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Beauty and environment, governors and power (1)

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nigeria-[1]-CopyI HAD started this address by considering how our ideas of beauty had changed in the recent past. A few years ago, the classic European beauty was a flat chested and equally flat-bottomed girl – the famous size O of an anorexic woman. That beauty looked more and more like a 13-year-old boy, loose and long limbed, huge eyes and thin line across her face where her mouth was supposed to be. For many Africans this could never be the beauty they looked for in a woman. The African idea of a feminine beauty was a woman, somewhat fulsome: a pair of quite prominent breast that was matched with a large alluring bottom. Her face was smooth with two full sized lips that were sensuous, expressive and full of life – the original figure 8. Her bottom was large while her tummy was small and flat but with some small shape of future promise that she could carry a child. The anorexic versus the cuddly occupied our minds until changes began to appear among the celebrities and musicians. The fashion industry stepped in with the cosmetic surgeon who could give a woman any kind of breast she desired, any type of eye lashes, and who could reshape the erstwhile thin lips with double sized pumped steroidised lips, etc. The rest of the fashion industry helped with new cups of shapes for the female bosom, back side, etc. New tummy trimmers reappear as were body shapers, bottom boosters, etc. The Beyonce/Jennifer Lopez look took on the social media waves and the fashion magazine with the result that what was beautiful is today almost impossible to define. At this point, I decided to forego the quest of defining African beauty through the ages since within one household you had all the classical types and the men were no longer able to describe honestly what was beautiful. Since many of you here are with your wives, I decided that my task was to impart some knowledge, not encourage a debate that would go on regardless of what I said.

Nigeria is blessed with enough natural resources, minerals, a resourceful people, and vibrant, energetic go-getters. The rest of the world wants to come to Nigeria from the Australians, the Japanese, Chinese, Philippines, Vietnamese, Koreans, the Thais, the Malays, and Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Europeans, North and South Americans, Indians, etc. They all see in us a land of opportunity where fortunes can easily be made and sometimes lost. The desires of the rest of the world to come here are not always reciprocated by the desire of Nigerians to visit and stay, live and trade in those very countries that see us as a land of opportunity.

In less than a decade, an Indian, living in Indonesia, came to Nigeria and introduced an Indonesian meal – Indomie – which is today the most popular dish in Nigeria and has attracted Kellogg’s to buy 50% of its shares.

After Environment Conference in Stockholm’s Sweden in 1972, another world Environment Conference was held in Brazil in 1992 and quickly followed by Copenhagen Conference in 1994. Twenty-one years after Copenhagen, another was fixed later in Paris in 201; we are now holding the 2015 Paris Environmental Conference. Before Paris the greatest pollutants in the world, i.e. the West and China, promised much about carbon credits. No one could produce an acceptable formula on carbon credits and who could benefit from these carbon credits. The problem simply put is that the industrialised countries over the years have been pumping life sucking carbon dioxide (Co2) emission from their power plants and other industries. They are anxious to reduce these Co2 emissions. Countries with large forests in the tropics produce oxygen which dilutes the Co2 the rich countries unleash on us. Yet we have no industries and we continue to attend conferences on pollution. Nigeria’s carbon print is less than 0.1%. We have no electricity; no solar industry, no nuclear – so what are we going to do in Paris? Perhaps, it is enroute to Malta – again what are we going to do there? During the past 23 years between Brazil 1992 and Paris 2015 what has happened? Saddam has been overthrown; his oil now fuels ISIS and Turkey. The price of oil is below US $50 – all a direct influence of the bombing of Iraq, Syria, etc. The U.S. has gained self-sufficiency in oil through fracking. Mubarak has been overthrown in Egypt opening the gates of greater fundamentalism. Yemen has been radicalised as Eritrea and Somalia; there is war in Central African Republic (CAR) Christians Vs Muslims followed by massive theft of Minerals. Ghaddafi has been over thrown in Libya thus making oil even more plentiful and cheaper. There are the unintended consequences of all of this, for example – thus the new migration problems in Europe. How can solar energy heal the problems of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the fundamentalist split in Islam, Libya and Egypt? France depends more on nuclear power stations – 60% – the existence of which should frighten the whole world: we have witnessed the: Three Mile Island meltdown in the U.S., Chernobyl meltdown in Russia, Nagasaki Japanese meltdown. Nuclear power is a technology with no safety margin to throw away the waste? No one knows how to safely dispose of nuclear waste except to sell them to some ignorant African countries which buy them and bury them in the ground – a totally useless process as far as radiation is concerned. Since it is estimated that radiation from nuclear waste takes over 50 to 100 years and even then the radiation is still dangerous. The U.S., UK, Germany and China burn over 50% of fossils for their electricity. Does a cockroach go to a fowl convention?

So what did we go to do in Paris? Maybe to plead the cause for saving Lake Chad – but that has to rank much lower than the problems agitating the major minds in Paris. Our ambassador could have presented a plea on Lake Chad.

In 1972, the first Earth or environmental conference was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The usual doomsday sayers of the world were out their in full numbers but so were many of the world’s poorest people. Fulsome resolutions were passed against environmental abuse but Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s paper locking environmental degradation to poverty and the need to tackle both won the day. The world voted to reject apartheid, to alleviate poverty, poor health, poor sanitation, etc joining together our contribution on the human condition to our contribution on our abuse of nature and our planet.

Nigeria has this unenviable ability to turn everything that happens here to look somewhat worse. Digital mobile telephony has one major advantage. As you dial the last digit, the person you are phoning should be hearing his phone ringing. That is why it is digital. As at to-day there are several seconds between dialing the last digit and the recipient phone’s response. Now, let us look at our politics and see whether we can make head or tail out of it. The natural order of progress in a political career is that you may start as a councillor in the local government, then progress to chairman, then to a higher office at the state level, maybe commissioner or head of a statutory board. In Nigeria we now have former Chairmen of Local Government, who, if natural order were to exist, would become members of the state or House of Assembly, Federal House of Representatives. There are many Governors whose highest electoral post was Local Government Chairmen.

• To be continued tomorrow

• Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole, OFR, delivered this speech to the old Boys Association, Government College, Ughelli, on Sunday December 6, 2015 at Eko Hotel, Lagos.


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