TIME TO MARRY? OR NOT?

By  CHIKE FRANKIE EDOZIEN

 

 

 

Growing up in Lagos, I don’t remember our contemporary leaders ever conceding that perhaps they just might have got something wrong. Often our leaders prefer to focus on what they feel are their positive contributions to Africa’s largest economy.

So when Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s most recent ex-president showed up in London in June 2016 to defend his governance record to the international community, I only expected a spirited defense of his stewardship of the country.

And of course more bluster from his surrogates. After all, his successor, Muhammadu Buhari accused Jonathan and his team of leaving behind an empty treasury.

As I watched Jonathan go on about how that was not possible at a roundtable organized by Bloomberg News, I started to reminisce about how I found my métier. Story telling.

It seemed like just yesterday I was crouched on floor of the old English colonial in Ikoyi, reading a stack of newspapers. I devoured them every time Dad returned from work carrying the bunch. The newsprint had a stale smell that I couldn’t get enough of.

In truth it was four decades ago that I was asking mum what those words in the Daily Times meant. I knew big words before my classmates knew the complete alphabet. So naturally I wanted to write stories. I wanted to be a journalist.

Like many Nigerians I abruptly found out telling stories could be fatal when I was sixteen. Dele Giwa, a writer for Newswatch, had a letter bomb sent to him at home. My folks talked about it for days and fear gripped the city. It was 1986.

Few years later, I left that increasingly politically charged climate and gallivanted abroad, holding on to my love of storytelling, particularly the African ones. As the years passed my frequent visits to Lagos provided occasions for me to write about us. But, as I was no longer a young man I would steel myself for the inevitable question.

“When are you getting married?”

I didn’t always know how to answer truthfully. Do I open up a can of worms with strangers and say ‘I’ll get married when marriage equality is the law of the federation?’ Or do I continue with my boilerplate response; ‘when I find the right one I’ll let you know.’

One of my Nigerian pals, Dike, is over 40 and gay. He now lives in London and it’s unlikely he will ever move home for good. But on his last visit to his hometown, Owerri, he told me how an aunt worried so much that he hasn’t brought home a bride. He thought he’d escaped the dreaded question until he went over to give her money before departing and she fell on her knees wailing.

“Please, please find a wife. Please I am begging you in the name of God, please.”

Dike replied: “Please Aunty, get up. I have heard you. I will see what I can do.”

Suddenly hopeful she says: “Oh, are you looking for one over there in England?

“Ah, ah Aunty, does it matter where she comes from?” Dike said.

“That’s true but it is better if she hails from these parts,” she replied.

“But aunty at my age, I don’t think I want to get married any more.”

“Eh?!” she screamed;

“Don’t say that oh. There is a 70-year-old man in the next kindred, who is looking for a young wife. You are a man. You can even marry at 70. I have been praying for you. I prayed for you this morning that a good woman will come your way, In Jesus Name.”

I feel Dike’s pain.

Recently a friend from secondary school called me up to ask I that donate to a fund to refurbish the school’s kitchen. He expected a substantial donation and said: ‘you are not married and you have no kids.”

His reasoning was I ought to have more to give since I’m only responsible for myself. I was flabbergasted since my friend knew of my long-term relationship and I had to gently remind him that my male partner of close to a decade is my family. And no, I may not be conventionally married, but I’m not single.

Sometime ago I decided to try and tell the story of folks who are either burdened by the weight of the dreaded question or work around it by jumping into unhappy matrimony. I began researching in Accra, Ghana. I found, men who were so in love with each other but then married women because it was what was expected. I found women who were routinely dating other women who were married to men.

Was this clandestine living the best they could hope for?

“This is Africa. Why are you asking questions you know the answers to,” one told me. I moved on to Lagos, where I wanted to get answers to the same questions.

But earlier that year, January 2014 to be precise, the president, (Goodluck Jonathan) had signed into law a bill criminalizing gays, adding even public displays of affection.

Clearly it was an Election Year gambit that while popular, yielded few votes for him. He lost by a landslide. But his actions opened the floodgate to beatings and harassment by police and unscrupulous citizens. Just the suspicion alone could land one in trouble. And who wants to risk a 14-year-jail term?

So even though I’d had high hopes for good reporting, my writing was stalled by the paranoia in Lagos and the sheer refusal of folks to speak on the record, or even off sometimes. Those who did were so afraid, it seemed that shadows freaked them. I could barely hear their whispers.

Still I found men and women in love or looking for love despite the cultural anchor on their necks. Jonathan’s action spurred open homophobia and shaming in spaces that ought to have been safe. Violence spiked and it was easier to be scornful and derisive of sexual minorities in polite company. All of this in a country that often condones pre-pubescent brides marrying elderly men.

No Nigerian space was truly safe.

In 2015 my sister had a milestone birthday party and all my brothers and a trove of cousins gathered to celebrate. My cousin Henry was there with his wife. I’d never met her but knew of her. I eagerly asked him introduce me.

“I’ve heard about you, she said. I smiled big and said ‘Good things I hope.’

But all that came my way was a small, tight, cold, smile that ended at her lips: ‘Not really.’

Then she laid into me.

“Where is your family?”

“Where is your wife?!”

“Where are your children?!”

It was aggressive. Menacing even.

In full view of my siblings and even my mother, she tried to shame me. I was dealing with an angry emboldened homophobe. (Thanks to Goodluck Jonathan, women of her ilk feel no compunction to go on the attack in public and I wish I could say it was an isolated incident but others have told me similar tales) So I smiled and said my partner was at home. ‘He couldn’t make it.’ And I left her company.

So I was truly caught off-guard when Jonathan, in the middle of his defending his government from corruption allegations and bilking the Nigerian treasury he told Bloomberg that the anti-gay bill he signed into law may have to be revisited.

“When it comes to equality, we must all have the same rights as Nigerian citizens,” Jonathan said at a forum at Bloomberg’s European headquarters. “In the light of deepening debates for all Nigerians and other citizens of the world to be treated equally and without discrimination, and with the clear knowledge that the issue of sexual orientation is still evolving, the nation may at the appropriate time revisit the law,” Jonathan said.

That only took thirty months. But from 2015 to 2016 he may have evolved but being out of office he’s not in a position to stop carnage.

Days after his pronouncement there was a grisly massacre of 49 gay people by a deranged gunman in Orlando Florida. Jonathan, who as president ignored his gay constituents, sent out a condolence message to the grieving families via twitter.

I condole with the victims and I pray that Almighty gives us the wisdom to deal with terror whether in #Florida or in any part of the world – Goodluck E. Jonathan (@GEJonathan)

But even that message also prompted controversy from the Nigerian ‘twitteratti.’

Jonathan cannot undo the damage caused by that law, but stories from those affected matter, and could change the reflexively antagonistic environment in Nigeria. Every Nigerian story will be told. And I have to do my part to tell our collective story. And that includes those who some want to shame and shunt aside.

I can start by answering the marriage question honestly. When will I get married? Maybe when we have marriage equality in our federation. Or maybe just when Scott, my partner wants to.

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Every Like Counts: Social media was the other big winner at Nigeria’s historic elections

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

While Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections have largely been acknowledged as a victory for democracy — with the first ever victory of an opposition candidate –it was also a model in how social media brings transparency to the electoral process.

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress party lead in the vote last month quickly became apparent a few hours after polling units closed thanks to technologically savvy Nigerian voters using social media to share each step of the process.

Locally developed voter monitoring applications, Revoda and Nigeria Elections were in robust use during the entire weekend. Long before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shared any official polling numbers, Nigerians who had volunteered among the 700,000 electoral officers shared the voter numbers from their units. While nearly every tweet and Facebook post came with the ‘unofficial’ caveat it was a good indicator of the trend. By Sunday evening Nigerian social media had turned into a land of ‘Nate Silvers’,

In some senses it’s not a complete surprise that social media was accurately reflecting a trend. Nigeria has one of the fastest growing Internet penetration rates. Last year alone it added 10 million new internet users to have around 75 million Internet users now. Nigerians who voted last month were about 30 million.


People displace by Islamist militants display their voters card.

Ever since the #OccupyNigeria nationwide anger strike in 2011, when the Jonathan administration suddenly removed fuel subsidies and set off inflation, social media has played role in the national discourse.

Its national prominence rose a year ago when the over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok by the ultra violent separatists group, Boko Haram. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign reverberated around the world and even found its way to the White House. Before the vote, through Facebook posts, Twitter usage, and even sharing video through the messaging the application ‘WhatsApp,’ it often seemed that the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan was playing catch-up in the lead up to the vote.
Flat-footed Jonathan

A senior person inside the Jonathan camp, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Quartz the president’s re-election campaign had been caught flat-footed on social media. “The APC campaign was consistent with their message on social media, they completely shaped the narrative there,” said the Abuja-based source. “By the time people here started to throw money at the social problem it was already too late.Then there was multiple messaging which was confusing for voters.”

And it was the same in this #NigeriaDecides campaign influencing both leading parties respective campaigns. As Techcabal noted, every trick in the book was in play even online polls with surprising results. On Election Day, everyone with a social media account played a role in disseminating results. #NigeriaDecides was the top trending hashtag on Facebook and Twitter on March 3oth as Nigeria and the rest of the world eagerly anticipated the results.

“Many people who stationed themselves at the polling centers until the close of election were able to know the results of those centers, record events and also photographed copies of results pasted,” Tony Okeregbe, a professor at the University of Lagos told Quartz.

“Then, they connected, via social media, with friends at other centers who did the same thing with other friends. At the end of the day, a rough estimate of what the results would look like was known before hand.”

 

 

 

The consensus from all sides is that while social media didn’t decide the vote it had a significant influence on perception, expectations and a demand for transparency. All in all it seemed that social media was a winner with the #NigeriaDecides hashtag resulting in citizens proclaiming that Democracy is alive and well in Africa’s most populous nation.

 

And as Nigerians tweeted, the victor isn’t always the winner.

 

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The key difference between Africa’s two biggest economies right now


Goodluck Jonathan (left) and Jacob Zuma at the World Economic Forum.(Reuters/Pascal Lauener)

Cape Town, South Africa—The ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC), turned 103 years old and held a big bash at the Cape Town stadium over the weekend.

The party of the late Nelson Mandela pulled out all the stops, bands, minstrel troupes, deejays, to commemorate the event and entertain hordes of party loyalists who poured into this city by trains, planes and buses in the days leading up to it. The entire affair reminded me of the World Cup celebrations in 2010, with all that dancing on the streets.

President Jacob Zuma is the de facto head of the ANC and chose Cape Town for this massive celebration, because in a sense it could be considered enemy territory. He wanted to send a message: The municipal government is in the hands of a minority party, the Democratic Alliance, and Zuma has an eye on reclaiming this Western Cape province for the ANC in 2016. So he brought his party here to tout his successes and respond to his critics. Before the bash he spent a few days in an old-fashioned door-to-door campaign, facing the voters here head-on.

This is the main difference between him and the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. Both men run Africa’s largest economies. Both men are controversial. But one man doesn’t hide from his foes.

For years, South Africa was this continent’s largest economy until it was overtaken recently by Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan is up for re-election next month—but he would never be so bold as to enter a part of Nigeria where some folks don’t want to see him, the way Zuma did this weekend.

Indeed, those parts are growing. It appears Jonathan has ceded complete control of the northeastern Nigeria, to Boko Haram, the ultra violent extremist insurgents that want to destroy his government and establish a strict Islamic caliphate.

While the world wasn’t paying attention, Boko Haram now rivals Islamic State for deadly carnage on innocent citizens. Over the last few days:

Yesterday, bombs reportedly rocked Potiskum, bringing down buildings.

The day previous, Boko Haram strapped a girl, probably 10 or 11 years old with a bomb and sent her into a crowded market in Maiduguri, an ancient city. The blast killed 19 and injured many more. The new tactic of using little girls is particularly heinous and ungodly.

And it came just after many were reeling from what was supposedly the deadliest attack yet by Boko Haram, last week in Baga where scores, hundreds possibly up to 2,000 were slaughtered.

Baga is on the Lake Chad and many reportedly drowned swimming to an uninhabited island for safety. Those who reached the mosquito-infested destination were trapped without food and clean water. Many headed for buses that took them to Maiduguri—also the site of a Boko Haram bombing.

Is anyplace safe in Northeast Nigeria?

Bama, Baga, Damaturu, Chibok, Ngala, Dikwa, Banki, Gulak may not be familiar towns to the outside world but they represent places where this terrorist group has wreaked havoc, burnt down entire villages, and defeated the Nigerian soldiers.

And in the process displaced 1.5 million people.

But Nigeria boasts Africa’s largest economy. Where is Jonathan?

The world knows about the attack and kidnapping of 219 schoolgirls in Chibok and the resulting #BringBackOurGirls campaign, but Jonathan’s government hasn’t succeeded in bringing them home or remotely taming Boko Haram. It took the Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafza’s urging Jonathan to even meet with the relatives of the abducted girls.

Last week Jonathan was quick to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, but remained mum on Baga. This weekend, his dancing at his foster daughter’s wedding made the rounds on social media. He spoke about Nigeria’s “big challenge” but doesn’t appear to have named Boko Haram specifically.

Meanwhile, Jonathan continues to campaign for votes across the country, just not in the northeast.

Wouldn’t it be great for Nigerians there to see their president? Or for him to show solidarity with those people? Some believe those in the northeast won’t get to vote with bombs going off daily.

Last month, US presidential candidate and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Jonathan and his government had squandered Nigeria’s oil wealth. “Nigeria has made bad choices, not hard choices,” Clinton said. “They have squandered their oil wealth; they have allowed corruption to fester, and now they are losing control of parts of their (own) territory because they would not make hard choices.”

Jonathan seems to care only about squelching the campaign of his opponent, a former military dictator, Muhammadu Buhari, who despite his brutal past, many see as a viable alternative to the current state of affairs.

Before the election next month, maybe he ought to go and explain himself to residents of northeastern Nigeria. Just like Zuma did to voters in the Western Cape. I won’t hold my breath.

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Nigeria’s president may finally do what he should have done all along: bring back the girls

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

One big long failure. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Perhaps it was too good to be true. And indeed many thought, prayed, and hoped it wouldn’t be.
When the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan announced last week that the government had reached an agreement with the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, to free the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls, their parents rejoiced.
“We were jubilating. We had every reason to be happy,” Lawan Abana, a parent of the one of the missing girls, told Reuters. This “agreement” even called for a ceasefire. What a feather this would have been in Goodluck’s cap. Right on on the heels of his country beating back the Ebola outbreak.
But in Nigeria, past is always prologue. Jonathan’s government has said in the past that it killed Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, only for him to pop up in new videos, taunting the government. So when more gruesome attacks on five towns took place one day later, it just seemed like the government was toying with the parents and the world, who have waited for six months for tangible results of a release.
Jonathan, it seems, cannot tame Boko Haram. The Islamist separatist terror group has wreaked havoc on the Nigerian government with its bombing and kidnapping campaigns. It is probably now the biggest threat to Africa’s largest economy.
Boko Haram has killed thousands in its attempt to create an Islamic state in a country with millions of Christians and others who practice African traditional religions. The militant group is so well armed that Nigerian soldiers have been accused of refusing to fight them, with a large group being charged with mutiny just before the “ceasefire agreement.”
Yet Jonathan never projects a sense of urgency where these girls are concerned, rarely acknowledging the worldwide #bringbackourgirls campaign. After all, it took him three months and the urging of activist Malala Yousafzai to even meet with the parents. Would this have been his response if those children were of his ilk? Children of his friends? Or his coterie of ministers?
Since Jonathan never made it to Chibok, where the abduction happened, it’s not hard to surmise he’s ceded the territory to Boko Haram. A release now would have been perfect, making him a winner, projecting the strength and resolve he can’t seem to muster—particularly after six months in captivity, and just before he’s expected to formally announce he’ll seek another term at Aso Rock, the Nigerian seat of government in February 2015 when the elections are scheduled. It would be his moment to shine bright in the eyes of the world.
Others who seek the presidency can lay the failures of resolving the Boko Haram crisis firm at his feet. He has, after all, failed to protect the citizenry in northeast Nigeria and the girls remain captive. But right after Saturday’s attacks, doubt began to set in. The alleged negotiator for Boko Haram was dubbed an imposter. And by the one person who could know.
Ahmed Salkida, a journalist who once shared a cell with Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf and has been close to the group, set the Twitter world afire when he pooh-poohed the agreement in a series of tweets over the weekend.
Salkida now lives in Dubai, but he’s rarely been discredited on Boko Haram information.
Jonathan can still pull off an October surprise though. Without fanfare or announcements, he can and should do whatever it takes to recover those abducted—then return the boys and the girls to their families—and then blow his own trumpet.

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Goodluck Indeed: What’s really behind Nigeria’s kidnapped girls: a very weak president

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN
QUARTZ
MAY 8 2014

Like US president Barack Obama, Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan gave people hope.

After all, the story goes, he was the son of canoe makers who grew up without shoes in the Niger Delta area but lifted himself out of poverty through education.

Not just a university degree, but a PhD. He became a symbol that, no matter the circumstances of birth in Africa’s most populous country, one could rise to the highest levels of political success: the Aso Rock villa. That’s Nigeria’s “White House.”

Yet there were elements of luck too. Jonathan was twice a running mate who was elevated because his principals could not serve out their terms. As vice president, he kept a low profile but then his boss died in office, elevating him to the top job.

The tale of a poor man, not part of any political dynasty who rose to be president by the dint of his hard work and strokes of luck, played well in 2010.

Then it was time to govern. To deliver on promises made.

But things never seemed to get better for the average Nigerian, despite the booming oil-rich economy.

Back then, he promised to stabilize electricity in Nigeria—but the country still remains in darkness most nights and every citizen who can afford to buys a generator. Power cuts last for hours on end.

In early 2012, the president removed the subsidies that made it affordable for the Nigerian Everyman to buy gas for their cars and portable generators. Nationwide #Occupy Nigeria demonstrations paralyzed the country for five days.

A year later, he told CNN (to the bewilderment of many Nigerians) that should one inquire about the power situation, ordinary folks would agree that he had made great strides. His government had “kept faith.”

Was he completely out-of-touch? Hand he not been outside the presidential villa in any city at nighttime? Or had he simply morphed into a quintessential say-anything politician? The facts be damned?

Yet the reality was Nigeria was sliding backwards and his inner circle appeared to either shield him from that or simply not care.

Today the CIA World Factbook points out that 62% of Nigeria’s 170 million people live in extreme poverty. Seventy percent are below the poverty line. Government revenues are $23 billion-plus annually.

His cabinet members showcase excessive displays of wealth (likely from taxpayer coffers) such as buying armored BMWs and hiring private jets. Yet it is impossible for him to find fault or discipline them.

But when central banker Lamido Sanusi sounded the alarms bells that $50 billion is, well, missing from government accounts; he gets fired.

For Jonathan, the optics are rarely good and embarrassment isn’t even in the equation. And after months of unanswered questions, unwittingly, turns the matter into a joke.

He careened from crisis to crisis, but instead of solving problems, Nigerians have a leader who seems consumed with reelection in 2015.

Thus, he began the year pandering.

First to the religious right; he offered a draconian criminalization of citizens who are sexual minorities and anyone who has any association with them.

Then he fast-tracked the construction a new bridge over the River Niger, which residents have sought for decades as the current one is old and in disrepair.

Yet at the same time he backed criminalizing gays and made promises to deliver on infrastructure.

The reality: Highways remain dilapidated, airports continue to resemble crumbling abandoned edifices, and one job vacancy elicits thousands of applicants. Universities remain in shambles. And millions scrape by eking out a living that places them among the world’s poorest despite the nation’s wealth.

What happened to the promise and hope of leadership from Jonathan?

Much of Nigeria’s success stories—and there are many—are derived from the private sector and with the $510 billion economy now Africa’s largest. But still money is concentrated in the hands of the few while millions are mired in poverty. For all its growth and revenues, Jonathan’s government has no Emirates-style infrastructure achievements to show. Money has simply vanished.

It is against this backdrop that the terror group Boko Haram has been escalating its war on the Nigerian government. Northern Nigeria remains extremely poor. It is fertile ground for Boko Haram’s message: They claim western education is forbidden and say they want an Islamic state with strict adherence to the Koran.

So their modus operandi has been to create chaos.

Bombing churches, attacking and killing high school students, detonating bombs in car parks—and now abducting teenage girls.

Jonathan’s first response was to try to crush them militarily.

And he failed.

Then he seemed to shrug his shoulders and hope for the best. His attitude can, at best, be described as ineptitude—namely by not heeding the warnings that girls would be abducted after terrorists slaughtered young boys in another school a few months ago.

On April 14, members of the Boko Haram stormed a boarding school in Chibok, Bornu state, and took hundreds of girls by lorry into the dense forests near the country’s border with Chad.

Only after finally fed-up Nigerians pushed the world to intervene by simply saying #BringBackOurGirls online and in demonstrations around the world … finally Jonathan broke his weeks-old silence.

Only to admit he has no clue where the 276 girls are.

And Boko Haram’s feared leader, Abubakar Shekau, believed to be in the dense Sambisa forests continues to taunt Jonathan, saying he’s selling the girls.

Only then did his finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spends considerable effort telling—some would say bamboozling—western press how wonderful her efforts have been in turning the economy around, decide the girls were worth mentioning.

The minister under who is coordinating Africa’s Davos, the current World Economic Forum for the continent, has been known to tell journalists how she could be earning a fat paycheck at the World Bank but she’s instead she’s doing the hard work in Nigeria with her boss, Jonathan.

Before flying to New York last week to get an accolade from Time magazine, she rattled off to journalists plans for the 6,000 military personnel to protect world leaders and Fortune 500 representatives in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, this week for the summit.

But of course there was no mention of the missing girls.

Only after the outcry of the ordinary people, with their supporters on Twitter around the world, did she now claim that she and president can’t sleep at night out of worry. (The optics are never good for these folks.)

And it is backfiring as international press now think of him as ineffective and leading a corrupt bunch.

Only after the outcry did Jonathan’s wife, Patience, display what seemed to be crocodile tears on national television. Then she promptly berated activists and women for demonstrating against her husband’s administration.

The writer Teju Cole, rightly dubbed her ‘The First Lady of Surrealistan.”

How is it possible that a government can only respond to such heinous crimes only after pressure from the outside world?

Would he have been so slow to act or even convey sympathy and empathy were these girls his daughters, his friends’ daughters, or children of the elite?

Time is running out for Jonathan to be an agent of change. He still has time to lead from the front, not behind. He still has time put people first—not just business interests to ensure he gets another term.

Once again, the president could actually take a page from Obama’s book. With elections looming in 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck and Obama and his team were all hands on deck. The election took care of itself.

If only Jonathan and his team would do the same. And act like they care? Maybe do something bold.

If only. Few are holding their breath. I’m not.

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Nigeria Abuzz Over Who Paid for Beyoncé Concert

 

Feb. 24 2013

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

Did the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, divert $1 million from an anti-poverty program to finance a trip to Lagos by American pop stars Beyoncé Knowles and her husband Jay-Z?

A document recently released by SaharaReporters, a group of well-regarded and some famous Nigerian journalists, some of them dissidents forced to flee the country, seems to indicate that he did.

And the report has sparked an angry debate among Nigerians.

The charge is that in 2006 as governor of the oil-producing Bayelsa state, Mr. Jonathan robbed the very poor in his state to help pay the very rich Americans, to burnish Nigeria’s image abroad.

There is no indication that Beyoncé and Jay Z, who thrilled crowds in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, knew that their visit could have been paid for, in part, by funds designated to ending abject poverty.

But when she performed this rendition of Nigeria’s national anthem, photos of Bayelsa state appeared on the screens behind her. You can see her thrill the audience above and here, singing live as it were.

This charge comes on the heels of reality star Kim Kardashian flying into Lagos for a Valentine’s Day event she “co-hosted” for a reported $500,000.

Her entire contribution was a brief appearance and a two-word greeting to the well-heeled crowd: “Hey Naija,” slang for “Hey, Nigeria. She took off immediately after. Folks are wondering where the money to fund her appearance came from.

While many Nigerians are outraged, Mr. Jonathan’s administration has remained mum on the issue. But Nigerian press accounts revealed this month that in recent years, the administration paid up to $60,000 to contract a American public relations and lobbying powerhouse.

As president, Mr. Jonathan has worked hard to try to burnish Nigeria’s image abroad, even as millions of Nigerians remain mired in poverty in his home state and the country at large.

Sahara Reporters points out that “according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 47 percent of Bayelsans live in poverty. The World Bank says that per capita gross domestic product in the Niger Delta is significantly below the country’s average. According to the state’s own 2005 development strategy, 80 percent of rural communities have no access to safe drinking water.”

Mr. Jonathan’s efforts — even his successful ones — are not always impressive. The January interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from Davos, below and here, was not widely seen as one of his finer moments.

The Beyoncé concert was organized by Ndukka Obaigbena, a publisher whose efforts to wrangle money from government entities for his jamborees, as well as his high-profile media portrayals abroad have been called into question.

More importantly, the image of Nigeria as a haven for poverty and corruption on the continent — and terrorists — doesn’t appear to be on the verge of changing soon, as Britain sends bombers to Nigeria and the Obama administration sends drones next door.

But maybe through film, and soft power Nigeria can be rebranded. On Friday, on the eve of the Academy Awards, for the first time a Nigerian film from the country’s Nollywood industry was released in U.S. movie theaters.   To see more and comment click here.

African Style Goes Global, Despite Little Tangible Support From African Leaders

IHT Rendezvous - Join the Conversation

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

ACCRA, Ghana — Every day on the downtown streets of Accra, debonair men and fashionable women can be seen proudly attired in Western-style skirts, shirts and slacks, all made from African prints by local tailors.

In recent years, local designers created ready-to-wear outfits with these prints. But today the quintessential British fashion emporium, Burberry, has taken similar patterns and built a collection in stores that takes “Accra style” global.

The prints and fabrics ubiquitous in sub-Saharan Africa have long inspired European and American high fashion, but Burberry’s Prorsum collection is the most prominent.

Ironically, this African design moment comes at a time when Ghana has gone from having 44 textile manufacturers to just four, employing a scant 2,500 people down from about 30,000.

In an interview with Italian Vogue, Ghana’s president, John Atta Mills, said, “I really believe in the textile industry and I’m firmly convinced it can revitalize the country. Ghana is totally open to fashion, which is part of our history, and I think there’s a lot of untapped talent in this country. We need to return to the golden years.”

The golden years have been eroded by prints now made in China with Ghanaian patterns.

“We have very strict laws that impede the Chinese from bringing cotton fabrics into our country with Ghanaian patterns printed in China. If we find them, they are burned at the border,” Mr. Mills said before having his photo taken for Vogue.

The current May-June edition of L’Uomo Vogue is entirely dedicated to African fashion and also includes an interview and photo spread with Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Mr. Jonathan understands the power of images and was happy to tout his efforts at re-branding Nigeria to the magazine: “You know our designers. They’re talented and very creative.”

Indeed, Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, hosts an exciting fashion week, even though it lacks substantial government support and is bedeviled by power failures and other infrastructure challenges.

Last March, Lagos Fashion Week provided an international platform for local talent and lured the Ghanaian designer Ozwald Boateng to Africa from his Saville Row outpost in London.

As the IHT’s Suzy Menkes noted recently, designers around the continent are leaping into fashion’s mainstream with quality and creativity. If harnessed properly, they have the potential to spark huge economic growth in these countries.

For continental designers to go global, they have to toot their own horns loudly and hope someone hears. This is exactly what has been going on for the past three days in Soweto, South Africa’s famous township outside Johannesburg.

The organizer of Soweto Fashion Week, Stephen Manzini, 23, raised about $7,500 for a bare-bones operation showcasing 16 designers, some inspired by Nelson Mandela’s pre-inaugaration wardrobe.

“We refused to be stopped because we don’t have funding,” Mr. Manzini told The Associated Press.

It was local fashion showcases like these that caught the eye of Theo Omambala, a former model whose Ubuntu International project showcased smaller Ugandan, South African and Nigerian designers during the 2011 and 2012 London Fashion Weeks.

Organizers say a new initiative, dubbed Theo’s Vision: La Haute Culture (TVLHC), aims to repeat that, but this time in New York, expanded to designers from various countries.

Last year larger designers and jewelers from Nigeria got exposure to buyers and retailers worldwide when they were spotlighted at the Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week in a “Made in Africa” segment sponsored by Arise magazine.

Yet, despite appearances by West African leaders in Vogue, and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, appealing for support of African designers, there seems little chance of an effort from Ghana and Nigeria to push local talent onto the world stage — or even to commit to creating an international shopping hub in Abuja, Lagos or Accra.

Something akin to Los Angeles’s Rodeo Drive, or Paris’s Avenue Montaigne. A destination where boutiques can feature high-end local and foreign designers, the ones fashionable wealthy Nigerians wear.

Neither West African president made any tangible promises to Africa’s designers before smiling for the cameras. To see more and leave a comment click here.