Wednesday, 23 May 2007

How I invented COOL TV.

After my time, or term, at the Police College in Ikeja, it was still felt that my attitude was not quite right. Coming from a conk middle class Yoruba family there was not much in the way of flexibility in the attitude department. Any slight change in attitude was met with concern, suspicion, alarm and of course the trusty belt\whip\shoe routine. Having exhausted herself on the belt\whip\shoe agenda my poor mother had resorted to hiring the junior alfas from the mosque to do the whipping on her behalf. These very same people who were teaching me about the love that Allah had for me would arrive at my home to beat the hell out of me and then have the audacity to sit down to a hearty well prepared meal, bid me adieu and be on their way back to the mosque in time for the evening prayers. Now I cannot read or speak Arabic but I am damn sure in those prayers is stuff about loving your fellow man, treating him like a brother, do onto him etc etc. For sure.

So anyway, after a rash of non acceptable behaviour comprising playing football with my mates after school, coming home late and allowing my grades to drop to C level (or is that sea level) it was decided that the best option for me was to change my environment. Now by this I imagined that I would move from the rough and tumble of Igbobi College (up IC) to the more genteel and slightly camp confines of Kings College. They of the white uniforms and jackets and slightly snobby attitudes. But no way. My mother had a more drastic change in mind and so it was that I found myself trussed up in a polyester safari suit, nylon shirt, rayon socks and patent leather shoes on board a flight to the USA (I was an early starter in the fashion stakes). Looking at myself in the mirror before I left I was just thinking how hot I looked with my bad self. Looking back now I realise that I was actually more than hot. I was flammable. This was in the days when they still allowed smoking on planes. One stray spark from a cigarette and home boy would be telling another story today. If at all.

Ah Cincinnati Ohio. What a lovely place. All rolling hills and cool fresh breezes. My aunt that I was going to stay with had registered me at a local high school. I was so nervous on my first day but was lucky to meet one of the nicest people I have ever come across in my life. One of those teacher\mentors that basically save your life. He looked after me for the two years that I was enrolled and I must say that it is probably very hard to find teachers like that today. His care was absolute. I cannot count the number of times I would hide out in his office, chatting, gossiping whilst he hand wrote thank you letters to all the donors to the school of which there were hundreds. Every single one of them got a thank you note. Handwritten. Every year. Respect.

I graduated with very good SAT scores and was then shipped off to Nashville for University to live with my uncle - the disciplinary dentist. And his wife - the disciplinary dentist. Needless to say I had the best teeth in college. I am sure even some horses would have traded gnashers with me. However, there was a fly in my ointment. My uncle and aunt were from the old school. TV was strictly a no no during the school week and only for a few hours on the weekend. Radio was okay and it was whilst listening to radio shows nightly that my already overactive imagination really shot into the stratosphere. In those days they would do dramas, comedies. musicals on varying nights on the radio and I really do think that not being fed the visuals via TV allowed me to build up quite a treasure chest of images, plots etc.

Regardless of this however my addiction was to television and being denied it only made me hunger for it more. What was I to do? The minute I go back from college it would be staring at me - calling my name, teasing me, testing me and after a while I came up with a plan. The way my relatives checked to see if I had been watching TV when they got back home in the evenings was to touch it, feel it, see if it was warm\hot. So I had to find my way around that. Oh the nights I spent in my room, working on formulas, hypothesis, etc - even Einstein would
have been proud of my dedication to cracking this conundrum.

Toks minus TV does not compute
therefore Toks must = TV
therefore Toks must find way to watch TV
however TV must remain cool.

Hmmm. The answer came to me in a flash. It was a moment of divine inspiration and goes to show that one must always pay attention to adults as there is so much that one can learn from them. One Sunday my aunt cooked a pot of stew. As it was a very hot day and we were going out she decided it was best that she stick it in the freezer before we left. Suddenly it all made sense. I could not wait for the following day to try out my plan.

As soon as I got back the next day I emptied out the fridge and stuck the TV in there. It was only a small portable so no problem. I then monitored the temperature on the TV over the next few hours. Over the next of days I then calculated exactly how long the TV had to be in the fridge in relation to the arrival time of my aunt and uncle. Within a week I had got it down to an art wherein I could come back from school, watch TV for say an hour, freeze it for a time and then place it back on its stand with enough time for it to return to "room temperature" within a few minutes of their arrival. Voila. The advent of cool TV.

There was one downside. My aunt could never work out why her food kept going off all of a sudden and I do feel guilty at the number of times they had to call out the Fridge repair guy who funnily enough could never find a problem with the appliance. Ode. Didirin. Did he not know there was an evil genius in the house?

Next up I am put in a dormitory on campus to prepare me for the "real world". With real girls. My own TV. My own bank account with actual money. Oh yes, Allah Akbar. God is indeed great.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Naija Bloggers meeting in Lagos

Jeremy and I are organising a gathering of Nigerian bloggers in Lagos (venue/date tba). All Naija bloggers (bloggers in Nigeria, Nigerian or otherwise) are invited to the first ever meeting of bloggers in Nigeria.

This event will allow you to meet other bloggers, talk about your blog (if you wish), read some of your pieces (if you wish), or learn what the blogging craze is all about (there will be free tuition provided on setting up your blog).

Special guests - announced shortly. Anonymity will be provided for those who wish to remain so.

Those who wish to particpate vitually (via IM or webcam), please let us know.Soft drinks and nibbles provided.

If you want to come, please email: (if you are an anonymous blogger, we will not reveal your identity)

Saturday, 12 May 2007

I've seen fire and I've seen rain................

Back in the UK and for the first time in a while it is a relief. For the first time I wonder what it will be like to be in Lagos with nowhere to escape to. I guess there is always Accra the new bolt hole of the neauveau rich. In the last ten days I have seen for the first time what lies at the root of the lack of infrastructure development in Nigeria. I have heard things that I shouldn't’t have, seen things that I shouldn't have but thankfully I did not do anything that I shouldn't have. If it all sounds like a bit of a riddle it is only because I cannot disclose details but the scales have fallen. For the past year I have been tiptoeing through the tulips but now I have fallen face first into the fertiliser.

Iyawo is forever going on about my naivety about Nigeria. How she knows the place and people better than me and how what I think I see is illusional. I won’t admit that she was right (I could not stand the crowing) but let’s just say that maybe she knows what she is talking about.

In A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson says “you can’t handle the truth”. I now know what he means because when you actually truly see something for what it is, it can be very disillusioning. If not for my innate positivity and my strong belief that ultimately good will triumph over evil then I would be very worried. But let’s leave it there for now.


Two thoughts I would like to share.

One day I was driving past the Eko Hotel and I saw a “mad man” fast asleep on the lawn outside the hotel. He was asleep in the manner of someone who really was dead to the world and lost in a peaceful slumber. All this while he was less than two feet from raging traffic, belching generators, and their fumes. His whole body was relaxed. He was at peace. Snoring. Meanwhile I was strapped into the car, sweating profusely in my wool suit, thick cotton shirt and tie. I was on my way to a room in a hotel where they had armed men at the gates, where I would lock myself into a room that alternated between freezing cold and tepid depending on NEPA’s mood and in which I would spend the night endlessly tossing and turning, my mind raging with a thousand thoughts, actions, must do lists, reminders, alarms, calls to make etc. For a minute I actually wondered what it would be like to swap places with him and to be at peace with one’s self.

Yesterday I woke up in my new hotel and looked outside the window. The view was spectacular. It was raining extremely hard. It was not like the British rain which caresses your skin and apologises for the inconvenience in typical British manner. This was Naija rain. It came down as if God had been gathering water in his hands and then opened his fingers and flung it to earth. It had ferocity about it. Next to my window is a vacant plot of land. The hotel is bordering on to the sea and on the end of the vacant piece of land someone has built a shack. As I look out of my window I see them going about their morning routine. I wonder how they cope with the rain as the shack on stilts does not seem to have what I would call a roof.

What strikes me though is that both of us share the view of nature as the rain comes down. It is hard to fully describe and I did not have my camera but it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The cove behind Bar Beach with its multitude of rickety shacks blends smoothly into the horizon, which blends into the many hues of the clouds in the distance. Dotted on the landscape are various ships coming to shore with their lights on creating a surreal backdrop to the whole scene. I stare out of my window for ten minutes watching the show and watching the shack. I wonder why the occupants do not stop and stare at the beauty of nature like I am and then realise that they wake up to this every single day. Yet me, Mr Jet setter. All I get to see is the inside of hotel rooms and airport lounges. The rest passes in a blur. I wonder who has got the better deal?

Saturday, 5 May 2007

All quiet on the Western front.

Shhhhhh. Keep the noise down. The citizens of Lagos are in a slumber. This is what it seems like IMHO. After reading about all the displeasure with the rigging of the elections and the planned May Day protests I arrive on Wednesday morning to find the place as quiet as a morgue (actually to put in perspective it was simply the same old Lagos with traffic wahala but no more). So I asked my escort, "why so quiet?" he tells me that the common man is fed up with being used by the big men to fulfill their wicked ambitions!! I cannot believe what I am hearing. He admits that yes there are touts that will still do anyone's bidding but that generally people just want to get on with their lives. It would appear that the age of enlightenment is creeping up on us.

On arrival at the hotel I have to do a mini tour of rooms to decide which best suits me. See the hotel has two buildings. An old one and a relatively new one. So the choices are , take a room in the old one and sweat like a pig as the ACs have lost the power to Air or Condition, or freeze my ass off in the new ones but give up the right to hot water for the showers. I chose the latter. If I no baff for one week I go take perfume cover am but at least I can sleep for night kampe without waking up stuck to the bed from sweat. And u people think say this travel thing is all glamorous.

On Thursday I read an article in ThisDay magazine where the author (I left the paper in my room, came back and it had been room serviced) mirrored a lot of the comments I made in my previous blog about the elections. Highlights. He attended several polling stations where people were voting with joy and without intimidation, maybe there was rigging but there were also genuine votes, what exactly do the Opposition parties that are making noise bringing to the table?, if they had anything credible to offer then there would be cause for serious mourning. And as for the International observers well I've already flogged that horse past its lifetime.

I happened to catch an interview with the Head of NAFDAC and I really felt for the interviewer as the lady was so ferocious in her manner that at some points I thought she would climb over the desk seperating them and whack him over the head with her handbag. I mean she did a great job with her responses but my goodness the exuberance was overwhelming.

After a long day yesterday, I found myself at the Boat Club relaxing and qeunching suya (minus my white shoes which I left in my mother's care and which seem to have "disappeared" from her room. There is a full investigation underway). Bizarrely, the contact I was meeting turned out to be in the same set and possibly the same class as me in Igbobi College (UP IC). We reminisced for a while and he helped me with the definitions of big boy. Apparently there are different levels of big boy. Silly me. Anyway we just chilled for a while and I could hear the waves whispering "Oga, when are you coming home? As we were leaving I looked at the notice board and saw that a Governor from one of the SE states had applied to join. Now that is a really big boy apparently. Can't wait for him to buy me suya.

In my usual manner I have been taking the temperature of the place since arrival and all I am getting back is positive vibes. Everybody is hustling and trying to make it and all I keep hearing is that things are good and just about to get better now that the elections are over. So for all the doomsayers...............

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Blogger off line

So I am off to Lagos this evening to take care of some biz. Meanwhile, I have been thinking about how to go about organising an evening of drinks with Naija bloggers in Lagos where we could network, exchange ideas, etc. Actually I am trying to get Jeremy - the guru- to do it. There are so many bloggers now it is hard to keep up but it would be good to meet some face to face. Obviously those that wish to remain anonymous can continue to do so.

In the meantime I will be scouting venues for the event so over the next week I will be at Bachus, 6deg North, News Cafe, Boat Club, Ikoyi Club, La Casa and every other hangout in the name of research. I will leave no stone unturned in my quest.

If you see me please feel free to say hello. I will be the one in the white shoes.