Tuesday, November 30, 2010

IBB: Where Is the NSO File?


A law enforcement official was once asked how he thought history would view his tenure. "I think history will take care of itself," he said. He was convinced he had put in his best. Let the facts speak for themselves. By the time he died several years later, history had truly rendered its verdict.

It concluded that the officer may not have been guilty of all the transgressions that occurred during his tenure but stood no chance of public pardon. His lack of leadership were so apparent and offences so egregious.

His Nigerian equivalent has no such humility. He always harbored hideous intentions that were not so discernible. “Secret agenda,” the media cried. There were broken promises and its attendant chaos. He believed he could undermine the lives and choices of the people and supplant them with his own personal ambition. After all, he felt, he was the master of the universe, a Maradonna in a non-level playing field for he had thrived on treachery and betrayals in the past.

But society was still willing to forgive with the belief that he was perhaps, a dedicated public servant whose tenure could have been appropriate in earlier times. It concluded that it was in the interest of society and natural progression to consign him to history books; he was such an egomaniacal figure, a misfit for the job at hand at the time he served in that he nearly destroyed the society he pledged to protect.

He was so tunnel vision, who failed to see the big picture every leader contends with, the multi- color details that shows society to be a whole lot bigger and more complex than he could conceptualize.

The above description fits the profile of Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda, one of the self-styled political retrofits jostling to lead Nigeria in 2011.

Unlike the officer, Babaginda has no patience for history. He wants to re-write it without acknowledging his failures and lack of leadership qualities. His style was simply basic, to exploit greed and hunger of the masses in a society that required a more sanguine and delicate handling, a society that craved competition, in a hurry to catch up with the rest of the world. He could not see that aspect of the Nigerian population at the time.

But now they have grown out of his needs to re-validate himself. They have no patience for visionless experiments. He now blames the military government, which he led for all the bad decisions of his 8-year rule.

Since he has chosen to be a permanent feature in the Nigerian political space, intent in re-writing history, we would assist him first in documenting some of the atrocious acts as they were before he attempts to re-write them. Journalism, they say, is history on the fly!

Some of the issues are already well known and I will unveil some others for him to determine where his “reputation defenders.” should begin their job.

The June 12 election annulment is pretty much covered along with Dele Giwa’s assassination and Gloria Okon, who was arrested in Kano for drug trafficking. She died barely three days after she reportedly embarked on hunger strike. We all know that even laboratory rats on food deprivation live longer.

Babaginda, the man who wants to rule Nigeria, should explain to the public what transferred in the confidential file room at State Security Services office on August 28, 29, 30, 1985 soon after he deposed General Muhammad Buhari.

Perhaps, he forgot that some activities are never so sheltered from the public even if they conducted in total privacy. In certain circumstances, even the walls have eyes. On the days mentioned above, the confidential file room of SSS also had ears. While the country waited for IBB to unveil his programs, he was alone in a highly private room on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.

He had embarked in search of a resolution to his immediate troubling issue which was to locate his personal file as compiled by the Buhari government. That trumped all state matters. For the next three days IBB sequestered himself, sought no assistance from no one and asked no questions. He was determined to rescue his confidential file the custody of SSS. By the time he was through, the neatly arranged confidential file room was in disarray. Every file folder was pulled and its content emptied on the floor, and some file cabinets were over turned. It was in a mess, an elephant locked in such a tiny space could have done better..

He did not know that SSS at the time had deployed some advance technology in record keeping by using microfiche for some personal files of certain categories of criminal suspects. When he finally found it in a microfiche, he heaved a sigh of relief and promptly removed it and walked out in triumph. You scallywag!

It is the content of this file that has formed the basis of his refusal to reconcile with Buhari. They will reconcile for the file contained a lot of gory details including his dalliances with all sorts of people some of which were referred to by Gideon Orkar in his attempted coup broadcast. It also included details of his expanded drug trade and his numerous bank accounts in phony names in foreign countries. They were huge balances for a general in the Nigeria army. It was also illegal for any government official to operate a foreign account. IBB had several. Some of the SSS case officers who compiled the information were promptly retired others detained under house arrest for several years.

Is this the man that wants to repair the damage he did to Nigeria? Probably so! He can begin the repair work by returning that file to the treasury without any alterations. We would then evaluate its content.

That file was compiled with public funds and it should be returned to where it belongs. There is nothing in public service regulations that authorizes any official military or civil to remove his personal confidential file from the treasury no matter the content. IBB took his own file away.

The purpose of this article is not to discourage Babaginda from running for president. In spite of my personal disagreement with his leadership style, I want him to run. He represents one thing: bad leadership who represents everything evil or what a good leader ought not to be. He simply does not have the traits. He cannot continue to experiment with people’s lives.

He also has the capacity to unify opposition, those who reject slimy politics, deception and falsehood, lack of transparency and above all lack of vision!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Portrait: Nudity and Beauty

Blurred silhouette of a woman's body. Image: Fendis. Unrated and undated

Woman holding her hands out. Location: Deutscland Image: Fendis, Unrated and undated

English actress Pepita Bobisela, who was the wife of dramatist Charles Hadden Chambers. Image: E.O. Hoppe; 1919

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Memorable Images and Time

(L-R)Ambassador Alex Quaison Sackey (Ghana), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), Diallo Telli (Guinea)and US Diplomat nd Nobel Laureate Ralph Bunche at the International House, United Nations July 19, 1959. Photo: Paul Cordes, courtesy of Department of Special Collections UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, sponsor and Guest of Honor of the African Dance Festival, held Monday evening, December 14, 1943 at the Carnegie Hall. Shown here with her are Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe (center), head of the Academy of African Arts and Research, which is presenting the festival, and Mazi Mbonu Ojike who came from the University of Chicago representin the African students. Image: Bettmann Collection

Monday, November 22, 2010

The World Ends: A Conversation With African Music Archivist Uchenna Ikonne

By Oscar Paul Medina, The Hydra

As the counter-cultural movement reached its apex circa 1967 in San Francisco with swarms of people preaching peace, love, communal living, psychoactive drugs and “dropping out,” there was a similar revolution commencing in Nigeria that had nothing do with good vibes, wearing flowers in your hair, or communing with New Age mantras. Nigeria was in the midst of a brutal civil war that would end up spanning over two years and extinguish over three million lives in the process. “The World Ends” is the newest compilation of African psychedelic music released on Soundway Records that gives voice to the renaissance of music that occurred after that savage period in Nigerian history. I interviewed Uchenna Ikonne, the man who has been tracking down the music from this turbulent era, and we got to speaking about the apoliticism of the post-civil war generation, Fela as a proto-Kanye West, and some of his favorite records off the comp.

Hydra: How did you come across all the records/knowledge that are contained in the compilation? Could you relate 1 or 2 interesting stories in the process of finding these records?

Uchenna: That’s a bit of a tough question. I wish I could share with you picaresque adventures about discovering this music but I don’t think that journey has been all that interesting. I was born in the 1970s and while I was too young to have ever been a part of this scene, I grew up in the shadow of it, hanging around older guys and trying to decipher their reminiscences of the music they had rocked to in the seventies. For some reason, those memories stuck with me for years even as this music was forgotten by the masses and maybe about ten years ago I started trying to actively collect some of these lost records.

That led almost organically to me trying to document the history of the musicians who made these records and the world that influenced them. So I started doing a lot of research. I spent almost a year crisscrossing Nigeria, tracking down these guys, many of whom had quit the music game decades ago; some of them didn’t even remember the records I was talking about because this was several lifetimes ago for them. They were pretty flabbergasted, some of them, that these old records were remembered at all, let alone being appreciated by a new audience overseas.

Hydra: You say that the Nigerian army was instrumental in providing the necessary resources for these young musicians to access instruments. Could you explain how politics played a role in the music itself? I know that the music showcased in this comp is after a heavy civil war, so I wonder if the musicians were trying to escape the political realities that they had just experienced through music, or did they use the music to expand and understand their communal experience of civil war?

Uchenna: The musicians themselves were largely apolitical— like 99% of young guys who join bands anywhere in the world, they mostly just wanted to have fun hanging out with their friends, playing the music they loved, and meeting girls. But I suppose there was a subtle political component to the music. The majority of the bands that recorded during this period came from eastern Nigeria, the part of the country which had until recently been the secessionist state of Biafra, which was the primary theater in which the war had unfurled as Nigeria fought to re-absorb Biafra into the union. By the end of the war, the previously-rich region had been left devastated—physically, economically, and spiritually. Most of the indigenes had lost family members and all their possessions, and while everybody was glad the horror of the war was over, the current reality was still pretty harsh. Many of the survivors of the war testify that the music was a means of escape that really kept their spirits up.

Hydra: What are your top 3 songs from the compilation and why?

1. “Somebody’s Gotta Lose or Win” by The Hygrades: I like the rollicking, deep rhythm & blues feeling on this. The Hygrades were led by Goddy Oku—a veteran of The Postmen, who were the first rock & roll band in the Eastern region of Nigeria—and he retained a lot of that old school sensibility. So even though most of the performances of the 1960s Nigerian rock & pop bands might be lost to time because so few of them got the chance to record, this track provides some insight into what they sounded like.

2. “Deiyo Deiyo” by The Hykkers: The Hykkers were also one of the groups from Nigeria’s forgotten 1960s rock & roll heyday; in fact, they were probably the first pop band in the country. They were known primarily as TV stars who appeared on a weekly show, playing mostly Beatles covers, so the wild, psychedelic sound they display on this record was a major change of pace for them. Actually, it was a change for the scene as a whole since it was one of the earliest records in this psych-fuzz style.

3. “Blacky Joe” by P.R.O. (People Rock Outfit): I love the rich, emotive vocal tone of the singer Stoneface Iwuagwu on this rock ballad. A lot of times when people talk about African music, the emphasis is always on rhythm and uptempo bootyshaking, but the truth is that what most Africans (and especially Nigerians) are really into is saccharine melodies and sentimental ballads. Of course, there’s also a pretty wild guitar freakout at the end of the song to justify its inclusion on a compilation dedicated to psychedelia.

Hydra: You talk about Fela in the notes and I thought it was interesting that you made Fela out to be an opportunist, which frankly didn’t surprise me. How do you think the youth of that time viewed him and his music? Were they trying to break free from Fela and his influence, much like how the Sex Pistols wanted to destroy the Beatles/ Pink Floyd? Perhaps my example is a bit abrasive, but what I would like to know is if the musicians of the scene were in a way tired of Fela and what he represented. If they did in fact continue to revere Fela and hold him in high esteem, could you explain why?

Uchenna: There was no time for them to be tired of Fela or what he represented because what Fela represented at that time was actually considered quite fresh and state-of-the-art. Even though he had been on the scene since the early sixties, his music had been considered a bit too avant-garde and as a result he hadn’t experienced much in the way of major success until the single “Jeun K’oku (Chop & Quench)” was released at the end of 1970—around the same time as the rock explosion. And what made that record unique from all of Fela’s previous output was the fact that it was produced like a rock record.

At that point, Fela had been referring to his music as “afrobeat” for a few years, but up until then it was little more than a theoretical genre tag looking for a sound to attach itself to. The funk-rock edge of “Jeun K’oku” functioned as the roux that coalesced Fela’s highlife and jazz influences and finally gave afrobeat the backbone and musculature it had thus far lacked. It very quickly became the best selling record in Nigerian music history and its phenomenal success served as a major impetus for EMI Records to not only sign more rock acts (who had been ignored by all the major labels up until then) but also to urge them to develop a more overtly “afro” sound rather than merely aping Western styles. So even though he hailed from the previous generation, Fela was—obliquely—a godfather of the afro rock scene. Of course, the young rockers probably didn’t aspire to emulate him directly: coming from a jazz background, his music was primarily horn-based while these young guys were more interested in electric guitars and organs. But even Fela himself soon traded his trumpet for an electric organ, an instrument intimately associated with rock music.

As for whether the respect between Fela and the rock musicians was mutual, it’s hard to say for sure what he truly thought about them. In general, it’s hard to tell what he thought about any musician other than himself, really. Like a lot of ego-driven genius-types, Fela liked to give the impression that the only music he had ears for was his own. He sometimes spoke glowingly of certain foreign musicians, but it was rare for him to comment positively about other Nigerian acts. But what’s important to remember is that he was, above all, a professional musician operating in a fiercely competitive environment, so he probably did not see much value in promoting or even complimenting any musician who could be considered a rival to him.

As much as he criticized the rock bands for being unoriginal and imitative of Western musicians, by the same token he also dismissed the practitioners of hardcore indigenous music styles like juju as being embarrassingly quaint and hokey. Even when esteemed Ghanaian afro rock pioneers Osibisa (whose music exerted a huge influence on “Jeun K’oku”) came to Nigeria, he lambasted them and tried to incite the audience against them. Fela was kind of like the Kanye West of Nigeria in that he was never comfortable with any situation in which he was not the center of attention!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Southern Sudan Fashion Model Lucy

Charles Bibbs decorates Lucy before the shoot.

Live drawings of Lucy by Charles Bibbs.

It was the Music and Arts Festival in Los Angeles, and a culture without parts showing an entity, and I poked around finding my humble self bumping into fine artist Charles Bibbs' mobile studio sitting on the back lot of the Vision Theatre on Degnan Blvd. in Leimert Park Village. Bibbs, in the previous week, had told me he would be slamming LPV Music and Arts Festival with his finest arts. What happened? I got there and pulled out my camera and began to take pictures of an original beauty while Bibbs and his artistic colleagues kept busy drawing a portrait of South Sudanese Lucy. It was a class act.

Lucy and I spoke at length and our discourse was Southern Sudan related...The Genocide. The hunger. The excruciating pains and sufferings in her homeland of Southern Sudan. The atrocities. The rape of women and humankind's most gruesome act. Lucy talked about how she escaped all the atrocities landing gracefully in Los Angeles.

I had talked to Lucy while the drawing was taking place at Bibbs mobile studio, and while tourists were trooping in taking a look and wondering how she popped up 'impromptu' to an event the entire City of Angels stomped on.

Lucy was born in Jada, Southern Sudan and now models out of Los Angeles. The photo-Op here was at Charles Bibbs mobile Studio during the Music and Arts Festival in Los Angeles. Proud of her heritage she likes it out here...A lengthy interview has unfolded and Lucy is ready...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Model Flaviana Matata

Photo courtesy of Fashion Junkii ON Sugar

Tanzanian beauty queen and fashion model won the first edition of Miss Universe Tanzania Pageant 2007 and went on to represent her country in the Miss Universe Pageant the same year, where she placed among the top 15 semifinalists and ended up in the 6th Place after the fashion parade on the runway. Competing with a shaved hair she was the first of that kind from Tanzania. She now models out of South Africa and recently modeled print advertisement for Sherril Hill.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fashion Model Imat Akelo-Opio: In Her Own Words


Q: Tell us a little about where you were born and where you were raised and the most important things you learned from your parent:

A: I was born in Africa iand grew up around the globe from Africa, Pacific and Australasia. The most important things I learnt from my mother and father were not said, nor were they taught. The most important things I learnt were from their actions. My mother especially being a woman, I learnt integrity, discipline, faith, hard-work and perseverance. My maternal grandmother taught me nothing is impossible through faith.

Q: Where did you go to school and when did you launch your career?

A: I went to International Schools in Africa and on the Island nation of Papua New Guinea. Then we moved to Australia where I studied at tertiary level and I then moved to USA, New York City, to study performing arts with a major in acting at Herbert Bergoff Studios. My career I believe launched when I was appointed a co-choreographer for the 2000 Olympics and performed as one of two lead dancers for the Opening Ceremony. I also recorded the official Olympics African Arrivals track with Pee-Wee Ferris in Sydney for the Olympics 2000 Compilation CD.

Q: What stage do you consider your career to be at now?

A: I believe that I am still growing, I am still learning because with acting one can never know it all, one is self discovering everyday with every word and through every moment.

Q: Where do you see it going and what’re your aspirations?

A: I see myself going to where only I can go as an individual and unique actress. I see myself breaking barriers and opening doors for others in places in an industry, entertainment-acting, that people have thought to be impossible. My aspirations are to be the best me, the most honest and true me first of all and to live a Great life of color that inspires and changes all people’s lives for the better through my gift of acting of performing--people of all backgrounds, ages, creed and color.

Q: Talk about some challenges and how you conquer them?

A: There are many challenges in life and more-so with entertainment. In order to conquer any challenge, I believe you need to know who you are first; because once you get that revelation, that job that didn’t come through or that role that you didn’t get won’t knock your self-esteem.

Q: List some of the professional -modeling, acting, business, entrepreneurship--accomplishments you're most proud of?

A: I am most proud of Otino-International, my medical non-profit organization, because I know that there is nothing more precious and more fulfilling than helping another and seeing them grow to excel, there is no monetary value on the gift of life. Modeling and beauty-for me to be chosen as one of Africa’s most beautiful women in the Diaspora through Miss Africa USA and voted in the top five and doing magazine interviews has really been blessing. I have just finished shooting a small role for a new TV series coming out in Australia. Every play that I have been cast in from the Leader --Off Broadway-- Get Smart, to Wole Soyinka’s Death of a King Horseman (Premier production in Australia) to Chrysalis (which is available in all drama book-stores), TV series (Newstopia), MTV and features in block buster movies (Matrix II and III, Kangaroo Jack and Stealth) have been great achievements for me.

Q: Talk about brainpower and beauty?

A: This is a must because it’s like having a beautiful BMW, Bentley or Ferrari and the engine doesn’t work, it doesn’t move, it’s useless as it cannot do anything and cannot fulfill its potential. A beautiful unique being that is more exquisite than the world’s most luxurious cars, as we all are, that does not use his or her brain is doing him or herself injustice and is only existing and not living, for to live requires you to exert energy to fulfill your potential and destiny and empower others.

My Philosophy: Enjoy your journey and know that when you stay true to who you are, though you fall and stumble when you have faith it will come to pass--that which you were sent to accomplish. Though remember there are many wolves in sheep’s clothes so guard your dreams and purpose with your life and only share with one or two that you know who will always be for you. Also education is the key- it opens so many doors and knowledge is power, the more you know the higher you will achieve.

Social work, community and public service: I have set up my Non-Profit Otino-International that is a non-profit providing medical assistance to displaced innocents who have returned back to their ancestral lands after conflict. We are staring in the nation of Uganda and look to expand to other countries around the globe. I also contribute as a full member UNIFEM, United Nations Development Fund for Women and IAS, International AIDS Society.

My Wardrobe: I don’t believe in brands- My motto is “I wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear me”. So for me I wear what looks good, it can be a brand label like Zara or an un-known brand from China town but if you work it, what use is the brand. Lotions for my skin, I am a big advocate of Palmers Cocoa Butter and Nivea –Blue for deep replenishing because they always make my skin glow and keep it from being dry and it doesn’t hurt they have a yummy aroma. Make-up, Bobby-Brown for my foundation and lip gloss, eyes- nothing but Diorshow my sister told me use it once and I have never looked back, Diorshow Mascara lengthens your eyelashes so well that most people ask if they are real, Diorshow always for stunning eyes. Mac for clear lip-glass, lip gloss and Blush. Perfume, my favourites are Angel (Thierry Mugler), Burberry Brit (Burberry) and Tresor. Shoes are my weakness, again for me I wear the shoes, they don’t wear me; but having said this I find that Australian Designer Tony Bianco’s shoes always make my feet that little bit more elegant and feminine, they never let me down.

Words of wisdom: Always listen to your soul, when it's quiet and you are alone especially in the midst of trial is when you learn who you truly are and what you are capable of achieving, so always listen to your soul.

Secrets of success: I think that success is a state of mind. As a man thinks so is he. I have learnt to believe in myself despite what the world may think and decided to enjoy my journey on my road traveled. Believe and work, for you shall receive.

Favorite all time 3 movies:
The Passion of the Christ, Gone with the Wind, and Anything with Sidney Poitier.

Favorite all time 3 books:
The Bible, All Og Mandino’s books and The Richest Man in Babylon

Three leaders that inspire me the most: All Mothers- My Mother- These are the true leaders of nations for Mothers birth the leaders of our nations. My mother is exceptional, she has risen from a young girl from a background of poverty to one of the most powerful women in the United Nations today, but she is the most humble person I have known in my life. Yaa Asantawe- Ghanian Female Warrior who stopped the British from taking over Ashanti land. Nelson Mandela-Because he forgave, that is truly divine. To forgive and move on from being oppressed for 27 years is amazing.

Five favorite musicians/entertainers and their songs: Whitney Houston- All her songs. Janet Jackson – because as a child she was the very first artist’s album that I bought- All her music. India Arie- because this is a woman; her music is the very essence of life, she is so real.