Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greening Innovation

I remember travelling to Sokoto for the first time and being struck by how arid the land was - you could see far into the distance, and only see sand.   I understand it wasn’t like that decades ago.  Desertification is the result of climate change and global warming effects in that part of Nigeria.  Although there have been several campaigns urging communities to plant more trees as a means of mitigating desertification, it doesn’t look like these campaigns have been very successful.  On the other hand it might just be that the trees being planted cannot keep up with the rate of those being felled.  Tackling the root of the problem, which is finding an alternative to firewood energy for cooking is the approach adopted by SIFE in Katsina State.  Sokoto State may soon benefit from a similar approach.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fighting Corruption

Corruption is a serious problem and its impact is evident in poor democratic growth, weak economies and ultimately general insecurity.  It is the root of many evils and must be addressed for any country to progress.  It is also an international issue and no country is immune, however it can also be controlled as we’ve seen from many countries.  The United Nations designated December 9 as International Anti-corruption day to focus the world’s attention to it.  In commemoration of this day we asked some of our friends in the media to share with us briefly what they think can be done to fight corruption in Nigeria.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rap For Life

Rap is a genre of music popular with young people worldwide.  It’s unique in the way it allows the singer to express himself almost like talking.  Considering its popularity and the place of young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria organized a rap contest for secondary schools in Abuja to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

International Education

To recognize the benefits of international education, U.S. Embassies around the world plan and hold programs every November to celebrate the International Education Week.

This year, the Embassy in Abuja participated in the first-ever virtual college fair which turned out to be the largest ever online international college fair.  This is in addition to outreach programs to some institutions within the city.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Becoming an entrepreneur

One concept that is reverberating today in Nigeria and especially among young people is that of entrepreneurship.  This might be a response to the escalating rate of unemployment but also due to the successes of some young American entrepreneurs.  In fact some higher institutions have started offering programs in entrepreneurship.  Recently the U.S. Embassy hosted an entrepreneurship program with U.S. Speaker Saul Garlick.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Happens After Elections

With the votes still being counted on November 4, 2008, the two leading candidates for the U.S. presidency played their roles in the concluding act of an established political drama. The first to speak was the defeated candidate, John McCain.

His concession speech followed a time-honored rhetorical formula: “My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him … on being elected the next president of the country that we both love. Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day: Democracy in Action

U.S. Elections

Bright balloons bob above a sea of rainbow-colored signs as loudspeakers blare music and announcements, and people in hats and shirts emblazoned with slogans hand out fliers, stickers and buttons. Election Day in the United States often arrives dressed as a carnival, ready to attract attention and excite voter interest.

The day begins early on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in villages, towns and cities across the United States, as thousands of volunteers rise before dawn to lend a hand during the elections. Some will line up outside campaign headquarters, eager to pick up the flyers, pamphlets and signs they will distribute at polling places in the hope of still influencing voters’ decisions.

Friday, November 2, 2012

American Scholar Finds Art, Love, Connections in Nigeria

On the bustling streets of the mainland Lagos neighborhood of Palmgrove, the children know her as Mama K.

American scholar Karen Marguerite Wilson-Ama’Echefu first came to Nigeria as a Fulbright Scholar in mid-2011. After earning her PhD in American history from the University of California, Riverside in 2007, Wilson-Ama’Echefu, who is also a singer and storyteller, set out to explore the reflections and roots of African American diasporic culture in African culture in Nigeria and Ghana over the 9-month duration of her grant.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rock the Vote -- It’s your Right!

Ask any American and they’re likely to remember the first time they voted, especially if that experience happened to coincide with a Presidential election.  Mine didn’t, but that didn’t keep me from voting.  For even if there isn’t a new (or current) President to (re)elect, every two years the U.S House of Representatives changes and every 6 years the Senate.  In short, every year our local, state and federal government changes in some manner through new representatives.  That’s important to consider, every first Tuesday in November, America’s Election Day, we vote not just for representatives on the national level, but also state and local level.  Even the new sheriff in town is voted on that day for his/her term.  New laws are voted on – should the county or state change its position on parking laws for example.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Biotechnology can feed the world

“Critics of Biotechnology say the process, especially in Agriculture does more harm than good; either to the consumer or the environment. Thousands of good things are criticized; sometimes simply because the critic has no clear understanding or has a different view. In the case of Biotechnology I think most times it’s due to the former, and this brings the question “what is Biotechnology?”

Agricultural Biotechnology is a process of enhancing seeds. The actual process called genetic modification takes place in the laboratory, where genes of a particular plant are transferred to another in order to enhance it. In this process for instance, genes of plants that grow without adequate rainfall are extracted and transferred to a plant that needs much water.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Catching the Reading Express

The American author Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a Dr. Seuss, a renowned writer of children books once said “the more that you read, the more things you will know…”  As cliché as that may sound, I’m sure we can all agree there is an element of truth to it. Reading opens up the mind and broadens our imagination. It therefore was not a surprise when over 200 children were signed up to participate in the American Corner Abuja Summer Reading Program for children aged 5-13.

The Library table was filled with books of all kinds, spanning a broad range of topics:  the Underground Railroad, the United States Constitution, history of the White House, American singers, American sports legends, animal and plant life, mostly written in a language that children can understand.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nigerian Youth Discuss Future of Urban Development in Lagos

Carrington Youth fellowship Initiative
U.S. Consulate General Lagos
In its quest to turn Lagos into a megacity of the future, several Nigerian youth said they felt the Lagos state government should focus on education and long-term solutions rather than expecting rapid and sweeping change.

The youths are fellows in the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative, a Consulate-sponsored youth outreach program for which 15 young Nigerians were selected and grouped into teams to design and implement projects with a social impact. At the fellowship’s monthly meeting on September 15, which was attended by U.S. Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins, the fellows viewed segments of the BBC documentary “Welcome to Lagos” and discussed issues relating to urban development in Lagos.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Know America – Expansion of U.S. Territory, Part 2

As the United States reached celebrated 60 years as a nation, the territory inhabited by Americans had more than tripled and the number of states had doubled to 26 – not including territories not considered states yet. At the time it seemed the only factor limiting the continued expansion of the United States was getting enough pioneers to move to these territories so that they could be considered states.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fulbright Research Connects Primates and People

 Living in a remote rainforest camp, spending days sifting through monkey feces may seem daunting for some, but for Fulbright scholar Sagan Friant, it’s beginning to feel normal.

Friant, a PhD student of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, returned to the wilderness of Cross River State for the fourth time this March to embark on a 9-month research project with the Center for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature (CERCOPAN), a non-governmental organization focusing on the conservation and rehabilitation of primates.Friant is researching how changes in the environment impact wildlife health, and how, in turn, this affects human health and the relationships between wildlife and nearby human communities.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ramadan Fasting in the U.S. - Challenging and Mentally Exhausting for a First-timer

Ramadan fasting in the U.S. is a huge challenge to the participating individual - spiritually rewarding, but mentally exhausting, especially for a visitor.  Coping with the time difference for fast breaking, and finding "appropriate" food within   a short distance can be a daunting task, depending on where the individual is lodging in town.  As a regular traveller to the United States, this year's Ramadan is my third experience.  My first experience fasting in the U.S. was in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1994.  There, I was very lucky to meet Imam Yahya Hendi, who introduced me to the Muslim Community Center, very close to my hotel, where Muslim brothers and sisters worshiped and shared Iftar food with everyone who showed up at the mosque.

Friday, August 10, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Nigeria

SecClinton wavesSecState Clinton waves to staff of the Embassy during Meet and Greet-Embassy photo by Idika OnyukwuMinisters of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pose with SecClintonPresident Goodluck making remarksPresident Goodluck Jonathan with SecState Hillary Clinton at the Presidential Villa, Abuja Aug 9_Embassy photo by Idika OnyukwuSecClinton with President Jonathan
Secretary Clinton with President Jonathan & Amb AshiruSecClinton at the State HousePresident Goodluck welcomes Secretary Hillary ClintonPresident Goodluck welcomes Secretary ClintonSecClinton visits Nigeria

Secretary Clinton (Aug. 9): "We’re ... very supportive of the anticorruption reform efforts, more transparency, and the work that you and your team is also championing, because we really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Maternal Survival

Many years ago an aunt of mine died during child birth. I was told after the baby came out, the placenta couldn’t and instead of taking her to a health facility the women gathered around, said she should confess her sins and that would ensure the placenta was delivered. She didn’t do this and of course bled to death. This tragedy is probably replayed in different ways throughout Nigeria where too many women die in child birth. Statistics claim that while Nigeria’s population is about 2 percent of the world it contributes ten percent to world maternal, infant and child mortality.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fulbright Scholar Inspires and Connects in Ife

For American sculptor Al LaVergne, coming to Nigeria as a Fulbright scholar has been a homecoming to a home he never knew he had.

LaVergne, who is currently putting finishing touches on a 14-foot steel sculpture called “The Gift” at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, described his experience in Nigeria so far as a year of new friendships, dialogue and inspiration.

As an African American from a large family, he had always felt a “strong connection on some level” to Africa.

He was inspired to travel to Nigeria after meeting prominent Yoruba woodcarver Lamidi Fakeye, who visited LaVergne at Western Michigan University, where LaVergne teaches, and spoke with him about the possibility of study in Nigeria. Though Fakeye passed away in 2009, LaVergne continued with these plans and arrived in Ife in January.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Combating Human Trafficking

The United States Congress requires U.S. Government agencies provide certain reports to it periodically.  The State Department for example annually provides country reports on International Religious Freedom, Human Rights, Terrorism, Narcotics Control strategy and Trafficking in Persons among others.  Through the reports the U.S. Congress is informed of what is happening and the role the U.S. is playing in tackling the subject of the reports.  The Trafficking in Persons Report or TIP for example seeks to stimulate action and create partnerships around the world in the fight against modern day slavery. Slavery is exactly what human trafficking is.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The 2012 Olympic American Dream – Going for the Gold!

We often hear talk of “The American Dream” in abstract terms. Usually the definition is the house with the white picket fence, car in the garage, wife and two children. However, American athletes define their American Dream differently, usually in terms of records broken and competitions won. Every four years the Olympic Games give athletes from around the world the chance to represent their country in sports ranging from Archery to Wrestling. Far from the training they have done at home, the international competition is an opportunity to see just how good they really are, possibly even the best in the world.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Know America" - American Origins and Unity

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to
 the Republic for which it stands. 
One nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

The unity of the United States is one of our nation’s greatest assets. But how did so many groups willingly come together early on under the same flag? Many know that the British had 13 colonies in North America that declared independence. Rebellion and battles are what most historians highlight, but we often forget the lengthy debates, politics, and work it took to create a nation before and after the first shots of war were fired.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Of Independence Days

Every country’s Independence Day is a special event.  A time to celebrate the birth of the nation and the freedom obtained.  This is especially true for countries that were colonized at one point or the other, which is pretty much most countries of the world.  In Africa for example only Ethiopia and Liberia were never colonized.  I wonder what they mark as their independence or national day.  Anyway, for countries that were colonized the quest for independence was pursued vigorously.  Sometimes it was a peaceful transition but mostly it was bloody because the colonizer didn’t want to let go while the colonized wanted freedom.  Freedom: the universal cry of the human soul.

For the United States independence came by way of war and the declaration of independence from their British colonialists on July 4, 1776.  One statement I love from the Declaration of Independence is “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Fourth of July: Celebrating U.S. Independence Day

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America's Independence Day is July 4, marking the date in 1776 when the country’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. It is celebrated with parades, fireworks, concerts and other festivities.