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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, April 30, 2007

Conversation with Shan

I have always liked Shan George. At every encounter with her over the last few years l found her funny, completely down to heart and strangely self-depreciating. Last week, she walked into the studio full of life, asking for local rice and joking about her fading black
eye, the result of an attack by hoodlums on Election Day on her way back from the studio where she'd been editing her work. l had her on the "get better" edition of the show; our last interview had been about four years ago in the heat of the so-called nude film scene.

That interview was memorable and this caught me completely off guard. l had set out to talk about her broken marriages and ended up unearthing the story of a courageous search for self, education and love. She told the story of a poor mixed race child whose father died at five and whose auxiliary nurse mother barely managed to pay her way through secondary school in the village. She told of watching TV in groups through the window at the only house with a TV set in the village and wanting to be on TV too. Somehow she believed education would get her there. At 15 she was married off to a much older man on the promise that he'll educate her. 2 children, six years and many beatings later and the promise of education looked like a mirage. At each beating, she runs to her mother, her only relative who sternly orders her back to her husband and who informs her that if she leaves the marriage she had no home with her.

One day at age 21, Shan walks out on the marriage and keeps walking, living on the streets for a while before a kind lady took her in from whom she started learning
dress making and working. It took 8 years but Shan finally makes it into University of Lagos describing the day she got the admission letter the happiest of her life. As a student, she started acting and became one of Nollywood's biggest stars but a second marriage to a London based Nigerian ended up being a cage and the man cheating her with anything that moves. Strangely when she left him after catching
him practically pants down, she is the one who is castigated. The rest of the story including earning her children's love and respect through the years, maintaining a good relationship with her first husband, her work and her quest for happiness is compelling. The studio audience and I were mesmerized by her story but mostly by the way she told it.She spoke with a matter of fact wit and lack of bitterness that was
endearing, only giving vent to occasional irritation at being so
misunderstood.

Here are highlights from the show.



Friday, April 27, 2007

Baba ke!

Oh you selfish folk of blogosville, you wan chop alone chop quench? Why didn't anyone see it fit to mention in passing that Baba Alaye was back? Not even Jeremy (Naijablog) the most trusted blogger in Nigeria. I don't get it, just one week of not checking and one month of holding back from joining the horde begging the hilarious, irreverent son of a … (na true say he is HIS son? Wont be surprised, that arrogance, earthily wicked sense of humour, that conspicuous reference to his looks or possible lack of it) to come back and he does when l was distracted. Bella was first, the bitch ☺! Been trying to be first on Bella and Babaalaye's blogs for a while. One day… Meanwhile whilst I'm in this confessional mode, l do solemnly declare that l too have a crush on Baba Alaye, it's all that undisguisable thrusting alpha maleness mixed with humour. I wont even hold it against him if he does turn out to be Baba Kekere, you don't choose your parent. Only down side is his devotion to TMINX, a sex god in love is just a Greek tragedy waiting to happen (just watch what will become of Brad Pitt). Age difference? I have Demi Mooric appeal, l'll never age.

BTW there is an interesting post on Jeremy's blog about OBJ and his
stepson Tunde Bayewu.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Between Power and Respect

The really interesting thing about these elections and its troublesome
fall out is that it was all completely unnecessary. It is my opinion
that Yar' Adua would have won the presidential elections without any
arm-twisting basically because the other top contenders had too much
baggage. My gut instinct is that the majority of Nigerians may have
nothing for him, but they have nothing against him either. The
roforofo fight between OBJ and Atiku had tarnished them both
irrevocably and Buhari does have the albatross of past human right
violations and accusations of religious intolerance. Yar' Adua on the
other hand is an unknown but unthreatening entity that with the deep
campaign pocket and support of the incumbent was almost certain to
win. What might have shifted the equation would have been a coalition
of all the other candidates and a pooling together of their resources,
political machinery and emotional capital. That would have been
strategic and perhaps effective but it would have required a subsuming
of personal ambitions and egos, something we are truly terrible at.
This was the case in 2003 when the elections were marred by massive
rigging and violence which have now been surpassed. It was true then
that Obasanjo would most likely have won and PDP would have had a
majority at the federal legislature as well as in the executive and
legislative arm in several states. It would not have affected their
majority if they had conceded a few states in a free and fair
election. 2003 landslide victory amidst blatant irregularities paved
the way for 2007's clean sweep in an election described as one of the
worst ever conducted on the continent. It is unnatural in any
political sphere especially one as diverse as Nigeria's is to have
such a monolithic power structure, it is untrue to life. If you look
closely however it is symptomatic of a deeper cultural phenomenon that
(as my wise friend Kwabena says) is rooted in our ego based
patriarchy.

Our leaders, our men and by extension our society thinks that being in control is a complete annihilation of contrary thought, opinion, ideas, ideal, goals, religion and worldview. The most haunted people in Nigeria are the most rational, problem solving, questioning, individual, creative, systematic, process driven and non-religious. Even worse when any such accursed is female. So power and respect would mean a clean sweep of opposing viewpoints by any means necessary be it in the home, school, office or political office. This of course is a strategy that belongs firmly in the 16th century, which is where we insist on staying in many aspects of life.

A strategy that the majority of the world has found to be least effective in contemporary times, recently resuscitated by George Bush to colossal failure. In a world were the talk is about leadership based on skills that women are in particular suited to i.e. persuasion, negotiation, team building, adaptability and nuanced diplomacy based on deeper understanding of other cultures and people. Did you see Pelosi is Iran? It is that intolerance of difference (camouflaging fear and ignorance) which is often manifest as egoistic aggression and violence that is at the root of our gradual descent into a homogenous society polarized by religion
and money, with only one possible bleak outcome.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Last Sunday on Idols



Please please Dede and co if na joke stop am oh. What do they (the judges) mean that this cabaret performance by Jodie was a great rendition of Tina Turners 80s hit What's Love Got To Do With it? I don't understand the language of Foster and Nana who are mostly grunting or grinning but surely Dede you know better. As a devoted lifelong fan of Tina turner who knows all her songs by heart, have all the videos and plays Proud Mary everyday, l can tell you that Jodie MURDERED that song, simply just murdered it. This is not a case of interpreting it differently but of killing the song, then murdering it. As Fela would say, "na real dead bodi get accident yeepa" rendition.

What is with that awful dress and spangly belt that made the poor rather short girl look stocky? With her lack of height and curvy but heavy proportions she needed an ultra short dress (or short shorts like she wore once) or a long sleek dress to give her height and elongate her silhouette. With that dress her nice enough legs just looked stumpy and comparing them (that's you magic baby) to Tina's toned, shapely and fabulous legs is sacrilege. I have nothing against Jodie who did a brilliant rendition of an Aretha Franklin number a few weeks ago but this week no be am at all at all and Simon Cowell would agree with me. My favourites last Sunday were Timi and Temitayo. And the person who should go and ought to have gone since is Jerrylin.
Monday, April 23, 2007

Power From The People

So l sit here this morning pensive, it took all of 3 minutes for me to
cast my vote on Saturday, 3 minutes. The week before l had stood in
line in the sun for two hours, hat and sunglasses firmly on, large
bottle of water in hand as resolutely determined as most of my fellow
country men to cast my vote. This weekend, the polling booth was a
ghost town, my people had lost hope, l voted and left, because l had
an access car, l had observed proceeding from the Alimosho area,
through Agege, Ikeja, to Maryland and the apathy was palpable. The
streets were empty as boys took to the highway playing football. Close
monitoring of news reports (galaxy TV was commendable) all day showed
that this was the situation nationwide along with late or non arrival
of ballot material and the usual ballot snatching/ stuffing,
harassment and intimidation.

I am therefore in a bit of confusion as to how the high numbers that have and are coming in have been achieved. In the past hour l have read most of today's headlines and top stories online and the most unsettling are the foreign ones. Unsettling because one is forced to see one's self and nation through the eye of the outsider and we look like all those little malfunctioning nations (some pre war) that one reads about with a mixture of pity, disrespect and alarm. Just read this report as an example. 2003 elections set a bad precedence that smoothened the path for the perpetuation of such temerity as we are witnessing. It is as though Nigerians are being told to do our worst by those who know that our worst is to sigh, complain and leave them to God.
Friday, April 20, 2007

Desperado Campaign Strategies

As we countdown to tomorrow's elections, the tension on the streets
has reduced, at least in Lagos but l suspect that voter apathy has set
in as the shenanigans of the past week has convinced many that their
votes will either not count, be counted or allowed to happen. One
interesting footnote to these elections of course is the vigour of the
media campaign especially in Lagos. The debates in particular provided
much beer parlour fodder, however is it just me or is everyone else
tired of the unending political bulk text messaging? Just as it happened last week, less than 24 hours to the commencement of the next set of election and my phone service has gone wonky, l hear the other networks are no better. One of the alleged reasons is the last minute campaign bulk text messaging to subscribers. As a rule, no more electioneering advertisements can be done on the conventional media platforms 24 hours to elections so the text and phone campaigns are intensified by those candidates who can afford it. I don't know what the "legalese" is or clearly understand how it works but isn't this aninvasion of privacy?

In fact before last Saturday's elections one candidate had a system in place that means you get a phone call from a 444 (my phone has erased the record) number and a recorded campaign message plays into your ears. At first l thought, it was a crank caller but it soon became clear that it was a rather desperate campaign strategy. That phone call came in over 5 times in a 7 hour period, even during a meeting, ensuring that l did not vote (not that l intended to in the first place) for such an irritant candidate. I am all for innovation and using IT solutions for sundry challenges but the text/phone political campaign is vexatious. Worse is the effect it
seem to have on the efficiency of the system, surely it cannot be more profitable for the networks to trade such wanton use of their networks for customer satisfaction and efficiency? Or am l being hormonal??
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And that campus shooting

Pix:Sam Okpodu and the girls
As we grapple with our own problems here in Nigeria, l cannot help but
be transfixed by the horror of the campus shooting reports coming out
of Virginia Tech in America. The reports are even more eerie for me
because in 1999, I stayed in one of those dormitories where the
shooting began. I had been doing a sports travel diary out of America
during the FIFA Female World Cup. After the finals l flew from LA to
Chicago and then to Maryland and had to drive to Roanoke to visit our
friend Sam Okpodu. Sam, ex-Green Eagle star is a decorated football
coach in America. At that time, he was the female football coach at VT
and he was conducting a summer school for girls aged between 9 and 15 during the campus summer break. I recall teasing Sam about the fact that l could count the number of black faces l saw in my one-week stay on one hand. That community is so suburban, middle class, white and peaceful that my mind cannot comprehend how such a heinous crime could be committed there. Sam eventually (on Segun Odegbami's persuasion) resigned his job and came home to coach the Nigerian Falcons only to be thoroughly frustrated out of the job (story for another day). After three years, he returned to America and is now in South Carolina. I sit here in my Lagos home far away from Virginia but my mind is on those beautiful lawns of Virginia Tech, l still have my VT sweatshirt with the Go Hokie sign on it.

I cannot imagine the pain of the family of the victims and the consternation of the Korean community in America and at home. As the arguments on gun control start all over again in America l recall the story of the Nigerian tourist in Johannesburg whose two year old daughter was shot right in front of her in their hotel room. Perhaps it is because we don't have such easy access to guns or the fact that Nigerians are just non violent but l have often admired the fact that crime rate in Nigeria is so low compared to the amount of policing we get. You can travel for kilometres on NEPA (don't care what it is called now) darkened roads without a policeman in sight save the occasional police check points where random policemen shake down okadas and danfos for the odd 20 naira. Imagine New York or London without light, cameras and police? Ah ha you get the picture? So even as we join America in a comity of nations to mourn the dead and ponder on how it could have happened we must be thankful that things are not as bad as they could potentially be here in Nigeria. Or am l deluding myself?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Do or Die “selections”

The President said it was going to be do or die, apparently he was serious. Found this story by the Independent of UK, which confirms what we already known. Question is what will Nigerians do about it? We go sidon look?
Monday, April 16, 2007

Totally Wired

I love WIRED, it is one of my windows into the future of the world and one of the ways l reverse the aging process. This month's cover totally rocks (just flip it over) and the brillant article on Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson, former TIME Managing editor and current ASPEN institute President and CEO should be given to all the guardians of our failing educational system. I met Walter last summer at ASPEN during the FOCAS meeting, a truly enriching experience.

Book of the week
DEMANDING THE IMPOSSIBLE, a history of anarchism by Peter Marshall

Favourite career changing quote
My friend Ade Bakare tells the story of how the inimitable Isabella Blow looked at his pre breakthrough sketches and said "very nice but it has no anarchy".

Best compliment l ever received (at least l took it as one)
You are frightfully deep

LA BELLA

I have been staring at my cursor for one hour, before then, l had been
reading every piece of news and opinion l can about the elections on
line, before then l had been monitoring the progress of the collation
and announcement of results in Lagos and Ekiti and before then l had
been mobilizing people to vote and voting.

It is all abit much to take in and even more to distill and comment
on, especially as l can sense that there is still some real drama yet
to come. Unfortunately l cannot tell all that l know, that would have
to come in a future book. In short, l have a mental block and will thus
get away from it all for a while and go to my favourite Nigerian blog
BELLANAIJA.

That girl Bella has kept me up many nights reading her addictive blog,
how does she do it, is she even a she (so asked some fossil brain
friend of mine)? What does she look like? How does she get all the
information? Does she do this full time etcetc. Why not just interview
her some co addict asked once. I thought about it and l said nah. I
like the mental image l have about her and l'd like to keep it for
just a little longer. Just a little. Funmi loves Bellanaija.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Being the Best and the Baddest

A word of advice to other Africans. Don't be getting into that odious
"my country is more fucked up than yours" argument with Nigerians. We, Obatala, his wife and his cat know that Nigeria is undoubtedly the
most fucked up country in Africa, perhaps the world. We take some sort of morbid pride in it, exchanging increasingly surreal stories of
dysfunction, oppression, greed, avarice and manic leadership
misconduct that borders on cinematic black comedy.

So this Easter weekend in Accra when our closet eccentric, achingly
talented bag designer friend Nanna began that "oh you people are
lucky, Ghana is getting bad oh, and you cant believe bla bla bla .." l
mentally rolled up my eyes in exasperation. It the classic whinny "oh
l have issues, l need therapy" musing of the sane. Does the insane
recognise his madness? We don't need therapy, we don crase finish!
Imagine, even South Africans dare to compare their post apartheid
issues with Nigeria's problems. Nigeria with her pockets of Darfur,
bits of holocaust and flagrant internal apartheid, l beg go siddon jo!
Usually by the time the Nigerians exchange a few fondly insane
anecdotes from their daily lives, the other Africans usually shrivel
up, tail between their legs in acknowledgement of our never threatened status as the biggest, baddest country in Africa, chikena!

Perhaps it was to let off steam before we get into the pressure cooker
that the next few weeks of "selections" in Nigeria will be or to do a
destination inspection in case of rapid evacuation or how do you
explain the sheer number of Nigerians that descended on Accra for the
Easter break. You did not hear a word of Twi or Ga within a hundred
yards of black humanity. All the hotels were booked and the sleepy,
peaceful city heaved with a suppressed Nigerian soul. The shrimp was
in heaven as she was able to do her favourite things, swim and walk in
a park. She measures the worth of a nation in bright, clean, green
terms and has long declared Lagos ugly. She thinks Accra is beautiful
and at five noticed all the flags and emblems of national pride enough
to say "mummy every thing is Ghana, Ghana, they like Ghana sebi?" She composed a five-sentence song for Ghana ending it with free and happy, astonishing isn't it that even children know that freedom and the pursuit of happiness are cousins. They too must feel the constriction and inhibition to private space, thought and expression, the maddening efforts at homogenizing that we consider as development. The Ghanaians were of course happy to have our unbudgeted tourist dollars but they have always and even more so now as our democracy stands on trial dreaded an invasion by Nigerians. Even the lovely Nanna who loves Nigeria and Nigerians and whose house breathes art, creativity and inspiration declared she couldn't wait to see Nigerians leave. A common sentiment as confirmed by Chief Dele (that is what Ghanaians call BobDee Dele Momodu of Ovation) with whom we shared lunch and thought at Ovation Restaurant in Accra.

I can understand why they hate us, if l where them, l would hate us
and really they needn't bother because we hate us enough to go round. Now if l stop there you will fall into the trap of the passive
observer who watching Nigerians condemn Nigeria soundly concluded that we were self mutilating, suicidal nutcases. Nah men! We love us just as passionately as we hate us and exorcising our Nigerian soul is nigh impossible, even with the most integrated west man dick sucker, it seeps out of the nape of his neck like some mischievous little anjonu
(elf like spirit) gleefully mocking his best efforts at adapting.
Perhaps our love stem from a deep recognition of our potential
universal role and unspoken abilities whilst our hatred is a denial of
the cowardice beneath our inability to achieve those possibilities thus far. That may be why the Nigerian, even the one who has not stepped foot on this soil in the past twenty years is keenly following as we countdown to our "selections". We know they have manipulated the process in such a way at to mostly throw up our most untalented, unwell, uninspiring, unknowledgeable, untrue and closet diabolic. We know they will rig the selections and try to manipulate the results but na we and dem. We are going to stay and smoke them out. We will vote just so that we can continue with our version of democracy knowing that just by being some things will change, as they must in nature. After all, those monstrous anecdotes are usually ended with statements like God is a Nigerian.

Then again, even as l say that, my mischievous little id laughs
maniacally, perhaps the joke is on us and we exist vaingloriously
thumping our king of the jungle chest in a world that left the jungle
centuries ago. The naked dancing king, a measure for other Africans to
look at their problems, sigh and say, counting my blessings men, at
least l am not Nigerian.
Thursday, April 05, 2007

At the commissioning Of TINAPA

Pix: Kaine Bode George, Adebayo Jones, Florence Ita-Giwa, Remi Osolanke (Remi Lagos) and myself
l really should write a Bridget Jones like diary, l returned two days
ago from the long awaited opening of the much-publicized TINAPA
business and leisure resort in Calabar, deaf in one ear and coughing
my guts out. A case of wrong diagnosis or fake drugs or both.
I should not have gone as l had caught a bad flu on the eve of my
departure but l bought into the hype and felt that I’ll be missing
something if l did not go. Plus l wanted to meet my friend Pamela's
mum Professor Eka Braide the Vice Chancellor at the university. The
professor, bless her did not disappoint, a woman the way they don't
make them anymore, intellectual, dignified without vexatious piety,
resourceful, nurturing and hospitable. None of which can be said about
the arrangements for either the so-called Calabar Fashion Week, the
Nigerian Movie Awards and to some extent the commissioning of Tinapa
itself.

The fashion week was a really a tacky exhibition in a porky little
room and a shadowy fashion show in a passageway at an unimaginative
boat club set in the most gorgeous body of water. Even the attempt to
take us to TINAPA by boat from the club with full military and police
protection and hardware took 70 minutes for a 20 minute ride, the boat
broke down twice, had to be changed, then broke down again. The
business resort opening began with the rude accreditation and card
verification process at entry and the disruption of the order of the
events such that we were kept waiting in the admittedly huge, well
organized and cool hall for almost five hours before the president's
arrival. By the last speech, l led the mutiny at one of the food
serving points as my blood sugar plummeted to zero.

The TINAPA project is no doubt audacious and visionary and Donald Duke
must be commended for even attempting it against all odds especially
given the lack of performance of other governors in the region with a much fatter resource bank. However, l am concerned as to how functional
it will be in its locale. Aside TINAPA itself the traditionally clean
and hospitable Calabar lacks the number and quality of hotel rooms to
be attractive. The idea of a localized tourist haven within a country
without a defined tourism agenda or policy, very poor infrastructure
and formidable security challenges seem unsustainable to me. It might
be doable if the visioner is there to steer the course in the first
few crucial years but Donald Duke would cease to be governor of Cross
River state in the next few weeks. The successor in the wings l am
told is his ally and shares his vision enough to actualize the dream
but if that happens it will be going against the grain of all l know
about Nigeria and politics. Is Liyel Imoke not the man who as minister
of power declared that even with billions of dollars in lifeline
Nigeria will not have constant and stable power for another 50 years,
hardly visionary nor revolutionary thought there. Besides l am yet to
see the Nigerian politician who is non egotistical enough to happily
actualize another politicians' vision.

TINAPA is maybe about 70% completed, the 300 bed hotel is still being
built, the mono rail is not yet built, the port on course and the
Nollywood complex is nearing completion but this to be used by who?
The idea of TINAPA is based on its being a free trade zone, a duty and
tax free haven where international goods can be bought cheaply in a
touristy haven with entertainment and culture on offer. However, both
the president and the minister of commerce did state clearly that they
expect that most of the goods traded will in no time be locally
manufactured. A joke really considering how the continual decline in
infrastructure, power and assess to non-incestuous capital has
strangulated manufacturing and enterprise in the past few years.

As a free trade zone with functional facilities and easy mass
transportation, TINAPA can work; l would love for it to work and
perhaps the private sector participants will ensure this. Even with
only internal tourism, the number of Nigerians who will be persuaded
to buy international good and products cheaply for resale or
consumption is considerable and there is a large enough expatriate
community and middle class adventurers who might be attracted to a
secure, fun, entertainment and shopping destination within Nigeria.
Any attempt to alter that will kill the TINAPA dream. As per the
Nollywood studio (is the gorilla stature at the entrance a reference
to the Neanderthal state of our movie industry?) it will no doubt make
a cheap production venue for foreign movie and TV producers. As per
Nollywood practitioners, unless the use of the studios is free l don't
see how they can use the facilities effectively without a committed
engagement from the financial sector. Even if they get the money to
use such facilities, pay huge artists and professional fees, buy
better stories and build immressive film sets to produce better
quality films, what about the challenges of promotion, distribution
and piracy, which will erode the potential profit from such huge
invested capital. Once again we are back to the issue of basic
infrastructure. The ability to move large numbers of people, goods and
products all over the country. The generation of power effectively
and constantly, sustaining industry at every level and the ability to
guarantee lives and property. These are the building blocks of
prosperity.

That said, l commend Donald Duke for this courage. He was calm and
gracious during the chaotic ceremonies and spoke eloquently and
convincingly. My only grouse with him was when he started to frown and
fidget during the lacklustre fashion show at the dramatically non-professional and unimaginative Nigerian movie award. This when a couple of models came out in transparent REMI LAGOS caftans with only their tongs on beneath. The only artistic and exciting part to an other wise dull fashion show. Maybe it was because his young daughters were in the audience (children under 10 should not have been at a show
that started at midnight anyway, did he hear the lyrics of konga and other such explicit songs being played?) or because of his lovely but obviously conservative wife (conservatives don't go into core fashion, music, entertainment and sports business) but he was frowning for Africa. My mischievous mind is wondering, why doth thou protest so much? It's a fashion show, bare flesh happens, its art, lighten up.

More Pictures here