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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, July 31, 2007

Now Showing

Just in case you need to get away from the insidious stress of life and just have good clean mindless fun. Go to the cinema and watch DIE HARD 4 which l have renamed die hard patapata. Bruce Willis (whom l have watched from his moonlighting days and whom l admire for his Alpha male without the crouch cradling ego persona and lifestyle) returns in a nifty, digital, even witty feast of high jinx and excitement. Look, it can’t get louder, tighter, more testosterone driven but surprisingly it has a modern, geeky and slouchy cool.

It is like Steve jobs meet Sly Stallone. I like it so much l saw it in New York and Lagos and the reaction of the audience was the same, a lot of spontaneous clapping, exclamations and air pumping. Think of your ultimate modern hero feat and Willis' character surpasses it; l mean the man even kills a plane with a car and out maneuvers a fighter jet to spectacular destruction!
From the laconic, asthmatic, and hypoglycemic hacker sidekick to the beautiful ass kicking Asian Villan and the Barack Obama like agent, the film is a bit like riding the raging bull whilst watching your favourite sit-com. It does not try to be intellectual, unduly emotional or preachy, just plain old spectacular crashes, explosions, ass kicking, and baddie extermination in an effort to save America. Just the way you want your summer mindless sun. Whilst you are at it, continue to unleash your inner child with Transformers. As GM cars and trucks (wink) unravel into good and bad robots from my innocent comic devouring childhood, l sit enthralled.

Never have l seen sexier or nastier robots. They are fit, swift, flexible and cool beyond belief. What out for the parents of the lead actor, pure hilarity.
Monday, July 30, 2007

We don dey crase again o

Okay l know l said l would hold my piece but this one takes the akara.
Last week, a lady told the story of how she and others were robbed under carter bridge on Lagos island by six burly men, two of whom even felt her up under her appropriate long skirted work suit. A few days later she recognized three of them on duty as policemen at a bank also on the island. Her blood has not defrosted and she is sure as hell not going to report them to the police especially not to a police who's new commissioner in Lagos is combating crime by arresting "indecently dressed" women. If l no laugh l go cry so l beg go read the story on Jeremy's blog.

For the silent Great and Good amongst us

It's the last day of my periodic, self imposed news fast and as expected l am getting more angry as l do my quick glance (most of the writing is unreadable) through the papers. From the horror stories and opinions to the horrific journalism, there is little respite for the rising temperature behind my ears. So Alams walks free and some pseudo university is imposing a mandatory pregnancy and HIV test as a condition to collecting degrees post graduation! I am frowning fiercely when the shrimp saunters into my study and noticing an alien object amongst her knick knacks (pictures, painting, letters, songs) on my wall, pull down the offending picture. I watched her face as curiosity turned to awe and then a grimace. "Mummy look, this man must be a fake man". Why do you think so l asked. Look at his body, how can a body be like this and look at all these things (veins) on his body, he is a fake man she declared with certainty. No darling says l, this is not a fake man, he is an athlete they are called body builders and they do a lot of training and disciplined eating to be like this.

Ohhh, she exclaims in wonder, can girls do this too? Certainly l said, in fact there are many girls who do it. At this point l show her pictures and stories online of body builders. At the end she exclaims, cool mummy can l do this too? If you want to l said but the problem is your body is naturally androgynous and might not be able to attain such proportions without drugs, which are bad for you. What means that, she says mischievously. Oh common miss you and l know you have outgrown the "what means that" stage so try again. Okay mummy what do you mean? I said your body is naturally long and lean and you might be better off as a long distance runner, tennis player or high jumper, if you force your body, you will need drugs and drugs can make you sick and even kill you. Okay mama, she says now looking at Muritala Idowu with newfound admiration and respect. In 10 minutes, we went from
ignorance driven fear and distrust to knowledge based respect.

Last Thursday Chimamanda Adichie joined myself and the other ladies on the women's panel edition of the show to interview the frankly awe inspiring Muritala. He told of the sort of immense discipline required to not only build and maintain that body but three months to competition the will required to step up on a quelling diet and exercise regime. To understand his motivation perhaps one need to know his background. This is a naturally muscular young man who as a carpentry apprentice in Ajegunle and Amukoko started bodybuilding with the flywheels of abandoned cars. His journey from Amukoko, through escaping the gangs and crime of Ajegunle to self training at the national stadium, to enrolment at the institute of sports (sans much formal education) to gym instructor at proflex, to competitive body building and eventual top 10 of the Mr. Universe competition (Gov Arnold's starting point) is a tremendous awe inspiring story. He currently lives in Belgium and competes around the world holding titles such as top 10 Mr. Universe: Mumbai India 2003; top 5 European winner: St. Petersburg, Russia 2003; Winner Heracles Super Cup International; Best Belgian Bodybuilder 2003-2004. His goal is to win Mr. Olympus.

As l returned to the papers and continued to read more stories of the true fake men and women in Nigeria in the papers from the vainglorious to the criminal and the cacophony of sycophantic voices propping them up. I pay a silent homage to the likes of Muritala in different areas of life in Nigeria who against all odds achieve the truly extraordinary. I am also happy to be in a position to show young minds, starting with my own shrimp, the ability to recognize the difference. It is going to be a great week.

This week l am reading Baldesar Castiglione's HOW TO ACHIEVE TRUE GREATNESS.

A little video clip of the interview with Muritala Idowu will be
available on New Dawn Videos from Thursday and pod cast of a one on one with him on this blog in two weeks.
Friday, July 27, 2007


Its official. l'm over the hill. Its my birthday today and l'm now firmly on the wrong side of 30. l have found an errant gray hair and my butt response time is increasing with each breath. l have also recently become terrified of teenagers and can no longer digest a dinner of suya, bread and coke. To mourn the loss of my youth and elasticity, l'm taking my close friends out to dinner and later to dance like rock stars. l look forward to age 70 and beyond as l fully intend to grow old digracefully. My dream is to be a wrinkly old woman in tinko emrbrioded kaftan sipping palm wine through cracked red lipstick as l hold court with bright young creatives in my queen of the night drenched garden even as we nod to Fela classics.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NA YAM? (title is test of your street cred)

Battling a flu and crazy deadlines so let's have fun. As l and my
fellow "FUNBOBS" (tell you about them one day) fervently believe, always stick a cheeky tongue out at bad times and tides not only will they pass, you would have pissed off the gods of ill luck so royally that the gods of fortune have no choice but to chuckle at you in approval. If it happens that you pass before they pass, oh well you would have had a bloody good time.

I always get the how do you put is all together, you must spend a
fortune and humongous amount of time and thought on it question. The answer is hell no!

I've got a perfect example for you. Came back from America with ruined skin, ratty hair, latent flu and heavy workload which l promptly threw myself into, no rest for the wicked o. By last Friday l was beat but there is no way l can avoid going to Dele Momodu's mother's burial for the simple reason that l saw the lady in her last months and in her fragility, l saw strength, l wanted to honour her. Also l had been unable to attend any of Mr. Bobdee's milestone events in the last 4 years.

Trouble is, how was l going to go from frump to fab overnight, l have no time or inclination to do nails, hair, skin wax, polish and professional makeup plus my aso ebi is unmade.

I called a friend to make anything she likes out of the Ankara which (God bless her) she did in four hours. This is what l then proceeded to do.

I had not been able to fit the dress so it hangs loose and unflattering.

It needs a little drama so l pull out a full lace wrap skirt and tied it on low hanging (for proportion) beneath the dress

and cinch my waist with a huge black belt to disguise the poor fit and hold the look.

Next l wear 5-inch ankle tie platforms to distract attention from my claw like, chapped toes and bruised heels.

With my hair, l simply cut two yards out of the Ankara and wrapped it high and up (emphasizes the neck and cheekbones).

I never wear make up unless working or going out but I’m not crazy enough to drag my friends Bayo, Nenim or Kazy out of bed at 6am to put make me up. So l put a bit of liquid concealer on the acne scars, ignore the fresh zits and brush on some of my friend Bose (wrong shade)'s loose powder. I had lost mine and not noticed; l would have gone bare if she didn't have hers. I can’t do eyes or brows and l have sleep deprived dark circles so l plunk on my cheap (drug store bought) huge dark shades to hide all.

I put on my trusted reddish lip-gloss, oodles of self-acceptance and a happy smile and l am ready to go with my usual motley crew Jide, Remi, Ade and Ijy.

So when you see the pictures of me at Bodbee's mother's burial in Gbongan, know that l am winking at you, its never about money, its about knowledge, self assurance and a great attitude. Trust me l can pull off a N500,000 dress and million dollar accessories but l would never spend that kind of money on such in a country like ours, l cannot justify it to myself. Even in Hollywood most of it is given free as part of the wheel of commerce. Some of the most stylish people at that party as l have found with many parties are not the most expensively dressed.

I just loved this young man's pizzaz.

As for me, this is my sum total for that party. Dress N2, 000, skirt £80 on sale, sunglasses £20, shoes £65 on sale, jewelry price on application;-), belt £60. Confidence based on self-acceptance and knowledge? Priceless.
Sunday, July 22, 2007

Slaying the elephant (kinda long, kinda necessary)

The stories came out without warning, raw, painful, ejected in jerky bits from an extremely constipated emotional colon. Perhaps the laxative was the emotionally draining (at least for us) carnival like party we had just attended where the entire poverty stricken village stood on the streets, walls and balconies mouths agape at the antics of the party goers.

We both lay on my bed nursing a common cold and reading when suddenly she says. “l have not been able to finish reading Half of a Yellow Sun, my dad too and my mum cannot read it at all”. I knew there was more coming so l kept quiet. She continues, “when l was reading it, l told my mother bits of the story and she broken down in tears each time. The thing is, my mum was a comfort woman during the biafran war and my two brothers are a result of this. Recently my father was due to be made an elder of the church but in spite of his eminent qualifications for the position, he was denied because he had married a woman who had two children out of wedlock even when they found out the circumstances of my brothers’ birth”.

My very being wept as my friend told me stories from Biafra as told to her by her parents. Stories of injustices which have been buried in a shallow grave, the ghosts of which has hunted this nation for over three decades, the bones of which now threatens to spill out of those graves. I will tell you some of the stories she told me.

The Comfort Women
My friend’s mother had been a happy Igbo teenager in Lagos. At the onset of the war, they had to flee Lagos to her hometown. She was almost eighteen. As the planes flew overhead dropping bombs into homes so did the soldiers match into the villages taking girls as young as eight and women as old as sixty and raping them. As the soldiers matched in, the women would run away into the bush with the soldiers in pursuit. They caught some women and dragged them out to be raped but other villager, some of which were women, pointed others out. Perhaps it was fear or in the case of the women, a need to protect themselves but my friends mother knows and still sees the woman who used to point her out to the soldiers. Once in a while some valiant youths would try to protect or hide the women, they were publicly executed. No woman was spared, married or not. Once the soldiers persuaded a young, pregnant married cousin of my friend’s mum who was hiding with her young husband to come out. On enquiry as to the identity of the man, she replied that this is my husband. They shot him right there and then before her; she never recovered or marry again. It went on so often and for so long that my friend’s mum got pregnant twice and had her two brothers, no one knows who their fathers are. Nobody has documented the plight of the comfort women of Biafra. The Vagina Monologues performance documented the comfort women of Japan and l know my friend’s mother silently took solace in that monologue, that is until it was deleted from this years performance to please the squeamish, anaesthetized, pretentious and elitist women who find the monologues offensive.

The ostracized sons of the war
After the war, my friend’s grand parents took the boys off their daughter so the devastated girl could rebuild her life and perhaps to help her find a suitor. They were themselves aged and impoverished by the war. For 15 years the mother was known to the boys as aunty and had little contact. They suffered ridicule and confusion, the mother untold anguish. In a culture where the root of a man is so tied to his identity and worth in the community, Igbo land has a generation of men whose fathers are unknown (l suspect some are generals and retired generals of the Nigerian army) and whose history are unspoken except in occasional jeers and as a tool of oppression. The women thus born can be married off and assume their husbands identity but not so the men. Some of the raped women were married and bore those children within an existing marriage. Nobody has studied the socio-political effect of this on Igbo land. It is the elephant sitting in the town square for over thirty years. Will it keel over and die some day or will it get up and trample underfoot all those walking by?

The boy and his mattress
According to my friend’s dad, many more people were cold bloodedly murdered after the war by the soldier in anger for no apparent reason. During the war they had all been hounded out of the villages into Umuahia, which is like forcing the whole of Lagos into Ikeja. At the end of the war, they gathered what was left of their belongings and began the journey home. All his family had was a mattress, which he put on a wheelbarrow with his 3-year-old sister sitting on it. As they joined the throng of humanity walking to the villages, a soldier stopped him and asked who owned the mattress. He said it was his and the soldier pulls it knocking his sister to the ground. At that point my friend dad said he lost his mind, he forgot the many executions he had witnessed for less infractions but suddenly he cared not whether he lived or died. Something had snapped and he was not going to let this vermin take all that was left of their possessions so he began to drag back the mattress with the soldier cocking his gun and threatening to shoot. As it happened a senior officer stepped in and gave the mattress back to him upon which he return his crying sister to her position on mattress on the wheelbarrow and continued the onward journey to uncertainty.

And Now?
This man who had endured all that ignores convention and marries a young girl who had been so brutalized and they build a life together, raising beautiful daughters and supporting others (my friends mum recently took in a teenager who had been raped, abandoned by her family and pregnant with child). So does a man like that get a pat in the back? No, the church slaps him in the face by refusing to make him an elder, yet another example of our outstanding hypocrisy as a people, this same church will probably make a rapist (l know a true case) an elder as long as no one talks about it and there is no outward proof of his transgressions.

After Biafra, there have been many pockets of violence and injustices buried in the same shallow graves all around. The toxic fumes of which are evident in the larger socio political context of our lives and our values, the result an untrusting country of nationalities unable to find cohesive unity of purpose. The fear as l have been told is that we don’t want wars or conflict so we must never examine such issues. As the Niger Delta situation continues to deteriorate, how can we continue to fool ourselves thus?
Friday, July 20, 2007

Something for the weekend people

A thought

A laugh

A lil home video

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back to base

So l went AWOL, if l tell you what happened you most likely wouldn’t believe me and perhaps l should save something for that book I’m going to write but l can tell you this for free, l have never been so happy to see Murtala Muhammed airport as l was yesterday. Between the surrealistic drama of my last Christopher Columbic week, eventual banishment to Atlanta suburbia and my faulty MAC (spent an entire day l must tell you about at the 5th avenue Apple shop’s genius bar, oh how l hate Apple but only because l love love love her so much) l was cut off from civilization as l know it i.e. high speed, wireless, virtual.

I smiled at the usually irritating shenanigans of arrival lounge poseurs -upper class travelling anal retentives and cavemen, ‘phonerics’ speaking, recently purchased foreign passport wielders, misguided yoof speaking even worse phonerics, baba/mama London/Chicago/Texas cursing Nigeria in strange sounding mixture of slangy “Ijenglish”). I even enjoyed the ordered chaos of our benign bullishness, compared to the dog sniffing, multi screening, multi profiling, paranoia and delays (stuck on the runway for 3 hour enroute Atlanta and the airline wont even give more than a giant’s spittle size amount of water) of flying in America and the UK, this was nothing.

As l had no Internet access for over a week, l hungrily scanned the headlines as the vendors walked by. The Turaki/Kalu saga rages, l noticed a little picture of Shakira, so did the Thisday concert hold after all? I also noticed that the madness of the BRT lane on Ikorodu road had not been psycho analysed and confined to an appropriate institution, never to be heard of again, has any one taken a toll of how many deaths and casualties have occurred since it started… Hey stop it, this is your glad to be home, all is well with the world moment Funmi so back off.

I am glad to see the shrimp and my sisters who proceed to spoil me in time honoured Yoruba (if l hear someone refer to me as African one more time or speak about giving aid to Africa or of coming to Africa on some charity mission aimed at buying credibility, l am going to frigging tear my hair out) tradition.

I walked into my room longing for my bed but then l opened my wall-to-wall wardrobe. Maybe it’s the past few weeks of anonymity and relative poverty but all of a sudden it all seemed a bit obscene to me. My job is the excuse but l know l certainly have much more crap than l need, even though l think l have purged myself of undue attachment to the material long ago (you sanctimonious so and so Funmi) but even then… My sisters thought l must have lost my mind but l think l found it because l calmly took out 50% of my wardrobe, okay okay, only 30% of the shoes and gave them all away. After the storm (yes the room looked like it had been hit b a hurricane, how did l accumulate all this expensive rubbish?) and clean up, my room acquired a feng suid Zen and l felt bloody good. I had detoxed my wardrobe and unleashed new energy. By the way, am l just going to go out here and acquire more? I don’t know men, right know I’m just kicking back and listening to Kanye West’s Diamonds From Sierra Leone and Amy Winehouse’s Rehab whilst watching a DVD of Bullets Over Broadway. Book for the week? Arianna Huffington’s Becoming Fearless. Eku ile o.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What says you?

Stuck between airports. Found these articles interesting. What says you? (A DIFFERENT TYPE OF PORN)- USA Today Newspaper of July 11 and (BULL’S EYE) from July Essence Magazine.
Monday, July 09, 2007

On the move

On the move, going to Atlanta loving the fact that Venus Williams is back on form and that Federer is king of the world.
Saturday, July 07, 2007


I’ve got a beautiful story to tell you and what perfect day to tell it than this triple 7 day. I of course have the triple 7 line up in my birth date. First a summarized background. If you saw that film pursuit if happiness, remember the bit when Will Smith and his son had slept in the toilet at a train station only for him to need to appear fine and ready for work the next day? Nobody cares about your story just show up and be good. Well l've been in that situation many times and this trip is somewhat like that. The reason for this trip aside from the seminar was that l had bagged a much pursued audience with one of America’s heavy hitters which was bound to impact greatly on my career. To swing it and all the logistics around doing the project l needed quite a bit of money which l didn’t have. I did all l could to get support or sponsorship but didn’t so trusting in the universe, l took out my daughter’s five year investment (l had slaved to save up some money every month and invest for her since she was one) to facilitate it. Last week l was told it was off and l sat staring at the email, numbed. I cant even tell them to reconsider on the basis of the risk l had taken, in business, you come out of the toilet, take a German bath (90s generation anyone?), wear your best rag and do the job.
The journey to this point had started on a similar trip a while back when l was so broke my daughter and l had to stay in this mangy motel, the image of she and l pushing our luggage cart down a mosquito infested (yes there are places like that in America) hallway still brings a smile to my face.

As l weighed my options, l decided to take a walk down Madison Avenue to Barneys. As l walked down the block before Barneys l noticed a nice looking store with an African looking, pregnant model like girl with stunning jet dark skin. Turns out she is Senegalese and her flat mate is the gorgeous Funmi Alaiyemola. She started to show me round and my eyes rested on a lovely maroon eyelet mini dress. The fabric is that cotton owambe party lace we so love in Nigeria and l began to feel suppressed excitement, l checked the label and my suspicions wee confirmed it is Le Shade! I started laughing and crying simultaneously.

Last summer on one of my do it or die trying trips l had needed assistance with settling down to my assignments, l needed someone to help get my daughter to Michigan to stay with family whilst l go to Aspen. In true 9ja solidarity, a friend called a friend who called a friend and that’s how this tall slim dark beauty rushed from church into our hotel room to the rescue. She wore a vivid yellow lace min skirt that l thought was divine but hang on isn’t that our owambe lace? Lara and l clicked off instantly (note our grins above) and she went far beyond expectations to help my daughter and l through out that journey. Now the thing about Lara is that aside her job, she is an aspiring designer who makes her own clothes which had always got people stopping her on the street to ask where she got them. She has an incredible sense of colour and her style is easy, breezy and wearable, using primarily our owambe cotton lace. Because we got on so well we were soon like sisters and this newly wedded younger gal confided her fears hopes and aspirations for her business in me. She had turned a childhood slur (LEPA SHANDY, like me she had been picked on for being skinny growing up) into a business name L~ Shandi. She told me stories of hardship in Nigeria, the journey to America, her mother’s bravery and how her family has overcome serious challenges to get education and make a life in America. Best of all she showed me her little “factory” in the basement. Just some old singer machines and bits o fabric were the tools with which she wove her dreams. She expressed hopes that one day she’ll be distributed all over America and that Nigerians would know her. I said amen with a conviction that it would happen but l had no idea how soon.

Back in SEARLE (that’s the name of the store), l am chatting with Amy from Senegal about Africans and she tells me how proud her mate Funmi Alaiyemola is of Nigeria and how she misses home. I saw Funmi in the 1999 face of Africa finals in Abuja and tipped her to win (as l did Oluchi) she didn’t but became more successful than the eventual winner. I interviewed her soon afterwards and was taken in by her beauty, strength of character and sense of fun. In 1997 l ran a fashion TV show and ushers agency and one of my favourite girls happens to be Funmi’s cousin, she it was who told me how tough it had been for Funmi growing up, loosing her parents and pursuing her dreams. Funmi is one of Africa’s best models and she works and schools out of New York.

As l sat talking to Amy whose husband is in Senegal, my mind is on the millions of Nigerians all over the world toiling and working, all the talents, the skills, the dreams. Same as most of us back at home. With the exception of a few deviant Nigerians and our flawed leaders, Nigerians are by and large beautiful, resilient, intelligent and resourceful people.

Even though l could not afford it, l bought a simple button down mulicolour cotton shift dress from Le Shade. When l called her this morning she protested asking me to come get it at wholesale price. I refused because as a Yoruba woman with trader grand mothers, l know the concept of (se mi lowo), you buy the good to send a message to God as a sacrifice to bless the enterprise. I also talked with my darling best friend Bose, a doctor, scientist, wife and mother who is saving and toiling to complete her research and work on maternal mortality whilst holding down two jobs and consulting and lecturing in LUTH. As l walked out of that store l knew in my core that it is only a matter of time before Le shade makes it to Bergdorf Goodman’s, she is already at many stores including Patricia Fields' the style guru of Sex and the City. I also knew in my heart that my own many years of toil will reap more rewards in due course as will Bose and Remi and Pamela and all those gorgeous Nigerian women (men too) out there. It was with renewed vigour that l returned to my hotel room determined to continue my pursuit of significance, which really is true happiness.
Friday, July 06, 2007

Still On Poverty

Hey kids ;-) something that might interest you and should generate on going conversations.

The IFC is offering prizes of $5,000 - $20,000 for the best essays on the theme "creating markets, transforming lives"


ON FOOD ( rambling, bumbling, missing home)

I’ve just had an Oprah moment (go ahead snigger, its okay). I sit here sipping this vile detox juice, having an online emoticons clogged chat with the shrimp whilst catching bits and pieces of the Oprah show and yes you guessed it, she’s talking about weight issues. My phone flashes, it’s a reply to a text l sent to four of my gal pals yesterday. It went like this. “Darling, l’ve just had the most divine orgasm, Thai. Beats the Italian one of last night and the Chinese one of the night before, best of all it was free”. Two days ago, my friend Sumonu Bello Osagie from the Nigerian embassy picked me up at La Guardia. Sumonu was the brainchild and magic genie that facilitated my “Funmi in New York” series in 2003 and he is one of those warm, supportive, happy giants with a great laugh and snazzy style. Once settled in my hotel, he asked me what l wanted to eat with mischief dancing in his eyes. Sumonu knows l love to eat so off we went to Peking Duck just round the corner from the Nigerian embassy. Since then it appears that l have been on one huge gastronomic excursion perhaps to salve the raw nerve exposed by the financial drain and professional disappointment this trip has become. Now l know what you are thinking and this is why l have always hesitated about writing about my insane love of food. As to the where it all go question? Patience, it is tied to my Oprah moment.

July 4 and America is celebrating. I do the touristy thing, put on my MBTs, sling a camera across my chest and start walking and sightseeing. From the Museum of Modern Art to Madison square Garden to Soho, Little Italy and China Town. I go window licking (with window shopping you know you might be able to afford the stuff on display, just max out your credit card, window licking? Not a chance in hell of buying any of it) at certain stores on 5th Avenue and treasure hunting at Barneys, Jeffery’s and all those small indie fashion outlets in hipper parts of town. My shopping rules are to only buy stuff l love (happy gear l call them), at the most reasonable price and only in the styles that flatter me. I don’t do slavish fashion, overt designer billboarding and copycat dressing. I like happy, individual styles and am always looking out for the most fun, individual and body happy people on the streets from Ikeja (hardly ever at those plastic island parties, which is usually a boring monolithic jungle of prescribed, safe, overt, top to toe designer labelled body dysmorphic blandness) to Athens.

Through out my city trawling l stopped to refuel at the many bistros and alfresco restaurants on my path. By evening l get a call from my new friend Vicky (typical strong 9ja woman, widowed single mum of the bright, beautiful, high achieving Efe) and we headed for Yum Yum on 9th for dinner. I am not going to bore you with details of the experience but it did inspire the text message above. After that we drove to the East river for the annual MACY’S fireworks but it was over before we got there. Vicky, sumonu and l had been out to diner and movies the night before, whilst l have been to Balthazar and Fresh for lunch the past two days so it does feel like l am eating my way through the big apple.

Now to my Oprah moment, as l watched the show, l felt the familiar disquiet that had always prevented me from talking about food and weight issues. The fear that because looking the way l do would make it less authentic. As l watched, it suddenly hit me, l too do have body image issues (a woman without any is to be approached with great caution). I hate it when my butt completes a leap some full 60 secs after my feet are back on terra firma, l hate the constant battle to keep my stomach flat (naturally slim people store fat in the stomach more than others), l hate exercise and l love rich comforting food. There, l said it and being my size doesn’t make it any less true. To each her own. I feel liberated to talk about my love for food and the silly tricks l play to combat the inevitable consequence (yes skinny girls have those too, go figure).
I have always loved food as l associate it with my beloved long gone mother. I am also a food snub as l expect food to be prepared and presented with love, passion, attention to detail and creativity so whether it is soufflé like amala with gbegiri from Alhaja in Peckham, tender isi ewu from oron road in Akwa lbom, mussels from Belgo in Camden, lamb from the Berbers on the mountains in Marrakech, oysters from McCormick and Schmick"s or sushi from Nobu. I expect food perfection. Flavourful, colourful, fresh and scrumptious. Perhaps this is my saving grace, as l do not like dead, soulless, inert commercial junk or processed food.
As a result l am a food channel and AA Gill die-hard fan. I love to eat out although Lagos and its overpriced, over hyped, food ignorant, rude staffed restaurants and bars are a challenge. The consequence of my gastronomic excess is that l suffer mild to serious food allergies and intolerances all of which l battle like a trouper with homeopathic remedies. Once my butt response time exceeds 60 secs l detox i.e l eat only raw, living food (fruits, vegetables and complex carbs) for a day and add cardio to my training regime. Those are the days l am most irritable.
I know l am lucky but l feel compelled to ask to be allowed my own slim babe’s weight whines without that bloody disbelieving (sometime playa hating) eyeball roll.
Recently my friend Pamela who is certainly no shrinking violent weight wise (wink, wink, gosh! Pam’s got a chest to slaughter for) came to stay and she it was who pointed out to me that my problem is that l see people first as people and not a weight category but that this is not true for a large majority of people. Maybe it is because of overcoming my own past crushing insecurities about my body (skinny angles and bones, k legs and squashed nose) but l see people first as a personality type as against a dress size. Thus l'm always perplexed when perfectly gorgeous women whine about wanting to be thinner on one hand but will not let me whine about my own gravity battling issues on the other. Gals, lets be democratic about this and let us all media confused, body x raying females give ourselves a frigging break preferably over some hot chocolate and macadamia nut and raisin muffin
Thursday, July 05, 2007

UDEME, A great man.

My friend nkechi sent me this, l thought it was funny. You do need to be familiar with the Guinness greatness commercial to get the background though.

> Udeme wakes up with a huge hangover after attending his company's Christmas
> Party. Udeme is not normally a drinker, but the drinks didn't taste like
> alcohol at all. He didn't even remember how he got home from the party. As
> bad as he was feeling, he wondered if he did something wrong.
> Udeme had to force himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he sees is
> a couple of paracetamol next to a glass of water on the side table.
> And, next to them, a single red rose!! Udeme sits up and sees his clothing
> in front of him, all clean and pressed. He looks around the room and sees
> that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean. So is the rest of the house.
> He takes the paracetamol, cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring back
> at him in the bathroom mirror. Then he notices a note hanging on the corner
> of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a kiss mark from
> his wife in lipstick: "Honey, breakfast is on the table, I left early to get
> provisions to make you your favourite dinner tonight.
> I love you, darling!
> Love, Ngozi"
> He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast,
> steaming hot coffee and the morning newspaper. His 16 year old son is also
> at the table, eating. Udeme asks, "Son... What happened last night?"
> "Well, you came home after 3 A.M., drunk and out of your mind. You fell over
> the coffee table and broke it, and then you puked in the hallway, and got
> that black eye when you ran into the door."
> Confused, he asked his son, "So, why is everything in such perfect order and
> so clean? I have a rose, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me??"
> His son replies, "Oh THAT... Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she
> tried to take your pants off, you screamed, "Leave me alone, I'm married!!"
Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My Paris piece

Talking about leveraging celebrity. It all really started with Diana whose sons honoured her in a 10th remembrance concert at Wembley last Sunday. She was the first to walk that thin ice of romancing the cameras for good or otherwise. She used her royalty, beauty, charisma and battles to bring attention to a range of issues in countries far removed from her own existence. No matter what the critics say Diana forced the world to look at the poor, the weak, the ill and the forgotten with her star power. She was the forerunner for the sleuth of celebrity messiahs (granted some confused, some manipulative) who are forcing the conversations on global poverty eradication into the mainstream. For this l admire her even in death, however how pray tell did the world go from Diana to Paris? I join the rest of "responsible" media who have had to apologise for talking about that blonde but by gosh how could a girl so blessed (beauty, fortune and charisma) unleash such mindlessness on the world?

I know that if she had gone to Stanford and lead the stem cell research the world might just have ignored her and l have no problem with a bit a "badness" in any human (deeply suspicious of the pious l am) but now that she has such power why oh why can she not be persuaded to abandon the dizzy, stupid inane ness (did you see her on Larry and did you read Larry's body language)?) of her existence? I would be more inclined to shrug it all off especially as l hate to sound sanctimonious and enjoy a bit of voyeurism myself but as l see an increasing number of young girls adopt the limp pose, little stupid voice and incoherent utterances of a white multi millionaire heiress media darling from a world where the rule of law protects you from abuse in a country like Nigeria. We cannot get away from the Paris phenomenon l know but can her handlers please find her a cause to distract her and help young impressionable gals see another side of life?

Of Vanities

This months Vanity Fair might have its shortcomings but it also has some pretty good brownie points. I highly recommend it. My favourites are Binyavanga Wainaina's article on Kenya, Brad Pitts interview with Desmond Tutu, and the article on Jeff Sachs especially the anecdote on Museveni and that last telling paragraph.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Poverty, Security and a New Generation

They asked for ID (you need an ID to breathe in America now) and I pulled out my green passports (three stuck together, many visas, as Nigerians we require visa to exist) in resignation. As expected he says, maam, you need to step aside… and so began the second search of my person and possessions in a walled off corner of the security gates. Post 9/11 l know that by virtue of my nationality I am high on the security random profiling list for terrorism (plus drugs, 419, child trafficking and prostitution), why l don't know for sure. All day they had been announcing that the security alert has been raised to orange and last night l had watched reports of the botched terror attacks in the UK. As l endured the indignity of the search, my mind is on this unwinnable war on terror. What will it take to make the developed world a safer place? We on the other hand are used to living in an unsafe world and before someone shouts about lack of parallels, consider the numbers that die daily from malaria, AIDS, TB, childbirth, armed robbery attacks, air and road accidents and such in a country like Nigeria. You might argue that the terrorists (politicians) in most African countries are within but one cannot deny the cumulative effect of colonial legacies, complicit multinationals, unfair trade laws and tacit support for bad governance whose trail leads right back to the developed world. Even if it is to stem mass migration, reduce the inequalities that are the tools of fundamentalists or just create new markets in youthful economies, the west must consider other methods of achieving internal security.

As l flew out of Aspen l noticed that there were even more private jets parked than usual, expected as some of the heavy hitters are flying in for the institute's ideas festival. The likes of Gen Powell, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Wyclef Jean. One of the high profile items on the agenda is the concert by jean and the focus on Africa. It would appear these days that you cannot get away from Africa talk.
When my friend Jide downloaded the 20 covers of this month's vanity fair 2 weeks ago, we were both peeved that there we only 3 (2 non resident in Africa) Africans amongst the stellar cast on the covers. Naturally we began talking about who is talking for Africa now and what they really know and this tiring unending image of Africa as one monolithic mass of dejection. I had my copy of the magazine with me during the search and watched as the security officer carefully (with gloved hands and gauze covered spatula) rift through it. My mind is fixated on those gloves and spatula, thinking how it is that doctors don't have these in some hospitals in Nigeria.

During one of my session in ACT II, the conversation was on global business and creating job opportunities to the poor majority of the world. I recall making the point that the tendency to see the poor as a non-viable inferior entity that must be helped is erroneous and is at the heart of the inability of the developed world to engage Africa on terms other than as a homogenous aid needing tragedy. Kimberley, our moderator then raised the issue of the controversy that aroused during the TED conference in Arusha, were some young bright entrepreneurial Turks of African origin had more or less heckled Bono and protested against the aid based approach to solving Africa's problems.

I do admit to a sense of disquiet about this new breed of crusaders and their methodology although l am persuaded of their passion whatever its root and find campaigns such as Bono's ONE Campaign compelling. To think that spending $200 billion a year will only amount to 1% of the budget of the "rich" world seem such a little thing to ask for. Should the money go into aid or investment or a combination of both as well as whom and what the conduits for such monies are is the real thrust of the matter. The West usually talks to the wrong people about Africa, l know this to be true certainly of Nigeria. They may talk the talk but only because they have learnt to do so. Finding and engaging those who actually walk the talk and most probably have no time (too busy trying to fix what usually is a basket case of misery) or the learning to talk it is the real challenge.

As a new generation of Africans insist that they must be engaged with and perhaps spearhead Africa's recovery, l call into question what their moral authority on, commitment to and knowledge of the majority poor. I am constantly faced with the emotional detachment of the new emerging middle, business and intellectual class of Nigeria to the challenge of reducing poverty. This generation may be more exposed and more educated than their forbearers but are they not just as guilty of the lack of understanding that leads to the sort of decisions, which widen class, and opportunities divide? Rampant cronyism, in trading and borderline criminal business collusion with dubious government officials is still the norm in corporate Nigeria. I have many young Turk pals with outstanding degrees from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world who are advisers, consultants and officials in governance and business, what l see frightens me.

This is not to cast aspersion on all because there are those who are genuinely concerned with building truly prosperous economies in their nation but we need to turn this harsh questing light on ourselves to evolve a self sustaining, self policing system which encourages
prosperity and freedom.

As this generation asks such hard questions and make tough demands of herself then we can confidently engage the growing army of external messiahs and leverage their collective star, intellectual and political power to pull ourselves and our people, majority of who are poor out of the abyss. Then the world will be forced to stop reducing us to a single dejected picture. Lets take a cue from Lee Kuan Yew who decades years ago went against the grain of popular ideology of the time and invited western business just so he can start with giving his enterprising people jobs so they can at least feed themselves, whilst he puts in place radical educational and economic policies that were the building blocks of today's prosperity and superior world image. I know it is not as easy as all that but that is the point exactly it is not meant to be easy but never has their been globally a generation more prepared, more virtually connected and more capable of achieving such audacity.
Monday, July 02, 2007

Leaving Paradise

Due to some genetic anomaly, l am given to deep, oft convoluted and confused thinking which my friends swear must be one of the reasons for my high metabolism, l burn fuel just staying alive, thinking. I can vividly remember that at age 7 l used to sit and stare at the stars and try to understand existence, why am l here, why me and not some other kid for my mama, how do l add up in comparison to all these other people and the earth and the stars, where will l go after here and what is it like there. The Christian religion provided some answers soon enough but because of my rather colourful journey through the Christian faith (baptized catholic, raised cherubim and seraphim then Jehovah’s witnesses, became a reluctant born again Pentecostal in young adulthood and now ….) the answers where often conflicting. For example l was told to be sinless and blameless so l might go to heaven by most but the witnesses said the reward was an earthly paradise. What constitute sinlessness and blamelessness is hardly uniform except on the topic of sex. Religion has an obsession with sex. The concept of heaven and hell strangely never had the desired effect on me. I was neither afraid of hell nor desirous of heaven but l wanted to please God and honour the earth and other humans. Hell never scared me because in my childhood mental gymnastics l had become convinced that since the sphere before here is an unknown, unremembered entity, it either doesn’t exist or is not affected by my actions or inactions in this sphere besides if one is to burn in fire perpetually and eternally, it becomes the norm and therefore painless. Similarly as hell failed to strike the required mortal fear in me so did heaven fail to arouse the great desire. It just always seems to me that heaven will bore me to tears. Clean, blameless, white clothed, singing people eternally happy and smiley? Where is the challenge? If happiness is eternal and the norm how will we appreciate it as a desirous emotion since we have nothing to compare it with. In an existence where it is all done, all perfect where is the joy? Unless the nature of man will change, in which case we became other types of creatures, the eternal pain or happiness argument never worked for me. Ditto the concept of paradise, l am more inclined to accept a utopia on earth but it still seem to me that it would be a bland boring existence where the plants, season and people are perfect and healthy and happy whatever they do or do not do.

However since l am a believer in intelligent creation whether He or She is God or a non embodied intelligence, and desirous of a mostly happy existence here on earth in my allotted time and a similar existence for the largest majority of all such fellow humans on this sojourn with me, l am interested in understanding the nature of that intellect and the rules which work best to create a mostly happy existence for the largest majority. That is my spiritual quest, not out of fear or selfish desire or egotistical quest for immortality but a desire to make the best of this gift of life that l have and know for myself and the rest of creation and to happily expire into the nothingness that l came from. Now what is so scary about that?
Note of course that all this introspection today is the result of being bored stiff in paradise, all the order, beauty, security, the clean, happyish, fit, healthy mostly white (The waiters ignored me for 30 minutes at a restaurant yesterday until l asked if l was required to dance naked before getting a bowl of mussels) people are beginning to get on my nerves.

I leave Aspen this morning for the flawed big apple, l am more comfortable with the constant pursuit of happiness and perfection. How will we recognise pleasure if we have never felt pain?
Sunday, July 01, 2007

ACT II ends

I was startled when a fellow from India said to me that after reading the CV of the fellows from around the world and America and absorbing the quality of the on going conversations, she cant help wondering what the heck she is doing here. Startling because in comparison to her and all the others l am wondering what the heck l am doing here.That is the beauty of this convocation of all the classes of Henry Crown fellows and the classes of the leadership initiative fellows from all over the world. The amount of brainpower, accomplishment, human values and the potential for moving from success to significance in each plenary session is overwhelming. No matter how well you might
be doing, measurable less in terms of career success but in terms of influence on the development and growth of the good society in your own space or sphere you feel challenged to do even more. Here your core human values and intellectual abilities are stroked, toned, honed and challenged to greater endeavour. It is all the brainchild of one incredible human being called Keith Berwick (more on Keith and his wife Sheena later). The past few days have been challenging but rewarding for me as l struggle with jet lag, dehydration, home sickness (l want eba and okro, my daughter, my friends) and engage with some of the brightest minds around the world on diverse issues. I have concentrated on the challenge of delivering access, equity and quality in education to all as well as examining how business can help to create opportunities for the majority poor. I shall share thought on this in subsequent posts. One of my favourite sessions here was the afternoon chat with professor Wole Soyinka. I sat there blushing with pride as he spoke and engaged the audience. I even managed to stand up and ask what many of the other fellows have described as brave, hard but important questions. I am equally honoured and humbled to be here and I feel that in many ways the universe prepares me as she does us all to be so much more.

Part time paradise

I woke up this morning and the sun is dancing on my face through the
five-foot windows in the bedroom of my chalet. I look out and l see
the rows of trees stretched as far as the eye can see with beautiful
homes and gentle streams nettling amongst the vegetation even as they
all are gently cradled in the bosom of an imposing mountain. Is that
snow I see on top of the mountain, in July? I tried to understand the
song the birds are singing even as l recalled the sight of the
indolent deer jauntily strolling by as we returned from the party at a
ranch last night. Dele Olojede had said earlier that he and some of
the Henry Crown fellows had been interrupted from their wine and
cigars by a benevolent bear the night before. In this my second visit
to Aspen and stay at Aspen meadows l am still in awe at the sheer
physical beauty of the town, the utopia like quality of the lifestyle
and the demonstration of human capabilities evident in the landscaped
mountains and exotic living. As the brilliantly sardonic and American
upper middle class James keeps assuring me, this is dreamland by
anybody's standard. They even have parking lots for private jets and l
cannot describe to you the beauty, style and grace of the many homes l
have visited here. By the way this is a community where the average
corner shop is a Prada store and the community rag is a free, all
glossy magazine with more high end luxury product adverts than all the
magazines in Nigeria and most of the ones in south Africa. As l said
it is dreamland even for America and with the descent of the fellows
from Africa, this is the first ever-largest collection of black people
seen at one time in the town. We were about 25. The other thing about
this community apart from the insane wealth or because of it is that
the people are super fit and healthy, everyone looks tanned, fit hard,
strong and ageless. It must be all that hiking, kayaking,
mountaineering, paragliding and botox. There are more facelifts per
square metre in Aspen than LA and l have am yet to see a bad hair cut
or non blow dried hair especially amongst the older citizens.

Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness l became familiar with an image of
paradise from the many pictorial representation in Watchtower, Awake
and the many books and magazines they produce. The clean, safe
environment, the happy, smiling, healthy, youthful, (granted no botox
and facelifts) fit (come to think of it, there was never an obese
person in sight in those pictures), people and the trusting
interaction between man and beast (aside the deers and bears there are
dogs of all pedigree crawling out of every crevice here). I was told
that all l needed to do was live a blameless, sinless life and preach
that life to others then l would end up in paradise. Now that l have
seen the location of paradise, l know that all l need to do is make or
marry tons of money and l can move over to paradise