Thursday, December 15, 2011

SUNDAY BADA: THE DEMISE OF A LONG DISTANCE RECORD


Sunday Bada’s untimely death leaves a deeper hole in the heart of Nigerian athletics.

Bada (pix courtesy Getty Images and IAAF)
Like an unexpected bolt at the finishing line of a final sprint relay, 42-year old Sunday Bada - well decorated police officer, one of the finest among Nigeria’s internationally renowned quarter milers and technical director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) - was reported to have slumped and died of heart complications on Monday night, December 12, on his way to the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, to pick his wife shortly after leaving the National stadium in Surulere, Lagos. While he left behind a grieving family, national public and global athletics community, he went to the great beyond with the African indoor record of 45.51 seconds, which he set in Paris to clinch the gold medal at the 400m final of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Indoor Championship in 1997.

In all, Bada won three medals at different World Indoor Championships. At the 1993 IAAF World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, he ran a personal best time outdoors when he clocked 44.63 seconds in the semi-final round, but finished fifth at the finals, which was his highest ever individual placing at the outdoor championships or Olympics Games. He was also a member of the Nigerian 4 x 400m relay team which won bronze at the 1995 IAAF World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden and part of the country’s Olympic 4x400m relay team which set a national record of 2:58.68 minutes to clinch silver (which was later upgraded to gold on the disqualification of the USA) at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Since the exploits of his generation, only a few Nigerian athletes have produced consistent and noteworthy athletics performances on the international stage. Bada was a significant part of a golden generation of Nigerian athletes whose sheer personal determination and hardwork rather than administrative structures ensured that they swam against the tide to gain global acclaim.  The likes of Chidi Imoh, Innocent Egbunike, Mary Onyali, the Ezinwa brothers, Olapade Adenekan, Chioma Ajunwa and Falilat Ogunkoya all come to mind. While the country has gone on to produce Uchenna Emedolu, Deji Aliu, Endurance Ojokolo, Olusoji Fasuba, Obinna Metu, Ogho Egwero, and Blessing Okagbare; only a few have produced momentary flashes of brilliance on the international circuit. However, the brightest prospects and worthy successors to the Bada generation could be said to be Francis Obikwelu and Glory Alozie. However, due to the many issues surrounding the poor welfare and remuneration of Nigerian athletes, both have long switched allegiance to European countries, leaving behind many more disillusioned younger athletes with great potentials.

Until his death, Bada, who retired from active sports after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but remained a police officer, was always full of hope for the revival of Nigeria’s athletics, and as the technical director of the AFN, he tried as much as he could on different levels to ensure that the situation improved. Fifteen years after, no Nigerian has been able to equal his golden achievement. Just like the news of Bada’s death, it is a depressing commentary about the state of Nigeria’s athletics on all fronts.

“I want to see records falling in this festival and I’m sure it will happen,” he had said during the 2009 Sports Festival Games in Kaduna. At the 2010 Mobil Championships in Abuja, he told the magazine about the need for more lucrative national circuits to encourage locally based athletes to improve on the tracks and catch up with international standards. In 2011, he also spoke of his desire to see needed improvement in Nigerian athletics following the dismal performance of her athletes over the course of the year.
Sadly, he never lived to see it as the country’s athletics has been allowed to sink deeper into oblivion on the international stage. On the continental stage, even other African countries like Ghana have taken the shine off Nigeria in the sprints, once renowned as the country’s exclusive pride of place.

In a condolence message, the International Amateur Athletics Federation, IAAF, noted that it was “deeply shocked and saddened,” to hear of Bada’s death. “The IAAF on behalf of the global athletics family offers its condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Sunday Bada who will be sadly missed,” its statement read. Until his untimely death, he was the team head of the Commissioner of Police Secretariat I, SFU, and was also the first Commander of the Joint Border Patrol between Nigeria and Benin Republic. While Bada's 1997 indoor best of 45.51 seconds is still the African record for the event, his personal best of 44.63 seconds at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, remains the second fastest time by any Nigerian sprinter, after Innocent Egbunike best of 44.17 seconds.

“To our great national hero, My team mate and fellow Olympic gold medalist...former National Sports Festival record holder, former World Indoor champion and the most decorated Nigerian Sprinter Sunday Bada, I say Rest In Peace! We shall all miss you...sad sad sad day indeed',” wrote Enefiok Udo-obong, Bada's gold-winning teammate at the Sydney Olympic Games, on his Facebook wall.

A few days ago, a Google search for ‘Sunday Bada’ produced over three million results. However, as the whole country and the international athletics world mourns the sudden loss of a great athlete, many sports analysts are left to wonder if Nigeria would ever produce another athlete in the mould of the golden Bada.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

HEADIES CELEBRATE TUFACE, WIZKID, AND OTHER NIGERIAN MUSIC STARS


If there was anything most telling about the Hip-Hop World Awards, now known as the Headies; it was not simply that it lived up to the hype or the beautiful gold plaque, it was more of the fact that Nigerian artistes have come of age. Held on Saturday, October 22, at the New Expo Hall of Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, it featured a star studded line up of performing acts on a night of shining stars.
Like expensive football players trying to justify their huge transfer fees, almost every artiste billed to perform that night did so with the live band on stage; while the ones who performed with soundtracks tried to make up by delivering good vocals with the beats. Although Muna and Waje’s produced a not so inspiring performance of their hit song, So Inspired. Oleku crooner, Ice Prince Zamani, Olamide, M.I, Jah Bless and crew, Sound Sultan, legendary Sir Shina Peters, also rocked the stage. But if there were an award for best vocal delivery and stage dexterity that night, it could go to both Tiwa Savage and Omawumi; who performed their hit songs, Kele Kele Love and Na Who I go Ask respectively. Wizkid, who undoubtedly deserved his award for Next Rated, was the final act to perform and he didn’t let his teeming fans down with the rendition of popular tracks from his chart-topping debut album.

Tuface was the biggest winner of the night with three awards – Album of the Year, Artiste of the Year, Best R&B/Pop Album. Darey picked up two with Best R & B Single and Recording of the Year. Ice Prince Oleku won the Song of the Year, while Modenine picked the Best Lyricist on the Roll for the sixth time. M.I won Best Collabo for his song featuring Flavour N’Abania. Best Vocal Performance (male) went to Capital Femi, while Waje picked up the female version. Jahbless won the Best Street Hop for ‘Joor Oh’ (Remix)¸ while eLDee won the Best Conscious Song of the Year for his track One Day, while Dr Sid won Best Pop Single and the HipHop World Revelation of the Year. Producer of the Year went to Don Jazzy, while the Best Music Video Director went to Dj Tee for Olamide’s Eni Duro. Sir Shina Peters was also awarded the Special Recognition Award, while Wizkid, won the Next Rated award, which came with a brand new Hyundai Sonata.

Fans were also given the opportunity to pick their best artiste over the nine categories through an online an SMS voting process which started on August 15. Although the awards ceremony hosted by eLDee and Rita Dominic was delayed for three and a half hours, the organisers may be forgiven as they had no power over the earlier torrential downpour and the curfew until 4pm imposed by the Lagos State government because of the local government elections which held that same day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TRIBUTE: THE 'JOBS' THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Steve Jobs. Picture courtesy: Apple.com
If it were possible, Steven Paul Jobs, co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of technology giant Apple, would have designed a sleek Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Mac, that would eclipse the effects of pancreatic cancer with just one smart touch. Or better still, store a hundred more years in his personal iCloud. But even the great computing entrepreneur, inventor and visionary, with an eye for perfection, understood and acknowledged the mortal boundaries of his creative genius. After a seven year battle with pancreatic cancer, and two months after he resigned as Apple CEO, Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011, at the age of 56.


With his inventions, he changed tthe world and how it communicated and listened to music  by causing a technological revolutionAt the last count, Jobs had over 300 patents to his name. But he would be notably remembered for creating revolutionary consumer electronics products like the Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, iMac and iTunesThe son of two unmarried university students - Joanne Schieble and Syrian-born father, Abdulfattah Jandali, Jobs was adopted by working class Californian couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, and fell in love with technology as he grew up in his adopted parent’s home in Silicon Valley, the headquarters of US electronics industry. He dropped out of college after one term and in 1976, at the age twenty-one in his parent’s garage, with his close friend Steve Wozniak, Jobs co-founded Apple and turned it into a multi-billion dollar technology empire - the world's second most valuable company by market capitalisation, after the oil giant Exxon, with more than $50 billion in the bank. Earlier this year, it surpassed the oil giant as the world's  most valuable company.

“For Steve Jobs, every day was like Christmas morning and nothing could shake that feeling,” said Chris Taylor, a technology writer for TIME in the 1990s and 2000s. Going by Jobs own words, Taylor had a point. “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent…. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart,” Jobs explained in a speech delivered at Stanford University in 2005.

“Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it,” said US president Barack Obama, who revealed that Jobs personally gave him an advance copy of iPad 2 before it was unveiled to the rest of the world. “For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honour. I will miss Steve immensely," noted Bill Gates, Microsoft founder; while Michael Bloomberg, New York Mayor, said that "America lost a genius who will be remembered with Edison and Einstein, and whose ideas will shape the world for generations to come".

Like Obama rightly pointed out, "” there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented”. A statement on Apple’s website read, "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend & an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."  Enough said.
Born February 24, 1955, Steve Jobs reportedly died peacefully surrounded by family and friends, barely a few days after the release of the Apple iPhone 4S.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WIZKID WINS 2011 MOBO AWARD FOR BEST AFRICAN ACT


Cover of WizKid's debut album
Like Tuface, 9ice, and Nneka before him, 21-year-old Nigerian artiste Wizkid (original name Ayo Balogun) was tonight voted the 2011 winner of the MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Award for Best African Act. Wizkid, who only released his debut album 'SuperStar' under Banky W's Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) label in June, shrugged off challenge from fellow Nigerian music heavyweight D’Banj and Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti, as well as Fatoumata Diawara and Cheikh Lo. Wizkid's award is another well-deserved international recognition of the impact of Nigerian music stars over the years, as well as its growing fan base across the world. Wikzid is also nominated for the MTV Europe Music Awards scheduled to hold on November 6 in Belfast. Barely two years old as a professional artiste, only time would tell how far this prodigy would travel on the international music stratosphere.

The big winner of the night was Jessie J, who won four awards - Best Newcomer, Best UK Act, Best Album for Who You Are and Best Song for Do It Like A Dude.

Congratulations, Wizkid! Like the title of his debut album, with chart topping singles, he has proven to be a SuperStar indeed.

Full list of winners:

MOBO hosts: Jason Derulo & Alesha Dixon (Pix courtesy DailyMail)
Best African Act – Wizkid


Best Song: Jessie J - Do It Like A Dude


Best Album: Jessie J - Who You Are


Best Video: Tinchy Stryder and Dappy - Spaceship
Best International Act: Rihanna
Best R&B/Soul Act: Adele
Best Hip-Hop Act: Tinchy Stryder
Best UK Act: Jessie J
Best Newcomer: Jessie J
Outstanding Contribution To Music: Boyz II Men

Saturday, October 1, 2011

IMAGINE NIGERIA


Imagine those American kids on Youtube
Really meant it when they sang
'I want to be a Nigerian so freaking bad'
Cos Bruno Mars now lives in Yola.

Imagine those bomb blasts were actually scenes from a Nollywood set.
Imagine Nollywood movies winning Oscars every other year.
Imagine Super Eagles winning the World Cup.
Imagine Nigeria finishing among the top five
On the Olympics medals table.

Imagine food baskets all over the country
Enough to feed 200 million people
Yet have enough left for export.

Imagine the UN asking Third World countries
To learn from the rapid 'development of the West;
Only this time, the 'West'
Actually means South-West Nigeria.
A global model for socio-economic development.

Imagine the rise of groundnut pyramids
Like sphinx in the Northern deserts.
Imagine those cattle
On a thousand Northern hills & valleys,
Whose dairy products are sold in Europe.
Imagine 'almajiri' is an ancient word.
Imagine Harvard in Jigawa
And MIT in Kebbi.
Imagine that the best resorts
In Africa are in the Niger Delta
Imagine that those children could
Actually swim in clean waters flowing from the creeks.
Imagine Hawaii in Akwa Ibom or Bayelsa
Imagine Disneyland in Warri.
Imagine those architectural masterpieces.
Imagine a boat cruise in the Niger Delta.

Imagine those exotic landscapes in the South.
Imagine the lush vegetation and fertile lands,
Beautiful landscapes
And techies in West Africa's first Silicon Valley in the East.
Imagine an original car model called Utomibile. Maybe Aba-car or Zik-ari,
Designed & manufactured in Aba
But competing with others made in Europe & Asia.
Imagine Japanese CEOs driving made-in-Nigeria cars.

Imagine one Naira to a dollar.
Imagine nine functional refineries.
Imagine nuclear power plants in Ajaokuta.
Imagine 24 hour electricity in every city or village
Without the interruption of generators
Bleating like stray goats in the marketplace. 
Imagine you telling your children PHCN stories and everyone laughing about it,
Like they were fairy tales or Alice in Wonderland.

Imagine the first Nigerian astronaut
Taking off from Abuja Space Agency.
Imagine the Nigerian police truly being your friends.
Imagine a well-equipped police force
Without the everyday drama of corruption.
Imagine thirty seven world class international airports.
Imagine Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez
Travelling to Nigeria on Nigeria Airways.

Yes, 'Nigeria' Airways.
Imagine Sasha & Malia Obama
Begging for a Nigerian vacation.
Imagine the beauty of traffic at night.
And the joy of inter-state road trips.
Imagine a country bonded by its diverse cultures,
Cemented with the right values system.

Imagine a country where the Hausa, Ibo,
Yoruba, Isoko, Itsekiri, Nupe and all Nigerians
See themselves as Nigerian first before their tribe.
Imagine Tuwo sinkafa, amala, and banga,
On the regular menu list in Waldorf Astoria.
Imagine that the 350 ethnic groups
Understand their differences.

Imagine that the people,
Rather than fight,
Harness her diversity into strength.
Imagine a truly indivisible country.
Imagine how great Nigeria would be
If every tribe & group unite as one.

Imagine 180 million beautiful people
In a beautiful country,
One nation under God,
Living together,
For the love of country & humanity.

Imagine a country with focused,
Selfless leaders. And strong institutions.
Imagine a country where Boko Haram,
Kidnapping, Niger Delta militancy et al
Would be forgotten tales by moonlight
When we sit under the shades of history,
Sipping the palmwine of true nationhood.

Imagine a country where the rule of law prevails.
Imagine a country where there is dignity in labour.
Imagine a country where justice
Is a meal both the rich & poor can afford.

Imagine your imagination running wild.
Like truly seeing Eko Atlantic City
On Victoria Island Beach,
Imagine Nigeria's own Manhattan.

Imagine Ajegunle, Mushin and Agege
With VGC architecture, infrastructure and design.
Imagine you living the Nigerian dream.
Imagine 'that' is possible.

Forget Nigeria today.
Imagine the new Nigeria tomorrow.
Imagine that beautiful country
Called NIGERIA.

Imagine.
But don't stop there.
Together, we can make it better!
God bless Nigeria.

© Arukaino Umukoro

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

FOREVER YOUNG















After all said and done,
When the hairs on our heads are all white and grey,
When the wrinkles on your face
Still make me want to kiss you so,
Cos you’re still so full of beauty and grace
Like the sun over a million years

After all said and done,
When at the turn of the first half of our century together
With our children playing in our beautiful yard with their children,
We’re still so much in love like the very first moments,
I want it to be said that we stuck with each other
Like the clouds to the sky

Cos you and me are inseparable earthlings
Connected via that divine spaceship
Heart, body, soul and spirit

© Arukaino Umukoro

Friday, August 19, 2011

NIGERIA FILE: BETWEEN IBB AND OBASANJO


So, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo, supposedly two of Nigeria's most prominent elder statesmen, are trading insults like school children in a park over the size of their candies and people are making so much fuss about it? While it is a very juicy topic for news, discussion and debate, the big picture is whether their petty fight contributes in any way to citizen/national development. Or is this just a ploy by the Generals to humour Nigerians and so divert some significant attention from pressing national issues and President Goodluck Jonathan's efforts to grapple with presidential powers?

Imagine US Generals Colin Powell and David Petraeus or former Preeidents Bill Cinton and Jimmy Carter throwing insults at each other. Nigerians and the Nigerian media should also be raising questions about the perceived intelligence of these 'elder statesmen', former Nigerian Army Generals and Presidents/Heads of States; the core values they represent, as well as their controversial tenures; instead of simply magnifying this charade

Saturday, August 13, 2011

BASKET MOUTH, ADE BANTU, NNEKA, YINKA DAVIES LIGHT UP HEARTSTRINGS LAGOS LAUNCH


A beacon of light shone brightly on Nigeria’s literary scene as Heartstrings, collection of love poems by Sam Umukoro, was officially introduced to the public on Sunday, August 7. It was an evening of poetry, music, love, as well as the gathering of stars and celebrities at Bogobiri House, Ikoyi, Lagos. The event attracted household names such as Basket Mouth, Yinka Davies, Ade Bantu, Mudi, Wana Udobang of Inspiration FM, Emem Ema of KUSH fame and Nneka. Anchored by Dafe Ivwurie, the stars took turns in reading from the collection Jahman Anikulapo, Editor, Guardian Newspapers, described as a cross breed between metaphysical and romantic poetry.

Heartstrings has turned some of us back to that ancient process that really defines humanity, love really does make the world go round,” noted Anikulapo, who introduced the book to jam packed hall. “Sam is a lyricist. Love is something to be cherished, not abused. It’s a book that is dedicated to women,” he added.

This was also underscored by the celebrities who took turns to read from the collection. In his usual self, Basket Mouth made everyone laugh when he introduced his reading with a tinge of comedy. While he read Tribute to Mama, Emem of KUSH fame read You’ll Know. In a performance that emphasized her understanding of the beauty of performance poetry, Yinka Davies read Red Wine, to the delight of the audience. When renowned on-air radio presenter Wana Udobang, came up to read If, there was no doubt in the hall about the beauty of the Heartstrings poetry. It was further emphasized as the audience listened to a musical version of one of the love poems, where Sam Umukoro featured MOBO Award winner Nneka.

Music artiste Chinasa read Jasmine Flower. Ade Bantu read Firedrops, while comedian Bovi, followed in the footsteps of Basket Mouth as he made the audience reel in laughter before reading On Her Cross from the collection. “Even the titles of the poems are like a poem itself,” he joked. Just before the enchanting evening ended, there was time enough for Wale Ojo to pay tribute to the late Sam Loco Efe, whom he performed with in the 1980s. Then he read Catherina from Heartstrings.

Dennis Amachree, who was chief launcher, emphasized the beauty of love and the need for couple to continually revive their passion for each other. He also promised to read some of the poems in Heartstrings to his wife, whose birthday coincided with the book launch.

Umukoro thanked everyone who came and was involved in making Heartstrings book launch a success and noted that there was need to ‘take poetry to the streets’. While Dr Kolade Arogundade, whose company, Giants in the Land, published Heartstrings, in partnership with Epik Books (Nigeria), explained that he was motivated to publish and bring books to people who may not ordinarily read them because books shaped his formative years. Epik Books was the first to publish Helon Habila’s Prison Stories, which included his Caine Prize winning story. Arogundade, currently a university professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, also noted that more should be done to resurrect the reading culture of Nigerians. Heartstrings, which deal with a sensitive topic that cuts across age, gender and cultures, may have just begun that literary revolution.

Friday, August 12, 2011

REMEMBERING SAM LOCO EFE

On Sunday, August 7, Sam Loco Efe, legendary Nollywood actor-cum-comedian, may have decided to pull one final stunt on a stage he bestrode with ease or he caught a glimpse of heaven while sitting on a chair in his hotel room at Owerri, Imo State. It was not until hours after his reported demise that the controversies died and it was confirmed that the man, who came into limelight when he was voted best actor for his role in Langbodo - Nigeria’s only drama entry for FESTAC ‘77, was truly gone.

Justus Esiri, Nollywood actor, who first met Efe that same year, remembered his performance with fondness. “He was exceptional,” he said, while reminiscing on the over three decades of friendship, as well as Efe’s stellar acting career, that was borne that year. “I saw him last two months ago… I think he’s one of the best we’ve ever had from this country. He was so multi-talented,” Esiri said of arguably one of Nigeria’s most gifted actor for both television and stage drama.

Like the many Nigerian languages he spoke fluently, Efe could interpret different roles with ease. For every Nollywood, television soaps and theatre follower, he literally lit up every stage and screen with each role he played. For John Njamah, actor/director, renowned for his role in Amaka Igwe’s Checkmate and then Fuji House of Commotion, Loco Efe made acting easy for those who worked with him. “(Although) he jokes a lot, for him, work is work, fun is fun. There’s no dull moment with him. When he wants to be serious, he is serious. He enjoys what he does,” said Njamah, who holds fond memories of the man who played the role of his father in the 2004/05 Nollywood movie Wounded Apple. We had such as spark on set, it was amazing,” Njamah reminisced, while encouraging young actors to focus more on improving their art like Loco Efe did throughout his long career, adding that they should also learn from his ingenuity, discipline and hardwork.

President Goodluck Jonathan, Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola and Segun Arinze, President, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), were among those who paid tribute to the late actor who got a post-humous award at the recently held City Peoples Award ceremony. Arinze, described him as an extraordinarily gifted thespian whose mastery of his craft on both stage and screen was unrivalled. Arinze, like many of his contemporaries, grew up watching the late actor in drama programmes on Nigerian television.

A versatile actor, script writer, singer and director, the Edo-State-born actor has featured in numerous television and stage theatre dramas. Efe, who was educated at the University of Ibadan, formed the Overamwem National Theatre Group which won laurels on stage plays in 1969. He won the Best Veteran Actor Award at the 2006 Nollywood Foundation for Excellence (NOFFEX) awards in Owerri, Imo, where incidentally he met his last days. 

“I’ve told people that anytime I die, in my epitaph, just write something there: this man lived so well that even in death, the undertaker is very sad,” the legendary actor reportedly said in an interview with Nigerian-movies.net some months ago.

Sam Loco Efe was aged 66.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

NIGERIAN CELEBRITIES GATHER FOR HEARTSTRINGS POETRY LAGOS LAUNCH


Heartstrings, an anthology of poetry by Sam Umukoro, will be formally presented to the Nigerian public during a colourful launch scheduled for 4pm, Sunday, August 7, 2011, at the renowned Bogobiri House, Maitama Sule Street, South-West Ikoyi, Lagos.

The Lagos launch, expected to be anchored by Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, Editor, Guardian Newspapers, will also feature the reading of selected poems from a host of Nigerian celebrities, including the acclaimed King of Comedy Ali Baba, Delta state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), Ade Bantu, Nneka, Yinka Davies, Basket Mouth, Bovi, Emem, Mudi, on-air personality Wana Udobang and Who Wants to be a Millionaire host Frank Edoho.

Heartstrings is a collection of love poems, expressions of yearnings, of dreams dreamed, of desires thwarted and fulfilled. The author, Sam Umukoro, who has written for Vanguard and The Guardian newspapers in Nigeria, uses language elegantly to describe his soul’s longing in every poem. His unique voice as one of Nigeria’s new generation of poets also speaks through in every poem. Love in all its forms is recalled, relived and released into this delightsome collection both for recognition and reflection.  Sam has recited at Off The Wall and A Touch of Madness at The Book Lounge in Cape Town as well as locations in Germany. He has also been featured on Badilisha Radio.  The book, edited by Dr. Kolade Arogundade, makes for a more interesting read with eye catching illustrations by Jessicah Olivier.

First published in South Africa in February 2010 by Giants in the Land (SA) - a publishing initiative that seeks to dwarf all the problems relating to reading, writing and publishing, in partnership with Epik Books (Nigeria), Heartstrings was introduced to the South African public on Valentine's Day 2010 by Professor Harry Garuba at the Book Lounge in Cape Town.


Monday, July 4, 2011

SPECTACULAR OPENING CEREMONY FOR 17TH NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL PORT HARCOURT, BUT...

Almost everything was spectacular as President Goodluck Jonathan officially declared open the 17th edition of the National Sports Festival, which held at a full Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday, July 3. From the fireworks, special effects and technology on display, this has to be the most colourful and impressive opening ceremony yet in the history of the Sports Festival, or even in any sports competition ever staged in Nigeria. Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Rivers State lived up to their promise as they literally pulled out all the stunts and lightnings to ensure a grand opening of the biennial games; which could also be referred to as Nigeria's own Olympics.


The more reason why such a first-of-its-kind show in Nigeria as this did not deserve such a spectacular breakdown at the climax, when the festival torch failed to be ignited. This was caused by an unexpected breakdown of the crane that was stationed to lift the torch bearer to the top to ignite the flames. It was a long 25 minutes wait, as neither the Chinese contractors nor the Festival's LOC could conjure up a Plan B to lit the festival torch. MC and Veteran sports commentator Emeka Odigbo had to state that the 'torch has now been lit symbolically'. A spectacular fireworks display at the end of the ceremony seemed to be a compensation for spectators as they exited the stadium.


The ceremony was highlighted by several colourful display, fireworks and stunts. This included Flying kites, aerial and local drummers, masquerades displays. The impressive use of technology in a Nigerian stadium made it possible for a giant canoe with a human paddling to sail across the stadium. The stars, sky and river was formed by LED lights and ribbons as Timi Dakolo came on stage to deliver a soulful performance of his single 'Great Nation'. TY Bello's 'The Future is here' gave the perfect background to inflated props as a crowd of performers expressed the beautiful landscape of Rivers State dances. Students also formed a riboon to depict the formation of oil pipelines, industrial development, which heralded the entrance of popular artiste, Duncan Mighty, as he performed his hit song 'Port Harcourt boy' to the delight of the spectators. Before then, Muma Gee had given a scintillating performance, while  D'Banj was saved for the last. However, his performance was muddled up at the start as the sequence of his live performance of his hit single 'Scapegoat' didn't match the sound blaring from the tape being played by the DJ. But it was a fine performance form the 'kokomaster' nonetheless. The late start of the main show was delayed by long speeches..

Started in 1973, the National Sports Festival was conceived as a socio-psychological elixir to bond the. decimated pysche of the Nigerian Nation which was traumatized by civil war in the late 60s. Since then, the Festival has helped to foster National Unity, cohesion, peace, mutual understanding, friendship, cross-cultural affiliation as well as other positive values. In his address, Governor Amaechi had described the festival as an avenue to strengthen and build on the unity of the nation. The games ends on July 10. Over 12,000 athletes would be competing for honours in 25 different sports.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

NIGERIA'S TOYOSI OGUNSEYE WINS CNN/MULTICHOICE AFRICAN JOURNALIST AWARD


Toyosi Ogunseye Picture Credit : PUNCH
On Saturday, June 25, at the magnificent Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nigeria’s Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Senior Correspondent, PUNCH Newspapers, won the MSD and Medical Award at the prestigious 2011 CNN Multichoice Africa Journalist Awards, for her story titled “LUTH’s Ransome-Kuti Children’s Centre: Cauldron where two babies die weekly”, published on May 9, 2010. “It is a good investigative story, well written yet told in a simple manner. It is activism journalism at its best, since after the story was published something was done to improve the situation,” read the judge’s citation, praising Ogunseye’s winning entry, which caused a whirlwind that necessitated immediate positive action from the Ministry of Health when it first broke. The prolific journalist is also a recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME) Awards for Judicial Reporting in 2009 and a winner of the 2010 MDG Media Awards, which recognises the contributions of women in the media.


A Biochemistry graduate from the University of Lagos, 26-year old Toyosi also holds a post-graduate diploma in Print Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism - where she was rewarded for contribution to academic excellence - and an MA degree in Media and Communications from the Pan African University. “When I heard about my nomination, I was ecstatic! - I am still ecstatic! I had been entering for the awards for seven years,” She had said weeks before the awards ceremony. 


With this feat, Ogunseye followed in the footsteps of fellow Nigerians who have won the prestigious award in recent years in various categories; including Tolu Ogunlesi and TELL's Ayodeji Adeyemi, (2009), Emmanuel Mayah and Pelu Awofeso in 2010, while Shola Oshunkeye won the top prize in 2006. Declan Okpalaeke, Janet Mba-Afolabi, Olukayode Thomas and Ibim Semenitari have also won it in the past. 


Nnamdi Okosieme, Sports editor, NEXT Newspapers, was also among the journalists awarded commendations in nine categories for their excellent work. Okosieme’s piece was a feature story titled 'Our Falcons Are Playing for Peanuts'published on July 18, 2010. It was nominated in the Sports category, which was won by Kamau Mutunga, DN2 Magazine, Daily Nation, Kenya, for his story titled ‘Soccer and Superstition (Animal body parts and snake blood on the pitch)’. “This is an informative romp through the story of superstition in soccer in Kenya. “It is elegantly written and while it spans several decades, it moves quickly and with a light touch. A sidebar shows this is by no means only an African issue – it gives insight into all countries from France to Brazil,” read the judges’ citation of Mutunga’s winning entry.
Ogunseye and Okosieme were among the 27 finalists shortlisted from 13 countries, which was chosen from among 1407 entries from 42 nations across the African continent. All nominees enjoyed an all-expenses paid five day programme of workshops, media forums, networking and had the opportunity to see some of the sights of Johannesburg - including a visit to the Big Brother Africa House -  prior to the Awards Ceremony.
Fatuma Noor from Kenya was awarded the top prize as the 2011 CNN African Journalist of the Year. Noor, who works for The Star Kenya, won for her investigative three-part series on the ‘Al-Shabaab’. Other winners at the awards include Dispatch Online (Digital Journalism); Mohamud Abdi Jama (Free Press Africa); (Kofi Akpabli (Arts and Culture); Lamia Hassan (Environment); Kamau Mutunga (Best Sports Reporting); Lindile Mpanze (Best Conflict Media Reporting); Rabin Bhujun (Best Francophone General News Reporting); Lindile Mpanze (Television Features); and Claudine Atohoun (Francophone General News Award for radio/TV).
Congratulations to all the winners. Congratulations, Toyosi and Okosieme, for making us and Nigeria proud!