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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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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just Gimme the Light

My friend V, a perfectionist who on falling pregnant eight years ago decided to put her career on hold and devote her time 24/7 to the care of her new born daughter has had some serious hard times. Regal, literate, intelligent, civil, funny, self possessed, more than a little stubborn are all apt descriptions of a woman who is a great mum, a loyal friend, one of those rare people who can be counted upon to look you in the face and tell you the unflinching truth even at the risk of loss of friendship, livelihood or approval. Her mini me daughter has inherited her mother's gift for slightly unsettling non-pussy footing eerily concise summary. Recently, V got the sort of job to suit her situation and temperament and moved to Abuja. When asked what she likes about Abuja, V's 8 yr old simply replied, we always have light and when we don't we put on the generator. Every child l know and a lot whom l have interviewed have repeated different version of this simple truth i.e. just give us light.

Yesterday l sent my man Joel to buy the 3rd (in 48 hours) N5, 000, 50 litres keg of diesel for our long-suffering generator just so we can watch the inauguration ceremonies in Abuja and Lagos. 8 years ago, l had been a young hot head in Ankara running around organizing and anchoring different inauguration activities in Lagos. 8 years on l am party weary and growth hungry so l turned down all invitations to inauguration activities at every level. My friend Jide was making one of his famous cooked breakfasts at mine for his family, mine and a couple of friends as we indulged in our favourite national pastime, talking about Nigeria. We watched as a sour faced Obasanjo hand over to an inscrutable Yar'Adua. One of the eminent citizens at the inauguration benignly smiling at Obj sent a text to Jide's phone simply saying JUST GO. That text sadly sums up the feeling of majority of Nigerians about Obasanjo right now. Whether that is deserved is a topic for another discussion.

7 am today l am on my desk struggling to write through the guttural screams of what feels like a thousand demon generators. Shortened lifespan from pollution and noise aside l am lucky, at least l have light, my wax mistress (that is not what you think it is silly) Barbra assures me that her neighbourhood has not seen electricity in 2 months as she walked into my room, pulls off her blouse and lays prone on the floor to "enjoy small ac" before she starts work on me, l can hear African China crooning the many woes of the masses into her ears through her mp3 player. Her phone ring tone breaks our moment with china's primal scream "light no dey, food e no dey, my people dey suffer suffer".

Back to yesterday, one of my breakfast guests is telling of how many of OBJ's people has assured him that there is no cause for alarm as "dem still dey kampe" because Yar'Adua has been mandated to keep them on. The other guest is talking about alternative energy to power the base stations of the telecoms companies as they grapple with the humongous challenge of running their operations in a country with huge power problems. I gently remind everyone that we would have to break up our "party" in an hour to conserve the diesel, generator and our sanity.

Its 9am today, we have not had electricity for four consecutive days in a neighbourhood with a PHCN base station within a shouting distance, what must it be like for others? I send Joel to buy more diesel and some fuel at the new pump price, OBJ's passing shot. Joel gives me the papers for the day and Yar'Adua picture is on the cover of THISDAY. His wave is frail, he looks exhausted but his eyes seem earnest, perhaps it is optimism of desperation but l feel moved to pray silently that somehow this frail unlikely man may yet confound his puppeteers and go beyond that to do just three things.

a. Give us light.

b. Reform, rebuild and modernize our educational system and make
education free and mandatory to all children born on this soil up to
secondary levels with opportunities for scholarships to poor gifted
children at university level.

c. Tackle security from its root, reform, adapt, equip, grow, motivate, remunerate, and devolve the police. I If he would just do these three things we can take care of ourselves and others will be happier to deal with us i.e. self sustaining, growth and adaptive globalization will follow.

In all of this l hope that he will always remember that his name is umoru, not baba, not god, not messiah, not prophet, just umoru who has been given a unique opportunity by Allah for true greatness. Whether he will rise to the occasion only time will tell. Time now to switch on the generator for 6 work hours.

BTW
What was all that "olokada" display at the inauguration ceremonies, in today's world? Shio! Surely, we can do better than that. And why does a ceremony which should be solemn and civil look like an owambe party with people running all over the place and in front of the camera. In Lagos, there was a point where Tinubu was obviously exasperated and gestured at some aide to get away from him. Haba!
Monday, May 28, 2007

HEROES ALL

As the swearing in day approaches, my mind is in frenzied thought as to possibilities, realities and potential catalysts, allow me to sound insane and leave that unexplained. Last week, l sat in the lemon in the daily murderous chaos that is the result of the utterly mad idea to calve out bus lanes and bus stops out of the unlit, unsafe, potholed, too-narrow for the volume of traffic Ikorodu road. As always there was traffic, mayhem and confusion galore as we meandered our way down the road, l am engaged in my usual escapist pastime, reading. I was reading the latest WIRED and TIME magazine special on the most influential people in the world. Surrounded as l was by the effects of allowing the least able to be so influential, the stories took on an even deeper meaning. The trick of absorption even as you take your mind to other plains is a childhood survival skill, many a hot afternoon in molues were eased by an ever-present book. So it was that l was reading about heroes and villains but mostly heroes the people who have changed and are changing the way the world is, men and women of different race and cultures, mostly admittedly Caucasians. They included politicians, thinkers, innovators, scientists, artists and activists. One was the story of a lowly black construction worker in New York who jumped on a train track as the train approached the station to save a passenger who had had a seizure and fallen unto the tracks. The beauty of the story is that he simply saw nothing special about what he had done; to him it was only the right thing to do. The concept of right is a discourse for another day and my encounter with people like these through a TV series l did 12 years ago in Nigeria is yet another story, another day.

As l read the story and others l wondered about the seemly lack of innovation, radical space changing thought, development and sheer heroic actions in our sphere. Are we as a people not brave, innovative and extraordinary? Even as l wondered l was drawn to a higher level of chaos unfolding before us. We had turned off Ikorodu road into a narrow side street and there l saw a sight for sore eyes. A huge truck was snaking down the road, all other vehicles had stopped to let it pass but it couldn’t. The thing is, the truck was too high and could therefore not go through without tearing down the low hanging high-tension electricity cables. Apparently, this was no major challenge for the long-suffering innovative resilient Nigerian mass. I had wondered what the job of the wiry young man in yellow gloves on the truck was, l got my answer. This young man calmly got up, wrapped a dirty old Ankara wrapper around his gloved hands and firmly grabs the cables, about 8 of them and to our utmost amazement began a death defying jiggle of lifting and lowering as the driver moves the truck one inch at a time. With every movement the end of the cables connected to the poles begin to crackle with live electric sparks flying all-round sending the head holding, mouth opened gawkers temporarily scampering for safety. This whole process must have lasted 4 minutes but it felt like a life time as the truck eventually passed through the cable point with the young man deftly dropping his death load, sitting back down on the truck top ready to repeat the feat at any other point on this senseless drive for a meagre salary.

As we drove down the same road, l shut my TIME and WIRED magazine, my mind in deeper conflict on an old intimate subject, one l am convinced is the key to reforming our lives and space. How does one turn the resilience, strength, bravery, innovation and innate intelligence of the real Nigerian into an organized, self realizing, self sustaining life improving force? I suspect the answer is less in Harvard and more in okokomaiko but then l have often been called insane.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Brain Teaser


Is this the measure of the Nigerian Man?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Re: Push to pull

I do agree that all I need to know for now is that Chelsea rules, now to more mundane issues which I have distilled into 10 most important.

Comment: Obj cried cos he is leaving without Stella.

Response: I'm sure he has "consolations"

Comment: Obj prayed that may Goodluck not be like Atiku & there was a resounding Amen.

Response: I bet Goodluck is praying that Yar'adua won't be like Obj.

Comment: Obj said he never wanted third term.

Response: Yeah right

Comment: Governor of Adamawa cried for 16 minutes retelling his travails for being loyal to Atiku.

Response: Enough with the cry babies already.

Comment: You should know, by the way, that Uncle Oby, aka Baba Jay, aka OBJ gave himself a farewell present in the form of the PH refinery, under the guise of a sale to a conglomerate consisting of Dangote, Otedola (Zenon Oil0 and Transcorp.

Comment: Funny how these same names keep coming up time again in the fire-sales of government property. This same PH refinery that others have been placing bids for for years, and have had the exercise cancelled like, thrice already.

I dont remember Uncle Oby ever relinquishing his 200 million naira worth of shares now? Tut Tut.

Response: Na dem turn, the new choppers will soon collect their thing.

Comment: A campaign is on to stop a TV documentary on child sex abuse in the Catholic church being aired in Italy. The church denies it claiming it is slanderous. There is no smoke without fire!!

Response: Down with censorship. Out with the closet pedophiles in cassocks. Now that's what Jesus would do!

Comment: The Chinese government is providing the largest amount of aid ($10bn) to Africa. I say what's the catch?? Just hope we're not selling our birthright!!
Response: Of course we are not selling our birthright. That's sold already. We are selling our grandchildren's birthright in exchange for mirrors.

Comment: Ground breaking news for France is a woman of North African origin (Rachida Dati) has just been elected the new French Justice Minister by newly-elected President Sarkozy.
That's it for now...

Response: North African, Muslim and female. Very smart, sexy, hip, very green, very now!

Comments:
a) Mourinho's dog is safe and sound but exiled in Portugal.
b) Police say hopes are fading for missing 4yr old Madeline McCann. Please visit CalabarGals blog for more info on this.
c) Gordon Brown cant stop grinning. Please pray for us and our taxes oh!

Responses:
a) Player dawg haters!
b) 2, 2, sad
c) Come home jare!

Comment: Idols West Africa finals to hold next Saturday. Eric was voted out last week, Temitayo was voted out this week leaving Timi and Omawumi to contest for the grand prize.

Response: My money is on Timi

Finally on Isabella Blow?
Better have 48 fabulous anachist years than 100 barren, unimpactful ones. No doubt the hereafter is a little more interesting with Ms Blow there. Adieu
Monday, May 21, 2007

From push to pull

So l am back. I am in that slightly stupified but warm and fuzzy place where your heart, soul and brain have been persuaded into higher ideals and possibilities which you struggle to snuggle up to even as the external forces of present realities threaten to yank you out still born, unbiblical cord first. I spent last week at the serene Volta hotel in Akosombo Ghana with my ALI African Leadership Initiative classmates and moderators looking at globalization especially how it affects Africa and whether Africa should ride or buck the rampaging bull. It was as usual an uplifting and enriching intellectual process one that l smiled wryily about yesterday as l sat as judge at Ade Bakare's young designers’ competition and fashion show just 3 hours after landing at Muritala Mohammed airport. The seeming wide extremes of my existence. In the following weeks perhaps we can have conversations about many aspects of globalization and Africa but the thing about going for the ALI experience (for that is what it is) is that l impose a no news, no work, shut out the world rule on myself. l only make calls once a day to check on the shrimp and my peeps, no one is allowed to call me unless there is a coup (tufiakwa!) so l trully have no idea of what has transpired in Nigeria or the world as it affects me or Nigeria in the past week. I’m afraid to open the floodgates and find out. Okay l know Chelsea won the FA cup finals and the British were messing with Mourinho's dog (playa haters!) but thats about it. So in the interest of democratic new pull media (old media push info at consumers, new media pull from consumers, capish?), can you tell me 5 top things l should know about? Anything from the mundane to the fundamental, you tell me, l react. As you can tell, this is a cop out, l really just want to get a few hours of shut eye
Friday, May 18, 2007

Our day as a "Lifers"

PiX: Top row::Tolu (2nd from the left) and Bill (3rd from the left):
Down row: Fola (4th from the left)


::::I’m out of town on a workshop and I’m letting a member of my staff guest blog this one time, till I get back.::::

"Bill...join the life class"
Those words were from the boss and there was no room for talk back. I who had just marched my colleagues up to the life class was treading the same path they had trodden a few minutes before me...hmm! As I slowly walked up to the life class platform, I wondered how I was ever going to look Tolu in the eyes again. Pride they say goes before the fall and here was my own fall.

Working on TV is a constant hassle, a race against time and our reality is "deadlines".

The show for the day was ready, our boss (the consummate professional) was sitting on her "throne" getting dolled up for the camera and here were three of us: Tolu, Fola and I - the latest additions to the new dawn family trying to run the show in the absence of Funmi Akinsola (floor manager) I had bragged to Tolu that I would be filling in for Funmi, while she and Fola would have to join the life class.

I guess you need to know why members of staff had to join the life class. Our life class on New Dawn is drawn from a wide range of young people who watch and love the show New Dawn. They write in and are invited to the recording. But for some reason, most of the people who had written in from the week before where from out of town...hence our dilemma. We had a scanty life class (an exception, not the norm I assure you)

As if that was not enough wahala, Seki, the production manager was ill and would not be coming in, Abigail had to be in the production booth and Mutiu was going to be covering the whole show, with an extra camera, leaving the three of us with duties...but not enough duties to keep us from filling in the gaps on our life class chairs.

A thousand curses on my need to watch F.I (that's what we call Funmi Iyanda in the office) getting made up, while flipping through her research documents. And on my need to watch the set being readied for the show...watching the lights being pulled into place, being switched on, seeing the curiosity on the face of the guests and the slight tension of the uninitiated at the prospect of sitting before a camera.

But most of all, I love the way F.I. sits on her chair, getting made up, going through her script and managing to converse with and relax the guests and life class members, putting them at ease and loosening them up for that spontaneous edge that comes across so beautifully on the camera.

And lest I loose my story in all of this....

Funmi Akinsola walked in at this point and that one extra space gaping at F.I. from the life class had to be filled by poor old me.
I who had relished the idea of having the life class, the guests and F.I. focus on me for their cues was now sitting on the life class form...and looking like the ghost of Christmas past. Tongue tied and with an ache in my back I sat there, prepared to just get through the recording with nothing more on my mind than filling the space and getting away, I was surprised to find myself liking the class, laughing at the antics of my friend Tolu and leaning forward and looking for ways to contribute to the class.

Funmi Iyanda's charm had worked its magic on me, as it had on the guests and the rest of the life class...I guess that's the reason why we all love her and have followed her 12 year long career on TV.

Guest blogger - Bill/Tolu
Friday, May 11, 2007

Saints and sinners all

So Paul Wolfowitz is figuratively caught pants down huh? Pity really, l do like the man, the World Bank is not one of my favourite institutions but Wolfowitz had recently inched towards slightly more progressive policies in the area poverty eradication. Now as a Nigerian, l am inclined to say abeg what is the big deal about giving your girlfriend and her pal a juicy leg up (no pun intended)? That is not only acceptable behaviour here, it is an unspoken law cast in iron and sworn on an oath to Ogun (my people no dey fear to lie to God but dem dey fear the gods well well). In fact as one friend of mine once
said, if a married boyfriend does not "settle" you ika ni (he is desperately wicked). Which explain why my good friend Nuhu Ribadu who usually has an evangelistical fervour with sticking to the letter of the law (l beg no involve me in the controversy of the notorious list, l no know book) was quick to support him. Wolfowittz knows that he operates in a different world where the law and the systems are superior to the individual, one in which Blunkett had to resign because of a tiny favour a married girlfriend.

Even as l concede that one should not expect people in high political office to be saints, l do understand why such indiscretions are not tolerated. It is the issue of equity or the appearance of equity in all things. Zero tolerance means people try harder because it is so easy to degenerate to open nepotism, favouritism and blatant abuse of power that is our national mantra. Paul Wolfowitz knows this, which is why his 2ic has already resigned. It is not about sexual morality, it is about equity and protection of institutions of trust. I still think Wolfowitz is cute.

Have a vice free weekend or at least don't get caught.

The politics of charity

Talk about serendipity. 4pm yesterday l returned to my office after doing 5 hours in the studio to record the show, l had just done a show on the Darfur crisis and was feeling emotionally drained. I got on the computer to check my mails and keep a vigil for bellanaija's (still trying to be 1st) weekend post. Amongst my correspondence was a chain mail (l hate them) from a dear friend of mine. They were iconic images of poverty with a message for us to be thankful to God for your lives and not to waste food and water as well as a warning not to break the chain. Maybe it was the exhaustion but this was the reply l sent her

"l have seen many of these pictures before and l am shocked when people profess not to knowing these realities. Even more vexatious is the call to thank God for what we have, and ourselves. How totally selfish! Such pictures should inspire us to work for societies and a world where such atrocities are not allowed to happen. God did not sanction that this happen to any body and that we did not experience or are not experiencing it is often a matter of chance i.e. not being born at the wrong place and the wrong time. The Pulitzer winner of the last picture committed suicide not really because he wasn't thankful for his life but probably because he was wracked by his inability to save that child. We can save children like these, we can eradicate poverty globally if we thought less about ourselves".

After a couple of hours, l finished work and gave up the vigil. 6am today and l go back to Bella and wade into the controversy around her post on celebrities giving back so l know this charity discourse is pursuing me. This therefore is my widow's mite.

As a background let me state that my first television show 12 years ago was on street children and quickly "degenerated" into a rescue mission for runaway and stolen kids (story for another day). A defect in my journalistic instinct is an inability to see people as just story. We are currently working on the story of a 6 year old that was raped and we will not air the story unless there was a way to bring justice and succour to that family. Therefore in the past twelve years l have used TV as a billboard for change, often being the first and consistent media promoter of thought, stories, issues and projects along those lines. I have never accepted payment for such, not even a hamper ☺. Given such a background, people are often shocked when l say l don't believe in charity and quickly add it to their "Funmi Iyanda is crazy list". However what l mean is that the word charity like the word tolerance, accords the bestower a sense of superiority, a salve to the ego, which has nothing to do with the true emotions that promote change. Also if we all did our bit in the universal scheme of things without undue avarice (many state policies in Nigeria are an implementation of the board resolution of companies owned by a few favoured ones) we will have fewer "charity cases". During a keynote address on the relevance of the Singaporean experience to Africa in 1993 Lee Kuan Yew spoke tongue in cheek abut meeting the Nigerian minister of finance Chief Festus Okotie Eboh in 1956 and how the chief had told him that he was eager to leave politics to devote time to his business; a shoe factory and that he had increased taxes to protect the viability of the shoe factory. Injustice happens because some people perpetuate it but mostly because many people allow it. Every time we refuse to stand up for systems, structures and thought that strengthens a society's ability to grow and prosper the majority; we create a few hundred more "charity cases". My other pet peeve with the charity tag is that it is often seen as an occasion, something we do at certain times of the year or at a point in our life or when we have certain resources or attain certain visibility or position. The need for intervention arises everyday all around us and everybody can help, right here, right now. The question should not be what are celebrities giving back but what are we all giving back? Often times it is not the books (these are welcome as are our time, knowledge and skills) we donate but the important decision we make everyday in our offices and homes and how it affects others.

My biggest charity peeve are the ones who are profiting from the poverty, ignorance, lack and disease of the very ones their ilk had created with selfish policies down the decades. They are the "inspirers". They set out from day one to inspire, role model and educate the rest of us. That is open fraud. Bill Gate who own one of the biggest, most powerful charities in the world set out to build computers, charity found him, Oprah just wanted to do a damn good talk show about issues and challenges and people, charity found her. In its true self, charity finds you. You cannot appoint yourself an inspiration or a role model or a hero, others bestow this upon up you when they are inspired by your body of work, actions or utterances. Nigeria is full of motivational speakers, role models and inspirers but very little innovations, inventions and true interventions. It the same "so much God so little good" scenario. The shame is that a lazy, poor and easily buyable media promotes such whilst ignoring the true silent workers of charity. They are silent usually because they have no time, money or mindset for mindless promotion. They also are usually people who do it only because it needs to be done and because they cannot rest unless they were doing something about it.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Black cofeee, no sugar no milk

(Crazy week, living on adrenalin and popcorn so why don't l share this article l wrote 8 years ago for TEMPO magazine with you?)

Sorry the first paragraph was missing when posted

Perhaps, it is time to tell you about my first trip to Ghana in 1995. It was some months to the 1996 Nations Cup Competition scheduled to hold for the first time in post apartheid South Africa. I was part of a crew that was supposed to document the preparations and spirit in the sixteen countries that qualified for the championship. Ghana was one of them, so my colleague Kunle a cameraman and were to go to Accra. Now I must tell you about one of my favourite nay, my favourite person a certain old Ghanaian called Mr. Laud (pronounced lord). Aside from being a sweet person one of my greatest fans and of course the only one who can read my hand writing, he is also one of the unluckiest people I have ever met. It is a running joke amongst us all that he had seen all the ill luck there is to seen in one lifetime. He has fallen off a moving train and a Molue and an okada and survived all. He has lost his money to tricksters, fake landlords and 419ers. He has been robbed often and thrown out of his house too many times to recount, actually, his last house was burnt down with all his possessions on one occasion and his wife left him overnight. Worse has happened that I don't think I should mention, that is, if I haven't said so much already. We love him and we never forget his birthday, for he was born on the 13th of February! The point for this story is that our Mr. Laud had wanted to return Ghana forever but every time he saves up enough money and is ready to go, something unlucky happens to stop him. So, it was decided that for that assignment he would go with us both as guide and as a treat to him. We flew whilst he went ahead with our money by road. He was to book our hotel, get a car to ferry us around, set up our interviews before we arrive.

On arrival at kotoka Airport in Accra, Mr. Laud was waiting quite all right but he had only arrived Accra hours before us. He had spent four days on the road; he was arrested, jailed and robbed by the customs officials. I had a hundred dollar note on me and we had a one-week assignment to carry out, Should we get back on the next plane to Nigeria? Not so, Ms Iyanda. I was young, eager, stubborn and determined to do the work {I have changed ko? ;-)} I persuaded Kunle to see it as a great adventure, secure in the erroneous belief (and seconded by a Mr. Laud who had not
been to his country in over a decade) that my silly hundred-dollar note will take us far because I thought the Ghanaian economy was still lying cold in the grave.

It did turn out a great adventure; we stayed in a seedy little room, which had no lock, no water, a rickety fan and insects galore. We lived on a diet of garri, salty water and fried fish with occasionally watery beans and yam for the week. We had to get Mr. laud's cousin to drive us to the city centre everyday from where we walked, lugging cameras and bags to book interviews, do interviews and film the sights, We did run into interesting people, some coke heads and prostitutes at our hotel and Mr. Laud's sister but my most enduring memory is that of this hopeful footballer who ran the length of the bridge near the central market every night at 9 pm. I noticed him on our second night on the way to the fried fish place; he had to train in the nights because he worked during the day. His hope and determination was humbling for me, he did not even have running shoes.

The sports minister was out of town when we arrived but by the day before we were scheduled to leave he returned. We decided to see him since we had completed almost all our assignment but his interview. It was a risk, since we knew that meant a day and half of starvation and a slim chance of getting past protocol. Alas, we were ushered into his office without much ceremony. This man received us and gave us a jeep to take us to Obuasi Goldfields (50kms of great scenery from Accra) to film the football team and the new stadium of the company. We had our
first decent meal of the week at Obuasi, returned to Accra, conducted the interview (teeth clenched as l had PMT on top of our woes) and the minister gave us a car to take us the airport on time to catch our flight back to Nigeria. Incidentally, we never used the materials we laboured for in Ghana because; Abacha pulled Nigeria out of the championship. However, we still share fond laughs over that hundred-dollar trip to Ghana from which I returned thinner, darker but victorious. It was black coffee no sugar, no milk but oh what an adrenaline rush.
Monday, May 07, 2007

Seeing the light

Back in the days when l did the local daily 2 hour live breakfast format of the show, one of the things that kept me going was the many segment presenters I had found to work with. The totally insanely hilarious mama and papa nothing spoil, the sports whiz kids, the cuddly cook aunty Mopile, the twitchy IT guys, the mischievous Dr Ogaga. Oh the days of innocence. Goes without saying that it was a tough show to do and not very rewarding financially but our passion and resilience kept us going.

The entertainment and fashion segments had the largest turn over of presenters as the boys and gals got more and more successful in their individual careers. It was one large TV family and it is my unending joy that all who have left NEW DAWN are incredibly successful in many spheres and scattered around the world. One of them is Sade Popoola who came to me one day and quietly said she was taking her children and leaving the country back to England to refocus. I didn't argue as l could see she was at the point where stepping back to go forward was necessary. We have kept in touch on and off over the years so you can imagine my joy when Sade called me and said to me, Funmi I’m on to something, l'll mail you. When l saw what Sade was up to, l kept grinning like a fool at my silent computer even as the goose pimples rose on my arm. Yeees! l thought, Sade has found the light at the end of the tunnel and put it into stylish bags. The idea is genius in its simplicity and l keep wondering why no one else has done it before now. What do you think?

www.flickr.com





Friday, May 04, 2007

Turning the blade in. (long winded, takes no prisioner)


Two things that kill me about Nigerians. One, the insane search for Nigerian food once they step out of Nigeria even when they are returning to Nigeria the next day. The other is a similar lack of interest in the history, monuments, arts, culture and lifestyle of the places they visit. Now l know generalization is a form of intellectual laziness and there are many exceptions to this rule but most of those exceptions are not in government delegations. I have been to two Olympic Games, two world cup finals and several athletic meets around the world. When I'm lucky l get a company to sponsor a travelogue, other times l skimp and save to get there. Been doing this since l was 25. I am of course a failed athlete as l am athletic in build but never did any sports or exercised in my life until three tears ago. I love the unalloyed display of the great capabilities of the human body and spirit (not to mention the superb physiques on display, oh those swimmers' body) as well as the opportunity to experience other people, cultures, arts and life. At each and every such meet over the past decade and half l have noticed that most other Nigerians l run into especially those on government delegations neither attend the events nor have interest in anything other than shopping and whoring.

So it was that in 2004 we were surrounded with sports, culture, history, gastronomic excellence, and sensual stimulation of epic proportion in Athens but my 9ja brethren (ratio of 8 to 2) were usually to be found either eating pepper soup and haggling with human trafficked Nigerian prostitutes on the Idumota look alike, rather sleazy geroniom (renamed Nigeria) street or they were esconded with same at a certain island resort 45 mins from Athens. One such official mistook me for a Nigerian athlete and started to rub my knee under the table until l delivered a kick in the region of his groin. The plight of the Nigeria female athlete is a story for another day.Anyway, l thoroughly loved Athens, the hot weather, the beaches, the laid back sensual Mediterranean lifestyle, the food, the islands, the night life and of course the museums and the majestic Acropolis. Athens heaved with the living and the living dead but l couldn't find other Nigerians to experience it all with as most l spoke to did not share my fascinations for trampling around museums, flea markets,
restaurants, clubs and the notorious hedonistic nudist island mykonos. l therefore threw myself into experiencing Athens from a worms eye view all alone armed only with an expensive NIKON camera and a sun hat. Everyday l went from the different stadia to either the museums, the market district or the beach and by evening l ended up at the fabulous Psiri club district stumbling from jazz clubs to salsa clubs to hip-hop clubs high on nothing but adrenalin and the joy of being alive and of course incredible Greek cuisine which can still be bought at 4am side by side old couples holding hands right before l hail a cab to take me back to my apartment for a 3 hour sleep before l start again the next day. Not once did l feel unsafe as a woman on my own. Of course l had read about the seedier districts and stayed away from those but imagine a single young attractive female mostly in shorts and tank top, cavorting around town with an expensive camera slung around her neck in any part of Nigeria. It is one of the reasons l laugh when we begin to claim that we can hold such international competitions.

All of these thoughts came to mind recently when l was trying to explain how hostile the Nigerian environment particularly Lagos is to women, children and older people. It is hostile to all humans but especially hostile to the female humans. Once l was driving through Ebute Metta around 10pm and everywhere was dark as usual save for flickering lanterns from food peddlers near the mosque at Evans square. Most people had been scared off the streets by insecurity that is highly aided by lack of electricity. I remember Ebute meta of my childhood, where you can read by the street light at 10pm and there was hot tuwo to be bought at 2am on the way home from the cinema or disco clubs (ok so l was too young to do the club and cinema but l saw my sisters and their boyfriends go out with the afros and bell bottoms and longed to grow up so l could do same). That Ebutemetta is long gone, of the people on the street that night last week 98% were male. On any Sunday or public holiday, the spaces at street corners and under flyovers are taken up by boys playing football, no girls in sight. The question is where are the women? How do women (especially young poor ones) exercise, play or socialize in the city where you can't even walk? Think about it, how many public (where dem dey sef) office or even home toilets are designed with the woman's need in mind? When last weekend l, my designer friend Remi, married doctor friend Bose and young lawyer friend Tayo got dolled up and piled into one car around midnight to go dancing at LaCasa, it was the twitching curtains of our neighbours that reminded us of how unusual this was, of course our neighbours think we are either mad or immoral women going straight to hell. It is not only unsafe but not acceptable particularly with older or and married women. This is norm in many other places including Accra and Togo where young girls and older women dress up however they like and go out alone or in groups at night without fear.

I was transported back to my Athens experience when l saw the fabulous film 300 recently, in fact on the eve of the gubernatorial election. I sat there watching with mixed emotions. On one hand l was enthralled with the photography and the marriage of art and technology that went into the production. On the other hand l experienced the same eerie sense of awe l felt walking through the old plaka city and the Acropolis in Athens even as the story of the great brave Leonidas (my fav Belgian choc brand is named after him and the bods of the actors in that film was yummy), the Spartans and the Persians unfolded in cinematic beauty. The Greek myths, stories, gods and history would make great retelling in Yoruba. Imagine that scene where Leonidas kicked the Persian emissary into the abyss (cue KONGA's song "eju won si kanga", throw them in the well ) shouting this is Sparta! There are many parallels to that story and our current reality (as we have refused to leave 200BC in our mind). The paedophilic, immoral, amoral bribe taking spiritual elders, the patriarchal, sycophantic, easily manipulated state council, the preference of ceremonies over function, the strong but acquitisient women. The only thing we don't have or have killed are those great, passionate, thinking, strong Spartan warriors lead by a charismatic heroic leader. I sat and watched the film and l prayed to the universe for such a leader for Nigeria on that Night. However even more so l cheered at a scene that would resonate with most women in Nigeria and a scene l am convinced need to occur in Nigerian to lead a new reality. The devious prime minister
had trapped the queen into having sex with him to save her husband and the kingdom. As a woman, she had nothing to exchange for a chance to stand before the council and plead that they go against the advice of the bribe taking paedophilic (unknown to or unacknowledged by the people) elders and send in the troops to assist Leonidas and the 300 soldiers but her body which she humiliating did. On noticing that her words had begun to sway the council, he steps forward and accused her of adultery and whoring. Of course the council turns against her but instead of whimpering away in shame, she grabs his sword and impaled him to death spilling the bribe money he had himself received from the Persians along with his blood. This led the council to finally do the right thing. Look if you haven't do go and see the movie.

I, on behalf of all long suffering agreeable Nigerian women can tell you that we know how she felt, this society lassos you, reels you in and pulls you to the ground and then turns around to call you names. The average girl in Nigeria has even fewer opportunities to fully explore her physical, mental and creative capabilities; she is honoured for little else order than glorified slavery either to a husband, father, parents, siblings or society. Once she deviates from the norm or is forced to use the only thing (what is corporate marketing other than thinly disguised prostitution) society leaves her with, same society turns around and calls her a prostitute. Even the saintly education minister and former finance minister were called Baba's girlfriends. My question is, when will Nigerian women stop thinking that by being quiet, godly, wifely and unobtrusive, they will gain respect? It is only when we turn the blade in the flesh of the oppressor that all will know how we hurt and then we may be able to mobilize the young, the sane and even the reluctant by the sheer force of our refusal to bow no more to walk a new walk that might help build a society where a single female tourist can experience the beauty of our land and lifestyle without fear. A society where borderline statutory rape of minor is not considered cultural once the offending bastard offers bride price for the 13-year-old child.


Have a great weekend people and BTW,Mrs. Somebody you go girl, you can do it, l am watching and hailing you o.

Other pictures here