Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The African Diaspora by Tomiwa Igun

Yesterday (Saturday), I had one of those days that I just have to share. I attended the Wharton African Business Forum (WABF) this weekend, and I became more resolute, if that’s possible, in my belief that Africa has a bright future.

The luxury of following the pace-setters
We have so many other nations setting the pace that we can easily learn from their experiences and borrow from their strategies. In fact, that’s the trend with many Nigerian Business plans as they simply adapt American businesses for the Nigerian market e.g. PayPal, TV Reality Shows, Auction Sites, etc… If you’ve got a brilliant idea and need some help, check out ‘LogicRock Group’.

Obviously, most of my experiences within Africa are confined to the boundaries of Nigeria, and mostly concentrated in Lagos State. But I need not travel past Nigeria to know that 'Africa' lags behind, period! Within Lagos, Victoria Island boasts of $6 million homes while nearby rural areas of Epe boast of huts. I could look at how things work in Lagos and be naïve enough to think that the whole of Africa is the same way. I could also look at Lagos and realize that many of the focal issues translate across the bulk of Nigeria, and in some alteration, across Africa. I’m talking about the obvious issues like Corruption, Infrastructural deficiencies, Political Unrest, Terrible Leadership, oh I can go on and on…

Where’s the Leadership???
Where’s the Leadership???I was fortunate enough to interact with some great minds and that’s just refreshing when you think about how much opportunity we have wasted over the years because of terrible leadership. One interesting character I met was Mallam Nasir El-rufai. He made a joke about how Africa was blessed with great natural resources, but God decided to be fair to the rest of the world and gave us terrible leaders.
That’s where our generation comes in. We can either let corrupt minds keep running our country into the ground as they fill their pockets, or we can get creative in our involvement, and get active. Many, like me, can’t survive in politics, but that shouldn’t stop you from making an impact. In fact, you need not be involved in government (at all) to make a difference.
However, it’s very easy to pass blame, especially when we are not preview to some of the information and situations that these leaders face. Nigeria is only a 10-year democracy so it may take some time for the impact of good leadership to take effect. I see some wonderful things being done in Lagos, for example. I also see progress being made, albeit sometimes slowly, in certain regions like Delta, which is an encouraging sign. So let’s commend the leaders where they deserve it, and hold them accountable when they fail.

That so-called negative image that we can reshape
Now, all we hear from the mainstream media about Africa is how bad we are. I heard Governor Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country. It may sound very naïve, but even if she knew more about Africa, I doubt she would have much positive news about that region of the world. I have no problems with the media portraying negative images of Africa. I just don’t appreciate the fact that very little positive images are shown. While we can sit here and complain, we ought to start taking steps to improve our continent’s image. Don’t be angry at people that don’t know better…instead, educate them through your actions and words.

Our huge problems represent huge opportunities
The truth of the matter about Africa lies in the fact that because we have so many problems, there is so much opportunity. A few visionary corporations and investors saw the opportunities that existed in China, and rode the wave…others followed later to pick up the crumbs. Today, a few revolutionary corporations and investors see the opportunities that exist in Africa and will ride the wave…the other conservative ones will come in later to try to pick up the crumbs.

As early as 1980, China and Nigeria had GDPs that were at par. Today, it’s no contest as China is a benchmark for the world. In 2000, the telecommunications industry in Nigeria was nothing to write home about. In 2008, eight years later, Nigeria’s telecommunications industry is growing at an extraordinary pace and the visionary companies like MTN (a South African entity) and the likes are raking in the profits. The same Vodafone (a premier British entity), that was once offered a free license in 2001 but declined (due to risk analysis they conducted), is now trying to get in the market by paying $200 million for half of one of the major telecommunications companies in Nigeria. The continent is moving in a new direction and you can either stand on the sidelines or participate.

One of the WABF orgranizers made a statement about wanting to turn on CNBC and see African Financial indices being discussed. I say, "it's only a matter of time".

Don’t forget you left lots of competent minds behind when you emigrated Africa
It is not necessary for every African in diaspora to return to the continent, but it may be time for many of us to start considering how we can aid our ailing nations and how we can contribute. There are lots of people doing great things for the continent already so if you decide to sit in your comfort zone and live the American dream, there’s nothing wrong with that. My reservations arise when all we do is talk! It is time to spring into action. In fact, with the sort of experiences some people have had in Africa, I don’t blame them for not wanting anything to do with the continent…but again, you need not talk about all the deficiencies if you won’t do anything to help the situation.

We now live in a globally connected world, so you can use that to your advantage if you don’t want to return to the motherland. Honestly, the continent will move forward whether or not you contribute because of the many other people making huge contributions. Many of us know many people that have never left the borders of Nigeria that are very capable...imagine the many more such people that exist that you don't know!

And for those of you that want to make legitimate money, there are lots of opportunities. Maybe the forgone opportunities in the US may not be as glaring now that the American economy is in the tank. In fact, some of my African friends have exited ‘Wall Street’ for the African financial markets and they are doing very well. Some Americans won’t mind having that option right about now.

So what’s a sound political strategy?
I was once of the opinion that Nigeria would soon be run by hooligans due to the surge of internet fraud and the new social class that arose as a result of corrupt youth. However, I realize that many of the fraudsters waste their money and can’t maintain that social status as the ‘fraud market’ dries up. And with our ‘Cheetah generation’ that wants everything to happen fast, the true gems can start making things happen. I also once thought it would be a sound strategy to go into the Nigerian political landscape and blend in by playing along to rise to the top, before turning around against corruption and incompetence. However, there’s a great adage that says “Power corrupts…” so I anticipate the ‘blending in’ may become permanent in many cases. I guess I don’t have an answer as to how an honest individual could succeed in politics, but someone in some think-tank probably has some great ideas.

An idea is empty without implementation
The question now is this: “will you sit back and watch others take advantage of your country, or will you at least act (or encourage someone to act) to start heading in the right direction?” The truth of the matter is that no one can turn Nigeria around. However, with God all things are possible…just ask Obama! Many people have started this journey and I was amazed to learn about wonderful things currently taking place.

I actually want to encourage us to start learning more about our own continent because although many people laughed at how stupid it sounded for Governor Palin not to know Africa was a continent, that doesn’t indicate that she is stupid; she just maybe isn’t knowledgeable (alright…maybe not the best analogy given some of her other comments, but you get the gist). Now, if we don’t educate ourselves by attending these types of events, interacting with knowledgeable people, and reading up on current affairs, we cannot appreciate the vast opportunities that exist. Consequently, we won't know where we fit in. This was an eye-opener for me & maybe you need to have been there to understand where I'm coming from.

And whether or not you return for financial benefits or for social impact, remember those less-privileged individuals who have not been blessed with similar opportunities as yourself. God help us…Yes He can!

Tomiwa Igun

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Like Air, He rose!!! (The Tale of Barack Obama)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
you may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise

I rise
I rise

Poem by Maya Angelou.

I woke up this morning and thought about this poem, as I read another post on a different blog. I thought about the rise of dust and air, intermingling with each other, compelled by the forces of nature to keep rising.

That is how the new President-elect of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, has arisen. Like a force that cannot be denied by the boundaries of nature. Despite all the odds and difficulties, despite all the plagues and negative descriptions, despite the limitations of people of his own kind...still, like air, he rose. I will use this opportunity to congratulate the first African American president of the United States. This is the season that a unique piece of history is written, and we are all witnesses and a part of it.

I want to see Nigeria rise too...rise like voluminous air particles, defying all elements of gravity. I hope Barack Obama's story can change the minds of Nigerian leaders and even young Nigerians (workers and students alike). History can be made too in your country, the land of such vast greenery.

Photo by Photobucket

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poverty in Nigeria: Blog Action Day (by Onyeka Aghanenu)

(Editor’s Note:) As part of the Blog Action Day 2008, I want us to focus on the issue of poverty in Nigeria. I can’t throw any contest, or a donation, and while what I’m going to say is not news, it’s good we, as Nigerians took time to reflect upon the one thing that has continuously plagued our continent. I’m making this up as I go along, so bear with me.

Over the past few days, even before I signed up, I’d observed things that have quite literally broken my heart. On Saturday evening, I was walking home from the shops and as I entered my street, I saw a little boy, not more than 4 or 5, squatting by the entrance, a tray of groundnuts on his head. He put the tray down, and looked at it, rearranging the little piles. I realized he was resting, and I felt bad. And angry. On a day, when most people did not even leave their homes, why would a parent or guardian send out a kid that was so young too hawk items? My first thought was that such parents should be rid of their right to raise that child. But as I walked down the street, I knew it was just a matter of condition…

Really, who wants to see their child zooming in between moving vehicles selling items? I’m not justifying child labor in any way, but one must ask what would cause someone to engage their child in it to start with. It’s not a mystery. It’s something we see everyday, from the high-rises of the Island to the slums of the mainland, they’re always there, trying to make a living anyway possible. It’s almost considered normal.

But it shouldn’t be normal. There shouldn’t be anything ‘usual’ about seeing women old enough to be my mother on the sides of the street, begging or doing some other menial, barely paying job to make ends meet. I’ll be the first to admit that whenever I see such things, I instantly picture my mother in that place, and it almost always brings tears to my eyes. There shouldn’t be anything ignorable in seeing children out on the road selling items when they should be in school. It’s a shame that we live in such a rich country, that is continuously being ravaged by greed and selfishness.

It irritates me to no end the extent to which the rich get richer, stealing, lying, decaying our already fragile society because they want more. Our leaders? Please don’t get me started on those empty vessels. I blame them for our problems. In Africa, that is our problem. All the wrong people are at the top.

Which is why change needs to come from the bottom. At this point in time, is it still wise to sit and wait for those in charge to do something about the lower class’s situation? We, the people need to start taking responsibility for ourselves. Sure, we all have our own responsibilities, we all have our goals, but we should find time, at least, once a month to go out and do something. I know I’m guilty.

I’m dedicating this post to the dependents out there that were born into a life of lack and have continued to lack because of the raging disparity between the rich and poor here.

And I’ll drop this question out there for the commenter. What can we, as Nigerians, do to help the poverty situation? Any charities, causes you’re partial to?

The original post can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Real Independence: The hope

Nigerians are no longer sitting on couches
They no longer look desolate
They no longer sit back, recline, and relax
They no longer wait for the day to come
For the sun has already arisen, and the day is nigh

Nigeria is growing greater each day
With the investments of strong youth
With the increments of new intelligence and creativity
With the contribution of passion and integrity
A new day is slowly unfolding

Nigerians are making things work
Minds are inventing
Businesses are booming
The stock market is growing
The Nation is being rebuilt

Still some areas are deficient
The Niger Delta people are suffering
The schools lack true education
The hospitals are inundated with filth
Yet, this is the plight of our independence

October 1st is still significant
But now with different reasons
No longer because it is merely a day of jubilee
But now because it is a day of change
A day where we can hope for REAL independence
Independence that comes without chains to corruption

May you live to see change...

Miss Independence
Happy birthday
God bless Nigeria
Nigeria, on the Verge of Independence
Tablet doodles: Happy Independence Day, Nigeria
Happy Independence Day Nigerians
Take me to Your Leader- I am 48

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Struggle:

Copyright Protected: Chiedu Ifeozo

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We can do better!

Just How Sick are Nigerian Hospitals? by Simon Kolawole

...Two weeks ago, my driver called me to say his father was ill. He suspected typhoid. Take him to a general hospital, I told him, because I don’t really trust many of the private clinics which often lack the expertise but would eagerly wave huge bills in the face of unfortunate Nigerians. He took the man to Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos. This was in the evening. The person who was supposed to issue registration cards had taken a stroll. The lady in sight, whose duties my driver couldn’t really define, advised them to sit down and wait because “issuing cards is not my duty”. After waiting for an hour, with his father in pains, my driver finally sighted the card issuer. Card issued, they waited for another one hour to see the doctor. The lady, who said she was not a card issuer, was obviously the one who would grant them access to the doctor, but she was busy talking and gisting on “MTN Xtra Cool” (as my driver put it). “I could not believe my eyes,” my driver said. “She must have been on the phone for 50 minutes. In the process, the doctor had resumed work. I didn’t know. It was another nurse who came to advise me that I had to keep troubling the lady before we could see the doctor.” Reluctantly, the “MTN” nurse allowed them to see the doctor who did a good job of informing my driver that his father would need a surgery. There was a little problem though: there was no bed space, so he would refer them to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, which I understood the Tinubu administration had turned into one of the best in the country today. Midnight, they set out for LASUTH. On getting there, they were told once again that there was no bed space, so they headed for General Hospital in Surulere. Early in the morning the following day, I called him to find out what the situation was. The same story: no bed space.

“Go to LUTH immediately,” I ordered him, and then joked seriously: “You see now, if you were a big man you would just take your father to St. Nicholas Hospital or Reddington and deposit N5 million. The operation would have been done by now. Better still, if you were a governor or a minister, you would have flown your daddy to Germany or London by air ambulance for operation.” He got my point easily because I always use him as a sounding board anytime we are going to office. I normally pour out my frustrations about the contradictions in this country on him.

LUTH was the final straw. When I called him to get the situation report, he gave me a very sad picture. “LUTH is the worst so far,” he said. “The lady who attended to us was so merciless. She said we should take our father out of the reception area, that five people had died there while waiting for bed space. We begged her and said that was the fourth place we were being rejected. She shouted on us and told us to go away, asking if we expected her to become a bed. We begged and begged but she got angrier, saying what she hated most in her life was being begged. While we were still begging, one lady brought her father who was obviously in need of urgent attention. The nurse shouted on her. Right before our eyes, the man gasped and died. No first aid. Nothing. The nurse became more agitated and told the confused lady to take the corpse out of the reception immediately. I decided there and then I had seen enough.”

He moved his father to a private clinic across the road where he was asked to deposit N150,000 ($1300)before treatment would commence. Please don’t ask me how much he earns that he would have saved N150,000 to attend to the health of his father. The doctor wanted the money deposited before he could start any form of work. My driver deposited N50,000 later in the day. For the two nights the man spent there, he only received drips and a few tablets before the doctor advised them to go to one specialist centre at Ikeja. At this stage, I told my driver to move his father to a reputable private hospital on Lagos Island (I wish to withhold the name). The life of the man was in serious danger and everything must be done to save him now.

The hospital first turned them back, saying there was no bed space. But eventually, the man was admitted. My driver got a very strong hint, unofficially, that the man was in serious danger and might not survive. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the money the hospital was going to make from this case, they said they wanted to conduct their own tests before operating on the man. “Before we knew what was happening, they said they had done a scan that would cost us N60,000. They said they were going to do another scan. That’s another N60,000, not counting the other charges,” my driver told me. At this stage, he decided to withdraw his father from the hospital, but for inexplicable reasons, the doctor was never available for him to discuss with. He became desperate to withdraw his father, at least to cut his losses, but the hospital would not play ball yet the man’s condition was getting worse.

Last Wednesday, early in the morning, he received a call informing him that his father had died. Don’t ask me how much the hospital told him to pay for the five days of “treatment”. Don’t ask me how the poor boy mourned the two losses – one of his father and the other of the monumental resources that went down the drain. Sadly, the story I have just told today can represent the experiences of thousands of Nigerians everyday. Nigeria. What a country.


I read this and felt sick to my stomach.

How can we allow this to happen?

Are we satisfied with the health care system?

What can we do to change the health situation in Nigeria?

Nigerians 4 change is not a political group. We are ordinary people that believe we can do extraordinary things to change our country for a brigther tomorrow. Please e-mail us at
nigerians4change@gmail.com to be a part of this movement.

Thank you,
N4C crew

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Dream: 19 Projects (an intro)

You may say the dream is something that has never been dreamed before. A nut case. An illusion. A gold mine filled with land mines. A far-fetched entity.

But today, I dare say that it is in fact the beginning of a reality. The very thing that will wipe out the facade of uselessness, corruption (the world bank defines corruption as use of public office for private profit), and lack of integrity. The beginning is merely the notion that a dream such as we have as our mission statement is possible with our generation. Yes, it all starts with a dream. Small or big. A one-person dream or the dream of a Nation. A single dream or multiple dreams put together. It was what propelled Martin Luther King Jr. to speak on a threshold that will one day change the mind of Americans. Out of a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (most corrupt), Nigeria has a corruption perception index (CPI) of 2.0-2.4 (HERE). What does this tell you? It is one huge mess! It does not matter whether there are 31 Countries with a worse corruption perception index. How did Denmark gain a confidence range of 9.2-9.6? The world has a high confidence in Denmark. We can learn from Countries such as the ones with a high confidence scale! What are their Citizens doing?

This brings me to our dream teams, the famous 19 project teams. Made up of fellow Citizens of Nigeria. You can sit back and whine, roll around on your couches, and stuff yourselves with gestures and remarks about the ill-mannered politicians in your Country. But what roles have you played towards the development of this oil-rich Country? A land flowing with a wealth of vast and rare natural resources? The dream of having 19 project teams is to open up a platform to discuss real projects. This is not merely a discussion forum, it is a forum that will open up creativity for the average Nigerian. Take this as your sewing table, your architectural design, or your fashion designing template. Here's your mic. What project do you have in mind. 19 projects were formed stemming from 19 divisions of academic majors. Your academic study should fall under one of these.

The plan is that you, as a citizen filled with ideas, will take concepts from what you learn at school, and then think of a particular area in the Country you will like to work on. If you are a member of the Facebook group, you will post your idea on the message board and a phone conference meeting will be held on the Saturday after your post to determine the actual tasks that will accomplish your idea.

Rome was not built in one day. Neither is any task expected to be achieved in one year. But if you are not trying to gather the sticks and stones, Rome may never be built. It definitely took Singapore a while to knock down the gates of corruption, and now on the CPI, they are #4. Hopefully, if you read this piece you will be inspired to join a project team, dream up a project, and post up your idea on the message boards. You can even comment about your idea in response to this post, and it will be well seated with one of the members of the group. Someone can take your idea and run with it. You just may never know until you begin to have ONE VOICE.

N4C Crew.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Welcome to the N4C Blog:

With excitement as to what the future holds, we welcome everyone to our new platform for discussions. The administrators will post blog topics here and we will love your full-blown participation.

Also, please feel free to join our Facebook group (by clicking on the logo on the right), where members are given the opportunity to start their own message board topics, and where team members can have a platform to design their projects to change Nigeria.

Our website is under construction and we will let you know when it is established.

Thank you and welcome again.

The N4C Crew.