough to graduate will have difficulty finding a job in their struggling economies. As few as one third of African university graduates find work, according to the Association of African Universities.

Governments and donors in some countries are starting to spend more on higher education...

Fatou Kiné Camara, a law professor, said she felt the frustration of her students as she struggled to teach a class of thousands. When the students cannot hear her over the loudspeaker, they hurl vulgar insults, a taboo in a society that prides itself on decorum and respect for elders.

They are angry, and I cannot blame them, she said. The country has nothing to offer them, and their education is worthless. It doesnt prepare them for anything.

Attempts to reduce the student population by admitting fewer students are seen as political suicide, student unions play a big role in elections, and the countrys leaders are fearful of widespread discontent among the educated youth. Senegal has created new universities in provincial capitals like Saint Louis, but few students want to attend them because they are new and untested, and the government has not forced the issue.

They fear us because we are the young, and the future belongs to us,said Babacar Sohkna, a student union leader. But where is our future? We are just waiting here for poverty.

New York Times correspondent Lydia Polgreen is the winner of the George Polk Award for foreign reporting.

Monday, May 21, 2007


The idea to put up this article came in response to Pseudo-Independent's comment about hoping that the incoming administration will enforce the Public Procurement Bill. It's a great initiative in writing but will our incoming government walk the talk that the outgoing OBJ administration has been talking for the last 8 years? Reflecting on the past 8 years, do you think that the OBJ regime has put a lot more effort into lip service than actual implementation, when it comes to corruption and good governance? On the other hand, is that effort well placed in that he has at least set up the platform for the next administration to actually DO more?

Eurasia Group Note - NIGERIA: Obasanjo's fire sale of state assets continue

Mocking its own previous sermons about corruption and good governance, Nigeria's outgoing regime late on 17 May agreed to sell a majority stake in the country's largest oil refinery, the 200,000 bpd Port Harcourt Refinery, for $561mn to a newly created company controlled by some of the ruling party's largest campaign donors. The sale comes barely a week after the government organized a hasty sale of over 40 oil blocks to similar interests. The new owners of the refinery include a company, Dangote, best known for its flour and sugar operations, another, Zenon Oil, which is a major importer of refined products, and a third, Transcorp, which is essentially insolvent and in which outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo has previously conceded that his family held some equity interests. Nigeria which consumes almost 350,000 barrels of refined product a day is unlikely curb its imports anytime soon. Nigeria's top domestic banks helped to underwrite the deal.

On another note, the sale of the Port Harcourt Refinery to the Dangote-led consortium and the previous sale of Nigeria's state-owned fixed line telephone company NITEL to Transcorp, another entity in which Obasanjo admitted to having owned significant equity, as well as the questionable sale of the country's largest hotel, Abuja Niccon Hilton, to Transcorp both raise questions about the sincerity of the country's
anti-corruption efforts. The fact that all these deals were underwritten by the country's largest banks also calls into question the business and good governance credentials of some of Nigeria's leading financial institutions.

Whether President-elect Umaru Yar'Adua takes action to reverse some of these controversial and opaque financial transactions remains to be seen. But unless he does, it is unlikely that any political settlement between him and his major political opponents, who have been completely cut out of all these deals, can't happen. On the other hand, if the supposedly stern and ethically devout Yar'Adua reverses some of these sales, he will run into political problems not only with Obasanjo, but with the country's top banks, almost all of which are exposed to these deals and could see their bad loan books affected.

All in all, these questionable financial transactions in the final days of the Obasanjo administration are a sign that the introduction of "democracy" into sub-Saharan Africa will not decrease corruption in the short term. Indeed, corruption is likely to increase in the short-term as new political parties on the continent need funds from oligarchs to run victorious campaigns, and fire sales of state-owned assets to major campaign donors is likely the only rational consequence, since
most ordinary voters on the continent are too poor to contribute to political parties.

Eurasia Group is the world's leading global political risk advisory and consulting firm. They cover political, social, security and economic developments worldwide and their impact on business and financial markets on a daily basis.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What about Lagos??

This article lauds the long-overdue commencement of the Abuja Light Railway project. The writer is of the opinion that because the Lagos public transportation system is such a disaster, we need to prevent Abuja from becoming another Lagos, hence the light railway.

Ok, we're not tryin to spark any Lagos-Abuja tension here, but this article hit a nerve...WHY IS THERE A MORE URGENT NEED (IN THE EYES OF OUR GOVERNMENT) FOR A LIGHT RAILWAY IN ABUJA THAN IN LAGOS? Even if we accept the grossly inaccurate census results, Lagos' population is by far greater than that of the FCT, and so does a light railway (if indeed that's where $841 million of our reserves should be going at this time) make more sense in Abuja than anywhere else (even Lagos!)? Thoughts pls?


Last week, President Olusegun Obasanjo laid the foundation of the light railway system in Abuja. If properly and promptly executed, the project will provide the nation's capital the much needed back-up to road transportation.
Coming three decades after the founding of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the project is long over due. Over that period Abuja's population, both human and vehicular, has out-grown projections. This has brought strains on the available infrastructure, which has in turn resulted in adverse environmental conditions associated with over-crowding. The situation would have been even worse but for the drastic measures embarked upon by this government to redress the abuses inflicted on the Abuja Master Plan.

Initiating the light rail project to ease the movement of people and goods in the federal capital, though late, is commendable. The comment by the FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on the occasion puts succinctly the rationale for the scheme. His words: "The importance of this ceremony is better captured when we realise that the chaotic transportation system in Lagos was one of the reasons for the re-location of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja by the visionary leadership of the Murtala/Obasanjo regime of 1976. In accordance with the Abuja Master Plan and globally accepted norms, cities with a population of over 1.5 million people should have integrated public transportation system of which the railway is a major component."

The minister's reference to Lagos should serve as a booster to the determination of government, the contractors, financiers and indeed Abuja residents to accord the plan the prime attention it deserves. Today, despite the shifting of government machinery from Lagos, the city remains a victim of over-population- occasioned largely by the search for the proverbial greener pasture- and a perennial traffic disorder. In that atmosphere, productivity is hampered and the value of life is diminished. Only bold steps like constructing the rail can steer the present capital away from the path of becoming another Lagos.

With a projected capital of $841 million and completion date of four years, the Abuja light rail system will not only enjoy adequate funding, but will also hopefully be accorded priority by the in-coming administration. Its scope is impressive, having been designed to cover strategic locations like Garki Area 10, Central Area, Wuse Neighbourhood Centre, Jabi, Life Camp, Karmo, Gwagwa, Kubwa, National Stadium, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport among others. Given the huge volume of commuters and vehicles that emanates from these areas, access to the proposed railway would reduce pressure on the roads appreciably and impact positively on the city's well-being and aesthetics. Ultimately, the entire country and its people stand to gain from a decent and orderly federal capital.

The administration of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua should, therefore, ensure that the terms of the contract are honoured and well guided to achieve the desired result.

Friday, May 11, 2007

HIV/AIDS and the African female - Godswill Odeku

This article from Today's Guardian Newspaper and talks about the HIV/AIDS plight of the African female (apparently, we're an endangered species). Do you think he's overstating the effects on the African female (for example, is the stigma of AIDS greater for women)? Should more be spent on HIV/AIDS programmes specifically for women? How should our government go about prioritizing funding for HIV/AIDS amidst other problems like education, public health, the Niger Delta, etc? Thoughts please...

WITH increasing and intense efforts at contemplating and executing interventions the world over with regards to checkmating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other pandemics such as tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, and so on and so forth, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there exists a special group that could appropriately be referred to as an endangered species. This unique group is spread out across the African continent. You find them in all the countries that constitute the continent. They are the feminine gender represented here as the African female.

A survey of the African continent gives one a gory depiction of the tragedy the African female is subjected to by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur region in Sudan, Somalia, Congo, South Africa, Kenya and other Southern African countries are flashpoints as per the harrowing effects of this pandemic. Statistics reveal the no-win situation in which the feminine gender finds itself. Sero-prevalence rates in various countries indicate that women are more affected by HIV/AIDS.

The African female by virtue of her socio-economic situation finds herself more prone to be infected than the male. She is bothered for sex at the point of seeking employment. There is workplace sexual harassment. As a student, sex is demanded of her in the school for her to get her scores. Even in a normal heterosexual relationship, she is required to give vent to her professed love by mutual self-giving, which almost always translates into physical sexual acts. Socio-cultural practices such as female circumcision, tattooing, early marriages, and so on and so forth, expose her to infection. The above and the fact of the female genitalia being more or else a receptacle, and thus vulnerable, increases her chances of infection, including HIV/AIDS.

Infected females are hardly able to access care and support facilities and opportunities due to stigmatisation and other hiccups placed by society. On the other hand, antiretrovirals are costly and hoarded even when they are provided and subsidised by governments, international development agencies, NGOs, and so on and so forth. Illiteracy, poverty, political insensitivity, and sundry other factors coalesce to give away the African female with regards to HIV/AIDS.

Were we as a people to demonstrate some conscientiousness towards the checkmating of this pandemic, especially as it affects the women of Africa, there would be an orchestrated response in terms of providing funds for interventions, awareness creation and sensitisation, accessible care and support programmes, strategic capacity building initiatives for organisations working in this area, de-stigmatisation campaigns, enlightenment of both government officials, care-givers, NGOs and the general public. Added to this would be specialised funding for research work on unravelling a cure for this voracious pandemic.

The urgency of these conscientious interventions cannot be overflogged, as the tragedy engendered by this pandemic is critically obvious. The continent is awash with the diverse ramifications of its horrendous effects and it would imply hypocritical denial and criminal neglect of facts not to admit its reality and need for an urgent response. The response needs not be sporadic or unilateral...Corporate bodies, governments, development partners and private individuals all have a role to play to save the African female nay girl child from imminent annihilation courtesy of HIVAIDS.

Odeku is Executive Director of Development Platform for Africa, a Port Harcourt-based non-governmental organisation working on HIV/AIDs interventions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Afro Beat Remembers... M.K.O.

"M.K.O. na him we want o!" A number of people have suggested MKO now, and even though we were reticent (for what we thought to be obvious reasons) to give in to their requests, we have decided to let the rest of The Afro Beat decide whether he is worth remembering and what he should be remembered for.

From Wikipedia...

Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was a Yoruba businessman, publisher and politician, though he was an accountant by training. His early career was with ITT (ironic when you consider the Fela song), whereby he later rose to the position of vice-president, Africa and Middle-east.

In the presidential elections of June 12, 1993, Abiola was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (his running mate was Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe) and overwhelmingly defeated his northern (Hausa) rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, and subsequent events led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.

MKO is believed by many to have won Nigeria's freest and fairest (presidential) election ever held - June 12, 1993.

Abiola died in captivity of a heart attack on July 7, 1998. Some of his supporters claim that his death – immediately following that of his captor, Sani Abacha – was masterminded by western powers through the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) to level the political playing field in Nigeria.

Moshood Kashimawo Abiola is an icon of democracy in Nigeria. He was the first Southerner to cross the political bridge by aligning otherwise opposing political forces from the North and South to form a political coalition in 1993's election. Many Southerners had earlier attempted this but without much success.

From journalist, Reuben Abati...

The annulment of the Presidential election of June 12, 1993, which Abiola had won to all intents and purposes transfigured him into a national icon for the expression of grievances and rebellion against the excesses of the military elite, and even more importantly, the limitations and disconnections at the heart of the Nigerian state. M.K.O. Abiola became at that moment, the hero of the masses.
It was a task in retrospect, for which he was hardly prepared, but he found in the task a challenge which he willingly embraced. If Abiola had wished, he could have abandoned the struggle, but he had become hostage to the popular will, to the very mandate which he insisted upon and he found himself on a lonely road where every indicator pointed in only one direction. Herein lay the substance of his heroism: His resolve that is, to turn himself into a sacrificial lamb, and thereby atone for whatever may have been his own personal excesses.

From journalist, Seyi Oduyela...

I think the earlier we separate the person of Bashorun Abiola from the real issue of June 12 the better for us. June 12, to me is greater than any individual. It does not represent Bashorun Abiola, no it does not. It was a day Nigerians said SABENA- Such A Bitter Experience Never Again. But unfortunately, we have not come over it because we still mix sentiment with the truth.

(Please Note: the information presented in this section included unconfirmed allegations widely believed to be true among some Nigerians in journalism (Mr Oduyela included)...however, The Afro Beat does not claim these to be grounded in facts.

•In 1978 he was at the Constituent Assembly where he walked out because the likes of Baba Awolowo and others refused to include Sharia in the Nigerian constitution at the Federal level. It is on record that he did not sign the constitution of 1979 because of this.

•Unconfirmed reports speculate that MKO ALLEGEDLY financed and supported the coup that toppled President Shehu Shagari in 1983, as well as the bloody coup that brought Yoweri Museveni to power in Uganda.

•He became more visible during Ibrahim Babangida's 8 years of misrule. He was seen to be an astute defender of Babangida's policies until after the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections.

MKO's Legacy

In our opinion, the pivotal contribution MKO made to Nigeria was not only through his political career, but through the people he left behind.

Several of his wives and daughters are still on the scene, perpetuating his legacy through laudable humanitarian organisations.

His wife, Kudirat Abiola, was murdered during a demonstration for the release of her husband in 1996.

In her honour, his daughter Hafsat Abiola founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) and became a democracy activist. KIND sponsors leadership programmes for young women leaders that it hopes will be the new generation of pro-democracy and people-centred development in Nigeria.


M.K.O. Abiola lives in the hearts of millions of Nigerian men and women for various reasons, and today, The Afro Beat Remembers his legacy...and lets YOU DECIDE.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Below are excerpts from an article this week. One wonders what process of consultation with the Nigerian populace took place before these decisions were made on our behalf. For those who don't know, the Federal Executive Council is made up of the President and his Ministers. They initiate policies and programs of the FG, but how do the Ministers "figure out" what the people want/need? And though it's all gravy at the Fed level, once the $$ is in the hands of the governors, they have full control over what to spend it on, and are accountable to noone. The Fiscal Responsibility Bill would make state and local governments more accountable to the FG and ultimately to their constituencies. But it's been vetoed by the governors on the grounds that it is unconstitutional since it tampers with the states' independence.

Barely 21 days to the end of the lifespan of this administration, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday gave provisional approval for eight additional private universities, thus bringing the total number of private and public universities in the country to eighty nine.

It also approved N21.4 billion for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve its capacity building within a three-year period beginning from next year that would ensure more focus on economic diplomacy, better communication linkage with all foreign offices, relocation of the foreign Ministry to its permanent site and improvement of office accommodation infrastructure in Nigeria's foreign offices.

The Minister of Education who said the country needed more universities to take care of the critical mass of people who require such education, gave the names of the universities as Ogbong University, Akwa Ibom State; Caleb University, Ikosi, Lagos State; Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State; Tansian University, Umunya, Anambra State; Veritas University in the Federal Capital Territory, Wesley University of Science and Technology, Ondo State and Western University, Oghara, Delta State.

The FEC meeting that took place yesterday also approved N778.9 million contract for the supply and installation of hydrogene plant at the Egbin Power Plant in Lagos State and another N2.3 billion for the provision of inclusive education for the physically challenged and gifted children in primary and secondary schools in the country for which 5,000 teachers have been targeted and three schools at the primary, junior secondary and senior secondary levels have been selected in each State of the federation for the take-off of the programme.

The following is taken from a research paper a friend is currently working on, (not yet available for distribution but once it is, we'll send it to you upon request).

Almost half of consolidated government spending in Nigeria, however, is carried out by sub-national governments, and accountability mechanisms at a state level are virtually non-existent. This represents the single biggest deficiency in the Nigerian value chain—huge percentages of the country’s resource revenue are transferred in lump sums to officials who spend them at will. State governors create budgets with no public or legislative oversight, and state officials spend with almost no restraints on their behavior, follow ad-hoc or nonexistent procurement regulations, and rarely report on their activities.

As the World Bank’s Lev Freinkman puts it, “The state budget process is usually a theoretical exercise.” The budget-making process is usually seen as an almost purely discretionary act by the governor. Virtually all of Nigeria’s states have legislatures controlled by the same party as the governor, who usually doubles as party chair. As such, the legislative approval process rarely represents anything more than a rubber stamp. States almost never make proposed or approved budgets publicly available, and public comment during formulation is rare. Recent federal government efforts to promote greater accountability in state-level expenditure appear unlikely to move forward, stalled by constitutional arguments that they violate Nigeria’s federal system.

Since we cannot overhaul the process by which the FEC makes its decisions, how can we make sure our governors are spending these funds on what they are meant to? and who gets to decide what projects the $$ should go to? Should the National Assembly ammend the constitution to accomodate the Fiscal Responsibility Bill? Thoughts please...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Will Africa ever get it right? - The Economist

In the words of a fellow 'Fro, "they have shamed us o!"

The article below is from this week's edition of The Economist, and is a sort of chastisement of the African continent, using Nigeria as the scape goat. Fine, our elections were anything but "free and fair", but what do you think about this article? Is it too harsh... afterall, "democracy is a process," abi? Or is it right on the mark? And does it have the potential to 'shame' us or our leaders into action?

April 26th 2007

Nigeria's latest shameful and rigged election does not mean that all of Africa is hopeless

IF NIGERIA, Africa's most populous country, is anything to go by, the sub-Saharan continent of some 800m people may be doomed to spend another generation or so in misery. Nigeria's recent bout of elections has been a fiasco (see article).

The country is rich in resources—the United States may soon be getting a tenth of its oil from it—but most of its 140m-odd people languish in poverty. And yet their rotten leaders presume they have some kind of right, by virtue of their country's size and natural wealth, to strut the global stage as leaders of the continent. How wrong they are. Nigeria's new president, Umaru Yar'Adua, is tainted from the start. The elections at all levels should be held again—but of course they won't be. Any notion that Nigeria should be taken seriously as a continental spokesman, let alone a model, should be laughed out of court. But is Nigeria typical of Africa? And does its dismal performance as a would-be democracy cast a blight across the rest of Africa? The answer to both questions is no. Nigeria is not Africa. Over the past decade or so, the rest of the continent has on the whole been taking modest, belated but encouraging steps towards greater prosperity, security and democracy.

To be sure, there is a very long way to go. The African backdrop is still fairly bleak. Many features of this latest Nigerian farce, namely corruption and mismanagement, still scar many other parts of Africa. The post-colonial continent has hitherto been a colossal flop. The killer comparison is with Asia, where many countries suffered from the same colonial humiliations and rapacity that independent Africa customarily blamed for its early failings. According to the World Bank, real income per head in the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa between 1960 and 2005 rose on average by 25%, while it leapt 34 times faster in East Asia; countries like South Korea and Malaysia were once as poor as Ghana and Kenya. The excuse of colonialism wore out at least a generation ago—and Africans know it.

But many lessons have been learnt, even—believe it or not—in Nigeria, where the macroeconomic picture is actually not too bad. In politics, the once-predominant belief in a one-party system has faded, if not fizzled completely. Multi-party elections, though often very messy, have become far commoner.

This month the IMF's latest figures give further cause for hope. For the third year in a row, sub-Saharan African countries grew on average by around 6% and may soon hit the 7% mark predicated by the UN in its call to halve Africa's poverty rate by 2015. True, this comes on the back of high oil and other commodity prices. But non-oil African countries are recording similar rates of growth. Such figures are modest by Asian standards. But they are going the right way—and quite fast.

An abiding failure of Africa is the reluctance of relatively decent leaders to club together to shame the really bad ones out of office. Zimbabwe's case is the most egregious, disgracing the countries nearby, especially South Africa, whose leaders hide behind a misguided sense of past comradeship and racial solidarity. In Nigeria's case, the African Union should waste no time in denouncing the election as fraudulent—and freezing Nigeria's incoming government out of Africa's leading councils. Alas, that is unlikely to happen. Nigeria may seem too big, its peacekeepers too badly needed, for the rest of Africa to cold-shoulder it. How can the outside world help Africa? There is no easy answer. Western countries, vital donors of aid, should make it clear they will give more help to countries whose governments are relatively clean and efficient—and hold fair elections. The latest aid-givers' consensus is to identify “good” countries, still quite a small bunch, and let them spend the cash as they see fit. Yet time and again, good guys—most recently, Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni—slip back into old despotic ways, putting aid-givers into a quandary. By punishing governments, are they not hurting the innocent poor? In the end, Africa must help itself, just as Asia has. Then the outsiders will pile in, with investment that is better than aid at creating wealth. Even into Nigeria.


Click on 'comments' below if you'd like to say something, anything!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Introducing "The Afro Beat Remembers..."

It is our opinion that one of the many reasons why Nigerians aren't as civic minded, or for lack of a better word -can't be bothered to stand up and fight for their rights- is that our heroes (those who have had the courage to stand up against/call out injustice and wrongdoing in the public sphere, and who most times lose their lives in the struggle (Kudirat Abiola, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alfred Rewane, to name a few)) are all too quickly forgotten...Nigerians forget too easily, or maybe we just don't remember publicly (besides the casual naming of a road here and there).

Whatever the case, this is our way of making sure WE don't forget...

An older friend suggested recently that one way of combating Nigerians' chronic short-term memory is to take out an ad in the newspaper or on the radio, and celebrate a local/national/personal hero every so often. "Let others know what they did for Nigeria and why they should be remembered...teach the new generation." Well, seeing as we don't have the financial resources/access to do that right now, we'll start the easy way...on THE AFRO BEAT. We'll call it "The Afro Beat Remembers..."

Once a week (if we can keep our act together), we'll put the spotlight on a Nigerian who deserves recognition/"remembrance" for something progressive that they've done for Nigeria. Dead or Alive, we'll remember.

Please send us any names you might have, and better still, an article, or a few words about what this person has done. This will be a forum to appreciate/recognize their achievements (specifically those relevant to Nigeria's (or their community's) progress. In any case, let's celebrate our heroes people!

P.S, It could be your mama/papa/friend's mama/baby's mama :)/a social entrepreneur you've heard is doing amazing things, whoever ...let's just celebrate the positive that's going on in the midst of the confusion and harsh reality in the country.