If Only We Can Monetize our Stupidity

Ordinarily, by last weekend, the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine, (January-March 2013) issue would have hit African newsstands. Unfortunately, not even the editors themselves knew that the October-December 2012 issue with the cover theme “The Future” would be its last after over two decades of magazine production covering A-Z of Africa. Responding to the article I had sent for the botched edition, the managing editor explains:

Dear Felix-Uche Akam,

Re: Fated Future

Thank you for contacting Focus on Africa magazine and for your wise words. They are particularly relevant in view of the news that I have to pass on to you today, which is that unfortunately a decision has been made to close down Focus on Africa magazine with immediate effect. The October-December 2012 issue is the last one. I am attaching part of the press release, below:

Please see below a statement from BBC Global News regarding Focus on Africa Magazine.

“As new technology has developed rapidly in recent years and we have continued to improve our broadcast services in Africa we have decided it is no longer cost effective for the BBC World Service to publish a quarterly print magazine covering very similar content.   We have therefore published the last edition of “Focus on Africa” magazine in October 2012. We hope that readers will continue to access news, information and features about Africa online at the BBC Africa website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/africa/ and through our radio and television services.”


Paul Rasmussen

BBC Global News Press Office

mobile +44 7711 415 102

I am very sorry that I couldn’t respond to you with happier news. We greatly appreciate the support we have received over the years from readers and stylish writers such as yourself.

Good luck in all your future endeavours and remember Felix-Uche never to give up journalism.

Best wishes

Alison Kingsley-Hall

Managing Editor, BBC Focus on Africa magazine

BBC Logistics Co-ordinator, Africa Cup of Nations

Tel: +44-(0)203 61 44708/mobile: +44-(0)7904 331883


Wish decision, bad news! Without giving consideration to its high readership, the BBC management considered it economic miscalculation squandering money on printing magazines when new technology offers alternatives. By shred of imagination, extending this economic factorization to Nigeria will means intruding into prestigious customs that is marring our development and holding many a Nigerian sway. With no money, Nigerians have adopted choices and acquired tastes which only money can deliver. There is a growing consumption mentality without commensurate productive skills. If BBC team can give up Focus magazine, on grounds of cost effectiveness, Nigerians have cause to worry.

The country’s squandering mentality has gone digital even as poverty soars. I was amazed when a sibling told me recently that he had earmarked N180, 000 for churching. I dissuaded him to cancel the budget but he insisted that should he keep the ceremony in low key, he wouldn’t recover what he had paid for others. For child dedication, a committee of friends was set up, band group was called, different clubs were in their outfits, and U-5 kids in the neighbourhood were decorated with uniforms. And what next! There were customized souvenirs. I wouldn’t have bothered if the wife had been barren. But it was the dedication of the second son and third child in a wedding that is no more than five years old.

Puzzle! Are the souvenirs we print for our different occasions really needed? Nigerian homes are littered with melamine trays, plates, cups, saucers and sauceboats, ladles, etc, no thanks to the arrival of Innoson Plastics, Enugu. Any burial, electioneering, birthday, civic reception, ordination, thanksgiving, naming ceremony, courtesy calls, appointment, etc that goes without take-away items is really not it. Worst still, some these items are of inferior materials that they do not outlive their first use.

Today, printing presses are reaping in kickbacks of a squandering age. To host simple event, we print posters, photo albums, brochures, bill boards, flyers; we buy spaces in the pages of newspapers and go on air. What need a wedding order of mass for instance, in Africa where attendance to wedding begins with reception? What need wedding calendars which bears only the nicknames of the couple, thereby limiting their usage to a closed group?

Footing a burial today is nightmare: money for caskets, undertakers, clergymen, Government House Choir, billboards, brochures, posters, posters, newspaper spaces, professional MCs, radio and TV airtime and souvenirs ranging from plastics, slippers, umbrellas, laptops, LCD TV! An ex-classmate and a friend not long ago appealed to me for a loan to plan a burial of his mother. Knowing his family background, I tried to help him cut down the expenses to basics, but he insisted in giving the mum a ‘benefitting burial’: N80, 000 for brochures, N60, 000 for almanacs, N40, 000 for posters, N15, 000 for a radio commentary with N10, 000 for two slots of 60seconds announcements, N30, 000 live-band etc. Why these?

To be sure, his mum was not known beyond their village neither is the son known beyond our class circle. At the burial, 80 per cent of the sympathizers were illiterates and priests who were the most learned guests certainly came with their order of funeral rites because of anticipated printer’s errors that become a commonplace in such brochures. Half of those at the burial mass used the brochures for knelling. What a waste!

Come to think of ashebi brouhaha which is giving many families sleepless nights. Every occasion has got its own uniform. Any person who doesn’t appear in the chosen regale for the ceremony is at best not taken seriously and at worst seen as an enemy.

To make economic headway, Nigerians must reappraise their needs and wants. Painting every ceremony red will not lead a country struggling to find economic footing to any place. If the closure of Focus Magazine has taught us any lesson, it is that there is nothing that cannot be forgone for posterity sake. Take-away culture is a misplaced value.