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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Random thought on the crash

In all the eulogies, (once dead you acquire a halo in Nigeria, yes even Abacha almost made it) there is the tendency to forget the “little” people, just thought to mention that there were only 30 ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctors in Nigeria until Sunday, 3 of them died in that crash i.e. 10%.

Given the tendency to pay lip service to the dead, the minister of aviation who can be described as the chief gravedigger in this unending funeral of crashes was surprisingly quick to blame the dead pilot. He did not wait for the inevitable “investigative” panel report or black box recording; he just knew it was pilot error. What is that talk about the man not waiting for ideal conditions to fly? Which of us in any profession with portions of our lives and work dependent to some level on government wait to work in an ideal situation? Nigeria operates below the lowest line of safety or sanity in peacetime in modern times! I know of doctors concluding operations with rechargeable lamps in teaching hospitals where you have to buy your own cotton wool. Who are they trying to fool? The man should be sacked jo and let the pilot’s soul rest in peace.

Talking about resting in peace what is the maddening talk about God allowing it. God is not a God of tragedies! Why do we have so any tragedies? Because, we, against clear examples from God, creation and clear biblical direction ("God is a God of order and arrangement" is in the good book, I’m not “good” enough to remember the exact location mate, ask one of the chris') are a non-planning, non-executing, non-intellect applying, all talking, all grandstanding nation? We kill all, the young, the old, the gifted, the mediocre, the great, the small with our negligence and complacence. Personally l think all the so murdered souls should refuse to rest in peace until they have hunted the people directly responsible to the great beyond.
Monday, October 30, 2006

Got Broadband?

YIPEEEE! Done it at last, 2 months, N389,750 (about $2,800), many rational, irrational and hysterical arguments, one police report and four threats of physical assault down the line, l’ve done it. Have l won the lottery? No! Adopted an African (-: baby? no!! found a sensitive, rich, nurturing, rich, intelligent, rich, good-looking/living, rich male type? nah men!!! I GOT WIRELESS BROADBAND INTERNET!!! What? No cymbals, fireworks and atilogun war victory cries?

l suppose those of you my dear friends outside of Nigeria are wondering what sort of cheap drugs l am on now but l suspect the Nigerians "wey no de koko" (know the deal) are smiling ruefully, myself l am laughing out loud and hugging my five year old who’s wondering what’s eating her eccentric mama again.

After touring the various ISP coy, l settled for one, which seem most affordable and come better recommend. It took 1 week post payment for them to report at my home/office. Another 2 to install their hardware and one more to determine that my house was in a valley and thus require VSAT. They should have done an evaluation to determine my geographic challenge and recommended what l need? why? And take out all the fun and games of the past nine weeks? l don’t fink so!

So we spend a couple of weeks arguing about additional cost, l reason, l shout, l call the police, l cry then l chuck out a few more tens of thousands in naira, then they come 8 weeks later to install the VSAT.

l rush through four hours (it was a good day) of traffic to get home and online and reassert my presence in the cyber human sphere. Flip open my Mac and nothing! l call my assistant and she calls the company and the laconic engineer snaps, "but you didn’t say you want it to be wireless'! You have to pay N45, 000 ($340) for a router!! l threaten, l scream, l throw a tantrum, l call my lawyer. She says just go and buy the router Funmi. You can do a show about all this later and we can write them a stinker but you need to be connected and you hate dial up. So three days ago l buy the router and it took two days to get them to come activate it so an hour ago l joined civilization.

It’s like childbirth, traumatic but mostly instantly forgettable at the sight of a wrinkled little lump of humanity. So people l am here with you, hopefully for good. Wading through the backlog will take a while but I'll reply everyone ASAP.
l am great, my campus train project is gathering momentum, l continue to engage learn, inform and share. The stories from my work are at one harrowing and fulfilling in the opportunities presented to make a difference. l am great, my campus train project is gathering momentum, l continue to engage learn, inform and share. The stories from my work are at one harrowing and fulfilling in the opportunities presented to make a difference. l lost 3 of my scholarship kids to disease in the last 3 months and got two new raped, abandoned teenagers in care. l am trying to set up a chain of hope for young girls who have been raped. From dedicated help lines to training a few police personnel whom can gather and preserve evidence to counselors, pro bono lawyers and halfway homes. That apart from the vote Nigeria project my mentee Tayo Etomi has begun. It is tough as we have little help but l usually have little time or patience for red tape, the work is too much and urgent, the challenges and obstacles too numerous to have time for the politics of philanthropy.
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Yet another plane crash in Nigeria

My friend Bose is screaming down the phone…no no, no not Dr. Ola, God he is one of the good ones no no. My mentee Tayo and l are dejectedly channel surfing searching for something, anything. NTA has dark, blurry shaky pictures of the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Nigeria’s huge Muslim population being buried. He, his son and grandson died in the crash. They have been at that for an hour, Channels TV has some pictures of disbelieving relatives. We flick to CNN, Enugu State’s expensive untruthful paid infomercial is running and then top news comes on and finally a clean clear, non committal report on the plane crash, the third of such magnitude in 12months. Almost a year to date, we killed over 60 children in the Sosoliso crash, months after the Bellview crash. We go back to NTA; the dark pictures are still on. Nothing on the full manifest, in fact even frantic relatives are getting no information. The president has declared 3 days of national mourning, he has not sacked Borisade the aviation minister his friend. Once again, Nigeria mourn in her spectacular, head grabbing, chest clutching, God outsourcing way, then she will return to status quo until the next major disaster.
Once on my show l pointed out how the systemic decay is finally catching up with everyone lowly and mighty. Did the former minister of works Gen Adisa not die on the roads he didn’t fix, flying to an emergency country (we have no ERs) because his colleagues did not fix the hospitals and unable to get qualified help from schools they have not fixed. Worse still, we let them. Not only do we let them but in many ways we either in our disconnect from Nigeria’s true reality, or ostrich in sand denial, or our complicity in the way we conduct our own affairs or just sheer refusal to speak out, match out or fight. Whatever it will take to stop the madness. When people die on the roads or collapsed building, some thank God they do not have to go by road or bus and live in such homes. When planes crash some thank God that they cant afford to fly anyway. Elites are content to live in glorified slums, swimming into their homes, which will not last 50 years due to the poor construction. They are fine as long as they can carry the channel bag, hang out at boat club, travel on holiday twice a year and never cross the 3rd mainland bridge, the poor are fine as long as there is a brother who can be counted to help once in a while.
When will we see that ours is a collective tragedy?
Back to Bose, NTA is showing some survivors being attended to in open wards, which Bose as a senior consultant can see is makeshift. She is numbly calling her other colleagues to confirm the story and confirmation comes that yes Dr Ola a senior consultant at LUTH, genial hardworking lecturer with a polio induced limp, the probably reason he chose medicine as a profession and who was flying to Sokoto to invigilate at the university was indeed dead leaving his wife and four kid, dependants and hundreds of patients who come to his Mushin hospital for care. Bose had recommended him for the position in place of herself, so it could actually have been my brilliant beautiful loyal friend Bose on that plane as indeed it could have been me or any of us living out this macabre drama.

POSTNOTE
I had promised myself l was going to stop depressing everyone and write a fun, happy story to post today, guess it’ll have to be another day as l try to piece together more information as the days go by.
Saturday, October 28, 2006

MTN; Kicking the customer in the teeth

Last Sunday during that insanely long weekend my phone was stolen. I took my daughter into NU Metro at the Silver bird galleria to buy a book. I sit on the floor in the kids section reading with her, she wants another book, l get up and pick it from the top self, pick up my bag and go to the till. On the way out l tried to store a number and voila my phone had disappeared. The emotions, disbelief, panic, anger, numbness and acceptance took two hours. This is only the second time it would happen to me, actually, it is the first the other time, and my makeup artist and friend Bayo had had the phone with him at a party where it was nicked.


When your phone is stolen you feel violated, then handicapped like you’d lost a limb. For me there were over four thousand numbers on my PDA phone. My work is about contact. So my phone is gone but if l get my number back at least people can reach me but it was not to be that easy. First Monday and Tuesday were public holiday never known a bigger bum of a nation. I have no numbers or phone so l called my assistant who called someone in MTN who gave us a number to call to block it. l was put on automated hold for 36mimuntes before my fuzzy brain assimilated that customer care was on holiday! First working day of the week, my assistant Funmi called same guy who had by now got the number blocked and he tells her to buy a new SIM card and call a number and within 48, 48, l repeat 48 hours they will SIM swap. So am to wait 2 more days loosing work and my mind? Come Friday 48 hours later Funmi calls customer care and the rudest bitch ever to be spewed out of a vagina abuses her. She calls back the original MTN guy and he tells her she has to go get an affidavit and take it to a friendship centre to activate the number. This on a Friday evening!

Since the inception of GSM telephony, l have held that line resisting movement to any other network, even when l was given a subsidized media gift line by a competing network, l gave it away. I spend at least 30,000 naira a month on that MTN line and six days after my phone was stolen MTN cannot replace it, their customer care people abuse me and my people and l am cut from the world as l know it until Monday, that is if l get it on Monday.

Everyone says it that MTN has become a monster; l didn’t see it until the monster bit me. The thing with monsters is they become dinosaurs and eventually museum pieces for people to gawk at and make movies about. I have sent for a new line from a competing network, it is not my nature to lie down and take it.
Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well why not a third story

A story, which has just happened right now. As l was writing the last story l got a call, a number l didn't recognise and one l would not have picked up usually. To keep my sanity l screen my calls. This clearly was a special number so l knew l had to pick up.
It was a friend of mine sounding a little like himself but borderline hysterical. I met this guy three years ago in the London flat of a British friend of mine. He bounded in with so much passion and energy l was captivated, this was my kind of person. Ibo, tall, big, articulate, intelligent American trained and bursting with love for Nigeria and plans for his glorious return home.

He had just got a job to tackle a Nigerian public enterprise, a non-performing behemoth. He was more than eminently qualified for the job and his passion and creativity was not in doubt. So much so he was leaving a fantastic job and uprooting his family to come home. I remember asking him why he won't leave his family behind to test the waters here first. His reply was that it was all or nothing; he was going to give it everything besides he wants his wife around as he doesn't want any temptations. My Jewish British friend who is just a glorified Lagos Agbero (he has worked and lived on and off in Nigeria for 23 years) and a committed pessimist was pointing out the pit falls but l the eternal idealist urged him on.

In the three intervening years we haven't spoken or seen much but l have watched his battles from the side lines so l was delighted to hear from him but my heart sank at his first words. He said.. "Funmi I am giving up. I am leaving" with conviction but poorly disguised resignation. This from a man whose natural instinct is to fight. He really didn't have to tell me much but certain phrases stuck in my mind. He said, my moral fibre has been stretched beyond capacity, l begin to question my sanity, in fact that is long gone. A system that is in complicity to degrade and dehumanise at all levels, the church, mosque, family and friends spewing people who appear to be quite sane and adjusted but in reality act out such bestial dysfunctions that make your mind reel. Funmi l should write a book about my experience here, the thing is it has got to be a comedy or l will be unable to even pen it from the pain. I knew exactly what he meant which is why l always say l don craze finish and that if l no laugh l go cry.

I asked him what his immediate plans were, he said funmi l don't know, I'm just going to travel around the world for 2 weeks to reassure myself that there is another norm and restore my sanity, then I'll find other people who will use and pay for my talents. I need to be able to actualize myself as a human being and care for my immediate family in an environment that does not reduce them as human even if they are rich.

Cannot tell you how saddening that conversation was. It took three years just three years to take that sparkle out of his eyes, that infectious energy, that enthusiasm. What remains he assures me was his passion and love for Nigeria and that is why he called me because as he says l was one of the few thinking Nigerians he knows who are aware that this cannot be the only realty.

I encouraged him as best as l could, telling him that change must be creative, informed and committed coming from whatever and wherever you are. I told him about what l am working on and how he can contribute from wherever he might be. We promise to sit down and talk whenever he is in Lagos. I hope l see him before he leaves so we can strategize on what he can still do to help wherever he ends up.
My other friend Dele just left for South Africa on Monday after years of being different in the advertising industry and refusing to play ball his talents have been recognised by others and he has got a great job in SA so he and his family left on Monday. I know how much he loves Nigeria.
I put the phone down feeling a little more lonesome and l think of all the other bright, brilliant and best ones which this system has killed, frustrated and thrown away even as my eye catches the list of national award winners for this year which l have put on my table. I am just as dejected at a system that reduces its best and throws up its most mediocre, base, banal and untalented but if l give in to frustration l might as well lie down and die. What would be the purpose of life?
Friday, October 20, 2006

Second Quick story

Last weekend l was in lbadan on a work assignment. I had worked all morning in Lagos and survived the usual crazy traffic and gone home to change and take my crew and cast to Ibadan. Usually a one hour drive that due to our many contradictions can take up to five hours on a bad day. It was a good day and we made it in 2 hours and spent the next 6 hours in a rigorous recording session. By 8pm we retire to Premier Hotel, which is a crumbling caricature of its old glorious self. Aside from its gorgeous location Premier hotel has nothing going for it and in world ranking must be a minus 10 star. However Premier is one of the best hotels in Ibadan.

I tried to retire into my room but the mosquitoes drove me into my mentee tayo's room whilst l waited for my assistant to find mosquito repellent (wetin be housekeeping for premier) to spray my room. Perhaps it was the combination of the screeching air-conditioning blowing dust mites into my nose and the music from the all night pool side party downstairs as well as the exertions of the day. I became feverish and started to shiver and shake whilst every bone ached and my head pounded. Thus began the macabre dance for basic health care. Someone went out and came back with a dodgy looking fever reducer that had obviously escaped Akinyuli's rigorous vigilance. It was as fake as Michael’s nose. We called the hotel for help and Premier had no sick bay, stand by nurse or doctor nor first aid kit! Someone procured an even dodgier looking panadol. So my assistant and producer take the driver and spent two hours to my doctor in Lagos. All took four hours before l got relief and medication to knock me off to sleep. All this in a major city with millions of people.

It had been a scary night and next day as we drove around the city, myself high on my medication trying to finish our assignment, l notice the dearth of proper hospitals and pharmacies especially in the old city centre and suburbs. If this is the case in lbadan what about more remote parts of Nigeria. Where do the sick, infirm, aged, young, nursing, pregnant poor go for basic health care. I asked this question of a friend of mine recently and she said.. The rich go abroad and the poor go to healers and churches. No wonder at a recent Benny Hin crusade, the man was quoted to have asked quite a number of the miracle seekers why they were there. That because he probably realized that what most of those people require was not a miracle just hospitals, drugs, doctors and nurses for illness that have become extinct in some others climes.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One quick story of our times and climes.

I was in the passenger seat of a friends second hand ‘l dey pretend say l be big man” Mercedes jeep. Most of the stuff in it doesn’t work but it looks good on the outside and confers a big man status on the driver, which is really all that matters in Nigeria. So it is we arrive at Maryland bus stop and the lights turn red. Right on cue, the horde of degraded humanity descend of us like a pack of weakly baying diseased dogs. The hawkers, the beggars the diseased, the homeless, the hopeless, the mindless and the children. Like many lagosians my senses are numbed to some of these sights (well except the decaying breasts hanging out of a hopeless cancer patient’s blouse). Yep l saw that last month and l couldn’t bear it so l spoke to Seki who runs our change a life project about her. One of the things we do is try to find help for the most desperate and helpless cases; usually we get the Lagos State Government to treat them free. We can only help 5% of the cases in Lagos alone not to talk about Nigeria as a whole but my belief is that if it is just one person dying before me, l shall not walk away. Anyways we have spent 3 weeks searching for that woman, somehow l must accept that time may have run out on her.

Back to Maryland, the kids came, all collectively dirty, raged, wily and hiding anger, confusion and fear under guises as diverse as bravado, cockiness, vacant smiles and comic turns. Children as young as eighteen months whose first words are, “madam l beg, oga l beg”. I can never become numb to the children. I hate with all fibre of my being a society that does that to its young. As you can see, l tend to digress. So on this day around 10pm, this horde descend on our car and one kid stood out, he was one of those who pests you about washing your windscreen usually messing it up the more. I don’t know what it was about him, perhaps it was the defiance in his stance, and his belligerence but he commanded our attention. My friend winds down and asks him how much it was to buy food around the corner? Like the boy, l was temporarily confused wondering why he doesn’t just give him money if he wants to. I usually don’t do this, as l know it doesn’t solve the problem and it feeds the underground cabal that trades in using child beggars. The boy snapped back “you wan buy Mr Biggs? “My friend said, “no l wan know how much person get to have to buy food for mama put (local roadside resturant) for there.” By now other kids had come around and were sniggering. The kid, who must be around 9 but looks like a wizened 5 shrugs and says 60 naira. So my friend pulls out 500 naira and hangs it over. Let me tell you this, l do not have the words to describe the next set of emotions on his suddenly young and vulnerable face.

He flinched and almost reeled back in shock, eyes widening like saucers, then his eyes narrows in suspicion but then he gave a wan but genuine smile, and went down flat on the floor in a prostrate saying thank you sir, that you sir as he got up, turned around, clutching his grubby wash rag and bottle, he raced all the way to the mama put at the corner. As the traffic light turned green, l saw that my friend had a tear in his eye, l was already bawling. The kid was really hungry. This in a society were politicians paid 400 pounds to watch Beyonce perform in a concert that THISDAY described as Lagos Rocks…for the rich and middle class! The bile rises again.
Sunday, October 15, 2006

GHOUL HOUSES ON IBADAN STREET

I went to Herbert Macaulay girls' school in Yaba. I don't know why several interviewers seem to record it as Methodist girls' high school. Maybe because l tend to tell this typically long convoluted story of having being admitted into Methodist, the school being divided into three and the …. Oh there l go again. Look, l repeat, slowly.. I went to Herbert Macaulay girls' high school. A downright mini purgatory if ever there was such a thing, the heat, the dirt, the smells, the lack. I still shudder. One day l will bore you with the full story. Suffice to say for now that l did not enjoy my school days. The final location of the school was at the end of Ibadan Street in Ebute Metta, a long cavernous street seemingly sinking below sea level as you walk from east to west. Many of my classmates lived around the end of Ibadan street but l never visited any of them, could be that l was just a bitter, twisted little pessimist but l always thought those houses would collapse on me the instant l stepped in. Not even the wondrous smells of food (l love food and eat like a horse, yeah, eat your heart out, life's got to give you an extra break somewhere, that's mine ok? Besides at that point in life l was convinced l had a tape worm in me and was eating for ten) wafting from the many bukas on the street could persuade me to go into those houses.

The thing about that end of lbadan street is that it looks like the fast sinking tail of a landlocked Titanic. Most of the houses were wet, damp and tilted like a parody of the leaning tower of Pisa and obviously destined for imminent collapse.

So for the four years l walked school terms days down lbadan street l waited for those houses to collapse. I wondered why the people continued to live in them, hundreds of people per structure. More importantly l wondered why Jakande didn't do something about them, then l wondered why Mudashiru, then Oyinlola one after the other did nothing till present day. Soon after l stopped waking Ibadan Street and l haven't walked those streets since 1987 when l left secondary school.

So for the four years l walked school terms days down lbadan street l waited for those houses to collapse. I wondered why the people continued to live in them, hundreds of people per structure. More importantly l wondered why Jakande didn't do something about them, then l wondered why Mudashiru, then Oyinlola one after the other did nothing till present day. Soon after l stopped waking Ibadan Street and l haven't walked those streets since 1987 when l left secondary school.

Nineteen years later, my morbid fears are coming to pass. Three months ago, one building finally crumbled killing almost a hundred people, no one knows the exact number, no one ever knows. Three days ago another of the Ibadan street ghoul houses collapsed, killing another set of people, some of them perhaps a very skinny, insecure, hungry, lone school girl who succumbed to an irrational fear of parasitic worms eating up her thin frame to eat a second beans and bread breakfast before ducking into a hot, smelly, saw dust filled classroom.
The same inefficient rescue effort, the same wails, the same fears, and the same madness. Who is going to pull down the Ibadan street monstrosities?
Friday, October 13, 2006

BEYOND BEYONCE

I did not attend the Thisday Independent concert. Wild horses could not have dragged me there. Why not, you ask? In a country where the per capital income is less than $100 a month, you ask people to come and pay between $192 and $750 for a foreign pop concert! I don crase finish!!

By the time sanity began to sink in a la poor ticket sales, there were offers of $75 student tickets, students! In a country where that amount will pay for tuition and more for one term in a federal university and l still have up to 100 students at any given time asking for help with that. We don crase finish!

No wonder, my only "friends" who attended were senators. Yes l got a call from three different senator friends asking if l wasn’t coming to the concert. The only other people l know who went were a few spoilt rich kids with arrested development and a recalcitrant young friend of mine who informed me that there were different entrances, one for the foreigners, very, very yellow people, people with real or acquired non Nigerian accent and recognisable politicians. The rest of Nigerian humanity were hustled through a dingy entrance with dogs baying at their heels. On our own soil? To celebrate our liberation from colonial masters? My head don scatter.

Let me not even begin to tear apart the arguments as to how this is supposed to benefit Nigeria and Nigerians or how our law makers and attorney general went en mass. Just a simply question? Can you conceive of such top level American government presence at a pop, hell! Beyonce concert unless it was clearly altruistic and free? If it is a private party for "awon" boys at polo club and one wants to ship in a nubile female artist, her boyfriend, their directionless protégé and an extinct gal band for whatever reason, l have n problem with that but don’t bullshit us about it benefiting or honouring anyone but the organizers. To seek to profit of peoples stupidity is a legitimate aspiration to but to then figuratively slap those same people on the face is unnecessary.

This in a country that would not have allowed a female artist use her sexuality (legitimate to me) sell her talent. A country that does not have one first-rate music-recording studio or distribution network. Where no bank will give money to build a standard event venue or to Tunde Kelani to make a first rate film.

A country where fear of robbery, rape and murder will not permit a vibrant concert going culture. All malaise, which is linked to the corruption and inefficiency of government, complicity of the private sector and complacency of the people. Do we roll up our selves and begin to tackle these? No we spend even more money to pay mega rich artiste who have benefited from an environment that allows them thrive to emphasize to our young that nothing great can come out of here, although of course to cement their inferiority we prize it such a way that only our bloated selves and our non achieving children will be able to afford to see them live, the rest of the wretched Nigerian humanity can watch on screens provided by alcohol producers at an insecure venue where hundreds of girls will be raped and boys robbed and beaten, all at a token affordable masse price of course. Happy Independence Nigeria
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

DANCE FOR ME KAFFY



Myself, Sola Salako, Ireti Doyle, and Ijeoma with King Sunny Ade
I love to dance, l do not necessarily dance well but l dance with abandon and joy often needing to be dragged off the dance floor protesting. The only person who can beat my dancing energy is my delightfully crazy friend Temi who of course was born with some form of performance enhancing drug in her system. In fact that’s how we became friends. One day in the great UI, coming out of my Idia hall room, l saw an apparition. A 6 foot 1 female waving down the corridor like a drunken “Igunu” (tall draped dipping masquerade) in my direction humming the words to Rump Shaker. I feel in love and have remained in love with my fierce, intelligent, loyal and sensitive friend. Temi it was who was dancing vigorously to a mixture of club mix hip-hop and pop at Club towers a year and half ago when l broke my back dancing. I was competing with she who has a natural paraga like high forgetting that my paciotti mules where six inches high whilst she was sensibly in her usual loafers. I heard the crack and kept dancing, by day light l picked up my broken paciottis (the heel actually snapped) and back and ankle off the floor and limped into the car. Many doctors, neurologists, homeopaths and chiropractors down the line l am better but l cant dance that long and that hard any more especially not on high shoes. A pity really because one of my dreams was to dance in Tina Turners band. Such energy, such sensuality such fun, they always look like they are having fun.


I blame my mother, an unrepentant party loving Ijebu woman in her lifetime. Thursday ni won ti nta Atibaba. (Its TGIT in Ijebu land, party canopies go up from Thursday). She used to draw a large circle and challenge us to dance rewarding the best dancer with goody-goody (yeah lm old) and declaring that the worst dancer was mistakenly given to her by the midwives in hospital. To that end l have often used NEW DAWN as a dance floor dancing at the slightest excuse with Dbanj, Psquare, Weird, Tuface, Sunny Ade, everybody, big and small old or young and sometimes when l, m bloody minded enough l dance by myself.

So when l was presented with Kaffy (Kafayat Shafau), l found a kindred spirit. How, tell me did a young girl acquire such sterling leadership qualities and confidence. Kaffy for the uninitiated is the 26-year-old winner of the Silverbird Danceathon setting a new world record with her group and an individual last man standing Guinness world record. That gal danced for 55hours 40 mins!

A feat she hadn’t recovered from by the time she came for the interview because whilst she waited in a corner of the studio (NTA no get green room o) she and her team-mates slept like drunken soldiers. In front of the camera, Kaffy was an interviewers delight, bright, happy personality that sparkles, real core values that shines through and a cool relaxed personal style that was so hip it was painful. Not one of those vacuous young things, all tits, fake hair, fake accent and stupefying diatribe. She charmed me and all the girls (read old witches) on the panel. That she was born to dance is clear but that she has done so much to develop herself and elevate her art is pure admirable. She is Nigeria’s foremost dancer and choreographer for music videos, she is a fitness and dance instructor and runs her own dance school without any formal dance training. Awesome! That she is adding the kind of value that develops and deepens industry is the stuff a new generation must embrace. When she said that even though she studied physical education if she wanted to be an aeronautics engineer she could, l believed her for in that lithe petite body beats a huge focused heart. Go khaffy, Go KAFFY.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A WORD OF COUNSEL

The trauma seeps through her pores, one look at her and you can just see it, she was like a much beaten animal cornered by its tormentor who is holding a pepper-doused horsewhip up in the air. Can you picture the chilling mixture of palpable fear and the empty nothingness of hopelessness in the eyes?

She came to me through a letter, a letter, which expressed, as though in blood the years of pain, abuse, anguish and instability. I had to meet her. On the day, she was with a crowd of people but I spotted her immediately. She has to be that lone figure slightly separated from the others, almost crouching as though trying to find a comforting hole to crawl into in the harsh glare of the bright afternoon sun.

I walked up to her and noticed the scars on her body; her fair skin, which in other circumstances would have glowed in the sun, was curiously pale with the pallor broken only by the sickly blues, blacks and greens of wounds, old and new.
A tall, slim, rather shadowy figure, she spoke haltingly and inaudibly so I stopped her, put her in my and took her to lunch.

I took her around with me for most of the day and slowly she jumped less at every sound and color returned to her face. She never smiled; in fact, I did not see that long face break a smile until a week after.

The next day she came back and slowly the story came out. She was only twenty-two years old (she looked forty-two) and was from Kwara State.

A product of a polygamous home, her sex, position in the family and the economy conspired to deny her of any education beyond the compulsory and free primary education. Hoping to escape a life of penury, she made her way to the city of “golden lights” and even more “golden opportunities”.

So she came to Lagos to join her half sister who was working as a house-help in some home in Lagos. She arrived at the said home only to discover that the family had moved away and her sister was only squatting with a maiguard whose shed doubled as a security post and mini supermarket.

She joined the sister at the maiguard’s shed until someone introduced her to a family who needed a house girl. As usually occurs in such circumstances, the lady of the house did not feel too comfortable with a blossoming sixteen year old under her roof. The woman then proceeded to pass her to another family where the man of the house proceeded to rape her one night whilst his wife was out of town. To cover his insanity, he sent the girl out of the house before the return of madam.

By now, the girl had lost track of her sister and had no money to return to her village. She began to wander the streets until an older man who promised to help her find her sister and return home accosted her. The good “Samaritan” then offers to take her home to feed her and give her clean clothes to wear. At his home, he pounced on her and raped her, over and over again. He keeps her in his home as a sex slave, beating, feeding and raping her for months.

Eventually she became pregnant and he began to pass her off as his wife, amazingly, no one questioned him. She continued to live with him and bore the child, which was taken from her by his family. Unbelievably this situation continued for five years.

At this point in the story telling, my mind recoiled. Five what? Are you insane? Why did you not go to the police (am I the insane one? In Nigeria, which policeman would take her word against his when he claims she is his wife, bore a child and lived with him?).

Then she told me that she accepted the situation as her lot in life! For fear of sounding obtuse, I asked her why. To which question she told me how she became born again, a prayer warrior of a church noted for its powerful earth shaking prayers and demon ejecting sessions.

She said that after the birth of the child, she went to the church and sought counseling from the resident pastor, telling him all that had happened to her.

So what happened? My mind roared. Surely, the church had the man arrested or something. To my utter shock, she told me that she was told that she was the problem. According to the pastor, all of these happened to her because she had been afflicted by the spirit of hatred!

Why are you asking me what that means, I was as shocked as I hope you are reading this now, that is unless of course I am the only one who thinks there is something ever so slightly CRAZEEE in that counsel.

So she was told she had the spirit of hatred, (obviously a medical affliction not yet recorded in modern medicine) and the solution was that she had to have the afflicting demon cast out of her soul.

So, for the past few years she had been going for prayers and deliverance to cast out this demon of hatred even as she returned day after day to the other demon at home who abuses her body and soul.
Though reluctant to get involved in the affairs of religion, spirits and other such matters, I patiently explained to her that what has happened to her cannot be her fault, she is the victim and she needs to get help to heal her body and her mind, also she must find her family.

For weeks after we met up and discussed strategy, things began to look up until I got a text message one day. She informed me that she had gone on “spiritual attachment” to another state and I could contact her through that number but she would see me when she returned. I did call the number but there was no one at the other end. As regards her getting in touch with me, I am still waiting.

I remembered all of these recently when I read a news story in Saturday PUNCH a few weeks ago. It was some respected Christian clergy body warning pastors to beware of demon women who lead pastors to sin through counseling requests.

If the above is the sort of counseling for which a troubled woman would be labeled a demon then I think the pastor can roll it up and stick it up his holy sinning bollocks!

Since when have men of God become weak, whining, pathetic creatures that hide their own weakness and search of sexual nirvana under the same tired old demon argument? Sounds eerily like the priests who had women burnt as witches in the inquisition. History shows that most of such women were quite attractive. Were they being punished for being witches or for their femininity? Women have breasts and when they are young or have had it surgically enhanced, these are pert and firm, it is the way it is meant to be. So get over it! If a man cannot behold a young (all the swearing no be for old women whose breasts are racing to their feet) nubile female without confusion in his head (whichever one he thinks with) that is his problem, let him deal with it, especially if he is a man of God. That is how to prove the calling, ability to rise above our baser instincts.

If a woman seeking counseling is out of order in her conduct, is it not only right for the man of God to firmly put her in her place? Why castigate womanhood for it, why protest so loudly if e no get as he be?
Monday, October 09, 2006

SAY NO EVIL

I once went to visit this newly married friend of mine so as to meet her husband for the first time. I had last seen her a month prior to that time with her boyfriend but in the intervening period she had met a new man dumped the old and married the new. Naturally, l was curious to see whom this wonder man was who had swept my friend off her feet (and her mind perhaps). I met him in their new home, a genial man, appeared normal enough and was apparently besotted with my friend. For me that was end of story and they lived happily ever after. A few weeks later, she invited myself and another girlfriend to stay the weekend in her palatial home with her husband to celebrate her wedding since the hurried ceremony had meant none of us were there to witness it.

The weekend started well, we hung out and had loads of laughs, food and champagne. We retire to bed, my friend with her husband, and myself and our other friend in a suite in another wing of the house. Things got weird when in the middle of the night Mr. new husband came to tap me awake saying my friend, his wife needed me for some female problem. I left my other friend in bed, hurried into my overcoat and followed him. Once of ear shot of my sleeping friend in a corner in this maze of a house, the man grabs me and tries to kiss and grope me. I was initially shocked into utter silence and stillness until this creature (hardly able to reach my shoulder) unleashed his pathetic looking manhood begging me to touch it saying he would give me anything if l did. At that moment, I snapped to attention and kneed him into lucidity. I firmly told him to stop or I would scream the house awake but he kept begging, asking for just one kiss till l shoved him away and walked back to my room.


In the morning, this man acted like nothing was amiss kissing his wife and joking with us. I decided that I must have hallucinated the events of the night and threw myself into enjoying the weekend until l realized that every second he catches me alone, this man would try to kiss, hug or grope me, all efforts to stop him save physical assault failed as he claimed he was in love with me and would have married me had he met me first. Then he tried to persuade me to date him claiming that this would give me so much power over him as l could easily ruin his marriage by letting the cat out of the bag. Eventually I told him off and cut the weekend short claming some family emergency.

As we drove away, I told my other friend what had transpired and to my utter shock, she had a similar story. Apparently, Mr. loose pants new hubby had been trying to get both of us into bed.
That of course did not constitute a problem for us for in our sojourn so far on mother earth we had come across some impressively insane declarations and acts of utter desperation from men in an effort to bed one. It is not a measure of how attractive the woman is but of our itchy, the man’s pants are at that point in time.


The real predicament was, do we tell her? My girlfriend thought we should but I cautioned her having grown up to the wisdom in Ebenezer Obeys’ song telling one to stay out of man woman matter. Seeing how craft this man was he would probably claim that we came on to him and you can bet she would believe him.

That of course is my motto; see no evil and tell no evil except of course if one of the parties concerned is under aged or being sexually exploited. When it is two consenting adults, I would never say a word.
Eventually this marriage did break up as it was bound to and then l told my friend what had transpired years before. She got upset and blamed me for not telling her, as she would have left him earlier. That of course is self-delusionary as I told her, for at that moment I would have been branded the home wrecker. My belief is that deep down anyone who is being cheated on knows it and stays in denial until such a person is ready to face up to the problem and deal with it. The point at which this denial stops is entirely in the hands of the wronged party and hardly ever corresponds to the period of aided discovery by reportage; the talebearer is oft labeled the evil one.

It happened again recently that a girlfriend got upset that I did not report her boyfriend’s other relationship to her until she found out from other people. I told her that it was my principle not to get involved in such situations lease I be put in the middle and have the blame heaped on me besides I get no gratification from other people’s pain. What if the relationship is not what it appears to be or it blows over before it starts? I have been asked if I would change my mind if it were my sister or daughter and I said a firm no. It would hurt deeply yes, I may say something to the one I have caught cheating depending on the level of relationship but I will not go telling the gory details to the wronged party.


It is usually a no win situation. Would I want to be told where it me? The answer still is no. That said, l am not averse to engineering the situation of discovery in a neutral manner perhaps from a neutral party if l thought it would serve any purpose, usually it doesn’t.
I watch the programme cheaters on Reality TV channel on DSTV where this private investigator is hired to follow around a person whose partner suspects is cheating until enough evidence is gathered against such. Then the big confrontation occurs where there is much cursing, punching and tears. I have always felt that the ugliest part of the equation is the private investigator that stands in-between throwing more fuel into the fire with his accusations all in an effort to generate greater anger and TV rating. In eight out of ten of these cases you find that the couple stay together and attempt to patch it up. Imagine if the investigator was not hired and paid, if it was a friend, automatically that friendship is damaged often without repair.
I have watched friends discover real, monstrous sexual betrayals and gone on to forgive the man and continue the relationship even when it is the other party in the relationship that does a confessional. In one such case I asked my friend how she could forgive such a betrayal and she told me how the man wept in regret and begged for forgiveness, imagine if one was the “reporter” in such a situation?


As concerns my friend with the lecherous husband, she is remarried now and admits that deep down she knew the man was no good but at that point in her life she had convinced herself that he was what she needed and would no doubt have willingly sacrificed our relationship to keep that marriage even though she would know I was telling the truth. She had to go through the process of discovering herself and realizing that he was not necessary for her to actualize herself to be able to move on. In the end as it usually is, it is not about the particular acts of infidelity but about individual need, which have nothing to do with the fact of a single act of infidelity. I may be wrong but I‘d rather not be proved right.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My mother died on the road


My mother died on the road, in an accident, a fire. At least that’s what l think. We never found her body you see and we don’t know for sure if she ever got on that ill-fated bus. But she left home that day, mother of eight children, last of whom was four month old to go to work. Like 80% of women in Nigeria, she supports the family but of course, you must not say that out loud. My theory is this, she got on (nay most likely ran after, jumped into or rushed into with perverts trying to fondle her and pick pockets trying to rob her) one of those notorious legitimized guillotine in Lagos called Molue. An interesting contraption, mostly locally assembled from cannibalized truck parts, the bright yellow colour always seem to belie the dank darkness inside where sweating humanity swears, dreams, sleeps, fight, preach and sell all forms of remedies for every form of infirmity. When a molue approaches me with that death grin on its face l always wonder if this is my last moment. But then l fortunately or unfortunately no longer have to ride in the molue.


Back to my mother, her name was Yetunde; she must have been on that bus as it raced from Palm grove bus stop on Ikorodu road towards yaba bus stop a few kilometres away. She may have been thinking about her children or how to start the restaurant of her dreams for which she already acquired land in Ilupeju and furniture. She was going to buy fish at Ibru fisheries as part of her job as a catering officer in Vono. Typically, she would be either amused or irritated by the many scenarios that play out in the yellow gullotin. The driver playing loud Fuji music to deepen his paraga (local gin and herbs concoction) high whilst riding (driving the molue is a physical act of strength and will akin to breaking a wild horse) the molue, and struggling to balance the cigarette at the corner of his mouth. There is of course the little insignificant point to be made that he straddles a 50 litre keg of fuel as fuel scarcity no be today for oil rich Nigeria. As the bus ascends the small unnecessary bridge at Jibowu, perhaps his break failed and the slow motion death dance of fuel keg tipping and spilling and the fumes connecting to the evil red blinking eye of the cigarette as the bus explodes and the fire engulfs the unfortunate souls in that bus, my mother yetunde included. No body survived not from the Molue or the four other cars immediately behind it. All died, most unidentified forever, as there are no such things as forensics. That was 27 years ago.


Where sanity prevails, one would think that lessons of such incidents would be learnt and the amalgamation of errors, neglect and ignorant behaviours that led to such incidents all those years ago would have been taken care of such that they become a rarity. Yes? No! Naija l’owa, crase na our middle name. These things happen all the time and the few that stick in my mind are those where the sheer magnitude is just astounding such has the one in the late 80s where over 50 vehicles stuck in one of those bumper to bumper Lagos traffic jams burnt to cinders when a petrol tanker exploded on impact with a truck. Hundreds died including pedestrians.


All of these came to mind recently as l read a blasé news report about yet another bus run into tanker, explodes and kills people story in the weekday papers. My friend Jide had travelled the Lagos lbadan road route of the accident one day, l repeat one whole day later and the carcasses (human and machine) where still there, giving a gory account of events. Apparently, the skeletons, all cindered, were packed at the back of the bus where the desperate stampede to escape the fire must have ended still smoking. No one stopped the accident, no one stopped the fire and no one was moving over sixty smouldering skeletons to a place of rest. Why did it happen? The roads are bad and pock marked, there are huge trailers double packed on narrow eroded road, the vehicles are in a sorry state and the drivers have all bought their licences from peddlers. That was two weeks ago. Last week l personally witnessed four accidents in Lagos; one was a tanker, which exploded on the lbadan express, the most telling being the molue that ran out of control crashing into a sidebar at Gbagada. l saw the injured dazedly stagger out of the guillotine, dripping blood as incompetent rescuers yank others out. I drove past and three-hour later l drove back that same way and all signs of the death and destructions had been removed. All the lives that has been shattered a few hours earlier swept away under our putrid carpet of denial.

Now l don’t go out or travel around Nigeria much, so for me to witness that many ghastly accidents in one week? Imagine the true national statistics. These are just on the roads, lets not go near the air, in collapsed buildings, pipeline explosions and as happened last week, collapsed dams.

When l began writing this article JT Tom West, one of Nigeria’s leading actors was alive and shooting a new film that was two days ago. Yesterday, his star dimmed and his light went out, yet another victim of our collective tragedy. He died on the Lekki Ajah road. A rapidly deteriorating narrow lone access into the exploding Lekki residential area, a tragedy waiting to happen and an environmental eyesore if there ever was one. How many more will have to die, how many more lives shattered? More importantly, how many have just died in the second it took to type this word.

My passion for football

After the absolutely delicious defeat of Brazil, yesterday. I feel a little happier about the Ghana loss. Yes, football fans are irrational and l no less so. Does the world not love Brazil? Yes, we do but we also love a good story and that was one heck of a story. France worn with her BLACK heart. The French team is almost entirely African in origin and personally, l fell in love with Zidane, Barthez and co in 1998 when l saw them win the finals live in 1998. The joy of that nation on that occasion is indescribable, that France as a country still has its deep divisions that led to the kind of arson, riots and chaos of recent history is unpardonable. Thierry Henri close up is not just a beautiful human being physically (like a fine tuned, lean, string musical instrument) but a deep thinking, funny and levelheaded person. Besides, its about time someone demystifies this current Brazilian team. Now let us not even go on to the English team. The noise, the media, the supporters and the WAGS (wives and girlfriends, to the uninitiated)..Bye-bye mate!

As per the Ghana match, the black stars played with their heart and spirit against a much more superior and experienced team but their hearts failed at crucial moments. If only Ghana had got the devil may care confidence to go with that heart and spirit, they would have gone down fighting, scoring at least a goal against the truly talented Brazilian team (come, how does brazil do it, l mean, do they have a factory producing these wizards of the ball? Note that the average Brazilian woman in her string bikini on a beach can juggle the ball without dropping it longer than most men anywhere in the world). My heart bled for Ghana and Africa but my irrational mind points to an all African French team and wonder if our collective football fortunes would not be formidable if we had the systems and processes that work. That is, thriving and vibrant leagues, functional infrastructure from community to national level (i.e. pitches that are level with a lush bed of grass so players can play better and the games can be more attractive to film for TV which will generate more TV viewers and better fees for TV rights etcetera).

Non-interference of government except with provision of infrastructure specifically at community levels or for international competitions.

Let me make you laugh, l saw a Mont Blanc pen with Nigeria 2012 inscribed on it yesterday. Apparently, Nigeria is bidding to host the commonwealth games in 2012 and so to secure the bid, a country with erratic power supply, almost non-existence mass transportation system whose police AIG recently declared that he cannot guarantee security with the limitations he has, buys God knows how many Mont Blanc pens as souvenirs to prove what point to who exactly? As Fela sang “he he he he ha ha ha. Why l dey laugh? If l no laugh l go cry”.

Back to the black stars. My mischievous football mad girl friend whom l was watching with swears that the match showed the main difference between Nigerian and Ghanaian men. I quote her “What were all those indecisive short passes near goal for? Shoot man! Go on, be a tiger! You see how Ghana men dey like to do sme-sme at crucial points heh? I swear if na Eagles on a good day, emphasis on good oh, Brazil must concede at least one goal, common Charlie, shoot for f…ks sake”. Yes my brothers and sister-sporting language is colourful regardless of gender.

For me as a broadcast professional, l must raise this point especially for the Nigerian ALIs. Between the half time break and final studio cue out, there were about 18 adverts during the Ghana – Brazil match. Only two of those adverts were not from Nigeria! The two others were l think from Kenya, none except the sponsor’s message from ABSA and Vodacom were from South Africa, the parent country of DSTV.


So what you wonder? So this. DSTV has roughly about 150,000 subscribers all over Africa a number of them inactive. NTA is seen all over Nigeria. Even if only 1% of Nigeria’s population own TV sets and have power during the matches, we know that there are up to an average of 20 viewers to each TV set (there are no effective media rating system in Nigeria), do the maths. Even for the independent stations like AIT and Silver bird, their viewer ship run into millions. If majority of the people watch terrestrial TV because that is what they can afford and that is where the issues, stories and events that concern them are raised and aired, why does so much media spend go to DSTV?

Because most of those who make these decisions in corporate Nigeria do not watch terrestrial TV and seemly cannot connect on a deep level to Nigeria’s true reality. Even if legitimately, they do not want to give support to a propaganda machinery like NTA whose abject neglect, rampant corruption and appalling programming is a turn off what about AIT, Silver bird, Channels and the good independent productions on TV? These are people who are struggling to grow and build capacity, those who if they became powerful and financially independent can be better members of the fourth realm invaluable to strengthening democracy and good governance.

Note the role of AIT in the anti 3rd term campaign and that the two recently bailed journalists who asked legit questions about the presidential jets are not from CNN, BBC, SABC or DSTV but from barely surviving independent Nigerian media houses. But then how will the corporate buyer know who is doing a good enough job so they can give, not charity but buy into a growing process that more adequately services and represent a larger mass of the people and their own present and future consumer base. Or is it that like in governance, only the minority matters as long as they are not from the Niger delta! Cue the laugh. I have no problem with DSTV who must be happy to have Nigeria’s money growing a non-Nigerian entity, they are not the only benefactors of our perennial stupidity, and l am glad Ghana doesn’t seem to have such afflictions, certainly not South Africa. Not even for Big Brother Nigeria did you find major south African companies struggling to advertise, they know that most South Africans watch SABC, ETV and such and that those stations service their local economy so that, my brethren and sistren is where you will find their hard earned Rand.


Next long sentence l write with humility because as Wole Soyinka wrote in his new book “you must set forth at dawn”, l am a closet glutton for tranquility. It therefore never ceases to amaze me that after wining all available broadcast awards in my category, having the largest local TV show internet forum, not being able to walk incognito in any Nigerian community locally or in places as far flung as UK, USA, SA and Greece and typically having just been questioned about my last guest or show by every one from security man at the door to the ushering secretary, l walk into a corporate types’ office and he or she asks “so who sees your show”? He does not because he cannot, worse he imagines that everyone else cannot. He is watching Larry, his wife, Oprah and his daughter, Tyra. All good and wonderful people. None would ever raise the issue of the 200 people who just perished on the Aba road, the robbers on the Lokoja Abuja road, the fall out of banks consolidation, Tunde Kelani’s excellent new movie of Wole Soyinka’s new book. So I continue to struggle as does the great Tunde Kelani whose skills and art would probably die with him unable to make the great Nigerian film that the people on the streets and the international professional in his field knows he is fully capable of making. Why not? Because, No local content please, we are Nigerians.


Pastor Funmi stops here. Insha Allah l shall be in SA come 2010, my face painted green and white, and my little talking drum under my arm, drumming and dancing in support of the Super Eagles, Nigeria and Africa.