0. Postscript

I struggled to not slip into an overly pessimistic, dystopian view of Nigeria with all its troubles. In the few intervening years I have been away, the Nigerian tragedy has hit close home. As with most other people, it turned out that the Dana air crash had claimed a fairly recent acquaintance of my father’s as it did a couple of friends of friends of Sister #1. It also transpired that she – whether by some quirk of fate, divine orchestration, or plain old chance – had resigned from her poorly paid job as a doctor in the police officers hospital the Friday before the Monday Boko Haram’s bloodbath hit the IG’s offices. One day late and that could have gotten really personal.

The kidnap-for-ransom scourge has also hit close home. Only a few months before I popped into town, a friend of the family had been snatched at gunpoint and whisked to an unknown destination. Thankfully, the small matter of a few millions helped salvage his life, and avert what could have been a major disaster.  Around town, I was baffled by the long queues at the ATMs in my little corner of the world, until I was told that the banks had been hit by armed robbers so many times they had scaled down to maintaining only skeletal services. Apparently, the ATMs were the only functional banking facilities left in town.

Uncle P, usually the unequivocal great Nigeria apologist, was a lot more mellow this time, conceding that we (minorities in a minority state) seemingly had little place in the ongoing evolution of  Nigeria. Apparently a few changes at work had opened up his eyes to the harsh reality of just how ethnically fractured, and political, working in Nigeria really was.

I would be remiss to think that portions of my family were not part of the problem. My last morning at Aunt G’s house she, typically the quintessential dedicated teacher, was still sipping her cup of Earl Grey’s by 9.00am. I didn’t have the heart to issue a scathing rebuke in respect of her slipping work ethic – in the harsh brightness of the morning light, the grey in her hair and the lines etched by years of unrequited hard work were very obvious. I got the impression she had simply given up working hard whilst waiting for a reward that may or may not only be in heaven. My unwillingness to take her up on that might also not have been unrelated to the hour long grilling I got on the subject of the failed dalliance with F.

Midway through Sister #2’s wedding, as the hall swelled beyond its capacity, I took the opportunity to give up my seat to one of the Professors whose sense of African time was impeccable and headed outside to get some fresh air. I ended up sitting at one end of a wooden bench with the kid brother on the other side and the niece in between. I should have known being in such an exposed location was an unwise move – an error of judgement I paid very dearly for when I was cornered by an old teacher of mine. She was quite excited that I had managed to make it home – she had studied at Newcastle very many years ago and was keen to swap observations on the city. I did my best to sound measured and intelligent, as did she, before our conversation eventually segued into the present and what we were all up to. She was keen to understand my motivations for leaving the job I used to have – I gave her my usual seeking a technical challenge answer – which didn’t exactly convince her as I could see. Her boys, all three of them had been contemporaries of mine; one was now stateside and was married with three children,  the middle one stilled worked at my old company in Lagos and the little one was now chasing a PhD in Wales. He had been a headstrong, unruly teenager the last time I saw him, keener to hang at the local game arcades that were springing up at the time than to study. She, like almost every one else who cornered me, wrapped up her little ‘homily’ by tossing in a reminder that as all the women were now gone, it was up to us lads to provide the next wedding.

My trusty old blackberry – packed almost as an afterthought – ended up proving the saviour on many a bored day, so much so that I was sorely tempted to switch to a BB plan on my return. Commonsense, and all the reasons I retired it in the first place eventually won over any nostalgic attachments to the device.

In a sense this wasn’t about chasing the abstraction of closure, rather it was about re-memory and reacquainting myself with the past in all its reiterations and reinventions. It was about time, and its passage, and how nothing seemed to have changed visibly and of how only when one looked back at the past from a sufficiently distant future reference point was it possible to see that life had evolved. I do not remember, but I suspect I once read somewhere that:

‘Time passes, and in it’s wake leaves no marks as to its passage – but in the faces of the ones that we have known for the longest of times we see etched in the wrinkles and the receded, greyed hair lines  that time in passing has lulled us in a false sense of sameness, but in the births and deaths, we find that life reinvents itself again and again.

This was something that I learned over and over again.

4. On A Nigerian PK Wedding

You know that the bride’s wedding gown will be ultra conservative as will be those for the bridal train. There will be no low cut, cleavage accentuating, eye candy-ish, strapless nonsense, and the hems will be at least an inch below the knee.

 You know that there will be at least ten different preachers – each with the belief that he is a colossus in his own right – and where both bride and groom are PKs, they might be nearer fifty than not.  You know that the program will be tweaked to provide an opportunity for every one of them to do something – give a word of admonition, pray, or lead the reading of the vows, or take a thanksgiving offering. You know that every speech and every prayer will be interminably long, as though there were an unofficial contest with a prize for the longest, most colourful speech. You know that it will be baking hot, and dry, because the powers that be have ‘decreed’ that there will be no rain.

 You know that there will be a whole lot of non-subtle symbolic references – the bride and groom feeding each other will be reinvented as a holy communion, and the first dance will be a thanksgiving dance, not just a dance.

 You know that the Mothers in Israel will be visible, and not just for the intricate whorls and loops of their obstructive head gear. You know that there will be oddly timed shouts of hallelujah, accompanied by hand clapping and the garish sounds of tambourines gone berserk. And when every one lines up to dance out to the front for the offering they will hold up the line by their unbridled dancing.

 You know that the lead Bishop will arrive late, sweeping in with his entourage of bible carriers and anointing oil holders. You know that it will be as though someone pressed a big reset button, and oblivious of the baking heat he will insist on laying hands and praying all over again.

 You know that the two hour service will stretch into three, and only some quick thinking will prevent it from extending even further. You know the picture taking session will be a full event in and of itself – the youth choir she once led will want a separate picture, as will all of the spiritual heavyweights who have ‘sown into her life’.

 And you know, that somewhere on row 76, in the crevice formed by the junction of the half open side door and a disused speaker, there will be a bloke slouched in a chair, his unruly hair the least of the oddities around him, alternately squinting and then stifling a yawn, and every now and then scribbling frantically inside his little black book.

3. Journey’s end, red tape and finally a breather

Deserted... The House on the corner of 3rd and 12th.

The sun had began to lose some of its unblinking menace by the time my overloaded bus laboured up the final incline and began its descent into Ekpoma. Although we had made steady progress on the Lagos to Benin leg, navigating the maze of the Uselu – Lagos road and finding my way to the Big Joe motor park across town had taken a while and it was well past four pm before I found my not particularly comfortable seat on a bus to Ekpoma.

The short hop from Benin to Ekpoma is one that I have made more times than I care to remember. From my early years – spent living with my father as he made his name as a young academic whilst Mother managed a family in a different city – to my five and some years of undergrad study, that commute – and on a good day it is only a 45 minutes journey –  came to define my life. Time and time again, I managed to time my sleeps so well that as whatever vehicle I was in was labouring up the hill into town I would awake to the welcome of home just over the horizon.

Home, the little brown house on the corner of 3rd and 12th no longer exists in the sense that no one lives there on a permanent basis anymore. My mother, like all women, has had her moments of impulse buying – her closet of shoes and never worn clothes are a testament to that – but one of her more prescient actions was to pay all of 2,000 naira for a piece of land somewhere on the outskirts of town very many years ago. Thanks to that inspired purchase and an Architect friend of the family, a couple of years ago they were able to join the trickle of people moving out of the University owned quarters to their very own place. The one downside of that – besides all the memories associated with that house which I may have lost for good – was that it was impossible for me to locate it myself. I thus had to call for the parentals to pick me up from the motor park.

By this time it was inching closer to 5.30pm, and all that was on my mind was a cold glass or bottle of something, a nice bath and some sleep; unbeknownst to me I would have to navigate a further two hours before those simple quotidian pleasures were granted me. My father decided – without recourse to me of course – that it would be expedient to make a pit stop at the hall that had been organised for the wedding reception. The plan was to hang around a little to chat with the women helping to clean it up and decorate it before heading on home.

It proved to be an inspired decision as it turned out. Some local council chieftain had set himself up as judge and jury in his own small court and decided that this was the perfect time to smoke out tthe ‘culprits’ behind what he felt was a conspiracy to defraud the local council. He insisted, much to the chagrin of all of us, that we would not get access until a receipt was produced. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was only a letter of approval from earlier in the year as the receipt had being lost in the intervening period. Multiple phone calls to the officers in charge of the building and even the council chairman failed to resolve the matter as our crusader decided he held all the aces, even against the mediation of his own boss. Very nearly an hour, a fresh payment – backed up by a signed receipt  – and a covert picture capturing the exchange of the money on a phone was what it eventually took before access was finally granted, at which time it was too late to get the place properly cleaned up as initially planned. So much for a chilled out time with the family; everyone’s mood was foul to say the least.

My ordeal is far from over though. It turns out that Aunt Liz has had major trouble locating the house on the edge of town. In describing the location to her and her driver, Mother has made the mistake of using the wrong landmark. There are two seminaries with similar sounding names in different parts of town. Mother has given a description with the wrong one, and they have ended up quite some distance from where they should be for pickup. I  get sent to sort them out – with only my mobile for company. When I do not find them where they should be, a flurry of phone calls follows before I realize the problem is in the description. They finally stop off at a well known junction and I walk till I find them.

Now truly hungry and tired, I have to plaster on a smile on my face and make small talk as I join her car and direct them in person for the last few kilometres. She has always had her agenda – and certain things I do not want to talk about are usually on them – but I somehow manage to steer the conversation into less controversial matters. Her twin boys – firm favourites of mine from my time spent with them in the 2000’s – are always a good diversion and I end up getting a good earful of their current situation.

It is almost 7pm by the time we eventually pull in, and I leave the Aunt and my Mother to catch up as they always do, whilst I make a bee line to the kitchen. Thankfully Sister#1 had done some boiling and frying. Whilst I have been trying to bring home the Aunt, the kid brother who had made the trip from up north himself on the day had arrived a few minutes before I did, so there was enough relatively young company to engage with. All it lacked was Sister #2 who was away getting a proper coiffure in preparation for her big day and niece #1.

It was almost 9pm before we all got together – the kid brother and I having our meal standing up, Sisters #1 and #2 filling us in all  the happenings we had missed, and the niece being all coy and shy around us. Not since the back end of 2007 have we all been in the same place together with feeling the pressure of a performance on our shoulder, and never more has it felt like I have missed this for far too much.

2. Road trips, small margins and a return to the city of red earth

Hawker, Lagos

Plan A was to catch a flight from Lagos into Benin and then a bus for the final leg of the trip to the small university town of Ekpoma, where the wedding was to hold, but the events of the last few weeks ensured that the one thing my mother insisted on was that the journey out of Lagos would be by road. I thus had to brace myself to navigate the tortuous 3oo km+ trip from Lagos into Benin with minimum fuss.

Early the next morning, I rushed a bath, skipped breakfast and then found out that the 1.5 star diggs I was staying at actually had a cab service. The pleasant surprise was that he was a cabbie I had used a lot in the past, and that he had managed to recognise me despite the passage of time and the extra kilograms. Somewhere on the road as we drove towards the Yaba section of town, the slim margins between life and death were enacted right before our eyes as only his braking sharply and swerving enabled us avoid sweeping a motorbike and its three occupants into the yawning chasm of a gutter. A few choice strings of abuse later – both given and received by the driver of my cab – we were back on our way, grateful that all we had had was a minor intermission, not the full blooded inquisition that a more serious crash would have occasioned.

Our first pit stop was at Jibowu where we found out that there were no more scheduled trip at the Edo Line offices. We then had to make the final run in to the Edegbe Motor park at Yaba. We found several buses, all in different stages of being filled up. I had to settle for a seat at the back of one, and in addition to the transport fare fork out nearly an arm and a leg for my one box. The park was a bee hive of activity, a menagerie of hawkers milling around offering items as varied as pre-paid mobile phone recharge cards and supposedly genuine 24k gold. Like a human scrolling billboard they jostled for position in the mind and the eyes of us trapped passengers, hoping to make a killing by dint of repetition. One hawker, peddling ‘ice-cold la casera’ ended up in a verbal spat with a passenger over her pricing – apparently the bottle she was trying to fob off for 170 naira costs a mere 140 just around the corner. There were also all sorts of books being sold – a book of poems, nursery rhymes and one that particularly piqued my interest – a collection of 150 text messages supposedly crafted to make any woman giddy with focused flirtation. Unfortunately my wallet was lost in my jacket, stuck between my bag and the flabs of the buxom woman who was seated, impassive, next to me.

The final piece of the pre-travel routine was the obligatory preacher, the incongruity of his three piece suit, extra large bible and booming voice perhaps offset by the very practical face towel with which he dabbed his shiny forehead, which leaked sweat like a rafia basket filled with water. After a quick word of exhortation, he proceeded to bind and cast ‘every demons’ of bloodshed on the high way, and declared we would arrive safely at our destination – a small ritual that prompted the pressing of a few naira into his hands by other more impressed passengers as he launched into his support the ministry spiel.

The trip to Benin was steady, not spectacular. As it turned out, the driver of the bus was a gracefully greyed man who looked to be at least within touching distance of 60, and it showed in how he piloted the bus. He was content to ignore the rants and raves of the excitable passengers keen to get off to a flying start and maintain a steady pace. Aside of a few snarls in the flow of traffic at certain points – one was occasioned by the FRSC attending a recent crash where a lorry filled with Coca Cola bottles had somehow crashed into the road divder and overturned, turning the road into a collage of dark brown liquid, glass shards and red coke covers – we made steady time. The one thing that particularly irked me – and forgetting my phone charger in the ‘Deen meant I had to be frugal with what power I had left – was how many loud telephone conversations went on for the first hour of the trip, at full pelt. There was a young woman (apparently a student) playing the age old game of Dad v. Mum to draw out an extra 100,000 naira from her parents to fund whatever lifestyle she had in Benin, a man seemingly at the centre of a family feud sending instructions to an accomplice to break open a box he had left somewhere and retrieve certain items, and another calmly informing what sounded like an ex girlfriend that he was in town briefly and would like to meet up.

Somewhere around Ore, the bus stopped for a break – the driver going to have lunch in one of the places around, whilst the rest of us made do with what we could. Whilst sauntering along the road, I found suya being made, and at the urging of the Mallam (I really didn’t need any persuasion) I took a taster. 1,000 naira lighter, with a bottle of malt in my lap I was back in the bus, waiting for the journey to resume.

I must have fallen asleep – the sameness of greenery broken only by the odd bump as a bridge is traversed must have lulled me – because the next time I am aware of my surroundings, the bus is packed by the road side offloading a young woman and her box next to a board welcoming all and sundry to Igbinedion University Okada. She seems young, probably in her very early twenties and was dressed very simply. I had briefly wondered why she had an iPad complete with a magic cover sticking out from her hand bag, but I suppose given the astronomical fees charged there, an iPad was small beans. Given the history I have had in the past with the school – F spent five wasted years there before she upped sticks and went elsewhere, and Cousin B narrowly escaped being stuck on the treadmill there – the one brief thought that passes through my mind as the bus is loaded up again and we begin to move is to hope that she hasn’t fallen prey  to the Ponzi scheme that is that University’s medical school.

In due course we arrived in Benin – Oluku junction with its truck lined roadsides, the precious Palm Royal Hotel and UNIBEN Main Gate  in quick order were the prelude to the bedlam that was the Uselu -Lagos road with its half crazed okada riders, buses, trucks and overly exuberant teenagers with cars. The normally impassable roads at this time of the day – around about 2pm – have been made worse by closures for road works; sections of the road are in varying stages of being expanded to six lanes. I suppose the short term pain is a small price to pay if it ends up resolving the larger issue of congestion and drainage. In a nod to the increasingly real threat of abduction, the expatriate site engineer managing the section between Uselu market and the fork in the road where it snakes towards Ring Road or New Benin Market is guarded by three armed soldiers in a white Isuzu truck. Just how inflated the costs will be as a result of needing to provide a security detail, and no doubt appeasing restive youth, remains to be seen.

It is campaign season in Edo State. Posters of Comrade Adams Oshiomole and his deputy litter the billboards of the city. As is the norm, quite a few of them feature various interest groups – I seem to remember a few by the Bini Youth, the association of tipper drivers and others – keen to align themselves with the powers and ingratiate themselves. The clarion call seems to be that a vote for the Comrade is a vote for progress and continuity. To be fair the roads seem to be in much better shape than I remember them from a few years ago. We had to navigate a few back streets to avoid the long tail backs, and that brought to the fore just how much road repair work had been completed in the last few years. The schools too have also been given significant face lifts – new buildings, fresh licks of paints and Coca Cola branded signs indicating the names of the school. There is also the expected billboard with the Comrade’s face on it, proclaiming him the saviour of the school system. I am not the only one who notices – one of the passengers mentions in passing just how relieved he is to see improvements in the city as a whole and wonders why there is even a sliver of doubt that the powers that be would allow a swift return to power for the incumbent. Someone else responds dismissively, insisting that he is an upstart and that he will be trounced at the polls. There is some to-and fro which quickly gets heated, until the first proposer of a second term refuses to reply anymore. If there is one thing this has impressed all over in my mind, it is that politics remains a deeply emotive subject, fractured along ethnic lines and completely disconnected from performance or suitability in this my little corner of red earth.

There will be time in the next few days to return to this city and reacquaint myself with it after my season of insulation, but now all I get is a flying pit stop on the flight to the place called home.

1. Eastwards

As I stand, satchel slung across my shoulder waiting for the call to board the KLM flight from Schipol to Lagos, I think back wistfully to a similar scene just over three years ago, when I stood within the Departures Lounge at the Murtala Mohammed Airport making the transit in the opposite direction. Then, as with now, it was a wedding – that of Sister #1 – that had lured me across the miles, outside the safety of what had been a year of near total insulation, back to Nigeria. In truth, the time and the distance have been mere blips on the timeline of life, but so total has the lostness been that it almost feels like I need to be reacquainted with everything all over again.

The six-hour thirty minute flight from Schipol to Lagos passed eventually – aided by flitting in and out of sleep, watching (very) old episodes of The Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother and failing woefully (in my admittedly half-hearted attempts) to catch the eye of one of the air hostesses; an almost otherworldly beauty with small lithe hands and an almost permanently plastered smile. Although the flight was reasonably full, I somehow had the luxury of having an aisle seat with three empty seats either side of me. Surprisingly, given my preference for being left alone on these jaunts, I found myself feeling the aloneness a little bit too keenly at times, like being marooned on my very own atoll. The captain’s voice over the tannoy announcing descent into Lagos for the final thirty minutes of the flight jarred me out of any lingering bouts of sleepiness or self-pity, and ensured I was quite alert by the time I lugged my satchel and ambled on through the walkway through to passport control.

I joined the steady stream of people ambling on towards passport control. At the end of the walkway, there was an immigration officer, kitted in the dull brown uniform, directing us with animated hand gestures into two lines.  “Nigerian passports, here; foreign passports there”he kept saying as each new wave of passengers poured out of the walkway into what was a small waiting room with barriers. Just ahead was a suite of three desks; each manned by two immigration officers. Two of those desks serviced the line for Nigerian passport holders which had quickly swelled and snaked all the way backwards.

Close to the head of our queue was a man dressed entirely in white, his flowing galabeya contrasting with the black shoes peeking out from beneath them. He was standing to one side of the queue and speaking into his phone when I attached myself to the end of the queue. Soon after he finished someone, dressed in the brown of immigration but with a lot more colourful adornments than the people at the desks in front of us, walked up to him, conferred a little and then extricated him and what must have been his bag boy from the queue.  With a curt nod to the officials at the desk he swept past them with his bag carrier in tow, heading for the priority luggage carousel.

As our line continues to inch along, I notice a little cluster around a man in front of me, where our line doubles back on itself for the final time before terminating at the desks. His face looks vaguely familiar, and there are quite a number of handshakes and poses for photographs going on. My suspicion that he is a Nollywood persona is confirmed when in reply to a young woman gushing over him and proclaiming him a star he insists – in that slightly disinterested, studiously self-deprecating style of faux humility – that he is no star, just Kanayo O. Kanayo. The woman who has offered the ‘star’ moniker is left to stutter and move on.

Three people ahead of me, two men are engaged in an animated conversation about the merits and demerits of traveling light. One – a pudgy looking gentleman with a protruding stomach – insists his preference is to always travel light, although his wife usually has other intentions, never passing up the opportunity to stuff his luggage with the last clothes she’s acquired. The other – dressed very casually in shorts and a sleeveless vest shares his secret magic bullet for navigating that particular peeve – leaving the booking of his flight till the last possible moment. Some how I get the impression these are not two people who have been previously acquainted, but are people who think there might be longer term benefit in staying in touch. Mr. PodgyBelly asks for Mr. HipWannabe‘s phone number. Replying in a tone of voice a tad bit too loud, he replies – “I haven’t been back here in a while, I’ll have to give you my United Kingdom number. That’s fine isn’t it?” They exchange phone numbers and then continue yapping on about some other subject. Behind me I hear a muffled hiss. The young woman behind me has as much time for that little bit of showoffishness as I do, precious little.

When my turn at the desk arrives, the first of the officials takes a cursory look at my passport and hands it on to the official seated next to him. He opens it too, flips through a few pages and asks me what I am doing outside Nigeria. “Studying”, I reply. My cover on these trips – useful to avoid the inevitable ‘any thing for us question’ – is to insist that I am a poor broke student. On this occasion my bushy hair and my school boyish satchel slung across my shoulder appear to satisfy him and he waves me through. The girl behind me, with whom I had shared a snicker at the behaviour of Mr HipWannabe gets a far more thorough grilling, involving a question about Kwara State, and where she is from within the state.  It takes me a further twenty minutes before I spot my checked in luggage chugging along on the carousel towards me. All told in just over forty-five minutes, I am all clear and heading out towards the gates for a cab.

The one essential skill I have never mastered is the art of haggling. That war of attrition, an often slow laborious dance of offer and counter offer towards an amicable centre from two usually widely differing starting points, often seemed to me like a pointless waste of time. Two counter offers in I give up, accepting his (at least to me) highly inflated price of four thousand to run me into the Opebi area of town. I console myself with gaining five hundred naira;  less than his initial offer. He must have sensed I felt I had been had – or I had truly been had and his concience wouldn’t give him rest – because all through the trip he ran a monolouge of how hard the country was and how he was having to eke out a living. The cornerstone of his argument? The fact that at a relatively early 8.30pm there was already a clutch of scantily dressed women close to the Allen Roundabout getting their hustle on early. That was one argument I had no answer for.

World Cup 2010 – Lessons (un) Learned

A moment of rashness by a certain Sani Kaita will go down as the defining moment of Nigeria’s World Cup – when the tenuous grip of one hundred and fifty million people was savagely hacked off. At that time Nigeria was 1-0 up – thanks to a somewhat fortuitous goal – and had largely being untroubled by the Greeks who had been pedestrian all through. The rest, as they say, is history and Greece went on to win to put Nigeria’s world cup dreams effectively on hold for four more years.

They say hindsight is 20/20; allow me to revel in my new found ‘perfect’ vision.

  • Us Nigerians are overwhelmingly optimistic: Considering the Nations Cup performance was a few notches removed from abysmal, and Lars Lagerback was only appointed in February, just where we got the belief that we would do well leaves me concerned. Either as a nation we are collectively delusional or we have that rare gift of unshakable faith!
  • Football is still a powerful force: If the status updates, avatars and comments of my Nigerian friends on Facebook and Twitter are a credible measure of how football mad we are, we are up there with the very best. Loads of my friends had Nigerian players as avatars, and status updates solely related to football. The plus side is that suddenly, outpourings of solidarity became the norm rather than the exception, as against the usual disparaging comments I get to see from Nigerians on Nigeria. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as saying football keeps the nation together, it can be argued that it is a universal language that binds us all into a coherent whole.
  • We lack true quality: The national football team was once able to call on the football prowess of the likes of Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi, Taribo West, Jay-jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Emmanuel Amunike and others in recent history. These were all blokes who played their football at the highest level- winning accolades and titles along the way. Looking at the current squad, I have to say I don’t see the real quality. Victor Enyeama, the goal keeper aside, the team was largely pedestrian, but then maybe it was the ball, or altitude, or any number of other excuses which are bound to come up!
  • We do not learn our lessons: Bringing Lars Lagerback in as manager was a new low (or high as some would argue) in the curious game of musical chairs that is the Nigerian football team manager’s position. Time and time again, after 1994, we have opted to chop and change managers without consideration for their preferred playing styles or more tellingly, their track record for bringing through youth players. One of the lot even had the effrontery to attempt to manage the team from his base in Germany, if my memory serves me right. Yet again as a nation we have failed to plan, and as the axiom goes, we have planned to fail.
  • We are still a country clinging to ethnic stereotypes: I hope for the sake of the future this isn’t true, but the outpouring of rage at Sani Kaita had a decidedly ethnic bent. Strong words were spilled, especially on his Facebook page, the bulk of which referred to him as ‘Malo’, a reference to his Northern origins.  It would appear, sadly, that Web 2.0 generation or not, we are willing to allow someone’s state of origin come into the play. He messed up- end of story. By no means should his ethnicity come into the picture.

Oh well, this time though, we have the excuse of the ball, and the altitude, and… whatever else we can lay our finger on!

Cheesy smiles, Bullying, Spam and other randoms..

I suspect I am not the only one whose instinctive reation to the overly ebullient demeanour of sales people customer service assistants is to curl my fingers into a tight fist. I often want to punch them, so that the smile plastered on their face vanishes. They give me the impression of the legendary house rat – which I am told eats the skin off the feet, but aims a puff of air at the right time and place to dull the pain until it has had its fill of its victim’s feet! Thankfully, I am too lilly-livered to follow through my macabre thoughts with action – else I might be rotting in some jail on the grounds of causing grevious bodily harm.

Thankfully, I am not alone in having ‘dangerous’ tendencies – apparently Bros G knows a thing or two about bullying people. If only our own Bros J could add that to his repertoire perhaps the impasse of sorts foisted on the Nation by Aunty Turai and Uncle Yardy might be resolved sooner than later.

I have a little theory – SPAM is getting smarter. Over the last few  weeks, I have been getting SPAM mail from ‘Nigerian-esque’ names: Amaka, Lola, Garba and the like. One part of me says its random, but I refuse to accept that. The final piece of the jigsaw I am waiting on, so I can go to Mashable with my story, is for me to get an email from an Oritsegbebumi – or an Abayomiolorunkoje – no computer can generate those names.. Lai Lai.

Depression is no longer the excluse preserve of PMSing teenagers, or blokes stuck deep in a mid-life crisis – dogs too have decided to get involved too.  And trust the Capitalists to jump in on the act – Dogs now have their version of Prozac. Brilliant!

Twitter’s gotten a lot more interesting in the last few weeks…………. Thanks to A certain people (shelling on purpose.. sue me..)

And on a less random note….

Dreams permit oddities

– Max Lucado

I say dream on… Have a great weekend peeps.. and YOU.. grab a drink for two.. you know how we do!

If I did crushes.. this would be it…

If I did crushes, Bassey Ikpi would be it. I stumbled on some YouTube videos back in the day, but I never got to dig into them until a bout of extreme boredom got the better of me.  The poem Homecoming is a precise distillation of all the various emotions being caught between two worlds generates in us. I totally loved it! Oh and she’s cute too….  🙂

The Life of a Lost Son…

Edit: This is me venting… Nothing personal.. Just vexed by the way certain things have panned out..
I fear that soon all I will have as memories of my Africa will be the melancholic bits interspersed with a few shards here and there of a nostalgic past – growing up, friends, family, schools, holidays and times spent in wanton play – occasional successes mired in a morass of resounding failure. I wrote in my journal when I turned 21, that I felt my future was inextricably linked to Africa and that whatever I did, I would always have her at the back of my mind. Nine years on, I fear I may have made a volte face; one not altogether of my own volition.

The harsh reality is that the Africa I grew up eulogizing; enshrined in the words of Diop’s Africa my Africa, Clarke’s Call of The River Nun, and in the exquisite prose of Achebe and co; lauded in the legends of great empires now extinct and brought to life by the tales with which my grandmother nursed me to sleep; has taken on a whole new life – entombed in the murky waters of bare faced deception, brazen theft, gross inequality, sycophancy and all such things – a myriad of false dawns and a future far removed from the brilliant ideals the likes of Tom Mboya, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkruma and others of their ilk tried to espouse.

Today, I officially joined the ever swelling ranks of ‘Africans in the Diaspora’; and true to type I will be an arm chair politician; spewing meaningless rhetoric from the safety of an uncensored IP address, hiding behind the nameless, faceless facade that is a blog and its associated moniker. I will sign all the on-line petitions, use the right hash-tags and send the occasional token to the charity back home. I will order home made music by the ‘ghana must go’ whenever someone travels back to Africa, to assuage my conscience that I am indeed African at heart and remind the kids, conveniently given non-African monikers, that they are truly African at heart. I shall ensure we visit at least once a year, as long as it doesn’t jeopardise my chances of getting a second passport. And then when I am old and grey, when senility slithers in and death brazenly appears to demand its recompense, I will conveniently be buried back in Africa, the land of my fathers. Ah, the life of a lost son.

What not to say to my Nigerian Father…

Growing up in my own neck of the woods was an experience. We nicknamed our Pops the Ogbodons – not sure where the term originated from any more but my back side was a living testimony to his varied abilities and multiplied skills in inflicting pain. Mum didn’t help matters as she was was as resolute in hammering our ‘evil’ proclivities out of our systems. I got the opportunity to contrast that parenting style a few weekends back when I went visiting some distant family members in London. Clearly their less than 3 year old daughter has more leeway with him than I do with my own parents at my (huge) age.

In general, the following phrases got you into serious trouble in my house..

  1. It wasn’t me it was (insert name of younger sibling) – This was akin to adding petrol to a raging inferno. It often provoked a lecture on how you as a senior member of the house needed to take responsibility whilst the parents were out trying to make money to ‘take care of you’.
  2. Good Morning (without the Sir or Daddy) – This was the ultimate faux paus. You were required to treat your Nigerian father with the maximum amount of respect. I didn’t have to do the whole prostrating thing but failing to add ‘Sir’ to the morning greeting was guaranteed to result in some real deep ish – the least of which was some hours of ‘starvati0n therapy’.
  3. It is not true o! – This usually occurred when the Ogbodon was narrating to the ‘maternal unit’ your latest mess up which resulted in forgetting money in the taxi or some more public bit of embarrassment. To one’s young mind, adults were eternally embellishing the facts to make events seem worse than they really were, but woe betide you if you interjected. The initial parental reflex varied from ” I am talking and you are talking?” or worse “Are you calling me a liar?”.
  4. I don’t know – Back in the Abacha inspired days of severe austerity on University campuses, meat was at a premium. When someone surreptitiously invaded ‘Soup Kingdom’ and raided the pot for a choice piece of meat, repercussions were bound to occur. Chaps usually claimed ignorance to no effect. The parental reasoning was that ‘he that is not for us us is against us’ ie if you are not telling, you are implicit.
  5. I can’t remember – This was usually an escape route from a bad lie. When your father is a stellar academic with an amazing memory, you can’t think up things on the fly mehn. If you were lucky, you would only get a lecture after being serenaded by loads of questions.  “What are you thinking of? Abi you have a girlfriend now?” Mumz was the resident girlfriend expert..and she would have risen very quickly to the top of MI6! Believe me.
  6. She hit me first – Beating up girls was a cardinal sin in my house. Two events stick in my memory. One was at school, a couple of dudes were heckling one of the class tomboys – the whole pinching, hitting, and all what not routine and yours truly was watching (ok… and occasionally adding a knock). We were so engrossed that I didn’t realize that it was way past the time Pops would come pick us up. After waiting for a while, he came to the class to see me applying a few deft touches to a knock. I got a few knocks myself in front of the girl (the girl never let me forget that for the rest of my time in the school!) and I got periodic knocks all the way from Ugbowo to GRA in the school run go-slow of the mid 80s.  The other time, I was grounded and made to recite the longest memory verse at the annual Christmas pageant.The plus side was that I got a very cool nickname after the whole debacle… and she and I became best friends.. for a long time..
  7. My little cousin’s favorite words are ‘Don’t smack me Daddy’ – That would have been labelled down right rebellion – with some serious ‘starving therapy’ recommended for redress!