CNNInternational interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues

110 Minutes with HAKEEM OLAJUWON
Prologue to Exclusive interview with USAfrica's founderChido Nwangwu

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston, USAfricaonline.comand

Iset out in the closing weeks of March, 1997, to meet Hakeem Olajuwon,at an appointed 6:30 a.m., unconditional, no questions previewinterview, with a simple, singular purpose: ask citizen HakeemOlajuwon any number of non-basketballquestions. None of the usual basketball stats and stuff you can readelsewhere , or even better at No; not this time.

Second, the interview is very important. Why? Hakeem, Rocketscenter #34 is, in my opinion, the most famous continental African tohave played in any sport here in the entire American continent.

Third task: capture and represent to our readers a serious,factual word picture of Olajuwon beyond pieces of the man that arelargely mired in speculative spittle tattle or merely frozen in hazylegends brewed alongside cups of cappuccino and shots of whisky onrocks in some downtown Houston sports bar.

Fourthobjective: I sought to get factual matter and informed, first-personinsight beyond the uncouth, baseless and foolish extrapolations ofour local, untutored Pull Hakeem Down (PHD) charlatans who, ratherthan seek the great player's vital views, instinctively run amok withtheir own condensation of bitterness, bile and bunkum and incendiaryignorance hashed together under the pretension of opinion. USAfricawill not settle for recycling or plagiarizing the story on Hakeemdone a few weeks earlier by the Houston Chronicle and Atlanta Journal& Constitution on the Hakeem and Dikembe misunderstanding.Copycats did plagiarize the Chronicle. And, giddily so. We did not;we won't.

Fifth goal: critically assess Hakeem's understanding of hisrole(s) and value for this community. Is Hakeem first a Nigerian, anAfrican or first a Muslim? His world view is more Islamic; really,it's certainly Islamic. In the main, if I had to identify the threemost important things for our friend and brother Hakeem, it willcertainly come in this order.

First, Islam.

Second, Islam.

Third, Islam.

Should Hakeem determine who and where he pitches friendships andinterests? Yes. But I reminded him this community expects better.Hakeem has to do better in terms of visibility and serious supportfor causes of fundamental interest to Africans and Nigerians.

Granted that success, as we've all witnessed in today's heady,adrenaline-driven world of sports, brings with it contradictory vibesand demands. Selfish and genuine respect. Fanatical supporters andgold diggers. Adoring little kids and manipulating adult/agents whofollow money like bees unto honey, Hakeem must seek a better balancebetween his private wishes and his public responsibility as a rolemodel, a superstar, our community's very own MVP.

Define it along the lines of African, Nigerian African-American,American or (preferably for Hakeem, along Islamic values andidentities. Many of our people see a part of themselves in him;hundreds of thousands look up to him to be more than what he hasbeen.

As an individual, he's a very warm, cheerful company. We enjoyedretelling stories and memories of home. May be the fact we have a fewmutual friends, primarily Kase and Kamoru Lawal of CAMAC Holdings,and Ismail Adesina helped enlarge our latitude of fraternal ease.Although he commended strongly our little efforts at USAfrica.

Mrs. Glory Okoro and Alhaja Mogaji, Nigerians who own shops whereOlajuwon drops in once in a while to get products or food from backhome told me they do not think he's snobbish.

From issues sweeping why he holds dual citizenship (Nigerian andAmerican) to his strong comments about Nation of Islam leader LouisFarrakhan. He spoke with the directness of a compatriot when ourdiscussion moved to where the African American community is today, towhere the community should be.

We did, of course, discuss what I told him could be described as"his minimal presence within African community, especially among hisfellow Nigerians." Here's a sample of his response: "What is theNigerian community. Is it organized around Igbos, Yorubas, Hausa,Fulanis, Muslim, Christian.... or what?

What are the values and interests? What's the agenda. Where's theagenda that defines a community. A community that seeks to do what?And on what basis is it organized? Why is it that our organizationsdo not last? Tribalism. Some people just look for what they will gainrather than offering genuine service. ..." That is merely a tip ofproverbial iceberg a la Hakeem.

My final observation is that Hakeem's deliberate choosing of whosecompany to keep is not out of a sudden, self-preening snobbery. No.It seems largely a cautionary awareness, a relocation of self fromsome persons, smooth operators who claim to work for the common goodof our community but work for a private enterprise that I'll rathersimply identify as S-E-L-F Limited.

ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award(1997), is Founder and Publisher of (firstAfrican-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published onthe internet), USAfrica The Newspaper, NigeriaCentral.comand TheBlack Business Journal. He also serves as anadviser to the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa)and appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABCnews affiliates.
This exclusive interview is copyrighted.Archiving on any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized exceptwith a Written Approval by USAfricaonline.comFounder.


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: BeyondBasketBall....
"I'll go back to Nigeria; it's aduty...." Hakeem

HoustonRockets' Nigerian-born international basketball superstar HakeemOlajuwon goes head-to-head in a frank, EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW withUSAfrica's Founder Chido Nwangwu on issues ranging from hisrelationships with Nigerians, African community, African-Americans,Louis Farrakhan, Dikembe Mutombo, his lifestyle as a Muslim, what hisplans after basketball will be, and other issues of public interest.It's Hakeem's first major interview anywhere that seeks the man'smind and views outside and beyond the NBA courts.

Olajuwon on Nigerians and the community:

"Here everyone can say we are all Nigerians or we are allAfricans, but in the community, there is discrimination of color, ofrace, of tribe. Do I love you because of what I can get from you? Thelove should be unconditional...."

Hakeem on Marriage:

"Whether it's your wife or your brother or sister, you have acertain responsibility to help each other and accept each other'sfault and to be able to say " I'm sorry" when you make a mistake....Ego between a husband and wife should not be, because the two peopleshould be working together. For example, you'll see a husband and awife, both together, willing to forgive, to accept, to say " It's myfault." The first one that goes toward peace will get the blessingfrom God. That is maturity."

USAfrica: First, may I congratulate you on your marriage. Ihope your wife is doing very well. Hakeem, there are a few issuesthat I'll like to discuss with you; issues of community interest. Howhas marriage affected your life?

Hakeem: Well marriage is something that can be wonderful orsomething disastrous. People look at marriage in a negative way.Especially as a moslem, there are ways that you go about gettingmarried which was taught by the prophet. Marriage is somethingnatural. It makes your life more stable and share a future togetherparticularly where two people are willing to do their best for eachother, for the love of God.

USAfrica: What, in your opinion, makes a good marriage? Whatshould people in the African community do to make marriages workbetter?

Hakeem: Well, I look at everything in an Islamic point of view.A moslem has to look at everything from an Islamic point of view.Marriage is something sacred. It's not from fun. Marriage is acommitment to God. You have fear of God in your heart. That is thebasis of how you treat any human being. In today's situation, thehusband or the wife makes trouble with each other. You must give in.This is first: to know yourself, to be comfortable with yourself.Some people get married for the wrong reason so from the beginningits wrong. It's very difficult to be with another person when you arenot comfortable with yourself.

Comfortable with yourself is to be a good human being. To loveyourself and other people. If you struggle with yourself and you tryto be someone you are not, you then have to pretend. People will notaccept you unless you are somebody. If you know that you are doingyour best to develop to be a good human being, a good husband, to tryto establish a home, your wife, and your children. These are thegoals, the basic necessities in life as a man to establish a home andto support your family at home. This is a responsibility for all men,this is how you build a community.

USAfrica: Do you see some of those values inside the Africanand African American community because those that are very criticalof you say that you are not involved in the community. Those thatseem charitable say that Hakeem is protecting himself from peoplethat may complicate things out of his good nature. What do you see asthe values inside the community you came from, the Nigeriancommunity.

Hakeem: Well, I know who I am. I have responsibility to God.God has put me in this position. In this position, I haveresponsibility that I must fulfill. There is only one God, indifferent faiths in different religions, but the basic principlesthat he is saying is to give to your fellow man (or woman). These arebasic in all religions. So let's take that as common ground. When yousay community, the community cannot unite together. If you are a goodmuslim, you should be a good citizen everywhere. You must be obedientto God's law. If you don't have anything good to say about somebody,don't say anything. Act like a community or be the community thatreacts to the part of the solutions to problems, not part of theproblem. I am so impressed by people in our community who are in themix of things, like what you're doing with USAfrica. Linking people,and businesses; you know informing. Things like that. You see, we allhave to be responsible That is why it's easy for both of us to getalong. Black Americans are still on the issue of being oppressed, butit's now time to move forward. For Nigerians that came here, theoriginal intention was to get our degree and go back home.

USAfrica: So are you saying that people still see you from thedays when you were much younger, when you were able to hangout andparty with them. Do you think they forget you are a parent now; youhave more responsibilities?

Hakeem: What was the question again?

USAfrica:The question is this: are you avoinding relating withyour fellow Nigerians, are you removing yourself from your friendsfrom years gone by?

Hakeem: No, No; what is the character of those Nigerians whosay I do not mix or do this and do that.

USAfrica:Some people are saying that Hakeem is not reasonably,functionally involved or relating with his community.

Hakeem: Well how can relate; how are they organized? Organizedon the basis of what? Can any of these tribes be sincere, together?On the basis of putting aside their differences?

USAfrica: So you are suggesting that the Nigerian community isnot well organized?

Hakeem: No.

USAfrica: What are you saying, Hakeem?

Hakeem: Because of human nature, there are tribalism, racism,discrimination and other things, it affects the Nigerian community.What type of way is that? The only thing that help is the love ofGod. Islam. That's why when you go to Mecca, you see three millionpeople that come from all over the world. They didn't know each otherbefore coming together and their hearts are together. You see white,black, Pakistanis, and Nigerians all together.

USAfrica: Are you satisfied with your relationship with theU.S. Are you satisfied with your natural community of origin, theNigerian community? Hakeem, again, I ask you, why do people thinkthat you are not adequately engaged in the community?

Hakeem: Well this is me. It's natural. I respect you becauseyou are a man. You have purpose in life and with your media networks.Chido, you're positively affecting Africans and Americans across theU.S. That's fine. That's what we need; that's what we're talkingabout. We've to be better organized. You respect people,regardless.

USAfrica: Would you say that Dikembe Mutombo is on target, whenhe suggested a few months ago that you have abandoned your Africanheritage? What really happened between you and Mutombo?

Hakeem: Okay, as he came into the league, I shook his hand, andwe had some brief interactions. I made some observations about him.He tried to fit in. He tried to fit into this society. I have askedMutombo about the comments, he tried to convince me that this wasn'ttrue. He pretended that he didn't know what I was talking about. Icalled the Atlanta press, and told them to find the man who did theinterview with Mutombo (an African who plays for the AtlantaHawks).


I asked if they were sure of their report. They said yes. Icalled Mutombo. He saw me and saw the man. I confronted him again,with the issue he denied it. I was also accused by some that theNigeria Olympic soccer team came to Atlanta while we were there forthe U.S NBA... that I didn't want to see the game and support ourhomeboys. These people were playing miles away. And I had an NBA gamea few hours apart. From here to there, they had maximum security. Sohow can I go an hour and a half away, come back, and go to mygame.


USAfrica: Let's look at Hakeem beyond basketball. What doesHakeem Olajuwon seek to do beyond basketball. How are you effectivelygoing to channel your blessing in other areas.


Hakeem: It's very simple, as you know my cause is Islam. Youstudy to love and to educate and to solve the problem about Islam andthe rest of the world. Islam is the solution to all the problems inNigeria, and here. Imagine you see people, coming from differentcountries, black, white can come together and bring their differencesin a beautiful way to enrich the culture of the civilization. How canyou beat that. Your vision is to remind people of their duty toGod.


USAfrica: Are you going back to Nigeria sometime in thefuture?


Hakeem: Yes. Nigeria is my home. It's my duty to go back toNigeria. I'll go back to Nigeria. That's a duty. I mean to improvethe community? I know that Islam is the solution to all problems. Itcovers the political, the social, it covers everything. It's a way oflife. Moslems are to be an example to the world.


USAfrica: Let me ask you about Michael Jordan,what type ofrelationship do you have with him?


Hakeem: We have mutual respect. Apart from his basketballskill, he is someone that is focused and determined. He has thecharacteristics of a warrior, to accomplish a goal. You have toadmire him.


USAfrica: What about Charles Barkley?


Hakeem: Barkley, you know, I really don't understand as muchbecause he is different from how the media projects him. He's a niceguy. So we have mutual respect.


USAfrica: What about Houston Rockets' coach RudyTomjonovich?


Hakeem: Well, he is an excellent coach.


USAfrica: How do you stay physically fit, looking the same wayfor these number of years?


Hakeem: Well, you live the same lifestyles. I give people theirrights. You command respect because you give them theirrights.


USAfrica: Are you going to run for public office?


Hakeem: No. My office is for God.


USAfrica: The U.S. foreign policy has for a number of yearsdealt with Islamic influences and clashed with Islamic governments inthe Middle East and other parts of the world. Why has it been so?Some Islamic governments have been charged with having terrorristicactivities....


Hakeem: Well, are they all the same; all terroristic? No Forexample, Nigerians have been dealt with as if they are all dupes andpeople who are looking for someone to cheat, but as both of us verywell know, the majority of Nigerians are productive, hard working,law abiding, some are good role models like yourself. Well what canyou say about it. We have been abused unfortunately.


USAfrica: Finally Hakeem, what roles do you think a newspaperlike USAfrica can play in an immigrant community like the UnitedStates?


Hakeem: Well this is a rich market. There is a big audience forit. I think you have a good foundation. So when they get something inthe paper they know its close to the action. The goal is to get inthe middle of things. Give accurate and useful information. I'veheard about your work and things. Just keep it and always report thetruth and the facts. I like your newspaper, USAfrica.


USAfrica: I've enjoyed sharing views with you on issues that goway beyond basketball.


Hakeem: Chido, I enjoyed it, too. What you're doing is veryimportant for the community and your profession. Letting people knowthe facts; not hearsay. You, know, getting to the source. That'salways important. People who do not know me should not make hasty,uninformed comments; although it doesn't really bother me. That wasthe problem I had with the Mutombo issue. Just keep it up. Tell thecommunity the facts from all sides; USAfrica will continue togrow.


USAfrica: I wish you well in your endeavors, Hakeem.


Hakeem: Thank you.


(No part of this interview is allowed to be excerpted forcommercial interests/duplicated/copied without the WRITTEN permissionof the Founder of Copyright © June 1997).

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Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu.
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Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
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110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
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A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."

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Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on CNN. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

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CNN and Freedom of the press in Nigeria.
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Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe

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In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'

Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."

These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson