All posts by richardalijos

Lawyer, Poet, Author of the novel City of Memories.

On Sightseeing in Washington DC #IVLP

Arrived a very clear but cold Washington DC for this year’s #IVLP Processing through Dulles was efficient, thanks to the organization. We drove across Virginia, crossed the Potomac and wallah, DC. Yesterday was a city tour, Lafayette Square, the MLK and Lincoln memorials and more.


On Empathy Against Extremism


The very clear murder of retired Major General Alkali (somewhere around) Lefedeng Du village in Jos brings to relief again the sad reality of extremism and ignorance. Make no mistake, on the scale of extremism, the killers of Alkali are shoulder-to-shoulder with Shekau. This killing is the very height of hate. There is no excusing it.
His killers must be found and the law must take its course.

(General Agundu) said though the unfortunate event was regretted, “General Alkali may have been caught up in the crises which rocked the area, that is the attack of gunmen on the community and the subsequent violent protest by community members the next day.”

He, however said the military would get to the bottom of the matter and treat it accordingly.

Daily Trust

At some point, the cycle of accusations and recriminations, attack and counterattack, effort and conspiracy on the Plateau must stop. Those who loved what Jos was once upon a time will need to find a way to communal harmony.
What we have lost is basic empathy and a sense of fairness, to which all classes of politicians have brought their toxic rhetoric and polarization. What is needed is a crop of people willing to insist on empathy, regardless of what it costs.
– Ra.

#Nigeria, To My Mind.



1. In the wake of the continuing outrage of #Zamfara, on top of #Plateau, #Benue and countless other, one things is clear to me about #Nigeria

2. IGs, CGs, Chiefs of (insert service) Staff, DGs, EDs and every category of top administrative official in Nigeria are not held to account according to their mandates. #Nigeria

3. I was very briefly in government and I’ve gone through all the “reforms”, “strategies”, “approaches” and all else, brilliant on paper, that fail woefully. #Nigeria

4. Because they do not address this fundamental irresponsibility of top administrative officials to their mandates. #Nigeria

5. If top officials feel no responsibility to deliver service to the strict, unwavering standards of the laws setting them up, they feel no pressure to ensure their subordinates act to achieve mandate. #Nigeria

6. Thus, what we have is talk-fests and turf battles, inertia, but with the delusion of activity. And countless deaths from inefficiency and hurried stop gap measures that do nothing to the status quo. #Nigeria

7. Which leads to the political angle. Political power, in our system, is the surest place we can find the authority and potency (and legitimacy) to demand responsibility to mandates by top officials and punish deviance and failure. #Nigeria

8. This has failed. It had been my hope that the current government would have brought sheer political will to the table of Nigerian administration. They have not. The next place to find that authority is in the people themselves. #Nigeria

9. In a dysfunctional sense, Nigerians have been governing themselves, providing electricity, security, water, and relying on God for good health… as the sad joke goes. #Nigeria

10. The effect of this is what worries me, the erosion of the thinking behind the necessity of a State, and with it a government, and with it, eventually, law and order. Anarchy becomes the inevitable destination. #Nigeria

11. I am a lawyer. Anarchy does not, by its very nature, appeal to me. In my own way, I actually like people and wish for them the very best of peace and security, for self-realization. Anarchy is not it. #Nigeria

12. How do we get people to harness their power, give it heft against top executive officers in Nigeria, in a way that ensures and compels service yet does not lead to anarchy? #Nigeria

13. I do not know the answer to this question. All I have is a suggestion relying on civil society. #Nigeria

14. Is it not about time for every Ministry, Department or Agency of our Federal and State governments to have a number of nongovernmental organizations harrying them day in day out? #Nigeria

15. I mean, real NGOs rooted in society and in communities, communities of people, service users, those affected by services. Doing it this way will take the tendency to anarchy away, to my mind. It is structured. #Nigeria

17. Else, we will follow Dante, find the signpost to anarchist hell – Despair all ye who enter here. If we get to the gates of hell, after the journey, entering really is the only option. No saviors there. #Nigeria

18. And by then, these tweets will not matter, nor anything for that matter. #Nigeria

“What endures?” “Stories. Stories endure.”

The truly great Michael Ondaatje won the Golden Man Booker last week for 1992’s “The English Patient”.

I have loved this novel particularly, and adored this writer, from when I first encountered TEP in Professor Kanchana Ugbabe’s library in Jos. This is precious language, this is story, this is craft.

Just last week, before the accouncement of the results of the Golden Booker votes, I received this replacement copy of TEP – the story of Lazlo d’Almasy and his doomed friendships in the wake of the disruptions of WWII, also the story of Kip and Hannah, doomed also to a life of loss. It replaces a copy lost. And I think, of course, of Almasy’s copy of Herodotus… Thank you, HB.

Kenyan novelist, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, asks poignantly in her novel Dust, “What endures?” I venture, “Stories. Stories endure.”

Colourful Casablanca

Yesterday’s adventure involved changing hotels. It would seem I am not very good at picking hotels from Perhaps I should just look for the Ibis in any town I’m in danger of nomading through? But, you tend not to interact with the culture of a place when you’re staying at a “proper” hotel and culture really is the point. I enjoyed spending the night at the Old Medina but my lodgings left much to be desired.

I got lost looking for the new hotel. All precautions were taken, including the Google Maps download. Eventually, the taxi driver dumped me—said “ah, it’s just over there” and pleaded traffic. And there I was on Rue Moulay Yusef unable to interest another driver in my stuff and me. That said, I was propositioned by marketers marketing other hotels and spas… The girls in Casablanca are very pretty, alhamdulillah. I deny no favours of my Lord.

Settled into the new hotel on Rue d’Azail but was unable to summon the strength to do any exploring.

This morning, I tried to go to the bazaar part of the Old Medina but gave up the effort. It was unimpressive—less interesting than Rabat, incomparable by any means to Marrakesh. Then I plotted coordinates for the United Nations building but all my effort at saying “Place des Nations Unies” in an appropriate French Arabic accent got met with a universal urban taxi driver huh? Sensing defeat, I respected myself, withdrew the intention and settled to go see the Corniche.

We passed the Hassan II mosque already rhapsodized about HERE and the Phare d’Hank lighthouse then turned into a splendid ocean walk. I walked it all, punctuating that with photo-taking (and catching a breath), ate junk food at a McDonalds, had mint tea at a restaurant, and shopped at the Anfaplace mall.

On my way back that I realize—Casablanca truly is colourful. It is the city of chic and style. Casablanca is the city of people who just wanna have fun and sometimes, I can be that people.

I did not like Casablanca at first sight, but it does have its charms. And, the work the Moroccan government is doing with upgrading its port infrastructure reiterates the fact that Morocco is a destination for the African businessperson. The King, like Comrade Paul Kagame, is exactly the sort of leader Africa’s youth should rally around in the slow but necessary process of creating a new African market.

At the Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

Hassan 2 mosque
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

It is quite impossible to capture the Hassan II mosque in #Casablanca. Perhaps because my camera is rather limited and not being a professional, I was unable to find the right angle? Further, the ornate grandeur of both scale and design humbles the person, affects the eye…

Here is my best shot.

It was closed for renovation today. You can see the scaffolding. The minaret is 600 plus feet high and I was told it’s one of the biggest mosques in the world. The courtyard is massive and I can imagine the denizens of Casablanca praying here in orderly, colourful rows.

First impression was to not like Casablanca. It seemed a let down from Marrakesh—missing my train station didn’t help. But Casablanca does have its charms. The mosque is by the corniche, which I could not walk because I got a call from Naija. I will go there. There is a lot of development going on at the Marina. Urban renewal, urban maintenance everywhere you go.


My Last Day in Marrakesh

Arrived Casablanca this morning. But I want instead to tell you about my adventure yesterday in #Marrakech. I am pining for The Red City even as we speak. A friend of mine said I just might have found my “city of memories”, referring to the title of my 2013 novel.

I’d cancelled my trip to Fes so the extra day in Marrakech saw me moving from my riad in the Medina to the new quarter called Gueliz. While I’d loved the medina and its colourful traders and characters, the hotel was rather small even if quaint and I kept losing my way getting around anyway. I had breakfast, went shopping for a leather bag and checked out. I’d been told it would cost 15 dirhams from the medina to the Boulevard Abdelkarim el-Khattabi. The drivers in the rank said it was 100 dirhams and then proceeded to teach me how to pronounce both “el-Khattabi” and “Hotel Ezzhia”. I settled for 30 dirhams.

I had an ominous feeling when, just outside the old city, a horse-drawn tourist carriage showed up in front of us. And, sure as a slap, the carriage took off the bumper of my taxi. See drama! The skinny horse driver and skinny car driver go down to it speaking universal urban you-don-hit-my-car English (Arabic actually). Me? I took my bags out the boot jejely.

Took a different taxi. The driver was a true born Marrakech native and when another accident happened, he said “These two, not Marrakchis. . . the accent.” I smiled. He told me only 25% of the city’s dwellers were natives. We talked about the Nigeria—Morocco gas pipeline. I found it fascinating that a regular Joe Marrakchi knew about that. Moroccans are involved in their country in a way Nigerians are not. It speaks of two very different types of elite and ways which societies can be ordered.

In the afternoon, I went to my friend, Housain’s, favourite café which is not far from my new hotel—a 300-metre walk. It is called Le Diamant Vert (The Green Diamond), just opposite the University of Science and Technology, at the corner with Hamza Road. I had lunch, spaghetti, and watched the students come and go as I worked on a document.

Later, Housain came around. We drove around the city including the Menara arcade, which was closed, and then we parked the car and flanuered for a few hours about Gueliz, drinking coffee, trying street food and taking serious philosophy—H has a Ph.d in psychology and in showing me his city, I learned again what friendship truly can be.

And that, my friends, is how I fell more hopelessly in love with Marrakech.

#OneAfrica #Travel #TravelWriting #Morocco