Buhari On Delayed Signing of African Free Trade Agreement: 'I am a Slow Reader'

"I didn't read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature," says Nigeria's president.

In March, 44 African nations signed a free trade agreement, to improve intra-regional trade. Nigeria, one of the continent's largest economies, was noticeably absent from the signing.

On Wednesday, President Buhari announced that Nigeria would finally sign on to the $3 trillion African free-trade agreement, reports Reuters.

It was previously stated that Nigeria had opted out of the deal in order to maintain control over it's own business and industry. However, in a meeting wth South Africa's President Cyril Mariposa in Abuja yesterday, the Nigerian president revealed that there was also somewhat of a personal reason for the delay:

In trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete, maybe successfully, against our upcoming industries.

I am a slow reader, maybe because I was an ex-soldier. I didn't read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it.

Critics have often described Buhari as a sluggish, slow to act leader, and his most recent comments have only left him open to further criticism.

Photo: Sony Pictures © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Review: The Triumph of ‘The Woman King’

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film had to meet many expectations from the moment the trailer was released. And it does.

Even before it hit the cinema circuit, The Woman King carried the weight of projections about what it would show. It had to prove it had complex storytelling for fear of falling into the reactionary trap of “girlboss wokeism.” Chief of all, how it addresses the participation of the Dahomey Kingdom in the slave trade.

Plucking its cast from different parts of the Black diaspora (Viola Davis is African American, Jimmy Odukoya is Nigerian, Lashana Lynch is of Jamaican descent, John Boyega and Sheila Atim are Nigerian British and Ugandan British, respectively) was just the bare minimum.

The Woman King chooses a narrative scope (19th century) and churns out tremendous stakes. Between the Dahomey Kingdom and Oyo Empire are intermittent battles, their fierce rivalry stemming from access to European trade and dominance over the port of Ouidah, the major trading route in the whole region.

Among the first crucial scenes we see are that of Thuso Mbedu (The Underground Railroad), who plays the defiant teenager Nawi, at the Dahomey palace. Her father had taken her there in frustration, in the hopes that she would be taken as a wife by King Ghezo (Boyega) after a failed attempt to sell her off to a suitor. Here, she’s taken in by Izogie (Lynch), an experienced Dahomey fighter who gives her a tour around the training court, hallways, and barracks.

Nawi’s decision to be a Dahomey warrior is quite drastic: the liquid optimism in her eyes, the determined set of her jaw, and the manufactured gimmicks she uses to get the attention of Viola Davis’ Nanisca, the general of the Agojie all-female military unit. Nanisca isn’t just a warrior who cuts down bodies with her machete on the battlefield; she’s made more complex with a traumatic past.

Davis’ portrayal of Nanisca is kinetically athletic as much as it is uncompromisingly grounded in the film’s emotional themes. And while it’s easy to be caught up in Davis’ performance, Mbedu’s character is at the heart of important moments in the movie. In one scene, she’s responsible for creating a gunpowder explosion stuffed within a bamboo stick figure used during target practice. Eventually, this will be used as a preliminary war tactic against the Oyo military. In another scene where the Dahomey warriors double-cross Oba Ade at the Ouidah port, she goes against the team’s plan and spontaneously chops down a rope to cage in an onslaught of Oba Ade’s men.

It’s Mbedu’s Nawi that supplies Nanisca with military intelligence, warning her about Oyo’s plan to strike Dahomey. In Oyo captivity after being taken as battle spoils, on a horse, she tells a fellow Dahomey sister to roll off the carriage since she was untied. Back at Dahomey, the runaway captive informs Nanisca and the rest about Nawi’s captivity, who had been presumed dead. This incentivizes the rest to come to her rescue.

In the final battle sequence, Nawi resurfaces as a scene stealer, in a way that complicates her relationship with Nanisca. She pulls her own weight for the movie’s emotional beats, blurring the lines between her personal boundary and self-preservation of Dahomey. The Woman King was shot in South Africa, using Kwazalu and parts of Cape Town as stand-ins for West Africa. This puts Mbedu in familiar territory, not only as a logistical convenience but also as an elemental connection to the story.

Regardless of what role she plays, Mbedu has shown that she has what it takes to maintain a lead character. Aside from her performance and that of the other cast members, the stunt choreography in action scenes is immaculate, including the realized environments. There are hang-ups about the accents and language though, especially the odd scene where a Portugese slave trader meets with King Ghezo at the palace. Initially speaking Portuguese by the European, the ruler asks that his guest speak his own language. It turns out to be English.

The main criticism about idealizing an African kingdom that used women warriors as slave raiders is met with a nuanced juncture in the film, where Nanisca tries to convince King Ghezo that the prosperity of Dahomey shouldn’t be hinged on capturing and trading slaves. This is far from revisionist history. Rather, it indicates the consciousness of morality that possibly could have been present during those times.

Photo: Sony Pictures © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thuso Mbedu: The Woman King's Secret Weapon

The South African actress more than holds her own alongside Oscar winner Viola Davis in the film, which is currently on the big screen.

There’s a moment in The Woman King where Thuso Mbedu conveys her character’s pain with a vocal desolation that rings out through her cries. It contrasts the quiet might with which the 31-year-old actress shouldered the role of Cora in Barry Jenkins’ Emmy-nominated series The Underground Railroad. While fans back home in South Africa have known of her ability to wholly embody a character, as she did with Winnie in Is’thunzi – a part that earned her two International Emmy nominations for best performance – audiences beyond the continent are fast-learning Mbedu’s name too, thanks to her latest role.

In The Woman King, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Mbedu plays Nawi, the newest recruit to the Agojie, an all-women army of warriors that protected the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s, in what is now known as Benin. Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis plays the Agojie’s leader, Nanisca, a role model to Nawi and also her harshest critic. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival where it drew passionate praise, especially for Davis and Mbedu, with Vanity Fair dubbing the South African actress the film’s “crown jewel.”

Anyone following Mbedu on social media will have seen the actress’ unbridled enthusiasm for The Woman King, her big-studio feature film debut, and follow-up role to The Underground Railroad. The Barry Jenkins-directed series, based on Colson Whitehead’s novel, made Mbedu the first South African to lead a U.S. TV series. It also gave the young actress the confirmation that she was on the right track, after having moved herself to LA to try her luck in pilot season. Along the way, the role also allowed Mbedu to heal wounds she didn’t know she had. “Nawi,” she tells OkayAfrica, “gave me a voice.”

A still image from The Woman King of Viola Davis sitting next to Thuso Mbedu

Viola Davis plays the warrior general, Nanisca, in The Woman King, who is a role model for Thuso Mbedu's Nawi.

Photo: Sony Pictures © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I realized, prior to shooting this movie, that I essentially was living my life apologizing for existing, simply because I was a darker-skinned Black woman and society had constantly silenced me; had told me, ‘Your voice doesn't matter,’. Through the story, through working with Gina and Viola, my opinion mattered. As opposed to Cora, who still silenced herself, Nawi had an active voice that she used and made a change with.”

The opportunity also provided Mbedu, who’s now based in LA, with the chance to go back to her home province of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) to film. The production used KZN and Cape Town to re-create the backdrop of West Africa and lend its essence to the film, which features a cast of diverse actors from John Boyega, who plays King Ghezo, to Sheila Atim, who plays the Agojie’s spiritual advisor, Amenza. It was a joy for the cast to shoot on the continent but for me, Mbedu, extra special: “Imagine touching down and being able to speak your mother tongue!”

The cast spent the first two weeks in KZN before going to Cape Town. “For me, it really was important,” says Mbedu, acknowledging the historical contexts of both areas in a film that takes place within the context of the transatlantic slave trade.

“In Zululand, we still have the king and a monarchy, and I've had the privilege of going through and seeing the different places that are named after the history of what happened in that space. So you know exactly what you're stepping into, at every given time,” she says. “I've also had the privilege of being shown the history of what the monarchy has done in KZN, and so finding out that we're going to start production in a space that understands what the story is that we’re telling, was very, very meaningful to me.”

Cape Town, which Mbedu says showed more of the colonizer’s history, was used to re-create the slave port of Ouidah. “It was very significant to the story. The locations were very specific, very significant,” she says. The beauty of the landscape shown through too. “KZN, Zululand, specifically, has a lot of untouched land, hence being able to see the animals and all the greenery,” she adds. There’s a waterfall scene that takes place between Mbedu’s character and a slave-trader that was shot against a waterfall. “I heard someone ask, ‘Was that a green screen?’ That was real!”

Also real was the physical preparation Mbedu went through before shooting began. Like the rest of the cast, she had to undergo intense training, which she documented on social media. She did weapons and martial arts training, including Muay Thai, and also worked with a running coach to improve her sprinting. It was worth it; on screen Mbedu is thoroughly believable as a small, but powerful young fighter. And a worthy heir to Davis – not that she’s going anywhere anytime soon. The 57-year-old actress is a formidable leader, both on-screen and off. It’s her work that’s paved the way for younger actresses like Mbedu and she is eager to pass on the reins.

“It’s the only thing that makes my life meaningful,” Davis told OkayAfrica. “Absolutely. Without a question. I always say that there's a difference between a goal and a purpose. A goal is just a goal. You can write a checklist, and check the box. A purpose requires vision. And for me, your only job, in your dash of time you have on this Earth is to do the best you can, to run your leg of the race and pass your baton on to the next great runner who's going to take the baton, and take their dash of time, and move our narrative further."

Davis sees Mbedu as one of the next great runners. “Viola is literally like, ‘Take the baton, take it,’” says Mbedu. “She's fighting for us. She's fighting for this baton and giving it to us,” she adds. In The Woman King, Mbedu not only runs with it, she chases it down.

Photo courtesy of Roy Kafoteka

AKA and Nasty C Team Up in "Lemons (Lemonade)" Music Video

The South African duo recently released the music video for their joint record.

Celebrated South African music stars, AKAand Nasty C recently teamed up to release, "Lemons (Lemonade)." The track has a dreamy vibe that is both enjoyable and easy to like. The joint record is AKA's first official single this year, which comes on the heels of his feature on "Zonke" Remix by Phantom Steeze. "Lemons" is a song that highlights AKA's expertise as a rapper, and re-establishes him as one of Africa's most prominent and celebrated rappers. Nasty C's feature on the record adds a calming effect that gives the song an extra ounce of versatility. The smoky music video's ambiance accentuates the dreamy nature of the record. In the past, AKA has pointed out that he admired Nasty C's artistry, and once said that he saw Nasty C as "a solidified God in my eyes ALONE on the strength of the walls he’s tryna knock down."

Both of the artists had undeniable chemistry in the song and equally brought a unique spin with their lyricism, delivery, and swag. Nasty C has always had clear enunciation and that has solidified him as one of South Africa's leading Hip-Hop acts.

The single will be on AKA's upcoming album, 'Mass Country,' and in a recent conversation with the Sobering Podcast, he opened up about his upcoming album. So far, social media has been impressed with the duo's collaboration.

Check out AKA and Nasty C in the music video for "Lemons (Lemonade)" below.

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