Sunday, March 28, 2010

ISEA 2010 symposium: Call for applications

ISEA2010 RUHR is an international festival for art, creativity and media technology, which will this year take place within the broader framework of the European Capital of Culture, RUHR.2010. The programme will include conferences, exhibitions, audio-visual and dance performances, public art projects, artists' presentations and workshops, and is set for 20 to 29 August 2010.

ISEA was started in 1988, and ISEA2010 RUHR is the 16th incarnation of the International Symposium on Electronic Art. The symposium, which focuses on the role of art in the digital age, will bring together a large international community of artists, curators, theorists and scientists for ten days of discussions, festivities, networking and exchange of ideas.

The Goethe-Institut South Africa and ISEA2010 are partnering to offer twelve people working within media arts in sub-Saharan Africa a chance to participate in the programme. The partnership will cover costs related to travel and accommodation, visas, health insurance, and a per diem during the chosen candidates' stay in Germany.

The Goethe-Institut is Germany's globally active cultural institute that encourages international cultural cooperation, promotes knowledge of the German language abroad, and reflects a contemporary understanding of Germany. The Goethe-Institut aims to facilitate a deeper understanding between cultures, through a dialogue rooted in partnership, not political affiliation. There are presently over 147 institutes worldwide in 83 countries, with 10 located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Goethe-Institut South Africa in Johannesburg coordinates all Sub-Saharan institutes, as well as the 15 Goethe Centres within the region. Our focus is on sustainable development in culture, as well as promoting networks across Sub-Saharan Africa, with our cultural projects the highlights of our programme.

The Goethe-Institut and ISEA2010 are looking for individuals who are well-placed and interested in networking within the African media arts community, as well as drawing connections beyond its borders. Further selection criteria for possible participants are as follows:

- Well-versed in current international media art developments
- Interest and documented work on the way new media and technologies are changing our culture today
- Active in the organisation of networks, institutions and community projects with other artists and cultural practitioners
- Excellent command of English, additional German useful

Please send a short focused CV and a letter of motivation, in total no longer than three pages, to Cara Snyman at Be sure to include all contact details. The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2010.

Cara Snyman
Goethe-Institut Johannesburg
119 Jan Smuts Ave - Parkwood 2193 - South Africa
Private Bag X18 - Parkview 2122 - South Africa
Tel: (+27-11) 442 32 32
Fax: (+27-11) 442 37 38

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Still on the persecution of Children in southern Nigeria

I am posting the rejoinder below, as it deals with a subject that is dear to my heart: the fate of children condemned to incredible bodily mutilation and psychological torture by Christian evangelical "pastors" and "prophetesses" in Southern Nigeria. For whatever it is worth, I personally attest to the integrity of Sam Ikpe Itauma of CRARN through whom people I know have provided help to these unfortunate children. I am galled at the brazenness of the so-called prophetess and her band of lawless thugs. And I am disgusted that some people are so committed to hurting children, in the name of God. Please go on and read Mr. Naagbanton's rejoinder, first published in


Kolade-Otitoju, Foxcroft and the Helen Ukpabio’s Scam

Written by Patrick Naagbanton Wednesday, 10 March 2010 08:43

Public Relations is a vocation I dislike this days because of what its practitioners present to us on daily basis. The picture they paint of their line of business, is that they can make an image out of what do not have any image. Their major motivation and drive is always money. They are also called reputation managers or image-makers. In truth, there is no difference between its practitioners and those in the British historian and journalist, Anthony Mockler’s much-publicized book, Mercenaries (1969). Journalism and public relations are separate pursuits, and what news organizations feed the public with as the journalism stuff in Nigeria, is actually public relations. There should be no meeting point between the two. K.M. Shrivastava in his 327 page book, “News Reporting and Editing” (2003 revised edition), page 215, warns us that, “In journalism nothing can be taken for granted. There arise situations that put not just the reporter or sub-editor concerned, but prestigious publications and sometimes the entire profession to shame just because somebody in the profession has just not been careful enough”

I read with profound concern a lead article, entitled, “One Big Scam” in The News magazine of March 8, 2010, written by Babajide Kolade – Otitoju, the senior editor of that leading Nigeria’s magazine. The report centered around how “A Briton and a Nigerian who run two non-governmental organizations are exposed as telling barefaced lies to fleece donors over the Akwa Ibom child witchcraft affair”. The report covers six glossy pages (pages 25 – 30) of the magazine. The piece was really a public relations thing rather than a work of journalism. It was an attempt to give some image or fame to Evangelist Helen Ukpabio, a Nollywood (Nigerian movie) star, “the sole spiritual leader” of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministry, and “a great woman of God” whose vulgar theological anti-witchcraft propaganda has led to the torture, abuse and death of several vulnerable kids in her Akwa Ibom home state, and Cross River State, her state of residence especially.

I abhor writing articles to defend people because I am not a public relations person, but that does not mean that when the good work and esteem of somebody I know too well is about to be blown to bits I should keep quite. In this article, I am not doing a public relations job for Gary Foxcroft, the program director of Stepping Stone Nigeria (SSN), a UK-based registered charity working to protect, save and transform the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, but just trying to clear the wrong impression the Babajide Kolade – Otitoju’s “One Big scam” may have created about him. I knew Foxcroft through Scott Pegg, a very good friend of mine. Pegg is an American Associate Professor of International Relations at the Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis in the United States of America. Like Foxcroft, Scott is a very honest, sincere, committed activist, author, and scholar I think highly of. Scott had initiated the kind of public- spirited projects similar to the ones Gary embarked upon in Akwa Ibom State, to help poor and abused children get better life.

Just like Foxcroft humanitarian works, Scott raises funds from his friends mostly in the US and the Timmy Foundation (the US children charity) to support the Bebor International Model School in Bodo community in the Gokana Local Government Area, and Wiwa International Model School in Bane, the martyred Ken Saro-Wiwa’s home town in the Khana Local Government Area, both in Ogoni, Rivers State, Nigeria. Orphans and poor children get free education at the Bodo and Bane schools respectively. The money for the both schools literally passes through me. Scott Pegg would insist on a proper and transparent accounting out of every cent or kobo he gives to me in spite of our friendship, he would say to me, “Patrick, I trust you and I know you don’t steal money, but the accounting of any money that passes through your hands is quite important”. His society discourages corruption under any guise, while ours encourage it. I had also visited Pegg at his home in Indianapolis and he had introduced me to a lot of the funders of the school projects. I hate singing praises of people but Scott Pegg’s ways of doing things is inspiring and challenging. His good work has earned him one of the most prestigious chieftaincy titles in Bodo, Mene Eedee I – (King of Light) conferred on him some years ago by the chiefs and people of Bodo.

It has become some yearly ritual for Scott to visit Bodo and Bane communities to inspect the projects during his holidays with his personal money sometimes with his lovely and good-natured Turkish wife, Tijjen Pegg. In several communications with him, he had insisted that I and other board members of the Bodo and Bane Schools should visit Gary Foxcroft and his wife, Noami who were staying in the Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State then. I eventually bowed to Pegg’s pressures, and in early 2007, I led Rev. Moses Nyimale Lezor, the amiable Ogoni activist and founder of the Bebor International Model School, Mrs. Happiness Pie Appollo, a member of the school’s committee and Charles Konyan, an author, activist and staff of the Rivers State Sports Council to go to Eket and see Gary at his base. We toured the Stepping Stone Model School there, where SSN is supporting and which is run by Grace Udua, a very cheerful woman I have met, one wonders whether she is ever angry in her life. Gary took us to where he was staying then, and briefed us about his work to save our ill-treated children. From then, we cultivated a partnership and remained in touch until date. Gary is just like Scott Pegg when it comes to sincerity and transparency too.

Akwa Ibom State is not the only geographic focus of the work of Stepping Stone Nigeria (SSN) as the writer of that piece wants us to believe. SSN’s work focuses on the plight of other children in other Niger Delta states like Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Edo, Rivers and others. SSN works with local partner organizations like the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) in Akwa Ibom State led by Sam Ikpe Itauma to achieve its purpose. Itauma’s CRARN is a child rights organization which SSN supports to do its work. I don’t see any scam in that relationship. Sadly, Sam Ikpe Itauma had suffered tremendously while trying to campaign about the abuse and abandonment of the kids in conjunction with SSN. He had severally been attacked by corrupt Nigerian Police officials allegedly on the payroll of Evangelist Ukpabio. Gary’s SSN had sometimes last year provided potable water to the schools in Bodo and Bane where poor villagers from those Ogoni communities also use. The project money also passed through me.

The abuse of these children is gruesome in Akwa Ibom, Cross River State and other places. Is it not grossly hyperbolized to draw pounds, dollars and Euros by the duo of Gary and Sam from donors as the piece implied. The writer should go beyond mere listening to Evangelist Helen Ukpabio and her assortment of soldiers of fortune, and travel round Akwa Ibom and Cross River States to see how unscrupulous religious leaders have cashed in on the witchcraftcy myth to cause this new reign of evangelical windfall. Evangelist Helen Ukpabio is not the only person guilty of this crime against society; other Pentecostal preachers are also guilty. Babajide needs to watch “Saving Africa’s Witch Children”, that celebrated documentary made by SSN that exposes the violations of children rights in the name of witchcraft superstition by religious leaders of our time including Evangelist Ukpabio.

On Wednesday, July 29, 2009, I was a victim of a physical attack unleashed by scores of fanatics loyal to Evangelist Ukpabio who invaded a conference which the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM) and Stepping Stone Nigeria (SSN) jointly organized in Calabar, Cross River State capital. Leo Igwe, executive secretary of NHM and others were wounded, and Leo’s properties were stolen by Ukpabio’s militias. Read my accounts – The Trials of Evangelist Helen Ukpabio Part 1 and 2, in The National Network Newspaper, August 10 – 16, 2009 and August 24 – 30, 2009, same article was also published in The US-based The Secular Nation magazine, October – December edition, 2009. Akwa Ibom State has passed the Child Rights legislation, so those who abuse child rights in the name of witchcraft superstition can face some consequences in law. The picture which the magazine cropped mischievously as the picture of “a well-fed scammer” Gary Foxcroft, is not the picture of the Gary I know. A corrigendum is needed to correct that error of judgment; at least for the image of The News Magazine.

Babajide Kolade Otitoju’s article, “One Big Scam” is merely a re-echo of what the Ukpabio religious militants were chanting (that SSN is an illegal organization, SSN and others are using the witch campaign to defraud donors etc) while launching their well-coordinated vicious attacks on us at the Calabar conference in July, 2009 on “Child Rights and Witchcraft”. This is not the way to say thank you, to the likes Gary Foxcroft who at their personal inconveniences are rendering selfless services to our society. History is the great judge!

Naagbanton writes from Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Nigeria

Monday, March 1, 2010

The extra-judicial murders - Matters Arising

Latest news from Nigeria indicate that the Federal Police has made a rare move of arresting 17 police officers allegedly involved in the extra-judicial murders of some members of the Boko Haram Islamist cult last year. Apparently, the Police action was in response to the video footage of the murders broadcast by Al Jezeera recently (see my post on this earlier this month).
Yes, this is the right thing to do. But the Nigeria Police is not known for prosecuting its own for the kind of murderous criminality and wanton disregard for the human rights of their victims. The skeptic in me says that this is a knee-jerk response to a routine incident that has suddenly become an international scandal. Lest we forget, the Nigerian government officials promised, soon after the incident, to investigate the circumstances of the Boko Haram leader's death in captivity. And that was it. Or is anyone under any illusion that the arrest of the "Police 17" is connected to an investigation that, for all I care, never happened? The true test is to check back with the Police in the next coming weeks and months about outcome of the arrests. To see if these uniformed maniacs will be brought to justice. And I am hoping also that the arrests include the senior officers the world saw giving orders or just watching the murderous proceedings in the video footage.

And while we are at it, could the Nigerian Police do the world another favor; they should also watch the Jos footage, and identify, arrest and prosecute all the uniformed men involved in those killings as well. Only then could my skeptical self be brought in for a sermon.