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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Kirk Franklin story


A small but loud man will soon stomp Kampala, and be sure the business of the world will momentarily halt. Not because the man is a self-professed radical for Christ with lots of money in the bank and a pretty wife, it’s his magnetism and unpretentiousness both on and off the stage that has won him a global following.

When his name, Kirk, was searched in Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th edition), it was found to mean a church –a Church of Scotland –to be precise. And his other, Franklin, means “a land owner of free but not noble birth in the 14th and 15th c. in England.”

You’ll find it interesting that Kirk Franklin does not belong to any church in Scotland, but it’s not farfetched to call him ‘church’; he has worked there almost all his life preaching sermons behind a beat, conducting church choir, playing the church piano and composing rousing gospel tunes.
Again, he’s non English (he’s African American) but certainly he’s a landowner. And although not of noble birth in the eyes of the world, Kirk Franklin himself will argue he has noble blood flowing in his system as a prince of God through Jesus Christ.

When he tells you that Jesus is his cornerstone, you are bound to believe him, especially after narrating the story of his birth. It’s a dark story of how his “real momma lived 15 minutes from me” (he was abandoned) until his aunt (Gertrude) rescued and reared him. He’ll also tell you how he struggled to forgive his mother, how he couldn’t stand her, how his sister was a “crackhead”, and about the first time he saw his father.

“He showed up at one of my concerts,” he was quoted on “I didn’t let him backstage, ‘cause how dare you not invest in my life but you want to be backstage? And you want to introduce me to all these kids that are your kids, like, hug your brother? Fool, please! I don’t know you.”

A troubled soul, Kirk Franklin shunned his spiritual upbringing, got dismissed from school for being rebellious, saw his best friend shot dead at 15, was accused by his peers of being a homosexual, impregnated his girlfriend at 17 and was obsessed with pornography.

You must remember that by the age of 11, Kirk Franklin was not your ordinary Kirk. He was the leader of the Mt. Rose Baptist Church Adult Choir – such an extraordinary feat by an extraordinary young boy.

It was after what I’ll literally call his second epiphany that Kirk Franklin appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005 to admit his long addiction to pornography. It might have been viewed as the blackest stain to modern Christianity but his testimony continues to inspire young people to avoid the dangerous addiction.

Some critics actually believe he used Oprah to pump up his popularity like several artistes are wont but Kirk Franklin through numerous interviews has always insisted he wasn’t endorsing himself as the “New Messiah of Pornography” but that it was his wife who “thought it was a great idea” (for him to admit his addiction).

Besides, he once told, “If somebody calls me and wants me to share something that I hope can help other people, why wouldn’t I?”

That’s Kirk’s rhetoric, and he went on to assure his critics, “You ain’t gonna hear about me stealing no church money. You ain’t heard about me tipping on (my wife) Tammy with a chick or dude I ain’t been a down-low dude, I ain’t been nothing. Only thing you can be like is, Oh, I don’t like his music…”

See! Kirk is not the kind that smiles for the camera and cries in private, for he has absolutely nothing to hide. When ex-American president Bill Clinton was facing the adulterous crucible, Kirk Franklin said we all have some junk: “That’s why I think it was wrong for people to bash Clinton, because he ain’t the first one to cheat on his wife. He just happened to get caught. Everybody else needs to shut up and thank God for grace that he didn’t pull out their stank drawers!”

That’s the brutally honest Kirk Franklin –love him or despise him! And all this is personified in his music as well. At the height of his career in 1997, he was accused of being too radical. Kirk hit back with what has come to be one of his most loved revolutionary songs –Stomp. In it, the opening words crack like a bullet from an old pistol: “For those of you that think gospel music has gone too far, you think we got too radical for Christ. Well I got news for you, you ain’t heard nothin yet…”

It’s this charged but adorable stance that has garnered him cult status in both worlds –the secular and the Christian.

As I type this at home this morning, I’m watching him on Top TV, in his fabled Mr. Hair-like long white coat, swinging hither and thither with so much disco energy that I flail my arms in the air and nearly put on my dancing shoes.

“1,2,3 C’mon!” he shouts as Awesome God picks rhythm and the entire church goes wild. He follows this up with dramatic ejaculatory lines, “Listen, can you dance with me” and calls out to some black “grandma” to come to the stage and show him how it was done back in the day!

At 38, one wonders where he gets all that energy. Do you feel his presence? This ‘dude’ has worked with all the mattering artistes and preachers from Bono, Mary J. Blidge, Sting, R. Kelly – to some of the beloved gospel artistes and pastors like christian rocker Tobymac, Crystal Lewis, Donnie McClurkin, Jaci Velasquez, Pastor Shirley Caesar, not forgetting the militaristic Bishop T.D ‘Next Billy Graham’ Jakes.

But he has his limits and is careful who he works with because “when I work with you, I’m endorsing you. I’m putting my seal on you in my community and saying, he’s good, receive him” Clearly, Kirk Franklin has had to fight for his life and won. He’ll “Stomp Live” in Kampala to tell you his true story.

A memorable story told through timeless classics such as Why We Sing, 911, Brighter Day, Lean On Me, Silver and Gold, and more, he bares out his heart on why “keeping everything we do focused on the love of God is what music, and life, is all about.”

The question is –are you ready?

--Sunday Monitor, May 18, 2008

Deox helps Zulu Corp to another win


With seven contestants remaining, the race for the $200,000 job and the perks that coat it has tightened at The Apprentice Africa.

Great businesses thrive on great salesmanship, and for that, C.E.O Mr Biodun Shobanjo, last week asked contestants to create original non-alcoholic drinks and sell them at a popular mall and the team with higher profits wins.

He appointed Eunice and Blessing as project managers for Matrix and Zulu Corporations respectively. And he asked them to pick their teammates to balance the imbalance caused by the firing of many Matrix members. Isaac, Nnamdi and Kathleen headed to Matrix while Regina and Blessing joined Deox and Tunde in Zulu.

The task began. Matrix used a huge chunk of their “seed money” on a juice-dispensing equipment but tactical Zulu simply hired a fridge to keep their drinks chilled.

Both teams mixed and packaged their substances, and hit the road to the malls. Here, masses literally fought for ‘Sunblast’ – then new soft drink made by Matrix Corporation.

Cameras lingered on the fancy cocktail-dispensing gadget. Our boy Deox Tibeingana was spot on, “We don’t care if the other team has a machine or a robot - we just want to make profit…”Exceedingly smart in business suits, Zulus took advantage of their outlook to charge exorbitant prices. They soon ran out of “stock”. Deox and Regina sprinted back to their office for more. To their chagrin, they found it locked.

In the enemy camp, business was vigorous. Eunice’s infectious smile said it all: surely tonight is our night! At judgment time, she excitedly told Shobanjo how her team put in 100 percent.
Deox boasted of Zulu’s parsimonious approach; using cheap concentrates instead of actual fruits, and making the best drink. Shobanjo mopped his dry lips with his tongue and wondered why they had not spared him some.

No free juice for you, sir!

Calculations followed. Matrix spent 31, 035Naira, made 86, 680Naira; profit: 55, 645Naira. Zulu spent 12, 200Naira, made 72, 795Naira; profit: 60, 595Naira.

The jubilant Zulus were next seen at Takwa Bay playing in the sand, and Deox beat Regina to a sack race.In the boardroom, Matrix was scolded for getting excited by the incredible number of their customers and forgetting the business success factor –profitability.

Eunice blamed Nnamdi for advising her to price their drinks cheaply. And Nnamdi said Eunice had wasted their precious seed money on useless cucumbers and carrots.“I was on the frontline; marketing is my thing, I did my all,” he finished valiantly.

Quickly and sharply, Eunice asked Shobanjo to fire Nnamdi saying he’s all “fancy” talk but very “weak” a player.

Shobanjo wondered why Nnamdi thought selling a cup of juice for N400 would be embarrassingly expensive when Zulu sold the same for N1, 000. He also accused him of not giving his all to the team. For that I say, Nnamdi, you are fired!”

--Daily Monitor, May 17, 2008

Why Nancy at last was shown the exit door


It was nasty the way the trio of Blessing, Regina and Eunice pulled out their talons and tore our girl Nancy Kalembe out of The Apprentice Africa show.

“I wish they’d all been fired,” texted a Ugandan viewer shortly after the eyesore scene. “I hope Eunice goes next.”Truthfully, though, Nancy’s exit from the show was long overdue. Her constant poor performance and sloppy ideas had pundits wondering how she ended at The Apprentice.

A keen viewer told me she was still in the show only because “Shobanjo was so into her” but I think it was because the 10 weeks Nancy played she prayed. It had become a norm for cameras to turn on her with an open Bible and moving lips. And she often dragged her teammates into prayer, adding a unique flavour seldom associated with such shows.
Ironically, the day she forgot to pray is the day she got fired.

As it is, the task that sent her ‘6ft under’ desired of contestants to “create a marketing communications campaign on emerging businesses in Nigeria” and make its presence felt through any medium of communication. Cohesion and novelty were once again the winning formulae for Zulu Corp.

Their campaign of Wealth In Numbers (WIN) utilising Nigeria’s stable security and through embassies selling her investment potential, was made even more dynamic with a captivating TV commercial.

The Matrix girls were meanwhile fighting and by the time they decided on a let’s-promote-Nigeria’s agricultural potential campaign, it was too late to make it viable. For a mega campaign (whose magnitude can be equated to the branding Uganda on CNN that once cost us a fortune), it was shocking that they relied on radio. to promote their campaign. The advert was moreover voiced in Nancy’s slow and dull voice when Regina could have done better.

The slogan “Invest in Nigeria, Conquer New Grounds” was remarkable but the lack of marketing intelligence cost the team. How you can attract investors to Nigerian without a TV advert or website, wondered Shobanjo. So Zulu won and were awarded plaques and certificates from Shobanjo who expressed his hope that they would treasure them the rest of their lives.

It was time for the fire exchange in the boardroom where Blessing blamed their lack of focus on Nancy. She was supported by Regina. And Eunice, seemingly under the influence of a malevolent spirit went on rampage demolishing our girl with murderous phrases: Nancy lacks leadership abilities, Nancy couldn’t even draw up an agenda for the task, Nancy mismanaged the task, Nancy had no plans to help us achieve our goals, Nancy did not even know what a media plan is; she should not be an apprentice, she should be fired!

Poor Nancy simply refrained from a rebuttal and only shook her head. Her time to surrender had come for she had previously appeared in the boardroom five times, earning herself the humiliating title “boardroom veteran.”

“Nancy you’re fired,” Shobanjo’s dreaded words sounded like three bullets in the still dark night. Will sole survivor, East Africa’s Deox Tibeingana, bring the crown home?

--Daily Monitor, May 10, 2008

Kenya’s Eddie Mbagua says bye to The Apprentice prize


Sunday was the end of the road for Kenya whose only surviving envoy in The Apprentice Africa show ‘committed suicide.’

The task that orchestrated the downfall of Eddie Mbagua tested the contestants’ strategic marketing skills.They were asked to demonstrate the profitability of a unique payphone called the Celtel Red Phone to people who cannot afford a handset but afford making calls for as little as five naira.

The contestants would hereafter present on “route to market” before Celtel executives headed by Michael Folly on the best way to make the product a hit among the masses. Matrix Corp. project manager, Mbagua started off well with an enterprising tagline: “You pay for what you use.”

But his problems began when he asked for promotional materials but used them to bribe potential customers by quid pro quo: I give you a free T-shirt and you use the Red Phone. A disappointed Michael Folly noted that it’s not sustainable business to give away T-shirts to sell phones.

Meanwhile, Zulu Corp. headed by Isaac was in good business as customers queued to use the red phone. During the presentation, the Celtel officials were shocked to discover that Matrix Corp. overrun their financial projection by 1,000 percent.

Although Zulus showed they understood the business model of the Red Phone, Michael Folly wanted to know how it could be popularised fast. Deox Tibeingana alluded to the transparency of Celtel and said the phone’s precise and friendly billing should be tabled to the clients in contrast to the blurred billing options of competing networks.

Visibly impressed, Michael praised Deox then declared Zulu Corporation winners. Both teams however received a lashing from Shobanjo for wasting time in useless banter with customers: “Time is money,” he said, “when you need to make a deal, you go in, close the deal and get out.”

He congratulated Zulu and treated them to “Nigeria’s best food” at Yellow Chilli Restaurant, where they were also entertained by Lagos’ loved standup comedian, Basket Mouth. In the boardroom, Shobanjo wanted to know why Matrix had performed dismally.

Blessing who has since mastered the blame game said it would have been a different result had Nancy not overshot their financial projection. The game would have ended there, for Nancy who for three straight weeks had narrowly survived Shabanjo’s deadly bullets but Eddie defended her saying the slip was his as he was “responsible for checking and cross-checking before the presentation!”

Poor girl had gone through much in the past few weeks and needed a little break, added Eddie. Shabanjo shrugged as if to say if it’s your will to take someone’s bullets, I cannot stop you. He quickly pulled the trigger, “Eddie you are fired!”

The Kenyan stood up: “Thank you sir…” he said, as tears sprang to his eyes, and the eyes of his ‘sweetheart,’ Regina.

--The Daily Monitor, May 3, 2008

She had a narrow escape


It was a harrowing two days that began on Wednesday, April 16 when Boaz Mureema Hashaka, a Business Development Manager with MBH Property Services Ltd., received an alarming call; his baby girl had been kidnapped.

A small, bearded and smartly dressed man of humble countenance and light complexion entered their home in Masaja at midday masquerading as the brother of his wife, Alice Busingye. Speaking with the politeness of a monk, he said he would wait his ‘sister’s’ return from work. In the sofa as he enjoyed refreshments, he charmed the maid with homely anecdotes and crackling jokes. He was so at ease with himself, it is said, and played with the child, singing and throwing her in the air all the time saying how pretty she looked until the baby bubbled with delight. Then he told the maid he had to make an urgent call at the nearby trading centre. He would go with the lovely baby, and even asked the child be wrapped in her nappy so that she doesn’t urinate on him.

All this happened in two hours and never did the housemaid grow suspicious. In shocking shortsightedness and naivety, the maid went about with her chores without taking a moment to question the delay of the man that had gone to make a brief ‘phone call’.

Hashaka’s young brother who coincidentally returned from university asked about the child and was told she was with “Alice’s brother who has gone to make a phone call.” The maid didn’t know the man’s name. And had she seen him before? No. Strange. Amon immediately called Hashaka. Hashaka called Alice. Alice called her brothers. No one had picked her baby. Shock. Panic. Pain…

Anora Busingye, for that is the baby’s name, is angelic and staggeringly beautiful. Smiling, crawling and quiet contemplation are her favourite pastimes. She is six months old.

Busingye, a Finance and Administration Officer with National Water and Sewerage Corporation, narrates her ordeal from the moment she learned about the devastating disappearance of her daughter:

“I was in my office when I received the shattering news. I somehow ran mad, I think, I lost my senses; tears were running down my eyes. I rushed to a colleague to drive me home immediately. Every one at my workplace was running after me asking what has happened. “I cried. But as I was crying I was telling God this can’t be, I dedicated my child to You. I’ve always prayed for my child because when I was giving birth, I suffered long and excruciating labour pain and I thought I was going to die. So when I gave birth I said this is just a gift from You God, so I dedicate this daughter to You Lord.

"When we reached home, I found the maid crying. And she was saying Aunt nsanyuwa(forgive me). I don’t know how the devil blinded me. Neighbours were beating her up, saying she had sold my baby. When you are overwhelmed by a situation you can’t cry. She was trying to cry but no tear would come. And the neighbours would say, “look at her, she knows everything and she’s pretending. How can such an old lady (she’s 26) give up the baby?” I knew she was innocent; the thug had taken advantage of her slowness to take my daughter. So I shouted at everyone to stop beating her.

“I remembered reports of child sacrifices and an eerie feeling gripped me. I thought my child was dead. But I said no, my child cannot die because she’s a child of God.“Friends, relatives and colleagues gave us words of hope and lots of encouragement and joined us in prayer; we prayed all night, hope returned and by morning I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that I would see my daughter again.”

As for Hashaka, he couldn’t imagine his only daughter in the hands of deleterious elements. Fright mighty as death haunted him. He got a special hire taxi. But it was too slow; he jumped out and mounted boda-boda motorcycle. That too was crawling like a tortoise, forcing him to jump off too and sprint like a mad man. “There is losing the child and you bury,” he said distraughtly, “but taking your child and you don’t know whether she’s alive –it is very bad. I felt so terrible.”

They were still dazed, exactly five hours into the kidnap when the ‘mafia’ called. Laughing, and raving in perfect Luganda, he barked his demands: “Don’t tip the police or the press, I want tin of chloroform and Shs.1.5m, 10p.m tonight. Play games and I’ll bring you the full damage of your beloved baby without second thoughts. Call me again at 9.45p.m.”

By this time, a joint operation of police and army detectives had swung into movie-like action. They traced the phone call to some hideout and raided it. At about 3p.m on Thursday, they found the baby unharmed in the hands of the vandals in a greasy dump in Makindye.

Hashaka could not contain his joy, and tears of relief rolled down his wife’s face. Handing over the child to the parents, Godson Nsekanamo, DPC Katwe, said this was one of the swiftest and most successful operations (it took less than 12 hours to recover the child.)

“Once we caught someone with a baby’s head in a kaveera; these cases were quite rampant when we had sacrificing of children but of recent they had subsidised. From last year to date, we had not received any such case of child theft until this one,” he said. He advised parents to educate their maids out of ignorance.

The two criminals will be charged with child stealing, which amounts to six years in jail upon conviction. Parents should watch out. The sordid truth is that heartless people will always lurk and pounce on innocent children, whom they see as a license to make money.

So little Anora was fatigued but a thorough medical checkup confirmed she was ok. The warmth and intelligence in her eyes was still there and quieted the tumult of all who had been worried pale about her wellbeing.

--The Daily Monitor, May 3, 2008

Apprentices betrayed Oscar Kamukama


The eighth episode of The Apprentice Africa was frustrating because homeboy Oscar Kamukama was betrayed and appealing because contestants were given a very stimulating task.
They were asked to create original artworks that reflect the African spirit. They would then exhibit at an art gallery, from which it would be determined which team was most creative and with a better business sense.

"When I saw paint and brushes I was thinking, 'oh my God,'" exclaimed homegirl Nancy Kalemba at the boggling task.

Again, the confidence of our boy Deox Tibeingana outshone the panic of others.

"My mission as project manager [of Zulu Corp] is to win," he vowed.

I knew it was a battle of battles when Matrix Corp. leader, Regina, also stressed her determination to lead her team to victory.

The loquacious Tunde the Nigerian, was excited at the idea of a fist to express the guts of African politics while the enigmatic Kathleen suggested the title of their works – "The Journey of African Cornerstones!"

Matrix Corp. thought of a painting of sticks to reflect African diversity. Oscar wanted to epitomise the attractiveness of an African woman and drew a funny one with wide hips. There was a din at the gallery where the works were being exhibited.

"Welcome to Zulu Art," Deox welcomed clients with an infectious smile that many of his female fans have come to adore. Zulu Corp. must bless the day Kathleen joined their team. The charismatic Cameroonian sold a piece for a whopping sum!

In the end, respected Nigerian artist, Chike assessed the performance of both teams, his enormous epiglottis moved up and down as he pronounced Zulu Corp winners. They had made 68,000Naira.

Matrix made 50,000Naira from the sales. For their creativity, he awarded them 293 points to Matrix's 292, making them winners on both fronts –the business and the creative front.

After the congratulations, Deox's told him a story of a needy boy they met at the exhibition. He touched fellow contestants when he humbly asked the C.E.O to use part of the money from their sales to help buy scholastic materials for the unnamed boy.

Meanwhile, Shobanjo was tired of Matrix's losing ways. "You had a better side of auctioning but didn't take advantage of that," he said. "Zulu Corp. beat you black and blue...I'm looking for a manager who can achieve. I'm looking for a manager who can dare…"

Eddie had given himself in saying he was to blame for the poor sales. But Regina "forgot" about him and pinned Nancy and Oscar for the loss. Shobanjo fell for it and lambasted the two Ugandans saying they had appeared in the boardroom twice in a row which told him their time at The Apprentice was numbered.

Then he fired Oscar. Curse the romance that's been brewing between Ghanaian girl and Kenyan boy! Regina should know Eddie told the world he's in The Apprentice to get the money to help him date Janet Jackson.

As he boarded the yellow taxi, a crestfallen Oscar echoed my thoughts, telling viewers: "I was not supposed to be in that boardroom. I feel betrayed."

--The Daily Monitor, April 26, 2008