Ben Nwabueze, GMB June 12 declaration and politics. (Excerpted)

*Professor Ben Nwabueze, Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), has faulted the June 12 declaration made by President Muhammadu Buhari.*

In a statement, he personally signed, Nwabueze described the declaration as “unconstitutional, a masterstroke of mischief and insincerity and a deceitful contrivance”.

The full Statement:

In a special press statement signed by himself personally, which is unprecedented, President Buhari made the following momentous announcement:

“For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on October 1st, 1979.

But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June 12th, 1993, was far more symbolic of Democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29th or even the October 1st.

June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then Military Government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process.

Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12th will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June election and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, is to be awarded a GCON posthumously.

The commemoration and investiture will take place on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29th as a National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day”.

LEGAL ISSUES ARISING FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DECLARATION

The President’s Declaration raises several issues concerning, first, the intention behind it, whether it is motivated by the public interest or by a political desire to secure the votes of Nigerians in the 2019 election, especially the votes of people of the South-West or to sow the seed of division among the members of the National Assembly in order to scuttle the threat to impeach him or to throw the country into turmoil or to smear the polity with the taint of illegality. A motive of mischief seems evident on the face of the Declaration. It is indeed a masterstroke of mischief and insincerity, a deceitful contrivance, suddenly and mischievously trumped up to rescue his dying image three years after his installation as President.

But the question of primary interest to us here concerns the legal aspects of the President’s Declaration, which raise three issues of some intricacy , viz (a) whether what he calls the cancellation of the June 12 election by the then Military Government is binding legally on him and Nigerians generally, or putting it differently, whether as President he has the power or competence to overturn or disregard the cancellation without an Act of the National Assembly repealing it; (b) the legal effects of the cancellation; and (c) whether the President’s 6th June Declaration does not require, as a condition for its effectiveness in law, that the results of the June 12 election should have been officially announced and Chief Abiola officially declared its winner.

Binding force of the annulment of the June 12 election by a Decree of the Federal Military Government (FMG).

It is as indisputable that a presidential election was, as a matter of fact, held on June 12, 1993 as that the said election was, as a matter both of fact and law, annulled by a Decree of the Federal Military Government (FMG) Decree No. 61 of 1993. The binding force, or rather the supremacy, of Decrees of the FMG has a history which is appropriate to recall here. The issue of the binding force or supremacy of Decrees was settled with finality 48 years ago by the Federal Military Government (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers) Decree 1970 re-enacted by Decree 13 of 1984 made by Gen Buhari as the then Head of the FMG. (He, Gen Buhari, enacted 37 Decrees during his one year rule in 1984 as Head of the FMG). Even the 1999 Constitution from which he derives his authority as President to make the June 6 Declaration is the product of a Decree, Decree 24 of 1999 to which that Constitution is scheduled. The 1999 Constitution itself, in its section 315(4)(d), recognises the annulment Decree 61 of 1993 as an existing law. So President Buhari has no moral right or justification to disregard or disdain Decree 61 of 1993 or to do things as please him, as if that law does not exist.

Nigeria is or is supposed to be a law-governed state, a state of law where the Rule of Law reigns and governs not only the lives and affairs of people in society, but also the actions of government. It is an axiomatic principle, accepted nearly by all, that democracy cannot meaningfully exist or function without the Rule of Law any more than it can meaningfully exist or function without Justice. Nigeria itself cannot exist without the Rule of Law – and Justice too.

Of the two cardinal principles of governance, the Rule of Law is more fundamental and overriding, since the Justice talked about is justice according to law. The alternative to the Rule of Law is anarchy and the ruin of communal life. Respect for the Rule of Law must not therefore be sacrificed to the need for Justice. We must strive to pursue and maintain both subject to the more overriding demands of the Rule of Law.

Nigeria, our dear country, should not be turned into a state where the President can, in his unfettered whim, set aside the law or do things contrary to the law; his June 6 2018 Declaration clearly affronts the law. The annulment of the June 12 1993 election is admittedly loathesome to millions of Nigerians because of its injustice, inhumanity and its culmination in the sad death of its presumed winner, Chief Abiola; its error has been acknowledged and duly apologised for by its author, Gen Babangida. The annulment should therefore be set aside, but that should be done in due form of law, i.e. in a manner required by law, meaning by an Act of the National Assembly, not by the President’s unilateral Declaration unbacked by an enabling law. The process of getting an enabling law enacted may take more time than is agreeable, but it is better to follow the process dictated by law.

Legal effects of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election by a Decree of the FMG.

The legal effects of nullity are authoritatively stated by Lord Denning in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in an appeal from the West African Court of Appeal in Macfoy v. United Africa Co. Ltd [1961] 3 WLR 1405 at pp. 1409 – 1410:
“If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad, but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of the Court to set it aside. It is automatically null and void without more ado, though it is sometimes convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.” (emphasis supplied).
Lord Denning’s statement of the law on the point was echoed by Oputa JSC in Adejumo v. Ayantegba [1989] 3 NWLR (pt. 110) 417 at p. 451. Said he:
“If a transaction is void, it is in law a nullity, not only bad, but incurably bad and nothing can be founded on it, for having no life of its own, it cannot vivify anything.” (emphasis supplied).
The legal implication is thus that an act or transaction which is a nullity is in law regarded as having no existence or never to have come into existence at all. Both Lord Denning M.R. in Macfoy v. United Africa Co. Ltd [1961] 3 WLR 1409 – 1410 and Oputa JSC in Adejumo v. Ayantegbe [1989] 3 NWLR (Pt 110) 417 at page 451 describe it as amounting to “nothing”. Its non-existence or nothingness arises from operation of law and does not depend on a court’s decision declaring it null and void, which only re-affirms and reinforces its inherent nullity. The dictionary definition is at one with the law on this. Collins English Dictionary defines “nullify”, and “void” as “having no effect or existence”. “Nullity” is defined in New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language as “nothingness”.

It follows that the annulled June 12 election, deemed in law not to have taken place and to have no existence and therefore to amount to nothing, cannot vivify or give life to anything; June 12 cannot be declared Democracy Day and a public holiday, and Chief Abiola the “presumed” winner of the June 12 election and his running mate, Amb. Kingibe, cannot be awarded the national honour of GCFR and GCON respectively based on their presumed victory in the June 12 election. Both the declaration and the award are illegal, null and void; the annulment Decree, No. 61 of 1993, an existing law under section 315(4)(d) of the 1999 Constitution, must first be repealed – with effect from a date before June 12, 1993 – before the declaration and the award can legally or lawfully be made. The point being made here, and on which we insist, is that, as a country committed to respect for the Rule of Law, the law should be duly followed and not disregarded, as if we are still in a military dictatorship.

Whether the President’s 6th June Declaration does not require, as a condition for its effectiveness, that the results of the June 12 election should have been officially announced and Chief Abiola officially declared its winner

The repeal of the annulment Decree, No. 61 of 1993, does not dispose of all the legal issues arising from President Buhari’s 6th June 2018 momentous Declaration. It is not enough for the purposes of the law to presume Chief Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1993 election, whatever that means. To presume something means, according to its dictionary definition, to “suppose or believe without examination; to assume beforehand”. The results of the June 12, 1993 election should have been officially announced and Chief Abiola should have been officially declared its winner to form a legally valid basis for the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day to be henceforth observed and celebrated as a public holiday in the country, and before Chief Abiola can be awarded and invested with the national honour of GCFR, the highest honour that is reserved for a President of Nigeria. He cannot be President-elect, which is necessary to qualify him to be so treated, unless the results of the election have been officially announced and he has been officially declared elected.
The law is clear and emphatic on the matter. Section 70 of the Electoral Act in force today (June 11, 2018) provides:
“In an election to the office of the President or Governor whether or not contested and in any contested election to any other elective office, the result shall be ascertained by counting the votes cast for each candidate and [the candidate that satisfied] the provisions of sections 133, 134 and 179 of the Constitution……..shall be _declared_ elected by the appropriate Returning Officer”;
The word “declared” is italicized to emphasise that a candidate “deemed duly elected” under section 179 of the Constitution must formally be “declared elected by the appropriate returning officer” under section 70 of the Act.

The National Assembly has proposed that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) should now formally announce the results of the June 12 1993 election and declare Chief Abiola its winner. This proposal raises the question whether INEC, constituted under the 1999 Constitution (section 153), has the competence to announce the results of an election that took place 25 years ago, and declare a candidate under it the winner, so as to constitute him President-elect. The power of INEC, as conferred on it by paragraph 15 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution, is power, among other things, “to organise, undertake and supervise” presidential and other listed elections. By its terms, the power is power to organize, undertake and supervise elections in the present and in the future; it does not authorize or enable the Commission to do anything in relation to an election that took place in the past – 25 years ago – and organized and conducted by a differently constituted Electoral Commission. It may be that under the residual clause of paragraph 15 above authorizing INEC to “carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly”, the Assembly may make a law enabling INEC in the behalf. Even so, the problem will still remain as to how the provision of section 70 of the Electoral Act is to be complied with, having regard to the specificity of the words “shall be declared elected by the appropriate Returning Officer”; the reference is to the particular returning officer involved in or who took part in the conduct of the particular election.

President Buhari’s 6th June 2018 Declaration disdains the law of the land in other respects. The sacroscanctity and supremacy of the Rule of Law, as a principle in the government of society, need to be reiterated. Although not expressly enshrined by name in our Constitution, as is done in some of the modern constitutions in the world, like the Constitutions of Romania and Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, all three adopted in 1991 after the collapse of communism in the 1989 – 90 world-wide democratic revolution, the Rule of Law is embodied and incorporated in our Constitution as an inarticulate major premise, to borrow the pithy phrase of the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, the supremacy of the Constitution, as provided in its section 1(1), enures, by extension, to the Rule of Law, as incorporated in it as an inarticulate major premise, overriding any action or declaration of government that is inconsistent with the principle: section 1(3).

The question again arises whether the posthumous awards of the national honours of GCFR and GCON to Chief Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi respectively accord or are consistent with the law of the land – National Honours Act. The Act does not, by its express provisions, authorize posthumous awards, nor do those provisions give any indication that they contemplate posthumous awards. The indication is indeed to the contrary; it (the indication) comes from the provision that “a person”, meaning a living, not a dead person, “shall not be eligible for appointment to any rank of an Order unless he is a citizen of Nigeria”, and that “a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an Order when he receives from the President in person at an investiture held for the purpose (a) the insignia appropriate for that rank; and (b) an instrument under the hand of the President and the public seal of the Federation declaring him to be appointed to that rank”.
The words “when he receives from the President in person” exclude posthumous awards, a view that derives support from the fact that no posthumous award had ever been made in the past to any one before the awards to Chief Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi. There is, however, a provision in the Act that seems to give a lot of leeway to the President. It says : “The President may, by warrant, make provision for the award of titles of honour, decorations and dignities”. It may be that posthumous awards are not authorized by the Act as a matter of policy decision. If so the Act needs to be amended to change the policy.

President Buhari could not have been more disdainful, and more careless, he could not have made a greater mockery, of the Rule of Law than by his announcement on June 6, 2018 of the decision of the Federal Government that “henceforth June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day”, knowing, as he well does, that May 29 is enacted by law, the Public Holidays Act, as Democracy Day, and that that could not be changed to June 12, except by amendment of the Act, not by mere presidential Declaration; and that his wishes, intentions and whims, however pure and benevolent, are not law, as in the days of the absolutist military dictatorship when laws could be made simply by word of mouth, later to be put in written form by Decree or Edict. It is incredible that, knowing all this but still believing himself to be an absolute ruler, he went ahead to organize the farce of commemoration ceremony on June 12 at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa. His perception of himself as absolute ruler is antithetical to constitutional democracy, and constitutes a danger to the country. He should be made to shed that perception of himself.

Culled from The Cable, June 15, 2018

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Poverty Porn or Pity Porn

By

Noel Ihebuzor

Critics often react differently to a work of art. Some react to the theme, others to the content and yet others react to the considerations that may have guided the selection of content whilst others react to the narrative style, the way selected content and themes are presented. Put such reactions against the backdrop of authors’ claims to some creative independence and some would immediately argue that the author has a right to certain autonomy in selecting what to write on! In situations such as these, the conditions are set for conflicts between an author’s claim to independence and autonomy and the assumed rights of a critic to make judgments on artistic production.

In the field of African literary aesthetics, the issue of poverty porn is on that has divided author and critic most forcefully and sharply drawn the battle lines. There are essentially those who argue for author autonomy and those ranged against them in battles; who preach moderation and balance in content and how it is presented. Such conflicts are not new. In the 19th century, Stendhal had commented through one of the characters in his book “The Red and the Black” as follows:

“Ah, Sir, a novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shews the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form.”

Similar strains have been heard in defense of stories that have been rated highly in the Caine Prize for Literature. Habila, a Nigerian writer and critic, uses Poverty Porn to refer to a “certain kind of literary work that represents Africa as a space of suffering, wretchedness, and despair.” Habila expands on this view in a scorching commentary:

“I was at a Caine prize seminar a few years back and the discussion was on the state of the new fiction coming out of Africa. One of the panelists, in passing, accused the new writers of “performing Africa” for the world. To perform Africa, the distinguished panelist explained, is to inundate one’s writing with images and symbols and allusions that evoke, to borrow a phrase from Aristotle, pity and fear, but not in a real tragic sense, more in a CNN, western-media-coverage-of-Africa, poverty-porn sense. We are talking child soldiers, genocide, child prostitution, female genital mutilation, political violence, police brutality, dictatorships, predatory preachers, dead bodies on the roadside. The result, for the reader, isn’t always catharsis, as Aristotle suggested, but its direct opposite: a sort of creeping horror that leads to a desensitization to the reality being represented”

In defense of the creative writer, one can ask bluntly – what is wrong with writing what you see, what you think you have seen so long as you are sure that what you write is what you see and not what someone has cleverly whispered into your ears or subtly manipulated you into thinking is what you see or what you must see? In the unfortunate case that what you write is what someone has cleverly planted in your psyche, perception is flawed and your scribbles are nothing but the echoes of another. Your narrative style is also likely to be vitiated. And that would be really sad. Similar sadness would also result if you were writing what you saw or see but presenting in a frame that conforms to or confirms another person’s judgment of your reality or his/her preferred image of your reality. In this second case, whereas perception could be objective, the presentation and narration of what is perceived is influenced by a desire to pander to the preferences of a target readership. Most stories written on African and about Africa have two target readership audiences in mind. There is the African readership and then there is the Western readership. The West has its own preferred images of Africa and the developing world. It is a world overrunning with images of poorly fed children, emaciated mothers and kids with running noses, singed copper-colored hair, shriveled limbs and bloated tummies vegetating in an environment filled with buzzing flies and overrun with dirt and signs of squalor. Other variants of the preferred images include images of cruelty, wars, famine, and machete-wielding red-eyed adolescents. These are marketed as metonyms for Africa and find outlets in programmes on TV and in publications by well-meaning but patronizingly condescending international NGOs who try to use such images in their fund mobilization efforts for Africa and the third world. Similar presentations of Africa and the third world have crept into the arts and creative writing where African realities are often presented as a series of unremitting tragedies, savagery, immorality and wretchedness.

Poverty porn is a term used by critics to describe works of art that attempt to depict a reality in such bold and extreme strokes that the reader’s response often becomes one of pity followed by an overwhelming sense of powerless. Like porn, the style is seen to be direct and with no efforts at diversion or depth. Sadness is layered upon sadness, bad situations fall on top of one another and a canvas of crushing negativity is imposed on the reader’s perceptual field as a result of the exhaustive description of sorrow and destruction which are projected ad nauseam as substitutes for critical distance, balanced narration, analysis and creativity.

Choice is one basic and foundational feature of every work of art. Every piece of writing involves a series of choices – at the phonological, lexical and syntactical levels. And a writer makes choices on what to present and the extent to which he/she goes presenting them. One feature of a good presentation is balance, and a presentation that lacks balance is deficient in many ways. Yet some writers, presenters and narrators carry on as if the concept of balance does not exist in their portrayal of realities. And this begs the question why this is so. Are some realities so strong that they overwhelm and force the descriptor or narrator to extremes in a bid to express the same shock that such painful realities imposed on his or her? One could well be reading the work notes of a morbid anatomist, enamored of his/her art and treating us to full screen presentations of malignant cells and dying and decaying tissues. Every line is so soaked in a suffocating dampness that depresses the reader, and this is true whether the writer’s prose is beautiful, elegant, cadenced and effortless, something which could give rise to the oxymoron “beautiful ugliness”. Whether written in beautiful prose or in deliberate destructive and discordant prose, the effect is the same – the layer upon layer description of poverty, of cruelty, of rot, of helpless souls trapped in it floods every bit of the reader with pity. It bathes you in a slow unending stream of negative images and imagery which ultimately wear you down. The unremitting negativity overwhelms and sucks you under. Sorrow triumphs at the expense of solution, surrender trumps any survival urge. Pity porn would appear to me to also be a good label for works in this genre.

Father Uwem Akpan’s book – Say you‘re one of them has been criticized as an example of this dangerous literary genre of poverty porn or pity porn. Published by Back Bay Books, it is a collection of five stories, all tragic and all overflowing with negative images. “An Ex-mas feast” is set in Nairobi and is a description of life, deprivation and survival in one of its largest slumps, “Fattening for Gabon” is set somewhere in the fuzzy land between Seme border and Nigeria and deals with child trafficking, “What language is that” is set somewhere around Ethiopia and is about tensions caused by linguistic differences. “Luxurious Hearses” is set in the north of Nigeria and is a tale of religious inspired violence and killings, and the last story “My parents’ bedroom” is a story around the genocide in Rwanda.

Apart from a few geographical and time inaccuracies in some of the stories, the stories and the research that informed them are pithy and informed by a commitment to realism. Yet one is overcome by a sense of sadness as one completes reading each story. There is no escape from the enveloping sadness, from the negativity that nibbles at the core of your being as you read about Africa.

One of the sharpest minds for now in African literary aesthetics is Ikhide Ikheloa. I am yet to meet him in person but judging from his many contributions, he is a man of great erudition, astounding intellectual depth, amazing energy, great wit and someone with a discernable social vision and commitment. He also has a strong aversion for poverty porn/pity porn and has deployed his massive intellectual energy, wit and sarcasm to come against any African writer he thinks is producing such. His views on Poverty Porn in the articles with link lines below are highly critical of Poverty Porn and its purveyors.

The comment below is sweltering:

“The mostly lazy, predictable stories that made the 2011 shortlist celebrate orthodoxy and mediocrity. They are a riot of exhausted clichés even as ancient conflicts and anxieties fade into the past tense: Huts, moons, rapes, wars, and poverty. The monotony of misery simply overwhelms the reader. …..The stories are uniquely wretched”.

Listen to Ikhide speak again:

“I am still fuming over the wretchedness of almost all the offerings on the shortlist of the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. Aided by some needy “African” writers, Africa is being portrayed as an issues-laden continent that is best viewed on a fly-infested canvas. Memo to the Caine Prize folks: It doesn’t have to be all about issues. Just tell me a story, any story”.

I have read somewhere where he blasts Father Uwem’s book as another example of poverty porn. Is this fair, I mean this effort to classify to classify Father Uwem Akpan’s book as belonging to this genre of poverty porn? Is Father Akpan wrong in describing what he sees or is his vision biased or his depiction exaggerated? Is the critic right in castigating a writer for choosing a point of view? And in response to the critic’s lambast, could the writer simply not respond by saying: You may not like it but that is what I saw and what I felt when I confronted the reality that prompted and released my creative impulse? Before such expostulation, can the critic not simply ask the creative writer to go check his/her eyes? Would such exchanges not raise key philosophical and epistemological issues about the objectivity and subjectivity of reality and perception?

We all know that life and reality are a blend of the good and the bad, of hope and despair, of wickedness and kindness or nobility and knavery. A good storyteller must then seek to capture this dual face of life and reality and not just focus only on the ugly or the good. Focusing only on the positive and optimistic can be as damaging as focusing on the negative and pessimistic. Voltaire’s “Candide”, for example, is a riotous routing of the dangers in unbridled and unchecked optimism! Voltaire Candide checked that unhealthy tendency and in many ways prepared the ground for the emergence of realism. Is the rage against poverty porn driven by a similar impulse to call out and check the sprouting of effusive negativity and pessimism in artistic depictions of the African reality?

If the answer is yes, the question then becomes how to distinguish works we can define as poverty porn. How is it different from other works of art? Could its distinguishing feature then be a deliberate choice by the author to exaggerate negativity without making an effort to balance such negative images with strategic injections of rays of positivity? For in life, there is sadness but within sad situations, a narrator who looks hard enough could find something that ennobles and which contains the seeds for the defeat of despair. Is one guilty of prescriptivism if one then suggests that the duty of an author could be to seek such balanced presentation even when one allows the author a right to betray a preference for giving the upper hand to the tragic?

I have lived experiences with backgrounds similar to those of two or three of Fr Uwem’s stories. I can say that these experiences can be presented in manners that do not create a numbing stasis and inability to respond creatively to life’s challenges?

The first one was sometime around 2002/2003. It was one of those slow mornings in a typical UN office I was heading. I was going through implementation reports line by line and also checking up to see which of the partners that we had advanced funds to had satisfactorily accounted for those funds. Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. The police had intercepted a vehicle loaded with children headed for the Idi-Iroko border. The stories the children told were not too satisfactory. They all claimed that the lady they were traveling with was their aunty but on close examination, the story turned out not be true. The lady was the wife of a highly placed person and was clearly well connected and the children were from Kaduna. She claimed she was taking the children to the Republic of Benin for a vacation project but again it was difficult to believe that as schools were still in session. This was beginning to look like a case of cross-border smuggling gone wrong and in the end, the children had to be returned to their parents with the assistance of the Ogun State department of Child welfare to Kaduna state. So child border smuggling is real. Uwem has a story that deals with such a situation – the difference is on the layered incidences of unremitting sadness in his story. It is such unremitting sadness, the pounding presentation of a sad reality that dwells extensively on negative episodes that in a way threaten to reduce the literary value of Uwem’s storytelling and to paralyze our ability to respond to it. In the case under review, I refused to be discouraged, always assuring the children that they would soon be united to their parents and doing my best to see that they were fed whilst they remained in the protective custody of the Ogun state government. Sad event, but positivity results in a happy ending.

My second experience was in 2004. I had just arrived Nairobi and after a few weeks living there, I decided to visit Kibera. I had two reasons to do this. The first was to satisfy my curiosity. The second was more professional. In 1996, I had directed a UNESCO funded project to produce a module capable of teaching urbanization in secondary schools in a manner that would reflect the innovative strands from the Rio, Cairo and Beijing conferences on the environment, population and gender respectively. Tall order! But I managed to assemble a very strong team made of demographers, sociologists, educationists, environmental experts and curriculum developers and we came out with an output that we were very proud of. A book of readings titled “An EPD approach to teaching Urbanization in secondary schools” edited by Professor UMO Ivowi and myself was also published. A lot of our background stuff on urban settings were gleaned from Ajegunle, the jungle.

Kibera, another slum, was thus my opportunity to test whether the “truths” we told about one slum had universal application. The visit to Kibera shook me to the roots. It brought tears to my ears. The poverty I saw there tormented me. It offended every sense of decency. Kibera’s inhabitants were more like animals trapped in a place with no exit. Later to achieve some catharsis, I wrote a long, rambling, poorly structured poem – A song for Kibera.

Later in 2005, I chanced upon “Say you’re one of them” and I was amazed to notice how despite the differences in genres, Father Uwem’s images and mine of Kibera had very strong resemblances. Was I doing poverty porn or writing down what I saw in this poem? Yes, I now recognize that I deliberately ended the poem on a note of rebellion, a note that affirmed my hope and prayer that the Kiberas of this world must no longer be allowed to exist and that social policy could put an end to Kiberas and wipe them off the face of Africa. Hence, my poem ends with a choice of positivity over negativity and optimism over pessimism.

What is my point? Two authors may confront and be inspired by almost identical realities but choices made all along the narrative trajectory could produce a difference in effect and could determine whether one is doing poverty porn or simply engaging in an exercise in realism.

Lust and Love

By Noel Ihebuzor

(an instant reaction to Boomie Bol)

Lust, another 4 letter word
like other bads, bad,
badder, baddest,
for 4 letter love is the best

yet without lust, without it
all love is cold
without heat
with no hold

lust alone
ls but hollow bone
heat with no soul
hurts lips,hips and sole

give me love with lust
great loves know lust
for not all lust is physical
not all physical is bad

Spare me from
lust with no love
spare me its tears
fears and my tears