Apr 30, 2007

Work those Muscles, Work those Skills!

"... siiiiiix ... seeee - ven ... eeeeeight ... niiiiiine ... teeeeen ... !"
That was me several months ago trying my best to do push-ups, and men was I trying real hard! I could barely do 10 push-ups! You wouldn't believe that I used to do 80-90 push-ups back in my school days and I even placed 3rd at a Mr Macho contest during my NYSC days! I also used to exercise for long periods without getting exhausted, however, time seemed to have taken it's toll on me such that the rigor and length of my exercising had reduced gradually and gradually until it ground to a halt. Now, I had made a decision to resume active exercising and working out and I realized I was really so out of tune, I could barely do 10 push-ups. In addition, I found myself getting tired easily. I was panting really hard after a few minutes of exercising. I couldn't stretch as far as I used too, couldn't sustain the positions I used to sustain, couldn't lift what I used to lift ... in short I was far from being as fit as I was about 5 years ago.

Some of that has changed now. I do 40 (and counting!) push-ups at a stretch and I can now exercise for a longer time without getting exhausted. I owe all this to consistency and determination through regular exercising over the past few weeks. Now I even surprise myself with the limits I get to. I make sure I do some form of exercising every day, and I know I'll soon regain what I lost, and then some.

Now why am I sharing this story? Sometime ago, I noticed the striking similarity between this "Exercise Process" to other areas of my life. An example was when I started active blogging, it would take a couple of days to complete an article from inception to completion. As I became more and more consistent and had more practice, that time reduced gradually and right now, I can usually complete an article in 2 hours or less. I look forward to when I'll be doing it in 10-15 minutes. I've tagged this principle "The principle of working out" and I define it as "If you don't work it when you don't need it, you won't find it when you need it". This same principle works for many other things apart from exercising - writing, speaking, acting, dancing, reading, driving, you name it! Once you take a break from your regular routine, the muscles relax and are no longer used to stress. But when they are in a constant state of exercise, they stay strong and ready to be called upon whenever they are needed.

Somehow or the other, there are some muscles in our lives which have become permanently relaxed. We never work them out, we never use them, we just let them be. This is what happens when we don't use our talents and gifts to their full potential. I believe everyone is born with several talents and there's no such person as an untalented person. Show me an untalented person and I'll show you someone whose muscles have been relaxed for too long. Your talents remain buried and invisible until you use them. If the great painter Michael Angelo did not practice his painting, he wouldn't be known today, but that wouldn't change the fact that he had painting talents. The same goes for singers, writers, etc.

Now let's get practical. I want you to identify some talents you have - both active and inactive. If possible, make a list with a column in front of each talent. Give each talent a percentage mark which will indicate how much you're working it out and using it. If you can't give it a 75%, then it's time to start working it out. Don't procrastinate. If you have the gift of writing, start writing something now. If your gift is talking, look for speaking opportunities now. Get a topic and try speaking about it with 1 or 2 colleagues. Volunteer to give a talk at a small gathering, a youth meeting, an NYSC CD group, a birthday party, etc. Don't worry if things are not turning out well at the beginning. Remember how 10 push-ups can easily turn into 90 and don't get discouraged. Practice brings perfection, but the worst mistake we often make is failure to start. Start working on those skills today, and you'll see opportunities coming your way. Work those Muscles, work those skills!

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Apr 27, 2007

Post Election Drama

Breaking News reported within the last 2 hours -
  • ANPP to contest Yar'Adua's victory at tribunal [read]
  • General Tunji Olurin hands over power to Ekiti Speaker [read]
  • Professor Wole Soyinka asks for the resignation of INEC Chairman, Maurice Iwu [read]
  • Senator Ararume to re-contest on PDP platform for Governor in Imo State [read]
  • Dariye to resume as Plateau State Governor [read]
  • By-Elections to hold in 26 States [read]
  • Labour Party, AC urges members to boycott rescheduled poll [read]
several "electoral malpractice" reports
  • How the elections were rigged in Anambra State [read]
  • How PDP rigged Ondo [read]
  • Kebbi: Removal of 140 cartons of ballot papers causes stir [read]
  • Nigerian Ballot Scandal dominate South African Media[read]
  • Edo: AC accuses INEC of rigging polls [read]
a sad event ...
  • Pain for families of Naval Pilots who died for INEC [read]
and finally, a word from the President Elect
  • My Election is God's will - Yaradua [read]
Res ipsa loquitur - The headlines speak for themselves!
PS: I'll post links later. Links posted

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Apr 24, 2007

Idols West Africa - Farewell Mercy

Another Shocker awaited viewers of the West African Idols contest yesterday as another contestant was evicted. This time it was the 6' 3'' tall, ever-smiling Mercy Nwankwo who had the least votes and had to bid her fellow contestants farewell. We've seen Mercy edge her way through the top 24 to the top 7 and her skill and performances have got more impressive as she progressed. She was the first on stage this week and she sang Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover", a song with she delivered with much skill, exhibiting confidence and a great attitude. She made it work all the more by doing some of the pitching for which she has become known for. At the end of her performance, the crowd was quite ecstatic. I was real pained to see her go, and quite disappointed cos she has great voice skills. Her parting words were "I appreciate knowing that there are people out there who appreciate what you do - fans, friends family. I see it as a privilege to have come this far. Thank you to every single person and God for this exposure and experience." Hopefully, the exposure and experience will launch her into greater things.

This week, the contestants performed around the theme "Hits from the 80s and 90s". It worked for some and didn't work for some. The top performances for me were Timi and Mercy (Yes, Mercy!). Timi has managed to maintain the "most impressive performer" status for 2 weeks straight, displacing Jodie who earlier occupied the position. He performed "Stuck on You" by Lionell Richie, delivering with a mixture of voice skill and performance talent. Towards the end of the song, he pulled up a lady from the audience and gave her a little "salsa style" spin after which she fell into his arms as he finished the song. The crowd was ecstatic, the judges gave a standing ovation and Nana's emotions took control as she shed tears - she couldn't even give her judgment on the performance, Timi's singing had affected her so much.

I was not too impressed with the other performances ... especially Jodie, although relatively, I'll still give her a good mark. I expected a lot more from her though, but she obviously had many things working against her. Her choice of song, outfit and hairstyle were not the best. Singing Tina Turner's "What's Love got to do?", she started a little sluggishly but got better along the song. She put a little too much into the song and she should have been more relaxed. I hope she does better next week because I had come to look forward to her performances. Omawumi performed slightly better. Her rendition was of "Rhythm of the night" by Gloria Estefan, a Latino style song. She came dressed the part and she attempted some of Gloria Estefan's Latin Dance moves. However, she put in more effort into the dance than the singing. She got lost briefly during her performance but quickly made a come-back. She apparently has good come-back skills. Eric who performed The Fugees' "Killing me softly" did a great job compared to his performance last week. He started off with a mixture of high and low pitches and soon got the crowd singing along. However, this was still not good enough to keep him out of the bottom three (a position which he shared with Omawumi and Mercy), and was just lucky to pull through. Hopefully, he'll step up his game next week.

Bottom performances for me this week were Temitayo and Jerilyn. Now don't get me wrong, their performances were still quite good. Temitayo performed Irene Cara's "What a feeling", and she did quite well. She came on stage with skinny jeans which obviously drove the guys wild. However, there was no real WOW moment and her performance was quite short. Jerilyn on her part did a lot better than her previous performances with Celine Dion's "All by Myself". She attempted a sustained pitch towards the end of the song and she pulled it off quite well, but for most of the song, she stayed within her limits.

The judges appealed to viewers to vote right and vote for talent, as the West African Idols show is a singing competition and not a "Bootylicious" one (Dan Foster's words). There was a special guest in the house in person of Paul "Play" Dairo. These were his comments on the top 7 "Timi is perfect. Timi is too hot to handle, too hot to handle. I give it to Timi" and "I’m proud to be Nigerian and African and I believe [our talent] can soon take on the world." I agree with him about the talent we have in Nigeria and Africa. Given just the right support and encouragement, Nigerian artists will perform better than many international ones. We are getting there.

If you missed out on the performances, the videos will be available for download and streaming at the Idols West Africa website available here. I look forward to next week's performances when the contestants will be selecting from the theme "Home grown African tracks"! Right now, we are down to 6 contestants. See you all next week.

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Apr 23, 2007

Presidential Elections Results

The Nigerian Presidential Elections results have finally been released. The results were announced a few hours ago by the Chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu. As predicted by many, Governor Umar Musa Yaradua emerged the winner of the Presidential Elections and is now the President Elect. As is their custom, INEC has declared the elections to be free and fair, even though we all think otherwise. Shortly after Iwu announced the results, agents of some opposition parties stormed out of the central collation centre and declared that the figures released by the INEC chairman were fraudulent. The closest contenders (Buhari and Atiku ) rejected the outcome of the election and have pledged to pursue their grievances in court. Local and international observers also alleged that the presidential polls were seriously flawed. The European Union said the election was not credible and human rights monitors said at least 200 people had died in poll-related violence in recent weeks. Below are the results of the Presidential Elections as announced by INEC.
Yaradua (PDP) - 24,638,063 votes
Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP) - 6,605,299 votes
Atiku Abubakar (AC) - 2,637,848 votes
Orji Uzor Kalu (PPA) - 608,803 votes (Abia State Governor)
Odumegwu Ojukwu (APGA) - 155,947 votes
Attahiru Bafarawa (DPP) - 89,241 votes (Bauchi State Governor)
Chief Pere Ajuwa (AD) - 89,241 votes.
Rev. Chris Okotie (FRESH) - 74,049 votes (Pastor, Household of God Church)
Pat Utomi (ADC) - 50,849 votes (Professor and Director of LBS)
It can be observed that similar to the gubernatorial elections, the PDP won by a landslide ... and this has not gone down well with many people. Within the next few weeks, there will be likely be lots of post-election drama. There might be court cases, accusations and counter accusations. It all will probably not have any effect on the results. With this in mind, I'll like to encourage all Nigerians to look ahead. I wish the President elect good luck in the great task that is before him and I request that he does good things, which he'll be remembered for. There's a lot of work to be done, and lots of avenues through which he can make an impact. Priority projects should include basic amenities like Electricity, Roads, Water, Transportation and Security. With these in place, Nigeria can then begin to assume it's leadership position in Africa and the rest of the world. Elimination of corruption should also be another high priority project. It's time to put an end to the 419 image which trails Nigeria wherever her name is mentioned. Corruption in high and low places, Fraud, Dishonesty, etc should be minimized to the highest level. A friend of mine once said "In Nigeria, not only are the officials corrupt, but Corruption is official", I marvelled at the truth behind his statement, and that's when I knew we had gone too far. I hope Yaradua will have the will, means and opportunity to put an end to all these things ... and most importantly make life better for the average Nigerian. Enough is enough. The time has come to move forward in Nigeria. The time has come for a ... Break of Dawn. Long live Nigeria.

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Apr 21, 2007

Nigerian Presidential Elections - My Voting Experience

Today is the day many people have been waiting for. It's the day of the Presidential Elections in Nigeria, and hopefully the day in which the fate of Nigeria's future will be changed, for better. I just returned from the election booth (if it can be called a booth) some minutes ago. It was the same place where I registered to vote a few months ago. It took two minutes from the time I got there to the time I cast my vote, and that was it ... yes it was as simple as that. Here are my observations.

The first observation was that the voting spot was quite devoid of people. If you read the registration process on my previous post "INEC Registration Exercise. Have you registered?", you'll remember that due to the crowd of aspiring registrants, I had to wait for some time before I could get registered. This situation was different. There was not a single voter in sight, contrary to the gubernatorial elections when the queues were very long (read Tolted's experience on her blog [here]) and some people did not get to vote. This lent credibility to a rumor that many Nigerians had decided to boycott the election due to a speculation that their votes would not count. (or be counted for that matter!)
There were several INEC officials in sight, so I presented my voters card (sorry voter's paper) to one of them and waited patiently while he scrutinized it. He then proceeded to check the voters register for my name after which he said to another seated official "INK HIM". I drew back unconsciously. How would they "ink" me? I hoped it was not some INEC slang signifying arrest of political miscreants ... one has to be wary during these election days. I was later made to understand that inking was just a means of marking my thumb nail so I couldn't vote again that day. "OK" said I, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

My voter's card was marked with an X, my name was ticked in the register, I was given the ballot papers and told to proceed to an isolated table in a corner some distance away. I opened the ballot papers and ALAS! I made another observation. There were no names on the papers. All that existed were party names. Although this had earlier been announced by the INEC (for reasons probably not unrelated to the Imo state gubernatorial election saga), I was still caught aback. Anyway, I knew my candidate's party and I thumb printed the space provided. While submitting my ballot papers, I noticed several discrepancies and saw several rigging possibilities. There was no record to show that I was the one who had voted and all that showed I had voted was a tick against my name in the register. I believe I should have been made to sign against my name on the register and then that signature compared to the one they had on record. In this case it would be easy for anyone to impersonate a voter and use the voter's slot (coupled with the fact that the pictures on the cards were noting to write home about in terms of quality). It would also be quite easy for the officials to tick names of absent registrants and vote on their behalf. This could fetch quite a number of votes considering the fact that lots of registrants did not show up. I personally saw lots of unticked names in the register, signifying that lots of people were yet to show up ... and this was already 3:30 pm in the afternoon (less than 2 hours to the end of voting exercise). I'm not saying that any of such activities did take place, those were just my observations about that particular voting center. I don't know what happened in other centers. There have been reports of people absconding with ballot boxes (bags) and some disturbances here and there. Also, this morning there was an attempted sabotage on the INEC office in Abuja. Thankfully, it failed. The story is captured on Linda's blog (available here). Adaure also has a post (available here) detailing other events that happened today.

The next few days will probably be a beehive of activities and post-election drama. I'll give more updates as time goes on. Right now, I'm eagerly awaiting the announcements of the results of the Elections and then I can say hopefully that we are at the Break .... of a New Dawn! Amen.

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Apr 19, 2007

Nigerian writers, another call to write!

I received another e-mail some time ago. This one is from Nelson Publishers and they request a short story on the general theme "Living in Lagos -The frustration, the fun, challenges, opportunities etc of life in a mega city." to be included in a "Compilation of short stories". I've been meaning to post this for some time but I've not really got down to doing it. With the deadline fast approaching, and not having started to write anything myself, I thought it best to make it available here so my readers can take advantage of it. Read on ...

NELSON PUBLISHERS invites you to write a short but very interesting story on the general theme:
Living in Lagos -The frustration, the fun, challenges, opportunities etc of life in a mega city.

Submit entries to




Successful entries will be published in a collection of short stories.

Conditions for entries

1. All entries must be typed double-spaced in Microsoft word or Adobe
Pagemaker 6.5/7.0
2. Entries should not exceed 50 Pages A4 Paper size
3. All entries must be submitted on or before Monday, 30 April 2007.
Only successful entries will be acknowledged and the company will NOT enter into ANY correspondence on unsuccessful entries.
4. All entries MUST have detailed names, address and day phone numbers boldly written on their entries.
5. Please mark your envelopes on the top right hand corner "SHORT STORY"

For any more information, please contact Nelson Publishers directly through evans@evanspublishers.com.ng
So that's it. Get writing, and send in your entries. Good Luck!

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Apr 18, 2007

Obasanjo extends State of Emergency in Ekiti State

President Obasanjo has extended the State of Emergency in Ekiti State. I heard and saw this on AIT a few minutes ago. There sat Obasanjo in his Adire Agbada and Cap to match, bespectacled, reading the latest riot act. After the usual long winding speech outlining the gravity of the current situation in Ekiti State, he ended with the sentences many nigerians had heard one time too many.
Therefore, by virtue of Section 305 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I hereby declare a State of Emergency in Ekiti State. This declaration has been published in a Federal Gazette as of today.
He then went on to say (I'm paraphrasing here, can't remember the actual words) "Brigadier General Tunji Olurin (rtd) shall remain the administrator and shall be in charge of all activities in the state. This state of emergency will remain in effect until May 29 (the date of swearing in of the new governors)".

Now everyone knows the real reasons behind the violence and political unrest in Ekiti state. The PDP had just been announced as the winner of the Gubernatorial elections. This was a very unpopular announcement. The main opposition party (Action Congress - AC) had already won majority of the house of representative positions (Out of 23 House of Assembly seats declared, the AC won 14 seats, ANPP won six while PDP won three), so it was practically impossible for the PDP to win the governorships. In addition the PDP was still struggling to redeem their image due to a corruption scandal that ousted the incumbent governor from power sometime last year, so the people of Ekiti were already tired of the PDP. Suddenly INEC announces the results, and the PDP wins by a wide margin.

INEC's declaration drew immediate protest. The main opposition candidate (Kayode Fayemi) declared "They have stolen the Ekiti mandate, I am disappointed, but I am not surprised. We predicted this would happen. It was preordained that the ruling party should win".The wrath of AC faithfuls was invoked and violence started, continued and prevailed. There were road blockages, barricades, bon fires and all "what not" associated with political unrest. Police and Soldiers were deployed to instill discipline and a dusk-dawn curfew was put into effect. Notwithstanding, discipline refused to be instilled. The people wanted their candidate in, Period! - and Democracy is the Government of the People. Now Obasanjo has taken what he sees as a drastic action to bring sanity into the state. He has declared a State of Emergency. Why do I sense traces of dictatorship and autocracism in his actions? Which way is Nigeria going? Are we puppets? Children who don't know anything? The situation is pathetic and I hope things don't get worse after the presidential elections. May God bless and keep Nigeria. AMEN.

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Apr 16, 2007

Idols West Africa - Uche is out!

Uche Ume, the 24 year old contestant with the most unique male voice in the Idols West Africa competition is out! This announcement came as a great shocker to lots of people (including me) because he really has talent. Uche was one of the two (the other was Omodele) who got the "wild card" votes from the judges. He might have been done in by his choice of song ("Lonely no more" by Rob Thomas) which didn't do justice to his voice and performance abilities. It was also a very short performance - the shortest in this week's performances. Coupled with the fact that he was the last on stage ... many excuses could be made up for him that night. Unfortunately this was his last chance to impress the voters. He had this to say during his exit interview "Thank you so much for voting for me and believing in my dream." I still believe in his dream, and I hope he doesn't let it die.

Performances this week were quite better than last week as the performers selected songs from the New Age. The best performances were Timi, Timi (yes, Timi twice) and Jodie. Timi took the audience some place else with his extraordinary performance and vocal skills. Singing "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and sporting a stylish Microphone holder, he created an uproar in the hall with a "knee sliding" stunt delivered just at the peak of the song. Jodie's performance of "This Words" by Natasha Beddingfield was great as usual. I believe that girl can sing for 5 hours straight maintaining the tempo and the feel of whatever song she sings. She sings with a strength that seems to come from within. The crowd seemed to agree with me as they cheered vigorously at the end of her performance.

Coming close behind the best performances were Mercy and Omawumi. Mercy did "If I ain't got you" by Alicia Keys. She added a few twists here and there but the highlight was towards the end when she did some extraordinary pitching. I think this is her best performance so far and she really used her voice well. Omawumi was the first on stage this week. She started her song ("Cry" by Faith Hill) kind of weakly but she built up the feel along the song. She maintained a constant high pitch towards the end. She seems to be sticking more to the slow songs now and I was impressed with her performance this week.

Idols "Fine Boy" Eric's performance was a bit weak this week and kind of just normal. The strength in his voice was not felt during his performance of Craig David's "I'm walking away", however, he took the song to a new level by including a modulation. His performance was still better than a few people though, and he deserved to stay. Jerilyn came dressed the part as she took Beyonce's "Work it out". Her vocals were much better this week than previous weeks. She seems to be using all she's got to try to stay in the competition and that included her dressing and her provocative dance moves. Somewhere along the line though, she went off-key. Temitayo's rendition of Christina Aguilera's "I turn to you" was just OK. The modulation wasn't too smooth but her transitions between falsetto and her normal voice range helped her and worked well for her. Another lifesaver for her are her great performance skills.

Two unusual guests showed up at the performances this week in persons of Cobhams Asuquo (Music Producer Extraordinaire) and Denrele (TV & Music Show producer). They both agreed that the Idols West Africa show is made up of extraordinary talents. Cobhams' least impressive singers were Jerilyn and Temitayo and his top performer was Jodie!!! (with three exclamation marks as he put it).

There was not much hype about the show this week due to the gubernatorial elections that took place in Nigeria on Saturday, and lots of people I spoke to (including me) did not watch the performances. However, the videos clips of the performances can be downloaded from the Idols West Africa website available at this link and that's where I headed to watch the clips. So now we are down from 8 performers to 7. We'll see what happens next week.

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Apr 15, 2007

Gubernatorial Election Results

Finally, the Nigeria gubernatorial elections for the year 2007 have come to an end. There have been lots of mixed feelings about the exercise but INEC has declared the voting to be free and fair. Security was tight as armed soldiers and police were deployed all over the country to check violence and possible disruption. That notwithstanding, lots of issues were still recorded. I'll cover the election process in a later article. Right now here are the [partial] complete results of the 2007 gubernatorial elections.
Abia State: Theodore Orji (PPA)
Adamawa State: Murtala Nyako (PDP)
Akwa Ibom State: Godswill Akpabio (PDP)
Anambra State: Andy Uba (PDP)
Bauchi State: Isa Yuguda (ANPP)
Bayelsa State: Timipre Sylva (PDP)
Benue State: Gabriel Suswam (PDP)
Borno State: Ali Modu Sheriff (ANPP)
Cross River State: Liyel Imoke (PDP)
Delta State: Emmanuel Uduaghan (PDP)
Ebonyi State: Martin Elechi (PDP)
Edo State: Oserheimen Osumbor (PDP)
Ekiti State: Olusegun Oni (PDP)
Enugu State: Inconclusive; to be re-run
Gombe State: Mohammed Goje (PDP)
Imo State: Result voided; fresh vote April 28
Jigawa State: Sule Lamido (PDP)
Kaduna State: Mohammed Namadi Sambo (PDP)
Katsina State: Ibrahim Shema (PDP)
Kebbi State: Usman Saidu Nasamu (PDP)
Kogi State: Ibrahim Idris (PDP)
Kwara State: Bukola Saraki (PDP)
Lagos State: Babatunde Fashola (AC)
Nassarawa State: Aliyu Doma (PDP)
Niger State: Muazu Aliyu (PDP)
Ogun State: Gbenga Daniel (PDP)
Ondo State: Olusegun Agagu (PDP)
Osun State: Olagunsoye Oyinlola (PDP)
Oyo State: Christopher Alao-Akala (PDP)
Rivers State: Celestine Omehia (PDP)
Sokoto State: Aliyu Wamakko (PDP)
Yobe State: Mamman Ali (ANPP)
Zamfara State: Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi (ANPP)

These were the results which were ready as at the time of writing this article. These are the final results of the governorship elections announced by INEC as reported by Reuters. PDP has apparently won in a majority of the states - a fact which has given rise to mixed reactions in some of the affected states. Elections appear to have been massively rigged in states like Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo due to the impopularity of the candidates and the PDP in general. Riots, protests and some violence have been recorded in these states.

Akure (Ondo state capital) is said to be a no-go area as residents have chosen to stay indoors fearing for their lives and belongings. Rioters and protesters have gained control of the streets doing what they do best. Edo State's Action Congress (A.C.) candidate who is coincidentally the President of the National Labour Congress (NLC) was the popular choice of the people but he was announced to have lost the elections. Anticipating nonacceptance of the results, the INEC chose to make this announcement in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. That notwithstanding, riots, protests, road blockages and the like have overtaken the city. Oyo state residents also received a shocker when it was announced that the PDP candidate Christopher Alao-Akala had won the elections. He had earlier been accused of massive fraud and looting during a few months of his tenure as the State Governor - an accusation which is still in Court. Ekiti State is also in an uproar, AC was the expected winning party, and AC had already won the house of representatives but contrary to their expectations, the PDP was announced as the winning party.

Suddenly, the real reason for the 2-day unnecessary public holidays seems to have dawned on people. They initially thought it to be a gimmick by the presidency to keep Atiku away from the elections, and they were wondering if public holidays would be declared this week as well. However, it has now been suggested that this tactic is actually against the AC ... because if the court had ruled in Atiku's favour before the governorship elections, it would have been more difficult for the PDP to have rigged or for the INEC to have announced inconsistent results in favor of the PDP. Obasanjo is a strategist and it seems he wants to have the last laugh and say "I told you" ... but Time will tell.

God save our country Nigeria. Long live Nigeria.

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Apr 13, 2007

SMS Scams. Another dimension?

I received an email from a friend some hours ago warning people about some scam SMS messages. It had been forwarded by Interswitch - an electronic transaction switching and payment processing company and the popular provider of ATM cards in Nigeria. Apparently, some fraudsters had been sending some scam SMS messages regarding an upgrade of the Interswitch Network. The contents of the SMS are below -
InterSwitch is upgrading their service, Please go & register UR ATM Cards NOW on www.interswitchnig. com
Only registered ATM cards will work on the ATM Machines
While this looks very genuine and unsuspicious, a scrutiny of the website address will show that it's not Interswitch's website. The real website is www.interswitchng.com (ends with "ng" and not "nig"). Upon visiting the site, unsuspecting victims are asked for their ATM debit card number and pin code. Of course, these details make their way into the fraudster's hands ... after which they can do anything with your card.

This form of scam is known as phishing and has been around for a long time. To think that this it has now made its way into Nigeria is very disheartening. The fraudsters actually registered a very similar domain name and started sending random SMS messages, and unfortunately (as always) some innocent card holders have likely fallen victim.

If you have fallen victim and have already provided your details to the fraudulent website (or to any site at all in response to an SMS), you are advised to change your pin code immediately. The safest way would be to proceed to the nearest ATM machine immediately and change your PIN code from there. You can also do it from the real Interswitch website http://www.interswitchng.com. As a precaution, never respond to such SMS messages without confirming from your bank (which issued you the card) ... and just so you're aware, Interswith will not send you direct SMS to your phone. Their agreement is with your bank and not with you, so all dealings will go through your bank.

This also brings me to another set of scam SMS messages being sent randomly. They are usually in the format below
Congratulations, you are the winner of the Chevron/Shell/MTN/Globacom (etc) promo. You have won N1m/Plasma TV/DVD recorder (etc). Please call 080********. Your control code is #839289 ... etc.
If you call the indicated numbers, the fraudsters try their best to convince you about their genuinity. In the end, you'll be asked to buy recharge cards of a certain amount and text them the recharge PIN. Do this, and you'll never hear from them again. These SMS messages look very genuine, but don't be deceived. If you didn't partake in any promo, you're not going to get any promo congratulatory message. In addition, such companies will never send you SMS messages notifying you of a winning. Rather, they'll call you. Also never send a recharge pin code to someone you don't know. Real companies will not ask you to do this for any reason at all.

Stay informed, stay protected. Don't get scammed!

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Apr 10, 2007

Idols West Africa - Goodbye Joan!

Another week has gone by, another Sunday group of presentations, another mass of SMS & web votes, another Monday set of results and finally, another Idol contestant goes home. This time it was 27 year old Joan Ekpai who got the least votes ... and had to say goodbye to the Idols West Africa competition. She performed Kasey Cisyk's "You light up my life" which she performed with great voice talents, but little to go by way of performance, and the judges didn't waste words in showing their displeasure at that. For Joan, it's been some journey, from the auditions (where she blew the minds of the judges) through all the performances and finally to her last performance in the top 9. Her voice is a unique one and so far, she has displayed the highest pitch out of all the lady contestants. She had this to say during her Exit Interview "I believe the public has the final say. I won’t say they have not made the right choice. Thank you [the public] very much for bringing me this far. Watch out for me". I'll be watching, and I hope to see her soon.

This week, the contestants were made to choose songs in line with the theme "Golden Oldies"... and frantically speaking, their performances were not up to par at all. They all just barely managed to pull it through. It only confirms how "new age" our generation has become. The best performances for me were Uche's "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole and Jodie's with Aretha Franklin's "Respect". Uche did a Nat King Cole song and for those who know Nat King Cole, you'll realize this is no easy feat. He drove the crowd crazy when he pulled out a red rose during his performance and handed it over to a ecstatic female fan in the audience. Unknown to him though (and ironically), the lady is Temitayo George's sister and she handed the rose to her sister during her performance! For Jodie, it was "As Usual". She's the only performer who has drawn a standing ovation from the judges every time she performs and I can safely say she has no rival in the top 10. She delivered with an expertise I've not seen in the competition.

This time, it seemed Timi had learned his lesson. He kept his notes within range and wasn't screaming toward the end of his song like he usually did. Taking the classic "Ain't no mountain high enough" by Diana Ross, he showcased his performance and stage skills and got the crowd screaming. Omawumi was remarkable too. For the first time, she took a slow song, and for the first time, we heard her voice. Her start-off was wonderful and I was wondering why she had been hiding behind fast songs, but it stopped "werking for me" when she went off key after the modulation. She found her way back soon after though, and this was remarkable - Not many people can do that. Eric, the "Fine Boy" of the group took "Signed, sealed, delivered" by Stevie Wonder and he "delivered". It was further learnt that he had been battling with illness the whole week but despite that, he still performed well. I think that's just great.

Like Omawumi, Temitayo's rendition of "Somewhere over the rainbow" by Judy Garland was her first slow song. Her performance was great though, but her voice is better suited for fast songs and her dynamics were not too smooth. Mercy was a different person this week when she performed "If I can't have you" by Yvonne Elliman. She's got a great voice and she put up a great performance ... although she needs to work on her facial expressions. Jerilyn's rendition of "Don't leave me this way" by Thelma Houston was kind of average but she did better than her performance last week. She started a bit shaky but she ended well.

The judges made me angry throughout the performance as they all gave awkward judgements which I found hard to accept. Dan especially gave some funny judgments while Dede kept on referring to special guest Onyeka Onwenu's expressions while giving his judgments. There was also some open disagreements between the judges.

So now we are left with 8 contestants - 5 girls and 3 guys. The guys seem to be surviving quite well. Next week, the contestants are performing around the "New Age" theme as they select very recent songs. I look forward to Jodie, Uche, Eric, Timi and Omawumi's performances. I predict these guys will be in the top five. The top 9 performances are available on the Idols West Africa website available here, so if you missed out on the performances or you don't stay within DSTV or MNet coverage, you can be updated. See you all next week.

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Apr 9, 2007

Lagos BRT Project and "Presentation Skills"

About this time last year, Lagosians awoke to a new look on some major roads within the metropolis. Yellow lane dividers appeared overnight as if from thin air. These lines looked conspicuous and out of place. Initial speculations were about some companies which use yellow as their brand color, and some wondered if bill boards had become so scarce such that adverts were now being painted on the roads. It was also curious that the yellow marks only marked the inner lanes and not the outer ones. Not long after, "BRT LANE" signs were painted within the demarcated lanes. Aha! A clue had manifested and trust Lagosians, they made good use of this clue. Emails began flying around advising people about the meaning of BRT lanes. Lagosians drew their conclusions and the general message was "Keep off the BRT lanes!". The next couple of months would see some keeping off the lanes while some refused. However, neither an official bulletin nor a statement was issued by the State Government and soon all the hype of BRT died down.

Early this year, the State Government suddenly announced that private vehicles should stop driving along BRT lanes or risk paying a fine of N50000. It was also announced that the BRT lanes would be used exclusively for a new project tagged "Lagos Bus Rapid Transit project" - a new transportation system that would be managed by Lagbus Asset Management Limited, a bus transport company floated by the state government in conjunction with Cairo-based Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM Bank). This project was aimed at alleviating the transport situation in Lagos, easing traffic bottlenecks by inviting workers to leave their cars at home and joining the buses to their places of work, reduce crime rate on the highways and generally make life easier on the roads. Despite these advantages, Lagosians welcomed the news with mixed feelings. Most of the marked roads had only 3 lanes which were barely enough for the quantity of cars that drive through at any given time. Isolating a lane meant reducing the available lanes to two, subsequently leading to an increase in traffic bottlenecks, hold-ups, and more road trouble - the exact opposite of what was intended. I gave the state government some scores for this project.
Innovation - great
Ideas - great
Presentation - Zero
I congratulate the government on the ideas behind such a good and very necessary project (and I'm not being sarcastic), however, they still have a lot to learn by way of presentation. The first message from the government to Lagosians was "Don't drive on the BRT lanes or pay a fine of N50000" This can only confirm some elements of the "dictatorship" style leadership which we have become used to (and tired of!). There was no explanation for the lanes when the order given, no enlightenment and already some hostility was created in the minds of people towards whatever project was being expected. Statements like "They have come again", "FRSC/LASTMA/Police want another way to chop our money" were not uncommon. The project had already made some early enemies whilst still in the implementation stage - all due to inadequate presentation skills.

A good presentation plan would have been -
  • Intimate the masses about the advantages of having an efficient transport system
  • Create massive awareness and publicize the vision and aims of the project
  • Encourage workers to leave their cars at home and join the buses to their places of work
  • Announce a launch date and make tickets available in advance. Encourage everyone to participate in the launch of the transport system and probably give out some free tickets.
  • Close to the launch date, paint the BRT lanes and explain why it would be best to have a dedicated lane for the Buses.
If such steps had been followed, people would not complain as much as they do now. After the first day of operation, many would see the advantage of joining the buses. This would result in less cars on the streets and thus the effect of the BRT lanes would not be felt. More and more people would stop depending on their cars and soon the city would resemble places like London where the bus system is used extensively and you hardly find people driving during the day. As at the time of writing this article, the BRT buses are only patronized by those who don't have cars, and a few car owners I've spoken to have no plans to abandon their cars and start joining these buses.

Nigeria is indeed getting better with projects like this coming out. However I hope that our leaders will realize that presentation is a very important part in the implementation of any project. A bad presentation can cause the failure of any project no matter how good and well-meaning it is. As Nigeria gets better and more developed, I hope that all such projects shall be presented appropriately.

It's time to bring out some lessons from this. The BRT project only shows how bad presentation can ruin a project. One skill I've always prided myself in is the ability to make a good presentation ... and I know how ideas can catch on if presented properly. How do you present your own ideas? Are your presentation skills good or bad? Have you written proposals or planned projects which have failed due to bad presentation? It's time to work on those presentation skills. Every man who has created a revolution (from the days of old till now) has started with communicating and presenting a vision. Work on your presentation skills today and you'll find yourself gaining more acceptance, and achieving more success in your career, business, home and life in general. I wish you (and the BRT project) good luck in your endeavours.

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Apr 5, 2007

Idols West Africa - Omodele goes home

Omodele Fatoki, the youngest contestant in the Idols West Africa top 10, is out! She was one of the two contestants who got the wildcard votes from the judges. Her rendition of "Here and now" by Luther Vandross started off quite well and she put some impressive twists in the song ... however towards the end, she kind of lost it and tended to go flat. Watching her previous performances, it's obvious she chose the wrong song. In an interview which she granted later, she said "I wasn’t feeling too well. I believe this is how far God wants me to go in this show and He has something bigger for me". A statement which displayed true team spirit. She will be returning to school to complete her studies in Internal Relations. We hope to see her taking her dreams and her voice beyond the competition.

The best performances of the day were Jodie, Eric and Timi. Jodie as usual did a great job singing Aretha Franklin's "You make me feel like a natural woman". I expected more though but she still outdid all other female contestants by a wide margin. Timi's performance abilities came out well during his performance of Luther Vandross' "Dance with my father" which he delivered with a combination of performance and voice skill. However, his start-off key was way too high and his voice went into a strain after the modulation. Despite that, he had the crowd singing along with him in no time. Eric's performance was another good one. He added a twist to the old Boys II Men classic "End of the road" when he included a "Call & Response" towards the end of the song.

Uche did a good job with John Legend's "Used to love you". He came on stage dressed the part, and put up a great performance. A slow classic song would be the best for him next ... so his voice can be heard properly. Temitayo & Omawumi seem to be sticking with the fast songs theme - which coincidentally don't bring out the best in their voice. Temitayo's voice doesn't seem like a good one for slows and she might well be better off hiding behind fast songs but Omawumi would be better trying a slower song which will bring out her voice dynamics. The theory is "The faster the song, the more you dance, the less breath you have and thus the more shaky and unstable your voice is"

Liberian "girl with a story" Jerrilyn's performance was better than her performance in the top 24, although it seems like her story is still working for her more than her voice. Mercy and Joan were great but not the best - Mercy strained a little towards the end of her song and Joan was just plain (no tricks, no surprises). They'll both need to step up their game in their next performances. Mercy will need to work more on her performance skills. She has the voice but her performance was just average. Overall, I think the last 5 to come up did much better than the first 5. Talk about saving the best for the last. My predictions for the top three contenders are 2 of the guys (Probably Timi and Eric) and Jodie - Jodie obviously has the best voice out of all the ladies and the three guys are just great.

Another contestant will be leaving the group on Monday. My predictions are either Jerrilyn, Temitayo, Joan or Mercy. I don't see any of the guys leaving soon. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the results are usually unpredictable and are left to the voters. I'll keep my fingers crossed and wait for the performances. I hope we get to see some pleasant surprises. I see the Idols West Africa contest creating a change in the Nigerian music scene within the next few months as dropped contestants take their music beyond the competition. Watch out!

For those who didn't get a chance to watch the performances, you can still do so on the Idols West Africa website here. You can also view some clips of interviews with the Top 10 contestants here. Have Fun.

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Apr 3, 2007

Attention Please! Calling all Nigerian Writers!

I received a mail some time ago. It's about BHF magazine - a new magazine to be launched soon. Since I can't forward the mail to everyone, I've attached it below. Please read and take the necessary steps if you're interested. The objectives of this magazine align with mine and I'll definitely be a part of it. I like this quote from the introductory message
"... igniting a change in my perception and the perception of others about my country Nigeria ..."
The vision of the magazine can be found in the third paragraph in the mail below. This is the kind of project I think the world needs. Read on ...

My name is Sade Adelekan and I am managing editor of a vibrant, new Nigerian magazine.

BHF Magazine is an exciting new contemporary Nigerian Lifestyle Publication launching in Summer 2007. It is the brainchild of entrepreneurial couple Geoffrey and Jennifer Olisa.

The vision of BHF Magazine is simple. We are looking to dispel the narrow view of Nigerians that exists today by educating the masses through the lens of the lives of modern Nigerians by introducing the world to our music, fashion, art, culture and way of life.

This is where you come in! It's time to Write, Write, Write...We are looking for articles from all of you. We want you to write on the following topics:

* Fashion
* Art
* Design
* Music
* Pop Culture
* Technology
* Business/Entrepreneurship
* Topical Issues (Whatever is on your mind today, relevant to the Nigerian experience, that you have something to say about.)

We Need Articles Now!!

They do not have to be long. One page. Longer, if you feel inspired and have more to say.
This is a unique opportunity to have your voice heard and be part of something Ground Breaking!!!

All articles and related images should be sent to: editor@bhfmagazine.com

So Pick Up Those Pens And Get Writing!!!... We are the Now Generation and it's about time we let the world see what we are truly all about!!!

Whether you are a college student, budding entrepreneur, musician, artist, model, photographer, journalist, poet, writer, lawyer, nurse, architect, graphic designer, you name it; we want to hear from you!!! We already have pre-order subscriptions in anticipation of what is going to be a spectacular summer launch. The buzz is on!

For more, go to BHF Magazine now.

So spread the word! We look forward to reading your articles!!!

It's all about creating a better perspective about Nigeria ... and if you use e-mail or you participate in some online forums, you're definitely aware of the type of perspective people have about Nigerians.

OK, you've read it, you've heard her. Now get to work. If you have any problems getting in touch or submitting your article, please contact me and I'll show you how to. Remember, it's all about changing the image of Nigeria... presenting our country through the eyes of normal people and letting the world know that we are not all fraudulent, 419s, thieves or drug dealers. Hope to see your articles on BHF. Mine will be there.

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