Wednesday, 29 December 2010

There Are Over 400 Nigerian Prisoners In Turkey - Envoy

Relations between Nigeria and Turkey are in an upward swing. The fillip was made possible with the restoration of relations between the two countries and the appointment of His Excellency Ahmed Abdulhamid Malammadori as Nigerian Ambassador to Turkey in May, 2008. Before his appointment by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Malammadori had been the minister of state for energy. Before then, he was a member of parliament in 2002 and had been a federal commissioner in the Federal Character Commission, responsibilities which, obviously, prepared him for his present task of protecting and projecting the image of Nigeria in Turkey.

Last October, I and the editor of Peoples Daily, Ahmed Shekarau, interviewed Ambassador Malammadori in Istanbul during a visit there. In the interview, he spoke about the nature of relations between Abuja and Ankara, the potentials this holds for the two countries and the challenges he faces, especially from the growing influx of Nigerians into that country. The interview was published in both LEADERSHIP and PEOPLES DAILY last month.

Your Excellency, how would you describe relations between Nigeria and Turkey since your assumption of office as Nigeria’s ambassador?
It is an excellent relationship, especially in the political area. We have been relating politically for a long time. In fact, we have been relating with Turkey since during the Ottoman Empire and the Kanem-Bornu empire. They were doing trans-Saharan trade between the two countries.

Turkey was among the first countries that opened their embassies in Nigeria immediately after Independence. In fact, Turkish Embassy has been in Nigeria since 1961, that was a year after Independence. Unfortunately, our embassy was closed down for some time and was reopened in the year 2000 during the era of President Obasanjo. Since then, we have been relating and doing a lot of discussion; there were a lot of agreements that were discussed between the two countries.

In which areas does Nigeria relate with Turkey mostly?
There are pending bilateral agreements that we are working on seriously, to see that those agreements are signed by the two countries. Recently, the president of Turkey was in Nigeria during the G-8 meeting. During that meeting, Nigeria agreed to have bilateral discussions with the president in which we looked at some of the pending bilateral agreements, which are quite many but are not finalised. So, it was the intention of the two presidents, if our president pays a reciprocal visit to Turkey, to finalise those agreements.

But now we have suggested a joint commission meeting between Nigeria and Turkey which Nigeria will host in Abuja on the 9th of November, this year, which will finalise those agreements and conclude them. So, anytime the president of Nigeria comes to Turkey, I believe, the two presidents will append their signatures on the agreements. And that will help us in moving forward in terms of bilateral agreements.

Are you working towards setting up a bi-national Commission between Turkey and Nigeria?
For now, what we have is the Joint Economic Commission. When this Commission holds its meeting in Abuja, we can know the way forward. But business between Turkey and Nigeria is improving seriously. When I came in, I met that visa requests between Turkey and Nigeria were below 20 visas in a month, but I can tell you that every month we are issuing not less than 70 to 80 visas to Turkish people going to Nigeria. There is a lot of investment going on between Turkey and Nigeria. Recently, there was a big business forum that Nigeria hosted between a Turkish company and NIPC (Nigerian Investment Promotion Council) with Nigerian business people. Before that, there was a group of people from one of the states in Turkey where about 250 business people visited Nigeria and they had a very good and wonderful interaction between the NIPC and the business people. That really helped us in improving the trade relationship between Nigeria and Turkey.

Which kind of commodities do the two sides trade in?
The Turkish side buys oil from Nigeria, steel and some agricultural items like sesame seeds and cashew nuts and many other products. The Nigerian side, we are having more partnership in the construction industry. You know, I tried to see how we could import their furniture and textiles, but because all these are contraband in Nigeria we are only encouraging them to come and establish their factories or have partnership with Nigerians so that they can produce their products in Nigeria.

In monetary terms, what is the volume of trade between the two countries?
Export from Nigeria stands a little above US$1 billion per annum. And the imports to Nigeria from Turkey stand below US$700 million per annum. So, with this I can say we are doing better.

What of in the area of cultural exchange? Is there any activity going on between the two sides?
Yes. It’s part of the pending bilateral agreements which we hope during this meeting we’ll conclude. There is an agreement on exchange of cultural activities, tourism, defence, education and so many other areas. On aviation, you know it is only Turkish Airlines that flies between Nigeria and Turkey; there is no any airline from Nigeria that flies to Turkey. And they are even working to improve their service, extending it to Abuja — from Abuja direct to Istanbul. I believe by early next year this will materialise.

What would you say are your challenges, especially in terms of managing the volume of human traffic between Nigeria and Turkey?
There are a lot of challenges, especially in the area of human trafficking and drugs. There is hardly a week I cannot get two or three notes on our people arrested at the airport carrying drugs, either going to Nigeria or coming from Nigeria. We have over 400 Nigerian prisoners now in different prisons in Turkey. Well, there are some that are carrying Nigerian passports but once we engage them we find out that they are not Nigerians. But the conclusion here is that they are Nigerians because they are carrying Nigerian passports. This has become a major challenge to us, especially with the little resources we have at the embassy or at the mission; there is no way we can assist in deporting our people back home. There are so many illegal Nigerian immigrants here.

Are there many Nigerians residing in Turkey?
Yes, there are quite a number of them. We have over 3,000 Nigerians residing in Istanbul and in various parts of Turkey. Even in the Turkish Cyprus, we have about 1,200 students. All these pose challenges. Especially if there are immigration problems, it is the embassy that always goes up and down to solve the problems, especially with the (Nigerian) policy of citizen diplomacy.

Those bad eggs from Nigeria, do they sell their drugs in Turkey or do they use the country as a transit point?
We suspect that they use Turkey as a transit point, but you can never tell because there must be an insider for this crime to be happening frequently. The rate at which it is happening is alarming and disturbing. We honestly feel that somebody, somewhere, must be aiding them even to get visa or find their way through Turkey. I think our immigration officers in Nigeria and other security agencies need to do a lot in terms of screening the people coming to Turkey.

Does Nigeria having a large Muslim population and Turkey being mostly Islamic confer on us any special privileges as a country?
In diplomacy, we don’t talk about religion, we only discuss the political and business relationships that exist between the two countries. The issue of religion is not part of our mandate.

We have seen a lot of Islamic relics here in Turkey, especially at the Palace. I wonder if Muslims from Nigeria come on tourism purposes, to visit such sites.
You see, it is not only Islam that has such monuments here. There are so many. This is the place where you have the last house where the Virgin Mary lived; Ephesus, which are mentioned in the Bible. There are so many religious, historical monuments in Turkey dating from the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, etc., that are of interest to Christians and Muslims.

How do you envisage the future relations between Nigeria and Turkey?
I expect that it will be very good. I can tell you that Turkey can provide an alternative market to China for Nigeria. There are a lot of discussions about the quality of products from China and I believe that the quality of products from Turkey are of European standard. And the Turks are very hospitable in terms of welcoming Nigerians and they are interested in doing business with Nigeria. If you can remember, in 2008 Africa signed the Istanbul Declaration with Turkey, and that has opened the doors of Turkey for Africa. And they see Nigeria as a major player in Africa. In fact, they believe that once they get the support of Nigeria, they have captured Africa in totality. So, the relationship between Turkey and Nigeria, if we do a little homework, I believe, will be wonderful.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Where Has Love Gone?

Adam's sons are body limbs, to say;
For they're created of the same clay.
Should one organ be troubled by pain,
Others would suffer severe strain.
Thou, careless of people's suffering,
Deserve not the name, "human being".

-- Saadi Shīrāzī, Persian poet (1184 – 1283/1291?),
translated by H. Vahid Dastjerdi

Today is Christmas. It is a day of love. Several days before this, and the next few days, up till the end of the year, Christians are expected – nay, required – to not only show love but to actually love one another. They must also love others, i.e. followers of other faiths. This credo further requires them to even love their enemies. Based on this long stretch of the meaning of "love", St. Thomas of Aquinas defined it as “to will the good of another,” or to desire for another to succeed.

But love is not restricted to Christian theology. Other faiths have it at the heart of their belief. In Islam, the religion of peace, love is at the centre of humanity, a necessity for co-existence for mankind and between men and women, the holy Prophet and God. In fact, one of the names of Allah (SWT), found in Surah 11:90 and Surah 85:14, is “Al-Wadud,” or “the Loving One.” All Muslims are required to love one another, love the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and love God. They are also to love followers of the Abrahamaic faiths, such as Christians. So widespread is this requirement that a Muslim man is encouraged to marry a Christian woman. There is also a Prophetic tradition directing mankind to love one another. It emphasises that one should want for others what one wants for oneself. Similar blandishments can be found in many other religions, including Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Even animists and atheists believe in and show love to their ilk and for others outside the boundaries of their belief or unbelief.

In this season of love, there is need to take a pensive look at our condition as a nation among others in the world, with emphasis on how we practise the greatest requirement of the season. Personally, I see the clime darkening, hearts hardening and faiths being deflected from their original paths as love retreats from the horizon. Whether Christians, Muslims or animists, mankind appears to be trampling on the basic message of their faiths these days, relegating it to the backyard in their priorities, retrieving it only at festive seasons.

At home, where every day life begins and ends; at market places and offices, relationships are worsening at an appalling rate. The love of children for their parents and vice-versa; love between spouses, neighbours, siblings, office colleagues, school mates and even between lovers, is on a downward spiral. Many relationships are faked, garnished with deceit and backstabbing and inspired by selfish motives. Things are not as they used to be in the good old days of our childhood.

One of the biggest ironies of our time is the depth of our people’s religiosity and their savagery, all at once. Nigerians are, undoubtedly, some of the most religious people on earth. They fill churches and mosques, spend quality time worshipping the Lord and donate generously to promote their religions. They even fund the erection of religious centres. They travel long distances to perform religious duties and visit historical sites in Saudi Arabia and Israel, spending their own money or government's. With the growth of Pentecostal churches and suffocating televangelism, religion is now a big industry that makes nonsense of Nigeria’s claim to secularism.

In spite of this, however, Muslims are scarcely each other’s keeper, and Christians do not "turn the other cheek". Mutual intolerance is increasing. There is absence of good neighbourliness. We listen with rapt attention to the words of the preachers but, then, we forget about them as soon as we leave our worship centres. The result is the rise in criminality and immorality in the country. The character assassination we see in the media, especially between politicians seeking elective offices, the cheating in the markets and garages, the negligence of duty in work places, the corruption and love of the flesh, the lies, untruths and deceit, etc, are the products of our departure from the right path, the path demarcated for us by the Almighty God, the path of His love. The politicians instigating the sectarian violence in places like Jos, Maiduguri and the Niger Delta are avid claimants to some hallowed pedestals, but they are stone deaf to the cries of death, blind to the wanton destruction and insensitive to the acrid smell of blood that accompany those bursts of man’s inhumanity to man.

So, where is the love that we always promise each other within and across our individual faiths? We do not love each other as much as we should because the love of the Lord has departed from our hearts. We are captive to our lusts, victims of our narrow-minded desires for self-ennoblement and losers of the divine essence. We gamble too much of our souls, frittering away the messages of our faiths that order us to toe the path of love if we want to succeed in life and gain the dividends of our present actions in the hereafter.

If we want to become whole again, then, we must recoup the essence of our humanity by returning to the roots of our faiths. As some of us celebrate today, we must appreciate the fact that love should not be seasonal, mercantile or even a religious milestone. It should be the core of our everyday existence, the salt of our humanity. Let us make amends. We should stretch out hands of friendship to not only those with whom we worship but also to those who worship in places we scarcely care to peep into, i.e. the believers of other creeds. That is how we can bring love back into our lives. That is how we can build a nation, based on mutual trust and respect, a multi-cultural nation the like of which was seen in the good old days of genuine Godliness.


Published today on back page of LEADERSHIP WEEKEND

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Africa: Growth Versus Corruption

By many accounts, Africa's hitherto dour economic condition is changing for the better. The continent used to be one about which nothing good was said. Wars, famine, diseases and coups d’etat were the main images by which Africa was defined by most analysts, especially those in the developed world. Consequently, the African story, as told by the global media, ran along a pre-determined pattern, and it was largely ugly.

Now, I am not trying to say that wars have ceased here, or that coups d’etat are over, or that Africans have stopped killing themselves over mundane issues such as tribe or religion. Far from it! These ugly occurrences are still taking place with devastating impact on our progress and image in the world. In spite of this, however, I can say that these evils have reduced in the last three decades or so. One just has to look at the figures and the facts to know that Africa is rebounding. The impact may be slow and forced, but it can be felt, seen and grasped.

Writing in Foreign Policy recently, three authors - Norbert Dorr, Susan Lund and Charles Roxburgh - noted, rather effusively, that Africa has outgrown the gloom and doom by which it used to be judged. That happened within a single decade of amazing transformation from stagnation to euphoric growth. Recall that in 2001, the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair lamented thus: “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world.” Now it seems the continent of one billion people is getting its acts together and striving to compete with the rest of the developing world.

Africa, write Dorr, Lund and Roxburgh, “is now one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions. Between 2000 and 2008, the continent's collective GDP grew at 4.9 percent per year - twice as fast as in the preceding two decades. By 2008, that put Africa’s economic output at $1.6 trillion, roughly at par with Russia and Brazil. Africa was one of two regions - Asia being the other - where GDP rose during 2009's global recession.”

As a result of this boom, which is strongly supported by increasing urbanisation, the region is fast becoming a beehive for foreign investors. Vast fields of natural resources and a population bursting at the seams are the main attractions for investors. The areas where the continent offers the greatest promise are telecommunication, oil and gas, infrastructure and domestic appliances. But agriculture, which has the potential of turning the continent into a greater economic hub with 60 percent of the world’s arable land located here, has not been sufficiently developed. The sob-story here is that countries like Nigeria that have vast arable land have stuck to oil and gas where they make a quicker buck. If such nations mechanically cultivated their lands, then the story would become rosier.

How is Africa making this great leap forward? By getting its acts together, of course. Many of its countries have embraced democracy, even if home-grown. Warts and all, this adoption has made it possible for them to carry out economic reforms in various sectors which, in turn, have translated into the trimming of waste. In Nigeria, successes have been achieved in the banking and the telecom sectors, and in the fight against corruption. Privatisation of government companies and liberalisation of other sectors have created a middle class that was only dreamt about only a decade ago. Now, it is possible to think of Nigeria or South Africa joining the four-member BRIC grouping of fast-growing economies - Brazil, Russia, India and China. Non-African contenders to this privileged club of emerging economies include Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia. Nigeria, with a population of more than 150 million, may get in first, even though South Africa, with under 50 million, is a larger economy. Reason: indicators favour the economy with bigger demographics because, in the long run, it is the urbanised and empowered population that would make the market rules.

But as Africa frolics in its new-found emergence from the economic woods, it is easy to forget the big challenges. Africa is still home to the world's biggest cataclysms, not only the natural ones but also the man-made. Sixty percent of its population dwells in rural areas, and it is poor, illiterate and divided along tribal and religious schisms. Without the right leadership, growth will be stunted. Now the main problem is the absence of conscientious leaders whose focus is to create the enabling environment that will see the people crawl out of poverty.

Corruption is rampant, even in nations with the greatest promise. Nigeria, the so-called economic giant, is lagging behind South Africa in most economic indices, not because the latter is richer in resources but because it is richer in leadership. Nigeria is number 134 out of 178 countries in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, while South Africa is just number 54. There is a clear correlation between a nation’s depth of corruption and its economic growth. No wonder, then, Nigeria trails behind South Africa even though its resources are larger. People are more comfortable to relate with economies that have lesser potential for risk. According to reports, Nigeria was able to get investment flows of just $216 million for the first 10 months of this year; South Africa, however, got $3.4 billion within the same period. This shows that Nigerians in positions of authority steal more than their South African counterparts. It could also mean that the mechanism for checking corrupt practices and punishing perpetrators works better in the latter.

For Africa to maintain the tempo of its growth, therefore, it must have in place the right leaders who, in turn, must fight the spectre of corruption in their countries. At the moment, the picture is scary. Just two days ago, on Thursday, the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative of the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime issued a how-to guide for recovering stolen assets. The Asset Recovery Handbook, which can be accessed on the World Bank web site, reveals that developing countries lose between $20 billion and $40 billion each year to bribery, embezzlement and other corrupt practices. It also shows that over the past 15 years only $5 billion was recovered and returned.

The book recommends measures by which developing nations, most of which are in Africa, can recover funds siphoned from their coffers and stashed abroad. It recommends that anti-corruption practitioners such as those working in our own Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must exchange sensitive information with partners in other countries to trace stolen funds and gather evidence. They must be familiar with a wide range of legal tools and procedures for freezing, seizing and repatriating stolen funds. And they must be able to navigate the legal systems of their own country and of partner countries. They must also know that, as our own anti-corruption czar, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, is fond of saying, corruption also fights back.

No matter how difficult it is, Africans must ensure that they up the ante of the present growth on the continent by putting the right leaders in place and making sure that corruption, by which the continent gained dubious renown, is kept at the barest minimum.


Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, today. Above picture shows Mrs Farida Waziri, chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Kannywood: A Luta Continua!

Why is Kannywood - the Hausa film industry - both more backward and more despised than Nollywood, and its promoters poorer in terms of material comfort? Why did Nollywood, the English language movie industry based in Lagos and Onitsha, grow so exponentially within a few years than Kannywood to become, according to UNESCO, the second largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of Hollywood and behind Bollywood? Some reports say that Nollywood is estimated to rake in between US$200 million and US$250 million per year, churning out some 200 videos for the market every month.

Some would think it is foolish to make this kind of contradistinction because the two industries appear to be operating on different turfs. On a closer look, however, it is possible to glean the factors that make the two similar and why the fortune of one should ricochet on the other. The greatest point of divergence is language, which may appear to present certain restrictions on the Hausa industry that could militate against its growth. But if you look closer, you will wonder why Bollywood movies were able to penetrate societies globally even though they came loaded with Indian cultural motifs. If Hindi melodramas could have a universal appeal, why should the Hausa ones be restricted to particular audiences? The answer to these questions will tell us why our movies remain in chains twenty years after they began while those of Nollywood wax stronger. First, let’s take a look back at the origin of the problem. The Hausa movie industry is going to celebrate its 20th year anniversary next week, but of course not many outside its circle know this. And this is very instructive. This momentous milestone is generally lost on most people, including those who should know better, because this is an industry that has always suffered the fate of being misunderstood, misreported and even cast in the wrong league of Nigerian entertainment history.

Official history says the “Nigerian home video industry” had origins in the release of the movie ‘Living in Bondage’ in 1992. This drama thriller, written by Kenneth Nnebue and Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and directed by Chris Obi Rapu, is believed to have been responsible for the beginning of the shot straight-to-video ventures that came to define what is generally known as Nollywood today. This wrong historicisation of the art form does not take cognisance of the “other” movie industry known as Kannywood, which is so named because of its main base in Kano. It is a home video industry that is as big as Nollywood in terms of number of productions per month and the sheer population of stakeholders - stars, directors, producers, crew and marketers. Its viewership transcends northern Nigeria because its flicks are watched all over West Africa and the Hausa Diaspora.

The truth also is that Kannywood predates Nollywood. As Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu, unarguably the leading scholar on Kannywood alive, told an audience in Kano on November 25, 2010 at an event to mark 20 years of the industry, Kannywood began in March 1990 with the release of the home video ‘Turmin Danya’. Written by the late Aminu Hassan Yakasai, it was produced by the pioneer drama group in Kano, Tumbin Giwa, and directed by Salisu Galadanci. The relative success of ‘Turmin Danya’ caused an upsurge in Hausa filmmaking as more and more production outfits, called companies even if they were not formally registered with the authorities, emerged, mostly as breakaways from older groups. Kano, with the biggest army of unemployed youth in the north, got an industry that was self-created, independent of government intervention.

According to Adamu, “Another landmark in the history of video films in Africa was recorded in August 1999 edition of Tauraruwa magazine - the first magazine in Africa devoted to indigenous African video films - edited by Sunusi Shehu ... that Sunusi created the term ‘Kannywood’ to refer to the Kano-based Hausa video film industry. It is significant that the term ‘Nollywood’ to refer to the Nigerian English language video film industry was created by Norimitsu Onishi, in an article titled ‘Step Aside L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood’ published in The New York Times on September 16, 2002. This was three years AFTER Sunusi Shehu created ‘Kannywood’.

“Of further significance was the fact that ‘Turmin Danya’ was released in 1990, two years BEFORE ‘Living in Bondage’ - the video film generally acknowledged as the first in English language Nollywood film industry. So either way, the Hausa video film industry - both in terms of an industry as well as a label - is the first full-fledged video film industry, not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa.”

So, why should an industry that made this milestone be licking its wounds today instead of licking the juice of its labour? The answer is that Hausa movies veered off culturally by their adoption of alien cultural mores - Indian, Western and even southern Nigerian. They lost their uniqueness. The early movies were responsible for the monumental growth and popularity of the new art form. But when some producers in the heat of deadly competition injected the ‘Indian-type’ movies - the singing and dancing aspect, forms of dress, storylines, and even posters, etc - the audience began to shrink. I watched with keen interest, as a reporter deeply embedded within the industry, as the market went into a spin, crashing a lot of hitherto legendary production outfits and names.

Then in 2007 came the infamous Hiyana affair. An A-class actress and her non-industry lover had foolishly made a video clip of themselves having sex in a hotel room, using a cell-phone camera, apparently for the fun of it. Even though it was a non-industry event, the inadvertent release of the clip into the society created a consternation and opprobrium against an industry that had for some time been struggling to remain popular and tolerated. The scandal forced the Kano State governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, who feared a backlash from Islamic clerics at a time he was instituting a Sharia law regime, into a clean-up exercise in the industry. He appointed a new boss for the state censorship board known for his heavy-handedness while working for the state Sharia police. The man, Abubakar Rabo, took it as part of his duties to emasculate the industry in any way he could. Acting on his weird understanding of the functions of a public officer and a pitiable misreading of the public mood, he battled the industry for three years, using the instrument of government power, ensuring that many actors, producers, directors, etc., were jailed or fined heavily on false charges. Many stakeholders migrated to other states. It took the sudden occurrence of his own sex scandal to check his acts of injustice and persecution and make him mellow down and seek rapprochement with his opponents.

At 20, Kannywood needs to take a pensive look at the progress it should have made but hasn't. The stakeholders, most of whom are young, need to train for roles in moviemaking, especially the technical aspect. Skill acquisition is low. The marketing system is rudimentary and pedestrian. Piracy, a big spectre, is gobbling up potential profits and keeping producers on the verge of bankruptcy. Movie stories are shallow and thematically restricted, lacking in unique cultural motifs that can create a universal loyal audience. Unity of purpose is almost absent, leading to an individualism that is injurious to the common interest of stakeholders; this makes it impossible for outfits to collaborate on productions and sometimes lead to court cases such as the current one between a leading director and a famous actor/producer. Overall, government empowerment is necessary in growing the industry as a private sector capable of sucking in thousands of school leavers and dropouts, as well as gearing the movies towards the common good.

Kannywood, as its struggles continue, can learn a lot from Nollywood, where collaborations and norms and conventions have created a cohesiveness that promotes the common good. There should be rules and regulations that everybody should be subjected to. The Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), Hausa movie industry's main trade association, has a role to play in this. Education is of paramount significance; an under-educated class cannot even write grammatically correct subtitles, talk less of producing captivating box office hits. A cursory viewing of Kannywood flicks on Africa Magic’s Hausa channel today shows just how backward Hausa movies are in this regard. If Kannywood refuses to start cleansing itself of its present imperfections, it cannot hope to make any headway in its next twenty years.

Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, last Saturday

Alheri danko ne...

Shekaru ka]an da su ka gabata, wani hamsha}in ]an kasuwa ]an Nijeriya ya samu ribar zunzurun ku]i har dalar Amurka biliyan ]aya a wata harkar kasuwanci da ya yi. Sai ya ]ebi rabin ku]in ya tsara rayuwar sa ta hanyar sayen kayan alatu da ajiya a asusu. A }arshe, ya na da rabi, wato dala miliyan 500. Sai ya kasance wannan mutum ya rasa yadda zai yi da wa]annan ku]i da su ka rage a hannun sa. A ganin sa, ko a banki ya aje su, ba su tsira ba; bankin na iya rugujewa ko kuma gwamnati ta fito da wata doka da za ta iya sa ya yi asarar ku]in. Sannan wani abin ban-haushi shi ne, ’ya’yan sa za su iya yin rigima da juna kan ku]in idan ya kwanta ya mutu. {a}a tsara }a}a!

Wannan mutum dai ba wani ba ne illa Leftana-Janar Theophilus Yakubu [anjuma (ritaya), wanda ya ta~a ri}e mu}amin Hafsan Hafsoshin Rundunar Sojan Nijeriya a zamanin mulkin Janar Olusegun Obasanjo daga 1976 zuwa 1979. Ya yi ritaya daga aikin soja ya na da shekara 41 kacal, lokacin da su ka mi}a mulki ga gwamnatin farar hula ta Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Bayan ya yi ritaya, sai ya shiga harkar jiragen ruwa, wadda a cikin ta Allah Ya tarfa wa garin sa nono, ya ku]ance.

A lokacin da Janar Sani Abacha ya ke shugaban }asa ne ya ba T.Y. [anjuma kadadar man fetur a Fatakwal, Jihar Ribas, shi kuma ya shiga aikin ha}a a filin, aka yi rijiya. A }arshe, bayan shekara goma sai aka samu ]imbin man fetur a wannan rijiya. Da T.Y. [anjuma ya ga haka, sannan ga fetur ya na tsada a kasuwar duniya, sai ya yi dabara, ya yi wuf ya sayar da rijiyar ga wani kamfanin }asar waje. Aka biya shi ku]in da ya wazgi wannan ribar ta dala biliyan 1 da na ke magana.

T.Y. [anjuma ya saba da samun ku]i; hasali ma dai biloniya ne a naira, to amma sai da ya sayar da wannan rijiyar fetur ]in sannan ya zama biloniya a dala. Kamar yadda na fa]a maku, ya rasa yadda zai yi da sauran ku]in da ya samu, wato dala biliyan 500. To, da ya ke Allah Ya yi shi mai hangen nesa, sai ya yanke shawarar kafa wata cibiya don taimakon jama’a. Tashin farko, ya ba cibiyar zunzurutun ku]i har dala miliyan 100.

A wata hira da aka yi da shi a jarida a bana, Janar [anjuma ya ce dalilin sa na yin haka shi ne babu yadda za a yi gwamnati, “komai kyakkyawan nufin ta, ta magance dukkan matsalolin jama’a ita ka]ai. A gaskiya, a dukkan }asashen da su ka ci gaba, yi wa jama’a aikin kyautata rayuwa bai ta~a kasancewa aikin gwamnati ita ka]ai ba; a koyaushe ana yin ha]in gwiwa ne da kamfanoni masu zaman kan su.”

T.Y. [anjuma, wanda ya ta~a ri}e mu}amin Ministan Tsaro a lokacin gwamnatin Cif Obasanjo, tsakanin 1999 da 2003, mutum ne da ya kamata a ce mai daskararriyar zuciya ne, maras tausayi, ba domin komai ba sai saboda shi soja ne wanda har ya}i ya yi a lokacin ya}in basasar Nijeriya. To amma sai ga shi ya kafa cibiya mai suna T.Y. [anjuma Foundation (mai gidan yana kamar haka a intanet: wadda ta sa ya kasance ]aya daga cikin manyan masu taimakon marasa }arfi a }asar nan. Manufar wannan cibiya tasa ita ce ta “agaza wa yun}urin gina Nijeriya inda kowane ]an }asa zai samu ingantaccen kiwon lafiya, ilimi da dama daidai wa daida wajen cin moriyar rayuwa.” Cibiyar ta na aikin hai}an, musamman a jihar su shi T.Y. ]in, wato Taraba, har ma da sauran wurare, a kan wannan manufar tata. Ta na aiki a ~angarorin kiwon lafiya, samar da aikin yi ga matasa da kuma harkar ilimi. Ta na yin aikin ne tare da ha]in gwiwa da wasu }ungiyoyi masu zaman kan su don warware matsalolin da su ka addabi jama’ar yankin. Wani aboki na da ya ziyarci ]aya daga cikin asibitocin da cibiyar [anjuma ]in ke ]aukar nauyi ya fa]a mani irin aikin ban-mamakin da ake yi wa jama’a a wajen. Ya ce har aikin fi]a likitoci ke yi wa majinyata a wurin, kuma kyauta. Sannan idan yau ka je Jami’ar Jihar Nasarawa da ke Keffi ka ga aikin da cibiyar ta yi, sai ka ri}e baki.

Mu kula, ba fa T.Y. [anjuma ka]ai ba ne ya ta~a samun }azamar riba daga wata harkar kasuwanci a }asar nan. Hasali ma dai, ’yan kasuwa da dama su na soke irin wannan ribar a aljihun su, su yi ta cin duniyar su da tsinke har }arshen ran su, ba tare da sun yi tunanin taimaka wa talakawa ba. Kafin mutum ya yi tunanin yin abin da T.Y. ya yi, sai ya kasance mai halayya tagari, mai gwarzantaka, da tausayi da yin amanna da yanayin da mu ke ciki, da kuma yin aiki da fasaha.

Kyautata wa jama’a ya na daga cikin manyan ayyukan gwarzantaka da ke nuna cewa mutum, mutum ne. Kafin ka yi kyauta, sai ka kasance ka yi }arfin halin yarda da rabuwa da wani abu da ka ke muradi, musamman ku]i ko dukiya. Kyautatawa kuma mutunci ce. Shi ya sa ba wanda zai iya yin ta sai mai jin }an ’yan’uwan sa mutane, wanda ya fahimci cewa sauran jama’a sun fi shi kasancewa cikin hali na bu}ata. Sai wanda ya gane bu}atar da ke akwai ta inganta rayuwar al’umma, wanda ya yarda da magance matsalolin da su ka yi wa duniyar mu katutu, zai iya motsawa don yin abin da ya dace.

Kyautata wa jama’a kuma aikin addini ne. Kafin ka yi tunanin taimakon wani mabu}aci, sai ka yi amanna da cewa haka Allah da Manzo su ka ce a yi. Har sai ka yarda da cewa haka ya dace a yi, tare da cikakkiyar yarda da cewa idan har an yi abin da ya dace a yi, to za a warkar da damuwar wani mutum, a sa shi ya yi murmushi don murna.

Kyautata wa jama’a fa fasaha ce. Fasaha ce ta sauke kan ka daga wata }ololuwa da ka ke a kai a cikin al’umma, ka yarda da cewa kai ba kowan kowa ba ne, domin fa ko me ka tara a duniyar nan wata rana sai dai labarin ka, ka tafi ka bar shi. Sai ka yi fasahar cewa ka yarda dukiyar ka za ta ragu idan ka cire wani abu, ka]an ko mai yawa, daga ciki ka kyautar da shi ga wani mabu}aci. A wannan fasahar, ka na kuma kambama kan ka, domin fa ka zama babban yaya ga mabu}ata, mai shau}in taimakon su.

Wannan duniya tamu ta zama tamkar wata dokar daji inda mai }arfi ke la}ume maras }arfi. A irin wannan duniya, ba kowa ba ne ke da irin halayen na da mu ka lissafa a sama. Wannan ne ya sa ake da }arancin mutane masu taimakon marasa }arfi a yawancin al’ummomin bil’adama. Mu a nan arewacin Nijeriya, a yayin da mu ke da ]imbin gajiyayyu da fa}irai, sai kuma ya kasance masu bayarwar sun yi ka]an. Yankin mu inda fatara ta yi katutu ya na bu}atar agaji a sassa daban-daban, kamar su ~angaren kiwon lafiya, ilimi, aikin yi, al’adu, da sauran su. Saboda haka a duk lokacin da ka ji wasu mutane su na yin ho~~asa don inganta rayuwar al’umma, tilas ne ka ji ka na son cira masu hula.

T.Y. [anjuma, wanda ]an shekara 72 ne a yau, a yi nisa wajen taimakon jama’a domin Allah Ya ba shi zuciyar yin hakan. In da ya ga dama, to da ba za mu ta~a sanin yadda ya ke samun ku]i ba. Ba mu san yadda wa]anda su ka fi shi ku]i su ke samun ku]in su ba, ballantana kuma yadda su ke kashe ku]in. Don haka, maganar ba ma ta yawan ku]in da mutum ya mallaka ba ne, a’a magana ce ta niyyar taimakawa da kuma alherin da taimakon ke jawowa.

Mu a nan }asar, idan mutum ya yi maganar taimakon jama’a ta hanyar kafa cibiya ta musamman don hakan, yawanci akan tuno da Turawa masu wannan halayyar ne, irin su Bill Gates, Ba’amurken nan wanda ya kafa cibiyar Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wadda ta fi kowace cibiyar agajin jama’a mai zaman kan ta girma a duniya. Shi Bill da matar sa Melinda Gates ne su ka kafa cibiyar, kuma su ka ba da dala biliyan 33 da rabi gare ta don inganta kiwon lafiya da kuma rage fatara a duniya. Akwai kuma attajirin nan Warren Buffet. Ko fitaccen mawa}i mai suna Bono. Ko kuma mawa}in nan marigayi Michael Jackson wanda ya rabar da yawancin dukiyar sa ga }ungiyoyi har 39 masu taimakon gajiyayyu kafin ya mutu. To, mu ma yanzu ga su T.Y. [anjuma nan sun fito da zummar taimakon jama’a.

’Yan Nijeriya dai mutane ne masu son addini sosai, don haka sun yarda da yin sadaka daga abin da Allah Ya hore masu. Za ka iya ganin haka in ka je masallatai da majami’u, ko wurin bikin saukar karatu ko taron }ungiyar tsofaffin ]alibai. Akwai kuma ]imbin masu ba da kyauta ko sadaka wa]anda ke yi a ~oye ba tare da son a yayata ba. To amma akwai masu ba da kyauta don kawai a gani a yabe su, wato kyautar ganin ido don cimma wata manufa ta siyasa ko ta wani abin daban. Irin wa]annan, ba a jimawa sai ka ji an daina labarin su, sun ~ace ko sama ko }asa.

Yanzu akwai bu}atar a kafa }ungiyoyin agaji, su kasance kamar manyan kamfanoni a }asar nan. Ya kamata masu ku]in mu su kafa cibiyoyi irin ta T.Y. [anjuma. Shin kuma ko kun lura da cewa yawancin manyan cibiyoyi irin wa]annan duk ana kafa su ne da sunan wasu tsofaffin hafsoshin soja? Kun ga dai ga Murtala Muhammed Foundation, da Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation da TY [anjuma Foundation, da kuma Yakubu Gowon Foundation. Sannan kada mu manta akwai Cibiyar Inganta Harkar Shugabancin Afrika ta Janar Obasanjo (wato Africa Leadership Forum). Idan aka kafa manyan }ungiyoyin agaji kamar kamfanoni, za a samu babbar hanyar inganta rayuwar bil’adama. Kuma kamar yadda Janar [anjuma ya fa]a a makon jiya a lokacin bikin bu]e taro na farko a }asar nan kan harkar agaza wa mabu}ata, wanda cibiyar sa ta shirya, ya kamata Majalisar Tarayya ta kafa dokar da za ta saka harkar bisa turba tsararriya. Bari in }ara da cewa yin hakan zai sa a tabbatar da cewa kowace cibiya da aka kafa ta ci gaba da ]orewa har bayan rasuwar wanda ya kafa ta ]in, sannan kuma agajin da cibiyar ke bayarwa ya isa ga mabu}atan, ba kurum ma’aikatan cibiyar ko abokan su ko ’yan’uwan su ba.

Mu kan mu ya-ku-bayi, ya dace mu ci gaba da kamanta kyautatawa da taimakon mabu}ata. Ba wai sai kai attajiri ba ne. An san cewa in ka na rarar ku]i, zai taimaka maka wajen yin kyauta, to amma fa mu sani cewa wa]anda su ka fi kyauta ba su ne su ka fi kowa ku]i ba. Ka tambayi kan ka: shin ka na ba da sadaka ko ihsani da nufin agaza wa mabu}ata? Idan ka duba da kyau, kila ka gano cewa akwai wasu takalma ko tufafi a gidan ka wa]anda ba ka yi amfani da su ba a tsawon shekara ]aya. To, a zahiri fa ba ka bu}atar irin wannan kayan. Ka kyautar da su don Allah. Idan har ka na yin haka, to wata rana za ka gan ka bisa hanyar zama mai son taimakon al’umma da ma}udan ku]i kamar yadda su Janar TY [anjuma ke yi. Hausawa sun ce alheri dan}o ne, ba ya fa]uwa }asa banza. Kuma sun ce aikata alheri ga kowa, sakayyar ka ta na wurin Allah.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Art Of Giving

A few years ago, a Nigerian businessman made a profit of $1 billion from a single business deal. After taking care of some essentials of life, he was left with 'just' $500 million. This man was at a loss over what to do with the money. It might not be safe to keep it even in a bank. Worse, his children might fight over it when he died, he thought. The man, Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff in the 1970s, had made the money from an oil block allocated to him by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha. He sold it ten years later when oil was struck in it and the world price of oil was hitting the roofs. He had retired from the army at an early age of 41; he had got to the top early. After retirement, he started a shipping business and became stupendously rich. But owning $500 million cash was not something he had ever bargained for. Being not an ordinary man, he got a brilliant idea. He decided to establish a foundation and commit $100 million to it.

"I decided to set up a foundation and endow it with my fund," he recalled in an interview this year. His reason was that the government, "no matter how noble its intentions, cannot address these challenges on its own. In fact, in all developed countries, the implementation of social projects is never the sole responsibility of government; there are often strong collaborations as well as the private sector."

TY, who was minister of defence between 1999 and 2003, was supposed to have a heart of steel, having been a soldier, one who saw battle during the Nigerian civil war. Now his TY Danjuma Foundation ( has transformed him into one of the nation's leading givers to the less privileged. The objective of the foundation is to "contribute to the building of Nigeria where all citizens have access to affordable quality health care, education and have equal opportunities to realize their potential." The Foundation is actively working on this vision, especially in the general's native Taraba State.

It is now intervening mainly in health, youth employment and education issues in Taraba. It works together with relevant non-governmental organisations to address the challenges faced by people in the area. A friend of mine who visited one of the health centres told me about the amazing things TY's endowment is doing for the people. He said with the foundation's sponsorship, doctors even carried out free surgeries for the people.

Mind you, it was not only TY who made big money from a business deal. Nor did it make him the richest man in the country. Many other tycoons would have pocketed that profit, gnawing at it slowly in a lifetime of luxury beyond their wildest imagination. To arrive at TY's decision to share his own with the impoverished people of his area, one had to employ all the values that make us human - courage, empathy, faith and art.

Giving is one of the most courageous values that define our sense of humanity. To give, you need to summon your inner strength of parting with something you hold dear, especially money and property. Giving is also human. That is why it can only be done by someone who feels for others, who sees that others have a need bigger than that of oneself. It is those that see the need to make the world a better place, to help cure it of its headaches and its ailments that can move towards doing the right thing. Giving is also a question of faith. To be able to help someone in need, you first need to believe in the necessity for such action. You need to think and be persuaded that this is something that must be done, fully convinced that if what should be done is done, then, somebody somewhere would gain a smile from your action.

Giving is also an art. It is the art of self-displacement, the condition of humbling yourself and letting a sense of humanity get into you. It is the art of reducing yourself to the position of someone whose worldly possession is going to be reduced by whatever portion, be it a huge chunk or a fraction. In this art, however, you are also making yourself a titan of some sorts, a big brother to those in need.

In a world that has become increasingly a jungle of sorts, where the survival of the fittest is the norm, it is not everyone who combines these values. That probably explains the paucity of givers in most human societies. In northern Nigeria, the scarcity of givers is matched with the huge numbers of the needy. Our economically backward region is in dire need of assistance in many areas: health, education, jobs, culture, etc. So when you hear about what some individuals are doing to help create a better society, you cannot help but cheer their efforts.

The 72-year-old TY is perfecting the art of giving because he has the heart for it. If he liked, we would never have heard about his money-making exploits. We do not know how those richer than him make their money, talk less of how they spend it. So, it is not so much about the money as it is about the intention and the eventual impact of the gesture.

When people talk about philanthropy, we usually link the word to the big givers in western countries, such as Bill Gates, the co-chairman of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, described as the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, founded by Bill and Melinda Gates, who endowed $33.5 billion for healthcare and ending poverty globally. Or Warren Buffet. Or Bono. Or even Michael Jackson who distributed most of his wealth to good causes, and who supported over 39 charity organisations. Now people like TY are pricking our conscience with their philanthropic spirit and zeal.

Nigerians being a religious lot believe in giving freely from their God-ordained possessions. Their altruistic activities are seen in mosques and churches, graduation ceremonies, or at alma mater meetings. There are silent givers who give without any formalities. Many other philanthropy bodies are formed for ‘show,’ inspired by pecuniary purposes such as politics. Such are usually a flash in the pan.

Now there is need to build a real philanthropy industry in this country. The rich among us should establish foundations such as TY’s. Is it not ironic that most of those that are better known and better organised were formed in the memory of former soldiers - the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation and the TY Danjuma Foundation? We should not also forget Gen Obasanjo’s Africa Leadership Forum. Formalising philanthropy would create institutions geared towards the betterment of human life and dignity. And as Gen Danjuma suggested two days ago during the opening of the first ever philanthropy forum, organised by his foundation, the National Assembly should provide the right legislative framework for the act of giving to be accountable and targeted. Let me add that doing so would also ensure that the foundations outlive their founders and the endowments reach the real beneficiaries rather than foundation staffers, their friends and relations.

Individually, we should all learn to practice the art of giving. It is not a matter of being rich. Having an extra buck to give away helps, of course, but then the best givers are not necessarily the biggest philanthropists. Ask yourself: do you give anything you possess as alms or an act of philanthropy? If you look carefully, there could be shoes or clothes in your house that you have not used for a year. Such things, no matter how expensive or valuable, are things you want but do not need. Give it away. With time, you will find yourself right on the path of big givers such as Gen TY Danjuma.


Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, on Saturday

Tsugunne ba ta kare ba

Akwai alamun cewa sau}i ya fara zuwa masana’antar finafinai ta Nijeriya, wato Nollywood, domin kuwa mako uku da su ka wuce ne Shugaban {asa Goodluck Jonathan ya yi wani ho~~asa na kyautatawa ga masu aikin fasaha da basira na }asar nan. Ku]i ne zunzurutu wuri na gugar wuri har dalar Amurka miliyan 200 ya bayyana bayarwa ga masu sana’ar nisha]antarwa a matsayin rance don ha~aka sana’ar su. A ku]in Nijeriya, sun kama kimanin naira biliyan 30.

Shugaban }asar ya fa]i haka ne a Legas, a wurin bikin cikar shahararren kamfanin nan masu gidajen silima da shirya gasar sarauniyar kyau mai suna Silverbird Group shekara 30 da kafawa. Mamallakin kamfanin, wato tsohon Darakta-Janar na Hukumar Talabijin ta Nijeriya (NTA), Mista Ben Murray-Bruce, shi ne ya ro}i shugaban da ya yi wani abu don karrama masana’antar, wadda ta }unshi masu shirya fim da kuma mawa}a. Jonathan, wanda ya halarci taron da kan sa, ya ce wannan jari da gwamnati ta zuba an yi shi ne “ba don komai ba sai don a mara wa masu sana’ar fasaha baya da kuma ha~aka masana’antar mu ta nisha]antarwa.”

Mutane da yawa da ke da ruwa da tsaki a masana’antar sun yi murna da wannan ku]in, su na ganin su a matsayin agajin da ya zo a daidai lokacin da ake bu}atar sa, wato a daidai lokacin da ruwa ya kusa }are wa ]an kada. Su na ganin sa a matsayin wata babbar karramawa da amintaka ga gudunmawar da wa]annan ]imbin masu basirar su ka bayar wajen sa a }ara sanin Nijeriya a fagen ayyukan nisha]i, wato fim da wa}a.

Nollywood, wadda masana’anta ce da ke bun}asa a koyaushe, ta na tafiya kafa]a-da-kafa]a da masana’antar da ta girme ta a fagen, wato ta ki]a da wa}a. Duk an san su a duniya. A wani rahoto da hukumar UNESCO ta buga a cikin watan Mayu 2009, an bayyana cewa masana'antar Nollywood ce ta uku a duniya wajen fito da yawan finafinai, wato ta na bin masana’antar Hollywood ta }asashen Turawa da kuma Bollywood ta }asar Indiya. An }iyasta cewa darajar Nollywood ta fuskar ku]i ta kai kimanin dala miliyan 250, kuma akwai mutum a}alla miliyan ]aya da ke aiki a masana’antar. Wannan masana’anta ta haifar da ’yan wasa wa]anda sunan su ya zama ruwan dare a cikin }asar nan da }asashen waje. Sunaye irin su Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Ramsey Nouah, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Pete Edochie, Ali Nuhu, Segun Arinze, Funke Akindele, da sauran su, sanannu ne. Akwai kuma irin wa]annan sunayen a fagen wa}a. A dalilin haka, akwai manazarta da dama da ke tururuwa daga }asashen duniya su na zuwa nan domin yin nazarin irin tashin gwauron zabon da wannan masana’anta ke yi. Abu sai ka ce tsafi! A yau ]in nan akwai tashoshin talabijin na satalayit da dama da ke nuna finafinan Nollywood dare da rana, ciki kuwa har da shahararriyar tashar Africa Magic, kwatankwacin yadda tashar Fox Movies ke nuna finafinan Hollywood da kuma yadda tashoshin B4U da Zee Aflam ke nuna na Indiya. Wa]annan mutane, mazan su da matan su, wa]anda yawanci matasa ne, su na rayuwa cikin jin da]i a matsayin attajirai, a cikin aikin da su ka }ir}ira da kan su, ba tare da sa hannun hukuma ba.

To amma kuma akwai mutanen da ke kallon wannan gara~asa da Jonathan ya yi ga ’yan fim da mawa}a a matsayin wani abu bambara}wai. Su na ganin cewa ya yi abin ne da ka kawai, ba tare da ya numfasa ya yi tunani ba, don kawai Mista Murray-Bruce ya ro}e shi da ya yi masu ko ma menene don nuna kulawa. Tun daga lokacin da aka bayyana gara~asar, na ji 'yan fim da mawa}a da dama su na yin wasu tambayoyi a kan ta: Shin wannan kyautar yaudara ce ko kuwa? Shin siyasa ce? Shin Jonathan ya na }o}arin samun goyon bayan masu sana’ar nisha]antarwa a daidai lokacin da ’yan adawa ke girgiza kujerar sa? Shin kishin }asa ne ya sa ya ba da wannan babbar kyautar? Ko kuwa ma gwamnati ta na so ta yi wa ’yan fim da mawa}a }ofar raggo ne, wato ta biyo ta bayan fage domin ta mamaye harkar saboda gudun irin sa}wannin da ake iya jefawa a cikin finafinai da wa}o}i?

Bayan haka, wa zai kar~o ku]in daga hannun gwamnati a madadin ’yan fim da mawa}an, wa]anda ba su da wasu tsayayyun shugabanni da kowa da kowa ya yarda da su? A yanzu dai, ba a ma san yadda za a raba ku]in ba. Shugaban }asa dai ya ce gwamnan Babban Bankin Nijeriya (CBN) tare da ministan ku]i su ne za su je su fito da hanyar da za a bi a fito da ku]in da kuma yadda za a yi da su. Jonathan, a jawabin sa, ya ambaci kalmar Nollywood ne a matsayin masana’antar finafinan Nijeriya, to amma don Allah ainihi su wanene Nollywood ]in? Da yawa in an ce Nollywood, to ana nufin ’yan fim na Kudiu kenan, wa]anda ke zaune a Legas da Anacha. To su kuma ’yan fim na Hausa fa da ke Arewa, wa]anda sunan tasu masana’antar Kannywood? Sannan kuma ina sauran Wood Wood da ke akwai - misali masana’antar finafinai ta Nupawa, wadda }arama ce kuma ba ta kallon kan ta a matsayin wani yanki na Kannywood, da sauran wuraren da ake shirya fim cikin harsunan mu na gado? Su yaya za a yi da su? Bugu da }ari, me ake nufi idan an ce maka]an Nijeriya? Shin sun ha]a da masu wa}o}i da harsunan gargajiya, irin su Nasiru Garba Supa na Kano da Musa [anbade na Kaduna, ko kuma ana nufin mawa}a na zamani masu wa}o}in Naija irin su Dapo Oyebanjo (D’banj), Abolere Akande (9ice), Innocent Idibia (Tuface), 2-Effects da Sound Sultan? Sannan ina za a saka su Aminu Ala, Fati Nijar, Maryam A. Baba da ire-iren su? A gaskiya, akwai bu}atar a fito a yi wa jama’a bayani, kuma a fito da hanyoyin da za a bi wa]annan ku]in su kai ga ’yan fim da mawa}a. Idan har ba a bi a sannu ba, to wannan gara~asa ta gwamnati za ta haifar da babban rikicin shugabanci a industiri, ta jawo rarrabuwar kai tsakanin masu fasaha a ~angarori daban-daban.

Ni a nawa ganin, har yanzu tsugunne ba ta }are ba ga masu shirya finafinai da kuma buga wa}o}i a Nijeriya. Industiri ba ta bu}atar wa]annan ku]in. Dalili: an yanke shawarar ba da su ne kurum a cikin irin tunanin gwamnati da ya da]e ya na addabar }asar nan, wato inda za ka ga an watsa ku]i ga matsala a matsayin magani maimakon a gano dalilin faruwar cutar. Abin da masana’antar nisha]antarwa ke bu}ata shi ne a samar da kyakkyawan sararin da mutum zai yi sana’a har ya ci riba. Mu tuna, wasu ’yan kasuwa masu tarar aradu don fa]in kai ne su ka haifar da industirin Nollywood da rana tsaka kimanin shekara 18 da ta gabata lokacin da su ka fitar da fim mai suna Living in Bondage, kuma tun daga lokacin ta ke ta }ara bun}asa ba tare da jarin gwamnati ba. Na san cewa masana'antar ta na fama da manyan matsaloli. Na farko, matsalar da ke damun Nijeriya ma ita ke damun ta, domin abin da ya ci Doma ba ya barin Awai. Matsalolin sun ha]a da satar basira da wasu ~arayin zaune ke tafkawa, ga rashin tsaro da kuma ta~ar~arewar tattalin arzikin }asar nan. [aya daga cikin manyan matsalolin ita ce satar basira, inda wani zaunannen ~arawo zai ]auki kayan ka ya gurza ya ri}a sayarwa, kai kuwa ko oho. Rashin }arfin doka da oda ya sa masu aikin basira sun kasa cin moriyar shukar su. |arayin zaune sun yi masu talala. Ya kamata a fitar da su daga wannan }angin, su samu sa’ida.

Lokacin da hukumar UNESCO ta ce Nollywood ce ta uku a duniya, ta ba ta wannan matsayin ne a kan yawan finafinan da ake shiryawa kawai, ba wai saboda }arfin arziki ko kuma ingancin finafinan ba. Su finafinan mu na Nijeriya, ana shirya su ne bisa ku]i }alilan, tare da yin amfani da kayan aiki masu araha. Yawanci babu ilimin abin domin su masu ruwa da tsakin ba wani horo su ka samu a makaranta ba; duk a lokeshin ake koyon komai. Shi ya sa za ka ga a finafinan ana nuno abu a duk yadda aka ga dama. Idan ka na kallon finafinan Kudu, sai ka yi tunanin cewa a }asar mu ba abin da ake yi sai tsafe-tsafe da aikata laifuffuka da kuma tsiraici. Rashin doka mai }arfi da kuma han}oron samun }azamar riba sun sa lamarin ya }azanta. Don haka babu mamaki, finafinan Nollowood }alilan ne ake ]aukar su da wata daraja a }asashen da su ka ci gaba, in ban da a unguwannin da ’yan Nijeriya ke zaune, masu }awazucin tunowa da gida. Yanzu dubi wani fim da aka yi a Afrika ta Kudu wai shi Tsotsi, da wani da aka yi a Indiya mai suna Slumdog Millionaire. Wa]annan finafinai ne da ake ji da su a duniya. Shi Tsotsi, dalar Amurka miliyan 3 aka kashe wajen shirya shi, to amma an samu dala miliyan 10 daga nuna shi a silima. Haka kuma ya ci manyan gasa guda biyu na duniya, wato lambar Oscar (a cikin 2005) da lambar Golden Globe (a 2006) a matsayin gwarzon fim cikin harsunan }asashe ban da Ingilishi.

Amma mu finafinan mu na Nijeriya, ba su da labarai masu }arfi, sannan da an fara fim za ka iya cankar inda zai }are. Sakamakon haka, za ka ji ana kuka da finafinan a gida da waje. Yanzu haka a Uganda har wata mata ’yar Majalisar Dokokin }asar mai suna Sarah Wasike Mwebaza ta ]ora laifin }aruwar ayyukan tsafe-tsafe a }asar ga yawaitar finafinan Nijeriya a }asar. Gwamnatin Uganda ta na nan ta na shirin kafa dokar da za ta magance matsalar. Wannan ya nuna cewa ya kamata masu shirya finafinan mu su yi karatun ta-natsu, su maida hankali wajen shirya finafinai masu inganci, da nuna gwaninta wajen ba da labari, da kyan hoto da sauti. Ya kamata su nuna wa sauran }asashen duniya cewa ba wai neman ku]i kawai ya sa su ke shirya fim ba, a’a har ma don su nuna bajinta a basira da fasaha. Saboda haka, kada a dubi gara~asar da Shugaba Jonathan ya bayar a matsayin ku]i kawai, maimakon haka a ]auka cewa alama ce ta nuna goyon baya da kuma karramawa. Idan har aka saka ido a kan ku]in, to ba abin da zai biyo baya sai cacar baki da rarrabuwar kai da fa]ace-fa]ace, daga nan kuma zancen bizines ya }are kenan.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Ace Hausa Actress, Amina Garba, Dies At 52


The Hausa film industry was thrown into mourning yesterday with the death of one of the leading actresses, Hajiya Amina Garba (a.k.a. Mama Dumba), who died in Kano.
Mama Dumba, popular with her role as an elderly, responsible mother or wife of a rich man in the movies, died at the age of 52 three weeks after she had remarried.
Her husband of three weeks, Alhaji Abdulkareem Shehu Bauchi, told LEADERSHIP that she succumbed to a long battle with high blood pressure, diabetes and ulcer.

On Saturday, Mama Dumba had been taken to the Gwagwarwa Clinic in Kano metropolis, where she worked as a nurse till her death. She was treated and asked to go home. She was, however, returned to the hospital yesterday when her condition deteriorated and died at about 2:30 p.m.

Her remains were conveyed by her family members to her house at Kofar Kabuga area of the city, where parts of the funeral rites were observed.

She is survived by her husband and five children (two of whom are female).

Shell-shocked colleagues of the late actress showered encomiums on her as she was interred at the Kofar Mazugal cemetery in Kano City.

Administrative secretary of the Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria, Malam Ahmad Salihu Alkanawy, described the deceased as a true mother whose death has created a huge vacuum in the movie industry. “She has indeed left a large vacuum. She was a real mother who was responsible. We pray Allah in His infinite mercy to forgive her shortcomings,” he said.

On his part, famous actor, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishunku, said Hajiya Amina Garba “was indeed kind; a nice woman whose good manners can be attested to by viewers and those of us who work with her in the industry.”

According to him, the death of Dumba was symbolic, considering the fact that she recently got married despite other people’s opinion about her being too elderly for a fresh marriage union.

He said: “Some people thought she was too old for marriage but Allah has destined that she would die as a complete human being, a responsible married woman.”

Another actor, Malam Jibril S. Fagge, recalled the qualities of the deceased, saying, “Hajiya was a good mother, especially for those of us who knew her and came from the same place as her. I knew her as she knew my parents; she was a kind woman.

“Today is exactly three weeks that she got married, as if she had a premonition that she was going to die. But we believe this was the doing of Allah and we hope Allah will cover her with His infinite mercy.”

Published in LEADERSHIP today.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Still Living In Bondage

Succour appeared to have come the way of Nollywood penultimate week when, in a rare gesture of goodwill towards the arts in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan announced a $200 million stimulus for the entertainment industry. The money is worth about N30 billion. Speaking in Lagos during the 30th anniversary celebration of the Silverbird Group, the famous entertainment company headed by former director-general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce, the president said the investment was a lifeline "for the exclusive purpose of supporting artistes and developing our entertainment industry."

The move was hailed by many stakeholders in the industry as an intervention that couldn't have come at a better time. They saw in it a clear recognition and honour of the contribution of the talented men and women who have helped to put Nigeria on the world map of entertainment.

Nollywood, the nation's growing movie industry, which can now be regarded as a twin of the equally soaring, though older, music industry, is a global brand from Nigeria. According to a UNESCO report released in May 2009, Nollywood is the third largest movie industry on earth by value, after Hollywood and India's Bollywood. Worth about $250 million and employing about 1 million Nigerians, the industry has created artistes who are household names, nationally and internationally. Names like Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Ramsey Nouah, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Pete Edochie, Ali Nuhu, Segun Arinze, Funke Akindele, etc, are well known. Similar big names abound on the music scene. Consequently, Nollywood has attracted academics from across the world who consider its phenomenal rise worthy of study. Talk of African magic! Indeed, several satellite television channels, including the appropriately named Africa Magic, now offer Nollywood movies 24 hours a day, the way Hollywood movies are shown on stations like Fox Movies or Indian ones on B4U and Zee Aflam. These men and women, most of whom are young, lead comfortable lives in jobs they created for themselves.

For many others, however, the president's gesture was very odd. To them, he acted impulsively - having been begged to do something, anything for the industry, by Mr. Murray-Bruce. In the last two weeks, I have heard questions being asked by stakeholders: Is this a Greek gift? Is it political? Is Jonathan currying the favour of the entertainers as he faces stiff challenge to his leadership? Was his offer inspired by true nationalistic fervour? Is the government coming in to control an informal sector which can communicate political messages not favoured by officialdom? Who will collect the money on behalf of the stakeholders in an industry that has no formal structure or universally recognised leadership?

For now, it is not clear how the money will be shared. The president said the Central Bank governor and the finance minister will handle that. Jonathan, in his speech, alluded to a group called Nollywood, but who, really, is Nollywood? Many reserve it for only those entertainers based in Lagos and Onitsha, but what of the huge Hausa film industry up north, known as Kannywood? And what of other 'Woods' - such as the miniscule, but silently growing Nupe movie industry which does not see itself as a part of Kannywood, as well other small vernacular outfits? Also, what do we mean when we say Nigerian musicians? Do they include those singing in the vernacular, such as Nasiru Garba Supa in Kano and Musa Danbade in Kaduna, or only those Naija crooners such as Dapo Oyebanjo (D'banj), Abolere Akande (9ice), Innocent Idibia (Tuface), 2-Effects and Sound Sultan? Clearly, much needs to be done to sift the grains from the chaff and then determine the modalities for moviemakers and musicians to access the fund. If care is not taken, this government's bonanza would spawn the biggest leadership tussle ever witnessed in the industry and cause divisions between the various "Woods" in the country.

I believe that the industry does not need the largesse. Reason: it came out of the practice by successive regimes to throw money at problems. What the entertainment industry truly needs to develop is a conducive business environment. Remember that Nollywood was created from nothing by adventurous entrepreneurs about 18 years ago with the release of the flick, Living in Bondage, and has grown in leaps and bounds without government money. Of course, it is bedevilled by problems. It suffers from the "Nigerian factor", which includes anything from piracy and insecurity to the poor state of the economy. One of the biggest problems is piracy. The country's lax laws have made it impossible for producers to enjoy the fruits of their labour. They are held in bondage by these thieves. They should be rescued.

Nollywood's ranking by UNESCO's Institute of Statistics as number one in the world is on production volume rather than quality. Nigerian movies are shot on shoestring budgets with cheap equipment. Professionalism is rare because stakeholders lack training, hence the insensitive portrayals of our society as a haven of crime, fetish and exposed flesh. Lax laws and the get-rich-quick nature of Nigerians worsen the situation. Little surprise, then, that only a few Nollywood movies are of value to foreign audiences aside Nigerians in the Diaspora. Consider Tsotsi, the South African movie, or India's Slumdog Millionaire. Tsotsi was made on a $3 million budget and it grossed about $10 million. It also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best foreign language film in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

But our movies have poor storylines and a predictable nature. Complaints, as a result, are reverberating across Africa. In Uganda, an MP, Sarah Wasike Mwebaza, blames an increase in witchcraft cases in that country on the influx of Nigerian movies. The Ugandan government is now mulling a bill to address the issue. This shows that our movie makers need to self-reflect and aim at quality in their stories, storytelling style, pictures and sound. They should show the world that their business is not only about making the quick buck but also about art. The bonanza from government should not, therefore, be viewed in monetary terms but as support and recognition. Once regarded as cool cash, it would divide and distract them from business.

Picture above: Artistes and crew shooting a Nollywood movie. Photo: BBC

Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, today.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Vote For The Youths

"Crabbed age and youth cannot live together;
Youth is full of pleasance, age full of care;
Youth like the summer morn, age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare"

– William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

"Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short; youth is nimble, age is lame; youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold; youth is wild, and age is tame."

– William Shakespeare

A significant stir is going on in Africa regarding the impact of age on the development of our nations. Induced mostly by the emergence, two years ago, of a youthful Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, the thinking presupposes that, in the management of nation, a young person is better than a grumpy old man whose bones and brains have grown tired and rusty. Obama is a reminder that the world’s youths have hope of attaining the pinnacle of leadership, be it in corporate bodies or in the presidency of nations. This prospect was further reinforced by the election of another youth, David Cameron, as British prime minister in May, this year. Suddenly, a reawakening began to take place amongst Africa’s youths, who have always been sidelined from leading their countries.

The reason for this is the concern that Africa is the global hub of gerontocratic regimes, where old men (and a woman) rule like the emperors of old. Africans are used to having oldies as presidents or heads of government, most of whom are sit-tight dictators who regard their countries as exclusive fiefdoms. They brook no opposition, even when running their own versions of democracy. Respect for elders, even if they have overstayed their welcome and are dictatorial, corrupt or murderous, is the norm.

Today, there is an overpowering urge to link Africa’s underdevelopment to the age of its rulers. Of course, there are other factors why our continent is the most backward on earth, but that we also harbour the oldest rulers cannot be denied. They superintend the thieving going on and seem unable to move with the times. Their vision cannot respond to the demands of modern leadership. The world is changing fast, but Africa’s despotic leaders are not, cannot and will not.

As I write, some statistics, which link Africa’s underdevelopment to the age of its leaders, are circulating on the internet. They are a startling revelation of how old folks – the men of yesteryears – stradde the leadership of the continent while their counterparts in the First World have receded to the background to nurse their health and ponder the end-times. The statistics, entitled, “Why Africa is 25 Years Behind the Developed World...”, are as follows:


•Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe ) - 86

•Abdullahi Wade (Senegal) - 83 years

•Hosni Mubarak (Egypt ) - 82

•Paul Biya (Cameroon) - 77

•Bingu Wa Mutharika (Malawi) - 76

•Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia ) - 75

•H. Pohamba (Namibia ) - 74

•Rupiah Banda (Zambia) - 73

•Mwai Kibaki (Kenya) - 71

•Muammar Gaddafi (Libya) - 68

•Jacob Zuma (South Africa) - 68

Average Age: - 75.6

Approximately - 76 years


•Abdullah Gül (Turkey ) - 60

•Angela Merkel (Germany ) - 56

•Nicolas Sarkozy (France) - 55

•José Sócrates (Portugal) - 53

•Stephen Harper (Canada) - 51

•Julia Gillard (Australia) - 49

•José L. R. Zapatero (Spain) - 49

•Barack Obama (USA) - 48

•Dmitry Medvedev (Russia) - 45

•David Cameron (UK) - 43

Average Age: - 51.1

Approximately - 51 years

DIFFERENCE: 25 years

What this list tries to show, in simple terms, is that Africa, a Third World entity, has not developed because it is saddled with old men who lack the vibrancy to lead their nations in the modern age. At the end of the tabulation, a question was posed: “Guys, how do we move forward with this old squad?”

To answer this question, each African has to look at the situation in their own country and see what is really changing. In Nigeria, a sea change occured in 2007 when Umaru Yar’Adua, 56, was made president at the end of the tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo, who was then 70. But Yar’Adua’s rule did not last as he succumbed to a debilitating illness and died this year. The current president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, is a 53-year-old. According to the standard set by current African leadership ethos, he is still young, but judging by the standard of developed nations, he has passed the mark a little. And if he wins next year’s election and rules for another four years, he would be 58 years old –– much younger than Obasanjo when he was elected but still on the wizened side.

It is heart-warming that there are, at least, two younger persons gunning for Nigeria’s presidency today. Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State is 48 years old while the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, is 50. Both have a record of integrity. While Saraki has made great strides as governor, Ribadu has shown that it is possible to fight corruption in Africa. Apart from Jonathan, the leading candidates for the presidency, however, are not these two but three men of yesteryears: Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, 69; Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, 68, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, 64.

This means that it will take a long while before the “new breed” are able to upstage the old from the top post, unless, of course, Nigerian voters change the rules by electing a young person as president as their counterparts did in the U.S. and the U.K. Whatever the case, young people in Africa should begin to seek elective offices on their own merit. They should campaign for votes and not lean on the support of the so-called elders or godfathers. Any young person who is able to sway the multitude to his/her side would make the elders fall in line. They should have the will to do this.

The youths may not have the money to bribe the voters, but their will and goodwill would see them through. In 2007, at age 51, Pat Utomi campaigned vigorously for president on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Although he did not succeed, he showed that a confident and competent young person can seek the throne and perform creditably. That’s what Obama and Cameron did and succeeded. So, why not an African?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Problem With Desperados

So much has been said about the propensity of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to count on the meaning of his first name to reach great heights in life. It is related that right from kindergarten, the man had leaned on a smiling providence to lift him up from obscurity to the limelight. The same streak of good luck has followed him right to where he is today.

It was in politics that his luck shone brightest. He never ran for an election on his own. He always skipped from being a deputy to a principal: the Bayelsa State governor found himself in trouble when Jonathan was deputising for him, and he gave way for the latter to ascend the throne; President Umaru Yar’Adua got into deep trouble with his health, and he died. Jonathan became the most powerful man in Africa. How much luck could one ask for?

All this while, there was no proof that the ever-smiling man coveted positions of power and influence. They dropped onto his lap from the heavens, like manna. Well, until now. Today, when the potentials power holds for him are most glaring, Jonathan appears to be running out of luck. For the first time in his life, he is standing in front of millions asking to vote for him. Now that he knows what it means to be president, he also knows what it could mean not to be president. Now he is working hard to remain in his seat. Hard luck, many persons are committed to snatching it from him. The desperation is mutual on both sides.

Jonathan, who might not have even worked hard to marry his wife, is no longer counting on good luck. He has to work for it the hard way. And he is not taking any chances. The presidency of Nigeria is not one you get through sheer luck. Political power is slippery, and those raising the stakes so high for him – the other candidates – are also formidable opponents.

But Jonathan does not want us to believe that he is desperate to get elected. It is those others that are, he tells us. It is not a do-or-die affair. In his Facebook update on Tuesday, he accused his opponents in the race of what he described as “dangerously anxious to the extent of hitting some of us below the belt.”

For me, it sounded like somebody saying, “Look, I’m the one who’s desperate, but don’t tell me I am.” This is because the president has exhibited this instinct on more occasions than can be counted, much more than those he denigrates. He also keeps showing that his desperation is growing by the day as the general elections draw near. I have a small list of such inauspicious moments:

• The forced resignation of national chairman of the ruling PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, because he did not believe that power should return to the South because of Yar’Adua’s death. He voiced concern that some people were working on making Jonathan run in the presidential contest;

• The president encouraged a group of Northern politicians to sponsor a “national summit” in Kaduna which endorsed his decision to contest in the 2011 polls. This group was a crude counterbalance to another Northern group which had earlier said the region would not back any move by Jonathan to participate in the election because the North’s turn had not expired;

• Jonathan’s unintelligent denial of the zoning agreement within the PDP when even a primary school pupil could point it out in the document;

• The president’s absolution of the MEND from the twin bombing in Abuja on Independence Day when every fact before and after the attack had shown that it was indeed the terrorist group that carried it out. The ongoing trial of MEND leader Henry Okah in Johannesburg and subsequent investigations by Nigerian security organisations have fingered unequivocally at only one group for the crime – MEND. Jonathan had reckoned that a terrorist attack in the North by people from his own state would question his capacity and sincerity as president of Nigeria and so tried to deflect attention from them in such a disingenuous fashion.

• The government’s smear campaign against the strongest opponent of Jonathan in the 2011 race, former president Ibrahim B. Babangida (IBB), in order to discredit him and force him out of the contest. IBB has been called names by the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation and by some shadowy groups linked to the president. Only this week, “former leaders” of MEND were reported to have stormed Bayelsa, Jonathan’s home state, asking the Federal Government to investigate the murder of journalist Dele Giwa – as if the matter had never been investigated before. Besides, this looks like the case of the kettle calling the pot black – a group of “former” and proven criminals asking the authorities to punish a suspect;

• The smear campaign against IBB and his supporters included the failed to link him to the Abuja bomb blasts. We should also not forget the fact that Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the director of IBB’s campaign organisation, was disowned by some political leaders from his native Niger delta region because of his refusal to follow Jonathan. Chief Edwin Clark, the octogenarian leader of the group of elders, is the mainstay of the Jonathan presidency from the region. Dokpesi was further threatened by MEND, who said that they would hurt him, his family and his business outfits for his effrontery in backing IBB;

• Jonathan’s attempt to force an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 to allow all his ministers and aides to serve as delegates in the forthcoming primary election. After the Senate had rejected the bill, another attempt of the president to sneak the bill back into the House of Representatives was reported this week;

• The attempted “coup” against Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State to remove him as chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum because of his refusal to back Jonathan in the 2011 election and replace him with a compliant Governor Gbenga Daniel. The move, which failed woefully this week, was orchestrated by some governors who are hell-bent on making Jonathan the elected president of Nigeria.

Need I provide more proof of Jonathan’s desperation to cling to power through the 2011 election? Yes, the president has a constitutional right to contest. The problem is his denial of his party’s internal agreement to which he was a signatory and all the other crude tactics he and his campaign team are employing in order to remain in office. One can understand that a man who has never won an election on his own merit would now want to prove his mettle in the ring. But should he be so desperate? The problem with desperados is that they can say and do anything in order to get what they want. And with the instruments of power in their hands, they can be dangerous.

Jonathan should prove his electability through good works now that he is in the saddle, as well as good conduct through his pronouncements and actions. The burden of incumbency has put more responsibility on him than on any other candidate. His campaign team’s spitfire reactions to the other aspirants are uncalled for. They only go to prove that the president and the people he gave the job of helping him win the election are not so sure of themselves, do not trust the good luck he has been known for, and would do anything to win – by hook or crook. That does not sound palatable to our young democracy.

Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, last Saturday

Monday, 1 November 2010

Migration To The Digital Media

By Ibrahim Sheme

A tectonic shift is taking place right now in much of Europe’s mass media industry. The traditional media as they are known globally – print edition newspapers and magazines, as well as television and transistor radio – are transmuting into digital versions that reach out to audiences that were hitherto contemplated only in fairy tales and sci-fi. The reason for this is mainly due to the explosion of internet use and the coming of new media devices and the social networks, both of which have caused a sharp, life-threatening decline in the sale of printed copy news journals. This decline has brought a crisis among traditional media because a fall in revenue means only one thing: a reduction in staffers and eventual shrinking of departments, a feature which can only lead to closure of businesses. The war of survival began long before the arrival of the new electronic devices which brought a rosy side of the bad story.

But war and crisis are sometimes good for some businessmen. Consequently, eagle-eyed media entrepreneurs on the continent have since discovered the vision of exploiting the crisis faced by their newspapers by investing in the new media heralded by the amazing evolution of technology. Side by side with their ownership of traditional media systems, these entrepreneurs are building digital media companies that are making up for their huge losses in revenue and promising greater harvests. For those European innovators, the future is already here.

This much I discovered here in Istanbul, Turkey (from where I write), during a two-day conference this week, organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). I have heard from top managers how various media organisations are making a bold migration from traditional media to the emerging digital one. It’s like watching people rushing into Noah’s Ark while you are left standing alone on an island that’s being flooded. Speaker after speaker captured the event’s imagination with lurid tales of the humongous profits they are making from the vast market forged by the new technologies. And I wondered: God, where are we? I mean, those of us in developing nations where poverty, poor reading culture and lack of vision have combined to stunt our progress. In our countries, few media managers have woken up from the slumber of operating traditional media. The obsession is still with the printed copy tabloids, banner advertising, supplements and classifieds. The prospects offered by digital media are yet to be fully appreciated, and only a handful of operators are willing to step into the new genre. The imperfections of running a traditional media system is still tolerated as if it is a straight-jacket that cannot be changed or thrown off.

In Nigeria, however, there is a small stir among media organisations towards the new appreciation. Some companies, notably Leadership, The Punch, Next and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) have begun to break new grounds by introducing ‘‘news on the go’’ through cell phones. For a small price, you get headlines of the major news stories of the day. But for these companies, that small fee, translated into millions of subscribers, can simply mean huge revenue at comparatively lower cost of production. This small step exemplifies the immense potentialities embedded in digital media business.

In Europe, the new media groups are not satisfied with uploading news stories onto their websites as most Nigerian newspapers are doing or hurling one-liner news summaries at subscribers for a tiny monthly fee; they are selling not only content to their millions of subscribers but are also attracting advertising from business organisations. In doing this, they launch separate internet companies specifically for the purpose of promoting the new media business. All over the continent, internet traffic is exploding. New devices such as the iPod and smart phones like BlackBerry are presenting great opportunities that are ready to be exploited. These devices, which work like hand in glove with social networks such as Facebook (which has 5 million users worldwide and growing), Twitter and Myspace, can be fully exploited by the hard-nosed entrepreneur.

Moreover, the “new” media networks are not really new in the real sense of the word. They are only diversifying, using the knowledge they have garnered across the ages, and building separate operations that can work with the new trend. This means that traditional media groups in Nigeria and other developing nations can do the same. Already, the internet market is opening up ever more rapidly. Internet use is growing fast and the new devices are becoming increasingly available. Anyone familiar with internet use in Nigeria knows that the two trends have grown tremendously in the past two years or so. Facebook is a familiar playground for a great number of Nigerian youths.

One secret of success in the field is to be both proactive and different. As Hanzade Dogan, chairwoman of one of Turkey’s leading media groups, Dogan Gazetecilik A.S., said at the Istanbul conference, in order to make yourself attractive to the .com generation, you as a media organisation must be able to make your digital products different and ensure to find the best ways to make use of the new digital devices. Another secret is to start early. Many of the media companies enjoying the goodies of the new genre in Europe are those that took the all-important first step a long time ago when their competitors were prevaricating. Bela Papp, group business development director at Ringier AG, a leading digital media company in Switzerland, spoke of how the 170-year-old family-owned conglomerate made the successful transition to the digital business model early enough and is today reaping millions from its investment. Another secret told by Mr Papp is that the company keeps a tab on mobile phone development. “We move fast with innovation, knowing there are big players out there who are interested in the same ideas,” he said.

Another secret is that you do not have to be a newspaper owner or big operator of an existing media house to be able to go into the digital media business. You could begin by launching a web site for classifieds, for instance, selling advertising space to car dealers, restaurants or used goods, and then diversifying into attracting clientele from banks, insurance corporations, GSM providers, etc. The important thing is to prove that the site is accessible to users through computers and smart phones.

The greatest beneficiaries, however, would be those that have traditional media systems in place. Reliable media names also count. Existing groups can sell themselves through self-ads on their own media outlets and can show that subscribers can derive other benefits, such as exclusive news of politics, sports and entertainment, as well as analyses and commentary by respected columnists. The important thing for existing media companies is to monetise their internet content through exclusive offerings to their subscribers. To achieve this, Nigerian media companies may need to collaborate through associations such as NPAN. But as it happened elsewhere in Europe, some companies may not want to play along for one reason or the other (mostly selfish). If that happens, however, nothing stops even one company from making the plunge. With time, as proof shows in the developed information societies of the western hemisphere, others would join the trend in the future whether they like it or not. This is because this is a great idea whose time has come.

Published in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, October 30, 2010

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Protecting The Ugly Duckling

What do you do to a child that has gone deliberately bad? Get a cane, of course, and give them a whacking on the bottom. But a Hausa saying tells you, "Hannun ka ba ya rubewa ka yanke ka yar," i.e. you don't cut off your hand and throw it away just because it is rotten. The saying is rooted in the traditional family system which encourages family members to protect their own even if the person happens to have gone bad or astray. Consequently, if a family member commits a heinous crime such as theft, adultery or even murder, members of their family are expected not to disown them; after all, as a Nigerian parlance says, blood is thicker than water.

Our diplomats who work in our foreign missions have since adopted this blood-tie protectionism of the average Nigerian person as a work to rule requirement. Hence the speed with which they stoutly resist any portrayal of Nigeria as leader in corruption and insecurity. Since last year, three events have happened that showed our distaste for negative portrayal. Let's start with the recent one, which happened only yesterday. Nigeria's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, has sent a letter of protest to the BBC complaining about a billionaire businessman's comment about Nigeria on a television programme. The founder of Amstrad computers, Sir Alan Sugar, had suggested on his own reality TV show, "The Apprentice," currently running on BBC TV network, that Nigerians are not to be trusted when it comes to dealing with financial promises. During a recent episode of the programme, Lord Sugar asked a participant on the programme why he should not fire him, and the latter responded: "If you give me one hundred grand a year, I will deliver to you 10 times that and if I don't - take it all back. A money back guarantee, I'm confident." To this, Lord Sugar answered: "I had an offer like that from Nigeria once and funnily enough it didn't transpire."

Tafida didn't like it one bit. In his letter, he fumed: "It was an unprovoked, damaging remark on a sovereign and independent state of over 150 million people, based on his alleged sordid and isolated deal with a Nigerian individual. It is indeed demeaning and unfortunate." Apparently, Dr Tafida had read in Lord Sugar's comment another attempt to demonise Nigerians through negative portrayal on prime time television. Perhaps if he had ignored the glib comment, the matter would have petered out almost unnoticed, but he fired a salvo to the BBC, which the British press celebrated yesterday, at once putting Nigeria on the world map once again, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

A similar incident had incensed Ambassador Tafida recently, with the BBC caught in its web. On April 15, the BBC broadcast a documentary entitled, "Welcome to Lagos," on its UK network. It was an uncomplimentary portrayal of life in the country's most populous city. After watching it, I was persuaded to believe that the images shown were not false; the BBC's offence was that it showed its viewers an aspect of Nigerian life our leaders would not want the rest of the world to know. And Lagos being a microcosm of Nigeria, the world would now see the country as grossly underdeveloped, a nation where poverty and violence combine to create a monstrosity far removed from the picture our leaders and diplomats are stiving to convey.

After the first of the three-part series was aired, Tafida took up the matter and conveyed a letter of protest to the controller of BBC2, Ms. Janice Hadlow. He expressed "dismay and disappointment" with the "sinister" documentary. "The (high) commission would therefore like to register its strong rejection of this documentary as a deliberate distortion of life in Lagos, and totally unwarranted," he said. He believed that the documentary was an attempt to bring Nigeria and its hardworking people to international odium and scorn."

In a similar incident in September last year, Sony Pictures Entertainment, an arm of the global filmmaking franchise, had released a movie it shot in South Africa entitled "District 9." In the sci-fi flick, Nigerians were portrayed as common criminals and prostitutes and the leader of a criminal gang was called Obasanjo. I remember information minister Dora Akunyili running from pillar to post over the movie, spewing comments similar to the ones Tafida made over the Lagos documentary.
It is easy to surmise that these three incidents have established a pattern of Nigeria demonization. Major media corporations are eager to exploit the notorious stereo-typed view about Nigerians in their bid for a chunk of the entertainment and news market share.

Which leads me to ask: Where are our security organisations when foreign journalists come in and shoot documentaries? It is only in Nigeria this happens without official guides. Secondly, is what they are showing the world the truth and nothing but the truth? The answer is Yes and No. No, because Nigeria has made great contributions to various spheres of human endeavour - in the academia, literature, sports, peacekeeping, administration, business, entertainment, etc. It is, therefore, wrong to categorise all Nigerians as crooks and the country as a nation of scammers as one former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria once did.

But, Yes, these shining achievements are being dimmed by the bad works: the unrelenting pursuit by some other Nigerians to commit various unwholesome acts - from corruption to prostitution, illegal immigration, advance fee fraud (419), fake weddings, kidnappings, religious crises, murder, robbery, etc. This country is a leading member of the corruption league, with many of its leaders being caught red-handed in corruption offences. Look at the mind-blowing revelations in the banking industry and the capital market. Look at Halliburton. Look at the bombing of Abuja by MEND. Only recently, two of our boys were caught with drug use in the 19th Commonwealth Games in Delhi. And Amos Adamu has just proved that our sports administration is also a gold winner in the global corruption index. The actions of our political leaders, who promote the culture of get-rich-quick, are being emulated by other Nigerians. Hence the propensity by young Nigerians to make both ends meet in any way they can, including through acts that would paint the nation black. To many people overseas, the Nigerian is the ugly duckling from Africa. Why should we play the ostrich and pretend, through letters of protest, that these things do not happen?

Anyone familiar with the stereo-typing of Nigerians abroad would quickly link Lord Sugar's comment to the advance fee fraud phenomenon known as '419,' which is perpetrated by young Nigerians desperate to make money. Hundreds of unsuspecting foreigners have fallen prey to criminals who send fake claims via E-mail offering mouth-watering business deals in return for secret payoffs, which can run from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars or pound sterling. Lord Sugar, the 61-year-old British peer who is worth an estimated £830 million, could have been a victim of such scams. His undisclosed experience, which happened only "once," would be familiar to many other Britons who were victims of similar scams.

Nigerian leaders should do more on improving the living condition of their people. They should commit themselves to education, job creation, and good investment climate, including provision of security and electricity. Doing this would help make Nigerian citizens stay in their own country and not force themselves into countries where they are unwanted. This is a more pre-emptive measure in checking the ceaseless negative portrayal of Nigeria by the foreign media and other institutions than sending protest letters.

Publıshed ın LEADERSHIP last Saturday