Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The heart is a muscular organ in all vertebrates responsible for pumping blood through the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions. But Cardiac arrhythmia refers to the abnormal electrical activity in the heart or irregular heartbeat. Edo State is nicknamed the heart beat of the Nation for many positive reasons, but is this heart beating normally with all these reports about juvenile delinquency thriving in its land?

Did you see it in the news last night? It was an elaborate report on African Independent Television (AIT) about young girls who were arrested while trying to illegally cross the border. And of course you can guess where the majority of them were from- Edo State ! So once again, Edo people made the headline for human trafficking. It has become a stereotype. One of the young girls interviewed made an appalling statement about her parents being aware of her illegal migration. But I wonder what kind of parents will give consent for their children to be trafficked? Has the value of parenthood depreciated so much to the extent that these elders entrusted with our future now openly shirk their responsibilities and sell them off into modernized transatlantic slavery?

These young people go to the extreme process of engaging in illicit acts such as drug trafficking, premarital sex and abortion, prostitution, arm robbery, 419, abusive servitude etc. which are very traumatic. I do not know if this is linked to youthful exuberance but why do young people wake up one morning, pack their bags and decide to leave home? Is it a spiritual or psychosomatic phenomenon? I know most people blame it on underlying social and economic problems in Nigeria. But is it really worth it?

The Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, must adopt a strategy that works to curtail the negative impact such vices as human trafficking is having on Edo State , the heart beat of Nigeria . We must not remain passive while the Nation’s heart suffers from Cardiac arrhythmias or its likes. The future must be salvaged. Quality Education and Employment opportunities should be created for the youths in the State. Other stakeholders- Parents, religious bodies and NGOs everywhere should support the government’s efforts by discouraging the culture of materialism and the attitude of get-rich-quick our youths are adopting. The media must not relent in its efforts of exposing such dehumanizing acts and sensitize the public to eradicate it.

“For those of you who think it cannot happen to you, I want to let you know that the dragnet of the traffickers is so wide that only God knows who is safe.” the wife of former Vice President, Titi Atiku Abubakar once said. We must not wait until it happen to people close to us before we take action to eradicate all forms of human trafficking.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Rotational poverty to me means a recycled poverty. But in the words of Mr. Segun Adefila, the leader of Crown Troupe of Africa, "Rotational Poverty is the poverty that rotates among the refers to the exploitation of the poor by the poor". He went on to give an example of a Danfo (Bus) Driver who unjustly increases transport fare for his own selfish gain. But guess what? He goes home, give his wife an extra cash for home up-keep but she goes to the market to find out that the prices of goods have gone up! The traders who were forced to pay extra fee to transport their goods in turn inflates the cost of sales and this backfires on the driver who started it all. It is like a boomerang.

Rotational poverty is not restricted to Public transport alone. It is all over our society. People exploiting others at the slightest given opportunity. For instance, the cost of fuel per liter is now N65 but I am yet to see this change impact lives at the grassroots. It obviously took a while before most Fuel Stations effected the new price but now they have, those at the helm of local affairs are yet to take responsible action to ensure that the prices of things that went up is tuned down. No matter the number of millionaires we have at home or in diaspora, if the masses are living below poverty line, our society will be tagged poor.

According to UNICEF, about 30, 000 children die everyday due to poverty. Imagine loosing such a huge human resource to poverty instigated by another man's greed. Poverty is a state for majority of the world's people, a few of us get the chance to be wealthy either because we had riches bestowed on us or through sheer hard work and as a result are shielded from the harsh reality of poverty or otherwise, while majority struggle on trying to to get "there". Young people are most affected by poverty, thus all stakeholders must initiate more strategies to eliminate poverty in all ramification- be it material poverty or poverty of the mind. Indeed, we can all stop the rotational poverty eating deep into our society through collective and personal responsibility.

I really would not have given this a deep thought had the Crown Troupe of Africa not instigated it through their creative satirical presentation. Talk about a creative group who know how best to fuse dance with drama to create a new audio-visual experience while at the same time raising critical issues that affect mankind. Their last performance was on Ahmed Yerima's "Fall of a King" and Jumoke Verissimo's Ajani. Their mix of comedy really keeps you laughing until you almost pee on yourself. Do find time to attend the next performance themed "Moremi", coming up 3pm March 1st 2009 (a monthly event) at Cinema hall 1, National Theater. The experience will entertain you and challenge the way you perceive things.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT (rotational poverty 2)

I love public transport. I think everyone should too. It is one of the best things that have happened to Lagos. Imagine the confusion, congestion, pollution and all the other –ion, that would have befallen us if we all use our private cars everyday. As it is, I think we have too many cars on the road already, we should all imbibe the culture of taking the bus.

If you hate “Danfo” buses, then take the alternative- BRT or Okada (remember to put on your Helmet). Governor Fashola has audaciously rebranded Lagos by implementing different projects, including the Bus Rapid Transport system (BRT) and of course the rail system is on its way! “…we take another significant step that will set the stage for the holistic reformation of Lagos Transport System that promotes the use of land, water and rail. I assert that our word will be our bond: we will never rest on our oars until we deliver our pledge to bequeath a Lagos that symbolizes the genius of the Blackman and is a pride to all” said the Governor. That will hopefully drive more people to embrace public transportation.

It is poor mentality for anyone to think that public transport is for poor masses. As a matter of fact, I think the system is designed for everyone. Imagine how much space will be saved on our roads if more people are driven to ride on Buses instead of honking in frustration through the hectic Lagos traffic Jam caused by overpopulation of cars and impatient unskilled drivers. The fumes released by vehicles are also reduced in the process of getting more people to take the bus. The challenge of global warming should really lead us to increase our demand for public transportation, after all, we are part of the solution.

The only thing that bugs me about public transport system is the fact that it has no measure of control whatsoever! A driver can wake up one morning and hike up the transport fare just because a crowd of commuter are stranded at the Bus-stop. Without prior notice, they increase the fare each time there is traffic jam, when it rains or the sun shines too much, when they are harassed by hoodlums or “police check point”. And trust us commuters, a very resilient people, despite the unfair exploitation by the system we still jump in and pay the price. In *Danfo buses commuters are squashed together like sardines as a result of a driver's greed or ignorance.

The onus is therefore on the government and other stakeholders in the sector (e.g. NURTW) to ameliorate the public transport system. Drivers and conductors should be constantly orientated, a stated specific number of passengers a bus can take as well as the cost of travel. We absolutely need a better public transport system. It will sure contribute to the eradication of rotational poverty in all ramification.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Beginning January 11th 2009, Junior Kanu will be visiting seven African cities- Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Tunis (Tunisia), Nairobi (Kenya), and Johannesburg (South Africa)- listening to young Africans' dreams about what’s right or wrong with the continent and their roles in its development. The final outcome will be a book tentatively titled Solving Africa. Part memoir, part travel log and part political commentary, the book will be the voice of young Africans’ dreams for their homeland and an attempt at a new way of telling Africa’s story. In this interview with Jennifer Ehidiamen (The Nation newspaper), Kanu talks more about what motivated him to embark on such project. Below is the excerpts:

When did you plan the Solving Africa project?
Kanu: Since the beginning of 2008, I'd been thinking about traveling around the African continent but because I was busy with school for most of the year, I couldn't do much to plan. In the summer, I created an independent study course focused on African literature to get my mind thinking of places I'd like to visit. And as things died down, I applied for a grant from the Soros Foundation in November and converted the grant application into a website that I launched on the 6th of November.

What inspired it?
Kanu: The idea for Solving Africa began as a conversation with some friends in early 2008. We were in a restaurant in Vienna when we decided we would solve all of Africa's problems with two roads. One road would run east-west, from Dakar to Addis Ababa and the other, north-south, from Cairo to Cape Town. Tributaries would eventually join these two main roads connecting all the major cities on the continent.

I'd been traveling around Europe for five weeks in the winter between 2007 and 2008 on what some North Americans call, "The Europe Trip". This trip is done somewhere between school and real life, for most middle-class Americans of European descent, and it is a rite-of-passage, a tradition of sorts. Young Americans traipse all around Europe, backpacks slung over shoulders, staying in cheap hostels, catching cheap flights and generally discovering the land of their ancestry. I had stopped in England, Scotland, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. Austria was my last stop before I returned to school in New York. If I was looking for my ancestry, it was finally starting to dawn on me that I wasn't going to find it here.

As a result of my trip around Europe, I had got it in my head that a road trip around the African continent was an imperative for every privileged African youth. Not only would visiting other African countries result in ethnic tolerance, my friends and I argued that there was ample opportunity for inter-African collaboration. This was one thing our parents' generation had overlooked after independence and it showed as a so-called "independent Africa" remained in a posture of counterfeiting western developments even after independence. It is why imported goods are automatically better than African goods even if the raw materials were bought from us. It is also the reason why there is very little inter-African trading. Road trips, we surmised, would solve all of it.

What is your ultimate goal?
Kanu: The material I get from this journey will make up the bulk of a book I'm writing by the same name, Solving Africa. Because it's hard to love a place you don't know, I am proposing a trip to seven African cities to get to know, and hopefully, fall in love with, some of the people and places my education in Nigeria failed to mention.I was a science student during secondary school in Baptist High School Jos and during that time, history and literature weren't required. I was trained to excel in math, physics, chemistry and the like without any idea of whom my education was meant to be serving. So like most young Nigerians, or even Africans, I saw this continent as something to escape. I want this book to capture the the voice of young Africans' dreams for their homeland. I want Africans to take a look around and see what God has blessed them with and learn to be proud of who they are and where they come from. And maybe, with this change of attitude, we'll all be more interested in making this nation and continent at large, a place we want to live in and not run away from.

Besides the writing of a book, this project will be about connecting the young Africans I meet during the trip to like-minded Africans in the other continents. I also hope to establish an annual Solving Africa Conference, where promising Africans from all over the world, between the ages of 18 and 35, meet to discuss issues related to the continent's development and their role in its advancement. It would be amazing if each year, young Africans from every corner of the world made their way home for one week to enjoy the natural beauty of this land while being inspired to implement the many ideas they've been dreaming about. Imagine the kind of difference it will make when all these great minds get together and start riffing on new ideas and ways to elevate the livelihood of fellow Africans. We're a blessed people; and from what I hear among young Africans in the U.S., we just might turn things around and make our parents prouder than they'd anticipated by sending us abroad.

Because I want to entice young Africans to visit these places for themselves, I will be doing some touristy things. However, I'll also be staying with residents, locals who live there and can show me the city from their perspectives.

How are you funding the trip and overall project?
Kanu: The trip is being funded by various people. Some of them are friends from university. Others are members of my church. But what's humbled me the most has been the support from people I've never met. People who call me up or send me an email and say that they are excited about the project and what to be a part of it in some way. So far, I'm halfway done with fundraising and I don't think money will be an issue because as people read updates from the journey, the stories will stand for themselves.

I would like to involve whomever is interested in the project. It's not mine per se. It's a great idea and I happen to be the random guy with a few months to spare. If there people, organizations or other agencies you think would find this interesting, please don't hesitate to tell them about it. The project is definitely bigger than Jr Kanu and I don't intend to stifle it.

What has been a major factor that prepared you for it e.g good education?
Kanu: When I told my mom and dad that I was applying for a master's in journalism, I was surprised at how calmly they responded. I had graduated with honors in mechanical engineering and here I was telling them that I was going to go be a writer. All they wanted to know was that I had sought God's opinion on the decision and I think that the scholarship I received sealed the deal as evidence that my prayers were answered. Having their support was key. I also think that my experience as an international student makes it easy for me to get along with people of various cultures. That attitude of having friends who don't look, dress, talk or think like you has been a huge blessing. I won't be staying at any hotels during this trip because a friend of a friend knows someone in every city I'm visiting. I also have a healthy dose of faith. I'm the kind of person who believes that if God opens the door for me to start this project, He will prepare me along the way to complete it.

What are the limiting factors and challenges you foresee?
Kanu: My French is not as good as it once was. So while I'm in Tunis and Dakar where French is one of the main languages, I might sound like the equivalent of someone speaking Pidgin instead of something more respectable. And my football playing skills are very rusty so I hope people won't mind if I'm cost them a goal or two. Other than that, I am excited to see how this turns out. I'll take the challenges in stride; one day at a time. I know I have a host of family and friends supporting me.

Is your project in anyway aimed at discouraging Human capital flight/brain-drain?
Kanu: The project is aimed at engendering pride in where we come from. I've found that I didn't have this kind of pride until I left the continent and that's almost a shame. If people have to leave, let them leave. But they should understand what they're leaving behind and how much their presence after they return is needed. It helps to leave sometimes, I'm a proponent of traveling. But with the brain drain thing, I think it's a shame that all our geniuses are across the Atlantic when we so badly need them in Africa.

To learn more about the solving Africa project you can visit

This interview was first published in The Nation Newspaper. (c) THE NATION Newspaper January 11th, 2009.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


The popular Ecowas Cosmopolitan College in Otta recently organized a student interactive program, a mentoring session aimed at educating the students about Leadership and personal issues such as adolescent Reproductive Health. I was at the event and was awed at the approach which Miss Modupe Ajewole, the organizer of the program adopted. Honestly, when I walked into the hall, I was expecting to see a high table with distinguished adults all dressed up to address the students who were eager to learn but instead found only youth workers in jeans and trainers who were selected to train the students.

The framework of World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Youth mentorship can thus propagate a responsible, safe and productive lifestyle among youths. Youth-to-youth mentorship refers to a strategy where experienced, successful and knowledgeable youths are able to directly counsel or “coach” their peers with the aim of influencing them positively. Such Mentorship has become a popular trend that facilitates a formal relationship to further their peer’s knowledge, skills, or career aspirations.

According to Mr. Wole Adegbola, the principal Ecowas, the approach was adopted as a result of its interesting and effective way of having a direct impact on the participants. One of the invited youth mentor, Francis Anyaegbu while expressing his support for the strategy said “The importance of Youth-to-Youth mentorship is that youth connect better to each other, that is why peer-to-peer education remain one of the most effective HIV preventive method.” Francis considers himself an active youth mentor who is consciously and consistently challenged by his peers which inspires him to aim high. “The major challenge I have with that older generation is that they don’t tell you the truth, they are very theoretical. Youth-to-youth mentorship is very sincere and practical. After all we learn better by stories told and shared and youth are the people who can do that and influence their peers.” He added.

The positive effect of youth mentorship includes the enhancement of the potentials of protégés who benefit from learning first-hand the success recipe from their successful peers. Meanwhile Stephen Oguntoyinbo, another youth mentor advocates for a forum where business entrepreneurs like Wale Adenuga will have the privilege of mentoring an average Nigerian youth entrepreneur who aspires to set up a Telecommunication company in future. “A lot of young people out there have business entrepreneurial spirit in them and mentoring is one of the tools that can help them attain greater height.” However, he points out that one of the reasons why mentorship programs fail in this part of the world is because of our culture do not allow young people to freely relate and share ideas with adults “There is this egocentric spirit that creates gap between the two generations”.