- 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
- ► 2009 (26)
- Shine your eye
- Brothers and Sisters
- Language Please
- NICE ONE!
- At the Awards
- BRF’S BRT
- Energy Scandals
- Last Night At Vagina Monologues
- HIP HIP HURRAY
- Vagina Monologues opening night @ Muson Centre tod...
- Staying Safe (long and rambling, not for those wit...
- Funmi’s interview with Madeleine Albright
- silently telling
- E kú ilé o.
- Vagina monologues
- Update on the Ekaette Bill
- ▼ March (17)
- ► 2007 (151)
- 2012 (5)
- 2010 (40)
- 2009 (26)
- Shine your eye
- Brothers and Sisters
- Language Please
- NICE ONE!
- At the Awards
- BRF’S BRT
- Energy Scandals
- Last Night At Vagina Monologues
- HIP HIP HURRAY
- Vagina Monologues opening night @ Muson Centre tod...
- Staying Safe (long and rambling, not for those wit...
- Funmi’s interview with Madeleine Albright
- silently telling
- E kú ilé o.
- Vagina monologues
- Update on the Ekaette Bill
- 2007 (151)
- 2006 (32)
- 2008 (1)
- Abdul Oroh (1)
- Afikuyomi (1)
- African Nations cup (2)
- Ajegunle (1)
- ALI and the 40 chiefs (2)
- Benin (1)
- Bill (1)
- Change a life (1)
- Daddy Showkey (1)
- Death (1)
- dressing (1)
- Eko (1)
- Ghana 2008 (2)
- Grace (1)
- Happy Val 2008 (2)
- Hip Hop World Awards 2008 (2)
- Holy Aruosa (1)
- hope (1)
- Idols West Africa 2007 (1)
- indecent (1)
- Law against indecent dressing? (1)
- Madeleine Albright (1)
- My Journey (7)
- NIFOR (1)
- Nigeria (1)
- Nigeria elections 2007 (4)
- PH Stories (1)
- Pilgrimages (1)
- Sir Victor Uwaifo (1)
- South Africa (1)
- Tarkwa Bay (1)
- TWF diaries (11)
- United States presidential election (1)
- Ushang (1)
Usually, I don't pick up unknown or recognized numbers but I had got a call earlier from Chief Newton Jibunoh who with his crew (more later) had crossed the Sahara and the Atlas mountain and was excitedly giving me details. I thought it might be the indefatigable chief calling back from Rabat so I picked up the phone. It was not the chief but it was an elderly man with a heavy Yoruba accent and corresponding condescension.
Man: Is that you Iyanda?
FI: (in Yoruba) yes sir, this is Ms. Iyanda.
Man: well done my daughter, how are you, this is Engr. William from NNPC in Abuja, you remember me abi? We met in Surulere, I used to be in Lagos but I am now at head quarters in Abuja so …… he prattles on in fast authoritative tones.
I didn't remember him or the encounter but on my job, you learn to say yes sir I remember you.
Man: ok my dear, I am going to flash you from a number now, please call me back on that number and I will give you the details of the consignment, this is our control number.
FI: yes sir.
I saw the call come in and die off immediately, a flash. I sat back, my natural resistance to authority and innate sense of self preservation kicking in, besides I hate to be slave to a phone.
20 minutes later, another flash, I wait 5 more minutes then I call back.
Man: yes, yes, dear, now take down this number for Alh, he will have the consignment for you, he will give it to you at 50,000 per barrel but you know the market price is 150,000 so you can make a lot of money, I told you I will help you so call him and arrange how to pay and get the consignment o, you are a good girl always working hard, God will continue to help you and people like us will work for you with God….
FI: cutting in) excuse Mr., you either have the wrong person or you are a thief, I am a journalist and if I catch you… (He had dropped the phone pronto).
Classic 419 attempt.
Now, non-Nigerians are always puzzled by our seeming disdain for the plight of 419 victims. It is not as though we do not empathize but we do have a mixture of disregard for the inability to see through almost transparent scams and anger at the knowledge that beneath many such scams is the willingness to defraud our system, the belief that our system is so fraudulent that some of those outrageous claims are true and the complete lack of regard for us as a people.
Perhaps that is a little harsh since the realities of our lives have perhaps conditioned us better to sniff out scams. You may wonder at what point I began to suspect the Engr. in the above encounter?
Maybe it is my Nigerian "scamatograph" but
a. Absolutely nobody calls me Iyanda but my best UI buddy. Engr. William from NNPC? That is like saying John Smith from the home office.
b. I suspect most hidden numbers, what are they hiding? Then, all that flashing, typical 419 scrounge.
c. That combination of brusque, condescending Yoruba male elder thing done with such rapidity is calculated to tap into my sense of respect for elders and authority as well as give me little opportunity to think through the conversation. Then there is all the fake prayers and Christianese. Why try tug at my emotional strings?
d. Yes I meet loads of people and cannot remember every encounter but I am pretty good at locking on to the ones that most probably occurred.
e. I am a complete puritan with most things and I would never have shown any interest in a supply business. I do media and communication and a multiplicity of subsets under that broad umbrella, nothing else, no contracts, no trading, no supplies. If I saw an opportunity in any such area I would have referred to some competent person in that sphere of life.
f. Finally, with the current fuel scarcity in Nigeria, it makes perfect sense for an increase in scams about and around oil, oil services, oil products and the NNPC.
The golden rules of avoiding scams?
Do not be bloody greedy.
Do not be a damn idiot.
Do not think this country is such a basket case that such bullock you are being told might be true.
Become globally aware and don't be quick to accept stereotypes, no, I have never seen a tiger in my backyard and the Chinese are not all martial artists, neither are the Indians all dancing, turban shaking traders.
If it sounds too good to be true? It is.
Better brew myself a new cup of tea; Chinese no less, it's going to be a good week!.
Yesterday, I the attended the celebration of the 15th anniversary o THE NEWS magazine. The quartet of Kunle Ajibade, Femi Ojudu, Bayo Onanuga and Dapo Olorunyomi remain my journalistic heroes through thick and thin. I am particularly fond Mr. B (Bayo Onanuga) who is one of the most decent and honourable human beings walking God's soil. Some of the best hands in the industry have passed through the fires at the ICNL (parent company of THE NEWS, defunct TEMPO and PM NEWS) and their very successful alumni are scattered across an impressive range of endeavours and countries. The story of THE NEWS is documented in the scholarly Wale Adebanwi's new book.
Even as I demurely celebrated with my brothers (according to Mrs. Asiwaju;-)) it occurred to me once again that the Nigerian media space is so very testosterone driven in a way that is almost extinct in the context of present realities. I will not be so mean spirited as to accuse the boys of holding or pushing the women back (although I could slap a certain oily sexist professor who insists on acting like a cross between Dauda the sexy guy and a Sunday school teacher in buba ditto the idiotic advert executive who cluelessly pats my back with his patronizing my dears urgh!) but the media like politics can be so structured that it is very hard for women to thrive.
This is not a whinny cop out but the truth is that like politics, Nigerian media (a curious animal with dual personalities of bravery and moral bankruptcy) is often almost unknowingly unidirectional and dinosaur like requiring the sort of wily foxiness that most women are not good at.
I guess this is true of most industries in a restructuring democracy (optimism people) such as ours but I can only speak of the media, politics and sports where I have experience.
Look at what is happening with some of the women in government present and past. Professor Nike Grange is a seasoned health academic and professional and even her worse critics are loath to submit that she is corrupt. However she has to work in an environment of endemic corruption without the required experience of dealing with civil servants men and women who have perfected the art of graft. She paid for her naivety with loss of her job but at least she was honourable enough to resign. Remember the housing minister Mrs. Osomo? Now cue in madam due process Dr Ezekwesili and Dr Okonjo Iwealla, who also resigned as minister as some point. I don't think anyone could reasonably doubt their qualification and commitment in office but as the ongoing probe shows, these women are perhaps only just discovering or shall we say openly alluding to just how corrupt the system they operated under was. This situation is true for men as it is for women but it is more difficult for women to operate in and it is not only a hindrance but also a deterrent.
The fact is that Nigeria will not completely leverage the full talents, abilities and skills of her female population under a system that is so unfriendly, unnatural and near impossible for women. This is evident in the lack of depth, richness and flavour in many spheres of endeavour that a rich gender balance would have ensured.
Hopefully the probe will be followed by prosecution of all indicted men and women so that gradually we might begin to evolve to system in public and professional lives which favours knowledge, ability and skills above wily cronyism and corruption. It is only in a fair, just and equitable system that most especially women can thrive.
That statement was credited to Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the CBN governor and banking recapitalization reform chief strategist. The rot in our education system and the consequent dearth in skilled human capacity in employment is a well known fact and it permeates all levels of industry. My problem with a statement such as this is its seeming arrogance. I do not expect anyone who affects policies to stand on a high horse and point accusing fingers. Granted Soludo is not responsible for the rot, he should not disparage the hapless victims either. I would expect that in making such a statement one deciphers a sense of urgency and collective responsibility for the sorry state of affairs. The tone should be regretful of the situation with a clear and concise call to action in redefining the policies that affect education. If Soludo and the rest of the enlightened policy makers had been educated at a time such as this, they would themselves have most likely been one of the 71 percent. That the children of policy makers are not part of the 71% is one of the many injustices of our climes. If you will not fix it, you should not be allowed to escape it, if you are allowed, do not spit in the face of the victims, find solutions.
"71 percent of Nigerian graduates like bad cherries, won't be picked by any employer of labour because they are not fit for anything even if they were the only ones that put themselves forward for an employment test"
We all suffer from the poor capacity occasioned by the collapse of our education system but it is the sort of attitude the statement above hints at that leads to unbridled importation of non Nigerian talent rather than an insistence on the repair and building of our own structures so we can produce the skilled manpower we need after all no one can doubt the deep thirst of the Nigerian soul for education and self actualization.
Anyways I dey kampe for Eko, many something don happen, some good, same bad and some downright nasty but osaro (God dey)! Me I no go fit moderate old posts o so make una no vex. I no go get any less busy any soon but the most pressing wahala don pass so I go post and moderate newly and accordingly.
I hope say una gbadun Easter, we, as heavy jollof people for 9ja just go holiday samsam since Wednesday, I even still dey lethargic now. Some beta place don open for Lagos wey I go yarn you later, some tragic accidents happen wey I no fit begin tell you about now. Shaggy come yesterday and I bin wan go but I tire and lacampaign far well well. Kennis Music celebrate 10th anniversary, abeg follow me beg my friends Keke, D1, St Kenny and Carol, I don go out the night before dance well well, I no fit repeat am next day, agba tide.
The one thing wey the heavy jollof of this weekend show me be say anybody wey still dey play mainly oyinbo pop, hip-hop or rap music for party or club no dey with da program. Me I don learn the whole of 9ICE's CD song to song, word for word. "Photo copy ko easy, you can never be like me, this is my identity", "se ran lo wa wo, tabi jo lo wa jo" are my new favourite catch phrases. That boy has the melodic magic of Snoop and the lyrical artistry of Kanye West rolled into the idiomatic depth of the Dauda Epo Akaras of this world all spewed out of a self affirming, street wise exterior which I sense camouflages a gentle talented soul. Love his work, love it!
Whilst I still dey this kin mood, I no fit yarn you anything other than sheee that BRT post I did? Forget it, the tin get plenty K leg, I go yarn you again later. The other thing I fit tell you be say GO OUT AND BUY THE NEW 9ICE CD NOW! I am totally addicted to GONGO ASO, PHOTOCOPY, ATI JELO, JULE and ADE ORI. I am also feeling Rugged man's RUGGEDY BABA.
BTW, I did interview 9ice, Wande Cole and Banky Wellington last week, each artist has a uniquely admirable story of the journey to stardom and I found out that 9ice had entered a competition on New Dawn years ago and not got a feedback which he held against us, sigh! We get so many emails and letters and we keep improving capacity to cope but alas we fail sometimes, glad I got to clear that one and I swear that young man must be my Ogbomosho cousin, who no like claim beta thing.
The videos will be up tomorrow on the ND website so you can download but I feel truly privileged to know these bold brave artistes. Note in the picture how everyone talks with me with the hands behind the back, tell me, am I really that much of a terror/aje or is my age finally catching up on me? See you tomorrow folks.
a. The integrity of the awards remains thankfully intact in my view. The ability to recognise and awards non stylized or packaged talents like 9ice who won two awards or the hard working Wande Cole and the undoubtable mastery of Asa’s self titled album reassures me that Ayo and co are unwavering in their core values.
b. The energy and creative experimentation with concepts was also evident and laudable.
What didn’t work?
a. The transport arrangement sounded good but the situation where you then get to the car park and queue for “accreditation” is not on at all. What needs to be done is that as soon as the guests drive in, they should be handed their wrist tags, ushered into a car and driven to the venue. I waited in my car (got someone to sort out the accreditation as I sure as hell was not going to stand sweating with my makeup running actually that came later) for 20 fast tracked minutes and another 25 minutes in a sitted chaffered car we had to commandeer before being driven off in a bats out of hell convoy lead by RRS and LASTMA to the venue. As a veteran of many political convoys I detest the way people are run off the roads, traffic lights ignored and the general show of power. Besides I know too many aides and politicians who have died or got innocent people killed that way. A new generation of change makers must never be a part of that. The same convoy could have driven there in a civilized procession and arrived maximum 10 minutes later which would not have mattered as we were all going to be stranded on the bloody yellow carpet (damn, felt good to say that!).
b. I know that we have huge venue challenge for all sorts of purposes and had wondered how the HHW crew would transform the very limiting planet one location; I had faith because they had done wonders with the Shell hall of the Muson centre 3 years ago. The first disappointment was the yellow carpet which had all the surface elements of a brilliant idea but very poor floor management and coordination. The space was tight, convoluted and crowded creating a hot claustrophobic experience. As I walked in, I did the pap part and the fans stand which was a small floor space and does not give the photographers a lot of angles to work with. As you walk on, there is no direction so you stand stranded for minutes blinded by lights and deafened by the market place cacophony and body press until someone from a network comes to yank you in front of a camera to ask inane questions. Some of the on air yellow carpet personalities were great, in particular the young man from Ben TV, Deji from passion TV, Goldfish Dami, Ms Oyatogun from STV, some were fair but the two gals from HIP TV were completely clueless and I swear I am being charitable because I like to support girls. The yellow carpet ordeal lasted over an hour by which time I was sweating through Bayo’s makeup and Ugo’s hair was getting scraggly that is not to mention the fact that my feet had long died in my shoes. Several VIPs on the carpet whispered same to me. In fact a few said they were so tired of standing and the whole charade and wanted to go home. Nobody ushered us in so by the time we found out people were now being admitted into the hall, the place was full with many “VIPS” sitting at the back or not finding sits. No usher assisted me, in fact no ushers did much that night but hit you in the head with oversized promotional goodie bags whilst the waiters dripped dirty water from drinks carriers unto expensive dresses. The event started so late that the food had gone stone cold and the meat had started to go off. My seat was found by Bayo who commandeered it from the back and simply plonked it by an aisle.
Omotola and her husband plus a huge baclava clad body guard found a walk way to put their seats behind me. The red, yellow, green or black frigging carpets serves a purpose which is achieved only with careful back end work. The all consuming attention to the surface values of the photo op as against the finer details of organisation and treating guests well is something that must be worked on.
c. HHWA 2006 was special in the magic of the delivery of the show itself. This year the show was disjointed and glitchy, it started lamely, rises to moments of excitement and then tapers off weakly on and off. There was no cohesion between the hosts, Obi’s documentary was too long, Olisa’ didn’t play but I was glad that Olisa raised the point of honouring and including some of the fore runners. The awards will benefit from some careful association with and honouring of professional experienced older veterans.
I could go on but I don’t want to, in fact I usually go to the few awards I must, I smile at the cameras and firmly declare them as “incredible” (always a buzz word for what a Mickey mouse fiasco!) and I don’t get involved. Most shows are unspeakably bad, so silence is best, but silence does not bring improvement. With HHWA I feel an emotional attachment, I also know that Ayo can take it in good faith and perfect the process, besides I need him to succeed at this franchise because I sincerely believe he can and must become the reference point for awards of different segments of the entertainment industry out of Nigeria. He just needs to continue getting the support and the mega bucks required then he can simply hand the minute execution of the technical details of different aspects of each awards to the most professional and recognised hands in the industry from wherever they can be sourced whilst he keeps creative control of he franchise. The fact is most of the biggest award shows are produced and directed by some of the biggest names in that field. All that said HHWA are still my favourite awards show in Nigeria.
Thanks to Niyi Tabiti and Adekeye Adeniyi for the pictures
For me who had been the part of the first cast two years ago, I could feel the difference in the audience reaction. The first one directed by the creative anarchist Najite Dede was fantastic but this one directed by the indefatigable Wole Oguntokun was sublime. The difference is not in the direction but the stories. The process of gathering Nigerian stories and adapting them for the Vagina monologues’ wining formula hit home in a visceral sense. The Nigerian audience can understand, feel and identify with the subject matter however grim because it is told to them in the way that Nigerians talk to each other. The performances were deeper felt and delivered, the monologues were less ingratiating to the Nigerian senses on the surface but more powerful in its deeper message.
I of course was the only non-actor on stage and the weakest link. Add to that my inability to make a lot of the rehearsals due to the many cross boundary balls I juggle and the fact that I had spent all of the night before filming Funmi’s Favourites (coming soon) and half the day working. I hid behind the others and hoped that my lapses were missed but my goodness it didn’t help a bit when my skirt tore right on the crown of my butt in the very first dance sequence.
I had suspected it might happen as the costume was too tight and the other girls had warned me that most of them had had a similar experience but why did mine have to happen on stage. Fortunately Ashionye had borrowed me her black tights for such an eventuality so at least my yellow bum was not on display. The only snag was that the tights and the polished wooden stage combined to make performance torture as I kept struggling to maintain my balance. Eventually I managed to slip it off when the lights dimmed on one monologue. Also I had to initially take off my headscarf and tie around my waist to hide the split skirt until Kate finished performing black widow after which l took her black scarf, tied around my waist and then retied the Ankara headgear.
Aside this hiccups, which people assure me where not seen (liars all, bless them), my one and only monologue was well received. I had mastered my lines and been tutored an hour before performance by the inimitable Omonor so I felt prepared to give it my all which I did at least for that night. As with all performances it will get even better by the next set of shows especially as I would hopefully not have spent all of the previous night in the studio working.
The other thing I did was study the each performance and the reaction of the audience so let me give a blow by blow account by performance
I have to start with her. If you have never see Omonor on stage there is a little sublime creative experience bone missing in your rib. You MUST see Omonor on stage. If she were American, she would have won a Tony and an Oscar, as it is she only needs the right project and she will be on the international radar. My deep suspicion is that as it has happened with many before her, we will continue to waste and underutilize her until she is snapped by people who have the industry and the structure then we will start doing that annoying “claiming” thing and giving yeye after the fact awards. How long will money and talent keep going in opposite directions here? Anyways back to Omonor, her gripping, powerful but nuance performances are not an accident. Her gift is obvious but what is less obvious is her disciplined work ethics, her commitment and focus. She is always the first to master her lines and step into the soul of the people she portrays. She comes to rehearsals with her nutritious food and quietly but professional delivers, contributing invaluable insights and helping fledging novices. Two years ago, l was struggling with a part of my performance when she stepped up to me and yanked my hair hard saying “that’s how it feels Funmi, now put that into your delivery”. Yesterday, she taught me the intricacy of balancing the voice, the delivery and the movement. It is hard to believe she is so young.
For her monologues, she nailed the sister Easter role in Song of Praise. That is one of the best monologues written by the gifted Ijeoma Ogwuegbu, a writer and journalist who also moonlights on New Dawn. The skit creatively uses humour to deliver a powerful message in a way that Nigerian will find inoffensive. It tightly walks the rope of subversion to pass on an important message. When l read the script, l had wondered at who would do it justice. Omonor did, so much so that the audience was eating out of her expressive hands and I caught a quick glimpse of Ijeoma grinning from ear to ear. She also performed the role of the trafficked Benin girl in Women Trafficking getting the accent right down to the letter as her lithe body contoured on stage. Finally her militant protest leader role in A Woman’s Best Friend was untouchable. Omonor is the most talented, most professional, most disciplines actor I know of in Nigeria today and can hold her own on any stage in the world. I suspect that that girl can learn, deliver and perform her lines in Chinese in one week flat! She totally rocks!!
Let me repeat again that Asionye is a hard working serious minded person. Fragile in her core but tenacious and unbending in her spirit. She shows up, she works hard, she delivers. Let me also repeat that Ashionye is a bloody good actress. Her interpretation, delivery and performance in Maintenance Culture of the postmenopausal Ibo woman who has discovered the beauty of her vagina and the power of her own sexuality in her later years is fabulous. As my friend Remi says it is totally empowering. It is Ashionye as you have never seen her. At rehearsals, Ashionye is consistent, mostly quiet and impeccably turned out. On stage she comes alive. As the aggrieved but fighting widow in It Was My Money, she vacillates from amusement, to tenderness, to tear jerking grief and then thunderous anger. Let me also tell you that yesterday she came in totally, tearfully distraught but she turned all that around when the lights came on and gave a superb flawless performance. This is the hallmark of a true artist and a professional, the ability and focus to perfect your art, the core to rise above challenges and deliver on the night and the pizzazz to put on you powder and lipstick and smile brightly to the world even as you go home to battle the demons within and without. I truly always want to hug Ashionye.
What can I say about Kate, okay let me start by saying that she can make an alternate living as a comedian. Kate is rib cracking funny, her range of accents and voices and expressions is awe-inspiring. She can speak and deliver with the most impeccable, cut glass upper class English accent and in the next breath speak it with a deep choppy Efik accent. Her face is so incredibly mobile and her laugh deep, throaty, and resonating. She is also a strict no nonsense mother hen, whipping everyone including the poor beleaguered director into order as required. As I said last week, Kate is wasted on Nollywood but she is a true Nigerian star and I can foresee that she will become one of the most powerful people in the emerging movies and entertainment industry in Nigeria. Her performance of Black Widow, Culture of Silence, The Landlord and We Forget were impeccable, even on stage she was organizing us all and we have all picked up a few kateism. Mine is to add ‘o” and n” to the beginning of every sentence and “ne” to the end. An example is “o ngood ne” for it is good. Kate is superb.
The sexy, mad, bad Bimbo has so much talent she cannot help herself. I see now why the tabloids won’t leave her alone and of course why they don’t understand her. Like all truly supremely gifted, she lives in a world in her own head, she lives by her own rules and is comfortable in her own skin. She is one of the most overtly sexy women have ever encountered, she does not put it on or work at it, it just is. Perhaps it is those gorgeous boobs, those always half shut eyes, those pouting lips. The girl is just fabulously iconoclastic. The best part of it is that she is no skinny girl, she is all full heaving boobs and full rounded stomach who just loves her body the way it is dressing it as she pleases. Last night she was in leggings, boots and clingy top embracing every round happy curve. As a slender female who sometimes gets bad vibes from other women, being around Bimbo is a breath of fresh air, a relief and a vision of empowerment.
She is one of those annoying artist who only needs to put in a little work to deliver perfection so the rest of the time she spends tormenting poor Wole who is smitten with her. At other times, she is clowning around or teasing the other gals. On stage performing I Am Tired, The August Visitor and He Hits Me, she held the audience spell bound and as she exits every performance, they clap long and hard in recognition of one of those rare beings who are a walking, breathing artistic spirit encased in a human form seemingly smirking at all lesser beings.
She of the stunning voice and cheekbones. Also know as lala, young, feisty, happy, fun, talented. She recites the opening chant and performed Daddy’s girl to chilling perfection.
They call her Jayla. Jennifer is a quiet, disciplined and young veteran of Wole’s many plays. She is a peace seeking missile who lets loose on stage. She was tear jerking as the distressed mother of the 10-year-old bride victim of VVF in Baby’s Baby.
Model, writer, actor, sultry beauty. The trouble with Tunde is that she has too many gifts to know what to do with them all. Still, minimal in movement, insular and internal in an almost eerie way, you know there is a lot happening in that perfectly shaped and shaven head of hers but you just can’t figure out what the heck it is .
Tunde wrote and performs the deviously convoluted and intellectual revulva. She also nails the role of the fighting wife in family meeting. It is that combination of fragility and intensity that makes the role convincing. You can actually see that this sort of small, fragile, still woman can be pushed far enough to cut off her husband’s penis.
Wole’s dreams of owning a harem of the beautiful and talented finally came true. As director of the monologues he gets to not only work with some of the most talented actresses in Nigeria but also, by is own confessions, is working with all the objects of past and present crushes. I have always admired Wole’s drive and spirit, the refusal to be limited by resources or accept the status quo. From the first performance of Who Is Afraid Of Wole Soyinka some years ago, he has not looked back, directing and producing plays with his own resources and later some stipends from a few sponsors. He would put up his plays and those written by others from greats like Wole Soyinka Ola Rotimi and Chinua Achiebe to unknown writers even if there is only one person in the hall. My friends and myself have been Wole groupies for years just because we recognise his doggedness and we support it. I was glad when he collaborated with the lovely Bolanle Austin Peters for the regular theatre at terra gig and when KIND announced him, as director of the Nigerian monologues I knew we had a winner. Wole’s Nigerian core is solid; he returned home from England determined never to go back and through thick and thin has keep going. He is a lawyer, with a some master degrees in strange new subjects as well as a writer, columnist, blogger and theatre director. How his poor wife copes with him is beyond me as he is completely devoted to the stage.
With the monologues he has had his hands fun with a cast of strong minded, highly successful, willful, gifted and consequently temperamental women. He applied a curious mixture of gentle persuasion to controlled anger. I often catch him sighing in frustration but the very next minute he is ecstatic because he knows the superb talents of those he is privileged to work with. Wole is a wonderful person, loyal soul, and an intuitive director and is totally cool except when he tucks his white tee shirt into his jeans.
These are the men in the cast.
The irrepressible Olarotimi (yes o) Micheals with the high afro you may remember him from as brother Jero in Wole’s adaptation of trail of brother Jero. He is a cheeky happy monkey.
Kenneth Uphopho is the father in Culture of Silence. I have fond memories of him as playing various roles in Wole’s many plays. He is always quiet, not sure if it is all the overpowering, out of control estrogen around him but he is a brilliant actor and Kate teases him mercilessly about his fair beautiful wife a perfect foil for his mid night dark skin.
Taiwo Ke-le-ko is man with the huge smile, he is the drummer whom l have never seen angry.
The Vagina monologues is a must see, and l am not saying that because l was in it. The next performances are March 19th at the national theatre and March 20th at terrakulture.
Hip Hop world magazine is one of the few magazines I consciously and willfully buy. I have never forgotten the incredible 2 face cover. That is the one magazine where you cannot get on the cover by nepotism, fiat, cronyism or bribery. Hip Hop awards are also the awards you cannot buy. They are able to ferret out the new and exciting, they are not blinded by puerile snobbery and are not limited by self-censorship. It is the only awards I look forward to and always make sure I am in town to attend. They get most of it right and the points that need work you can tell that they recognize the need and are working on it. Best of all Ayo is not putting himself out there above the brand he is building, from the magazine to the award to the TV shows, he is quietly working away in the background. I watch Ayo speak, sometimes stuttering his words because he is overcome by the depth and power of his convictions. I feel a kindred spirit.
To that end I have bought the most fabulous dress from the fantastic Ndidi at Designers Club, I have called Tony to put me through the work out sequence to remove all traces of my addiction to lunch at yellow chilli and tomorrow I will get Ugo the magician and Bayo the sorcerer to transform me to a glittering star deserving of a walk down the yellow carpet at an award that represent the true potentials of Nigeria, the creative and resourceful energy of the music industry and the eventual triumph of substance.
Vagina Monologues opening night @ Muson Centre today at 6pm. This is what Jeremy said about the Abuja show. Also at the Abuja show was Pamela, see her reaction here.
Watch and make up your mind on the Nigerian version of V Monologues. Available today and tomorrow @ Muson Centre by 6pm.
I felt that debilitating exhaustion this weekend when I spent some time with the amiable police commissioner for Lagos. He is a decent fellow who is committed to his job, like most top government officials, he is also very well trained. The compound was full of new Toyota Hilux trucks donated by the Lagos State government and the agile RRS commander was conducting a drill. It looks good on the surface but I have the curious tendency to feel beyond what I see. What I feel is that it is all an admirable effort but it is too little, too random, like fighting a boxing match with hands tied behind your back.
Let me digress a little.
It happened a couple of weeks ago in Ikoyi Lagos, almost next door to a beautiful, frightfully expensive luxury apartment complex. 9pm, a convoy of official looking cars were granted entry into this high quality boutique hotel. The occupants disembarked and in the next hour unleashed terror on guests and staff. At the end, valuables were stolen, people were beaten, the gateman was shot and two women were raped. This encounter was told by a still shaken 49 year old friend of the family who lives in Abuja and had come into Lagos for a meting and had gone into the hotel to enquire about availability for accommodation. She recounts the terror of being told to lie face down with the chilling command; if you no lie there I go fuck you too now now!
Why wasn’t she raped? Luck and timing, they were already on the way out.
This story is similar to the one told by Ibim who witnessed an attack at a hotel in Ibadan which she had checked into after attending a conference a couple of weeks ago, the robbers tried to rape a 5 month pregnant woman.
As the first story above was told, we all started doing that curious Nigerian thing; we began exchanging increasingly morbid anecdotes of similar experiences. The most bizarre being that told by a business man who spoke about how robbers attacked the office next to his in Yaba in broad day light and how he watched them raping the young secretary in turns whilst cowering behind the window in his office.
I told these particular stories to underscore the additional unspoken fear of the women of this city in this unstable situation. The men fear dispossession, harm, disability, trauma and death; in addition to all these the women add the burden of possible rape.
If you want to hear more morbid stories read both Steve Ayorinde’s piece in the Punch and Simon Kolawole in this day.
I can tell you stories of such attacks on over 10 people I know in the past one month so if we do the layman maths for the number of people in this city you can imagine the alarming numbers. In all of these there are no official statistics.
There are those who say we should not talk about these things so we do not foster fear and affect our international image citing the example of the violent but well packaged South Africa. To start with, why we want to compare ourselves to the bad is beyond me and even in the bad, you cannot doubt that the country has a way more effective policing structure. In any case should we not determine what sort of environment we desire and deserve to live in and thus start working towards this?
The other argument is that raising these issues limits the efforts of those struggling to make the change and discourages them. On the contrary, my belief is that we must report these incidences with humanity in such away as to get the critical mass of Nigerian to demand the sort of policy and structural changes that will allow those charged with the responsibility perform better. It will also unearth the lazy, unimaginative and fraudulent amongst these and perhaps help to raise the sort of outrage that will remove them.
We must start reporting crimes and tragedies not in a detached way but in a way that puts a face to the situation. Imagine if all we know about 911 was the number of those who died, curtly delivered in a few editorials and news report before moving on to the next event attended by George Bush, how would the American nation have felt the rawness, the cutting pain that led to certain changes, for better or worse. Who knows the names, home, dreams, aspirations and hopes of the people burnt in the last pipeline explosion in Lagos? As the motherless child of a father widowed in such circumstance I know it is not about the faceless corpse lying on the street but human lives forever changed. It is the ability to get a critical mass to see the real picture that leads to the sort of emotional commitment that occasions change.
The security challenge of Lagos is a collective responsibility, it is multi hydra and requires not just single minded commitment from the government of Lagos and the police, it requires the emotional commitment of the citizens to doggedly demand of the men and women in charge and of the Nigerian state the sort of changes that will address the situation. The issues involve job creation, education reform, power reforms and stimulation of real economic activities at all levels not this capital carousel economy. These changes will not happen without the people of Lagos and Nigeria becoming emotionally invested in participating and monitoring the way they are governed. We are on the course as our democracy is young but no one should accept undue self-censorship in the name of so called peace. That sort of peace is really peace of mind of the mediocre and fraudulent to keep at his wicked deeds using our common wealth and collective wellbeing. Let us learn from Kenya. In the meantime enough already about international image, don’t we deserve to live better? Bad news may travel fast but good news is hard to conceal.
As for those living far from the line of fire and moaning either about the situation in Nigeria or castigating the people who refuse to help whip up a false sense of uhuru, you berra come home and join forces to build the sort of nation we all deserve or at least work from outside to help the process. Who be blind chicken wey go do all the work for some roosters to home to.
Whilst we are at it, what is this new multibillion-dollar requisition for energy reform? What happened to the 10 billion spent by the last administration? Where are the people who spent it? In the absence of power (been using my generator on and off without a glimmer from PHCN for 3 days, some others for weeks) and a plausible explanation, why are they still walking free?
Please find below the transcript of the interview Funmi had with Madeleine Albright, the former United States Secretary of State.
Also you can watch the videos of the interview @ www.youtube.com/newdawnvideos
This interview was supported by Access Bank Plc
Funmi: Right madam secretary, it's absolutely brilliant to be here with you, I was wondering what pin you were going to wear today. What does this mean, the pin on you?
Madeleine: Well first of all Funmi, it's great to be with you and have a chance to see you again. So I decided it was a good day for hope and flowers, this is the dandelion and then when it becomes… you know, puffs, so its just a dandelions in two different stages basically, I love flowers and its seems like a good day to do that.
Funmi: The entirety of your story is the ultimate dream. I read your book and didn't know the part I love most, looking at where you came from, which is why am going to ask that from you to Colin Powell and then to Condoleezza Rice, America has taken such huge steps from appointing a woman to appointing an African American and then an African American woman, so which is America ready for now, a female president or an African American president?
Madeleine: Well you know I'm supporting Hillary Clinton, so I do think a female president is what we need. Barack Obama is a remarkable person, I've met him and I like him very much but I really think at this moment America needs a very experienced president and I think it will be great to have Hillary, I really believe that.
Funmi: Talking about women in such positions, Oprah recently in
Madeleine: Well I think we don't know, I think Oprah is also a remarkable person, who is kind of a force of nature in the
Madeleine: So I think there will be a number of places where people will look at the issues, they will look at experience and we'll have to see.
Funmi: Whoever becomes the next American president is going to be a very important person because the world and to a large extent America is at a very important place, Going forward, America needs to make the right decisions in foreign policy, for her economy, in Iraq, on terrorism and so on. Isn't that a bit much?
Madeleine: Absolutely! Well, it is an incredibly difficult job period, whenever you take it, but I think that it is especially important now just because of the points you outlined. You know the
Funmi: It did seem America threw away the opportunity of 9/11, the sympathy, in fact America seem at an all time low in terms of international perception, her economy and so on. What would you do if you were advising the next president, about those issues, in particular, the wars, terrorism and American's economy?
Madeleine: Funny you should ask. I have just completed a book, which is called "A Memo to the President Elect" and I have thought a lot about how I will advise the president. The reason that I wrote it now so it will come out so early was that I'd hoped it would help the public. It's not really a memo to the president, it's really a memo to the American public to understand how difficult it is and what the president has to consider. I think from a national security perspective, I would first advise the president that we have to end the war in
Funmi: It's an oxymoron
Madeleine: Yes totally, absolutely, so I think first we have to deal with
Funmi: Talking about international institutions, you were the
Madeleine: Well a lot actually, I loved my time at the UN; it was a time when there was a lot of hope about how the UN could function because it had basically been paralyzed by the cold war. The Soviets had a veto, we had a veto and that really was the prism for everything. And when we were in office in 1990 all of a sudden all the possibilities for how the UN could work, opened up and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the peace making and the peace keeping operations, how you put together peace keeping forces, what the possibilities were for deciding what were really threats to national security…what's so interesting, Vice President Gore actually came up - this was when I was secretary already to the UN and said HIV/AIDS was a national security issue. That what happens in terms of destabilization that came from the large numbers of people who were dying was a national security issue. So we began to look at how to really use the UN and I think a lot of that has gone backward because the Bush administration named somebody John Bolton up there who hated the United Nations and therefore not enough support has been given. The UN needs to be reformed. There is no question…but it can only be reformed by the goodwill and political will of the nation states that are still the major portions.
Funmi: All we have said earlier is about choosing the right person into the presidency at any country, in 1999 you were in
Madeleine: Well its interesting, we were talking about the UN earlier for so much of the time that in the 90s Nigeria was missing from the picture under military dictatorship and it was not possible to really… this incredible country with huge and wonderful people that are very dynamic and obviously a potentially rich country was missing. And then I came back with president Obasanjo that we thought was really going to be a truly remarkable leader and as you said, I went there, I went a number of times, I think that well, he was a remarkable leader he in fact had the issues that happens to a lot of leaders, he didn't want to give up power. But what has been interesting when I just went there for the elections is there is a vibrant civil society in
Funmi: The spirit of
Madeleine: Really moving and so I think the sad part of it is though I believe that the new president Yar'Adua is somebody of goodwill and he could have come to power, I think he would have won, that is what I think.
Funmi: I think so too, yes.
Madeleine: And I think he has promised a lot of reforms, I don't think a lot of them have happened yet but I hope it does, the Nigerian people deserve a president who allows their spirit to blossom.
Funmi: Interesting dynamics there, that there is a man who has been elected now. By and large that Nigerians do not mind but Nigerians mind very much so the election process, in fact a number of those who have gotten into the office have been thrown out…
Madeleine: By the judges I know
Funmi: By the judges…and so do you think going forward, balancing idealism and practicality which you have spoken about, should the people insist that the law be followed to the letter, as against accepting for example the presidency of president Yar'Adua, should he found to have gotten there by less than fair methods?
Madeleine: Well I am not for revolution, you know I think there is the chaos that can be created, I am for civil society and public pressure and I think they have tried, I have been so impressed with what the Nigerian people have been pushing for - the civil society and I think it's very hard to have violent protest, I think they don't always bring what they need to, but I do think that pressure needs to continue, that Nigerian people through various voices, that can be through political parties or civil society or supporting am…unfortunately some of the new parliament members were so elected, unfortunately…and a vibrant press can keep putting pressure and I hope that the president now will realized that he could be very popular and that the reforms are needed, I don't want to…you know, when l was there as an observer we made…we had a very interesting delegation. It was an international delegation, we had a number of former African leaders on our delegation with us, and I think that obviously, the European Union observers also were critical of the election. But what is so interesting was how hard the Nigerian people tried to vote, how hard they tried and the effort they put into it, which I think is the hope and I would hope that the president Yar'Adua would recognize that and see the strength of his country by moving to reforms and conceivably considering early elections, not a redo but some elections might be earlier than was planned.
Funmi: Talking about Africa generally, I know recently there was a document I read "Cry
Funmi: I also know that you have spoken many times about your regret about what happened in
Madeleine: Well first of all because it's very complicated I think, I really do think that most outsiders do not see that maybe…you know the countries were drawn by colonial powers that people don't understand the various tribal difference and the culture of Africa and not that they are not some Africa experts but I think partially there is a lack of understanding.
Funmi: Isn't that partly because the African experts are usually non-Africans?
Madeleine: Well, yes although I think there are more and more. For instance some of it has to do with…to be frank, I think people don't pay enough attention.
Funmi: Isn't it also because the world insists on seeing
Madeleine: Well I mean it's interesting you are saying 'Africa' and you're an African but the bottom line is there is not just
Funmi: I know that but…
Madeleine: You know I object to people saying the Muslim world, which is not monolithic,
Funmi: What will make that change? How can we make them see it?
Madeleine: Well I think that people need to study more about it, I think that…
Funmi: Does the media help for example?
Madeleine: Not particularly.
Funmi: A lot of what is learnt about other parts of the world is from the media of that world, however…
Madeleine: It does not
Funmi: Even I keep saying '
Madeleine: You know what's interesting about this discussion, first of all there needs to be a lot more attention paid to the developing world generally and a recognition that certain parts of the world has been pushed down as a result of colonialism and lack of attention but the distinction always about aiding trade is very interesting, we try to move…we try to give assistance but then decided that it is important to look at trade and it was during the Clinton administration that we had the Africa opportunity acts. And there were people who were critical of that who said that was exploitative and then that the problem was that we have to admit that we have some quotas on rice, on cotton, on textile also on various things and so all of a sudden there was a support for various changes in supporting manufacturing in Africa and then there were questions about what will take. But I do think that there has to be a mixture and one of the things that I'm working on now and at some point when its done, I really want to come back to you. I am co-chair of a commission with a Peruvian economist called, Hernando de Soto and it is based on the fact that the poor need to be legally empowered and that the people of Africa of various levels…but let's say the poor actually own the land but they don't have a piece of paper to prove it. So we went and did a number of fascinating consultations. As long as I live I will not forget this, we were in
Funmi: What you are saying for me makes so much sense and it's always been a problem for me that so many people don't see this clearly. I read your book over and I love it. In many parts, its very self effacing, you keep putting yourself down when talking about your appearance but the first time I saw you on television you had on a bright suit and you had the pins and I said to myself "I like that woman"…
Funmi: …You know I like that woman, because you made it okay not only to be a female in a very powerful position, you made it okay to be 'feminine' in that position. You were not going be frumpy; you were not going to be dowdy so I just thought to mention that to you. However, some advice that you given over and again is that women must be strong enough to speak out and to speak up but they must not carry a chip on their shoulders.
Funmi: How does one do that? I mean often times once you speak up; it's interpreted to mean you are disagreeable. How do you then manage that?
Madeleine: Well you know what I did first of all; everything was a learning experience for me. You are a generation of young women who have…I think much more a kind of open and assertive sort of way. I came from a generation of women that…I mean I got married three days after I graduated from college and I had children and…
Funmi: And somebody actually told you not to work because your husband was going to be working in the same office…
Funmi: And you accepted?
Madeleine: That was amazing now I know exactly what I'd say today, but I do think people would like to see women who know their mind and speak up but I don't think people always want to feel guilty or feel that everybody is mad at them and that's why am not for the chip in the shoulder. I do think there is a reality however; women do have to work at least twice as hard as men. There seems to be plenty of room for mediocre men but not a lot of room for mediocre women. The other part that I think is important is young women have to understand that where they are now, their positions now are actually based and built on what older women have done and it's never over it can be pushed back very, very easily and so I mean going back to our election, as far as am concerned, there is no better candidate than Hillary Clinton in terms of her knowledge, experience, her desires to move forward and there should be no question whether she is being a woman a woman or not, it should be whether she is the most qualified.
Funmi: Would being a woman be an advantage to her in the decisions she has to take?
Madeleine: Well, you know everybody has a different style, but I think there is, I think there is…that we have as women, I think the capability for a greater range of emotions and also we are much better at multi-tasking. But you know am not one of these people who think the world would be totally better if it's was only run by women, I like the mixture, I think women and men need to work together but I think that we…I tell you what I did, I must say I used everything that I had, I mean I was charming when I needed to, I love been a woman and so as you pointed out. I, didn't wear men's suits, you know I enjoy been a woman, the pin business started because I like jewelry, but Saddam Hussein called me a snake and I happened to have a snake pin, so I wore snake pin and CNN said, "why are you wearing snake pin", I said, "because he called me snake". And I thought, "this is kind of fun", so I started wearing pins and people would say what kind of mood are you wearing and…
Funmi: I was looking out for it today
Madeleine: With my pin you can tell. I also switch signals a bit, I will be very charming and then I would say regularly, I have come a long way so I must be frank and then I would tell people what I thought, I was very straight forward and I think that's something a woman does well.
Funmi: Right you keep talking about the things you are going to do when earlier this year you turned seventy-one. In the first instance how do you stay this way?
Funmi: I hear that you can actually bench press two hundred
Madeleine: It's not bench, legs, legs, legs.
Funmi: You exercise
Madeleine: But make up is a wonderful thing
Funmi: Right so you are still planning is to do much?
Madeleine: Well, you read my books, so you know it took me a long time to have a voice, people now because I was Secretary of State listen sometime so am not going to shut up and I have a lot of things that need to be done. I think I have looked at the problems of the world and I have to say, there are a lot of them but for me probably the basic biggest problem is the gap between the rich and the poor, I know that according to statistic there are fewer poor people than there were but the gap is widening and if we are rich, well nice, if we are poor it would be too bad, but the poor know what the rich have as a result of technology and information and it's unjust and it creates…you can believe that something has to be done about the gap because people shouldn't suffer but you can also believe something has to be done about the gap because it creates instability, am not saying that there is a direct line between poverty and terrorism but I do think that when people are miserable they provide an environment for people to come and recruit them.
Funmi: Would you therefore say that's the biggest challenge of our generation, bridging that gap?
Madeleine: I think so, I really do.
Funmi: Thank you; now, have got to this very quickly. I have seven dumb questions for smart people. Just seven quick questions and seven answers.
Funmi: First one, who are the three best people in the world to ask to dinner?
Madeleine: Well, I would ask you
Madeleine: I would ask you. That's for sure. I would ask Vaclav Havel who was the president
Funmi: Isn't she fantastic?
Madeleine: She is amazing. Have you met her?
Funmi: I haven't, I would love to
Funmi: All right, second one, what is the most overrated virtue in a woman.
Madeleine: Most overrated virtue in a woman, ah…not eating…famine.
Funmi: We don't understand that where l come from
Madeleine: Laughing…no, no, in the
Funmi: Alright, three, when do you know when a diplomat is telling the truth?
Madeleine: When…eh…it doesn't make a lot of sense, but it is all perfectly practiced
Funmi: If you saw your dad today, what would you say to him?
Madeleine: You know, it's interesting, I'm still the perfect daughter, I am seventy but I'm the perfect daughter and I would ask him, "are you happy with me?"
Funmi: Alright number five…
Madeleine: I would also ask what it was he taught Condoleezza Rice.
Funmi: He is responsible for her isn't he? He actually made her switch courses.
Madeleine: But it's interesting you know what was I say to her, how it could be this way, we have the same father. What is remarkable is that Czechoslovakian immigrant professor trained two secretaries of state.
Funmi: It's incredible I wonder if the situation in your country had not occurred, what your father would have become in that country.
Madeleine: Well, I…it's interesting you ask, he was one of this people who said that he would have continued being a diplomat, I think he would probably have been a foreign minister or something.
Funmi: What is a woman's most important piece of underwear?
Madeleine: A bra
Funmi: Okay, if you had to be African, which Nationality would you most prefer
Madeleine: I would definitely be a Nigerian
Funmi: Are you telling me the truth now?
Madeleine: I am telling the truth, I am, yes because I think that it is just an interesting ethnically mixed country, the people are beautiful, the country is vibrant, I love the difference between the North and the South.
Funmi: And now the final question. Which is the nastiest country in world?
Madeleine: I think the nastiest country at the moment is
Funmi: I must thank…
Madeleine: I think I need to re-answer the diplomacy question?
Madeleine: So what was the question?
Funmi: How do you know when a diplomat is telling the truth?
Madeleine: I think when a diplomat is really comfortable saying it, but I would say that most diplomats tell the truth. I know the joke is that a diplomat is person who is out there lying for his country. I never believed that. What I said was that I was outside there eating for my country.
Funmi: Not that it shows
Madeleine: Well have lost weight since then but I really it was difficult because I would travel and I would always sit to the right of the leader of the country and that person would actually say why aren't you eating our national food?
Funmi: All right madam secretary, thank you for a great conversation.
Madeleine: It is a pleasure, I'm so glad we are able to do this and I'm so glad that I got to meet you in aspen and that you are so much a part of this new young leaders concept.
Funmi: Thank you.