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The Saga of the Invisible President

By Sokari Ekine
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Rumours about Nigerian president Yar'Adua, violence in Jos, controversy over what happened to aid money during Ethiopia's famine in the 1980s and International Women's Day all feature in Sokari Ekine's round-up of the African blogosphere. There's also good news for Zimbabwe, as a documentary about the remarkable singer Prudence Mabhena and her band Liyana scoops an Oscar, with its inspiring story about overcoming the stereotypes around disability.

Nigeria continues to dominate the headlines between the three month-old saga of the invisible president to this week's renewed religious/ethnic violence in Plateau State. Despite his return to Nigeria two weeks ago, no one has yet seen the president - or if they have, they are not saying. Rumours abound on Yar'Adua's condition, possible military coups, political coups and counter coups, as various camps try to assert their power.

Elombah reports that a motion to debate the health of the president was squashed by senate president David Mark, and it appears most of the Nigerian leadership has decided to sweep the president and his illness under the table and continue with the status quo:

'Yet, all the state institutions, politicians and other powerful members of the society have resolved to let sleeping dogs lie with regards to Umaru Yar'adua.

'A serving senator of the Federal Republic said "since we have an acting president, it serves no use to continue asking after the whereabouts of our president".

'Similarly at the Federal Executive Council, reports say Jonathan Goodluck - who has never seen the sick president has been cowed into submission, he has even resolved to keep all the Ministers he inherited from his boss- whether you are pro-Yar'Adua or pro-Jonathan, it doesn't matter anymore!

'What this means is as summed up by Reuben Abati: "the political competition in Abuja has been neatly resolved in favour of the Yar'adua's: a sick man gets to keep his office and the privileges attached thereto, his wife remains First Lady and exercises influence on behalf of a husband who is no longer serving the people due to incapacitation, and it is a status quo that will subsist because individual interests have become supreme."

Addressing the renewed outbreak of ethnic and religious violence has to some extent superseded concerns over the President's absence.'

Grandiose Palor traces the violence from 2004 to the present which he believes is due to the deep seated inequalities within Nigerian society and Jos's geographic location as the 'de facto fault line' separating Muslims and Christians:

'It is ironic that this extent of bloody encounters have occurred in Jos, a city which is an acronym for "Jesus our Savior". Perhaps, the origins of the Jos -- a former enclave for colonial missionaries, and its geographic location -- aptly described by some as a "de facto fault line separating Nigeria's mainly Muslim north from its mainly Christian south", is partly responsible for the mishaps. The tensions between the Muslims and Christians blocs have been well demonstrated in regions north of the Niger river. However, the fact remains that the gory events in Jos can be reproduced almost anywhere in Nigeria.

'Nigeria is a nation of natives and settlers; the Nigerian constitution even empowers this ethnic affiliation by giving credence to the of "state of origin" status. Any official job posting, local or federal, asks applicants for their states of origin, likewise, political appointments are based on ethnic and state of origins.'

Max Siollun's post 'Another day, and yet more violence in Jos' avoids the easy explanation which bases itself on religious tensions and provides a deeper understanding of the conflict and it's origins:

'The city has a mixed ethnicity population. However there has been tension between settlers and indigenes. The indigenes are the mainly Christian Birom ethnic group and other Christian groups. The settlers are Hausa or Fulani Muslims, who migrated to Jos from further north.

'Settlers have limited rights to state facilities such as education, scholarships, bank loans and employment. Being an indigene is a key that unlocks full entitlement to such benefits. Thus settlers are aggrieved because they feel excluded, and some indigenes regard settlers as encroaching on their land.

'These differences are amplified by political disputes in Plateau State. The Plateau State Governor, Air Commodore (retired) Jonah David Jang, is a Birom Christian, and a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. His political rivals are the mainly Muslim All Nigeria People's Party.Thus political rivalry in the state also takes on an ethnic and religious dimension.'

For the past three years, the Egyptian government has been guilty of shooting African migrants along the Sinai Israeli border.

Bikya Masr reports that a group of 14 NGOs have issued a statement supporting the UNHCR criticism of Cairo at the continued shootings:

'"I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum-seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces," Pillay said in a statement issued by his office on Tuesday.

'"It is a deplorable state of affairs, and the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy," Pillay noted, adding the death toll could "hardly be an accident."

'The majority of those killed come from Sub-Saharan African nations, the UN said, and the shootings have taken place after an agreement between Egypt and Israel was brokered in 2007 to toughen border controls along the Sinai desert."'

Ethiopian blog, Abbay Media comments on the ongoing argument between the BBC and Bob Geldof. The BBC claim that large sums of the aid monies from the Bob Geldof famine campaign of 1985 were diverted into the hands of rebels and used to buy weapons:

'Geldof, awarded an honorary knighthood for his fundraising efforts, said that while he could speak only for Band Aid, he had no reason to believe that any money had been "diverted in any sense".

'He also accused Berhe of bias and challenged the BBC to substantiate its claims. "Produce one shred of evidence; one iota of evidence - not some dissident, exiled malcontent," he said. "Produce me one shred of evidence and I promise you I will properly investigate it," he said. "I will properly report it and if there is any money missing, I will sue the Ethiopian government - who are the rebels who were fighting the war in Tigray - for that money back now and I will spend it on aid."

'Geldof's defiance was echoed by five other charities, many of whom pointed out that they were well-versed in making sure that aid money got to those in dire need even in the most difficult circumstances.

'"The British public who in good faith donated money to help distressed, starving people need to know that these allegations are preposterous," said Phil Bloomer, Oxfam's campaigns and policy director.'

Mo'Dernity, Mo'Problems comments on the campaign by 'celebrity-whisperer John Prendergast' to raise consumer consciousness over the mining of cobalt and its impact on the war in the DRC. He points out that coltan unlike diamonds is not a luxury item and furthermore there is no substitute for it's super conductor properties found in all technologies:

'Consumers can't voice their power over industry by opting-out of the market. Prendergast isn't going to stop making cell phone calls because he can't and because he can't, consumer activism becomes mere tokenism.

'Compounding the inability to make consumer activism credible is the fact that coltan is alluvial. Mining coltan does not require intensive industry. Rather, small shops can set up fairly profitable extractive rings, which are mobile and require little capital. Regulating these types of industries effectively is like playing the whac-a-mol game - as soon as one provider is regulated, he'll be forced to leave in order to compete with other providers.'

One huge environmental problem across Africa is what to do with the millions of discarded plastic bags littering the streets.

Timbuktu Chronicles reports on a recycling scheme in Ghana which uses the bags to make new more durable plastic bags with interesting designs. The scheme is also income generating both for those who collect the bags and those who sew and sell them on.

Sokwanele has something uplifting to write about Zimbabwe:

'So incredibly exciting! A film about a Zimbabwean band has made it onto this year's Oscar nomination list, in the 'Best Documentary Short Subject' category.

'Music by Prudence' tells the story of Prudence Mabhena, the lead singer of Bulawayo band Liyana.

'Zimbabwean singer songwriter Prudence Mabhena, age twenty-one, was born severely disabled into a society where disabilities carry the taint of witchcraft; she is more likely to spend her life hidden away in a tiny hut than on a stage in the centre of a city. Her story is the story of many of the disabled kids of Africa, a story of abandonment and abuse. But Prudence and her seven young band members, all disabled, have managed to overcome stereotypes and inspire the same people that once saw them as a curse.'

Finally Black Looks introduces African contemporary dance and performance art by publishing an essay by Nigerian dancer and acrobat, Qudus Onikeku.

Qudus writes a critique of the bi-annual 'African and Indian Ocean Choreography Encounters' festival of dance calling for African performers to take 'ownership' of the festival and for African dance to be seen within both local and global contexts.

Meanwhile, in commemoration of International Women of Colour Day on Monday 1 March check out Black Looks on Haitian activist Rea Dol, and K FAKTOR's comments on International Women's Day, on Monday 8 March.

Timbuktu Chronicles reports on a recycling scheme in Ghana which uses the bags to make new more durable plastic bags with interesting designs. The scheme is also income generating both for those who collect the bags and those who sew and sell them on.

Sokwanele has something uplifting to write about Zimbabwe:

'So incredibly exciting! A film about a Zimbabwean band has made it onto this year's Oscar nomination list, in the 'Best Documentary Short Subject' category.

'Music by Prudence' tells the story of Prudence Mabhena, the lead singer of Bulawayo band Liyana.

'Zimbabwean singer songwriter Prudence Mabhena, age twenty-one, was born severely disabled into a society where disabilities carry the taint of witchcraft; she is more likely to spend her life hidden away in a tiny hut than on a stage in the centre of a city. Her story is the story of many of the disabled kids of Africa, a story of abandonment and abuse. But Prudence and her seven young band members, all disabled, have managed to overcome stereotypes and inspire the same people that once saw them as a curse.'

Finally Black Looks introduces African contemporary dance and performance art by publishing an essay by Nigerian dancer and acrobat, Qudus Onikeku.

Qudus writes a critique of the bi-annual 'African and Indian Ocean Choreography Encounters' festival of dance calling for African performers to take 'ownership' of the festival and for African dance to be seen within both local and global contexts.

Meanwhile, in commemoration of International Women of Colour Day on Monday 1 March check out Black Looks on Haitian activist Rea Dol, and K FAKTOR's comments on International Women's Day, on Monday 8 March.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Sokari Ekine and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."