Monday, April 20, 2009

Abuja as a failure

Fresh hope for asylum seekers in Germany
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant editor (Arts) (who was in Munich)
•Nigerians invade churches to secure residency in Germany


There are strong indications that hundreds of thousands asylum seekers, Nigerians inclusive, currently living with (Doldung) ‘tolerated’ status in Germany may be granted residency permits by end of this year. At one of Germany’s numerous asylums located on Hernemannstasse near Leopoldstrasse, in Munich, the authority has given September 30, 2009 as deadline for the pulling down of the camp.
On Wednesday, February 17, Germany’s government through its agency, Regierung von Oberbayern, Gemeinshafts unter Kunft fur Asylbewerber, told the inmates in a brief meeting that by July all the people in the camp would be relocated elsewhere to allow for the structure demolition.
Officials estimate that 170,000 of these tolerated asylum seekers are currently living in Germany, and that approximately 50,000 will qualify for residency permit under the new law. Germany’s policy makers had reached an agreement in March 2007 to issue residency permits to asylum seekers whose applications were denied in the 1990, but whose deportation have been deferred for legal or economic reasons.
According to reports, policy makers sought to provide the ‘tolerated’ asylum seekers, who are essentially living in limbo, with residency permits in an effort to relieve the financial burden of providing them welfare assistance, to bring their status into compliance with the residency guidelines laid out in 2005 Immigration Act, which no longer allows for ‘tolerated’ status.
In November 2006, Germany’s Interior minister agreed to grant residency permits to the tolerated asylum seekers in order to decrease the state’s financial burden. And government had also proposed regularising the tolerated asylum seekers by granting them a two-year grace period to meet the criteria for a right to residency. Asylum seekers are expected to meet the following conditions; crime-free, independent financial security, regular employment, high level of integration into German society (demonstrated primarily through German language ability), adequate living quarters according to the size of the family and regular school attendance for the family’s children.
But seven months to the expiration of the evacuation order, there is a growing apprehension among the inmates, especially Nigerians who are currently living with tolerated status in Munich. Their worries stem from the consequences they are likely to face in the event that they are unable to make the list of 50,000 out of 170,000 asylum seekers to be granted residency rights. Deportation may likely be the last resort. In an effort to overcome this dilemma, many Nigerians now turned to Pentecostal churches for spiritual assistance. At the recent seventh year anniversary of International Pentecostal Christian Church in Munich, led by Pastor Samuel Osakwe, the church invited a Ghana-based clergyman, Pastor John as one of its special guests to minister at the anniversary that ran for four days. Some were skeptical, a few downright uninterested. But by the end of the anniversary programme that featured prophecies and deliverance, Pastor John’s messages were deemed as successful.
The church members are mainly young Nigerians. Behold, the medium-size hall that serves as the church on the last floor of a building on Leopoldstrasse was filled to capacity. Expectedly, the Ghanaian pastor lived up to billing delivering strong messages of hope and prophesies, all to assure the congregation that with God all things are possible.
As a prelude to the anniversary message, the resident pastor had in one of his sermons in mid-January anchored his preaching on ‘unlimited abundance’. At that service, he told his church members not to let their present position in Munich be a hindrance to their progress in Germany. “Let who is with you be of more importance than where you are today and your present status. If you have God’s presence in your life, mercy and God’s blessing will follow you,” he said.
Weeks before the anniversary celebration, an Austrian clergyman was also invited to the church to conduct a seminar for members.
Last November, an American soldier, Andre Shephered who has been in Germany since he deserted his unit, filed an application to the German authorities to grant him asylum status under German law. Shepherds who is one of many asylum seekers in Germany today, enlisted in the United States military in January 2004 and was later deployed to Iraq with the 412th Aviation Support Battalion, stationed in Katterbach. He served in Iraq from September 2004 to February 2005, repairing and maintaining AH-64 Apache Helicopters for combat and security operations the crisis-torn country. After returning to Germany, Shepherds left his unit in June 2007 and has since then absent without leave. His reason for deserting his duty post, according to report, is that as a matter of conscience, he cannot be deployed to Iraq again in support of what he calls an illegal war involving indiscriminate killing of civilians in large numbers.
Sorry, no Holy Bible in this church!
Can there be a church where the Holy Bible is not being used and the name of Jesus Christ not mentioned during the service? Take a trip to the Holy Aruosa Church in the ancient city of Benin, Edo State, and find out more. OZOLUA UHAKHEME, Assistant Editor (Arts) who was at the church last Sunday reports.

there were no incantations. There were no statues or shrines of the symbol of any deity. There was no idol worshipping. And not even the burning of incense or lighting of candles. Every aspect of the Sunday service was conducted in the open before the glare of everybody in the church. For two hours (10am to 12noon) of the service, the atmosphere at the half-filled church painted white was like that of every other church. Two rows of long wooden benches (some donated by the late Chief H. Omo Osagie, the Iyasere of Benin on September 9, 1987) on each side, a decorated altar with white backdrop, few designated seats at the front section for elders and the choir manning the instrument are all that make up the church’s d├ęcor on that day. Then, why the ‘misconception’ or the tag of ‘unbelievers church’?
“You are welcome in Jesus name? No, that is not the way we say it here. You say you are welcome in the name of God. Don’t make the mistake again.” These were part of the exchange of pleasantries between two female members of the choir few minutes before the commencement of service at the Holy Aruosa Church on Akpakpava Street, in the ancient city of Benin, Edo State. At 10 am, one of the mass servers rang the bell placed on a table near the altar. Fifteen minutes later, the second bell rang and the choir rose for the first song of the service to usher in the priest, Harrison Okao. Holy Aruosa is a purely Benin traditional church where prayers are rendered in undiluted Edo language since the reign of Oba Ewuare. Until now, there were branches of the church in Port-Harcourt, Iguedayi, Evbuosa, as well as in Dahomey, now Republic of Benin.
In fact, Oba Erediauwa was there for a thanksgiving service as part of the final ceremonies of last year’s Igue festival in Benin City. And this Sunday, he will be there for a thanksgiving service to mark his 30 years on the throne.
The church was established centuries ago, even before the advent of the colonial masters. The church building, as it is today, was said to have been built by the late Oba Akenzua in the 1940s, to give the original Aruosa (Altar of God) a befitting edifice.
Led by six young mass servers and an assistant, the priest, wearing a long white and red robe and a cap, walked gracefully with a staff in his hand to the altar to begin the day’s worship of Osalobuwa (God). The service lasted two hours. Amid singing and dancing, the congregation joyfully worshipped their creator, using strictly Edo language as a medium of communication. Unlike conventional churches, Holy Aruosa does not use the Holy Bible during worship. Instead, Ebe Aruosa is the church’s own Holy Bible. In fact, since the inception of the church during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great, around 1504, the church has never used the Holy Bible.
Like a citation read by heart, Okao led the congregation in a long prayer session that covers virtually every aspect of a man’s life: good health, prosperity, protection against evils of men, long life, etc.
Expectedly too, the main celebrant of the 30-year coronation anniversary, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin was central to the prayers by the priest.
And all through the prayer session, no mention was made of Jesus Christ nor Mary or any of the saints. The recurring name was Osalobuwa (God).
But when it was time for the first and second readings of the message, this reporter who had earlier interviewed the priest during the week at the Oba’s Palace in Benin, became more curious because there was neither a Bible nor any scripture book with the reader to quote from. And behold, he read fluently in Edo language what appears like a folktale about one Mr. Ole who was not only untouchable in the community, but was also a rogue. The lesson from the message was that every sinner will not go unpunished as was the case of Ole in the sermon. Second reading was a recap of the first reading’s message. The relevance of the message can be found in the growing crime wave in the state, especially kidnapping and murder. Two Sundays ago, a popular motor transport operator was kidnapped in a church and taken to an undisclosed location.
The kidnappers demanded some millions of naira before they would free the man. Few days after, he was found dead outside the state capital. Beyond the use of Edo language and the absence of the Holy Bible and other scriptural books, the mode of worship at the Holy Aruosa Church takes almost the same pattern with other churches. From dressing of the priest to those of the mass servers, the manner of collecting offerings, giving special prayer requests and the singing and dancing of members during Holy Mass were almost the same. Like other churches, names of people seeking special prayers were read out and the priest led the congregation in praying for the people.
According to Okao, the Holy Aruosa church was founded during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great but it was built by Oba Akenzua. He recalled that following the increase in human atrocities, the people agreed to send an emissary {Owuaihie) to God requesting Him to come and cleanse the earth as well as to restrict rainfall to night.
“Unfortunately, God did not allow the emissary to return to earth because heaven is a place of no return. So God came to the earth in the form of a mystery ball and landed where the Aruosa is now located,” he told The Nation in an interview.
The Oba of Benin is the spiritual leader of the church and to become the priest of the church is through spiritual inspiration and not through training in theology.
Okao said instead of using the Holy Bible, Ebe Aruosa is used. Besides, there is no intermediary. Though the church acknowledges the existence of Jesus Christ, it does not call on Him during its worship.
On the insinuation that the church is a secret cult for the unbelievers, Okao said: ‘Many see the church as a secret place whereas the place is open to everybody and we conduct our services openly. Unfortunately, none of these critics have attended our church services, yet they condemn us as a secret church.
“These same people continue to call my phone seeking spiritual assistance especially from church leaders between Friday and Saturday evening. So, you can see there are plenty of hypocrites in the society.”
The tenets of the church, according to the priest, are over ten and members dread sin.
Okao who declined to answer questions concerning salvation, content of the Ebe Aruosa, said he was writing a book on the church and his experiences as the royal priest. “So, I am not ready to reveal my arsenal. Wait for the book to be published and you get all your answers.” the former member of WorldWide Ministry of the United Christian Church, USA, said with air



Achebe’s Okonkwo is 15 feet tall!
Remember that gigantic bowl of pounded yam in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart? Now, Okonkwo, the lead character in the 50-year-old masterpiece, has been recreated in a 15-feet wooden sculpture. The monumental piece that took eight months to execute symbolises the many conflicts in governance and religion in most countries, according to maverick sculptor Cyril Nwokoli. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME met him in Enugu.

Fifty-one years after publication, Chinua Achebe’s master piece, Things Fall Apart, continues to attract fresh adaptations and interpretations by its numerous readers. Beyond the initial literary and theatrical presentations in the past, the award-winning novel set in Umuofia, a rural community in Eastern part of Nigeria, is now the toast of visual artists, especially sculptors.
The strength, weakness and the dual personality of Okonkwo, the lead character in Things Fall Apart, who was always caught in cross-cultural conflicts (between him and his father, his community, Christianity and African traditions), recently attracted fresh visual interpretation by a sculptor in a-three-dimension format.
Renowned artist, Cyril Nwokoli, author of the recent wooden sculpture, Okonkwo, measuring 15 feet 1 inch long, like Okonkwo, is one artist characterised by oddities and mysteries. Nwokoli, an Enugu-based artist, featured the towering sculpture in a group art exhibition in Enugu alongside other collections on Ohafia Warriors. Like a magnet, the giant piece continued to attract viewers all through the duration of the exhibition that opened at Olive Gate Hotel Enugu between March 27 and April 5. In fact, due to its intimidating size, it was the last exhibit to be mounted with the aid of a crane.
Expectedly, Nwokoli captures Okonkwo, not only as a hero but also as a colossus in terms of his strength, size, influence, actions and inactions all through the novel. But two ghosts-fear and anger, according to the artist, continued to haunt Okonkwo, which is why he reveals some inner aspects of Okonkwo in the sculpture. Inside his head lies a cock, depicting Okonkwo’s battle against time. And below the stomach is an opening showing some food items that symbolize the resourcefulness of Okonkwo as a great farmer in Umuofia, or any kingdom or country faced with the challenges of providing for its citizenry. Close to this opening on the top left column of the chest is the heart, which the artist replaces with a drum. Nwokoli sees this drum as a mysterious drum that pounds itself from creation till death.
Apart from rendering the giant piece in nakedness, the expression on the face simply reflects the disgrace and shame he brought to himself as he took his life by hanging. The shame and disgrace were also complemented by his involvement in the killing of Ikemefuna, whose skull lies by his feet in the sculpture. This action by Okonkwo, according to Nwokoli becomes the last straw that broke the carmel’s back.
Apart from the expression on Okonkwo’s dropped face, he uses his left hand to cover his private part, which the artist describes as the natural link between Oknokwo and his father, Unoka- the weakest part of Okonkwo.
“I am interpreting Things Fall Apart visually, using Okonkwo as metaphor of the various conflicts in every country of the world. So, you find Okonkwo in the US with the bombing of the World Trade Centre. There is Okonkwo in government and religion. And you find the trait beyond Umuofia, up to the rest of the world. But on the surface, Achebe uses Things Fall Apart to condense the culture of the Igbo, to capture the decadence in the world of today, yesterday and tomorrow,” the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu-trained sculptor said.
Nwokoli, who stands petit beside the giant work, says it is the spirit that controls his physical, like the David of the Holy Bible, who always inspires him. “By extension, it is by faith, and I am bringing down the wall of Jericho. Don’t look at my size but the inside of me. In the spirit I am much wilder and I am the lion and the lamb in one,” he said of his print size and quietness.
On the challenges he faced while living for months in the forest, he recalled:
“It has been an inspiring journey through the forest filled with challenges. But I am a warrior from Nnewi South of Anambra State. I see every challenge in the eyes of a warrior and the spirit is larger than the obstacle. At 7, I was pushed into the ‘C’ Company in the defunct Biafran army. The experiences never left me. I see myself as an everlasting warrior.
“Sometime, I had to travel to the forest and nothing matters to me than the wood. Also I will shut out everybody because when I am creating, nothing is wrong in that realm. In fact, nothing else matters. Again, sometime, I forego eating and bathing for days while in the forest carving.”
As close as he is to nature, Nwokoli can’t understand why men go into the madness of loving a woman and marrying. Procreation is not in his dictionary of life, yet he respects the rules of the forest each time he is there. “Everything in the forest is like miracle. You find too many things that you can’t explain. But there are laws in the forest. And examples of happenings will tell you what the laws are. There was a time when bees swam on me while I was working on a log of wood. Immediately, I stopped what I was doing and remain motionless. But the bees remained on me sucking the sweat on my body. And at that moment if I should attack any, I would be stung to death,” he recalled an incident.
Nwokoli who runs a private museum, Artfrika, is not ready to sell Okonkwo because it is too dear to him. “It is priceless and nobody can stampede me to part with it,” he declared. Currently, he is working on another magnificent work, a 40 totem poles measuring 15 feet high.
His focus is the re-enactment of present dichotomies in art and life in modern Africa. Also, he rigged on dialectic live wires of the trans-Atlantic intellectual tug of war- Africa’s reparation. His conscience bleeds, his soul seeks to trace the slave tracks: echoes of misery as whiplashes reverberate with cries of woe, till he emerges through those portals of no-return at coastal forts.
According to reports, Nwokoli ministers with libation for the stricken spirits and scourged personages. He pays tribute to the ancestor’s cousins whose souls are to be re-united with their motherland. No doubt, Nwokoli is a priestly artist.
He feels a different sensitivity, with the transmutative experience in the sculptural processes, graphical recreation and similitude. He passionately dramatises the idioms enshrouded in oratory –art ritualistic: semantics embodying all forms of erudition prowess in speech-making.
Nwokoli’s repertoire of themes is drawn from his Igbo culture, while his style cuts across the traditional, modern and post-modern. Uli dynamics also find life within the prolific corpus of his world.
Comparatively, the magnetism in his art which conscripts followership similarly emanates from his personality: he conducts an excursion through a doorway leading to a landscape of forgotten ethos and beatitudes, through a breeze-combed esplanade sprawling with totems, rites and solemnities of free souls. His soul is burdened with process to address the tragic legacies of westernisation in Africa, and the suicidal homage paid to strange cultural imports.



Igbinedion’s administration almost killed my dream’

After a seemingly inactive tenure as Commissioner for Art, Culture and Tourism in Edo State, Sir Victor Uwaifo, a music maestro and sculptor, made a quick retreat to his primary constituency. He picked up a teaching job at the Department of Fine and Applied Art, University of Benin, Benin City. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME was a guest at his pet project, Revelation Tourist Centre in Benin City.

As the name connotes, Revelation Tourist Centre, Benin City, is one of a kind. It is a unique centre that reveals more about Nigeria’s history, particularly the ancient city of Benin, its people and culture dating back to hundreds of years. Located on House 6, Victor Uwaifo Avenue, off College Road, Benin City, the centre is a complex with various sculptural works that tell most of the mysteries and stories about the people via simulations of sounds and visual animations and kinetic movements.
It takes about two hours for a tourist to walk more than a quarter of a mile within the all-white-complex that has several compartments like a Hall of Fame, Independence Square, Slave Market, Ancestral Shrines, Royal Fathers Court, Spiritual Masquerade, British punitive war battle field, Guitar Boy/Mammy Water corner, the City of Blood, you too can sing and play music studio, souvenir shop and simulated Boeing 737 aircraft as reference points. But then, children and wards must be accompanied by their parents to save them from having nightmares because of the gruesome and gory sights in some of the expositions.
Hall of fame was the first point of call. Expectedly, portraits of leaders like former African footballer of the year Nwankwo Kanu; Edo State Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; former US President John F. Kennedy; Justice Uwaifo; former Cross River Governor Donald Duke; Bishop Benson Idahosa; former South African President Nelson Mandela; and Raffic El-Hariri, the martyr of Lebanon. Other political leaders, such as Shehu Shagari, Herbert Macaulay, Tafawa Balewa, Ibrahim Babangida, Aguyi Ironsi and Olusegun Obasanjo, were not left out as their bursts adorn the independence square.
Unlike others, the sights and sounds at the slave centre, pigeon hole for human sacrifice and ancestral shrines are not only gruesome and gory, but pathetic. You can almost feel the agonising experiences - the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the slaves who were captured as forced labourers ready for export to plantations in West Indies. In chains, they were kept in inhuman conditions at slave markets spread across the country then.
Given the scope of effects (sight and sound) that complement the sculptural objects on display at each point, no words can describe the experience of a tourist at the centre. It would require physical and spiritual encounter for a visitor to appreciate and understand the value of the centre.
According to Uwaifo, who served Igbinedion’s administration between 2001 and 2003, the centre’s first phase is worth over N900 million. He hinted that it would be commissioned later in the year.
Last December, he was offered the appointment of a visiting professor of arts at the American Heritage University, California, USA, in recognition of his contribution to teaching and research. A letter signed by the university’s Registrar, Mildred E. Espinosa, states that Uwaifo would be assigned office space for research, access to the university benefits, listing with the faculty in the university catalogue among other benefits.
“I did this as part of my contributions to the promotion and protection of Bini history,” Uwaifo said of his interest in the preservation and documentation of Bini heritage. He regretted that the former Minister of Culture and Tourism and National Orientation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, failed to acknowledge his presentation to the ministry.
“I sent him a paper on the centre but he did not reply. Up till now, no word has come from the ministry.” he added.
“Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole visited here shortly on assumption of office, and he has shown deep concern for the centre. And he encouraged me too. Also, former Cross River State Governor Donald Duke has been here, and he encouraged me a lot.
“The first phase of the centre costs over N900million. For the second phase, I don’t know what shape it would take as well as the cost implementation. But, I have plenty of land to use for the execution of the second phase,” the Ekassa King said.
On his experiences as a commissioner in Edo State, he said it was a near waste of time because nothing happened.
“When I was in government as a commissioner, nothing significant happened, and they almost killed my dream. For the better part of my stay, there was no funding of the ministry’s projects. No kobo was approved for the ministry, not even for overhead. So, instead of killing my dream, I decided to quit,” he recalled with regret.
Uwaifo, who is the first African musician to win a record gold disc from the sales of an album in 1966, described most present day musicians as fake and unskilled, saying they engage in music malpractice. To him, “they just cut and paste songs and beats. In fact, there are more fake musicians (singers) than the skillful session men. And I am sure they will soon fizzle out with time.”

At 68, Uwaifo’s voice still remains as it were years ago. To sustain this voice level, he is always very careful of what goes into his body. He exercises and never smokes.
“All this is about discipline. Talk of alcohol, music is enough madness, so, why add toxic to it,” he said in a reply to a question on alcohol as stimulant for many artistes.
Unlike many of his celebrated peers in music, Uwaifo returned to classroom to study sculpting because if he had not studied sculpting he would have been incomplete.
“As sculptors, we pride ourselves as God’s assistants. I am very proud to be an artist. If I had not done sculpting, I would have been incomplete. In fact, today, time runs after me because I have enough to fill the whole day. Being a sculptor is a big fulfilment and one can’t buy it. And I have conquered arts, entertainment, tourism, and the academia,” he stressed.
As part of his ongoing project, the University of Benin alumnus is compiling his evergreen music into VCD and CD. The series include Ekassa, Akwete, Titibiti, Highlife, and Gospel.

Painting to save women
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)

Twelve years after holding her last solo art exhibition, Reflections, Tinu Olabanji, one of the modern Nigerian female artists, made a return to the exhibition circuit with a solo exhibition of paintings, Red Shift, at the National Museum, Onikan Lagos, between March 28 and April 2, 2009. The central themes of Olabanji’s works were the travails of contemporary African woman and the impact of the vices on the society. As a way to seeking redress of these vices, she uses her paintings to draw attention to the many issues affecting the woman.
Driven by the passion to promote a society where women are treated fairly and equally like their male counterparts, Olabanji, who made strong return to studio work in 2006, said: “The plight of women, especially in Africa, has been my burden since I was a quite young. I have had questions, many that my young mind could not find the right words to frame.” Red Shift, which featured about 50 works of paintings in pastel and pencil, is an effort in the direction of a paradigm shift that will result in the fulfillment of lives of African women.
Dry Season, a pastel piece, shows a pregnant woman in company of her two children seemingly scavenging the kitchen shelves for food to cook. For the woman, the empty shelves of the kitchen are symbolic of a dry season when there is little or no food in stock. The anxiety on the faces of the woman and her children shows that there seems to be no hope. This situation is a common experience among many homes in the country toady, because women are not empowered to cater for dry the season.
The red colour actually reinforces the hardship and danger facing the family. Even the unborn child is likely going to suffer from the dry season. Another indicator that all is not well in Dry Season is the composition of the forms, especially the limbs and necks of the human figures, while the shelves are very empty without any evidence of life.
Closely linked to Dry Season is He Is Not Back, another pastel painting that dwells on the trauma many women pass through in the hands of uncaring husbands. The artist captures the emotional pressure a nursing mother goes through in the middle of the night, trying to wait for the husband: staying awake till around 2 am, staring at the wall clock hopelessly. Another burden on her is the care for the kids who are also awake. The well-dressed bed lying empty with two pillows indicates that the woman has not been able to sleep, neither the kids too. Worry, fear and perhaps uncertainty are reflected in the colour scheme used by the artist.
But unlike others, It’s Positive, truly shows the other side of a woman who is waiting for the fruit of the womb. The painting depicts the happy mood of a woman who has been anxiously waiting for the day she will be positive to pregnancy test. It shows a woman with a broad smile and giving thanks to God. One can see that her joy knows no bound. It therefore means that her mood would have been horrible if the result of the pregnancy test was the reverse. Other works exhibited at the show include Let’s lead them aright.
Olabanji studied Fine Arts at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, majoring in painting in 1982 and won three awards including the best overall student. Since 1982, the plight of African women has constantly been the focus of her paintings.

Eyo salutes TOS in colours`
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)
With less than four days to the hosting of the popular Eyo festival, hundreds of all-white-metal sculptural pieces depicting Eyo masquerader as well as colourful banners and posters heralding the festival are dotting most major streets on Lagos Island. This year’s festival will hold at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos beginning from 10am in honour of late Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale Benson, a renowned lawyer and Nigeria’s first information minister. Already, some designated luxury buses plying the BRT lane have been assigned by the Lagos State government to transport people to and fro the event venue free.
And in preparation for the Saturday festival, Governor Raji Fashola was last Sunday presented with the traditional staff of Eyo for blessing. The ceremony, which was preceded by a meeting of the planning committee to review participations for the festival featured the leader of the Okolaba, the Eyo Adimu conclave, leading other conclave members to present the staff to the governor and pray for peace and prosperity of the state.
According to the programme the Eyos is expected will file out in order of seniority featuring Eyo Adimu, the Laba, Oniko, Oand Agere. Ologede, all identified by the colours of their hats. But on Friday, the palace of the Oba of Lagos, (Iga Idungaran), will host a music show accompanied with drinking and winning all through the night.
But on Saturday, commercial activities on Lagos Island will literarily be at a standstill as Eyos from different families will flood the city, thus adding colours and spectacle to the festival.
Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Mr. Tunde Balogun described Sunday’s presentation as (Ikapa ceremony) a traditional homage to whosoever is the head of Lagos Island and the governor happens to be the highest ranking person.
The Eyo masquerade has since inception always been celebrated with pomp and pageantry with people from all works of life attending the event. According to reports, it was introduced to Lagos in 1828 by the Ijebu traders in order to celebrate important personalities as well as to commemorate significant events. The celebration of the Eyo festival depends on the reigning traditional ruler of Lagos who has the power to authorize the celebration of the festival.
As in Chieftaincy title, where there is hierarchy of Chiefs there is an order of recognition and supremacy in the Eyo group starting with Eyo Adimu, the supreme head, Eyo Laba Alaketupupa, the police, Eyo Oniko, Onigemo, Eyo Ologede, Olugbani, Eyo Angere, Omo Olokun. All these are the major and well-known Eyo groups. Eyo Iga comprises of other Eyo from the recognized palace in Lagos such as Eyo Bajulaiye, Eyo Etti, Eyo Faji, and Eyo Elegushi. All the members of the Eyo groups wear white costumes and are distinguished by the patterns of their head gear. For instance, Eyo Adimu uses white head gear with black spots, Eyo Laba Alaketupupa uses red with white spots, Eyo Oniko uses green with black spots and its Osha wears Iko (Rafia), Eyo Ologede uses green head gear with black spots and the Osha wears dried banana leave, Eyo Angere uses fanciful colours for its head gear, Eyo Angere attaches two long sticks to its legs making it very tall and walks around greeting people.
The costume of a typical Eyo which ensures uniformity of all Eyo groups comprises of Aga (cap), Iboju (face cover), Agbada (top wear), Aropale (Elongated wrapper), Opambata (Staff ).before the d-day of the festival, a five day sensitization of public by group parade according to their hierarchic in which each group perform on a separate day. The construction of Agodo by Laba at designated spot, some meters away from the king’s palace. Imoku is where an imagery of the dead is prepared for the entire Eyo masquerade to pay homage on the day of parade.
It is a rule that every non member of Eyo group is required to knee down when Adamu is on parade in order to receive blessing. Part of the fun of the festival is beating of people with the staff (Opambata), greeting of notable personalities present at the occasion, Aro recitation, Ikapa procedure, drumming and dancing, and visitation to Agodo for Gbedu by Eyo group.



Fayose to IG: Keep your promise
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)
Former Ekiti state governor Ayo Fayose has called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro to keep his promise of ensuring that desperate politicians will not use armed police men to overturn the wishes of Ekiti electorate in Saturday’s rerun election in the state. Fayose who alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the state has plotted plans to intimidate electorate with armed police men and tugs said hotels in some communities have been used by PDP to stockpile arms to create panic and violence during the election.
This outcry is coming on the heels of a fresh call by former governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the electorate to be vigilant as he was upbeat on the Action Congress victory in the governorship election. Tinubu had urged the people of Ekiti to be vigilant and to resist intimidation by the ruling PDP, which is scheming to deploy soldiers for the rerun.
Fayose who spoke on AIT programme, Focus Nigeria yesterday stressed that the Inspector General of Police to stand by his words of keeping armed policemen off the polling centres in order to ensure a free and fair rerun election on Saturday April 25. “I want to believe that the Inspector General of Police will stand by his words to ensure no armed police men are drafted to polling booths in Saturday’s election, because PDP is a all out to use armed policemen and tugs to intimidate electorate. Already, some politicians in the state are having more than the approved number of mobile policemen as aides. This, I suspect will be used by these desperate politicians in the state to rig the election,” he said. The former governor’s fear, according to him, is borne out of concern on the recent flaunting of arms by aides of these politicians in the state. He however assured PDP that Ekiti people are ready to resist any form of intimidation, harassment and rigging that will undermine the wishes of the electorate.

‘Abuja is a colossal failure’
Paris. New York. London. Rome. These are capital cities that double as world tourism destinations. Sadly, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital lacks the character of a world class city…

Senator Anthony Agbo, Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is not a loud legislator. But he is unequivocal in matters of national interest. The former Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly and one-time Finance Commissioner in Ebonyi State and director of the Olive Gate Hotel, Enugu, describes Abuja as a colossal failure compared to other world tourism destinations. Senator Agbo spoke with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME, in Enugu.

What is your assessment of the hospitality industry?

“When you talk of hospitality, you are talking of tourism, placing your nation on a trade platform of world tourism, showcasing what you have, hosting people and allowing tourists to appreciate your country’s environment and heritage.
If foreigners are visiting your country, they will stay in hotels and what they see in those places will give them an impression about the people and the country. This is the reason why our hospitality industry must rapidly improve on its environment and services. There is the need to make use of creative art, high level of landscaping and environmental beautification.
What do you think of the project to re-brand the nation?
The angle they are coming from does not appeal to me because it cannot work. Re-branding is not something you do in the media. You start re-branding by recreating the environment to change the psyche of the people. Nigerians need to think right, imbibe the queue culture, beautify their environment, ensure safety of lives and property and make their cities world destinations. Also, we must create those elements that will attract people to the country.
A country where armed robbers can kill 25 people in a day and it attracts a footnote on the television, and even the President will not make a statement deserves more than re-branding. That incident alone should be a national tragedy that should be on Cable News Network (CNN). Are we saying life is so cheap here?
Will you want to re-brand Swat Valley in Pakistan as a tourism destination? Will you re-brand Mogadishu in Somalia? And you expect tourists to go there and die in the hands of terrorists and Moslem fanatics? You cannot re-brand Nigeria in the media. You re-brand it by changing the psyche of the people, changing the Nigerian environment, ensuring the security of lives and property, and effecting changes in everything we do, including restoring infrastructure like electricity and water. How do you re-brand darkness? Do you tell people that what you are seeing is light, not darkness? That is a funny thing. I think Dora Akunyili has got it wrong this time.
Is there a way out?
The way out is what I said earlier. If we are re-branding Nigeria, we must first start to think right, behave right, then recreate the environment and make it attractive. Nigeria is the biggest black nation in the world. If you cannot see anything great in Nigeria, it means the black world has nothing to offer the world. So, we should create a destination in Abuja or Lagos. After all, Dubai started recently but today it is competing with Paris and London. We can do it. It is a matter of the brain. And we have the money to do it.
What makes the economy of a nation vibrant is how many foreigners visit that country to spend their money. Every weekend, hundreds and thousands of Nigerians travel to Europe to spend their money. These countries have made their environments attractive, why can’t we create such an environment so that foreigners will troop into the country. Oil alone cannot give us the money we want; it is when we have hundreds of thousands of foreigners spending their foreign exchange here that the economy will grow.
What is missing in Abuja as a tourism destination?
I am sorry to say that Abuja as an international African city is a colossal failure. There is no attraction in the city. Abuja master plan must be faulty. Abuja is now congested and it is barely 30 years old. The highest you find on its roads is four to six lanes. But if you go to Europe, you will find cities designed 300 years ago having 16 lanes. In Abuja, the architecture can’t attract any foreigner.
What differentiates a leader? Most empire builders, be they democrats or dictators, have one thing in common: they create a landmark in their country that will be a selling point to the rest of the world. In Africa, you can’t find such leaders.
In Abuja, there are no gardens with sculptural monuments to attract tourists. Whereas tourists pay to visit the Eiffel Towers in Paris and it attracts more than five million tourists yearly. That is the way it is in many European cities.
So, Abuja is without life?
Culturally, there is no life in Abuja. Nothing can make a foreigner purposely buy an air ticket to visit Abuja and spend his money. When you have that kind of a city, it is not part of the world community. It can only belong when it builds an environment that attracts people. Even if you are talking of foreign investment, you cannot tell people to go and invest in Afghanistan, Somalia or Congo for instance. People invest where they know people from across the world will come and patronise their investment. So, when you create the ideal environment, foreign investment will follow. Unfortunately, you hear Nigerian leaders wooing investors to our country when the environment is not friendly enough. It is a shameful thing to do because you do not beg people to invest. When you create the right environment, investments will flow in.
Is the Senate enacting laws to redress all these?
Well, you know the legislature is a different arm of the government. In the legislature, you talk but cannot execute. If you watch the Senate proceedings, you will see the nationalistic spirit in Nigerians. But when it comes to execution, these things do not show. You see senators flowing with ideas on what should be done for the country to be better. But after saying it, it ends there. The legislature cannot execute any project. They do not have the power to do anything other than to talk. The problem is with the executive.

Can we link this to budget implementation?
Budget implementation is another problem. Our budget is not revolutionary at all. Nigerian budget has become a routine thing. Every year, it is the same story: repair of roads, provision of electricity supply and so on. However, the more money you approve, the less result you get.

What becomes of the Abuja beautification project?
I don’t know if there was a beautification project but if there was, it ended in rhetoric. When you are talking of beautifying Abuja it has to be a revolutionary thing. Abuja is still a riot of traffic lights and electric poles. Why can’t we create poles that disappear underground in the day and come up with light at nights? We can use light to decorate the city because it is a tourist attraction on its own.
Prospect of mass transit facility in FCT?
Abuja has a lot of mass transit schemes. But the quarrel I have with the schemes is that they should get artists to design the buses and cabs such that if a senator or minister is passing, he can drop his car and jump into such bus or cab. That is how to create wealth. There are simple things you do and people will be interested and will start buying into it.

Beyond buses, can there be light trains in the future?
The authorities are working on that. When we came in, we started serious agitations for the train system because Abuja is the only city that does not have a train system.

Will that not be too capital intensive?
Modern light trains don’t cost much. In fact, they cost what the ugly ones will cost. If you want to decongest Abuja city, get the trains and buses working. And only a few people will use their cars. If a bus can move 5,000 people a day, a train can move 20,000 people a day. You will be making more money.

Some critics have observed that not many bills have been passed by the Senate since its inauguration in 2007. What is your take on this?

The National Assembly has many distractions. You cannot compare the legislature you have in Nigeria with that of Europe because in Europe, everything is standardised. And all the basic needs are available and nobody raises motion on electricity supply. Nobody will debate on bad roads. The problems of the country take much time of the legislature’s agenda and only a little time is reserved for the passing of the bill. There are so many bills pending, but they have gone through first and second readings. There are so many distractions. The social and economic problems of Nigeria take the time of the legislature at the expense of doing real legislating. This is the problem.

Why is it so?
The reason is because this has been an unworkable system. Distraction is one reason for the slow pace of the legislature, otherwise so many beautiful things are pending but they will be attended to. Corruption is everywhere and every government parastatal is in this mess. And the system is a riot of lawlessness.
How many bills have you initiated?
I have three bills. They have gone through the first and second readings. There is a bill on Nigeria honours award. It is to enable the National Assembly to award honours on deserving individuals as it is done by the US Congress with the America convention award. It is the highest honour in US given by the President but administered by the Senate. I raised this bill because the national honours award is not standardised. It is a case of the governors sending in names of nominees and any name they bring automatically gets the award. But I crafted this bill in a way that the standards can be compared to that of developed world and for you to merit it means you can merit a Nobel Prize.

Do you think the Nigerian factor will make it work?
For the committee on the award I recommend religious leaders, one international statesman, one Catholic Bishop and two Moslems, who may not be Nigerian. Recipients can be the likes of Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, because it is not restricted to Nigerians only. The award is a way of projecting Nigeria. For instance, if the Nigerian Senate is giving an award to a world leader and invites diplomats to the ceremony, it will showcase Nigeria. And Nigeria will be read all over the world. Honouring great people will make others to work harder. Today, people want to beat the laws to make money because there is no culture of hard work. Everyone wants quick money, but when you start honouring hard work, everyone will begin to appreciate hard work.

What is the second bill about?
The second bill is about National Corporation for society’s federation. This is to centralise corporate institutions in Nigeria like the micro-finance banks. The body will liaise with international bodies and corporate agencies for borrowing of funds. The third one has to do with Professor Gabriel Audu Oyibo, a world acclaimed Mathematician. He is a Kogi-born Nigerian based in America who made the greatest discovery, commonly called the God Almighty’s Grand Theorem, (Grand Unified Theory of Everything). It is the highest discovery in science. When the discovery was unveiled in 1999, I bought a space in The Guardian Newspaper, to write a letter to President Obasanjo. That is the highest discovery in science and when German Physicist, Albert Einstein died, he wrote a will that his only regret in life was that he could not discover the unified faith theory. It is a single equation that can solve the whole problem in the universe. Every problem will be subjected to that equation, Einstein laboured for 95 years and died and he could not discover it. Until the discovery, America, France, Japan, Russia and China commissioned their scientists to discover it. Eventually a Nigerian did it.
The essence of the bill is to establish an institution which will understudy this discovery and examine all the practical applications for Nigerians and to know the benefits and implications. In Europe now, they have set up a committee comprising the brightest scientists and lecturers who are working on the discovery. But a Nigerian discovered it, nobody cares.

What stage is the bill?
It has passed through first reading, but not yet scheduled for second reading.

What do you foresee as the handicap to the speedy passage of the bill?
The bill is a very strong one; Professor Oyibo is from Kogi State, while I am from Ebonyi. I have concern for my country. The bill will be passed when it is eventually scheduled.

.
Have you started lobbying other politicians?
What we usually do when a bill is scheduled is that you start moving around your colleagues to lobby them. I am waiting for it to be scheduled after which I will lobby members in the Senate. I was happy when my bill scaled the second reading because none of them spoke against it. When we finished I went straight to my house and started drinking.
Are you an art connoisseur?
I am not sure if I qualify as an art connoisseur. But I know what art means to the world, I know how civilised art shows are. Art is a statement and the real work of art is the statement behind it. Art is not just an ordinary painting, what makes it an art is the hidden statement behind it. I like hidden knowledge; I like art for the words it creates. An artist creates images just like God but the only difference is that they cannot put breath in it. That is why art is appreciated all over the world. But here in Africa, we are ignorant and nobody cares about the artist, even the leaders don’t even understand art.

How many artists do you have their works in your collection?
I am friendly with artists. I read about them and there are some that I have not got their works. I read their biographies and buy books about them.

How have you touched the life of your constituency since your election?
It will be two years we were inaugurated in the Senate. I have spent only four weekends outside my constituency since I became a senator. I spend most of my weekends in my constituency. I have not traveled outside the country for any reason. In fact, I don’t enjoy traveling out because when I see the way things work out there, I get angry. So, every weekend, I go home and stay with my people and share ideas on how to solve their problems.