by Onoshe Nwabuikwu
Did you know it was Independence?
Monday October 1, 2012 was Nigeria’s 52nd Independence anniversary. Not that you needed reminding. I’m also fairly certain that the events of the past one to two weeks would have jogged the memory of even the worst amnesiac. So, did you feel the Independence Day spirit on October 1? And did you celebrate? Or are you one of those who think there’s nothing worth celebrating? Enough has been said already about how much Nigeria hasn’t improved and the fact that there should be more achievements to show for 52 years as a nation. There are also those who think that the fact that Nigeria still exists as one country is something to celebrate. At least. There’s a case to be made for both opinions. Although as with all extremes, there’s not enough perspective because issues are always skewed to only one side at any given time. Believers of the ‘Nothing-good-can-come-out-of-Nigeria’ which is in line with ‘Nigeria Jagajaga’ don’t provide enough alternatives. Some of them would rather hold onto their cynicism for dear life and are certain to be sad were things to improve. On the other hand, those singing the ‘Things-Are-Getting-Better’ tune are either deliberately being ignorant or insincere. Or both. But I’m convinced there’s a middle ground and it’s a better alternative.
Still, my immediate interest is with how the government marked Nigeria’s Independence-the part I witnessed on TV. I somehow managed to miss almost all the pre-October 1st events, no thanks to PHCN. And my plan to watch the live TV broadcast of President Goodluck Jonathan’s anniversary speech set for 7 am proved to be too ambitious.
Anyhow, the Independence Day activities took place I believe inside the state house by the federal government in what looked like a well attended event. I am not one of those who think not marking the Day at its traditional venue of Eagle Square Abuja was a sign of cowardice. Apparently, many people had misgivings enough to make presidential spokesman Reuben Abati come on the news (NTA) to respond. As an Abuja resident, if marking the Independence anniversary away from the Eagle Square helps to save lives and keep the peace, why not?
But I didn’t like that the event looked rather back-room-ish and back door-ish though. The seating arrangement didn’t look spacious as the president and other guests appeared a little cooped up. It would have been impossible to tell that the event broadcast live by NTA and AIT was taking place in Aso Villa from the pictures alone. It was not unlike a few Nollywood movies where so much is made about how wealthy the characters are only to see them going out or entering ‘their homes’ through the back door.
And I worry more about our fixation with soldiers. We celebrate Democracy Day with soldiers at the centre stage. We celebrate Independence Day with soldiers doing almost everything. Why is so much made of the change of guards? As far as I can see, these are just soldiers marching, doing things that are not necessarily spectacular. Why can’t we create programmes to remind us all of just how much our founding fathers fought for Nigeria’s Independence? Why can’t we have some form of Nigerian entertainment? October 1 should be when Nigerians are reminded just why they should be proud of their country. It should be a day to sow hope, of new beginnings.
Debating Ondo State
As the October 20 Ondo State governorship election date draws nearer, the contestants from twelve parties are keener to get their messages across to voters. The debates organised by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group, NEDG for governorship candidates and their deputies provided a good opportunity. I hadn’t planned on watching the debates which were promoted on AIT bit I found myself watching the first in the series, for the deputy governorship candidates on Tuesday September 25. The candidates were from the National conscience Party, NCP (Benedicta Ogbetor), The All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP (Rotimi Ikuewumi) and Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN (Tolulope Clement). AIT’s Nancy Iloh was the moderator. The quality of debate on Day One was very poor. The candidates didn’t appear to know what was at stake. From ANPP’s Ikuewumi who chose to conduct his debate in Yoruba to NCP’s Ogbetor who didn’t help women’s cause at all as she was out of her depth. She said her party was going to provide solar power for ‘the poor masses’. And one of the ingenuous ways to provide the funds was to tax individual party members. That was after she talked about ‘colluding with PHCN’. Then there was Nancy who didn’t get the fact that her intermittent admonition of the audience to sit still, not to cheer, etc could’ve had better effect if it was announced in Yoruba. And even though Ikuewumi spoke Yoruba, he was still clueless. He would begin by greeting ‘my fathers and mothers’ to which the audience would respond much to Nancy’s chagrin, he’d then hem, hedge and dodge until his time was up.
I missed Day Two of the debates which had six deputy governorship contestants. However, the ruling Labour Party, LP deputy governorship candidate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi was reportedly absent. I joined the debate again on Thursday September 27 for the governorship candidates from Action Congress, ACN (Oluwarotimi Akerele), incumbent Olusegun Mimiko (Labour Party), NCP (Oladipo Lawrence), Better Nigeria Progressive Party BNPP (Olasegeri Gbenga Festus), Peoples Democratic Party, PDP (Olusola Oke), People for Democratic Change, PDC (Victor Adetusin), Congress for Progressive Change, CPC (Olusoji Ehinlawo), Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA (Omoregha Olatunji), ACP (Adeuti Taye) and National Solidarity Democratic Party, NSDP (Abikanlu James Olusola).
It was a full house but the real fight was between the PDP, Labour Party and ACN candidates. Especially Akerele and Mimiko. Unfortunately time and NEDG rules didn’t allow them trade tackles satisfactorily. They were reminded constantly of the rules which by the moderator who looked like AIT’s Lara Owoeye-Wise. According to the rules, there could be no personal attacks or personal references. There were several comic highpoints though: The BNPP candidate who didn’t speak the best English said ‘If you look at the signboard in outside, you’ll see…the area that has a loophole’. The PDC candidate promised to complete all abandoned projects in 100 days while the PPA man said he was ‘privileged to experience flood’. I can’t recall the candidate who promised to pay off all the state debts in his first 100 days. At the end of that session, no one could stop the applause and cheering for Mimiko.
As yet, there’s no way of knowing the effect the debate has had on the electorate. Although it’s fairly clear that the battle is between PDP, ACN and LP. Still, the NEDG needs to be commended and encouraged. At the very least, the debate has helped to narrow the options for voters-they know now who they won’t vote for. Some of the candidates for the Ondo State governorship candidates obviously have no real plans to govern. The fact that government makes money available to parties means some loafers can just depend on the handouts from government instead of fighting for real political relevance. However, if debates were to become part of our political culture, it could help political parties and politicians think their policies and ideas through.
Chief Igbinedion’s daughter ‘showcased exceeding vocal endowments at the birthday anniversary celebration’.
— Bisi Olatilo Show, AIT, Monday September 17, 11.35 pm-ish.
Grammar aside, the girl in question was only singing a hymn something to the effect: ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. I bet you, under very spiritual inspiration many people I know have sung better. Then there’s the issue of showcasing ‘exceeding vocal endowments’. How do you do this? Igbinedion’s daughter may be the next Mariah Carey but can we go easy on the ‘bootilickious’ obsequious, patronage-seeking and OTT compliments?
There will be ‘training and retraining of teachers to any length of education’.
— Benedicta Ogbetor, NCP deputy governorship candidate, at the Ondo State governorship debate, Tuesday September 25.
Education is serious business and we cannot overemphasise its importance. I suppose for that reason we shouldn’t quibble over the extent or level people would seek to train and retrain teachers. Makes me think Madam Ogbetor may have been somehow let down by some teachers who may not have been lucky to be trained or retrained.
‘Don’t even think I’m too smart to fall that line…
‘You do your fair share of chasing but Raymond is out of bound for you’.
— Titi Osinowo as Labake, The Valley Between, AIT, Sunday September 23, 7 pm-ish.
I would’ve imagined mistakes like these were easy to correct because The Valley Between isn’t broadcast live and so characters can retake their lines. Even more worrying is the fact that Titi Osinowo isn’t the only guilty actor. One or two others take liberty, forgetting or rewriting their lines and generally murdering grammar as they go along.