Monday, August 22, 2011

‘Why our wines are not in open market’
At the birthday party for South African ex-President Nelson Mandela, the tasting of Rolands wines was the high point of the celebration at the Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos. The brain behind Roland wines, Chief Jerryaham Roland Okoro, spoke with OZOLUA UHAKHEME, Assistant Editor (Arts) on why his wines are not in the market, his preference for South Africa and his battle against adulteration, among others.
South African-based Nigerian businessman and Chief Executive Officer, Westlog Nigeria Limited, a leading marketer of South African wines, Chief Jerryaham Roland Okoro, has identified inclement economic climate- high cost of production and distribution, in the country as major setback to the nation’s economic growth.
He said unlike Nigeria, South Africa provides enabling environment for investors with good business plan and strategy to realise their business objectives.
“When you are talking of economic factors, they are in exhaustive- power to maintain the cooling system for the wine; the labour cost; the land acquisition system and farm land acquisition nature also make it very easy.
South Africa is a country where once you have a good business plan and strategy the financial institutions will support you to realise the business plan.
Unlike in Nigeria where you must own properties for collateral and the banks will expect you to operate for three months with them before you can get any form of assistance from them.
In South Africa, trust is something you must strive to earn from your business associates and once you gained trust from them, the sky is your limit. That is a country where partnership strives,” he said.
Chief Rowland, who founded a leading marketer of South Africa wines in 2007, noted that in South Africa, transportation system is adequate, effective and there is a high level of support from the government to entrepreneurs.
“When I had the opportunity to attend an economic summit in South Africa held at the International Conference Centre in Cape Town in 2006, I discovered the need to build an economic bridge between Nigeria and other West African countries through Westlog Nigeria Limited.
It is purely a trading company that majors on wine and wine related requisites and other consumables,” he added, stressing that today, it is a dream come true owning private wine labels.
Westlog Nigeria Limited, which has distribution channels in Nigeria, Ghana and Angola has variety of wines; red, rose and white, with brands like Rowlands Wine and Justinas Wine, which put his name on the shelf of African market.
He said he feels happy following the footsteps of Nigerian investors, such as Dangote, Adenuga Jr and Tony Elumelu.
The former employee of United Bank for Africa said his products are not in the informal market for fear of being adulterated. And to further avoid adulteration, he established mobile wine bar services unit that serves wine in customers’ events and receptions.
Continuing, he said: “Our major consumers and customers are high network individuals; middle market managers. We do direct marketing-supplying to supermarkets; hotels; eateries and nite clubs. Our brands and products are not in the informal open market such as the Trade Fair Market; Balogun Market; Onitsha Market and Aba Market.
“We warned our consumers not to drink any of our products purchased in the open market. It will be at their own risk as they may fall victim of adulteration of fake wine, which is very common in Nigeria’s open market.
To avoid people meddling with our products and brands, we established a mobile wine bar services unit that serves our wine in our customers’ events or reception. We set up a Westlog mobile wine bar at the reception venue and serve the guests directly from our wine bar.
According to him, “we want our customers and consumers of our products to hold us responsible for what they drink. We have introduced a return bottle system so as to make a refund of certain amount to customers that brings back their bottle to us after consuming the liquid content.”
He declared that it is very expensive to adulterate his products because it is not profitable to do so. He added that the organisation’s system of operations made it extremely difficult and unprofitable for them, saying “we operate Westlog wine shops in every state in Nigeria. These Westlog shops serve as distribution hub to all hotels, supermarkets, eateries and clubs.
He disclosed that there are plans to establish a plant in Umuahii Amaike 1, Mbieri in Imo State in the future as a way of creating job opportunities.
“I am still working on the energy challenge as wine needs a 100 per cent cooling system…A sip of any Westlog wines like Eezi Mzi; Rowlands or Justinas changes everything. Our wines are all cultivars wines: Merlot, Shiraz, Cabnert, Pinotage, Rose, etc. None is a table wine. We don’t do table wines,” Roland assured.

Octogenarian singer with sonorous voice
By Ozolua Uhakheme 10/08/2011 00:00:00
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Doyen of Indian classical music Pandit Jasraj, 83, is visiting Nigeria. At a dinner hosted in Lagos in his honour by Jim Ovia, he performed briefly alongside two of his disciples. Assistant Editor (Arts) Ozolua Uhakheme was there.
There was pin-drop silence as he entered the medium-size hall at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Escorted by his two disciples and the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Visafone, Mr Sailesh Tyer, the doyen of Hindustani vocals, Pandit Jasraj, 83, walked in with a broad smile.
The Indians among the selected guests quickly took turns to honour Jasraj with ‘cultured’ salute, touching his feet with hands before going for an handshake. The veteran of the Mewati Gharana is in the country on the invitation of the Indian Fine Arts Society (INFAS), Nigeria. He was hosted to a dinner by the Chairman of Visafone, Mr Jim Ovia, for his contributions to music globally. He also performed at the Muson Centre, Lagos.
Ovia, who presented Jasraj with a plaque and a traditional drum described Jasraj as one of the greatest Indians that ever lived. He said he learnt much from the India community who, according to him, formed the core of customers at Zenith Bank. "They are shrewd business people. They hardly default in their loans. It is a statement of fact. Sooner, Nigerians started to learn from them," he said. Ovia is former managing director of Zenith Bank.
For a few minutes that Jasraj led two of his disciples in a short rendition of one of his songs in a rich, soulful and sonorous voice, he literarily lifted the guests into the spiritual realm- that moment when ‘everyone hears in his voice the whisper of the unknown and experiences in his singing the stillness of unheard sound’. And everyone was filled with a sense of gratitude that he shared in the rich Indian musical tradition. That was the peak of the moment.
But the octogenarian Indian music icon did not hide his love for Nigeria. He said India and Nigeria are similar, adding that Nigerians are warm people. "Immediately I arrived in Lagos, I thought I was in my country," he said.
He recalled that as a little child he never knew how he got into music, but that he started off with drumming before going into music proper. "Before learning music, I taught music in college in Pakistan. Thereafter, I started learning music from my elder brother, Pandit Muniram. In fact, God has been kind to me. If you are lucky, God will take you to great places," he noted.
On his relationship with Indian movie producers and directors, he said: "I did my first sound track for a movie in 1954. And the legendary Indian movie producers and directors love me and my music." The Mewati maestro, who has won numerous awards worldwide, said he has a growing disciple of musicians in Indian that two of them would perform in Lagos during his visit. He recalled that at 73, her wife made her first movie and that she is still a movie producer.
The contemporary doyen of North Indian vocals was born in a family that has given to Indian classical music four generations of outstanding musicians. He had his initial grooming in music under his father, late Pandit Motiramji. At age three Jasraj, with just the seven notes as his inheritance from his father, stepped out into the cold world of harsh realities.
Today, those seven notes make up his rainbow... his bridge to a mystical realm of sound... that lies beyond the applause, the awards, the titles, the trophies, the honours...putting him in touch with the music of the infinite.
Under the tutelage of his older brother Sangeet Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Maniram and with the spiritual influence of Maharaja Jaywant Singhji Waghela of Saanand, Pandit Jasraj began his vocal and spiritual journey. The Maharaja, himself a gifted and scholarly musician of the Mewati Gharana, gently ushered Jasraj into the realm of devotion, preparing him for the sublime music he was ordained to create.
In honour of the glory of this unparalleled living legend, awards and titles have not only been created and bestowed upon him but have also been instituted in his name, thus these awards gaining more in prestige and value on account of being associated with his name.
The University of Toronto has instituted a scholarship in his name for young Canadians wishing to train in music. Also, the first Distinguished Visitor Award was created specially in honour of Jasraj by the same university in 1999 for the first time since its inception 200 years ago.
Endowed with a rich, soulful and sonorous voice, which traverses effortlessly over all three and a half octaves, Jasraj’s vocalising is characterised by a harmonious blend of classic and opulent elements, projecting traditional music as an intense spiritual expression, at once chaste and densely coloured. This gives his music a very sublime emotional quality, touching the soul of the listener.
He has been guided in this by his spiritual guru, the late Maharana Jaiwant Singhji of Anand, another doyen of the Mewati Gharana. Perfect diction, clarity in Sur and extreme tunefulness, command in all aspects of laya, choice of composition and interplay of the notes with the words to evoke the desired mood and feeling are other highlights of this Rasraj Pandit Jasraj’s music.
This sensitivity together with the pure classical approach has given his singing a lyrical quality, which is the quintessence of the Mewati style of singing.
Although every performance by Jasraj can be deemed as original, he is the originator of a most unique concept that will go down in history as the work of a genius and as one of his great contributions to Indian music.
A novel Jugalbandi (duet), which finds inspiration from the ancient system of moorchanas, is the Jasrangi. In his words, he says he devised the duet, "Like the Yin and the Yang or Shiv-Shakti." The Jasrangi is a sensuous fusion of the ‘Purush (Male) and ‘Prakriti’ (Female).
Few Indian musicians have been so felicitated as Jasraj. The list of accolades he has received bears testimony of his musical exploits. He is indeed India’s best-known cultural ambassador to the world. He has received numerous awards including the   Padma Vibhushan, (art-classical music-vocal) in 2000- the highest award given to any musician in Indian, Sangeet Samrat by Vedic Heritage, New York, Ved Shiromani - the highest Awards of Vedic Heritage of New York, Param Acharya by Pandit Jasraj Institute, Rajeev Gandhi Award for professional excellence, Giants International Award, American Academy of Artists Award, Prime Minister of India Mr. AtalBihari Vajpayee honour in 2002, Award for Peace on October 14, 2001 in New York for the peace of the New York People after September 11, tragedy and a scholarship instituted by the University of Toronto for young deserving students of Indian music.
Jasraj received the University of Toronto highest award, ‘The Distinguished Visitor Award’ making him the first ever to receive it in the 200-year history of the university.  This also makes him a visiting Professor of its faculty for life. The award consisted of a citation and a medal crafted by the renowned Canadian sculptor, Sandra Nobel Goss.
Also, the Harvard University Art Museum together with Kalawati (a wing of the University) of the US and the BharatiyaVidyaBhavan of London honoured him.
He has been accorded civic receptions at Oklahoma City in the USA as also in Mumbai (MahanagarPalika), Valsad, Nagpur, Hissar, Varanasi and Ujjain in India.

One throne, two contenders
By OZOLUA UHAKHEME 03/08/2011 00:00:00
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The peaceful community of Ubulu-Uku in Delta State is at cross-roads over kingship tussle between two brothers, Edward and Akaeze, reports OZOLUA UHAKHEME, Assistant Editor (Arts).
Former assistant producer with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and heir-apparent to the throne of Obi of Ubulu-Uku in Delta State, Prince Edward Okwuchukwu Ofulue, 56, is unhappy with happenings in his home town. Twenty-five years after he was initiated by his late father as heir-apparent, he is yet to ascend the throne.
Reason: One of his siblings, Akaeze, has ascended the throne in his absence, contrary to the traditions of the Umu-ozim, the king-makers, who are empowered to conduct the rites of ascension. Their father Obi Ofulue died in August 2006.
The prince, who was in Ubulu-Uku recently to conclude some rites preceding his coronation as the rightful traditional ruler, has urged the Delta State government to come to his aid. He is praying the government to assit the community restoring order to the royalty of Ubulu-Uku. He said before his father died, the deceased initiated him into the position of crown prince 25 years ago.
He claimed that while away in the United Kingdom (UK), some parties have usurped the position, thus circumventing the traditions of the people and the royal stool. He, therefore, enjoined the appropriate authorities to investigate the accusations for peace to reign. "I have full confidence and respect for the law of our land and the state and believe that right will prevail over injustices and disharmony," he assured.
He noted that the community’s values on matters of kingship are based on primogeniture–first son’s responsibility and God-given right to the throne in Ubulu-Uku, which he described as ancient and uncompromised right.
The sitting traditional ruler, his Royal Highness, Agbogidi Obi Akaeze Ofulue is however, on unruffled by his brother’s claim.
Obi Akaeze Ofulue said: "Though Edward is his elder brother, he was an illegitimate child having been born out of wedlock."
"It is true that the first son takes over when the king dies, but that is when the king and the mother of the person were legally married. My elder brother’s mother was not legally married to my mother," Obi Akaeze Ofulue said in a report.
But for Prince Edward, his right to the throne cannot be contested. "As the legitimate and lawful first son of the late Obi Ofulue, the Obi of Ubulu Uku, I have come to my father’s kingdom to carry out the expectations of the umu ozim (the king makers) and thus our people," Prince Edward said.
He said by disclosing to the umu-ozim of my father’s whereabout, the king makers have formally declared that he has ‘travelled to a better place and have handed me the staff of office.’
"Our values are based on primogeniture– first son’s responsibility and God-given right to succeed to the throne in Ubulu-Uku, Delta State. This is an ancient and uncompromised right. As the legitimate and lawful first son of Obi Ofulue II, I have come to my father’s kingdom to carry out the expectations of the umu ozim (the king makers) and thus our people.
"My existence and very being were recognised by my father who initiated me into the position of crown prince in 1985.
"I have come to Ubulu-Uku, our kingdom, to perform sacred duties and rights, which have now been carried out with the Umu-ozim present. By telling of my father’s whereabout, the Umu-ozim have formally declared that he has travelled to a better place and have handed me the staff of office," he said.
According to him, he has paid courtesy calls to some leading Obis in the area during which goodwill messages were exchanged. They include the Asagba of Asaba, Obi of Owa, Obi of Ubulu-Unor, Obi of Ubulu-Okiti, and Obi of Umunede. He said: "I have set feet on Ubulu-Uku soil, which is the ancient land of our ancestors. The people of Ubulu-Uku are safe as the traditional rites have been performed by me.
"As the first son, I have assumed the rights bestowed on me in the name of God, our father’s ancestors and the land. The legacy processes can now be put in place to ensure the natural processes continue."
In a telephone interview, the Information Committee Chairman of Umu-Ozim, Emeka Ojie, told The Nation that the community is in a dilemma, but noted that there could never be two rulers in one kingdom. He said the Umu-Ozim has instituted a case against the sitting traditional ruler in the law court challenging his right to the throne. "As it is now, we have to wait for the determination of that suit. But, Umu-Ozim recognises Prince Edwards Ofulue as the heir-apparent to the throne. And as soon as the case is determined by the court, Prince Edward will conclude all the rites," Ojie said.
Mr Patrick Ofulue, a member of the family, also told The Nation on telephone that situation in Ubulu-Uku is an unusual one, noting that the king-makers are not comfortable with it. Ofulue said the sitting Obi was neither initiated by his late father nor crowned by kingmakers. "In fact, he does not believe in the Umu-Ozim as he always claims he is a Christian," he added. Prince Ofulue had his O’Level and A’Level certificates in London. He attended Staffordshire University, where he obtained a BA (Hons) in History and Politics before he went to Westminster University for a certificate in Radio Journalism. He worked at BBC as assistant producer (foreign) and as information officer with the Commonwealth office. As the moment, he works as corporate social responsibility manager specialising in employment training and community engagement (construction projects) relating to blue chip projects in London: Terminal five, the Olympics and the London bridge development.

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