(ON)GOING CONCERNS: Choosing the next president

(On)Going Concerns, my weekly column for NEXT, appears on Wednesdays, in print and online. This week’s piece (Feb 23, 2011) below:

Choosing the next president

By Tolu Ogunlesi

Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd recently told the Financial Times: “I believe in politics for the two questions it asks of us. One is: ‘What do you stand for and why?’ And the second is: ‘Do you know what you are talking about?”

These are excellent questions to carry over into the Nigerian situation.

Think of Nuhu Ribadu. What comes to mind is a man who came into public reckoning on the strength of his fearlessness, and determination to rid Nigeria of financial crime. Think Fola Adeola and Pat Utomi, and their impressive resumes speak for them, evidence of a consistently-manifested genius for visionary thinking, and for the management of people and resources. Tunde Bakare brings “conviction”, “fearlessness” and “integrity” to mind.

I think of Dele Momodu and of a certain drive and eclectic ambition; a man who, once he sets his eyes on a goal, will work to make it happen. Muhamadu Buhari evokes frugality and (to borrow from Wole Soyinka) “dis’plin” – qualities sorely needed in a country ravaged by lawlessness and recklessness.

Now think of Goodluck Jonathan, and what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s time to confess my confusion. Has Mr. President done a great job of letting us know what exactly he stands for, and to what extent he knows what he’s talking about. I honestly can’t say for sure.

Maybe it’s simply a personality issue. Mr. Jonathan does seem to be an introvert, which in itself is not a bad thing. But I fear that he is not doing a good enough job of asserting himself in the office he occupies. (Now, sadly, this is one of those lines that I fear someone in one of the anti-Jonathan camps will seize and proclaim on Facebook, for campaign purposes).

Continue reading here


Soyinka on Walcott

An interesting interview with Wole Soyinka (by David Aaronovitch), in The Times.

Asked about the recent Walcott-Padel controversy, he says: ““I felt personally about this, I mean, for God’s sake. There but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to any of us, especially in countries like Amercia, where you can be sued for admiring a student’s skirt. And to rake this up, how many years afterwards?”

And this hilarious quip from him:

“As someone very close to Derek’s age, I resent that statement.” [apparently he says this with a “twinkle” in his eye]

The statement the Nobel Laureate resents? This: the insinuation making the rounds that, at his age (79), Walcott is too old to be potentially dangerous to women.

Read the full piece here

London: Death and the King’s Horseman

I’m in London for the weekend, to wander around the city and to see Wole Soyinka’s play, Death and The King’s Horseman, showing all through May (till June) at the Royal National Theatre (Olivier Hall). It was my first time at the Theatre, and on my way I saw the South Bank Center which I have always read about before now.

I saw the Soyinka play yesterday (Saturday) evening. It is a powerful, poetic, tragicomic piece of drama, exploring colonialism (& The late Great Empire), racial prejudice, feminism, religion, myth, and shame. It is laden (but not overburdened) with time-bombs artfully placed to explode assumptions, misconceptions and nonchallance regarding the collision of Africa and Europe. It wears its Yorubaness very proudly and comfortably (even if many of the accents in yesterday’s show did injustice to the language).

Soyinka shifts us between laughter and contemplation for most of the play, and then moves us to tears at the end.

Tonight I was reminded why the world thinks the man is a Genius. A Genius with a Sense of Humour.

PS> I’m trying to do a more detailed review of the piece. I might post it here later.