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Is District 9 movie a fitting metaphor for the ugliness of Nigeria?

Nigeria is a nation whose ugliness is increasingly troubling! Nigeria’s Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili has implicitly accepted that there is something wrong with Nigeria’s image. She hardly accepts that there is something wrong with Nigeria. Trivializing her pet project to a matter of perception as she is doing with her usual zeal and outspokenness rather than accepting the obvious is very unhelpful.
The poignancy of such artistic endeavors like District 9, which has been described as “a science-fiction morality tale” ought to be seen as an effort not only driven by mercantile interest, but also an effort to employ art to deliver the message to the so-called Nigerian leaders, past and present of the incalculable harm they have done and continue to do their country and its inhabitants.
But are they listening? I have doubts.

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REMAKING NIGERIA

A scene from Sony's District 9 which loads on Nigeria's image as a corruption zone and ridicules Obasanjo. USAfricaonline.com

A scene from Sony's District 9 which loads on Nigeria's image as a corruption zone and ridicules Obasanjo. USAfricaonline.com

USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York Times as the  most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994;  CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005
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Is District 9 movie a fitting metaphor for the ugliness of Nigeria?

By Nkem Ekeopara

Special & Exclusive commentary for USAfricaonline.com

Our Igbo elders of south eastern Nigeria say that ‘onye yiri he e jiri koo ya onu  wu achi ma achi bi achi bi’, anyone who resembles what is used to make a caricature of him/her provokes an unceasing laughter. This is the context I want to look at the controversy surrounding the film, District 9; a film produced and marketed by Sony Entertainment, with Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell as the script writers and the actors mainly unknown South Africans. According to studio estimates, the film has grossed US$108m in a five-week run. So, the film is a huge success. The film, which was set in Johannesburg, has drawn the ire of the Nigerian authorities. And that is what prompted this commentary.

Nigeria is a nation whose ugliness is increasingly troubling!  Nigeria’s Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili, who many Nigerians now see as the poster lady of the President Musa Yar’Adua’s administration and who in my opinion is currently damaging the honorable, popular slate she kept as the head of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) will certainly dispute the above assertion. However, by initiating the “Rebranding of Nigeria” project, Professor Akunyili has implicitly accepted that there is something wrong with Nigeria’s image. She hardly accepts that there is something wrong with Nigeria. Trivializing her pet project to a matter of perception as she is doing with her usual zeal and outspokenness rather than accepting the obvious is very unhelpful.

The poignancy of such artistic endeavors like District 9, which has been described as “a science-fiction morality tale” ought to be seen as an effort not only driven by mercantile interest, but also an effort to employ art to deliver the message to the so-called Nigerian leaders, past and present of the incalculable harm they have done and continue to do their country and its inhabitants.

But are they listening? I have doubts. I say this because just on October 2, 2009, a day after Nigeria celebrated 49 years of political independence; its Defense Minister, retired Major General Godwin Abbey while answering questions on the Abuja-based African Independent Television (AIT) on the request made by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) that Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and some other respected Nigerians negotiate on their behalf with federal government on the Amnesty declared by the government of Yar’Adua, did make a comment I find difficult to accept. He said that those who criticize Nigeria for underachieving are those who are not contributing anything to the system. And I wondered what system he was talking about.

Any honest appraisal of Nigeria would show that at the root of the failing of the Nigerian state are the skewed structure and institutionalization of corruption and criminality in all strata of its leadership for far too long.

Specifically, District 9 according to Professor Akunyili, the Nigerian rulers have had the opportunity of seeing this film after which they decided that those they lord over must not see it. They banned it. That is pure hypocrisy! The decision is wrong-headed and would in fact encourage more people around the world to see the film and may lead to films of that nature being made in the future knowing that it would yield handsome income. That of course is the trend in human history. And I believe a lot of Nigerians at home will eventually see the film.

Ostensibly, according to Professor Akunyili, Nigeria and Nigerians were portrayed in bad light in the film. Perhaps, more important to the Nigerian authorities is the film’s use of Obesandjo in the film, which resembles the name of Nigeria’s former dictator, retried Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who was “arranged” into the civilian presidency of Nigeria in 1999, got “re-elected” in 2003 and whose reign was climaxed by his watching over the most fraudulent election in Nigerian history in 2007. In a scene in the film, Obesandjo, the head of the ‘gangsters’ in the film tried to cut off and eat the arm of the films protagonist in an attempt to acquire supernatural power. And Akunyili inferred that portrays Nigerians as cannibals. I agree that Nigerians are not cannibals!

However, can we really in clear conscience say that Nigeria of post 1966 coup does not look like a country being run by ‘gangsters’? Can we in clear conscience not liken the structural and physical violence Nigerian rulers have visited on their people over the years to some sort of cannibalism? Is it not a fact of our existence in Nigeria that politics aka ‘gangstarism’ is intertwined with pimping and prostitution? By this I mean the open secret that when some Nigerian rulers embark on national tours that their hosts arrange teenage university girls to keep them “company” for money as long as the tours last, and in some cases the girls are changed for them every night of their stay. Can we point to any other country where its leadership is as materially obsessed and morally depraved as Nigeria? What about the fact that Nigerian press routinely publishes stories of power and wealth seekers engaging in ritual murders to achieve their “dreams”? This information is now in the public domain globally.

The problem with Nigerian rulers is that whenever issues that expose the evil existence of their country are mentioned, instead of accepting the criticism and making genuine and honest amends, they become irrational and embark on the sort of propaganda that will shame the antecedents of Goebbels of the infamous Nazi regime. We saw this happen after the US Secretary of State, Senator Hillary R. Clinton visited Nigeria on August 12, 2009 and rightly criticized its so-called leaders for its leadership failures in governance and in particular in fighting corruption. How can any critical observer say that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-corruption watchdog, is working at full steam when corrupt czars straddle freely on the Nigerian streets and in the corridors of power? Yet Mrs. Clinton’s critical, but correct observations were contested by Nigerian officials who went on a publicity blitz to challenge her.

Sometimes, the propaganda is carried to a ridiculous level. For instance, when UNICEF issued its last report on the state of the Nigerian child, positing that more under 5-year old Nigerian Children were dying than the previous years, Nigerian government officials at the highest level went all out to discredit the UNICEF’s report instead of going to the agency to find out how they can improve, in addition to taking a critical look at their policies and programs in that sector, if they have any. How can Nigeria move forward with this kind of mindset?

I am aware that countries that have verifiable better development indices in UNICEF, UNDP and the very important Index, “Strengthening African Governance: Index of African Governance” published yearly by Rotberg, Robert I. and Rachael M. Gisselquist of the Massachusetts-based World Peace Foundation reports still go to these agencies after the release of their reports to enquire from them on how they can sustain and improve the gains they have made. But not Nigeria!

I think it is high time that Nigerian rulers understood that the world has truly become a global village. The world has become so miniaturized by ICT that people easily get information about events from around the globe. I am sure that if an imaginative mind comes up with a material tomorrow and integrates into it the notorious age cheating of Nigeria in FIFA organized Youth tournaments, the Nigerian Information Managers would rise up and rile against such a script writer.

But just this summer, nearly all the members of the squad they assembled to prosecute the defense of the under-17 FIFA world cup they won in South Korea last 2 years, which Nigeria is hosting from October 24 to November 15 this year, were disqualified after an MRI test, which showed that they were over-aged. And no head rolled! No high official of the Sports Ministry or the Football administering body, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was sanctioned. And this is a problem, which the late social critic, Tai Solarin brought to the attention of world football governing body and the world at large while he lived, and which earned Nigeria suspension from participation in the same tournament for a time.

No one is saying that Nigeria is the only country where corruption and criminality abound. These evils are universal. They abound even in those countries, which Nigeria spuriously says it wants to be like by 2020 through its much-touted “Vision 20–2020”. However, the difference between Nigeria and those countries is that when people indulge in these evils, the law expeditiously takes its course even if the person involved is an ex-president as we saw in Taiwan recently, where their former two-term president, Chen Shui-bian, got a life jail term for embezzling $3m and taking $9m in bribes. He was in addition to the prison sentence fined $7m. And his immediate family was not spared. The wife was given a life jail term too and fined $10.5m for various graft offences. Only his son and daughter-in-law got off with lighter sentences. Also, in Costa Rica, their former president, Rafael Angel Calderon, has just been sentenced to a 5-year jail term for embezzling $520,000 while in office.

A cursory look at the various amounts mentioned above for which these former presidents have been sentenced to jail for life and for 5 years respectively, pales into insignificance when compared to what the so-called leaders in Nigeria have been looting from the national wealth of their people as documented by international agencies and some foreign governments. So, when will such stories come out from Nigeria? When will there be change in Nigeria?

And as long as Nigerian rulers prefer riling rather then rationality and truthfully addressing the rot in their system whenever its ugliness arising from their misrule is brought to the fore using any means including films such as District 9, so long would “Vision 20-2020” and “Rebranding” remain what they really are: megaphonic slogans. And, so long would the clay-footed giant of Africa, its rulers and its people remain metaphors for such creative work.

•Nkem Ekeopara is a contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com, since 1996, and a poet. He is based in Nigeria.

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On 10/10/09, the major redesign and addition of richly interactive options will go fully live on the award-winning web site of the first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet, www.USAfricaonline.com
“The importance of this latest interactive re-positioning of USAfricaonline.com is to fully tap into the advantages of the digital world to benefit our community and readers. With this initiative, USAfrica advances, further, the immigrant African views and news into the international media and public policy mainstream. It leverages the global resources of USAfrica, again, into the electronic frontline of critically informed, responsible discourse and seasoned reportage of African and American interests as well as debating relevant issues of disagreement”, notes Chido Nwangwu, the Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, AchebeBooks.com, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV and CLASSmagazine.
“Some of the new features on USAfricaonline.com have enabled for our readers and bloggers, the live texting of pages and page links to phones and other multimedia devices, instant sharing across all the leading social networks especially Facebook, Twitter, digg,  myspace, Mixx, Technorati, LinkedIn, AIM, LiveJournal and Yigg.”
Chido Nwangwu, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009 and analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, highlights other advantages as “live RSS feeds and e-syndication of the USAfrica reports and premium content. In terms of graphics and structure, the new USAfricaonline.com has visually refreshing headers and crisp pictures. We’ve also added more columnists, regional news correspondents and incisive special features writers. The site will be updated regularly, especially for significant breaking news.”
The flagship of the American media, The New York Times, several public policy, media and human rights organizations have assessed USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com as the most influential and largest multimedia networks covering the bi-continental interests of Africans and Americans. The first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and dozens of web sites and e-groups/blogs.
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USAfricaonline.com goes richly interactive with new look, content….

By Alverna Johnson. Corporate Affairs, Houston October 2, 2009:

On 10/10/09, the major redesign and addition of richly interactive options will go fully live on the award-winning web site of the first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet, www.USAfricaonline.com

“The importance of this latest interactive re-positioning of USAfricaonline.com is to fully tap into the advantages of the digital world to benefit our community and readers. Especially, the key issue and leverage is that we have and own unique content; and  with this initiative, USAfrica advances, further, the immigrant African views and news into the international media and public policy mainstream. It leverages the global resources of USAfrica, again, into the electronic frontline of critically informed, responsible discourse and seasoned reportage of African and American interests as well as debating relevant issues of disagreement”, notes Chido Nwangwu, the Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, AchebeBooks.com, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV and CLASSmagazine.

“Some of the new features on USAfricaonline.com have enabled for our readers and bloggers, the live texting of pages and page links to phones and other multimedia devices, instant sharing across all the leading social networks especially Facebook, Twitter, digg,  myspace, Mixx, Technorati, LinkedIn, AIM, LiveJournal and Yigg.”

Chido Nwangwu, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009 and analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, highlights other advantages as “live RSS feeds and e-syndication of the USAfrica reports and premium content. In terms of graphics and structure, the new USAfricaonline.com has visually refreshing headers and crisp pictures. We’ve also added more columnists, regional news correspondents and incisive special features writers. The site will be updated regularly, especially for significant breaking news.”

The flagship of the American media, The New York Times, several public policy, media and human rights organizations have assessed USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com as the most influential and largest multimedia networks covering the bi-continental interests of Africans and Americans. The first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and dozens of web sites and e-groups/blogs.

The Houston-based USAfrica has a formidable, experienced network of editors and correspondents across the U.S and Africa. Its Publisher served as adviser on Africa business/community to Houston’s former Mayor Lee Brown. http://usafricaonline.com/chido.html

contact: Alverna Johnson (Corporate Affairs)

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    January 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

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AFRICA

World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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