Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodluck Jonathan Listed On Time's 100 Most Influential People On Earth


The twin imperatives of trying to end a bloody northern Nigeria Islamist rebellion led by Boko Haram and dismantle the fuel subsidies that are one of the country's main sources of corruption (but are also, awkwardly, generally popular for keeping gas prices low) requires bold leadership of Jonathan, who is finishing his first year in office. Whether Nigeria descends into civil unrest, civil war or splits, or whether it reforms and Africa's sleeping giant finally awakens, depends foremost on him.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Ambrose Ehirim-Apollos Nwauwa Q & A Interview

Dr Apollos Nwauwa's teaching and research focus on modern Africa, especially colonial and post-colonial, intellectual and diaspora history. His published works include Imperialism, Academe, and Nationalism: Britain and University Education for Africans, 1860-1960 (London: Frank Cass, 1997), several book chapters, and numerous peer-reviewed scholarly articles featured in international journals including Anthropos (Germany); Cahiérs D'Études Africaines (France); Africa Quarterly( India); Journal of Asian and African Studies (Israel); History in Africa (USA); Canadian Journal of African Historical Studies (Canada); Ife Journal of History (Nigeria); Ufahamu (USA); and International Journal of African Studies (USA). Dr. Nwauwa serves on the editorial board of many journals and was Guest-Editor of special issue of the International Journal of African Studies in 2007. He is the President of Igbo Studies Association and recently coedited Against All Odds: The Igbo Experience in Post-Colonial Nigeria (Goldline & Jacobs Publishing, 2011). Dr Nwauwa is the Editor, Ofo: Journal of Transatlantic Studies.


You and Ebere Onwudiwe worked on an important book, "Between Tradition and Change: Sociopolitical and Economic Transformation Among the Igbo of Nigeria." What inspired the project?

The publication of this book was inspired by the enduring commitment of contributors and co-editors to the growth and dissemination of serious scholarship on the Igbo. Between Tradition and Change was not initially begun as a book project per se; rather, it was the result of a scholarly dialogue by Igbo intellectuals about the historical, political, economic, social and cultural elements of the Igbo question. In 2005, Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, then Director of the National Resource Center for African Studies at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio, invited prominent Igbo scholars for a conference on the Igbo ethno-political history with a view to understanding the place of the Igbo in the Nigerian political dispensation. The political situation in Nigeria at that time necessitated this conference. It was a time when the Igbo were debating the best way to fight what they saw as their systemic marginalization by successive regimes of the Nigerian state. It was the period when chatter on the Igbo role in national affairs (The Igbo Question) was hot, leading to a political environment ripe for the growth of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and the predictable hostile response of federal forces. At this point too, the role of Igbo intellectuals in national affairs came increasingly into question as they said or did very little on the Igbo question. The decline in national political influence mainly due to the civil war (1967-1970) undermined even the local authority of elders and traditional establishment in Igboland. Thus, the lack of national voice was gradually spilling over into an attenuation of the socio-political cohesion in Igbo land. Although the papers from this conference were published in a special issue of the International Journal of African Studies in 2007 for which I was guest editor, we felt that these quality papers deserved wider circulation and readership. Thus, Between Tradition and Change came about; it provides a detailed and insightful account of the transformation of Igbo society, politics and economy since the period of European contact. The Igbo experience demonstrates how internal and global factors gave rise to new dynamics of change as African societies engaged with the Western world and developments in the new global arena

How do you perceive the Igbo of today and the Igbo of yesteryears. What changed dramatically by way of cultural heritage?

To some extent, the Igbo have remained true to their roots; however, what has changed is the way they have responded to the vagaries and challenges of the modern Nigerian state. Just as cultural heritage of any society can be enduring, it can also be lost if not properly harnessed and preserved. Like other societies, the Igbo have adopted and adapted to new forces of change while striving to retain important elements of their indigenous society. They pride themselves as being the most de-tribalized Nigerians. This mindset has its own pros and cons. On the one hand, it is the only way migrant Igbo can fit into their host communities. De-tribalization has not really helped the Igbo in the Nigerian context. It did not help the political future of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe very much nor is it helping the current Igbo leadership in Igboland and in Abuja. Instead, it diminishes Igbo cultural heritage since the Igbo concentrates on how to fit into everyone else’s but their own culture. Thus, relations between the Igbo nation, other ethnic nationalities and the Nigerian state in the postcolonial period have been marked by intense conflicts and contestation for political and economic control. This tension, culminating in the Nigeria-Biafra war, introduced new significant currents that shape Igbo society today and her relationship to Nigeria and the global community. Yet, despite some strains and shifts in their traditional institutions, the Igbo remain well-equipped to address issues facing them as a nation within contemporary Nigerian society. The key to a meaningful progress centers around a visionary leadership in the spirit of the dictum: Show the Light and the People Will Follow.

What is the Igbo Diaspora not doing right in terms of influencing decisions back home to effect change, using its background of living in a thorough system and an organized society?

Contrary to what many think, the Igbo Diaspora is not really a homogeneous, coherent group. Like other ethnic nationalities in the USA, the Igbo Diaspora consists of peoples from all walks of life separated by everything and only united by the fact that they are all Igbo. Serious social class disparity exists between them; therefore, presenting a united front in influencing or engineering actions at home continues to be a challenge. Just as it is at home in reaching consensus, so it is, if not worse, in the Diaspora. Indeed, it is in the Diaspora that the Igbo maxim: Igbo-Enwe-Eze manifests strongly and often in a negative and counterproductive fashion. Worsening this dictum is the callous application of the American principles of American freedom of expression and choice. The World Igbo Congress effort in providing a common forum has often been bedeviled with challenges crisis within the organization itself, making difficult for any meaningful collective ideas and actions that will influence affairs at home. Thus, what can safely be said is that whatever influences, real or imagined, that the Igbo in Diaspora are making center on individual rather than a collective action. The Igbo Studies Association, though a scholarly/professional organization, is already in the process of forming an action committee that will liaise with colleagues at home in moving the Igbo forward in political, economic, and social-cultural spheres. Yet, the difficult part is to define the meeting points and boundaries between politics and scholarship.

On Igbo women in politics, it seems to be a level playing ground coupled with a changing world. Are the women becoming relative to the cultural and political culture in Igbo land? And what's your take on that?

Women’s participation in politics, like in other callings, is now a global phenomenon, and the Igbo have not been left out. Despite that British colonialism scuttle the progress that women made in pre-colonial Igbo society, the post-independence era has increasingly witnessed the steady progress in women empowerment in Nigerian politics. It has become the rule now rather than exception that list of commissioners and major political appointments must include women. Although there is still a long way to go, the Igbo has not done too badly compared with other ethnicities. Although the Igbo have produced female federal lawmakers in both Senate and House of Representatives, and state lawmakers and deputy governors, no woman has yet been elected as chief executive of any of the five states in Igboland. Igbo women are doing much better in appointive spots compared with elective positions. I do believe that with time, this anomaly will be rectified through more education, awareness, and recognition of the boundless leadership skills of Igbo women.

In 1997, you published a scholarly text " Imperialism, Academe and Nationalism: Britain and University Education for Africans 1860-1960.” You did research on 100 years of British Empire and education in Africa. Analysis on British Empire is almost everywhere and had been written in many forms. What was the need for the book?

Debate on the nature of British rule in Africa, especially their colonial education policy, is one that will never go away. Different scholars approach the issue from varying perspective based on new research and vantage points. Initially, we were misled into almost believing hook and sinker that British colonial education policy was instituted for the benefit of Africans. As new research became available, much of the conclusions that glorified colonial education as benevolent have been challenged. My work on Britain and university education falls under this revisionist history. It demonstrated that western education was the most seductive form of British“cultural imperialism” especially Africans realized that university education opened up prospects for economic advancement, individual dignity, and would ultimately provide the keys to political power and self-government.

From 1860s, African demand for a university in West Africa was frustrated by the British until 1948 when they created four universities – in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Gold Coast. My research was geared towards providing answers as to why the British rejected the university idea at first through the 1930 only to move swiftly in favor of it in the post-World War II period. Initially, the British worried about the place which the highly education African would occupy under colonial rule that depended on collaboration with traditional rulers under the indirect rule system and the fact that the highly education African elite would be difficult to assuage and control. In the meantime, Africans returning from America with higher education were proving to be too radicalized based on their racial experiences in the USA, and Britain was getting apprehensive about more Africans going to America for university education. London now felt that a British-run university education system in Africa would make it easier to mold the African character. Furthermore, the post-war circumstances ushered in a new era of fervent nationalist movements in Africa to which Britain could not forestall. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, it is my conclusion in this book that British effort to “manage nationalism” by producing a core of African elite imbued with British tradition and values that the British took on the expensive project of creating four universities in Africa in 1948 with mostly British taxpayers’ money. Existing studies on university education in colonial Africa did not engage in this aspect of my analysis and that's what makes my book unique.

Based on the text, and compared to now, what are the significant changes in independent Africa today with a fallen-in-standard educational system?

In the period following independence, there were no significant changes to the colonial education system that African countries inherited from their former European colonial powers. In those African countries that were formerly under French rule such as Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire, the French education system was retained downright. The same scenario was replicated in former British colonies such as Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, etc. While the curriculum in terms of subject areas may have been altered a bit to reflect the new era of independence, much of the pedagogical approaches remained essentially the same. However, the standard of education in each country has been proportional to the level of economic condition and political stability of the respective countries. In corruption-ridden economies with rogue leadership such as Nigeria, the standard of education had fallen proportionately. When Ghana’s economy came to its knees in the 1970s followed by political failures, Ghanaian standard of education collapsed proportionately. That is exactly where Nigeria finds itself today. Therefore, any solution to falling standard of education must first begin with stabilizing the economy and ending political corruption in government and the educational system.

What had caused the failure of the school systems in Africa today?

As stated earlier, falling standard of education has little to do with the system itself but has everything to do with the level of socio-economic and political situation in a country. When a country is faced with high level of unemployment for university graduates, poor pay for university teachers, lack of financial resources on the part of parents, and government neglect of education, the attendant consequence will be falling standard and system failure. The lack of accountability on the part of government officials infects educational institutions, administrators and teachers and thereby leaving the students and their parents more vulnerable. I do not believe that any country with such chaotic political and epileptic economy as Nigeria can realistically sustain high standard of education at any level.

Studying at Bendel State University, Ekpoma, one would expect you'd settle in Nigeria and provide your services for the country. What compelled you to leave for services elsewhere?

After completing my NYSC in Kaduna State in 1987, I was recalled and employed by my alma mater, Bendel State University, Ekpoma, as graduate assistant. I taught there for one year before leaving the country for further studies in Canada. After completing my doctorate in 1993 and getting ready to return back to Ekpoma, I noticed that even some of my lecturers and colleagues there were leaving for overseas in droves. The Nigerian economy had entered into a downward spiral and the political leadership had also entered into a major carnival of corruption that friends and family members persuaded not to return immediately until things get better. Thus instead of returning to Nigeria, I accepted an offer from the USA as an assistant professor in African history in one of their universities. At first, I thought this stay would be very brief but I was proved wrong when the political saga of the Babangida-Shonekan-Abacha triad pushed Nigeria deeper into political and economic uncertainties. Soon, I began to take my stay in the USA one year at a time. Twenty years and I am still counting. What a shame! That I am still in the USA today is an indication that Nigeria has yet to get the country in order.

There is the Nigerian Association of Greater Toledo. Tell me about it.

The simplest cure for nostalgia for many immigrants in foreign lands is to seek to replicate the socio-cultural practices at home in their new place of abode. The Nigerian Association of Greater Toledo was founded to fulfill this need. I served as the vice president of this Association for four years, and president for another two years. Formed in 2003, the Nigerian Association of Greater Toledo (NAGT) is a socio-cultural organization dedicated to the progress and vitality of the Nigerian community in the Greater Toledo area of Ohio. As the number of Nigerians in the community increased especially in the last few years, it became necessary to have an enrichment forum where issues of importance to members and their community will be received, considered and acted upon collectively. It was against this backdrop that NAGT was formed. Highlights of our mission include: To work cooperatively with public and private agencies, businesses, industries and community organizations on issues beneficial to members and the larger community; to foster unity and good relationship between and among Nigerians and members of other communities and citizens of Greater Toledo; to promote social, educational, cultural and economic interests of Nigerians both here and in Nigeria; and to educate and share with our children and the Greater Toledo community on the beauty and riches of the Nigerian tapestry of cultures and languages.

What would you say the organization has accomplished from the time it was established?

The success of every organization is measured against its stated goals and objectives. Despites its relative young age, the Association has already made its marks in Toledo and its environs through its socio-cultural, community and diversity activities as it continues to fulfill the goals for which it was constituted. The Association has united Nigerians in the Greater Toledo area into a vibrant community that caters for the welfare of its members while contributing to the socio-cultural and economic development of Toledo and its neighboring communities. Plans are underway for scholarship fund launching to help those in need.

I read about the Nigerian Cultural Heritage House. Is the structure in place now? If not, what's going on?

No, the Nigerian Heritage House has not yet become a reality although the idea lives on. The number of Nigerians living in the Toledo area is quite small compared to other larger cities in Ohio such as Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Therefore, to raise the funds that can help to procure and sustain the Heritage House remains quite a challenge. But given the progress we have made in terms of fund-raising so far, it is only a matter of time in no distant future for us to realize our Heritage project. The worse thing an organization such as ours can do is to hastily commit to a major real estate project without proper planning and readiness in terms of resources.

Let's talk about the current situation in Nigeria. It has the same resemblance of the past. What's your take on that?

Undoubtedly, history seems to be repeating itself in Nigeria. It is like déjà vu all over again!Just like the 1960s crises that culminated in the civil war, the national polity is at the brinks again denoted by ethnic and sectarian tension and violence; mayhem and wanton killing of innocent people, especially the Igbo, fleeing the north for safety; government inability to stop the violence and bring perpetrators to justice; segments of the country feel that it is their birthright to rule Nigeria in perpetuity; and the call for sovereign national conference. Government officials have once again engaged in a carnival of corruption while the masses wallow in economic despair; power-sharing is detested and equal economic and political opportunities for all has become an aberration. All these social and political vices were the same scenarios that resulted in the crises of the 1960s. Observers fear that Nigeria may be heading toward total disintegration. While some would quip that we have been there before and Nigeria is still standing, others would argue that circumstances have changed as the country seems to be in more precarious situation with several cracks at its unity than the 1960 era.

What's your thought on the country's future?

Stability in Nigeria can only be assured if Nigerians themselves agree on the basic elements of national unity and the need to be united as one country. Forced and false unity does not always work. This seems to have been the case with Nigeria. Nigeria as a country was patchwork cobbled together by the British imperial governor, Lord Frederick Lugard, in 1914. From then on, successive British colonial governors of Nigeria instituted several constitutional revisions towards creating what they hoped would become a perfect union. This did not materialize before nationalist movement forced them to quickly retreat and transferred power to Nigerians. Since then, the ghost of the Lugardian patchwork has continued to haunt Nigeria and its successive leadership.

For Nigeria to resolve this lingering existential impasse, the inauguration of the sovereign national conference has become an absolute necessity. This conference will bring all the various ethnic nationalities in the country to a bargaining table to: 1. resolve to be a part of the union called Nigerian; 2. agree to the unity and inviolability of the union; 3. agree on ethnic or regional economic and political power-sharing principles; 4. agree on a federal system of government in which states have more power to legislate provided it did not negate the powers of the union; 5. resolve and recognize the separation of religion and state; 6. resolve the oil derivation and revenue sharing formula; and other matters. Part of this will be an understanding that these resolutions are only subject to alteration after 50 years. It is during this discussion that any group that does not want to be a part of Nigeria should have the opportunity to opt out or be persuaded to stay. This may seem like a recipe for disintegration but one cannot underestimate the power of negotiation. Once these agreements are reached and signed into law, a violation of any part of the contract by any constituent groups will be a crime against the Nigerian state.

Your thoughts on Nd'Igbo cultural and political future?

Unlike other ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbo are a people that have done less to promote their culture and nurture their political influence. Language is a major feature of a people’s culture. Out of the three major ethnicities in Nigeria, the Igbo come up the rear when it comes to nurturing their language. A typical Igbo person takes pride in his/her ability to speak other languages other than Igbo. Challenge and education Igbo in the Igbo language, and you see the extent of the problem. In this sense, Igbo cultural future is in danger of extinction just as the Igbo language is in trouble.

Politically, the Igbo political influence in Nigeria has not fully recovered since the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war. In some quarters, it was partly the fear of Igbo domination that led to the mass killing of the Igbo in 1966 resulting in the Nigerian civil war. Since the war ended, although there was the much-talked about “no victor, no vanquished”, it was clear that all hands were on deck in many parts of Nigeria to ensure that the Igbo never rose in political influence again. It has been a struggle ever since; that partly explained why the most respected and influential national politician in the name of Nnamdi Azikiwe lost the 1979 presidential election to the little known Shehu Shagari. It is now 42 years since the end of the civil war and no Igbo person has ruled Nigeria as an executive president. While the Igbo are aware of this problem, they should begin to strategize on how to be relevant again. But unless the current Igbo leadership abandon internal bickering, selfishness and “pull him down” syndrome, and present a united front, the political future of the Igbo will continue to be in disarray.

Nd'Igbo are not writing enough about their history and I'm afraid Igbo history will one day disappear as a result. What should be done?

Just as the Igbo language is under the threat of extinction so is the Igbo history/studies. Both require urgent attention. Currently, enough studies and writings are not being carried out on Igbo history, culture and tradition for a number of major reasons: First, the Igbo no longer have enough historians; secondly, the available historians would rather focus on other fields/areas of study such as international relations where they hope to work as diplomat or secure a UN job that will do nothing about Igbo studies; and thirdly, the Igbo themselves neither pay attention nor support efforts for keeping the study of Igbo history and culture alive. It was more than a decade ago when Professor J. F. Ade Ajayi called upon Nigerians to cultivate a sense of history and to rediscover the value of history to nation-building and for the socio-political and economic development of the country. Ndi-Igbo have yet to heed to that call despite that it was the Igbo iconic historian, the late Professor K.O. Dike, who popularized the study of history not only in Nigeria but also in Africa as a whole. Other first class historians of Igbo extraction included J.C. Anene, Chieka Ifemesia, Adiele Afigbo and others. It is sad that the number of specialists in Igbo history have continued to shrink since the past ten years. Unless the Igbo begin to value their own history, recognize and patronize the works of their few existing historians, and encourage their children to value and read history in schools and universities, Igbo history will gradually disappear. As part of the effort to rekindle interest, southeastern governments should institute a commission on Igbo history, establish scholarships and essay contests on Igbo history at all levels of education in the states.

Tell me about Igbo Studies Association.

The Igbo Studies Association (ISA) was founded at the African Studies Association (ASA) Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 8, 1999. The mission of the Association is to promote and encourage scholarship on IGBO history, culture and society in African studies; to forge intellectual links and network with scholars, policy makers, and activists inside and outside NIGERIA; to participate actively and collaboratively in continental and global debates with interested organizations in Nigeria, the U.S. and other countries on issues specifically relevant correlated to Igbo studies; to work actively for the promotion of Igbo language with interested organizations and/or institutions in diverse regions of the world. ISA holds an annual conference at Howard University in Washington, DC featuring numerous seasoned and young scholars working on topics relating to the Igbo. Participants come from Nigeria, USA, Canada and other parts of the world. So far, it is one of the strongest Associations dedicated to Igbo scholarship.

As President of Igbo Studies Association, what vital roles do you think should be played under your leadership to educate future Igbo leaders and role models?

Although it is true that the Igbo Studies Association, which I head as president, is not necessarily a political but a scholarly organization, I expect the Association to play a very prominent role in educating the political leadership in Ala-Igbo. Ideas generated by scholars on the political, social, economic and cultural life of the Igbo, if properly harnessed, will serve as reference points for Igbo leaders. Our hope is that with time, it will become absurd for anyone to present himself or herself for a leadership position in Igboland without an appreciable knowledge of aspects of the Igbo culture, history, and society. In recent times, the Igbo have abandoned education for quick money from dubious businesses and from political corruption. This sort of lifestyle contributes nothing meaningful to the general welfare of the people. Instead, it creates more avarice and crime. Life and property have become so unsafe in Igboland that prominent Igbo would rather stay in Hausaland and Yorubaland than visit their home towns and villages. But a well-educated person is an asset to the people, always finding ways to give back to society than to wreak havoc. The more education the Igbo are about their heritage and the need for genuine progress and development, the less likely they would turn to crime and avariciousness.

You and Chima Korieh wrote “Against All Odds: The Igbo Experience In Post-Colonial Nigeria.” Speaking of the ‘horrors of ethnic politics, civil war and the Igbo example of perseverance,’ the question here is, based on that perspective, did Igbo actually learn anything, looking at what had erupted over the months in Northern Nigeria?

Against All Odds is a scholarly book which explores the experiences of the Igbo in postcolonial Nigeria and evinces both the grim side of postcolonial politics in Nigeria, particularly the horrors of ethnic politics, civil war, and the Igbo example of perseverance and human potential to overcome dreadful conditions of such magnitude. The study illuminates the tension emanating from the enduring colonial legacies and their influences on Nigerian peoples and public life; it links socio-economic, cultural, and political events in Nigeria since the 1960s and the peculiar circumstances faced by the Igbo ethnic group with the continuing attempts to forge a more perfect nation state in which every constituent group is treated with fairness and equity. Yet, it has become increasingly more glaring that the Igbo did not gain or learn much from the horrors of the 1960s which resulted to the civil war. An important gain would have been the recognition of the Igbo as equal partners within the Nigerian political and economic contexts. But this has been quite elusive. It has been a little over 41 years since the end of the war and the phony declaration of “no victor, no vanquished,” yet no Igbo has ruled the country ever since. As at the moment, that possibility remained in the distant future. While it is true that the Igbo are partly to blame for their lack of organization and strategic coordination to attain this goal, there is no question that other ethnic groups, especially the bigger two, have some lingering reservations against an Igbo leadership of the country. It was only just recently that an army general of Igbo extraction was ever appointed as the chief of army staff since the end of the civil war. Yet, one wonders whether the Igbo have learned anything from the civil war. Although they are aware of the enduring animosity against them and the fact that they have not been fully accepted back into Nigeria, the Igbo assumed otherwise. Thus, they returned back to the North in droves only to become targets and victims of wanton killings again and again anytime their host communities got upset over often flimsy and mundane issues. Time and time again since the end of the war, the Igbo run back to the East only to return to run yet again. Who said the Igbo have learned from the civil war. Naively they still believe that hatred and animosity against them would disappear at dawn only to be disappointed at sunset.

Your teaching and research focuses on modern Africa. Is Africa developed by way of technology compared to the West and a fast-paced growing Asia? And if not, what seem to have been the problem?

When I use the term “modern Africa,” in my teaching and research, I focus on the period from 1800 to the present, and this encompasses the colonial and the post-colonial eras. Africa’s post-colonial condition is linked to its colonial past, and this colonial past laid the foundation for the development of Africa’s underdevelopment. There are a variety of indices of measuring a country’s or continent’s development and the lack of it. If development is defined as improvement in human welfare, quality of life and social wellbeing especially as they relate to technology, it can be argued that Africa is still a developing continent – the best way to state that the level of this development is low just as its pace is slow in comparison to the West and Asia. Technologically, Africa still remains a consumer rather than producer of technology. There is almost no type of technology you see in the West and Asia that you cannot find in Africa; the difference, however, is who produces the technology. Of course, it is the producers rather than the consumers that profit from it! Here lies the problem – colonial legacy, which created and continues to sustain unparalleled dependency syndrome in Africa. For example, Africa is one of the largest cell phone consumers today but how many of those phones are made or patented in Africa. None! It is also the low level of technology in Africa that compels Africans to ship their raw cocoa to the West only to turn around to buy chocolate that have been processed elsewhere with improved technology. Unfortunately, there is now no end to this economic pattern since under globalization, no continent or country can successfully close its door as Japan did in the eighteenth and nineteen centuries. Such isolationism in today’s world can only spell doom for a country since economic, social, and technological processes are intertwined in a complicated fashion with serious political consequences.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nigerian Jungle Blues: Trans Amadi Slaughter House

A young man carries an animal carcass through the Trans-Amadi Slaughter, the main abbatoir of Port Harcourt.

A butcher cuts up a cow carcass amidst a pool of blood and guts, at the Trans-Amadi Slaughter, the main abbatoir of Port Harcourt. At the slaughter, animals are killed in the open, their blood spilt into the waterways below and their skin is burned by the flames of old tires, which creates thick clouds of black smoke over the city. Fish had been the traditional source of protein in the Niger Delta, but as fish stocks have dwindled due to pollution from the oil industry and over fishing, meat is becoming more common. Date: June 20, 2006. Location: Port Harcourt. Image: Ed Kashi

Amidst the bones and smoke, a young girl sells drinks to the workers at the Trans-Amadi Slaughter, the main abbatoir of Port Harcourt. At the slaughter, animals are killed in the open, their blood spilt into the waterways below and their skin is burned by the flames of old tires, which creates thick clouds of black smoke over the city. Fish had been the traditional source of protein in the Niger Delta, but as fish stocks have dwindled due to pollution from the oil industry and over fishing, meat is becoming more common. Date: June 20, 2006. Location: Port Harcourt. Image: Ed Kashi

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Ambrose Ehirim - Queenkay Amamgbo Q & A Interview

QueenKay is a mother of two young boys, Chika and Lota, a multi-faceted entrepreneur, writer, enthusiast, and optimist. She moved to the United States from Nigeria when she was 18-years-old. After living in the Washington, DC area for a few years, she relocated to Los Angeles, California. Her desire to realize her creative passions led her to Hollywood. Nevertheless, she soon found herself taking a detour, to follow her heart's pathway. After falling in love and getting married, QueenKay's true-life, fairytale romance ended tragically. Ironically, the ending of her romance was the beginning of her Reconstruction and Transformation and the very catalyst of this book, The Reconstruction and Transformation of QueenKay.


Let’s talk about you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your upbringing and things like that?

Well a bit about me. I am what you call a very down to earth girl. I don't have any hang ups and I am very easy going. I grew up in a middle class family while enduring a lot of family drama.

What were your early influences?

My early influences were seeing my mum as a strong force to be reckoned with. Although pushed down many times, got up many more times to claim what was rightfully hers and raise her children the best way she knew how. I also from an early age fell in love with movies, music and the human experience. We get to tell our stories through so many mediums.

You have written a book. In what environment did you start putting “The Reconstruction & Transformation of Queenkay,” together?

I started writing my book shortly after I lost my husband. I couldn't stay focused on writing because the pain was too raw. It took me three and a half years to finish the book.

And how did you arrive to conclusion it should be put into a book?

I knew when Charles died that our story had to be told. I knew that it would be first as a book and evolve into a feature length film. I was certain of that.

What were your doubts at the time of penning and putting your emotions, Charles’ death and coping with the tragedy, together?

I had a lot to deal with, his death, surviving, raising my boys and struggling to save my business and my home where amongst the setbacks that made writing the book difficult. I didn't really doubt that I would finish the book, I just knew I had to.

You said “The Reconstruction & Transformation of Queenkay” would make one “laugh, cry, think, love, lose it and believe again.” Could you explain what that means?

I mean it would take you through my life and in many instances you would relate to the words and events as though it were happening to you. Ultimately, you would feel HOPE and the courage to carry on no matter what life throws at you.

What would you have done differently assuming you did not complete the book?

I don't think it would have been easy for me to complete any meaningful and fulfilling projects had I not completed the book. It felt like a heavy burden that needed to be let down. I would still be busy building my business and myself up but I am glad I completed the book. I feel freer, lighter and ready to take on the world.

I read somewhere that Hollywood had been on your “radar” from your inception of the American Dream until you met your sweetheart. What inspired the Hollywood dream?

I was very artistically inclined while growing up. It wasn't the dream of simply being famous for the sake of it, it was the desire to fulfill my creative passions that made me want to be part of a dream building opportunity.

If given the opportunity now, would you consider giving Hollywood a shot this time around?

It would have to be on the terms of a creative person behind the scenes. I am now a mother and my priorities have changed, but I would still love to tell moving stories and give people like myself a voice.

In your opinion, what is the Nollywood film industry not doing right to meet up with the challenges in terms of quality production and by way of scholarship compared to Hollywood?

I am not sure what they are doing specifically. I know that the quality of films in recent years has improved dramatically. The American film industry has been around for years and has been improving every since. There are organizations set in place to maintain the integrity of the projects that come around. There are museums and archives of pioneers who have paved the way. I really do not have any way of knowing just where we are in terms of getting to this level. I do know we have some very talented writers, actors and producers. We have come a long way and I pray that the best is soon to come.

You are a one of a kind mother of two boys, a magnificent entrepreneur, author and as the list goes on, where does the energy come from in all these combined?

I do not know where the energy comes from. I get inspired daily to push myself to new heights of creativity. I do not want to settle for less than excellent. I think God just gave that doze of "extra" and I will keep riding high until I get called to glory.

How is ‘Man Must Wak' doing? I love African dishes especially ofe olugbo. What are the delicacies and what should I expect assuming I stop by to make a purchase?

My store is doing great. It has survived the economic downturn and is getting ready to ride the upswing. Do you mean ofe onugbu (bitter leaf soup)? It is a specialty where I come from and we sell the ingredients in my store. If you were to stop by my store, you will find ingredients for making all kinds of soups ranging from okro soup to egusi soup and the list is endless.

Let’s talk about your boy, Chika. I watched him at the book release party video. He was awesome and I could not imagine such a kid with that powerful, moving rendition:

You can't do it alone
we can't do it alone
we have to work together
to keep going
It’s all in one community
that we have to;
work together

Wow! I was personally moved. How was all that rehearsed in preparation to the event? Coupled with the reaction of the audience, what was the discussion when you all got home?

Thank you so very much on the complement regarding my son Chika's speech. You know, that boy is just a God sent. We never rehearsed any speeches. I knew I had to say thank you. I never knew he would want to say something. For a child who was 9 at the time to have the courage to speak in front of a room full of people and say such a courageous thing, moved me also. He's my son and I simply can not get enough of how he seems to be so captivating when he speaks. He reminds me a lot about his father. The audience was moved too and it was just a wonderful day in totality. We didn't speak much about it when we got home, it was just a perfect day and we were grateful it turned out well.

How was your days at the University of San Francisco?

My days at USF were memorable and I am glad I had the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school

What’s your next project now besides a hand-full of family and entrepreneurship?

I just finished co-authoring a book with 23 female authors from all over the world. The book is entitled, "The Unstoppable Woman's Guide to Emotional Well-Being" The book project is such a blessing and their are many more to come from it. The forward to book was written by Oprah's Marketing Manager with Harpo Studios, Maya Watson. I am very excited about this year. The website for that book is Besides this new book, I have a slew of interviews slated for the next few months and I am simply amazed at what the future holds for me.

What’s your leisure time like?

If I have any leisure time in between my crazy schedule, I sleep. I tell people it's one my hobbies and they laugh, but the truth is, I do everything on full speed, so to me when I lay down, that's a luxury. I do like to read, watch movies, and travel. Thank you so much for the opportunity to connect with you and the readers. I do hope that my book blesses those who read it and is a life changing experience for as many as would allow it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Conversations With Filmmaker Tim Greene

We talked about this interview earlier than I had the chance to meet Philly native and independent filmmaker, Tim Greene. The 20th Anniversary of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival had just begun at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles and filmmakers were in touch for the anniversary when I had checked out the base camp of the festival’s related events. Tim sat quietly on the front porch while we exchanged greetings and informing him of my futile attempts to locate him over the months. Soft spoken and humble, Tim had told me about his overwhelming tour dates all across the United States which he wrapped up arriving Los Angeles.

Tim wants to get on his programs differently when he outlined the ideals behind the “Lil Homeez” project when he was back to Charlotte, North Carolina to edit his documentary, “From Tragedy To Triumph,” a story about a community that took an abandoned empty supermarket in their crime infested neighborhood and turned it into a productive community center to better their community from around which kids in the community in a sudden 180-degrees turn started improving in their grades from D’s to straight As.

Tim who has starred in movies along side Jamie Fox, Terrence Howard, Chris Rock, Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and several others, wants to provide the opportunities for kids and inner city youths who have been less privileged in creating some kind of impacts, but talented in a variety of discipline, had started Hop For A Better World Motion Pictures- Hollywood to help these kids develop their talents and work towards a better future; and recently he joined “Engineering the World,” flying in from Los Angeles for a film-making workshop in a conference for minority students held at the CNN Studios. In that endeavor, over 200 students from the 6th to 12th grade toured the CNN Studios at Time Warner Center as the National Society of Black Engineers (Alumni Extension/New York and Central Jersey Chapter) and the Black Professionals at Turner put together the “Engineering the Worlds” conference. The all day conference was totally free for any minority student from around the country to attend in an effort to build the foundation to impact, revitalize and empower the youths and future leaders of tomorrow. Participants toured the CNN Studios and did a simulated show production with an opportunity for the students to get behind the cameras on a real CNN set learning a variety of skills including camera operator, lighting, graphics, editing and audio with the CNN staffers who donated their time for the conference. The students also learned how they could prepare themselves for a career in engineering and broadcasting.

In his outreach program to kids and why he had chosen to motivate kids and be better assets in the future when his “Discover Your Greatness 20 City Tour” rewarded kids in underprivileged areas with great grades in school with free workshops, prizes and CDs that will teach kids and parents how to be more focused in being future business owners and entrepreneurs. Asked about the ideology, Tim said:

“I also have a new generation of very young kids pledge to use the new “B-word” when they address females. That new “B-Word” is Beautiful.” When I have the males use the word every females face in the house lit up with happiness. I also have “Make it rain with Greatness parties for the exceptional young ladies at the events. Instead of thinking about making it rain on a female in the club for dancing, grandma and the whole family makes it rain when their daughter brings home good grades from school. Then after I leave each city, it is up to each community to keep the “Make it Rain With Greatness Parties” going on every report card period. I have capacity crowds so far in every city and I make sure that I stay and talk to every single person who comes out to meet me even if it takes until one in the morning as most events have been thus far.”

Asked about filmmaking and the impact he would like to create in the industry, Tim said:

“I knew my next step in film-making was in distribution and building a library of films like any other film studio. There are thousands of independent films that get made every year and only about five percent or less land a distribution deal after screenings on the film festival circuit. I will release the films that I know my target audience will love to see. I will release documentaries, Gospel, drama, action and other types of films, not just Hip Hop. With Will Smith being the number one box office draw in the world and Tyler Perry opening up his own film and television studio, it shows me that the whole universe is open to me and I have to create my own destiny and not just sit around waiting for the phone to ring.”

On the “Lil Homeez” kids movie, a G-rated coupled with Hip Hop products for kids, Tim notes:

“In order to be a little homie you have to stay in school, no cursing, no guns or drugs and you must get good grades. We will have a clothing line, story books, video games and much more for the “Lil Homeez” brand. With rap music lyrics being in the headlines lately kids worldwide needs something positive that they can still relate to and still be considered hip. And being a two time Billboard Top Ten Songwriter, I will put out mind enhancing soundtracks for kids 5-9 years old with hip hop beats.”

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Nigeria: Briton And Italian Die In Hostage Rescue Bid

Mr. McManus was captured by gunmen during a raid on his apartment in May last year.

The men were killed in Birnin-Kebbi in the north of the country

Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara in the video made by the hostage takers.


Two hostages - a Briton and an Italian - have been killed by terrorists in northern Nigeria in an attempted rescue operation.

The effort to free Chris McManus, from the North West of England, and his colleague Franco Lamolinara was launched by British special forces and the Nigerian army.
Sky sources say there were no fatalities on the British and Nigerian forces' side but there were several fatalities among the hostage-takers.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the pair appeared to have died at the hands of their captors, either before or during the course of the rescue bid.

Sky sources say it is believed there was a fight and during the assault the UK and Nigerian forces could not get to Mr McManus and Mr Lamolinara in time.

"It strongly appears that the hostage-takers shot the hostages," the sources said.

The rescue bid was launched after the UK received credible information about their whereabouts and that their lives were under increasing threat.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said Mr McManus and Mr Lamolinara were "taken hostage by terrorists" in northern Nigeria May last year.

He said: "Since then, we have been working closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to find Chris and Franco, and to secure their release.

"The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the internet.

"After months of not knowing where they were being held, we received credible information about their location. A window of opportunity arose to secure their release.

"We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.

"Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco.

"Together with the Nigerian Government, today I authorised it to go ahead, with UK support.

"It is with great regret that I have to say that both Chris and Franco have lost their lives.

"We are still awaiting confirmation of the details, but the early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors, before they could be rescued."

He added: "Our immediate thoughts must be with Chris and Franco's families, and we offer them our sincerest condolences."

Mr McManus and Mr Lamolinara, contract workers for the construction company B Stabilini, were kidnapped by gunmen who stormed the apartment they shared in Birnin-Kebbi.

The two men were in the city building a bank.

In a statement, Mr McManus' family said: "As a family, we are of course devastated by the news of Chris' death which we received earlier today.

"During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of our family and friends which has never waned and has enabled us to get through the most difficult of times.

"We are also aware of the many people who were working to try and have Chris returned to our family, and his girlfriend. We would like to thank all of them for their efforts.

"We knew Chris was in an extremely dangerous situation. However we knew that everything that could be done was being done."

There have been a number of foreigners kidnapped while working in Nigeria in recent years.

In September 2008, two Britons were held by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta.

A Scottish oil worker was abducted and his guard killed in April 2009, in the Rivers State capital Port Harcourt.

Three Britons and a Colombian were kidnapped in January 2010 and in November of the same year, four men from the US, Canada and France were taken 7.5 miles offshore on the Okoro field.