Right from January 14, 2020, up until now, the people of Imo State have continued to live in suspense with their governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma. The relationship between Governor Uzodimma and Imo voters simulates that of two adults in a forced union. The governor does not lose any opportunity to flaunt, like a wife from a privileged and influential home, her status.
Imo people believe that their governor was not their original intention, but forced on them by unexpected pregnancy outside wedlock.
That could explain why ever since the Supreme Court pronounced on the 2019 governorship election appeal that sacked Hon. Emeke Ihedioha, Governor Uzodimma has been struggling to win the confidence of the people, even as he rubs the fact in that despite their reservations, he remains their governor.
Using the foregoing as a backcloth, it could be understood why the recent visit by President Muhammadu Buhari came exactly one year after a similar visit in 2021. Governor Uzodimma and his supporters in the All Progressives Congress (APC), wanted the world to see the President’s visit as evidence of the governor’s political savviness instead of as a makeup visit to right the wrongs of the previous stopover.
And, as happened last year, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) proclaimed the legendry sit at home (SAH), which many have described as part of the Biafran calendar in Southeast.
Unlike the usual Monday SAHs, the decision of the IPOB leadership to slam a SAH on Tuesday September 13, 2022, took many surprise, even as it was given different interpretations: While some observers held that the SAH was targeted at President Buhari’s visit, others argued that the Governor Uzodimma orchaestrated the SAH so that the president’s visit could be without chance occurrence.
Those who expressed that sentiment remarked that the governor stoked the shift of IPOB leader’s trial from October to September 13, ostensibly to instigate IPOB to make their usual declaration.
Recall that in the more than three-year long bitter-sweet relationship between Imo people and Senator Uzodimma, IPOB had been on the forefront in writing off his administration as antithetical to Igbo socio-political interest.
Although there was no official confirmation that Governor Uzodimma had a hand in the shift of Kanu’s trial date, the IPOB’s statement outlined its intentions for declaring SAH on a Tuesday.
In the statement dated September 10, 2022, and signed by Emma Powerful, the IPOB spokesperson, the group declared: “The global family and movement of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) under the command and leadership of our indefatigable liberator, Mazi Nnamdi Okwuchukwu KANU, wish to announce to the general public, especially Biafrans, that Tuesday September 13, has been declared a day of civil action in the form of Sit-At-Home in Biafra Land.”
Powerful noted that the Tuesday, September 13, 2022, civil action was very important for two reasons, “First, Our Leader’s Appeal Court hearing that was supposed to be on October 11 has been brought forward to September 13, 2022.
“As usual, we call on Biafrans and lovers of freedom to demonstrate our solidarity with our leader, who is bearing our yoke in detention for over a year now. IPOB never issued a new directive to Biafrans, but is simply implementing an existing order to lock down Biafra Land any day the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra will appear in court at Abuja.
“It was based on such agreement with our leader that informed the suspension of the initial Mondays sit-at-home declared by IPOB leadership in August of 2021. It is imperative that our people understand this and go about their daily work and businesses on Monday and get prepared for Tuesday the 13th of September 2022, because Biafraland will be LOCKED DOWN COMPLETELY.
“Secondly, it has come to the knowledge of the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra that the vulture in IKONSO HOUSE in Owerri, the Imo State Government office has decided to insult the memories of our gallant men and women and of the youths of Imo State that he has been murdering in collaboration with the Nigerian terrorists in Army, police and DSS uniform by inviting Buhari to Oweeri the Imo State capital Tuesday September 13, 2022, the very same day the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra Mazi Nnamdi Kanu will be appearing in Court. What an affront and insult upon the land of Biafra and the people of Biafra.”
Consequently, that fateful Tuesday 13, when President Buhari’s aircraft touched ground at the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Governor Uzodimma felt relived and seemingly fulfilled that he was killing two birds with one pebble: First, the President’s visit helped the governor to clear the pervading impression that President Buhari swore never to visit Imo State on Uzodimma’s watch as was being pandered by opposition in the state.
It could be recalled that shortly after President Buhari’s visit to Imo State last year, his remarks that he would consider before accepting another invitation, supported the impression that Governor Uzodimma tricked the President on embarking on the visit.
The President had remarked: “I am overwhelmed by this reception; overwhelmed in the sense that, when I accepted the invitation by the Imo State governor, who wants to justify investments the government has done to the people, I thought I would see the bridges, the roads and a few renovations.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to get the whole Igbo leadership here. So, in the future, when he invites me, I’ll know what to do.”
Also, apart from claims that the President was disappointed by the scant projects executed, opposition alleged that the projects were mostly uncompleted. This was just as the President’s attire was made the butt of ribald jokes on the social media as keyboard happy youths called for the arrest of the tailor who put together the Isiagu piece, particularly the President’s trouser.
In the Presidency’s efforts to come to Uzodimma’s aid, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, released a statement, explaining that Buhari’s closing comment was carefully taken out of context.
Adesina had stated: “We have observed that President Buhari’s concluding remarks at the meeting with South East Leaders during his one-day visit to Imo State is being deliberately contorted and twisted out of context.
“The purveyors of disinformation want Nigerians to believe that the President bluntly told Governor Uzodinma, ‘‘I’ll be careful with your future invitations. They have adduced different meanings to the phrase, contrary to the context wherein the President spoke during his successful dialogue with leaders of thought from Igbo land…”
The Second Coming
ON his second coming precisely one year after, it was a dapper President Buhari that walked briskly and majestically in a contrasting all white caftan, in a manner suggesting a response to all those that won’t mind their business and focus on his attire.
There were near silent whispers of “hey, he appears to be younger and smarter.” But, the height of the pantomime was during the breaking of kolanuts, which is a welcome ritual in Igbo land.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Ambassador George Obiozor, informed the august visitor that breaking kolanut in Igbo land is a sensitive and tricky business. Governor Uzodimma used the interlude of the kolanut breaking to speak in idiom, which Chinua Achebe describes as the oil with which elders eat words in Igbo land.
Why the governor chose late Osita Osadebe’s Osondi-Owendi, was not lost on many of the dignitaries present, who are aware of the tenuous relationship between the governor and his people. In Osodi-Owendi, Uzodimma was passing a subtle message to IPOB and the opposition that he does not give a damn.
Osondi-Owendi translates loosely to different strokes for different folks, but in the context of the hanky-panky politics of Imo State, the governor seems to have given up on his efforts to warm his administration into the hearts of Imolites.
Apparent from Buhari’s visit to Imo State also, was the fact that the governor was not apologetic about his membership of All Progressives Congress (APC), which has a low acceptability rating in the zone. It is such setting that would have spurred Christogonus Obinna Opara (Warrior of Oriental Brothers) to render his Jide nke gi kam jide nkem, onye ana na ibeya (keep to your lane).
Had Governor Uzodimma wanted, he could have brought Bright Chimezie of Zigima Sounds. The problem with that alternative is that instead of taunting his opponents, Chimezie would have reminded the governor Onuru ube nwanne agbalaoso (be your brother’s keeper) or Meere ndi obodo iheoma si gi n’obi (Serve your people with a sincere heart).
However, oblivious of the coded political diatribe, President Buhari felt at home as he met with Southeast leaders present, even as he declared that in spite of daunting odds, his administration has performed extremely well since it came on board in 2015.
And, as if echoing the Osondi-Owendi lyrics, the President lamented that those who should have been vociferous in marketing his administration’s marvellous deeds are regrettably silent.
Dignitaries present at the reception included, the Deputy Senate President, Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Idris Wase; Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nana Opiah; the Deputy governor, Prof. Placid Njoku; Chairman of Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; a former military administrator of Imo State/Foreign Affairs Minister, Maj.-Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) among others.
While recalling his government was welcomed into office by a multiplicity of economic challenges, including dwindling oil prices, crude oil theft, Boko Haram insurgency, among other drawbacks, the President declared: “To be frank with you, I blame the Nigerian elite for not thinking hard about our country. Between 1999 and 2015 when we came in, I will like people to check the Central Bank and the NNPC, the average production was 2.1million bpd. Nigeria was earning at this time 2.1 million times, but look at the state of infrastructure, look at the roads, look at the railway, it was virtually killed. Power, we are still struggling.
“But, when we came, unfortunately, the militants were unleashed, production went down to half a million bpd. Again, unfortunately, the cost of petroleum went down from $28 to $37.”
Referring to his previous visit, Buhari noted that his appeal for support to Governor Uzodimma to bring progress to the state was bearing fruit, which could be seen in the infrastructural growth recorded by the administration.
The governor in his welcome address had noted that, but for the prompt intervention of President Buhari, bandits and hoodlums would have overrun the state. He informed the President that, “your prompt intervention helped to restore peace and order in our state. But, for your timely, prompt and fatherly intervention through the security agencies, bandits and hoodlums would have overrun Imo. For this, I also say thank you Mr President.”
While remarking that his administration’s goal is to leave Imo better than they met it, Uzodimma noted: “We refused to be distracted by pockets of insecurity and social media blackmailers and propaganda, especially those that are politically contrived.”
He noted with glee that the Owerri-Okigwe Road, under construction, traverses seven councils, leading to Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and other states, adding that construction of most of the roads undertaken by his administration, including Amucha-Njaba erosion area on Owerri-Orlu road, were abandoned because of their topography.
However, taking on the governor, the opposition PDP described the President’s visit as a meaningless jamboree and waste of public funds, explaining that Governor Uzodimma lured Buhari to the state to commission uncompleted projects.
Although the state governor outlined that the President was coming to commission the first phase of the Owerri- Okigwe Road, and the Owerri- Orlu Road, PDP decried the rush to inaugurate the projects when they were still ongoing.
In a statement by the state PDP publicity secretary, Collins Opurozor, the party declared: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Imo State House of Assembly Complex, the best in Nigeria, was built and commissioned by Chief Sam Mbakwe in 1983. The project was handled by an indigenous firm, Okigwe Construction Company, owned by Chief John Enyogasi.
“For Imo PDP, therefore, Uzodinma’s attempt to take credit for Mbakwe’s landmark project is an intolerable dimension to his insult and disrespect to Mbakwe, and it is the most audacious attack on the memory of the late respected leader.
“What makes the issue more outrageous is that President Mohammadu Buhari, who Uzodinma has concluded plans to bring for the festival of shame, has always been known for his abiding disdain for the progress and development of Imo State.”
While the opposition continues to wail and rail, Governor Uzodimma will continue his Osondi-Owendi till October 2023, when the voters will have the opportunity to introduce their kinsmen, Oriental Brothers and Warrior’s Iche na mmadu bu eghu (who is fooling who)?
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[RUSSIA – UKRAINE WAR] PUTIN’S GENOCIDE OF SMALL DIFFERENCES
The True Story Of ‘Z’
The deeper tale of the mysterious emblem — a signal of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — illuminates how the aging leaders in the Kremlin attempt to explain their fetishistic genocide to their own people.
BY ALEXANDER ETKIND
When Russian tanks and trucks invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the letter Z was painted on their sides. There were other icons, letters and tattoos on show, but the Z won the race of symbols. As a feature of war and a sign of support, the Z soon spread all over Russia. Within the country, patriots painted it on police cars, on the sides of buildings and on their clothing. In Kazan, children who were dying in a hospice were lined up in a Z formation for a macabre photo that was widely disseminated by state media.
The war being fought was against the West, so why was a Latin letter — foreign to the Cyrillic alphabet — chosen as its symbol? There was no official explanation, so theories multiplied. Some said that the Z came from the Russian word zapad, which means “the West”; others argued it stood for Zelensky and that Russian troops had been ordered to kill him.
True believers saw in the Z one-half of the swastika, which they claimed was an ancient symbol of the Slavs. Critics thought it was taken from zombie films. Whatever the truth, it has proliferated in Russian life and media. But the deeper story of why it became so popular and what that means is a fascinating one.
Generations And Ethnicities
Preparing his assault on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Russians and Ukrainians were one and the same people. Failing to explain any legitimate reasons for the attack, Putin’s pre-war speeches and articles foreshadowed the weird character of the events that followed.
Many millions of Russian speakers lived in Ukraine, a few million Ukrainians in Russia, and many other millions of both ethnicities were connected by blood, marriage or friendship. Judging by most demographic and social indicators, the neighboring countries were pretty similar. In global rankings, fertility and life expectancy were comparably low, and divorce rates were equally high. Due to oil and gas exports, Russians were technically wealthier per capita than Ukrainians, though this wealth rarely reached them. Judging by the inequality of incomes, Ukraine looked like a fairer, more balanced society. Despite the indicators of wealth, there was more poverty in Russia. And while the statistics of education were also similar, quality was questionable in both countries. Before Moscow started hostilities back in 2014, Ukraine was almost as corrupted as Russia. And though Russia was ethnically more heterogenous, both countries were mostly urban, educated and secular.
During the war, however, we have seen vast and growing differences between the two fighting peoples, with the hapless Russian troops and their corrupted commanders starkly contrasted by the ingenuity and rationality of the Ukrainians. In the diplomatic arena, senile, mumbling Russian leaders lose every argument against their brilliant colleagues from Ukraine.
The Russian regime that launched this war is as gerontocratic as the one during the twilight of the Soviet Union. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the future Russian minister of foreign affairs, Sergey Lavrov, was 41 — exactly the same age as his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, is now. Putin has been in power (22 years) for quite a lot longer than any of the Soviet leaders, except only Stalin (29 years). In general, there was a huge difference in age between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders at the outset of the war. Putin (70) could easily be the 44-year-old Volodymyr Zelensky’s father, and the same is true of almost every Russian cabinet member in comparison to their Ukrainian counterparts.
Nothing cleanses the palate better than war. It changes everything — first the present, then the future and, finally, the past. It reverses the natural order of things. Sons die and fathers mourn, not the other way around. Every war brings the problem of generations to the fore. Ivan Turgenev wrote “Fathers and Sons,” the paradigmatic literary analysis of the problem of generational differences, in the aftermath of the Crimean War (1853-1856); Karl Mannheim wrote “The Problem of Generations,” the paradigmatic scholarly analysis, in the aftermath of World War I. A major divide in any country, generations are shaped by their experiences more than by their dates of birth.
“For military and political purposes, markers of difference between two similar peoples had to be created and emphasized.”
In all parts of the former U.S.S.R., the rupture of 1991 established a huge difference between the last Soviet and the first post-Soviet generations. In both Ukraine and Russia, generational differences were larger than ethnic ones. Born in the wake of World War II, many of Russia’s current rulers are deeply rooted in the Soviet period. These boomers went to Soviet schools and started their careers in Soviet collectives. Of the 83 Russian billionaires listed by Forbes in 2022, almost all of them are Soviet boomers. Peers of Putin and his regime, this tiny elite of oligarchs and officials amassed enormous wealth during the so-called “fat years,” the decade after 2000 of fossil fuel-based prosperity.
Ukraine’s leaders, on the other hand, know about the Soviet era mostly from history books. Among the 23 current members of the cabinet, none are boomers. Among the 31 members of the Russian cabinet, by contrast, 11 are.
This war is being fought between two neighboring peoples of similar languages and diverging cultures. It is a war of aging boomers against Generation X and millennials. That’s a craterous divide in any country, but the rupture of 1991 made it even wider.
In Russia, Zelensky and his peers would have been a lost generation. Born too late to profit from the massive redistribution of the 1990s, Russia’s Gen X felt resentment toward more successful predecessors from Putin’s generation. Mikhail Anipkin, a Russian-British sociologist, compares the Russian political life of the pre-war period to a theater: The boomers are on stage, performing an endless play, while millennials helplessly wait in the wings for their turn, and Gen X, uninterested, drinks at the bar. Youngsters in the audience whistle in protest, but the ushers kick them out.
Russian sons and daughters tried to rebel against their fathers in the mass protests of 2012, but they failed. In a huge contrast, Ukraine’s young people succeeded in Kyiv two years later, overthrowing an aging Moscow-allied regime and taking power to lead the nation. Feeling the heat, Kremlin septuagenarians launched a counterattack.
This is not a war between ethnicities — it is a war between generations. A gigantic Oedipal conflict.
Genocide Of Small Differences
In his 1944 definition of genocide, the Polish-Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin wrote that “genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.” But at the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War, these “national patterns” were not much different. This may sound unusual, but in most known cases of genocide, such a situation is a rule rather than an exception.
Sigmund Freud wrote about the “narcissism of minor differences”; studying the Balkan genocides, the philosopher Michael Ignatieff demonstrated how small differences turned into grand narratives and mass murders. In the Bible, there is a story about how the Gileadites fought against a neighboring people, the Ephraimites. Those Ephraimites who fled and were captured had to pass a phonetic test — pronouncing the Hebrew word “Shibboleth.” For saying “Sibboleth” instead, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed (Judges 12:5-6).
Citing this story, Viktor Shklovsky, the Russian-Jewish scholar who took part in World War I and saw its aftermath in Ukraine, commented: “The Bible repeats itself in a curious way. … In the Ukraine [sic!] I saw a Jewish boy. He could not look at the corn without trembling. He told me: When they were killing us in the Ukraine, they needed to check whether the person they were about to kill was Jewish. They asked him: ‘Say kukuruza (corn).’ Sometimes, he said: ‘kukuruzha.’ They killed him.” There is not much difference between this use of phonetics and the Nazi method of identifying Jews by circumcision; obviously, neither of these markers warrants murder.
Other genocides followed the same logic of magnifying minor differences. Historians know that the Armenian genocide of 1915-17 and the Bosnian genocide of 1995 cannot be explained by religious hostilities between Muslims and Christians. The Young Turks — mostly intellectuals and military officers — who came to power in the Ottoman Empire, in 1908, aimed to secularize their country. At the outset of their campaign, the Armenian radicals — also secular intellectuals and military officers — supported the Young Turks and took part in their movement. There had been no genocide throughout the long centuries during which Turks and Armenians lived side by side in separate religious communities; the genocide only occurred after their religious differences had been mostly eliminated.
The internal terror in the Soviet Union, which spanned three decades and only ended with Stalin’s death in 1953, was equivalent to genocide. However, the perpetrators and the victims often belonged to the same ethnicity and shared the same ideology. Former interrogators would sometimes be arrested and then meet their victims in the same camp.
“Mass murders happen for reasons that have nothing to do with ethnic differences, big or small.”
For Bosnians and Serbs in the late 20th century, their religious and cultural differences did not play the role they did in the past. The same could safely be said about the Russians and Ukrainians when they lived side by side, in both Russia and Ukraine, before the disastrous war of 2022.
The absence of meaningful differences does not decrease the scale or the cruelty of mass murder. On the contrary, the lesser the differences, the greater the genocide. The smaller the chosen differences are, the more the genocide approaches a collective suicide — an analogy that has been noted in many historiographies of genocide, from Somalia and Cambodia to the Soviet Union and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In “Civilization and its Discontents,” Freud wrote: “It is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other. … I gave this phenomenon the name of the ‘narcissism of minor differences,’ a name that does not do much to explain it.”
Despite Freud’s uncharacteristic modesty, I see something valuable in his idea. If people are perceived as different, they can be used and abused, and the abuse would be seen in terms of economics rather than politics. But if you see another person or people as similar to you, they evoke either love or hatred. Political relations emerge among those who are similar.
Narcissism turned negligible differences into meaningful narratives, which then led to mass murder. This does not, however, explain why and how two neighboring and similar peoples become a genocidal couple. Many human groups are similar, but this does not lead them to kill one another. Genocide does not function as a causal chain of events that starts with a small difference and ends with a mass grave.
“The lesser the differences, the greater the genocide.”
The opposite is true. Mass murders happen for reasons that have nothing to do with ethnic differences, big or small. But after they have taken place, the survivors on both sides explain the slaughter by converting their small, negligible differences into grand, overwhelming narratives.
The number of small differences between human groups is infinite. Critical race theory deconstructs racial differences by arguing that they have no objective referents — they are all created by cultural perceptions. One could say that critical race theory works as an exact antidote to the “narcissism of small differences”: The former turns big differences, as they are perceived in a racist society, into collateral effects of cultural interactions, while the latter turns small differences into decisive factors that, for a murderous group, determine the difference between life and death.
There is no “objective” metric that could define which differences are small (like accents, for example) and which differences are big (races or generations). They are all constructed, contingent and fluid. A whim of history can turn any set of human differences into a genocidal matter.
According to Lemkin, the reason for genocide is the oppressors striving to establish their own order in occupied lands. The murderers want to get power, property and recognition from their own kind and from neighboring peoples. Differences are in the eyes of the beholder, but if one person has power, he can impose his perception on others.
Putin, his state and his army were determined to destroy the “national pattern” of the Ukrainians and replace it with the “national pattern” of the Russians. The perceived differences were small, but the political results were enormous. In some ways, the Russians and the Ukrainians were so similar that no Shibboleth test would have differentiated them. To identify the enemy among a people who looked and sounded like themselves, the Russian soldiers couldn’t rely even on accents — many of them had similar ways of pronouncing Russian words.
Having no other option, Russian soldiers at checkpoints searched people for “Nazi tattoos,” and anyone who had anything interpretable as such on their skin was beaten or killed. And those who sent these soldiers to Ukraine in the first place developed their own marks of difference.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is as senseless as any other genocide: There was no way it could bring Russia any political or economic gain, and it did not. The only comprehensible framework for it is a classic Russian imperialism mixed with a specifically post-Soviet revanchism. But there was also a third part to the mix: fetishism.
Russian losses have been huge and predictable — but that hardly matters. What mattered was the fetish: a Ukrainian territory whose only value came from the idea that it used to be “ours” and should be regained. Supposedly, this would have brought glory, ecstasy or some other form of satisfaction to the Russian president, his elites and their people.
For military and political purposes, markers of difference between two similar peoples had to be created and emphasized. If not the color of the skin, then the ways of shaving beards or making tattoos; if not languages, then dialects and accents; if not different religions, then different uniforms or fashions. These minor differences grow into fetishes. They are more important than the biggest and the most profound similarities, and they define life or death. There is no genocide without distinct “national patterns,” but the fetishized differences between these patterns could be negligible for any other purpose but genocide.
Nobody understands a fetishistic desire but the fetishist. Moreover, even different fetishists do not understand each other. One worships a high heel, another a colorful bow. However, fetishism is a venerable concept — both Marx and Freud loved it. Why does anyone take pleasure from the proverbial heel? It’s incomprehensible. And the victim, the owner of the heel, is as dumbfounded as anyone else.
None of this matters to the fetishist; he seeks pleasure above all else. It is exactly this disproportion between a part and a whole that constitutes fetishism. Crimea was a heel, and so was Donbas.
“Minor differences grow into fetishes.”
In national catastrophes of this scale, there is always an irrational, incomprehensible core. German historians of the Holocaust call it a “civilizational rupture.” It is important to analyze imperialism and revanchism, two comprehensible sources of these catastrophes — but it is wrong to take them for the whole picture. Your foe, a fetishist, would be happy to deceive you in this way.
Militant and potentially genocidal, fetishist culture is full of contradictions. When the emperor is a fetishist, his poets write odes and his sculptors erect monuments to him. This is hardly surprising given that the fetishist pays them handsomely.
Being a scholar under fetishistic rule is more difficult. Precisely because the fetishistic aspect of events is incomprehensible, the scholar mostly writes about the imperialistic and revanchist aspects. Historically speaking, many scholars who lived under fetishistic regimes were imperialists, but very few were fetishists. For various reasons, they did not approve of worshipping the heel, and they wrote critically about it. Most of these writings intended to explain events as the product of comprehensible factors, either political or military; fetishism was subsumed within imperialism. It took courage to see brutal acts of genocide for what they were: senseless.
There is a fetish beneath every genocide: circumcised flesh, the manner of pronunciation of certain words, a tattoo. None of them justify murder, and only a fetishist would disagree with this. But we know from history that fetishization of these minor differences does take place, and it costs millions of lives.
With the Z, a new step was taken in this amazing spectacle of history. Since there were no real words that could serve to differentiate friends from foes, a symbol had to be invented from scratch. Entirely senseless, it is the belief in the Z, the love for the Z, the identification with the Z, that identifies a true patriot.
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[DRAMA] DAN KPODOH’S INTERPRETATION OF OLA ROTIMI’S ‘GRIP AM’
The name Dan Kpodoh has deservedly etched himself as one of the proponents and vanguards of the renaissance of live theatre performance in the city of Port Harcourt and by necessary extension the Niger Delta region.
By Don Kester Oshiarome
Through his Active Play House, Dan, a script writer, choreographer, artistic director, Festival curator and Event Manager, has produced and hosted with consistency performances in the last few years. Some of his productions which are usually laced with dance and music, include but not limited to; Bolobolo, _The Struggle_, Biokpo, _Unbroken_, _The gods are not to blame_, etc. His choice of scripts for productions reveals his artistic commitment to socio-economic reconstruction. Whereas he addressed the burning issue of domestic violence which I describe as the scourge of the marital space today in _Unbroken_, however, for the most part, Dan’s artistic endeavor tilts toward the ideological dramaturgy of the Osofisans and the Fatundes because evident in his thematic construct is the passion for the liberation of the Niger Delta from the shackles of depravity underdevelopment.
On Sunday, 11th September 2022, Dan Kpodoh took another giant stride with his cast and crew to bring to live theatre enthusiasts in Port Harcourt and environs, one of Ola Rotimi’s classics in the comedy genre; _Grip Am_. For those not familiar with this very popular script, it is an adaption from vernacular into Nigeria Pidgin English by Ola Rotimi. For some it may have been nostalgic entering the auditorium and perhaps with an air of predictability (that feeling of knowing what to expect). But with dexterity and artistic license, Dan Kpodoh tweaked this comedy into a musical somewhat, suggesting that the present transition in theatre development in Nigeria into Musical Theatre is gradually becoming a norm.
The play started at 05:07 pm; 1 hour 37 minutes from the earlier advertised commencement of 3:30 pm, at the Arena Event Centre, Tombia Street, GRA, Port Harcourt. No thanks to the heavy downpour. The hall was half full; comprising mainly of theatre practitioners, who came to show solidarity and support for one of their own. The main show was preceded by rib cracking jokes by the duo of Angel the Laff (pioneer, Port Harcourt Comedy Club) and Kunle Tatafo (of the Funky Four). They both reeled out spontaneous jokes which relaxed and prepared the audience for what was to come; more laughter and entertainment.
The play opened with a Sunny Neji’s hit track, _Tolotolo_; incidentally that was the name of Alabo (the protagonist) and Warri’s neighbor. The director set the play in the Niger Delta, judging from the names of the protagonist and his wife; Alabo (played by Alfred Fadar Otite) and Warri (played by Favour Nabofa). Tolotolo (played Doubra Agwana) is depicted as a ‘been to’ character, in her speech, nuances and mannerism. But we would discover later that all was for show, she’s never been anywhere but her community. Whereas the Arena is proscenium in orientation, Dan from the outset was not pretentious about his avant-gardist approach to directing in the manner he broke the fourth-wall, introducing his first character on stage from the audience. That singular act created a tacit intercourse between the audience and the actors on stage.
In terms of content, the director made superfluous insertions of social issues, phrases, words, jokes and malapropism into the original dialogue, all in a bid to evoke laughter and indeed it resonated with the audience. So we heard issues like PVC and its importance to good governance going forward. Songs like _Enjoy_ by Tekno, Alpha Blondy’s _Sweet Fanta Diallo_, and of course ‘Carry me dey go, carry me dey go my father house’ (from a skit creation that has gone viral on social media), etc, were freely but appropriately used to the delight of an appreciative audience.
There were three entrances that were innovative for me; the first was that of the Angel (played by Olivia Chinwendu Onyeji) heralded by George Frederick Handel _Halleluyah Chorus_. The Angel appeared on stage spotting a medicated glasses, when asked why, she replies that she doesn’t see correctly. That generated guffaw on stage and in the auditorium. The beggars’ entrance was equally exciting, though unexpected; it added fervor to the dramatic piece with its sonorous songs. However, the entrance of Death (played by Jessica Oluebube Sunday) was the show stopper. Death was introduced with his team, all clad in black and danced in unison to a parody version of Michael Jackson’s track, _Billie Jean_. It was a lively performance. The landlord (was played with panache by Dan Kpodoh). His interpretation of the role held the audience captive especially with his phrase uttered in Yoruba-English; ‘Nor dey S’out’ (shout). Deinmoara James Profit played the typical Ijaw woman’s role effectively too, accent and all. Wisdom Edet as Skiddo, the landlord’s son gave a good account of himself in the few moments he graced the stage. Overall, the acting was excellent.
Ultimately, this was a successful show performance wise. Although there were deliberate attempts at slapsticks by some actors to elicit laughter, it didn’t take anything from the general performance. Alabo (Alfred Fadar Otite) didn’t manage his voice properly, he was shouting in an attempt to project, even with a lapel mic. That was a disservice. If this play ran for 3 days, I doubt he would have retained his voice. Also, the actors played for the most part on the same plane Down Stage, that wasn’t good directorially, as it robbed the play of the needed depth. The Set was as simple as austere as it can be but was too neat like a new project about to be commissioned. The technical director could have aged it a little though. The costumes and make up and sound were on point. The play ended with Kizz Daniel’s anthem; _Buga_.
Like we have always advocated, we should be collaborating and not seen as competing with each other. We should support one another. To that extent, I salute Crabites who defied the rain to patronize one of us. It is okay to acknowledge Boma Kiri-Kalio who single handedly bought 20 or so tickets to share to friends. Also, Mr Yibo Koko, gave an open invite to every member of cast and crew of Seki to attend the show at his expense. Indeed Dan was enthralled by the solidarity.
In all, the feedback attests to the fact that the audience had value for their time and money. Congratulations to Dan Kpodoh, Cast and Crew of _Grip Am_, and the Active Play House on another successful outing.
Finally, thanks Dan for asking me to do this review. It reminds me of what I consider the best definition of a critic yet; “critics are like manure, they smell but you need them to grow”. Dan is one who is ready to grow, and grow he will.
Don Kester is a creative arts critic and writer based in Port Harcourt
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FG APPROVES 33 PRIVATE VARSITIES IN 16 MONTHS
Data obtained from the National Universities Commission on Friday revealed that a total of 33 private universities were approved by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari[retd.] within 16 months.
The period under review is January 2021 and April 2022.
Sunday PUNCH reports that while 21 of the private universities were approved in 2021; 12 were approved during the present strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Prior to the establishment of the 33 universities, the total number of universities in Nigeria stood at 186 comprising 49 federal universities; 59 state universities and 78 private universities.
Private universities established in 2022 include Pen Resource University, Gombe, Gombe state; Al-Ansar University, Maiduguri, Borno state; Margaret Lawrence I -University, Delta state; Khalifa Ishaku Rabiu University, Kano; Sports University Idumuje Ugboko, Delta state; Bala Ahmed University, Kano; Saisa University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Sokoto state; Nigerian-British University Hasa, Abia state ; Peter University Acina-Onene, Anambra state; Newgate University, Minna, Niger state ; European University of Nigeria in Duboyi, Abuja and North-West University, Sokoto.
Some of the private universities approved in 2021 include Opfaith University, Mkpatak, Akwa Ibom; Thomas Adewumi University, Oko-Irese, Kwara; Maranatha University, Mgbidi, Imo; Ave Maria University, Piyanko, Nasarawa,;Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, Kano.; Mudiame University, Irrua, Edo; Havilla University, Nde-Ikom, Cross River; and Claretian University of Nigeria, Nekede, Imo.
Others are NOK University, Kachia, Kaduna; Karl-Kumm University, Vom, Plateau.; James Hope University, Lagos; Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, Kano;Capital City University, Kano;Ahman Pategi University, Kwara; University of Offa, Kwara; Mewar University, Masaka, Nasarawa;Edusoko University, Bida, Niger;Philomath University, Kuje, Abuja and Khadija University, Majia, Jigawa ,among others.
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent, the Programme Director, Reform Education Nigeria, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin noted that while private universities have their benefits; they shouldn’t take the place of public universities.
“The failure of the government to efficiently manage the public university system gave rise to the birth of private universities in Nigeria. While one cannot fail to admit the importance of private universities, it is very important to note that not everyone in Nigeria can even afford payment of fees in public institutions, not to talk of private fees who charge exorbitant fees.
“However, the government should ensure that sanity is returned to the administration of our public institutions. For instance, ASUU has been on strike for months now and nothing has been done.”
Sunday PUNCH reports that the strike by ASUU which started on Monday, February 14, 2022 entered its 180th day on Saturday, making it the second longest strike since return to democracy in 1999. The longest strike ever was in 2020 under the regime of Muhammadu Buhari.
The National President, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke could not immediately be reached for comments.
Meanwhile, the release of dollars for foreign education by the Central Bank of Nigeria increased by 13 per cent in quarter two of the year 2022.
The period under review was between April 2022 and June 2022 according to the latest statistics made available by the apex bank.
The figure is contained in data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria, calculated based on the data provided on the amount spent on educational service under the sectoral utilisation for transactions valid for foreign exchange.
Within Q1 [January to March 2022], Nigerians spent $217.36 million dollars on foreign education.
$60,202,730.84 in January; $69.9m in February 2022.
There was a significant increase in March when a total of $87.26 million was spent.
So far in Q2, Nigerians have so far expended a total of $246.2 million.
$78.62 million in April; $82.70 million in May 2022 and $84.9m in June 2022 making a total of $462 million in 2022 altogether.
Sunday PUNCH reports that education in Nigeria, especially in the tertiary education sector, has been marred by industrial actions by tertiary institution-based unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union.
Currently, academic activities in Nigerian universities are grounded on issues bordering on lecturers’ welfare.
The data from the apex bank revealed that Nigerians remitted more than $462million to foreign academic institutions in five months without significant reciprocity in form of inflows from foreign sources to the local education sector.
The huge net dollar outflows have dual adverse effects of underinvestment in domestic education and creating pressure on the naira exchange rate.
The high demand for dollars to pay foreign educational institutions affects Nigeria’s foreign reserves and increases pressure on the exchange rate.
Sunday PUNCH reports that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation observed that about 76,338 Nigerians were studying abroad as of 2018, the highest from an African country.
While commenting on the state of tertiary education in Nigeria, a Professor at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Victor Olumekun siad, “Education is an essential ingredient for national development hence the government needs to substantially invest in it. However, universities can then look for other sources to complement.
“Unfortunately, our leaders have stolen more than enough to cater for their great grandchildren that are yet to be born. They can afford to send their wards to Oxford, Cambridge that charge in excess of #35,000 per session”.
So far, the ongoing strike by ASUU seems to have no end in sight as the union has vowed to sustain its strike until the government meets its needs,
The union is seeking for the release of more funding for universities; release of earned allowances; deployment of the University Transparency Accountability System for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers; Renegotiation of condition of service among others.
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