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Friday, October 29, 2010



Waist bead among the Yoruba 
By Alloysius Nduka Duru

THE usage of beads especially waist bead in Nigeria is wide spread across the various nationalities that make up the nation. There are similarities and peculiarities in their usage.
However, the Yorubas developed the most varying and peculiar uses for the waist beads. The Yorubas have developed a culture of bead usage that cuts across both material and spiritual aspects of the life of the people. In addition, they have also the capacity to produce the beads for varying purposes ranging from royalty, body adornment, deification and decoration. 

The Yorubas are found in the South Western geo-political delineation of present day Nigeria. They are a vibrant and social people that accentuate their ways of life in their day-to-day activities. 

Beads are usually small round piece of glass, wood, metal or nut, pierced for stringing. They are either used for adornment such as the waist, neck or ankle beads or as decorative ornament in art works or even for royalty purposes. 

The art of beading is serial in process and serrated in composition. It has a step by step or one by one approach in stringing when traded together, beads stands for unity, togetherness and solidarity. 

Beads of the waist is said to posses the power to attract and evoke deep emotional responses, they are a sign of success and affluence as well as spiritual well being. 

The Origin of the Nigerian beads is still speculative due to its fragility portability and popularity. 

Beads have been traded and used since time immemorial. However, the earliest known African beads is traced to Libya and Sudan. In Nigeria the Nok terracottes and Igbo Ukwu arts display some element of the usage of beads in those societies as early as 500BC, however there is no concrete statement of origin to the beads. 

A common usage of the item is for adornment especially on the waist. There is however varying purpose for which people adorn the waist beads. 

The common users of the waist beads are mostly the women folk, only in exceptional theatrical perform as will a man adorn a waist bead to symbolize feminism. The waist bead is synonymous with feminism. 

The Yorubas have esteemed usage attached to the waist beads. They refer to the waist bead as Ileke, "Lagidigba" the term lagidigba means something big, thick or massive. The Lagidigba is made of palm nut shells string together, while the bebe is made of glass. 

The Yorubas have a belief that the waist beads posses some erotic appeal, they have the power to provoke desire or deep emotional response on the opposite sex. 

Waist beads in Yoruba are also used for birth control, the beads are laced with charms and worn by the women to prevent conception. 

Beads are a precious ornaments to the Yorubas, hence when adorned by a women, accentuates her feminism or beauty. Beads also helps to portray the chastity of a maiden or women sensuality. Parent show their love for their girl child through gifts of waist beads that are colourful and expensive. 

The lagidigba or palm nut shell beads is used for fecundity purposes. The nuts signify multiple births as they are in clusters, thus one can infer the high incidence of multiple births in Yoruba land to the usage of the lagidigba bead. 

Brides seduce their spouses with the beads they adorn, some women are said to lace their beads with charm to make them irresistible to the male folks. The Yoruba's can easily comment on a women's moral standing in those days by interpretation of the movement of the waist bead adorned by a women. The way she moves her buttocks can depict her morals either seductive or reserve. 

The Yorubas have a popular saying that "it is the beads that makes the buttocks to shake".

Other users of the waist beads in Yoruba land are the Orisas or devotes of water deities and other priestesses, they adorn the waist beads for protection against spiritual attacks as well as part of their dress regalia.

The waist bead is also used to adorn the Ere-Ibeji figurine on the death of a twin, there is the belief that when treated well the spirit of the spirit of the dead twin will not harm the living twin and will return to the family to stay. 

Waist beads are also adorned and laced with charms to ward away the Abiku spirit (mermaid Spirit) from a woman. 

Because of the regard on the waist beads, some erotic songs have been composed and sang by the Yorubas based on its usages. 

A Song Says 

"She goes up

She goes down

Like buttocks beads. 

Another song says;

Don't flirt with me

Don't flirt with me as you do with your husband. 

Don't wriggle your waist beads at me

Don't lock the door on me and throw

Away the key. 

Apart from the Yorubas, other groups in Nigeria also have similar usages of the waist beads in their culture the Ogonis in Rivers State refer to beads as Loo, its uses range from covering the private parts of a women to adornment as a sign of affluence. The beads is a measure of value to the Ogonis and are also worn by bride as part of her bridal rites. The Igbos called it Mgbaji, also for adornment and a sign of social status. 

The Hausas refer to it as Jigida. To the Kalabaris, the waist bead has the potency of transforming an ugly woman into a beautiful maiden once it is worn. The Ibibios see it as Nkwa-Isin, they adorn it on a female baby to help give her a good waist line, as she grows, beads of her size are adorned on her. 

Priestesses of deities also wear the beads that are always colourful as part of their regalia. They also use the waist beads laced with charm s for birth control. The maiden dances (Aban) also wear the beads doing dance to give a graceful hip movement when they dance. 

Waist bead in today's fashion is relegated, ladies have a preference for western costumes such as belts, chains, g-strings to the waist beads. The culture of waist bead is going down rapidly to extinction. Religion and other spiritual reasons have been adduced for the neglect, however it must be pointed out that waist bead usage as practiced in the past is an essential element of African body adornment that is harmless and meaningful a pride and precious item which should be encourage to day. 

Nduka Duru discussed this topic with National Museum Study Group, Port Harcourt recently

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FROM wazobaa.info

She is a pretty young girl with a slim graceful figure. Her elegant movement attracted the attention of passersby as she jiggled across to the other side of the road. Her waist beads were well revealed between her skimpy top and skirt. Mindful of the attention she had generated in the ever-busy Ketu Bus-Stop, Lagos State, Nigeria, she quickly climbed a commercial bike popularly called okada, trying in the process to pull her top and miniskirt together as they went further apart between the beads. A male petty trader beside her shouted, “Wetin you dey hide? Why you no go naked make we see your ‘thing’ well well?” Vividly embarrassed she tapped the bike rider and said, “Please get me out of this place.”

The above ‘drama’ and similar ones are common scenes today in Nigerian cities as well as towns particularly where higher institutions are located, particularly in southern parts of the country. This re-emergence of beads has added a new dimension into the craze for Western oriented fashion among our ladies particularly young ones. This trend is more pronounced among female students, particularly those in higher institutions. In addition to waist adornment, ladies also use beads as necklace, for hair tie, and handbag decoration. Some also wear beads on their wrists as hand bangles, as well as using them as earrings. The popularity of beads today is enhanced by the cost of acquiring them. A survey conducted by this reporter shows that beads averagely cost between one hundred and fifty naira to two thousand naira, depending on the quality, size, length and quality of string used in making them.

Madam Grace Benson, the proprietor of a fashion shop with inscription “MAMA ONOME BEAUTY PALACE” at Balogun Stret, Lagos Island, Lagos, was busy attending to her clients when this reporter visited her shop. When she was asked how ladies patronize her beads she simply said, “Fine, as you can see beads are in vogue now, so we are selling well well.” When asked to comment on why young ladies go for beads, she said, “Beads make ladies look fine, beads bring out the natural beauty in women. It is good, not just because of beauty, but a way of introducing our culture into the modern fashion.” On the moral implications of the manner in which some ladies expose the sensitive parts of their bodies to show-off beads, she refused to comment, saying, “I am busy, you can see my customers are waiting for me, I have to attend to them.”

However, 62-year-old community leader and retired civil servant, Mr. Idowu Bakare, described the trend as unfortunate, “This shows the level of moral decadence in our society. I can’t imagine seeing these small girls going about almost naked in the name of displaying beads worn around exclusive areas of their bodies. I blame the parents because I can tolerate such in my house,” he said. “It is a curse for any one to link our culture to this madness. Various cultures in Nigeria used beads to dignify womanhood. No time did our culture led women naked in the name of displaying beads,” he added.

“When I put on beads I look more beautiful”, a student of Lagos State University, Funke Ekerin, said. When asked the fun she drives from the beads on her waist she simply replied, “It is in vogue now, ladies fancy waist beads much, and even men who want to be truthful will tell you that they admire ladies with beads on their waists.”

A teenage girl who simply identified herself as Cynthia, said, “A correct Chic cannot wear beads without wearing it on her waist; that is the one that makes us more beautiful.” On the moral implications, she said, “Well, if any man feels that it is seductive he should remove his eyes from it; after all, it is my body, nobody will tell me what I should do with it.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


FROM speakyoruba.blogspot.com

originally published at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


from thenationonlineng.net


Old play, new language

Font size: Edozie Udeze 17/10/2010 00:00:00

Who is Afraid of Solarin? a play by Professor Femi Osofisan, has always been a symbolic one. It is so because it is a comic treatise on what makes Nigeria and Nigerians unique. In the play, Osofisan uses plenty of comic scenes and statements to portray the story of a society where things work upside down. The name Solarin is used symbolically because of his role in trying to give a better direction to Nigerians and to the Nigerian state. The play chronicles Nigeria’s many socio-political problems in such a way that the audience are made to feel the impact while the play is on stage. You can’t help but laugh and hiss and then wonder the sort of society Nigeria is and why the people are what they are.

This was why it was selected as the independence play this year by the trio of Mufu Onifade, Tunde Kelani and the Lagos State government. However, the play which was translated into the Yoruba language by Dotun Ogundeji as Yeepa! Solaarin Nbo!!, is meant to send home the message to the larger Yoruba theatre audience.

In this new experiment, the message is supposed to sink deeper, so that people who love to see the lighter side of Nigerian myriad of problems dramatized on stage, would have a better view of it. The few days the play was on stage in Lagos last week proved that a lot of people were really eager to laugh away the problems of the society. Not only that the artistes led by Ropo Ewenla were on top of their game on stage, the large turnout of theatre lovers showed that the choice of the play was apt and appropriate.

To make the play appeal more to the audience, the producers introduced an opening glee. This marriage of convenience between opening glee and full-length drama presentation was Mainframe and National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) Lagos chapter’s synergetic way of joining the Lagos State government in celebrating the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria. This way, there was no moment of boredom. The artistes were able to appeal to the audience to wake up to the realities of the moment; to make Nigeria great.

Is this Nigeria of our dreams in 1960? That seemed to be the question raised on stage by the actors. Ewenla, the lead character was able to convince the audience that we need to do more; we need to work harder and be more honest to make Nigeria a better place for all and sundry.

Yeepa! Is an exclamation that something hilarious or ominous is about to happen and that people should sit up to welcome it. This situation calls for an acclaim, calling the Nigerian people that there are more than meet the eye. Solarin was an enigma of some sort when he was alive. Although the name is hyperbolic in a way, it goes to portray a visionary leader who saw long before now what the Nigerian society portended. Now the play in his name says it all.

Anywhere this play goes on stage, the euphoric appeal it gives leaves much to be desired. The Yoruba version of it also did much more; the message seeped deeper into the fabric of the audience whose laughter and hisses tore deep into the night. And so, it is kudos to Onifade for his sense of humour and wisdom. The play truly helped to embellish the mood of the moment and bring Nigerians back to that moment of reflection.

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FROM  ngrguardiannews.com

The Making Of Ifa ArchBishop, Elebuibon


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RECENTLY, the renowned traditionalist, High Priest Ifayemi Osundagbonu Elebuibon ascended to the highest rank of Ifa prieshood in Osogbo, Osun State. His coronation as the 11th Araba Awo of Osogboland at the palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo, which drew visitors from Nigeria and overseas was celebrated  with pomp and pageantry.  AJIBOLA AMZAT was at the event.
It was a huge crowd for such event. But like people on pilgrimage to holy ground, the natives and guests turned out in large number, thronging towards the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo to witness the coronation of High Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon as the 11th Araba Awo of Osogboland.
It is the highest office in the hierarchy of Ifa priesthood, the equivalent of archbishop in Catholic order. Therefore, no one wanted to miss the historic event, it appeared.
At the palace, men, women, old and young,  were dressed in variety of Aso Ebi. Some were sitting, many standing all waiting, eager to see the Araba-elect emerge from the sanctuary where he had been sheltered for a while. Yet, he is the same man they have been seen for decades. His popular TV programme, ‘Ifa Olookun Asorodayo’ has made him a household name. He is probably the most famous son of the soil that lives among them.  Yet, they are eager to see him again.
But   the Ataoja, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, Larooye II was not in a hurry.
While the short wait lasted, the king’s praise singer’s voice rent the air. His rendition was as sonorous as it was informative.   Oba Oyetunji whose recent coronation as the new Ataoja is of Larooye lineage.  His ancestor, one of the patriarchs of the ancient town was the first king to reign.  He and his bosom friend Timehin, the hunter had once led a live elephant into town, tamed.  Their subsequent encounter with water deity mother, Osun, brought great fortunes to Osogbo, the town now proudly known as a settlement of indigo dye, and a refuge for victims of war. The is why natives of Osogbo celebrate Osun festival every year. The king’s praise-singer knows this history and more. He knows about the deeds and times of various royalties.
And at occasions like this, he is allowed to display his knowledge.
Finally, when it pleased Ataoja to stop him, he waived his horsetail, and the man went quiet instantly.
It was the time for Abese, the palace messengers to bring the candidate for coronation.
High priest Elebuibon, dressed in flowing silk materials, the colour of cow milk, was ushered in.   Eesa, another titled chief introduced the Araba-elect to the king and the people:
“Kabiyesi and dear people of Osogbo, here is the man the community has chosen as the new Araba of Osogboland. Yes or No?” And the people chorused ‘yes!. Such applause! It reverberated throughout the area.
The king then took Akoko leaves, tucked it inside the dog-ears cap of the new chief; handed him a brass machete on the right hand and a horse tail on the left hand. Then after invoking blessings on him, he declared him the head of all priests in Oshogboland.  And the people applause accompanied with several gunshots thundered through the town. The rites completed, Chief Elebuibon  stood, staring ahead perhaps at the challenges that await him, for the title of Araba is the most revered, most influential position in  Ifa priesthood.
As Araba, he explained, the spiritual welfare of the town is now his primary responsibility. “Araba Awo is not only the head of all priests, but also the head of all herbalists, diviners and all kinds of traditional spiritual consultants in the land. He is the representative of Orunmila (the patron saint of the Ifa School) father of mystery and keeper of secrets.
It is the duty of the Araba to reveal messages of Olodumare to the community through the king and prescribes solutions to problems. In fact, no king can administer his domain in Yorubaland successfully without his priest in residence. Usually, the priest is both the spiritual adviser to the king and the friend of the royalty.     “When the town is in chaos, Ifa priests must be consulted to prescribe propitiation to end the calamity and cause the progress to return.”
An Ifa chapter (Odu) Iretengbe gives the account of an Ifa priest, Olongbojigolo who was a popular diviner in the ancient town of Apa. A small town, it was yet prosperous.  And because of its prosperity, the rulers of Oyo Kingdom usually targeted it for raids. The king of Alapa sought the spiritual help of his friend, Olongbojigolo who used his spiritual power to defend the town. But the principalities of Oyo Kingdom were not only experienced military men, they were also schooled in stratagem. When they discovered that Olongbojigolo, the great diviner was the force behind the town of Apa, they sent one of Alafin’s daughters, Princess Isokunronke to lure the priest out of town. Isokunronke, a lady of irresistible beauty was the cynosure of all eyes anywhere she went. Many young men of Oyo were ready to worship at her feet or go to battle for her.
To get her quarry, Isokunronke disguised as a kolanut seller and headed for Ologbojigolo’s house in Apa. Expectedly, the priest fell in love and agreed to follow the princess to live in Oyo as her term for marriage.
When Olongbojigolo was out of the way, the Oyo army invaded Apa, killed the king and sacked the town.
This tragic incident in history made kings in Yorubaland keep close relationship with their priest. As the principal administrators of the town, the two normally swear an oath of trust and friendship in the interest of the community. The secret oath between the king and his chief priest is said to be stronger than oath taking among Ogboni cult. It was forbidden for the priest to reveal any confidential matter of the town to the public, or worse still, to the enemy of the town. Wiwo lenu awo o wo, the lips of the priest must be sealed. This is how important a priest is in the administration of traditional Yoruba community.
But giving a priest the title of Araba Awo puts a stamp of authority on such a priest. “It is the equivalent of archbishop in the Catholic order. Even before a king is selected, the Ifa priest must be consulted for advice.” Elebuibon said.
In Yoruba worldview, the living, the dead, the unborn and the spiritual beings – all cohabit in a community. And interactivity must be smooth for harmony and peace to reign. It is the duty of the Araba also to ensure cordial relations among all members of the community.
In the past, according to Chief Elebuibon, the Oluawo was regarded as the head of all priests in Osogbo, until Ikujenyo Ikujenlowo, a sojourner in Ibadan town came back to Osogbo with the title of Araba.
Ikujenyo, a native of Osogbo used his knowledge and skill to help the Ibadan people during Kutuje and Atadi wars. And he was made Araba. It was after him that others like Bashorun Ogunmola of Ibadan and Ibikunle were also made Araba.
When he came back to Osogbo with his title, he became the head of all priests in the land. Henceforth, Araba became the highest title for priesthood in Osogbo.
After him was Araba Awonoyi Adeyemi Kehinde of Amubiorogun Compound who was the maternal grand father of Yemi Elebuibon. He was the longest serving Araba.
Other Araba after him were Araba Oyelade of Arewekoro Compound, Araba Falade of Aleshiloye Compound, Araba Oyafemi of Adelakun Compound, Araba Ifaniyi of Aleegun Compound, Araba Ifatoki of Otuyo Compound, Araba Oyagoke Adisa of Eleye Compound, Araba Fabunmi Afolabi of Aboyede Fetuata Compound, Araba Ifagbemi Akani Omotosho of Onipon Compound. Araba Ifayemi Elebuibon is of Oluode Aturuku Compound.
Chief ifayemi explained that Araba is not a hereditary title (Ajewo), rather it is rotational (Oye ori-Odo) . This means that anyone who meets all the requirements for the office could be so honoured.  But it is no mean task for any hopeful to rise through the ranks. The hierarchy includes Awise, Ojugbona, Alara, Olojowu, Erinmi, Lagbongbon, Aseda, Akoda and Araba.
According to Baba Awo, as Elebuibon is fondly called by his spiritual children, many of whom came from America and Europe to celebrate with him, the knowledge of Ifa, the character and the contribution of an individual in the town are the criteria that qualify a person for the title of Araba.
In all these, Chief Elebuibon is distinguished. First, he is of the lineage recognised as authorities on Yoruba tradition. He is a direct descendant of Olutimehin, one of the co-founders of the ancient town.  From age four, he had been learning at the feet of  “the masters”, including his father and his father’s friends who were also priests. While Chief Elebuibon did not attend formal school, he went through correspondence courses, which put him in a better stead among his contemporaries.
Today, Chief Elebuibon is a poet, performing artiste, playwright, herbalist and practicing Ifa priest. He has published several books and scholarly papers on various aspects of Yoruba traditional religion and culture.
His traditional morality drama, Ifa Olokun Asorodayo  culled from Odu Ifa ran on Nigeria National Televison Network for years.
Chief Elebuibon is an international scholar in-residence at San Francisco State University, California USA where he lectures on African Traditional religion and philosophy.
He has been on lecture tour in United States at Wajumba Cultural Institution and national Black theatre in Harlem.
In 1973, he traveled with Duro Ladipo to Paris to perform at festival mudial du theatre; went with him to Brazil for the performance of Obakoso.
He is the founder of Ancient Philosophy International in Osogbo, a centre dedicated to teaching African Traditional Religion and performing arts. He has also been honoured with a doctorate degree of the Brandice University, USA. He was appointed the Vice Chairman of Board of Traditional Medicine, Osun State, and he is presently the President of International Congress of Orisa Tradition and culture, Nigeria Chapter.
Elebuibon is of the view that the post modern African states have lost the essence of their being when they threw away their traditions for western civilization. He said the place of Ifa in African society is as significant today as it was in the past. “The president, the governor and even the local council chairmen could achieve better administration if they consult Ifa Oracle from time to time before taking decisions.”
The high priest likened many of the political leaders to blind men leading a community of the blind.
“Many of them are spiritually blind, and a society ruled by the blind cannot progress.” He therefore advised leaders to retrace their steps to the path toed by their forebears.
Chief Ifayemi has never left that path. This is the reason he is regarded as one the most distinguished traditionalists that ever came out of Africa. No wonder, he was made the Araba. It was indeed an exultant Elebuibon that rode back home on a black horse from the Ataoja’s palace with his kith and kin and well wishers in his wake. It was a day when the rumble of drums mixed with the boom of guns on a crowded road where many thousands of feet met in ecstatic dance. It was a day an Ifa Archbishop was installed in the town popularly known as the centre of arts and culture in Nigeria.

Monday, October 18, 2010


FROM vanguardngr.com

Film to the rescue of indigenous languages

For Nigerian indigenous languages to be preserved and saved from total extinction, there is an imperative need for the government at all levels to encourage the production of indigenous language films reports, Benjamin Njoku.
This was the observation of over 300 film makers, scriptwriters, directors, stakeholders and industry operators who gathered in Akure, Ondo State capital last week, for this year’s edition of the annual, Behind the Screen festival of indigenous languages, now known as, Festival of Indigenous African Language Films.
The festival, which held between October 3 and October 9, at Owena International Hotels, Akure saw the participants drawn from different parts of the country urging the government at all levels to consider the option of giving Nigeria’s indigenous language films a boost as a way of preserving such languages as well as saving them from total extinction as presently being threatened by global statistics.
They also asked the government to begin to pay more attention to the motion picture industry, which according to them, has not only brought global recognition to the country but also, is capable of becoming a veritable alternative to oil economy.
Professor Tunde Babwale, Director-General of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation(CBAAC) who chaired the occasion posited the need for government to support film makers, noting that indigenous language films are critical to the development of any nation. He lamented the steady relegation of these languages, arguing that out of the 500 languages spoken across the ethnic groups in the country, only 84 of them are still in use.
Arguing further, Professor Babawale whose parastatal co-sponsored the event said the use of African indigenous films is also a means of propagating African tradition, culture and norms. “Promotion of our indigenous languages are the manual of development. There is no better way to market our country and our culture other than through film. It has a two fold ways of communication ; audio and visual.” he emphasized.
On CBAAC partnership with Remdel, organisers of the annual festival, Professor Babawale said, Remdel shares similar vision with CBAAC. “This is not our first partnership we were part of the festival last year. We want to use this film festival to project African culture and we also want to use it as an opportunity to show that our language can help in enriching our faith. We believe that there no better way to preserving our cultural heritage than the instrumentality of langauge.”Professor Babawale further stressed.
In her good will message, the wife of the Ondo State Governor, Mrs Olukemi Mimko, while commending the organisers of the 6-day event for taking the lead and for the bold step which would also bring the state to limelight urged parents and guidance to endeavour to teach their wards how to speak the local languages. She observed that despite the fact that “film serves as a medium of correcting societal ills, communication, relaxation and dissemination of information, it has equally found its way into our very existence such that the politicians are now using the film makers to achieve their political ambition.”
The First Lady however took a swipe at the state of th industry, lamenting the rate at which producers churn out obscene movies.
She observed that most of the movies are gradually eroding the rich cultural values of Nigeria, most especially the Yoruba culture, which she said, lays much emphasis on moderate dressing.
While advocating the need for the film makers to control the content of their works, the First Lady said obscene scenes are gradually eroding the qualitative works of the industry. She therefore urged the relevant agency saddled with the content check of the films to put in place a strict measure that would sanction producers who shoot obscene films.
Delivering a lecture entitled “Like Father Like Son: Random Reflection on Yoruba Society and the Yoruba Video-Films”, Professor Wole Ogundele, the Director-General of the Centre for Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, Osun State, concluded that given the danger of extinction faced by African indigenous languages, any positive attempts and strategies to ensure their survival and preservation should be encouraged without any further delay.
According to the erudite Professor, who has a wide and varied knowledge of the film industry, in the absence of a vigorous language literature, the video-film remains one artistic form that is keeping the language alive in the creative and intellectual arena.
“Many African languages, including Yoruba which is spoken by millions of people along the West African coast, are already in danger and will become a threatened language.If it is the indigenous language films that will rescue our languages from that tragedy of eventual extinction, then, rather than crucify the film makers, let us salute them.” he concluded.
Other keynote speakers at the event, included Femi Odugbemi, film maker, who spoke on “The future of Film Distribution in Nigeria”, Mr Dele Oni, General Manager, NTA, Akure, Mr Dele Odule, ANCOP president,Mr Alex Eyengho, Mr Greg Odutayo, president, NANTAP and Dr. Gbemisola Adeoti, who also delivered paper on, “Advancing the role of Women in Politics using the film medium” amongst other speakers.

Friday, October 15, 2010



Remember me as somebody who promotes use of mother tongue in schools —Fafunwa
By Segun Olugbile  
Wednesday, 13 Oct 2010  
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Babatunde Fafunwa
This interview, conducted by SEGUN Olugbile, is believed to be the last Prof. Babatunde Fafunwa granted on September 30 this year. It is being repeated here in honour of the former education minister, who died on Monday, October 11.

On whether Nigeria has a reason to celebrate 50th anniversary.

Yes, we have reasons to celebrate when you consider the fact that as a nation, we are still one. In spite of our challenges we have managed to survive up till now and this makes you to want to believe the joke that God is a Nigerian. If you look at it from this perspective, you will discover that the anniversary is worth celebrating. However, we should not do anything grandiose while celebrating, our celebration should be done soberly, we should do an agonising self-appraisal of our situation so as to determine what we should be doing after October 1, 2010.

Assessement of the education sector.

That’s a tough call, but I’ll try. You should be mindful of this fact that when you are dealing with a small number of students with surplus facilities and well-motivated cum quality teachers, quality will be guaranteed and so there will be a big gap in quality when doing the same with a huge number of students in a crowded classroom, using inadequate and obsolete equipment and with disillusioned teachers. Before and shortly after independence facilities were superb, we had fewer number of students, teachers’ welfare was adequate and the general environment was good. We had large classes with fewer pupils and I think this made us to forget that a classroom is not expandable and there would be need to build more classes and train more quality teachers. In 1960 the total number of pupils we had in primary schools was less than five million while the number of secondary school pupils was less than a million. But by the time the Universal Primary Education was introduced, population of primary school pupils increased to 15 million while those in secondary schools rose to over two million. This is a sizeable increment but quality was lacking.

The same yardstick could be used for universities because in 1960 we had one university and that is the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and not the University of Ibadan as a lot of people believe. Though UI had been in existence since 1948, it was just a college under the University of London; it was not until 1962 that it became autonomous. The Ashby Commission had recommended the establishment of four universities at Lagos, Zaria, Ibadan and Ife but before then late Dr. Nmamdi Azikiwe had set up UNN as a regional university in 1958 and the institution admitted its pioneer students in 1960. As at that time, UI still remained a college of the University of London. But like I said earlier, the university system expanded to five universities in 1962 and remained so until 1970. But shortly after the military came in, some other universities were created.

How private universities started.

In 1979, higher education was put under the concurrent list and due to this, state governments and the private sector were encouraged to start universities. So, many mushroom universities with lecture rooms in garages were set up particularly in the eastern region. Most of these substandard universities were scrapped by the military again in 1983. Seven years later, I became the Minister of Education, I revisited the issue of private universities and to raise the standard, we set up the Longe Commission to look at the function of higher education. To discourage unserious people from setting up private universities, we said interested applicants should put N200m in a fixed deposit, should have 200 acres of land for the permanent site among other stringent conditions. It took seven years before one of the applicants, Chief Igbinedion could start.

So, between 1960 and 1990 we had over 70 universities owned by the public and private sectors. But between 1999 and 2010 we established another 73 that is at the rate of six per year. That is fantastic, but our politicians are good at building edifices which people will see and clap for them but they will not provide the most important facilities and equipment to drive these universities.

In essence, we have done well in quantity but when you look at the quality, you will be shocked particularly in public universities. Many laboratories in most of these public universities have outlived their usefulness; a lab set up for 100 students is now being used by over 600 students. That is why I said that as a nation we have grown the sector in quantity but we are very short in quality. And at the root of this mess is corruption. Name any problem we have in this country and I will tell you that corruption is the root cause. If there is a plane crash, car crash, bad road, poor health facilities, bad economy, insecurity, bad education, corruption is at the bottom of all these challenges and we must kill corruption before it kills us.

On what he would love to be remembered for.

I will like to be remembered as a man who try to make every Nigerian literate and numerate in his or her mother tongue and in English as a second language.

On the dangers of policy somersaults.

Concerning the policy inconsistency, I experienced it as a minister. Before I became a minister under Babangida, government had proscribed the Academic Staff Union of Universities. So, when I came in, I met the president on why we should lift the ban on ASUU. As I mentioned it, IBB, Abacha and Aikhomu said I should go ahead. They did not even allow me to present my argument. Afterwards, I called the leadership of ASUU to a meeting and what they told me was shocking. They said that Nigerian lecturers were the least paid in the whole of Africa. I said no. But when I did my findings, I discovered that it was true.

The present INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, was the President of ASUU then. That man was so brilliant and articulate such that if you are not on your guard, he would argue a bad case and convince you. So, we set up a committee and at the end of the day, we reached an agreement with the lecturers in September 1992. But we could not start the implementation of the part of agreement that had financial implication until January 1993 because of budgetary constraint. But shortly afterwards, I was removed as the minister and another person was picked. On the handing over day and in the full glare of television, the new minister said that the agreement we reached with the lecturers was not binding and that it was illegal. I thought he would not get away with it but he did. I was surprised. If the agreement had been respected, the industrial disharmony that we had till July 2009 in the university system would not have been there. That kind of attitude has been a major problem not just to the development of the education sector but all sectors of the national economy.

If we must grow as a nation, we must stop this idea whereby a minister comes in or another government comes in and abandon a policy designed by his predecessor. Our system of succession is bad. We must build institutions on policy and whoever comes in must be forced to follow through on policies and regulations.

We should also redefine our education policy most especially at the primary and secondary education level. It is not right for a Federal Government to saddle itself with primary and secondary education. The local and the state governments should be left to cater for education at this level, though the Federal Government can intervene in form of grant and aids. A minister of education should not be reduced to admission officer to unity schools. The Federal Government has no business with unity schools. At least, the central government of the US did not have a single university let alone a primary school.

His rating of education sector.

Well, there are but if I were to award mark, I will give us 49 per cent for achievement and 51 per cent for failure. It’s painful when you see a nation like ours with the wherewithal to progress, but we are crawling. Mention any profession, you will find Nigerians making waves all over the world. Is it in law, medicine, accountancy or journalism, our people are there but we have allowed mediocrity to take over governance. We keep our professionals out of leadership and now mediocrity has taken over, corruption has overwhelmed transparency while hard work has been sacrificed. There is also this problem of uncertainty of sanction and this gives looters of the economy the confidence to steal and run away with it. But I tell you that Americans are not any better than Nigerians but the difference is that in America, nobody is above the law. If we are able to fight corruption and embrace the rule of law, all sectors of the economy including education will experience positive change.

For education, our language policy must change. We must use our mother tongue to teach our children if we must experience growth in our search for technological advancement. Nations like China, Japan, Spain, Germany and India are examples of nations that have experienced development as a result of this.

Comments :  
  • Thank you Baba, may ur soul rest in peace. I am 100% with u on mother tongue and Im waiting for a courageuos leader that will call a debate on this and I will give the nation million reason why development is tied to language. “Literacy is ability to speak, read and write most especially in your mother tongue". But honestly God is not a Nigerian and will never be. Baba You have done your very best.
    Posted by: Wole Oyewo , on Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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  • Great talk form the late Prof who is an educationist to the core. I wish the present government will look into this interview and get wisdom on how to move forward as far as education is concern and more importantly as nation. I pray that Prof. Fafunwa Babatunde gentle soul R.I.P
    Posted by: Makinwa Oluwole , on Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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  • i believed the past ex head of state / president should read late professor Fafunwa’s interview on the nation education system and see where they have derailed the nation education system.pls the present government schld try and normalised it.
    Posted by: raheem , on Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


FROM b4bmorenews.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


• Ordered the White House and all federal agencies to respect the Freedom of Information Act and overturned Bush-era limits on accessibility of federal documents (2009)
• Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible (2009)
• Placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House (2009)
• Placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration (2009)
• Signed a measure strengthening registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists (2009)
• Ordered that lobbyists must be removed from and are no longer permitted to serve on federal and White House advisory panels and boards (2009) * Note: After saying he would not hire lobbyists, a few have been hired in the Administration
• Companies and individuals who are delinquent on their taxes or owe back taxes are no longer allowed to bid for federal contracts (2009)
• Initiated the “e-Rulemaking Initiative” (in cooperation with Cornell University) to allow for online public “notice and comment” of federal laws and initiatives (2010)
• Issued the “Open Gov Directive” ordering all Cabinet departments to promote transparency and citizen participation in their policies (2010)
• Signed extensions on banning lobbyists from serving on agency boards (2010)
• Developed the “Don Not Pay List” with data on contractors and recipients of federal funds who are deemed to be ineligible because of fraud and abuse (2010)

• The White House website now provides information on all economic stimulus projects and spending, along with an unprecedented amount of information on our government (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era practice of circumventing established FDA rules for political reasons (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era practice of having White House staff rewrite the findings of scientific and environmental regulations and reports when they disagreed with the results (2009)
• Limited the salaries of senior White House aides (salaries cut to $100,000) (2009)
• Has urged Congress to adopt “Pay-Go” (whereby each dollar of spending is offset by a dollar in cuts or revenues, which was used in the `90s but abandoned in the `00s) (2010)
• Has been holding open meetings with Republican leaders, although they complain of a lack of access and information (2010)
• Signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (2010) * Note: To curb wasteful spending
• Tasked federal agencies to develop plans for disposing of unneeded real estate and then to eliminate unnecessary or non-economical lands, properties, etc. (2010)

• Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane (which wasn’t even used in Iraq/Afghanistan) and other outdated weapons systems (2009)
• Announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (2009) * Note: The closure has been delayed due to massive opposition but it remains on the agenda.
• Stated his interest in housing terrorists at a new federal “super max” facility in the US (2009) * Note: this has been delayed in the face of massive opposition but it remains on the agenda
• Cut the expensive Reagan era missile defense program, saving $1.4 billion in 2010 (2009)
• Cancelled plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic (2009)
• Replacing long-range, expensive missile systems with more efficient smaller systems (2009)
• Increased US Navy patrols off the Somali coast in response to pirating (2009)
• Established a new cyber security office and appointed a cyber security czar (2009)
• Ordered the first nation-wide comprehensive cyber threat assessment (2009)
• Instituted a new Nuclear Posture Review, revising US nuclear deterrence policy to encourage more nations to join the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (2010) * Note: Components of the policy include: a pledge to stop nuclear testing; a pledge to not build a new generation of nucs; identifying nuclear terrorism, rather than a launch from another nuclear state, as the major threat; a pledge to not use nucs on a non-nuclear state in a conventional conflict; etc.• Executive orders to block payment, transfers, exports, etc… of individuals and organizations support the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Somali pirates, and other foreign threats (2010)
• Presidential Memoranda to extend certain provisions of The Trading with Enemies Act which was to expire in September 2010 (2010) * Note: This includes freezing assets and banning trade that benefits the Cuban regime; however further efforts at normalizing travel to Cuba are supported
• Signed bill for southwest border security and increased funds and agents on the Mexican border (2010)
• Signed the Comprehensive Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act to deal with foreign regimes like Iran and North Korea (2010)

• Began the phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (2009); continuing the withdrawal (2010)
• Changed the US military command in the Afghan conflict (2009)
• Tasked the Pentagon to reorganize US policy in Afghanistan; the new policy includes 30,000 additional troops deployed, priority training of Afghan forces, developing agriculture and infrastructure, limiting aerial bombing, etc. (2009)
• Ordered the Pentagon to send additional helicopters to assist US Marine units and Special Forces in Afghanistan (2009)
• Increased unmanned drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date (2009)

• Ordered the Pentagon to cover expenses of families of fallen soldiers if they wish to be on site when the body arrives back in the US (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era “blackout” imposed on media coverage of the return of fallen US soldiers (2009) * Note: The media is now permitted to cover the story pending adherence to respectful rules and with the approval of the fallen soldier’s family
• Ended the Bush-era “black out” policy on media coverage of war casualties (2009) * Note: Full information is now released for the first time in the War on Terror
• Ordered better body armor to be procured for US troops (2009)
• Funding new Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (2009) * Note: The old Hummers were very vulnerable to roadside explosives and an alarming percentage of our soldiers lost in Iraq were on account of IEDs
• Working to increase pay and benefits for military personnel (2009)
• Improving housing for military personnel (2009)
• Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses (2009)
• Ordered that conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other neglected military hospitals be improved (2009)
• Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military to a post-Cold War, modern fighting force (2009) * Note: Bush announced in 2001 his intention to do this but backed off the reforms after 9/11, which include: new procurement policies; increasing the size of Special Ops units; deploying new technologies; creating new cyber security units; etc.
• Ended the Bush-era practice of awarding “no-bid” defense contracts (2009)
• Improving benefits for veterans as well as VA staffing, information systems, etc. (2009)
• Authorized construction of additional health centers to care for veterans (2009)
• Suspended the Bush-era decision to purchase a fleet of Marine One helicopters from suppliers in favor of American made helicopters (2009)
• Ordered a review of the existing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military (2010)
• New GI Bill for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (2009)
• Signed bill providing assistance for caregivers of veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan (2010) * Note: The omnibus bill does the following: Training, funding, and counseling for caregivers; promoting pilot childcare programs for women vets under treatment at the VA; independent oversight to prevent abuse; readjustment counseling for National Guard and reservist units; etc.
• Eliminated co-payments for veterans who are catastrophically disabled (2010)
• Fulfilled campaign promise to have combat troops (90,000) out of Iraq by August 31, 2010 (2010)
• Established a new interagency task force to assist veterans owning small businesses (2010) * Note: The efforts include promoting federal contract opportunities, improve access to loans and capital, mentor assistance programs, etc.
• Signed The Families of Fallen Heroes Act, which covers the moving costs of immediate family members of those lost in service (military, intelligence, and security personnel) (2010)

• Closed the Bush-era “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era policy allowing “enhanced interrogation” (torture); the US is again in compliance with Geneva Convention standards (2009) * Note: Obama has permitted some controversial interrogation techniques to continue
• Restarted international nuclear non-proliferation talks and reestablished international nuclear inspection protocols (2009) * Note: Bush withdrew from non-proliferation talks and dismantled the inspection infrastructure
• Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush
• Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions (2009) * Note: These were suspended under Bush
• Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office (2009)
• Banned the export of cluster bombs (2009)
• Overturned Bush-era plans to increase the US nuclear arsenal (2009)
• Authorized the Navy SEALS operation that freed by force the US shipping captain held by Somali pirates (2009)
• Restored the US commitment to the UN population fund for family planning; overturned the ban on providing funds internationally for family planning (2009) * Note: The family planning efforts were suspended under Bush
• Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit families (2009)
• Extended an offer of engagement (free from sanctions and penalties) to Iran through December 31, 2009 (Iran did not accept the offer) (2009)
• Sent envoys to the Middle East and other parts of the world, reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy (2009)
• Authorized discussions with North Korea and the private mission by former president, Bill Clinton, to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons (2009)
• Authorized discussions with Myanmar and the mission by Senator Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive (2009)
• Renewed loan guarantees for Israel (2009)
• Signed the USIFTA trade agreement with/for Israel (2009)
• Authorized a $550m advance for Israel (six months prior to the scheduled date) in order to accommodate Israeli’s economic and financial needs (2009)
• Continued agreements with Israel for cultural exchanges, immigration, etc. (2009)
• Spoke on Arab television, spoke at an Egyptian university, and met with Arab leaders in an effort to change the tone of US-Arab relations (2009)
• Ordered the US to finally pay its dues to the United Nations (2009)
• Attended the Summit of America’s meeting in Trinidad and Tobago (2010)
• Dispatched several envoys and initiated talks with numerous nations (2010)
• Signed a nuclear limitation treaty with Russia (2010) * Note: The agreement calls for both countries to reduce their nucs by one-third (1,500) and launch systems by half (800)
• Hosted nuclear non-proliferation summit for several nations (2010)
• Executive Order to establish support offices in the State Department to assist the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan (2010)
• Presidential Memoranda to continue drug interdiction support with Columbia (2010)

• Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) (2009) * Note: Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to not make infrastructure a priority
• Authorized the US auto industry rescue plan and two GMAC rescue packages (2009)
• Authorized the housing rescue plan and new FHA residential housing guarantees (2009)
• Authorized a $789 billion economic stimulus plan (2009) * Note: 1/3 in tax cuts for working-class families; 1/3 to states for infrastructure projects; 1/3 to states to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers, etc. at risk of losing their jobs because of state budget shortfalls
• Instituted a new rule allowing the public to meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (in as quickly as one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (2009)
• Authorized a continuation of the US financial and banking rescue plans initiated at the end of the Bush administration and authorized TARP funds to buy “toxic assets” from failing financial institutions (2009)
• Authorized the “Cash for Clunkers” program that stimulated auto sales and removed old, inefficient, polluting cars from the road (2009)
• Convened a “jobs summit” to bring experts together to develop ideas for creating jobs (2009)
• Ordered the FDIC to beef up deposit insurance (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era policy of protecting credit card companies (2009) * Note: In place of the old policy, new consumer protections were instituted and the industry’s predatory practices were banned
• Authorized the federal government to make more loans available to small businesses and ordered lower rates for federal loans to small businesses (2009)
• Placed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires and a few other products such as pipes after China was found to be illegally “dumping” exports below cost (2009) * Note: Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan all refused to “get tough” on China’s predatory trade practices; Bush II refused four times during his presidency
• In November 2009, Obama extended unemployment benefits for one million workers
and expanded coverage for some existing homeowners who are buying again (2009)
• Called on Congress to deliver a “Jobs bill” (2010)
• Credit card companies are prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying bills on time (2010)
• Signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits set to expire (2010)
• Signed historic Wall Street reform bill (2010) * Note: Designed to reregulate and end abusive practices and promote consumer protections
• Signed the HIRE Act to stimulate the economic recovery (2010) * Note: The bill includes: tax cuts for small businesses who hire someone unemployed for at least two months; small businesses can write off their investments in equipment this year; etc.
• National Export Initiative established to enhance federal support (technical assistance, training, trade missions, etc.) and coordination efforts to help US businesses export products and services (2010)
• Initiatives to promote a “Wireless Broadband Revolution” (2010) * Note: Among other things, broadband is finally being considered as necessary infrastructure, with efforts to expand use, access, and spectrum…
• Expanded agricultural credit to farmers during current economic crisis (2010)
• Signed bill - US Manufacturing Enhancement Act (2010)
• Signed bill - Single Family Housing Mortgage Insurance (2010)


• Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks to permit the US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs (2009) * Note: The new policy promotes in-sourcing investments to brings jobs back to the US
• Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provides small tax cuts for 95% of “working families” (2009) * Note: The tax cuts were not as big as was suggested during the 2008 campaign
• Convened an advisory board that is looking into simplifying the tax code (2009)
• Ordered the closing of offshore tax safe havens (for individual and business tax evaders) (2009)
• Reduced taxes for some small businesses to stimulate the economic recovery (2009)
• Extended the Home Buyers Credit for first-time home buyers (2009)
• Proposed doubling the child tax credit (2010)
• Called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses (2010)
• Proposed rolling back the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (2010) * Note: This would be for families earning over $250,000/year and would return their tax rates to the 1990’s level

• Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut federal spending (2009)
• Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify wasteful spending and practices (2009)
• Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient (2009)
• Overturned the Bush-era practice of not listing certain federal programs in the federal budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did this (so did Reagan) in an effort to hide programs and make the budget look smaller; such “off budget” items are now included in the annual budget
• Full appropriations for war are now included in the budget (2009) (2010) * Note: Bush did not list many of the appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan, and War on Terror
• Funds for emergency appropriations are now included in the budget (2009) (2010)
• Proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 (2010)
• Is in the process of cutting 120 federal programs identified as either wasteful or unnecessary (2010)
• Established a bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility, staffed by House and Senate members and private citizens, tasked with submitting proposals to balance the budget (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down
• Established a bipartisan commission on the future of Social Security, tasked with submitting proposals to preserve and strengthen Social Security (2010) * Note: In the face of Republican opposition, the powers of the commission were watered down
• Cut $20 billion from federal budget and has pledged to cut at least this much every year (2010)
• Ultimately decided to cancel planned new presidential helicopter fleet and stick with marine One (2010)
• Freezing all discretionary spending for next three years, except on national security (2010)
• Presidential Memoranda to freeze discretionary awards, bonuses, etc. for federal political appointees (2010)
• Beginning to use “Pay-As-You-Go” (Pay-Go) to offset budget expenditures with budget cuts or revenue enhancements (2010)
• Removed Bush era restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research (2009)
• Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research (2009)
• Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children (2009)
• Established an independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare (2009)
• Reversed some of the Bush-era restrictions that prevented Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical firms for cheaper drugs, allowing government to again competitively bid (2009) * Note: Obama had promised to lift all restrictions but, while he did negotiate with drug companies for them to lower their costs the deal only lifted some restrictions
• Expanding government vaccination programs (2009)
• Issued new disease prevention guidelines and priorities for the CDC (2009)
• Authorized the FDA to finally begin regulating tobacco (2009)
• Tasked federal labs to prioritize research on and deployment of H1N1 vaccines (2009)
• Asked multiple congressional committees to bring forward a healthcare reform bill; held dozens of public hearings and town halls on the issue (2009) (2010)
• Established a new council on National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health to be chaired by Surgeon General and charged with promoting healthy lifestyles and integrative healthcare (2010)
• When accusations to the contrary arose, an Executive Order was signed to reaffirm that federal funds are not to be used for abortion services (2010)
• Historic healthcare reform bill signed - $940 billion over 10 years (2010) * Note: 32 million additional Americans will receive healthcare coverage and costs will be lowered for most Americans, but many of the goals are phased in over four years
Components of the bill
- Prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals/family members with pre-existing health conditions; a temporary plan is being developed to cover high-risk individuals with pre-existing conditions until the full reforms go into effect in 2014
- Prevents insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on benefits
- Bans “rescission” so insurance companies can’t cancel coverage if individuals keep their policies current or if they become ill
- An individual’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are capped
- Closes the “donut hole” (Part D) for Medicare prescription drug coverage (under Bush, Medicare helped pay for drugs up to $2,600 and above $4,550, but individuals had to pay 100% of the costs in between these amounts); now Medicare helps cover costs irrespective of the amount – seniors will now pay only 25% of drug costs up to $4,550 and only 5% of drug costs above that amount
- In 2010, an emergency provision will offer seniors a $250 rebate on the costs incurred within the “donut hole”
- Individuals living at or below the poverty line were eligible for healthcare under Medicaid, but by 2014 individuals/families living slightly above (making up to $14,404/$29,327) the poverty line will also be eligible for benefits
- Individuals/families making less than $43,320/$88,200 per year will qualify for government subsidies to help purchase health insurance
- All individuals must have health insurance or face a government fine; all large (over 50 employees) employers must offer health insurance to employees or pay a fine
- Small businesses can get a tax credit if they offer health care
- There are hardship exemptions if individuals can’t afford health insurance
- Families can keep their children in college on their plans through age 26
- Promotes health insurance “exchanges” so consumers can buy “wholesale”
- Creates consumer assistance offices to help consumers file complaints or appeal decisions from insurance companies; beginning in 2011, insurance companies can no longer make excessive rate hikes without justification and approval, and those doing so may be barred from participating in new health insurance exchanges
Funding sources:
- Large employers (over 50 workers) that don’t offer health benefits will be charged a $2,000/worker fee; if the employer offers coverage but employees instead purchase federally subsidized insurance the fee is $3,000/worker receiving federal subsidies or $750/worker (whichever is lower)
- Annual fees on pharmaceutical companies ($27 billion), health insurance companies ($60 billion), and medical device-makers ($20 billion)
- Annual penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance (up to a maximum of $695/person)
- Increase in the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for individuals making $200,000+ and families making $250,000+
- 3.8% tax on unearned income for millionaires
- Insurance companies will be subject to a tax on each high-end insurance plan (so-called “Cadillac” plans) they offer
- Illegal immigrants are not eligible for insurance or subsidies
- By Executive Order, such federal funding can’t be used for abortion
- The federal government will assist states by covering all of the increased expenses of expanding Medicaid coverage (90% of costs after 2020)

• Removed a ruling that now allows individual states to enact automotive fuel efficiency standards above federal standards (2009)
• Offered attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles (2009)
• Overturned Bush-era rule that weakened the Endangered Species Act (2009)
• Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government (2009)
• Ended the Bush-era policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions (2009)
• Signed a measure requiring energy producing plants to begin producing 15% of their energy from renewable sources (2009)
• Announced that the federal government would reengage in the long-delayed effort to clean up “Superfund” toxic waste sites (2009)
• Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s energy reform was killed by Senate Republicans
• Proposed a new refuge for wild mustangs (2009)
• Cancelled several Bush-era mountain-top removal and mining permits (2009)
• Reengaged in international treaties and agreements to protect the Antarctic (2009)
* Note: Bush had withdrawn from such efforts
• Asked Congress for an energy reform and “cap and trade” bill (2009) * Note: The Congress failed to pass such a bill
• Developing plan to lease US coastal waters for wind and water-current energy production (2009)
• Overturned Bush-era policies that allowed uranium mining near national parks such as the Grand Canyon (2009)
• Expanded the Petrified Forest National Park (2009)
• Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protects millions of acres of scenic, historic, and recreational lands and trails (2009)
• Requiring that government buildings and facilities be retrofitted to save energy costs (2009) * Note: These green retrofits are moving very slowly
• Authorized studies in several western states to determine how to support large-scale solar installations (2009)
• Attended the Copenhagen talks and, after the talks were stalled, negotiated an international (voluntary) agreement on reducing carbon emissions and raising funds to assist developing nations in offsetting carbon emissions (2009)
• Banned importation of pythons in response to a growing population of pythons damaging the Florida Everglades (2009)
• Committing the federal government to increasing research and use of renewable, clean energy sources such as wind, biomass, etc. (2009)
• Executive orders establishing a federal initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all federal operations (2009) (2010)
• Called for exploring the possibility of additional off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf, Atlantic, and off Alaska (but not in ANWR) (2010)
• Agreed to consider increases in nuclear energy production and requested a study on the feasibility of nuclear power plant construction (2010) * Note: Nearly all energy initiatives were defeated by Republican opposition in Congress
• Increased investment in clean energy projects (2010)
• Executive Order to develop a new strategy for and commitment to ocean and lake resources, and for scientific research on water quality (2010)

• Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) (2009)
• Appointed Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina, to the Supreme Court (2009)
• Held the first Seder in White House (2009)
• Appointed a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House staff (2009)
• Spoke at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization (2009)
• Signed the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation that includes acts of violence against gays under the list of federal hate crimes (2009)
• Reversed the Bush-era practice of politicizing Justice Department investigations and prosecutions against political opponents (2009)
• Pushing for some of the 9/11 perpetrators to be tried in federal court (2009) * Note: The process has moved at a snail’s pace and, in the face of opposition, Obama has remained quiet
• Signed an extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Bill to provide federal research and support for treating the disease (2009)
• Allowed the State Department of offer same-sex benefits for employees (2009)
• Proposed that the Pentagon repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; placed a “freeze” on current efforts to remove alleged homosexuals from the military (2009)
• After eight years of neglect, the Justice Department and EEOC are again enforcing employment discrimination laws (2009)
• Convened the White House Tribal Nations Conference, inviting representatives from 564 federally-recognized Indian tribes (2009)
• Provided increased school projects for Indian lands and increased funds for the Indian Health Service (2009)
• Signed an Executive Order mandating that his Cabinet develop plans to work with and consult Indian tribes on issues impacting Indian lands (2009)
• Commissioned a study to develop alternatives to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)
• Called for federal agencies to look into recognizing gay partnerships in terms of benefits (2010)
• Signed an Executive Order for the President’s Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)
• Increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010)
• Signed Executive Order to promote the federal government as a “model employer” when it comes to hiring the disabled (2010) * Note: This includes new efforts to increase the recruitment, hiring, and training for the disabled
• Programs to assist Spanish speakers with the US Census (2010)
• Elena Kagen appointed to Supreme Court (2010)
• Tasked all federal agencies to develop new strategies to address HIV/AIDS (2010)
• After organizing studies on the topic in 2009, tasked the Pentagon to eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2010)
• Signed Fair Sentencing Act (2010) * Note: The Administration continues to deescalate marijuana interdiction and raids; increased dramatically the amount of cocaine one must possess to be sentenced to jail; eliminated mandatory sentencing for first-time drug abusers and simple possession

• Authorized construction funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access in K-12 public schools (2009)
• Increased funding for school construction (2009)
• Increased funding available for student loans (2009)
• Expanded the national youth service program (2009)
• Streamlined the federal student loan process to save $87 billion over the next 10 years (2009)
• Changed the rule to allow students struggling to make college loan payments to refinance their loans (2009)
• Beginning discussions with Congress for education reform (2009) * Note: Much of Obama’s education reform has been sidelined by opposition in Congress
• Initiated a “Race to the Top” competitive federal grant program for states who develop innovative policies (2009)
• Instituted a “judgment review” allowing families with student loans to petition to have their current financial status determine the loan rather than the previous year’s finances (2009)
• Launched “Educate to Innovate,” a public/private partnership making $236 million available for science, mathematics, and technology education programs (2009)
• Proposed capping the maximum amount students must pay on student loans (as percentage of their income) (2010)
• Proposed reducing student loan obligations for individuals going to work in community and public service jobs (2010)
• The federal government will offer direct student loans, cutting out the cost of private banks (“middle man”) who increase the costs in order to make a profit (2010)
• Increased investment in technologies for schools/education (2010)

• Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness (2009)
• FEMA once again reports directly to the president (2009) * Note: Bush removed FEMA (prior to the Hurricane Katrina disaster) from this status
• Demonstrated an immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters (2009)
• Ordered that funds be released and red tape be streamlined for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in the Gulf Coast (2009)
• Timely and massive relief effort in response to the January 2010 earthquake and ensuing humanitarian crisis (2010)
Components of the response:
- The FBI’s National Center for Disaster Fraud was tasked to look into possible fraud with organizations soliciting funds for relief
- Announced the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund
- Established an emergency Haiti Task Force in the State Department
- Established a website with information, resources, and a posting of a “person finder” online to help families and friends to locate loved ones
- Joint aid and relief planning with the U.K.
- Sponsored a resolution in the UN Security Council for additional security and police forces in Haiti
- Dispatched the US Navy floating hospital (USNS Comfort) and, within 5 days, 9 naval and relief ships, 5 Coast Guard cutters, 8 Coast Guard aircraft, and 12,000 US military personnel
- Initial dispatch of several ships and cargo planes full of humanitarian aid and supplies, 6 search/rescue teams (500 personnel), and 265 Department of Health & Human Services personnel for emergency medical and aid support
- Established a mobile US air traffic control center at the destroyed airport in Port-au-Prince
• After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a freeze was placed on new deep water projects (2010)
• Executive Order to establish new security measures to minimize accidental release of bio and chemical agents; new strategies for public health and bioterrorism response (2010)
• Established a national commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to examine facts and report a plan of action; new efforts to prevent offshore spills (2010)
• After a slow start in responding to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the White House is promoting a long-term plan to reconstruct the damaged Gulf and negotiated with BP the establishment of a multi-billion dollar trust fund for victims of the spill (2010)
• Extended national flood insurance program for those in need during current economic crisis (2010)


• New federal funding for science and research labs (2009)
• Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program (2009)
• Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program (2009)
• Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud (2009)
• Ordered the DEA to stop raids on medical marijuana usage (2009)
• Ordered a review of existing “mandatory minimum” prison sentencing (2009)
• Signed an order to limit airport tarmac delays and the time passengers had to sit in the plane/on the tarmac during delays (2009)
• Restored the EPA to “Cabinet level” status (2009) * Note: Bush removed the EPA from this status
• Beginning discussions with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform (2010)
* Note: Much of Obama’s immigration reform had been stalled by opposition in Congress
• Commissioned expert panels and reports from NASA; announced a new direction for human space flight that involves funding a new heavy lift-launcher and jettisoning the Ares 1 program; boosting NASA’s budget by $1 billion in 2011 (2010)
• Ordered a ban on text-messaging for all commercial truck and bus drivers (2010)
• Signed bill – FAA Air Transportaiton Modernizatin and Safety Improvement Act (2010)

• The Obamas paid for the renovations of the private living quarters in the White House with their own money rather than using the funds provided to all new first families (2009)
• The Obamas reused many Christmas ornaments from previous White House trees rather than buy new ones (2009)
• The Obamas used LED energy-saving lights on White House Christmas tree (2009)
• Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; donated the award money for the prize to several charities (2009)
• Planted a garden for the White House’s vegetables and flowers (2009)
• Installed a swing set/playground for the Obama daughters and children of White House employees (2009)
• Held over 150 public town halls, press conferences, interviews, etc. in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not available on such things, but this seems to be a new record high
• Less than 30 days of vacation in first year in office (2009) * Note: Official numbers are not readily available on such things, but this seems to be a new record low
B4B NOTE: Special Thanks to Robert P. Watson, Ph. D., Professor of American Studies, Lynn University who compiled this list and writes " Like all presidents, Barack Obama has made mistakes. But, as a presidential historian, I have been struck by claims being put forward by Obama’s many critics and the news media that he has accomplished little when, in fact, his presidency is easily one of the most active in history." And Thanks to our friend Sherry Lou Meeks.
Thank You Mr. President !
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