Monday, June 14, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Phew! Almost there....

My Online Journalism course finished two weeks ago...the portfolio of work I came up with in the 10 days the course lasted is.. here

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pounding the pavements...and getting an earful!

Latest blog on the lighter side of covering the Naija community on Biccard Street for a class project... here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


This is a format that hasn't really caught on in Nigeria, but I earnestly hope it will.

Specifically, the power of the audio slideshow in telling certain stories is one way to humanize your stories and ensure it strikes a deeper level of consciousness with the audience. Against a drawback of sorts where text can only describe the circumstances from the eyes of the reporter, the audio slideshow fuses sound and images to allow the viewer make up their impressions of the situation being reported.

The website helps independent journalists tell their stories in the audio slideshow format. One could at least get inspiration from here, but this clip called THE NINTH FLOOR which chronicles years in the lives of drug addicts left me in awe of the power of the audio slideshow and unable to eat...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My gruelling Online Journalism Class at Wits...

My Online Journalism class means I must blog daily, and report on an immigrant community in Johannesburg and upload my er..efforts onto a specialised website. Please find so-called efforts on the link HERE.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


*Now 419ners would like any gullible members of the public left to believe that there is an FBI unit in Nigeria,'d have to be born with a totally empty brain to reply to this gunk. Jeez. At least they have moved from using yahoo email addresses!


Attn:Honorable Beneficiary I received a report from the FBI here in Nigeria concerning your dealings with a fraudster via internet please if you are not the right person do not further respond to this mail. to assure you that a sum of {$8 million usd} fund will be released to you by the Nigeria Government get back to me for more details .contact me via email:

*Image from:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is the author of I Do Not Come to You by Chance a debut novel about Nigerian email scams. Winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (Africa), this story gives a glimpse of the female we all either KNOW or may even BE, but won't ever admit to being; the PSEUDO-FEMINIST! Read it here.

Malema eats humble pie

Most South African newspapers this morning had ANC youth league president Julius Malema's grovelling apology to President Jacob Zuma and the ANC as headline.

Last month he lashed out at BBC journalist Jonah Fisher at a press conference I was present at. He called the visibly embarassed Fisher a "bloody agent" "bastard", and a "racist" as well as saying "rubbish is what you are covering inside your trousers."
And finally kicked Fisher out of the press conference.

Malema faced the ANC's disciplinary committee after a trip to Zimbabwe, where he declared the ANC's support for President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, thereafter saying other parties in that country were "mickey-mouse" parties. This is despite the fact that he has no direct influence on the ANC's policies.
He also defied the ANC and sang racially divisive struggle songs in Zimbabwe, and made comments on the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche.

Asides issuing the apology, Malema has now been sentenced to pay a R10,000 fine (about 900 GBP) to a youth development project. He is also to attend the ANC's "political school" for lessons in leadership and anger management.
Last night, party officials also told the press that if Malema is found guilty of the smae offence within the next two years, his membership of the ANC "shall be summarily suspended..."

But most comments show the public are not taken by this development:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Father sowed, Wits waters....

Just so you understand where I am coming from, I am a journalist, whose father was a journalist, and killed for being a journalist.

Father always loudly proclaimed that none of his children would be journalists. Journalists were “poor people whose riches could change the world but not buy them the good things therein.” Yet, Father would diligently go to work daily and come back with stories that he recounted to us, unwittingly sowing the seeds that found me at Wits—and help me make sense of this life-changiing experience.

For someone who didn't want a journalist for a child, he spent too much time dwelling on the subject; encouraging me at six year of age to spot mistakes in newspapers and give a recap of the news if he came home late.

His particular fixation was about “two young men in South Africa” who were giving the apartheid government a tough time using their paper called the Weekly Mail. These young men were not only handsome, Father said with glee, they were also the first to use computers! I was old enough to recall why that was wonderous to Father; the papers in Nigeria were still manually assembled, the typewriters still very much a feature.

Years later, my work as a journalist would find me suddenly at Wits, in a department headed by Anton Harber, one of the handsome journalists father went on about. I discovered Anton was no longer young of course. Now a professor, his “handsomeness” could safely be said to be relative to whoever was looking. But he still had the same curly hair which housed all the magic powers he frequently employed to escape from the clutches of apartheid policemen. I know the part about the hair is true because Father said so.

Growing up, all our homes were littered with pages of newspapers, a habit that has found its way into my tiny room at International House. There was Time, there were the local dailies, and random pages, some of which had the word “Drum” written on it. These in particular were really old, and anytime I asked Father where the rest of this magazine was, he would get visibly angry and curse the one great move the family had made from the Niger-Delta to Lagos, in search of economic fortune. The distance had somehow ensured the fragile pages never made it home in one piece.
It took coming to Wits to see why Father was greatly attached to those particular pages.

Professor Harber takes this course where we are given tons of reading and encouraged to debate on them weekly to help us make sense of the theories, histories and trends that shape global journalism as we know it today. I thought it sucked at first...until I opened the pages. It was through this class I discovered that Drum Magazine was a cultural icon that created the earliest cracks in the stronghold of apartheid the way only journalism could. Further personal research showed why Father was always close to tears at the sight of a weathered Drum page; Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said in 1988 that the “average Nigerian reader” of the mid-1950s “was weaned on Drum”.
It wasn't all about South Africa. I have read short stories by Cyprian Ekwensi in Drum, published in 1953, the year of Father's birth. A 1958 feature on the Egungun festival has a black and white picture of a child masquerade holding a tapering cane and flanked by six other naked children staring in awe. There is also the 1964 epic, “The Mystery of the Bodiless Head” a story situated in Ibadan on what was likely the beginnings of ritual killings.

Had it not been for Wits, I would have quickly thought Father was merely being too sentimental or senile in his 40s, or something.
As though that wasn't enough, last week Tuesday, I met the other handsome young man who founded the Weekly Mail with Professor Harber; Irwin Manoim.
Mr. Manoim was also not young. He had no hair at all, but thankfully, none of that had anything to do with his world-class skills as a journalist and newspaper designer. His class in newspaper design left me wishing I could call up Father to show off and gloat.

Instead, I made do with taking a picture with Mr. Manoim so my kids don't call me an old fart when I in turn start blabbing about journalists and journalism.

Father sowed the seeds. And Wits Journalism waters it adequately. Thank you, Wits.


*Agbroko is the 2010 Niall Fitzgerald scholar doing her Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), Johanneburg, South Africa. She writes this column for, the website for Wits' journalism department.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can a Nigerian media organization top what MAIL & GUARDIAN did this weekend?

It's no wonder that South Africa's media organizations continue to pick up the awards for Investigative journalism, especially continent-wide; they invest time...and resources.

This weekend the Maill & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism was set up to "shield probing journalism from commercial pressures" and because; "In a purely commercial environment, good investigative journalism oftenstruggles to compete withinstantly gratifying, fast-food journalism- the kind that sells paper today, but wraps fish tomorrow.

Non-profit, donor-funded models represent an alternative..Adequate funding without a profit motive helps ensure that the publics interest in the exposure of wrongdoing is served."

The centre's investigators are nicknamed amaBhungane, the isiZulu word for "dung beetles" because they "hope to get to the bottom of the...well, dung, to expose corruption and abuse of power wherever they find it."

See the website which even has a 'donate' button and snippets of stories investigated here:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Tale of two Amnesties


I had the most horrible day—to put it as freshmen do—LIKE , EVER, on Tuesday last week and therefore gave in to my inner wimp. I concentrated my efforts on crying my way through Rosebank Mall and all the way back to Wits. Half way through rebuffing the sexual overtures of a middle-aged man, (who claimed he was offering sympathy) a text message came through on my phone. I skimmed through and burst out laughing, laughing so hard the tears flowed more! Mr. Pot-bellied-Pervert ran off in the direction of Truworths, obviously certain I was insane.

 The comic relief came from shock, horror, the SAPS (South African Police Service). And its text message read thus:
“SAPS urges SA citizens to voluntarily had in all illegal firearms before April 11...”

I had been blown away by the campaign itself, which started on January 11 and ends in five days. The SAPS was melting 80,611 guns just four days into the programme. The weapons included obsolete police weapons and guns previously recovered by police from crime scenes. All of which was reminiscent of the Niger-Delta amnesty in Nigeria. That was to encourage militants to drop their weapons as well as their line of business instead of blowing up oil installations and kidnapping innocent staff of exploration firms.
About 20,100 ex-militants accepted the presidential offer of amnesty, which expired on October 4 last year. Nigeria’s acting president has reportedly approved N56.2bn for the official luring of able-bodied young men away from the temptations of armed revolution.

But I digress.

Why was I laughing at The Mall of Rosebank? Simply because SAPS had unwittingly provided a leeway for the misconstruing of its message at a time when it nears its end. Why urge only SA citizens to drop their weapons, when they aren’t likely going to be the only ones in possession of illegal arms?

I asked a classmate and lecturer what they thought. They were of the opinion that it was most likely a slip in communication. But it is a dangerous one, in retrospect.
Picture a foreigner in court, post April-11, saying “I had no idea what to do with my unwanted firearm because the message I read said only SA citizens were allowed to drop off unwanted licensed as well as licensed firearms.” If there’s any justice in the world, he or she will walk.

But maybe it is just the wannabe-journalist in me kicking up dust, after all, these slips in official communication happen everywhere and the world hasn’t stopped.

Case in point: the anecdotal story of a Police PR mishap where an ‘r’ was omitted and the payoff/message to the Nigerian public became “The Police is your fiend” not fRiend.

*Agbroko is the 2010 Niall Fitzgerald scholar doing her Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), Johanneburg, South Africa. She writes this column for, the website for Wits' journalism department.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Behind the British MPs expense scandal

By Ruona Agbroko

April 4, 2010 10:19AM

Ben Leapman* is dressed formally and frequently fiddles with glassware as he talks to South Africa's top journalists and academics at the upscale Rand Club in Johannesburg.

Mr. Leapman, Deputy News Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, was one of three journalists who fought a five-year battle to have MPs expenses disclosed under Britain's Freedom of Information Act.

His passion for his job is obvious as one gushing, inquiring guest takes the place of yet another. And another.

I have had not much trouble getting this interview, other than waiting for the horde of fans and his two-day speaking schedule to ease up. Since I haven't been told to talk to a PA, dribbled about or told to submit my questions beforehand, I begin to wonder if it is actually Ben Leapman I will be interviewing.

When he finally has time for our impromptu interview, I can just see the middle of his head of curly hair from where I am, standing next to him in kitten heels. He looks like British musician Simply Red, without the flaming hair colour or the freckles and comes off as quite ordinary, actually. But as Britain's Members of Parliament (MPs)-and the rest of the world-now know, Mr. Leapman is the poster-boy for the words "never judge a book by its cover."

In the beginning

Mr. Leapman tells NEXT his investigation into lawmakers' misuse of taxpayers' money began as far back as 2004 when Britain's Freedom of Information Act was about to be made law.

"The Act was going to force public bodies including parliament to disclose all information. At that point in 2004 the House of Commons published some information about how much MPs claim in expenses for their second homes. They did this because they hoped it meant that when 2005 came and the new law came in, then they wouldn't have to release any more information," Mr. Leapman explained.

Apparently, there were more questions than answers.

"It told you how much each MP was claiming but not what they were spending the money on. And it seemed that some of the MPs that didn't really need the money were claiming the full amount. And I didn't know why, and there was no way of finding out why at that stage."

Mr. Leapman says he was further alarmed when he called an MP who gave no explanations other than; "that's just the rule, old boy; that's what we're allowed to do."

But he had to wait until 2005 to "send a letter under the powers of the new legislation asking for fuller details of the MPs spending."

He was not the only one bothered. Two other journalists had also put in requests asking for details of the expenses claimed by certain MPs to be released, with Mr. Leapman being the only one who went a step further by seeking the publication of MPs' second-home addresses. All the world knew was that The Information Commissioner bunched the cases together and ruled in their favour, asking that some information be disclosed.

However, Mr. Leapman says behind the scenes, things were not so encouraging; "It took the Commissioner two years to grant our request. In that time, he never once called me, or spoke to me, but had meetings with the House of Commons."

The House of Commons not only labelled the ruling "unlawfully intrusive", it also tried to seek an amendment of the Bill, aiming to exempt lawmakers' expenses from being made public. However, an internal dispute among opposition parties and mounting public disapproval conspired against this.

The House of Commons finally bowed to a subsequent High Court verdict, and announced in April 2009 that the publication of expenses, with certain information deemed "sensitive" removed, would be made in July 2009.

Getting the scoop
The House of Commons needn't have bothered. On April 27, 2009, one of several disgruntled employees processing the expenses files for censorship before their intended publication by Parliament handed all the details to Mr. Leapman's paper.

The Daily Telegraph gathered 45 people including reporters, lawyers, designers and sub-editors into a room at its headquarters and swore them to secrecy. The team went through about 19,000 documents each day and the paper would kick off its devastating series of scoops on 8th of May 2009, just 11 days later.

No Expenses Spared, a book by two journalists who worked on the Telegraph team also revealed that other newspapers had missed out on the scoop because they were interested in one particular party while the whistleblower wanted an all or nothing approach.

Mr. Leapman tells NEXT that the interest of the public was the only motivation behind the Daily Telegraph's method of publication; "We wanted to expose all of the parties. If parliament had had its way, all 650 MPs would have had their expenses published on the same day and for the public that would have been less satisfactory, because it would mean less scrutiny. By pushing all that information out at once, there would have been less focus on the wrong doers and a fixation on prominent MPs. In fact, some of the backbencher MPs had the biggest scandals; that's where the famous duck house claim came from. Whether it was Labour first or Lib Dem second, we needed to do it a bit at a time because that allowed for greater scrutiny."

‘It was quite a scary couple of days'

"People were writing, calling and emailing in their thousands daily to say ‘well done to the Telegraph, it is a scandal, the MPs should not be claiming all this," Mr. Leapman recalls. But as the world cheered the Daily Telegraph on, he admits to NEXT that the journalists were far from comfortable.

"On the very first day of publication there was a big concern amongst myself and my fellow journalists at The Telegraph that the police were going to raid our offices and come in and arrest journalists. It was quite a scary couple of days."

Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons asked that an investigation be launched by the London Metropolitan Police over how The Telegraph got the information, rather than what the information revealed. The police shortly after, announced it would do no such thing. Mr. Leapman says the weight of public opinion apparently prevailed.

"There was a very strong public reaction against the politicians and in favour of the information being published. I think at that point, the government realised that by sending the police to make arrests of Telegraph journalists, it would have made it look much worse; if the police started arresting journalists for exposing politicians, the government would have been in much more trouble than it already was."

Nigeria's FOI Bill

Mr. Leapman hardly bats an eyelid when told about Nigeria's Freedom of Information Bill, which is yet to be passed as law, for ten years running. In fact, his shoulders lift in a shrug.

"My feeling on that is that there will always be politicians who are very nervous of passing FOI bills because clearly Freedom of Information laws are useful to members of the public and to the press to expose scandals and misspending by politicians or senior public figures. There will always be politicians who try to stop such bills becoming law, even in the British Parliament they tried to prevent this from becoming law.

"I think it's important for the public and the press in Nigeria to campaign on that and continue to insist that this is an essential part of legislation to democracy which needs to go through-and quickly."


Slight in build, and frequently smiling, Mr. Leapman looks harmless. I ask if he knows he would be easy to tackle and whether he has gotten threats. He laughs heartily, saying; "I have not had anything worse than going out and having a few MPs saying; ‘Look who's coming along, don't talk to him' to one another."

In reply to my involuntary expressions of surprise, he insists; "That's as bad as it gets really because British politics is quite genteel, and you don't tend to get too much violence or real threats as in other parts of the world. We could never have published stories like this one in other places because there wouldn't even be legislation to enable you get the information or the intimidation would be more. But the British press is lucky compared to journalists in most parts of the world."

Fallout of the MPs Scandal

Days after the House of Commons finally released heavily "blacked out" details of the MPs expenses the Daily Telegraph published a 68-page supplement. Mr. Leapman says but for the paper, taxpayers would never know that a male MP went as far as claiming expenses on female sanitary products, and other such ludicrous claims that were withheld for fear of embarrassment.

Also, for the first time in 300 years, the Speaker of the House of Commons resigned, while 392 MPs are almost done repaying about £1.12m.

But it hasn't all been bleak or all about the MPs.

Mr. Leapman says Heather Brooke, one of the journalists also involved the landmark case has written her accounts of the MPs scandal; The Silent State was published on April 1. Also, both Leapman and Brooke were characters played by actors in "On Expenses", a BBC 4 real-life drama which was broadcast on February 23, this year.

"For myself and the other two journalists who put in the first Freedom of Information requests, we obviously all wanted the story to ourselves as a scoop and at the end, the Daily Telegraph got the big scoop so to that extent, there were professional jealousies, but ultimately what was really important was to expose this to the public and that is what has happened," Mr. Leapman told NEXT.

It would seem the professional jealousies were justified. The Telegraph titles sold over 60, 000 copies more than usual everyday, while The Guardian UK weighed in on the scoop to launch its "Investigate your MPs expenses" online campaign which saw 20, 440 unique readers review 170, 000 documents in the first 80 hours. That was not all; six days after the Telegraph started its expose, the BBC political and current affairs television programme Question Time had its highest viewer figures of 3.8 million in 30 years.

I ask Mr. Leapman if he is professionally jealous. His curls flick about briefly as he shakes his head no.

"The fact that other news organizations were doing other things on the MPs expenses shows the issue remains topical and is in the safe hands of the British press," he answers, between smiles.

The smiles turn into outright laughter when I ask what he thinks of Jeremy Swift, the renowned British actor who played him in the BBC Four drama.

"Oh, he looks vaguely like me," Mr. Leapman replies without missing a beat.

*Photo credit:


Monday, March 29, 2010

Soft porn in the name of love...

By Ruona Agbroko
Monday 29, March 2010

No, the inspiration for this piece is not the fact that I have no significant other and have consistently failed in my duty as a child to bring home a “young, Christian boy” to pay my tribal lobola of less than R3 to Mother. This article merely seeks to understand the phenomenon whereby any random gust of cool wind, some well-trimmed grass and open space (or any three) is a license for Witsies to commence mild acts of pornography.

I must daily walk the distance from International House through the Matrix, past the Library Lawn and towards my department or outside of Wits. On each trip, I am regularly confronted by couples in various stages of foreplay—ok, “snogging”. There will be the chance that once I shift my gaze to give a guy distributing saliva all over a girl’s nose some privacy, that gaze will fall on the vision of someone else’s face buried between the mammary glands of another.

Being nothing of a voyeur, I again avert my eyes and just as I look to the serenity of manicured lawns to gather my creative thoughts for the day...BAM! That attempt is foiled by the sheer numbers of couples basking in the sun, entwined in various poses that could easily illustrate articles in sex manuals and relationship magazines.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for holding hands, sharing the odd necessary cuddle and dropping a random kiss on a bared shoulder, but there seems to be no boundaries for the grosser acts of intimacy. I have been on registration queues at the Senate House and had to endure the pre-orgasmic face of a fresher whose boyfriend had her facing me just so he could keep biting her neck.

I have also been at a checkout counter in a store and had my time wasted just because a couple thought it was romantic to caress each other’s nether regions through the pockets under the guise of looking for small change. Vomit. Copiously.

Even worse, I have watched with dismay as a mother instinctively spread a palm over her child’s face on a Sunday afternoon to stop the little girl from having her innocence ruined by the sight of two humans rolling in the grass at West Campus Village as they kissed—no, make that osculated—the life out of each other.

I am willing to concede that I may be biased. Maybe I am this way because of the conservative approach to a public display of intimacy that Nigeria has. In fact, I have often rebelled against the hypocritical bent of this approach, and applaud public displays of attention (PDAs). I have always been the girl sighing and endlessly recounting “how romantic that was” etc.

But I must now call a spade a spade, not a farming implement.

With due respect to the understandable headiness/freedom that campus brings and the inclination to explore life in much the same way everyone else is doing, I do feel commonsense should prevail.

It is terribly anti-social to disrespect the sensibilities of others when trying to prove you love someone else, especially given that PDAs can’t possibly be okay in every given situation.

Yes, it is much impressive to be gross in public and show the rest of the class that you are meant for each other. Yes, yes you are right... it’s cheaper, as well as your right to spread a blanket in front of West Campus Village and throw in some fare from The Matrix rather than to go out to a restaurant and book a room, but with intimacy should come responsibility. And respect. For both yourselves, and the people who must share the same academic spaces with you. End of.

*Agbroko is the 2010 Niall Fitzgerald scholar doing her Honours degree in Journalism at the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa. She writes this column for, the website for Wits' Journalism department.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nigerians get wired over Cabinet nominees


They say the quickest way to know your family history is to run for office in Nigeria. Or have your name forwarded to the Senate as a ministerial nominee, as it turns out.

On Wednesday, Nigeria's acting President Goodluck Jonathan revealed a new Cabinet list comprising 33 names, nine of which were former ministers.

Within hours, Nigerians took to the cyber streets and hacked the list to pieces.

Lilian Agbaso wrote on the Facebook page of one local political activist: "Why is it the same old tired cheesecakes on the list?? Some of these people have done 3 -- 4 terms as ministers already!! Common sense dictates that if they were that good before we won’t [sic] be here as a country today."

Ubong Ekpe Okon wrote a suggestion to the acting president on the website of a leading Nigerian newspaper. "My suggestions: Goodluck, please make another round of millionaires and leave those ones."

As news organisations and profiles on social media networks began to dig up the dirt, Nigerians emerged from around the world to give the ministerial nominees a virtual flashback of their personal and political history.

Josephine Anenih, the wife of a once-influential member of the ruling party, was reminded that she had a thief for a husband, as he had "looted billions earmarked for road rehabilitation" -- and for which her husband has been indicted. Another reader identified a widely-reported incident where she "impudently slapped" a certain gentleman over a senatorial ticket. Next came the charge that Anenih is estranged from her husband, which of course failed to assuage the mob. "Is being estranged from her husband enough proof that she is not part of the PDP [Peoples Democratic Party] rot?" one reader asked.

But then Anenih was far from alone.

Fidelia Njeze received flack for going from running a pharmacy in eastern Nigeria to becoming a junior minister for defence in a country of 150-million people and, later, ending up as a junior minister for agriculture under the ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua. Labaran Maku was mentioned as being the deputy under a governor arrested over alleged fraudulent award of contracts and stealing of public funds estimated at N15-billion.

Chris Ogiemwonyi's wife was listed as being a close associate of Jonathan, which, the poster alleged, made his nomination possible.

But more than merely dishing dirt and having a good vent, Nigerians are increasingly taking advantage of the anonymity, reach and impact of social media to make themselves heard, against a long history of political impunity.

Nigerians are making the most of this online opportunity to ensure they are no longer merely witnesses to democracy. They are now using the internet and its social network to successfully gatecrash their way into it.

Nefarious nominees?
But these readers are not merely being emotional.

In June of 2008, several newspapers reported on a parliamentary indictment of Allison-Madueke for withdrawing $263-million in unspent government money within six days, just hours to the country's 2007 fiscal year-end.

She was one of 16 government officials subsequently recommended for prosecution over mismanagement of public funds, alongside Anenih’s husband in a report issued by the Senate in October 2009 following the probe.

A closer look at the new nominees also brings up several curios. Ten have either been junior ministers or been handpicked into office at various levels, while others have varying degrees of political and even filial connections to the ruling party.

Full list of nominees

Emmanuel Iheanacho was rejected as a ministerial nominee in President Yar’Adua's last major Cabinet reshuffle when youth leaders in his home state claimed his nomination was against the political zoning formula of the state. He gets a foot in the door this time, it seems. Then there is Murtala Yar'Adua, the ailing president’s nephew. " ... a Yar'Adua in the Cabinet to compensate the family for losing the presidency due to ill health?? We are all jokers ... there should be blood in the streets with a list like this," Dissapointed-in-Lagos wrote on the local newspaper website, NEXT.

Bala Mohammed also made the list. He's a serving senator and leader of the National Interest Group, a pressure group of lawmakers, whose actions resulted in an unprecedented move that enabled Goodluck Jonathan run the country in place of Yar'Adua.

Umar Sani offered the acting president some belated advice the Facebook forum; " ... all he needed to do was to award contracts to these people on the list so they can leave him alone to appoint credible people on the basis of merit."

But it is most likely the urgency of online outrage from individuals and news agencies from within, as well as outside Nigeria, which has prompted its senators to make landmark decisions.

For the first time in the country’s 50-year history, the Senate will break convention and hold a plenary session on a Monday to screen the 33 ministerial nominees. The process, usually in form of oral interviews, will also be aired live on daytime TV.

The same lawmakers who came under public criticism for going on a month-long recess while Nigeria’s lecturers were on strike last year have postponed their Easter holiday by one week will be working to ensure there are no leadership vacuums.

Deleting the Constitution
But while these decisions had Nigerians rejoicing over a much-sought inclination of lawmakers towards true democracy, by Thursday morning things were not so bright.

Nigerian papers reported this morning that the Senate "voted to delete an aspect of the Nigerian Constitution which prohibits people indicted for various offences from contesting elections". That removes Section 137 (1i) which prohibits people who have been "indicted for embezzlement or fraud" by state or federal panels of enquiry or tribunals from running for presidential office.

According to local reports, the deputy senate president defended the decision before journalists yesterday by saying the clause was being exploited by politicians to witch-hunt their opponents.

But they didn't stop there. Seventy-three of Nigeria's senators also voted for a removal of clauses that prohibit lawmakers from cross carpeting, leaving Section 68 (1g) out of play, a stipulation which says federal legislators who choose to leave whatever political party brought them to power must vacate office unless there is a division in that party.

While the nation is still yet to digest this latest twist in plot, a spokesperson for the Senate told journalists that "returnee ministers will be taking more questions based on their performance during their stewardship. Everybody will answer questions on what he or she has done or failed to do."

That may be the only way for the lawmakers to redeem their image in the public eye as Monday's historic ministerial screening goes live.

But Nigeria's senators won’t be doing only themselves a favour. Looking back on recent protests, pockets of ethno-religious violence and ahead to the increasing online and offline anger of the citizens of Africa's most popular nation, enduring a public airing of their personal and political skeletons should be the least of their worries.

•Ruona Agbroko is a Nigerian journalist and the 2010 Niall Fitzgerald scholar studying Journalism at Wits University

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feature blog on Nigeria


She looks like a burnt rubber doll, right? Her cornrows roasted to a crisp, torso rent from limbs, face melded into the smouldering ashes. They say she was not yet six.

I refused to believe she wasn’t a doll. I refused to believe those were her intestines sticking out from her side.

But the news tells me she was a Nigerian, just like me. Only she happened to live in one of several villages where a sectarian crisis occurred.

This is the most gripping of several pictures that have shocked the world in the past week and made me question my existence as a Nigerian.

On Sunday March 7 a crowd of men stormed Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Rassat villages in Jos, Plateau State, about three kilometers from Abuja, the capital. Reports state that they burnt about 75 houses and killed some 500 Christians; mainly women, children and the elderly. The victims’ chances were marred by the surprise of sleep, the weakness of age and the viciousness of their attackers.

The corpses of children and adults testify that people broke into their homes and dragged sickles through their jaws, from side to side.

There were mothers who were shredded with machetes as they tried to protect the same children the murderers flung into purpose-built fires. Some 3, 000 people have fled the State, and are now destitute.

The latest horror finds grim company; ethnic and religious clashes have occurred in Jos in 1994, 2001, 2004, 2008 and as recently as January. It also comes at a time when Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’adua has not been seen or heard from for 113 days and the country grapples with a leadership crisis, food prices and fuel scarcity.

The sordid joke in some quarters is that the sign-off phrase used by international media that “one-third of all Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day” may have to be reviewed downwards. Indeed, last Sunday’s riots proved to be the tipping scale worldwide.

Images of weeping children, bodies laid in rows for a mass burial and the words of spluttering officials were relayed by news websites and social networking sites. Nigerians living abroad once again became scavengers, fingers hovering over laptops and mobile phone keypads, all waiting to feed off the latest report. We were not alone. The fixation of news wires and daytime satellite TV shifted.

A statement by United States Ambassador to Nigeria read in part: “The death and destruction is horrific… the underlying issues – economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and the need for improved state leadership on the issue – that continue to spark these continuous incidents of violence need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner with the goal of ending the cycle of sectarian conflicts.

Lawmakers from the region on Wednesday March 10 cited the N65 billion (about R3.4 billion) amnesty /rehabilitation program for militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta and sought a similar ‘economic package’ for Plateau State.

“We are not saying there is no religious undertone, but if someone has a job that closes in the evening, he will have no time to take part in a riot at night,” the lawmakers’ spokesperson said.

News also emerged that there had been attempts by men from Jos to mop-up leftover arms from the Niger Delta just weeks before the killings.

As the governor of Plateau State and religious leaders blamed army chiefs for ignoring warnings of possible attacks, the military commander in the State admitted he had received messages but implied he could not act on them because they were not official.

"I want to make it categorically clear that no official from Plateau State Government called me or forwarded a text message to me. But they all have my numbers," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the police also paraded 49 suspects, most from a single ethnic group. Lawmakers sped up legislation to ensure youths were not posted to Plateau for the nations compulsory service year for graduates.

Apart from imposing a curfew, the governor also announced a three-day fasting programme to “pray and cry out to God for the forgiveness of our sins, and to plead with him to bring peace on the Plateau and our dear nation, Nigeria.”

Fortunately, the majority of Nigerians who do not recognize their country anymore have decided to do something more practical about it.

On Thursday March 11, hundreds of women from Plateau state were in Abuja, protesting and seeking justice over the death of the 500 lives lost.

The next day, the Save Nigeria Group protests took place, with CNN’s Christian Purefoy reporting from the ranks of sweating but resolute ordinary Nigerians chanting in the mid-day sun.

Tomorrow, it will be the turn of Nigeria’s youths to hit the tarred roads of the national assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital, to protest the lack of roads nationwide.

We will be asking only three things. That our President resumes office, resigns or is removed before month’s end.

That the government fulfills its earlier promise of providing 6000 megawatts of electricity by December 2009.

That the paradox of being Africa’s largest oil producer, while suffering perennial petrol price hikes and scarcity ends. All three will do.

We have the benefit of numbers on our side; over 60 percent of Nigerians are aged 35 and below.

We have the tools of justified anger, frustration and the internet in our hands.

Most importantly, we have the awareness that we must begin to move collectively from Facebook rage to sending clear signals of dissent to all who have gained political and economic clout from our apathy.

The Nigerian anthem says “the labour of our heroes past/shall never be in vain”. If that didn’t move us all this time, then the present killing of our children by the sword and the continued slaying of our future by a few politicians has obviously proven sufficient.

--Get an overview of plans by young Nigerians on tomorrow’s protest to the National Assembly, Abuja at

--Get updates on social and government efforts on the Jos crisis here:

--See pictures of the Jos killings here: BE WARNED…THEY ARE GRAPHIC.

*Agbroko is the 2010 Niall Fitzgerald scholar doing her Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits), Johanneburg, South Africa. She writes this column for, the website for Wits' journalism department.