Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ojukwu: He electrified the stage

Ojukwu is a great icon and I admire him a lot. This article was published on Vanguard on December 6 2011 and I stumbled on it recently and think its worth sharing. Enjoy!

By Pini Jason

A GREATER part of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s life was full of drama and the man himself filled and electrified his stage in a way only he could. Born into one of the wealthiest families at that time, with onomatopoeic names that evoked awe, he brought panache to whatever he did.
He, it was, who brought our attention to graduates in the Army and removed its starchiness. He made the trademark feathers on his peak cap look like it was specially designed for him.
He walked with his arms folded behind him as if he was born that way. When we first heard him speak, he seduced us with his Queens English delivered with enchanting oratory and seductive sonority. When he stood up to Yakubu (he called him Jack) Gowon, the nation held its breath. When he dragged the Supreme Military Council to Aburi Ghana, another enchanting scene was added to the drama.
When he said “no force in Black Africa can defeat Biafra” and that he would litter the shores of Biafra with the debris of Nigeria “Navy of fishing trawlers”, the drama was getting to its crescendo. It was from him we heard of “shore batteries”. When the going was getting tough in Biafra, he raised the morale of the fighting forces by promising that “every grass in Biafra will fight”. When he left for exile, it was “in search of peace”.
And when he returned from exile he took chieftaincy titles with onomatopoeic effect more resounding than the military rank stripped off him by Nigeria: Ikemba Nnewi; Dikedioranma; Dim; Ezeigbo Gburugburu! He excavated a clichéd ordinary statement: The best President we never had, penned it to Awolowo’s condolence, and an all time profound statement was born! Ojukwu, indeed was drama and charisma personified!
Frenetic and effusive elegies
It is not surprising that his death has generated frenetic and effusive elegies. The immediate post-independence crises and the civil war, for me, IS NOT history gleaned from literature.
It is current affairs which I still live through. I read in a newspaper that some people were opposed to giving Ojukwu state burial because, according to them, he tried to break Nigeria. Such people are simply living the illusion that makes Nigeria walk backwards while we pretend that it is “moving forward” or that it can “move forward”. Nigeria is still broken up not by Ojukwu or because of him but by Nigeria’s persistent and consistent pursuit of injustice, obsessive corruption and promiscuous national indiscipline.
In his beautiful article: “We Loved Him, We Hated Him”, in Thisday Tuesday 29 November 2011, my brother Simon Kolawole, SK, wrote that “we went to war in 1967 because our leaders were too young, too immature to manage the crises that followed the failed coup of 1966”.
Well, well, what I have always reminded Nigerian youths is that some of those who gave this country incredible leadership did so when, in our estimation today, they would have been considered “too young, too immature”. Check the ages of Zik, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tony Enahoro, Mbonu Ojike, Bode Thomas, Dennis Osadebe, Alvan Ikoku, Aminu Kano, Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macauley, etc, when they played leading roles in the independence of this country. Compare that with the performance of Nigerians of similar age today.
More important than being “too young, too immature” is that at that time, there were enough elders to guide the young men away from the impending doom. And some of them did.
Nigerians went to war because others who were in a position to advise the actors or raise their voices against injustice, simply exploited the moment, the vacuum and vacancies created by the exit of Easterners to promote personal and group interest. Some of the elements who became the new boys on the power block, have since come full circle to fight the same injustice Ojukwu stood up against, even nudging the nation to extreme ethnicity!
Nothing has changed because politicians have found those fissures in our national life as first class ticket to power. Let us not forget that before the war, Nigeria operated largely on merit.
As Ojukwu once said long before the advocates of “resource control”, the war “is a struggle for freedom and equality among Nigerians. It will end whenever Nigeria is able to accept the equality of all Nigerians to share in the control of and running of the affairs of this country”.
As usual, many commentators, especially his opponents during the crises that led to the civil war, wore blinkers or deliberately put a veil of deceit on themselves and their listeners by insisting that Ojukwu went to war because of an inordinate ambition for a Republic of his own. Such a spin discounts the duplicity of the time: the pogrom, and that it was Nigeria that attacked Biafra when it fired the first shot at Gakem on July 6, 1967.
Biafrans fought back because their tormentors invaded their homeland. They fought back to defend themselves in a territory where they felt safe from inhuman treatment. They fought back because their values and beliefs were wantonly desecrated.
It is therefore wrong to even say that Ndigbo went to war because they were not getting their fair share from Nigeria. The truth is that until Ojukwu asked all Easterners to return to the East, they were very competitive in a meritorious Nigeria and did well for themselves provoking the emotive talk of “Igbo domination”. The war was simply to resist callous massacre of unarmed Eastern Nigerians by fellow Nigerians!
Be that as it may, it is a measure Ojukwu’s prowess and the ingenuity of his people that he ran a Republic on the run; being sacked from capital to capital and yet being able to establish his government in a new capital within 24 hours; refining petrol and diesel in every backyard; distilling red wine; manufacturing household consumables and above all, fabricating armoured cars, gunboats, rockets and Africa’s first weapon of mass destruction, the Ogbunigwe.
Again, choosing to live in denial, Nigeria turned its back on the essence of Biafra, renamed the Bight of Biafra as Bight of Benin in a classic ostrich inanity, dismissed Biafran inventions as “crude” instead of building and improving on them, took over the Products Development Agency, PRODA, created by Ukpabi Asika from the Biafran Research and Production, RAP, and injected it with the Federal virus and killed it! Today Nigeria cannot refine its own petroleum needs. Nigeria is an importer of everything imaginable (including toothpicks) with waiver! You can now see that it is Nigeria that lost the civil war, not Biafra!
If you ask yourself why a “defeated” people still romanticize the war and lionize Ojukwu, the answer is that Biafrans don’t feel defeated because the war was more about values held dear than mere territory. Biafran territory is in the exploits of the Biafran Airforce and Army at Abagana/ Nkpo Junction, the inventions and survival ingenuity which still live in the hearts of Biafrans.
But I must warn that in recent times, the Igbo have started a process of losing the war as all those values we held dear are being desecrated. Today money rules, giving rise to vices like kidnapping and ritual killings. These are unBiafran!
Femi Kusa and Alex Ibru
I READ Mr. Femi Kusa’s    “Alexander Uruemu Ibru… Publisher, The Guardian” in the Nation newspaper of Thursday November 24, 2011 and I was astonished by the sheer insensitivity of the article. Mr. Kusa has every right to write a memoir about events in The Guardian, but there should be appropriate time and forum for that.
Alex Ibru’s death is not one. For sure, there were many intrigues in The Guardian, including a cult of Grail Movement devotees who intimidated and frustrated staff who did not or refused to belong.
But to turn a supposed tribute into mocking the memory of Alex Ibru was in very bad taste and disrespectful to Alex Ibru and family. Kusa did not exercise appropriate restraint.

Friday, 28 June 2013

The New Face of Amechi - Jang Katakata

Governor Amechi
The recent happenings in the Governors forum (NGF) have kept the spirit of entertainment bubbling in the dearly beloved Nigerian politics.
The May 24, 2013 elections saw Governor Amechi emerge as the chair of the NGF. This was seen in good light by many and of course my humble self especially as it has been making rounds that he, Amechi has not been in good terms with the President over issues relating to the 2015 General Elections. This problem escalated to the point that the Governor’s jet was grounded by the government over several unfounded allegations if you ask me.
Governor Amechi, personally, has been known by me since my days in Port Harcourt when I was doing my Industrial Attachment at NIIT at Kaduna Street. Then in 2005, he was the Speaker of the House of Assembly. I met him at the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt in one of those NEITI organised conferences. He came with Governor Peter Odili then and I was impressed by his speech at the event. At that time in 2005, it was rumored that he’ll likely be the next governor of the state to replace the then Governor Peter Odili.
He eventually came to victory but the battle was not easy. He ousted Celestine Omehia on the 26th of October 2007 to become the governor of the state. He has been a mentor of a sort to me. He embarked on several controversial assignments like lowering the fences of all the buildings in some areas of GRA in Port Harcourt…which of course, offended so many people in the state.

Things have been lying low until the recent grounding of his private jet on April 27, 2013. This NAMA, the guys in charge of Nigerian Airspace claimed that it was due to the fact that the Governors pilot did not produce the manifest of all the passengers on the aircraft. This gossip eventually snowballed into the permanent grounding of the plane due to reasons best known to NAMA. This according to some is a way of the Presidency getting at him.

Governor Jonathan Jang
The other targeted way to ‘humiliate’ him was to strip him off the chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors Forum which he has chaired ever since Governor Bukola Saraki stepped down – can’t remember the year. According to what we heard eventually, it was agreed to elect and anonymous candidate - Governor Jonathan Jang of Plateau State.
Due process had its place and eventually saw Governor Amechi reelected as the Chairman after winning 19 to 16 against Governor Jang. Nigerians were thrilled eventually of how after a couple of days, Governor Jang started parading himself as the new Chairman of the Forum.
This has caused a lot of drama and laughter in the media lately. The recent of it all being the events at the Presidential Dinner organised by the President Goodluck Jonathan.

Thisday finished the whole story: LOL
The leadership crisis in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF)  Thursday prompted an alteration in the sitting arrangement at the National Economic Council (NEC), thus making the two claimants to the NGF chair, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi and his Plateau State counterpart, Chief Jonah Jang, to sit beside each other.
Membership of the council, presided over by the vice-president, comprises governors of the 36 states of the federation and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Instead of the old sitting arrangement whereby the NGF chairman sits next to the NEC  Chairman, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, protocol did not recognise anyone as NGF chairman and there was no seat with that inscription as it is usually done.
Rather, governors were made to sit in an alphabetical order based on the name of their states and with the new sitting arrangement, Jang and Amaechi found themselves beside each other, as there was no state whose name starts with letter Q that would have made that governor to sit between the two rivals.
Since the May NGF election in which Amaechi was re-elected by a vote of 19 to Jang’s 16, yesterday was the first time the duo would sit together on a round table.
Jang and his supporters had protested Amaechi’s victory and they broke a way to form a parallel organisation. The sitting arrangement added a touch of drama to yesterday’s session of NEC, where one of the key decisions taken was the reduction of the cost of police reform, which was slashed from N2.8trillion to N1.5 trillion, as the sitting arrangement was not lost on the governors who seized the occasion to banter with one another over the leadership tussle.
A day before the council meeting, Jang had said on the sideline of dinner to mark the mid-term session of President Goodluck Jonathan that he had no quarrel with Amaechi because he was old enough to be his (Amaechi) father.

Like the NEC meeting, there was a mild drama at the dinner as presidential security details fenced off the Rivers governor from paying his respects to Jonathan,  prompting the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to urge the president to institute a probe into the incident.
When Amaechi came into the council chambers to take his usual seat, he discovered that he had been relocated and his new destination was near Jang.
Noticing the sitting arrangement, one of Amaechi’s supporters and Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu,  told him: "So you are going to sit with Jang. This is very nice oh. Somebody is trying to be diplomatic here. Amaechi replied: "We are still together. So, I am going to sit with him. The real chairman and the... (laughter). When Jang walked in,  he exchanged greetings with all his colleagues, including Amaechi. He then sat near Amaechi who accepted his greetings, saying: "You are welcome, I am the authentic chairman." Keeping a straight face, Jang did not utter a word, but Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who is pro-Amaechi, continued the teasing, as he pointed to Amaechi, saying "that is my chairman". This drew laughter from his colleagues.
One of the key decisions taken at the council meeting was the slashing of the  cost of reforming the police from the N2.8trillion recommended by a presidential committee to N1.5 trillion. The meeting also approved the establishment of a 10-man committee on oil theft to be chaired by Delta State Governor, Dr.  Emmanuel Uduaghan.
A day before the NEC meeting, Jang had insisted that he remains the NGF chair. He told journalists on Wednesday night on the sideline of the dinner organised by Jonathan to celebrate his mid-term in office that he had no quarrel with Amaechi because he was too old for such squabbles and he is old enough to be  Amaechi’s father. “Amaechi is my younger brother; in fact, I can say son because if you look at Amaechi’s age, I’m old enough to be his father,”  a report by Channels Television quoted Jang as saying at the dinner.
Asked to respond to Amaechi’s statement that he polled 19 votes to defeat him at the NGF election, Jang said: “Well, that is his problem; but I know that I am the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.”
In a statement by the ACN  National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the president should ensure that whoever is behind such a condescending treatment of a governor is sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.

''We are making this call because we do not believe that in spite of the reported frosty relations between the two, President Jonathan  as the father of the nation  will lend the weight of his high office to such a demeaning action as exhibited by the presidential security personnel,'' it said.

/* Thanks to the following sources: Naij, Thisday, Youtube  - they were referenced at one point or the other. */


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Habib Koite - Kunfe Ta

Since Vista went RTM several years ago. I have never ceased to love Habib Koite's songs. His style is quite unique. He sings nice African songs with passion and his guitar which is usually high pitched.

For some days now, I have been playing one of his classics which he did 1995 - Kunfe Ta.
In as much as I do not understand the lyrics, the song suggests WAR to me. I'll update you guys once I get more info on the lyrics about this awesome African.

Nice enough, he did this same song in Seattle in 2006 with more strength and energy - see the video below.

You may need to know that Koité is known primarily for his unique approach to playing the guitar by tuning it on a pentatonic scale and playing on open strings as one would on a kamale n'goni. Other pieces of his music sound more like the blues or flamenco which are two styles he learned under Khalilou Traore. (Wikipedia)

Koité's vocal style is intimate and relaxed, emphasizing calm, moody singing rather than operatic technical prowess. Members of Bamada play talking drum, guitar, bass, drum set, harmonica, violin, calabash, and balafon. Koité composes and arranges all songs, singing in English, French, and Bambara.

You can see more of him on his website. Please note that it's in French, so you may need a sort of translator - Google or Bing...

Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies to Launch First Regional Center in West Africa

The Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) will open its first regional innovation center in West Africa, a geographic area that holds enormous potential for immediate economic impact.
The launch this July marks a major milestone in implementing SEED’s critical strategic elements: on-the-ground training and sustained management support in a region of 300 million people, where nearly 70% of the population live on less than $2.00 per day, and 48% live on less than $1.25 per day.
The purpose of the regional innovation center, located in Accra, Ghana, is to stimulate economic opportunities — including job creation — by scaling high-potential local and regional businesses. The in-country effort will include:
  • A sustained physical presence with a training and resource facility.
  • A program of continuous coaching by experienced business leaders who will provide hands-on support in preparation for growth and potential new financing.
  • Access to experts and investors through local, global, and Stanford networks.
  • Research that is rooted in practice and on-the-ground interactions with businesses to help overcome bottlenecks to scaling.
The personal, hands-on approach and continuous coaching will allow SEED to work closely with target businesses and become active participants in change.
SEED was founded in 2011 with an extraordinary gift from Stanford alumnus and venture capitalist Robert King, MBA ’60, and his wife Dorothy King, who envisioned an institute dedicated to the practical application of innovation and entrepreneurship to create jobs. In addition to the Kings, SEED’s advisory board comprises Nobel laureate and New York University economist A. Michael Spence, former World Bank president and emerging markets private equity investor James Wolfensohn, Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz, and Managing Partner of Omidyar Network Matt Bannick.
Starting July 14, SEED’s first cohort of approximately 30 West African businesses will begin a customized program designed to address local needs and management issues to help prepare their enterprises for expansion.
Participating companies, whose revenues range from $150,000 to more than $5 million, apply to the program and are selected by SEED for their potential to scale quickly and create jobs.
“It is our privilege to be able to leverage Stanford’s resources and culture of innovation and entrepreneurship through our first on-the-ground program, which will include companies from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and other West African nations,” said SEED Executive Director Tralance Addy, who will be in Accra for the training and the launch event July 18.

Comprehensive Training

SEED faculty, including Stanford Graduate School of Business supply chain expert Hau Lee, the Thoma Professor of Information, Operations and Technology; Stanford entrepreneurial design pioneer James Patell, the Herbert Hoover Professor of Public and Private Management; Collins Dobbs, instructor and leadership coach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and Addy will lead a one-week immersion workshop with a custom curriculum that starts with Design Thinking, an approach to problem solving that promotes innovation, and continues with sessions addressing Supply Chain Improvements, Product Innovation, and Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Following the initial immersion week, participants will continue their training with two- or three- day workshops, lectures, networking events, and online offerings.

Sustained Coaching

In addition to training, an additional critical aspect of SEED’s strategy is to provide continuous business coaching by a team of accomplished volunteers who are based in Accra and work side by side with local and regional businesses.
The first cohort of volunteer SEED coaches includes:

Clinton Etheridge, MBA '74

The first African-American Peace Corps volunteer to serve in Gambia in the 1970s and a 1974 Stanford MBA graduate, Clinton was an entrepreneurial founding father of the California Economic Development Lending Initiative where, for 15 years, he coached, advised, and helped entrepreneurs finance, build, and grow small- to medium-sized businesses all over California to further the organization’s mission to “create jobs and promote economic development.” During his banking career, in addition to Fortune 500 lending with Security Pacific Bank and asset securitization with Citicorp, Clinton learned African import-export financing as an assistant treasurer with Chase Manhattan Bank's London-based Africa Trade Division.

D. Kweku Fleming, MS '88

Fleming is a design consultant who collaborates with companies and inventors to develop new products and innovations to existing products. Since 1992, he has served in the consumer goods, telecommunications, and construction industries, developing products that range from wireless telephones to designer luggage. Fleming earned an M.S. in mechanical engineering and product design from Stanford University. He has worked with companies such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Embarq, Jet Blue, Alcoa, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Ed Forman, Stanford MBA '79

Ed is an executive with over 30 years of experience leading entrepreneurial ventures in Silicon Valley. His strengths include ideation, strategy development, business modeling, and financial planning. Ed consults to early stage endeavors on strategy and business development. He also provides training and professional seminars in the United States, Chile, and South Africa. Ed has experience leading product development, marketing, business development in early stage business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies offering breakthrough technology-based solutions, including Apple Computer.

Bill Scull, Stanford MBA '81

Bill has more than 20 years of experience growing young technology companies. Bill has a track record of crafting strategy, understanding customer needs, defining product requirements, and developing distribution strategies. Scull served as an executive at ILOG where he and his team helped grow global company revenues from $30 to $80 million; at Sygate he and his team more than tripled sales in two years before an acquisition by Symantec; and at CloudShield he repositioned the firm and helped grow sales 50%. Scull mentored entrepreneurs for three years in the Global Social Benefits Incubator program at Santa Clara University.

Jan Swanberg, Stanford MBA '79

Jan is an expert in marketing strategy, customer analysis, and marketing communications. Her marketing experience ranges from consumer packaged goods to children’s learning products to business software. In all cases, she applies initiative, marketing savvy, team leadership, and judgment to solve marketing problems and deliver results. One of her favorite accomplishments includes developing and marketing the Hooked on Phonics brand that made the process of learning to read engaging for children and parents, and won an award from the San Francisco Ad Council.


SEED also supports research by Stanford faculty and PhD students who are working towards the mission of SEED. Current research projects span a wide range of topics and include projects to develop business models for cacao farmers, transition women into business in emerging markets, and boost innovation capacity through public policy changes.
Building on its training and coaching in West Africa, and informed by research, SEED aspires to replicate the West Africa regional center in other developing economies within five years.

For More Information

SEED Program

Rita Winkler
Associate Director, Communications

Media Inquiries

Barbara Buell
Communications Director
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Telephone: (650) 723-1771

Source: Click Here