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.