Thursday, 30 November 2006

Does not compute.

I have one of those minds that is forever spinning things round and round until they make sense. If they do not make sense I wake up in the middle of the night to my brain aching from trying to make it make sense. Am I making sense? Over the past year I have had a lot to occupy my nocturnal musings. Things that I just cannot get to add up. If 2+2 does not equal 4 then your boy is not happy.

So it is that I have battled with Global warming, the Iraq war, the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear programme, the axis of evil. But lately the thing that has kept me awake the most is something even more perplexing than all the above. Yes, it is the Tom Cruise- Katie Holmes marriage. You too right?

So here's my problem:
- Tom is married to the very lovely Mimi Rogers for years. No kids. They divorce.
- Tom is married to Nicole Kidman. No kids. They adopt. One black. One white. (Aww. How cute. ) Anyway they divorce.
- Rumours start flying round that Tom is gay.
- Tom goes on Oprah and does a couch thing professing his love for a girl\woman.
- Nicole marries drunk, druggie country guy and gets pregnant. Proves she can.
-Tom marries girl (Katie) who used to have his poster on her wall when she was a child.
- Katie gets pregnant very quickly. Has baby.
-Tom marries Katie and apparently grows six inches during the ceremony (according to the pictures)
- Everyone lives happily ever after.

Except yours truly, who lies awake wondering how come the first two wives did not get pregnant. Why adopt with Nicole? Why not just you know, knock her up? Surely much more fun. How much is in for Katie? How long before the "irreconcilable" differences?

My brain hurts.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

A cry for the innocent.

I weep for my youngest daughter

who through no fault of her own

has now been labelled

not as mixed race, yet,

she will have that to deal with later

but as autistic
it's mild they say
like that's a comfort

we reel in horror

from the tag
now things make sense
her not speaking
staring into space
laughing at shadows

but we are nothing

if not people of God

so we turn our hand to prayer

and slowly, ever slowly

the fog lifts

over the days, months, years

it is not fully clear yet

but some days

we swear we can see the sun

shining from her eyes.

We worry so about the future

and what is yet to come

next year she starts in big school

but she is still so small

not her body, but her mind

sheltered as she has been

cuddled deep within our love

and now here comes

the big bad world

will she understand the bullies

when they call her names

and point, and laugh

she is so sensitive

sometimes when she wakes

the first thing she remembers

is a slight from the day before

"so and so pinched me" she cries

"or pushed me"

she just wants to be their friend

give them hugs and kisses

she does not understand

and we cannot explain.

With every year comes changes

all so far for the better

long may they continue

until one day we can see the dawn

like clouds floating away

to reveal a sky so blue
or dark curtains parting
to reveal our star in waiting

and maybe one day

without prompting

she will be able to say

"daddy, I love you"

until then I will continue to cry

for the innocent.

Saturday, 25 November 2006


We were at the theatre to watch a play

a drama

i cannot even recall the name

as the drama unfolding before my eyes

was much more


as we prepared to take our seats

at the start of the play

a couple swept past us to find theirs

i only caught the back of their heads

i watched them

as they made their

way down the ailes

finally found their seats next to another couple

seems they were friends

and then it happened

they all stood up to exchange pleasantries

and the man, during the conversation,

put his hand on the small

of the other lady's back

just above the rise

and left it there

for far too long it seemed to me
it seemed too

like it had been there before
her husband could not see

nor could his wife

as they were all facing forward

but i could see enough

for all of us

i held my breath

i waited for the hand to move

but still he held it there


finally as the lights dimmed

he removed it

and she did not flinch

like she had had it there before

like it belonged there

like she liked it there

i wonder if he knew

her husband, that is

that when he went to work

his friend

had his hand

on the small of his wife's back

and i wonder if she knew

the wife

that her husband

had his hand on her friend's back

and held it there


Thursday, 23 November 2006

Boys in da hood.

I went to cut my hair last weekend (aha, wait now, let me land. No sniggering at the back). There is hair there although it is fair to say that to the untrained eye it is hardly worth maintaining but to the professionals there is still work to be done. I can't help it if I am a trendsetter by going for the "low cut" look way before it became fashionable. I'll share a secret with you. The next big thing is going to be.... nose hairs. Don't ask me how I know just keep it to yourself, wait and see.

Anyway, I was at the barbers with these two young black guys. What struck me about them was how they were almost identikit stereotypes. Jeans, crisp white trainers, t- shirt, jeans jacket \ hoodie. They were both on the phone and it was easy to ascertain that they were talking to their laydeez.

I then started thinking about the loss of individuality (IMO) amongst this demographic. I get a sense that it is better (and far easier?) to conform to the thug life , lover boy, smooth operator stereotype than to establish any sort of credible counter identity. Of course they were younger than me and are of a different generation but I seem to be seeing the same person everywhere I go. I wonder where the revolutionaries are going to come from?

This trend has now found its way to Nigeria where the kids are now going around flashing their underwear at all and sundry (a sin in my day. I could not even leave home unless my shirt was tucked in and I had a belt on). My nephew arrived back from school recently with his tie askew, his belt done very loosely and his trousers tucked under the flap of his trainers. I asked him what he thought he was playing at and he said that I needed to get with the programme and that this was the "new school" way of dressing. It showed that he was "cool and one of the homies". He then asked me for money for some food. I politely declined as I am old school, and so is my money.

Black boys in the UK are generally noted as lagging behind in the educational system (although last week it was reported that they had been overtaken by white boys- hurrah) and as such are not really challenged educationally. Iyawo's friend sent her son to a very expensive private school in North London despite the fact that she was a single mother just scraping by herself (no judgements. just stating the facts) but she wanted to ensure he got the best education possible (naija style). She arrived at school one day to check on his progress to find her son sitting at the back of the class doing some drawing whilst the rest of the class was being taught a lesson. When she challenged the teacher she was informed that as her son liked art and drawing they basically left him to get on with it whilst they carried on with their lessons. "Is this a one-off" she enquired of her son. "Oh no mum, it happens every day". She immediately moved him to another school.

So what does the future hold for black male youth? Who has the answers? Have they been totally brain washed by the nu media- mtv (where all the women have perfect teeth and breasts. My perosnal gripe but that's another blog) or can they still be saved and if so how? What incentive is there for them to be different? And is different really all that attractive anyway?

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

WTF £$%$ NEPA wahala

So I get a text from my brother in response to me asking how things are going in Lagos to say he is stressed. Okay, this is Lagos. You expect a bit of stress. Next thing I know I am getting texts from my sista, also inLagos, saying she has to get out of Naija for a week to de-stress. Aha, this was strange. Both siblings. Has Dad been on the lecture circuit again?

So I call home and am told the following : yesterday morning, my sister arrived at my parent's house where she runs a small gift shop to be met by two representatives from Nepa. This is not unusual and has become an almost monthly routine. This time there is an old timer and a new guy. They have come to disconnect the power. Again. Now my parents have lived in that house for over 30 years. Sometime two years ago, despite getting a monthly bill averaging N20k, for God knows how long, they suddenly received a bill for N550k for one month. Now my Dad used to be a banker and he is very sharp on his numbers but even my mum who was not a banker could recognise what we in the West would politely call an "anomaly" or more crudely a "cock up".

Since then it has been a case of file in hand trips to all the local Nepa offices as well as the Area office in Ijora. Promises are made, credits are promised, mistakes are to be rectified but till today- well jack. Which is why these two goons show up. Every time they are shown the file, told to go to Ijora to check the record of my parents visits and the accompanying paperwork which proves that a mistake was made but you know visiting Ijora would bring an end to the "social visits" for these clowns so the game continues. After all baby needs milk and so forth.

Yesterday however the game changed. This new goon arrives as my mother is trying to feed my brother's new baby. My sister arrives to find him waiting and he says to her that how can this woman (my mother) be wasting his time, siting upstairs and keeping him waiting downstairs. Who does she think she is? blah, blah,blah. He should just cut the power and show her who's boss. This is when the torch paper was lit.

Now let me say if you met myself and my siblings you would think we were the most balanced of adults and must be a source of pride and joy to our parents. Which of course we are :->. However, if you want see our other face, cross the line and abuse one of us or our parents and the gates of hell will open ( or as Fela put it, rat dey sleep, cat go bite him tail. wetin he dey find?)

So it was that this idiot felt the full venom of the family. My mother had to leave the baby feeding, my brother had to be restrained and my sister spent the day having severe palpitations after the tongue lashing that was dished out to the idiot - hence her desperation to head for the land of the free.

So my people, not only are we harassed outside the house by police, Lastma, area boys, dirt, smoke, street traders etc but now, even our private abode, our last refuse, our sacred sanctum, is now no longer free of harassment (forget about armed robbers in the night. What about these armed robbers during the day?). These people (my parents) are retired, they have served their time, they pay their (correct) bills on time. They just want to sail into the sunset with their children and grand kids around them savouring what is left of the fruit of life. But no. They cannot even do that in peace. What is a nation to do?

I will be in Nigeria in two weeks and I am just praying with all my might that he shows up again. Make una keep an eye on AIT news for further updates. See what I will do to the useless vagabond. Idiot. Conconbility. Oloshi.

Spirits having flown.

It was the first day of our first family holiday. We had arrived in the Algarve in Portugal with the new addition to our family along with some of my wife's friends. My Naija friend's don't travel - not sure if it is pali related but - "ehn Portugal? wetin I go go do there?" they ask. "Relax, swim, enjoy the beach and culture?" I volunteer. "Beach ko, beach ni. If I want culture I go go Naija" they respond.

So it was with that usual mix of excitement and trepidation of stepping into the unknown that we collected our hire cars and set off to find the villa we had rented.

After a series of wrong turns, misinformation (probably due to the language barrier) etc we finally arrived and thank God it actually looked and seemed to match what we had booked on the internet (you can never be sure). We unpacked excitedly, portioned out the rooms, lit the fire as it was a bit nippy what with all the marble floors etc and generally settled into our home for the next ten days. That's when it happened.

Iyawo had taken FB (first born, do try and keep up) to the kitchen to warm her milk. As there was no kettle she had to boil the water in a pot. She had FB on one shoulder and as she turned around to reach for the bottle , FB's foot swung through with this motion and kicked the boiling pot of water which proceeded to spill all over said foot. This is when the screaming and crying ensued (although Iyawo did try to placate me as best she could).

Anyways, here we were in a strange house, in a strange town, in a strange country. We did not have and could not find a first aid kit. There were no phones in the villa - fixed or mobile (in those days very rarely did they have phones) and we had no neighbours to ask for help as the closest villa was deserted.

So it was with some panic that we jumped into the car - by this time we are talking 11pm in the evening - to try and find a hospital\ clinic as the foot was badly blistered and the tears were still flowing - this time from the injured party herself.

Driving around in the dark - I now know the true meaning of the phrase - is not pleasant in the best of circumstances as the occupants of Ikoyi, VI, Suru-lere, Lagos Nigeria will tell you. Driving around in the dark in a strange country is doubly taxing but off we went. We headed for the only area where we assumed the main town would be. See when we booked the villa we had booked under the assumption that we wanted something remote, away from prying eyes , quiet and secluded. Now we were paying for it.

Arriving at an area I had spotted was lit but it turned out it came from peoples homes. I could not however break the worldwide man code to stop and ask a complete stranger for directions despite the screaming and yelling - this time from Iyawo. I was determined to find the hospital on my own.

After a further expanse of pressure filled time we ended up in an even more remote area that was again pitch black. This is when we saw her. In the middle of what I can only describe as a forest with a tarred road chiseled in between stood a young lady - early twenties. Now this shocked me because despite my strapping frame (it was at that time I tell you) I would not have fancied standing out on this stretch of road. Olurun maje (God forbid). But there she was. As she was a woman and as Iyawo's fingers were now drawing blood from my arm I felt it necessary to stop and ask for directions. I was expecting to be met by a stream of Portuguese most of which I would not understand. Instead we were greed by a very nice English accent.

We explained our predicament and she immediately told us that there was only one pharmacy clinic in the area, It opened late, she knew where it was, knew the owner and would take us there if we would give her a lift. Needless to say, there was no debate. We arrived at the pharmacy, it was still open, we were attended to, all the screaming and crying stopped but when we turned around to express our thanks, she was gone. We asked the pharmacist if he knew who she was and he said no he had never seen her before.

It was only later when things has calmed down back at the house, FB was fast asleep, tea had been had, that we started to ponder this meeting. We were in a remote part of the Algarve, it was on a deserted stretch of motorway, she spoke our language, she knew exactly where to go to get what we needed, she disappeared into the night. Could she have been........ No. It's not possible. Or is it?

Four Seasons in one day.

Today at about two pm I left home to take the kids to the park for their daily run without which they go into the evening hyper and frustrated like caged animals (wonder how we will manage this one in Naija). As we opened the front door it started to rain. Kids fired up on going to the park do not understand "we have to wait for a little while" so it was on with the wellies and raincoats and off we went. I drove around a little bit, stopped for a bit of shopping (had to throw in some chocolate of course to break up the chorus of "this is not the way to the park! Goodness sakes.").

We finally made it to the park and as we got there, the rain stopped.

Five minutes later I was standing in the middle of the park with the kids running round doing their Power Rangers thing, the grass was glossy from the recent rains, the sun was shining although it was still bitterly cold, the sky went from a dull grey to a vibrant blue, an aeroplane roared past overhead carrying the lucky ones to some exotic destination (or Manchester:->), a man walked his dogs, horses huddled in the next field, and it suddenly occurred to me that despite the :

haters (seen a lot on recent blogs)
work (nuff said)
stress of life and living
strange calls from strange people in distant call centres
playing cat and mouse with the Traffic warden ninjas
worry about the future
worry about the present
worry about the past

over and above it all - the world is, and can be, such a beautiful place.

I thank God for his blessings.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

See me. See trouble. Madonna invades my space.

Picture the scene. It is late in the evening. I am watching Series 3 of 24 on my portable DVD just chilling in bed. Even drifting off to sleep. I was in the slumber zone when Iyawo bursts into announce that they are just about to show the Madonna interview with Oprah on Sky and she wants us watch it together.

Now there are many ways to light my torchpaper. One is to disturb my sleep. Two is make my car messy and three well mention of the M word. Why oh why did she have to go there. But you know your boy is loving if nothing else so I thought I would play along (spend some quality time with Iyawo. After all no be for better, for Madonna na him we talk for wedding vow?.)

Anyways it only took two and a half minutes for me to storm out of the room screaming. I just cannot bear the sight of the woman and her coming over all coy and stuttering (how many gazillions of interviews has this woman done?) She knows how to play them so her pretending that she was lost for words and a bit flustered was all it took for me to go off on one. I used every profanity I could thing of and even made some up. At one point I think I was even speaking in tongues I was so mad.

So why my irritation. The fact that Madonna can sail into Malawi, do a few choreographed dances with the natives (did anyone else see her director in the corner of the picture telling the kids when to rise up (apparently spontaneously?Oh I cant wait for the video!)) , splashdown £1m and then whisk out of there with a baby just overwhwelms me. I was on BBC radio a few weeks ago giving them my views on this whole fiasco. I thought the slave trade had been abolished? There has been a lot of argument back and forth , pros and cons but I am sorry there were so many other ways that she could have helped that baby and the many more thousands across Africa have a better life - like sponsorship, raising awareness, doing a concert.

My dislike for the woman goes a long way back. I studied Music Business as a moinor in college and had the opportunity to meet with some of the boys from the NY scene and they would always regale us about Madam and how she would use a lot of the black talent that she came across in the clubs, not give them credit etc. The most obvious was the Vogue which apparently gay guys had been doing in NY. She heard about it, went to see it and next thing you know -another million dollars in the bank. Any credit to the source? Dream on.

The whole adoption thing makes me sick and apoplectic with rage. And the authorities in Malawi are not excused from my rage and frustration by the way. So the baby is going to have a better life? On whose terms? Since when does living in a big house in England automatically equate to a better life.? The real clincher for me is that having gone to all this trouble to buy the baby, when the baby finally arrived - the very next morning, that is the morning following his arrival in a strange country, surrounde by strangers, in a strange home- she left him alone to go out to the gym for her workout ( I guess there is only so much bonding that is needed once you have paid for the goods and she does have her "looks" to worry about).

God helps us all if this is where our world is heading.

O.J - Will it never end?

Firstly, let me start off, controversially, by saying that I am one of the minority that do not believe that OJ actually killed Nicole and Ron. I will temper that by saying that I do think he was there on the night but I believe it was to go and get his psycho son - a disturbed chef, who actually committed the crimes (based on a documentary I watched some years back). There was no love lost between the boy and Nicole (I can't remember why but the boy was apparently very distured with a fascination\fixation with knives).

On Fox news this morning the forensic expert from the trial again defended OJ and said there was no way he alone could have killed Ron and Nicole. Ron put up a hell of a fight, there was little or no blood on OJ besides a the little found on his sock, the discarded glove (which spectacularly backfired on the prosecution) and the prints on the Bronco. Even for CSI this did not add up. Based on the crime scene OJ would have been covered head to toe in blood. No bloody clothing was ever found (he did not have time to dispose of it. Based on this I think it is fair to ask for people to step out of their comfort zone and contemplate the fact that whilst he was a wife beater and generally as far away from the "hero" image that had been foisted on to him, maybe he did not kill those people. So who did?

The forensic scientist reckons it would have taken at least two people to commit the murders. OJ was strong but Ron was no slouch and put up a good fight therefore it should be safe to assume that whilst one person was fighting with him another was on Nicole? If one of these was OJ's son then it would make sense that OJ might have rushed over to the scene, saw the situation and hustled his son and accomplice out of there hence no blood on him? The notorious LA police led by Mark Fuhrmann had a bee in their bonnet about nailing OJ and therefore never really followed up on other leads.

Apparently OJ is about to cash in by doing a TV interview next week and also releasing a book -apparently along the lines of "let's assume that I did commit the murders, how did I do it ?etc"( I did say before that he was an odious human that lost all touch with reality a long time ago. But then again is that not what Americans do to their super heroes? Having schooled, worked and lived in the US for 13 years I have seen this up close and personal. Stars are cossetted, even from high school, and so by the time they hit the pros they need someone to wipe their ass because they can no longer do it themselves. And there is always a volunteer).

I look forward to hearing what he has to say on the interview and the general reaction from the public. Fox has already started to fan the flames. I suspect there might be some rioting somewhere down the line. Wait and see.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

I must be psychic!!

Just read the results of the Silverbird presidential poll and it would appear that Chris Okotie has come out favourite ( I won't even bother to comment on that). Oh , sorry I can't help it. What the hell is this based on? His social accomplishments to date? His diplomatic experience? His political intelligence? His moral fibre? His vision for Nigeria? His music? All is girlfriends must have voted (miaoww).

Anyways what I really wanted to say is that it looks like they are going to get the top five candidates together for a debate after all. Broadcast live. This is fantastic. I am so excited. I tell you this our democracy is starting to take those baby steps I keep talking about.

Read all about it here..

Does anyone have the email address for Silverbird so that we can start lobbing questions into the pool and maybe also getting some intelligent people on the panel to ask Reverend Chris a few questions. Otherwise I fear we might end up with "Rev. Chris, you are a great man. I cannot tell you I much I have admired your work. That first album was genius. Shame about that little copyright issues but anyway on to more important matters. How soon after becoming President do you think you will start handing out contracts. Let me say again, I am your biggest fan" etc etc.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Sex and the single (Naija) girl

I have been reading this blog - and I am astounded at how open a Naija girl\woman is being about her sexuality. I am just not used to reading anything so honest and direct from a Naija woman. There is an overwhelming desire to see what she looks like which is impossible as she has to be very discreet especially with the stuff that she reveals. Shame.

I remember thinking, oh my God, when I heard that the Vagina Monologues, has been performed in Naija. The fundamentalists must have been turning in their fundamentals.

I hope that this leads to a greater openness about these and other so called taboo subjects as our democracy matures. I am not saying we should go all out like the developed countries - a bit of modesty never killed anyone - but it would be nice to be able to hear women express views about their sexuality more openly. Coincidentally, she is not the only victim of rape by an uncle, friend, family member that I have read about. It seems more common than we realise and I guess these people got away with it previously because it would never have been discussed or admitted (how many parents discuss sex ed. with their teenagers in Naija. At least to make them aware of what to beware of).

When we went to Naija recently for hols I sat my girls down and explained to them that unless I gave them the signal they were not to make any contact (besides being polite and saying hello)with the various "uncles" they would surely come in contact with. I was gobsmacked at how one uncle latched on to my 13year old after a few shots of the demon drink.

More grease to your elbows Overwhelmed Naija Babe. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by your writing. Keep up the good, no, great work. Open the doors, kick down the barriers, set the pace for others to follow. Wish I was as brave as you.

Dying for the cause.

Look, let me be upfront with y'all. I am a coward and I know it. I am a typical middle class Yoruba boy. Ajebutter is my middle name. So what is this all about?

I was just reading about the impeachment of yet another governor and something that one of my uncles said struck me. He said that I should not sit on the sidelines and complain about leadership and leaders in Naija (which I do often and vociferously. Will have to watch the old blood pressure when we move to Naija) if I was not prepared to join in the war.

This was based on my complaining about the lack of depth in most of the people we have "elected" into public office. I remember in the early days of our democracy reading about people that had actually forged school\college certificates. I am not saying that getting a degree from an Ivy league school (or any school for that matter) is the end all and be all, but to have no further education and then lie about it surely weakens the very moral fibre meant to hold up a leader (moral fibre? in naija? this bobo is really a dreamer).

Another point my uncle made is that we middle class Yorubas like to make a lot of noise about this injustice, that and the other but when it comes to it we never step up to the plate. How can you complain about these "area boy" governors when you are not prepared to make the necessary scarifices up to and including giving your life?". Life keh? No be me oh.

A typical person like me going to tell their family that I want to run for "office" will be met with "Olorun maje" (God forbid). Oh you should have been there when my uncle informed my grandparents he was planning to join the Police force some thirty years ago because he wanted to make a change and felt he had something to offer. They were like "egba mi oo". Hen, after all your education (university degree)? Oti o, etc etc. Time to call inthe alfas for some prayers because obviously he must be troubled.

In their minds this career path was not for someone of his ilk i.e. educated. Nevertheless he stuck to his guns (pardon the pun) and actually used his education and intelligence to rise through the ranks and ultimately did make a change. Since then other members of the family have also followed suit.

The point of all this is that I went out to dinner with Iyawo last night in our neck of the woods and she was saying how much she was going to miss our little burb, the whole vibe -peaceful, calm etc. It then occurred to me that in all developed democracies lots of people had made a lot of sacrifices, the benefits of which we are currenly enjoying. What would have happened for example if at the first sighting of the red Indians the British had turned back from America. "I say, I don't like the look of those people. Let's get back home to blighty and a cup of Earl Grey, shall we old boy?"

I think of all those who have died in order for the black person (or person of colour) to be able to walk the streets freely on the streets of the US - Martin Luther King, Malcolm X , JFK etc. Whilst the US \ UK is now viewed as a mecca (check out the queues at the embassies) what would have happened if both Martin, Malcolm et al had limited their visions to just their congregations and not used it for a wider purpose?

What about Dele Giwa, Ken Saro Wiwa, Fela? (just occurred to me that two of them are Yoruba so maybe I am being too hard on us). Are these the change engineers of our democracy. Do we recognise them as such? I give kudos to my Aunty, Mrs Jade Akande, for organising the Mother's march in Lagos demanding action when we had the plane crashes last year.

And then I wonder who of my generation is prepared to lay their lives down in Nigeria today so that future generations can benefit. I take a long hard look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I can make a change. What can I do? What can I change? What can I contribute to this young democracy to help it grow up healthy and strong? Am I prepared to make sacrifices - family, money, health and maybe even life so that my children enjoy a better Nigeria?.

I want to believe I can. And you?

Monday, 13 November 2006

A challenge to Silverbird TV re Presidential Elections

When I was in Nigeria recently I heard adverts on the radio asking for people to vote for their 10 most likely presidential condidates (I mean candidates). Needless to say the list included all the usual suspects (I don't know why the minute I start to write about politicians I immediately lapse into criminal terminology).

Anyway I believe that they are narrowing it down to the top five as this txt voting process develops. My challenge to Silverbird is for them to go one step further and get all these guys into a studio for a live debate and questions by a panel as well as a section of the unwashed masses.

I am not in a position to say who is the most credible of the contenders as it is difficult to judge their records (most of the info I have on them has come from their adverts in newspapers whenever they build a stretch of road from their house to their office or to their village, otherwise I also see them in Ovation magazine celebrating one event or another and spraying public funds) but I am sure there are many qualified people who could be gathered together to ask questions like :
  • what is your past record and why does that make you fit to run for this office
  • what is your plan for the Education sector
  • how would you enhance the health sector
  • how would you protect innocent lives through proper management and regulation of the aviation sector
  • what would you do if the price of oil fell to a level where we could no longer rely on oil revenues (besides crying cap in hand to Opec)
  • other countries have diversified from totally focusing on oil revenues (dubai)? what other options are you looking at for growing additional revenue streams for the federal govt.
  • what were the last ten major contracts that you awarded (if a serving gov.) and were they actually completed
  • what are your plans for lifting the morale and public image of the Nigerian Police Force
  • what are your views of the EFCC and the ICPC and how do you plan to tackle corruption if elected
  • what are your plans for raising the profile of Nigeria as a worthy destination for world travellers
  • the budget continues to grow year on year. How would you ensure that the budget was properly managed?
  • what are your views on setting up an Audit office that reviews every contract awarded by Fed. & state govts over a certain amount to ensure that they are completed

These are just some of the immediate ones that come to mind. I am sure that there are others. I would be very keen to see these great men - sans bodygaurds, advisors, sychophants and other hangers on actually stand up and speak for themselves. I notice that there are websites and even blogs cropping up for the candidates. I wonder how much they are actually involved or if it is just another form of "flattery" PR.

The public would then vote on the best two and these two would then go head to head as they do in the US. After all are we not practicing the same dem all crazy?

Pictures of Bar Beach as promised

From 11th floor of Eko Hotel (seaview section). I apologise that this is all I have but it gives you an idea of how different this section at the rear looks when compared with the shanty town that you can see when driving round the front.
I still get emotional looking at these. Absolutely beautiful. This Naija sef.
Why do we continue allow fools to deny us beauty like this that can be found all over the country. I have as much faith in the new Minister for Culture and Tourism (who is he going to blame for leaving this unspoilt view?) realising that this is one of our greatest assets as I have of George W. winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
These pictures were actually taken by my colleague who was in Nigeria for the first time and had obviously been hit hard by the situation at ground level. I somehow feel that her seeing this view helped to balance her thinking otherwise all she would have gone back with was stories of the poverty, grime, dirt, mad drivers etc.
This land is my land and one day I will seize it back. Believe.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

In God we trust?

As today is Sunday my thoughts turned to spiritual matters (Iyawo has gone to church. Being Muslim I get to stay at home with the little terrors.Bliss). Having spent a lot of time in Naija over the past nine months it occurs to me that we are seeing the fastest growth in "religious services" that has ever happened in the history of the nation. I have no facts to hand but surely Naija must surely have the largest explosion of churches in the world? Kudos to Redeemed. Obviously doing something right.

So what has led to this? Obviously there are the shamen who see it as a good business opportunity - give me all your salary and I will guarantee you a son, promotion, bigger house, kill your enemies and generally make you a bigger dick than you already are. I cannot tell you the number of Pastors, Brothers, Reverends and other such figures I have met recently. It seems out of date now for people to just want to call themselves Mr so and so. Even Chief and Prince are not as fashionable titles. And good luck to them.

But I also feel strongly that a lot of people, especially in Naija, are realising how really fragile life is. We have always been more aware of this than most other countries due to the incidence of armed robbers, car crashes and now plane crashes but I feel people now realise that there is nowhere else to turn (certainly not to the politicians\government who are meant to protect us).

Let me illustrate. On my trips to Naija I always have the privilege of being collected from the airport by an armed undercover policeman in civilian clothes. Due to arriving at 5 am in the morning these trips are usually uneventful. We make our way to the hotel relatively quickly over third mainland bridge (a view which still brings a lump to my throat- to and fro) . On this particular trip I decided to stop over in Suru Lere to say hello to my folks and so we found ourselves arriving into that area by Muson centre where ten lanes of traffic try to blend into one in rush hour.

The general modus operandi here is to move from lane to lane to get yourself into pole position and get out of there as fast as possible. On this day it just so happened that the lane next to where the danfo drivers were illegally picking up passengers was free so our driver headed down the lane as far as possible until we got blocked in.

Along comes an area youth, one of the danfo boys, who takes offence that we dare to be in "their" lane and starts banging on the bonnet. The escort tells him to stop and he wanders off only to do the same on his way back. He is again told to stop, but continues. The escort winds down the window and asks him again to stop (rather politely) I have to add. Naturally he refuses so the escort gets out of the car at which stage he runs off. We think this is the end of the matter. Wrong.

Before the escort can get back in the car the youth reappears from the rear with a broken bottle which he starts jabbing in the direction of the escort. Seeing no alternative ( and as a last resort, trust me these guys are not keen on pulling arms in public places) the escort pulls out his weapon and cocks it. This time the youth scrambles and the escort starts backing towards the car in order for us to get away. Next thing the youth reappears with about half a dozen area boys all bearing cement blocks and broken bottles. I can feel this getting out of hand. One of them yanks open the driver's door and tries top hit him with a brick. The escort is waving the gun wildly only to see them duck behind danfos and reappear with even more boys. Eventually the driver has no choice than to get out and give chase ( he is a copper as well, but unarmed). So basically I am left in the car by myself whilst both of them chase these lunatics off.

Now for the really great part. The driver has chased off one boy in one direction, the escort has chased off another group in a different direction and then a third group appears behind the car and the following conversation ensues. (Bear in mind that the windows are tinted in the rear so they cannot see me). One area boy to another, "I think we should set it on fire." Other area boy "Maybe we should ". Another area boy "There's too much traffic". First area boy " I still think we should set it alight". This goes on for a good two to three minutes whilst I am sitting there like a lame duck (George Bush thinks he has problems!). To get out is not even an option as the "Oga" would have become the target of their anger and "frustration" (look it's almost midday and we have not caused any trouble ? how can we continue to call ourselves area boys? who is going to respect us if this continues ?)".

Anyway they finally decide that setting fire to the car in broad daylight on a main road with lots of traffic around might not be such a good idea and the sight of the armed escort returning helps them to make up their minds as they scatter in all directions. So we got lucky.

Now I imagine that this situation is not unique to me as I am sure most people go through some form of life threatening scenario at least once a week - building collapsing, fires, okada crashes, rapists, danfo and molues without brakes, lack of medical care etc. Based on this I can see why there is a new found fervour to seek out a higher order. After all who can else and where else can you turn to.

I am not ashamed to say that me myself barged right to the front of the queue to get God's attention during this five-ten minutes of madness. I was like yo I need to speak to God and I need to speak to him now!!! Very Jack Bauer like.

God bless Nigeria.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

I'm in the money!

So we (I) have started doing the numbers. It would appear we will be trading one form of taxation for another form of taxation when we move back to Naija. At the moment I currently pay Income Tax, National Insurance Tax, Car Tax, Road Tax, Council Tax etc. These are the ones that come easily to mind. Oh yes we also have to pay a daily tax to drive into London as well as paying to actually park in London because if we don't we will end up with a parking ticket ( not classified as a tax but might as well be. Have you tried parking in London recently?)

So my intel tells me that I can leave all this behind and escape to Naija where as far as I am aware there is no tax. So immediately I will be holding on to at least 45% to 50% more of my salary. This sounds fantastic and I cannot wait.

To prepare I have done a spreadsheet for myself and Iyawo (after patiently explaining that this does not mean we can afford more guns) to show where our money will be going when we get "on ground". So far I have:

School fees - with four chllin it would appear that a large part of my moolah will be disappearing into the pockets of private school proprietors. I have no issue with this having attended private school myself back in the day (ADRAO). However I do not recall American International\BIS charging $12k per annum (ouch) or a $6k entrance fee. (For that sort of fee I would expect to be entering Beyonce!) or is it just relative?. I am sure it will be worth it (the school, not Beyonce as I am already taken. Obviously) as an investment for their future.

Rent - we will need a serviced flat for at least a year in order to get everyone settled in. The last thing I want is to be carrying jerry can around looking for diesel and water for middle of night. Trust me Iyawo would be back in blighty on the next flight. (She is already demanding a standby ticket so that she can leg it at the earliest opportunity. Whatever happened to for better for worse? She says she can't actually remember uttering those words during the wedding ceremony. Must have been all the champers.)

Support services- house helps and drivers. We will probably need at least two of each. We have decided that we will also get a nanny from abroad for the first year with local help to support whilst the kids pick up the lingo and culture. Don't want to drop them in at the deep end. Ajebutter to aje akara in one go could prove a bit too much.

As far as I can work out that is it. Or is there income tax in Naija and if so how much? Otherwise it appears that I will be living high on the hog as I will have so much spare cash from not paying those UK taxes (making me even more attractive to armed robbers). Or am I missing something?

My Iyawo wants a gun!!

As you now know we are making plans to return to Naija next year (my idea) with the kids. Needless to say this has led to endless debates. There are the good days when we talk about buying a boat and sailing around the many private beaches, all the new cool hangout places that are opening up and being able to have family barbecues without worrying about rain. Ah bless.

But then there are also the not so good days when elder daughter (from now on refereed to as ED) will remind me that her GSCEs are in two years and why take her away from her friends (and the numerous shopping malls) when she will only be returning for her GSCEs and A-levels soon anyway. Hmmm don't you just hate how logical they can be when it suits their purposes.

Middle daughter (MD) is not really bothered. She has age mates that she can play with so all is mostly well in her world.

The youngest two don't have a say in the matter. what I say to them goes - (like Nigerian democracy. No argument).

So now we come to madam. Madam is half Nigerian and grew up in Nigeria so no biggie from an integration point of view. However I do have one concern about madam's shopping list for the move. Furniture. Check. Appliances. Check(maybe two of everything because of NEPA wahala). Generator. Check. Housewares. Check. 9mm pistol. Now wait a minute. She says that this is to ensure that if we are ever attacked by armed robbers (God forbid), that they will know we mean business. Hmmm. How so??

I try to explain that these no - hopers generally tend to travel in relatively large groups and these days come heavily armed (ever wondered how they ended up with Uzis whilst the Nigerian Police still carry their shakabula? Might it have something to do with Tafa having multimillion naira properties all over the globe?) .

My words have fallen on deaf ears so far. She reckons that once she starts firing from inside they will think twice about it. This based on the assumption that we are dealing with intellectuals that actually think? My concern is that they will return even heavier fire and with children inside this is not a win-win scenario.

Also what happens if one day the stress of Lagos life gets too much for Iyawo and she decides to take it out on poor unsuspecting me as I return from the office. My darling, today I had a flat tire, the generator broke down, the housemaid is pregnant by the guard, the neighbours have been blaring music all day, my salary is now three weeks late and I have just had enough. So do you want to know what is for dinner. I'll tell you what's for dinner.............

Discussing this with a friend I am surprised at his support of her idea. He is returning to Naija next year as well and is going for the full American military commando range - sniper rifles, night goggles, bullet proofs, sensor alarms. perimeter sensors etc. It occurs to me very quickly that I am not going to get his support. I have so far managed to keep him and my wife apart in the hope that he will not influence her into more extremism - "honey I've decided against the 9mm. Now what I want is to go and train with the US Navy Seals and come back with an arsenal of weapons. How big do you think a rocket launcher really is?".

I remember the way armed robbers used to be so civilised when I was growing up. A knock on the door, a discussion as to the merits of the homeowner opening the door rather than making them work to break it down, maybe a flash of the newly sharpened cutlass. A short while later, tea was had by all, handshakes all around and they were on their way. Now from the minute I land at the airport all I hear about is gloom and doom. Oga did you hear about Mr so so and so. He was killed last night by armed robbers, they raped his wife, took all his belongings etc etc.

So anyway here is my plan. I intend to find us a house which we will then build a moat around, we will fill this with alligators, the garden will be filled with rabid hungry dogs, the fence will be electrified (by generator obviously. I cannot rely on NEPA for my security), the ground floor of the house will be built totally of steel and finally I will then site a police station on the roof. If this does not put them off then nothing will. All I have to do now is convince Iyawo.

My boys. Our boys? Whose boys?

As a fairly frequent resident of the Eko (not the suites oh. I beg $400-$500 per night for wetin?) I occasionally feel the need to escape the secure surroundings and saunter outside the gates into the big bad world of V.I. Most times I turn left and make my way to the Oceanview restaurant to satisfy my obsession with all things sweet and calorific but other times I turn right to head to the roundabout to satisfy my obsession with all things sensational and unbelievable - Naija newspapers and magazines.

As always I run the gauntlet of the phone card sellers at the gate who believe that my eyesight is failing and as such they must hold, and wave and sometimes actually thrust these brightly coloured delicacies right in my face before I can recognise them for what they are.

I generally ignore them and make my way merrily along oblivious to the carnage around me. I wonder how many okadas end up under 4 x4s in a typical day in Lagos? Surely this area would be a good place to start such a study.

Anyway on one of these journeys I was surprised to see a group of boys sitting with their backs against the wall of the hotel basically having a laugh amongst themselves. One of them was lying prostrate and did not seem at all well. Busybody that I am I called one of the boys over and naturally they all came. What are you doing here, I enquired? It turns out that this is their home\office where they run their windshield cleaning business and also where they live. By the way good people of Lagos (and anywhere else) there is no need to switch on your wipers and spray these kids with water as they approach your car. A wave of the hand and a stern look should suffice. Aba. I gave them each enough money to get through the day plus some extra for their sick friend to go and get some medicine and moved on but the image stuck with me.

Staggering. Think about it. A suite in the Eko, $400, which is usually the preserve of people who are not actually paying for it themselves i.e - politicians (and other criminals), businessmen etc and yet outside the gate homeless children living on N100-200 per day. Am I making too big a deal out of this?Is it just me? I mean I don't see any homeless children outside any of the hotels in US, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Ireland etc that I have visited.

So what can be done? What should be done? I do not recall children sleeping rough in the streets when I was younger. The only beggars then were the people from Chad (who also seem to be returning to our streets with their multitude of children. Hey, if you don't have DSTV you have to entertain yourself somehow). These kids should surely be in school at least to get the rudimentary principles of education? Or is it better for them to be put into a programme where they can learn skills such as auto repair,plumbing, electrical etc. I don't know. Do these programmes even exist? Should the hotel be doing something to help them since they are practically neighbours?

After an encounter like this it is always difficult to return to the sanctity of the hotel with any kind of pleasure.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Na craze dey worry am

I am sure that this is what a lot of people who know me are saying silently as they smile in my face. You see, rather irrationally (to some) I have decided to up sticks from a very nice, comfortable life in the leafy green burbs of Hertfordshire and transport all family members (some kicking, some screaming) back to the motherland. That's right. We're moving to Naija.

I was reading today that every day 1,500 people migrate to the UK and 1,000 people migrate out. I wonder what the numbers would be for Nigeria if there were no tricky visa issues to navigate (would the last one out please turn off the lights)?

Anyways, what has led to this madness? Well. Plain and simply I have always loved Nigeria. Despite thirty years of separation there is no time that I step off the plane at Murtala M. Int. Airport without a smile on my face anticipating that warm welcome from my fellow man (Oga wetin you bring for me now?). Most of the time I have brought nothing but it still brings a smile to my face (if not to theirs).

So you are thinking I can see what they say this one don craze. But please hear me out.

Firstly - Despite what most of the people in the queues at the various embassies might think life abroad is changing - and not for the better. The tolerance once held by many of the developed countries for Naijas\Africans has evaporated. They can't come out bluntly and say - yo nigga, stay on your side of the fence but they can do it in more politically correct ways ( you all know the drill). The "services" we used to provide traditionally are now being taken over by Eastern Europeans.

Secondly - things just ain't the way they used to be. London is no longer the cozy, sedate place that you can chill out in (just ask Alams). It is more frenetic, more fractured, more frictional. The innocence is gone. Diana is dead. The bombers have come again ( I say again only because I was here in the 80's when the IRA set off their bombs in London killing innocent people. Does anyone recall the US\ UK bombing Ireland? But then they are white folks after all and Christian to boot). The cops are now real. Getting your photograph taken with some overweight 19 year old bobby in the good old days does not compare with trying to do the same today with some machine gun toting, sunglass wearing "security agent". Is that a digital camera in your hand sir or an explosive device. With luck they will be asking this before they shoot you.

Thirdly - there's the kids. Four of them to be exact. What are they getting out of being in England? Sex education in nursery school alongside their school meals. A chap came to fix my satellite box last week. (p.s- he is leaving the UK in February for good. He's had enough. He's English. Moving to Australia. For a better life.) Anyway it turns out he picked his 6 year old up from school recently and asked him what he learnt today - as you do. The boy answers that he learnt about condoms and how to use them. The chap nearly drives off the road. What does a 6 year old need to know about condoms he asks me? I have no reply but silently thank God that we will be out of here before my youngest two (ages 4 and 3) can learn. The elder ones go to school and come back. What did you learn today? Oh nothing they reply. Seems like a good use of 6 hours then!

Fourthly - all the kids need a sense of identity. Being mixed race they should get a perspective of both sides. They have enjoyed the oyinbo side and now it is time for them to see the original naija side. They need to mix with their cousins, nieces, nephews, aunties etc. They need to understand where they have ultimately come from. This is not as extreme as it sounds as I have always made sure they visit as often as possible. But as my wife keeps reminding me - there is visiting and then there is ..........

Finally - I strongly believe that Nigeria is on the cusp of a revolution. All you have to do is look around you and you will see it. Let me put it to you this way. A new born baby lacks mobility when it first enters the world, then it learns to crawl, walk and then run. Along the way there is a lot of falling over, bumping into things and general mishaps. This is the state the country is in at the moment. It has just got off its knees from crawling and is preparing to start walking. It is holding on to furniture for support but still it occasionally falls. But trust me one day soon it will find its balance and take its first unsupported steps. and in the not to distant future it will start to run.

I want to be there to witness it. I want my kids to be there to witness it.

So please - craze no dey worry me oh!

Starting Point

So where to start? I have read so many blogs I thought it was high time I joined the game. So much to say, so little time. Nigeria. Nigeria. Nigeria. I arrived back from Lagos last week after another whirlwind business trip. I never cease to be amazed as to how ugliness and beauty can be found within such a short distance of each other.

Perfect example- I was lucky enough to get one of the refurbished rooms at the Eko hotel. (This by the way means that the air conditioning works, there is no sticky carpet and the room does not present you with a roll call of the odours of the past few visitors). Anyway I had also done ajebutter and upgraded myself to a seaside view ( I love the sea, don't know why but am sure will end up with a house on the shore so I can watch undulating waves into my senility). So anyway I went to the room, opened the balcony door and was left open mouth. Wetin I see so?

I was looking at a stretch of Bar Beach that most people have never gotten to see. Not recently anyway. The view of the beach we see is the one where the "work" is going on (water still full ground as of last week oh), the Cele people are in abundance and the area boys are doing a roaring trade in parking. Here, however was the complete opposite. White sands , a few huts\shacks, a little canal and solitary fishermen out doing what they do best. Believe it or not there is a demarcation point. Turn your head one way and you have old BB. Turn a few degrees more and you are in Portugal, Spain, South Africa. Somewhere else. This is my view of Nigeria. The beautiful and the ugly. Just minor degrees of separation.