Wednesday, 31 December 2008

How does this picture make you feel?

I have been meaning to post this picture for months but in the course of my pre-New Year cleanup I came across the magazine in which it was originally printed- The Sunday Times Magazine of Feb. 10, 2008. In the spirit of not putting off what can be done today etc etc I decided to put it up straight away.

In my humble opinion if this chap really needs a bodyguard I am sure he can afford to get one. There are quite a few of the private security\bodyguard firms in existence. My issue is that not only is a member of the Nigerian Police Force - fully funded and trained by the Nigerian taxpayer - holding an umbrella over this chap's head but in the meantime somewhere in the Lagos metropolis said Nigerian taxpayer is getting robbed, brutalised, murdered for lack of a proper Police force.

It does not take long to be in Lagos for one to become used to the literally hundreds of private cars with a member of the Police Force in the front passenger seat. Meanwhile crime continues to ebb and flow and lives continue to be lost around them like so much debris.

If private citizens do want a personal service why does the force not create a private security unit which they can then charge handsomely for? Why take away the limited resources from the masses for the sake of a privileged few who can afford it?
There was recently a robbery at the bank across the road from us that took over an hour. Two bank staff were murdered and as far as I can determine the were not really challenged by any sort of Police response yet when you get to the Lekki roundabout about a mile up the road you will see all the RRS vehicles that Fashola has funded as well as an armored truck!! From what we gathered later the robbers numbered 8 in number. Even with their "sophisticated" weapons would they have been able to overcome a force of say 50 policemen? Yet you will find that in Lekki Phase 1, within a two mile radius of the crime, there must be over a hundred policemen guarding the private houses of expatriates and other big men.
Have we not truly lost the plot?
P.S- I was at the Civic Centre last week when Atiku arrived in a convoy amid a cacophony of sirens and at least 20 police officers. Surely if he is that afraid for his life and well being he should leave the country for safer climes? How about his multi million dollar mansion in Washington DC allegedly paid for by Siemens through his wife's account? I wonder if the Americans will provide him with a 20 policeman convoy?

Thursday, 18 December 2008


A hug tight
Embrace warm
Spark electric
Raising hair
Deep sighs
Warm thighs
Long gazing
Auburn eyes
Silky strands
Woven hair
Sniff nectar
Mingle and tingle
Moan and purr
Fingers trailing
Spine tingling
Lava burn
Brow sweaty
Toes curl
I awake ruffled
Floating and gasping
For a

Saturday, 6 December 2008


And in the end
What are we
But actors in a play
On a stage where we are thrust
Into the blinding spotlight
Where we spout our lines unrehearsed
Surrounded by other actors
Most total strangers
With whom we try to sync together
This yarn called life

And how often do we have to change our roles
To fit the scenery that surrounds us
To match the tempo of the action
To be as one with the drama
To laugh on cue with the humour
To cry out loud with the tragic

And who wrote this absurdist play
In which I find myself
Trying not to look too lost
A great act in itself
As I wander aimlessly across the stage
Occasionally bumping into scenery and other actors
Oh pardon me, excuse me, sorry. Ouch

And those that wait for me to give them their cue
So they too can take centre stage
Well how would they feel if they knew
I make it up as I go along

And in the end
All that I ask for
As I take my very last bow
Is that somewhere out from the darkness
A voice will shout bravo
And whisper he was no Olivier
But by God he tried his best
Until then I’ll keep on posing and preening
Keeping up the act.


Bullets speak louder than words

I know, I heard and saw it for myself
When the robbers came to the bank
For the first time the street fell silent
No car horns, no okadas buzzing
No shouting, fighting, raucous laughter
All fell silent as the guns blazed
With their own unique molten cadenza
My friends it’s the truth I tell you
Bullets speak louder than words

Just look at our friend Mugabe
A million dead due to poverty and hunger
And a million more to go through disease
Yet he sits there quietly mocking
Planning his Christmas fete for friends and family
Whilst the international community imposes
Their worthless and hypocritical sanctions
Because he knows that he controls the choir
And at the very first sign of real trouble
He will deliver them special Christmas carols
And will watch them fall silent once again
My friends it’s the truth I tell you
Because bullets speak louder than words

And to the terrorists of India
Who came to kill in the dead of night
Who knows how long they had been agitating
Asking for “constructive dialogue”
Where was Sky News, CNN, Al Jazeera
When their words fell on deaf ears
But armed and dangerous and full of swagger
Lost for words no longer “speaking”
They took to the streets to cause their carnage
Left us speechless with their message
My friends it’s the truth I tell you
Bullets speak louder than words

And while the streets of Lagos are littered
With the poor, the sick, the mad, the homeless
A Senator imports a floating hotel to the Marina
Says it will bring much needed tourists
Like what we need is more people in Lagos?
What will it do for us ask the trampled masses?
Will it feed, or clothe, or house or cure us?
But it’s hard to hear the masses crying
Above the sounds of clicking champagne glasses
But the man on the street will soon learn the secret
That if you scream and scream but no one hears you
My friends it’s the truth I tell you
Bullets speak louder than words

Lets not forget our leaders in Abuja
Where the rot is truly set
Where there is no room for true discussion
Where freedom of information is just an act
Where our trusted leader Yardy, good a man as they say he is
Finds himself surrounded by Judas'
Out to only enrich themselves
Each of them with forty policemen
Not to protect them from the sniper’s bullet
But for the day when the masses open their eyes
And close their mouths
Because suddenly they have discovered that
My friends it’s the truth I tell you
Bullets speak louder than words

Wednesday, 3 December 2008












Thursday, 2 October 2008

Happy Indepedence Day.... wooohoooo

From Fixing Nigeria group on Facebook.

For nearly five decades, the Nigerian experience has been a potpourri of events orchestrated by the actions and inactions of her citizenry. Within several narratives, the stories have been told from different perspectives, leading to the emergence of a crowd of voices, ideas, and initiatives proclaiming and advocating for the rebirth of a new order. However, in the midst of the mounting consensus for change, the prevailing paradox is a flurry of excitement about the dream of a new Nigeria, an overwhelming zeal without knowledge, activity without productivity, glamour devoid of substance - a mere dissipation of passion without action. The truth is, in this journey towards national greatness, talk is cheap and will never be enough.

So much has been said recently about what could be done to properly reward, honour and empower our national flag designer, Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi. His story has been told over and over again. Over the years, numerous promises have been made by government, a few corporate bodies and individuals about how the old man and his family can be given a befitting treatment with a lasting impact on his health, welfare and the essence of our national heritage which he and many others who have also added value represent. A few good men and women have kept their promises and this has been helpful to Pa Akinkunmi. But to what extent?

Hence, upon the realisation of the need to match words with action, a team of young Nigerians led by renowned IT expert and social entrepreneur ‘Gbenga Sesan, visited the Ibadan home of Pa Akinkunmi on the eve of the October 1st Independence Day celebration in a bid to set the tone for a constructive agenda that will put an end to the unpleasant tales of indigence currently surrounding the unsung national hero. The meeting with Pa Akinkunmi and his family was hinged on a two-fold agenda:

1. A Nigerian Flag Foundation that will promote patriotic values among Nigerians while ensuring that no national hero (regardless of how minute his/her contribution) is forgotten. The Foundation may also cater for health and other welfare matters affecting Pa Akinkunmi, his family and other “forgotten heroes”.

2. A book on the life and times of the national flag designer, the proceeds of which will go to the Foundation (Trust) managed by a proper Governing Council or Board of Trustees.

Although Pa Akinkunmi was unavoidably absent as he had to leave earlier than planned for Benin City on that day, his eldest son Akin Akinkunmi stood in his place. It was a deeply emotional meeting, which revealed how much help the family needed from well-meaning Nigerians who would be willing to assist. Akin, a 33-year old HND graduate of Building Technology is still unemployed and practically stays at home with Baba. He also recanted details of how early this year, his father was invited by the Governor of Oyo state, Otunba Alao Akala, on the premise that though he was an indigene of Ogun state residing in Oyo State, plans were being made to give him a deserving reward and honour soonest. Akin, his eldest son who accompanied him to the meeting was also promised a gainful employment by the governor. That was in February 2008. To date, several efforts by Akin Akinkunmi to reach the governor on behalf of his father have proved abortive.

He also spoke about how resources from a popular TV game show have helped them procure and renovate a property in Ibadan. As the meeting progressed, it became apparent that for any meaningful and sustained repositioning of the Akinkunmi family to occur, the first son of the family would need to be established on the pathway of responsibility and enterprise. Without probing further to get more information about why he hasn’t been able to apply his hands to work in a bid to help his dad and family, we knew it would be impossible to suggest anything constructive about empowering this young man – who can in turn build and sustain his family’s legacy. It was then with great relief and a unanimous bodily expression of ‘eureka!’ that we all jumped up the moment Akin revealed to us his passion. What was it about? He loves machines and would love to build capacity in the repair of generators, and has had plans to resume apprenticeship with a “generator house” but was held back by the need for funds to take care of his family while learning more about generators. We were happy that Akin opened up to us in a way that helped define what next needed to be done. At this point, we had spent about two (2) hours deliberating with him on the purpose of our visit to his family and the need to help him find purpose.

As the meeting drew to a close, the gathering resolved as follows:

1. That the “delegation”, working with others with interest in this cause, will commence work on the book project and, the Nigerian Flag Foundation initiative;

2. To help connect Akin with an employer (and mentor) who will provide him an environment where he can pursue his passion (generators);

3. That one thousand (1,000) letters be written and signed by one thousand (1,000) concerned Nigerians addressed to the Executive Governor of Oyo State, reminding him of his promises to assist Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi and his family. The letters should be sent on or before November 31st, 2008.

The following persons were in attendance at this historic meeting:
1. ‘Gbenga Sesan – Convener
2. Jide Adeyemi
3. Ohimai Godwin Amaize
4. Tayo Opatayo
5. Femi Giwa
6. Ferdinand Adimefe
7. Oreoluwa Ladokun
8. Akin Akinkunmi


Toks Boy - If a fool at 40 is a fool forever what does that make Nigeria? What does the future hold at 50? 60? 70?

If Nigeria is independent then what about its citizens? When do they break free of the shackles their "Government" continues to tie around their ankles, wrists and waists, imaginations, dreams and aspirations?

Yesterday morning a man woke up and drove to work as the manager of a small convenience shop in Suru- Lere specialising in every day items for the home as well as some frozen goods. He was not expecting it to be very busy as the area was very quiet. At some point in the afternoon some men walked in and took his life. And the contents of his cash drawer.

Just like that.
In the middle of the afternoon.
Just like that.
In the middle of the afternoon.
Just like that.
In the middle of the afternoon.

Yesterday night another family flung their screams into the dark . Futile really as it was mixed in with the millions of other screams crowding out the light. Will we ever see the dawn?

Happy Independence Day Nigeria. One day I hope you gain wisdom, maturity, compassion, understanding.

I hope it is not too late.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Life on Mars

I arrived in the US as a naive, highly inquisitive, very excited 13 year old in my beige Rayon suit and nylon shirt with the psychedelic designs and my patent leather black shoes. I, along with the other transit passengers was whisked from JFK to LaGuardia (or was it vice versa?) via helicopter (no advance warning oh.) to catch my onward flight to Ohio. Everything was a blur, mad, unreal. A small taste of what was to come.

I started in the local high school almost immediately where I was one of maybe five black students but the only one from the "motherland". I scared them small with my accent and I think my reading of a page of literature in English class in that first month will probably stay with those lucky enough to be there for life. They probably still talk about it at the school reunions. Along with the very tight flares and unwieldy platforms that I once showed up in on the misguided basis that I looked "cool, man". One wrong move either way and it was either a broken ankle or give up any plans for having children.
Life after school revolved around homework, going to films, watching TV and taking long walks around the campus where we lived. It also revolved around finally having access to my one downfall in life. Cakes, cookies, candy, chocolate. See mum used to work at NTC on Marina and everyday after school we would "pop by" to visit her on the way home. This visit normally involved totally bypassing her floor (after all I can see her at home, abi?) and heading straight for the canteen which stocked all the finest delicacies and sweets and the latest comic books. If the place had a bed I would never have left.
Anyway, one day after school, in the US (please keep up) I went home, got my laundry and made my way to the laundry room which was in the basement of the block where we lived. I threw the washing in the machine, along with the soap powder, got it going and decided that after all this hard work and effort I deserved a treat. I made my way over to the machine and bought myself a Mars bar. I slowly unwrapped it looking forward to the sheer bliss of it and then my head exploded.
As I bit down and chewed on the sticky chocolate the room started to move and swirl. Everything turned rubbery. The colours became most vivid. The sounds much too clear. I slumped against the wall and dropped the bar. I traced my way to the elevator and pushed the button. I crawled in when it arrived and by this time I was in a cold sweat. I fumbled my way to my room where I collapsed into my bed after putting the aircon on full blast. My heart was palpitating, colours swirled around in my mind, I felt myself floating. My head was pulsing, my heart thumped in my chest. All I could see in my mind's eye were these swirling psychedelic colours and shapes. They were very intriguing, they way they kept moving around, changing shape and form and hues.
I lay like this for God knows how long before I finally came to. At first I wondered if it had all been a dream but the soaked sheets were evidence to the contrary. And so it was that I discovered life on Mars.

Monday, 15 September 2008

A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall....

Talk is cheap. I know that. I was always the quietest one in my social circles. I was viewed as an oddity. An enigma. An old soul in a young man's body. I once went a month year barely uttering a sentence to the people I lived with.

I wrote a poem about words back then. I only remember these lines:

Some people throw words around

like left over currency

after a cheap foreign holiday

I guard my words like diamonds and gold

for they are the currency of my soul.

I am content to just be. To listen. And listen some more. But deep within me the emotions churn. The facade might be calm but the interior is aflame. So much so that sometimes I break out in a hot sweat.

So what is this all about? It is about the need for change. The need to do something. As the comments on my last post have revealed we are now getting to the stage where words are no longer enough. Enough words have been written and printed to flatten the Amazon rain forests and yet we are where we are. Or even backward. So now what? I also realise that whilst we sit here on our blogs postulating and agitating for change there is only a small minority of us. After all how many people in Nigeria even have access to the internet? Well, it is my field so let me tell you - less than 5% of the population. And that's being generous.

So what to do? How about a million (man) march? Would that make any difference? Could we even garner a million in this days of apathy? How about a strike by civil servants? Would that get support? How about a petition delivered to Aso Rock? Would it even get to the door? What do we have to do as citizens of this great country to get

- constant power?

- proper education for our kids that does not cost an arm and a leg?

- proper healthcare - ditto the above?

- transparency in government?

and that's just for starters. Another poem

Someday a hard rain is gonna fall

and strip us naked one and all

where will you run when its falling down?

where will you hide when it's raining all around?

Hard Rain, Hard Rain.

In my view we have run out of hiding places. We are exposed. It's raining all around. Hard Rain.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

All that you have is your soul.

Oh my mama told me
'Cause she say she learned the hard way
She say she wanna spare the children
She say don't give or sell your soul away
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Tracy Chapman- All that you have is your soul.

I have been silent over the past few weeks only because I have been silenced by my environment. My defences have been breached by the various news reports official and unofficial about the state of this once great nation. I still have not learned that one must not take it personally. But then again maybe I never will.

Where do I start? Is it the apparent waste of N800m (yes million) by the Chairman of NDDC to a sorcerer to get rid of his rivals. He was alleged to have been ordered to burn N250m (yes million) as part of the ritual.

Is it the unofficial fund raising for Obama in Lagos that raised over N400m (yes million)? Does Obama need fundraisers from Nigeria? Is he not already the best funded Presidential candidate ever? Could the average man on the streets of Naija coping on less that N500 daily do with some of that money? Or does he have to run for US President to get access? Who are the big boy and girls who were prepared to make these donations whilst ensconced in the cosy confines of the Muson Centre. Did they drive through the streets of Lagos to get there? Did they notice the poverty along the way or is it the case that they were in their blacked out SUVs with the proverbial convoy and sirens.

Is it the total lack of visibility of our fearless leader. Yar Adua, Yar Adua. Wherefore art thou Yar Adua? My love for you at the time of the elections is quickly dissipating. Absence is not making my heart fonder. In the last year I have only had the opportunity to see you once on TV. All other times I have to rely on grainy photos in grainy papers as you meet and greet some contract seeking parasite or other. Where is the State of Emergency on the energy sector? The agricultural sector? The aviation section? The financial sector? The telecoms sector? The public sector?

Apparently we now have about $64bn (yes billion and yes dollars) in reserve due to the generous price of petrol. What are we reserving it for? A rainy day? Everyday I wake up and look outside my window and I see the thunderstorms. Can you not hear it from the deep seclusion of Aso rock? Do your advisors not tell you about all the people drowning out on the streets?

Is it the fact that my very own people continue to let me, and ultimately themselves, down on a daily basis? Where the me first mentality has overtaken everything? Where anything for the boys is now the byword to life? Where progress can only be measured in the size of the contract?

Is it the fact that we went to the Olympics and came back defeated? (Put the football to one side. We should have won the Gold. We beat those boys before and we could have done it again.) What happened to the funds for the athletes? How many athletes went to the Olympics? How many "officials" accompanied them? Why is no one asking questions? Why is no one doing the maths?

Is it the fact that I turn on the telly to see a formerly disgraced Governor being chased and surrounded by journalists who are seeking his views on National matters? Has the man even finished with his own case? Is he still not a criminal? And a thief? Yet he has the audacity to be seen out in public? He seems to have gained the weight back. the good life is evident in his face. I guess it was all a misunderstanding. I suspect he will run for Governor again at the next elections.

These are truly the times that try men's souls. They are certainly trying mine.

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Boys are back in town....and in business.


The first half was the best Chelsea display I have seen in 5 years. Even when I was at the Bridge every weekend. Even when Gullit was in charge. Even in the days of Mourinho.

And then of course Man U (who??) failed to beat the Geordies. The look on Fergie's face. Priceless. Squeaky bum time and its only the first game of the season?

Oh what a weekend!!

Monday, 11 August 2008

On behalf of all Chelsea fans.....

It would appear that Wayne Rooney and some other members of the Man Utd team picked up a "virus" on their money grabbing, empire building "tour"of Nigeria (i.e. in and out of Abuja). Apparently the poor dear and his colleagues were sick to their stomachs (i assume this is the same way the spectators felt), laid low and were unable to train after getting back to the UK.

According to squeaky bum Fergie - "I doubt if we'll get Rooney fit for the start of the season with the virus he's had,'' Ferguson said. "It's a virus he picked up in Nigeria and it's not a nice one, but quite a few have had it. It's such a bad virus and he's got to be training to be fit.''

Whilst I did not realise that there were nice viruses that one could pick up, I would nevertheless just like to extend my sympathies to these guys (no sincerely). Really. Honestly. Trust me. I mean it.

Though next time I am confident that the Chelsea Abuja Supporters Club will ensure that the "mixture" is more powerful. Cough. cough.

I would also like to point out that no such fate seems to have befallen the mighty Portsmouth. Draw your own conclusions.

The Premiership Season starts this weekend. Bring it on.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Customer Service. Naija stylie.

I phone a hotel nearby that prides itself as 3 star to make a booking for a guest. The receptionist that answers asks me for the guest's name which I duly giver her. She then asks me for how many nights which I again confirm. She then quotes me a price which is different from he brochure in my hand. She tells me that this is for a different type of room. I explain that this tyoe will suffice. And she promptly hangs up.

Thinking we have been accidentally disconnected as is common here I ring back. She answers again.

Me: I think we were cut off.

She: No. I hung up.

Me : But why now?

She : You told me the name of the Client, you confirmed the number of days required and you already knew the price. So what else?

Me : A thank you would be....

She had hung up. Charming.

I call a very local estate agent in Ajah from whom we are looking to rent a room. We have a discussion at which I manage to get him to lower his rates. We arrange to meet the next day. Before he hangs up he says: Thanks very much for your call. I really look forward to seeing you in our offices tomorrow and I look forward to serving you and doing business with you. I really value your custom.

And there you have it. Naija. You just never quite know what to expect.

A slow descent into hell...

Over to my sister in law's house to say hello. My family complain that they used to see me more when I was travelling back and forth from the UK than now that I am based in Naija. I explain that the trip from the UK to Lagos was a lot easier than the trip from Lekki to Suru-Lere. Those who have experienced the Lekki traffic know what I mean.

Anyway after catching up with a few pleasantries I ask whether she has managed to find another job being as she is fed up with her current one and then she tells me this story. Apparently not too long ago at a Zenith bank branch the manager was upset that sales targets were not being met and therefore decided that punishment had to be meted out. The punishment took the form of asking all the staff to get on their knees. Like you know back in primary school. More astonishingly they all complied!! We are talking about adults here. Some were parents. Some had actually acquired their degrees through legal means. On their knees. Apparently afterwards one of them resigned and has now acquired a lawyer. My sis in law is not sure what the claim will be.

At another bank branch apparently the manager needs a walking stick for her mobility. Word has it that when she gets frustrated she uses this as a whip to get the staff to sit up and take notice. Imagine being flogged at work. In a bank. What do you tell your friends and family when they ask you how your day was? This is not counting the numerous stories of these bank marketeers that are prepared to drop more than their principle(s) in order to reach ever demanding targets. Or sleep with the boss. And his wife.

Yesterday we were on the Lekki expressway on the way to the beach. Out of nowhere appeared a white pickup that forced us into the inside lane towards the kerb where people scattered helter and then skelter to avoid certain you know what. The pickup was closely followed by a dark blue 4 x 4 carrying the usual rag tag boys in blue. As I watched open mouth the lead car forced a car against the outside kerb and another few inches and the driver would have hit the divide at speed leading to a front tyre explosion. And God knows what else. I asked my driver to try and catch up with the perpetrators but they were going at such a speed it would have been impossible to do without risking our lives and other innocent ones. So they got away with it.

In the lead car driven by a Nigerian was a white man. In the back of the truck was some black fibre as used in the deployment of telecoms services. And it struck me that my fellow countrymen are readily prepared to kill their fellow man, woman and child in order to help a white man get his fibre to site on time. What price communication?

How can we have any sense of self worth when we are being sold out so cheaply by our very own?

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Goodnight Entebbe -Part 2

I am writing this follow up under pressure from one of my favourite bloggers - Yar Mama whose blog Silent Screams is always a source of a smile. Sometimes a giggle. Sometimes just outright guffawing. There are times also when I am overwhelmed at the richness of her prose and the depth of her observations. Needless to say I feel under pressure to deliver the goods on this one. So here goes..

Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
Round Here by The Counting Crows.

He stepped out from behind the tree causing the three of us to stop dead in our tracks in shock and surprise. The visit so far had been littered with all sorts of weirdness and strangeness and we were already on edge. The piercing screams and howling in the night, that had been denied in the morning. The almost military vibe of the dormitories and surroundings. Having to use a bucket to do my number 1 business in our hut. Having to use a hole in the ground for my number 2 surrounded by all sorts of rodents and other non paying voyeurs. So please understand that the last thing we needed was him stepping out of the shadows like a ghost.

His first sentence will stay with me till the day I die. "I used to be a Muslim" he said and left it hanging there in the air for us to inhale, taste and digest. After what seemed like hours of silence from us which realistically was seconds he repeated it again still standing in the shadows of the tree for fear of being seen. I finally managed to get my words out. "Then what happened?" I asked. "They came to take me away from my family. Twice I ran back but each time they came to take me back. I miss my brother and sister. My parents are dead. It is only my grandparents left."

It turns out that the charity we were visiting which provides a home for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic had picked him from his grandparents and then "converted" him into Christianity as a pre-condition of being looked after. Twice he had run back to the bosom of his family but each time they had come back to get him. He had initially refused to give up his faith but eventually they had disciplined it out of him (or at least he let them think so).....

Imagine his surprise therefore when having been told that all Muslims were evil and going to hell anyway to find himself seated across from two Muslims. Both of them married to Christians!! I mean come on. It was obvious he was in turmoil. And no wonder. His beliefs were being tested. Again. I had not noticed him earlier in the afternoon when we had had our meet and greet with some of the students. At first they had been welcoming and curious about this trio of visitors - one an Asian lady, one a lady of mixed racial identity and the third a large black man. The warmth had evaporated somewhat when they discovered that two of their visitors were Muslims. Some, including the teachers, visibly shrank away.

After many general questions about our identities one finally piped up with the question. How did we (the Muslims) feel about not going to heaven? Well what can you say to a group of children between 7 and 16 years old when asked this question. We took a deep breath and tried to explain that there was enough room in heaven for us all to much shaking of heads and mutterings of "no, its a lie". "Who told you this?" we asked as their teachers disappeared further into their seats. Accusing fingers were pointed and pretty sharpish the ceremony was ended and we each went back to our own realities somewhat unsure of how to deal with the exchange we had just had. And then he stepped out of the shadows.

We moved closer into the darkness to afford him the privacy that he so craved as he had refused to step into the light for fear of being seen talking to us. He told us how he missed his brother and sister so much with such a sadness and melancholy that still brings tears to my eyes even as I write this after all this time (this is why I had been delaying). He said he was now resigned to his fate (or faith?) like a man destined for the gallows who had put up a good fight but had exhausted his defences. We offered words of encouragement. Told him he still had his whole life ahead of him he would not be in the camp forever. There was a big world out there filled with Muslims, Christians, Jews etc. We used ourselves as examples of what was possible. Marriages between faiths. All faiths working together to make a better world.

Finally when there was no more we could say we bid him goodbye and he slouched back into the shadows. He had a serene smile on his face as he left us. Almost as if to say he had overcome a major hurdle. As if we had given him some kind of hope. We had helped him with the struggle that his young mind had been trying to cope with. To understand. To interprete. No doubt he would have had a few restless nights as he tossed and turned trying to digest all that had happened that day.

We made our way back to our huts and to a fitful sleep again interrupted by the now familiar but no less unsettling wailing. The next morning we bade farewell to the camp and made our way back to the city in silence. As we got on the plane to head back to London I could not help but wonder about the crumbling difference between wrong and right.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

This surreal life....

We sit in a bar listening to a group murder several rock tunes. The group on stage consists of five half dressed girls and three guys. The lead boy singer and a couple of the girls sport dreads. The lead singer throws his around in true rock star fashion as he murders song after song and massacres several rap tunes just for good measure. At one point a girl performs a song by Evernescence that makes my colleague double check his glasses in case they have cracked such is the screeching she produces. Behind me a man sits sipping a pint of beer whilst chatting to his mate who is sucking on a fag. When the band takes a break (whoopee) we are then bombarded with gospel music over the speakers. One particular singer has a lot of love for Jesus and is not afraid to let the world know. Three vacant girls with vacant eyes and matching smiles sit at the bar nursing diet cokes and swaying to the music.

No this is not a night out in London or Lagos. My colleague and I on a day trip to Bahrain which for you that are not clued in on these matters is a Muslim country. I notice that the man behind me who is dressed in the full jalabia has his beads wrapped around his wrist and keeps glancing at his watch. I wonder if he is keeping an eye out for the call to prayer. Or the wife.

I learn later that come the weekend the place is really jumping as the Saudis pile in from across the border. In Saudi there are no bars, no drinking, no girls with vacant eyes and vacant smiles. No half naked singers or singers pouring out their love for Jesus. But this is available 45 minutes across the bridge. In Bahrain. The trick is to get there and back half sober. If one were to cause or be in an accident and be accosted by the law well things get pretty hairy. So the guys pace themselves and leave before the tipping point. Or spend the night. For some strange reason I feel at peace and as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The world is not a perfect place and we are not perfect people. Live your life to the best you can and be prepared to give your side of the story when the questioning begins.

At the airport in Bahrain we are surrounded by a sea of black widows. No they are not all widows as some of them have their husbands, and children, in tow. But to my mind they are dressed as such. In a shop in the duty free area there is a woman dressed from top to toe in black. She is selling these outfits. It is a strange sight to see a retail clothes outlet where everything is black. The only differentiator being the decorative beading on the sleeves or around the ankles. Otherwise black. I imagine the amount of time that Iyawo could save if only she adopted this way of dressing. No more hours waiting by the front door while she decides what to wear. Black again tonight darling? Lovely. No, no. The one with the red beading is fine. It matches my eyes.

Around the concourse at Dubai airport there are a large number of Indians and Pakistanis on both sides of the divide. There are just as many arriving as are departing. These are the worker ants for the numerous building sites in Dubai. Everywhere you turn there is a crane putting up another skyscraper. My colleague informs me that Dubai is now the proud home to 35% of the world's building cranes. It is hard to miss them. Skyscraper after skyscraper. Crane after crane. New block after new block. All trying to outdo themselves. Dubai should be the 8th wonder of the world. It has the world's tallest building. The only 7 star hotel. The only mall in the world with a ski slope. It is building an underwater hotel. It has built a replica of the world out of man made islands in the ocean. People have bought these islands. It is now building "The Universe" out in the ocean.

Around the hotel there are huge skyscraper apartments. Underneath are retail outlets. The usual suspects. Fast food, clothes etc. In these blocks at night you are lucky if you can count more than a dozen apartments with lights on. Out of maybe two hundred flats. You see there are no inhabitants. Most of them lie empty. They were bought as investments. The rent is unbelievable. Five thousand dollars per month for a three bed flat. The place is a ghost town. Yet still they build. Apparently the oil will run out in 10 years. And they are afraid that they will be forgotten. They do not want to be forgotten. So they do things to make sure they are not forgotten. Like recreating another Las Vegas in another desert.

I walk down to the beach behind the hotel to clear my head. It is practically deserted. Most locals have skipped the country. Outside temperature is hovering around 49 degrees. Who can blame them? The only people on the beach are a few Indians crouching in the sand and staring into the far distance. I wonder if they dream of home and the families left behind. They are not allowed to bring their families with them here until they earn above a certain amount monthly. Which the greater majority of them never do. Also a few elderly tourists. They look German. I notice towels on the deckchairs (sorry I could not resist).

After staring out to sea myself for some time I turn around and get the very strange feeling that I am on a film set. Like those sets they create in Hollywood for films like King Kong where everything is out of proportion. I feel like one of those plastic action heroes. Staring me in the face are rows of huge empty skyscrapers. All trying to outdo each other. They are immaculate. They are silent. They are surreal.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Outside its America.........

In the howlin' wind

Comes a stingin' rain

See it drivin' nails

Into the souls on the tree of pain.

Bullet the Blue Sky - U2

The trip had started bizarrely. Having taken the BA flight from Lagos at midnight and arrived in London in the early hours of the morning only to jump on to the BA flight to DC you could excuse me for being confused and discombobulated. See what happened was that the plane started taxiing and seemed to continue taxiing for a very long time. I was keep tracking of the engine sounds as I always do and waiting for the nose to lift before I could let out my customary deep breath. But no. Not this time.The taxiing seemed to go on and on. And on. Surely we must have run out of runway by now I thought to myself expecting us to go careering into some poor sods semi in Feltham any minute. And still I waited. It was only after a good ten minutes that I twigged that we were already in the air having taken off so smoothly I had thought we were still on ground. This was a new one for me but as I say maybe it was because I was tired.

We landed with a bang in DC and proceeded into the main hall where the ever efficient, super diligent, ever so observant and welcoming Dept of Homeland Security welcomed us into God's own country. Look my philosophy of life is very simple. Any person that has a 45 Magnum strapped to their waist can talk to me anyway they like. For as long as they like. Anytime. Left index finger in, right index finger out do the hokey cokey and spin it all around. No problem.

An hour later I was sitting in a taxi on the way to the hotel. Two things struck me on the journey. Luckily one of them was not the central reservation. Let me explain. My driver spent a lot of the time sending and receiving texts, yes while driving, and so it was that one point we were headed with full force towards the motorway divider until my violent coughing and clearing of throat brought it to his attention. Experience has taught me that swearing at people in America is not to be recommended as any Tom, Dick or Dirty Harry can whip out said 45 and before you know it the Alfas have to be gathered if you get my drift. The second thing was the violent manner in which he used his horn. I had thought that American cars only had horns installed for decoration and to ensure that an unsightly hole was not left in the steering wheel but this chap certainly knew how to use it. He was a homie so maybe that explains it.

DC is one of the greenest places I have ever been to and looking down from the bridge into the Potomac brings a lump to the throat. After three days of conferencing and being stuck in a hotel I finally got the chance to take in the sights - the White House, the Pentagon, The War Memorial? Nope. Straight to the Pentagon Mall to indulge in that good old Naija custom. Shopping for necessities which you can also get at home if you are prepared to pay double. After all its not like those monuments are going anywhere but have you seen how much they sell muesli at Shoprite? And where does one get reading materials for those long nights trapped behind our burglar proof gates?. I beg priorities, priorities.

The weather was at times extreme with bright sunny days disappearing into sullen, dark thunderstorms. At one point there was talk of a tornado hitting the town (and I'm not talking about Hilary, of whom more later). I strolled along sidewalks so clean I wondered why I had bothered to book a hotel. The vibe was good. The air was clean. I walked for miles lost in my own reverie. Iyawo has been going on about quality of life for some time now and I see what she means. The simple act of being able to walk without fear of being run over, on the sidewalk, or molested by any number of miscreants, is that not one of the fundamental human rights? If not then it should be.

The rest of the time I spent cowering in my room engrossed in their Cable TV (67 channels and nothing on - Bruce Springsteen). It was dominated by the Obama\Clinton docu drama. Oh what riveting television. On the one hand you have the masculine, tough talking, dominant, aggresive, manipulative candidate. And on the other hand Obama. Oh Hillary go home. The game is over. Accept defeat graciously. Write a book. Sort out your finances. You are in big debt baby. After realising, but not accepting defeat Hillary asked her 18 million supporters to contact her via email at her website to tell her what to do. Huh? And oh by the way leave a little sumthing, sumthing donation to help feed Bill and Chelsea. Oh how I laughed. Is she implying that she needs 18 million people to tell her the obvious? Ok please allow me to get the ball rolling.

Hillary you fought a tough and dirty battle. You threw everything you had into the fight. You lost. Go home. Get a grip. Obama owes you nowt. The choice of his VP is his. Not yours. Not conceding is bad behaviour but typical and expected. If he has any sense he will steer well clear. Bill however needs you. Apparently he has been getting Monica'd by various "campaign supporters" across the nation according to Vanity Fair. He obviously needs you close by his side. Very close.

Anyway back to the outside world as I head to the airport I am struck by the silence, the serenity, the sense of order, decorum, decency. The cabbie tells me that things changed after the ousting of Mayor "I swear I did not snort that white powder. It was the devil." Berry. The place is more secure, the neighbourhoods cleaner, house prices through the roof, great restaurants, sense of community. All this is due to a change to "The Management"? Surely this is the way it should be. Could be. Will be? in Naija. Soon? Ever?

Through the alleys of a quiet city street.

Up the staircase to the first floor

We turn the key and slowly unlock the door

As a man breathes into his saxophone

And through the walls you hear the city groan.

Outside, is America

Outside, is America


Bullet the Blue Sky. U2

And so it goes...........

Thursday, 29 May 2008

My mother swore.

So apologies for the silence but the wheels have been spinning and rubber has been burning and life has been moving at the speed of light. What? Another week gone by? You don't say. So much has been happening, is happening, was happening.

However this post is all about my mother. It all started with the death of one of her best friends as detailed in my previous post. The fact that this lovely lady was younger did not help matters. Bad enough when you are at death's doorstep at 72 but when 68 year olds are leaving you behind well it preys on the mind. And it has been preying on hers. So much so that she has been quite poorly. However this is not a shout out for sympathy.

Last week after knowing her for some 40 odd years I heard my mother swear and cuss for the first time ever. The reason for this was understandable. It was that old foe NEPA. Having been deprived of electricity for weeks and with both generators having decided to give up the ghost together she found herself having to sit out on the balcony all day just to breathe. Maybe it was unfortunate that I chose this very time to call her to check on her wellbeing. It was then that she swore. The dam broke. The years of quiet middle class respectability went out the window.

To be frank it was quite scary. It was only one line but still it was like a blow to the solar plexus. It was like I was speaking to a stranger. As is my wont I have spent a long time deliberating about this outburst and to be honest with you I am scared. Not for her. She will be alright Insha Allah. But for me. For my children. It seems so long ago we would be sitting in front of NTA and then all would go dark. "Ahh NEPA" we would all scream as we scrambled around for candles and torches and made our way outside to play various games or tell scary tales. We would also catch crickets and roast them as a snack. This is all a good thrity years ago!! Thirty years and yet here we are with my mother sitting on the balcony sweating because NEPA has struck again? After thirty years? Nothing has changed?

So I pictured myself thirty years from now. In the twilight of my years. Is this the fate that awaits me? Will my children phone me only to hear me cussing out the bastards that run NEPA \ the Government whilst I sit sweltering and bloated from the heat on the verandah of my home sucking in fumes from slow moving traffic? I feel ashamed. I feel I should have done more. I feel I should do more.I must do more to make sure it does not happen.

But what can I do?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Goodbye Aunty

My aunty, Mrs Jade Akande, passed away suddenly last week in her sleep. Her death hit me very hard but not as hard as my mother who is trying to be strong but we can tell that her emotions are boiling beneath the surface. What made my aunty special to me was not all that she accomplished but the humility and grace that she retained till the very end.

I now regret my procrastination in telling her something that I had wanted to tell her for some years. How proud I was of her. How she motivated me without knowing it. How I was in awe of her. How I became dumbstruck every time I was around her even though she was the most comfortable person to be around.

When I read about her organising the march for mothers following the Sosolido crash I was so proud but not surprised. She was one of those people that do rather than talk about doing. When planning my return to Nigeria one of the things I promised myself to do was to tell her to her face how proud I was when I heard about the March. But alas it was not meant to be.

I also wanted to ask her to be my mentor. To show me the way in making things better for others as she had done. Now I will have to find my own way. My own causes to fight. In her name. To honour her and to let her know it was not in vain. To let her know she left some torchbearers behind. I am sure I am not the only one.

Rest In Peace Aunty. May God be with you always.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Goodnight Entebbe.

The last thing you want to see. The absolute last thing. Let me be quite clear on this. THE VERY LAST THING YOU WANT TO SEE when coming in to land at an airport is the wreckage of a plane crash. This unfortunately is what welcomed us to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. This was the first thing that haunted me on the trip but it was not to be the last.

Considering I was already freaked out by the plane and crew that BA had provided for the trip this sight did nothing to calm my nerves. I suspect both the BA plane and crew had been pulled out of retirement for the sole purpose of delivering us to Entebbe. I'm not saying they were old but some of them were using the trolleys like zimmer frames (the crew that is). As for the plane.... well Insha Allah we took off and landed. Nuff said.

We were in Uganda to visit a charity that was set up to provide education to orphans (of which there are a lot due to the ravages of AIDS. We went through village after village where we would see children running around but no parents or at best only their grandparents). The charity itself was setup way outside Entebbe in a different town so we had a fair bit if travelling to do. We spent the first night in a hotel to acclimatise and then set off on the long journey.... to Shoprite. Yup Shoprite, where we bought various supplies and gifts for the kids. I should have stocked up on water and loo paper but more on that later.

The journey to the site of the charity was long and tortuous. On the way out of town I was actually quite amused to see the amount of activity going on in Entebbe itself. When I enquired why, I was informed that it was in anticipation of the Queen's arrival the following week for the Commonwealth Conference. Funny how governments can always find the money to spruce up the environment when dignitaries and more importantly TV cameras are expected. The streets were swept clean, the street lights fixed, not a single pothole in sight, government buildings painted, the works.

We arrived at the site and were overwhelmed by the welcome of the children. It was truly heartwarming and it was obvious some of them had not been this close to two Oyinbo ladies (Iyawo and a friend) and an extremely good looking chap (lol) for some time, if ever. This was the highpoint of the trip for me. If only I had known that then.

We were treated to a lovely but basic meal of rice and stew and also shown around the sprawling site which had started off as one building and had grown through donations into a nice little camp. We were especially impressed with the meticulous neatness of the kid's dormitories that even though they had to accommodate four kids to a room were immaculate. I silently wondered what the secret was. At dinner we were treated to a more formal welcome by the whole camp and were made to feel like stars (what with being on stage under bright lights,video cameras etc). Then it was time to retire for the night as we had a full schedule for the next day. We made our way to our two room guest shack (with sanitary bucket!) to settle down for the night. Being in the middle of nowhere there was no electricity so at 10pm it was lights out as the generator had to rest.

You will notice that I mentioned water and loo roll in one of the earlier paragraphs and then mentioned that we were fed on our arrival at the camp - twice. I also mentioned that there was a bucket in the shack for number ones. So this leads me on to a brief discussion of my scatological history. See I am as regular as clockwork. Rolex or Timex ain't got nothing on me. After breakfast. I go. After lunch. I go. After dinner. See you. Sometimes I even manage squeeze in a visit between those three. I am one of the unrecognised wonders of the world in that regard. So imagine my surprise to find that the camp could only offer basic amenities. Basically a hole in the ground in a hut on the camp's perimeter with little to no ventilation and flies, rats and other vermin as tourists and guests of the intrepid visitor. I mention all this for a specific reason so please bear with me.

I am not sure who woke up first -Iyawo or I, but it was clear that all was not well. We were hearing the most blood curdling screaming and wailing I have ever heard or hope to hear. Combine this with bursting bowels, a loo that was miles away and the overwhelming gloom of the darkness and you could perhaps understand how this was the second thing to haunt me.

Unfortunately it was not to be the worst. Or last.

To be continued.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The National Treasure.

So last weekend in my endless quest to give my kids the "Nigerian experience" (cue moaning and long sighs from back of car) I dragged them off to the National Theatre to show them around. We were lucky as there was nothing happening that day so it was deserted. We were even more lucky to come across one of the theatre's staff who gave us a guided tour of this spectacular but now crumbling edifice.

I was overwhelmed with nostalgia as I used to go and visit the theatre during my hols from school in the States and I vividly remember seeing Third World perform there. Coincidentally Iyawo was at the same show so it would appear she has been stalking me for some time.

As we wandered around this magnificent edifice it was heart breaking to see the state it had been allowed to fall into. The main hall where the shows were held was now a rotting carcass with so any holes in the roof that apparently when it rained outside it might as well have been raining inside. All the electrics had packed up, the electric moving stage was now totally incapacitated and the seats were either broken or the fabric had rotted off them. We had to tread carefully as some of the floorboards had rotted through and one wrong step......

In spite of this it was still breathtaking. Apparently it is spread over 7 floors!! and has several hundred restrooms. Iyawo was very taken (and was keen to take) with some of the beautiful and so solid carved wooden doors that were now literally hanging by a screw or a hinge.

As we went through the wide corridors, up and down the stairs and enjoyed the spectacular views of the neighbouring landscape through one of the balconies of the higher floors the guard continued to fill us in with the history of the place. Apparently it had been built by some Belgians in exchange for oil as we did not have the money to pay them in hard currency. It has its own Police station and Post Office and is located in the exact centre of Lagos to allow equal access from all corners of the state.

However due to a long running dispute between Lagos State and the Federal government over who owned it and who was responsible for maintainance it had been allowed to slowly fall into total disrepair. The good news is that a new administrator has been appointed to start reviving it and already there are some signs of work in progress. Some of the conference rooms are now being rented out for shows (the Vagina Monologues was staged there last week) , weddings and conferences and there apparently is a plan to bring the whole thing back to its previous glory. With its grounds, its vibe, the architecture and the feel of the place it could and should be one of the main tourist sites in Africa. I look forward to that day.

So if you ever have the chance I urge you to visit this piece of national treasure just to have a good look around. The architecture is still very stunning and some of the design effects are just spectacular.

Next week - The National Stadium. These kids will get the Nigerian Experience even if it kills me.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Oh there may be trouble ahead...

Oh my people.The time has come. The truth has come home to roost. The bird has flown the coop and other such alarmist phrases. As usual it started with the words every father learns to dread . "Dad we need to talk!!" our Eldest Daughter said in a manner that made it clear we were going to exchange more than pleasantries. My first action is to drag Iyawo somewhere private so she can give me the low down so I can determine if my heart (and wallet) will be able to handle the upcoming conversation. This time both would be greatly affected.

She wants to go clubbing with her friends, Iyawo confided nonchalantly. Now you know I love the woman but her oyinbo upbringing has totally ruined her. Clubbing ke? But she is not 24-25 years old yet as we had previously discussed? You know, when she was born? I enquired weakly. I mean the girl is only 15. She still has a good 10 years and several degrees to go before she can start going clubbing. I absolutely refuse and that is the last I want to hear of it.Clubbing ko.Clubbing ni. Nonsense and ingredient. End of story. Finito. Don't try me oh. No more discussion about the matter. Full stop.

And so it was that I waved her goodbye last Saturday as she made her way out clubbing with her mates. A collection of expats and locals all with car and driver at their beck and call. I tried to tell her that in my day but ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Not interested in the middle ages apparently. She already takes history at school.

So from me some final strict warnings:
Make sure you keep that phone on.
Make sure you text me every 15 minutes.
Make sure there is no smoking , drinking or bad behaviour.
Make sure you only go to one place and stay there.
Make sure if any man with a MOPOL escort tries to talk to you you shout "EFCC".

Actually maybe I should come with you I pleaded clinging on to her hem. She managed to brush me off after relieving me of several thousand Naira in the bargain.

Chei man dey suffer oh. I am outnumbered now. It is just me against these four women in the house. So what chance do I have? My son is not old enough yet to fight on my side and is prone to change allegiances at the mention of the word - doughnut.

So what is a father to do? Should I be letting her go clubbing in Lagos filled as it is with armed robbers, drink drivers, trigger happy cops and worst of all lecherous politicians? Or should I just do as she says and chillax (whatever that means).

Oh there may be trouble ahead..

Friday, 7 March 2008


Things have been hectic the last few weeks with two trips to London and and three days in JoBurg. All work related. Trust me, those that have to go through it understand. It is not as glamorous as it all sounds. So sitting here in our office in Berkshire with my head spinning I try to make sense of it all. So much has happened and I am sure there is so much to follow.

In no particular order – armed robbers on our doorsteps (well four doors down) last night. This is the call from Iyawo I dread the most when I am away from home. Thank God they kept their activities short and sweet. I wonder though how this has happened. Anyone who has been to Lekki recently will notice the number of brand new Jeeps (donated by the Lagos Government to the Rapid Response Team) rolling around, especially by the entrance to the Phase 1 gate and yet these madmen, desperadoes, call them what you like managed to come in and get out. It seems that shooting in the air is all that is required to clear the streets, the town, the city. I know for a fact that the Governor has been very focussed on the security situation in Lagos and whilst it has improved there are still too many of this type stories.

As predicted MYA gets to retain the Presidency. Anything else would have been lunacy and would have seriously set us back. The fact of the matter is that there would have been no point in re-running the elections with the same processes and procedures in place. So whilst it might have not been a big step for democracy, it certainly was for common sense. Something that has been lacking in our country for some time. Abi no be so?

NEPA continues to be the bane of our lives. We are still using up a 160 litre tank over a three day period as we are lucky to get 12 hours in a stretch. Sometime we can lose electricity three to four times an hour. What absolute madness and chaos. Here we are in 2008. The President has apparently gone to China to discuss this issue with them specifically. So please don’t be surprised that coming soon to a transmitter near you will be a whole bunch of Chinese worker ants who will strip down the whole infrastructure and recreate a newer, better model in no time. All the while speaking loudly and spitting on the ground after every sentence. I assume such a project will gulp ( I love that word) billions.

We arrive in the comedy club in JoBurg just as the man on stage goes into a dialogue about Nigerians and their overwhelming influence on the South African landscape. You know that when we land, man mi, we LAND. Comedian after comedian lamented about life in a mini Nigerian society. Oh how we laughed (nervously at some points) as some of the crowd were not exactly enamoured of our “influence”. It seems the women of SA are no longer safe. They are being attacked every day by strangers in luxury cars having the audacity to wave wads (of notes) in their faces and offer all sorts of outrageous things. Like stays at luxurious hotels. Per hour.

A man coming off the plane at Heathrow is apoplectic that the Custom’s agent has the audacity to touch him and ask for his passport. He waves his British passport around said agent’s face reminding him that they are both British. The agent takes him aside and I am sure quietly explains to him that there is British and then there is ……. Oh well I am sure they will agree to disagree.

Meanwhile on the same flight a man is checking his text messages on take off and when I point out that whilst I am quite prepared for him to put his own life at risk mine is worth far more than the text message. He gives me a scowl and grudgingly “switches” it off and stores it in the overhead locker. Said phone then rings continuously immediately we enter British airspace. He refuses to meet my steady gaze.

Sorry if this seems random and listless. This is one of the side effects of constant travel. Meanwhile I just want to get him to my wife, my kids, my bed, my Lagos. I miss them all so. On that note a weary traveller bids you farewell.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Dancing in the Dark...

I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire even
if we're just dancing in the dark

Message keeps getting clearer
radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain't getting nowhere
I'm just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
baby I just know that there is

You can't start a fire
you can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark

You sit around getting older
there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders
come on baby this laugh's on me

You can't start a fire
you can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark

Bruce Springsteen.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Putting out the pyre with Gasoline?

In less than 48 hours we will reach a tipping point in the history of Nigeria. It is on Tuesday when a decision will be made as to whether our President was indeed Duly elected or unduly selected. My mole tells me they are sleepless not only in Seattle but in Abuja and throughout the nation where the convoys of five serving Governors are going to be asked to pull over to the kerb in the near future.

In the meantime the Senate President has been asked to vacate his seat due to the questions raised with regards his election. He has promised to appeal which should be interesting because I cannot recall any of the previous reversals having been reversed, if you get my meaning. My mole tells me that we are now at a stage where even Ghana must go has refused to go. Left, right and centre people (the Judiciary) are suddenly saying that they are no longer for sale to the highest bidder. Now when people say see you in court it is the second sign of the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the EFCC being the first. On the subject of the EFCC apparently all of us that were crying in our tea at the removal of Ribadu and those celebrating ain't seen nothing yet. It would appear his replacement is even more committed to the cause. So again no place to hide. I mean what fun is there left in being a Governor these days?

Apparently Baba himself is not going to escape, like scott and free. His cross is being put together in the background waiting to make its own appearance. Na wa oh.

What is one to make of all this? Is it really a sign that democracy is starting to gain traction? Are the area boys really going to start to see that there is only so far that thuggery and theft will get you? Does this mean that the right people (qualified candidates, with real ideas, programmes and policies) for the job will actually start to materialise safe in the knowledge that when the votes are counted they actually stand a fair chance? Of course this is Nigeria and it is far too early to get carried away but all the signs are good.

So on Tuesday the President of Nigeria will learn whether his position is valid or not. He could be asked to vacate the office and knowing him and his love of due process as well as his reluctance to take on the job in the first place I would not be surprised if he has already packed and booked a charter holiday to the Gambia. Seriously, does it make sense for the President to be asked to leave now? What does this mean for democracy? For Nigeria? For you and me? What happens next? Another election? What if someone else wins? Would he reverse all the decisions MYA has made since coming into office? How can Iwu continue in office if all these electoral irregularities keep surfacing and getting reversed?

Meanwhile, the pyre is already lit. In the coming hours we will find out if the flames will be doused with water safely or will it be further doused in gasoline (imported of course. Sorry I could not resist).

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Chinese takeway

So it was on to London last week as the kids celebrated their school half term with their long missed friends and I carried on with the arduous task of earning a living. I normally do not get Sundays in London but this time I was lucky enough to be able to so. One of the great joys of Sundays in England for me has always been the opportunity to wake up, roll out of bed, pick up the Sunday Times and then dwell on it for the rest of day. Over breakfast, lunch,dinner, Monday, get the drift.

Actually I remember back in the day when I would stop off at the corner of Marble Arch in front of the Cumberland Hotel at 3 or 4am, depending on how great the nightclub had been, to pick up the Times and the News of the World. Does anyone remember Gullivers, ThePark in Kensington, Roxys diner off Regent's Street where a group of us would pile into after a night on the tiles? I would get home just as dawn was breaking and would firstly delve into all the sleaze of the NOTW before finally drifitng off into a peaceful slumber from which I would wake and then take my time over the Times.

Anyway last week I bought the paper and the girls and I then headed over to Starbucks which is where I choked on my Chai Tea Latte. I usually read the Times magazine first and it was there that I saw a picture that troubled me to my very core. In an article about the Chinese invasion of Africa was a picture of a Chinaman who apparently owns the big Chinese restaurant in Ikoyi. He is shown standing in a sand filled area which looks like it is being prepared for new houses to be built. But this was not the cause of my high BP. Standing next to him was a member of the Nigerian Police Force in full uniform and carrying a rifle. He is also at the same time carrying an umbrella which he is holding over the head of the Chinaman protecting him from the sun. (Iyawo has just walked in and seen the magazine lying open next to me. WTF is he doing holding an umbrella over his head? she asks. So I am not the only one that feels offended by the picture.

On the opposite page is another photograph which depicts his wife entertaining members of the Senate in their restaurant. From the look on some of their faces they have never eaten Chinese food before. Wonder if they had to pay for their meal or did they just grant our friends from the East a few concessions? Wonder if a Chinese Police officer will hold an umbrella over their heads when they pay their next "diplomatic or fact finding mission" to China, via Dubai of course.

On the Lekki Expressway the Chinese Hotel is nearing completion. Apparently Nigeria is not the only country in Africa to benefit from the generosity of the Chinese. It seems that Africa as a whole has been targeted. Various Chinese dignitaries have done roadshows \campaigns where they have left behind billions of Yen in investments. Some say that this is a good thing for the continent. I am not so sure. In my admitedly limited experience the Chinese are one of the most racist people I have ever come across so I find it more than slightly uncomfortable with their "generosity" bearing in mind their growing population and need for Energy and other resources that are naturally found in "dark continent".

What do you think?

Friday, 1 February 2008

I'm for the high jump

We lived on Adeniran Ogunsanya at the time. We lived directly across frpm the street that leads to Jalupon close which is where I used to go for my lessons every afternoon after school. As Jalupon of those days also had a huge grass island in the middle it also afforeded the opportunity for a quick kickabout before heading home.

On this streeet leading to Jalupon I would pass a house with a vicious dog (bear in mind that as a Yoruba man all dogs are vicious in my dictionary) which would snarl and bark and growl at everyone whether you were passing in front of the gate or on the other side of the street. As I knew that the gate of the house was locked I would sometimes have a little fun with the "nice doggie". I would saunter up to the gate (or as close to it as my nerves could stand ) and torment it by dragging my shoes on the street which would make it go insane. I could not see the dog but I could hear it clawing at the gate. I just imagined that it's eyes would be red and it would be foaming at the mouth. . Having exhasuted myself and alsomt wet myself with laughter at the dog's frustration I would then be on my way.

The day in question -"let's call it the day Toks would have qualified to do the high jump for any country in the world and also set a new world record"- I had played football to my heart's content as the lesson teacher had left early. There was no reason to rush home after all what my mum did not know would never hurt her (see I am considerate like that). I had washed the football down with a Gala and a nice slice of Walls Vanilla ice cream and was dragging my happy self home when I deicded that the perfect way to cap the day would be to visit my old friend.

So I crossed the road (see I actually had to make an effort) to reach the house and then started my foot dragging routine. This time, high on pork and whatever chemicals go into Walls Ice cream I even started to make growling noises to mimic the dog. I could hear it racing out from wherever it was kept and charging towards the gate. As it started barking people started to cross the street as it sounded so ferpcious. By this time I had my head in the air pretending to be a wolf and howling an echo to the dog's every bark. The dog ran upto the gate and slammed into it as it was running with such force. I could hear it clawing at the chain holding the gates together.

Shorlty thereafter, out of the corner of my left eye I saw the expression on people's faces start to change and then out of the corner of my right eye I saw the gates of the house seem to be opening a lot more than I remembered from previous occassions. As it opened fraction by fraction a switch somewhere in my brain clicked on and sent a message to my feet that "hey guys we need to get this idiot outof here and quick". And so it was like the cartoon as my feet took off whilst therest ofmy body was still registering what was happening. By now the gate was wide open enough for even my ice cream filled belly to register that the dog could get out. More importantly it would appear that the dog had come to the same conclusion.

As with all potential tragedies this was all happening in slow motion. Toks sees dog coming towards him. Tok's feet take off. Rest of Tok's body including his brain soon follow. See Toks fly down street. See Toks lose slippers. See Toks overtake cars. See Toks navigate Adeniran Ogunsanya - a busy road- even back then- without even stopping to look. See Toks place left foot on botton rung of bars on his gate. See Toks swing himself over top bar of gate narrowly avoiding injury which would have put end to the family line. See Toks land on other side of gate still with school bag over his shoulder but minus slippers or breath. See dog stand outside Toks gate growling for few minutes before returning to devour Toks slippers. See Toks armpits not only part of his outfit stained.

Five minutes later Tok's long suffering mother opens the door for her precious son:

Mums -Toks how was lesson today?

Toks: Just fine.

Mums- Why are you sweating so?

Toks: Oh no reason.

Mums- Where are your slippers?

Toks: A dog chased me and I lost them?

Mums- A dog chased you? What did you do?

Toks: (Looking innoicent as the day is long) Me? Do? Nothing oh, I was just walking home minding my own business. The dog must have been mental.

Mums - Pele oh my son. Come let me give you cake and fanta.

See how I protect that woman from worry and the harsh relaities of life?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Yankee. The Doodle. The Dandy. Pt. 1

Having lived there for 13 years it is always bitter sweet to return to the US of A. I remember all the good times I had there, growing up, my first job (dishwasher), my first real girlfriend (by that I mean genuine not as in plastic vs. real), endless clubbing with my friends, marathon drives from Tennessee to Houston Texas just to party etc. But there were also the downs - lack of funds, lack of family , loneliness etc.

We arrive at Newark to be met by the now accepted unwelcome frowns from our friends at Homeland Security. Ever since 9/11 these guys have lost any sense of humour or politeness that they had. Iyawo having travelled six hours from Nigeria to get on the flight was less than impressed and had to be coerced into not giving too much attitude to the chap behind the counter who was examining us like bacteria in a petri dish. Oga what’s my own? My papers are correct and if you don’t want me in ya country I am very happy to go back to mine. I heard your economy was in distress and Iyawo and I are just here to do our bit to prop it up. If ya don’t want my help just let me know and I will carry my wahala back to Shoprite jare. He must have read my mind as he graciously let us in.

By now it was 1am in the morning so it was straight to the hotel in Manhattan for some R&R to prepare for the work ahead. Being on the 21st floor of a 46 floor hotel you cannot help but be impressed with this town. All around you are surrounded by enormous skyscrapers both Commercial and Residential. What must it be like to work or live on the 60th floor or 100th floor of a building? Does it sway in the wind? Do you get vertigo? What happens if the lift fails? These questions filled my mind all throughout the night along with visions of waffles and pancakes the size of spaceships.

New York is the only place where I can walk for miles without even thinking about it. It is always a joy to be able to throw on the trainers and just go regardless of the time. It is such a safe place now (Manhattan anyway) that we were often to be found heading for Starbucks at 4 am in the morning to satisfy my addiction for Chai Tea Latte and Iyawo’s coffee. In Naija I struggles to walk half a block to the supermarket down the road for fear of okadas, area boys, but most importantly loose pavements. I have this paranoia that one will collapse under me and I will end up in the gutter sucking on green slime and wee.

For the next few days we wandered the streets of Manhattan boosting the economy as we went. However, we were not alone. The place was crawling with Brits and Irish as you can imagine. The exchange rate is just too good and the flight from London only cost £260 return!! In between shopping trips to Jersey and all corners of Manhattan we managed to fit in some culture by going to see The Colour Purple starring Chaka Khan. It was a great show and even more impressive to me was getting the tickets for $25 each for front row seats when I had been expecting to pay upwards of $100!!

I also managed to fulfil my other pastime in life of watching films although all three turned out to be huge disappointments. When I lived in the US I would sometimes watch between 6-10 films over a weekend if I was not working. I would simply enter the cinema complex in the morning and go from film to film over the two days. Those were the days.

First we saw I Am Boring (I mean I Am Legend). I can only assume that Iyawo wanted to see this just so she could watch the 10 second shot of Will Smith doing chin ups half naked. I could have bought myself one of those six pack costumes and done the same for free but there you go. I mean what was the point of this film? The next day - to make up for it - she then dragged me to see another film whose name I cannot even remember ( I think psychologically I am trying to block out the fact that there went another two hours of my life I will never recover). It was somehow akin to the Blair witch project and involved some alien creature taking over Manhattan and this group of people who just happened to have been videoing a birthday party capturing it all on tape. What a yawn. It was meant to be a horror story and trust me it was - a horror.

Finally it was my turn. I had been reading and seeing reviews of the Daniel Day Lewis film “There will be blood” which intimated that it was film of the year, his best performance etc etc. Nearly three hours later we both came out of the cinema saying WTF was that? I mean what was the point? Am I missing something? My recommendation would be to wait for the video if you have to see it at all. Besides some comic moments it was dire. IMHO.

I cannot fail to mention the food. Oh my goodness. It really is difficult to describe American food portions until you experience it yourself. They are just enormous. We mistakenly ordered a standard pizza ( we should have taken the hint as the menu also offered the option of ordering by the slice) and we ended up leaving most of it in the hotel fridge despite doing our best to demolish it. I could only manage two and a half slices despite ravenous hunger (must have been all the walking) which goes to show you how big the thing was. We went to one diner where they were serving ham sandwiches where they might as well have taken a pig, cooked it and then stuck it whole between two slices of bread.! Conversely every other advert on the TV is selling you some product or other telling you how to lose weight. What about cutting down on the portions?

In the meantime I was keeping an eye on the elections on TV. What drama. All the posing, the advisors, the commentators, the candidates, the confused voters. Now this is entertainment. I will blog on US politics and TV next.

And finally I got my hands on the ultimate boy’s toy - an iPhone. And yes it is working in Nigeria. It also worked in the UK and cost me half the price of the UK version and I did not have to sign up for 18 months ripoff subscription. And yes it is a beauty and capped off the trip nicely. And how was your week?