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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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In the ’80s, every song Lionel Richie wrote became a hit. He had that magical touch. In the words of Kenny Rogers, Richie wrote music with words every man would want to say and every woman would want to hear.

Sample this: “Hello, is it me you are looking for…, Lady, I am your knight in shining armour, and I love you…Three times a lady…” These songs demonstrate creative abilities of Richie on the subject of love

Then, that creativity and soulfulness sublimated into thin air, never to return. I will tell you what happened, and it involved a woman…

Let us go back in time and briefly look at Richie’s (music) journey.

In 1981, executives of Motown asked Richie to record a solo album after the massive success of the song “Lady” which he had written for Kenny Rogers, and “Endless Love” which also became the theme song for Franco Zeffirelli’s film adaptation of Scott Spencer’s novel “Endless Love.” (He did this song with Diana Ross). To pursue a solo career, Motown wanted their prized asset to leave his brothers at the Commodores.

While initially uncertain of the move, Richie’s first solo album “Truly” assuaged any fears he had when it reaped big at the 1982 Grammys

Lionel Richie Songs

In 1983, Richie’s song “All Night Long” soared to global success, breaking all records en route to becoming the all-time Motown best-selling song.

In 1985, Richie scooped 6 awards at the American Music Awards. Later that night, he teamed up with more than forty other artists for the “We Are The World” project that raised millions of $$s for hungry families in Africa. He was one of the lead songwriters for this project

While studying at the University of Tuskegee in the 70s, a woman named Brenda Harvey, the daughter of a World War II veteran, met Richie, and the two hit it off. It was love at first sight. A year after graduation in 1975, Brenda and Richie tied the knot.

Richie toured the world and filled Stadia. He was a great commercial appeal and success. Richie’s public image was that of a romantic man who poured his heart into the music he wrote. In private, Richie’s love life was in shambles. He was away from home most of the time due to music and this created an emotional gap with his wife. In 1986, the couple separated. However, they kept their separation secret as they did not want to hinder the adoption process of Nicole, or the Ballerina girl. 

In 1988, Brenda caught Richie and a woman called Diane Alexander building the Sun Tzunian golden bridge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. An enraged Brenda attacked Richie and Diane violently, and the commotion went to Hollywood streets. Police were called in, and Brenda was arrested for spousal abuse, trespassing, and assault.

The media went wild with the story. Until then, Richie was only known for great love songs and a guarded private life. Now with the news of Richie’s troubled marriage hitting the airwaves, the world saw that Richie was human.

It was the separation and eventual divorce that affected Richie’s songwriting abilities. In his words:

“My world exploded. I was a love songwriter with powerful thoughts of love…and now, what would I write about?”

A wise man once said that when it rains, it pours.

While Richie was dealing with the separation and the media frenzy around it, in 1990, his father and source of inspiration died. And as if that was not enough, at the same time, doctors diagnosed a mysterious illness that affected his throat.

The man who had composed many romantic songs found himself unable to write or sing about love.

And when the love inside Richie died, so too did his writing prowess.

While he recovered from the infection, and remarried twice, there was no prosthetic for his amputated soul…and his later day music doesn’t sound the same. He still remains one of my all-time favourite singers

Contributed by Mukurima X Muriuki

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Poster for African Queen's feature Cleopatra (photo: Netflix)

For centuries, Pharaonic and by extension the Ptolemaic Kingdom, inspired painters, writers, playwrights, film, and theatre-makers. One of the most featured personalities of the distant times is Cleopatra VII Philopator (69-30), who ruled Egypt from 51 BC until her death.

The enduring fascination with Cleopatra has invited many controversies, including discussions about her ethnicity, centuries after her death.

The Ptolemaic queen of Egypt was a reason for a heated discussion when, in 2020, Gal Gadot was cast as Cleopatra in a Paramount Pictures’ film that never went to production. Apart from some media users calling it inappropriate to use an Israeli actress to depict a ruler of Egypt, the critics also described the Wonder Woman star as “very bland looking”, accused the production team of whitewashing the history, and eventually argued that Cleopatra “should be played by a Black actress”.

Today, the coin has been tossed, again. A trailer, which was recently released for Netflix’s upcoming docudrama series about African queens, has re-awakened discussions about Cleopatra’s ethnicity.

Many commentators have felt that the choice of British actress Adele James was a wrong choice since it portrays the Egyptian ruler as having black African origins. One character presented in the Netflix’ trailer clearly says: “I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was Black.”

Caucasian Cleopatra?

Cleopatra VII Philopator is usually associated with beauty, an image carved in our minds with the same strength as her not-so-flattering busts is engraved on coins of Patrai.

Cleopatra bust on Patrai coin

While beauty parameters change over the centuries, the concept of a Caucasian Cleopatra was only reinforced by popular culture through numerous artists. When the Egyptian queen appears in paintings, such Cleopatra Before Caesar (by Jean-Léon Gérôme), The Death of Cleopatra (Achille Glisenti) or Cleopatra and the Peasant (Eugène Delacroix), she is portrayed as an absolute beauty with an alabaster skin, corresponding to the 19th century beauty standards.

Cleopatra Before Caesar, by Jean-Léon Gérôme, (oil on canvas, 1866) CLEO 4

More recently, the same narrative was adopted by filmmakers in historical and fictional movies: an Italian comedy film, Two Nights with Cleopatra (1954), starring Sophie Loren; A Queen for Caesar (1962), featuring French actress Pascale Petit; while Joseph L. Mankiewicz cast Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Cleopatra (1965).

Trying to verify Cleopatra’s beauty based on the writings coming from historians of the era is no easy task. They usually comment on the queen’s character, hardly mentioning her appearance.

Dio Cassius (c.155 – c.235 AD), a Roman senator and historian who spent decades documenting the history and political changes of the time, describes the Egyptian queen as a “charming and intelligent woman who uses her beauty to captivate and manipulate everyone around her”.

The Greek philosopher and biographer Plutarch (c.46–c.119 AD), said: “For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her.” When Plutarch mentions Cleopatra’s “irresistible charm,” he applies it to her intelligence, persuasiveness, and political strength, attributes that made her one of the most iconic rulers of all times.

Without a doubt, the Ptolemaic queen had to take care of her appearance – one of the requisites that allowed her to win the heart of Roman general Julius Caesar and solidify her power – yet her ethnicity, skin colour or detailed features remain a subject of debate. The known depictions of Cleopatra are often loose adaptations of history, intertwined with the personalised convictions of their creators and audiences they address.

Lineage of Cleopatra

An Egyptian expert in Greco-Roman history and a professor at Egypt’s Ain-Shams University, Hassan Ahmed El-Ebyari, has studied the lineage of her family. Cleopatra has been a main focus of Ebyari’s research; he spent decades looking into literature, historical records and other documents mentioning the queen and centuries surrounding her reign. He has shared his findings on multiple programmes aired on Egyptian TV channels.

“Cleopatra’s ethnicity should be looked upon from two angles, the lineage of ethnic groups present in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, and her family in particular,” Ebyari tells The Africa Report. He adds that as a daughter of Ptolemy XII, Cleopatra’s ancestry leads to Ptolemy I Soter (367-283 BC), son of Lagus. Ptolemy I was a Macedonian Greek general who came to Egypt with Alexander the Great and his rise to power marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period in Egypt.

“Until Ptolemy V, the rulers married siblings keeping the lineage going from Lagus. As a political move, Ptolemy V married Cleopatra I Syra (204 – 176 BC), a princess of the Seleucid Empire, a Greek state in West Asia, considered a division of the Macedonian Empire. As follows, Cleopatra’s ethnicity cannot be questioned when speaking of her father’s side,” Ebtari says.

Badrashin ethnicities have the light brownish skin complexion, a completely different tone than a darker skin colour known to Southern African nationals

Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII then married his sister Cleopatra V and according to official records they both had two children before the mother disappeared from court documents.

The debate then surrounds the children, with Cleopatra VII being the first born during this time the records have disappeared.

“This opens a debate of who Cleopatra’s mother was,” says Ebyari, adding that some scholars suggest that the famed queen was born to Ptolemy XII’s relation with another woman from the Macedonian royal lineages, while others point to a possibility of the mother being Egyptian from Badrashin, a county where Memphis is located.

“Badrashin ethnicities have the light brownish skin complexion, a completely different tone than a darker skin color known to Southern African nationals,” the researcher says.

Ebyari points to the fact the Mediterranean basin remains fairly similar in skin tonality. The presence of foreign nations in Ancient Egypt created a mixture, however at the time of Cleopatra, following almost three centuries of Ptolemaic rules, it is historically impossible to find African features in the royal circles, he says.

Sub-Saharan African ancestry

Away from the scholarly circles, some media followers believe that Cleopatra’s African ancestry is proved by the 2009 discovery of the bones of Arsinoe IV, Cleopatra’s younger sister. The claims made by Hilke Thur, an archaeologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and former director of excavations in Ephesus where the bones were found, created a huge media commotion.

Thur’s skeleton presentation pointed to Europeans, ancient Egyptians, and Black African components, a fact that was not equally represented by the media. In addition, Thur’s theory was challenged by many scholars calling them “highly circumstantial”.

“Perhaps more important than the colour of her skin is the culture with which she identified herself,” says Sally-Ann Ashton in her Honours Thesis Reflections of Cleopatra VII through Time: Cultural Perceptions of Gender and Power.

“She may very well have or not have Egyptian or African ancestry, or both. Still, there is resistance to the idea that Cleopatra was Black, for it has been ingrained in the literature and in our popular culture that she was Greek and Caucasian,” she says.

From all accounts, it seems that Cleopatra did indeed consider herself to be Egyptian first and foremost, not Greek or Macedonian

“It is also important to accept that ethnicity is not only about the degree of colour or culture; it is also about choice. Cleopatra was referred to as ‘the Egyptian’ in Roman sources; even in modem films, she often calls herself ‘Egypt.’ From all accounts, it seems that Cleopatra did indeed consider herself to be Egyptian first and foremost, not Greek or Macedonian.”

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Students of Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School, Yaba, at the commissioning of the model STEM lab in the school set up by GetBundi Education Technology Limited.

In commemoration of World Creativity and Innovation Day, a United Nations day, which is celebrated on April 21 to raise awareness around the importance of creativity and innovation in problem solving with respect to advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Chief Innovation Officer of Businessplus LLC, Ekundayo Ayeni, has called on the Federal Government to improve the country’s quality of education by fixing the educational system through prioritising STEM education in schools.

Speaking with The Guardian, he said students should have access to modern technologies and learning resources, filled with more practical rather than theories.

In his words: “Any nation’s ability to access high-speed internet is necessary for the advancement of technology, by offering incentives to private enterprises to increase their coverage and by funding government-owned networks, Nigeria can invest in enhancing its telecommunications infrastructure, the country might increase its research and development (R&D) spending to promote technological advancement.

“This can be accomplished by setting up R&D facilities, supporting research initiatives, and providing tax breaks to companies that make R&D investments, the government can fund incubators and accelerators for startups and offer tax breaks to companies that make technology investments.

He added that the country has experienced significant progress in recent years in terms of creativity and innovation, though lagging in its investment into research, limiting Nigeria’s innovation level as a country

“We have a weak legal framework for the protection of intellectual properties and this is discouraging innovations as the creators are unable to fully protect it.

Our educational system is inadequate in many ways and this is affecting the quality of the workforce.

Many graduates lack the necessary skills for creativity and innovation, limiting the country’s capacity aside from the graduates who are going the extra mile to develop themselves,”

This year’s theme on World creativity and Innovation Day is “Step out and innovate” to embrace the idea that innovation is essential for harnessing the economic potential of nations

According to UN, the concept of creativity and innovation is open to interpretation from artistic expression to problem-solving in the context of economic, social, and sustainable development.

On World Creativity and Innovation Day, the world is invited to embrace the idea that innovation is essential for harnessing the economic potential of nations. Innovation, creativity, and mass entrepreneurship can provide new momentum toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It can harness economic growth and job creation, while expanding opportunities for everyone, including women and youth. It can provide solutions to some of the most pressing problems such as poverty eradication and the elimination of hunger. Human creativity and innovation, at both the individual and group levels, have become the true wealth of nations in the twenty-first century.

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