“My name is Nigeria, I need Re-building, not Re-branding!” by Onyema Uche

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

I came across this article on Nigeria, which can be applied to many countries in Africa.  This is more of a wake up call, rather than just a critic.  This expresses a need for re-building the minds, the brains, and the experiences of Africans.  This is very close to the poem ‘No More‘ by Kelvin Karani.  You can read the entire article on African Spotlight.  So, after reading this article, I would like to you to answer these questions: Do African countries need re-branding or re-building?  How do we stop importing and start producing ourselves?  Since we have all that is needed to feed ourselves, how do we get to the level where every child is well-fed? How do we improve our infrastructures, etc…?  Thomas Sankara managed, in less than 4 years as president, to bring his country to the level of food self-sufficiency. How do we get rid of our debts? How do we create jobs for our youths? What is needed to come out of this inferno cycle? While you are at it, please watch Thomas Sankara’s speech on eliminating the debt.


Few days ago, I spent 10 billion Naira to celebrate my 52nd birthday! I am Nigeria!!!.

I am divided into 36 unequal states, plus my capital territory, christened ABUJA . I have millions of acres of arable land and billions of cubic litres of water, but I cannot feed myself. So I spend $1 billion to import rice and another $2 billion to import milk. I produce rice, but don’t eat it. I have 60 million cattle but no milk. I have the capacity to feed the whole of Africa but I import most food instead. I am hungry, please help and re-build me. […]
I wanted change so I stood all day long to cast my vote. But even before I could vote, the results had been announced. When I dared to speak out, silence was enthroned by bullets. My rulers are my oppressors, and my policemen are my terrors. I am ruled by men in mufti, but I am not a democracy. I have no verve, no vote, no voice, please re-build me.
I have over 50 million youths with no jobs, no present and no future. So my sons in the North have become street urchins and their brothers in the South have become militants. My nephews die of thirst in the Sahara and their cousins drown in the waters of the Mediterranean.  My daughters walk the streets of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt , while their sisters parade the streets of Rome and Amsterdam. I am inconsolable, please re-build me.
Bend Skin
Bend Skin in Cameroon (known as Okada in Nigeria)
My people cannot sleep at night and cannot relax by day.  They cannot use ATM machines, nor use cheques. My children sleep through the staccato of AK 47′s, see through the mist of tear gas, while we all inhale Carbon Monoxide, poisonous CO-2 from popular ‘I better pass my neighbour’ (portable generators) and ‘Okada’ (motorbike taxis) The leaders have looted everything on ground and below. They walk the land with haughty strides and fly the skies with private jets (28 of which were bought in the last 12 months). They have stolen the future of generations yet unborn and have money they cannot spend in several lifetimes, but their brothers die of hunger. I want justice, please re-build me.
I can produce anything, but import everything. So my toothpick is made in China; my toothpaste is made in South Africa; my salt is made in Ghana; my butter is made in Ireland; my milk is made in Holland; my shoe is made in Italy; my vegetable oil is made in Malaysia; my biscuit is made in Indonesia; my chocolate is made in Turkey and my table water made in France. My taste is far-flung and foreign. I no longer cook at home but take pride in eating at take-away outlets fashioned after the Western style of living. Anything made in my land is inferior; I prefer those made in England, America or Europe . To crown it all, items made in my land but specifically sent abroad with made in England labels are brought back from ‘Oyinbo’ land at 5 times the original price it would have gone for had it been sold as home made, please re-brand me. […]
 … I have four (4) refineries, but prefer to import fuel, so I waste more billions to import petrol and diesel. I have no security in my country, but would rather send troops to keep the peace in another man’s land. I have 160 dams, but cannot get water to drink, so I buy ‘pure’ water that broils my inwards. I have a million children waiting to enter universities, but my ivory dungeons can only take a tenth (10 %).  I have no power (electricity), but choose to flare gas, and vote billion of dollars every year to generate electricity but not a single watt has come from it. So, my people have learnt to see in the dark and stare at the glare of naked flares. I have no direction, please re-build me.
Children begging
Children begging
My people pray to God every morning and every night, but commit every crime known to man because re-branded identities will never alter the tunes of inbred rhythms. Just as the drums of heritage heralds the frenzied jingles, remember – the Nigerian soul can only be Nigerianfighting free from the cold embrace of a government that has no spring, no sense, no shame. So we watch the possessed, frenzied dance, drenched in silent tears as freedom is locked up in democracy’s empty cellars. I need guidance, please re-build me.
But then, why can I not simply be me, without being re-branded? Or does my complexion cloud the colour of my character? Does my location limit the lengths of my liberty? Does the spirit of my conviction shackle my soul? Does my mien maim the mine of my mind? And is this life worth re-branding? Is it re-branding that I need or complete re-building?…
To re-build a wobbling structure, there is need for dismantling of existing one (remember, if the foundation can be destroyed, what can the righteous do?).. Shall I then consider the idea muted by some of my own who have fled abroad? Some call for ‘Separation for Co-operation’ , others call for true Federalism – while others are yet asking for the return to Parliamentary system. Which way do I go? on October 1, 2009, I celebrated my 50th birthday and my 52nd was just celebrated. I do not want to carry on in my golden age without direction, … so, please, help me God. Re-mould and Re-Build me.
By Onyema Uche

Why the name: Cotonou?

Benin with its map and flag
Benin with its map and flag

When I was little, I always wondered why the name Cotonou was given to a major city in Benin.  I used to think that the name was probably a French transcription of the word ‘coton’ (cotton) for ‘coton – ou’, and that maybe there used to be a lot of cotton there … but nowhere did I find cotton to be the main export or agriculture of Cotonou or Benin.

For starters, Cotonou is the largest city and the economic capital of the Republic of Benin.  Cotonou is known in West Africa for its international market Dantokpa, which is hosted over 20-hectares, and is the largest market in the whole of West Africa, generating over 1 billion CFA-Franc per day.  Cotonou is also well-known for its Zemidjans (or moto-taxis, similar to the Cameroonian bend-skins), and its pollution arising from its use of bad petrol (essence frelatée) also known as kpayo, which is fraudulously imported from neighboring Nigeria.

Cotonou, today.
Cotonou, today.

Located on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoué, and the Atlantic ocean, Cotonou’s name comes from the Fon language and means “mouth of the river of death.”  At the beginning of the 19th century, Kotonou (as it was then spelled) was a small fishing village.  It was originally ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey until a treaty made with the French by King Ghezo in 1851 allowed the French to establish a trading post at Cotonou.  When Glèlè succeeded to his father Ghezo, the territory of Kotonou was ceded to France by a treaty signed on 19 May 1868.  After Glèlè’s death in 1889, his son Behanzin tried, unsuccessfully, to challenge the treaty.  The town Cotonou then developed itself quickly to become today the largest harbor in the region.

As the economic capital of the republic of Benin, Cotonou hosts 2/3 of the industries of the country, and is the seat of the main enterprises and banks of Benin.  It also hosts many of the governmental institutions of the country.  It is now the turntable of commerce in the region, especially because of its close proximity with the Nigerian border (and used to be a place for the conversion of the naira), and is the main port for its neighbor land-locked Niger, which is the world’s first producer of uranium. Enjoy this nice video of Cotonou by benin-passion.com.

“Je vous Remercie Mon Dieu” de Bernard B. Dadie / “I Thank You God” from Bernard Binlin Dadie

Today, We will look at a poem by the most celebrated Ivorian writer Bernard Binlin Dadié.  The poem below is titled “I Thank you God” or “I thank you my God,” and it is an ode to us Africans, raising the self-esteem.  Dadié writes here about his pride of being born Black, around independence, when the colonizer had almost beaten out of us our pride of being Black, our pride of being ‘us’.  Enjoy! a great poem from Bernard B. Dadié.

Je vous remercie mon Dieu,             de m’avoir créé Noir,
d’avoir fait de moi
la somme de toutes les douleurs,
mis sur ma tête,
le Monde.
J’ai la livrée du Centaure
Et je porte le Monde depuis le premier matin.

Le blanc est une couleur de circonstance
Le noir, la couleur de tous les jours
Et je porte le Monde depuis le premier soir.

Je suis content
de la forme de ma tête
faite pour porter le Monde,
de la forme de mon nez
Qui doit humer tout le vent du Monde,
de la forme de mes jambes
Prêtes à courir toutes les étapes du Monde.

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir,
d’avoir fait de moi,
la somme de toutes les douleurs.
Trente-six épées ont transpercé mon coeur.
Trente-six brasiers ont brûlé mon corps.
Et mon sang sur tous les calvaires a rougi la neige,
Et mon sang à tous les levants a rougi la nature.

Je suis quand même
Content de porter le Monde,
Content de mes bras courts
de mes bras longs
de l’épaisseur de mes lèvres.

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir,
Je porte le Monde depuis l’aube des temps
Et mon rire sur le Monde,
dans la nuit
crée le jour.

I thank you God,                               for making me black,
for making me
the sum of all pains,
putting on my head
the world.
I took the world to the Centaur
And I have carried the world since the first morning.

White is a color of                               circumstance
Black is the color of every day
And I have carried the world since the first evening.

I am happy
with the shape of my head
shaped to carry the world,
with the shape of my nose
which has to smell all the scents of the world,
with the shape of my legs
ready to run all the steps of the           world.

I thank you God, for having created me black
for having made me
the sum of all pains.
Thirty-six swords have pierced my heart.
Thirty-six brasiers have burned my body.
And my blood for all the suffering reddened the snow,
And my blood made the                      east red.

I am still
Happy to carry the world,
happy with my short arms
                of my long arms
                        of my thick lips.

I thank you God, for having created me black,
I carry the world since the beginning of times
And my laughter on the world,
                 at night
                      created the day.

The Boubou: A Traditional African Garment

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, famous for his boubous
President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, famous for his grand boubous

Yesterday I wore my green boubou with intricate gold embroidery in the front for a special African celebration.  To say that I looked like royalty is simply an understatement.  I looked majestic!  So, for starters, you might ask me what is a boubou?  Well, a boubou (or bubu, or grand boubou, or grand bubu) is an African garment worn by men and women in much of West Africa, and parts of Central Africa.  The boubou generally consists of up to three pieces: a long-sleeved shirt, a pair of tie-up trousers that narrow at the ankles, and an open-stitched overflowing wide sleeveless gown worn over these two; all three are usually the same color, and were historically made from silk, but nowadays are made up of cotton or sometimes synthetic fabric made to resemble silk.  The whole will be incomplete without a hat or chechia of any color.  A woman’s boubou would differ from a man’s boubou by the fact that it will consists of two pieces: a wrapper at the bottom, and a large overflowing gown to top it all off, and of course an intricate headscarf.  Its name comes from the wolof ‘mbubb’, which made it into French, as boubou.  In Yoruba, it is known as agbada; in Hausa, it is babban riga, while in Tuareg, it is k’sa grand boubou.

Woman wearing a boubou
Woman wearing a boubou

The tradition of the boubou is old, and can be traced back to as far as the 8th century.  Its origin lies with the clothing worn by the Islamized Tukulor (Toucouleur), Mandé, and Songhai peoples of the great Takrur and Ghana empires, and 13th century Mali and Songhai empires.  In West Africa, the nobles of the different people were already wearing a garment more or less similar to the actual boubou.  The different patterns in the embroidery already had precise meanings which varied for different ethnic groups and regions.  The rest of the population, in majority craftsmen and farmers, wore garments similar to tunics for the upper body, and a wrapper or baggy trousers for the lower body.

In the past, in West Africa and Central Africa, only Islamized peoples used to wear the boubou: Fulani, Toucouleur, etc. … the other ethnic groups all had their own traditional garments of more or less similar genre.  With trade among the peoples, the fashion industry, many African stylists (such as Alphadi) have specialized into the boubou and it has now gained international exposure.

The video below is short and simple, and addresses the boubou.  It is a small documentary from Arte. Enjoy!

Commemoration: 11 April 2011, the day Côte d’Ivoire was defaced!

Cote d'Ivoire
Cote d’Ivoire

It was on 11 April 2011, exactly 2 years ago, that Côte d’Ivoire, the land of the elephants, was defaced!  Yes…  I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks as I watched an African country being bombed by a foreign country (France) for … frauds during elections.  Before then, I had heard the term ‘francafrique‘, but always thought that it belonged to the past, and never for once thought that in this day and age, after African nations had just celebrated “50 years of independence”, we could be bombed.   See the irony of everything?  How could our people celebrate 50 years of independence in 2010, and then be bombed in 2011, because of internal affairs?  Whether anybody likes it or not, what happened in Côte d’Ivoire was an internal affair: fraud during elections, and international observers sent in to monitor elections all said that there were frauds in the northern part perpetrated by the armed rebels of Alassane Dramane Ouattara (ADO).  Since Gbagbo was the man to take down, we then heard that the ‘international community’ was summoning Gbagbo to step down.  Who remembers this nice ‘international community’ summoning Bush to let Al Gore take power after election fraud in the US in 2000?

And ever since, France and the ‘developed’ nations have not stopped bombing us: they even ganged up to bomb Libya, now Mali, Central African Republic, … it’s like “who is going to be next?”  Yes… centuries and years before, Africa was raped… but it never just stared you in the face like this… or rather they did not openly bomb us?  Is it true?  the Napalm bombs dropped in Cameroon during the independence war, or the bombs used in Algeria during the Algerian war, or in Madagascar claim otherwise. …  I guess in 50 years of independence, our history books had always been written by others, and we willingly let ourselves be brainwashed.

Laurent Gbagbo
Laurent Gbagbo

Some may ask “why are you writing this now? what good will it do? ADO is in power, Gbagbo is in prison, so there is nothing else to do.” Well…  my friends, you sound like losers.  We owe it to future generations to write “our” story ourselves, tell “our” side of history.  Everybody, or at least … nobody should spend 50 years thinking that they were independent like we did for the past 50.  We all need to know that Gbagbo stood for a higher fight, and bravely stood for his country.  Because of him we all openly saw what happened in Côte d’Ivoire: how the head of the electoral commission was ‘bribed’ by the French and American ambassadors in Côte d’Ivoire, how Africa was bribed with stupid temporary seats on the UN security council (South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon), how the Nigerian president was called 11 times in a day by the French one (Sarkozy) to force the CEDEAO and ECOMOG to military intervene in Côte d’Ivoire, how Jacob Zuma (the president of South Africa) abandoned Gbagbo (like he later did with Kadhafi, in a 360-degree turn), how the African Union was full of stupid cowards who all sided with the European union, how the international community declared an embargo on medicine (drugs), and refused to deliver any drugs as the country was being bombed, how they blocked cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire (the number one producer of Cocoa in the world) until after ADO took over, how the African intelligentsia just crucified Gbagbo and 50% of Ivorians in a go (without ever voicing a word of reason), how Gbagbo was betrayed by his main generals (Mangou and Kassaraté), and finally how France bombed the presidency of Côte d’Ivoire, murdering thousands on its way.  The list is so long… and Yes… we all saw it… and today some are silent… we have to write… it is our duty to our children.

Our celebrated writer, Chinua Achebe said:  “There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” …  “It’s not one man’s job.  It’s not one person’s job.  But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions.”

Cloud Eating


Jackal and Hyena were together, it is said, when a white cloud rose.  Jackal descended upon it, and ate of the cloud as if it were fat.

When he wanted to come down, he said to Hyena, “My sister, as I am going to divide with thee, catch me well.”  So she caught him, and broke his fall. Then she also went up and ate there, high up on the top of the cloud.

When she was satisfied, she said, “My greyish brother, now catch me. well.”  The greyish rogue said to his friend, “My sister, I shall catch thee well.  Come therefore down.”

He held up his hands, and she came down from the cloud, and when she was near, Jackal cried out (painfully jumping to one side), “My sister, do not take it ill. Oh me! Oh me! A thorn has pricked me and sticks in me.” Thus she fell down from above, and was sadly hurt.

Since that day, it is said that Hyena’s hind feet have been shorter and smaller than the front ones.

South African Folk Tales, by James A. Honey, 1910, Baker & Taylor Company.