Sunday, 28 January 2007

Friday
I woke up this morning at 4.30 am as I had to catch the 7am Virgin flight to Lagos. I started off the morning with a prayer at the journey I was about to undertake. No not the flight. The drive from the hotel to the airport in pitch blackness. I was fighting off all the horror stories I had heard about early morning jackings as I made my way to reception. Having phoned earlier to say I was leaving so please get my bill ready I was somewhat disappointed to get to reception to have to repeat same. It was not like there was a queue of people checking out. Fifteen minutes and a search for a pen (there seems to be a general scarcity of pens in Nigerian hotel receptions. Maybe we should start a charity collection?) later I was on my way.

The first mile was pretty grim as I could sense that even the driver was a bit uptight. What with him driving like a bat out of hell and taking corners at speed. But Allah is great and my prayers were about to be answered, because what did I spy up ahead but a bevy of plashing lights with a police escort front and rear. This could only mean one thing. Convoy. And so it was that we quickly joined them flashing lights and all weaving our way to the airport. Now I have seen many convoys in my time and I have even been party to a few but this one was absolutely massive. There must have been a good twenty to twenty five cars in the convoy. Luxury cars oh. At the rear were two Hilux open backed vans that were blocking both lanes to stop any overtaking. Many tried and got the customary finger of warning which I am sure would have been following by a warning shot. Right through the tire or windscreen. I have seen it happen oh.

So we all arrived at the international airport and I waited to see who my benefactor was. But I could not put a name to the face but it must have been a VIP. I could tell by the pot belly (I myself am often mistaken for a VIP but I am sure it is just the way I carry myself).

Smooth check in, takeoff and landing. I mention this because recently Virgin Nigeria has started to er, phuck up, as my cousin would say. On my way to Abuja earlier this week our 1pm flight took off at 1.35. This was hardly surprising as the Pilot or Co Pilot actually walked on to the plane at 1.15. I kid you not.

Before I close the chapter on Abuja two funny stories. As a man about town it is of course imperative that I always look my best. It was with this in mind that I phoned the Hotel guest services to enquire about a barbershop. Yes they had one and I could also get a manicure and pedicure. So off I went. I arrived and was duly seated by the barber who immediately claimed that for sure he had seen me many times before. Was I not a regular at the gym next door (my physique always makes people ask me this question :->). No I replied. Oga, you get broda? Coz this man na like ya double”. No I do not have a brother. What is the man’s name sef? Chidi, one Ibo man like this. Again, I don’t know what it is but people always assume I am Ibo. Every single time.

Anyway after we had established that I was in no way related to Chidi, Charles, Francis, Monday or Celestine or anybody else he knew, the show began. At times like this my mind tends to drift whilst the work is done and so it was that I was wondering how much longer Halle Berry was going to waste time with that yeye Oyinbo man to punish me when I found two fingers jammed in my nostrils and my head jerked back. A second later there were callipers in my nostrils!!! As in this bobo was barbing my nose hairs. Before I could even come to my senses to ask wth??? He was finished. “What is that one now?” I asked him. “Oh did you not want your nose shaved?” “Err no. I came in for a hair cut. Oga but it is all part of the service now. No be say I go charge you extra”. Hmm. Aren’t I the lucky one. He then has the audacity to ask me if I want to have a shave to which I bluntly reply. Hell no.

To finish off the job he then asks if I would like a warm towel for my head after the cut. This sounds rather nice so I agree. I then watch him as he goes to the sink with a towel (it is clean, which is a good sign). He turns on the tap and I see that the water is boiling hot. He then soaks the towel and he squeezes out excess water. He then starts coming towards me juggling the towel from one hand to the next being as it is so frigging hot. Naturally he then attempts to slap this on my newly shaved head. Needless to say I hurriedly made my excuses and left. Oloshi.

So last night I went to the Hilton for dinner with a Client. After dinner I was wondering through the lobby when I saw a small suitcase for sale. As I have been trying to get something light for my Lagos-Abuja shuttles I decided to ask the price. The chap came over when he saw me staring at it and I asked him the price. He then said that actually it was part of a set that also included a briefcase. Okay. I could also do with a new briefcase. "Oya, how much?". Looking me straight in the eye he replied "Oga, it is only N500,000." You read right. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND NAIRA FOR A SMALL SUITCASE AND BRIEFCASE. I think he himself was then embarrassed as he stared at the floor, the ceiling, over my shoulder and every where else but my wide open mouth in which any minute now mosquitoes would start landing. "But Oga why are you looking at me like that now? After all this is nothing for a big boy like you?" Two thousand pounds? Almost Four thousand dollars for a suitcase and a briefcase?. Big boy ko. didirin ni. The sad part is that I am sure that by next next trip some local government official of some state where they neither have roads, electricity or running water would have picked it up. So is life in Naija. On to Lagos

I have arrived back in my hotel in VI and need a car hire. All the cars are booked. However a driver I used on my last trip has seen me arrive and corners me in reception. He greets me. Asks about my health, my family, my trip, my well being, my liver, my colon and every other thing he could think of. He then wishes me happy new year like four thousand times. I still refuse to take the hint. Finally he gets the hint and pushes off. I have only been back an hour.

Saturday.
Today my cousin is getting married. I understand that the reception venue is going to be in close proximity to the PDP Lagos convention where the new, and very reluctant President select, is going to be unveiled to his many (paid in advance) fans. This will invariably lead to the area boys crashing the area and the other area boys in uniform i.e. the Police cracking some skulls. All in all it should be a great ceremony. The wedding that is. If only I had a camera.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Time and Tide.

Time and Tide
Being in Lagos is like being fed hallucinogens to induce a psychotic episode and then being pushed into a small nightclub, with one hundred thousand people in a space meant for one thousand, with loud techno music blaring at a pain inducing volume and five hundred disco lights. And no air conditioning. Imagine a Saturday night out in Brighton and you get the picture.


The only difference being that in Brighton at some point approaching daybreak somebody will open a door and you will either leave of your own accord or you will be physically ejected. You will then stumble or crawl home and have Sunday to recover in order to carry on a charade of sanity and probity when you show up for work on Monday. In Lagos there is no door. Or sanity. So I leg it to Abuja.


But before I can get out the madness continues. The old boy taxi driver is listening to a conversation I am having with my colleague and we are talking about the tragic fuel dump fire last year. This conversation started when as we were driving down Bar Beach I saw a youth with a full jerry can of petrol between his legs which he was motioning for drivers to come and buy to save them the hassle of all day queuing. I was remarking say is it not rather odd for this chap to be straddling a full gallon of petrol on a very hot day whilst banging a tin cup on the lid in order to attract customers! I mean I know that sense is no longer common these days but still….
Anyway the old boy then pipes up to say "Oga you would not believe what my eyes saw when I went to the scene that day oh". Both my colleague and I then asked him say "wetin carry you go there, poke nose or wetin?" I just want to go see for myself and the thing wey I see that day. Hhmm. Human being just roasted beyond recognition. Even sef I see one mama and her pickin burnt together". And then the killer tag line. "I tell you Oga I could not eat meat for a whole three days.!!!" Oro buruke pelerin. Bad talk but with laughter. Three whole days!! We self are now looking at him like oboy you really tried oh and he is so proud of himself. Yeye man.


Arriving in Abuja from Lagos is like stepping from behind the gates of a prison after serving a long stretch into the arms of a loved one or even your wife (Iyawo will kill me when she reads that one). There is something about the place that between landing at the airport and arriving at your hotel thirty to forty five minutes later just eases away all your anxieties. That is until you get to the hotel and have to interact with the chaff (not a misspelling. Think wheat and then … you get the picture).


I tried to book into the Nicon Hilton over the phone before leaving Lagos and was told It would cost me ninety thousand naira per night. I am not even going to try and put that into perspective except to say that that is just under $700 by my estimation. For one night. The lady sounded disappointed when I said no thanks. "Oga but why now? This is the cheapest room we have left". Oya, keep it now. Maybe you can get one of the Lagos Big Boys to book it for a year. Cheapest my £%%^. How can you even use that word when charging $700 per night?


On to option number two. The Sheraton. From whence I am sending this missive, costing less than half the Nicon price but still offering me 70s d├ęcor, fan "air conditioning", a saggy mattress and excellent views of the Ladi Kwali (???) convention centre. Oh please bear in mind this is in one of their newly refurbished rooms which basically boils down to - we removed the skanky carpet and replaced it with one cheap laminate floor. Now we are just like a first class hotel in New York. Abi Oga what do you say?. Yesterday I phoned to complain that my room smelled of piss and a couple of hours later somebody knocked on my door to ask me if there was a problem!
Oh well, never mind. It is my own fault. If I no like am I for siddon for Oyinbo man land dey enjoy de creature comforts with all the other creatures. Abi no be so.


Off to dinner. We are just about to leave when my friend reveals that the restaurant we are going to was robbed recently. Armed robbers came in through the kitchen and cleared the Client’s of all valuables. In Abuja. Where there is an armoured tank carrier on every corner. Hmm. Anyway we decide it is best that we eject all non arm robbable items from our beings for safety. We then proceeded to have a raucous lovely meal which as usual was dominated by stories of the woes of life in Naija.


There’s the one about my friend’s posh flat. If you look at it from the outside it could be in any metropolis in the world and you would not say it was out of place. On the inside however, well another story. Leak after leak, air conditioner breakdowns, electrical fault (i.e. standing in the shower, switching on the tap only to get a very nasty shock because the plumbers that fixed the boiler connected the electricals back incorrectly. Standing in a pool of water is not a good time to find this out by the way).


Then there are stories about hiring cooks who can’t you know, cook. And my favourite about the cleaner who asked after the interview where the washing machine was. "Washing machine fun kini? For what?" He was asked. "For washing" he replied. "No. We actually meant washing, as in using your hands to wash". "Hands ke, he replied. Look at my fingers. Washing is not good for them oh. That will not be possible". And so it goes.


On the way out and back we drive by a property that can only be described as super palatial. I enquire as to if it is a block of flats but no it is a family dwelling. And who might the family be I wonder. You see I just never realised that there was so much money in sugar and cement. All those years ago if I had told my parents that I wanted to sell sugar and cement they would have immediately called a "family" meeting where all the women would be crying silently into their head ties and looking at my mother with pity and shaking their heads whilst the men would be looking at me like something from under their shoes whilst consoling her about her misfortune for ending up with such a son. After all from the outside it looked like she had done everything right. Pele jo. Adura ni ogba. (Sorry oh. Only prayer will cure it).


Today after my meetings it was off to lunch. I had suggested that we meet at the British Council building which is a very nice open roof top terrace (p.s the British High Commissioner’s house is no laughing matter either oh. The building takes up a whole hill. Must be seen to be believed). So anyway I was just there waiting for my lunch partner wounding a bottle of water (I am a muslim now. Aba what is your own?) when I got a call to say there is a change of venue we are now going for Ofada rice. I am new to the Ofada rice thing but it is like a local rice. Think of Uncle Benz then think of the opposite end of the spectrum. Anyway, is it not food? So off we go. We arrive at the place and I tell you something. People are making money in this country oh. Don’t believe all these lies you see on CNN. Here I was thinking we were heading for one mama put joint only to arrive in this big house with a huge sign saying Ofada House or something along those lines. A whole house built on selling Ofada rice. Man the food was good sha. It was one of those places where even though the AC was actually working and was on full blast we were all sweating, blowing our noses and soaking our shirts from the pepper in the food whilst asking for just a little bit more.


I am even thinking of going back there tonight but I don’t want them to be looking at me like this one likes his food oh. Waki and die. So I will go to the Chinese instead. No one knows me there.


To conclude another observation. How much money does the UN have? Today alone I cannot tell you the number of brand new Jeeps, Mercs and other assorted luxury vehicles that I have seen driving around this city with the UN badge. Is this not a bit much for a humanitarian organisation? IMHO.


Peeps tomorrow it’s back to Lagos. There’s only so much of this quietness, smooth streets, brand new taxis,huge mansions and no horns that a Lagos boy can take. This place is too sane for me to cope with.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Killing me softly.

So here I am in sunny Lagos. As ever there is the usual mix of excitement and trepidation. Having arrived on a Saturday there was no drama at the airport but the usual drama at the hotel. Here is what happens. My company books in advance. They confirm. I arrive. They look at me like "yes what do you want? Why are you standing in the front of our desk with luggage like say you want check in? Your room never ready. Oya Yakubu, Oga has arrived oh. Go and tell that woman for Room 210 say the person wey get the room don arrive so she have to vacation immediately. Oga please do you care for coffee while you wait?" By the time I have had coffee, tea, biscuit, amala and efo and just about to move on to suya the room will finally be ready. No point asking why it cannot be ready before I actually arrive. That would be logical. Not the kind of currency you can spend in Naija.

So the last two times I have stayed here there has been no hot water in the morning for my showers. Each morning I wake up jump in the shower only to jump out 2 minutes later to finish bathing myself oyinbo style - wet towel wipedown. So for this booking I send then email say if no hot water then no money. Full and final. No discussion. So this morning I am already calculating the credit they will have to put on my credit card when I switch on the shower only to start singing like Mariah Carey. I turn tap left, na boiling hot water. I turn am right. Na scalding hot water. So hot even my clothes wey dey hang for cupboard no need ironing again. Men. These people. So I come to figure out that if I stand for the other end of the bath just dey let the steam stroke my body I can still be fully cleaned and leave with some skin still left on my body. I am tempted to complain but I already know what their response will be. Oga, no be you send he-mail say you want hot water for baff? Wharrehell?

My regular mode of transport is car hire taxis. Normally this is a Camry. But over my last two trips the Camry boys have been acting up and have been kicked to the curb(pardon the pun) by the hotel. So this morning I found myself in a Mercedes. Let me clarify. It had a Mercedes badge on the back, I am sure it had a Mercedes engine and I am sure under close examination Mercedes themselves will admit they made a car that resembled it back in 1970 but other than that it was a kabu kabu. Now call me Ajebutter oh, I don't mind, but I must have AC in Naija and this car had something. It wasn't exactly AC but let's call it AA. Now this thing had the dial you use to set the temperature but I soon got to understand that I could either be hot or cold. No in between. Ok. Pneumonia it is. Off we go.

I am sitting in the front as I always do ( u don see mumu abi). Siddon for back make robbers come think say na one oga pata pata. Na lie oh. Once I knack my glasses me sef I am like security guard for front. Come and try your luck. So I entered the front of the car and tried to move the sit back. I then learned that you can either move the seat back and actually be sitting further back than the people in the back seat or you can leave it where it is and kiss the windscreen every time an okada crosses. I chose the home boy option. So now they are very big on people wearing seat belts in Lagos for safety reasons. And a lot of people in Lagos do wear their seatbelts for safety reasons. The safety of their wallet. Because once the boys in Purple, Blue, Orange , Beige or Green nab you (Lagos has more traffic uniforms than any other city I have been in) , you can speak all the grammatical that your papa sent you to Jand for however you must still pay anything from N3k to N12k. On this basis I decided to use my seat belt. See I should have known when I saw the first plume of dust coming from the hole where the seatbelt is pulled from. But I was not paying attention so that is how I now ended up with a stripe down the front of my suit and shirt from all the dust accumulated there when I strapped myself in. You live you learn. Next time I will sit in the back and take my chances with the armed robbers.

So meetings here and there, igba , awo, the driver then tellls me that Oga he has to go and buy petrol. I say petrol? I have seen the queues. When will you be back. He says tomorrow. Hmm let's take some time to think about this. You picked me up from VI. We are now in Suru- Lere. You want to go to VI to buy petrol. How the hell do you think I will get back to my hotel? Oga in that case I suggest we better go. Oya.Oya. Quick. Quick. In the car he then tells me he had a full tank this morning oh. Hard to believe as we had only been in VI for a couple of hours and two places in Suru-Lere. He then says and oh by the way we cannot use AC otherwise I will have to end up pushing the car. Emi ke? I beg wind down all the windows jare. Even open the doors sef.

As we are entering VI he then says Oga the thing don enter red oh and then he starts to cut up everybody on the road even outrunning the currency transfer mobile police with their blasting sirens and armed escorts (any minute I was expecting the bullets or the kobo kobo to start flying).

Anyway we made it to the hotel safely and he has now gone off to get fuel. I get to the hotel room and something just doesn't feel quite right. It then dawn on me that my mouth tastes like a sewer ( I imagine) and my breathing is rather laboured. I am therefore reduced to drinking gallons of water (actually small bottles of water. At N300 for the small bottles I am damn sure I cannot afford the gallon) to clear my mouth and throat and then lying down for a rest.

It then occurs to me that you often read in the papers about some poor sod dropping dead suddenly and wonder why. Now I know.

Btw- we are off again at 9 am tomorrow. Your prayers are most welcome.

Blogger in Lagos

Will keep a diary and try and post as much as possible whenever I can.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

What is happening to Islam (the one I know and love)?


I am a Muslim. Born a Muslim. Die a Muslim. Lately however I have started to wonder what that actually means. Let me say this. In all my years of living in Nigeria and living in the US not once did I come across anything that related Islam to the current world view. From birth I was brought up to understand the pillars of Islam and to try my best regardless of anything else to be a good human being. I was surrounded by examples of what I would call great human beings in the form of my immediate family. The mantra was always to be humble, do good to your fellow man and bow before Allah.


It has therefore come as shock to the system to see this very understanding rocked to its foundations. It started some years ago when I had lived in London for a while and I was a bit perplexed that I did not have an opportunity to meet and bond with my Muslim brothers and sisters as much as I would have liked. All the mosques I attended were run by Muslims from other parts of the world and their preachings were always in their local lingo hence I was not getting the message (pardon the pun).


In desperation I once made a journey to Shepherds Bush to attend a meeting of the Nation of Islam as at least the preaching would be in English. Again I struggled to equate the militariness of the meeting (people in various uniforms designating various levels of importance etc) and preaching to my understanding of Islam and therefore decided to make my visit a one off. I was used to going to mosques in Lagos where all men are equal (I mean this in general terms not as a slight to female Muslims). The chap praying next to me could be the Governor or a taxi driver. As we stood before Allah to say our prayers we were equal. So I could not grasp the need for some to be more equal than others.


My first wake up call was when I heard that a fatwa had been issued against Salman Rushdie for writing a book called The Satanic Verses. Pardon my ignorance but I did not even know what a fatwa was! It took calls back home to the folks to get the meaning. Since when did my beautiful religion start supporting this type of thing?


My next wake up call was Sept. 11th. Like a lot of folks I was watching it on TV without thinking there was any religious aspect or motive so you can imagine my shock when all of sudden it now turns out that this atrocity had been committed by Muslims.


You should have seen and heard the amount of abuse that was hurled at these perpetrators by my family for bringing our religion into disrepute. Since then it has been one calamity after another. Sharia law in Nigeria. Floggings and beheadings galore. Shiite and Sunni fighting in Iraq. The London bombers. All these things just do not appear in any form in all the teachings and preaching I had growing up, (or did I get the edited version?) and I can assure you I grew up in a very religious household).


So a couple of days ago I was watching a programme on Channel 4 called Undercover Mosque or something along those lines. The premise was that an undercover reporter had infiltrated a mosque somewhere in the UK and had obtained footage showing the preachers spouting all sorts of vile and really incendiary stuff. They even had a weblink to some crackpot in Pakistan who offered teachings like killing all non believers etc. I could only watch 10 minutes before I switched it off. I am not one of those people that belives that only Muslims will get into heaven. I believe all good people will get into heaven (another blog, another day).

What is going on here? Is the Islam that I know and love being hijacked? Is it being destroyed, corrupted? Where have these fanatics or "fantasists" all of a sudden appeared from? Why are they preaching hate when I know that Islam is about love and compassion and understanding? Are the moderate Muslim majority standing by quietly on the sidelines? Is it the Christian west that is pushing this negative briefing and agenda against Islam and Muslims? Is it the Jewish people? Have the inamtes taken over the asylum? If so why? Is there an ulterior motive?


For example I wonder why when I was almost blown up by the IRA in Central London years ago the US and UK did not go in there all guns blazing and bomb Ireland to bits? After all the attack took place on British soil. Innocent Brits were killed so why the different reaction? Why is Islam getting such negative press at the moment? Islam is widely accepted as having contributed to the development of civilisation. Why is it now being viewed as hell bent on contirbuting greatly to the end of civilisation?


I would really like to hear from other Muslims (especially, however my forum is open to all comers) about their experiences and thoughts on this matter.

I am Troubled.

I am troubled
And I can’t sleep
I am troubled by the news
That two more have hanged
One decapitated by the hanging
Hanged because they were barbarians
Committed atrocities.
And this makes it alright?
Show me the logic
I am troubled.

I am troubled
That more troops are on the way
This can only mean one thing
Its clean up time
This can only mean one thing
Many more will die
Anything that stands in the way
Of the final assault
Will be laid to waste
The war can not be lost
I am troubled.

I am troubled
That even in the very place that I call home
We still cannot reach consensus
On the outcome of the census
Troubled that we spend so much time
Debating, hating, frustrating
Who cares if it is 140 or 200m?
Only those for whom those numbers
Translate into political and financial gain
Never mind the daily welfare
Of how ever many there are
I am troubled.

I am troubled
That I am about to uproot my loved ones
From their solid foundations
To a place where the truth changes
Depending on who is telling it
To a country seemingly built
On loose foundations
Moral, financial, spiritual
Where solid forms dissolve into shadows
At the merest inspection
I am troubled.

I am troubled
That I am looking at my home
With rose tinted glasses
That will be soon shatter
As soon as we are on ground
And that one day
My kids will turn to me
Eyes red with rage and sorrow
And ask the dreaded question
Why did you bring us here?
I am troubled.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Amazon don come with their wahala oh.

So I am sitting at the computer minding my own business when I get indication that a new mail has arrived. I go to check and it is a mailer from Amazon and this is what it says :

Amazon.co.uk has new recommendations for you based on items you purchased or told us you own. And what was this recommendation? Calculus for geniuses? An Idiot's guide to women?How to stretch your love life to three minutes? Moving back to Nigeria? You must be loco. Nooo. Instead they recommend for me (omo tatanbulu. omo oba. omo nla gidi gidi):

Belle De Jour: Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl.

What the hell? Who tell them say I dey interested in this kind of stuff? What items have I purchsed from them to give them this inkling into my taste. If Iyawo sees this now she will be looking at me out of the corner of her eye, smiling that smile of hers and checking my credit card bills the minute I leave house. Again.

The last thing I bought from Amazon about three years ago was Rich Dad, Poor Dad if I remember correctly. Maybe they think say that now I don get money it is time to start spending. Abi what again? And how they hell do they know what I own? I have not told them I own anything unless of course they have webcam for my house.

This one pass me oh. A person cannot even sit down jeje for house without persecution and harassment. I was almost tempted to put down my Maxin magazine and turn off Girls of the Playboy Mansion on the TV to give them a ring to find out what they are trying to imply.

On a serious note all this info gathering by these companies is really scary. Sure they will tell you there is nothing sinister about it all but I have my suspicions. It seems that every single second of our lives is now tracked by somebody, somewhere for their own purposes. How does that make you feel?

As for Amazon, you are wasting your time oh. I don already get signed copy of the book. From the author.:-> So there.

Premonitions.


Ever since I was young I have had this weird sixth sense. I just have this strange feel for things. For example immediately I walked into every house that we have lived in I could tell it was the right one straight away. I also have situations where as I am doing or saying something it is like I am playing back a tape because I have already said and done the same thing before in my mind\head. Sometimes it can be quite spooky.


It is also the same with people. I can meet someone and almost immediately I can tell if we are going to gel or not. Like I have some sort of radar. There are so many places that I have been where I feel that I've been there before. It is all very strange and can also be disconcerting.


Iyawo and I were talking to my sister recently (yes she is still alive) and she casually mentioned that the first time I saw Iyawo on TV I told her that this was the girl I was going to marry. Is that scary or what? I mean this was at least 10 years before I even met her. (I also seem to vaguely recall that she would be extremely rich therefore allowing me to sit on my ass all day and watch football but alas this part has not yet come to pass).


What has led to this is that I have just come back from seeing "The last king of Scotland" about Idi Amin (great film by the way) and one of the things he always said was that he knew exactly how and when he was going to die (this was never proved). I have not got to that stage yet , thank God, but I wonder if others also share this "vibe" and have the sixth sense?


Monday, 8 January 2007

This house is not big enough...


Despite various mishaps, accidents and other "occurrences" it would be fair to say that I had a charmed life growing up. I was the Prince of my own Castle, the Lord of the Manor, the Boy in the Hood. Until that is one day, when I was five years old, I heard a strange noise coming from my mother's room. It sounded like something I might have overheard on TV. It was a high piercing wail. It was the sound of a baby crying. I ventured into the room and was confronted by a wrinkled thing wrapped up in a blanked being cradled by my mother. She was singing to this alien and it was quite obvious that the alien was enjoying the attention. Hmm. This was not good oh. This was my territory. What was going on here. Yea sure mum had told me she was going into hospital to have another baby but I had never expected her to bring it home. After all she already had me. Aha, what is this? From that day the die was cast. I had to get rid of the competition.


However, the plan could not be implemented as quickly as expected as the "intruder" was never alone for more than a few minutes before my mother, aunt, relative, grannies etc were holding and hugging and kissing and stroking her. These traitors. Not too long ago they were telling me I was the light of their life. Now look at them. They barely even greeted me before rushing over to coo over "it". Okay. no problem. Wait and see sha.


I was patient. I waited. Coiled like a cobra ever ready to strike given the right opportunity. I knew my time would come. And so it was that we moved into our new place in Bode Thomas and my dad kitted it out with all the latest electrics and electronics. Due to my "inquisitive" (poke nose, amebo) nature I discovered that the new fridge that was delivered had a slight fault. If you touched the button that switched the light on and off when the door was opened\closed you would get an almighty shock. I know this for a fact because I carried out extensive tests on it.


By this time I was ten and my sister five and it would appear that her appeal was wearing off as she was sometimes left to wander around the house unescorted. Having tried and failed to trip her down the stairs, drown her in the bath, leave the front gate open and encouraging her to wander off, closed the balcony door on her head "accidentally" and other minor methods I decided there was only one thing left. Homegirl had to be refrigerated. This of course had to be carefully planned to ensure that I was absolved of any involvement. So in my cunning, devious mind I created a game for us to play. For argument's sake let's call it "push the button". This is how it worked. Whenever my sister was upstairs with me unescorted I would head over to the fridge and push the button then throw myself to the floor, laughing hysterically as to how much fun I was having.


After several weeks of this (I tell you that girl sef is cruel, why did she not catch on sooner. If I was not careful I could have ended up frying myself), she finally started to show real interest in having as much fun as I was. Then came the fateful afternoon. I could see her studying the fridge and knew exactly what was coming. So I sauntered over, after a quick recon to ensure a lack of adult interference, and got myself a coke from the fridge and just happened to leave the door slightly open ( just in case she did not have enough strength to open it herself. Considerate or what? Please save you praise till later oh). I then dashed into my room, grabbed a comic, switched the TV on as loud as possible and waited.


Sure enough within one minute all hell broke loose. The silly girl had not only pushed the button , she had held on to it so long she had got a good dose of shocking. Tina Turner sef for run if to say she saw the girl's hair that day. He he. The only problem was that she was now screaming the house down and every adult within a 50 mile radius was descending on the fridge area. "What happened? What happened?" They were all yelling at her. It took her a good 15 minutes to be able to tell them that the fridge had shocked her ( I am convinced she was just soaking up the attention). There was much sympathy for her ordeal and I also showed extreme compassion for the sorry fate that had befallen my dearest sister as my mother watched me closely with that her fish eye like "hmm I know I cannot prove anything at this moment but I am sure you are somehow involved". Naturally I avoided her gaze, whilst trying not to wet myself with laughter.


After a while I decided to extricate myself from the mob and was just about to enter my room when I heard the five words that would change my perspective on life as well as the colour of my bottom "Toks made me do it". "Ah ha" my mother was over like a flash and this time there was no avoiding the fish eye as it was only about two inches away from mine. I, of course denied all knowledge and explained that I might have accidentally left the fridge door open. As to how the stupid girl came to play with that dangerous button, God only knows. Allah help us. Jesus in his Infinite mercy give her common sense Etc., Etc. This one no wash like Omo with mother as I was regaled with forward slap and backslap and even some slaps that have yet to be named.


I was seething. I mean what the heck. This trouble maker getting me whipped as if I was not doing a good job of that myself already. I could see from her face she was really enjoying my downfall because now her crying was mixed with laughter, but trust me I got my own back. This was how she came to play a new game I invented called "stick this knife in the electric socket but make sure I am out of the house first". Who did she think she was messing with? Nonsense.

In the land of the blind....

I am seven years old. We are now living in a place in called Morenu /Close (??) in Suru-Lere just off the back of Adeniran Ogunsanya. It is a nice house, in a nice close. We have a huge garden, which was unusual, and I used to ride my bike around the garden. Like most kids, having conquered riding on flat ground, I began to set myself tougher challenges. So I would lay planks on tree stumps to use as ramps, create sharp bends and turns out of gorodoms (oil drums) and dig up holes to make my riding more exciting. So it was this day that I set off on one of my obstacle courses, hit my latest ramp (which was elevated a few degrees everytime I had mastered the previous one) and flew straight into a tree. A branch penetrated my eye, drama kicked off in the house. I was initially rushed to Randle Hospital but was then transferred to the Specialist Eye Hospital in Lagos due to the severity of the injury.

It was very scary being away from home at seven. This was my first time without my parents and they without me. Although the nurses were brilliant it was still a scary time. What made it even more scary was the fact that this was during the war and my ward was filled with other children who had not had the luxury of being injured in their back gardens but had been struck by shrapnel, debris etc. Now imagine a room full of children, there were about 20 of us in this ward, most of them totally blind, and me with my one good eye.

It did not take long for the order to be established. I became the leader and would have to explain what was happening to them, in detail, tell them what was on telly, what the nurses were up to, who had visitors, what they were wearing etc. Sometimes when it was dark, either through NEPA or through the need to turn all the lights off for security I would lead them all out, in conga fashion, one clinging to the other, on to the verandah and discuss in detail what I could see through the gloom. We were too scared to sit in the dark doing nothing. It is quite "amusing" thinking about it now. Blind, but scared to be in the dark.

We would sometimes hear the military planes roar past overhead and we would make up stories as to where they were going and what they were going to do. It was never anything evil ( in our own little innocent world). We made up all sorts of stories which we would take turns telling to keep ourselves amused and our spirits up (especially if one of the group was released to go home). We were Pirates, we were Cowboys, we were Soldiers, we were Princes. All in all it was a wonderful month with me and my merry band of blind boys (and girls who sometimes joined us from their ward) and I was very sorry to leave them behind when I was finally released.

I sometimes wonder what ever happened to all those children, some for whom the regaining of their sights was not, and would never be, an option.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Look ma. I'm in the Diaspora now!

I have been away from Nigeria for 30years. Now before you automatically file me away as a geriatric ( I no get pipe, rocking chair or slippers oh). Hmm except the slippers wey the children give me for XMAS. Wait a minute, are they trying to tell me something? Me. Emi omo olowonla ti shilekun fole? (Me the son of a rich man that opens his doors for robbers?) Wait till they get back from school. Bear in mind I left at a very young age. In all these thirty years I have been convinced that I was living abroad and, at a push, overseas.

It now turns out however that I have actually been living in the diaspora. This sounds like a very lovely place, with fauna and flora, nubile virgins, blue skies and a certain je ne c'est quois. The sort of place where you can tiptoe through the tulips stopping every so often to smell rose, her friends chantel, angel, tiffany and any other delicacies that take your fancy. So why the hell have I not been invited? All this time I have been "abroad" studying and working my ass off, sitting in dull offices, with dull people, doing dull things to pay off dull bills when I could have been in the diaspora with nubile virgins with understanding ways. I am so mad.

Diaspora. What a lovely word. I can just picture myself in Paris whispering it into the ear of an innocent victim "would mademoiselle like to come back with me to the diaspora?". Bet she wouldn't say no. Now, let me be clear on this. I am well educated. My parents have ensured that I attended the best schools and got the best education. I have two degrees, I have edited magazines, I have worked in the newsroom of my local NBC station as an intern. So why in the hell have I never come across this word. Soliloquy. Yes. Ergo. Yes. Ipso facto. Yes. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Yes. Diaspora. Hell no. It has just passed me by. Other people have been enjoying it at their dinner parties whilst I have been "abroad".

Public service Announcement - I would hereby like to thank the Nigerian Govt. of OBJ for bringing it to my attention that my sorry ass has been abroad for 30 years when I could have been in the diaspora. If they achieve nothing else before the end of their term, I will forever hold them to my bosom for enlightening me. Taking me out of the darkness of life abroad and into the shiny bright Hollywood lights of the Diaspora. (ps - no I am not going to repatriate (another lovely word) any money home to help fill in the huge cracks left by the lack of social services. I beg leave me alone to enjoy my diaspora).

So that's one thing off my mind (hey you. where you dey go? I never finish. Tory just begin). Over the past nine months my company has very kindly sent me to Nigeria every month to do various business things which I will not bore you with. This is the most sustained amount of visits to Nigeria I have made since I originally left. It has been wonderful, exciting, eye opening, stressful etc. All the emotions that you would equate to being in Naija. It has also meant spending a lot of time with my people (Naijas). However story don get K leg oh. I don't know what it is but all of sudden I have rediscovered my long lost and buried "H"s.

As a Yoruba boy with my conk English accent I thought that the "H" was lost and gone forever but hmm it has begun to pop out of my mouth with alarming regularity oh. Picture this. We are about to go into a meeting in our HQ. There is a group of us and as we are entering the room when your boy utters the following three words. "Hon the light" Time stood still. As did my co-workers. Some of them were looking at me as if I was wearing wrapper , carrying spear and using chewing stick to brush teeth( I wasn't. I save that sort of thing for Fridays - dress down day).

Since then oh I have been firing my bullets in all directions. "Fry me some heggs" etc. On XMAS day, with video camera running (evidence for Iyawo to bring up in court. "So madam, when you cite unreasonable behaviour is the reason for the divorce, whatever do you mean?") I uttered the following "Hopen your presents". The children then start to look at me say as if I siddon there naked and they can see my roots for the first time thinking (this yeye man who has been pretending to be sophisticated, meanwhile he is just a conk Yoruba man. Ode! )

God help me. You learn something new only to rediscover something old.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Tagged. A man's gotta do...

FOUR JOBS YOU'VE HAD IN YOUR LIFE
1.Bus boy in freshman year at college (in typical Naija fashion I quickly worked my way up to dishwasher, salads and finally front of house cook (there are still people in Nashville who will never recover from the steaks I cooked for them - no not poison, spicyyyyy)
2. Waterbed salesman -a legal way to get women to lie down and undulate for you (having been cautioned about you know the other way)
3. Kitchen salesman - had a great intro to the company as they sent us off to the deep Yorkshire dales for our induction course. Quickly found out that Naija man and deep Yorkshire dales is not a good combination. Don't think the locals were too impressed either.
4. Copier salesman - covering the East end of London. Wandered into a shop where the owner's copier had not worked for months. He was not happy about it and neither was his rottweiler (as a matter of fact got the distinct impression the dog was more unhappy about it than the owner. Something in its eyes.)

FOUR JOBS YOU WISH YOU HAD
1.President of Nigeria. - Six months to clear out all the old fogeys and cronies and then spend time polishing up the country to shine like the diamond it truly is.
2. Musician - tons of money and loads of loose women.
3. Footballer -see above
4. No job- i.e Independently wealthy with access to tons of money and loads of loose women

FOUR MOVIES YOU COULD WATCH OVER AND OVER AGAIN
1. Once upon a time in America - absolute classic
2. Crash - fantastic script and acting
3. Any Quentin Tarantino stuff - writing is out of this world
4. Samurai Dog - quirky indie with Forrest Whitaker


FOUR CITIES YOU'VE LIVED IN
1.Lagos (Nigeria)
2. Cincinnati , Ohio
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. London

FOUR TV SHOWS YOU LOVE TO WATCH
1. Rescue Me - absolute filth but yet so true to life
2. King of Queens - hard working man, nagging wife - you get the picture
3. The Premiership or anything football related (Chelsea rules ok?)
4. Fox news - For the comedy value. I find it so biased and untruthful with all their plastic reporters with their shiny teeth.

FOUR PLACES YOU'VE BEEN ON VACATION/TRAVELLED TO
I've travelled to lots of places but here's a list of four
1. Las Vegas ( or Silicon valley as I like to call it)
2.Orlando, Florida.
3. Algarve, Portugal
4. Paris , France

FOUR WEBSITES YOU VISIT DAILY
1.Nigeriaworld.com
2. Various blogs
3. Various football related sites
4. Various non football related sites

FOUR OF YOUR FAVORITE FOODS
1.Thai chicken red curry
2. Dodo
3. Soft white bread and eggs
4. Other healthy non fat foods as above

FOUR THINGS YOU WON'T EAT
1. hmmm. I'm still thinking

FOUR THINGS YOU WISH YOU COULD EAT OR DRINK RIGHT NOW
1. Chapman
2. Goat pepper soup
3. Dodo
4. Cant disclose for legal reasons

FOUR THINGS IN YOUR BEDROOM
1. Big ass TV (Iyawo really likes that.Not)
2. Various Korans and Bibles (hedging our bets)
3. A small proportion of my shoe collection
4. Sky TV box

FOUR THINGS YOU WISH YOU HAD IN YOUR BEDROOM
1. Dallas cowboys Cheerleaders - (no i no dey do longthroat)
2. Pamela Anderson and Halle Berry (the poor things have been badly hurt by the men they love and need comforting)
3. Girls of the Playboy Mansion
4. Stamina - for all the above

FOUR THINGS YOU ARE WEARING RIGHT NOW
1. Glasses- all that research on the internet comes at a price it seems
2. Clothes
3. Scruffy hair (semi annual trip to the barber required)
4. My skin - in which I am most comfortable

ONE PLACE I'D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW
1. Playboy Mansion- all those poor girls stuck all alone in that huge mansion with just Hugh for company. They look like they need comforting.

ONE FICTIONAL PLACE I'D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW
see above

FOUR PEOPLE YOU’D REALLY LOVE TO HAVE DINNER WITH
1. Hugh Hefner
2. Richard Branson
3. Nelson Mandela
4. My grandmothers - I miss them both greatly


FOUR THINGS YOU ARE THINKING RIGHT NOW
1. Iyawo believes I am currently hard at work ensuring that the bills will be paid at the end of this month
2. My bosses believe that I am currently hard at work ensuring that our Clients will buy stuff (I know. I know. Internet access and work? Go figure!.)
3. I really should get back to work.
4. I wonder how long Pam and Halle can keep ignoring my calls

FOUR OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS/PEOPLE
1. The family - I have to say that for legal reasons
2. Music - it takes me to the sort of places people take drugs to get to
3. Football - it covers the whole spectrum of life in 90 minutes- highs, lows, drama, comedy
4. Travel - it makes me aware that I am but a mere speck in the wider scheme of things and helps to keep me humble.

Thanks April now over to you:
Almost desperate housewife
Pilgrimage to self
Akin
Calabar Girl
Mphalele