Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sweeping under the carpet, Yinka Davies in London and an almighty blogspat

Another busy week ahead at work, and therefore it’s difficult to find time to post on here. And yet it seems that there is so much to blog on- in Nigeria, the recent riots against the Danish cartoons in Maiduguri that tragically left (depending on whose figures you accept) 16 or 56 Southern Nigerians dead and the taking of 9 foreign oil workers as hostages (no confusion over the figures there) by the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The tragic and senseless deaths had me, like many asking, “What on earth did Southern Christians in Northern Nigeria have to do with the publication of cartoons in Denmark? What warped logic could justify this orgy of bloodletting, which has become the hallmark of many protests in Muslim Northern Nigeria?” In another Northern Nigerian state, Katsina, riots against the alleged third term ambitions of President Obasanjo also left several wounded and some people killed.

The previous set of hostages taken last month were released following government negotiations with the hostage takers, but then the bombing of a village in the Niger Delta by the Nigerian Air Force angered the militants and led to this fresh round of hostage taking. The thread running through both incidents is the absence of any genuine in depth attempt to address the issues- a sweeping under the carpet that ensures that these issues continue to recur on a fairly regular basis……….

At the weekend, I watched as thousands of Muslims marched through central London, protesting against the cartoons. The tension was palpable and many of the white bystanders failed to meet my gaze, and a couple exchanging disapproving comments, stopped abruptly as they approached me- perhaps conflating my blackness with being Muslim- perhaps signifying that the discomfort was more to do with otherness than anything else……….Is this another issue being swept under the carpet that might rise up to smack us in the face in the future? Jeff Tayler, an American journalist who travelled through the Sahel thinks so and lays out why in his travel book The Lost Kingdoms of Africa which I’m reading at the moment- cognizant of the usual health warning when reading a book written by a Westerner about Africa……

The jailing in Austria yesterday of David Irving, the British historian for Holocaust denial coming on the heels of the debates over freedom of speech revealed again how complicated the issue is. Would an Austrian journalist who published the offending Danish cartoons have been jailed? And if not, are there double standards at work? I think it is important to re-examine these issues as it is these perceptions that fuel much hatred and bitterness……

On a more cheering note, I was delighted to see that the multitalented Nigerian singer Yinka Davies, whose debut CD Emin Lo http://snipurl.com/msbv has been a permanent fixture on my play list, features on the new Lagos No Shaking CD by Tony Allen, Fela’s percussionist http://snipurl.com/msbn which has received fairly good reviews in the UK press http://snipurl.com/msby , http://snipurl.com/msc6 , http://snipurl.com/msc4 . Unfortunately I was unable to be at their concert last night at Cargo in Old Street, but will surely be getting my hands on that CD as soon as I can……..

Meanwhile an almighty blogspat is brewing on Jeremy Weate's excellent naijablog over a post provocatively entitled "It's 2006 abroad but 1956 in Nigeria"http://snipurl.com/mscd

3 comments:

sokari said...

You mean the one where other bloggers are vindictively insulted?

Anonymous said...

I find you remark about westerners writing about africa rather tired and unecessary... Not befitting an intelligent and educated man - especially after what was written above - but there you go...

uknaija said...

Yes, Owukori...that's the one....nuff said

Anonymous, I'm afraid my health warning is the consequence of my personal experience (and my intelligence and education I might add). There is no denying that there is a persistent narrative about Africa in Western writing (I refer you for one to Binyavanga Wainaina's excellent essay in Granta How to Write About Africa http://www.granta.com/extracts/2615. And a health warning is just that- it doesn't say don't read the book, it says be aware of the context

Thanks for dropping by