OPINION: Thought Subsidy Was Bad. Why is Tinubu Bringing it Back? – Farooq A. Kperogi

A September 21, 2023, enterprise news report (i.e., a news report that’s not from a news release or a press conference) from the Daily Trust found that “Despite the numerous assurances by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that… subsidy is gone… the federal government paid N169.4 billion as subsidy in August to keep the pump price at N620 per litre.”

What happened? I thought petrol subsidies were evil, harmful, no-good drains on the economy that should be avoided at all costs. I thought the government had no responsibility to tame the savagery of market forces and to protect citizens from the full fury of the vagaries of international oil prices.

I thought the “invisible hand” was supposed to regulate prices unaided by any governmental intervention (which has been thoroughly disproved by the fact that petrol marketers arbitrarily increased their pump prices after Tinubu precipitously announced that subsidies were gone even though they were selling the old stock of petrol that had been subsidized by taxpayers.)

I thought it didn’t matter that unaffordable and extortionate petrol prices are causing hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to starve and die, small- and large-scale industries to collapse, unemployment to skyrocket, the economy to shrink, quality of life of the average citizen to plummet, and Nigeria as a whole to regress to the Stone Age.

With the naira on an unprecedently free fall against the dollar and global petrol prices on the rise, it’s inevitable that a liter of petrol would have been at least 1,000 naira a liter by now if the “invisible hand” that conservative economists have invested so much faith in were left to determine the pump price of petrol. It’s conceivable it could climb to 2,000 naira per liter in the coming months if the government doesn’t interfere with the vagaries of the market.

Why is Tinubu committing “economic blasphemy” by misdoubting the power of the omniscient and omnicompetent Invisible Hand to take care of everything? Why is he intervening to stop the pump price of petrol from getting to its appropriate rate? Does he want our petrol to be so affordable that our neighbors will smuggle it?

Does he no longer want to save money to build and renew infrastructure and fund education? (Never mind that we haven’t seen where the money saved from the withdrawal of subsidies since May has been put to productive use. Or that only the living and the healthy can use infrastructure and go to school.)

Well, I guess Tinubu and his ideological cheerleaders in and out of government are beginning to see what some of us have been saying for years: that subsidizing an essential commodity like petrol in Nigeria whose price affects every facet of life is not an option; it is an abiding moral imperative.

The government’s primary reason for existing is to protect lives. As is by now evident, withdrawing fuel subsidies in an oil-producing country that is the poverty capital of the world, that has one of the world’s lowest minimum wages, and that has no public transportation system is a trigger for mass suffering and mass deaths.

There is something else that must have informed Tinubu’s decision to stealthily halt the impending rise in the pump price of petrol: insurance against mass anomie and revolt.

Although Nigerians can be some of the most incredibly docile and self-hypnotic people on earth, it’s stupid to assume that they will always be so. As someone once remarked, “The day when large numbers of men have to choose between feeding their children and providing a roof over their heads—is the day when nothing will stop the torches and pitchforks.”

In other words, there is a limit to human endurance of pain and deprivation. Most people won’t listlessly just roll over and perish because of persistent adversity. People with an overpowering will to live who can’t survive government-engineered suffocation of their lives (which withdrawal of subsidies amid endemic poverty represents) will turn to crime out of desperation. That’s why the crime statistics in Nigeria have quadrupled since May.

But it’s going to get worse. For now, the victims of crimes are the poor and the disappearing middle class. The rich and the powerful are next if the current subsidy-removal-activated excruciation doesn’t abate. After the poor, the lower middle class and the middle class are dispossessed, the rich will become the next meal of the desperately poor.

“Eat the rich” is an enduring, often metaphoric, revolutionary catchphrase usually mouthed by conscientious, socially sensitive middle-class intellectuals to denote redistributive economic justice, but it could become literal in Nigeria once it gets to the point when only the rich—politicians and their underlings, wealthy businesspeople, and other government-subsidized fat cats—have all the food. That’s why so-called bread riots are historically the most common triggers of momentous mass insurrections.

Cynical conservatives in the West like to say subsidies for the poor are basically protection money to stop the poor from stealing and revolting. The rich in the West don’t want to be awake because the poor can’t sleep. The late Professor Sam Aluko captured it brilliantly in 1999 when he memorably said, “The poor cannot sleep because they are hungry, and the rich cannot sleep, because the poor are awake and hungry.”

That is why the welfare state was brought forth in the West. The International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences defines a welfare state as “a state that is committed to providing basic economic security for its citizens by protecting them from market risks associated with old age, unemployment, accidents, and sickness.”

Ironically, it is the same welfarist West whose institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank) encourage, in many cases compel, developing countries like Nigeria to strip the poor of basic economic security through the removal of subsidies.

Of course, our rapacious, self-loving leaders who want exclusive control of the state’s resources for themselves and their families welcome the freedom from being responsible to struggling citizens that removal of subsidies represents. And slavish, unthinking ideologues of the “Washington Consensus” cheer on.

There is not an example of a single country on earth that has made progress on the basis of the cruel policies that the World Bank and the IMF impose on countries.  As Professors David Held and Anthony McGrew persuasively showed in their book, Globalization/Anti-Globalization: Beyond the Great Divide, “Developing countries that have benefited most from globalization are those that have not played by the rules of the standard [neo]liberal market approach, including China, India and Vietnam” (p. 226).

In fact, even America, the patron saint of capitalism, doesn’t practice the sort of cruel, extreme capitalism that Tinubu is practicing and that even his opponents promised they would practice if they got a chance to be elected president.

As I pointed out in my December 10, 2016, column titled “Dangerous Fine Print in Emir Sanusi’s Prescriptions for Buhari,” when it comes to the welfare of its citizens, America doesn’t practice on its soil what its institutions preach to developing countries.

I wrote: “But when the United States went into a recession between 2007 and 2009, it didn’t follow any of these neoliberal prescriptions. The dollar wasn’t devalued. Subsidies weren’t removed. The state wasn’t rolled back. The government didn’t retrench workers. Taxes weren’t raised.

“On the contrary, the government increased expenditure. The financial burden on the populace was eased with lower taxes.  Government, in fact, sent lots of money, called tax rebate checks, to lower- and middle-income families so they could have money to spend, since recession is essentially the consequence of people not having enough money to spend. I was a beneficiary of the tax rebate, so I know what I am talking about. Financially distraught private companies (particularly car manufacturers and banks) were bailed out by the government.”

I don’t know if Tinubu and his team are finally realizing that the problem with fuel subsidy was the monstrous corruption in it and not the subsidy itself. Most of what passed as fuel subsidy was fraud. Any government worth the name should be able to tackle corruption and administer subsidies for the collective benefit of Nigerians.

But Tinubu was swept over by the idiotic anti-subsidy mass hypnosis that has engulfed Nigeria in the last few years.

This has ensured that Tinubu has had by far the shortest honeymoon in power. Why won’t he? He promised to hit the ground running but instead hit the ground ruining— with his infamous “Subsidy is gone for good” declaration on inauguration day. He promised renewed hope but is giving renewed hell. He promised the dawn of a new era, but people are seeing the dawn of a new error after Buhari.

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POLITICS: Opponent leader Fayulu confirms presidential candidacy

The opponent Martin Fayulu, who has maintained suspense in recent weeks, confirmed Saturday in Kinshasa his candidacy for the presidential election of December 20 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He will face the current president, Félix Tshisekedi, in power since January 2019, candidate for re-election.

“The Lamuka coalition (“Wake up”, in Lingala) decided to run for president,” Fayulu told reporters.

By July 2022, his party Ecidé (Engagement for Citizenship and Development), which belongs to the Lamuka coalition, had made Martin Fayulu his official candidate for the next presidential election, coupled with the legislative, provincial and municipal elections.

But a year later, while refusing to talk about a “boycott”, he assured that if he did not obtain a new audit of the electoral register, his party would not file candidacy files for the elections.

According to him, out of 43.9 million registered voters, there would be “10 million fictitious”. ” This time, it will not pass… We refuse to launder fraud (…), we must mobilize to prevent the electoral parody in preparation from happening,” he told the press.

In fact, his party has not aligned any candidates in the legislative and provincial elections, which could suggest that Mr. Fayulu, 66, former executive of the oil major ExxonMobil, would not be on the presidential ranks either.

The electoral register was not subject to a new audit, but Mr. Fayulu nevertheless considered that the “pressure” had made progress. The chairman of the electoral commission, he noted, for example, recently said that the election results would be published “polling station by polling station”.

At the presidential election of December 2018, he had among his competitors the then-ruling candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and that of the historical opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Félix Tshisekedi.

The latter was proclaimed the winner with 38.5% of the vote, with Martin Fayulu coming in 2nd (34.8%) and Emmanuel Ramazani in 3rd (23%).

Mr. Fayulu claimed to have won with 61% of the vote and shouted at the “electoral coup”. Felix Tshisekedi denies and claims to have won the election.

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Lady Tee Thompson, David Adeoye Filmo, Odion Ikyo advocates women’s reproductive health rights in conflict

In recent times, Nigeria has experienced conflicts in its 6 geopolitical zones. At the center of conflict are women and children who are most vulnerable. From rape to abuse, women face a lot of reproductive healthcare challenges. In the context of humanitarian conflicts, are women’s rights to reproductive healthcare valid? And if yes, how does this promote gender equality and equity? What policies are in place to safeguard women’s reproductive health rights in conflict? Are there even policies in the first place and if there are how effective are they? How do these policies affect service delivery to women in conflict and host communities and IDP camps?

These are the issues raised and addressed at the stakeholder’s consultative meeting on Addressing Gaps in Policy and Access to Reproductive Healthcare for Women in Conflict Context (project AGRIC) which is powered by Theodora Anavhe Adamu Foundation (TAAF), held on the 29th of September 2023 at the Grand Pela Hotel Abuja.

In her opening remarks, Lady Tee Thompson, (UNA-USA Women Group Chairperson and International Gender Equality Advocate) said reproductive care is a fundamental human right and every woman deserves a healthy and fulfilling life.

“The pursuit of gender equality in healthcare, and particularly in reproductive care, is not just a matter of justice but of fundamental human rights. Every woman, irrespective of her background or circumstances, is entitled to comprehensive and respectful health care as her birthright. A gender lens in healthcare ensures that every individual, regardless of their gender, has an equal opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.”

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) plays a pivotal role, especially in regions like Nigeria. It serves as a beacon, guiding nations to commit to removing barriers and ensuring that all women experience the care, respect, and opportunities they deserve.

“We all have a stake in this. Gender equality benefits societies at every level, fostering growth, stability, and prosperity.” Lady Tee said

While addressing the stakeholders, the  Executive Director of Theodora Anavhe Adamu Foundation and the convener of the Addressing Gaps in Policy and Access to Reproductive Health Care for women in conflict project, Mrs Odion Ikyo calls for cooperation of stakeholder and action plan to engage goverrment and international agencies.

” We can’t talk about closing reproductive healthcare gaps for women in humanitarian conflict without asking what policies are in place to safeguard women’s rights in conflict. We hope that by working together with stakeholders represented here, we will come up with an implementable action plan for further engagement with legislators, the government and UN agencies.” ikyo said

The three key points reached by stakeholders are

  1. There has to be more synergy and coordination by the government, international organizations, UN, and CSOs.
  2. More accountability in funding for reproductive health care programs for women in conflict context
  3. Review policies protecting and promoting women’s reproductive health rights in conflict

Stakeholders represented at this event were representatives of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Health, Humanitarian Affairs, Nigeria Youth Parliament, Foreign Affairs, Senator Adams Oshiomole, FIDA, ARFH, NGOs, CSOs

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UNGA78: Amb. Hugues Sanon urges African leaders to be united, presents Medal of Honor to Awardee

African Leadership Events leverages unique access to some of the world’s most influential leaders, policy-makers, and entrepreneurs, —uniting these global forces to harness their collective knowledge, address today’s critical issues, and discover innovative solutions.

During the International Forum on African-Caribbean Leadership (IFAL) 2023 –with the Theme: Africa-Caribbean cooperation and today’s global geopolitics which was held recently in NEW YORK, at the prestigious New York Hilton Midtown – 1335 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10019, United States.

The Global Peace Ambassador, Mr. Hugues Sanon presented the Medal of Honor to Dr. Ken Giami, President and Publisher of the African Leadership Magazine, to His Excellency Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana; His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe and to His Excellency Mr. Muhammad Jallow, Vice President of Gambia.

Mr. Sanon emphasizes the importance of diplomacy and politics in achieving peace and sustainability in Africa and the world.

“I urge all African leaders to continue and put heads together because together we are stronger and together we’ll continue to empower the World “, Said Mr. Sanon

In the same vein, Ambassador Hugues Sanon also participated at the GLOBAL POWER WOMEN CONFERENCE (GPWC) 2023 with the THEME “Advancing Resilience & Transformational Women Leadership for Sustainable High Performance & Global Impact, Hosted By the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development, held At the Hilton located at 1335 6th Avenue New York, NY 10019,

The event was attended by HE Vjosa Osmani, President of Kosovo; HE Mellisa Santokhi-Seenacherry, First Lady of Suriname; HE Angeline Ndayishimiye, First Lady of Burundi; Hon. Rosalyn Henderson Myers, Member South Carolina, House of representatives, among other prominent business and political leaders from across the globe.

Earlier, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Sanon also presented three special medals of honor to Judge Octave Saint Juste, Mr. Garry Dorlean and Mrs. Nadine Charles, three great individuals from Haiti who have impacted their community.

Hugues Sanon and his New York City team also took part at the AFPC UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SIDE-EVENT to discuss with the panelists and global leaders who attended the event on various challenges the world is facing and how to get results through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Ambassador Hugues Sanon also participated at the 78th UNGA High-Level Side Event on Social Business, Youth and Technology  co-hosted by the Government of Timor Leste , Cabo Verde, Nigeria and the Global Committee on Social Business for Sustainable Development Goals, co-curated by Yunus Centre, The Yunus+You Foundation and *Youthink” Center, attended by Government leaders, Nobel Laureates, UN SDG Advocates, Business Leaders, Innovators, Social Entrepreneurs, young leaders from all over the world to empower community-led actions and innovate together for achieving SDGs: 1) Build a global eco-system to support social business, youth and technology for SDGs 2) Promote cross-sector and generational partnerships for innovation and development 3) Build a global network to support youth on technical innovation and social business with Featured Speakers include: H.E. José Ramos-Horta, President of Timor Leste, 1996 Nobel Peace Laureate, H.E. Ulisses Correia e Silva,  Prime Minister, The Government of Cabo Verde Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laureate 2006, Chairman of Yunus Centre, Founder of Grameen Bank and UN SDG Advocate Emeritus, Hon. Dr. Bosun Tijani, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Nigeria.

During the conference, Ambassador Hugues Sanon had the privilege to discuss with many young leaders, experts, and advocates including Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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UNGA78: Ambassador Hugues Sanon advocates for permanent seat for Africans

The general debate of the seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly was held from Tuesday,  September 19, to Saturday, September 23, and on Tuesday, September 26, 2023 to discuss Global issues under the theme, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”

This provides an opportunity for world leaders to deliver a statement on global issues and explore solutions to the intertwined global challenges to advance peace, security, and sustainable development.

During UNGA78, Global Peace Ambassador Hugues Sanon alongside his wife Emmanuella Sanon and his New York City team which includes Mr. Hans Garry, Judge Octave Saint Juste, and others took part at various high-level side events held at the UN  and at some other venues to continue to advocate for peace and reconciliation and advocate for Africa to have a permanent seat at UN Security Council to adequately represented in the discussions and decisions taking place at the UN, advocating for women to take part in decision-making positions across the globe for sustainable leadership and high performance in government; also, Mr. Sanon also demands urgent Global solidarity for Haiti.

He stressed that Haiti has faced numerous challenges, including, coups riots, natural disasters, and political and economic interference, leading to its current status as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Speaking of the conflict between Haiti and Dominican Republic, Hugues Sanon said, “This is not the time for war, this is the time to use diplomacy, sitting down together to identify the problems, and together to seek for the solution.” “Let us put our differences aside and sit down to the table of love and peace and Consciousness and surely we will have a sustainable world.”

In the same vein, during the ceremony of the 2023 World leaders summit, the President lifetime achievement Award was presented to top model Emmanuella Sanon by Ambassador Monica Sanchez on behalf of the voiceless institute of public policy and diplomacy found by Ambassador Andrice Bass for her lifetime commitment and service to her community and the world  and also  the United States of Kailasa , through its Delegate, BhaktiVasya Nithyananda presented a special gift to Global Peace Ambassador Hugues Sanon, the Bhagavad Gita Decoded book which is the preamble to Kailasa’s Constitution, Kailasa country also presented the coffee table book which explains the Revival of the ancient enlightened Hindu Civilizational Nation by the Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism, Bhagwan Sri Nithyananda ParaMaShivam. -The Sovereign Order of Kailasa’s Nithyananda (SOKN) is  a typical government, simultaneously functioning as the supreme governing body of Hinduism and a sovereign entity under international law. This mirrors the unique status of The Holy See, which is an atypical government as well, as it serves as both the supreme governing body of the Catholic Church and a sovereign entity under international law.

Ambassador Sanon also met and had a productive discussion with the Royal Prince of Thailand, second oldest son of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Prince Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse at the UNGA78, His Excellency Mr. Muhammad Jallow, Vice President of the Gambia, Dr. Ken Giami, President and Publisher of African Leadership Magazine at the African Leadership Forum, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and in 2006 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ambassador Dr. Hugues Sanon also had a productive meeting with many interfaith leaders on how to inspire other religious leaders to join the movement to achieve the sustainable development goals in our communities and around the world and to coordinate a Global Interfaith Summit at the United Nations Headquarters to highlight different challenges encountering the faith based community and to inspire action on sustainable development; Mr. Sanon also met his long-time friend, Guru Dr. Dileepkumar Thankappan, a prominent interfaith leader and consultant and one of the leading interfaith advocates for sustainable development

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US, Kenya sign defense agreement ahead planned Haiti deployment

Kenya and the US signed a defense agreement Monday that will see the East African nation get resources and support for security deployments as it is poised to lead a multi-national peacekeeping mission to Haiti to combat gang violence.

Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed the accord at a meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The agreement guides the countries’ defense relations for the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab extremist group intensifies.

Austin thanked Kenya for volunteering to take the leadership of the Haiti multi-national force and reiterated that the U.S government would work with Congress to secure the $100 million in funding that it pledged on the sidelines of the U.N General Assembly.

Kenya in August pledged to send 1,000 security officers to Haiti to combat gang violence in a mission that is pending the U.N Security Council’s formal approval but has received support from the U.N. and U.S.

Duale said his country is ready to deploy to Haiti and cited Kenya’s “very long history of global peacekeeping” in Kosovo, neighboring Somalia and Congo.

Human rights activists, meanwhile, have expressed concerns over the deployment, citing a history of human rights abuses during security operations in the country.

Some security analysts have expressed concerns that there will be a language barrier between the deployment from Kenya, an English- and Swahili-speaking country, and the people of Haiti, where the official languages are French and Creole.

On the regional fight against al-Shabab, Austin said he had met with Somalia’s president and that both agreed that the country had made “significant progress in the last year against al-Shabab.” But Austin also said that “progress is not always a straight line so we may see things improve significantly on one day and maybe we’ll see challenges on the next day.”

Somalia last week asked the U.N. to pause for three months the withdrawal of 3,000 troops in the second phase of drawdown to allow the country’s forces to regroup. Somalia is expected to take up its full security responsibilities by end of 2024.

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ENTERTAINMENT: The Nollywood pioneer seeking perfection in African storytelling

To an entire generation of Nigerian millennials, Ego Boyo was their first encounter with onscreen celebrity. Three decades after her first grand appearance on the scene, the Nigerian actress, filmmaker, activist and philanthropist has lived several lives in one, wearing each phase confidently.

As the star of the popular early ’90s television series, Checkmate, Boyo’s celebrity predated her success in the direct-to-video film industry that would come to be called Nollywood. In Checkmate, Boyo, who played an ambitious and resourceful young heiress, was on primetime national television every week, at a time when television was the central medium for distributing entertainment content.

“Her onscreen career predates Nollywood,” Rejoice Abutsa, a film and media studies scholar at Cornell University, tells Al Jazeera. “It is a career that has survived the gendered, industrial and technological shifts that have transformed Nollywood. In making the transition from acting to producing, Boyo went beyond performing in roles that were already determined for her, staking her capital in the field and ensuring that she too could determine the type of stories that were told and how they were told.”

Nollywood’s growth has favoured quantity and speed in filmmaking, but with her three-decade career, Boyo, now 55, has favoured slower production. As a producer, Boyo has assumed a leadership role that her peers have said often points new directions to where the industry should be headed. Her films, ranging from 1996’s family drama, Violated, to 2019’s, The Ghost and the House of Truth, have been industry leaders, winning multiple awards.

This commitment to artistic excellence has not always translated to popularity but as Boyo tells Al Jazeera, she wouldn’t have it any other way, “I normally start with the story. The script has to get me excited not because everyone else is doing it but because I am interested in it. I ensure that the script is where I need it to be and start to visualize who I want from crew to cast.”

This pre-production process can often last for years, during which Boyo’s peers might have churned out multiple titles in quick succession.

Ego Boyo

But Boyo remains committed to a detailed development process,

“The criticism I get is that we take too much time, but I like that process because then when I make the film, it is something I have thought through,” she tells Al Jazeera. “I would have assembled a team that is committed to the project, and we know exactly what we want to achieve. I know people have other processes, but this has worked for me. If I can get it to a place that is as close to perfect as I can then that is very satisfying for me.”

Her work has the accolades to back her up.

The Ghost and the House of Truth, a contemplative drama about forgiveness and redemption won awards for director Akin Omotoso and leading lady Kate Henshaw and was named best world film at the Urbanworld film festival in New York City where it premiered.

Even her second outing as a solo producer – the little-seen, 30 Days, about a crew of skilled female assassins – punished boundaries. The film had an oral sex scene considered risqué for its 2007 arrival time.

The 2002 romantic comedy Keeping Faith essentially changed the way Nollywood approached romance and helped launch an aspirational romantic comedy sub-industry. Boyo also championed innovative publicity campaigns for some of these films, hosting themed, glamorous big-screen premieres even when the industry had no theatres to support the films.

In 2017, after plans to adapt Sefi Atta’s radio play, The Engagement, fell through, Boyo refocused and made A Hotel Called Memory, an experimental film with zero dialogue and very few box office prospects.

Mildred Okwo, a childhood friend who directed, 30 Days, and has cast Boyo in two films considered Boyo’s legacy, “Ego has shaped Nollywood considerably even though the industry never really stops to figure out the people that have shaped it. Many years from now someone who is objective will do a survey and they will find Ego’s films will be among the very important ones. Each one of her films has moved the industry forward in significant ways. If you track the progression, you can see someone trying to get better.”

Shuaibu Husseini, an industry veteran and jury member of the Africa Film Academy Awards agrees.”She is one person who invests in production values and ensures every aspect is taken care of,” he says. “She breaks out of the usual Nollywood model of quick, microwave filmmaking and takes her time to make films that are critically acclaimed. We still reference, Violated, and, A Hotel Called Memory, today for their quality and substance.”

Boyo on set in Asaba, Nigeria as a producer for the 1996 film, Violated [Courtesy of Ego Boyo]
Boyo on set in Asaba, Nigeria as a producer for the 1996 film, Violated [Courtesy of Ego Boyo]

In July 1967, war broke out in Nigeria after its eastern region declared itself an independent republic.

Ego was born Nwakaego Nnamani in the middle of this chaos, to a Nigerian father and a mother from Barbados. Her late father, Augustine Nnamani was a former supreme court justice and justice minister.

Her birthplace was the city of Umuahia, which was at a point the capital of the new republic but is today part of the southeastern state of Abia in a unified Nigeria. She was only a few days old when she was taken to Barbados where she lived with her maternal family until after the war, returning in 1971.

Showing an early proclivity for the arts, Boyo was admitted to the University of Benin where she studied theatre arts with a focus on television and film. She was fresh out of school when she landed the plum Checkmate gig, created by the late maverick producer Amaka Igwe.

Boyo recalled being overwhelmed by the opportunity. “I remember driving to the location in Ikorodu [area of Lagos], meeting other members of the quite impressive cast and feeling intimidated because they were all professionals, and I was just starting out.” She credited Igwe, who was also a young woman at the time, with ensuring everyone blended seamlessly.

Checkmate wasn’t just the most popular soap on television at the time – it ran from 1991 to 1994 – it also had a significant cultural impact. At the time, actors were not considered reputable members of society, but Boyo said people would come up to tell her that they found her role as the independent-minded businesswoman Ann Haatrope dignifying, and this made it less stigmatising, for women in particular, to go into film and TV.

“That is also when I realized we were changing minds and convincing girls that the corporate world was for them,” Boyo added.

The success of Checkmate made it clear to Boyo though that she did not particularly enjoy the exposure that came with acting. She said, “I didn’t realise at the time how interested people would be in my life beyond the screen. It did scare me.”

Still, when Igwe invited her to produce Violated, their next project together, she leapt at the opportunity, “When the opportunity came to produce, it almost felt like something clicked and I had found what I was supposed to be doing. Amaka was a great teacher. I was a first-time producer, and she gave me free rein and I thrived.”

Producing was such a fit for Boyo that she disappeared from the screens totally, bidding goodbye to her leading lady era. Over the years, she has popped up in the occasional supporting role in a handful of films by trusted directors.

Ego Boyo, middle, joins a walk against rape in Lagos, Nigeria [Courtesy of Ego Boyo]
Ego Boyo, middle, joins a walk against rape in Lagos, Nigeria [Courtesy of Ego Boyo]While she was away, Boyo had three children, started her production company, Temple Productions and went to work making projects for corporate clients.

She also founded a school, after a real-life plot twist that launched one of her philanthropic pursuits.

The proprietor of the school where her children were enrolled decided to shut it down permanently, potentially leaving the children without an education. Boyo teamed up with eleven other parents to start the Lagos Preparatory School in Ikoyi.

Her childhood friend Okwo was far from surprised at this turn of events.

“Ego is a person that reads far and wide and goes out of her way to learn new things and stay informed,” she told Al Jazeera. “I doubt that there is any subject she doesn’t have some knowledge about.”

Her passion for education has also informed the advocacy and philanthropy work that she does. In 2016, the Oando Foundation, a non-profit focused on education, reached out to Boyo for assistance with an unbudgeted project. Boyo’s husband is the deputy chief executive at the foundation’s parent company, the oil company Oando PLC.

A school in Ewekoro, a suburb of Ogun state was relocated temporarily to a poultry pen because a number of the pupils had been killed in accidents while attempting to cross the road to get to school. The poultry pen was, however, infested by snakes and uninhabitable during the rainy season.

After being contacted by the foundation, Boyo sprung into action.

She sent a film crew pro bono to document the story and amplified the project, involving many of her celebrity contacts like actress Kate Henshaw who helped drum up support to eventually raise the funds that completed a new school building.

Henshaw told Al Jazeera, “The first time I went to the school, I was in tears and to go back after a year or so to see a completed building, toilet, laptops for the students … It was a joy to behold.”

“Ego’s impact is huge,” she added. “She has integrity. She is about the detail and quality of work, but she cares about people. She is a huge asset to the film industry.”

She has also delved into the roles and treatment of women in Nigerian society after an immersive theatre production on sexual assault left an indelible impact on her and she began to pay closer attention. At a rally to support victims of sexual violence, Boyo met Itoro Eze-Anaba whose foundation set up the Mirabel Centre, Nigeria’s first sexual assault referral centre.

Boyo was gratified when she received the invitation to join the Mirabel Centre’s governing board and has thrust herself headlong into the work, advising on communication strategies and media initiatives.

Eze-Anaba offered her immediate impressions about the Nollywood star: “Ego Boyo is not silent on issues she is passionate about. She lends her voice loudly and takes a stand.”

She further praised Boyo’s passion and generosity, saying, “We have made contact with celebrities who are not even in Ego’s league only for them to demand payment to work with us. Ego is committing her time and resources to ensuring that the Centre continues to provide free services to survivors and without asking for anything in return. She is a treasure.”

Disturbed by the careless misogyny she has often come across on the internet, Boyo who calls herself an “unapologetic feminist”, is presently interested in advocacy programmes looking to change the ways women are represented in media and has set up a foundation to support non-profits with media services.

She has encouraged writers and filmmakers to reconsider the kind of images they put out into the world. “Instead of having the woman browbeaten all the time, we can have a woman who stands up for herself or one who is not dependent on a man for her livelihood. In 2023, we still see ads with women in the kitchen and the man watching television. Would it be so shocking to have a guy in the kitchen making food? Isn’t that the reality for some people? And in any case, can we not imagine a better world?”

She continued, “I believe women should be treated equally to men with same opportunities and expectations. This has come out a bit in my work sometimes intentionally or otherwise. If there is any opportunity that I can give to a competent woman, then I am happy to.”

“I have waited long enough, seen enough, experimented with failure in the market and at the box office to now see that this is the way it has to be" - Ego Boyo [[Courtesy of Ego Boyo]
“I have waited long enough, seen enough, experimented with failure in the market and at the box office to now see that this is the way it has to be” – Ego Boyo [[Courtesy of Ego Boyo]

With streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon now helping Nollywood filmmakers reach global audiences that were previously inaccessible, Boyo is cautiously optimistic even when the industry has given her several reasons to doubt. Her movies are largely self-funded by profits from her corporate output, and she stresses that she wouldn’t be making movies if she didn’t have this privilege.

But she has had her challenges.

Despite its cultural resonance, Keeping Faith, failed to turn a profit for her as she sold the video rights to a middleman marketer upfront for a price she describes as “negligible,” effectively cutting herself out of future profits. This marketer would later confess to her that the film was one of his biggest-selling titles.

It wasn’t until, The Ghost and the House of Truth, that Boyo first turned a profit on one of her projects. Overcoming a disappointing theatrical run at home, the film scored a couple of streaming and video-on-demand deals that reaped a tidy profit.

As she’s grown as a businesswoman and prepares her next slate of films – at least two features and one historical documentary – Boyo is learning to balance her artistic instincts against the cut-throat demands of the business.

Now reluctant to assume all of the financial risk, Boyo says collaboration is key and financing and distribution must be in place before she makes another film. “I have waited long enough, seen enough, experimented with failure in the market and at the box office to now see that this is the way it has to be. But I have great faith that I would be able to get the deals done.”

Many in the industry believe it would be wrong to bet against her, given her precedents in weathering its different phases.

“She has always brought her A-game from her days on television through the transition to movies and then to producing,” Husseini tells Al Jazeera. “A lot of people have looked up to her and she raises the game each time.”

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Unstoppable Africa 2023: Shaping a Future of Prosperity and Innovation

Unstoppable Africa 2023 has concluded, leaving a profound mark on the African continent. The two-day Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) event aims to boost Africa’s standing in the global economy and establish the continent as the foremost destination for business, trade, and investment. This transformative gathering on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly has not only chartered the course for economic growth but has also solidified GABI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for change and progress.

On the second day of the event, Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence Ventures, emphasized the importance of authentically portraying African narratives. She highlighted that the continent’s rich heritage has traditionally been expressed through its unique storytelling methods. Wanga stated, “In discussing Africa, it’s vital to engage in genuine dialogue. We’ve celebrated our heritage through our distinct method of storytelling, which the world is longing for now more than ever. As the overseer of Essence Ventures and other platforms, I am committed to ensuring our tales are told from a position of strength and authenticity.”

The final day featured a chorus of leading private sector voices. Notably, leaders from the business and media world such as Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer; Niraj Varia, CEO of iProcure Ventures; Lakeshia Ford, Founder of Ford Communications; Claudia Kwarteng–Lumor, Founder of Kollage Media, producers of GLITZ AFRICA Magazine; Somachi Chris-Asoluka and CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). Complementing these luminaries were esteemed figures from government and international organizations, including President Masisi, H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Adebayo Olawale Edun, Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy for Nigeria, Joy Basu, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs at the US Department of State.

Also speaking were NBA stars Bismack Biyombo and Gorgui Dieng from the sports world and Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. Assistant Secretary-General Sanda Ojiambo, CEO of the United Nations Global Compact, the entity that coordinates GABI, underlined the critical importance of unleashing Africa’s green potential. Ojiambo’s message stressed the urgent need for businesses to expedite and amplify their efforts toward achieving “just, inclusive, and sustainable growth.”

Assistant Secretary-General Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre extended an invitation to businesses to participate in the ITC SheTrades network. This flagship program for women’s economic empowerment has already made a substantial impact, offering vital support to over 200,000 women entrepreneurs since its inception in 2015. The ITC SheTrades initiative plays a pivotal role in maximizing the boundless opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

With over a thousand attendees, GABI’s influence is gaining momentum across Africa, setting the stage for a future defined by opportunity and sustainable development. The vibrant exchange of ideas, the engaging, thought-provoking discussions, and the connections forged during the event solidify its position as a premier convening for those invested in Africa’s growth and economic future.

UNDP’s Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, announced the Timbuktoo initiative, an ambitious movement dedicated to harnessing Africa’s rich heritage of innovation and knowledge. Ms. Eziakonwa stated, “Inspired by the historical heartland of civilization, ‘Timbuktu’ is our commitment to bridge the gap between the burgeoning talent in Africa and global opportunities that await. We envision tearing down barriers that have historically limited Africa’s vast potential, creating a future where the continent’s talent seamlessly connects with global prosperity.”

The event concluded with inspiring remarks from UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, highlighting the importance of collective action in realizing Africa’s potential and achieving sustainable development. She called for unity and support from the global community and the private sector. She closed by emphasizing that this is just the beginning of a new chapter in Africa’s story, one marked by sustainable economic growth, empowerment, and the realization of the continent’s full potential.

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Unstoppable Africa: Igniting Transformation and Bold Collaborations

Leaders from global business, investment, government, sports, and the arts gathered in New York on Thursday, 21st September to mark the commencement of “Unstoppable Africa”.

The event by the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) seeks to elevate Africa’s prominence in the global economy and position the continent as the premier destination for business, trade, and investment.

In a press statement received by African Development Magazine, It was noted that the two-day event is co-convened by the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohamed and the Chairperson of the African Union H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. GABI, coordinated by the UN Global Compact, serves as a pivotal forum for Heads of State and Government, CEOs, investors, policymakers, industry experts, and U.N. leaders to discuss and strategize the way forward for Africa’s dynamic business landscape. “Unstoppable Africa” is a powerful affirmation of GABI’s unwavering commitment to redefining Africa’s economic narrative.

Sanda Ojiambo onstage during UNSTOPPABLE AFRICA Presented By Global African Business Initiative New York, USA. Thursday September 22, 2023. Photo Credit : Jennifer

On day one, the flagship event attracted an impressive array of speakers and participants, including the Presidents of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Kenya, H.E. William Samoe Ruto, Senegal, H.E Macky Sall, Poland H.E Andrzej Duda and H.E Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. In addition to government ministers, “Unstoppable Africa” welcomed a who’s who of renowned business titans such as Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British businessman and philanthropist, Phumzile Langeni, Deputy Chairman of Imperial Logistics; Non-Executive Director of DP World Group, James Manyika, Senior Vice-President of Research, Technology and Society at Google-Alphabet, and Brad Smith, President of Microsoft among others. Senegalese artist Baaba Maal set the tone for the event with a captivating performance calling for peace and prosperity in Africa while actor Arsema Thomas engaged in an insightful interview conducted by the event’s host Folly Bah Thibault from Al Jazeera English.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the two-day forum making a compelling call for the “delivery of justice” – a theme central to the continent’s sustainable development. The UN Secretary-General stated that “justice means reforming outdated, unfair and dysfunctional global financial systems and ensuring African representation at every multilateral table”.

H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados emphasized the difference between ambition and meaningful action, in the context of Africa. Recognizing the emerging unity and collaborative efforts across the continent, she highlighted the imperative for accelerated progress in Africa. Her message underscored the urgency for nations to move from plans to concrete actions that catalyze transformative change on the continent.

During a major event announcement, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), announced a transformative partnership with Google, creating a Centre of Excellence for coding in Africa.

Other announcements on the day included The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) commitment to positioning the country high-up in the batteries and electric vehicles value chains, unveiling a new 1,000-hectare space in Kolwezi, with special economic zone status. DRC’s Minister of Industry, H.E. Julien Paluku, appealed to global investors to join these initiatives in addressing climate change while advancing economic growth. Further, President of Ghana, H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo launched Ghana’s Energy Blue Zone Initiative, heralding a major stride in the country’s energy transition and investment plans.

The “Unstoppable Africa” event promises to continue its momentum into the second day, where further thought-provoking discussions, innovative solutions, and collaborative endeavors are set to shape Africa’s role in the global economy. Leaders from various sectors, including business, government, and civil society, will come together to exchange ideas, forge partnerships, and chart a course toward a more prosperous and sustainable future for Africa and the world.

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Military junta announces postponement of presidential election in Mali

The ruling junta in Mali announced on Monday the postponement of presidential elections scheduled for February 2023.

In a statement, government spokesperson Abdoulaye Maïga told journalists in Bamako that the dates initially scheduled for the two rounds of voting, February 4 and 18, 2024, would be “slightly postponed for technical reasons”.

Among these technical reasons, the authorities cited factors linked to the adoption of a new constitution earlier this year and the revision of electoral rolls. They also cited a dispute with French company, Idemia, which they say is involved in the census process.

Mali held a referendum in June 2023, on a new constitution that strengthens the president’s powers and gives pride of place to the country’s military. Despite criticism of the draft constitution, the “yes” vote won, with 96.91 percent of the votes counted backing the plans.

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