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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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Monday, November 27, 2006

@ City people’s fashion digest awards 2006


Tee A and l were compeers at city people’s fashion digest awards recently. The theme was Ankara so there was a kaleidoscope of blinding colours and prints. There were also presentations by Regalia, Tiffany Amber, (sumptuous wearable clothes) and Adebayo Jones (flawless, timeless high fashion). I do not like to compeer events as they are usually badly organized and the MC who is up front trying to make sense of the chaos is usually the fall guy. There is also the protocol list with everyone and their cat wanting to be announced. Finally is the wahala with looking the part for me. The slinky black and white dress by that gentleman of fashion Frank Oshodi requires that one should not breathe, sit or pee.

Seriously you can only take it off from top to bottom and with assistance to untie the shoe laced plunging back, so that meant that l could not drink water or eat (tummy will bulge man) plus my six inches Zannottis were killing my back but the result is often worth the pain which my brethren and sistren is the true cost of looking good, pure pain. I did change into another dress, which allowed bodily functions, an elaborate beautiful Ankara and French tulle ensemble by MOMO but you cannot imagine the weight of the skirt and l kept praying that l wont trip on it. All in all though, it was a good night and magazines like city people, ovation, Thisday style and all the rest have helped to promote a burgeoning fashion industry in Nigeria, yet another area waiting to explode if we would just get some basic enabling infrastructure and policies right.

Most of the pictures are from backstage, wont show you the juicer ones though, and the hand grabbing my arm in one of them belongs to a photographer. Here they “handle” you into the picture. My attitude? I’m doing my job, they are doing theirs. Peace to the world.

More of the pictures can be found here
Friday, November 24, 2006

MAKING AN ARSE OF MYSELF

Okay I’m writing this article in my head. I’m in the shower peering through the mirror at the angry rash on my face and body, benign chastisement from my body for the excesses of South Africa. The hot water lashes at my back even as hot sunlight streaks in through the parted curtains and the last bars of the Phantom of the Opera soprano screams a surround (read that to mean five antiquated speakers wired into my bedroom, bathroom, study and micro gym enclave, my friends warn me that l shall expire of electrocution if l don’t get rid of the contraptions and get one of those cute itsy wireless surround sound things but l love my eccentric assemblage) crescendo to my delight and my neighbours dismay. Fortunately my nearest neighbour is the equally eccentric Yemi whose guitar playing and drumming from his eclectic compound has exasperated and delighted me in turns since l moved here four years ago.
As my smart play list (love Apple, will marry Steve Jobs one day) strikes up the cords to Weird MC’s IJO YA, l jump out of the shower and begin prancing in front of my full length mirror shaking my poor specimen of an African backside in imitation of the animated women in the track’s lovable video and the lovely bootylicious women of South Africa. If l can sum my trip to Cape Town in four words, they will be arse, films, food and wine. Now boys, boys don’t get excited yet, the explanation is less colourful than it sounds.

I woke up the day after my arrival to a raging flu, my body having succumbed to the pressure I’d been on recently and the incredible winds of our first day in Cape Town. Me, l no de gree so l wear black footless tights, bodysuit, wrap dress and scarf (in the height of summer o) eliciting a few weird Osofia in London (Nigerian new arrival in London comedy character) looks from people. I do not take note as l focussed on going to Robben Island with Tunde Kelani (TK), Makin Soyinka, Onoshe Nwabuikwu and Sekinat. It all started to go wrong when Makin suggested we stop at his place for breakfast. He had fried up a heartbreakingly (also heart attack worthy) sinful English breakfast and of course excellent wine and champagne to go. I beseech Makin to start a food and wine magazine, thus exceptional is his talent. By the time we polished the lot, it was midday and TK insisted that there was a great African movie being screened in the Township as part of the festival, a must see. We postponed Robben Island and got in a taxi l had hired for the day driven by a toothless Methuselah with the instinct of a Lagos area boy. After getting lost once and being taken through the longest most convoluted route we arrive at the makeshift hall in a place bearing close resemblance to Amukoko. The technical hitches were reminiscence of an NTA live broadcast of a PDP rally but when the film started, nobody moved from the first scene to the closing credit, not a few hands were surreptuosly wiping away tears, my face was unabashedly wet. TK was right, what a wonderful film, a thriller about an asylum seeking family from the Congo who just wanted to settle into a new life in Dublin leaving the demons of their past behind. Problem is the demons will not be so easily rested and nothing is actually what it seems with this family. The acting was superb including Hakeem Kae Kazim from Hotel Rwanda and Lost and the lead actor France based Cameroonian star Eric Ebouaney who was in the audience and took the question and answer session. Eric is classy, urbane, debonair and connected to his roots. The film, low budget, simply but creatively shot. I recommend it strongly. Oh yes, it is called FRONTLINE by David Gleeson

By the time we got to the city and called the Robben lsland Tour booker, we found out that the tour is booked solid through summer, we in our usual unconscious 9ja (Nigerian) way had assumed that no planning was required, you just get there and go.

Well since l had a cold and l could not go to robben lsland or do much running around l decided to located myself at the mall on the water front where l can watch the movies on the screening list, eat and drink and watch the women go by.
Now before you start getting ideas, l am heterosexual (as though that calls for a medal) but l am fully able to admire other women without envy, a personality flaw that l thoroughly enjoy.
Now somebody please tell me what the women eat in South Africa. I had noticed it on previous trips but never as much as now perhaps because of the unashamed amount of food and wine fuelled time l devoted to it. All the women have backsides to die for, from the cutesy little five year olds to the big mamas, regardless of colour, station, creed or race. I saw Caucasians with arse, Indians with arse; heck l even saw a Chinese woman with arse. Even the skinny gals got arse. I am not talking about any old cellulity, runny eggs hippy arse o. These are big, flesh and muscle arses wide on the hip and high on the rear, proudly holding up such tinsy waist and often full chest. The women are a delight to watch, their arses often irreverently encased in custom made in SA (the thin obsessed west cannot be designing for this beauties) jeans regardless of age as they walk on by with their often curiously puny men. Makin, Tk, Onoshe and l spent a few lazy afternoons in serious intellectual contemplation of this observation as we sample the insanely cheap and ridiculously excellent cuisine and wine.
I had a three course meal with the freshest mussels, queen and king prawns, calamari, oysters and a lobster some cooked in a gorgeous herby wine sauce and the rest grilled to juice dripping perfection with baby potatoes and the most crisp red sauvignon all for about $35! Yes seriously. I am forever frustrated by the pretentious restaurants in Lagos charging a fortune to serve marinated saw dust and otokoto wine and l will never understand people who step of out Nigeria and begin to demand Eba and Apu especially when they are going back home in four days. I have two Akwa lbom ladies in my house so l do not lack gourmet Nigerian food and l have stopped trying to find a great restaurant in Lagos (there are a few so so ones) but the best eating out experience in Lagos as agreed by Makin a connoisseur of film, food, wine and…ok l promised him l wont say, are the mama put joints. God bless Iya Eba in Onikan and nobody can beat the mama put joints in Cotonou, Lome and Togo, se bon! Okay as you can see food excites me. Aside the women, food and wine. The other things we did as l said was watch the movies at the festival and there was a rich selection covering different themes. My favourites were the afore mentioned Frontline, Tunde Kelani’s Abeni, excellent acting, simple love story and excellent photography and cinematography on a low budget. There was also A Good Year starring the bad but wonderfully gifted Russell Crowe, flawless acting, and beautiful scenery, cutting edge, brilliant dialogue in a sensuous French setting. Finally there was the inimitable Pedro Almodavar’s Volver which l had seen earlier in London’s sexy ritzy cinema in Brixton. Penelope Cruz at her best in her native tongue, a simultaneously dark and sensual tragicomedy about family, superstitions, secrets, incest, murder and sacrifice. A real visual treat.
There were of course the usual meetings and discussions, the most intense being on whether Nollywood needs standards or not, l didn’t attend. Like everything else Nollywood has immense potentials, every waiter that attended to me whether white or black asked after AKI and PAWPAW but Nollywood will never be taken seriously or make the kind of money it should unless we apply a little literature to the film making. Anyone can use a pen, not many can write a poem. That aside from issues of distribution, marketing, and so on but make dem just dey go on soun (keep at it) eventually the boys will be separated from the men. That of course was what happened as we all departed one after the other, makin and l sharing a last bowl of chips and glass of wine as we flew to Johannesburg, he onward to Kenya, myself and Seki to Lagos. I ate my last heavy meal and drank a glass of wine and reclined my Virgin Nigeria seat into a bed to sleep before Lagos slaps me in the face and my lactose, wheat and alcohol intolerant body completes her revolt, the first rashes are already visible. Fours hours later we land and the pilot apologetically announces that the tow truck has over heated so we are going to wait for it to cool down before the plane is towed to the hanger for us to disembark. I smiled and relaxed in my seat, l am home.
Sunday, November 19, 2006

ON HATRED (longish, got cheese, not for the lactose intolerant)

I am sitting up on my bed in my hotel on the beautiful Cape Town waterfront. Across the room my hardworking production associate seki sleeps soundly, a luxury that eludes me for although we had flown 8 hours and had an unbroken 48 hour work day l had the eyeball ache but tense adrenalin charged mind of the true insomniac. It is not helped by my struggles to expunge the poison l had just read from my soul and regain control of my spirits. It is a familiar battle that l have learnt to handle better as l grow in my career but one no less painful than the first dart in the heart. My well-meaning friend Jumoke in Canada had enthusiastically taken two of my articles and submitted them to the Nigerian village square without informing me. She had mailed to tell me so excitedly, and then a couple of hours mailed again to apologize for some of the comments to one of them and warn me before l read them. I got the mails five minutes apart and l then broke one of my own cardinal rules. Read no evil. I read and reeled back at some of the comments in pain not really at the words but at the unmistakable venom and hatred they direct at me.
Let me confess this to you, if the intent of the people who write truly vile things about others is to hurt, they usually succeed. Whether it brings them validation or fulfilment is unknown to me but they can take real pleasure in knowing that they cause pain.
l then go into auto protect mode, a curiously comforting numb state from which l observe myself outside of myself. The result as usual is calming.
The scenario played out in my mind actually happened earlier today at an event put together by the dynamic Peace Fiberesima of the movie awards. We had just seen the screening of Tunde Kelani's beautiful film, Abeni, TK as we call him is one of my mentors and he is excitedly telling me about this new cheap editing software he has discovered. As l mingled with different generations of film and TV minds, l heard an excited scream and l was gabbed from behind and given a warm hug. l turned around and it was one of my former protégé/mentee. I introduced her to television and she has blossomed into a bright, confident and hard working reporter/presenter/editor at a major network. I hadn’t seen in a while. She urgently grabbed my arm and dragged me aside to talk. She whispered aunty funmi, how do l cope, they hate me so much at work l can feel it on my skin. Its bad enough that l have to find a way to get all this done on my own but l cant deal with the hatred aunty. It is so palpable.
I looked at her properly and without more words l knew exactly what she was talking about. At almost six feet of young, generously proportioned, full force female perfection, she was the sort other women would be uncomfortable with. Add to that her drive, energy, purposefulness and you can see how she would reflect other lesser people’s insecurities unwittingly. She told me the many acts of sabotage and harassment at her job then cried, but aunty it is the hatred that really hurts me. How do l deal with it? l smiled, this is familiar territory.
I told her she had to accept some hard facts and learn some new skills. One is that success can be alienating and two some people will not like you, no matter the transparency of your intention or soul. You must try and engage people as much as you can without loosing your essence but always keep your eye on the ball, i.e. your work, talent, skill, assignment or whatever it is that gives you fulfilment and the resources to pursue fulfilment. l know aunty she sad but how do l deal with the lies, gossip and bad stories. Get funny, l said, for every bad story or look, find the funny or silly side so you loose the ability to be severely embarrassed and thus paralysed. For example when l was confronted with a false news story recently, l realised that the accompanying picture was fantastic so every time someone referred to the story, l replied, damn! don’t l look good in that picture. End of discussion, lightening of spirit. Also do not read the stories or read such stories of others or gossip mindlessly. I never understand it when people say l stayed there to get information. That’s the beginning of sycophancy and sycophants hold their boss/friend victims in a cage of fear. If anyone says anything uncomplimentary or untrue about a friend, boss or acquaintance in my presence, l will interrupt and say clearly that what is being said is untrue and l know this person. I will after wards not even tell the person concerned about it because the matter has been dealt with and settled, l don’t want to score emotional points based on fear. My close friends would never repeat a gossip or a line from a story to me unless it is libellous in which case, we go to court. Reading burns the venom into your heart to be regurgitated for a repoisoning of the system, surely not a necessity. She nods but said, people are not like that. I said on the contrary, l find that they are if they know those to be your values However, remember that even when these things happen, they don’t define you. Bad stories are usually a three week wonder, those who make money off it, move on to the next story and those who don’t find another person to attack in an unwinnable battle to fill a missing void in their own lives, the ones who either hold on to the stories or unearth it periodically are truly pathetic and deserve real sympathy in the absence of professional help. She smiled at this then l said to her, most importantly, put things in their true perspective. The world does not hate you. For every one jealous, envious, misconceiving or just plain stupid person out there, there are tens, sometimes hundreds and with some people even millions cheering you on. We tend to focus on the one spot of ink on a bright white canvas, who wants a white canvas anyway, make a wonderful picture of colours from your canvas of life. Remember to focus on your cheerleaders, especially the people who will be objective with you and who truly know and love you wart and all. l recall once on a live edition of my show, a caller had abused me because he did not like my hairstyle (it was actually my natural hair). Even though such calls were rare and other callers roundly condemned him. I was obsessed by this one caller, my spirits dropping below knee level for days after. About a year later a man walked up to me at an event and identified himself as the caller. I looked at him and l began to laugh hysterically, he was puzzled but allowed himself to be drawn into my mirth, gleefully leaving me his number, a key to potential friendship. I never called him as he had served his purpose, which was to show me clearly the foolishness of my pain. For how in God’s earth had l allowed the opinions of such a poor specimen of humanity dominate my days and rob me of productive energy? Loosing that is loosing your essence, the gift, the magic that combined with learning, work and grace produces the much admired and equally despised (hated camouflages fear) quality that is possible when one walks in his divine wiring. I laughed and genuinely thanked him, he was not sure what for but l knew it was for liberating me from the power of hate. I told her all this and patting her dimpled cheeks said, just remember not to take yourself so seriously, it is only our ego that is wounded when these things happen and we must get beyond ourselves to truly find happiness. She hugged me and left, her full possibilities obvious in the bounce in her step, the proud nod of her pert backside. l remember the incidence now and my numbness melts into grudging amusement and l slowly unfurl, the hurt is breaking up and my spirit lifts as l look out my window at robben island in the distance, a reminder of the power of the human sprit to transcend all. Tomorrow l will go on a pilgrimage to robben lsland with some of my known cheerleaders, TK, Makin, Seki and my friend Onoshe. Its great to be in Mandela’s South Africa.
Thursday, November 16, 2006

SHIT IN MY FACE

Preface

I had a huge argument recently with a babangida apologist. The force of my revulsion for the military and Babangida in particular shocked my affluent audience but then that’s because they don’t know what it is like to live on the wrong side of the swamp or have shit thrown in your face. All forms of injustice always hit me like shit in the face and l know intimately, what that feels like.



I was born poor although l did not know it at the time. My mother worked too hard, my father drank too much, they fought all the time and we moved from one dingy little room in one slum or near slum to the other, all nine of us. We were nine because my good looking, young, never married dad, God bless him, had married my young single parent of four mother whose first husband had abandoned her because she did not bear him a son. I didn’t feel poor as most people around us were like us besides l was never hungry, at least not in those early days, but I always felt uncomfortable about the dirt, l still hate dirt and l craved my own little space but that was a physical impossibility so l started creating my own world in my head. Thus began my lifelong ability to be physically in the worst of places but in my soul and spirit in the place l want to be.

Eventually we moved into my mother’s little provision store attached to a house where about fifty people shared one slimy shack for bath and a pit lavatory. The shack was a discarded corrugated roofing sheet wrapped around three bamboo pillars. Since it was out door and exposed to the elements, its dirty maroon colour was broken by little holes through which perverted neighbours peeped at the burgeoning femininity of pre teen girls bathing. The concrete floor was always green with algae and remnants of other baths long before. The challenge was therefore not quelling the rising nausea that l always felt but in maintaining bare foot balance amongst such viscosity.

In all, the bath shack was better than the pit latrine, which was on a raised dais similarly protected by rusty roofing sheet. It was sort of like squatting on a throne of decay as quite a number of people do not get the aim right and yet some do not make it to the throne before discharging their contents. Climbing to the throne was thus an exercise in foot dexterity. I remember being fascinated by the contents that are clearly visible through the hole in the ground under which there was a huge bucket to be emptied once a week by those mystical dark men in tattered clothes, their resignation to a lesser life covered by an obliging piece of rag tied round the nose and mouth at the back of their heads. These were the Agbepo who carried the remains of human excesses and existence to deposit in the Lagoon. Since we were not real tenants it was a battle to get to use even those facilities or fetch water to bath from the well. Later we became 10, and thing improved.

My four half sisters, my three younger brothers, my parents and l moved into a room in a house where we had a right to the slimy bathroom and pit lavatory through which you could see the putrefying remains of many meals and the most humongous maggots. We were better off than our neighbours who lived next door in a house without those facilities. It was the last house on a street which lead into a swamp beyond which there was a lake with a foot bridge separating our community from those who had ceramic toilets on which you could sit on and flush away the evidence of your lifestyle, not that l knew this at the time. The people in the next house thus did the most logical thing, they bathe outdoors at the crack of dawn and wrapped their human wastes in polythene bags which they threw across their backyard into the swamp beyond to be straddled by water hyacinth until it degenerates.

The swamp was also our playground as we loved to throw crumbs at the beautiful white migrating birds who come to feed there. Once, aged six, as l walked back from the swamp a neighbour miscalculated on her swing and the content of her human waste polythene bag landed squarely on my face and cornrows. I can still smell my panic till today as l yelped for my sisters. Yelling, breathing, moving all worsened the matter as l got the mess into other orifices. It took an hour and the combined efforts of the contrite neighbour and my sisters to wash it all off my face, hair and body but they never washed it off my mind.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ln a hurry

l like this story written by Jumoke Giwa, who is herself an inspiration if she,ll ever get around to telling her story with brutal honesty. June is an example of the true silent angels. perhaps we can contact and welcame her to big bad wonderful 9ja. there is a sweet pcture of her in iro and buba ankara on jumoke,s site.

www.Igilandi.org -Canadian lives her dream in Nigeria.
Sunday, November 12, 2006

LOOKING AT DONALD

I don’t know Donald Duke from Adam and l have never interviewed him but barring the declaration of any clearly outstanding Nigerian, he has my vote as the next president of Nigeria. I don’t think he will win, sadly. First as to why he should win. Going by his record in cross rivers state in the past eight years, one can see that he is creative, courageous and inspired. Nigeria needs that. Also he seems to have the will and the organizational ability to carry through his projects and to persuade people to see the merit in them. No one can dispute that he has turned that little non-performing state into a functional, liveable tourist attraction. The fruits of which will not be completely manifest until later. Importantly, he is husband to one woman, who does not look like a dormant or an under qualified but over ambitious paranoid shrew. I am in the media and have witnessed or been regaled with stories and first hand encounters of the sexual exploits, bestial tendencies and complete degradation of often silly, poor or clueless young women by governors and other elected or appointed government personnel. Question, how many men in government today have not taken a second, third or more wives and had children by mistresses during their tenure? I don’t expect that Duke is a saint but l, ve never heard any such stories about him. If he strays, he is discreet about it and that is all we ask for. That he clearly wears and displays his wedding band is an asset, which would resonate with female voters. He also looks the part; he is young, vibrant, fun, good-looking and not fat. We are sick and tired of the pot-bellied men with their ugly mugs. Yes ugly people need love too, go to Dr Phil. Jokes apart good looks are not about having Donald’s pleasing features but taking care of yourself in terms of lifestyle. Those who live healthy fit active lives give off an attractive, alive aura that is charismatic and good-looking even if their face was arranged by a pmsing angel.
People argue that running a little Cross Rivers state is not the same as running Nigeria, l agree but he that is faithful in little can be trusted with more besides all the bandits that have ruined our lives before now did not have any track record of success at anything including their families and we not only allowed them, we were hopeful for some magic. Why not someone who has actually done something other than feral politicking.

Now having said all that, l don’t think he will win because we have not reached that stage where people will vote on merit only and we do not have a system yet that will elect a candidate mostly on merit. That the 2007 election will be completely free and fair is a pipe dream but that’s ok. The challenge is to engage the system and begin to change it before even perfecting it, which will take years, that is natural. So the practical (often ignored) part of my brain says Duke should run as vice president to whom l don’t know for now. The reason is that if he looses the presidency now, it will be hard to contest for anything else in future but as vice president, even a lame duck one he will be gathering invaluable experience and clout that will serve him in future bid for the presidency. That’s my rational mind but my adventurous, creative spirit says run man and keep running until you get it.

BABANGIDA KE!


You know that feeling don’t you when a seemingly inane little thought or chorus line from a cheesy pop song gets stuck on auto replay in your mind all day. Sometimes it’s stuck for days but imagine it being stuck for eight years. I had that gluing and ungluing experience last week. You see, from 1999, l had had the image and print of an ALAROYE (a Yoruba tabloid) front page screech of a headline in my minds eye. After the nation staggered out of the reality of Abacha’s evil reign and lewd departure into he beyond and the curious death of Abiola into an uncertain terrain devoid of credible leaders to take us from war ruins to prosperity. Many names were being bandied about, nobody at that time was mad enough to mention Babangida but they did mention Obasanjo. I was ambivalent about Obasanjo and uninformed about Falae and all the others but the ALAROYE headline grabbed my attention and summed up the feelings of the South West as at the time. It screamed, OBASANJO KE! The true interpretation of that exclamation is as deep and prone to intuitive interpretation as the Yoruba culture itself. It expressed shock, disbelief, unbelief and outrage. It says how can you, still being in possession of your full faculties begin to even consider that.

At the time l didn’t quite understand the venom and the complete lack of support of Obasanjo in the South West having been a child in his first coming, (reading Wole Soyinka's You Must Set Forth At Dawn was illuminating)
No wonder himself and his party were roundly defeated in the 1999 polls. Don’t ask me about 2003. I no know book and don’t ask me if the fears expressed in that explanation eight years ago have been justified, the true answer to that will be unveiled in the next few months.

The truth for me however is that many times in the past eight years, that headline had flashed in my head but last week it disappeared only to be replaced by a street wide banner in red dotted all over with panicked bleeding eyes and rising uncoordinated skeletons all screeching BABANGIDA KEEEEEEEE!

This, as l watched on TV and read in newspapers the reports of babangida’s declaration of intent to be president. Yes of course l had heard all the rumours and cowardly kite flying but l did not believe that the man would actually run. For him to step out with his better life-ruining wife and actually declare an intention to run is an affront on the people of Nigeria. It is the equivalent of the recently passed on Botha declaring an intention to govern a post apartheid South Africa! Worse still is the tacit acceptance that he has a right to run, the putrid argument that we should give him a chance to repent and the odious lack of outrage at the sheer temerity. What is wrong with us! If the man has lost his mind should we not unequivocally reacquaint him with it?

Is this not the man who single headedly impoverished this nation with his inconsistent policies? Who engineered the systemic decay of our institutions and infrastructure? The one who played Tom and Jerry games with human rights running journalists aground, proscribing newspapers? In whose never ending times dissenting voices get mysteriously letter bombed or disappear, the man who dishonourably toyed with the democratic process and eventually stole our mandate and had to be dragged out of office (remember the odious stepping aside speech and ceremony where the peacock first lady glared her resentment at a stunned nation)? The man who left us with Abacha who was the same officer that mowed down over 200 defenceless civilians in a suburb of Lagos in protest of Babangidas sit tight attempts. He who cannot and has not explained the Gulf War windfall, he who took away the opportunities of my generation? BABANGIDA KE!

Our collective amnesia never ceases to amaze, after all some mad men (non gender specific please) are actually saying that Abacha’s era is better than now. I might understand that coming from the jobbers, contractors, marabous, concubines, slaves and relatives of the man but from average everyday Nigerians? Dem don crase finish.
Now why am l concerned? Why not just allow him to be roundly defeated at the polls? One, he has no right to even benefit from a democracy he worked against, should a paedophile be eligible for a job position in a school? Two, shine ya eye and read again the first two paragraphs of this piece, note also that the police IG and PDP chairman Ali accompanied him when he declared. The process so far gives enough cause for concern. Voters registration is in shambles as l write l haven’t registered and l intend to even if l have to travel to the only available point in my ward adequately armed with sleeping mat, umbrella and nutrition since there are only 1 registration point to 500,000 eligible voters in Lagos (check projectvote.org for news and reports).
Nobody should think they can foist Babangida on us, if the man wants redemption he should go to Allah who is merciful and perhaps he shall be allowed to enjoy the spoils of his reign in peace but if he dares Nigerians, all the souls of the living dead (which is what 70% of Nigeria is no thanks to the babangida legacy et al), the truly dead (especially the likes of Dele Giwa) and our ancestors will pursue him until he gets his just deserts.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006

MADONNA AND BABY DAVID

So Madonna’s attempt to adopt an African baby developed k leg. I don’t get it. Wasn’t baby David supposed to be an AIDS orphan, one of the tragic statistics of a continent ravaged by AIDS where most of the adults are dead or dying leaving kids to raise kids? When did baba David resurrect? I am generally uninterested in the shenanigans of the over rich, over pampered western celebrity. I think they should shut up and sing, dance, act, party, kick the ball or whatever it is they are overpaid to do. Yeah well except Bono. Bono is sexy. I like Madonna especially in her material gal days, this maternal gal Madonna confuses me and the arm muscles scare me but the black baby backing African Madge vexes me, that is one photo op too many men! Ironic that she is blaming the media for the cock up on the adoption, why, pray tell were there that many cameras covering every angle of the story? Isn’t that the real story? Even the great philanthropic media manipulator of the noughties, Angelina had enough sense to start small. Her first forays had low level media attention and adopting Maddox was quiet enough and even to my jaded mind genuine and unforced. She only got high on the extra sex appeal of being a sexy (god she is, she is, a little less so with that brad person tailgating her) connected, compassionate superstar but it was a process. Madonna cant just jump to the end result. This in a continent that has a lot of genuine charity workers from all over the world working silently.

My director was doing the typical Nigerian thing cursing the Malawian father for disgracing Africans before the West. What arrant rubbish, since when has the actions of one confused (who no go confuse under all that camera lights) Malawian peasant represented the whole of Africa?
The very fact of this entire goings on underlines the tendency of the West to over simplify Africa into a meaningless footnote. Once it was the pictures of war and famine, now it is the faces of Aids. The celeb with starving baby pictures have been replaced by the celeb carrying, kissing and backing cute African orphan pictures. Famine, drought, genocides, Aids and death happen in Africa as in other places but that is not the total picture. Africa will benefit more from a more rounded view of herself such that other people see that although she has her problems she is an entity like them that can be engaged for business, pleasure, science, philosophy and culture.
One of the problems of the west is the lens through which she sees Africa, which is by the way not a village in Zulu land but a vast continent of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Africa does not need AID, she need disengagement and then reengagement. The west needs to stop encouraging and supporting the most unimaginative and imbecilic amongst Africans at various leadership positions so that they can transact business in the most profit magnifying way. Read the Next Gulf on Nigeria’s oil crisis. The West needs to understand Africans and their ways rather that impose a western way. Most of the Aid that comes to Nigeria is wasted as it is passed through beaurocratic systems that pander to western egos, which are however deeply flawed, unconnected to the people and sometimes downright fraudulent. The conduits are usually people who understand the western red tape and have put structures that the west can relate to in place to defraud both the west and their own people. All these they do whilst grinning the likeable African idiot grin in colourful attire that so resonate with the West.
If the west saw Africa and Africans as human equals, poorer as many are in Eastern European and Asia but equal, they would never have stood by and watched Rwanda happen. If the west engages Africa on those levels (and elephants will fly) then we might begin to see true poverty eradication. Meanwhile, let us keep battling our west supported demons whilst we enjoy the exotic spectacle of yet another white woman playing Mary Slesssor with cameras.

BETWEEN WHO IS AND WHO COULD HAVE BEEN (long but worth it)

My lovely sister just left. She had come to stay with me briefly whilst on a one-week pilgrimage to the prayer city of mountain of fire and miracles. She brought my gorgeous 20 and 21-year-old nieces with her. She is the eldest of my mother’s children and a real tower of strength. My earliest memories of her were of this tall, slim, dark stunning heroine like figure who was joyous, fun and tempestuous. With her large almond eyes, cut glass cheekbones, straight thin nose, regal bearing and that body, all longs lithe limbs with unexpected and outrageous curves only in the right places. To cap it all she had an unnerving sense of style and fashion. Today in another place, another skin, she could have been a taller Kate moss but it was the seventies in Nigeria.
She was sought after as a model but my mother would have none of that “omoita” (vagabond) profession. Our only memento to that truncated dream was a centre spread face shoot of my sister in the then glorious daily times. She looked like a cross between Naomi Campbell and Iman, (l swear l exaggerate not), l of course hero-worshipped her. She went to fashion school and was just finishing when my mother disappeared. The family fell apart, she is my half sister and my mum’s family took her and my other older sisters away only to abandon them. From that time when l was eight, l didn’t see her again till l was twelve and after that only the odd once or twice a year up until now. All through the years though she has always been a steady, supporting presence in my life. She has told me over the years harrowing stories of survival that explains who she is now.
Fast forward 26 years and l watch my sister walks into my home. Her stunning bone structure entombed in layers of flesh, her large eyes dimmed and sunken into the flesh, those famed cheekbones struggling to assert themselves. Her luscious ebony skin is sallow, her full bouncy hair thin and grey, her shoulders rounded and bent, the only reminder of the girl she was in her sunshine of a smile, bright even gap toothed smile that warms the skin.
She walks in and l kneel to greet her in the tradition of our culture and then got up to give her a tight hug, my true emotions and feeling incommunicable. At 48, my sister looked 68.
Fast-forward one week and my sister has finished her pilgrimage to the prayers city, her eyes are feverish and her pace restless. I had retreated into my sanctuary, my study, bedroom and bathroom are my ode to peace, tranquilly and sanity, no one comes in without reason or permission. I was lying near naked on my four poster wood bed, a shrine to the senses and l know the sensuality of the room, the rich regal colour and bedding, the warm oriental oils l burn and the thick maroon rug and mahogany carvings, chests and furniture makes her uncomfortable.
So she would peep in, see me reading or talking on my now stolen mobile phone and duck out again. I knew what was coming but l was determined to have fun at her expense.
Finally she summoned enough courage and came in, a bottle of olive oil in one hand and a bible in the other.

I am 35 and an unmarried mother of one, which of course is a cardinal offence regardless of all my accomplishments and contributions to my society. Worse still is the fact that l seem quite happy in “my condition”. My gentle dad had once (upon harassment by others l suspect) had the token so “what is the problem” conversation with me and we had got up from that with a deeper respect and understanding of each other. Second time it ever happened was after my brilliant comic sister’s third wedding, my dad and my eldest sister paid me a visit for a “now what really is the problem” conversation. My usual response is to poke fun at them, get irritated, angry then revert to humour once l realise that we are never going to be in the same place on the issue and they are really well meaning. Besides it is such a rarity that it is instantly forgettable. Compared with the hell other families give their daughters from age twenty, l know my family is brilliant about it.

So it is with amusement that l watch my sister walk towards me, l could see her almost physically willing herself on. The week’s spiritual cleansing, three days of dry (no food no liquid) fasting and prayers and three more of only liquids and prayers had drained her physically but strengthen her resolve.
Aduke, she started, l know you are oloyinbo and l understand that a good man is hard to find but let me tell you what is happening. The devil does not go to bad places he has conquered those places, he goes to good places and people to test them and gloat at God. Look at you, you have everything but the crown of a woman, her own husband, he knows that once you have that you will be complete before God and man so he has prevented that and l plead with you that in my one week of praying, it has become clear that we must break the bondage. I have spent my life praying for my husband that is why he stopped beating me and even if he carries 50 women, he must surely come back to me so l have begun special prayers for you. Before December God must bring your husband so we can have a wedding ceremony all you have to do is accept it with me in Jesus name. She proceeded to pray and rub the oil on my head and hands. I let her. She summarises by asking me to fast with her and if possible to come to prayer city where I’ll be given a special room as a celebrity so no one know I’m there praying for my December husband.

Through it all l oscillated between, a deep sadness and an insane desire to laugh out loud, l kept biting my lower lip to stop the laughter until it bled. I wanted to gather my lovely sister in my arms and comfort her and point out who she could have been to her but l don’t think she would ever understand. Instead l sat on the bed with her rubbing her hand and nodding in agreement but gently telling l shall not be doing prayer city and such but l will pray with her. I said it to make her happy, she deserves a lot more happiness, if marriage was only about the ceremony, l would do the ceremony sans husband to give her more happiness but alas l suspect that’s not what she wants.

We moved to the floor talking and my mind wandered to whom my sister could have been if she had not spent her life fighting to keep her marriage. Her husband a happy go lucky army colonel from an interesting family with three sets of twin boys, himself one of a pair was your regular army male. Hard drinking, hard smoking, hard skirt chasing. His family typical, lazy, suspicious, untrusting of a beautiful young wife, economically dependent on the one brother made good and out of control in their own individual capacity. My beautiful enterprising sister who had by the early eighties built a thriving fashion business got married to her new officer boyfriend at age 25. A vibrant, funny, happy successful woman. Then she left her business and began the army wife life of barrack after barrack. She had two beautiful daughters and due to taunts from his family and numerous girlfriends began an insane search for a son, had one more daughter and at 48 is still praying for a son. She physically fought girlfriends for years until she resorted to prayers. He still skirt chases and one of his reasons for liking me was that at age 14 l caught him with one and never told my sister. I wasn’t protecting him, l was protecting my sister, and even then l knew that she had enough pain to deal with. His family hates her because they believe he spends all his money on her so she has fought many battles with them and finally takes them to God having been informed that the mother and only sister are witches! He was almost killed in Liberia and given up for lost in Bakassi for three years, the army was preparing to evict them when he resurfaced my sister believes it was her prayers. Because he never got juicy army appointments she has always been the silent breadwinner of the family running two grocery stores in different army barracks. She has almost completed building a home in Lagos for that family to retire into. In all of this l must say that he is nicer than many are and is her greatest advocate, encouraging her to keep praying and fasting whilst he goes on skirt chasing and all. This is my sister’s life and the reason why she has lost her looks, her youth and her true personality but she keeps her sanity with her extreme religiosity. That l cannot begrudge her, which is the story of many women in Nigeria.

It is useless to point to the many socio economic factors that are the underlying reasons for the intractable personal and community problems that religion provides a palliative or aggravation for many people. She asks me if l have any interesting men in my life right now. I shook my head and smiled wanly, l thought of the queer, bush jr supporting, married, born again one proclaiming undying love, the selfish, insanely, unexplainably wealthy soldier turned politician asking me to cook for him and the anal, bullying corporate monster with napoleon complex. I said that there was no special one. No she said don’t look for a special one just a good enough one in fact I’d like you to marry an officer! Something tells me some officer in her barracks has been talking to her. I laughed and teased her about her weight which is causing her some health problems as l remembered a conversation my friend Remi had with a certain sitting first lady. At 45 Remi is only a couple of years younger than my sister but she could pass for her child and is still able to attract men as young as 25. Remi is unmarried and unchild and admits that she might not have minded marriage but she never found the man however, she is one of the happiest people l know and never lacks companionship both male and female. At a party the first lady walks up to Remi and says o de wa enia kan (why not find yourself someone), Remi laughs (the first lady is a relentless matchmaker) and teasingly says ha I’m looking for a special someone, my hero. The lady says with firm severity, hero ke, they are all bastards you just manage them, look at that one l married, his eyes deceived me l thought he was a gentleman but he is complete liar. Surreally, she then drags her governor husband into the circle and says wo my dear l was just telling Remi here that she should just find someone because you are all liars and the governor deadpan, says but my dear deep respect ti mo ni fun e ni mo se nparo fun e (my dear l only lie to you because l have deep respect for you)!

I though about all this as l sat on the floor with my sister in silence, l love her so much but l also miss that other girl who might have become a confident assured beautiful woman, a sister whom married or unmarried l could l have told that l am brilliantly happy in my state, requiring no one to complete me and enjoying the quest for a sane stable partner whom l might or not marry.

A little home video.

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This is Prof Jadesola Akande former VC of LASU talking on my show NEW DAWN. She was tear gassed by the police when she led other women on a peaceful processing after the Sosoliso crash that killed over 60 children 11 months ago. The show aired on Monday 6th Nov.
Sunday, November 05, 2006

coming attractions

Got all the comments about how "creative" my blog name is. Na una know u o! "u get the name l get the car". lf you dont get that joke you know be 9ja. Thing is l had to just start the blog cos l was bursting so l didnt do the registration and all the dirty work myself. celebs dont do that you see (-:. Worry not though we,ll soon have pics, videos et al from my show, events and all l attend. l might event spill some backstage beans. Anyways thanks all for far. My style is to do the work first and brand later or just bloody fashie (l,s a 9os kid).

As a start l,ll tommorrow by uploading something from prof jadesola Akande, former VC of LASU who was tear gassed with other women when they marched peacefully to protest the death of over 60 children in the sosoliso crash 11 months ago. l,m off to the CITY PEOPLE fashion awards, that should be a laugh that l,ll share tommorrow.

soldier go soldier come

Last week in the senate some joked, at least l thought it was a joke. He said, Borisade must be sacked, if he cannot be sacked then let him be moved to ministry of culture or something like that. Lo and behold it happened! He was swapped with Fani kayode at culture and tourism. All l can say is l don craze finish (ori me ti yi tan). Fani Kayode and l were founding members of the defunct Progressive Action movement (lets not go there today) and my thoughts of Fani Kayode are that he is a fine Queens English speaking, debonair man. His highest public achievement up to date is his rabid loyal support for all and every that concerns president Obasanjo combining in one breath Remi Oyo, Frank Nweke and Runsewe’s jobs in one grammatically correct, pheonerics spewing diatribe at all and any who dares oppose OBJ be they Soyinka, Gani or mama risi by the road. No one is too mighty or small to take on. When he became culture minister, l sent him a congratulatory text. Why? He never try? He deserved something for all that hard work now. At least now he doesn’t have to try so hard to prove his loyalty and can concentrate on a particular assignment that has great potentials. I’ve often wondered why he tried so hard though, could it have anything to do with the fact that before he was appointed special adviser to OBJ he was a rabid, loyal antagonist of OBJ? I still have in my library live TV interviews l did with him where he lambasted OBJ and his policies. I recall him calling me and asking to be interviewed to give vent to such. Strange that but then a man can be allowed a drastic change of heart, people get born again everyday especially in “godly” Nigeria.

Since he became minister he has been less vocally controversial perhaps hunkering down to tackle the highly underrated, under funded, culture and tourism (two distinct entities if you asked me) ministry. One visible contribution thus far to that ministry being the much locally publicized, internationally ignored independent Nigeria rocks concert where the extremely rich and mostly old rocked to the music of celebrated international rap, R&B and pop artists. Unfortunately we will never see how much more he can do, he is now aviation minister.

As an old friend l wish him luck, as a rightfully air phobic Nigerian l truly wish him success. If he can convert his rabid loyalty to one person into bulldog tenacity of purpose to one cause, i.e. sorting out the mess (don’t bother with building it o, time too short) in the sector, he would finally deserve the love he craves.

As to sending Borisade to culture and tourism l revert to my favourite book of Fela wisdom he he he ha ha ha, why l dey laugh? If l no laugh, l go cry.
If you must know, ministries of sport, culture, tourism and anything to do with entertainment are traditionally reserved for bored, retired, military officers, disgruntled party loyalists and the generally unaware and unimaginative. Shame really since these are multi billion dollar industries but how do you expect people who think a mouse pad is used to catch rats to know that.