Flying Witches and Africans.


When superstitious beliefs go unchallenged, they sometimes take very bizarre forms. Sometimes they are regarded as ‘science’ and promoted openly and confidently as if they are based on facts and evidence. They could be vested with sacredness and shielded from critical examination and scrutiny. Superstitions are often invoked by politicians to demonstrate power, legitimacy and authority.

Embracing superstitions should call into question a people’s mental state and cause others to question their claim to rationality. Making superstitious claims should reinforce the idea that some human beings are backward, trapped in pre-modern age and still down the ladder of human civilization  in an unenlightened state. Irrational beliefs expressed publicly by public leaders embarrass a nation and a generation. This is the case in Swaziland.

Some months ago, the aviation authorities in the Swaziland issued a statement which surprised many people around the globe. They warned that high-flying witches would be penalized. High-flying witches? Be penalized? Swaziland Corporate Affairs Director Sabelo Dlamini actually said, “A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the [150-metre] limit.” Wow!

Of course, on hearing this directive one may think it was something made up by someone bent on discrediting Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Far from it, it was a policy statement from the aviation authorities in Swaziland to regulate ‘witch-flights’ in this 21st century.

You may have wondered if there are still human beings who take seriously the notion of a ‘flying witch’. Yes, there are! The people in Swaziland do actually believe this as reflected in the country’s new law.

It is not only in Swaziland that the notion of a ‘flying witch’ is taken seriously. In fact, across Africa, people believe strongly that witches fly, in various forms, shapes and sizes most often at night.

Some more educated Africans believe witches carry out their nocturnal flights, not physically or in ways that could be detected or regulated by aviation authorities- but spiritually. It is only when things go wrong in the course of the supposedly ‘spiritual flight’ and the witches crash land that they are exposed physically. Witch doctors or anyone with magical powers is believed to be able to spiritually track a flying witch. 

Across Southern Africa, there is a belief that witches fly at night in winnowing baskets. Recently, two alleged ‘witches’ were arrested by the police in Zimbabwe after they ‘crash-landed’ outside a house in Harare. They were found with a ‘live owl, two winnowing baskets, and ‘an assortment of witchcraft related paraphernalia’. The two women have been charged to court for ‘engaging in practices commonly associated with witchcraft’

The idea of a flying witch is all nonsense to educated humanity but is taken as absolute truth by millions of Africans. Witch flight makes so much sense to the people in Zimbabwe that the authorities could charge these ‘poor women’ to court and not be laughed out of office. The idea of flying witches is of such significance that the government of Swaziland has now decided to regulate it.

Have the authorities ever caught a witch flying on a broomstick in the country’s air space? Some flying witches were reportedly caught in Zimbabwe, but they were pictured sitting on the ground. Why can’t any of the Africa’s ‘flying witches’ be caught or photographed flying? Why are ‘magic planes’ always pictured lying on the ground? Why can’t they be captured flying even if it is few centimeters above the ground? These are critical questions Africans have yet to ask.

We must break the spell of ignorance that hangs over Africa. Fearful ignorant minds wasting precious resources fighting imaginary witches in winnowing baskets must be replaced with educated, honest people administering the forward progress of an emerging continent with real needs.

Are the authorities in Swaziland and Zimbabwe listening to the future calling?

Written by: Leo Igwe

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Political Unrest and Social Media

In the spring of 2011, the world watched as revolutionary fervor swept the Middle East, from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Syria and beyond. Startling images captured by civilians on the scene were viewed by people around the world, courtesy of distribution via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even mainstream media. There can be no doubt that information and communication technologies, in particular burgeoning social media, played a part in the upheavals. But, questions continue to dog political theorists and social scientists.
Rita Safranek, in her journal, “The Emerging Role of Social Media in Political and Regime Change” pushed forward the question that has been on everybody’s mind: just how much of a role did the different media play and which ones in which countries provided the biggest impact?


The Philippines

On January 17, 2001, during the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, loyalists in the Philippine Congress voted to set aside key evidence against him. Less than two hours after the decision, activists, with the help of forwarded text messages, were able to organize a protest at a major crossroads in Manila. Over the next few days, over a million people arrived. “The public’s ability to coordinate such a massive and rapid response – close to seven million text messages were sent that week – so alarmed the country’s legislators that they reversed course and allowed the evidence to be presented. … The event marked the first time that social media had helped force out a national leader” (Shirkey). On January 20, 2011, Estrada re-signed.

Moldova

The first widely-recognized use of social media as a tool of political revolution occurred in Moldova in 2009. Activists used Facebook, LiveJournal (an electronic diary service/social network), and Twitter to organize protests and bring attention to the political unrest in the former Soviet republic. Interestingly enough, during the protests, Russian-language Tweeters debated the role of social-net-working tools in organizing the demonstration (Hodge). On April 6, 2009, following disputed general elections, protests broke out in the capital. On April 7, protestors were joined by opposition leaders in front of government offices in the capital. The demonstrators’ numbers had grown from 10,000 the day be-fore to nearly 30,000, in a metropolitan area of about 900,000. “Word had been spreading rapidly via Twitter and other online networking services. The official media carried no coverage, but accounts, pictures, and video of the rally were appearing in real time on Twitter and YouTube” (MungiuPippidi & Munteanu). Although the protestors failed to prompt a change of leadership or a new election, they got the world to focus on a small, remote country, and digital activism became recognized as a source of political power (Amin).

Iran

In June 2009, Neda Agha-Soltan and some friends headed to the center of Tehran, Iran, to join an anti-government protest following the disputed presidential election. Stuck in traffic, she got out of the car. Agha-Soltan was shot and died. Video of her death was captured on a cell phone. “With links to the video posted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the amateur clip eventually harnessed the attention of the mainstream media, grabbing headlines on CNN and in the ‘New York Times.’ Agha-Soltans’ death became a symbol for the Iranian anti-government movement, and online social media amplified that symbol for the rest of the world to see” (Amin).

Tunisia

In December 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi set fire to himself – “a desperate act of defiance following his denied attempts to work as a street vendor to support his family. … The scenes of his self-immolation captured by passers-by and posted on YouTube as well as those of the mass protests that followed his funeral, quickly circulated in Tunisia and beyond” (Cottle).
On January 11th protests reached the centre of the capital city Tunis, and Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali responded by ordering in the army and imposing a night-time curfew. The next day, tens of thousands took to the streets in Sfax, Tunisia’s second city (“International: No Sign of an End”). On January 14, 2011, Ben Ali fled the country, ousted by a spontaneous populous uprising. “Tunisia’s population of 10 million people, known for their high levels of education and civic pride, became the first people in the Arab world to take to the streets and oust a leader“(Chrisafis).

Egypt

Google executive Wael Ghonim helped spark Egypt’s 2011 unrest. Egyptian businessman Khaled Said died after being beaten by police, who had videotaped themselves taking confiscated marijuana. Hoping to draw attention to police corruption, he copied that video and posted it to YouTube. Ghonim created a Facebook page called ‘We Are all Khaled Said.’ It featured horrific photos, shot with a cellphone in the morgue, of Said’s face. That visual evidence undermined the official explanations of his death. The Facebook page attracted some 500,000 members (“In-formation Age: Egypt’s Revolution”). Protestors flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square under the watchful eye of a military that was loath to turn on citizens.

Nigeria

“Occupy Nigeria, a socio-political protest movement began in Nigeria on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday, 1 January 2012.
Facebook groups were created to spur Nigerians globally against the fuel-subsidy removal. One of them called “Nationwide Anti-Fuel Subsidy Removal: Strategies and Protests” which was created on 2 January had over 20,000 members by 9 January 2012. Twitter is also being extensively used as a connect platform for the protesters across the nation, and the world.
Protests have taken place across the country, including cities of Kano, Lagos, Abuja, the Nigerian High Commission in London, World Bank Complex, Washington D.C, Brussels in Belgium, and South Africa. At least 16 people have been killed, all shot dead by the Nigerian Police Force.
Protesters shut petrol stations and formed human barriers along motorways…they believe the time is not right for such a drastic move as the average citizen’s income is a pittance (N18000 = $110). The minimum wage has still not been implemented across many states in the country”. (Wikipedia)

Lebanon, Syria, and Libya

“As the protests spread across the Arab world, activists in Lebanon began to unite with the goal of ‘ousting the sectarian system.’ These activists managed to reach around 15,000 people through a Facebook group entitled “In favor of ousting the Lebanese sectarian system – towards a secular system.” The group is comprised of youth from different sects, regions, and cultural backgrounds” (“Social Media Creating Social Awareness”). However, it was the sectarian and divided nature of Lebanese youth partisanship that rendered it difficult to use social media to mobilize young people through a common goal (“Grasp of Social Media”).

“Twitter Revolution” Critics

The importance of social media in this latest wave of political upheaval has political theorists and social scientists lining up in opposing camps. “While techno-utopians overstate the affordances of new technologies (what these technologies can give us) and understate the material conditions of their use (e.g., how factors such as gender or economics can affect access), techno-dystopians do the reverse, misinterpreting a lack of results with the impotence of technology; and also, forgetting how shifts within the realm of mediated political communication can be incremental rather than a seismic in nature” (Christensen).

“Twitter doesn’t start revolution, people do” (Luke Allnut).

There are two arguments against the idea that social media will make a difference in national politics. The first is that the tools are themselves ineffective, and the second is that they produce as much harm to democratization as good, because repressive governments are becoming better at using these tools to suppress dissent (Shirky).

“Facebook and Twitter have their place in social change, but real revolutions take place in the street. One of the biggest obstacles in using social media for political change is that people need close personal connections in order to get them to take action – especially if that action is risky and difficult. Social media always comes with a catch: It is designed to do the very thing that isn’t particularly helpful in a high-risk situation” (Rosenberg).

For anyone who ever doubted the saintliness of new technology, here is a grisly proof:
“Kill before they kill you. Slaughter before they slaughter you. Dump them in a pit before they dump you.”
That was one of the text messages that fueled the 2010 interreligious violence in the Northern part of Nigeria. Mosques and churches were torched; hundreds were killed, their bodies burned and dumped in wells and sewage canals.

For all that it does, social media is no “silver bullet” when it comes to political change. “The use of social media tools – text messaging, e-mail, photo-sharing, social network, and the like – does not have a single preordained outcome. Therefore attempts to outline their effects on political action are too often reduced to dueling anecdotes” (Shirky).
“The real lesson is that the cyber-verse gives no side a decisive, unassailable advantage” (Carfano). For groups that have felt powerless against repressive regimes, social media’s technological leveling of the political playing field provides one of the most important components of any successful revolution – hope.

NIGERIA: The Dotcom Boom

The dotcom boom bubble which was driven by the rapid growth in the internet sector took place between the years 1995-2000 with the United States leading the boom. During this period, the Gross Domestic Product of the US doubled, her debts were reduced to 20-25% of its GDP, unemployment level was reduced to its lowest minimum in more than 3 decades and more importantly, Corporations whose turnover is higher than the Nigerian government’s budget were incorporated. Although a bubble bust occurred after the boom, Science and Technology relevance has not diminished in decision and policy making by Governments or Corporations be it in Security, Health, Agriculture, Entertainment or Education etc.

Nigeria is beginning to enjoy her own dotcom boom thanks largely to her growing literate population and the mobile internet users which is more convenient and affordable. According to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), there are up to 10 million internet users in the country compared to 3 billion users worldwide according to the International Telecommunications Union. This however is an encouraging statistical figure especially if the purchasing power and the standard of living of citizens in the country are put into consideration.

The Federal and State government should work in harness to improve infrastructural deficiency, provide funding for functional and capable Research & Development Agencies, create an enabling environment in which patents and copyright protection laws are applicable, this will encourage emerging tech entrepreneurs and thus lead to increased and competitive competition and automatically foster growth by creating jobs with multiplier effects and thus strengthen the economy. Backed by financial foreign investors, Konga and Jumia are Corporations leading the ongoing e-commerce revolution in the country can become Africa’s next M-pesa (world’s global leader in mobile money service, a Kenyan based firm) if they are given the full support and encouragement by stakeholders which the East African tech firm is receiving at the moment.

Nigeria is blessed with both skilled and unskilled manpower in virtually every sector including the Information Technology(IT) sector, if only we can look beyond oil and gas, sentiments and ethno-religious issues, all these were factors that lead to the eventual collapse of the Sports and other sectors that were once a thing of pride to the country. The entertainment industry for example used to be a dreaded and dead industry seen as the valley of death for a career path, It was an industry that portrayed individuals associated with it as unserious, or individuals who were tagged as lazy and did not want to go to school, graduate and get a white collar job and end up fulfilling a society based stereotype lifestyle. With the help of corporate bodies and a group of determined and focused individuals, the sector is now a Goldmine for young individuals with talents and presently employs millions of Nigerians. It has reduced crime among the youth and has also given the citizens in Diaspora an opportunity to come back and nurture their God given talent together with their experiences abroad. There is a good number of Nigerian IT experts in Europe, Asia, North America and even South Africa who are either been used by their host countries to develop their economy or left languishing despite having so much to offer. Just recently, it was reported in the news that Apple Inc acquired an IT firm which was started and owned by a Nigerian.

Having the talent is one thing, managing and nurturing it is another. Asides from government or corporation’s role, young IT entrepreneurs should avoid the Nigerian corporate norm of taking their customers for granted after breaking even and establishing an impressive customer base, this to me is the main reason why we don’t really have indigenous Organizations with longevity. Most of the few ones available either have a government background or the owners are power brokers in the country, this cannot in anyway promote competition but rather encourage monopoly. The startup tech industry in the world is associated with a high failure rate, because most app developers just have the talent, but do not have the necessary entrepreneurial and marketing skill necessary to promote their products.

For the country to fully utilize her dotcom boom, there is need by industry stakeholders to educate the citizens on the usefulness and effectiveness on the role of Science and Technology in the country, this was a short coming on the part of the capital market stakeholders during the Stock market boom in the country and eventually led to its bust.

Written By: Kenny Osuntuyi
Twitter: @KennYAfro

Nigeria; The BIG THREE Menace

Just like The New-Media, the slogan; “New Nigeria” has been on our lips for quite sometime now. The noise is loud, it is resounding, it is deafening…. but guess what? It is EMPTY. This slogan is a mirage, no more no less.

A lot of people have said 1999 marked the dawn of new beginning in our lives, quick question; new beginning of what?.
We cannot say this is a New Nigeria, not when we are still confronted with interrelated problems of Conflict, Inflation, Urban decay, Poverty, Corruption, and a Climate of Violence. Issues we could have solved independently have now merged into a social crisis.

Our youths take solace in the BIG THREE of New Media; Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. While our dear country battles a more formidable BIG THREE; Corruption, Insecurity and Darkness. The rivalry between New Nigeria and the BIG THREE has been on for a while.

Let’s talk about Corruption, the boss, which happens to be the foundation of most of our challenges in this country and has been left solely to the Government to tackle, forgetting that we are the government.

A father, who has been in the “retiring soon” category since I wrote my common entrance, who paid for special JAMB centre for his child to pass, bribed lecturers throughout, paid N300,000 so that the child could also get a civil service job, will come out of his balcony at half past 10 on a Monday morning with his Global Receiver Radio and curse out the government for being too corrupt.

The Lecturer cum activist, who charges N10,000 for a ‘B’ in his course will come on radio to lament about the deteriorating state of education in Nigeria, while cursing the government for sacking some of his colleagues, who were caught slacking.

The vibrant youth, popular jingo on Twitter, who would rather sit on his Timeline and complain about not getting a job but follow celebrities who are following their own dreams, will connect with his ‘smart’ friend who will show him the easy way out, “become a hired twitter activist or die trending album titles for up and coming artistes”. So, he becomes that prophet in the bible, who was hired to curse Israel.

We shouldn’t even talk about those women (whose children are probably home because of ASUU strike) but chose to become Iyanya’s protégé, dancing Kukere all over the streets of Abuja. Most of these women probably lamented about the current affairs of this nation, weeks before the macabadance. My Twitter-activist friend, It is ok to be forever sad if you were on Twitter, cursing the government while your mum was dancing round streetlight poles on Yar’adua expressway.

Lest I forget, the Minister who wept about the deplorable state of our roads, have since expended billions of Naira on a private jet, in order not to ever experience that kind of embarrassing moment again.

All these aforementioned characters are the people who constitute the government. If we don’t change ourselves, the slogan; “New Nigeria”, remains a mirage. So, when next you want to lament about corruption, ask yourself few questions.

To be continued……..maybe.

Alcohol In Nigeria.

With the continuous rise in investment from both local and international breweries, which is creating jobs for the ever growing population and also generating revenue for the host communities and the country at large, the alcohol beverage industry is experiencing a boom period at the moment. Religion and culture still pose as the biggest threat to the expansion of the industry. In Nigeria, religion plays an important role in almost every aspect of the Nigerian society, from politics even to the entertainment industry. Individuals would rather obey their religious leaders before obeying the laws of the land. Been a predominantly Christian and Muslim country where 9 in 10 persons pledges alliance to any of the religions, there is however a high level of intolerance for the consumption of alcohol by both religions.

Over the years, Nigeria has witnessed an increase in the number of churches and other religious or cultural institutions, one would expect that this should stop the rapid increase in consumption of alcohol by her young citizens. This has however not been the case, Beer turnover in Nigeria is growing faster than its economy, the market grew by 21.8% in 2009 and its projected annual growth between 2011 and 2014 is estimated to be around 23.45%. In recent years, there has been a rise in the introduction of new alcoholic beverage in the country by existing and new corporations, this has thus made Nigeria to be in the top 20 Champagne market in the world according to World Health Organization (WHO), and also according to Euromonitor International, Nigerians spends around 41bn on Champagne annually. The increase in liberalism and a drastic reduction in religious fanatics among the youths are responsible for the boom of the alcohol beverage industry. Globalization, Information Technology (IT), women rights, emerging middle class and tourism are some of the factors that have reduced parental and religious influence amongst the youths. As religious as most Nigerian youths seem to be, there is a high level of thirst for alcohol. The average youth now appears to be free minded than the usual conservative nature of their parents. For those who were born in the 80’s, you would agree with me that most of us saw the wine bar at home as a holy altar and the taste of alcohol was as sacred as a holy grail. But today, just ask a teenager between the ages 13- 15, he/she probably knows more brands of alcohol than the numbers of chapters in the bible or Quran.

Bad transportation network, rise in inflation and increased cost of production has not deterred investors from establishing new production plants and expanding capacity in its brewing operations, the recent investment of 100 million dollars, 15 billion naira, 55 billion naira by SAB Miller, Nigerian Breweries and Guinness Nigeria plc, shows the optimism about the alcohol industry. Instead of an increase in price of products, manufacturers have been able to keep the price of their products at an affordable rate, this has contributed to strong demand and sales and increase in competition. The introduction of disposable can has also played a part because it has given consumers the liberty in consumption of alcohol.

For the outlook to continue to be positive, Stakeholders in the industry must address the health risk associated with the consumption of alcohol. There is little or no campaign for healthy drinking by manufacturers, although recently, Guinness Nigeria Plc collaborated with Lagos State Government to sanitize motor and cab drivers on healthy drinking. Guinness is however not the only brewing company, so also are cab and motor drivers not the only consumers of alcohol. A collective effort by brewing companies and proper communication to its consumers will go a long way in reducing irresponsible behaviors such as violence and damage of life and property caused by alcohol consumption. Failure to address this, can make the Nigerian government increases taxes on alcohol consumption and enact laws that will discourage her citizens from consuming alcohol.

In conclusion, the Nigerian government have to make the welfare of her citizens its priority over the revenue been accrued from the industry, lest it follows the trend of the oil industry in the country.

Written by: Kenny Osuntuyi
Twitter: @KennYAfro

Opon Imo abi Opon Scam?

Opon Imo (Computer tablet) is a project of Osun State Government which has attracted more positive than negative comments from the public until Bola Ilori (Chairman of the Launch Committee) made a rigmarole of the subject. In Punch issue of May 23, 2013, Ilori replied a critic of the project and further proposed to us a thousand and one reasons why we should bow down and worship Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for being the originator of this idea. Ilori, in his words, further described the Opon Imo as “unique in the true sense of it because it has never been used anywhere in the world prior to its advent in Osun State…” He also added that it will abolish paper work. I am disappointed by this statement because it could only have been perceived from an illiterate point of view or a liar.
Are we to assume that Ilori hasn’t been to Europe or the USA, where the Tablet has been in use? Or the Chairman of the Launch Committee of Opon Imo is a computer illiterate and couldn’t use Google to find out if the Tablet has been in existence? I will be totally dazed if Ilori would admit to me that the Computers in his home and offices have completely abolished paper-work.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Computer Literacy advocate and I teach Effective Use of Social Media at S.M events, so I definitely support the idea of giving computers to students, especially when it’s in regards to their Education. I however have my reservations, both in the approach and implementation of the Opon Imo project.

How would these Tablets be powered since they are designed to “abolish paper work”? Our epileptic power supply will not be adequate and solar power system is yet to become an effective alternative in Nigeria.
More so, have the students been trained on how handle these Tablets? What about the maintenance? All of these are questions Ogbeni and Ilori are yet to answer.

Now, let us do some Mathematics; the Opon Imo project was awarded to the Governor’s son, Kamoru Aregbesola at the sum of N8,300,000,000 for 50,000 pieces. Which implies that the cost of ONE tablet is N166,500. If you go online, you will see that the original cost of ONE of these Tablets is about $30, which is about N5,000.
When you multiply N5,000 by N50,000 you will get N2,500,000,000 (will be lesser when discounted). This shows that the overall scam is N5,800,000,000 while the aggregate scam per head is N161,000.
The interpretation of this is that; each time a student is given ONE Opon Imo, Kamoru Aregbesola pockets N161,000. Also, he has only supplied 3,700 out of the 50,000 pieces stated in the contract.

E je ki a ba Ifa nigbolohun (let us consult the Oracle), If Ogbeni must bring an innovative scam, he should have at least done it in a moderate style. Osun state is not only one of the poorest states in Nigeria, it is also one of the most indebted. So why is a State with a debt of over N200,000,000,000 giving students Tablets when their Teachers are home due to lack of salaries? There are workers in the State who haven’t been paid for over 5 months now.

In as much as we are trying to expose corruption in the Central, the State Governments should not be overlooked. The atrocities these Governors are committing are sometimes more grievous than that of the Federal Government.

So I ask again… Opon Imo, abi Opon Scam?

Man, The Insatiable Being.

And a Man sat Alone

Drenched deep in sadness.

And all the animals drew near to him and said;

“We do not like to see you so sad…

Ask us for whatever you wish and you shall have it.”

The man said: “I want to have good sight.”

The vulture replied: “You shall have mine.”

The man said: “I want to be strong.”

The Jaguar said: “You shall be strong like me.”

Then the man said:

“I long to know the secrets of the earth.”

The Serpent replied: “I will show them to you.”

And so it went with all the animals.

And when the Man had all the gifts they could give…

He left.

Then the Owl said to other animals:

“Now the Man knows much and is able to do many

things… Suddenly I am afraid.”

The Deer said: “The Man has all that he needs…

Now his sadness will stop.”

But the Owl replied: “No…

I saw a hole in the Man…

Deep like a hunger he will never fill…

It is what makes him sad and what makes him want…

He will go on taking and taking…

Until one day the world will say:

I am no more and I have nothing else to give.”

Culled from the movie; Apocalypto by Mel Gibson