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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where is Africa Going Wrong?

A matter of Luck?
So Goodluck Jonathan is Yardua's running mate, one doesn’t even have time to digest a piece of information before something else occurs. Goodluck uh? What do l know about Goodluck other than his initial stance to stand by his embattled, embezzling, (where is Alamasiegha) governor during alamsgate and the fact that his name seem to be prophetic (we are culturally wired to believe that). The only other interesting thing l know about him is that l cannot count the number of times l have been told to take a project to Bayelsa under Goodluck. Anything from a nuclear plant to an ijapa and yanribo play. The alleged position is that Goodluck will “free” you some money for it. So a loyal and easily persuaded vice president and an unassuming, unambitious president. I see the puppets, what is the play about?

Question, why in a country that produced the Philip Emeagwali’s of this world are we going to be lumbered with a Goodluck/Yardua government? How do l know they’ll succeed? Well of course, the horse may fly and the king may die but barring any such eventuality what is to stop them? Talking about Emeagwali, a brain drained friend sent me this lecture article by him, excruciatingly true but how will it happen? Read more here
Sunday, December 17, 2006

OUR HUSBANDS HAVE GONE MAD AGAIN (title is a stolen mandate, appropriately so, read on please)

Watching the tragedy that was the PDP presidential primaries on AIT yesterday, l felt a debilitating sense of despair that l haven’t completely recovered from. I am brimming with thoughts and feelings that are so powerful it is difficult to communicate them so pardon me if l am a bit incoherent. The very shabby and incompetent nature of the proceedings, what were those dingy ballot boxes on owambe party tables about? The power/floodlight failure (they were using car headlamps at a point) in a show put up by the “biggest party in Africa” most of whose chieftains wore Rolex watches and designer sunglasses even as the sun set? The incongruity of such shabby and meagre proceedings which may be pardonable in a poor struggling post war country, played out in a setting where the odious smell of non commerce driven wealth is tangible even through a TV screen is only one of the many paradoxes.

After the dust settled, Yardua had won leading his closest contender by over 3,000 votes. A classic case of you “kill me finish you still want to murder me”. I mean where did Yardua come from? Who is he other than a brother to the late general and scion of northern oligarchy? This of course were the reasons general babangida gave for stepping down pledging pious loyalty to his friend and brother general Yardua and the family. If l am fool enough to believe that I’ll believe Santa is bringing me a Pulitzer.. Was Abiola not his bosom buddy, did that stop him annulling the 1993 elections? Babangida’s resignation was of course a powerful early signal of where things were headed and lo and behold, there followed the mass withdrawal of other candidates and endorsement by the governors forum.

I do not care about all the others but et tu Donald Duke? I can understand those who will not blink at losing the fortunes they had been spending on their campaign after all l do not see the enterprise they run other than their states to get the money they had been spending. They have also not shown much inclination to a high moral position so we cannot ask them what happened to the power of their convictions but Haba! Donald Duke what happened really?

There are conspiracy theories all around from the plausible to the near deranged but if there is any truth to the rumour that Duke stepped down to be vice president, l can bet my last dime that it won’t happen, per chance that it does what is the guarantee that he wont be Atikud?

Now l have no personal issues with Yardua who looks suitably docile but with the obvious horse trading that has lead to his emergence. It all looks like an old formula, one that eventually led to the collapse of the second republic. What is it about yardua that reminds me so much of Mallam Shehu Shagari? Almost twenty years later Nigeria is being presented with another seemingly gentle unambitious unobtrusive teacher. With the emergence of Yardua; the powerful PDM faction of PDP is secured, the recent threats of disintegration is checkmated paving the way for a landslide (na only for here a candidate dey get 99% of votes cast) PDP victory at the polls. Meanwhile since Yardua is such an unknown entity, the nay Sayers would have nothing concrete to hold against him such that before we blink he’ll be president. There is talk of an Andy Uba vice presidency and a shiver runs down my spine. Where in all of these is talk of the sort of visionary and informed leadership required to move Nigeria to the next level?

What are Yardua’s ideals, proven abilities and program for Nigeria? They say Obasanjo anointed him because EFCC says gave him a clean bill, no record of corruption in office. I can be persuaded to buy that, applaud him and give him a plague to hang in his toilet but then I proceed to ask, so what exactly did he do for Katsina state? Since we like quoting copiously from the bible, did Jesus not berate the servant who unimaginatively buried his talent?

One of my friends argues that since the post has been zoned to the North, who else should have been chosen to which l answered that she missed the point. First, candidates should have gone forward in a transparent process to pick the best from the region, not stepping behind, down or aside. Secondly why did the South East and South South sell out so easily? Didn’t Duke at least realized that he carried the hopes of a whole new generation and for whatever it was worth he should have fought to the last or was he also afraid of EFCC? Thirdly when will the presidency be zoned to the competent and the efficient?

As l watched the dismal show by mostly tired and dissipated but constipated looking men, l saw Mr. Isaiah my fashion designer friend Remi’s head tailor walk in dejectedly, his police constable brother was one of the 23 people killed during the week in a one day bank robbery spree at Alaba international market and Ikorodu.

I reach out to him in helpless sympathy as l wonder how much longer we will continue to allow these robberies.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I spent the morning going through my old articles written for TEMPO magazine. What quickly became clear is how far l have evolved as a person and how far we have come as a nation. Our problems are myriad and sometimes seemingly intractable but please let no one suggest ever a return to the military era. Thankfully, Babangida withdrew from the presidential race yesterday. His motive? I don’t care. I am willing to let sleeping dogs lie; any dogs that threaten me shall become pepper soul for my Akwa Ibom brothers. Talking about Akwa Ibom brothers l used to be driven (I don’t believe in the concept of servants) by a nutcase called Moses and l wrote this article at the cusp of transition to democracy in 1999 involving Moses. I hope you enjoy it……..

Holy Moses et al
I am surrounded by very interesting people, the real people, people whom one may not necessarily pay much attention to, believing their opinions to be puerile and immaterial. I never ignore anybody, I listen to all, especially these “real” people. Taxi drivers, market women, mechanics, the groundnut seller by the corner, the bus conductor and so on. I find that a lot of times these people express startling, accurate opinions about people, events and issues, they can also be crucial to daily survival.

One of such persons is Olu-Epo, the mechanic-turned black market petrol dealer. His name is Olu but since he found his new vocation, we have modified his name somewhat to Olu-Epo, which is Yoruba for “Lord of fuel”.

Olu was just an ordinary even insignificant mechanic, (in fact, he was an apprentice mechanic) until the beginning of the crisis. Now, Olu is an important member of our office family. He can procure precious fuel out of rock in the height of these perennial, phantom fuel scarcities. In fact, he is a honorary staff with the job description of crisis management/utility officer.

Olu-Epo is normally subservient, almost like a child afflicted with the Downs syndrome, that is, until fuel suddenly disappears from the filling stations, then he becomes surprisingly authoritative. Milking us for every kobo he can, giving false guarantees (fuel has knocked the engines of two vehicles) and holding us to ransom at will. At these times, I just hate Olu-Epo but dare not to tell him off for fear of being stranded. The other day he said something that took me aback. The simplicity of the truth in it was a masterpiece of wisdom. According to Olu, the problems with AD is that, the AD people speak plenty of grammar whilst the PDP people say very little, but work hard in the background, perfecting their strategies for victory, by any means necessary. In short, the supporters of PDP put their money (and wiles) where their mouth is, whilst the AD and its supporters pontificates, very few willing to do whatever was necessary financially and otherwise to succeed. My initial reaction was annoyance, but on second thought, I considered the difficulties someone like Bola Tinubu was said to have initially had with raising funds for his campaign, even with those wealthy ‘friends’ and supporters standing by to see if he would win before hopping on the bandwagon.

My other ‘real’ friend is Bro. Sunday, the taxi driver. He is my standby chauffeur for those times when the car is down (which is often) or when there is no fuel or when I am on espionage missions. Bro Sunday talks non-stop, plays loud fuji music and curses every other person on the road. He never pays police and other such tax collectors a dime, being well-known on his usual routes, the rest he dodges with a unique mixture of bravado and plain fibbing. I love Bro Sunday. He, it was who, informed me that Obasanjo is the best choice of president for Nigeria now. According to him, Obasanjo is so stingy (he claims to have worked for him at his Otta farm) nobody will steal a dime. He said Obasanjo used to deal decisively with anyone who so much as stole an egg in the farm like a capital offender. You no dey see that him khaki’s knickers, the tin no dey tear for at least three years. Na him good jare, everybody go sit up. I wish you could hear him say these things in his funny corrupted Ibadan accent whilst singing along to Pasuma Wonder, Kwam1 or Ayinde Barrister’s music. The last and most interesting of these ‘real’ characters I know is Moses, our mad driver. Everybody calls him Holy Moses because he is so unholy. This guy is certifiable, a taciturn, quick-tempered, suicidal driver. Moses knows all the nooks and crannies of Lagos, respects no one, fears no one, is unmarried, may never marry (who will marry a mad man) and is one of the hardest working people there can be (when he feels like it). He loves Obesere’s music, (he can’t and does not understand Yoruba), he is Fela’s eternal slave, (has most of his old albums) in fact, he truly believes Fela is still alive in another country. He was thoroughly devastated by the transition (for he will not accept death) of the Abami Eda. He does an incredible imitation of the owambe-loving-big buttocked-woman’s dance. Its is impossible to describe Holy Moses accurately, one has to know him to believe him. Funny enough, Holy Moses has deep compassion for children and old people, is very disciplined about money, does not steal and is proud in his own way. Above all, Moses studies every newspaper and has native intelligence. His views are usually extreme, funny and sometimes, surprisingly wise.

I had a recent conversation with him about the elections. Holy Moses is from Akwa-Ibom, so I had accused him and his people of supporting the conservatives yet again. As he began to answer me, I just had to bring out my jotter to take down notes, knowing I had to write about it. Moses talks monologue, so I will try to recreate all he said. Funmi, una no dey know anything. God don tell me say anybody we go be Nigeria president must go to prison. He must be like Mandela, no be say make he go ordinary prison o. he must go for death penalty wey paper go write up and down everybody go shout say wetin dis man do o. The person go dey fear, then angel of God go appear, tell am say no worry, you go be president.

You go see, mark my word for calendar, Diya go be president after Obasanjo, Dat’s why IBB no fit be president. He dey call himself president when he be head of state but God no gree am. Abacha, dat’s why God kill am because he for be president when him no go jail.

If Falae won be president make he go commit offence o, big one wey paper go shout, wey dem go say na die. Then angel go appear to him say make he no worry. Na so Abiola, if to say he no die before he commot prison he for be godd president but na so life be, he go take am like that. See Awolowo, as he do also reach…..at this point, I interrupted him to say Awo did go to jail. He answered, that one was jail? Wey he dey go drink tea, no be for Calabar wey dem even am chieftaincy title, me wey I be pikin of the place dem no give me. I beg that one no be better. What about Gani I asked (knowing how he admires Gani). Gani fit be president, he don go jail so many times, he don reach like penalty so him fit be. Woman no fit be president, dem fit go prison?
I reminded him about Chris Anyanwu. She go death penalty?He asked. I said yes, so grudgingly he says okay she fit.

He continues: As I talk about Awo so, you know say him carry 27 lawyers to court but Shagari carry only one no be him suppose win? But so far say him no go jail.I informed him that Shagari never went to jail and he say: That’s why army fit commot am. See Obasanjo dem no go fit because all na him boys and him don go jail.He continues.

Ekwueme wey don do vice-president before, him wan do president when he no go jail. Instead make he import plenty spare parts make we for get plenty motor, he dey won do president, who send am? He go reach there dey go speak Nwane. My people dey say God dey give bad animal horns make he for no too wicked na so be the case of that one wey dem put for carton for London before, wetin be him name? Umaru Dikko. God no go fit let dat one even if he go prison because he for don sell Nigeria.

Nwobodo, de one wey he cry wen dem put am for prison never do am, he won be president, no be that kin jail I dey talk, he cry, him mama self cry say make dem relase am before she die, the mama never he never die o. him no fit be president. I asked, can I be president if I go to jail. He laughs derisively: You, as I see you so wey no get body, you fit take koboko so? Mustapha and co na crocodile tears dem dey cry, Bible say penalty is death, dem too kill people, see Abiola wife, woman blood, God no go forgive them. But you see Diya, na patient dog go get that bone, him don know suffer now, him don know hungry so he fit be president.

And so on and on Holy Moses went in his element whilst I laughed and contemplated his ramblings, is there a shred of truth? Whatever else I did get an insight into the workings of the mind of ‘real’ people and some of the things that inform their decisions. Next time you will see a slim wiry man in Abacha glasses, driving a Molue-like caravan painted blue and white, trying to run everybody off the road that could be Holy Moses going about his unholy business.

A tear for our angels

>:::Pix:Guess who is mine?
I have been a bit stumped since Sunday. I truly depressing day as l could not get the images from the many obituaries of the children from Loyola Jesuit who died in the Sosoliso crash one year ago out of my head. As a mother, my subconscious recoils at a realistic consideration of such an ill fate befalling me. For the llabos who lost three children all at once, l have no idea how they go on, for us as a nation knowing that the dragon in the aviation sector has not been banished to the abyss, l marvel at our, what is it exactly, denial, resignation or fatalism?

As l sat with other proud parents yesterday watching my little girl perform her angel part with the other primary one pupils in her school l couldn’t help but think of all those 68 angels killed before their time. I shed a tear in pain, a pain, which hides deep anger at a nation that refused to be moved into the kind of real outrage that might force a change. Yes the women matched and where tear-gassed, why did the men not match with them? Why did the youth not join them, why do we do nothing?
Saturday, December 09, 2006

Still Learning

Real apologies are due people for going AWOL this last week. I went to school! Okay maybe not exactly but first l did a cross-country race. I went from Cape Town to Cotonou to Ibadan and then to Abuja in four days.

Just returned from a four day, hectic but life-enhancing seminar in Abuja. I am a member of the second class the African Leadership Initiative run by the ASPEN INSTITUTE in Colorado. There is a South African group, a South American group and an Indian group. The idea is to identify in different parts of the world people below age 45 who have demonstrated leadership potentials and help groom them into informed, effective leaders who can substantially influence their society.

My class is drawn from Nigeria and Ghana and is an eclectic group, which includes Amina Oyagbola at MTN, Aigboje Aig-lmoukuede of ACCESS BANK, Florence Seriki who founded OMATEK computers, and the delightful Mairo Zakari who runs a home school for disadvantaged children in Kano. The Ghana group includes Angela who is truly an angel, her husband Ken (never meet a more in love, humane, spiritual and down to earth couple in my life), the irrepressible Yofi Grant, the wise and knowing Roland who teaches us hilarious native dances for class dynamics.

Our moderators are the exceptional Peter Reiling and Keith Berwick. Peter, senior fellow of Aspen and ED of the Henry Crown Fellowship program is also former president and CEO of TECHNOSERVE and is a true human gem, Keith, a four time Emmy winning broadcaster and author, a true statesman and incredible human being who at 79 had spent the past decade and more grooming people who might grow to solve human problems all over the world. He will spend the foreseeable future writing, getting fit for a marathon and spending time with his family.

We had met earlier in the year in Akosombo Ghana to deliberate on what it takes to be an effective and enlightened leader using examples from as far back as Ceaser Borgia in Rome and recent as Lee Kwan Yu, Mandela and Ghandi. This last meeting was on the concept of a good society.

What l love about this class is that it takes you on a truthful personal journey. It is less about techniques and all about values, which are personal and individual, aimed towards a personal vision of the greater good for the larger number. There is no grandstanding, no exoneration no finger pointing. It is all soul searching, strength building, result oriented and action requiring. The readings are taken from writings as varied as Plato’s REPUBLIC to Simon Bolivar’s writings, Milton Friedman, Hobbs, Drucker as so on. Our next class will include writings from Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and more from Nelson Mandela. I’m researching more writings out of Africa by leaders both good and bad, from philosophers, and minds in thought. I’d appreciate any suggestions you smart leaders might have.

<>My Arrests<>

The highlight of this seminar for me was a performance of ANTIGONE, which we put together in 2 days. I dare say l was a worthy Antigone since l am not just the resident class creative loony but also the obvious hot-headed community driven liberalist. The part where l hang myself and Aigboje tries to kill his father, then kills himself and embraces me in death was a riot to organize and act. We called ourselves ALIwood and I include a little video clip to amuse you.

<>My Story<>

I cannot really communicate the ALI experience and l will not try. What l wish is that many more will be brought to a consciousness of their own potential leadership roles in ensuring a good society such as can be attained. This week l will do an article on my personal concept of the good society as it relates to Nigeria and we can start our own conversation on it. Right now I’m just knackered and am going to sleep.

<>The hanging<>

For more, check out www.aspeninstitute.org/ali
Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And Doris Floored Me

It was a usual Thursday morning, frenzied, bloody minded, not shifting grounds in her desire to grind me to pulp. My brain is fried and I’m assimilating nothing as l mechanically drop my daughter off at school, catch up on the news and read my show research materials whilst going through the usual mind bungling traffic to the studio. Everything that could go wrong did, from lights to cameras and late egotistical guests. I’m exhausted and wondering why l still do this show when the director calls out; cue her! I go into autopilot and begin to do the show. It was a show about the Liberian refugees who are returning home. My first encounter with Liberian refugees was a lady and her nine-year-old daughter whom my father took into our dingy flat in 1987. The Jehovah’s witnesses were supporting other witness refugees so we had to share our meagre resources with them. It was tough going but the little girl was so lovable and would entertain us with eerily realistic sounds of machine guns. As a callow youth myself l never realised the kind of horrors that poor child had witnessed to develop such a skill. My mind absently registers this as l read the show brief which did not include Doris, however l always look for stories that highlight the issue so l concentrated less on the officials and began to talk to Doris.

Slowly an incredible story emerged. As Doris began to talk l was transfixed by her bearing, she was neatly dressed and self contained radiating a humble human dignity that was attractive to me.

In halting tones she told a story of how her entire family including parents, siblings and a daughter was killed during the war, how her husband was killed in their hideout and how she ran with a four-month pregnancy until she was rescued by ECOMOG soldiers who put her on a ship to Nigeria.

In Nigeria, she squatted from place to place and worked as a street sweeper, dishwasher and street hawker finally ending up selling food under a bridge. She spoke about being taken advantage of by men and sleeping out on the street until she got to the stage where she is now sharing a room with another lady and selling pure water (water in little sachets). Through this, she managed to put her daughter born in Nigeria through private school such that the gifted child is in the middle class command secondary school in lbadan.

Through the story, she spoke with stoic assurance underlined with a tinge of sadness and l sat there humbled by this little woman. Then she dropped the clincher! She had in fact left a two-year-old daughter in Liberia in 1989 when she ran. Recently she got news that the daughter was alive in Guinea and she was saving money to go and find her daughter.

My heart broke and so did my tear ducts. I struggled with tears on TV as l promised that l will help her find her daughter, whatever it takes l will. As l hugged her and wrapped that show up, l nodded at the universe for the reminder. This is why l do the show.
Monday, November 27, 2006

@ City people’s fashion digest awards 2006

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

ln a hurry

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little home video.

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

coming attractions

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

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

soldier go soldier come

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

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

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

As to sending Borisade to culture and tourism l revert to my favourite book of Fela wisdom he he he ha ha ha, why l dey laugh? If l no laugh, l go cry.
If you must know, ministries of sport, culture, tourism and anything to do with entertainment are traditionally reserved for bored, retired, military officers, disgruntled party loyalists and the generally unaware and unimaginative. Shame really since these are multi billion dollar industries but how do you expect people who think a mouse pad is used to catch rats to know that.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Random thought on the crash

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

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

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

Got Broadband?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet another plane crash in Nigeria

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

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

MTN; Kicking the customer in the teeth

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

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

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

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

Well why not a third story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Quick story

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

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

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